Thursday, January 31, 2019

V/A - Nobody Gets on the Guest List! (1984, Throbbing Lobster)

Finally got around to ripping this one and kinda regret not getting to it sooner.  Why?  Well, it features no less than a half dozen acts that have found a home on Wilfully Obscure over the aeons - Christmas, Classic Ruins, Underachievers, Flies, Chain Link Fence, and 21-645 (albeit that last one by virtue of another compilation appearance).  Throbbing Lobster was a superb Boston indie imprint circa the Reagan-era, who did a fine job of exposing a bevy of interesting local yocals that weren't tied to the area's renown hardcore scene.  Unlike the Beantown acts peddled by the mainstream (Cars, 'Til Tuesday, etc) few names on the TL roster made inroads outside of Massachusetts or college radio.  For shame, because while garage-y propositions like The Turbines, Johnny & the Jumper Cables, and the Hopelessly Obscure brandished some nervy sass, I like to think they could have broken through to a larger audience.  The Prime Movers wield primo jangle-pop splendor on "Matter of Time," and the Flies and Chain Link Fence cuts equal or surpass the caliber of the records I presented to you in previous years.  And is it just me or do Baby's Arm bear an uncanny resemblance to aforementioned Boston bar-titans Classic Ruins?

There's a host of other phenomenal acts not present on Guest List that also recorded for the label - Primitons, Outlets, O Positive and Cowboy Mouth.  Browse a listing of Throbbing Lobsters catalog over at Discogs if you get the chance, and if you really dig what you hear on this disk, original copies of this record may still be available for purchase.

01. The Flies - In the Dark
02. Underachievers - I'll Be There For You
03. The Hopelessly Obscure - She's My Best Bette
04. The Prime Movers - Matter of Time
05. Christmas - Our Mutual Friend
06. Wild Kingdom - The Way to Love
07. 21-645 - Red Red
08. The Turbines - I Get Excited
09. Classic Ruins - Let's Get Dull
10. Johnny & the Jumper Cables - Not Your Kind
11. Chain Link Fence - The Happening
12. Holy Cow - Zucchini Dance
13. Noise Pencil - Weirton, West Virginia
14. Baby's Arm - I'm a Wimp


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Looking back it's just reflection, it's just something else to do...

The latter part of this '80s band's discography.  A unique and invigorating take on punk with intermittent assaults of funk, plus a few choice anomalies that I never, ever tire of.  There's 31 songs on this sucker, so check out the comments for a few suggested cuts to get you started.

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


Van Duren - Waiting: The Van Duren Story Orignal Docuemntary Soundtrack (2019, Omnivore) - a brief review

It feels a little counterfeit writing a review for a soundtrack to a film I've only seen a trailer for. Then again, the movie pertains to a musician, and as such, the music should ideally precede the story-line, so maybe this isn't that much of a moral quandary after all.  Truth be told, not may of us were anticipating any sort of bio-pic about Memphis' sadly unheralded Van Duren, because, well...a good 99.99% of the warm bodies inhabiting this country have no familiarity with the man in question.  In 2016 a pair of Johnny-come-lately fans in Australia (Wade Jackson and Greg Carey) were exposed to Van Duren's first album, Are You Serious?  Ironically, that record was released four decades prior in 1978.  Despite the 40-year delayed reaction, Jackson and Carey were so enamored with the music they were compelled not only locate it's creator but to parlay his backstory into a documentary, Waiting: The Van Duren Story.

Aside from some screenings in Memphis in late 2018, the movie hasn't seen widespread release (though that should be on the horizon).  I can't speak to how Van Duren's life, or even certain pivotal events inspired his songs, simply because that history isn't available to me, at least not in full.  This critique will focus on the music itself, and luckily, if you're at all piqued about the topic at hand the perfect gateway awaits you in the form of this soundtrack.

Van Duren put down roots in the Memphis music community in the mid-70s, ingratiating himself with the Ardent Records crowd, though he never recorded for the label.  He was however a collaborator with two alum from one of Ardent's most renown stablemates, Big Star.  I'm not privy to whether how much (or if any) historical evidence exists to show for it, but circa 1976 Van Duren was in cahoots with a post-Star Chris Bell and Jody Stephens in a presumably short-lived local outfit, the Baker Street Regulars.  They haven't been heard from since.  Big Star's shadow was barely beginning to loom, but if Alex Chilton & Co. were merely a whisper in the 70s, Duren was a veritable ghost.  By and large that's how it would stay.  For shame Van Duren, and Are You Serious? was such a carefully guarded secret, because as a budding popsmith he was busting out tunes in the mold of McCartney, Rundgren, Emitt Rhodes and Eric Carmen.  He may not have possessed the angsty, soul-bearing tumult of Big Star, but Serious' "Grow Yourself Up," "Positive" and the subdued "Waiting" were piano-laden confessionals that skipped many a poignant stone in spite of grazing such topically familiar waters.  Van Duren may have possessed the acumen of his peers, but the all-crucial "big break" never materialized.  At one point he was even taken under the wing of Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham, but success was ultimately elusive.  A subsequent record in 1979, Idiot Optimism was shelved and didn't see the light of day until a scarce Japanese import no less.

The '80s was Duren's last genuine gambit to thrust himself out of the woodwork, this time in the guise of a fully amplified, radio-gunning power-pop combo, Good Question, whose lone record (and a fantastic one at that) Thin Disguise I featured on these pages some time ago. It didn't chart but it contained what would become one of his signature pieces, "Jane."

The soundtrack for Waiting offers an ace cross section of Van Duren's career, underexposed as it's been heretofore.  There's a smattering of material from his two solo records, two representative cuts from Good Question, and even some live and unreleased offerings.  One major highlight for Big Star devotees is a cover of Chris Bell's "Make a Scene," a tune posthumously released on Bell's I Am the Cosmos album.  Waiting will be available physically from Omnivore Recordings on February 1st, as well as from iTunes and Amazon.  To keep abreast of widescale release of the movie, please check Waiting's website periodically. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Motor Home 7" (1994, Dirt)

Yet another substantial indie rock proposition from the '90s that passed me by at the time.  Motor Home (which I've also seen spelled as a single word) were a trio of co-ed Chicago kids who were adeptly in tune with the aesthetic of the time.  Side A, "Whole In My Head" is female fronted, wielding a comparatively mellow, but dynamic vibe sporting shades of the Spinanes and early Lilys, but not overly derivative of either.  The flip, "Sugarlow" is considerably noisome and aggro, pounded out with the fuzzy, distortion-addled fury of contemporaries Monsterland, taking a good five and a half minutes to finish off the listener's sizzled nerves.  The packaging for this one was unique and went way above and beyond what's normally expected with your typical pic sleeve 45.  Motor Home were also responsible for an album around the same era that I anticipate getting my hands and ears around soon.

A. Whole in My Head
B. Sugarlow


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Popdefect - Playing for Time ep (1983, Heart Murmur)

For indie/punk connoisseurs in the '80s and early '90s the name Popdefect was relatively unavoidable.  It seemed like this L.A. area trio were constantly cropping up in fanzines (granted, more frequently in ads than articles) and on various artists comps.  They had a steady slew of singles and albums too, but the ones I investigated back in the day struck me as either a little goofy or not particularly memorable.  Nonetheless I'm happy I took a gamble on Playing for Time a couple years ago as I found it significantly more palatable.  Defective?  Nah.  A little crooked?  Surely.  I don't think Popdefect were strenuously vying for a specific angle, but any inclinations to power pop may have very well amounted to happy accidents on "Perfectionist" and "Speak Your Mind."  The hooks aren't spilling over or anything but melody is still keenly discernible, and they even tinker with post-punk flavorings on my favorite number here, "Can't Catch Up."  By far and away, Playing for Time is the creme de la creme of what I've heard from this trio thus far, and I might be motivated to re/investigate other sectors of their catalog.  In addition to an aging Earthlink band page (linked above) they have a Facebook presence to boot. 

01. Perfectionist (Can't He See)
02. Never Have the Time
03. Speak Your Mind
04. Can't Catch Up
05. No Purple Heart
06. untitled instrumental


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Teenage Fanclub/Viva Saturn flexi (1992) - Re-rip, re-up.

You might say this as close as Wilfully Obscure comes to a "reissue."  I originally shared this 1992 flexi from Revolver magazine about six or so years ago.  This weekend I decided I could improve upon the audio quality of this quarter-century (plus) old soundsheet , and I did just that, removing as much of the extraneous surface noise as I could.  Heck, I even re-scanned the art, and on top of all that it's now available in lossless FLAC in addition to the typical MP3.  You can read my original write-up for this disc in the link above.

01. Teenage Fanclub - Everybody's Fool (Cleveland, OH 2-29-92)
02. Viva Saturn - Black Cloud

MP3  or  FLAC

Sunday, January 20, 2019

It's the smiling on the package, it's the faces in the sand...

From 2004.  The debut was great, but this followup surpassed it.

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


Kitchens of Distinction - Drive That Fast ep (1990, One Little Indian)

So, what's stopped me from posting anything from Kitchens of Distinction?   This probably has to do with the fact that most of their catalog is still available - but then I remembered...b-sides.  Truthfully, I'm sharing this for the a-side, the sublime "Drive That Fast," which had me enamored from the word go, almost thirty some years ago now.  Alongside Swervedriver's "Mustang Ford," The Kitchens brought the car song to dream-pop, though I would venture to guess neither band had that particular end in mind.  Patrick Fitzgerald's caterwaul/croon gracefully sits atop a bed of Julian Swales atmospheric, chiming guitars, sounding nothing short of ripped from a primo Cocteau Twins record.  In fact, nothing off the band's subsequent LP, Strange Free World could quite rival it, but nonetheless manages to stand as their finest hour. 

"These Drinkers" pursues a similar sonic template, albeit Fitzgerald is content to talk (not rap) on this one, and he doesn't show up on the mic at all for the long-winded but pleasant instrumental "Three to Beam Up."  "Elephantiny" is a starker piano-laden piece, recalling what I loved so much about those Epic Soundtracks solo records.  The Kitchens washed their final load of dishes in 1996, but reemerged in 2013 for a reunion record, Folly

01. Drive That Fast (7" edit)
02. These Drinkers
03. Elephantiny
04. Three to Beam Up


Friday, January 18, 2019

Dole - The Speed of Hope (1986, Play It Again Sam)

Sorry for being so late in getting something new out to you this week.  I hope this one makes up for it, not that many of you will recognize the name.  Dole were/are a Belgian export with only one album to their credit (this one).  Produced by The Sounds' Adrian Borland, this six-man entity had their creative tentacles steeped in the same transfixing waters as contemporaries Sad Lovers and Giants, Lowlife, The Chameleons and Echo and the Bunnymen, to varying degrees from song-to-song, mind you.  Tethered to the more atmospheric end of the post-punk/wave spectrum, Dole were capable of creating the same sweepingly melodic racket as the aforementioned contingents, best exemplified on The Speed of Hope's "The Dream," "Maybe Tomorrow," and "A Day." Coincidentally or not, they vividly recall the Cure on "I Say," and to a lesser extent Teardrop Explodes amidst the chorus of "Rumroad."  There's saxophone accompaniment on the whole of this record, but it gracefully embellishes and never threatens to overpower. 

Dole still perform in Europe, sans some of the original members.  And they have a new live album set to drop any moment know.  You can read some postings relating to that on their Facebook page, and further audio/visual goodies are available on their site linked above.  BTW, this album had no less than three different album jackets in circulation, so I appreciate you like the variation I've fitted you with.  On a final note, this rip was taking from a defiantly crackly slab of vinyl that I was barely able to clean up, however the TSoH saw a very brief reissue on CD in the mid-90s, so with any luck I'll have a more pristine version to share in the future.

01. Slumberland
02. The Dream
03. Maybe Tomorrow
04. I Say
05. Rumroad
06. A Day
07. Third Man
08. Satellite


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Makes the earth toss and tumble...

A two-fer featuring a 1983 album and ep from a group that practically wrote the playbook for the scene that celebrates itself.

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


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Eleventh Dream Day - Nuernberg, Germany 3/14/90

This one is pretty straightforward.  A full live set from Chicago's noisenik, indie/major label rockers Eleventh Dream Day.  This exemplary gig fell between the band's Beet and Lived to Tell albums, and this was one of the last tours audiences would be treated to such old chestnuts as "Watching the Candles Burn."  This recording could pass for a soundboard tape, but the setlist from the torrent I obtained this from notably states that track ten "Michael Dunne" had to be faded out due to a tape flip at the end, so perhaps this recorded by someone in the audience.  I'm offering it in the unaltered FLAC (lossless) from it was originally shared in, and an MP3 version if that's what you prefer. Enjoy.

01. Intro - Liz Beth
02. Between Here and There
03. Love to Hate to Love
04. Testify
05. Tranatula
06. Bagdad's Last Ride
07. Among the pines
08. Merciless
09. Watching the Candles Burn
10. Michael Dunne (fade out)
11. Teenage Pin Queen
12. Awake I Lie
13. Go!
14. The Death of Albert C. Sampson
15. title unknown - outro

MP3 (320 kbps)  or  FLAC

Friday, January 11, 2019

Beggar Weeds - Sure Pants Alot ep (1988, Junior Highness)

This long bygone Jacksonville, FL trio had an interesting array of parties cropping up in their "thank you" list - grandmas, the Chickasaw Mudpuppies, Henry Kissinger...  What to make of that is anyone's guess, and to a lesser extent you can apply that notion to the Beggar Weeds themselves.  From what little poking around I was able to do before stringing these 150 (or so) words together, I ascertained the band fancied themselves as "speed folk."  After a couple spins of Sure Pants Alot, the most immediate comparison I conjured up was that of a higher pitched John Fogerty fronting the Violent Femmes.  But as is the case with so many of my comparative attempts that's hardly a spot-on correlation.  There's a certain twangy modus operandi in operation here, and although BW were a discernible product of the deep south their vibe was thankfully more nonchalant than forced.  Word has it the band made inroads with the Athens, GA indie circuit of the day, so it's not a stretch to say the 40 Watt Club contingent rubbed off on 'em, at least to a modest extent.  In a nutshell, this platter is exponentially more earnest than hip - and thirty some years after the fact I'd say these boys settled upon the correct equation.

01. All I Need
02. Skinny
03. Harry Lee
04. Graduating
05. Churchin'


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Rods and Cones - s/t ep (1985, Oh Stu!)

Not to be confused withe the Boston band of the same (coincidentally featured here a few years ago) the Rods and Cones I'm sharing today were a more economical three-piece set up, situated in the less urban locale of Bloomington, IN.  Guitar pop with varying dosages of power was their calling card and they played it capably, if perhaps half a step or two shy of the mainstream.  Their approach was plenty accessible, but thankfully not as gaudily decked out as the drivel that say, Huey Lewis and his dudes were crapping out around the same time.  The Rods thing was more in league with Tommy Tutone and later Knack.  "Hypnotize Women" and "Useless Knowledge" were cheeky riff-rockers with ample bite, bearing enough commercial prowess to land on AOR playlists of the day...though I'm not sure if that scenario ever came to fruition.  Rods and Cones winds things down with a novel acoustic reading of the Peanuts theme (lazily titled "Charlie Brown") before seguing into one last original.  BTW, the band reunites every Christmas for a local performance.  Visit the link above to be delivered to their Facebook page for evidence of this.

01. Hypnotize Women
02. Getaway
03. What it Takes
04. Useless Knowledge
05. Nine Kinds
06. Charlie Brown/Outta Control


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Open up your mind, open up your purse...

Something decidedly off the beaten path for you this week.  A chronological, double CD anthology spanning 1971-88 for a band that lay claim to veritable genre-shaping in their native UK, but across the pond, not so much.

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


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Signal Thirty - Purpose (1987, Hit a Note)

Something has always fascinated me about rural/small town indie rock, maybe because there seems to be so little of it.  Signal Thirty, ostensibly hailing from Paducah, KY, could have conveniently chosen to season their ears on such mainstream purveyors of the day as Def Leppard or John Cougar Mellencamp, but I tend to think their collective tastes ran a little deeper than the Top-ten.  Said to have been recorded over the course of Memorial Day weekend in '87, Purpose sounds like a dandy way to have killed three days.  Varying from twangy, albeit skewed roots rock, to jangly REM-isms, this trio never quite settles on a singular penchant here, yet manages to keep the entire affair structured.  Purpose really gets cooking on side two, with brisk keepers like "Wild With Me," "(The Adventures of) Laritasm," and "Some Sweet Day" all exuding verve and zest, not to mention a homegrown aplomb that occasionally floats in the vicinity of what the Meat Puppets had up their sleeves around the same time.  Solid stuff.  The record ends in somewhat uncharacteristic fashion with a medley of the reverent country ballad "Wings of a Dove" and the theme to Petticoat Junction.

01. Long White Sleeve
02. Napalm Luv
03. I Know It's You
04. I See God
05. Misconnected
06. Swimming's Funny
07. Fine Lines
08. Comparison
09. Wild With Me
10. (The Adventures of) Laritasm
11. Life Light (White World)
12. Some Sweet Day
13. Wings of a Dove/Petticoat Junction theme


Thursday, January 3, 2019

A slight case of underblogging - Best of the blog mix 2018

It's time once again for our annual rehash *ahem* taster of the creme de la creme of Wilfully Obscure's juiciest morsels from the year just departed.  Per the title, I say under-blogging in the respect that each year I seem to grow a tad more slack than the one prior in terms of the amount of audio victuals I lay out buffet-style on our coveted, on-the-house table.  Is what it is I suppose, as I'm in no hurry to exhaust my collection.  Revelations continue to abound on these pages, and 2018 brought to the fore some pretty phenomenal vintage wax from the likes of Three Leaning Men, The Woodies, The Lift, November Group and the Cuban Heels amidst approximately twenty others I've managed to shoehorn into one folder.

Given the disparate offerings here, more than a few song-to-song segues may not make for the most logical of transitions, though I've attempted to maintain a semblance of continuity, fractured as it amy sometime seem.  Roughly speaking, the first half houses some of the more aggressive selections, while the prettier and more jangly numbers have been corralled in the second.  Included are three previously unshared nuggets that until today you never knew you couldn't live without. 

01. Cuban Heels -  Liberty Hall
02. Private Domain - Burn the Torch
03. Wooden Igloo - Lost Weekend
04. Ten Ten - Giving In
05. Uncalled Four - Set Me Straight
06. The Woodies - Penelope Says
07. Mexican Pets - Stigmata Errata
08. The Red - Promises
09. November Group - Pictures of the Homeland
10. Stark Raving - Too Much to Take
11. Rank Strangers - Target
12. Rockphonics - Lock and Key
13. LMNOP - Like A Diatom*
14. Material Issue - Echo Beach (1986 vers.)
15. The McGuires - Russian Hill
16. Diesel Park West - All The Myths On Sunday (demo)
17. The Lift - Plush With Blonde
18. The Wishniaks - Marcy's Gone
19. The Colours - Somewhere in Between
20. Richard X. Heyman - Hoosier
21. Free Loan Investments - In the Park*
22. The Pterodactyls - Germs
23. Three Leaning Men - Facing
24. Stick Figures - September*

* = previously unshared