Monday, October 30, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

VA - Teen Line #6 American Powerpop & Pop-Rock Singles A-B

Since I won't be delivering any more musical delights until Monday, I thought I'd make the weekend count by sharing this sixth installment in my Teen Line compilation serial, as it were.  Teen Line was a formally in-progress and now sadly incomplete and abandoned project that was in the hands of the Hyped to Death curators who were also responsible for the Messthetics and Homework series, loosely modeled after the considerably more renown Killed By Death DIY punk comp empire.  Culled from numerous self-released and small indie label 45s (with a selection from the occasional LP) the Teen Line series informally cataloged and canonized some of the finest American power-pop/punk songs the late '70s/'80s had to offer - that in all likelihood you wouldn't have known about otherwise, especially three to four decades after the fact.

The names populating this disk may be virtually unknown, but minor as characters like The Bandables, B-Lovers, Ambulance and Blue Shoes were, the quality of their brief recorded output was pretty staggering. I believe The Bandables and Bats are the only acts here that have appeared on these pages prior, but considering how I've raved about both of them you'd be crazy not to investigate the par excellence flock of once indie pop hopefuls they're surrounded by here.  Vol. 6 consists of 27 selections, and the complete tracklist is to your right.  To check out the five previous Teen Line installments and/or read more about the series in general, point your cursor here


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Love American Style - Undo (1997)

Once upon a time (say early/mid '90s) there was a very good noise-pop band called Smashing Orange, who as it so happened were overshadowed by another band from that era who also had the word "Smashing" in their moniker.  Before I digress any further I won't provide you any other clues besides that.  Preceded by a couple of superlative eps in 1991, the next year saw the release of their debut, The Glass Bead Game, a white-hot cocktail of dream-pop amidst a molten, amped-out stew of feedback and Rob Montejo's distant vocal aplomb.  S/O soon made the major label jump, churning out one more platter, 1994's No Return in the End.   Sadly, No Return... did in fact illicit the premise of it's title, bearing none of the hazy or raw hallmarks of the debut, and instead opted for a more streamlined m.o. that was often indistinguishable from many of the band's contemporaries.  Smashing Orange called it a day not long after, but wouldn't you know it, Montejo would soon straddle a new rocking horse, Love American Style.   

Their lone LP, Undo, actually undoes a lot of the pedestrian drag that plagued No Return.  While not an out-and-out throwback to his shoegazing days of yore, Montejo colors from a diverse set of palettes here.  "Not About to Lose It," and "Divider" mine a pretty divine Superdrag vein, the shuffling "Easy" and the strummy acoustic respite "Anodyne" point to a considerably more lucid penchant, while a measured amount of tremolo smoothly infiltrates "The Sky Will Be Milk" to primo effect.  Undo may fall shy of a masterstroke, but once you're acquainted with it, partaking in this disk is nonetheless a treat.

01. Hail the Flounder
02. Undo
03. Easy
04. Not About to Lose It
05. Ticket
06. Divider
07. I Know You Know
08. Whipping Cinders
09. Radio Smile
10. Be In Your Body
11. Anodyne
12. The Sky Will Be Milk


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Jesus is just alright with me, if Moses is Shaun Cassidy.

A remarkably amusing and often rewarding impromptu album of sorts, containing fourteen songs written in four days and cut in eight hours in 2009 by an L.A. power pop mainstay and his touring band.  It took a few listens for this one to sink in, but I love it.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ten Tall Men - Nickelbrain ep (1986)

This bygone Berkeley, CA unit bears no shortage of affinity for the Minutemen and Gang of Four's brand of skittish, post-punk.  I'd like to say Ten Tall Men (truthfully, a much more scaled down trio of questionable height) bear an innovative streak a mile wide, but sadly, that would be a stretch.  At the very least, Nickelbrain offers six, two and a half minute bursts of angular persuasion with challenging syncopation, and occasionally even a sprinkling of catchiness to boot.

01. Nowhere but Down
02. Nickelbrain
03. Hit the Road
04. What Are Friends For?
05. Your Time Will Come
06. We All Want Just What We Can't Have


Friday, October 20, 2017

Trikona Frame - tape (1986)

You might say I'm sharing this partly for superficial reasons.  I have some rather lofty stacks of cassettes on my dresser, and this one has been sitting in the midst of one of those piles for several years, having gone largely unlistened to.  Well, I finally got tired of staring at it every day and decided to digitize it, file it away in a shoebox...and of course, offer it to you.  I believe I bought this one in a lot of demo tapes, and in fact had no familiarity with this band prior.  Trikona Frame were a female-fronted quintet who ostensibly called Akron, OH home.  No pertinent info is available on them in the digital realm, and they strike me as a classic "cold case." both their moniker and cassette sleeve fascinate me to no end.  The music enshrined within, not so much, but still considerably unique.  These Buckeye co-eds have a roots rock fervor to them, flirting with rockabilly on occasion.  The singer (whose full name isn't disclosed) exudes a quasi-performance art tact.  Think the Waitresses' with less charm and halfway-there hooks.  "Waterfall" is the closest they delve into conventional 'wave,' and frankly, I could have gone for more of this particular mode, but what we get is what we get.  Make of Trikona Frame what you will.

01. White Fish
02. Cowboy
03. Turn 13
04. Nice Weather
05. Pavanese
06. Waterfall
07. Pretty Feet


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Puppies - Fun is Right ep (1981 Hi-Rise)

These cheeky lil doggies function more along the lines of a Dalmatian than say, a German Shepard. This, their apparently lone 12" is more ironic than rambunctious, not unlike a cozier spin on what DEVO were peddling around the same era.  Sonically, the Pups were patently a product of their era, but less than gratuitous about propagating it.  Fun is Right's highlight is the nifty "Public Buildings" a synthy mid-tempo piece vaguely smacking of Gary Numan.  Unfortunately, it immediately leads into the ridiculous "Cat Food." Side two wins the consistency contest, despite "Worst In Me" winding things down on a lukewarm note.  In short, half stimulating, with the latter at least warranting a cursory listen.  Enjoy (or not).

01. Public Buildings
02. Cat Food
03. Mechanical Beat
04. Suite Little Unit
05. Atmosphere
06. Worst in Me


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Some have called it ignorance, others have called it bliss.

Four very solid EPs, including an especially bruising four-song salvo from 1991. 


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Notes on new music: The Pengwins and Trip Wire

Just about every year (or two) a rather unique musical package comes down that pike that few people in the world are aware of.  Luckily a decent chunk us are Pengwins fans, and we're fully down with the program.  As a means of archiving (and now disseminating) the recordings of his locally vaunted power pop act, Lannie Flowers has done something unique with his Pengwins catalog, by reissuing one vintage song from their original late '70s incarnation and placing it on a 7" disk, pairing it with a considerably more recent recording.  But merely releasing a "single" won't how about decking that 45 out in a full color box containing photos, a CD of the single with extra audio goodies, a download card, liner notes, and some appropriately associated paraphernalia?  They've done it again with Volume 4 of this incredibly rewarding series, and if the swag isn't enticing alone how 'bout the tunes?  The a-side, the 2007 recorded the Danny Wilkerson penned "Go Away" is as fine as anything they've committed to tape, sounding like something Cheap Trick would have been proud to put their stamp on back in their '70s/early '80s heyday.  And speaking of the '70s, the ballad-esque "oldie" on the flip, "Just a Dream" circulates back to 1977.  The CD also tacks on an alternate mix of "Go Away" and "Ladybug," an early iteration of "Just a Dream."  The whole enchilada is available from Spyderpop Records.  For more details on the Pengwins reissues series, check out one of our earlier entries here.

It’s not the core TripWire lineup of Marty Schneider and Bill Hunt that garnered my attention , so much as the new buck that’s been welcomed into the fold, none other than Jeff Shelton of Well Wishers and Spinning Jennies renown.   To my understanding, the San Fran-based Trip Wire had already carved out a power pop reputation for themselves, and with Shelton on deck that proposition has been further cemented on the band’s sophomore long-player, Cold Gas Giants.   In fact, the selections here the man in question belly’s up to the mic for, “I’m Not the Enemy” and “Growing Old” bear a discernibly crunchy, riff-rock penchant.  To a certain extent, Shelton’s contributions stand in contrast to much of the remainder of CGG, an album that finds this combo finagling with various accoutrements from horns to a string section.   Schneider is the one who predominantly wields the Trip Wire songwriting quill, and he’s wont to operate in a traditional singer/songwriter context.   The band gets by capably, and even exudes some diversity, but I have to wonder how much more of a treat Cold Gas Giants would have amounted to if they opted to color outside the lines every now and then.  You can hear and purchase it for yourself through Bandcamp, Kool Kat Music, and Amazon. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Flamin' Goovies - Fantastic Plastic (2017, Severn) - A brief review

A new Flamin' Groovies album doesn't come along every year.  Or even every decade.  That being said, will once in a century work for you?  Improbable as it may seem, 2017 brings a brand new Groovies album, Fantastic Plastic, reuniting the band's key songsmiths/players Cyril Jordan and Chris Wilson.  In fact, it's been almost four entire decades since that duo operated in tandem (even the 1991 Groovies disk, Rock Juice only entailed Cyril).

For those of you in the audience who may not quite be enlightened to whom these gents are, the Flamin' Groovies christened their collective ship in the mid '60s in San Francisco, but they bore little to nothing in common with the Haight-Ashbury contingents of the day.  Bypassing psychedelia and flower-power in favor of back to basics roots rock, the Groovies eventually settled on a garage-cum-proto power pop penchant releasing six albums up until the late '70s, culminating in their rightfully lauded and visceral signature piece, "Shake Some Action."

Longtime aficionados of this combo would be well within their right minds if they concluded that Fantastic Plastic barely emanates the tenor of the Groovies original incarnation.  After all, Jimmy Carter was in the White House when these guys were still at it full time.  Instead, what you can purloin on Fantastic are occasional shades and colorings of their former selves if only infrequently.  "Cryin Shame" and "I Want You Bad" (the latter an NRBQ cover) reacquaint us with the Groovies resonant jangle of yore.  You might say these songs in particular hearken back to "First Plane Home," a breezy, mid-tempo endeavor from the band's halcyon era.  Otherwise Cyril and Co. are starting off with a veritable clean slate.  The opening "What the Hell's Going On" is a sweet, Stonesy jaunt that plays out more convincingly than anything Mick and Keef have doled out in the last thirty years, and sprite "Crazy Macy" is the closest they come to replicating their ragin' vintage aplomb. 

Fantastic will surely reaffirm a good quotient of the Groovies old school faithful - and that's exactly  who this record is tailored to.  Millennials be damned.  You can hook yourself up with a copy over at Severn Records, Amazon, and iTunes

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Liquor Giants - Every Other Day at a Time (1998, Matador)

I've previously featured the Liquor Giants second album, the splendid Here on these pages before, but have been hesitant to post anything from their later catalog, as it was still available digitally.  For whatever the reason that's no longer the case with their two Matador Records LPs, Liquor Giants (1996) and the record that followed two years later, which is what you're looking at/hearing now.  LG golden throat and prime-mover Ward Dotson was an alum of the Gun Club, a critically acclaimed Los Angeles outfit who's pastiche was significantly derived from the blues and rockabilly.  Their debut, Fire of Love comes recommended from yours truly, but I'm digressing here.  Ward's proverbial Liquor cabinet wasn't stocked with boozy roots rock, so much as straight-up guitar pop that often fell somewhere between Tom Petty (yep, that guy again) and Wilco.  The self titled third album never sank in with me, but the Liquor Giants found themselves right back in their melodic groove on Every Other Day..., featuring many a prizewinner like "Dearest Darling," "Caroline," and "Kentucky Lounge."  If not an out-an-out classic this one's a sheer pleaser, and the closest they would venture to achieving their utmost potential.  Though several minutes long, track fifteen was an entirely blank placeholder, and thus I omitted it.  The remainder consists of a sharp reading of the Move's "Fire Brigade," while the unidentifiable concluding track strikes me as being another cover, though I'm stumped at what it's title is.  Feel free to chime in. 

01. It's Raining Butterflies
02. Beautiful Flo 
03. What's the new Mofo?
04. Dearest Darling
05. Kentucky Darling
06. I'll Never Mind
07. Medicine Ball Games
08. Multicoloured Hipsnake
09. Meaningless
10. It Only Hurts When I Smile
11. Riverdale High
12. Caroline
13. I Know I'm Wrong
14. Summer School
16. Fire Brigade
17. title unknown


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Record Plant, Sausalito, CA 4-23-77 (KSAN archives)

I think you'd be hard pressed to find rock and roll aficionados who came up in the seventies and/or eighties that didn't have some sort of inclination for Tom Petty (with or without the Heartbreakers). I was never a super-fan of his, but that's fine because he had accorded plenty already.  In fact, I didn't start exploring TP&H albums in their entirety until quite recently.  Like Springsteen or Dylan, it didn't take a complete absorption of his entire body of work to have sincere admiration towards Petty's strenuous integrity and consoling presence.  I didn't have much of an affinity for his later records, or even for much of what he churned out in the waning years of the twentieth century.  I hardly feel guilty about that, because there were still enough songs I had a connection to.  Plaintive songwriters who reach mass audiences make that connection with fans millions of times over, and as such, more discriminating ears like my own take those artists for granted and opt to explore less traveled paths and environs.  Nonetheless, news of his death cut deep.  After all, this was someone who'd been creating music for the entirety of my existence, and had been in my consciousness for a good 75% of that time.

He left us with a lot - the vast majority of which I'm not at liberty to share, but at any rate I can give you this.  Tracked at the Record Plant in Sausalito, CA (one of three recording studios by the same name owned by Gary Kellgren and Chris Stone) this set was recorded live in studio with a very modest and intimate crowd in attendance, later to be broadcast on KSAN radio out of 'frisco.  Cut between the first TP&H album and You're Gonna Get It, the seven songs presented here may not be the complete set, but this is the incarnation floating around.  It features a preview of YGGI's "I Need to Know," and the semi-precious stone "Surrender," one of the band's high water marks.  R.I.P. Mr. Integrity.

01. Surrender
02. band intros - American Girl
03. Fooled Again (I Don't Like It)
04. I Need to Know
05. Strangered in the Night
06. Dog on the Run
07. Route 66


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Down...but not out.

I'm afraid I will not be able to offer you Mystery Monday this week,  as my computer is currently out of commission.   I hope to return later this week.  I also want to apologize for the minimal amount of weekly content I've been offering as well.   Will try to remedy that soon.  Thanks for your patience.