Sorry I haven't set you up with much in the way of fresh sounds this week, but hopefully this compensate. In fact, I was thinking about saving this for one of my Chanukah presentations, but why not pull the trigger early? 11th Hour were a Pittsburgh combo who may have disbanded as long as three decades ago (though I uncovered evidence of a 2018 reunion gig). The band's straight-up power pop modus operandi possessed a strong jangly bent, but the Shawn Harrison-fronted quartet were flexible enough to spill over into ballsier garage punk on "I'm Comin' Down," gravitating in the vicinity of locals The Cynics, and less obviously the Lime Spiders. They even dabble briefly on the psych side of the fence on the fleeting "Garden of Sleep," but 11th Hour's penchant for lingering in more conventional guitar pop environs yields at least half a dozen startlingly great tunes on Shapes and Things to Come including "There's No Danger," "Can't Get Through to You," "Go to the Edge" and "Pictures In My Room." Shapes and Things to Come concludes on a fitting note with a wailin' reading of the Eddie and the Hotrods classic, "Do Anything You Wanna Do." BTW, Huw Gower of The Records has a co-production role on several tracks!
In addition to Shapes... proper, the CD incarnation appends the just as valuable Alder St EP, initially released as a double 45 in 1987. Bearing an even rawer aplomb, it hones in on 11th Hour when they were fully ensconced in sweet, ringing guitars, wielding even more delirious and devastating hooks. This is stuff of immensely grand proportions, and you need to make your belated acquaintance with these guys NOW.
01. Release You
02. Can't Get Through To You
03. The Changing Of The Guard
05. I'm Comin' Down
06. Live Your Life Again
07. Go to the Edge
08. Garden of Sleep
09. Don't Sell Me
10. Under the Fire
11. There's No Danger
12. Pictures In My Room
13. Do Anything You Wanna Do
Alder St. ep (1987)
14. The Seasons
15. She Goes Away
16. There's No Danger
17. Can't Wait Another Day
18. The Bells of St. Mary
19. Find Some Meaning
Way back in 2011 when I addressed Timco'sFriction Tape LP, I mentioned a collection of their singles would be forthcoming. Well, a full nine years later the forth has belatedly come. Since this is a band that hasn't been active in roughly a quarter century I can't enlighten you much more than I already have. Nonetheless here are the basics. The fulcrum of Timco were two alumni from one of a really choice, not to mention noisome indie rock troupe from the '80s I've oft featured on these pages, Nice Strong Arm. Kevin Thompson parlayed his frontman role in NSA to Timco, and also brought along Ethel M. Deathel from his old group. Timco eschew much of NSA's wailing maelstroms, instead reveling in emotive, and sometimes highly dynamic downer rock bristling with texture and sobering resignations. If that description strikes you as a bit of an oversimplification, maybe it is, and while it may apply to their albums, the aforementioned Friction Tape and 1996's Gentleman Jim, Timco's first blush of short-for
m releases reveal a more varied story.
Birds, Bees & Cherries, a double 7" ep delivers a quartet of four-track demos cut by Thompson in '91. The commencing "Dragg Dabb" is the most engaging, anchored by a low roar of melancholy vocals and a gradually escalating crescendo of layered post-punk fretwork. Sheer magic. "Water Sucks Bugs" is even rawer and more amped-out and just about the closest Timco ever came to stretching back to Nice Strong Arm's sonic posture. The two songs occupying the second 45 are more subdued - not to mention a bit sardonic, proving Thompson possesses something resembling a sense of humor, idiosyncratic as it may be.
Another single, The Hotel Radio surfaced about three years with two songs culled from a radio session on KPFK in Los Angeles. The A-side, "Gone" is relatively spare but effective thanks to a devastatingly powerful vocal hook. This song would reside comfortably next to work of Timco contemporaries Seam and Versus. The flip, "Louisiana" is a ballad of dark proportions, although Thompson's dialogue leading into sounds a tad disingenuous.
The final single, also from 1994, features two live tracks from the Friction Tape-era. Ironically, Friction... itself was cut live in studio, and it's almost impossible to tell these singler versions apart from the album. The angsty "Walking Papers" is the epitome of what Timco were all about, while"Screw You" is an insular kiss-off if there ever was such a thing. Enjoy (or not)
I keep finding great unsung Austin, TX bands from a good 30+ years ago and though I don't know much about Ring Theatre's collective bona fides, I'm happy to report they're well above average. Not resembling or mimicking anyone in particular, the quartet's serrated guitar pop dabbles in lightweight punk chords on the feisty opener "Mrs. Ann" and "Second's Romance." Elsewhere the going never gets too middle-of-the-road thanks to RT's organic power pop angles and humble garage tendencies. In fact, this platter isn't far
removed from such other cold cases I've dispensed to you over the years by Public Bulletin and Signal Thirty, arcane as those references may be. This appeared to be Ring Theatre's one and only vinyl offering. If anyone in the audience has more details don't be a stranger.
01. Mrs. Ann
03. Second's Romance
04. Kill Yourself
05. Remember May
If Minor Alps haven't made it onto your radar by now, it's safe to say it's going to remain that way, as the duo of Matthew Caws (Nada Surf) and Juliana Hatfield (Blake Babies) haven't been particularly active since their debut 2013 LP, Get There. The collaboration seemed to be a one-off, as there was never a follow-up, but it's two participants did some touring behind the album, including a handful of dates in Europe. The April 2014 gig in Köln, Germany that I'm sharing today is an acoustic performance, and while not necessarily exciting or even climactic, it's a treat if you're an established fan of either Hatfield or Caws (in my case both). If not an out-and-out revelation, I thought Get There really played gracefully to the more austere, melancholic strengths of both of them without delving into anything heady or dramatic. This show, largely derived from songs from that album, follows suit with some poignant examples of this ethos like "I Don't Know What to Do With My Hands" and "Far From the Roses." As you might expect, given Hatfield and Caws' deep song catalogs outside of Minor Alps these are dipped into as well, albeit some of their more obvious signature titles are passed over in favor of less familiar ones. No complaints from my end there. Just a hint, track 21 is a cover...as if I had to tell you. Anyway, I'm making this whole shebang available in MP3 and FLAC below. Major thanks to whomever tracked this show and supplied pics/artwork.
01. I Wanna Take You Home 02. If I Wanted Trouble 03. Far From The Roses 04. Buried Plans 05. Candy Wrappers 06. 'taking three steps forward'/Bob Dylan banter 07. Wish You Were Upstairs 08. Live On Tomorrow 09. Maxon 10. Such A Beautiful Girl 11. Inside Of Love 12. Waiting For You 13. Out There 14. Beautiful Beat 15. Lonely Low 16. The Moon Is Calling 17. Airscape 18. I Don't Know What To Do With My Hands 19. Away Again 20. The Way You Wear Your Head 21. Bette Davis Eyes 22. Fruit Fly
This Liverpoolite brother act (Rob and Alan Fennah) had only negligible chart success in the mid-80s, despite bearing a smart yet accessible wave-pop sound that put them roughly in league with contemporaries The Korgis, Split Enz (and perhaps more coincidentally The Three O'clock). First Night is a cobbled-together compendium focusing on Alternative Radio's initial blush of (mostly) synthy singles, and offers delightful confections aplenty like the the title track and the yacht-rocky "Strangers in Love," alongside strummier forays "No Indispensable Man" and "Emotional Disaster." A couple of proper full lengths arrived belatedly in the mid-90s (and another in 2008), but these days the brothers are said to be scoring show tunes. Do check this one out.
01. First Night
02. Valley Of Evergreen (long version)
03. No Indispensable Man
04. Everybody Wants To Be Loved
05. Strangers in Love
06. Concertina Ballerina
08. Emotional Disaster
09. What a Dream
10. Summer 85
11. First Night (Long Version)
12. Strangers In Love (Long Version)
For an artist who arguably peaked on his first two albums, Marshall Crenshaw has remarkably not pumped out a subsequent steady stream of diminishing returns. That's no easy feat given the caliber of 1982's Marshall Crenshaw and the following year's Field Day which are revered by both guitar pop purists and early adopters of the gentleman in question. In fact, from a creative standpoint things never really went "south" so to speak for Crenshaw, rather just on divergent tangents. Nonetheless, some of his albums (roughly a dozen of 'em) fared better than the rest, and there are even ones I've modestly taken exception with (Life's Too Short anyone?).
If anything else, a good chunk of the man's catalog has been neglected, specifically a slew of albums he cut in the mid-90s through the 2000s that didn't bear a major label imprint. His seventh studio LP, Miracle of Science, circa 1996, was his maiden indie foray, and is now being released on vinyl for the first time, with a rejiggered song sequence and significantly refurbished sleeve art. And it's not a bad album to revisit at that, as it proved to be one of his loosest and varied affairs. Thing is, virtually every album Marshall Crenshaw brings to market feels like casual day at the office, with Miracle... being especially representative of this modus operandi. The commencing "What Do You Dream Of," with it's serendipitous flow of acoustics and electrics, is the kind of pop tune that would seem a miracle of musical science in the hands of any other singer/songwriter, but for M/C it emanates as naturally as putting on a pair of slippers. Another absolute stunner, "Starless Summer Sky," harkens back to the aesthetic of his breathtaking early records, brandishing a structure that smacks of the finest Field Day had to offer. "Laughter" and "A Wondrous Place" amble along on a considerably lackadaisical path, particularly the latter which features strings, marimba and some faint flamenco affectations.
Amidst the inspired originals on Miracle reside a pair of covers. A reading of Dobie Gray's 1964 oldie "The 'In" Crowd" isn't much of a revelation, but how about a Grant Hart solo cut? And not just any old Hart song, but one of the finest the sadly departed Husker gave rise to, "Twenty-Five Forty-One." Truth be told, it wasn't the original incarnation that Crenshaw became acquainted with, rather Robert Forster's version on the I Had a New York Girlfriend covers collection, but no matter. It's great.
"Seven Miles an Hour" winds Miracle... out, but not before M/C messes with us by prefacing it with a backwards take of the song in it's entirety, included as a bonus cut. Furthermore the vinyl variant of the album is coupled with a bonus single of two more recently recorded songs (both remakes including Michael Pagliaro's "What The Hell I Got"). Elusive Disc will take care of you if opt to spin the black circles, while Amazon is holding down the CD and digital fort. Available as we speak.
Just four short months ago I posted an Elton Motellosingle, and was enthused enough about it to spend some quality time with his second long-player, this one. You can refer back to that original entry for some pertinent biographical specifications. Pop Art is a minor new wave masterpiece, exuding just about everything that was creative and incisive about that genre's nascent era, while gracefully sidestepping any of it's patently negative shortcomings that would become ubiquitous over the next couple of years. A fantastically nervy strain courses trough virtually every morsel of this album, that sonically points to the acerbic modus operandi of some of Elton's (actual name Alan Ward) contemporaries likes Devo, Donnie Iris and to a lesser extent Gary Numan. Some surprisingly rollicking and punky outbursts crop up here in the guise of "Pocket Calculator," "In the Heart of the City" (not the Rockpile tune but just as ripping) and "Panic in the Classroom," and if you're looking for par excellence power pop the title piece is both flashy and a hell of a lotta fun. Enjoy.
01. Pop Art
02. Can't Explain
03. Night Sister
04. Falling Like a Domino
05. Out of Limit
06. 20th Century Fox
07. In the Heart of the City
08. Pocket Calculator
09. When All the Boys Are English
11. Pay the Radio
12. Panic in the Classroom
hiya, I have way more re-ups to attend to, which I'll try to get to next week - as many as I can. Really flooded with requests at the moment, so please hold off with any more for another week or so. Much appreciated!
And so I present you with the final piece of the Nice Strong Arm puzzle, their debut, Reality Bath. I've featured their subsequent platters Mind Furnace and Stress City eons ago, and a convenient thing that since both were extractable from CDs. Reality Bath, on the other hand, was a vinyl/tape-only proposition. Those in the know about these angsty New Yorkers, fronted by one Kevin Thomson, will no doubt boast their noisenik credentials, and rightfully so I suppose, but these folks were emanating from points of catharsis and artful sensibility, not so much full bore aggression.
On second thought, it's damn near impossible to deny that Reality Bath isn't chockablock with raging, dissonant notions and eardrum-frying sprawl. Even relatively likeminded contemporaries Live Skull and Red Temple Spirits couldn't quite compete with NSA's near-disorienting
sonic alchemy that often fell just shy of surreal. No, taking this proverbial Bath won't be of Calgon proportions in the least, and dare I say there's not much here that's "fun," but despite it's miles-deep layers of sinewy latticework, the going rarely gets difficult. Furthermore there’s more guttural,
emo pathos at play here than Rites of Spring ever thought to fling in our direction. If you're looking for some comparatively melodic respites, you may want to dive in at "When Truth Comes Around," "Minds Lie," and "Free At Last." This one's an acquired taste that's well worth acquiring, and check out NSA's second and third records linked above
01. Life of the Party
02. Date of Birth
05. When Truth Comes Around
06. Life is So Cool
07. Minds Lie
08. Free at Last
09. Notes From a Gut
10. Dying Skin
In the early '90s British-based Clawfist Records was responsible for a spate of split singles featuring (mostly) indie band covering one another on the same piece of wax. Way back, I featured one of their 1991 specimens, Poster Children/Thin White Rope, and some ten years later I'm sharing another in the Clawfist series. Smashing Orange (not to be confused with you-know-who) were one of my small-of-famers back in the day. A fantastically noisome blur of manicured noise and dream pop ethos who responsible for handfuo of eps and two albums, The Glass Bead Game being the foremost of the pair. On this split 45 they cover The Sunflowers, a combo I'd never really investigated before. Per Discogs the band only released a few singles, and ironically the tune Smashing Orange take to task here, "Something You Said" didn't materialize on any of them. Nonetheless, it's glorious noise-pop overdrive if I've ever such a thing. The Sunflowers return the favor by doing a rendition of one of my go-to Smashing Orange songs, "Collide" nailing it quite capably at that.
A. Smashing Orange - Something You Said
B. The Sunflowers - Collide
It's cherry picking season again. Here's my annual postmortem assemblage of the creme de la creme of what I just offered you a year prior. A taster, or sampler if you will. I'm really not sure if these yearly distillations are really hitting their desired audience (neophytes, stragglers, etc) or if I'm merely preaching to the choir. At any rate, I've plucked 23 of the most succulent feathers from the wild array that was 2019. As was the case in 2018, I've grown increasingly slack in the amount of shared content, and as such offered even less in the past year. Turns out though that a decent chunk of what I managed to get up '19 was of particularly high caliber.
Thing was, I presented such a haphazard pastiche of styles and genres that it made sequencing this mix a bit of a bitch, but I think I pulled it off, beginning with a cluster of acts that loosely skewed to the power pop end of the spectrum. Midway, I sort of hit a downcast stride with the emphasis on post-punk, but managed to conclude this playlist on a surprising note of levity. I don't have an adequate amount of time to elaborate on individual cuts, though I plan on attaching links to the original artist entries later this weekend. Included are three additional, previously unshared kernels that are noted with an asterisk. One item not to be overlooked is that of a virtually unknown and unsearchable quantity, La Voix Celeste (circa 1983) who deliver the melancholic, minimalist wave piece "Phases," which doesn't just strive for mood, but a sublime hook as well. This whole package concludes with one of my most listened to songs of the past couple years, a sleeper if there ever was one that you can read more about here. Enjoy.