Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Fat Tulips - Starfish (1994, Vinyl Japan)

The first and only album from these Nottingham, UK denizens, following an avalanche of well received singles and EPs.  Fat Tulips were your sort of quintessential co-ed twee-tet, with Sheggi's humble, every-girl vocals and Mark D's steady volley of hard strummed chords.  They were an indie label-only proposition, existing from 1987-94, and they seemed to fly the banner of the unheralded imprints they recorded for.  I can't say how Starfish stacks up to their earlier offerings, because I simply haven't heard enough of them, but the brunt of this album is above average, albeit not always shattering.  Many selections hearken back to the stylings of the then recent C86 movement, and elsewhere you might catch a glint or two of the Primitives.  Enjoy (or not), but I think you will.

01. So Unbelievable!
02. A World Away From Me
03. Ribs
04. The Sweetest Child
05. Chainsaw
06. I Promise You
07. My Secret Place
08. Double Decker Bus
09. Clumsy
10. If God Exists
11. Big Toe
12. Nothing Less Than You Deserve
13. Letting Go
14. The Death of Me
15. Never


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Designated driver falls down on the floor, I guess I'm staying over again.

The 2000 sophomore effort from lauded Halifax, NS pop meisters, who supplemented faint symphonic tinges to an already intoxicating formula.


The Choir - Artifact: The Unreleased Album (2018, Omnivore) - A brief overview.

The pickings (both literally and figuratively) for fans of Ohio, proto-power pop legends, The Raspberries were remarkably slim after the quartet disbanded in 1975.  Sure, there were the four legendary albums to fall back on - Fresh, Raspberries, Side 3, and Starting Over, but there were next to no buds remaining on the tree.  In fact, no non-LP b-sides, outtakes, expanded reissues or the like were to be had, and most fans (even the die-hard variety) haven't even encountered demo or alternate renditions of the bevy of the band more well known staples, such as "Let's Go All the Way," "I Wanna Be With You," and "Overnight Sensation."  The only compensation for dedicated Raspberries devotees jonesing for a few more morsels came in the guise of frontman Eric Carmen's solo records, and a handful of spinoff bands like Tattoo and the often rewarding Fotomaker, involving guitarist Wally Bryson.  At best, the Raspberries would reunite in the twenty-first century, and grow a pair of live reunion albums (including the recent Pop Art, which documented a stunning 2004 performance at the House of Blues in Cleveland).  And ironically, the only way forward for ears hung up on the 'berries is in fact...backwards? 

The core lineup of the Raspberries, Eric Carmen, Dave Smalley, Jim Bonfanti, and Bryson, didn't materialize out of thin air when they congealed in the early-to mid seventies.  All of them, minus Carmen spent some time in the regionally successful, Mentor, OH-based The Choir - at one time or another anyway. Four singles were minted between 1966-70, including the minor classic "It's Cold Outside," which has been covered ubiquitously ever since.  Bearing a considerable Brit Invasion bent, the Choir didn't exactly bear the status of innovators, but with a sharp, albeit slyly rough-around-the-edges acumen they were a poplar live draw.  Before shutting the lights off for good in 1969, a final clutch of recordings were committed to tape, much of it seeing the light of day for the first time on Artifact - The Unreleased Album.

One facet to bear in mind regarding the Choir is that they underwent about seven different lineups and permutations during their tenure, and in fact, the version of the group you'll hear on Artifact contains only one fellow who crossed over into the Raspberries, drummer Jim Bonfanti.  This poses the question, just how much significance will this album hold to even to the most dedicated of the Rasp's fanboys?

Well, it's not a Raspberries album, nor does it logically predict what Eric Carmen and Co. would unfurl on those aforementioned and coveted four albums.  This leads us to judge Artifact almost wholly on it's own merits.  There are few overarching generalities to make about this record, save for the competence and execution of it's architects.  It's more of a matter of what appeals to you at the moment.  The sprite "Anyway I Can" bears a distinct Left Banke lilt, and is probably the only song in the bunch that possesses any inspirational antecedents to the more renown spinoff band in question.  Shades of the fab four abound...but so do Traffic, on organ-laced cuts "If These Are Men" and "Boris' Lament."  I could probably have done without the long-winded instrumental "For Eric," but elsewhere The Choir redeem themselves on the driving "David Watts," which would have probably slotted in nicely on an early Who or Kinks affair.  In the grand scheme of things Artifact is less about lineage and considerably more about the era it emanates from, and thankfully, it's not a record merely geared to folks who couldn't get enough of a sugar fix from those handful of Raspberries disks.  By the way, Artifact was preceded by another posthumous Choir compendium,  Choir Practice on Sundazed in 1994, rounding up some of the band's earlier single sides and then some.   

Artifact is available now from Omnivore, or iTunes and Amazon

Friday, February 23, 2018

Swallow the Bird - s/t LP (1987, Scorpio)

Since I can't find any background info on this rather miscellaneous quartet, this will be a short-ish write-up.  This appears to be Swallow the Bird's lone album, issued by Scorpio Records, the label that pressed all of their LPs on red, transparent vinyl.  Swallow lead mouthpiece and axe-slinger, Wayne Radly's vocal parlance loosely resembles that of World Party's Karl Wallinger, and to a lesser degree Robyn Hitchcock, but the similarities sorta stop there.  In fact, the vibe is considerably more humble here, and Swallow's quasi-narratives and bar-stool observations (Time to put money in the meter of life, per "Army of Time") are appreciated, if not outright relished in bite-sized increments.  A rather economical quartet, these gents understood how to properly mold slightly off-center keepers like "New Shoes" and "Your Neighbor Makes Me Sick" without over or under-doing anything.  If any of you have any pertinent deets on StB, by all means chime in. 

01. My Rockin' Horse Has Died
02. Alaskan Headquarters
03. Swallow the Bird
04. Army of Time
05. New Shoes
06. Dictionary Lover
07. Your Neighbor Makes Me Sick
08. New Suburbia
09. Migraine
10. Hourly or Salary
11. Lightning Won't Help
12. Eastern Death Mark


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Stained Veil - Livin on Leavin (1986, Smash)

How many of you kept tabs on Greek post-punk/goth bands in the '80s?  Yeah, me either.  Stained Veil were one of those very contingents, and they were a better late than never discovery for me.  Their's was a not-so-maudlin approach to the darkwave thing, sometimes bearing more in common with early New Model Army and The Wipers (the latter of whom they were known to cover live) than Bauhaus, Joy Division, etc...  A bit deficient in the melody department, they compensated with a textured and methodical modus operandi, that oozed a mildly sinister and subterranean mystique.  I believe the Livin on Leavin album was the only wax that was issued during their existence, and as good as this record's piercing guitar leads and overcast demeanor was, their subsequent recordings were doubly satisfying.  To be exact, those later tracks were released posthumously a few years ago under the title of Endless Hours, and are available from iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp.  Highly recommended, even if Livin on Leavin doesn't blow you away.

01. Change of Time
02. Reasons to be Alone
03. Dorian
04. Livin on Leavin
05. Without Them All
06. Lost
07. It's All the Same


Sunday, February 18, 2018

All I ask is for release, no matter what the cost.

A debut album from exactly thirty years ago.  Hard to believe.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

V/A - Lost in the Haze Vol. 21

My apologies for not posting more this week.  Hopefully this will help make up for that.  I'm following up on two previous installments in the Lost in the Haze series, a hand-curated array of compilation CD-Rs, courtesy of the now defunct Not Lame Records label and distro.  For the unacquainted, Not Lame flew the power pop flag high circa the 1990s-'00s, with an emphasis on CDs sold strictly through mailorder.  The CEO would frequently incentivize purchases by tossing in a handmade and self-curated cd-r compilation of impossibly rare songs that never made their way into the digital era proper.  God knows how many volumes existed in the Lost in the Haze series alone (at least 21, obviously).  Accompanied only by a tray card track list with no other pertinent details about the music presented, these compilations were stuffed into paper cd envelopes, and would tend to accumulate in various piles in my house.  With a veritable absence of artwork they went out of sight and out of mind for years until I was able to organize them until a few years back

The focus of Lost in the Haze was centered on overlooked and arcane also-rans (with the occasional rarity from a superstar) from the '70s to the early '80s. Volume 21 delivers no shortage of stunners: Susan (a male fronted band), New Hearts (who I think are actually a band named the Speedies) and Tattoo who featured none other than ex-Raspberry Wally Bryson.  I wish I had more time to provide a synopsis of the ten bands making the cut here, but hopefully you'll walk away with a discovery or two.  The tracklist is to your above left.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Band of Outsiders - Acts of Faith (1987, Sourmash)

New York's Band of Outsiders, must have truly lived up to their outsider quotient, as there is nil info or remembrances to be had on them, at least in cyberspace.  The cult band in question, had ties to yet another NYC cult act, Certain General.   The overlap between them will likely mean nothing to a good 99% of you, but if you want a more detailed timeline of their somewhat complicated confluence, Trouser Press lays it all out for you.

The Outsiders evoke the tenor and tonality of a group far more storied than they apparently actually were.  Still, that didn't stop them from swabbing elements from contemporaries like the Feelies, Dream Syndicate, Let's Active (occasionally) even stretching a little further back to the Soft Boys and the Velvets.  Their approach was more traditional than advanced, lending itself to a wholly earnest aptitude, which must have really flown in the face of flash and superficiality of their chosen era. Per Trouser Press:

Band of Outsiders relied not so much on hooks or abandon as an ensnaring ambience.

Acts of Faith, partially consisting of material from earlier EP releases, is a pleasurable if not a tad meandering listen.  I found most of the highlights residing on side two, including a John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band cover, "Remember," and the even brighter and livelier "Clean Saint," which loosely suggests an affinity for John Wicks and the Records.  The album caps off with the wailin' "Weeping Willow," a bratty, organ-laced, garage rock rave-up.

01. Conviction
02. I Wish I Was Your kid
03. Somewhere East
04. Conversation
05. Longer Than Always
06. Remember
07. Killing Time
08. In a Minute
09. Fire in the Wall
10. Clean Saint
11. Weeping Willow


Sunday, February 11, 2018

...and if the wall seems like a door, attach new hinges to it so you can use it.

From 1991.  This is what you might call an "unaffected" major label debut.  A rarity for sure. 


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Mexican Pets - Nobody's Working Title ep (1994, Blunt)

This gem of a band/record breezed by my eyes not too long ago when I spotted some of their recordings on one of my file-sharing platforms of choice.  At the time I had no idea who Mexican Pets were, but the name must've caught my attention because before I knew it was downloading a folder of supposed "early demos," quite randomly at that.  Smart move on my part.  As it would soon become evident to me the Pets were a bygone Irish inde-rock outfit who to my sheer good luck wielded a penchant for meaningful songwriting couched in a distortion-savvy, albeit tuneful construct.  To this set of ears, similarities to one of their contemporaries in the opposite hemisphere, namely Australia's Glide, made for an enticingly pleasant surprise, though MP's likeness to the aforementioned was in all probability a sheer coincidence.  All of this aside, the songs on that demo spoke for themselves, drenched in bittersweet, melancholic sentiments, intermingled with melodic but fuzz-addled guitar swells (a la Swervedriver and early Dinosaur Jr.), all cloaked in a raw, mid-fidelity context that allowed the Pet's warm, analog hues to come bristling to life so genuinely.

The Pets' recordings never made it stateside, and the band folded by the late '90s, having only one proper album to their credit, HumbuckerNobody's Working Title is actually a consolidation of two earlier EPs, and those songs wound up on yet another future compilation.  A decent overview of their career can be accessed on Wikipedia, and hopefully there will be more to come regarding them in the not-too-distant future on these pages.

01. Stigmata Errata
02. Subside
03. Magnet Force
04. How to Have More Fun
05. Bruise
06. Merry Hell


Friday, February 9, 2018

Confuse a Cat - Ankles tape (1992, 360)

Well, I know this won't be for everyone, but Confuse a Cat are/were such a WTF proposition I couldn't resist pitching this into the sphere.  Their moniker (a nod to Monty Python) should tip you off to their decidedly eccentric and crooked nature. Hailing from the relatively conventional environs of Birmingham, MI, this coed foursome sounds like they had a shared affinity for the Violent Femmes, Stump, Agitpop, and perhaps Captain Beefheart.  The overarching vibe on Ankles is loose, but nimble, with bassist Jenny Gabel's skittish bass runs punctuating an already frisky sonic backdrop.  No power pop or overt catchiness here, yet CoC's tunes are just structured enough to infiltrate the fringes of your cerebellum - that is if you're willing to invest multiple spins of this often tricky reel.  "Let the Bugs Crawl" and the rambunctious, violin-enhanced "Latin Libra" are a couple of the arguable highlights here.

01. Latin Libra
02. Mellow Soul Breath
03. T.V. Boy
04. Let the Bugs Crawl
05. ¡Whirl!
06. Empty
07. Junco Bird


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Silver Tears - s/t ep (1984, Ripe)

I believe someone requested this a few months ago.  More rock o' the '80s, from southern Cali by the looks of things.  If you liked 415 Records acts like Red Rockers you're bound to dig this, although Silver Tears steered clear of upright accoutrements that contained fancy buttons and such.  A fairly pedestrian yet occasionally compelling modern rock modus operandi abounds here, with a bit of an Anglo bent dontcha know.  I especially enjoy the ringing guitar tones percolating on the melancholy-ish "Safe Home."  And maybe I'm the only one to pick up on this, but mouthpiece Roger Prescott extends a vocal panache that negligibly resembles Joe Strummer.  Like I said, that interpretation is entirely mine, so make of it what you will.

01. Over and Over Again
02. Safe Home
03. High Life
04. New Funk


Sunday, February 4, 2018

There you go again...

A nicely expanded reissue of this London quartet's swank second and final ablum. 


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Fictions - s/t (1980, Intercan)

I recently had a request for this nearly four-decade 'ol relic.  I don't actually possess a copy of Fictions, but I did have files of it.  Fictions were a Canadian quartet, possibly from Ontario.  No useful background data is available on them online, but then again, their moniker makes that a considerable challenge to begin with.  The lead-off "Won't Wash Away" is peppered with the kind of jerky rhythmic meter that made the Police a household name, and being that virtually everything else on the record pales by comparison, it's safe to say this tune might have been their proverbial calling card.  The remainder of Fictions sports a more pedestrian bent, with trace elements of the Cars, The A's and to a lesser extent the Pointed Sticks making themselves evident, albeit these guys went easy-does-it on the keyboards.  Not the most innovative record going, but still plenty recommendable.

01. Won't Wash Away
02. I Let Go
03. Don't Look Down
04. Shuffle
05. Better
06. Fixation
07. Snob Appeal
08. Jersey Shore
09. Dimestore Romance
10. Do It With the Lights On
11. Praying for the World


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Tiny Lights - Know It You Love (1989, Gaia) - Unreleased LP!

So...I'm not the biggest Tiny Lights fan on the planet.  In fact, I'm not the least bit "fanatical" about this bygone Hoboken, NJ collective, a co-ed one at that.  It's not for lack of trying of course.  I even own some of their earlier efforts - Prayer for the Halcyon Fear and Hazel's Wreath to be exact.  Nonetheless, I was never able to grasp onto this co-ed's subtle melange of pop, folk, and even some occasional chamber inclinations.  So why I'm I dedicating to this entry to a band I'm not entirely enthused about it?  As it would turn out, the band's third album, Know it You Love, was initially slated for release in 1989, but unfortunately had to be tabled due to their label, Gaia, going belly up, unexpectedly.  Ironically, the masters were sent to the pressing plant before Gaia dissolved, and a number of advance tapes were printed up.  Guess who made off with one of those scarce advance cassettes?

And here it is, the whole thing.  A portion of the Know It... tunes materialized on the Tiny Lights retrospective, The Young Person's Guide to Tiny Lights.  These folks are an acquired taste, though more genteel palates are likely to experience a more immediate impact.  One number that stands out for me is the commencing, "Ochre Revolution," which exudes a faint Paisley serenity, not unlike what a more enlightened Bangles could have conjured up.  Scott Miller's Game Theory might have been suitable at interpreting this tune as well.  Elsewhere, "Big Deal" finagles with a decent enough pop hook," and "Pushin' the Button" flirts with an uncharacteristically funky groove.  Enjoy (or not).

01. Ochre Revolution
02. Dawn
03. Wave
04. Close My Eyes
05. Horsehead
06. T.A.D.
07. Say Good-bye
08. Big Deal
09. Pushin' the Button
10. Donna's Flag
11. April's Song