Friday, March 31, 2017
Catching up with Saint Marie Records
Secret Shine's par excellence debut, Untouched from 1993, it did seem to get lost in the woozy, dream-pop ether of that genre's abundant era. Their recent aughts reunion endeavors like 2008's All of the Stars heralded the return of a comforting musical presence, but I couldn't have envisioned the depth and scope of their newest salvo, There is Only Now. Slotting in at a nexus between early Slowdive and Nowhere-era Ride, TION is chockablock with billowy, deep sonic caverns that allure and envelope in sublime fashion, with themes that negotiate a merger between the euphoric and sobering. This record is above and beyond your proverbial "return to form," instead upping Secret Shine's ante into a new stratosphere.
Whimsical it has to be twee...right? Not so fast. The Indiana-based band in question are not as cutsey as their moniker applies, yet their melodically ravaged songs are eKrissy Vanderwoude, who steers her quintet to a less lofty, albeit no less intoxicating plateau. The driving and deliriously fetching "Surreal" and "Thought of You" demonstrate their modus operandi best. The nutshell backstory of Sleep to Dream, the Whim's second album. is that most of it was tracked in 2004, but was shelved until 2016 when it was dusted off and finally completed. Who ever thought a decade-plus of procrastination could yield such stunning results?
ntirely approachable. If you ever wondered what the Cocteau Twins Elizabeth Fraser might have amounted top without all those fluttery vocal trills, you may have found your answer in Whimsical's
Seasurfer's Heasdlights ep from a couple of years back was no fluke. This co-ed German conglomerate lay it on thick, pouring everything they have into the dense-as-all-get-out Under the Milkway...Who Cares. At nearly every turn the band emits a galvanizing surge of tremolo, muscle, and near-disorienting noise, a la My Bloody Valentine and Curve circa Doppelganger. From song to song there isn't much variance in Seasurfer's overarching modus operandi, but a strong semblance of amped-out haze and mystique nonetheless commands your undivided attention. A phenomenal album for the car I might add.
I recall being enlightened to The Emerald Down's Scream the Sound album when it was originally unleashed in the early 'oos. It was a time when "the scene that celebrates itself" wasn't exactly celebrated so wholeheartedly anymore. Kinda like when hair metal went out of vogue in 1991 I suppose, but I digress. But by sheer osmosis or otherwise, the Rebecca Bayse-helmed quartet had the benefit of over ten-plus years of bi-coastal dream pop/shoegazer rock to immerse themselves in - and ultimately the acumen to redeploy that wherewithal into something as special as the heroes that inspired them. Prodigies of Slowdive, Cocteaus and Pale Saints, Emerald Down weren't out-and-out revisionists nor carbon copies, rather their ethereal atmospheric aplomb was the quintessence of what so many of their inspirational antecedents were hinting at before they prematurely dissolved. Scream... is blissed out head music for the eons, and even much of the teaming new crop of hopefuls cant touch on what Emerald seized upon here. While I've merely broached the topic of the reissue of Scream the Sound, TED has a voluminous backstory to indulge you with, and a detailed biography can be located here.
Orange are another bygone act the bulk of us have yet to make our acquaintance with. Better late than never given the impeccable ear candy this San Francisco treat had to offer by way of their lone LP from 1994. Orange focal point Sonya Waters was a London transplant who possessed a delicate set of lungs that incorporated the best parts of the Sundays' Harriet Wheeler and The Cranes' Alison Shaw. That approximation alone would have command of my ears even is she was singing the proverbial phone book, but far better, Shaw parlayed her talents against a Lush-ious backdrop, yielding results that struck me as uncannily similar to Emma, Miki and the boys. Coincidence or not as the aforementioned goes, Orange's Complete Recordings is a convenient one-stop shopping excursion, featuring some jaw-droppingly gorgeous songs like "Feijoa," "Heather" and their unique spin on the Pixies "Gigantic." My only complaint here is a thorough lack of liner notes (not even so much as a simple band roster or copyright date) in an otherwise visually captivating album sleeve.
Like the other bands profiled in this feature, February may have purloined a thing or two from shoegaze visionaries of yore, but this defunct, co-ed Minneapolis crew weren't solely tethered to that premise. February weren't burdened with any overarching Achilles's heel, so to speak, rather their lack of focus is pervasive on their locally released 1997 album, Tomorrow is Today. Given a new lease on life two decades later, Tomorrow certainly strikes me as a product of it's time, swinging on the coattails of the fading Madchester movement on the danceable "Caught" and whatnot. No, that one doesn't cut it for me, but I'll be damned if the heady, gazey strains of "Riproar" doesn't get the juices flowing, at least for a couple minutes anyway.
All records discussed herein can be obtained straight from Saint Marie and the usual digital outlets Amazon and iTunes.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
The Ceedee's - Hit the Ditch (1980, Carrot)
01. Hit the Ditch
02. The Patriotic Song
03. Television City
04. Explain the Man
05. Let Me Share (in the Ordinaire)
06. Mama Raised a Misfit
08. He Plays Guitar
09. City Lights Hobo
10. Yarsole Yarsole
Sunday, March 26, 2017
I'm always in the toilet pissing out the noise.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
The Dils - Live! (1987, rec 1977 + 80, XXX)
01. Tell Her You Love Her
02. Tell Me What I Want to Hear
03. It's Not Worth It
04. You're Not Blank
05. Red Rockers Rule
06. Mr. Big
07. Sound of the Rain
08. Gimme a Break
09. Modern Don Juan
10. Class War
11. You Can't Shake It
12. Baby You're My Whore
13. The Expert
14. It's Not Worth It
(1-10 from 1980, 11-14 from 1977)
The Creation - Action Painting (2017, Numero) - A critique.
In their initial 1966-68 lifespan, The Creation failed to release a proper full length on their own home turf, but dispensed a volley of singles according them with not one, not two, but four career defining signature songs - "Painter Man," "Biff, Bang, Pow," "Making Time" and "How Does it Feel to Feel." Sonically, they were a loose amalgam of The Who, Small Faces, and to a lesser extent, the Monkees. They weren’t as unkempt as the Troggs, or as dizzying as Floyd, and they certainly didn’t pack the harmonies of the fab four...yet there was something incendiary to The Creation, albeit even if they didn't set either side of the Atlantic alight. Numero Records has recently and thoughtfully endowed us with, Action Painting, comprising the entirety of their original sixties recordings, spread across two fully loaded CDs, packaged in a sturdy hard-shell case.
The first half of Action predominantly concerns the Creation's commercially available studio recordings, that have been sliced and diced over the ensuing decades in myriad compilations and reissues. The first of those collections, We Are the Paintermen came to light in '67 while the quartet was still active, but I should mention it was only available in Germany. Furthermore, the Creation only earned one Top-40 in the UK, "Painter Man," which barely scraped the charts in October 1966, eking in at a modest 36 at best. From my per-view, as someone who hadn't been conceived until the seventies, these fellows didn't sound or even look particularly different than what was coming off the Brit-prop production line. But the fact that (relatively) current artists like Ride and Teenage Fanclub have taken Creation classics to task speaks volumes of the enduring effectiveness of the band's original material.
Whether they charted or not, the Creation really did have songs. Some would argue they benefited from having two different front-men (though not simultaneously). Original singer Kenny Pickett was ousted from the band in 1967 by former bassist Bob Garner. Pickett didn't part without writing some of The Creation's most well known pieces, namely "Try and Stop Me," "Biff, Bang, Pow," and the less spoken of but melodically winsome "Nightmares." The mod-stomping kick of "Making Time" might as well be worth the price of admission alone. Garner's ascension to vocalist and prime mover also came with increased song-penning duties, and he brought the fan-favorite, "How Does it Feel to Feel" to the table. "...Feel" was a mildly woozy, slow motion romp, predating the kind of modus opernadi that Marc Bolan would perfect in a few years via T. Rex. Again, it's one of The Creation's signature pieces, but five different versions populating almost a full tenth of Action Painting spells overkill to me. Pickett would rejoin his former cohorts in 1968, but by then it was largely over.
The second disk commences with four songs from the precursor to The Creation, The Mark Four, a competent, if not terribly innovative beat band, who like the Beatles cut their teeth gigging in West Germany. The meat and potatoes of the second half of Action Painting emphasizes a raft of fresh stereo mixes of virtually every key Creation composition and then some, and also delves into some ace rarities, not the least of which is a stirring reading of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone."
As mentioned a little north of this paragraph, following their 1968 dismantlement affection for the Creation blossomed not only in Britain, but the US and points beyond. By popular demand, the band sporadically reunited in the eighties all the way into the '00s. Both Pickett and Garner have since passed away. Action Painting is a more than thorough document of The Creations halcyon era, and makes a compelling argument that the sixties didn't belong solely to the Beatles, Stoines and Who. Sample and purchase direct from Numero, Amazon and iTunes.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Think As Incas - Palestine One Mile ep (1988, dOINK)
01. Wishing Again
02. The Great Kiss Off
03. A Man Needs a Gun
04. Palestine One Mile
05. Tommy's Tiny Brain
06. I'm the Boy
Sunday, March 19, 2017
I’m a little cut up and I feel frustrated.
Friday, March 17, 2017
Boys Life ep (1982, Seco)
Punk/wave/indie bands that prominently feature saxophones tend not to exude the sweetest of vibes, but Boston's Boys Life were at least something of an exception. You can probably chalk that up to Neal Sugarmen, whose reeds don't overpower so much as augment. The trio was definitely on the left-of-the-dial level, frequently bearing a pop acumen. Sonically, Boys Life impress me as being a bit advanced for their time, and in all honesty, I would have pegged this record as a product of 1987-88 rather than five years prior. And is it just me or does frontman John Surette remind you of Gray Matter/3/Senator Flux singer Geoff Turner? Pure coincidence of course.
01. It Came From Here
03. From A to Z
04. Happy People
05. True Believers
06. Person I Want to Be
Thursday, March 16, 2017
The Muffs - Happy Birthday to Me (1997/2007, WB/Omnivore) - A brief overview.
Happy Birthday to Me marked the Muffs last realistic stab at grasping the fabled "brass ring," and it came with a six-figure budget to aid and abet the trio of Shattuck, Ronnie Barnett and Roy McDonald (yes, of Red Kross renown) to crank their turbo pop machine over the top. Yet the band's third album (and first self-produced) wasn't an out-an-out departure from previous attempts, nor did it extend any palpable commercial overtures. The Muffs had the accessibility thing down from the get go, but now more than ever they had the songs. The Muffs may have showcased the band at their most iconic and identifiable, however Birthday demonstrated the band's growth, shedding some of the angsty, rough and tumble roar while keeping things plenty sassy. And yes, there are a lot of love songs on this one (what, you thought there weren't gonna be any?) yet Kim's pen is dipped in irony and even resignation, not so much spite and devastation. "Is it All Okay," "Where Only I Could Go," and yes, even the pointedly titled "I'm a Dick" all deserve a slot on any Muffs mix tape.
In the grand scheme of things, Happy Birthday didn't exactly shift the needle for the band's fortunes. I'm not even sure if it outsold the previous records. The Muffs stint with the WB was over after the album cycle, but more records and tours would follow. That's consolation in itself I suppose, but the real icing on the dessert? Twenty years after the fact, the partially feasted on chocolate cake in the inside back page of the booklet looks as scrumptious today as it did then. Omnivore's 2017 reissue features six album demos to sweeten the deal. Buy it direct, or move that cursor on over to iTunes or Amazon.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Big Wheel - East End (1989, Giant)
01. Bang, Bang, Bang
02. Model Home
03. Times You Need to Think
04. Big Legged Woman
05. Erect Song
06. Time of Your Life
07. Sound so Familiar
08. Body and Soul
09. Billboard Song
10. Half of Everything
11. Spanish Salsa
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Maybe your tin cans could just cut right through this sand.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Arctic Circles - Time ep (1986, Mr. Spaceman)
03. My Window
Thursday, March 9, 2017
86 - Provocation (1987, Twilight)
01. New Pair of Eyes
02. The City
03. Shade of Black
04. Seven Weeks and One Day
05. Kings Mountain
11. Wheel of Confusion
Sunday, March 5, 2017
The only thing worse than bad memories is no memories at all.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
Greg Kihn Band - Next of Kihn (1978, Beserkley)
For what it's worth, it's long perturbed me that aside from two sizable hit singles that are still in classic rock rotation ("The Breakup Song" and "Jeopardy") there seems to be a complete media blackout on the Greg Kihn Band. I don't get it. The dude had far more hits than the aforementioned, not to mention a
keen kihn commercial accessibility that played effectively to both the AOR masses, and us power pop types. Most artists of his stature have enjoyed exhaustive album reissues/expansions, but save for a best-of or two Kihn's catalog has languished out of print. In fact, the GKB's debut Next of Kihn made it into the digital era for what seemed like two minutes. I don't get this. Really don't get this. Why do they want to deprive this man of a legacy and kill off the memory of his band?
Truth be told, Next of Kihn is a mixed bag, with some lengthier pieces that may have seemed ok when the record was tracked in '78, but don't quite translate forty years after the fact. It's the more concise cuts that do the trick for me - "Sorry," as well as the absolutely pumping "Cold Hard Cash" and "Museum." Maybe not the textbook definition of power pop, but they truly don't write 'em like this anymore.
Incidentally, a new Kihn album is slated for later this year.
01. Cold Hard Cash
04. China Town
06. Everybody Else
08. Secret Meetings
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Glass Penguins - Raspberry (1987, Green Monkey)
01. Girl I've Never Met
02. Shadow of a Fish
03. Your Time
04. Out of the Rain
05. Fine to Me
06. I'm Sure
07. Number or Your Name
08. She Moves Me
09. Look Out (Here Come's Tomorrow)
10. Pull Yourself Together
11. It's Never Too Late
This has been reissued.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
The family that plays together...
The Lemon Clocks, for better or worse, are not models for what I've spelled out above above, as the lineup entails Jeremy and couple of unrelated chaps, Todd Borsch and Stefan Johansson. This retro-fitted trio are unabashed purveyors of '60s psychedelic and Brit Invasion rock, tossing in just about every trippy indulgence of that era into the fray, save for a theremin. Tones of the Byrds, the Hollies and Syd-era Pink Floyd all waft their way into the Clocks intoxicating elixir, uncannily sounding like the genuine article. The band's second album,Time to Fly dropped in 2015 and is a doozy.
Jeremy's son Peter doesn't put on any throwback airs, instead embracing a more contemporary motif via his trio Cardboard Highway. Their full length debut, Reach, commences with "Washboard," a downcast, but melodic post-punk stunner that allures with a tingly guitar bit and gets exponentially better by the second. Death Cab For Cutie wishes they still had the chops to produce something this visceral. The remainder of the oft atmospheric Reach ebbs and flows, albeit not as consistently persuasive as the aforementioned "Washboard." Nonetheless Cardboard Highway have all the corrugated components in place for a sturdier second act.
The Glowfriends charmingly twee moniker belies a considerably more pensive and sophisticated modus operandi. Those acquainted with this Kalamazoo, MI collective will no doubt speak of their dreampop tendencies, but on their fourth disk, Gather Us Together, the distortion factor is dialed back, instead eliciting a similar tact to the Spinanes and '90s Yo La Tengo. Helmed by Jeremy's daughter April Zimont (alongside brother Mark) The Glowfriends resonant indie-pop ranges from placid to playful, eschewing any of their chosen genre's tricky pretensions and hangups, resulting in their most rewarding and accomplished foray to date. Highly recommended.
All Over the World, is a re-visitation of Mr. Morris' back pages, the bulk of which were tracked live in San Diego, 2013. Alongside his erstwhile chums Dave Dietrich and Todd Borsch, World is a family affair with the touring version of The Jeremy Band expanded by next-of-kin Peter, Mark and April. Touching on back catalog favorites like "Pop Rules" "I Want to be With You" and "Chain Reaction," with a couple new ones sprinkled in, the record makes a solid case for Jeremy's near-lifelong tenure and functions as an ideal place for neophytes to grab an earful.
All of these titles and more are available straight from the source at Jam Records, where you can sample all the album's herein discussed. Have at it!