Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Guided by Voices - Kit Kat Acoustic Break session, 1997

For better or worse (most likely the latter) we're right smack dab in the middle of the week where I have little or nothing on the burner ready to fire.  Hopefully I'll have my act together in a few days, but until then, here's another selection from my dwindling folder of Guided by Voices rarities and curios.  This is the band's installment in the Kit Kat Acoustic Break series.  These live, in-studio sessions originated from the mid-90s and were pressed up on CD and sent to college radio stations for weekly airplay.  You'll no doubt recognize host, Pat Dinizio from Smithereens renown.  His approach was anti-climactic at best, but he was at least hip to GBV.  I don't have an original copy of the disk, but I was able to find a digitized version of the set, presumably taped from an FM radio broadcast.  It's the Mag Earwig lineup of GBV (Doug Gillard, etc), nipping on the heels of the "classic" lineup (Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, etc).  And yes, Pollard and Co. managed to maintain their sobriety for the entirety of the set.  Am not quite sure if that's a plus or a minus, but anyway.

Seven songs: Quicksilver, Not Behind the Fighter Jet, Bulldog Skin, Choking Tara, My Impression Now, Now to War and Teenage FBI.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

A crush too much for pen and paper.

An album of deftly crafted, textured indie pop from 2012.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Intra Muros - Why Not More Parmesan? (1985, Glass o' Milk)

Here's yet another slab of vintage wax that I honestly can't recall acquiring - not that I'm complaining.  I do have some modest complaints with the music enshrined within however, 99% of which I can attribute to Intra Muros' primary mouthpiece, Julie Willing, whose attempted Siouxsie Sioux impersonation frequently escalates to those pesky operatic trills that really grate on my nerves.  Thankfully she functions at a more modest keel on a decent portion of Parmesan, alongside her three male compatriots.  The Muros were through-and-through post punk, Anglo-indebted as all-get-out, with signposts pointing squarely not only to Siouxsie but early Cure.  Furthermore, I'll be darned if guitarist John Broderick and bass plucker Mark Romero didn't purloin a morsel or two from New Order focal points Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook.  In spite of Parmesan's, not so cheesy goth-y aplomb, a few anomalies like "President Jim" and "The Future" sidestep this motif revealing that this Huntington Beach, CA crew had some insight into what was transpiring on their own side of the pond.  Cool.

01. 33 RPM
02. Manifest Destiny
03. 269 Birds
04. Flag
05. Within the Walls
06. Fear
07. President Jim
08. Too Much Sun
09. The Future


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Incognito Rockers - s/t ep (1984, Mystic)

I usually don't gravitate anywhere near a record with an "olides" or "swing" bent regardless of how conservatively those m.o.'s might be employed, but I suppose I'll make an exception for this one.  Incognito Rockers were a lively co-ed six-piece, presumably from southern Cali, who dish out a couple beauts on here that are precisely in said vein.  "Kiss It" is a risque throwback that's one milkshake short of a sock hop.  "Just As Much Charm" is another malt shop slammer, doubly as catchy as the aforementioned.  Elsewhere, "Cat and Mouse"is a Blondie-ish snyth rocker that would have also fit nicely on one of X's mid-80s platters.  Some intermittent saxophone is fittingly wielded on this record, adding that much more to the fun quotient.  This one's damn near a blast.   

01. Kiss It
02. Cat and Mouse
03. Attention
04. Just As Much Charm


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Raspberries - Pop Art Live (2017, Omnivore) - A brief overview.

It was touted as a reunion that was likely to never happen, but occasionally hell apparently does indeed freeze over every now and then.  November 26, 2004, The House of Blues in Cleveland, OH.  That was the date and locale for the reunion of one of the foremost prototypical power pop conglomerations ever to grace a stage.  The Raspberries.  I'm not sure what accounted for the avoidance of a Raspberries pre-20004 was all about.  Perhaps it was rooted in inter-band conflicts, disinterest in the four gentleman involved, or merely the passage of three decades, and the gradual eroding of relevance an epoch like that can levy.  Thing is, to fans of the Raspberries the band in question never became irrelevant.  Despite the indifference of radio (save for two or three signature songs), the intermittent availability of the quartet's complete catalog (even on their own home turf) or the gradually diminishing profiles of it's alumni, the Raspberries were one of the go-to bands that turn-of-the-millenium adopters of power pop gravitated to after having their minds blown from their posthumous discovery of the first two Big Star albums.  Not that the 'berries were the obvious intersecting link between Big Star, and say, The Posies, but you get the idea.  By the way, if you're going to plunder inspiration from a trifecta of outfits whose monikers start with a "B" (Beatles, Bafinger, and the Beach Boys) you better make them count.  Crica 1970-75, The Raspberries certainly did.

So low and behold. it happened.  A Black Friday evening in the so-called Mistake on the Lake saw Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, David Smalley and Jim Bonfanti gracing the big HOB stage to deliver a two-hour, early Christmas gift to a sold out and anxious audience.   On that night, even if the Raspberries decided to pull the plug after ten or eleven songs the crowd would have gotten their money's worth.  Or let's say, the four men in question were a bit rusty and worse for the wear.  I bet that would've been A-ok for most attendees.  And for a final hypothetical, imagine if the group merely ran through their setlist with nary an anecdote or thoughtful gesture to impart on the audience.  I'm 99.99% certain their constituency that night would've gladly let it fly.

But imagine if none of those pessimistic scenarios came to pass.  As miraculous as it sounds that's exactly the way things went down, and a double CD live document of the gig is captured marvelously on Pop Art Live.  Imagine if you will a dream setlist featuring not only every key Raspberries tune (including but not limited to "Overnight Sensation," "I Wanna Be With You," 'Play On," and "Let's Go all the Way") but a teaming slew of deeper cuts from all four albums.  There's no less than half a dozen "fits-right-in" covers on top of that, including the fab four's "Baby's in Black," "Ticket to Ride" "No Reply," The Who's reliable "I Can't Explain" and two songs from The Choir, a Raspberries precursor outfit who penned the oft-covered "Cold Outside."

Performance-wise you couldn't hope to encounter a band that was tighter and more on-point than this one, with all four guys sounding more aligned and at the peak of their game than perhaps even the Raspberries heyday.  And dig the harmonies, from gentleman who were doing this in their fifties at time of this recording!  An inexplicable phenomenon, but if you want the proof it was all captured on tape.  Finally, there's a bit of a Storytellers thing evidencing itself on more than a few songs, with Eric and Wally sharing the lion's share of the observations.

Technically, the Cleveland House of Blues show wasn't exactly a one-time event (select shows in other mondo American markets followed) but it was so thorough and definitive, laced with such impeccable, par excellence quality control it would have made for one of the greatest one-off reunion performances ever.  That being said, if you missed it, you missed it - but luckily all 28 magic moments that transpired on that stage are now available to experience in a more petite medium, literally at the press of a button.  Pop Art Live can be had straight from Omnivore Records, Amazon, iTunes, and hopefully a local music vendor near you. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Overdemanding and underfed...

The oft overlooked fourth (and what was then proposed to be) final album from these power pop titans.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

I don't ever want to play the part of a statistic on a government chart...

Sorry I haven't given you much this week.  I hope this will suffice.  Prototypes for songs from album number four.  15 tracks. 


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Capstan Shafts - Fixation Protocols (2008, Rainbow Quartz)

Three weeks ago I enlightened you with an entry regarding lo-fi outlier Dean Wells, or more specifically his musical alter-ego the Capstan Shafts.  You took quite a shine to the 2007 album I shared, Environ Maiden, and voila, here's the followup.  In that earlier piece I emphasized Wells affection for Guided By Voices/Robert Pollard's penchant for "leave 'em wanting more" ethos.  Brevity is still a watchword on Fixation Protocols, but the overarching effect is less derivative of the Fading Captain.  Sometimes that yields songs that are less than immediate, yet wholly rewarding on subsequent go-arounds.  In short, expect the artful, just not necessarily the grandiose.

01-Asymptonic freedom
02-Shaky days, bring honey
03-Eyeliner skywriting etc
04-Middles of June
05-Anthropecene stealers
06-Miss Cenozoic
07-What used to become you (now befalls you)
08-Communists in 19th century America
09-A heart that never flies
10-Get Honest
11-Brightest page in the history of man
12-Her novel 'canal zone poetry'
13-Little world saver
14-Boy to take you nowhere
15-Behemoth to a Flame
16-The Hell With the Days Again
17-The Stunted Kid
18-Fixation Protocal
19-Squeals of Resignation
20-Song for monometallists
21-The framers blameless enterprise
22-Voting Hopeless


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Cement Trampoline - Glad to Be Alive (1989, Imagine!)

Never mind the (quasi) mullets, this Bay Area foursome weren't quite as "boss" as their collective visages suggest.  Cement Trampoline were presumably minor players in their hometown scene, with faint inclinations to not-so-local contemporaries raging from the Feelies to Dramarama and even the Smithereens.  Glad to Be Alive finds these humble gents mixing things up with several gradations of speed and intensity.  "Pushing the Panic Button" is a thing of jagged riff-rock beauty, with "Everything Means Touch" coming in at a close second.  "Lifeline" is strummy, power pop manna, the mid-tempo "Pick Me Up" isn't necessarily capable as it's title purports, but C/T save their finest for last, a swift jangly salvo in the guise of "Now!"  Some of the in-between tunes I've failed to mention are a little too slow or pedestrian for my edgy tastes, but I'll let you suss out which ones they are.

01. Lifeline
02. When You Hear My Song
03. I Keep Hoping
04. Step Lightly
05. Pushing the Panic Button
06. Gallup to a Crawl
07. (Shake) The Hand of Fate
08. Everything Means Touch
09. Lucky As You Are
10. Pick Me Up
11. Now!


Sunday, August 6, 2017

I shot an actor in the street. It was my debut at directing.

From 1999.  I've even tacked on a bonus track from the Japanese version.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Suburban Sprawl - Ice (198?, Lott)

Our friends at Mine for Life recently reminded me of a relatively unknown band whose CD I picked up years ago, but never gave much of a listen to.  File Suburban Sprawl under post-new wave?  Not overwhelmingly synthy or guitarsy, this well coifed quintet from points unknown, strike me as having gotten their foot in a certain door that was just about to slam firmly shut by the late '80s.  Bit of a nondescript angle here, but Ice's hottest idea, "Serious" would slot in well with say, Wire Train or Red Rockers.  Suburban Sprawl sported a pretty plush sound,that wasn't fully arrived on the bulk of this disk, and sadly it looks like they never followed up on this album's promise.  Discogs pegs Ice's copyright as 1987, but the sleeve notes don't provide a date.  I'd put it at 1988 or later.  The tray card tracklist is a bit scrambled as well.  I'm not entirely sure what the title of the sixth cut is, but seven is definitely "Wanda Wanda," not "Wireless."  Check out the non-LP "Borders" from the Mine for Life blog link above. 

01. Baby Feet
02. At a Glance
03. Stay Forever
04. Ice
05. Keep the Faith
06. Wireless (?)
07. Wanda Wanda
08. Serious
09. Feel Appeal
10. Weekends
11. Resident
12. Never Say Never


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Maurice and the Clichés - C'est la Vie (1982, RMS)

I learned of this combo not in 1982 when this was released, rather a good 25 years later online.  From what little I've been able to glean, Maurice and the Clichés ostensibly had origins both in Vancouver, BC and Seattle.  There's not much of a timeline out there to gauge them by, but C'est la Vie appears to be there sophomore salvo, kicking off with the single "Soft Core."  The song in question is a deadpan, yet sardonic spoke/sung piece with vague references to, you guessed it, pornography.  The song's mildly robotic tenor soon gives way to the considerably more tuneful, driving modus operandi Maurice and the Clichés are revered for, at least in some small circles.  "It's All Talk," "Beautiful Girls," and the swift, ringing title track, are gold nuggets with turn-of-the-decade power pop emblazoned all over them, that will do aficionados of Elvis Costello and early Joe Jackson just fine. 

01. Soft Core
02. It's All Talk
03. Reach for the Top
04. Working Girls
05. Unschuld
06. Social Casualties
07. Beautiful Girls
08. Dead Reckoning
09. Skyline
10. C'est la Vie