Sunday, July 30, 2017

Black out the words for the blind have eyes.

The bonus disk from an expanded reissue of this storied UK band's fourth album, originally from 1996.


The Replacements - Riot Fest, Toronto 8/25/13

The fact that the very first concert I attended happened to be The Replacements (Albany, NY, Palace Theater 2/24/91) has made me the envy of a lot of people I know.  Thing is, I waited until I was 17 to have my first live experience, but this wasn't by design so much as happenstance due to the small cut-off town I lived in at the time. I could have been the witness to some serious magic had I made a point of going to shows before that (Husker Du and the Smiths were also options in Albany during the mid/late '80s).  Regardless, the Mats blew the doors off the joint, and the visceral thrill of that performance left me thoroughly gobsmacked.  Subsequent concerts (perhaps over a thousand at this point) have often kept me in rapt attention, but that chilly winter night, Westerberg, Stinson, Dunlap and the late Steve Foley on drums, fundamentally changed how I experienced music forever. To this day, nothing has ever topped the excitement of that concert - not even a Replacements reunion shows 22 years later...

...but at times, it came close. The Mats' performance at Fort York in Toronto, ON on a late summer evening in 2013 was their first since a somewhat disastrous, albeit legendary gig in Chicago's Grant Park on July 4, 1991.  Given Toronto's close proximity across the boarder, attending Riot Fest that year was a no-brainer.  In fact, two more Replacements Riot Fest shows were slated in just a few weeks in Chicago and Denver.  I present to you the contents of that TO show, in the guise of an above average audience tape I procured mere days after the performance.  As many of you are aware there was a significant alteration to band's lineup since the All Shook Down tour.  An ailing Slip Dunlap, sidelined by a serious stroke in 2012 was *ahem* replaced by Dave Mineham, formally of primo Boston riff-brokers The NeighborhoodsChris Mars' '90s fill-in, Steve Foley was also out of the picture, and charmed drummer Josh Freese (Vandals, Devo, Guns 'n Roses, etc) capably filled his stead.

For the Toronto performance, the band didn't pick up so much where they left off in '91, rather 1981, barnstorming through no less than three songs from their hardcore-tinged debut, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash.  Several more Twin/Tone era songs were revisited in the setlist, and remarkably, Paul Westerberg and Co. touched on virtually every piece in the Replacements catalog without being the least bit pandering about it. A cover of Sham 69's "Borstal Breakout" was a startling surprise, and a loungy spin through "Everything's Coming Up Roses" for their encore was pure Mats-ian shtick   Fittingly, there were a handful of flubs (just like the old days), and the group was limited to a slightly abbreviated set (it was part of a festival, after all) but their attack was precise and ferocious, and they really hadn't diminished since my seismic encounter with them in 1991.  Hope you don't mind the audience singing along on a song or two.  Your choice of lossless FLAC or MP3 below.

00 Hello
01 Takin a Ride
02 I'm In Trouble
03 Favourite Thing
04 Hangin Downtown
05 Color Me Impressed
06 Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out / Third Stone From The Sun
07 Kiss Me on the Bus
08 Androgynous
09 Achin' to Be
10 I Will Dare
11 Love You Till Friday / Maybellene
12 Merry-Go-Round
13 Wake Up
14 Borstal Breakout
15 Little Mascara
16 Left of the Dial
17 Alex Chilton
18 Swingin Party
19 Can't Hardly Wait
20 Bastards of Young

21 Encore return
22 Everything's Coming Up Roses 
23 I.O.U.

MP3 (320 kbps)  or  FLAC

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ex Lion Tamer - Go Ghost (2006, Tinstar Creative Pool)

As if it wasn’t enough for the New York by way of Tel Aviv trio, Ex Lion Tamer to wear their Sonic Youth homage like a red band of courage on their collective sleeve, they even hired original SY producer, Wharton Tiers to lovingly helm the production of this disk. Singer/guitarist Zoe Polanski and Assaf Tager prodigiously exude the uncanny interplay that Thurston and Kim perfected during their mid-80s reign.  It’s hard not to succumb to Go Ghost’s more tuneful (read: accessible) forays like “In hope of An Evil Star” and “Japanese Flower“ both of which have dream pop tendencies. The art-damaged, druggy drone that spans most of the latter half of Ghost, often borders on a cacophony, if not a downright noisy sparring match.  Fans of New Radiant Storm King’s and Mission of Burma’s more unwieldy, dissonant escapades are also encouraged to partake.  

01. In Hope of an Evil Star
02. Japanese Flower
03. Shaky
04. My Little Lioness
05. Charlie Head
06. Toxic Avenger
07. Go Ghost
08. Pretty Spoon


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Afraid of Stairs ep (2006, Lavender)

My apologies for not having much ready to go this week.  Will try to dispense a few goodies out over the weekend.  in the meantime, how about some gauzy, heavy-handed dream-pop from Sweden?  That's what Afraid of Stairs have in mind.  I'm tempted to throw the "nu gaze" tag onto this ep, only thing is, it isn't quite so new anymore.  In any case, you'd be hard pressed to find unsatisfactory music of this ilk, and rest assured, this duo are no exception.  Better yet, AoS don't plunder wholesale from any of their twentieth century forefathers (i.e. Ride, Swervedriver), rather they're content to nibble around those peripheries, putting their own quasi-delirious spin on things.

01. Tell Him How You Feel
02. Tell Me
03. When Nothing
04. They Aimed Bad


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ever wonder why they kill the weak ones, baby?

From 2003.  Listen without prejudice. 


Fire Town - live and demos

Oh, to be a footnote in musical.  Madison, WI's Fire Town are sadly relegated to that stature, as whenever they're name-dropped it's surely in the context of their famous drummer, Butch Vig.   As most of us are painfully aware, Vig went onto preform in the far more commercially viable Garbage, and an equally viable production career, commandeering multi-platinum albums by Nirvana and the Pumpkins.  Yet, Fire Town (and like-minded precursors Spooner, whom Vig also had the same funtion in) were responsible for two very strong albums bustling with primo songs that warranted attention purely on their own merits.  Problem was, F/T were a very straightforward sounding proposition, specializing in vaguely edgy, but to most ears, pedestrian AOR.  God knows there was plenty of that filling up the airwaves in the late '80s, and despite sheer consistency and indelible hooks, they just weren't moving the needle, or for that matter records.

 A couple of the most flattering comparisons I can suggest are also some of the most accurate, namely their neighbors to the north Northern Pikes and the Grapes of Wrath.  Good company to be in, so long as you've got the right A&R guy priming the airwaves and press for you.  Their debut, In the Heart of Heart Country, landed on the local imprint Boat Records in 1986, and was scooped up by Atlantic Records a year later.  The move didn't garner them much more in the way of notoriety, nor did FT's sophomore salvo, The Good Life, arriving in '89 which saw the band fanning out from trio to quartet.  Heart Country was the (slightly) hipper sounding of the pair, with Doug Erikson's wielding jangly guitar leads a plenty.  The Good Life, rarely strayed from this formula, but was nonetheless tinted with a faint Americana bent.  The songs presented here, both live and studio, surround The Good Life-era.  Many songs from this management curated promo tape carried over to the record, but we're treated to a healthy amount of outtakes as well.  Established customers will delight in these dozen and a half songs, and if you newbies fancy what you hear, you'll be happy to know that reissues of both Fire Town records are still attainable. 

01. I Could Be the One
02. Baby I'm Not Home
03. Standing in the Light
04. Shadows Fall
05. Train Song
06. Trouble in Mind

07. Sleeping
08. Love Survives
09. Out of the Blue
10. Everything Falls Apart
11. Turn to You
12. Street of Dreams
13. I Could Be the One
14. Baby I'm Not Home
15. She Reminds Me of You
16. Street of Dreams (2)
17. I Don't Want to Lose You
18. Miles Away


Friday, July 21, 2017

Capstan Shafts - Environ Maiden (2007, Rainbow Quartz)

Guided by Voices inspired dozens of slavish imitators, pale and otherwise.  I like to think Capstan Shaft's Dean Well's is one of the more genuine and well intentioned proteges of that ever growing cadre.  Environ Maiden is just one representative example of over a dozen digital compendiums of Well's handiwork, primarily spanning 2004-11.  The man in question skews heavily to GBV's lo-fi aesthetic, circa Bee Thousand...albeit dispensing not as much charm, but he comes close on "Oil From Greenland" and "Elected Head of Her Anarchist Group."  Wells possesses a timbre closer to Tobin Sprout than Robert Pollard, with the songwriting acumen of the latter.

The average song length clocks in at a good, oh let's say, 90 seconds or thereabouts.  With 29 tracks in this particular playlist, many get lost in the shuffle, but there's enough keepers to compel repeat listens, and further exploration of Capstan's deep trove.  Full track list is to your right. 


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

American Vandals - History Skid (1988)

With a name like the American Vandals they have to be punk...right?   Hailing from the suburbs of Rochester, NY (a proposition alone that's cause for concern), this quartet was hardly in that league, but not thoroughly removed from it.  Louis Rossi's keyboard toys should qualify his band as new romantic propagators, but guess again.  This pack of DIY mavens were in fact very much themselves, and in many instances that's not entirely flattering.  Thomas Peter isn't the most compelling mouthpiece, though his off-pitch stride befits the Vandals tight but amateurish aptitude.  On the other hand, Doug Harradine's geetar roar is an asset, and would be even more so if he pitched us a solo now and then.  "Causalties" is mildly satisfying once you get acclimated, "Ultraviolet" exudes a vague Paisley pop sheen, while "Queen Anne" is embarrassingly goofy fodder they should've flogged themselves for.  Typically, the Vandals collective (and often meager) strengths finally come to full meld on History Skid's concluding "The Ugly Noise," a sharp, melodic salvo that's indicative of some genuine potential.  It doesn't appear this album generated enough buzz to warrant a follow-up, or so one is led to believe. 

01. Casualties
02. Do You Remember
03. Lovedogs
04. Queene Anne
05. Ultraviolet
06. Sir Thomas Moores Cafe
07. Days of Wine and Roses
08. The Ugly Noise


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Go ahead, defy your better judgement.

Still loving this one after almost thirty years.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Lions and Dogs - demos (198?)

It all started like this.  In the late '90s I became a slightly belated super-fan of a 1992 album, Topeka Oratorio, put out by a couple of Midwestern-ers who incorporated themselves as The LeatherwoodsTopeka was sadly a one-album-wonder, chock full of power pop melodies, and humble yet smart daily observations on romance and the like.  Paul Westerberg guested on a few songs (under the assumed moniker of Pablo Louseorama), and coincidentally or not, Topeka Oratorio's overarching, lived-in tact resembled that of All Shook Down era-Replacements.  The record's architects were Todd Newman and Tim O'Reagan, the latter of whom had a hand in The Jayhawks. Devastatingly good stuff, and I was desperate to hear more.

Thing is, there would be no more, save for something miraculous like a reunion (low potential at that I suppose).  Around the time I discovered The Leatherwoods, the net was still in it's relative infancy, but low and behold my  trusty AltaVista search engine pointed me to an article on the duo, wherein I learned of a predecessor to the 'woods, Lions and Dogs.  I'd direct you to the piece if it was still available.  Lions and Dogs was partially the handiwork of Todd Newman, their principal frontman.  Sometimes operating as a quartet, at others a trio, Lions and Dogs were not unlike the Leatherwoods - an earnest, low-profile collective who had an inkling of what was gestating due northeast in Minneapolis, but also possessed an ear for the rockier hues of Americana.   There would be no formal L&D releases, but the song "Be My Something" was comped on two occasions.  I'm presenting it here with about sixteen more demos and select live cuts, including prototypes for a few tunes that would be hammered out in Todd's subsequent outfit, the Leatherwoods (i.e. "Tell Me Another" "Jamboree," and "Don't Back Down on Me").  Among several inspired originals, there's a very sweet live take of Josie Cotton's "No Pictures of Dad" and a heartfelt interpretation of Big Star's "What's Goin' Ahn."  I don't have the running order for any of these songs, but in the folder is a Word doc with song-by-song liner notes.  You can read about one of Lions and Dog's relatives, Psychic Archie here, and check out two of Todd Newman's solo endeavors over yonder.

Be My Something
Chippewa Love Stomp
C'mon Bess Armstrong
Dear Anyone
Don't Back Down on Me
God Loves the Beach Boys
Kill Myself for Christmas
New Year
No Pictures of Dad (live)
On the Waterfront
Stupid Enough
Tell Me Another
To Win Her Back
Top of My Head
What's Goin' Ahn
Winner Runs Alone (live)
Wish I Had


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Seven Simons - Clockwork (1988, Sky)

I can't believe I've waited this long to post something by Seven Simons, especially since I've owned this as long as I've been doing W/O.  That aside, the Simons were a not oft spoken of band from that noted '80s hotbed, Athens, GA.  Their debut, Clockwork, doesn't necessarily boast the aesthetics that region became synonymous with, but it's not entirely removed either.  There's more than a scintilla of a collegiate pop penchant here, vividly recalling the Smithereens and Miracle Legion at moments. "Sasparilla" has a mildly serrated, post-punk undercurrent, "Sadder Sound" is a sublime slice of acousti-pop, and "Lavender Bubbles" hangs a wily hook occupying a sweet spot between Husker Du and Men at Work.  The Simons reunited last year in fact, reconvening for a belated "third" album, Post, which predominantly consists of vintage outtakes, and even a handful of new songs. 

01. King Archidej
02. Sasparilla
03. Wish of the Sundial
04. Long Time Coming
05. Father Figure
06. Lavender Bubbles
07. Murder Creek
08. Sadder Sound
09. Amber
10. Sweet Bitter


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star, Featuring Chris Bell (2017, Omnivore) - A brief overview.

No, this isn't a rehash or repeat of Chris Bell's posthumous, I Am the Cosmos, solo album material, nor is it a re-visitation of his contributions to Big Star's # 1 Record.  Truth is, Big Star's "crazy diamond," had a wealth of experience under his belt before he encountered Alex Chilton et al, but up until now Bell's pre-Star recordings/collaborations have been scattered, smothered and not always so well covered on an array of "supplemental" releases including the little publicized Rock City CD, the Keep An Eye on the Sky Big Star box, and The Ardent Records Story compilation.  Looking Forward... is not a leave-all-stones unturned clearinghouse of Bell's entire body of work (though a much more thorough vinyl box set just might deliver such in the near future) but it nonetheless provides an ample overview of his antecedent ventures in Memphis that informed his crucial input to that first Big Star album and beyond.

To you, the established Bell/Big Star acolyte who remember the sadly deceased singer/songwriter as a wellspring of palpable angst, yearning, and a romantic frustration...well, that Chris Bell doesn't turn up so frequently on Looking Forward.  In fact, on his early endeavors (which I'll elaborate on further in a moment) the man in question rarely took the lead mic, or moreover, exuded his inner ravaged soul...though I wouldn't let that stop you from investigating.
Specifically, you might be asking, what of Chris Bell's pre-Star enterprises?  One of which that is brought up extensively in the liner notes, Christmas Future, isn't represented on the CD.  I mention them, because it's with this project Bell would align with Terry Manning, one of his key early collaborators who is involved on virtually every recording amidst Looking Forward.  The whole ball of wax got rolling for Bell somewhere in the vicinity of 1967 when Christmas Future was conceived with another co-conspirator, Steve Rhea.  Manning would join soon after, but with no recorded evidence on file we'll jump ahead to the next project, Icewater (yes, all one word).  Operating as a trio and sometimes a quartet, Icewater weren't markedly advanced or nearly as auspicious as Big Star.  We get four fully realized songs by them here, including this record's title piece, "Looking Forward," which features Bell singing it's slow-burning, bluesy refrains.  The liners boast of an occasion when Icewater auditioned for a record label, only to be rejected for resembling the Beatles too much for their own good, though you'd barely get that impression here. 

Rock City was the next pit-stop on Bell's trajectory, a band whose repertoire and depth was more pronounced than Icewater.  Manning was held over after the Ice thawed, and Tom Eubanks entered the RC fold, fulfilling most of the vocal duties.  As with Icewater, Rock City didn't necessarily wield a defining calling card, yet they occupied a wavelength that ascended a tad higher than many of their early '70s contemporaries.  We encounter them on about ten instances on Looking Forward.  "Lovely Lady" weaves a sweet jangly web, "I Lost a Love" mines a proto-classic rock vein, but the most dazzling Rock specimens are exposed when we're treated to a pair of Bell-fronted songs that would be translated virtually note for note on Big Star's # 1 Record a couple years later.  The "preview" Rock City iterations of "My Life is Right" and "Try Again" (the latter also featured in the Big Star Bio-pic Nothing Can Hurt Me) are as intense and soul searching as the more well known Star versions.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that there was serious B/S foreshadowing taking place on "My Life is Right" which just so happened to feature Jody Stephens occupying the drummer's stool.

Amidst what I've outlined so far, we're also introduced to the Wallabys, a quartet featuring the aforementioned Terry Manning and Steve Rhea, which also involved Chris Bell on guitars.  And there's one thoroughly solo Bell take here, "Psychedelic Stuff," a work-in-progress faintly recalling Syd Barrett of all things.  I'm not enthused with Looking Forward's anticlimactic closers, a clutch of voiceless Icewater backing tracks.  One that's worthy of inclusion, purely for historical reference, the Alex Chilton penned "Oh My Soul" would have been more suitably sequenced in the middle of the album, and not so much as a finale.  This aside, ...Forward is a curious and revealing window into the world of Chris Bell prior to his fleeting halcyon days in the first permutation of Big Star, and somewhat posthumously as a solo artist.  It's available straight from Omnivore Records, Amazon and iTunes

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summertime can be such a drag.

Power pop from 1999, produced by Chris Stamey.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

FM Knives - some singles (2002-03)

They made themselves known to the world at large as the FM Knives, but this Sacto quartet may as well have been named the Heartbreakers because that's exactly what they did to moi, and virtually ever fan who was awaiting a followup album to 2002's Useless & Modern.  Their only proper full length, Useless... was a dizzying and deliriously intoxicating merger of the Buzzcocks by way of hi-octane, American indie punk not dissimilar to the likes of the Didjits.

For whatever the reason, a second FM LP simply wasn't in the cards and little was heard from the fellows since, but before vanishing the band found a day or two in 2002 and '03 to lay down a few more songs for a couple of ace short-stack releases.  The Estrogen ep delivered more of U&M's souped-up, melodic moxie, wielding instant charmers "Just Like William Tell" and the title track.  2003's "Keith Levine" 45 found the knives curtailing their blistering tempos half a notch, still flagrantly bowing at the alter of Shelly/Devoto/Diggle, making yet another convincing argument for sticking around a few more years.  Twas not to be, but the FM Knives had a keen influence on the Marked Men.  Rumor has it the Knives reformed for some concerts this year. 

Years ago a few unreleased Knives surfaced online (possibly from the Keith Levine sessions), and I'm supplementing them as a bonus in this download.

Estrogen ep (2002, Smartguy)
01. Estrogen
02. Can't Afford You Now
03. Just like William Tell
04. Cassavettes vs. the Moneygoround

Keith Levine 7" (2003, Dirtnap)
A. Keith Levine
B. Valentine

presumably unreleased
Secret of My Success
Men With Style
Two Swords (English Beat cover)


Blank Schatz ‎– The Grand Prize (1988)

I've long run out of shelf space for vinyl LPs, and instead have been placing rows of records vertically against book shelves and even furniture.  For several months at the front of one of these rows is the album I'm presenting now.  I've taken many a lengthy gaze at the album jacket to Blank Schatz's The Grand Prize, and while I'm often wont to dismiss that big ol' amorphous black blob as a nondescript mess, more and more it looks like a QR code on steroids.  Guess I shouldn't give this Findlay, OH trio too much credit for being prescient, but I digress.  The riff-laden, wet-behind-the-ears spunk of Grand Prize strikes me as more of a really tight practice session than a cohesive album/ep.  Roughly half of the eight tunes are instrumentals, and when (fill in the blank) approaches the mic, he slips into a mode akin to Black Flag-era Henry Rollins.  Kind of fitting when you consider these guys as an entity are tantamount to one of Greg Ginn's numerous half-baked offshoots.  Nonetheless, if power chords and grooves a la skate punks JFA are your bag, you'll have some fun here.

01. Ted's Devil Car
02. Devil's Hole Road
03. Rob's New One
04. This Town
05. Just Men
06. Balderdash
07. Plight Song
08. untitled


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Shotwell Coho 7" ep (Broken, 1995)

Despite having two Berkeley, CA punk luminaries in their lineup (Aaron Cometbus and Paul Curran) Shotwell Coho's writing and fronting responsibilities fell to the relatively less renown Jimmy Broustis, who himself hand a stint Strawman.  Besides being a prolific zine scribe in the '80s and '90s, Cometbus' drumming lineage is spread across myriad East Bay sub-rosa rockers including Crimpshrine, Sweet Baby, Pinhead Gunpowder, and stretching as far back to the early Reagan era, S.A.G.  Prior to this endeavor Curran formally made inroads with Crimpshrine as well, not to mention Monsula and Go Sailor.  In short, Shotwell Coho (later truncated to just Shotwell in light of personnel alterations) was your proverbial super-group, albeit with a less than proverbial profile.  Broustis has that classic Easy Bay punk rasp, but nothing overbearing, and his trio's economical, no-effects penchant aesthetically fits the mold of many of these aforementioned combos like a glove. Easily the most immediate and effective article in the Shotwell (Coho) canon, this self-titled ep entails a faithful reading of Bob Marley and the Wailer's "Redemption Song," and a noble tribute to Johnny Thunders, "J.T.R.I.P."  The band followed this release up with their first full length as Shotwell, dubbed Celery, Beef and Iron.

01. APHM
02. Redemption Song
03. Christobol Colon
04. J.T.R.I.P.
05. Through You


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Out of the rust and into the slime, everybody thinks that he's out of his mind.

Dedicated to a long-running Southern Cali punk institution who just concluded a rather interesting week. 


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Magnatone - s/t (1997, No Alternative)

My apologies for not being able to get much in the way of new music this week.  Hope this will suffice.  Swiping their moniker from an amplifier manufacturer, Magnatone were presumably a Twin Cities export.  Their riff-laden power pop recalls Bash and Pop, The Figgs, and amazingly The Muffs, albeit not always as consistently inspired as those '90s powerhouses.  Lead Tone Tom Rosenthal occasionally slips into a microphone mode not too-dissimilar from Elvis Costello (check out "Make Up Your Mind") with my spidey senses telling me that's more coincidence than shtick.  Best of all, Magnatone isn't one of those front-loaded platters that sequence all the good songs at the beginning, instead gradually gaining steam, or at the very least not losing momentum. 

01. Merry-go-Round
02. Walk Away
03. Johnny Bravo
04. Up in Flames
05. Magnatone
06. Cry Baby
07. Drag City
08. Short Sweet & Simple
09. Make Up Your Mind
10. Listen/Tell Me