I love sharing Teen Line compilations, because they're a very easy sell, even when they're not bustling with recognizable names. I've shared volumes 1-6 in preceding years, and sadly after this installment there's very little left in this series. For the uninitiated, Teen Line was a formally in-progress and now sadly incomplete and abandoned project that was in the hands of the Hyped to Death curators who were also responsible for the Messthetics and Homework series, loosely modeled after the legendary and revered Killed By Death
DIY comp juggernaut. Culled from numerous self-released and small
indie label 45s (with a selection from the occasional LP) the Teen Line
series informally cataloged and canonized some of the finest American
power-pop/punk songs the late '70s/'80s had to offer - that in all
likelihood you wouldn't have known about otherwise. Yes, they burrow very, very deep, sharing scarce, privately pressed gems that will often run you $50-$100+ on Ebay or Discogs - that is if you're lucky enough to find them listed there to begin with.
Volume #7 doesn't disappoint in the slightest. Crash Kills Five, a Ramones-worshiping aggregation from Toronto are one of my immediate go-tos on this one. New York is represented by the scintillating Colors, and farfisa-driven garage purveyors the Cheepskates who are of Lyres-grade aesthetics. Ex-Dead Boy Stiv Bators lives on with the comparatively pop-sided "Not That Way Anymore," and while hardly a household name, power-pop pioneer Gary Charleston is present too. And if it's more jangly environs you're seeking, lay an ear or two on David Burdick, The Clicks, and Cheese. Florida's Comets appear with two selections, including the Jam-inflected pearl, "Big Business Jokes." You might recognize Beat Rodeo and the Cucumbers from entries on this very website, and The Cold are reminiscent of one my all-time faves, the Pointed Sticks. I feel as if I've barely scraped the surface folks, but enough of my jibber-jabber - download this pronto!
The full tracklist is directly to your right, just click to enlarge. Finally, links to Teen Line vols. 1-6 appear to be functioning...for now.
I suppose I'll always associate this long defunct Aussie combo with their bassist and main mouthpiece, Russell Kilbey, the younger brother of you guessed it, the Church's Steve Kilbey. At any rate, The Crystal Set were of modern rock stock to be certain, they just didn't happen to have much in common with the Church, not the least of which the mystique. In fact, From Now On commences with a pair of rootsy selections that put the Set more in league with home-country brethren Died Pretty. But not much along, things catch fire on the brisk and tuneful "Benefit of the Doubt," and the pensive "The Flat Earth." From Now On bids us goodnight with two sobering comedowns, namely the appealing enough title piece, and the downer "Sea of Misconception" which begs to be whittled down into something more concise. As a band, the Crystal Set were indisputably well above par, I'm just not in love with everything that made it onto this disc. Another album, Almost Pure, followed, as did a spate of singles and eps.
01. Wholly Holy
02. The Catwalk
03. All Directions
05. Benefit of the Doubt
06. Walk Away
07. The Flat Earth
08. Sea of Misconception
09. From Now On
Another band time damn near forgot about, and even though they didn't land on my radar until a good 32 years after the fact, I'll take it. Unity Station were stationed in Clevedon, England and only had a pair of eps to their credit. Luckily the one I'm most familiar with is a knockout, or at minimum borders on one. Tinctures of such period luminaries as the Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Chameleons abound. Prime mover Mike Eagle has a bit of an animated vocal panache, but his fingers steal the show as he effortlessly peels off spools of ringing chords matching or exceeding the acumen of any of his more renown contemporaries. On C1177 The Triangle (no, I haven't a clue as to what the seemingly random letter/numbers in the title represent) we're treated to four sonically luscious songs that are as forward thinking as
they are catchy. More post-punk than pop, U/S deserved far more than footnote status.
The band's brief catalog was reissued digitally a few years ago, so if you enjoy, please consider patronizing them (while getting five additional tracks in the process) via iTunes or Amazon. The tracks below were ripped from my original vinyl.
01. My Skin
02. It's Perfect
04. Blind Faith
Just when I thought I had everything by my favorite post-punk gloomersters, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, this surfaces, thanks to the magic of the internet. I've had access to the Leeds quartet's five albums and a bazillion singles for roughly three decades now, not to mention dozens of live bootlegs, but virtually nothing in the way of studio rarities. I found this unauthorized collection of early(ish) demos and alternate takes on my file sharing platform of choice last year, but it was derived from an apparently defunct music blog that his since been wiped from the internet. Truth be told, you need to be an aficionado of the Lorries to really get the gist of this, considering a good half of it is composed of instrumentals. Even for die-hards it's not quite an epiphany, but unless Chris Reed & Co decide to officially relinquish their archives it's as close to a grail as we're likely to get.
Things commence with "Monkeys on Juice," the source of which is uncredited, so most likely an early/working version. A bit of a deviation on the chorus melody makes this one interesting. The tape leads into a mid-tempo instrumental, with one of Wolfie's quintessentially serrated guitar lines. We're then treated to a handful of BBC sessions, that have been widely circulated heretofore, but slot in nicely given the era that's presented. A cavalcade of delightfully raw four-track demos arrives next, previewing their first album Talk About the Weather and it's surrounding singles. The arrangements of some are revealingly spartan, with vocals absent on several tunes...and the employment of a drum machine. We're treated to two consecutive versions (on the same track no less) of my favorite Lorries anthem, "Generation," and another untitled instro piece. The tail of the tape offers two spins of their '85 single, "Chance." A couple of anomalies to bear in mind. Some of the demos end abruptly, but this may have been intentional. Also you'll notice the track list is missing a 3rd selection, and unfortunately I'm not at all privy to what it was. Lorries fans have to take what we can get, and I'm hardly complaining, because this was quite the find.
01. Monkeys on Juice
04. This Today (BBC session)
05. Sometimes (BBC session)
06. Hand on Heart (BBC session)
07. Talk About the Weather (4-track demo)
08. Feel a Piece (4-track demo)
09. Hollow Eyes (4-track demo)
10. Hand on Heart (4-track demo)
11. Generation (two vers - 4-track demo)
12. Spinning Round (4-track demo)
13. Feel a Piece (inst) (4-track demo)
14. untitled (4-track demo)
15. Chance (inst)
Sorry it took so long to get some new tunes to you this week! So here we have the Droogs, a long misbegotten L.A. quartet who seemed to have a robust cult following at the time. On this Earle Mankey-produced full length, the foursome in question are more sophisticated than your average bar rock set, and boasted more versatility than your garden variety garage toilers. In a nutshell, the Droogs were a cut above
average, albeit not always distinctive. The band's penchant was nervy, but linear enough to have translated to pedestrian ears, specifically on the title cut and the rugged "Change is Gonna Come." "Mr. Right" takes on the world's power brokers, "From Another Side" is a brisk banger with some spicy guitar leads, and the Droogs even take on the Sonics classic "He's Waiting," (though truthfully I had more fun with the Fastbacks versions). I apologize in advance for all the vinyl noise, especially on side one.
01. Change is Gonna Come
02. Set My Love on You
03. For the Remaining Days
04. Stone Cold World
05. Mr. Right
06. From Another Side
07. He's Waiting (live NYC)
08. The Only Game in Town
Welcome to Record Store Day! True, this ain't no record store but for some of you music blogs are the next best thing. Thankfully brick and mortar music dispensaries still exist, and on the second or third Saturday of every April the powers that be concocted a way to usher the proles into shops with a really cool (albeit expensive) incentive - hundreds of seriously limited vinyl releases all hitting the racks in one fell swoop. I think I'd be jumping the gun to throw one of today's new Record Store Day releases out there for public consumption, so how about two items from RSD's past?
If you've been a longtime follower of this page, you know that I've all but come out and said the Straitjacket Fits are my favorite New Zealand export. Through the late '80s right up until a good portion of the Clinton-era the band only gave us three albums of distortion-addled indie rock before they got tired of that whole bit. Anyway, I'm the type that likes to excavate precursor, or "prequel" bands as it were, and as luck would have it there was indeed life before the Fits by way of frontman Shayne Carter's earlier punk outfit, Bored Games. Only problem was, their only release was a 1982 EP that only saw the light of day down under on Flying Nun Records, and only a few die-hard Kiwi obsessives in North America imported a copy. In fact, I assumed the record to be so scarce I quit looking for it before I even started. To my utter good fortune and amazement, in 2014 Captured Tracks Records decided to repress that record, Who Killed Colonel Mustard, for that year's hallowed RSD, and I was more than delighted to snatch one up. Per the album sleeve, BG were a quintet, yet no one in the lineup other than Carter carried over to the Fits, or even his in-between combo, The Doublehappys. Colonel Mustard was the product of high school-aged kids wise beyond their years (at least a couple years anyway). It's four meagerly recorded, mid-tempo cuts are in the mold of early-Buzzcocks (and I mean the Howard Devoto years folks) which entails a certain amount of sass and dare I say even a modicum of melody. "Joe 90" is the number that carries this disk over the finish line, a driving, deftly crafted ditty that's appealing as anything the Saints or Scientists ever devised. Colonel Mustard may not be the most crucial artifact of it's era, but unarguably a keeper. I've got it for you below in both MP3 and lossless FLAC.
Onto to something a bit less archival. If the name Big Dipper rings a big bell you probably go back aways, say 25-30 years ago. This Beantown college rock staple was incorporated in the mid-80s out of the ashes of Volcano Suns. The Suns Steve Michener and Gary Waleik hooked up with ex-Embarrassment axe slinger Bill Goffrier and drummer Jeff Oliphant who came courtesy of some less renown projects. Big Dipper managed to differentiate themselves from those aforementioned antecedent bands, and created a unique noise-pop excursion of their own on an ep and a pair of lauded albums for Homestead Records (check out Heavens and Craps). They made the jump to Epic Records in 1990 and issued one record, Slam, that found the quartet streamlining their approach before abandoning things altogether. They reunited in 2012, minus Michener, and delivered a new LP, Big Dipper Crashes on the Platinum Planet, that helped reestablish their indie cred. When I picked this 45 up in 2013 I assumed it consisted of exclusive material (or at least a non-LP b-side). Ultimately both songs were swiped from ...Platinum Planet, but the rather oblique sleeve was designed by Guided by Voices' Robert Pollard, making it worth the price of admission alone. If you're new to B/D, or at any rate their last album, consider this 45 as a taster of sorts. The tense "Joke Outfit" makes for a frenetic and dissonant three minutes, while the more subdued "Market Scare" traipses along on it's own wavelength.
Bored Games - Who Killed Colonel Mustard ep
01. Happy Endings
02. I Don't Get It
03. Joe 90
A couple months ago a friend handed me a sack of old local demo tapes that he wanted me to digitize. Thought it would be fun to share this one even though I'm hardly over the moon about it. I can't tell you much about the Neurotic Blondes other than they resided in the Buffalo, NY area and were fronted by a female singer. Unpretentious homegrown indie pop with some occasional punky vibes, that amazingly doesn't sound like an obvious product of the '80s. No keyboards/keytars or anything remotely excessive. Can't say these folks resembled anyone in particular. Song selection is a little uneven, especially at the beginning, but the Blondes catch fire midway on the tuneful "Burning Down the Bridges" and "Close." A couple throwaways too, but nothing egregious, and a bratty reading of a John Denver classic closes this affair out. Make what you will of Neurotic Blondes.
01. On the Bus
02. Locked Within
03. Anonymous Friend
04. Burning Down the Bridges
06. The Words Escape Me
07. In Pursuit
09. Average Guy
10. Jet Plane
Eleven years is a long time for a follow-up post. Not that I intended it that way. Back in 2008 when I shared Tictoc's lone album, Where the Picnic Was, I knew there really wasn't much more where that came from. Like a lot of wave/new romantic outfits in the '80s who didn't score a monster hit out of the gate, this Toronto quartet probably didn't think sticking around for a second act was a feasible option. And while Picnic was a commendable effort, the album as a whole seemed to be overshadowed by the irresistibly vibrant single "Twenty Questions." Brandishing an infectious punctuated synthesizer riff, the song oozes with the visceral immediacy and excitement of any intelligent dance-pop number of its era, often striking me as what a mutation of Duran Duran and Kajagoogoo might have amounted to. This extended single is one of a couple iterations, but mine (which I found sealed a few months ago, no less) features a nicely extended remix on side one. On the flip they hand us the album version, plus a non-LP cut that starts life out as an instrumental, before inexplicably segueing into a cover of the '40s standard "One For My Baby."
A. Twenty Questions (extended)
B1. Twenty Questions (LP vers)
B2. The Village~One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)
How can I legitimately call this a 'review' when I'm entirely partial to the subject I'm talking about? For arguments sake let's call this a write-up - and a tardy one at that seeing that these reissues have been available for almost half a year already. Lincoln, NE's For Against have been a monumental favorite of mine, and IMO stand as one of the most essential late-twentieth century trios alongside The Police and Husker Du. However for the three-piece this entry concerns, their lineup was remarkably fluid by comparison. Frequently lauded in small circles For Against's first two LPs, Echelons (1987) and December (1988) were the product of frontman/bassist Jeff Runnings, guitar wielder Harry Dingman III, and drummer Greg Hill. Groomed on the likes of Joy Division, early Cure and myriad 4AD and Rough Trade imports, the initial F/A template was marked with a chilly, insular demeanor and an omnipresent post-punk wail, not to mention an air of cool so dense the sharpest Ginsu knife in the world wouldn't breach it. Yet these austere sonic environs were surprisingly approachable thanks to Runnings melodic vocal aplomb, countering Dingman's slicing, echoing chords and Hill's
snare-heavy backbeat. Even on a collection of nascent demos (corralled
on a 10" record, In the Marshes) For Against's formula was deliriously intoxicating and advanced...not to mention a curious one at that given their deep-red state locale of Nebraska where they must have stuck out conspicuously.
The '90s saw the departure of Dingman and Hill for other endeavors, but thankfully, a revamped incarnation of For Against materialized, and from a creative standpoint thrived exponentially. Runnings not only retained his singer status but abandoned bass for a six string. And instead of bringing aboard a full time bassist he opted for a new lead guitarist in the guise of Steven Hinrichs, whose former jangle pop contingent, the Gladstones I've featured previously on this site. So, no bassist it was for F/A mach II, but new drummer Paul Engalhard filled in Greg Hill's stead capably. The renovated trio arrived with a new album, Aperture, and a veritably different modus operandi to accompany it. 1991's Aperture alongside it's Clinton-era follow-ups, Mason's California Lunchroom and Shelf Life have been lovingly reissued as a lavish vinyl box set on Saint Marie Records. They're also available separately on wax and CD, and even a modest CD bundle.
The new and arguably improved For Against bore plenty of resemblances to the template Runnings established in the 1980s. But the new lineup brought some attendant and demonstrable developments. First and foremost the stilted and often rigid demeanor that prevailed on Echelons and December had been relaxed considerably by the time Aperture was rolled out. Thematically, F/A were still mightily downcast, but an empathetic steak was emerging, and the abstract and existentialist concerns of before were diminished in favor of romantic 'grievances,' for lack of a better word. You see, despite Aperture's malcontent-driven agenda, the band's sonic motifs, including Runnings' unflappably chill parlance are enough to make you oblivious to all the inherent tension. No assailing shards of power chords this time around, rather ethereal, chiming leads akin to the Cocteau Twins (sans the extraneous dream-pop gauze). This album is a utopian merger of progressive, forward-thinking indie pop with an irresistibly palatable exterior. Nonetheless, Aperture is still one bitter mofo of a record, with sentiments like "Do you think the worst of me, I'm thinking the worst of you" (from "Don't Do Any Favors") exuding a healthy dose of righteously indignant schadenfreude. Perhaps not the epitome of For Against, standout cuts like "You Only Love Twice" and "Nightmare Life" just might make you opine that Aperture is just that.
Whether you're a casual For Against-er or are devoutly For Against (like moi), it would be hard to argue that the afore-critiqued Aperture and it's two subsequent follow-ups, Mason's California Lunch Room and Shelf Life weren't trimmed from the same sackcloth. Not only were all three constructed by the same lineup (Runnings/Hinrichs/Engalhard) they shared a very similar aesthetic. In fact, the most accurate way of differentiating this trio of albums is by their gradations of melancholy. Thoroughly oblivious to the seismic grunge/alt rock reverberations of the era, F/A's 1995 entry, Mason's... curtails Aperture's cathartic tensions ever so mildly. Hinrich's unremittingly clangy guitar fills woo with sweet jangly persuasion, plied with Runnings sharp melodic chops, which seem to heighten with every successive F/A record. "Seesick," "Tagalong" and "Coursing" swell with ambivalent to downright regretful themes, but amidst these forlorn ruminations resides a musical formula so absorbing and heady, that any overarching pessimism invariably stops short of overpowering the songs themselves.
'97's Shelf Life caps this near-perfect trifecta, and while it thankfully does little to alter the band's established formula there's at least a modicum of yin and yang at play. "Lost" offers such quintessential one-liners as, "Doing what I do best/going nowhere," fully in keeping with F/A's downer ethos. And while that tune has plenty of company on Shelf Life, it's countered by the comparatively buoyant and dare I say optimistic opener "Shadow." What's more, the band covers their then-contemporaries East River Pipe's downright sprite "Times Square Go-Go Boy," making for a refreshing change of pace. Virtually anywhere the needle lands here yields a hook-fest that's impossible to dodge. Yes, you can say that about virtually hundreds of For Against's peers (past or present) but this remarkably consistent and gratifying marvel from the Cornhusker state bore an indigenous stripe so vibrant these records haven't lost an iota of their potency or relevancy in the ensuing decades.
As mentioned all three titles are available separately or as a vinyl box set/CD bundle straight from Saint Marie Records. Digital options are available at your fingertips via Amazon, iTunes and Spotify.
I'll cut to the chase. This is a damn uneven record...but I don't think it was intended as such. Maybe it's because these Rochester, NY suburbanites never really stayed on the same page from one song to the next. The Howl's overarching shtick can accurately be deemed noir alt-rock, but there's too much fluidity amidst A Handshake and a Kiss that even a broad parameter such as that doesn't always conveniently apply. Credited as a duo on the album jacket (though sounding suspiciously more like a quartet) you might say the Howl were about as "goth" as Gene Loves Jezebel. In fact, you'll pick up on some vague Gene-esque angularities on "Disconnect" and "Give Your Heart to Me." The real keeper on Handshake is undoubtedly "Red on Red," an appealing, mid tempo post-punk salvo with a discernible hook and guitar-work recalling vintage Comsat Angels. And whaddaya know, the Howl are even generous enough to give us six minutes of this primo piece. I can't always speak highly of the remainder of the record, which houses some real oddities like "Abduction," that commences with boilerplate blues guitar licks before abruptly segueing into an unlikely hardcore punk throwdown. Anyway, eight cuts total and you might say each one has it's own flavor. Find out which one(s) are right for you.
02. A Handshake and a Kiss
03. Marble Walls
05. Red is Red
06. I Love - You Hate
07. Give Your Heart to Me
08. Judgement Day
Not to be confused with another similarly named down under band, Reptiles at Dawn, Sydney's Decline of the Reptiles hurled a couple lawn darts at the proverbial musical map, and decided to decamp in environs not far removed from the likes of the Birthday Party and Lime Spiders, at least for a good chunk of The Hammer Speaks ep. The wailin' and hepped up "Peel Out" is a sassy slice of unadulterated rockabilly, that's no doubt the most raucous thing this record has to offer. Nonetheless, my song of choice of here is the rather anomalous, "Time Stand Still," a near-five minute pop nugget filled out with that ringing guitar stuff I’m such a
sucker for. The remainder of the ep dabbles in some garagey, organ driven forays that are as well suited to the Decline's acumen as any other motif that comes to mind.