Saturday, April 30, 2016

Spring feel.

Annual vacation time again.  This means no Mystery Monday next, nor will I be able to accommodate re-up requests or respond to much email until I'm back.  Sorry I've been so tardy in responding to some of you correspondence btw.  In the meantime, there are tons of re-ups to keep you amused, and make sure to check out some of my favorite blogs to the right of the page.  Cheers, and thanks for tuning in.

Friday, April 29, 2016

VA - Teen Line No. 5 (covering letters V to Z, 1977-89)

We're up to Vol. 5 in the Teen Line series, one of the finest and most consistent attempts to archive the most arcane and obscuro power-pop curious from the golden age of the genre.  Teen Line was a formally in-progress and now sadly incomplete and abandoned project that was in the hands of the Hyped to Death curators who were also responsible for the Messthetics and Homework series, loosely modeled after the considerably more renown Killed By Death DIY punk comp empire.

Painstakingly assembled from original vinyl records, and in some cases demo tapes, Teen Line numero 5 bears a couple of names that will be familiar to the Wilfully Obscure scrum, specifically Wild Giraffes and deep south legends the Windbreakers, but the bulk of this subterranean roster is a cast of virtual unknowns.  Thing is, H2D's quality control is so above par you'll actually make a point of acquainting yourself with some really appealing unknown quantities like Zoom, X Davis, Ways, not to mention comparatively household names Wednesday Week, Wishniaks, and Gary Valentine.  Really, how much more do I need to tell you, considering these comps basically sell themselves?  Get the lowdown on the full track list to your right.  Enjoy.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Jeff Runnings, Deardarkhead and High Violets - new noise from Saint Marie Records

Shortly into Primitive Smalls opening salvo, "Maze" Jeff Runnings' intones "If all you want is a joyride, by all means you can tag along."  Nonetheless you'll probably be met with the rather immediate impression that this is no breezy top-down ride jaunt into the sunset.  This is after all the work of the man who brought us eight albums via a sporadic but long-running meal ticket, For Against over the course of the three preceding decades.  FA's reputation was often overwhelmingly downcast, but judged purely from a sonic standpoint thoroughly engaging, bearing a cutting, post-punk angle entailing washes of chiming guitars, poignant melody, and telltale undercurrents of goth and dream-pop that kept critics and fans agog in spite of some notably lengthy layovers between records.  Even with Running's founding compatriot Harry Dingman III absent in the '90s incarnation of For Against, the band stayed on point, never wandering far from the compelling and evocative alchemy evidenced on early milestones like Echelons and December.

Primitive Smalls, Runnings premiere solo effort, occupies an "echelon" of it's own, with the comparative nuances to For Against arise in form, not so much function.  Guitars are often preempted by keyboards here, but on a less tangible level the motifs will ring plenty familiar to FA connoisseurs. Runnings is equal parts cynicism and empathy, operating characteristically wry in both arenas.  Melancholia and contemplation are watchwords on Primitives which isn't saying much given the track record of the man in question, but there's something more at play here.  The aforementioned "Maze" is particularly revealing in it's adoption of synths - and a chilling schmear of them at that.  "Premium" and "Outside Oslo" mine a similar tangent albeit a tad more subdued, and for what it's worth are what latter era New Order might have conjured had they not lost what was so great about them in the early '80s.  There are more pearls to be plundered on Primitives, however as the album creeps to a close Runnings' lyrical muse does tend to dissipate. In the net-net of things, Primitive Smalls isn't a quantum leap from what he's attempted in the past, nor is it merely a lateral move.  Despite his inherent pessimism, Jeff is a realist at heart, and on that note I like to think he's achieved a happy medium here.

I don't often listen to instrumental rock, but when I do. I listen to Deardarkhead.  Unlike most contingents in the Saint Marie stable, this trio isn't exactly oven fresh, as its first iteration had their antecedents back to the Bush-era (and I'm not referring to "W").  Minted in Atlantic City in 1988 Deaddarkhead originally had a microphone fiend in their lineup, one Michael Amper, who commandeered the band through a series of demos and short-form releases before taking a break in the mid '90s, and resurfacing with their first full length in 1998.  Another hiatus ensued, but when DDH resumed in 2009, Amper opted to excuse himself.  In a nutshell, they carried on sans vocalist and emerged with a new EP this year, Strange Weather.  Guitar slinger Kevin Harrington sounds like he's lived in the distortion pedals of Marty Wilson Piper, Billy Duffy (The Cult) and John Ashton (Psych Furs) as he doles out spindles of echoing lines that arpeggio and recoil into heady, robust swirls that always manage to make a smooth descent back to Earth.  "Juxta Mare" works the most magic for me, and though I'd be open for more variety on a DDH follow-up, Strange Weather's allure is downright invigorating.  

For all my praise and hype about the virtues of rough-hewn and noise addled indie-rawk, occasionally it's nice to partake in something that sounds, shall I say, carefully considered and measured.  Portlandia's High Violets fit that profile, and though they've been relegated to dream-pop/gazer enclave almost back to their late '90s inception, I have they're not going to be conveniently typecast any more.  Within the throes of Heroes and Haloes ten gracefully gliding pieces Kaitlyn ni Donovon exudes shades of Harriet Wheeler, Kate Bush and Ritzy Brian (Joy Formidable) sounding every bit the front-woman as the elite company I just rattled off.  Perhaps, the hazy title track and "Comfort in Light" do concede to shoegaze-y atmospherics, but more often than not Heroes tacks towards lucid, chanteuse-enabled pop structures, agilely exemplified on "How I Love (Everything About You)" and "Long Last Night."  No complaints here.

All three of these albums are available NOW direct from Saint Marie in gorgeous shades of splattered vinyl, CD and digital, and if you'd like to get an earful before you buy, head over to Bandcamp for a nibble. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Reaction Formation - Mark David Chapman ep (1990, Never So Few)

I can't begin to rationalize why anyone would name a record after someone so hideous.  That aside, the six songs enshrined within compensate tremendously, with the first half residing in the realm of latter-period Mats, Material Issue and even Minneapolis' unheralded Magnolias.  "Teenage Jesus" has all the makings of a scruffy classic.  The remainder of MDC is less fiery, but nearly as appealing with "Share" and "Jeff" wielding a janglier aptitude that must have slotted in well on left-of-the-dial playlists, de rigueur in Reaction Fromation's day.  A smattering of singles were cut by these guys as well, one of which, "Galesburg Bound" you can try on for size here

01. Teenage Jesus
02. Bob's Lament
03. Dead People
04. God I Don't Know
05. Share
06. Jeff


Monday, April 25, 2016

The loss is all you had.

A grand Swedish export from 2007, and surprise, it's not the least bit power pop.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dump - That Skinny Motherfucker With the High Voice? (1998/01, Shrimper)

Well, this wasn't how I was expecting to cap off a week chock full of emo releases, but sometimes life and current events throw a wrench into your itinerary.  If you're a hardcore Yo La Tengo fan you may have familiarity with Dump, the lo-fi side project of longtime bassist James McNew.  I've barely followed YLT over the years, and for better or worse I've paid considerably less attention to Dump.  By the time I learned of the premise involving That Skinny Motherfucker... I'm sure the album had long been out of print, and since I wasn't an acolyte of McNew or the artist the album was dedicated to, I saw no harm in downloading it gratis a few year ago when the opportunity arose.  It won't faze any of you to learn that I wasn't a mondo Prince devotee, owning a nicely packed best-of collection of the purple one and little else.  I'll get to some personal observations in the next paragraph.   As for Skinny "Mofo," it's a covers/tribute album and an ironic one at that, boiling down twelve Prince tunes to their core, essentially leaving nothing but the lyrics and melody intact.  McNew's approach is sonically diametric to the original compositions, yet wholly respectful to the Artist himself.  In short, there isn't a semblance of ridicule or mockery within earshot here, but accoutrements ranging from omnipresent drum machines to Casio organ and even acoustic guitars make for a startling makeover when applied to staples like "1999" and 'Raspberry Beret."  Beyond that, "Pop Life" and 'An Honest Man" are transformed into affecting, insular soliloquies, and "A Love Bizarre" is given such a loopy, avant upgrade it borders on alienating.  Skinny... is a profoundly a-traditional homage, yet heartfelt in it's skewed reverence.  

I started listening to rock and roll in earnest around 1983.  Local Top 40 outlets provided my gateway, and at the time Prince was ubiquitous.  A minimum of one album a year, and seemingly a new single every month.  The mid-80s was the last era that commercial radio was genuinely rewarding, even though it's returns would diminish exponentially in the years and decades to come.  Prince was there for that cutoff point, and his presence was so saturating that I simply took him for granted, until I stopped paying attention altogether by the time I hit college.  In more recent years I admired and envied the sheer carte blanche he was accorded via his own Paisley Park studios, and a record that label that grudgingly came around after many years of hemming and hawing, eventually catering to his whims.  He led a challenging but unbelievably charmed life, the likes of which we can only fantasize about.  His passing this week was equally shocking and smarting, and even casual fans like myself will be ruminating on the "why" indefinitely.  RIP ol' three eyes.

01. 1999
02. Raspberry Beret
03. Erotic City
04. The Beautiful One
05. When You Were Mine
06. How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?
07. Pop Life
08. A Love Bizarre
09. Girls & Boys
10. Dirty Mind
11. An Honest Man
12. Another Lonely Christmas


Friday, April 22, 2016

Sideshow - s/t (1990, Caulfield)

Flying well below the radar, Sideshow's Lip Read Confusion LP, circa 1995, managed to log some serious hours in the various CD listening implements of yours truly, but the Lincoln, NE band was never to be heard from again.  While I was aware of the full length that materialized before it, Eggplants and Sunspots, I had no idea there was an album that preceded both, namely the self-titled disk I'm presenting today. Emo before it was "hip" to be such a thing, Sideshow's post-hardcore aplomb vaguely resembled a lo-fi schematic of say, Quicksand, fortifying their angsty crunch with some discernible melody.  Coincidentally or not, their east coast contemporaries Garden Variety were plugged into the same aesthetic.  If you're looking for a couple of highlights "Veil of Happiness" and is profoundly indebted to the emocore blueprint spread out by the originators of the form Rites of Spring, and interestingly enough, "Kick in the Teeth" is propelled by a conspicuous ska syncopation.  In addition to Sideshow, check out a 1993 7" I shared by the trio here.

01. Halspar
02. Down
03. Veil of Happiness
04. Groove
05. Kick in the Teeth
06. These Words
07. Right
08. M


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

After Words - s/t (1989, Sammich)

I was happy to make my acquaintance with this Atlanta, GA bunch, even if it was a quarter-century belated.  I found this amidst a mammoth day of browsing last year in various Pittsburgh vinyl stalls.  I instantly equated After Words' label, Sammich, with higher profile acts on the same DC imprint, namely Shudder to Think, Swiz, and Soul Side.  Sammich was affiliated with Dischord Records, and after partaking in one cursory listen to After Word's lone album it was evident why these youngins' ostensibly wanted to be part and parcel of that renown Washington corridor.  If this come across as a dis, I apologize preemptively...but AW were the spitting image of unwitting emo pioneers Rites of Spring, the lauded D.C. post-hardcore quartet that served as a launching pad of sorts for Guy Picciotto and Brendan Canty who would make a name for themselves in Fugazi by the early '90s.  So striking is the resemblance between the two bands, separated all but by three or four years, it would be almost forgivable to cast off After Words as prodigious imitators (just as much so as D.C.-based Rites clones Rain, but I digress).  Nonetheless I can find plenty of merit among these eight swerving grooves, bristling with the fervor and forward-thinking penchant that made Rites of Spring (not to mention Ian MacKaye's short lived Embrace) such crucial touchstones in the '80s.

01. Looking Back
02. Helpless
03. Tell Me
04. Ghost Dance
05. Blame
06. As I See It
07. Welcome Again
08. Third Party


Sunday, April 17, 2016

As slow as Rapid City...

Here's the oft overlooked sophomore LP as well as an even more impressive live album from some of the finest purveyors of emo in the '90s.  If you're new to these chaps I'd recommend starting with the 2000 live set.  Enjoy (or not).


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Replacements - Let it Be outtakes (1984)

I would assume this one isn't going to require much explanation. Here's nine items that were strewn on the cutting room floor for the Mats' breakthrough classic third album.  A handful of these were added as bonus cuts to the 2008 reissue of Let it Be, but in particular one really memorable number, "Who's Gonna Take Us Alive" was frustratingly left off.  There's also two versions of the non-LP "Sweet Girl," albeit less than a classic, I have to admit. Demos of "Gary..." and "Seen Your Video" don't sound drastically different than the finished product, but for us completists the slightest deviations warrant forensic examination.  And in case you're wondering the fidelity is impeccable, in spite of the relatively low bitrate.  Enjoy.

01. Sweet Girl #1
02. Sixteen Blue
03. Who's Gonna Take Us Alivc
04. Temptation Eyes
05. Sweet Girl #2
06. Perfectly Lethal
07. Seen Your Video
08. Walkin a Little Closer
09. Gary's Got a Boner


Friday, April 15, 2016

Dag Nasty - Field Day (1988 Giant)

Oh boy.  Field Day might not be thedeal jumping off point for an introduction to Dag Nasty, but it was in fact mine.  You'd be well advised to start chronologically with 1986's primo hardcore standby, Can I Say, featuring the classic DN lineup of Dave Smalley on the mic, Colin Seers on skins, Brian Baker on gits, and Doug Carrion carryin' on with the bass. Something of a blueprint for melodic hardcore in the Ronnie Raygun-era, Can I Say boasted ten incendiary blasts that were oft imitated, and rarely (if ever) duplicated.   Smalley's exodus before the band's follow up venture, Wig Out at Denko's entailed the entry of new mouthpiece Peter Cortner. Wig Out's notable mid-tempo nuances couldn't prepare DN's fanbase for the radical departure of the quartets "difficult third" LP, Field Day.  You see, in '88 the then-established Nasties double-dog dag dared their minions with a patchwork of eighteen meandering, stylistically curious songs that by my estimation upended their reputation to the extent that the only thing sensible to do was to splinter shortly afterwards.  Which they did.

Often exuding the tenor of a bewildering music salad than a logically flowing record, even the best results here are undercut by processed production treatments and gloss that sound unnatural in the Dag Nasty realm, especially on the heels of the two albums of fiery, unadulterated punk.  Nonetheless Field Day houses many respites like the Descendents-y "Here's to You" and title track.  A run though of the Ruts (UK) signature tune "Staring at the Rude Boys" is taut and convincing, and so is the gripping "Dear Mrs. Touma," a piece concerning the loss of young man due to a senseless act of violence.  Then there's a retake of Can I Say's "Under Your Influence," which is arguably turned into a neutered mockery here.  There's also plethora of quasi-ballads and introspective pieces juxtaposing with the relatively aforementioned old-school numbers.  It isn't that a "soft" Dag Nasty is a "bad" Dag Nasty, but jarring nonetheless.  A key example is "The Ambulance Song" which finds Baker dipping into blues-lite guitar fills of all things.  There are even more inconsequential forays clogging up Field Day, but I'll spare these guys any more scathing.  Things do end on a high note at least with the inclusion of "All Ages Show," a thrashy, melodicore punk-pop gem that brings the band's potential well into the foreground.  "All Ages..." appeared on a previous single of the same name along with "You're Mine," which is also appended.  As for DN's Americanized spin on Wire's "12XU," I'll let you be the judge of that.

Field Day is certainly not the band's finest hour, but it is their most intriguing.  Not long after, Brian Baker made his way into the lineup of Junkyard, a slavishly sleezy metal outfit in the mold of Guns 'N Roses.  Colin Seers parlayed his talents to one of my personal '90s faves, The Marshes.  The '90s also saw a Dag Nasty reunion album, Four on the Floorwith Smalley back in the drivers seat.

01. Trouble Is
02. Field Day
03. Things That Make No Sense
04. The Ambulance Song
05. Staring at the Rude Boys
06. 13 Seconds Under Water
07. La Penita
08. Dear Mr.s Touma
09. Matt
10. I've Heard
11. Under Your Influence
12. Typical
13. Here's to You
14. (16 Count)
15. Never Green Lane
16. You're Mine
17. All Ages Show
18. 12XU


Monday, April 11, 2016

Find a rose with all the weeds, tell it it is beautiful.

Since the passing of this band's singer two months ago, I have been utterly besotted with their 1994 and '96 albums.  Now you can too.  Enjoy.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Slack attack.

Sorry I haven't been able to give you much this week.  Windows has crashed on multiple occasions, and I've been forced to reinstall.  Will be back for Mystery Monday, and hopefully we'll be in the swing of things again for next week.  Cheers.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Christmas - Ultraprophets of Thee Psykick Revolution (1989, IRS)

The utter perils of naming your band Christmas, let me count the ways.  Granted, that's merely my perspective but to their credit this Boston trio had a bevy of substantive tunes in their Santa sack.  If memory serves, I introduced you to these guys (and girl) roughly eight years ago with a 1984 single that predated their first album, '86s In Excelsior Dayglo. Ultraprophets... was their follow-up, and it commences with a colossal bang in the guise of "Stupid Kids," a driving, somersaulting rocker that plies punk-induced thrust to a riveting melody hook that infects the entirety of the tune, not merely the chorus.  Holy fuck.  In fact, it's so righteously gratifying that virtually nothing that follows can hold a candle to it, hence Ultraprophets... fatal flaw.  Side one is clearly the better half, housing ruminations ranging from nuclear war to Richard Nixon.  Drummer Elizabeth Ann Margaret Cox bears most of the vocal burden, lending just the right tact to Christmas' crisp, artful aplomb which sonically slots somewhere between latter-era X and the B-52s.  Aside from the rather visceral "Stupid Kids" this album is something of a grower.

Additionally, one of our readers was thoughtful enough to assemble Christmas' non-LP recordings, such as singles, compilation tracks, etc.  Fourteen songs you can have here.  The link to Ultraprophets... follows below.

01. Stupid Kids
02. This is Not a Test
03. Richard Nixon
04. Hot Dog
05. Punch and Judy
06. Great Wall of China
07. Human Chain
08. War Hog
09. He Loves Them All too Much
10. Royal Klutch Tattoo
11. My Operator
12. Hymn


Sunday, April 3, 2016

I fall apart every time I read the surgeon's warning...

One of my favorite album's from 2011.  If you haven't heard it before, trust me, you're not alone.  Enjoy.


Friday, April 1, 2016

The Bandables - An appreciation of.

Last December, as part of my Chanukah uploads series of out-of-print records of yore that warranted "special emphasis" I was pleased to share a single I had long been seeking by a downstate New York act dubbed The Bandables.  The 45 in question (Cynicism b/w Love Lies Down) was the band's only full-scale release, and back in the '80s when a record was minted on a small indie label, "full scale" often translated to modest distribution at best.   Lack of notoriety aside, when a band gives you a record this striking you want more.  Preferably a lot more.

Given my enthusiasm of that one-single-wonder from 1984, I did my homework to uncover what became of the Bandables and if there was any more ear candy to be had by them.  As luck would have it my timing was spot-on, with the group establishing an archive of sorts via the miracle of facebook with photos, memorabilia and details of their not-so-crazed exploits in the vicinity of the five boroughs.

In 2014 it was revealed that the band had more music on the reels than the "Cynicism" single, and plans were potentially in the offing to make some/all of it available.  While we're not taking any credit on our end, more music by the Bandables has indeed come to fruition.  The sessions for the abundantly aforementioned 45 yielded about another seven songs, all of which have been recently Bandcamped.  In my original critique of "Cynicism," I opined that the band's assertive power-pop stride owed a debt to the Pretenders.  Amy Miller had her hands on the mic for that one, and despite a rather uncanny likeness to Chrissie Hynde, the Bandable's swagger was considerably more modest.  That modesty lent itself to a cozy solace of sorts, wherein the quartet fused the forward thinking pop smarts of Let's Active, a dollop of Peter Buck jangle, and even some occasional bubblegum tangents.  You aren't likely to hear the warm, analogue reverb of "Hard to Tell," and "A as in Any," emanating from any of today's hipster boilerplate hopefuls.  The fidelity of some of the Bandcamp tracks leaves a bit to be desired, but then again it's only appropriate that music this authentic should sound this authentic, tape hiss be damned.

If the pictures above weren't a dead giveaway, The Bandable's were a co-ed endeavor, with Amy trading off on vocals with Jerry Kitzrow.  I'd be remiss if I failed to mention this foursome was so damn photogenic they would have been a shoo-in for Sassy magazine's Cute Band Alert segment, had that publication existed at the time of these recordings.  With that out of the way, head over to Bandcamp to check out this superlative tuneage for yourself, and  if you enjoy what you hear please consider patronizing the Bandables for their efforts, posthumous as they may be.  For even more immediate gratification, check out the video clip for "Cynicism" below.