Sunday, July 29, 2018

I'm not too far gone, but I'm not all there...

The swell 1988 debut from this Pittsburgh quartet. 

**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**


Friday, July 27, 2018

Leaving Trains - Well Down Blue Highway (1984, Bemisbrain/Enigma)

Had a request for this one.  Personally, I was never very motivated to sling myself onto the caboose of the Leaving Trains, but I know how endearing they were to the droves who were more than content to depart the station with them.  This was their first album, released a couple years prior to their stint with SST.  I've heard bits and pieces of those subsequent records, but Well Down Blue Highway might be the first I've encountered wall-to-wall.  And I'm definitely down for some of it, 'specially the more rompin,'  rockin' forays like "She Knows the Rain" and "Virginia City."  There's some sweet psych flourishes on "Always Between Wars" too.  I've been informed that ...Highway's follow-up, Kill Tunes, was their utmost achievement.  Here's what the boys at Trouser Press had to say.

That said, the Los Angeles band's debut, Well Down Blue Highway (co-produced by Rain Parader David Roback and featuring a guest drummer from Gun Club and a keyboard player from Green on Red) is actually the picture of restraint: James' quietly desperate delivery suits subtly seething songs like "Creeping Coastline of Lights" and "I Am in a World Crash With You" marvelously, and when the clock registers rage-time, guitarist Manfred Hofer responds with some totally wired riffing. Kill Tunes sacrifices some of that reserve in favor of an old-school pub-punk approach that will remind some of the Saints (whose "Private Affair" gets a lusty run-through here). On an album that continuously shifts gears, from shit-kicking 4/4 like "She's Looking at You" and "Black" to lighter ballads ("Light Rain" and "Kinette"), the frontman displays his boozehound-next-door humor for the first time on "A Drunker Version of You," and it provides a welcome respite from the vitriol sprayed elsewhere.

What I'm presenting here isn't my rip, so a mighty thank you to whomever was responsible for it.  There may be a couple of minor glitches, that to my ears anyway were barely discernible. 

01. Bringing Down the House
02. Leaving Train
03. All My Friends
04. Always Between Wars
05. You Can't See
06. I Am In A World Crash With You
07. March 7th
08. Hometown Blues
09. She Knows Better
10. Creeping Coastline of Lights
11. Virginia City
12. Going Down to Town
13. Bringing Down the House (reprise)


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Rude Buddha - Blister My Paint ep (1985, Green Triangle)

So you say you're a Rude Buddha fan (all two of you)?  I guess you can chalk that up to depriving yourself of sleep in the wee hours of the morning with your gaze fixed on MTV to witness their briefly-in-rotation clip for "No More Gravy."  That was actually in 1988, so I bet ya didn't know they had a couple records to their credit earlier in the decade?  Here's one of 'em, and this co-ed combo waste nary a second of it...on side one anyway.  That's where you'll find more of the structured tunes, considerably crooked to begin with.  Brian Daley and Jenny Wade trade off on vocals, the latter of whom has a particularly unique warble.  I'm more partial to Daley whose dexterous digits tickle the fretboard in a nimble and clangy manner I'm such a sucker for.  Depending where the stylus lands there's some sheer magic going on here.  After the jump, you'll find the video I referenced above.

01. Blister My Paint
02. Economic War
03. So Long Darling
04. I'm Packing My Suitcase
05. Hagar and Ishmael
06. What You're Looking For


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Willie Nile - Children of Paradise (2018, River House) - A brief review.

There's a certain reliability to a Willie Nile album. Not unlike spending an afternoon at the ballpark perhaps. Hot dog in hand, a nice 75 degree day, and a certain contentment in knowing how things are going to roll for the next couple of hours or so.  Not that Children of Paradise, Willie's eleventh (or so) studio outing spans anywhere near the better part of the afternoon, but you get my drift.  His original premise (and I say that loosely) always struck me as an empathetic fusion of Springsteen and Dylan.  These days that synthesis manifests itself into something approaching solo Paul Westerberg, albeit without as much irony and wordplay. 

Not one to operate in the abstract, Willie's plaintive aplomb is nonetheless conveyed via uplifting, populist sentiments on Children's... rallying opener, "Seeds of a Revolution."  Call it a melting pot-anthem if you will, reminding us that our presently turmoil-ridden democratic experiment only exists due to it's international composition.  "Getting Ugly Out There" and "Earth Blues" speak to issues of the day as well, spirited along in our protagonists cautionary but hopeful tenor.  And what would a Willie Nile album be without a few raucous rave-ups?   "Rock n' Roll Sister," "I Defy," and the particularly strident "Don't" fit the bill perfectly, and prove the man in question hasn't lost an iota of stamina.  Naturally, on the flip-side of the coin, a good quarter of Children... is set aside for ballads with "Lookin' for Someone," being particularly effective.  Finally, without giving too much away, the poignant title track is another ace feather in his cap.   In a nutshell, things are tough and modern times are a bitch.  It's hard to believe any single album could be a catalyst for change or uplift, but Willie is making a rock solid go of it.

Children of Paradise sees the light of day on July 27th on Amazon, iTunes and Willie Nile's online store.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Is it it you?

A slightly abrasive start to the week.  An ep and full length from 1993 and '94, respectively.

**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**


Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Cure - What Happened Behind the Door

This past week I've been all over the why not end it with a Cure bootleg?  I haven't featured Robert Smith et al on these pages, due to the wide availability of virtually every speck of their catalog.  In a nutshell, What Happened Behind the Door is comprised of demos and possibly alternate mixes of tunes that touch on several of their key '80s records.  By now, I think all of their albums up through Disintegration have been reissued and bonus-ized with generously expanded track listings, loaded predominantly with demos and songs-in-progress.  The rub?  The bulk of these prototypes were just instrumentals that hardly warranted repeat spins.  In some instances, What Happened... features alternate demo versions with vocals ("In Between Days" being a prime example) that you are unavailable on said reissues.  Some really rare tracks make an appearance here as well, specifically "Ariel" and "Cold Colours."  This handy and thoughtfully assembled compendium winds down with spare, acoustic versions of "Jut Like Heaven,"  "The Caterpillar," and "The Blood."  I've also tacked on an Easy Cure (an early incarnation of the band) take of the group's post-punk standard "A Forest."  Enjoy.

01. One Hundred Years
02. Forever
03. Ariel
04. Figure Head
05. Cold Colours
06. Siamese Twins
07. In Between Days
08. Close to Me
09. Kyoto Song
10. The Baby Screams
11. Sinking
12. To the Sky
13. Just Like Heaven (acoustic) 
14. The Caterpillar (acoustic)
15. The Blood (acoustic)
   Plus: A Forest


Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Critics - Braintree (1995, Black Vinyl)

What little there is to glean on The Critics makes the case that this suburban Illinois quartet fancied the Beatles.  Even the most casual listen to their Braintree album solidly proves this point, especially on the first half, but this adept power pop combo were ultimately more attuned to their own era.  Not quite as heavy or beefy as say, what the Posies were concocting at the time, the Critics took their cues from nearby mates Material Issue, and for that matter slotted in quite appropriately onto the first volume of the Yellow Pills compilation series.  Released by the band Shoes on their in-house label Black Vinyl Records, Braintree's most remarkable moment arrives in the guise of "Got No Heart," a relatively raw nugget that extends a wink and a nod to their chosen genre's halcyon era of the late '70s.

01. Love Discreet
02. Change Your Mind
03. I Heard You Calling
04. L-O-V-E
05. You Can't Lie
06. Got No Heart
07. Surprise Surprise
08. I Feel Sorry For You
09. Meltdown
10. We're All Lonely
11. Lucky Thing


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Poster Children - Grand Bargain (2018, Lotuspool) - A brief review

Welcome back!  Though it is a shame that it took a grotesque and traitorous Republican administration to jostle The Poster Children's collective muse to write and record again.  Or maybe I'm speaking too soon, considering the 'antics' of the Mar-a-Lago Mussolini haven't informed the entirety of Grand Bargain!...but at least a solid half of it.  For the uninitiated, The Poster Children's tenure has spanned four decades, the most of active of which transpired in the twentieth century, with albums of dynamic, skittish guitar spree like 1991's Daisychain Reaction, and their '92 follow-up, Tool of the Man serving as the most crucial examples.  A little further into the Clinton-era, the band embraced a wonkier, electro-pop modus operandi, and though this particular gambit yielded mixed results the Poster Children resolutely made music on their own terms, even when 'the man' was cutting their paychecks.

Grand Bargain! is the first full length P/C fans have been on the receiving end of since 2004's No More Songs About Sleep and Fire.  Needless to say a lot has happened on this blue dot, not the least of which Kids headmasters Rick Valentin and Rose Marshack having become parents.  Truth be told, this was probably the impetus for the hiatus, not so much a lack of inspiration from current events.  And indeed, Bargain! doesn't quite pick up where the quartet parked their tour van.  In fact, the record commences with a blistering, dissonant salvo of a rant by way of the title track, wherein Valentin begins to indignantly claw at the surface of our current dystopia.  Shortly after this blast of righteous indignation "Hippie Hills" cuts the tension considerably, conceding to the more melodic motifs of their heyday, and to that end, even to the tendencies of one of their key contemporaries (presently and formerly), Superchunk.  But these aren't the nineties folks, and a world-weary tone imbues rather self-explanatory missives "World's Insane," "Brand New Country" and "Devil and the Gun," the latter informed by now routine mass shootings and the hollow "thoughts and prayers" gestures that invariably accompany them.  If you're leery of this album being one extended piss-take, the Kids occasionally  reveal a light at the end of the tunnel, dim as it may be at this stage in the game.

Grand Bargain! distinguishes itself from earlier Poster Kids records by eschewing the more obvious pop angles of their '90s left-of-the-dial contributions "If You See Kay" and "Junior Citizen."  So much so that the album concludes on a startlingly lucid acoustic note, "Safe Tonight" that I guarantee no one saw approaching in the rear view mirror.  Perhaps such developments aren't that drastically surprising given the quartet's near-decade and a half layover.  Nonetheless, they're still plenty high strung, and a plethora of trademark P/C tinctures continue to populate the canvas - the wiry and teasing guitar arpeggios, Rose's prominent bass, and naturally, Valentin's patented sung/spoke vocals.  Yet  something more nuanced and subtle is exuded on Bargain! that I'm still not accustom to.  No, these adult young'ins aren't as jumpy and dynamic as established customers might recall them, but the v. 2018.0 incarnation of the quartet just may have tracked their most natural and reflective album to date.  And despite the ever accumulating shitstorm of Trumpian induced horrors, at least the Poster Children themselves appear to be ensconced in a good place.

Grand Bargain! is available direct from Lotuspool Records, The P Kids webstore, Amazon and iTunes.  Lotuspool were also recently responsible for a spiffy vinyl reissue of the aforementioned, Daisychain Reaction, and if that weren't enough, Rick and Rose do a splendid podcast, Radio Zero, that I can't recommend highly enough.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

You're racing with the wind, you're flirting with death - so have a cup of coffee and catch your breath.

It's summer.  A little guilty pleasure never hurt

**Comments are permitted, EXCEPT for revealing the name of the artist**


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Rank Strangers - Target 7" (1997, Veto)

Damn, where has this band been all my life?  Minneapolis, MN from what I understand, but it wasn't 'til last year that I caught wind of them via this used single.  Looked the Rank Strangers up for the first time this week, and was pleasantly surprised to learn they have a fairly deep catalog featuring no less than eight LPs, and almost as many shorter releases.  This wax is the extent I've experienced the Strangers so far, and while I hesitate to make any broad stroke generalities, the A side, "Target" is awash in proto-punk aesthetics brimming with raw, nervy production a la the Velvets and significantly more so the snider panache of Iggy and the Stooges.  "Planetarium" packs almost as much attitude, and while a tad less frenetic, these gents accent the proceedings with spicy guitar fills reminiscent of ABKCO-era Stones.  Simply put, the Rank Strangers don't bear a smidgen of '90s sonic trappings - an astonishing feat given their era.

If you dig, check out their webstore.  Most of the CDs are a reasonable $10, with vinyl full-lengths priced not much higher.

A. Target
B. Planetarium


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Woodies - Five Years From Now (1987, Pop)

My recent post of The Woodies '89 ep Train Wreck went over big with a lot of you, so I thought I'd share one of their prior convictions.  More of that tasty collegiate indie rock manna with a homespun angle, that for the record was several notches above lo-fi.  By and large these guys (and girl) churned out some quality tunes, not terribly far removed from say, the Windbreakers, early Trotsky Icepick and such.  The first half of Five Years From Now is well above average, and the flip side, while exhibiting some occasional dabs of lyrical clumsiness is still refreshingly genuine.  I really wish more bands had followed in the Woodies humble albeit gratifying footsteps.

01. Fate to Be Late
02. You and He
03. Five Years
04. Potential Drop
05. Mirror
06. Soldier
07. She's the One
08. Kicks
09. A Little Night Music
10. Let You Up
11. Rave Up (unlisted track)


Sunday, July 8, 2018

What's best for everyone is killing me.

Thoughtful modern rock from 2002 with a graceful singer/songwriter acumen.

**As a friendly reminder, please do NOT reveal the artist(s) in the comments.**  Been a real problem as of late. There's a reason why I refer to these as "mysteries!"


Saturday, July 7, 2018

fuflej - the microwave ep (1995, Scratchie)

The modicum of buzz fulflej were accorded seemed to dissipate not longer after this ep and a subsequent album, Wack-Ass Tube Riff, hit the market in 1995 and '96, respectively.  Then again, these Richmond, VA rawkers had a lot of competition in the mid-90s from considerably more sizable entities that were exuding a similar vibe...say like the Smashing Pumpkins.  Ironically, Scratchie Records was a boutique label helmed by the Pumpkins own James Iha and D'arcy Wretzky.  Much to their credit, fulflej differentiated themselves from those Corgan crunch-addled titans by embracing a woozier dream-pop bent, exemplified marvelously on microwave's most effective salvos, "Merely" and "Parallel to Gravity."  Whether they were conscious of it or not, fulfej had some excellent like-minded contemporaries in their midst to boot - Monsterland, Majesty Crush, and even their hometown's primo Fudge.  This record's title piece is probably the band's most relatively renown song, a long-winded, Luddite anthem of sorts wherein the protagonist extols on the virtues of being sans a VCR, and yes (you guessed it) a microwave.  A nice article on the band and a link to supplemental fulflej listening can be visited at your leisure here.

01. work in this universe
02. microwave
03. shells
04. merely
05. parallel to gravity


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Alerta - In the Land of a Thousand Pretty Dreams (1983, Welfare Factory)

It wasn't my initial observation regarding this Dutch combo, but their moniker conjures up the name of an over-the-counter antihistamine or something.  With that out of the way, what led to my investigation of Alerta was a connection to one of my fave '90s dream-pop wunderkinds The Nightblooms.  Specifically, it was Alerta guitar slinger Harry Otten who made said migration, but these lads didn't emanate anything approaching the shoegazer realm themselves.  No, Alerta were doggedly post-punk, mid-tempo in pace at that, purloining a trick or two from early (and I mean early) Siouxsie and Killing Joke, while loosely touching on Joy Division U2, and even Crass label alums Rudimentary Peni.  Plenty of noir and existential-lite mystique abounds, with no shortage of echo-y guitars.

...Land of a Thousand Pretty Dreams' initial volley of tunes are Alerta's most convincing, but further in, while many a song threatens to escalate to a fiery and billowy crescendo things level off in limbo without truly reaching an assumed zenith.  Problematic, as so much of this record's potential is blunted due to that frustrating scenario.  I wouldn't let that chase you away however, because if anything else this trio had enough forward thinking ideas to keep me engaged.  The two added tracks at the end were from a split ep Alerta did with the far more prolific The Ex.  You can read a fairly informative article about this album over at Son of Eet U Smakelijk blog.  Just make sure to scroll down a spell.

Finally, since I don't actually own this record, I'd like to tip a shot of whiskey to whomever was thoughtful enough to rip it.  Thanks to Discogs for the sleeve art. 

01. Jill, Jack & John
02. Jester
03. Suddenly Last Summer
04. An Accidental Man
05. Between Four Walls
06. Rascal Jack
07. Cristobel
08. Possession
09. Atlanta 24
10. Latin Fever
11. Mask
12. Princess Daisy
13. Living Circus

From Red Dance Package ep, split w/ The Ex
14. Violet Days
15. Park Avenue


Sunday, July 1, 2018

The driver said, "Hey man, we go all the way."

EP time again.  Four of them to be exact, from four disparate artists spanning just as many decades.  Some absolute gems.  Perhaps the best of these piecemeal collections I've shared to date.

**As a friendly reminder, please do NOT reveal the artist(s) in the comments.**  Been a real problem as of late. There's a reason why I refer to these as "mysteries!"