Thursday, June 29, 2017

I Can Crawl - Desert (1986, Hybrid)

Here's another one that I don't physically own, but I think I'm going to have to remedy that.  Not much is known about UK denizens I Can Crawl.  To their credit a Facebook page has been established offering at least a few details, mostly surrounding a reunion album they released in 2012-13 of thereabouts.  ICC's brand of post-punk bears a serrated edge and a bit of a chill, just not anything particularly morose or mopey.   Desert occupies a similar plateau to their former contemporaries Cactus World News and Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, and I think it will be apparent to a good many you that I Can Crawl's frontman recalls one Peter Murphy.  It's all more splendid then I'm letting on, but don't take my word for it...

01. Abandon
02. That Final Day
03. Elephant's Life
04. Instead of Walls
05. Night Of The Long Knives
06. Walk on the Water
07. White Party
08. If Only
09. And it Rains
10. The Great Escape


Monday, June 26, 2017

Willie Niles - Positively Bob - Willie Nile Sings Bob Dylan (2017, River House) - A brief overview

Willie’s in the basement mixing up the medicine…but is this ten-song fix as crucial as it seems?  Was talking to a friend the other who's a keen aficionado of both Bob Dylan and Willie Nile.  After playing him a few cuts from Positively Bob, I cornered him with a pretty straightforward inquiry.  Going into this particular album, would it be more beneficial to have a greater appreciation of Bob or Willie?  Without hesitation he replied, Mr. Nile.

Before we get to the "why," let's take into account a couple of parallels between these renown singers/songwriters.  True, both sport an amazing tussle of hair, but less superficially these gentleman have spent nearly the entirety of their adulthood carving out a coveted niche for themselves, both as literary songsmiths and arresting performers.   I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that one has a tad more feathers in his respective cap, but I'd like to think you can discern which for yourselves.

My absorption of Willie Nile is/was relatively minimal, however the "Dylan quotient" in albums like his self-titled 1980 effort is abundantly evident.  In fact, he's probably been slapped with the "New Dylan" tag at numerous junctures in his four decade career.  Niles' delivery and meter may differ from Robert Zimmerman's yet there's a none-too dissimilar weathered tone to his timbre, not to mention an earthy wit and wisdom, making a Dylan tribute album if not inevitable at the very least entirely appropriate.   

Will Nile Sings Bob Dylan is what it's title suggests - no more, no less. The first half (and the some) focuses in on readings of Bob's most renown titles.  An unfussed with "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" is conveyed with the type of reverence you might expect.  To the contrary, Nile's iterations of  "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35" are given a Basement Tapes-y treatment, even more rollicking and jovial than the originals.  "...Blowin' in the Wind" is present as well, and a decidedly uptempo version at that, threatening to eschew that classic's contemplative tenor almost entirely.  As things wind to a close, Nile turns his attention to deeper Dylan cuts - "Every Grain of Sand" and "Abandoned Love" among them, tossing a well played bone to more discriminating ears. 

Going back to my original premise, for the utmost appreciation of Positively Bob, who does it pay to have a greater investment in, The Bard or Willie?  Maybe my friend was on the right wavelength of settling on the latter, but if you regard yourself a serious fan of either you'll walk away a winner here.
Positively Bob is available as we speak straight from Niles' online store, Amazon and iTunes.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Condition's red, disposition's blue.

A (somewhat) storied set of alternate mixes for this Boston band's second album.   Word is they had a lot on their heads. 


Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Kinetics - Nobody Knows tape (1983)

This one had me a little frustrated.  Way back in 2010 & '11 I shared a really solid single and full length by a solid tone-and-wave outfit going by the name of The Kinetics.  More recently I happened upon this cassette which I assumed was by the same band.  Turns out, the Kinetics I'm presenting today were in fact not one and the same, rather a New Jersey entity all to themselves, with a lineup featuring Dave Schramm and Fred Brockman.  Their bag was no-frills, rootsy pop, hearkening as far back as the fifties.  Sonically, these fellows weren't entirely removed from say, Buddy Holly, though the Kinetics man on the mic doesn't hold a candle to that bespeckled demigod.  "His Eyes" makes the biggest jangle among Nobody Knows half-dozen tracks. 

01. Now She's Knocking at My Door
02. His Eyes
03. Nobody Knows
04. Yellow Hair
05. Taken All My Toys Away
06. The Last Man


Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Bible! "Graceland" 7" (1986, Backs)

This one's three decades old, but nonetheless I failed to investigate The Bible! until far more recently.  From what I've been able to glean the exclamation mark on their moniker was only applied on early releases.  This Cambridge, UK combo actually had two full lengths that were apparently well circulated - Walking the Ghost Back Home (1986) and Eureka, on a major label no less, a couple years later.  Behold their first single (depicted to your left).  "Graceland" is an exemplary slice of Anglophile pop, rife with lilting folky textures a la Aztec Camera and Justin Hayward's post-Haircut One Hundred solo forays.  The single would be released several times over in multiple formats in the years to follow.  The flip, "Sweetness" is considerably more chilled-out, gravitating toward the AOR realm.

A. Graceland
B. Sweetness


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ten Inch Men - Hours n Pain ep (1986)

Ten Inch Men?  Either they're extremely short or immensely well endowed...but let's not ponder that, eh?  For reals though, this was a Long Beach, CA quartet whom I only know of through this 12."  My impression of TIM is at minimum somewhat favorable.  Some very synth-y goings-on here, but too muscular for the new romantic set.  Sometimes it's difficult to discern if the Men were striving for the coliseum or the cellar.  Their scope is ambitious, a la contemporaries Then Jerico, but at moments on Hours n Pain they could've made a dash for considerably more interesting environs.  More Ten Inch Men records were to follow, though I've yet to encounter them.

01. Flower Power
02. Bars of Time
03. Brick Wall
04. New Eyes


Sunday, June 18, 2017

We'll throw glass in your face, call it new propaganda...

A compact best-of spanning 1978-82 from an artist yet to be featured on this site. 


Saturday, June 17, 2017

It's a one time thing, it just happens a lot...

Thirty years ago if you had predicted that at some point in my life I'd be actively hunting down Suzanne Vega bootlegs I would have laughed you out of the room.  Needless to a say a lot can happen in three whole decades, and indeed a lot did, including some much belated appreciation for the songstress in question.  Back in '87 it didn't take long for my cynical ears to get burned out on "Luka," and ditto for her acapella chestnut, "Tom's Diner."  So what prompted me to pick up a pre-owned cassette of her first album (self titled, 1985) somewhere in the late '00s?  Curiosity, and a sincere hope that pre-breakthrough Vega might hold a little something for me.

I wasn't scared off by the "folk" tag that was so ubiquitously doled out by the music press, and even if it were apropos I didn't take issue with it.  Turns out she was no heir to Joan Baez or the like, rather a humble singer-songwriter with integrity for miles and a solid grasp on human emotion.  Vega's delivery may have exuded surface-level quiet, but thematically, people and events in her realm were ostensibly disquieting.  Again, the tangible conveyance of her songs were subtle to a fault, yet under the surface a geyser lay in waiting.  I recall her commenting in an interview once that she was a fan of minor chords in songs.  That's relatively easy to concur with her early recordings, though I haven't heard enough about Vega's melody factor, which makes itself evident on "Cracking" and "Marlene on the Wall."  And her nimble guitar finagling?  Merely the icing on the cake.  In a nutshell, it only took twenty and some-odd years, but, I became a pretty big aficionado of that first Suzanne Vega record.

Presented here are five demos that were gently spruced up for Suzanne Vega.  They hold more charm to me than the album versions, even if the differences aren't particularly stark.  I've got a fantastic FM radio broadcast for you as well of her performance at the Speakeasy in New York, circa the spring of 1985.  She pulls off the "storyteller" thing quite well, no?  Whether you're new to Suzanne Vega or an an established customer comment as you see fit.

1984 demo
01. Straight Wells
02. Small Blue Thing
03. Marlene on the Wall
04. Cracking
05. Undertow

MP3  or  FLAC

4/17/85 @ The Speakeasy, NYC
01 intro
02 Tom's Diner
03 Small Blue Thing
04 Some Journey
05 Cracking
06 The Queen And The Soldier
07 song intro
08 Knight Moves
09 Freeze Tag
10 song intro
11 Marlene On The Wall
12 Undertow
13 Straight Lines
14 song intro
15 Neighborhood Girls
16 Gypsy (Encore)

MP3  or  FLAC

Friday, June 16, 2017

Folk Devils - Goodnight Irony (1987, Situation Two)

I think someone mentioned that they were looking for this a few years ago.  Didn't have it then, but for better or worse, voila.  The Folk Devils were a cantankerous lot, part ornery cowpunk, part dissonant and unwieldy distorto-rawk.  Mouthpiece Ian Lowery commandeers his quartet's collective mess coming off as a loose approximation of Stan Ridgeway and John Lydon, albeit at times not sounding like either in the least. To his credit, he pulls off the spoke/sung card adeptly, so long as the song is worth a damn.  That quotient is about half and half on Goodnight Irony, not so much a proper LP, rather a comp of the Devil's entire repertoire up to 1987... adorned with a pretty spiffy album jacket I might add.  Your best bets here are the tense, driving bookends, "Hank Turns Blue" and "Chewing the Flesh."  "Art Ghetto," and the spaghetti western sway of "Where the Buffalo Roam" are kinda of a hoot as well.  Furthermore, if you dug those first couple of Didjits albums, ...Irony is sure to pack plenty of appeal.

01. Hank Turns Blue
02. English Disease
03. Where the Buffalo Roam
04. Beautiful Monster
05. Wail
06. Nice People
07. Albino
08. Brian Jones' Bastard Son
09. It Drags On
10. Evil Eye
11. Art Ghetto
12. Chewing the Flesh

It looks like this one has been revamped and reissued.  Check it out here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Side Effects - s/t ep (1981, DB)

You might be inclined to deduce from the album jacket that The Side Effects were of garage/psych rock stock, but low and behold you'd be mistaken.  In fact, this long defunct Athens, GA trip had something more alluring and challenging to offer.  Post-punk was more their bag, albeit not of the brooding variety.  The commencing "Raining" massages a Gang of Four riff, retooled by
leadman Kit Swartz's chiming staccato aplomb.  "French Forest" is doubly more enticing sounding like a spot-on merger of Pylon and Mission of Burma, and "Through With You" delightfully finagles a descending arpeggio you can take to the bank.  Bassist Jimmy Ellison passed away from a brain tumor not long after this record hit the market.  This ep, so far as I can, tell was the only release to the band's credit, save for an appearance on the Squares Blot Out the Sun compilation.

01. Raining
02. French Forest
03. Pyramids
04. Through With You


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Barely Pink - Numberonefan (1997, Big Deal)

I wonder boy what the Wondermints are doing today?

Recently had a request for this one.  Numberonefan was the debut album from Barely Pink, and combo who were part and parcel of the '90s power pop resurgence.  In fact, they graciously tip their collective hat to several of their left-coast contemporaries in "City of Sound." Quite frankly, this whole album is a peach, boasting equal parts melody, kick and earnestness.  Here's a few words from Goldmine magazine plucked from the hype sticker on the jewel case. 

A Florida foursome that takes the best bits from classic forebearers such as early Cheap Trick, T. ReX and Big Star - especially Big Star - and churns out pop that's fat and sassy. - Goldmine magazine.

01. City of Stars
02. Dot to Dot Elvis
03. New Sweet Infection
04. I'm So Electric
05. Face Down
06. It's Okay
07. Baby A.M.
08. Big Mistake
09. Too Much Coffee
10. I Do What My TV Tells Me
11. What Goes Around
12. Let Me Drink in Peace


Friday, June 9, 2017

Game Theory - 2 Steps From the Middle Ages (1988/2017, Omnivore) - A brief overview

What is it about a long-running band's final record?  Sure, Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door was undoubtedly heaved upon thousands of shipping pallets in 1979, but posthumously it was hardly revered.  The Replacements swan song, All Shook Down is a phenomenal collection of thoughtful, inspired songs, yet even some die-hard Mats aficionados regard it merely as Paul Westerberg's first solo LP.  And Guided By Voices intended "last" album, 2004's Half Smiles of the Decomposed was the least talked about LP in their elephantine canon.  Believe it or not, this brings us to Game Theory's parting shot, 1988's 2 Steps From the Middle AgesIt was the the late Scott Miller helmed collective's fifth record. and is being commemorated with a bonus-ized reissue nearly three decades after the fact.  By no stretch did it meet a quiet reception upon it's arrival that year, enjoying myriad critical plaudits, success on gobs of left-of-the dial frequencies, and even some startlingly unlikely appreciation from C.C. DeVille of GT's Enigma label-mates Poison.  But in the grand scheme of things 2 Steps is just about the least discussed and seemingly least remembered item in the band's impressive arsenal - and for no conspicuous reason I might add. 

Granted, this album fell on the heels of the sprawling, ambitious and occasionally obtuse Lolita Nation.  That double platter set was often mistook for a concept piece, but misconceptions aside Game Theory had poured virtually every bit of creative juice into that project - maybe so much so that anything else they would dispense in the future would be regarded as an afterthought.  But 2 Steps, while considerably more conventional (particularly in it's presentation) bore songs that were every bit as rich and affecting as those residing on Lolita and The Big Shot Chronicles.  Scott Miller and Co's trajectory began with 1982's slyly esoteric Blaze of Glory, a collegiate level pastiche of power pop-cum-art rock, and with every successive Game Theory release the band inched towards a more streamlined modus operandi while managing to refrain from encroaching into the soon to be constipated bowels of pandering alt-rock.  In essence, 2 Steps not only strikes me as advanced for it's era, but sounds fresh and bold even when gauged by a twenty-first century measuring stick.  Miller's cocktail of verbose text and brisk, melodic song structures ascends to a new apex on "Rolling With the City Girls," "You Drive" and "Throwing the Election."  Even when mining a less euphoric vein ("Leilani" and 'Wyoming") Game Theory bring A-grade material to the table, leaving me all the more bewildered as to why this record is so rarely mentioned in the same breath as Lolita... and Real Nighttime.

As with previous installments in Omnivore Records Game Theory reissue campaign, 2 Steps is nicely padded with a trove of supplemental material.  Rather than taking the typical approach of drawing from one contiguous concert or demo reel, the eleven bonus cuts here are culled from a multitude of sources.  One of the most revealing curios is a radio session take of Let's Active's "Bad Machinery."  Not a terribly coincidental pick, considering Game Theory's association with Let's Active's Mitch Easter.  Early stabs at "Wyoming" and "Room for One More, Honey" are a treat, as are live versions of GT staples "The Waist and the Knees" and "Sleeping Through Heaven."  You can find the expanded reissue of 2 Steps From the Middle Ages at or Amazon and iTunes.

PS: I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention the passing of Game Theory drummer Gil Ray earlier this year.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wilco - A.M. demos (1994)

To this day I've never been able to pin down exactly why Wilco's first album was the only one to light a fire under my ass, as it were.  Most folks got on board circa Being There/Summerteeth/YHF, but Wilco largely began and ended with A.M. for this set of picky ears.  Maybe it's because it was the only needle in their proverbial haystack that struck me as even remotely feisty or fun.  Granted, the record did have it's share of Jeff Tweedy pedal steel ballads, something of a holdover from his previous endeavor Uncle Tupelo, if that rings a bell to you.  It didn't hurt that in this phase of their career Wilco bore an uncanny resemblance to Cracker.  At any rate, the first five cuts here were early prototypes of tracks that made the grade for A.M., specifically some of that album's most swingin' numbers including "Box Full of Letters" and "Passenger Side."  As for the remainder, "Promising" is a sensitive acoustic piece from Tweedy, later recut as a b-side.  The band give Moby Grape's "I'm Not Willing" a twangy, sounding not terribly removed from Gram Parsons.  The rousing "Let's Hear for Rock" was a live favorite, but from what I understand never appeared on a Wilco record proper.

01. I Must be High
02. Shouldn't Be Ashamed
03. Box Full of Letters
04. Pick Up the Change
05. Passenger Side
06. Promising
07. Let's Hear it for Rock
08. I'm Not Willing


Sunday, June 4, 2017

You’re worth every single penny and a few dollars more.

Three six-song EPs from three rather disparate artists.  Something for everyone.  I hope. 


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dream Syndicate - 50 in a 25 Zone ep (1987, Big Time)

Considering I wasn't paying much attention to the Dream Syndicate's run during much of the 1980s, i can't offer much in the way of personal insight.  My posthumous assessment of Steve Wynn and Co. has concluded that the band wasn't responsible for any inferior studio albums or otherwise.  Their celebrated and ballyhooed debut, The Days of Wine and Roses has undoubtedly garnered the lions share of critical approbation, and while I'm in tandem with that notion as well the remainder of D/S offerings were worthy of praise as well, including their 1986 long-player, Out of the Grey.  Arriving almost a half decade after Wine and Roses, Grey found the band titling in a considerably more pedestrian direction, albeit without a shred of commercial pandering.  One of the singles from the album, "50 in a 25 Zone," spun off into this EP

As songs go, "50 in a 25 Zone" with it's slow simmering bluesy stride and numerous fake endings wasn't remarkable but it was downright earnest in an era of spandex and poodle haircuts.  Granted, an unnecessarily gimmicky five minute remix of the tune is presented here as filler, but it hardly blemishes the original piece.  It's worth withstanding for a bevy of b-sides on the flip, my pick being the sturdy bar-room banger "Drinking Problem."  Much gratitude goes to the gent who supplied me with a gratis copy of this record.

01. 50 In a 25 Zone
02. 50 In a 25 Zone (Whodunnit Mix)
03. Drinking Problem
04. Shake Your Hips
05. Blood Money
06. Lonely Bull