Thursday, September 29, 2016

Maryland Cookies - Flesh, Trash & Heat (1987, Rainbow Music)

Sorry I haven't been able to give you much this week, but you'll probably find this humdinger a nice asset to the collection.  The Maryland Cookies were in fact not from The Old Line state, rather...Sweden. Specializing in wailin' garage rawk-cum-punk, the Cookies approximated later era Lime Spiders (think Cave Comes Alive) fronted by a mouthpiece (Mike Eriksson) with a thing for Stan Ridgway.  From the vigorous lead off number, "You Just Fade Away," to the slammin' cowpunk surge of "Too Much Hamburgers," the quartet manages to keep the bulk of Flesh, Trash & Heat at a rolling boil with bite and sneer for miles.  These gents were taut as all-get-out.  The garage standard, "I Can Only Give You Everything" is given a new coat of cookie batter to sublime effect I might add.  Per Discogs, it looks like three more MC albums followed. 

01. You Just Fade Away
02. Protection
03. back on the Ground
04. Too Much Hamburgers
05. I Can Only Give You Everything
06. Move on Baby
07. New Kind of Spirit


Sunday, September 25, 2016

This is where I walk out the door...

Q:  Can a band's studio outtakes vastly exceed the quality of their officially released product?

A: Yes!   Here are sixteen power poppin' examples.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Game Theory - Berkeley Square, 10-02-86

To follow up my Game Theory post from the other night, here's a live soundboard performance from a now defunct Berkeley, CA club.  Thought this might be a relevant show considering it's from the same era as Big Shot Chronicles, however not much from that album is represented here.  Another snag is that "Rayon Drive" cuts out early.  Otherwise, don't let that stop you from enjoying the rest of it (yes, even "Kung Fu Fighting").

Note:  I'm making this available only as an MP3 download tonight, but will try to get a FLAC version up tomorrow.  Please check back!

01. Carrie Anne
02. Rayon Drive
03. 24
04. Waltz the Halls Always
05. Girl with a Guitar
06. Look Away
07. Where You Going Northern
08. Shark Pretty
09. I've Tried Subtlety
10. Friend of the Family
11. King-Fu Fighting
12. Curse of the Frontierland

MP3  or  FLAC pt 1 & pt 2

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Game Theory - The Big Shot Chronicles (1986/2016, Omnivore) - A brief overview.

Before delving into my critique, for the uninitiated, Game Theory were a Davis, CA export who belonged to a loosely allied vanguard of forward thinking combos included Let's Active, REM and the dBs.  In essence they were "new music" without the baggage and often goofy proclivities of "new wave" - a rare find even back in the early '80s.  Their winsome 1986 long-player, The Big Shot Chronicles is the latest in a series of expanded and remastered reissues courtesy of Omnivore Music

If there was ever an anthemic, clarion call to commence a Game Theory record "Here it Is Tomorrow," the opening salvo of the band's third proper album, The Big Shot Chronicles, clearly takes the cake.  With Gil Ray's pounding thunderclap drums and the late Scott Miller's rapid fire spoken/sung cadence leading the propulsive, punky charge, "Here It Is..." asserts it's presence like nothing else the band had committed to tape prior.  From what I've been able to gauge from a pretty wide swath of Game Theory aficionados, the albums sandwiching Big Shot (1985's Real Nighttime and '87s double magnum opus Lolita Nation) are the most revered.  So much so with Lolita... in fact, it was reissued in reverse chronological order to this one, almost as if to prioritize it.  Personally, I can't be impartial to Big Shot, if only because it represented my first exposure to Game Theory, eventually leading me into Miller's unfolding universe, up to and including his subsequent foray, The Loud Family.

Beyond my slightly indulgent testimonial, the band's not-so-difficult third album found Game Theory settling not merely on a more assured sound, but a signature one at that.  In the process, they ironed out some of the nascent wrinkles that charmingly evidenced themselves on their debut, Blaze of Glory, three years prior - an album which for better or worse wasn't cut under the most professional of circumstances.  The Big Shot Chronicles is all about honing a new kind of charm - one forged from the lessons of fifteen years of power pop spoils (from both sides of the Atlantic), not to mention the then fertile Paisley Underground hubbub due south in their native California.  Modest dollops purloined from the Beatles and Big Star didn't hurt either.  Scott Miller and Co. stitched up all of this inspiration and appeal with a subtly indigenous thread.  The Game Theory "recipe," as it were.

And what of the songs composing the record in question?  By the time Big Shot... was tracked by Mitch Easter, G/T were finally in full swing, both in terms of songwriting and performance acumen.  The aforementioned "Here it is Tomorrow" is a flabbergastingly sharp opener, yet it's bested a little further in via a vivacious and visceral pop/rock trifecta - "I've Tried Subtlety," "Erika's Word," and "Crash Into June" all of which are worthy of college rock canonization.  Big Shot's brashness and carefully wielded horsepower wasn't rooted in arrogance so much as four years of practice, touring and toil that this band accumulated since their 1982 genesis. Conversely, Game Theory turn this record on it's head so to speak, in the guise of spare acoustic pieces as well, specifically "Regenisraen," and "Like a Girl Jesus," the latter of which resonated enormously with fans, and was even paid homage to a decade later by indie acts The Killjoys and Sleepyhead.  Now, everything that falls in between the cracks of the songs I mentioned aren't necessarily as riveting, but let it be known that Big Shot is phenomenally consistent was perhaps the most definitive record in the band's catalog, spanning the depth and breadth of their capabilities.  In fact, it's the ideal starting point for neophytes too, but above all else a sophisticated, cohesive, and artful pop record.

Omnivores reissue and expansion of Big Shot entails a thirteen song addendum, including some of the bonus songs from the original Alias Records 1993 overhaul of the album, live takes of "Friend of the Family" and the Velvets "Sweet Jane," rough mixes and demos, and a primo remake of Todd Rundgren's "Couldn't I Just Tell You."  It's available now direct from Omnivore, or Amazon and iTunes if you prefer.  The vinyl incarnation is pressed on immaculate looking transparent green wax.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Starbilly 7" (1994, Buzz)

Starbilly was the brainchild of one Peter Searcy, a Louisville, KY native who made a gnarly punk noise in the mid-80s via the seminal, teenaged Squirrel Bait.  In between these two acts Searcy fronted a decidedly less gnarly, and in fact relatively straight up rock crew, Big Wheel.  You could say Starbilly pulled more from the Big Wheel side of the Searcy spectrum, applying just enough polish to 'billy's loud, passionate modus operandi to keep "Unmistakable Tick" from careening onto the third rail.  As to exactly what kind of "tick" they're refereeing to in the tune, that's got me scratching my noggin - a deer tick perhaps?  On the other side of this semi-transparent maroon coin we have none other than a cover of Husker Du's "Diane."  Starbilly's conveyance of the Grant Hart-penned, macabre classic is faithful, but strikes me as a bit stiff by song's end.  Contemporary to this single was an eight-song album, Master Vibrator, which apparently included both of these tracks.   

While Starbilly have reunited as recently as this year, things have been quiet on the Squirrel Bait front for eons.  Peter, if you're reading this, please consider a S/B reunion.  Start out with Coachella or Riot Fest next year if you have to, and preferably expand from there, but for chrissakes just throw us a bone.  We've been starved for a good thirty years now.

A. Unmistakable Tick
B. Diane


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

It Figures - 12 (1987, Perspective)

Yes, this album jacket is irrefutably daft - the music enclosed, not so much (thankfully).  You're not getting The Joshua Tree here folks, but little did this Portsmouth, NH trio realize some thirty years ago that they were creating a record that was nearly a custom fit for these hallowed pages.  Pulling (albeit never plundering) from Minneapolis indie-punk not to mention a trove of their left-of-the-dial contemporaries, It Figures weren't innovators, but they need not be so long as they possessed the tunes.  With a few exceptions, 12 is conveniently divied up into a relatively rough-hewn, slightly rambunctious yin (side one), nicely balanced with a more introspective and occasionally melancholy yang via the flip.  12's first half is the more convincing of the two, though I'm hardly one to quibble with the remainder.  If you're so inclined, kindly proceed to this page to explore earlier It Figures compositions. 

01. Hookline
02. Crash and Burn
03. (It's a) Madhouse
04. Now They're the Slaves
05. Close to Home
06. Erika
07. Sorry Starts With 'S'
08. The Hypnotist
09. Pull the Wool
10. Visions
11. Superman
12. Mechanical Me


Sunday, September 18, 2016

She's playin' my very most favorite Sweet record.

From 1994.  I know a lot of you already have this, but for money this is the most satisfying thing they did.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Boo Radleys - Learning to Walk (1991)

Since I didn't have time to transfer any vinyl this week it's another selection from my dwindling pile of shareable CDs.  Don't think I've brought these guys up before.  Learning to Walk isn't a proper Boo Radley's album, rather a compilation of early ep tracks, which came in handy back in the twentieth century when import cd singles were $10-$12 a pop.  Uggh.  Anyway, the Rads didn't really come into their own until their blissful third album, Giant Steps arrived in 1993.  Nevertheless, I was fascinated with their nascent dream pop fixation, which played out quite well in the early '90s.  If you've ever wanted to investigate their lazy, hazy shoegazer era, Learning... and their second LP, Everything's Alright Forever, would be a good place to start (and for that matter end I suppose).  You'll find some sublime tunes here - "Kaleidoscope," "Sometime Soon She Said," and even a distortion-savvy rendition of Love's "Alone Again Or."

01. Kaleidoscope
02. How I Feel
03. Aldous
04. Swansong
05. The Finest Kiss
06. Tortoiseshell
07. Bluebird
08. Naomi
09. Alone Again Or
10. Everybird
11. Sometime Soon She Said
12. Foster's Van
13. Song For Up!
14. Boo! Faith


Sunday, September 11, 2016

We all stare at vacant ceilings wishing we could just let go.

Four eps from four extremely disparate artists.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Flys - Waikiki Beach Refugees (1978, Captain Oi)

From a cosmetic standpoint, it might be easy to mistake this vintage, Conventry, UK crew as just another punk aggregation (suppose it doesn't help when you're album is reissued on a label dubbed Captain Oi) but that would be more or less inaccurate.  The Flys skewed considerably towards the "proto-punk" environs of Richard Hell, and to a lesser extent the New York Dolls.  Coming up in the glut of similar minded bands in the UK punk free for all spanning 1976-78, few were paying attention to this band, and I'm sure to their dismay they're less spoken of now than they were back then.  Waikiki Beach Refugees is far from a desert island classic, so to speak, but it's nervier moments - "Fun City," "Saturday Sunrise" and "We Don't Mind the Rave," really deliver.  The Fly's second outing Flys Own is more impressive, and I'll attend to it in another post

The 2001 reissue of Waikiki tacks on eight bonus selections, mostly culled from singles.

01. We Don't Mind the Rave
02. Beverley
03. Looking for New Hearts
04. She's the One
05. Monsoon Sky
06. Fun City
07. Don't Moonlight Me
08. Some Kind of Girl
09. I Don't Know
10. Waikiki Beach Refugees
11. Saturday Sunrise
12. Dark Nights

13. Love and a Molotov Cocktail
14. Can I Crash Here?
15. Civilisation
16. Fun City (single vers)
17. EC4
18. Beverley (single vers)
19. Name Dropping
20. Fly v. Fly

Reissue news here!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Trotsky Icepick/Vena Cava - Saints tribute split 7" (1992, Happy Squid)

Not much time for a write-up tonight, but luckily this one's pretty straightforward.  Two LA bands cover two bona fide classics from Aussie punk legends The Saints.  One act is relatively renown (Trotsky Icepick) and the other not so much (Vena Cava).  I should note that both bands feature John-Talley Jones on vocals.  Jones has a connection to the Urinals which you can read about here.  Both renditions are pretty faithful to the originals, but as you might expect not as robust.  If you have yet to make your acquaintance with the Saints head straight for their first two LPs, I'm Stranded and Eternally Yours, arriving in 1977 & 1978 respectfully.

Trotsky Icepick - I'm Stranded
Vena Cava - This Perfect Day


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

V/A - Dirt Compilation Vol. 1 (1982, Dirt)

The album's called Dirt, and so is the label it appears on.  Fittingly, the record revolves around bands who played a venue called Dirt (in Bloomfield, NJ), however there's exclusively studio material to be had here.  Pretty amazing concept huh?  Believe it or not the album's seedy title belies quite a few selections that are worthy of vinyl enshrinement, starting off with a knockout ditty by The Numbers that's worth it's weight in turn-of-the-decade, power pop gold - heck, platinum even.  "Smash Hit" quite frankly wasn't, but would have been well served as one.  Should be a total dig-it for you Teen Line types in the audience.  In a similar realm we have The Modulators, who have penned a paean to the Dirt nightclub itself, "Down at the Dirt."  BTW, their Tomorrow's Coming reissue isn't to be missed.  The Shakes and The Bounce are responsible for mildly saucey stabs at co-ed synth pop, the Transformers steer things in a slightly more AOR direction, while the Whyos peddle a dose of full tilt rockabilly.  Shrapnel, featuring a pre-Monster Magnet Dave Wyndorf deal us a surprisingly danceable card, "Come Back to Me," evidently penned by an outside songwriter, and let's not overlook white boy, wanna be rastas Zap & the Wires.  Finally, there's a considerable Garden State heavy hitter on here, but I'm not going to disclose who it is.  You'll have to download Dirt to reveal it for yourself.  I'll give you a hint, their name starts with an "s." My apologies in advance for the rather intense amount of surface noise on some of these tracks.

01. The Numbers - Smash Hit
02. The Shakes - On the Blink
03. The Bounce - Jenny's Doin' Fine
04. The Groceries - Hire High School Girls
05. (mystery track - download to reveal!)
06. Modulators - Down at the Dirt
07. The Colors - Growing Up American
08. Transformer - Tonight
09. Shrapnel - Come Back to Me
10. Abstracts - It's Me
11. The Whyos - 1-2-3-4
12. Zap & the Wires - Tramps of Days


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Earthmen - College Heart (2016, Popboomerang) - a brief review

If you live in the States (or neighboring countries) and have never encountered The Earthmen you're more than forgiven.  For one, they hailed from Melbourne, Australia.  Secondly, only one Earthmen full length saw the light of day in North America, namely '93s Teen Sensations.   Initially released as an ep in Oz, The US incarnation of Teen Sensations was fleshed out with songs taken from several 1992 singles, including "Flyby" which I featured last year.  The album had an even greater distinction when it took root in the western hemisphere - the backing of a major label.  As a signee to Seed Records in the States, the Earthmen had the marketing muscle of WEA behind them, or so they had hoped.  Like dozens and dozens of commercially viable "indie" acts scooped up by the "big five" in the wake of Nirvana's viral success, the public gave the quintet short shrift, yet those who were fortunate to make their acquaintance with Teen Sensations invariably craved more.  Fortunately there was more, albeit the vast majority of it was confined well south of the Equator.  Cherry-picking liberally from the Earthmen's subsequent The Fall and Rise of My Favorite Sixties Girl ep in 1994, and their 1997 swan song, Love Walked In, the recently minted compilation College Heart largely picks up where Sensations left off.

Two cuts deep into this retrospective is one of the band's signature pieces, the title track from the aforementioned Fall and Rise ep. Imagine if you will three densely packed minutes of
dizzying guitar squalls coupled with a pulverizing hook, all tucked inside a frantic delivery system – and you still won’t get half the idea of what I’m extolling until you experience it firsthand.  Yes, that good.  "The Fall and Rise..." was so effective I'm not sure if the guys were able to top it, though the driving "First Single" and "Figure 8" weren't far off.  

The Earthmen subscribed to the '90s alt-rock trend du jour as much as anyone, but you wouldn't find any grunge tread on their collective tires.  In fact, they weren't an eccentric bunch in the least, nor were their records particularly challenging.  They went the long way around the block and actually hunkered down and wrote songs with no discernible flash or frivolity.  For every assertive rocker (e.g. "The Fall and Rise...") there was at least one ballad to counter it, and they weren't afraid to bring in a string section when suitable.  Sometimes hushed and introspective ("Tell the Women We're Going"), sometimes polished ("Arms Reach"), and even haunting ("Kathleen"), the Earthmen's slower forays were invariably sincere and bittersweet.

Two years after the well received Love Walked In, the Earthmen bid adieu in front of a hometown Melbourne crowd in December 1999.  Some seventeen years later however, the band's epilogue was about to be rewritten.  To put the icing on College Heart's cake, the group reconvened to record four new songs for the compilation and are slated for select live dates later this year.  The spry, power-pop tinged "Personal History" and "Find Your Own Way" (a la recent Posies) make a strong case for the Earthmen to have a whole 'nother go at it.

You can draw your own conclusions by taking College Heart for a spin (and hopefully a purchase) over at Popboomerang's Bandcamp page.  Amazon and CD Baby have you covered as well.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Takes ten pounds of bullshit for ten ounces of glory.

The 1990 & '91 rip-roaring, sardonic salvos from one of greater Illinois' greatest.  Octane, baby.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Woodpecker - No Factory Town ep (1989)

This is following up the first Woodpecker ep I shared a couple weeks back.  I wasn't exactly sure what to make of that first record, and even less so with this one, but I had a request for it.  Four unusual "pop" songs, often with elaborate ambitions and odd juxtapositions that incorporate bass trombone and violin.  Still think the singer sounds a bit like Grant Hart.  The closest No Factory Town comes to linear indie rock is "Twenty Five Years Old," and would have been that much more appealing without the goddamn trombone!  Thought the buoyant "Very Pretty Girl" was a cover, but for better or worse it's a 'peckers original.  Enjoy (or not)

01. No Factory Town
02. Twenty Five Years Old
03. Very Pretty Girl
04. Parade Songs