I really, really tried to get into To Damascus' 1987 platter Come to Your Senses ages ago, but it just wasn't meant to happen. Thankfully, their preceding 45 was a different story. This coed L.A. contingent was helmed by one Sylvia Juncosa, and per Wiki, her tenure with the band went something like this:
experienced numerous personnel changes over the next three years. They recorded a single at Radio Tokyo studio with producer Ethan James,
where the majority of Juncosa's releases would later be recorded. For a
very brief period in 1985, she was the guitar player in The Healing
Dream, which soon afterward became The Nymphs.When David Winogrond and Tyra von Pagenhardt joined in 1985, To Damascus finally had a more stable line-up and began a busy, productive period that would exemplify Juncosa's high-activity work style during those years. The band completed and released its first album, Succumb,
which Juncosa had started earlier with former Leaving Trains members
Jason Kahn and Tom Hofer filling in on drums and bass, respectively. Shortly afterward, they recorded a second album, Come to Your Senses, distributed by Restless Records, and embarked on a shoestring-budget US tour.
To Damascus broke up on friendly terms in 1988 when Winogrond and
von Pagenhardt were unable to commit to the touring musician life that
Juncosa intended to embark upon. In 1986, Juncosa also joined the SST Records band SWA, which featured bassist Chuck Dukowski, former Black Flag member and co-founder of the SST record label.
An interesting SST connection BTW, Winogrond and Pagenhardt weren't in the lineup yet for this single. Instead we're treated to Bill Lee on bass and Troy Anthony on skins. "Another Place, Another Time" is an edgy, urgent ass-kicker if there ever was one with smart, post-punk tendencies for miles, leading me to wonder if T/D had any other tunes in their arsenal of this caliber. The flip, "On a Pier," isn't one of them I'm afraid, wielding a rhythm that's more in line with a Bavarian oompah band.
If only music like this was still being made. Heck, it likely is and I'm probably just unaware of it, but I digress. Actuel were a Nashville combo who if anything else boasted a mild Anglophile bent. If they sounded like anything from the American south, a certain foursome who called Athens, GA home might be a vague comparison, but while Actuel's chimey instincts slotted them into the collegiate rock realm, it sounds like these chaps had more fun getting their post-punk jones on, as it were. Even on Monument's livelier, more melodic traipses (the bookends "You and I" and "Until Another Time," not to mention the thoroughly visceral "Just Imagine") Actuel's agile prowess and textured nuances (including but not limited to subtle fretless bass lines) lend a certain mystique to their music that just about 99.99% of their contemporaries couldn't hold a candle to. A slightly inconsistent platter, Monuments nonetheless bequeaths some invaluable moments of sheer charm and magic. There's more available on the band's Soundcloud corner of the web. Special thanks go to the now-defunct Feelin' Kinda Froggy blog for making these files available way back when.
Sorry I didn't get much in the way of new music to you last week. Hope this makes up for it. The DUSTdevils were a stunning bygone act I don't think I've covered here before. Formulated in the UK by a duo of Michael Duane and Jaqi Dulany, but later immigrating to New York, the 'devils were responsible for this austere slice of post-punk, three more albums and just as many eps. From what I've absorbed so far by them Rhenyards Grin is what I appreciate the most. It's a no-stumble, ten song concoction of noir, minor key aesthetics, droney albeit tuneful guitar runs, and Dulany's quasi-melodic parlance that's a perfect match for her noisome compatriots. Think early Siouxsie meets Band of Susans. Looking forward to excavating the remainder of their back catalog.
02. Life Guarder
03. The Lost Divide
04. Hardraugh Forces
05. Mouthful of Stars
06. Dirt of Days
07. In It's Own Light
09. Another Hit
10. Real Hate Work
Two weeks and some change ago the world at large learned of the unexpected passing of Muffs front-woman, and latter-era Pandoras fixture Kim Shattuck, who succumbed to a private battle with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - aka Lou Gehrig's disease). Like a lot of performers I followed, I never bothered to keep tabs on her, and quite frankly took her for granted. Still, the news was profoundly troubling to me, and in that first week of absorbing the full gravity of events there were more than a few occasions when I found myself blinking back tears. How could such a firecracker of a vocalist/guitar slinger, and oft described "force of nature" be taken down by such a cruel, debilitating affliction? Hereditary for starters, as the same disease claimed the life of her father previously. Her diagnosis came in the spring of 2017 when she started having issues with her wrist, per a recent piece published in the LA Times penned by Kim's longtime bandmate, Muffs drummer Roy McDonald. To date, no cure for ALS exists, and treatment is modest at best. Upon learning her fate, I'm certain Kim had myriad goals in mind, but there's only two I can say for certain. First and foremost to keep the news of her diagnosis within her inner-most circle, and secondly, to bring to fruition a seventh Muffs LP that had already been in the preliminary stages.
The LA Times article I linked loosely delves into the mechanics of how No Holiday was recorded/produced. Clocking in at eighteen songs and about 43 minutes (a record on both fronts for the band) much of Kim's basic vocal and guitar tracks were fortunately cut prior to her diagnosis. This was crucial for several reasons, not the least of which her singing/speaking capabilities that were soon to diminish in light of her rapidly progressing ALS.
While not a thing of the past, the Muffs raucous and bratty punk-pop fervor was gradually giving way to a subtler sonic palette and in fact, a good half of the songs here were notably based around Kim's original acoustic takes. The title cut, "A Lovely Day Boo Hoo," and "Insane" take root from this spartan, unplugged framework, but she's soon joined by McDonald and bassist Ronnie Barnett who appropriately fill in the quiet space. Add-on guitarist Adam Schary helps flesh Holiday out on no less than ten songs, and even Kim's sister Kristen contributes backing vocals to "Earth Below," a fuzzy pop nugget not far removed from the Breeders. There are a handful of more traditional Muffs power-chord gut punches in the guise of "Pollyanna" and the Nirvana-y "Down Down Down," not to mention rich, hook-laden salvos like "Sick of This Old World" and "On My Own." The record's unusual genesis and relatively diverse composite results in a mildly crooked patchwork of tunes. And with a dozen and a half of them to be exact, there's plenty to chew on. I'm apt to think of No Holiday as The Muffs New Adventures in Hi-Fi, yet you'll find a uniquely Muffs-ian thread emanating through every sweet and tarty morsel.
If all of this hardly sounds like business as usual for The Muffs, you're right on the money. Yet even though the finished version of No Holiday may not have exactly been what they intended when circumstances were normal in early '17, the personal tumult Kim was enduring barely spilled into the record. The very closest I can speculate where there's any overshadowing is within a line in "Late and Sorry" - I don't know what to do, I'm clearly ill. Ironically the lyric (as well as the song outright) is not delivered with an iota of self-pity or despondency leading me to wonder if she's referring to her condition at all. Holiday concludes with Kim's strikingly lo-fi acoustic soliloquy, "Sky," that perhaps wasn't intended to be a tearjerker, but could understandably be interpreted as such given recent events. As a friend once reminded me when I was grieving a family member, sentiments that make you cry when you're mourning someone will eventually make you smile.
I really had fun with the two Trilobites offerings I've thrown your way previously, namely the live document Turn it Around and an even more enticing follow-up ep, I Can't Wait For Summer to End. These thoroughly unsung melodic punkers may have never made it onto my radar were it not for late '80s college radio, and I'm forever grateful for that. American TV isn't a proper album, but could pass for one. Instead it gathers four crucial and indelibly effective singles that play to every strength the Trilobites could muster. When I commented on them previously I no doubt raised comparisons to the Godfathers, which I really thought were warranted, especially on the heels of the ...Summer to End ep. American TV, on the other hand broadcasts transmissions from an earlier phase of the group when they were brandishing a more straightforward ethos, one that yielded swift and steady slammers like "Venus in Leather," "Amphetamine Dream," and "Jenny's Wake." Like Aussie brethren Hoodoo Gurus, the 'bites bore an uncanny sardonic edge, albeit with a beefier sonic wallop. They never made inroads in the States, and I just hope they made a dent on their own home turf, because in their prime these lads absolutely smoked.
01. Night of the Many Deaths
02. Venus in Leather
03. I Can See
04. Legacy of Morons
05. Dress in Black (live)
06. American TV
07. Jenny's Wake
08. Amphetamine Dream
09. Living by a Different Yardstick
10. Piece of Shit (live)
I was shocked and saddened as anyone last week to learn about the passing of Kim Shattuck, the embodiment of The Muffs, the band she fronted for roughly thirty years, not to mention her stint in The Pandoras. She kept her diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) a secret to the public at large for the past two years, even releasing a record with a new band, The Coolies just three months ago, and even had a hand in a recent Pandoras reunion ep. In short, most fans, including myself just didn't see this coming. Then again, I hardly kept tabs on her, even as big of a Muffs devotee as I was. I plan on doing a feature on the Muffs proper in a couple of weeks, and will postpone most of my eulogizing until then. The truth is though, I've had a non-stop loop of Shattuck's musical body of work in my head for the past half a week, including her work with White Flag.
I've posted on White Flag before, for the benefit of you who could use a crash course, here's a quick backgrounder I provided in tandem with the band's Thru the Trash Darkly compilation I shared several years back:
Formed in 1982 as a
parody, just as much as an afterthought of the Los Angeles punk scene
that had recently burned itself out, White Flag were to a certain extent
the punk equivalent of the Ruttles. And like the Ruttles, White Flag
were actually quite adept at what they did. Their early singles and
albums, like Third Strike and WFO play like quintessential
artifacts of their era, providing the perfect soundtrack for the
nascent So-Cali skateboard scene at the time. I don't think White Flag
were necessarily trying to appeal to "the kids," and from my
vantage point they didn't. It took more seasoned ears (and eyes) to
appreciate White Flag's parodied album sleeves, aliases such as Pat Fear and Jello B. Afro,
choice cover tunes, and of course the band's patented tongue-in-cheek
sensibilities, that were if not outright funny, at least attention
One thing I left out above, White Flag's frontman Bill Bartell was the band's only constant member. According to the bio that accompanied Thru the Trash... Shattuck didn't enter Flag's orbit until the late '80s, but realistically, it could be later than that as she didn't appear on any of their records until the "Don't Give It Away" 7" in 1991. White Flag carried on in some guise up until Bartell's 2013 death, but by and large, people stopped paying attention to the band after Kim pursued the Muffs full time in 1993 when they dropped their rather monumental debut for Warner Bros.
What I'm sharing below is a collection of WF songs Kim Shattuck appeared on, some of which feature her as the primary mouthpiece. I wouldn't say any of them represent the pinnacle of her career or even her abilities, and in fact, many are covers. By the time she entered the fray, WF diverged from hardcore punk considerably, and whether her inclusion in the lineup was part and parcel of the band's (slightly) more conventional shift is something of an unknown. "Don't Give it Away," one of the only songs co-written by Shattuck during her tenure is an up-tempo power pop number decked out with a jangly Rickenbacker enhanced lead. It's comparatively modest stacked up against anything in the Muff oeuvre, not to mention White Flag's blistering throwdowns. And then there's the covers including a straightforward reading of "White Rabbit" and some not-so-obvious Bangles tunes - "Call On Me" (actually written/recorded when the Bangles were still operating as The Bangs) and a brisk take of "In a Different Light." And while not front and center on the Kinks "I Need You" and Jam's incendiary "In the City." Kim's presence on backup vocals still lends a lot to the proceedings. Ditto for several other songs I didn't have time to critique, but you'll figure that out. Enjoy. BTW, most of these tracks weren't my own rips, so a profound thank you is in order to whomever went to all of the effort to prep this collection. 01. Don't Give it Away 02. Out in the Streets 03. White Rabbit 04. In the City 05. Call On Me 06. I Need You 07. In a Different Light 08. Grace Me 09. I Fell Fine 10. Over Now 1 & 2 - Sympathy for the Record Industry 7" (1992) 3 - Sympathy From the Record Industry 7" (1993) 4 - Thru the Trash Darkly LP (1993, Munster) 5 & 6 - 3rd Sun Mower ep (1993, Munster) 7 - White Flag & Dave Nazworthy 7" (1991, Sycophant) 8 - Ruff Stuff 7" comp, (Demolition, 1993) 9 & 10 - Thirteen Years of Losing Money comp (Gasatanka, 1994) https://www26.zippyshare.com/v/TzYgYb8H/file.html
Well, the internet didn't have much to tell me about Giddy'Up Einstein, and I have a hunch I won't be able to do much better, but here goes. The band consisted of just two full-time members, Mark Cult and Anthony Scott, and after gleaning all the credits on the back cover, it's safe to assume they called San Francisco home. Speaking of the album jacket (not to mention their cheeky moniker) this wasn't a duo that always took themselves too seriously - though they do seem to address concerns over firearms and violence on "This One's a Gun." E=MC2 + Guitar's finest moment is a no-brainer, the second cut in, "Wasteland," a savvy, extra melodious stab at power-pop that sounds like something Translator or the Red Rockers might have envisioned had they loosened their collars a tad. The record's less engaging moments are worth sticking around too, though "Eurotrash's" abundant 80s-isms grate on me. The final piece, "This Gun's For You" is a remix of "This One's a Gun."
01. This Gun's For You
05. This Gun's For You (Swamp mix)