Saturday, June 30, 2018

Sunbirds - No Sun No Shadow (1986 & 1997)

Chico, CA has never been much of a musical epicenter, but for the lucky few that made their acquaintance with a local mid-80s trio dubbed Sunbirds, that northern Cali locale must have been all the more sacred.  During their initial run, circa '86, (The) Sunbirds had made little in the way of music for public consumption and wouldn't reconvene until eleven years later.  Six songs apiece from each of these eras were compiled onto the archival, No Sun No Shadow in 2003.  With connections to other area left-of-the-dial outfits like Barbara Manning's 28th Day, The Downsiders, and even local yokels Vomit Launch, the Sunbirds naturally exuded an indie rock disposition.  On the nascent recordings that comprise the second half of No Sun... the band's penchant for clangy, jangle-laced guitar maneuvers and achingly endowed vocals, courtesy of one Cole Marquis, could have easily begged comparisons to early REM.  I can also draw parallels to Sunbirds contemporaries the Pedaljets and Libertines (Ohio) in large part to the lo-fidelity, rough hewn angularities of "Three Easy Steps" and "Old Black Crow," the latter bearing an opening salvo that mimics Bauhaus' "Bela Legosi's Dead," before settling into something more indigenous.

The 1997 reunion songs (represented on the first half of the CD) speak volumes about Sunbird's development as players.  Despite a samey-ness factor, the material throughout No Sun... is succulent ear candy to a fault.  Yes, much of what's here could have benefited from better recording facilities, but all of that tape hiss and analog ambiance are part of this compilation's charm.

01. Rocket
02. Only in Their Dreams
03. No Sun No Shadow
04. Breathtaking
05. Three Easy Steps
06. Don't Rewind

07. Mudslide
08. Old Black Crow
09. She's Alright
10. Only in their Dreams
11. No Sun No Shadow
12. Three Easy Steps 


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Cuban Heels - Work Our Way to Heaven (1981, Virgin)

For a band whose lone marketplace offering was just one measly punk 45 in 1977, Scotland's Johnny and the Self Abusers nevertheless contained members that would spin off into the eventual world renown Simple Minds (Jim Kerr to be specific)...and this band.  The Cuban Heels, which entailed the involvement of ex-Abusers Michael McNeil, John Milarky and Tony Donald, had something a bit less lofty and pious in mind than Kerr and his long running offshoots, and all the better for it as evidenced by Work Our Way to Heaven

The near-spotless first half of the album in question often rocks out like a sturdier XTC - tuneful, smart and dare I say a good couple of years before it's time.  "Liberty Park" and "A Matter of Time" are but a couple of inspired standouts. Side two finds the Heels milling about in a couple of different orbits.  The hepped up dance rock of "Walk on Water" and "Hard Times" sound downright frivolous by comparison, and "Coming Up for Air" is a strikingly subdued chamber music piece.  The title track is loosely similar to some of Public Image Ltd's more structured 'pop' dabblings, and the finale "My Colours Fly" is assertive and lively as anything found on Heaven's better half.  It would prove to the Heels sole full length, but roughly half a dozen singles surrounded it.  All of these songs collected in one tidy spot would make for a splendid reissue (hint, hint).

01. Liberty Hall
02. Move Up a Grade
03. Where the Days Go
04. A Matter of Time
05. Homes for Heroes
06. The Old School Song
07. Walk on Water
08. Hard Times
09. Coming Up for Air
10. Work Our Way to Heaven
11. My Colours Fly


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Reivers (Zeitgeist) - KUT Radio, Austin 11/11/85

A lot of you have gotten a charge out of my Reivers postings over the years, specifically their debut Translate Slowly, and demos for subsequent albums Saturday and End of the Day, so I thought I'd share this companion piece of sorts.  Tracked in late 1985 at Austin's publicly funded left-of-the-dial outlet KUT FM, this in-studio session isn't some mere four or five song pittance, rather a bona fide full length concert.  It followed on the heels of Translate Slowly, when the band was still going by their original moniker of Zeitgeist (which is how they're referred to by the DJ during this taping.  Part of Austin's so-called "new sincerity" movement, the co-ed Reivers hinted at the-then burgeoning indie-rock aplomb of combos like REM and Let's Active while incorporating a rootsy tenor that never went unnoticed.

Given the era of the performance, the better part of the aforementioned debut makes the setlist, including many a crucial selection like "Sound and the Fury," "Freight Train Rain" and "Araby" a;; wonderfully present and accounted for.  But Reivers aficionados were in for an even sweeter treat with the preview of tunes that would populate the quartet's second album, Saturday, by way of that record's title track, "Ragamuffin Man," and "Secretariat."  And what would an in-studio gig by a hipster contingent like these folks be without a tasteful cover or two (or three)?  Bruce Springsteen's "Fire" makes the cut, alongside the band's penultimate number for the evening, a fairly reverent traipse through "The Cowboy Song."  Not unsurprisingly there's abundance of friendly and even cheeky banter throughout.  Enjoy in your choice of MP3 or FLAC (though the FLAC bitrate isn't particularly high.  I didn't rip it, I swear!).

01. intro
02. Without my Sight
03. What Am I Doing
04. Saturday
05. Peanuts theme
06. Ragamuffin Man
07. Once in a While
08. In Your Eyes
09. Sound and the Fury
10. band intros
11. Freight Train Rain
12. Hill Country theme
13. Cowboys
14. She Digs Ornate
15. Fire
16. Secretariat
17. chat/Things Don't Change
18. Cowboy Song
19. Araby

MP3  or  FLAC

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Twilight Idols - Beyond Good and Evil (1986, Twilight/Yet You)

Never evil but only inconsistently good, I took a chance on this Twilight Idols platter based largely on the intriguing album jacket.  Ostensibly hailing from the L.A. area circa the mid-80s I reckoned I might have something paisley in store, but once again, my expectations were nowhere near the dartboard.  No, Beyond Good... was more akin to surly indie rock accented with traces of post-punk.  Leading 'light' Gary Robert who loosely bears a timbre to David Byrne, strikes a compromise between speaking/singing, but this record's deficit of bona fide hooks presents a problem with such a vocal model.  To their credit, the Idols actually come quite close to nailing it on "Time is Fashion," and if anything else, I appreciate the sprite, aggro pulse of "I Live For Today" and "Gonna Tell on You."  I don't believe this trio's lifespan extended past the record in question, which is unfortunate, as I'm curious to what their progression might have yielded.

01. Let's Go
02. I Live For Today
03. In Demand
04. You Don't Know Me
05. Time is Fashion
06. Gonna Tell on You
07. Rising Above It
08. What's Wrong
09. Next Day Was Ok


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This one is on the house...

Actually, everything in this join is on the who am I kidding?  I'll try to get a full length of some sort up for you tomorrow, but today there's this.  A Guided By Voices single that was an exclusive bonus with issue #37 of Fear and Loathing zine...that just so happens to be worth quite a bit more than I would've guessed.  The Brighton Rocks single supplies us with a mere two songs, tracked live from a September 1995 GBV performance in Brighton, UK.  Both "Hot Freaks" and "Game of Pricks appear on one side of the record with about a minutes worth of typical Bob Pollard banter preceding the tunes.  Pretty much a no brainer that they went with the most popular tunes from their catalog, though "Freaks" kinda wore out it's welcome with me by the time this 45 hit the racks.  Enjoy in either MP3 or FLAC.

A1. Hot Freaks
A2. Game of Pricks

MP3  or  FLAC

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Open up your eyes just to check that you're asleep again.

From 1982. 


The Wishniaks - Catch 33 (1990, Bloodmoney)

I was a profound Johnny come lately when it came to this bunch of Philly wunderkinds, whose 1988 Nauseous and Cranky ep I posted a couple years ago.  And voila, here's The Wishniak's follow-up Catch 33, a continuation of this quartet's melange of Stonesy grit and the more progressive elements of their era of powerpop (think, Mitch Easter, Don Dixon productions).  Honing memorable, deftly crafted tunes were at the apex of their priorities, and even though the Wishniaks weren't ones to delve into any particular extreme, their earnestness, just-right hooks and an innate mastery of succinct and forward thinking songs like "Marcy's Gone," "New Zealand" and "Day to End All Days" exuded a warmth and charisma most current acts would trade a collective left nut for.  And believe it or not, their rendition of the Scientists "Frantic Romantic" here is one of the comparative low-lights in this gratifying baker's dozen.

01. Day to End All Days
02. One Eye Open
03. Monterey
04. Chestnut Hill
05. Marcy's Gone
06. By the Lights
07. She's the One
08. Summertime
09. Catch 33
10. Tumbling Diwn
11. Terry's Next
12. New Zealand
13. Frantic Romantic


Friday, June 15, 2018

The Senses Bureau ‎- Love And Industry ep (1986, Euroamerican) & Edge of the Wedge - Chime ep (1984, EW)

Ok, decided to fulfill a couple of requests...for records I don't actually own.  Was able to track down digital files of them however, and pretty clean and discernible ones at that.  While I can't offer much in the way of a history of either the Senses Bureau or Edge of the Wedge, I'll be happy to reveal a few precious shreds of personal insight.

The Senses Bureau seemed intent on bifurcating their Love and Industry ep, ostensibly as a means to illustrate their conflicting sonic motifs.  The first two songs, "Dress for Success" and the title track are firmly cut from pedestrian post-punk cloth (think, The Fixx, maybe C.S. Angels).  Fairly convincing at that I might add, but the remainder of this record mines a less encumbered, singer/songwriter bent, one that's rote and sometimes too nondescript for the Bureau's own good.   Quite frankly, Love and Industry often resembles the work of two distinct artists - but I can think of far worse ways to kill twenty minutes.

Edge of the Wedge however had something more consistent going for them, at least on what appears to be their lone EP.   Five decent, if not halfway to that point, slices of low-key wave-pop is what these Louisiana residents bequeathed to listeners almost 35 years ago in the guise of Chime.  There were some cheeky undertones for sure baked into a couple of their tunes (see "Animated Lover"), but never overpowering enough to mar an otherwise benign listening experience.  A create reinterpretation of the Kink's "You Really Got Me" caps off this nifty five-songer.  Enjoy (or not).

The Senses Bureau - Love and Industry ep
01. Dress for Sex
02. Love and Industry
03. Big Brother
04. Push & Pull
05. Bellie du Jour
06. Lost for Words

Edge of the Wedge - Chime ep
01. She Loves by #s
02. You're the One
03. Tu Dois
04. Animated Lover
05  You Really Got Me

Senses Bureau: Hear
Edge of the Wedge: Hear

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Eurogliders - Pink Suit Blue Day (1982)

So...these folks down under never had much of a Stateside following.  My intro to the Eurogliders?  None other than a cameo appearance in an Aussie b-movie called Fast Talking.  Sort of an Oz variation on the classic Matt Dillon flick, Over the Edge, albeit with a significantly lower budget.  As Fast Talking grew on me, so did the tune the Eurogliders were performing, specifically "Another Big Day in the Big World."  However when I got around to hearing the album version of that song (on the band's 1984 This Island LP) I was dismayed by it's far glossier and brighter arrangement.  Still, I was game to investigate any of the band's earlier offerings, which perhaps promised to be a bit less slick.

I was in luck upon learning of the existence of a previous album, Pink Suit Blue Day, which I'm offering up for public consumption.  Helmed by Grace Knight, the 'gliders vibe was on the new wave tip for certain, but as far as this platter goes decidedly non-formulaic at that.  Occasionally lacking in focus, and sometimes regrettably in song quality, Pink Suit... would have been better pared down to a more consistent ep -  yet it's the most intriguing feather in the band's collective cap by a long shot.  Amidst some of the misfires (the bulk of which are at least listenable) there are a gaggle of promising melodic pieces in the guise of "Touching Me," "No Laughing Matter" and "Magneto."  I'd be remiss if I failed to mention the opening track, "Jeepney Talk" is a primo merger of guitars and snyths, though I could do without some of the robotic affectations on Knight's vocals.  The band achieved a significantly more lucrative payout with the aforementioned This Island and '85s Absolutely! 

Incidentally, I previously featured a record by a combo dubbed The Stockings, who contained future Eurogliders guitarist Bernie Lynch.

01. Jeepney Talk
02. Without You
03. Through Your Window
04. Laughing Matter
05. Darkest Hours
06. Get Me Out of Here
07. Touching Me
08. On the Nightline
09. Time
10. Magneto
11. Americans


Sunday, June 10, 2018

You'll get hurt if you play with crooks.

One of the finest career summations ever.


Friday, June 8, 2018

The Cripples - What's in a Name ep (1985, Tabb)

Maybe you can't judge a book by it's cover...but records are an entirely different matter.  I'm not sure if the fellow on the album sleeve is Cripples mouthpiece Shawn O'Brien, but whomever is striking that rather pointed pose would probably suggest to the potential listener they might be in for a cheeky listen, to say the least. O'Brien, as they say, is a character, more specifically one that possesses a timbre that sounds like a sardonic amalgam of Buster Poindexter and Huey Lewis.  His bandmates however aren't quite on the same page, conjuring up the feel of the Plimsouls and to a lesser degree the Flamin' Groovies on the winsome and melodic title piece.  Elsewhere, these players are patently '80s.  Without a doubt, O'Brien is the heart, soul and crutches of the Cripples, so if you ain't down with his none-too-serious m.o. What's in a Name might grate on your nerves a tad.  I'd still give this a whirl, if only because I appreciate where these chaps are coming from musically.

By the way, the Cripples made an appearance on the soundtrack to the 1980 flick, Cruising.

01. What's in a Name
02. Easy Access
03. Heart Like a Boxer (For Lisa)
04. Real to Real


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Woodies - Train Wreck ep (1989, Pop)

Here's another dose of "lost" '80s pop, this time hailing from Tampa, FL.  Train Wreck was the co-ed Woodies second record and if anything else, it's pretty much impossible not to tout the album's duo of driving, propulsive rockers that bookend this six song affair, "Part of My Act" and "Penelope Says."  Two primo numbers that would've sounded perfectly at home on any left-of-the-dial outlet of the era, not to mention the kind of splendid tuneage Wilfully Obscure has staked it's reputation on.  The four remaining songs plucked from the Woodie's Wreckage vary, with pleasing flourishes like some well-placed mandolin in "My Muslim Wife," while the bouncy, simpleton tact of "Pretty Brown Eyes" flirts with, you guessed it, power pop.

01. Part of My Act
02. My Muslim Wife
03. The Doctor
04. Stuck in Purgatory
05. Pretty Brown Eyes
06. Penelope Says
07. untitled instrumental


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Life full of chemicals...

This week it's 24 blasts of Weezer-esque punk pop goodness.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Chris Richards and the Subtractions - Peaks and Valleys (2018, Furtureman) - A brief review.

It ain't exactly all river deep, mountain high on the latest from Detroit-area denizens, Chris Richard and the Subtractions on Peaks and ValleysAs you might expect, their latest pitches a few variables, including a serene ballad or two, but writ large Peaks finds the quartet elevating themselves to a different plateau than where they were stationed on 2012's Get Yer La La's Out.

Specializing in power pop with a refined and classicist touch, Richard's and Co. don't exactly exude an aptitude in the manner of Shoes and Smithereens, so much as the more nuanced mannerisms of the Gin Blossoms, Dillon Fence and Velvet Crush.  In fact, Peaks and Valleys showcases the band at a similar vantage point to where Teenage Fanclub were situated around the era of Songs From Northern Britain.  With this kind of maturity and seasoning comes attendant savvy and sophistication, which you'll find in spades on "Just Another Season" and "The Coast is Clear." Even with a more lucid vision and tact than ever, these guys manage to sidestep anything approaching stodgy or ostentatious.  Aggression, however, is in much more minimal supply on Peaks.  But despite the lack of power chord melees, there are some heightened tempos infiltrating the likes of "Half Asleep," and a little further in the tense and relatively angsty "Call Me Out."  "In a Sense" piles on some serious harmonies, while the album's penultimate track is none other than a faithful remake of Big Star's "Thirteen," decked out in piano just as much guitars.

Listening to Peaks, even at a cursory level, you can't escape the notion that you've been here before, if only for the fact this quartet aren't attempting to invent, recreate or even outdo much of...anything.  The Subtractions premise is pretty elementary - expertly structured and carefully measured pop that's succulent and ripe for the picking, which is precisely what you'll get on this tight but gracefully lived-in outing.

Peaks and Valleys is available physically and otherwise straight from the band, their Bandcamp site, Amazon and digitally on iTunes.