Monday, April 30, 2018

Mollusk sabbatical.

Taking the rest of the week off.  Sue ya next Monday.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Urinals where bedrooms ought to be...

One man provided the lyrics while another developed them into eleven impeccably great songs. 

Yung Wu - Shore Leave (1987, Coyote & 2018 Bar/None) - A brief review.

First and foremost, Yung Wu is/was a band, not an individual.  With that sorted out, in my opinion this New Jersey five-piece may as well have dubbed themselves "That Feelies spinoff band." Not only does that denote there lineage, it invariably trails any mention of Yung Wu anywhere, be it online, The Trouser Press Record Guide, or even the occasional '80s fanzine that was thoughtful enough to offer them some press three decades back.

In a nutshell, the story goes like this.  After the very belated release of the Feelies not-so-difficult sophomore LP, 1986's The Good Earth, yet another hiatus was in order.  This sabbatical would entail the revival of Yung Wu, a band that had it's roots in The Trypes.  Dating back to 1982, the Trypes were local indie scenesters who included a guy named Glenn Mercer in their ranks, who just happened to be the Feelies prime mover.  In the ranks of this arcane indie curiosity sat Glenn on drums, a 180 from his role in the Feelies.  In fact, there was a lot of musical chairs at play in the Trypes fluid ranks, but eventually, the Feelies full-time percussionist, Dave Weckerman, found himself at the head of the class, and with his acquisition of the microphone a fresh modus operandi was set into motion - and the birth of a new entity altogether, Yung Wu.

Essentially a slightly modified configuration of The Feelies, Yung Wu's lineup consisted of Weckerman on vocals, Stan Demeski filling in Dave's stead on drums, Glenn was relegated to guitars (as was Bill Million per his usual role), Brenda Sauter handled bass and John Baumgartner played keys.  Intentionally or not, the Feelies settled on a highly effective formula of brisk, strummy chords, plaintive songwriting, and an indigenous angle of tension (loosely interpreted from the Velvets), all the way back to their 1980 debut, Crazy Rhythms.  With YW's reshuffled lineup, largely consisting of the same members, the proceedings were logically a bit more creative, while still fitting quite solidly in the mold of their main gig.  Shore Leave's opener (and title track) doesn't stray far from the Feelies ranch, at least not sonically, but Weckerman brings a welcome narrative touch to the table.  "Aspiration" exudes soft, rustic overtones with glints of everyone from Chris Knox to Television, and is mightily catchy to boot.  Shore Leave's master stroke arrives relatively early in the guise of "Spinning," bearing a juicy, opulent chorus hook that arguably ranks within the top-ten songs in the entire Feelies orbit, period.  And if you're desperately hankering for something in the Feelies vein proper, "Modern Farmer" could sit comfortably on their first two records.

Per Weckerman's liner notes. Yung Wu weren't offered the opportunity to cut an album until 1986 or so, but even with their moderately lengthy tenure they only had eight original songs to lay down.  To flesh out an entire LP, some supplemental covers were in order - and boy, did Yung Wu pick some splendidly suitable tunes.  We're treated to a fairly straight but effective reading of Neil Young's "Powderfinger," and ditto for an old Stone's b-side, "Child of the Moon."

Shore Leave isn't a start-to-finish classic, but try telling that to a die-hard Feelies acolyte and see how far that gets you.  It is however a cut well above most spinoff "projects," in the respect that Yung Wu treat the record in the same thoughtful, par excellence mold of Crazy Rhythms and Good Earth.  Equally striking is the fact that going into Shore Leave doesn't require any level of Feelies fandom for optimal appreciation...but it doesn't hurt to have a foot in the door.  Shore Leave is available physically and digitily straight from Bar/None, Amazon and iTunes, however the vinyl version was a strictly limited Record Store Day title.  I understand a few copies remain through, but otherwise your local mom and pop may have a stray copy in stock.  As a bonus, the LP version contains a bonus flexi-disc of an early Dave Weckerman single. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

V/A - Souvenirs - Little Gems of Pop (2009, Sound Asleep)

Damn, not sure how I didn't get to this one sooner, especially considering it's of Chanukah caliber.  Souvenirs... came out almost ten years ago on the Swedish Sound Asleep imprint, but the emphasis here is strictly on US and occasionally Canadian contingents.  The subtitle, Little Gems of Pop is right on the money, honing in on underexposed power pop acts from the '80s, with a few selections spilling over into the '90s.  There's a decent amount of talent that's been previously addressed on this site, inculding Carnival Season, Choo Choo Train, Leatherwoods, Wishniaks, etc, but the overwhelming majority are artists that Wilfully Obscure have never breached into. Oodles of gold here, including San Diego modsters Manual Scan, singer/songwriter troubadours Jimmy Silva and Eric Voeks, Zero's expat Hector Penalosa, Todd Newman and The Leatherwoods (and even their antecedent act Lions and Dogs).  We're also treated to not just one but TWO precursors to Velvet Crush (Choo Choo Train and The Reverbs), and oft overlooked Brit-invasion inspired wonders Flying Color and The Decoys.  Did I mention there's also an unreleased Pointed Sticks tune?  How about liner notes from Not Lame Records proprietor Bruce Brodeen?  There was a sequel to Souvenirs that I haven't been able to pin down, but will share should a copy ever falls into my lap.  At any rate, enjoy this one (like I even had to suggest)!

01. Three Hour Tour - Next Time
02. Jimmy Silva - May The Second
03. The Kicksouls - I Don't Know
04. Choo Choo Train - Catch Another Breath
05. Flying Color - Through Different Eyes
06. Todd Newman & The Leatherwoods - To Win You Back
07. Chaz & The Motorbikes - Jack Hammers
08. Beatosonics - No One To Cry To
09. Manual Scan - She Sad It's Late
10. Hector - Hurts So Bad
11. The Reverbs - Picture An Eye
12. Erik Voeks - When Will It All End?
13. Action Suits - Fun Flies
14. The Decoys - Not The Tremblin' Kind
15. The Explosives - A Girl Like You
16. 64 Funnycars - AMC Pacer
17. 2 Minutes 50 - Call Me Back
18. The Wishniaks - She's The One
19. Carnival Season - Misguided Promises
20. Lions & Dogs - Be My Something
21. Pointed Sticks - All My Clocks Stopped


Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Colours - Details at Thirteen ep (1984, Orange George)

This southern Cali quartet do the jangle and strum thing with homespun aplomb and more than enough charm to get by, purloining a thing or two from REM - and they wouldn't sound entirely out of place on a bill with one of their other local contemporaries, The Three O'Clock.  Other than that, I can't offer much in the way of background info on the Colours, who may have only issued this one slice of vinyl.  Modest, but mightily effective stuff here.  A few notches shy of a masterpiece, Details at Thirteen is at the very least well above average.  Funny they went with a black and white sleeve, contrary to their moniker. 

01. Faces in the Window
02. Somewhere in Between
03. untitled
04. Long Distance
05. What You Mean
06. Turn Around


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Velocity Girl - early singles ep (1993, Slumberland)

When I posted a home-curated assemblage of Velocity Girl singles, b-sides and compilation contributions about five years ago, I purposely omitted their first two singles on Slumberland Records, given they had been made available on the CD I'm sharing here.  Turns out, that ep isn't so available anymore, as one of our readers recently pointed out to me.  So here it is.  The two singles in question, 1990's "I Don't Care if You Go/"Always" and "My Forgotten Favorite"/"Why Should I Be Nice to You" arriving two years later, which not only served as Velocity Girl's sublime calling card, they epitomized the indie pop strata of the alterna-centric '90s.  From the relatively twee "I Don't Care..." to the gauzy but dizzying melodious "My Forgotten Favorite," VG were at the top of their game from the get go.  True, superior songs were in the offing, but their pre-Sub Pop singles were downright impeccable - and a must hear if you have yet to make your acquaintance.

01. I Don't Care if You Go
02. Always
03. My Forgotten Favorite
04. Why Should I Be Nice to You?
05. Not At All
06. I Don't Care If You Go (acoustic)


Sunday, April 22, 2018

All the time in the world, and you never changed a thing.

Personally, I wish they had retired after this album.  Instead, they sullied their good name for decades to come.  This one, however, is a peach.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Green River - 1984 Demos (2016, Jackpot)

I feel it would be jumping the gun to throw one of today's new Record Store Day releases out there for public consumption, so how about one from a couple years back instead?  The title of this all too limited edition platter is either going to lure you in or not I suppose.  Seattle's late and stupendously great Green River were a hot mess even when they got around to recording proper albums including such wrenchingly angsty missives as the Dry As a Bone ep and Rehab Doll, but a messy ending almost always entails an even sloppier genesis.

This LP of nine nascent recordings was essentially tracked in prep for the band's debut, Come On Down, though few songs from this session actually carried over to it.  If you're familiar with that one you know it's a bit of a winded slog of a record, that hit the market before Green River truly perfected that "groove" thing.  Sort of the same premise on these nine cuts, but, wherein future Mudhoney-mates Mark Arm & Steve Turner alongside a pre-Mother Love Bone/Pearl Jam Jeff Ament (no Stone Gossard yet, kids) clad bluesy metal to bratty punk bravado, a formula that would eventually yield, you guessed it, the "G" word.  The building blocks lie in waiting at their feet, but weren't quite cemented on the howling "Leeech," and the mildly doomy "10,000 Things," the later being re-cut to better effect for a contribution to the Deep Six compilation in '86.  At this stage in the game, Arm and friends strike me as more convincing on viciously punkier salvos "Means to An End" and "Take Me."  Best of all, this compendium features an early incarnation of a tune that would be worked to utmost perfection as an early Mudhoney b-side, "Baby Help Me Forget."  I won't give any more away than I have thus far.  Have at it.

01. 33 Revolutions
02. Leeech
03. 10,000 Things
04. Means to an End
05. New God
06. Baby Help Me Forget
07. Take Me
08. Against the Grain
09. Tunnel of Love


Friday, April 20, 2018

It's seems a trivial pursuit now, but it's the only game in town...

I think this one will have special relevance to my Buffalo and Toronto peeps.  It's not often when a band garners a stronger following in a city/country other than one they're indigenous to, but so be it the case of TO's Lowest of the Low.  Circa 1991 in Buffalo, NY, the city just 50 miles south as the crow flies, there were hoards of early and enthusiastic adopters of the Low and their auspicious debut, Shakespeare My Butt.  With the now-renown Ron Hawkins at the helm, spewing diatribes, anecdotes and clever truisms galore, western New Yorkers caught the Low's indelible bug from the get go, as word of mouth spread rapidly - all pre-web mind you.  Pair Hawkin's timeless tact for writing with a melodic indie rock penchant and you have a formula that should have infiltrated the entire continent, but Canada and a sweet chunk of the Empire State would have to suffice.

This 2004 show technically took place in Williamsville, NY, an affluent suburb, not the city proper.  It was supposed to be an outdoor gig, but the weather failed to cooperate, so it was moved to a venue that unfortunately isn't identified on the sleeve.  Hawkins mistakenly refers to Williamsville as Williamsburg, stating mid-set to a packed crowd that "the entire burg must be here!"  Of course, he's almost immediately corrected.  Spanning two hours, the show naturally draws robustly from Shakespeare, but listeners receive nearly as much fresh tunes that would be released one month later on the Low's third and belated LP, Sordid Fiction.  Despite omitting much of the best material from their sophomore record, Hallucigenia, the setlist cranks, and their performance does in kind.  The band's characteristic charm is doled out for miles and miles, and multiple encores ensue.  One thousand copies of the show were pressed on CD and sold through Maple Music, never to be seen again...but once in awhile you'll luck out browsing in a used bin.  All of the evidence is yours for the taking below, in either MP3 of lossless FLAC.

Disk 1
01. Dogs of February
02. Just About "The Only" Blues
03. And Then the Riot
04. For the Hand of Magdelena
05. Everywhere and Nowhere
06. The Sharpest Pain
07. City Full of Cowards
08. Last Lost Generation
09. New Westminster Taxi Squad
10. Darkhorse
11. Eternal Fatalist/Letter From Bilbnoa
12. Your Birthday Party
13. Turpentine
14. Giulietta the Just

Disk 2
01. Bleed a Little While Tonight
02. The AM Taxi Ride
03. Save Me, Alice Neel!
04. Salesman, Cheats and Liars
05. The Last Recidivist
06. Winter Sleepers
07. Sincero
08. 4 O'Clock Stop
09. Small Victories
10. Concave
11. Come Pick Me Up

MP3 (320 kbps)  or  FLAC

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rockphonics - Get the Picture? (1990, Incas)

One glance at the front (and especially the back) cover and you'd reasonably have Rockphonics pegged as feisty, rockabilly ball-busters.  Instead, this duo had something a little less rambunctious in mind.  Ostensibly hailing from that congested, but little spoken of New York berg, Yonkers, the 'phonics no frills aptitude geared more towards traditional; un-twangy rock that was often just a riff or two shy of full blown power pop.  When playing to their janglier strengths they would have slotted in nicely with colleagues like the Windbreakers, Dreams So Real and Fire Town.  Get the Picture?, the combo's second and final record, is a thoroughly listenable affair, if not consistently rousing.  Rockphonics catch fire on the hooky "Lock and Key," churn up a gutsy. barroom barnstormer in the form of  Picture's title track, and they even get fairly sublime on the harmony soaked "Lost Time."

01. Wild Sun
02. Alright By Me
03. Turning Us Around
04. Lock and Key
05. Lost Time (remix)
06. Get the Picture
07. It's No Crime
08. Different Flavor
09. The Right Hand
10. More Than Me


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Forty. Million. Daggers.

This week it's the bonus material (and only the bonus material) from an expanded reissue of a 1992 indie classic that has earned it's 'seminal' distinction.


Diesel Park West - Shakespeare Alabama demos (1988)

Diesel Park West aren't one of my most powerful hankerings, and maybe not many others as well, but I thought a few of you might enjoy this. My own appreciation of them revolves more around certain songs, not so much entire albums.  These tunes were cut in anticipation of the band's 1989 debut, Shakespeare Alabama.  It's "modern rock" in perhaps the most commercial sense, but there are some real stunners here in the guise of the jangly "All The Myths on Sunday," and the more anthemic "When the Hoodoo Comes."  If you're looking for a few lazy comparisons, DPW run/ran the same gamut as contemporaries Mission UK, latter-80s Alarm, and occasionally Simple Minds.  Like the aforementioned, these Leicester, UK chaps emanated something resembling a social conscience, without ever getting too pious.  This set is well worth checking out, even though the finished versions were minimally revised from these prototypes.

PS: I neglected to mention, this was bundled as a bonus disk with Diesel's 1998 cd, HIPReplacement.

01. Like Princes Do
02. All the Myths on Sunday
03. Bell of Hope
04. Out of Nowhere
05. The Waking  Hour
06. When the Hoodoo Comes
07. Opportunity Crazy
08. Here I Stand
09. Jackie's Still Sad
10. A House Divided
11. Don't Be Scared of the Night
12. What About Us


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Beat Rodeo 7" (1983, Coyote)

I've run into Beat Rodeo's '86 LP Home in the Heart of the Beat, more times than I can possibly recall, but never felt compelled to investigate.  However, when a bargain priced copy of their Coyote Records single was staring me in the face a few years ago, I couldn't pass it up, if only for sleeve...and the pedigree of the label.  The band's moniker is pretty much a dead giveaway to their inevitable Americana leanings, but the bouncy a-side, "What's the Matter" bears their faint (at the very least) absorption of another Coyote staple, The Feelies.  The tunes' flirtation with bluegrass arpeggios and oldies aptitude (think Buddy Holly) really drives this sucker home.  The equally swift and stirring "Mimi" shoehorns in Flying Burrito Bros and Flamin' Groovies inspirations. My only complaint is that the magic doesn't exceed the two-minute mark.

A. What's the Matter
B. Mimi


Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Well Wishers - A View From Above (2018) - A brief review.

When you've a proven singer/songwriter and you've situated yourself on a solid, power-pop bedrock, worthy of icons ranging from the Posies to Shoes, and even Sloan, the only logical place to go is down...right?  At the very least consider The Well Wishers fifth full length salvo, A View From Above, a lateral move with intermittent imaginative spurts.  For all intents and purposes, the WW is a one-man show, namely Jeff Shelton, whose been at this game for the better part of three decades, beginning in the mid-90s helming the Spinning Jennies, and this isn't the first time I've covered his music.

Shelton is a stickler for the line-drive approach to performing - a defiant straight shooter armed with a cascade of fuzzy power chords and linear but earnest sentiments.  It's not the most innovative formula, yet "I Like You Better" and "Never Let You Down" are pulled off with an airtight acumen a lot of his peers would be envious of, if only for the fact that he makes it look/sound So. Damn. Easy.  By and large, A View... is cut from the same cloth of earlier WW records like Comes and Goes and Dreaming of the West Coast - so much so these albums sound indistinguishable.  But just when you think he's content to stay on the straight and narrow, we're graced with a few tangents, the bulk of which crop up on the album's second half.  The rumbling "Is it Me, Is it You" plugs into the ballsy swagger of early Cheap Trick, "Ways and Means" is a subdued slice of lilting jangle, and "New Fade Out" eschews the power pop penchant almost altogether in favor of a something distinctly more contemplative than what we're accustom to hearing from Shelton.  All and all, not a bad place for WW neophytes to jump in, and there's plenty here to keep his loyal listeners piqued. 

A View From Above is available as we speak via Bandcamp, Amazon and iTunes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blue Movie - Milking the Masters Vol. 7 (1987, Good Foot)

Seems a good bunch of you really appreciated a 1986 album I shared a few years back, Hearts in Clubs, by a San Fran outfit dubbed Blue Movie.   Pretty much ever since that original 2014 entry I've been sitting on the band's follow up, Milking The Masters Vol. 7, so I shan't sit on it one day more. With the Hearts record, I drew analogies between Blue Movie and REM.  That's still applicable to bits and pieces of Milking... but overall this one's a little more diverse, not to mention a tad freewheeling.  At the very least the album jacket is demonstrably representative of that.  Blue Movie do the trick for me when they operate in traditional indie-rock environs, on hearty nuggets like "Almost, Almost Never Works" and "Window With a Bullet Hole."  Elsewhere, the leadoff "Our Cultural Mission" faintly flirts with cowpunk, a la '80s Meat Puppets, and the horn-laden "Revolution Dream" angles in the vicinity of the Minutemen's latter day, non-punk experiments.  Indeed there's wildly divergent vibes popoulating Milking... and even some selections that should have stayed on the Scotch reel, namely the especially egregious "Tammy's on the Telephone."  But fear not, don't let that dissuade you from delving into this otherwise decent LP, which by the way was produced by the Dead Kennedy's very own Klaus Flouride

01. Our Cultural Mission
02. Almost, Almost Never Works
03. Family Album
04. Amazing Disappearing Boy
05. Devil's in the Wishing Well
06. Revolution Dream
07. Tammy's on the Telephone
08. Geoffery Lyall's Unconstructed Gumby
09. Freestyle Tattoo
10. untitled
11. Window With a Bullet Hole
12. Boyfriend
13. Jerusalem
14. Dog Song


Sunday, April 8, 2018

I'm all alone whenever we're together...

That "difficult second album" from 1987.


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Altered Images - The Peel Sessions 1980-81.

I suppose this one is self explanatory.  I can't purport to be a longtime follower of Scotland's colorful Altered Images, as they never graced my sonar during their original inception.  In fact, it wasn't until a friend encouraged me a few years ago that they were worth investigating beyond their bubbly signature piece, "Happy Birthday."  Correct he was, and I really got hooked on their debut, Happy Birthday, in spite of it's ubiquitous title track.  I was delighted to discover some genuinely edgy, post-punk nuggets "Beckoning Strings" and the even more serrated "Midnight," which oddly enough I found reminiscent of early U2.  Those tunes and more made an appearance on a clutch of Altered Images Peel Sessions.  There are three sessions total here, the first two cut around the Happy Birthday era, and the third situated during the time they were prepping material for their sophomore LP, Pinky Blue.  The audio quality is indicative of a two or three generation old tape, as the Images Peel recordings never officially made their way into the marketplace.  On the other hand, expanded versions of the band's three studio albums have recently been boxed up by the good people over at Cherry Red Records on convenient five inch aluminum disks, and is a recommended purchase if you find yourself enamored with any/all of these dozen tunes. 

Peel Session - October 14, 1980
01. Dead Pop Stars
02. Insects
03. Beckoning Strings
04. Legionaire

Peel Session - March 10, 1981 
05. A Day's Wait
06. Idols
07. Midnight
08. Jeepster

Peel Session - September 22,  1981
09. Think That it Might
10. Pinky Blue
11. Little Brown Head
12. Song Sung Blue


Friday, April 6, 2018

Mind's I - A House Defiled ep (1988, BBTB)

Falling just shy of cold-case status, Mind's I were a D.C. area trio with an Anglophile tilt to them, almost immediately bringing to mind Cactus World News, Then Jerico and Diesel Park West.  Mildly anthemic, four-minute salvos like "Deadly Love" and "Dreams" do the trick, but these Minds weren't exactly attuned to innovation.  The longer pair of tracks occupying side two of A House Defiled operate on the noir side of fence.  Definitely more brooding, especially the title cut and wearier "Something's Wrong," but fortunately nothing too heavy handed.  Defiled is uniquely a record that only the '80s could have gestated, and the attendant pros and cons are written on the wall.

01. Deadly Love
02. Rank & File
03. Dreams
04. A House Defiled
05. Something's Wrong


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

New Order - Western Works Studio demos, 9/7/80

Like most Joy Division fans, especially Yankees like myself, my discovery of them came significantly after the passing of Ian Curtis.  My connection to this posthumous demigod was likely similar to a lot of yours, having absorbed his catalog during my tumultuous teenage years when I was hit with the triple whammy of romantic despair, existential awareness, and that yearning, burning desire for more independence.  Loved Unknown Pleasures and it's surrounding singles, but thoroughly hated JD's listless, barren second LP, Closer with a red hot passion.  New Order arrived on my radar first, as back then they were at the height of their viability, churning out smart synth-pop salvos like "Bizarre Love Triangle."  It was a little later on when I was exposed to their immediate post-Joy Division endeavors that really made me a believer.

This brief collection of songs constitutes New Order's first recording session, tracked about three months after Curtis' suicide, with a lineup consisting of the surviving three quarters of Joy Division - Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris.  This is New Order in their most sullen and undiluted form, at least two years before certain elements in the record industry "persuaded" them to adopt a cheerier and more commercial tenor.  My two favorite N/O songs materialized from this era - "Ceremony," and "Dreams Never End," and it's a treat to hear these clangy, soon-to-be post-punk songs in their initial stages of development.  "Homage" and "Are You Ready..." were never revisited again, at least not studio-wise apparently.  This is quite literally mourning through music.  Below are some observations from the individual who posted these on the torrent site I procured them from.  And yes, this particular batch of tunes has been bootlegged profusely over the years, but the audio quality here is pretty exceptional.

In these tracks you can still hear the band's emotions in text and music. Different band members took part on lead vocals: Peter Hook on "dreams never end", Bernard Summer on "hommage", Steve Morris on "ceremony" and "truth". Even Joy Division's and New Order manager Rob Gretton took place behind the microphone and sings at the last song of these recordings.

01 Dreams Never End (mix 1, quieter guitars)
02 Dreams Never End (mix 2, louder guitars)
03 Homage
04 Ceremony
05 Truth
06 Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This?

MP3  or  FLAC