This hasn't been a banner week for content folks, and while I plan on treating you to some long requested uploads in the immediate future, I present to use this festering, surge of guitarsy, art-noise glop. There's some serious early-Sonic Youth caterwaul-cum-distorto Jr. slurry emanating from the golden throats and calloused fingers of this co-ed, French air-parcel, who had the balls (and ovaries) to affix the unluckiest combo of two numerals to their moniker. Residing amidst 13th Hole's gooey, fever-dream sensory-overload antics, you'll find traces of discernibly tuneful fretboard maneuvers that for better or worse still fall short of "pretty." In fairness, "Wave" borders on hummable (in the most relative context possible), and elsewhere we stumble on some shoegazer -y outcroppings that all of you dream-pop noiseniks in the audience should harbor at least some faint appreciation for. More 13th Hole offerings would ensue, predominantly in the current millennium, all of which appear to be soaking up bandwidth on Bandcamp. Headache, however, can only be streamed on said music hub, so dare I say Wilfully Obscure is the only downloadable source for this flagrant hot mess?
03. He Is Ill
05. Stand in Line
06. Soft Sound
07. Mr Know All
09. Mrs. Peel
Sport of Kings were fortunate to exist at a time when the word "goth" wasn't so liberally applied to music. If anything, the more appropriate tag for this Bay Area duo would more suitably have been post-punk, given their seemingly keen affection for such Anglo conglomerates as Bauhaus and Comsat Angels. There's a terrifically noir temperament to much of Sing Mary Sing, a record that merges mildly serrated sonic effects within song structures that are if not consistently melodic, at the very least approachable. Sport of Kings angle for some serious mystique on this platter, albeit never contrived or forced. And you'll find none of that beefy '80s production shtick here either, which is needless to say always a big plus. Give this one a spin or two, and pay extra attention to the title track, and the album's enticing bookends, "So Easy" and "We Never Fail."
01. So Easy
02. A Wonderful Time
03. Dark Clouds Moving
04. I See Only You
05. Under the Same Blue Sky
06. Sing Mary Sing
09. We Never Fail
Crunchy and often shoegazer-y indie rock this way came from the presumably long defunct Starlight Conspiracy. Apparently hailing from New England (Mass or Vermont I wanna say) this co-ed quartet featured Jan Tofferi, largely dominating on vocals. Bearing a raw, mid-fi aptitude the Conspiracy had an unwieldy grip on dynamics and an even better handle on distortion. Downcast but never despondent the band's serious tenor was more substance than angsty theatrics. Silver Holler is Vaguely analogous to early Velocity Girl, especially on the more melodic bits like "She Waits," and "Just Heavier Words." Kind of wish they stuck around for another record or two.
01. She Waits
02. Don't Leave the Stage
03. Silver Holler
04. Just Heavier Words
05. Switching Lines 06. Airlock
10. Earth Prime
Thought this would tie in well with recent events, not to mention what I posted a couple nights back. This was an easy sell for me back in '92. First and foremost because it was a Buzzcocks tribute, but almost as appealing was the inclusion of no less than five of my top-tier faves, Big Drill Car, TheDoughboys, The Fluid, Didjits and Naked Raygun. Back then I would've purchased a compilation if it featured any one of them, even if this had been a Patsy Cline tribute. Overall, Something's Gone Wrong Again is a par for the course covers comp with a few really ill advised choices balancing out the smarter ones. Of the aforementioned participants, the Doughboys and Didjits take the cake, especially the latter, whose spin on "Sitting Round at Home" smoked the Gorilla Biscuits' rendition from just a few years before. Electric Love Hogs convey "Boredom" with a Melvins-y thrust, Alice Donut taking on "E.S.P." is a logical pairing, and Raygun do more than adequate justice to the Buzzcocks anthem that never quite became one, "Running Free." TheAccüsed and Deadspot butcher their allotted slots disgracefully, and the Larry King soundbites on Porn Orchard's reading of "Why Can't I Touch It?" are nothing short of pathetic. Some other good candidates for this album might have been Superchunk, The Figgs, and perhaps even pre-stardom Green Day...but of course, I had no say in such matters. Fourteen tracks. Hope your favorite is here.
01-Doughboys - Why She's A Girl From The Chainstore
02-The Fluid - Oh, Shit
03-Coffin Break - What Do I Get?
04-Didjits - Sitting Round At Home
05-Electric Love Hogs - Boredom
06-Deadspot - Orgasm Addict
07-Lunachicks - Noise Annoys~Promises
08-Big Drill Car - I Don't Mind
09-Porn Orchard - Why Can't I Touch It?
10-The Accüsed - Lipstick
11-Alice Donut - E.S.P
12-Naked Raygun - Love Battery
13-Naked Raygun - Running Free
14-Dose - Everybody's Happy Nowadays
News none of us were quite expecting went out late last week announcing Pete Shelley, frontman for the Buzzcocks (and a solo artist in how own right circa the mid-80s) had died suddenly of a heart attack at 63. The Buzzcocks initial 1977-81 lifespan was superseded many, many times over since the band reconvened in 1989, and it seemed like they might have well gone on for another ten years or so. Whether they were the founders of "pop-punk," as it were, or not, they certainly had the biggest hand in stirring that much coveted and ultimately lucrative kettle. Arguably more influential than even the Sex Pistols, certainly hundreds of punters that followed in the Buzzcocks wake professed to be inspired by them, but how many genuinely sounded like Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle and Co.? Heck, I couldn't even name a Buzzcocks imitator if you put a gun to my head. Shelley had a singular voice, and a plaintive yet distinctive songwriting acumen to match. Utterly irreplaceable. Luckily, they toured so extensively most fans were at least able to catch a concert or two. Can't really say that about the Pistols, or even the Clash for that matter.
I've dedicated space to multiplelive Buzzcocks collections, and even a batch of demos circa 1991, so instead of rehashing too much, I've got a mini-bundle of predominantly off the beaten path goodies, including radio sessions from 2003 and 2006, contemporary to the Buzzcocks and Flat-Pack Philosophy albums. The emphasis on both of them was then-new material, but you'll find one vintage chestnut in each folder. Then there's 1991's somewhat under-released, but relatively findable Alive Tonight ep with the reunited band not treading familiar territory, rather delving into promising new sonic tiers without compromising what made them quintessentially Buzzcocks, And I suppose I couldn't get away without offering something in the live realm, specifically their 1978 Lyceum performance in London, as included in the now out-of-print Product box set. It's only eight songs, meaning the band had an exceedingly brief set that night, or EMI records was being stingy with said retrospective. And there's a couple of even more random one-offs including an unspeakably rare live tack of "Paradise," and a 1990 performance of a dandy tune titled "Wallpaper World," which evidently never found it's way into the studio.
Ya done good Mr. Shelley. The gratitude is endless from my little corner of the world, and I'm sure many others.
2003 Peel Session
01. Driving You Insane
02. Certain Move
03. Lester Sands
04. Peel chatter
Mark Radcliff Session 3/15/06
02. Flat-Pack Philosophy
05. Soul Survivor
07. Love You More
Alive Tonightep (1991, Planet Pacific)
01. Alive Tonight
02. Serious Crime 03. Last to Know
04. Successful Street
Live at the Lyceum, London 3-10-78 (from Product box set)
02. Fast Cars
03. Noise Annoys
04. Moving Away From The Pulsebeat
05. Fiction Romance
06. What Do I Get?
07. Whatever Happened To?
08. Time's Up
Ok, one last present to finish the holiday off, and a pretty substantial one at that from a band that needs no introduction - at least I would expect that to be the case. Can you believe it's been ELEVEN YEARS since I dedicated an entry to Material Issue? Maybe I just didn't want you to get burned out on them. Then again this is the trifecta to end all power pop trios we're talking about here - Ted Ansani, Mike Zelenko, and of course the late Jim Ellison. I guess there isn't much of a burnout factor there, eh?
Issues is nothing more than a fan-curated series of bootlegs compiling scarce, unreleased and live stuff from Chicago power-pop demigods, you guessed it, Material Issue. You'll no doubt notice the header states this is Vol 3. You might be asking, are there volumes one and two? Do subsequent chapters in the Issues serial exist? Yes, and yes. Currently I don't have all or even most of them, but I might try to work on that. Furthermore, from what I've been able to learn about these MI compilations, Vol. 3's emphasis is on studio material, that in one iteration or another isn't readily available for public consumption. It touches on songs from their debut, International Pop Overthrow, but the emphasis of this volume tends to zero in on their pre and post major label stint with Mercury Records. Best of all it includes some entirely unique and unreleased cuts that to my knowledge have never appeared on any official MI releases. Let me fill you in if I may.
Issues Vol. 3 commences with a spate of some of the trio's most nascent tunes, pulled from demo tapes circa 1985-86 that may or may not have made it into the public realm. "Why," "I Want You" and "Walk Into the Fire" never carried over to proper MI records, but we get to hear early previews of a couple that did - "Chance of a Lifetime" and "Echo Beach," both of which would eventually become fan favorites. These are followed up by not-so-different-from-the-album takes of bona-fide hits, "Valerie Love Me," "Renee Remains..." and the always zingy "What Girls Want." Next, a cover of Tommy Roe's 1969 hit "Dizzy" is credited as an IPO outtake. No complaints there. "Bones" isn't a MI song, rather a track by an unrelated combo, Slink Moss and the Flying Aces that Jim Ellison contributed vocals to in 1995. This is followed up by three songs that are placed under the umbrella of "AMX demos." Cut in 1996, the AMX acronym translates into AKA Material Issue, per this relevant blog post. "Carousel" wound up on MI's posthumous Telecommando Americano, but "Quicksand" and "Blue Is for Boys" have been lost in the ether...until now.
The bulk of the remainder of Issues 3 is comprised of demos for Telecommando Americano. Some of which are virtual mirrors to the album versions, but the nuances and differences are there, like in the guitar fills on "What if I Killed Your Boyfriend?" I honestly have to wonder if the MI fans that dropped off after IPO were even aware of the existence of this album, as I usually find no one but die hard fans ever mention it. That's a shame, because "Satellite", What if I...," and "You Were Beautiful" are as stimulating as anything else in MI's sturdy power pop canon. BTW, "Mrs. Beautiful" is another outtake, and a decent enough one at that. Things close out with Material Issue concocting an ad for Budweiser, which I don't believe ever made it to Sunday afternoon TV, but who knows.
I ponder a lot about about the late Jim Ellison and moreover what might have been if things had taken a different turn on June 20, 1996. If you're a fan you've probably gleaned the synopsis (or what little thereof was made public knowledge) of what played into his final act of desperation. He died a veritable martyr for his cause, but still a punishing excuse for the rest of us. And in light of what transpired that day, all Material Issue songs, even the most strident and jovial ones ache to one extent of another whenever I hear them. Even if he had never recorded another note, had he simply been able to persevere through his circumstances that would have been satisfaction enough for me. Jim, you were seemingly too misanthropic to be sentimental, but nonetheless we miss the hell out of you. Tracklist and links are below.
01 ...we're Material Issue...
02 Why (1985 demo - unreleased)
03 I Want You (1985-86 demo - unreleased)
04 Chance Of A Lifetime (1985 tape)
05 Walk Into The Fire (1986 tape)
06 Echo Beach (1986 tape)
07 Renee Remains The Same (original 7")
08 What Girls Want (Head Wound mix)
09 Valerie Loves Me (different from CMJ version)
10 Dizzy - Tommy Roe (IPO outtake)
11 Bones (Slink Moss w/Jim Ellison)
12 Quicksand (AMX demo - unreleased)
13 Blue Is For Boys (AMX demo - unreleased)
14 Carousel (AMX demo - piano version - unreleased)
15 976-LOVE (demo)
16 Our Daughter (demo - LOUD guitar)
17 London Girl (demo)
18 Off The Hook (demo - shorter & less phone noise)
19 Two Steps (demo)
20 Satellite (demo - guitar intro)
21 Mrs Beautiful (demo - unreleased)
22 What If I Killed Your Boyfriend (demo)
23 You Were Beautiful (demo)
24 ...nothing beats a Budweiser....
Every year or so I happen upon a phenomenal yesteryear release that I wasn't on my radar up until that point. Sometimes I'm a couple years late to the party, others I'm behind the curve by a good three decades, and that was the case with the item I'm debuting tonight.
Just when I think I've plundered and unearthed every last lost '80s treasure from the Kiwi-laden isles of New Zealand a new fuzzy-skinned but succulent fruit appears in my metaphorical basket. Three Leaning Men (actually a quartet based on the rear album sleeve roster) were not from of their country's epicenters like Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch or even Dunedin, but rather from the smaller city of Palmerston North, located on NZ's North Island. As you might guess, 3LM were not the least bit impervious to some of the local contingents that surrounded them like The Chills (whom according to Wiki they supported) and The Bats, but they also had their sights set on that more sizable chunk of land due northwest. These chaps would have slotted in perfectly with the likes of the Go Betweens and Triffids, and on the more Anglo side of things Orange Juice and Close Lobsters. Yes, I know, it all sounds to good to be true, but lay your ears on "By Your Leave," "Facing" and "Who Knows" (the last of which sounds as if these guys were plugged into the Chills Wurlitzer) and you can confirm what I'm suggesting entirely. Hard to believe something of this caliber has eluded us for so long, but I'm all for pleasant surprises. A major find to say the least.
Fun in the Key of E, the band's lone full length, harbors a few misfires (most accumulating on side two) but the highlights are dazzlingly high indeed. Including the ten brief songs on the album proper, I've tacked on two compilation appearances as well, all listed below. Some of the only pertinent details on the group are included in an online article regarding the Leanies record label, Meltdown. The band's lineup includes brothers Alan and frontman Lindsay Gregg, the latter of whom I sadly learned passed away in 2011. Post-3LM, Alan went on to the considerably more renown Mutton Birds. If any of the surviving members of the band happen to read this, do get in touch.
One last detail. The album jacket is the work of one Fane Fawes, whose exaggerated style is almost mistakable for that of Ralph Steadman, Hunter S. Thompson's art collaborator.
01. By Your Leave
03. Who Knows
04. All of These Things
05. Look Over There
06. Until We're Alone Again
08. Another Change Again
Well, I don't have a string of 7" vinyl queued up for this Chanukah, but how would three records in a slightly lengthier format grab you? It dawned on me as a I set to type this out that I don't think I've mentioned any of the three following acts on this site before, so you're truly getting something original for a change. Please make your acquaintance below.
Matt Barrett - The Ruse ep (1980, Moonlight)
Matt Barrett's back story is quite literally strewn on the rear album cover of The Ruse. Since I've included a fairly legible jpeg in the folder I'll try not to overlap with it too much. In 1978, two up and coming scenesters in Chapel Hill, NC, vocalist/guitarist Barrett and accompanying guitar slinger chum Rick Miller had some songs sans a full fledged band. You know how just about every batch of these annual Chanukah uploads somehow involves Mitch Easter to one extent or another? Well here he comes into focus again, as Barrett and Miller hooked up with Mitch (and frequent collaborator Don Dixon) to fill on drums and bass respectively for a one-off recording session in 1978 yielding two songs for an intended single. Intended is just how it stayed due to lack of resources to usher them to market. Fast forward to 1980 for the recording of two newer cuts concocted by the Barrett/Miller axis, this time with a less renown rhythm section. The Ruse collects all four recordings...and it's something of a mixed bag. Regarding the Mitch Easter/Dixon cuts, "My Baby's M-M-Makin' Me Dance" is a rootsy stomper wielding a bit of a Rockpile angle. No foreshadowing of anything approaching the likes of Let's Active, but fun. The remaining cut from this session, "Restless" is a sluggish classic rock jam, accomplishing nothing in it's four tired minutes. The two newer songs on side two are exponentially better by comparison, veering in the vicinity of radio-friendly power pop. Both "Six Pack" and "How Could I Have Known?" are wholly sturdy and respectable.
01. My Baby's M-M-Makin' Me Dance
03. Six Pack
04. How Could I Have Known?
Richard X. Heyman - Actual Size ep (1986, NR World Records)
When Actual Size fell into the laps of a none-too-assuming public in 1986, it
was more than just another power pop record, rather the dawn of singer/songwriter Richard X. Heyman marking his first solo venture. He made a bigger splash a few years later, landing on Sire Records for '91s excellent Hey Man!, and has been releasing records independently ever since. In spite of everything he's come up with since this little homegrown EP, it's probably the most arresting thing I have yet to hear from him. Touching on everyone from '80s Tom Petty to Marshall Crenshaw and Tommy Keene, the six-slice Actual Size is a transcendent pie of ringing, snyth-enhanced pop, that doesn't succumb to the gaudier recording and performance techniques of it's otherwise superficial era. "Hoosier" alone is time capsule worthy. A front to back winner. Heyman re-recorded the entire record and some of his other early songwriting ventures for 2007's Actual Sighs. Well worth picking up if this makes any impression on you.
01. I'm That Kind of Man
03. When Giants Fall
04. The Gallery
05. Masquerader Man
06. Special Love
I know for a fact there have been numerous bands monikered Home, but perhaps none more clandestine and intriguing than the one which set up shop in the environs of Albany, NY circa the mid-80s. The brainchild of lo-fi home-recordist Bob Lukomski, Home bore some austere, noir affectations, just not the brooding or navel-gazing variations thereof. Dare I say they had an affection for what Peter Murphy was up to around the same period? Intelligent, tuneful post-punk rock nibbling on the same edges as contemporaries For Against is how I would typify Home and this thoroughly wonderful four-song record. They played out frequently from what I recall, but despite originating from their neck of the woods, Lukomksi and Co. were a posthumous discovery for me. Some additional Home material is available on Bandcamp along with some of Lukomski's other endeavors.
I've never been much of a hardcore guy. Punk yes...but hardcore? I need way more than indiscriminate speed and shouted vocals, regardless of the righteous indignation and moral outrage that might inform that type of music. No, in order for me to enjoy anything remotely hardcore there has to be at least one other ingredient in the mix. With Bad Religion (at least in their second iteration starting in the late '80s) it was melody. Another exception for me might be The Germs, who offered some unique and indigenous tangents that I can't quite convey in the written word. And the Circle Jerks and Adolescents packed such an irresistible thrust and groove that even I was forced to let my guard down.
So where am I going with all this? Minneapolis' Rifle Sport were a band that could have taken the generic hardcore route with their first album, Voice of Reason, but instead opted for a slightly modified path. Never heard of them? Since this band was a strictly pre-internet proposition biographical details are meager at best, and even my own personal insight borders on minimal. I've featured a couple of their later albums (Primo and White) previously, but the record I'm featuring here is considerably more crucial.
No, Rifle Sport weren't casting their gaze on the likes of Minor Threat or 7 Seconds, sacrilegious as that may strike some of you. They had something more interesting on the brain, specifically the rhythmic variant of post-punk that Mission of Burma was pumping out around the same time. And not merely the rhythm and meter, but more significantly the sweeter guitar tones the Burmas, and kindred west coast spirits Middle Class were doling out. Sure, Voice of Reason sounds a bit dated in 2018, but the four gents responsible for this record were on the cusp of something fresh and stimulating rather than confrontational. Things aren't rampaging here at a million miles an hour, but these guys were frenetic as hell. If you're anything like me, you might pick up on glints of Joy Division, Pere Ubu and Talking Heads, the latter of which is particularly evident in the vocal department. Voice... may not qualify as a masterpiece, but it's always sat well with me. Give 'er a spin.
Rifle Sport drummer Todd Trainer went onto Breaking Circus, Brick Layer Cake and Shellac, while bassist Pete Conway later enacted Flour. This album (which BTW was released on Husker Du's Reflex imprint) was produced by Steve Fjelsted, whose production roster is beyond numerous.
01. Voice of Reason
02. Angel Tears
03. Run & Hide
04. Danger Streets
05. Good News Week
06. Mind Over Matter
07. Hollow Men
10. Keep on Walkin'
11. Correctional Facility
12. No Money
13. Eva Evita
So, why haven't I dedicated more space to The Freshies before? Well, I don't have most of their recordings, and what little I have has been made available again. In fact the closest I've come to doing a Freshies piece is for frontman Chris Sievey's 1986 solo venture, Big Record. If you're looking for a quick but fairly thorough bio on the band, Pop Geek Heaven isn't a bad pit-stop, but please indulge me with a few morsels of personal insight.
Based in Manchester, UK, the Freshies incorporated in 1978, just as the first blush of punk was mutating into some, er...different. Presumably inspired by the Undertones and Buzzcocks, the band's spunky take on power pop leads me to think they may have had a preference for Stateside acts like Cheap Trick and perhaps even Shoes as well. Their music was genius all the way around, with Sievey guiding his quartet as a capable singer and lyricist, penning cheeky tunes about romance and day-to-day dilemmas. Their initial spate of singles were released on their own label, Razz, but the quartet didn't get their first real break until MCA Records took a chance on them in 1980, scooping up their single, "I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk." It became the Freshies signature piece, and sold well. More singles on MCA followed, with such distinct and verbose titles as "I Can't Get "Bouncing Babies" by the Teardrop Explodes" and "If You Really Love Me, Buy Me a Shirt."
The dirty little secret about the band is that they never released a proper full length. However there were a series of DIY cassette albums, including The Freshies Sing The Girls From Banana Island... and All Sleep's Secrets. The problem with the aforementioned tapes, while they may have been LP length, these were mercurial concept pieces, and even if they had been accorded the vinyl treatment they might have proved too challenging for more pedestrian ears to grasp, unlike their instantly gratifying singles.
There was one cassette that proved to be an anomaly, and that was 1980's Rough 'n' Ready. While perhaps not a thoroughly consistent masterstroke, Rough... is by and large excellent, and it's the closest Sievey and Co. came to recording a no b/s full length in the conventional pop/rock realm. As with all of their tapes, Rough was an exceedingly limited item, and as you might guess, fairly lo-fi. In fact, all twelve tunes were knocked out on 8-track in under 24 hours. Some of the songs like "Washed Up" and "My Tapes Gone" made the migration to singles, but most are exclusive to the release in question. Punky, buzzsaw salvos like "No Money," "Yellow Spot" and "House Beautiful" speak to the Freshies, intoxicating blend of power chords and hooks while playing to the band's warm, reverb-laden strengths. In fact, it could be the finest moment the group ever had, and this tape, alongside the band's flawed but worthy the very very best of CD comp, might be all anyone needs.
By the mid-80s, Chris Sievey had largely displaced the Freshies and music in general for a phenomenology more renown second act, as outlandish comic personality Frank Sidebottom. His character was synonymous with the large and cartoonish papier-mâché head he would invariably don. In 2014 a movie was made about his life. Sievey died prematurely in 2010 from cancer at the age of 54. From what I read at the time he passed away virtually penniless, and was given some type of charity funeral, as the British are kind enough to provide in situations such as this.
Sadly, I don't own an original copy of Rough 'n' Ready, and the best version I could procure was ripped at 160 kbps. Everything sound's as clear as bell yet lovingly raw and lived-in. I've included an additional folder of four of my favorite Freshies single sides. Enjoy.
01. Yellow Spot
02. Yeah - No, I Know
04. Oh Girl
06. New Edition
07. One to One
08. House Beautiful
09. We're Like You
10. My Tape's Gone
11. No Money
12. If It's News
...plus four extra tunes
I can't tell you much about The Need, but they did evolve into a more visible entity, Divine Weeks later in the '80s. Functioning on the fringes of L.A.'s Paisley Underground scene, Divine Weeks got noticed when Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate approached them after a 1986 gig.
About a year later the Weeks issued their debut, Through and Through on Restless, an album I coincidentally featured a few years back. I recall it having a twangy zest to it, but nothing I was fanatical about. I did mention however that the springboard for Divine Weeks was a precursor band, specifically the one I'm sharing tonight. I swear it's a coincidence, but remember the Children of Nuggets box I put up the other night? By and large, The Need would have been a shoo-in for it. Obviously Four Believers commences with "Stranger," a biting, two-minute salvo firmly in the garage rawk mold, with sass for miles. "When the Winter Comes" on the flipside gloriously follows suit. Then there are the quartet's charming flirtations with strummy psych-pop - "Last Time I Saw Her" and "Reach You," and on the other side of the spectrum, a fantastically cathartic slammer in the guise of "I Will." To my ears, the album's apex is an anomaly of sorts, "Clandestine Shield," rife with jangly arpeggios approaching the oblique flavor of those early REM records that I find so irresistible.
Obviously Four Believers isn't a record of straight-up, wall-to-wall bangers, nor does it dangle on the cutting edge of anything in particular - but it's more inspired moments are something to revel in. As satisfying and competent as the Divine Weeks would later come to be, they never touched the earnestness of this record. BTW, the Weeks recently dropped a new album, We're All We Have.
02. (Time) For the Breakout
03. Last Time I Saw Her
04. Like the City
05. Reach You
06. Tell Me
07. Clandestine Shield
08. When the Winter Comes
09. House of Cards
10. I Will
11. Wishing Well
Can a direct link be derived from power-pop progenitors The Raspberries to all bands and singer/songwriters who subsequently took up the craft? On the face of it groups like the Rubinoos and even the Pezband have the Cleveland, OH legend's influence steeped all over them, whereas with Teenage Fanclub all the way up to more current practitioners Pugwash, the lines of inspirational genealogy are considerably more blurry.
Good thing for the quartet of Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, David Smalley and Jim Bonfanti, their reputation is unequivocally and undisputedly sealed, whether they were the collective brainchildren of a musical movement or otherwise. They may not have been poster-boys for the pop charts, but with four near-perfect albums to their credit the Raspberries legacy is still ripe for discovery for the yet-to-be-converted, and for continued exhalation for those already familiar with their music. They played in the mold of the Beatles at time when it was unambiguously uncool to trapise down that path, and a lot of listeners didn't really appreciate the 'berries until both bands had long been put to pasture. Frustratingly, beyond their four LPs: Raspberries (1972), Fresh(1972), Side 3 (1973) and Starting Over (1974) the group left behind little to no aftertaste to savor, save for the typical allotment of best-of compilations. No glorified reissues with expanded bonus material, and nothing in the way of outtakes or live performances from the band's heyday have hit the market to my knowledge. From my vantage point there have been no rumblings about anything of the sort surfacing in the future. Even what I'm offering here may seem scant, but it's the best I was able to scrounge up. A big thanks in advance to the fans that made this material available in one guise or another.
This collection starts out appropriately enough with a pair of 1969 singles from two precursors to the Raspberries, Cyrus Erie and The Quick, both of whom featured Eric Carmen prominently in their lineups. The Cyrus Erie cuts exude a more than discernible Brit-invasion tincture, and though removed from the Raspberries I enjoy these songs tremendously. The Quick was the shorter lived of the two bands, but despite their lifespan, there's some development that bled over to Carmen's more renown successor band. A related band called The Choir factors substantially into the Raspberries pre-history. Since I'm limited on time, please check out the hyperlinks at the beginning of this paragraph as well as here and here.
A piano-laded, but ultimately rejected commercial jingle (track five if you're playing along at home) leads into a cluster of four Raspberries demos that predate the band's debut. These were apparently sourced from vinyl, but the audio is fairly pristine. We're treated to subdued previews of "I Saw the Light" and "Come Around and See Me," along with two other songs that I don't believe cropped up on later records ("Of Tonight" is not the same piece as the band's soon-to-come anthem "Tonight").
A good chunk of this tracklist is taken from a myriad of live performances including the fabled Agora Theatre in the band's home turf of Cleveland. Granted, we aren't offered a cohesive set from one venue on one evening, but the fact is live Raspberries recordings are non-existent save for a couple reunion concert albums, and the occasional live clip on YouTube. I'm not saying any of these in-concert renditions will make your hair stand on end, but you do get a bit of a rush hearing a vigorous run through "Play On" and "Ecstasy." Like any band worth their salt, the Raspberries in a live setting outpaced and out-energized their studio acumen. Needless to see these live tracks are the reason you're downloading this.
Towards the end of this smorgasbord are a couple of informally recorded Eric Carmen demos, tracked at the residence of Michael McBride, one of Carmen's former bandmates in Cyrus Erie. Both songs, "Starting Over" and "I Can Hardly Believe Your Mine" would be re-cut for the 'berries swan song, Starting Over. These aren't mere rough sketches, so much as revealing alternate takes illustrating how they sounded outside the realm of the band. Pop craftsmanship to the hilt, even if Carmen is wont to channel Paul McCartney now and then.
This set concludes with a 1973 live medley of *sigh* two pop standards, "The Locomotion" and "Be My Baby." Forgivable, if only for the fact it's Raspberries covering them. A full tracklist with sources is below. There is a FLAC version, however some of the Cyrus Erie/Quick songs were only available on MP3. BTW, if you're looking for one stop shopping for the entire Raspberries catalog, check out this handy mini box set with remastered versions of all four albums.
01. Cyrus Erie - Sparrow (single a-side, 1969)
02. Cyrus Erie - Get the Message (single b-side, 1969)
03. The Quick - Ain't Nothing Gonna Stop Me (single a-side, 1969)
04. The Quick - Southern Comfort (single b-side, 1969)
05. Lemon Go Lightly
06. I Saw the Light
07. Please Let Me Come Back Home
08. Oh Tonight
09. Come Around and See Me
10. Go All the Way
11. Nobody Knows
12. If You Can Change Your Mind
13. I Wanna Be With You
14. Let's Pretend
15. Last Dance
18. Play On
20. Overnight Sensation
21. I Don't Know What I Want
22. I Can Hardly Believe You're Mine
23. Starting Over
24. The Locomotion/Be My Baby
1 & 2 Cyrus Erie 7" (1969) - featuring Eric and Wally
3 & 4 The Quick 7" (1969, Epic) - featurng Eric
5. unreleased commerical jingle
6-9 1971 demos
10-12 recorded live for "Nightside," Germany 1973
13-15 live at the Agora, Cleveland, OH 11/13/73
16. from Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, 1973
17. live Panama City, FL 9/6/73
18-20 live at Sir Morgans Cove, Worcester, MA 6/29/74
21. live at The Joint in the Woods, Parsippany, NJ 10/18/74
22 & 23 Eric Carmen home demos recorded at Michael McBride's house, Willoughby, OH 1974
24. live medley from The Agora, Cleveland 11/18/73
Happy Chanukah and welcome to night one. I have a habit of kicking things off with a bang, but this one may not be as much a revelation as from years prior. Why? As far as box sets go this one is relatively common for starters (albeit completely out of print, even in the realm of digital vendors). Secondly, to our ears, this album contains a bevy of relatively household names (key word being relatively).
Nonetheless, I've said to myself and among friends on numerous occasions that Children of Nuggets is likely the gold standard for various artist compilation box sets. It's consistency is nothing short of staggering, and it's scope encompassing, even though it technically purports to being genre specific(ish). The back story on Nuggets originates to 1972, when rock scribe Lenny Kaye was commissioned to compile a double albums worth of songs from the first era of rock, representing overlooked artists just shy of surfacing on the mainstream radar. That meant no one on the level of the Stones, Floyd, or even Jefferson Airplane were eligible. Instead, Kaye honed in on the grittier side of psychedelia, angling for groups with a rougher, garage rock bent like the Electric Prunes, the Seeds, and The 13th Floor Elevators. Mystique was a watchword, and when the record fell into the proper hands upon its release, it's slowly snowballing popularity never quite exceeded that of a cult classic, but it became a totemic one at that. So much so, the original 27 track Nuggets double LP comp was quadrupled to a four disc box in 1998, featuring scores of other relevant artists circa 1965-68. And in the intervening years before the box, dozens of other like-minded obscuro psych/garage compilations (the Pebbles series comes to mind) scratched the itch Lenny Kaye initially tickled. 2001 gave rise to a sequel Nuggets box, another four disc counterpart from roughly the same era, only with an emphasis on British and international acts.
By the late '60s, psychedelic rock, as the world had come to be acquainted with it had become less prominent, but it's vestiges never completely burned out. In fact, it's embers continued to ignite, albeit in a more sub rosa fashion than ever. Enter Children of Nuggets, the third in Rhino Records box set series, and more comprehensive than the previous two in more ways than one. Not so much in the way of quantity (still a manageable four CDs), but in the case of Children... a far greater swath of time is covered - 1976-96 to be exact, though bands from the '80s are the vast majority are who are covered here. For the most part, the roughly eighty bands that comprise this collection are not out-and-out revivalists of the psych/garage form, rather artists that purloined a trick or two from their Baby Boomer elders. Turns out the punk/post-punk movements in the late '70s that had displaced the beatnik underground hadn't entirely eschewed some of the previous generation's trippier inclinations, rather massaged them into something new.
With a pool of twenty years of music to draw from, as opposed to the original Nuggets mere four Children of Nuggets producers Alec Palao and Gary Stewart were forced to broaden the boundaries, and perhaps even definitions of what psych/garage constituted in the post punk era. Truth be told there's no shortage of participants who subscribe to the more traditionalist underpinnings of the genres in question - Lyres, Cynics, Fleshtones, Tell-Tale Hearts, Swingin' Neckbreakers and one-song-wonders The Nashville Ramblers whose magnificent "The Trains" is authentically laced with the sonic panache of the old guard. As to be expected, all the major constituents of L.A.'s coveted Paisley Underground make a showing here - The Bangles (and precursors The Bangs), Three O' Clock, Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, Green on Red and runner-ups The Point and The Jigsaw Seen.
Combos such as The Last, Barracudas, The Optic Nerve, Milkshakes, Hoodoo Gurus, XTC's alter ego project the Dukes of Stratosphere and even the rootsy Long Ryders all in earn their rightful place in Children's sprawling orphanage, given their almost obvious psych delineations. But going back to what I said about expanding definitions. On one level it's a little difficult to wrap your head around the inclusion of seemingly straitlaced power pop troupes like the Smithereens, Spongetones, Plimsouls, Posies and even early Chris Stamey & the dB's being accorded seats at this table. Then again, a good number of that lot owed more than a wink and a nod to the Byrds, eh? This box set's tentacles cull even further than that, bringing aboard Oceania leading lights The Lime Spiders (yep, "Slave Girl" is present) The Stems, Died Pretty, The Church and Chills. We even dip over to the other side of the pond for C86-era gems from Primal Scream, The Dentists, Bevis Frond, and the farfisa-addled Inspiral Carpets.
And of course, what would Children of Nuggets be without a couple of choice numbers from godfathers like The Flamin' Groovies, not to mention art punk prodigies the Soft Boys? The segues from song-to-song can get a tad awkward given this collection's sheer diversity and scope, but it's consistency across all four discs is near-breathtaking - and best of all, near-perfect. So much gold to be had here, but don't take my word for it. Click on the pic of the underside of the box directly to your left for the entire tracklist with download links to follow. Sorry no FLAC.
Is it Chanukah time already folks? Feels like we just did this thing eleven months or so ago. The holiday falls roughly a month earlier this year than it did in '17, in case you were keeping score at home. Makes no difference, as I intend to spoil you (to the best of my ability) with an eight day barrage of cherished vintage records and extra special bootlegs. This annual exercise in the elevation of my blood pressure is your potential goldmine.
2012, I decided to spread the goodies out over the eight nights of
(check out the preliminary details for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
This made sense on a couple of levels. For one, it gives me a
convenient excuse to share several mind-blowing "gifts" instead of just
one explosion on Christmas. Secondly, Chanukah represents
relevance to me. We all know you were envious of
that boy down the block who had a yarmulke festooned to his head, who
was given the privilege of lighting the menorah, and of course, reveling
in eight glorious nights of presents. Once again, I'm paying it
forward. Previous Chanukah entries have featured Wire, Velocity Girl, Jellyfish, Husker Du and Redd Kross, but name recognition is hardly a guarantee. As in past years, there will definitely be familiar faces, but also
several participants that have never garnered face-time on W/O.
At the top of each Chanukah upload will be a thumbnail photo of a
menorah, with the appropriate number of lit candles to denote each
succeeding evening until all eight slots in the candelabra are occupied
on the concluding night, December 9th.
this begs the question, "Has Wilfully Obscure been holding out on us for
the last 11 months?" Somewhat...but not quite. In short, the presents
I plan on revealing over the eight nights of Chanukah are of
high caliber. I
like to think that everything I share qualifies as good to excellent,
paraphrase that sage Orwellian dictum, some are more equal than others.
Kindly bear the following in mind:
Look for the first Chanukah posting this Sunday evening, and then for the remaining seven nights 'round supper time all next week.
Mystery Monday will be taking a break this coming Monday (Dec 3rd) so as not to interrupt the continuity of the eight consecutive nights of the holiday.
If I can offer files in FLAC (in addition to standard
MP3) I will. If I don't post a FLAC download link for a certain title
you can assume it's not available in that format.
Thought I'd post this while it was still relevant to the month. Boy, from what I was able to scrounge up on this dual-female led Boston troupe I was under the impression they specialized in cold, expressionless dadaist dance music a la Big Black or something. Yeah, I suppose there's some inherent rigidity to November Group, rhythm-wise if anything, but overall not only is this a lot more breathable than I expected, but outright catchy on repeat spins. Gotta love "Shake it Off" and my favorite, "Pictures of the Homeland." I'm easily picking up on traces of Gang of Four and Pylon, but don't be surprised if your conclusions differ. This was ripped from a rather dodgy piece of wax, so perhaps a re-rip will be in order if I happen upon a cleaner copy.
01. Shake It Off
03. Pictures of the Homeland
04. We Dance
05. Popular Front
Originally seeing the light of day in 1995,Amazing Disgrace is the latest in Omnivore's expanded reissue series of the Posies early catalog. It's gotten the reputation of being a particularly 'difficult' album, if only for the band themselves. Lacking the comparatively quaint romantic naivety and niceties of their first two installments, Failure and Dear 23, and even to a certain extent the pop braininess infiltrating their breakthrough Frosting on the Beater,Disgrace added more than a modicum of musculature to the mix, albeit not gratuitously. But how exactly did, that extra oomph and heaviness factor in to the Posies fourth record? Some speculated that Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow were pressured to compete with the Soundgardens of the world, but if that were the case Bellingham, WA's finest wouldn't have drizzled "Hate Song" and "Song #1" with so much melody one would think their very lives depended on it. In fact, 'downcast' or even 'fraught" might be the more apropos nomenclatures to attach to Disgrace, then say, 'outraged' or 'cumbersome.' Truth was, going into the project the Posies dual architects were beginning to feel jaded by the mechanisms of the major label politics they were now keenly a party to on Geffen Records. There had also been significant infighting that ultimately brought the departure of the band's longtime rhythm section, Mike Musburger and Dave Fox.
Make no mistake, the boys cut and angsty, amped-out swath over the course of Disgrace like no record of theirs before or since. Yet even songs with pointedly bitter titles as "Everybody is a Fucking Liar," and "Daily Mutilation," can still ooze barrels of saccharine and stay etched in your short term memory for days. "Fight It (If You Want It)," "Please Return It" and the boppy power-pop reprieve of "Ontario" are worth their weight in hook-addled gold, even in spite of the Posies having seemingly ditched their affection for Big Star - at least on this album anyway. And I'd be remiss if I failed to say a few words about "Grant Hart," the Ken Stringfellow penned tribute to then-alive and well Husker Du drummer/songsmith. In addition to the clever, spot-on plaudits, the Posies really nail the aforementioned trio's singular aesthetic, veritably mimicking the Husker's Zen Arcade-era guitar sprawl, rendering the song just as much an homage to co-conspirator Bob Mould as Hart.
The original incarnation of Amazing Disgrace numbered a relatively generous fourteen tracks, but the addition of 22 supplemental numbers on Omnivore's reboot reeks of joyous overkill. A plethora of the bonus cuts are demos that overlap with the now out of print At Least At Last Posies rarities box, but there's a total of nine songs exclusive to this reissue. As was the case with the demos that cropped up on the expanded versions of Dear 23 and Frosting on the Beater, the early sketches of soon-to-be-Posies classics are stunning and damn near revelatory in themselves. And you get most of A/D's attendant b-sides, including album worthy stunners "Sad to be Aware," "Limitless Expressions," as well as preview of "Every Bitter Drop" which would appear on the band's subsequent Success album. The CD version of Amazing Disgrace is available now thru Omnivore and Amazon, with the vinyl set to drop mid-December.
You may know him from the bygone country duo Foster and Lloyd, but I know Bill Lloyd from his more pop-centric solo endeavors like Feeling the Elephant and Set to Pop circa the late '80s and into the Clinton-era. I would have surmised that he totally dropped off the radar, but in fact he's still mining that plaintive guitar pop muse of his, and has a new record, Working the Long Gameto show for it. Most notably it features songwriting collaborations with the likes of Tom Peterson (yes the Cheap Trick alum). Freedy Johnston and even 10cc's Graham Gouldman. These pairings don't always make for songs that are as captivating as they might appear on paper, yet the further you burrow into Long Game, things begin to catch fire especially when you hit the second half. You get the notion that Lloyd might be leaning his ears into recent Teenage Fanclub not to mention Wilcocirca Summerteeth. Not a bad place for one's creative juices to being stewing. Best of all, if you dig the vibe here, Lloyd hasn't been so invisible of late at all, having released a covers record, Lloydering, just two years ago that you can check out as well. As for Working the Long Game, it's available straight from Spyderpop Records, Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes. Hot Nun. The name conjures up images of an over-clothed old bitty standing adjacent to a cactus in Death Valley or Bakersfield, or something. In reality, it's the side-hustle of one Jeff Shelton, who you may know from the more renown Well Wishers, and formally. Spinning Jennies. Even more so than Hot Nun's 2013 debut, his latest, a bruising but cruising half dozen tunes, Born to Blaze, splatters even more gasoline on the inferno in question, with careening doses of unremitting power chords. Think power-pop with barreling riffs a la Judas Priest on the introductory "Livin a Dirty Mind," and how 'bout a bona fide hardcore punk outburst in the guise of "It's Just Right?" Blaze is more aggro than just about anything in Shelton's arsenal to date, just don't expect anything quite in the mold of Motorhead or Maiden. Let the flames lick ya over at CD Baby, Bandcamp and Amazon. PS: As a bonus, Hot Nun recently posted a primo Black Sabbath cover on Soundcloud.
I was bitten by the Superdrag bug, right around the release of the Señorita 7" in 1994, and I've followed the exploits of frontman Jonathan Davis ever since. Presently inactive, during their first blush in the '90s, virtually ever Superdrag single and album that came down the pike was something of a revelation, and Knoxville, TN's finest rarely, if ever, turned in a half baked song. With the advent of the internet, and more specifically message boards, Napster and such I was able to delve even deeper into the nooks and crannies of Davis and Co., and learned of some of the band's extracurricular functions.
One of Davis' moonlighting endeavors was/is Johnny Flame. This lo-fi alter-ego, if you will, seems to have gestated in the very late '90s, possibly as recently as 2000 or so. The JF umbrella was predominantly set up as an informal vehicle for Davis to get a myriad of cover songs out of his system. And that he does on the 25 or so tunes I'm setting you up with today, including no less than seventeen Beatles renditions. The audio quality leaves a bit to be desired, with all tracks ranging from 128 to 160 kbps rate. It's easy top pick up on the muffled and less than pristine fidelity, but Davis is faithful to the original structures of the tunes, albeit recreating them within DIY constructs, employing cheap snyths, effects and the like from time to time. In addition to the mondo Fab Four homage there's another folder with ten additional tunes, about half of which are readings of Misfits classics. Appropriately enough, they take to task "September Gurls" as well, plus Husker Du and My Bloody Valentine covers among others. Enjoy.
Johnny Flame Sings the Beatles
Thank You Girl/I Should Have Known Better/You're Going to Lose That Girl/Nowhere Man/Wait/Norwegian Wood/Rain/And Your Bird Can Sing/She Said She Said/For No One, I'm Only Sleeping/Blue Jay Way/Happiness is a Warm Gun/Everybody Has Something to Hide/I'm So Tired/Helter Skelter/I Want You
Beginning to See the Light/Bullet/First of the Last Calls/Horror Hotel/I Turned Into a Martian/Never Understand/Spetember Gurls/Sympathy for the Devil/When You Sleep/Where Eagles Dare