Thursday, February 28, 2019

V/A 3X4 - featuring The Bangles, The Three O' Clock, Rain Parade and Dream Syndicate (Yep Rock, 2019) - A brief review.

Dare I say this is one music scene who've literally decided to celebrate themselves?   For the uninitiated, Rain Parade, The Dream Syndicate, The Three O' Clock and The Bangles were not only considerable entities unto themselves, they composed a four-cornered vanguard in the mid-80s that was routinely referred to as the Paisley Underground.  There were several other minor players hovering on the fringes, but this quartet of bands were the ambassadors of an oft-underexposed mini-movement predominantly native to the Los Angeles-area.  While each of these aggregations had a distinct panache you might say all of the aforementioned majored in jangly, collegiate-level pop with a discernible minor in the more graceful facets of '60s psych.  Nothing too esoteric for the palette, mind you, as the Three O' Clock were wont to double dip oars in New Romantic waters, and as for the Bangles (initially The Bangs) the rest is rock and roll history.

A good thirty to 35 years has passed since the heyday of these artists, so what gives with this crash course in Paisley you might ask?  Well, December 2013 saw the reunion of all four bands for two nights in L.A. and San Francisco.  For all groups involved, not to mention established fans, it was a reminder of just how tight-knit this collective was back in the day.  The venture turned out to be significantly more than a mere nostalgia trip.  In the intervening years since, the Dream Syndicate and Bangles carried on in earnest, but something must have felt unfinished, for in 2018 all four combos found themselves smooshed together in the same king sized bed for yet another reunion in the guise of 3X4.

The premise of the 3X4 is a simple enough one, wherein each of the Paisley cornerstones takes to task one song apiece from their other three contemporaries.  The Bangles cover tunes by Rain Parade, the Syndicate and Three O' Clock, and the other groups follow likewise.  For you lucky ducklings who fancy themselves as aficionados of all four bands, or even those who've developed an appreciation of even just two or three this is a record that quite literally sells itself, not only by virtue of it's participants, but by the volley of long-endeared songs 3X4 unfurls like a new set of Venetian blinds.  On tap is a veritable Paisley hit parade with the Three O'Clock tackling the Dream Syndicate's signature "Tell Me When It's Over" and the Rain Parade's masterstroke, "What She's Done to Your Mind."  The Bangles turn in a reverent version of the Three O' Clock's timeless "Jet Fighter," the Syndicate wield an unlikely reading of the Bangles' "Hero Take a Fall," while Rain Parade do adequate justice to another Bangles classic, "Real World."  And that's only the half of what's in store here.

A couple of quick overarching observations.  Few if any of these covers outdo the original recordings.  No one is reinventing the wheel here, nor is anyone trying to 'best' or even challenge one another.  Instead, 3X4 is a project born out of sheer respect and mutual admiration.  Bearing this in mind, the album's casual, relaxed-fit tenor is wholly appropriate.  Secondly, if you're going into this one cold, you'll find 3X4 pleasant at the very least, but it would behoove you to have some familiarity with Paisley touchstones like the Dream Syndicate's Days of Wine and Roses, Rain Parade's Emergency Third Rail Power Trip, and the first couple of Three O' Clock records.

3X4 was issued in a brief run as a physical release for Black Friday Record Store Day last year, and has recently been made available in wider circulation both digitally and in tangible formats.  Yep Rock Records can serve you straight from the tap, and Amazon and iTunes also have you covered.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Daisies - Kowloon House (1995, I.R.S.)

Despite having ties to a fairly prominent indie label, I.R.S., I hadn't been exposed to The Daisies until just a few years ago.  Typically, given their stature and era there is little more than a Soundcloud page I can refer you to.  This quartet from I-don't-know-where existed at the height of the "alternative" epoch, but don't sound like a deliberate product of it.  Kowloon House is heavy on ballads, but thankfully not the 'power' variation thereof.  The overall effect is akin to a more economic Gin Blossoms, but that's a vague comparison at best.  Truth be told the Daisies were a helluva lot more effective when they cranked their collective amps on the power chord-laced title track, "Aeroplane Day" and "Day Spent."  Signposts occasionally veer towards the Lemonheads (say, It's a Shame... era) and another splendid contemporary of theirs, Small 23.  An ep and a couple singles surrounded this album.

01. Aeroplane Day
02. Sunday Drivers
03. Day Spent
04. Dog
05. New French Ballad
06. Everything Comes to Nothing
07. She's All Mine
08. Kowloon House
09. Milk Out of Grass
10. Chocolate
11. Purple & Green
12. Another Good Reason Not To Be A Star


Sunday, February 24, 2019

No clue.

From 2005, but I won't give much else away about this album.


Friday, February 22, 2019

L.E.S.R. - s/t ep (1984, L.E.S.)

Yet another lost cause when it comes to surveying pertinent info on Google, but a sheer treat for the ears.  The seemingly background-less L.E.S.R. (no, I don't have a clue as to what their acronym references) were your basic four-piece set up: vox/gits/bass/drums, who probably had a bevy of obvious accusations leveled at them back in the day - rootsy bar rock, power pop, and perhaps more inaccurately, even rockabilly.  No need to fret over cataloging this NYC quartet, because their searing strain of saucy, no frills rock was effective as-all-get-out.  Call 'em a more pedestrian Flamin' Groovies if you will, or perhaps a succinct foreshadowing of what the Georgia Satellites would ride into the top-ten in a couple years  Whatever the case, L.E.S.R. made a devastating case for themselves inside of 600 seconds or so. 

01. Ain't Got the Money
02. 166 Norfolk
03. Sane
04. Jealousy


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Beat Feet - One Hundred Places (1986, Aegean)

This one is almost worthy of a Chanukah upload, even if it's not an out-and-out revelation.  Truth be told, Beat Feet are something of a cold case, with virtually no pertinent info available online, other than a potential home base of Brimingham, AL.  One Hundred Places appears to be their only wax, and it's shame, because this quartet craft some impeccably sublime, jangle-enhanced power pop with just enough forward-thinking acuity to not only maintain my interest over the course of this mini-album but to absolutely crave more.  Their somewhat frivolous moniker belies keen creative angularities on "She's on Time" and "Leaders" recalling Velvet Crush precursors Choo Choo Train, and Matthew Sweet's pre-solo venture Buzz of Delight.  Stunning hooks abound virtually wherever the needle drops on this platter, and you get the feeling Beat Feat cut their teeth on the likes of the dB's more so than say, the Knack or Raspberries.  One Hundred... closes out with an unlisted live track, and an uncharacteristic one at that, wherein the band shifts into uninhabited, punk-cum-metal overdrive.

01. I Should Have Known
02. Come When I Say
03. We Walk Tonight
04. A Place For Me
05. She's on Time
06. Leaders
07. Go Unafraid
08. untitled


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Heaven sent her so complete, I dropped my TV in the street. I didn't even care.

From 2004.  There isn't a moment of this album that I don't enjoy.

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


X-15 - Blueprint (1982, Precision)

When I started this site umpteenth years ago, it wasn't exactly my intention to feature albums housing such mundane titles as "Baby Hold On" and "You're So Cruel."  But what if a record existed with the aforementioned tunes that wasn't so vapid or generic?  While not full fledged power-pop or pub rock or barely ever edging into punk terrain, X-15 are a rare exception to the rule.  Admittedly, ya'll AOR fetishists in the house will find a trove to drool over with this one, but this Pittsburgh six-piece seemed to chow at the more credible end of the hard rock trough.  Think early Greg Kihn, the first Loverboy album, Clocks, and at times even Hard Promises-era Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.  X-15 were hardly long on innovation, but potent, hard-driving daggers like "Danger Zone" and "Give Me Your Love," not to mention the utterly arresting, mid-tempo "Is it Him," make a persuasive case nonetheless.

01. Is it Him
02. Danger Zone
03. Give Me Your Love
04. Second Hand love
05. Jennifer
06. All the Time
07. You're So Cruel
08. Waiting Tonight
09. Cold Shivers
10. Baby Hold On


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Lung Overcoat - Climbing Up the Hill ep (1986, Scolex)

You say you've never heard of a band from San Antonio, TX?  You have now, and as luck would have it they were a good one.  Meet Lung Overcoat, new wave denizens from the Lone Star state who oozed copious loads of promise on this four songer.  Perhaps these youngsters didn't lob the beefiest hooks on the block, but Climbing Up the Hill is an ambitious mofo of a record with dense arrangements and subtly veiled socio-political themes that plot these cats wiser than their collective 80 years... or so it would seem anyway.  At times Overcoat pitched in the direction of a less danceable Duran or Japan, yet were inflicted with just enough artful maneuvers and post-punk inclinations to keep them from taking the pedestrian plunge.  "Life in Holes" is my pick of this all too brief litter.  Check out In Depth Music Blog's excursion into the guys, with all kinds of tasty YouTube linkage and such. 

01. Sickroom
02. Voice in the Box
03. Life in Holes
04. When Dreams Drag On


Monday, February 11, 2019

Soul Asylum - While You Were Out/Clam Dip... (1986/1988, Twin/Tone, 2019, Omnivore) - A brief review.

Of all the high pedigree indie-rock bands to spill a little ink on a major label recording contract in the late '80s and '90s, Soul Asylum's back catalog seems to be one of the most neglected and un-examined.  I'm not referring to availability, as Twin/Tone's distribution arm had decent outreach, making their presence felt in plenty of Sam Goody's and such, but given the sizable breakout success of Grave Dancer's Union in 1992/93, you'd think newfound S/A fans would have felt some nagging urge to backtrack and find out if the spate of five proper albums that preceded it would've stimulated them.  Then again, Say What You Will Clarence, Made to be Broken, While You Were Out, Hang Time, and ...the Horse They Road in On weren't exactly chockablock with contemplative ballads in the mold of "Runaway Train."

So yeah, Dave Pirner & Co's "Sony years" were demonstrably more consistent with the aforementioned GDU and subsequent Let Your Dim Light Shine and Candy From a Stranger ebbing and flowing on a more linear, and dare I say conservative course.  Par for the course when punks sign to majors - the odd feathers get plucked, sometimes a lot quicker than even the most devoted fanboy expects.  While You Were Out was Asylum's last indie hurrah, and although I'll never fault them for making the leap, the irony is Mpls' little quartet that could had already made a quantum stride between their raucous, wet-behind-the-ears '84 debut Say What You Will Clarence to the largely more tuneful and occasionally disciplined Made to Be Broken a year later.  Those two album were the focus of nicely bonus-ized reissues in late 2018, and now 1986's While You Were Out is seeing a similar overhaul, with the subsequent Clam Dip and Other Delights ep hitching a ride with some totally unreleased material. 

What made Soul Asylum so effective was their ability to emanate character without any one member of the band being a character themselves.  Never was this facet more evident than in the band's nascent, pre-Grave Dancers era.  The secret sauce constituting albums like WYWO were the congested, frenetic arrangements of it's creators, frontman Pirner, Dan Murphy on guitar, the late Karl Mueller on bass, and thrashy as-all-get-out drummer Grant Young.  "Carry On," "Crashing Down" and "Miracle Mile" all bear the punky, ramshackle tincture of their Replacements-informed roots, but by this album Asylum's rambunctiousness was tempered by something resembling melody and/or restraint.  And the hooks get downright heady on "Closer to the Stars," a near-anthem of their early years, wherein thoughtful and vaguely philosophical notions made their way into the quartet's wooly mix.  The relaxed-fit "Passing Sad Daydream" is a corny ballad that closes the record out in typically sardonic S/A fashion.  Albeit not entirely consistent, While You Were Out is still overflowing with highlights, many outdoing the cream of the crop on Made to Be Broken.

Soul Asylum were clearly on a roll - one that perpetuated through their first major label outing, Hang Time.  '88s Clam Dip and Other Delights ep isn't necessarily part of that volley, as it were, given it wasn't a proper album.  Instead, the six-song hodgepodge with the spot-on Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass album jacket parody is a collection of loosely executed covers and some outtakes yielding jovial but mixed results.  One of the standouts, "Chains," was originally the invention of another Minneapolis act, The Wad, that Soul Asylum keenly transform into an essential missing link of their own.  There were two versions of Clam Dip making the rounds, depending on what side of the Atlantic you obtained it on, but Omnivore's reissue includes all the songs from both incarnations.  Four Twin/Tone-era outtakes conclude the CD incarnation of the reissue.  While You Were Out and an expanded version of Clam Dip are available separately on vinyl.  Physical versions are available now straight from Omnivore, and Amazon has you covered as well.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Snow on the ground and a chill in the air...

From 1992.  The magnum opus from this UK act that were thankfully not part and parcel of the Britpop movement.  This is the import edition with two extra tracks.

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


Friday, February 8, 2019

Rex Daisy - tape (1992)

This bygone combo from the suburbs of the Twin Cities offered express delivery to the same power pop sweet spot contemporaries The Rembrandts, Velvet Crush and Greenberry Woods more famously made the same destination to.  The quartet known as Rex Daisy wasted nary a second on this three song demo, a preface to their Guys and Dolls album.  Word has it they even seized a major label deal at one point but had the proverbial rug pulled out from under them.  For shame, because they boasted excellent material.  If you dig these numbers the aforementioned album is available on Amazon streaming and downloads and iTunes.

01. Bottom o' the World
02. Stuck on AM
03. La La Land


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Start - Look Around (1983, Fresh Sounds)

Recently had a request for this one, and an interesting pick at that.  Taking Look Around's album sleeve at face value you might reckon Lawrence, KS' Start were on the same wavelength as the Smiths or Rain Parade.  Not completely off the mark, but this trio's inclinations were more disparate than that.  The first side emanates some choice, left-of-the-dial leaning pop, like the Wurlitzer-spiked "Empty Rooms" and the even more coveted "Where I Want to Be," oozing with chiming guitar strains and DIY ethos that might as well have predicted what Brit indie titans-to-be Primal Scream would have in store just a couple years later.  Very much on the Postcard Records tip I might add.  Side two gets a lot more unpredictable, commencing with "Little Fish/Big Fish," featuring none other than Allen Ginsberg reciting a poem regarding U.S. involvement in Central America atop these guys providing the music bed.  A bit disorienting at first, but somewhat fascinating on return visits.  Word has it Start had connections to William Burroughs as well.  "My Town" prominently features trumpet, and is almost another harbinger of mid-80s UK indie pop.  Problem is the band didn't bother to insert a hook anywhere.  As for the remainder of Look Around, there's not much else that's overwhelmingly effective, but not unsatisfactory either.

01. Empty Rooms
02. Where I Want to Be
03. Saw Me at All
04. An Evening Such as This
05. Little Fish/Big Fish (with Allen Ginsberg)
06. My Town
07. Night Song
08. Lies


Sunday, February 3, 2019

I guess beauty runs in the family, it's as easy as DNA.

Everyone raves about the debut  - and rightfully so.  But this follow-up came in at a remarkably close second.

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


Saturday, February 2, 2019

House of Large Sizes - 7" ep (1987, South East)

So I was never quite bitten by the House of Large Sizes bug, as it were.  Then again I know of no one else that was either, so maybe I'm not in the minority for once.  In my reexamination of the subject three decades on, I would submit to you this co-ed Cedar Rapids, IA  trio may have been on the right wavelength after all.  "Man Overboard!" is nearly four minutes of convincing, riffy indie-rock with a delectable guitar line and ironic observations.  The guitars get even stockier on the subsequent "Eisonhower," though a diminished semblance of melody and Dave Deibler's obnoxious vocal parlance threatens to collapse his band's humble abode.  Over on side two, "Cold-train" is redeeming and rollicking, loosely in the same ballpark as period Meat Puppets.  As for "40 Orange Cookies." one gets the impression the tune isn't necessarily about food.  From what little I've been able to glean online, these songs were re-cut for HoLS' first album, One Big Cake.

01. Man Overboard!
02. Eisonhower
03. Cold-train
04. 40 Orange Cookies