Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Metal Flake Mother - Beyond the Java Sea (1991, Moist)

Metal Flake Mother were one of the more modest spokes comprising the mega wheel that was the North Carolina indie scene circa the early '90s.  Never heard of 'em?  Well, for better or worse, not all Tar Heel combos could rise to the stature of Superchunk and The Connells.  As for what they were all about, Carrboro's MFM were practitioners of the lopsided pop thing, and when they set sail for the Java Sea in 1991, they failed to dock for a subsequent album.  I'm hearing intermittent traces of the Pixies throughout this record - not so much the dynamics, or for that matter even the intensity, but rhythmically.  Hmmm.  Violent Femmes might be a looser reference point, and if bands like the Sugarplastic ring your bell Metal Flake are worth investigating.  Boasting seventeen songs, not everything occupying ...Java Sea exactly sticks to the wall, but you'd do well to begin with the out-and-out catchy "Wingtip Lizards" and "Mean to Me," and proceed from there.

01. Tongue Long
02. Wingtip Lizards
03. Wiggle Like a Wild One
04. Ballroom
05. Mean toMe
06. Open a Vase
07. The Inquisition
08. Fine Lady
09. Satpen
10. Squash Beetle
11. Dance for Nails
12. Got a Lot of Blood
13. Mr Flower
14. Our Love for the Bone
15. Moss Howl
16. Matador
17. Safer


Sunday, August 28, 2016

You wanted the Best, you got the Best!

A debut from 1987 that was nothing short of stellar.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

V/A - Hear No Evil - A Compilation (1991, Galt)

Set the Wayback Machine to 1991.  During those heady pre-web days around the turn of the alt-rawk decade, I was downright reliant on fanzines and more legit music rags to inform me of burgeoning ear candy that would otherwise miss my radar.  It was that year when I saw an ad in Option or Alternative Press from a small indie imprint dubbed Galt Records in downstate New York that was offering up a free cassette compilation of bands I was entirely foreign to simply by writing to the addy and requesting a copy.  I took the bait. Shortly thereafter, in the mail came a high-bias tape with a colored j-card.  Hear No Evil was the name of the reel in question, and on it were fifteen or so acts I never encountered, even on college radio.  Bear in mind I was up to my knees in outfits like Nirvana, Superchunk, Ministry and the Replacements at the time.  My cup truly did runneth over in this fertile era.  So how could a gaggle of relatively straightlaced pop/rock vendors like Imaginary Steps and Love Among Ruins have possibly stacked up against some, if not all of my aforementioned icons?  The answer was quite simple - they didn't.  Not that I had any animosity towards the HNE comp roster, rather I just wasn't moved when there far more visceral options at my disposal.  Into a shoebox the tape went and I rarely gave it a second thought.  Well, what a difference a couple decades can make. 

Back in the early '90s, if a band wasn't decked out in flannel or failed to have a minimum of five distortion pedals at their feet I usually passed.  With maturity comes the acceptance and ultimately embrace of music that was more nuanced, lucid, and tuneful.  I really only got into the "pop" thing by 1997, and was relived there was an underground swelling with rewarding but often unheralded acts.  I began my excavation, and eventually (and continuously) burrowed deep.  It turns out that records by some of Hear No Evil's finest participants like Enemies in the Grass, Falling Stairs and The Bandables made their way into my collection (not to mention this site) in the intervening years.  I didn't realize it back in '91, but that once unappreciated freebie cassette foreshadowed where I was headed.

Those three aforementioned acts (with the Bandables credited here as Jerry Kitzrow & the Bandables) became major league favorites of mine, easily persuading me with scrumptious hooks and jangly propulsion.  Like I said, it took about twenty years for me to come around, but there's a wealth of other standout "left-off-the-dial" participants that I really wish I could hear more of - The Hasbros, Third Eye Butterfly, Hair Corpse, The Next Move, Nate Ouderkirk, the Bandables-related Mystery Date and more.  Best of all, HNE doesn't cater to any extreme.  A significant amount of the groups here are operating under similar parameters as say, the Smithereens, but it's not all power pop mind you.  The version of the comp I'm presenting today is from the CD incarnation, not the tape.  A full tracklist is available on the scan of the tray card to your right.  BTW, a sequel to Hear No Evil was released shortly after, however I have yet to locate it.  Enjoy.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Underachievers - Underfoot (1986, Throbbing Lobster)

How could I resist any record bearing the Throbbing Lobster logo (at a buck no less)?  Let's see.  This co-ed Boston clique had X written all over 'em (think More Fun in the New World), and as their casually fashioned attire on the front cover might suggest, the Underachievers hardly took themselves too seriously.  Fear not, there's plenty of substance to go with that style on Underfoot's ten concise numbers.  You might even catch a sprinkle of the B52s and the Gun Club amidst the aforementioned John Doe and Exene hero worship.  Heck, "Let's Not Dance" even meanders its way down Pylon's alley, to terrific effect I might add.  Original copies may still be available here.

01. Underfoot
02. Alamo
03. Short Wave
04. I Don't Care
05. I'm So Tall
06. You're Not for Me
07. Underground Again
08. Dead Plants
09. Let's Not Dance
10. Friend o' Mine


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

Big Barn Burning - Acres and Acres ep (1988, Pine Marten)

Their homebase may have been in Boston (or thereabouts), but with such pronounced Americana leanings you'd easily mistake Big Barn Burning as denizens of the Midwest.  Not aggro enough to be deemed cowpunk, but ever so slightly deficient in the twang department, BBB found a niche on college radio, eventually signing to national indie imprint Resonance for a 1990 full length, Topping the Orchard.  A music scribe for the Albany based Metroland entertainment sheet summed these fellows up as follow.

Somebody once said that Big Barn Burning were what it'd sound like if Uncle Tupelo grew up in New England; and that's not wholly off the mark. But where Tupelo drew from the folk and native blues of the agrarian South and Midwest, Big Barn Burning seemed inspired and imbued, not with the dread of endless toil and suffering, but with the explosive, joyful color of Northeast autumn and a "harvest's in" intoxication. Their live shows easily, sweatily, chaotically, ecstatically earned the band's moniker.

I'm partial to Acres more linear rock salvos "Coulter of the Moon" and "Coureurs du Bois," both cutting a ballsy, spirited swath in league with some of their contemporaries who put Minneapolis on the map.  The record concludes with guitarsy, indie rock renderings of two old-timey rural standards, "Boll Weevil" and "Sourwood Mountain," performed live on WERS.

01. The Ploughshare & the Snare Drum
02. Brand New Day
03. Coulter Moon
04. Coureurs du Bois
05. Boll Weevil
06. Sourwood Mountain


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Woodpecker - Bowl of Water ep (1988, Paris, New York, Milan)

Woodpecker is/was the province of one Anthony Overtoom, whose larynx amounts to a vague medley of Bob Dylan and Grant Hart, however this three-cut 12" is way more Basement Tapes than Zen Arcade.  The title cut is a driving, bass-trombone enhanced rocker (for lack of a better word) that bears no shortage of rootsy sway and character for miles.  The flip-sides "Pieces" and "O Marie" steer things in a less fevered direction, revealing the other side of Overtoom's proverbial coin.  If anyone is interested, I have a subsequent Woodpecker ep to share as well.  Thanks to Discogs for the pic, substituting for my copy's somewhat blemished visage.

A. Bowl of Water
B1. Pieces
B2. O Marie


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wire Train - live San Francisco, Oct. 1982

It looks like I won't be posting any new music until tomorrow, but to tide you over I thought I'd share this.  A couple days ago I was tipped off to a vintage Wire Train live show that recently surfaced.  It's from 1982 San Fran gig, and if it's not one of the earliest Wire Train performances, it's the first WT show ever.  A few notes:

Its a soundboard tape, and its good quality; 8 tracks, 4 you'll recognise and 4 where I've guessed the titles. This is *possibly* their first ever live show - after the 3rd track Kevin says "This is the first time we've played in front of people, if you could clap that'd make us happy". The songs aren't as polished as they became by 1983/84.

Track list and FLAC/MP3 links are as follows.  Just FYI I'm not hosting the files, but the links should work indefinitely.

01. We Could Call It
02. Over and Over
03. Return to Me
04. I Gotta Go
05. In a Plane
06. Life
07. Everything Is Turning Up Down Again
08. Chamber of Hellos


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Things are gonna change in our favor.

A 1995 album that was unfortunately released under the worst of circumstances.


The Heaters - American Dream: The Portastudio Recirdings (2016, Omnivore) - A brief review

From the standpoint of major labels, say CBS, the trend du jour in the early '80s was relatively staid and formulaic, despite the burgeoning advances being carved out in the realm of new romantic pop.  So where did The Heaters slot into the era?  Well, they just so managed to nail down a deal for their second album, Energy Transfer, in 1980 with CBS (presently Sony).  Though they hardly bore a penchant for anything radical, the album found the Heaters nuclei of Mercy Bermudez, Melissa Connell, and sister Maggie Connell gracefully deviating between contemporary pop-rock and girl group panache, resulting in an inadvertent update from two decades prior.  Safe as milk for the Top-40 set, and a reasonable good bet for the suits, the Heaters failed to catch the public's attention in the era of Blondie, the Knack and the Cars.  Essentially, Energy Transfer failed to transfer into mega sales on accounting ledgers, quite simply because the Heaters opted to be themselves in an increasingly fickle and superficial world.

The Heaters disbanded shortly after Energy Transfer failed to catch fire, but it wasn't long before the trio regrouped, determined to outdo the results of those initial records - without the auspices of a cutthroat, corporate music industry.  Going DIY is fraught with obvious perils, however by the early-80s the trio didn't intend to work with big name production crews, nor did they have the immediate interest of smaller indie labels.  Still performing in clubs and honing an already solid reputation for soaring harmonies, the band was encouraged to continue recording.

With a staunch intention of not returning to the rigamarole of fancy recording studios and their attendant, expensive trappings, The Heaters did a 180 and opted for a TEAC Portastudio four-track recorder.  The fruit of their home grown studio endeavors is being made available for the first time on American Dream.  Not to be confused with another archival Heaters collection, The Great Lost Heaters Album, American Dream showcases the trio indulging in the girl group jones that was merely hinted at on Energy Transfer, and their 1978 studio debut.  Channeling their inner Ronnettes...and their inner Crystals...and perhaps inner Shangri-Las as well, The Heaters finesse and uncanny aptitude for the genre and sound they're reaching for is as sheik and convincing as any acolyte of the vintage aforementioned combos could hope for.  Sure, the four-track medium is what the Heaters employed in their post-major label iteration, but they were hardly defined or stymied by it.  In fact, melodious, retro-fitted beauties "Just Around the Corner," "I Want to Love Again," and the sensuous title track gracefully transcend any supposed lo-fi limitations.  The liner notes, penned by Bermudez and the Connell sisters outline in forensic, albeit engaging detail how these 1983 recordings were committed to tape.  American Dream is available later this week through Omnivore Records and Amazon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Dentists - Powdered Lobster Fiasco (1993, Homestead)

I'm fulfilling my second request in as many days, and yet another I'm pleased to share for the first time.  The Dentists haven't exactly made themselves scarce on these pages, having enjoyed entries for their 1991 LP Heads and How to Read Them, and the archival demos/rarities 10" ep, Naked.  Though they predated the seminal Brit-indie compilation, C86, The Dentists were akin to many of their strummy, wit-smart contemporaries like the Bodines and Close Lobsters.  By the time they got around to tracking Powdered Lobster Fiasco, the band streamlined their shtick, eschewing much of their clamorous, and occasional psych-enhanced tendencies which involved their earlier release, without relenting what was inherently unique to them.  This album isn't on my Dentists "desert island" list so to speak, but conversely there isn't anything on PLF that I take exception with.  Furthermore, this disc puts so much of '90s lamestream Britpop to utter shame, and that in itself is worth a bi-annual cleaning from the Dentists.

01. Pocket of Silver
02. Charms and the Girl
03. Outside Your Inside
04. Box of Sun
05. Beautiful Day
06. I Can See Your House From Up Here
07. We thought We'd Get to Heaven
08. Leave Me Alive
09. All Coming Down
10. Snapdragon


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Wrens - 20 Years of Juvenilia 89-09 ep (2009)

I almost forgot this thing even existed, let alone was resident on my hard drive all these years until someone requested it last week.  This sporadically functioning and even more infrequently recording New Jersey unit have made best buddies with just about anyone in earshot of the fabulous three albums, Silver (1994), Seacacus (1996) and Meadowlands (2003).  Crafting a beguilingly smart and sonically dense indie guitar-rock maelstrom tethered to million-part harmonies, The Wrens, dare I say, are their own worst enemies in letting the rigors of day jobs and family life impede their pursuit of some deliriously sublime music.  I'm too short on time to tout their virtues, but you're welcome to peruse what text I've dedicated to them previously. 

As for the music hand 20 Years of Juvenilia was dished out as a cd-r only delight to fans who attended a particular Wrens gig at Maxwells in Hoboken in 2009.  The time frame indicated in the title is something of a misnomer, as the disc's seven tracks were all committed to tape between 1990-97.  The proceedings are doggedly lo-fi, with a couple of the more "ambient" pieces not even constituting 'music,' as it were.  Fear not, there's still a handful of gold nuggets to be excavated, specifically "Lips of Blue" and "Soft Castration," the latter of which could have rubbed elbows with the best of what constituted Guided By Voices' Alien Lanes

01. The French Song
02. Soft Castration
03. Lips of Blue
04. Don't Be Shy
05. Silverware
06. 6th & Atlantic
07. 65


Sunday, August 7, 2016

And I might make a hondo if I make it to Redondo tonight.

From 2010...and it just might surprise you.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Dead Neighbours - Strangedays: Strangeways (1985, Sharko)

Dead Neighbours were a UK conglomerate who began life as a psychobilly type thing...which is an almost immediate non-starter for yours truly.  For their second album Strangedays: Strangeways, DN largely ditched said modus operandi for a considerably more serious post-punk template that was altogether more melodic, not to mention variably melancholic.  The insertion of ex-Cocteau Twin Will Heggie in the Neighbors lineup is credited for this transition, with the end result yielding something akin to the Chameleons and to a lesser extent Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.  Strangedays... isn't wall-to-wall gold, but I'll be damned if "Wreckage of Your Mind" and "The Ultimate Goal" are nothing short of immaculate.  Love the throbbing bass and echo-y guitar workouts, sounding like they were plucked from the first Big Country album.

After the demise of the Neighbours in the mid-80s, frontman Craig Lorentson founded Lowlife, a considerably more accomplished troupe who parlayed the atmospherics of Strangedays to a far loftier level that mingled ethereal dream pop and goth into something fairly breathtaking.  This album's concluding "Cowards Way" was later retooled as an equally effective Lowlife song in 1986.  You can find supplementary info on Dead Neighbours over at Cripsy Nuggets blog, who for better or worse are also sharing that ill advised first album.

01. Wreckage of Your Mind
02. Turmoil
03. Terror Eyes
04. The Survivor
05. The Ultimate Goal
06. Beauty and the Beast
07. Tell Me Why
08. The Cowards Way


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Lost Generation - Military Heroes tape (1983, Incas)

I'm a sucker for anything adorning the Incas Records logo - maybe too much of a sucker.  Still, my investment in this tape was meager, so no major regrets.  Lost Generation were a relatively well known Connecticut hardcore crew, though not markedly innovative.  This cassette ep followed up a well received 7" in 1982, Never Work, and several albums ensued throughout the '80s.  "Heroes" and "Sheik Opec" are decent enough socio-political punk screeds, typical of the Raygun-era.  "Heroes (Part 2)" however, is a brief dub/reggae foray that bears nothing in common with the other song on here that it shares it's namesake with.  "Trouble" kicks up a little dirt in the manner of Angry Samoans and White Flag, winning my vote for MVP on this cartridge.  A CD compilation of LG back catalog material, Punk This, saw the light of day in 1995.

01. Heroes
02. Heroes (Part 2)
03. Trouble
04. Help Us
05. Win or Lose
06. Sheik OPEC