Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A brief review - Chip & Tony Kinman - Sounds Like Music (2019, Omnivore)

If the monikers Chip Kinman and his brother Tony Kinman don't instantaneously flood your memory bank that wouldn't come as a shock (to me anyway).  Perhaps the names of some of their musical projects of yore would ring a bell, specifically The Dils, Rank and File, and Blackbird.  The Kinman brothers (including the sadly and recently departed Tony) were the driving force behind all three combos, not to mention an even lesser-known fourth, Cowboy Nation.  You'd think that a newly minted,  22-song compilation spanning the Kinman's quadruple-decade career would offer a comprehensive overview of their handiwork - and you'd be right...sort of.  Omnivore Record's Sounds Like Music is indeed a compendium of the duo in question, though it does not highlight "hits" (there weren't any) or career milestones (quite a few in fact), rather the emphasis is entirely on outtakes, demos, and unreleased curios.

Splitting vocal duties, Chip on guitar and Tony on the guitar with fewer strings cut their teeth in the late '70s in The Dils, an L.A. area punk trio who's minimalist and succinct approach yielded an equally scant discography, so brief (say eight songs) it might as well have fit inside a thimble.  Two singles and an EP was about the size of it to be exact, but despite the brevity of the Dils output they were responsible for bona fide nervy rants like, "Mr Big" and "I Hate the Rich," that have become nothing short of classics to punk connoisseurs.  In fact, the Dils cupboard was so damn lean, only one song by them is represented here, "Folks Say Go," a bouncy 1977 ditty, that's explores a slightly different wavelength than those aforementioned bratty and cutting 45s.

Their next endeavor, the Austin, TX-based Rank and File would become their most renown and commercially viable.  Operating almost solely on a roots/cowpunk continuum, Rank and File churned out three highly consistent albums in the '80s, all of which were infinitely more sophisticated than the Dils - then again that's not the most even comparison given the two groups divergent agendas.  Interestingly enough however, Rank and File began on a punk premise, not country.  Sounds Like Music enlightens us with two examples of the first-blush R&F sound few of us even knew existed via the band's theme song (of sorts), and the careening but melodious basher "Citizen."  Immensely revealing stuff and damn-near worth the price of admission alone.  Naturally, power chords and bratty ethos weren't what Rank and File would become renown for, so if you're looking to graze more familiar pastures, Sounds... offers four more rarities by the band in question in keeping with their twangier reputation.

If any of Chip and Tony's affiliated projects dominates this compilation, it's Blackbird, who check in with thirteen accredited numbers.  Typically, Blackbird was the most non-descript of their ventures, and in some respects left the smallest legacy - despite enjoying a brief tenure on a major label in the early '90s.  This post-Rank and File operation eschewed the bulk of the Dils/R&F's warmer, analog hues placing the emphasis on keyboards...and an omnipresent drum machine that grated on my nerves, particularly when absorbed in heavy doses.  Top this off with intermittently contrived vocals and an overarching tenor that bordered on impersonal, and voila, Blackbird comes swooping down for an oblique landing.  Nonetheless, there are melodic constructs tucked inside this band's lightweight industrial drone (check out the poignant "Old Paint"). "Dope," which tangentially channels the Doors "Twentieth Century Fox," is another minor saving grace, but the sheer amount of material presented by this idiosyncratic foray has a tendency to clash with the more earnest offerings by the Dils, Rank and File, and finally...

Cowboy Nation, who had the distinction of being the only Kinman studio entity (that we know of) to record music in the current millennium.  Three albums to be exact, all very much under the radar, skewing considerably closer to Rank and File's penchant, but with more of a traditional country flavor.  Then again, "traditional" wasn't exactly a watchword for the Kinman clanTwo C/N songs made the cut for Sounds..., an alternate take of the galloping, bilingual "Paniolo," and another swift hoedown, "Rebel," a deep cut fleshed out with equally deep vocals.  Going into this album, I had no familiarity with Cowboy Nation, but I'm compelled to dig deeper.

Despite this being the only release on the market to span the arc of Chip and Tony Kinman's entire career, I should note again that it's not a best of or anthology, rather an outtakes compendium.  In essence, Sounds Like Music is geared towards existing clientele, but it's bound to parallel as a jumping off point for listeners who are brand new to the duo.  To newbies, I'd also recommend you invest in the Dils' Dils Dils Dils compilation on Bacchus Archives, as well as the debut Rank and File LP, Sundown, not only for a primer, but as examples of what the Kinman's were capable of both in and beyond the punk realms they abundantly contributed to for so many years.  Sounds Like Music is available straight from Omnivore or Amazon.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Pull me out, save me from the voices in my head...

From 2018.  Since this came out almost a year ago, I don't think a week has gone by when I haven't had the urge to listen to it.

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


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Those XCleavers - First Album/The Waiting Game (1982-84)

Not unlike the Another Carnival post from a couple nights ago, here's more Wisconsinite rock o' the '80s spiffyness for ya'll.  Those XCleavers were from the Milwaukee side of the tracks, and from what I've been able to gather they didn't make huge inroads elsewhere, save for some airplay in the Midwest.  This foursome were hardly hipster snobs, opting for risqué AOR rock with some occasional reggae flavorings.  Their self-titled bow from 1982 isn't terribly remarkable, but still a fun listen, a la what the Greg Kihn Band was peddling at the time.  The band's 1984 follow-up, The Waiting Game was an overall improvement, boasting considerable new wave definition, even better songwriting, not to mention stronger hooks.  I'm not sure if they had any videos to their credit, but given their wily sense of humor, the XCleavers would have slotted in perfectly on the then-burgeoning MTV in the Reagan era.  There's two full albums (and then some) for you to feast on below, so have at it.

  s/t (1982)
  01. Smooth, Wild & Dirty
  02. Butt I Will
  03. 18 (Unprotected)
  04. Suzie La Bruzie
  05. Facts of Life
  06. Nocturn Dub
  07. White Reggae
  08. Trying To Have Fun
  09. Skip A Beat
  10. Klubb Talk
  11. No Brain Needed
  12. Mondo Commando
  13. What's In Style
  14. Reprise

  The Waiting Game (1984)
  15. In God We Trust
  16. Right Right Girl
  17. Nobody But You
  18. The Waiting Game
  19. Some One In My Dreams
  20. Duplicator
  21. Silence The Critics
  22. Quicksand
  23. Riot
  24. Take A Hint
  25. People

  26. Little Drummer Boy
  27. Nice Legs
  28. Confusion (Do The)


Friday, July 26, 2019

Another Carnival - Seven Lines (1988, Janet Marie)

Another Carnival were the assumed pride and joy of Eau Claire, WI, circa the late '80s - early '90s.  And not a bad flagship band at that for a town of about 60,000 to boast, given Carnival's penchant for meat 'n potatoes jangle pop that seemed all too fitting for their midwest locale. Nervy guitar salvos illuminate "How to Find It" and the roiling "The Big Mistake," but this quartet was even more effective when sticking to breezier guitar pop motifs like "Stay" and "She Says it's Real."  Seven Lines entails a few clunkers (e.g. "Over Our Houses") but nothing egregious enough to weigh down it's overarching strengths. In short, a satisfying listen.  Two more Carnival albums would follow.

01. All Away
02. The Big Mistake
03. Hand Across the Heart
04. How to Find It
05. Banners Like Sirens
06. No Surprises
07. Stay
08. She Says it's Real
09. Seven Lines
10. Over Our Houses
11. Who Cares


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Blow up the house that owns you.

An EP and full length from 1983 and '85 respectively from a band I haven't brought up in quite some time. 

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


Friday, July 19, 2019

Monkey 101 - A tale of two 7"s (1990-92)

I find myself writing once again about a band I have scant knowledge on, but from my limited purview Monkey 101 qualified as one of the great "what-could-have beens" in indie rock - specifically had they stuck around beyond this pair of all-too-brief records.  M101's base of operations was Philly, but from a creative standpoint they paralleled the concurrent scene a few hundred miles due west in Ohio...though that's very much likely a coincidence. Still, these guys would have fit in splendidly with the Buckeye State's subterranean vanguard like Gaunt, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments and Prisonshake.  M101's lo-fi aptitude was likely the product of budget constraints and not so much hipster viability.  So be it, because their serrated, sassy and occasionally cantankerous moxie was a winning formula a good 75% of the time, culminating in such pearls as "French Feelings" and "Burgundy Wine." Inherent to their brand of distorto-laden dissonance, Arno's scuzzy guitars have a tendency to carry more of a tune than Paul K and Bob Turri's vocals.  More dichotomy, more fun.  Quite simply, they don't really make 'em like these anymore kids. 

Per their facebook page (linked above) they still gig occasionally, and additional audio exists over on Bandcamp.  Also, our colleagues at One Base on an Overthrow had a few things to say about their "French Feelings" single.

French Feelings 7" (1990, Siltbreeze)
A. French Feelings
B. Now That You Have Left Me

Transitor 7" ep (1992, Papa Popov)
01. Transistor
02. The Method of my Machinery
03. Kentucky Woman
04. The Man Who Sells His Votes
05. Burgundy Wine


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Melinite - Push the Button and Run! (1983, Noose)

Melinite was the brainchild of a Canadian gentleman who evidently went on a last name-basis only, MacDonald, who was backed up by no less than a dozen players according to the credits (obviously not all twelve simultaneously).  Side one of Push the Button... sports some defiantly punk salvos via the urgent "Who Needs Foreplay?" and "Waiting 4-U," angling in the vicinity of the Heartbreakers and The Dolls, sans the glammy posturing.  The ambitious "My Anna of Discretion" offers a more up to date modus operandi with poignant melody and classy playing a la Tom Verlaine.  Probably this record's most convincing moment among several.  The remainder of Push... isn't as focused, albeit artful, concluding with two strikingly quieter numbers, most notably "For Now" an insular, downer piano ballad reminding me of the stuff Epic Soundtracks churned out on those solo albums of his.  All in all a unique and sometimes head-scratching record.

01. Who Needs Foreplay?
02. When You Turn Again
03. My Anna of Discretion
04. Waiting 4-U
05. Trouble in Sector 17
06. Another Attempt
07. Seasoning
08. A Daydream Dilemma
09. For Now


Sunday, July 14, 2019

She carries my confusion in the pocket of her jeans.

Thirtieth anniversary of this one, and quite likely the finest thing these guys ever came up with. 

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


The Passions - Amersfoort, NL 7.14.81

I haven't spoken much about The Passions, a UK post-punk act, who barely made a blip in the States, say for their signature song "I'm in Love With a German Film Star" appearing on many "lost '80s" type compilations.  The co-ed quartet was highlighted by vocalist Barbara Gogan and axe-wielder Cliver Timperley whose chiming, echo-ing guitar lines went a long way in coloring the Passions often austere disposition.  Deep, introspective, cool, and just accessible enough for a small but dedicated clutch of fans.  Three albums ensued between 1980-82, the most renown being '81's Thirty Thousand Feet Over China.  This FM broadcast concert was in support of that record and captures The Passions as their most persuasive peek.  It features the aforementioned "German Film Star," alongside the equally convincing "Into Night," "Runaway," and the particularly winsome "The Swimmer," which unfortunately cuts midway on this recording. 

Barbara Gogan continues to perform occasionally in Europe.  More info on the Passions can be had at their Wiki page.

01. I Radiate 
02. Bachelor Girls  
03. Oh No, It's You  
04. Don't Talk To Me (I'm Shy)  
05. Someone Special  
06. War Song  
07. Into Night  
08. Snow      
09. Alice's Song  
10. The Square  
11. Skin Deep  
12. I'm In Love With A German Film Star  
13. Run Away  
14. The Swimmer

MP3  or  FLAC

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Closedown - 1993 demo

The title of the first track says it all.  Heavy-handed practitioners at that, alas there's nil I can inform you of regarding Closedown's background details, even as basic as where they called home.  Named after a Cure tune, but more in league with early Slowdive (and surprisingly, not even so much My Bloody Valentine) this was a defiantly noisesome lot whose amped-out histrionics must have had a concussive impact on their audience back in the day.  Case in point is the bracingly dense "Monolith," so overpowering it virtually mimics the sensation of ascending in an airplane.  Things chill-out as this tape progresses, with the instrumental "Sundown" emanating a soothing comedown of sorts...or I suppose in this case, a "closedown."

01. Shoegazer
02. Monolyth
03. Amber
04. Vitrescence
05. See Me Fade
06. Infinite
07. Sundown


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Pay dirt is big trouble, yes sir...

From 1983/84.  This one's kind of a basic, but well beyond crucial in my book.

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


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Matt Finish - Fade Away ep (1981)

On Fade Away, Matt Finish (a band, not a solo act) sound as if they were straining to break out of Sydney, Australia's underground, but in fact the brunt of their career was spent on major labels.  Following up a pair of singles in 1980, their Fade Away ep bristled with post-punk urgency and boasted ringing, hard-strummed guitar chops that were equal parts rivetingly melodic and forward thinking.  The record's centerpiece is clearly it's seven-minute title cut.  Not the least bit "prog" or ponderous, it manages to mine a single riff to maximum extent and miraculously, never gets tiring.  The remainder of the ep, consisting of comparatively briefer songs, features more of Richard Grossman's irrepressibly chiming, but aggressive chord wrangling, and is largely a delight from beginning to end.  Fade Away was followed up the same year with the group's debut full length, Short Note.
Frontman Matt Moffitt died unexpectadly in 2003.  Matt Finish reconvened in 2006, featuring a revamped lineup of course.  A thorough bio of the band can be perused over at their Wiki site.

01. Introductions
02. Fade Away
03. It's On My Way
04. Eat Your Lips Off
05. Calls


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Tirez Tirez - Etudes (1980, Object)

My post of Tirez Tirez's '87 platter Social Responsibility probably flew under the radar for most of you.  Being that it wasn't the most revelatory album to see the light of day that year I suppose that's understandable, but it did have it's moments.  Etudes, it's precursor by a good seven years is cut from inconsistent cloth as well, but it's choicer cuts are damn-near remarkable, beginning with "Razorblade."

A pesky write-up in the Trouser Press Record Guide has embedded the notion in me that Tirez foreman Mikel Rouse took his cues from David Byrne and ran with 'em, but"Razorblade's" delicately clanging chords and mid-paced tempo exudes a catchy, minimalist allure that the Talking Heads rarely elicited so subtly.  Elsewhere, Etudes isn't routinely immediate in sparking such visceral reactions, though you don't have to dig too deep to excavate some of Rouse's more convincing ideas, which happen to reside on side one.  "Hair" is a particular anomaly, flirting with a traditional rock-ballad setup before settling into the more artful dabblings Tirez were known for.  The problem with so much of Etudes resides in it's patently repetitive rhythms, which might make sense in two or three minute doses but Rouse insists on treading water for double that length in most instances.  Nevertheless, I'll take magic where and when I can find it, and "Razorblade" and this album's other intermittent surges of inspiration are worth revisiting.

01. Radiation Dance
02. Razorblade
03. A Summary
04. World War
05. Hair
06. I'll Be That
07. West Led The Diamond King
08. Strike
09. Vowels
10. Observation