This past Saturday (Aug 8th) marked the 25th anniversary of one of the most dazzling debut albums ever...or at least so says I. Instead of sharing the record in question I thought it would be more of a kick to share the demos for it...and some demos for their even more popular sophomore LP...and why not some really scarce and altogether unreleased tunes on top of that? This collection was sourced from tapes, and whomever did the digital transfer may have had the Dolby switched on, but it's barely enough to detract from the overall quality of both the audio and the songs. For what it's worth, back in '96 it meant a lot to have these tracks to tide me over while I was patiently waiting for their second album to come out. Hope ya dig.
Pacer were a coed trio of New York indie kids with a penchant for noise and serrated guitar histrionics, but on their lone ep they reign in just enough of the chaos to filter in a few morsels of the latent tuneful ambition they could have likely made so much more of on subsequent records had they stuck it out. They were label-mates with Versus, who were newly incorporated themselves at the time, and the two bands had just enough in common to draw a legit comparison. Truthfully, Pacer made more of a racket and played it a good bit looser. You might sense trace elements of the first Seam album (Headsparks), and Unwound, but I think the latter was more of a coincidence. Of the three Pacer aluni, it's bassist Samara Lubelski that went onto to the most robust career with stints in the Sonora Pine, Chelsea Light Moving and has abundant solo releases to her credit. My apologies if the audio is a little bumpy in spots. Purchased this one used and the condition wasn't as sharp as I preferred.
01. Hot Wired
03. Tell You Something
Got a request for this one recently. The Great Divide was the fourth in a series of Punchbuggy
albums to feature less songs than the LP that preceded it. I suppose
they called it quits after this one considering the only logical move
for a fifth record would entail offering merely ten songs (or less). That would hardly be a complaint though given the caliber and consistency of what they pumped out for almost ten solid years. These Ottawa-based Doughboys proteges knew their way around a hook, not to mention chunky punk-pop riffs, all the while sustaining maximum sonic density. I've gone back and forth on my favorite Punchbuggy albums over the years, but since they're not a band that anyone normally "debates," so guess what? I don't have to pick favorites. Even with the absence of Jim Bryson on guitar (who also wasn't aboard from 1998's My Norwegian Cousin) The Great Divide is another wall-to-wall trove of aces, wherein the band even negotiates some modestly mature gestures on the slower (but not quite ballad-worthy) "Easy to Leave" and the relatively contemplative title cut. Aficionados of the Doughboys Crush or Goo's Superstar Carwash will find plenty to love here. In fact, the only thing that might have improved ...Divide is if the band employed another halter-topped model for the album cover, as they so effectively did with the aforementioned My Norwegian Cousin...but once again I digress. You can also find the band's second LP, Grand Opening Going Out of Business Salehere.
02. Way to Go
03. Kids Say
04. Rock and Roll Fantasy
05. Easy to Leave
06. Heart Attack
07. Just Another Day
08. Want You More
09. Lucky Me Lucky You
11. The Great Divide
From 1982. I had car songs on the brain the other day, and when that happens the first tune on this album invariably comes to mind. Not typical Wilfully Obscure fare...but that's why Mystery Mondays were invented.
My friend was looking for the audio portion of The Cure's 1987 Live in Orange concert video tape. I found it for him and am sharing the contents with you as well, with lossless FLAC as an option. The video/audio was captured from a series of gigs Robert Smith & Co. performed in 1986 at the Théâtre Antique d’Orange, in Orange, Vaucluse, France, in support of the Head on the Door album. As such, don't expect to hear anything from Disintegration or Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. The setlist is exceptional, not skimping on old fan faves like "A Forest," "Charlotte Sometimes," and "Shake Dog Shake." The audio component of Live in Orange was never officially released on record/CD, but somehow it found it's way to market in places like Malaysia and China. Online video links are available here.
01. Shake Dog Shake
02. Piggy in the Mirror
03. Play for Today
04. A Strange Day
06. Kyoto Song
07. Charlotte Sometimes
08. In Between Days
09. The Walk
10. A Night Like This
12. One Hundred Years
13. A Forest
15. Close to Me
16. Let's Go to Bed
17. Six Different Ways
18. Three Imaginary Boys
19. Boys Don't Cry
21. Give Me It
22. 10:15 Saturday Night
23. Killing an Arab
Been sitting on this one for awhile. You can attach almost another ten years on top of that, as I patiently waited for an affordable copy of Detour to make itself available Stateside, given I was only looking to make a minimal to moderate investment in it. The draw here was none other than Kurt Ralske of Ultra Vivid Scene renown. Truthfully, Nothing But Happiness wasn't actual his "baby" so to speak, rather that of frontman David Maready Bowman, whom I believe occupies all the lead vocals on this record with Ralske serving as guitarist. Bowman was also a contributor to Crash, another pre-UVS band that Ralske had a more definitive role in commandeering, who happened to exist during the mid-80s as well.
There is sadly little to no details to be had online regarding NBH, and I'm not even certain of what side of the Atlantic they operated on (though a NYC correspondence address on the back sleeve indicated one or all of the members already had a foothold in the States). If you're looking for a "lost" UVS album by another name you won't find much of a discernible Ralske influence at all on Detour...but it is good, channeling a bevy of Brit, indie small-of-famers like the June Brides, Felt and early Microdisney. The wily and rambunctious feedback and horns-laced corker "Buried in the Flowers" taps into nascent Jesus and Mary Chain, "For Waitress Friends" and "Couldn't Make You Mine" are glistening guitar pop forays, however Detour counters with an equal number of ballads and relatively serene pieces too. Nothing But Happiness were officially a co-ed quartet, with Lynn Culberstson contributing subdued backing vox on a number of tracks.
01. For Waitress Friends
02. Striped Socks
03. Battle Hymn
04. Buried in the Flowers
06. Don't Laugh
07. Couldn't Make You Mine
08. My Summer Dress
09. Blue Kiss
10. Narcotics Day
Hard to believe this band's first and third albums were so utterly polarizing (to my ears anyway). In fact I don't have a solid idea of what the Local Rabbits debut, 1996's You Can't Touch This, was all about, because on the two occasions I attempted to listen to it I was repulsed enough by the second or third song in I gave in to my compulsion to yank the thing out of my CD player. I remember it having an unseasoned and unfocused air to it, and the fact that they went to the trouble of covering John Lee Hooker didn't do anyone any favors. Ugh. What a difference six years made, because by 2002's This Is It Here We Go, I was fully onboard thanks to the seemingly multiple quantum leaps these Montreal natives were responsible for. The link above will take you to my critique of that LP, but in a nutshell, the quartet in question got exponentially more sophisticated from that off-putting debut, and post-Y2K they had fused bona fide singer/songwriter chops with retro yacht-rock tangents aplenty. This Is It... was outright dazzling, and to this day I'm still stunned how a band who were so mediocre on the launch pad delivered such a devastating moon shot a mere six years later. Sadly, that's the last we heard from the Local Rabbits.
If you've gotten this far, you might be asking what of the band's crucial "transitional" second album? Well, it was called Basic Concept and was an immense progression from their comparatively frivolous baby steps. I should also point out that L/R were on Sloan's Murderecords label. They never particularly sounded like Sloan, but they did have something invaluably in common with the Halifax boys-done-good. Much like Chris Murphy & Co. the Rabbits possessed multiple not to mention adept singer/songsmiths in Peter Elkas and Ben Gunning. On Basic Concept they hadn't pulled out all the bells and whistles yet, but the record housed genuinely melodic, mature and stimulating tunes like "When You Return" and "Nightingale." Further in we get nascent previews of the next album's diverse streaks by way of the sax 'n' keys enhanced ballad "Read How You Read" and the textured "Lowdown on the Download," a piece concerning romance in the recently-gone-mainstream digital era. Again, the Rabbit's didn't fully emerge from the fabled "hat" until they got around to the full-bloom This Is It... but Basic Concept was genuinely respectable if not always consistently rewarding.
01. Our Life
02. When You Return
03. Play On
04. This Lengthy Glance
06. High School Hierarchy
07. Read How You Read
08. Stomp Your British Knights Down
09. The Deal
10. Something So Big
11. Keep it Down
12. Lowdown on the Download
Ultimately for the Big Idea, the record label they found themselves on (for what appears to be their only album) would soon gain considerably more notoriety than they would in their own right. YoYo Records was directly associated with Yo-Yo Studios in Olympia, WA, and both would become key indie taste-makers in the '90s, with the label being responsible for a relentless
slew of various artist compilations that in no small way helped codify
what indie (particularly the twee contingent) represented in that
decade. Big Idea presaged all that in 1987 however, with their LP The Big Idea, being the label's maiden release. Mildly unfocused, but never messy, the Idea were an eclectic coed five-piece, with integrity for miles, loosely pulling from a number of then-current, forward-thinking sources, including Athens, GA, and North Carolina's burgeoning Comboland circuits, without over-indulging from any one pool. Theirs was a fun and lively endeavor, combining traditional analog accouterments (translation: guitars/drums) with flavorful keyboard lines and gentle flourishes of harmonica. Each song on this platter reveals itself to have it's own particular flair, and for a change I'm not disclosing any spoilers. Just know this one is organic, heartfelt, and even a bit daring. Enjoy.
01. Walking on Water
02. Go Ahead
03. Words of Wisdom
04. The Farce
05. Round and Round
07. You're Alright
08. The Great Joy
09. Coming on Strong
10. Left and Gone
More commonly spelled Airstrip One (but what's in name anyway, ya know?) this UK batch sound as if they quickly absorbed the earliest records by Killing Joke, U2, and perhaps even Comsat Angels and decided to have a merry go at the post-punk thing themselves. Recording under this name from 1981-82, they ostensibly re-calibrated themselves a little later in the decade as the dancier Escape From New York, but I haven't 100 percent confirmation of this (just going by Discogs stats, folks). Airstrip didn't waste a second of this angsty three-songer, offering ample presence and texture not to mention a dab of social consciousness, albeit a little derivative. I really enjoy this and must hear more, hopefully to share at a future date.
From 1989. A relatively common one this week. Then again, this quartet's prior album was so lackluster and uninspired, many of you likely gave up on them. Hope this will be new to some of you, because this "comeback" record was fairly on par with their first three.
It's harder to start off an album with a bigger bang than "Arsenic Bubblegum," a tune which beckons Cheap Trick's punky 1977 clarion call 'Elo Kiddies" to such an extent it's hard not to regard it as gloriously plagiaristic...but who in their right mind would complain? Orange Helicopter hover their collective chopper over the environs of power pop like there's no damn tomorrow, and they do so with LOUD, hook-filled abandon. From the sound of it, this quartet had their ears affixed to combos like Enuff Z'nuff and Jellyfish as well. Aside from "Arsenic" there aren't a ton of outright revelations, but quality control was a calling card for O/H, and they would have fit in like a glove on the sadly defunct Not Lame Records imprint. And yes, "Jet" is the Paul McCartney and Wings mainstay, done to very enthusiastic effect at that.
01. Arsenic Bubblegum 02. Strawberry 03. Take it All 04. Majestic Black Rainbow 05. Help! 06. Summer Song 07. Jet 08. Falling Star Potion 09. Coming Around 10. One Step Closer 11. Movies
I can't profess to know what a "Glory Box" precisely is, but if someone were to place this record in a carton of some sort and hand it off to me I'd say, "Yeah, this is pretty damn glorious." I wasn't necessarily opining that about the lead-in track, "Cut" which starts Donkey's proceedings a tad on the slow side, but this five songer (created by five guys, ironically) quickly gains steam thereafter showcasing this Aussie unit's penchant for serrated and mildly droney indie guitar rock that happens to remind me of their UK counterparts the Family Cat, and to a much lesser extent the Straitjacket Fits. Donkey reveals itself to be more stimulating with each succeeding song, a rare phenomenon in itself. So much so that by the time you hit "Regrets" and "Aarr"occupying side two you'll find yourself craving more...but five tunes are all we're allotted. A full length, Fudgelandfollowed in 1991, and a generous spate of singles and EPs surrounded it as well.
In 2008 this long-running combo released a live DVD, bundled with a makeshift best-of collection. It was only available as a Spanish import. I'm sharing the best-of (minus the DVD), although many of you might have these guys down pat already. Please say I'm not insulting your intelligence! This one is for the uninitiated.
This isn't the first Spoonrelated post I've done, but it could be the last considering there isn't a whole lot to plunder that's not available through commercial means (iTunes, Amazon, etc). At any rate this one is a curiosity, albeit a very inconsistent one at that. Drake Tungsten was an assumed recording (and possibly performing) alias for Spoon money-shot Britt Daniel. The cassette-only Clocking Out... is a 17 cut mish-mash of lo-fi recordings, with the only element keeping the whole thing from completely careening off the rails is the fact that there are discernible track separations. The finest moment we're offered is one which quite a few Spoon fans have abundant familiarity with, namely a well rehearsed demo for "All the Negatives Have Been Destroyed," which is the only thing here that wound it's way onto Spoon's primo Telephono debut LP. "I Could Be Underground" was eventually recorded as a b-side, and the version here isn't exactly striking. There are some meagerly pieced together covers including Wing's "Let Me Roll It," The Pixies "Do the Manta Ray," and a hushed reading of The Cure's "Secrets." The dynamic "Dismember" is one of the more notable originals here, while the remainder of the tape veers between tolerable and sheer dross. You have been warned. I don't own an original copy of this, so a hearty thanks to whomever digitized it for us.
01. 15 Credibility Street
02. Chicago at Night
03. Let Me Roll It
04. All the Negatives Have Been Destroyed
05. Interview 1
06. Do the Manta Ray
07. I Could be Underground
08. Taking My Piss Out
09. Yeah Oh Yeah Oh Yeah
11. Interview 2
12. I Can't Believe Kurt Cobain Is Dead
15. I Wanted To Be Your Friend
16. Call Me When You Come Home
17. Are You Part Of The Movement?
"Cold cases" are par for the course for a lot of '80s presentations I offer you, and to a certain extent even records from the Clinton-era...but 2006? To their credit, Action Kitdid have a legit website to call their own - not that it's online anymore. Furthermore a cursory Google query brings up not a single mention of their CD Here Comes the Wolf Tone. In fact I can't give you an accurate guesstimate of where they operated out of, but externalities , because I admire the tunes. This "Kit" consisted of three pieces- two women and one gent, with most of the vocal responsibilities being conveyed by Holly Lipper. There are vague sonic parallels to the Spinanes and Versus, but Action Kit aren't exactly a '90s throwback. Specializing in subtle tones, lucid keyboard fills, some mild mathy syncopation's and warm but serious predilections, their's was an artful craft - one that maneuvers it's way in slowly and carefully. If it's immediacy or discernible pop anthems you're seeking you're advised to gird your proverbial loins, because while ...Wolf Tone never quite bops you over the head, it's very much an acquired taste worth acquiring.
01. Psychic Kicks
02. Near the Surface
03. Forensic Twist
05. Like Pushing Waves
06. Hansa Clipper
07. My Hagiography
08. Panning Mine
09. Pacific Time
10. Balloons for Mel
11. Fair Game
When the Buzzcocks (specifically the songwriting nucleus of Steve Diggle and the recently departed Pete Shelley) reconnected in 1989 after a nine year-long breakup, the band already boasted roughly 50 songs from their initial 1976-80 run. And not just any 50 tunes, but some of the most distinctive, nervy and enduring in the history of British punk and power pop, including "What Do I Get," "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't 've)," and "Harmony in My Head," among copious others. If three near-perfect albums from this era (Love Bites, Another Music in a Different Kitchen and A Different Kind of Tension) alone weren't enough, The Buzzcock's legendary first blush of 45s were of such caliber and consistency the compilation they were assembled into (1979's Singles Going Steady) is often referenced/revered more than their proper LPs. In short, when they resumed doing live gigs in '89 (upon adopting a new rhythm section) they could have sold out rooms and concert halls for years and decades to come strictly on the strength of their back catalog. And to large extent, Buzzcocks concerts from this era forward contained numerous, highly in-demand standards from yesteryear. However, between 1993 and 2014 they managed to pump out six brand new studio records, literally tripling their album discography in the process. To boot, almost all of them produced accompanying singles. Cherry Red's leave-no-stone-unturned eight disk Sell You Everything box collects all half-a-dozen of these later records, along with every single, solitary b-side, plus outtakes and some surprisingly intimate home demos from the Diggle/Shelley archives.
With a new lineup cemented in place by 1992 entailing new bass-wrangler Tony Barber and drummer Phil Barker, the band's much belated fourth record Trade Test Transmissions followed a year later. Before I delve into that one, I should point out the Buzzcocks began recording in earnest in late 1990, namely at Drome Studios in their native Manchester, where they laid down over a dozen demos. Online bootlegs of these tracks have been circulating for ages, but on Sell You Everything, Cherry Red prefaces the band's proper mach II albums with The 1991 Demo Album (also available separately on vinyl). Perhaps not as rambunctious or even as sassy as their first incarnation, the Buzzcocks were still plenty spry with a more expansive sonic aptitude to boot. A handful of songs from the 1991 sessions were soon re-cut for an ep, Alive Tonight, that followed later in '91, while others would be-recorded for future albums, but there's approximately half a dozen tunes from the Drone Studios sessions that were accounted for exclusively here, including the groove-laden, proto Brit-pop experiment "Tranquilizer," and Steve Diggle's immensely melodic "Searching for Your Love." The bonus portion of the disk is comprised of the aforementioned Alive Tonight ep, and some preview demos for Trade Test.
The Drone Studio sessions weren't as representative of the Buzzcocks' comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions as one might expect. Instead, the plenty-good and almost return-to-form reunion album slots the band ever so close to their distinctive chainsaw-pop aesthetic of yore, wherein the quartet is rarely encouraged to pump the brakes. Swift slammers like "Energy," "Innocent" and "Last to Know" have the telltale tincture of classic Buzzcocks, and Diggle's comparatively subdued "Isolation" and lusciously catchy "When Love Turns Around" work wonders amidst the band's slightly modified doctrine. TTT is one of those rare reunion ventures that's actually worth the decade-and-a-half long wait. As if fifteen album tracks weren't enough, this reissue tacks on all the contemporary b-sides, and some wholly unreleased titles courtesy of Steve Diggle's clutch of home demos.
All Set followed a comparatively mere three years later in '96, and didn't futz much with the prior album's overarching tenets. True, Shelley's prose isn't as biting or provocative as it was in say, 1978, but the energy quotient remains sufficiently intact on "Totally From the Heart" and "Your Love," while "Kiss 'n Tell" makes some subtle but gradual concessions to '90s sonic proprieties without encroaching into anything grungy. 1999's Modern on the other hand, if not an entirely different kind of tension was a certainly a different kind of album, wherein the Buzzcocks cautiously partook in some experimentation. They vaguely channel their inner Gary Numan on the synth-tweaked "Soul On a Rock" and "Stranger in Your Town." Despite demonstrating they're ready to graduate to the twenty-first century there's still your daily allotment of power chords to be imbibed on Modern - just don't expect anything as inspired as the band's two preceding records. A fairly straightforward spin on the Small Faces "Here Comes the Nice," and a chilled out acoustic piece, "Autumn Stone" (the latter credited to Steve's Buzz, are bonus-ized.
I'm not sure if it was in response to mixed reactions to Modern or if the band was try to compete with all the competition they had spawned over the ensuing decades, but 2003's self-titled effort is the most obvious attempt the Buzzcocks ever made to sound punk, save perhaps for the band's initial 1976 recordings (Spiral Scratch anyone?) when original co-frontman Howard Devoto was still part and parcel of the lineup. Vigorous isn't merely a watchword here's it's the band's full throated modus operandi on the positively rampaging "Jerk," and "Driving You Insane," among others. Speaking of Mr. Devoto, a song he co-wrote with Pete Shelley way back when, "Lester Sands" is revisited to appropriate effect here (you can hear the original version on the Buzzcock's Time's Up compilation of pre-record deal demos. As with Modern, only a handful of bonus tracks on this one, the most revelatory being a live version of ...Tension's spunky "Paradise," an exceedingly scarce song to crop up on the band's setlists despite it being one of their finest.
As is frequently the case with bands who've enjoyed a lengthier than expected reunion, even veteran punk bands can sound a bit routine going into their eighth record. Not that the Buzzcocks overstayed their welcome, but by 2006's Flat-Pack Philosophy a bit of a holding pattern had set. No histrionic highs or crashing lows, just another steady and sturdy pallet of Shelley/Diggle compositions that were a welcome listen to fans of their more recent albums - but not exactly a godsend either. There was a disproportionately generous portion of FPP b-sides, all eight of which are graciously appended.
When A Different Compilationcame out, I automatically mistook it for yet another best-of collection. While it is chock full of hits, this 2011 double LP length release was the Buzzcocks covering...themselves - and to outstanding effect. They certainly weren't the first band to play this sometime cliched card, but their new paint job applied far more grit than polish. With raw passion and renewed energy they bowl through all the standards you'd expect them to - "Fast Cars," "What Do I Get," "Whatever Happened To?," "I Don't Know What to Do With My Life," and naturally, the immortal "Orgasm Addict." And they don't just do justice to the classics, but also inspired and more recent material like "Alive Tonight" and "When Love Turns Around You." ...Compilation caps off with an extra deep-cut off of Love Bites, "Love is Lies" than even I almost forgot about.
When the band recorded their ninth studio LP, The Way, I'm not sure if they intended for it to be their last, but in all likelihood it is (though from what I understand Steve Diggle is carrying on under the Buzzcocks banner for the time being). The crowd-sourced album in question came a good 35 years after the last album with their original lineup, A Different Kind of Tension, was recorded, so naturally the guys didn't sound quite the way longtime adherents remember them. A little more grizzled, and not quite as sardonic, the crew still has teeth, and occasionally turn in a gem or three. "In the Back" features another phenomenal Diggle chorus hook, proving once again he was the Townsend to Pete Shelley's Daltrey. And speaking of Pete, his most gratifying contribution here is technically a bonus cut, the true-to-form "Disappointment." Not a bad way to go out, which sadly for him and the rest of the world was quite suddenly on December 6, 2018. Rest in peace and pop.
Housed in a sturdy and handsome cardboard case, Sell You Everything is available exclusively on CD from Cherry Red Records, or in the States and elsewhere on Amazon plus the usual spate of online retailers for a remarkably reasonable price. Buzzcocks die-hards may have a good 80% of this already, but the supplemental material and sharp packaging should accelerate this collection to the top of your want-lists.
Besides token entries on Discogs and YouTube, I'm pretty certain another music blog (now likely defunct) shared files of this one. Evidently I was impressed enough to seek out a copy of my own, a sealed one at that. The Lifers were one of many San Francisco treats from the Reagan-era that I've parceled out cyberspace to in recent years, but this is one of the ones I'm proudest to present. Why? Because this is downright, red smokin' hot post-punk just the way I love it. Sweet, clangy guitars a la Comsat Angels and Pylon mingling with Clay Smiths urgent spoken/sung vocals make This House a more then welcoming musical abode. The Lifers overarching sonic mystique coincidentally resembled a couple of contemporary bands that would advance a similar sound to at least modestly more substantial highs - Middle Class and Rifle Sport. I'm finding satisfaction wherever the needle lands on this one, chilly and insular as it often tends to reveal itself. A wonderful find.
01. A Quick Draw
02. Wealthy Additions
03. Walking Distance
04. Island Dreams
06. The River
07. Big Rock Candy Mountain
08. Missing Person
09. Car Mirrors
11, The River
Yet another gem of a disk that I had zero awareness of when it initially hit the racks. Not that it caught fire, or to my knowledge was even released in the States. In fact Clive Langer's stature in his native UK wasn't know primarily on the basis of his namesake, rather his involvement in more renown acts Big in Japan and Deaf School. For the five song I Want the Whole World Langer wasn't one to dig in his "punk" or "wave" heels, but instead opted for a more natural approach. In his case, "natural" was loosely akin to what the Kinks were dispensing around the same time (coincidentally, Langer's vocal aplomb wasn't dissimilar to Ray Davies). Deftly crafted tunes like "Lovely Evening" and "I Know I" are pleasingly sophisticated without resorting to anything pretentious, and are ample proof that the man and his accompanying Boxes boasted considerable talent. A follow-up LP, Splash, surfaced a year later.
01. The Whole World
02. Lovely Evening
03. I Know I
04. Those Days
05. Simple Life
The "myth" of the Beach Boys once long-unreleased SMiLE album loomed larger than the music enshrined in it's grooves, if only because the album wasn't issued in it's entirety until a solid 45 years after the sessions were abandoned in 1967. In fairness however, a good chunk of SMiLE's most crucial selections accumulated a half-hour in the band's career spanning Good Vibrations box in 1993. The Beach Boys main collaborator for the should've been follow-up to Pet Sounds was Van Dyke Parks, a composer/producer by trade for a variety of big and small screen shows. In his role as co-conspirator on the SMiLE sessions, he was also a key songwriter alongside Beach Boy's prime mover and creative backbone Brian Wilson. Stories as to why the album was never fully completed (at least under the Beach Boys banner) are long and legion, but I'll let you investigate that on your own. Roughly thirty years later, in 1995, Wilson and Parks reunited for an album that would be fully realized, Orange Crate Art, which is seeing a thoughtfully padded reissue on it's 25th anniversary.
It wasn't so much nostalgia that reunited the two as coincidence. Brian Wilson hadn't been doing much in the years since his 1988, comeback solo album Brian Wilson came out, and was ready to resume recording when Van Dyke Parks phoned him (presumably in the mid-90s) to float the idea of working together again. The idea wasn't to continue where they left off in 1966-67, nor did either of the two men have designs on out-smiling SMiLE. Far closer to the truth, Parks had written a new batch of songs that happened to appeal to Wilson, although the Beach Boy emeritus concedes in Orange Crate Art's liner notes, "We were hoping to catch some of that SMiLE energy."
Sonically, they did - to an extent, as examples of Wilson's fabled "pocket symphony" sprout abundantly on the record's twelve selections, offering orchestral sweeps aplenty (albeit from one gradation to another). What differentiates OCA from SMiLE is the whimsy and surreal aptitude the latter record possessed. That's not a slight or complaint, nor is that to say the music on Orange isn't fun, rather a more mature and measured modus operandi is at play here. Parks wrote virtually every morsel of text here and handled arrangement duties, leaving his companion with little else to do but sing and harmonize (and I'm assuming play a little piano). By the '90s Wilson's vocals had taken on a remarkably deeper and huskier tone. This development would have been outright startling to listeners had his 1988 solo debut not happened. Luckily, most of his fans were prepared, but the transition still took some getting used to (personally, I'm still coming to terms).
That being said, there are some immaculate songs to be had here, the stunning title track being foremost among them, one of Brian Wilson's post-BB performances. "Sail Away" and "Summer in Monterey" are discernibly breezier, and perfectly in line with the Wilson/Love aesthetic, even though it's Parks' ink adorning the lyric sheet. Elsewhere, "Wings of a Dove" is plush and modern, and the story-line vibe of "San Francisco" might be the closest thing that Wilson was aiming for in the late '60s. The trademark harmonies weaving their way through every song here are nothing short of impeccable, not to mention soothing and consoling as ever. Perhaps it wasn't Orange Crate Art that triggered Wilson's impulse to finally complete the long-belated SMiLE (under his own name in 2004) but one has to reckon if the successful pairing of him and Parks all those decades later didn't spark a few robust embers.
Omnivore's two disk expansion of OCA features three outtakes - all genteel covers of such established standards as "What a Wonderful World" and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." The bonus disk is composed of most of the album in instrumental form, falling somewhere between a classical score and the pop-friendly "pocket symphonies" Wilson had always relished. You can find Orange Crate Art at what brick and mortar music retailers are left, or obtain it straight from Omnivore. Amazon has you covered as well.
Before the weekend is over, I'm going to try to get something resembling a full length up, but here's a loooong belated followup to Nyack's11 Track Player I shared over a decade ago! Almost forgot I had this accompanying ep, featuring "I'm Your Star," one of the highlights from the LP, and three otherwise unavailable b-sides. And b-sides appropriately enough they are given they're the chilled out in yin to 11 Track's distortion soaked power pop yang. While nothing here is particularly revelatory, the reaction to Nyack's aforementioned album (and two EPs from the group's earlier guise, Aenone) were so well received I didn't want to deprive you any longer.
01. It's Your Star
02. Mean Streak (demo)
03. Love is a Stranger
Hey folks. Not much time for a write-up tonight, but for those of you who've been visiting these pages for a spell know that I'm a fairly hardcore acolyte of Dumptruck. The band's first three albums of serrated indie rock with a mild Americana jones were the stuff of near-flawlessness. This concert finds the band supporting their third, and in my opinion most gratifying record, '87s For the Country. At this phase of their career Kirk Swan had departed, leaving Dumptruck with only one principle songwriter, Seth Tiven. Kevin Salem soon filled Swan's stead. This exemplary audience recording of a gig at Chicago's Cabaret Metro in late '87 finds the reconstituted lineup playing a confident, substantive set, placing the emphasis on Dumptruck's most recent two records, the aforementioned For the Country and Positively. A pair of surprise covers, Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl Out of Your Window?" and The Embarrassment's "Sex Drive" nicely accent the band's already capable and charismatic originals. I'm making this available in MP3 and FLAC. A hearty thanks to whomever archived this gig to tape, and furthermore set us up with some artwork.
01. Back Where I Belong
03. Leaving Here
05. Things Go Wrong
06. From Where I Stand
07. Barking Up The Wrong Tree
09. Walk Into Mirrors
10. Going Nowhere
11. 50 Miles
12. Watch Her Fall
13. Encore break
14. Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?
15. Streets Of Paradise
16. Sex Drive
Yet another blind purchase that proved to be a far different animal than what I anticipated. There's virtually not a "pop" lick to be located on Kill The Messenger's lone and very unremarked about Detail LP. In fact, I'm not even sure where this quartet hailed from, but the locale of their record label, Suede Brain out of San Fran might be a good bet. Despite an engineering credit from the commercially viable Matt Wallace KtM were largely defiant of anything accessible, given Detail's unremitting art-damaged post-punk leanings. Tearing a page or three from the likes of Eyeless in Gaza, Savage Republic, Deception Bay, and occasionally Bauhaus, this quartet not only posed a noir, ominous stance, but specialized in dissonant sonic affectations aplenty, yielding an album that's outright creepy in spots. Though I can't accurately identify the drummer in the album credits, KtM emanate oodles of tribal, percussive angles, with unabashed employment of tom-toms. And if you crave music with texture, there's no deficiency of that here. If Kill's whole shtick impresses you as a little foreboding let it be known that there are just enough guardrails within Detail to cling to, so long as you're willing invest a few spins.
01. one night
02. this is america
03. boy anymore
04. i don't know
07. i want to come back
08. elimate coercion/sucked down the tunnel
If you go by Wiki's analysis Portland's coed Caveman Shoestore were "avant prog" specimens. Perhaps their full lengths (of which I have yet to hear) validated such an observation, but for better or worse all I have to go by is this 45. Judging by what I've heard I definitely reside in the better camp, 'cos this trio, commandeered by Elaine diFalco conjure up some dazzling sonic alchemy wherein busy arrangements are pocked with dexterous, post-punk smarts, not to mention the aforementioned singer's hypnotic prowess on the mic. I'm picking up trace elements of Siouxsie, Tsunami, and their lesser-known neighbors from Boise, The Dirt Fisherman. I desperately need to get my hands/ears on more Cavemen Shoestore in the very near future, belated as this discovery was.
Hailing from the college towns of Ithaca and Oswego in New York's central/southern tier The Choice were responsible for this dandy, privately pressed single. "Candy" is an irresistible not to mention near-perfect fusion of power pop and ska. "Strange" sticks to a more linear tact, and wouldn't sound at all misplaced on a Teen Line or Powerpearls compilation. In 1984 this foursome won the BBC Great American Rock n' Roll Talent Search, but after that I'm not sure if the world heard much more from the Choice, as this 45 appears to be the extent of their discography. The band's archival page, linked above, contains additional audio and video delights that can be explored at your leisure.
Liverpool's The Room had a bit of a cult hit early in their career, with what would become their signature song 1982's "Things Have Learnt To Walk That Ought To Crawl." The tune in question melded tense post-punk (a la the Soft Boys) with an irresistible chorus hook, and was in all regards a classic. An album, Indoor Fireworks followed the same year, but by '83 The Room had briefly made the jump to Virgin Records for the Clear ep, originally released on the indie imprint Red Flame. Adopting a more polished modus operandi the record sports the band's development - if not a mainstream hit-factory, at the very least significantly more focused, in league with the likes of Spandau Ballet and pre-stardom Simple Minds. Granted, said sonic aptitude was downright common in this era, but the quintet still boasted some bona fide edginess in the guise of the buoyant, keyboard propelled "Ringing," and the chillier "At the Beach."
Had a request for this one. Since I really exhausted myself the other night with my Wire feature, I thought I'd take it easy and let this one sell itself. A solid live record from Britain's Mega City Four tracked on their Sebastopol Road tour in '92. For the unacquainted, MC4 were an intoxicating mix of early Wonder Stuff and Husker Du, the latter of whom they cover here.
01. Who Cares
04. Shivering Sand
09. Words That Say
15. What You've Got
16. Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely
For a lot of you the line of demarcation between cool/middle of the road, or commercial/alternative is blurry at best, especially if you came to appreciate music in the 1980s. I started on my wayward path as a pretty straitlaced Top 40 kid around 1983, but by 1987 I was supplementing my patently radio-ready diet with tasty tidbits like Julian Cope, Public Image Limited and The Smiths. At that time I made virtually no differentiation between these groups then say wildly mainstream acts like U2 and OMD.
But oddly enough, there actually was a specific date, place and time when I deliberately made my acquaintance with alternative/indie rock in earnest. It was the weekend surrounding New Year's Day 1989, and my first encounter with MTV's 120 Minutes. A VJ named Kevin Seal was the host, and to my good fortune, this episode wasn't just a random hodge podge of videos, but a nice and tidy countdown of the Top 20 alternative videos of 1988. For the bulk of that year my auditory field was crowded with equal parts metal, classic rock and rap. As it would turn out these two hours became among the most significant in my life. The three aforementioned genres weren't edged out of my collective soundtrack entirely...not yet anyway, but this two-hour "starter kit" of left-of-the-dial rock resulted in a phenomenal and enlightening sea change.
As countdowns go, 120 Mins distillation of the sights and sounds of 1988 started appropriately enough at number 20, which I believe was the slot claimed by a song called "Kidney Bingos" from a band I never, ever heard of before, plainly monikered Wire. My ears hadn't been treated to anything so outright modern in my life. The video consisted of an oblique, grainy montage of butchers, pedestrians, random mixed media imagery, and a silhouette of some dude dancing against a light blue backdrop. All of the inexplicably haphazard visuals aside, the song itself sold me in no more time than it's four+ minute duration. A sweet, chiming guitar with a touch of echo dominates "Kidney Bingos" from second one and doesn't dare relent. It's tight, mid tempo rhythm meshed seamlessly with the guitar chords, and the melody was equal denominations graceful and indelible. Such an advanced, forward thinking piece of music deserved innovative songwriting in tandem. Wire delivered with a pastiche of seemingly random imagery and verbiage where not only did any given line fail to correspond with the subsequent or previous ones, but most of the song's adjacent words didn't correlate in any logical way either. Try some of these on for size:
Dressed pints demon shrinks bread drunk dead drinks Stretch clubs models box draw skin black shocks
Surreal, yet not silly. Eccentric, but not loony. It feels insulting to call a song I love so much nonsensical, but it's hard to argue that "Kidney Bingos" offers anything remotely rational in the songwriting department, so no need for lyrical forensics. Nonetheless, the meter of the words, combined with the tune's collective sonic elements and aforementioned mystique are sublime and yield an astonishing amount of serendipity. The tune, released as a single, was also featured on the band's fifth studio album, A Bell is a Cup Until it is Struck, the second record into their mach II campaign. That album, and the ones surrounding it (An Ideal Copy, It's Beginning To and Back Again, etc) yielded more nuggets of gold, but frankly often housed an abundant amount of filler too. In the years following my acquaintance with Newman/Lewis/Gilbert/Gotobed I backtracked to their first era and found their first three albums from 1977-1979 (Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, 154) to be even more consistent, not to mention challenging. They became a staple and I follow them to this day, fractured as the lineup has become. I even featured some early demos of theirs a few years ago.
So what would this post be without some music to accompany it? This time, however, I'm not going to reveal the full nine-song track listing, but I'm about to drop a lot of clues. Seven of these are covers (with only three seeing official commercial release), and the remaining two are markedly different versions by the creators themselves. Trembling Star's spin on "Bingos" is likely the most well known, and actually sounds like they hired the Go-Betweens to "ghost-record" it. Artful Britpop-sters Moose turn in such a faithful rendition there's precious little that separates it from the original artifact. Entirely to the contrary, DJ Vrotdugi (aka MTP Tel.'s) "Crap Kidney Bingos" is a mucho-distorted, vaporwave enhanced piece that involves copious amounts of pitch-shifting, stretching the song in a myriad of mind-bending configurations. And then there's Hello Whirled's rendition, which is actually plucked from an entire album of Wire covers, recently unleashed on Bandcamp for free, so don't be afraid to indulge. The final cover I'll reveal is one I found on YouTube by a band I can't find any relevant info on called The Repeats. Their, strummy acoustic shakedown of the song in question paints it in a refreshingly casual, Americanized hue. It's a live audience recording, but try not to let the crowd banter distract you.
Instead of supplying you with the original single or LP version of "Kidney Bingos" I went for a pair of Wire versions that were definitely more unique, including a rawer alternate mix of the track, which by and large sounds like a completely different recording. It's taken from the band's 1997 Coatings collection, a smorgasbord of b-sides and supplemental versions. But wait, there's more! A remarkably unique live version from the Reading Festival circa 1990, that's a pretty ingenious mashup of "Kidney" and the band's dancier follow-up anthem "Eardrum Buzz." And if you're desperately hungry for more of this one, Elastica blatantly lifted the song's chorus hook for their 2000 Menace track "Nothing Stays the Same," not that I'm sharing it here. Enjoy (or not)
Prior to cutting his first (and apparently only) solo LP, Bond Bergland was part of San Francisco's Factrix, ambient/noise experimentalists whose stripe of post-punk I can't say I have much affection for. Luckily, the album he recorded under his own name is considerably more approachable. With a vocal acumen that sits somewhere between Peter Murphy and Steve Kilbey, he guides Unearth's ten songs with a measure of gravity to be certain, albeit you'll be hard pressed to encounter anything overtly morose or wallowing. The arresting and placidly contemplative "Found Wonder" is effortlessly sublime, and nearly worth the price of admission in itself. Unearth's opposing extreme (if you can even classify it as such) "Open Arms" is smart, assertive indie rock that strikes me as a could-have-been college radio staple. The brunt of the remainder of this disk is stocked with nimble, instrumental-centric forays wherein Bergland woos you down arpeggio-addled rabbit holes revealing dexterous guitar work with glints of everything from jangle to pesudo Celtic. I'd be remiss if I failed to credit Douglas Lichterman's tribal percussive instincts as well, particularly on the opening "Fountain of Youth."
01. Fountain of Youth
02. Open Arms
03. Found Wonder
04. The Mercy Seat
05. Trail of Years
06. Snake Train
07. The Time of My Life
08. After Raphael
09. Stone Cold Vision
10. Blue Wash
Was going through a batch of 10"s recently and was reminded that I bought this a good 25 years ago at Amoeba in Berkley when that store was in it's relative infancy. Anyway, the Darling Buds. One of those situations where I own all of their albums, but don't quite consider myself a "super fan." I hopped on board for their second album, Crawdaddy, and soon backtracked to their debut, Pop Said, which is the album this EP was contemporary to. Given the Bud's penchant for saccharine female vocals and guitar crunch, I often spoke of them and The Primitives in the same breath (further encouraged by the fact they both hailed from the UK). Still enjoy these tunes as much as I did when I first encountered them. Here we get one of their more notable signature tunes, "Hit the Ground," a buzzy and energetic non-LP b-side, "Pretty Girl." plus two relatively raw and unbridled live tunes on the flip side. All in all about a dozen minutes total with nary a second wasted. Enjoy.
01. Hit the Ground
02. Pretty Girl
03. You've Got to Choose (live)
04. When it Feels Good (live)
Needless to say, the past few months have taught all of us that there are far greater tragedies in life than our favorite bands throwing in the towel. Nonetheless, we're human and people are always going to want what they're gonna want. There were few events in the realm of indie rock that I wanted less than the departure of Big Drill Car, whom after their third studio album, 1994's No Worse For the Wear, called it a day about a year or so thereafter. Maybe the rationale for us not really ever "getting over" the dissolution of certain combos resides not merely in our selfish human nature but the fact that some artists/groups had something so singular and glorious to offer they were simply irreplaceable.
The Huntington Beach by way of Costa Mesa, CA quartet's mid-80s origins were inauspicious enough, with their nucleus consisting of frontman Frank Daly and guitarist Mark Arnold, both expats from the final lineup of the respectable, though never quite crucial Reagan-era, hardcore fixtures MIA. From the get go however, starting with 1988's Small Block ep (technically a demo from what I understand) Big Drill Car didn't buttress their punky forte with gratuitous speed or sociopolitical undertones, rather a delirious infusion of melody and offbeat topical matter. Cementing the lineup with bass wrangler Bob Thomson and drummer Dan Marcroft, BDC quickly built a reputation in the southern Cali skater-punk circuit and quickly garnered the attention of SST Records spinoff imprint Cruz.
Bearing a pop underbite a mile long, BDC's savvy for hooks and beefy but rich arrangements pointed to inspirational antecedents like the Desacedents/All (whom they shared a label and multiple tours with) and Husker Du. In fact, throughout the early '90s they seemed to be inseparably spoken of in the same breath as Green Day, prior to that band's juggernaut to stardom shorty thereafter. And it wasn't just stick-to-your-ribs songs that made these guys exceptional, but a secret ingredient in Mark Arnold's tendencies to peel off mind-bending flights of guitar fancy not dissimilar to clearly non-punk axe shredders like Michael Schenker and even Joe Satriani. It's a formula that worked wonders on Big Drill's first LP, Album Type Thing in 1989, a record of such consistency, chops and compelling tunes that I unabashedly regard it as on par with the strongest of Husker Du's deservedly lauded catalog. Their 1991 follow-up, Batch sported a slightly more lucid sonic aplomb, but not relenting an iota of vigor or charm. By '93 movement was afoot in the ranks of the band. Thomson and Marcroft had departed the lineup, and were replaced by a new rhythm section consisting of bassist Darrin Morris and basher Keith Fallis, just in time for what would be the group's last record, No Worse For the Wear. The album in question didn't disappoint in the least offering a dozen savvy but nuanced melodicore bangers that easily held their own to that year's slightly more sales-friendly chart toppers Dookie and Smash. Success beyond the punk-pop circuit just wasn't in the cards for them, and with sales of NWFTW not eclipsing those of Batch, Big Drill Car decided it was time to move on.
Presented here are eight prototypes for their swan song. In addition to shopping for a new rhythm section the band was also canvasing for a new label, which they eventually found in Headhunter/Cargo. I'm not sure how many copies of this tape were actually fielded out, but I recently became the lucky owner of one. Ironically, if you're already an established BDC customer you already have five of these demos, which surfaced on the group's odds and ends compilation, A Never Ending Endeavor in 2009. The fidelity of those songs on my cassette strangely enough aren't the least bit inferior to the ones that made the jump to Endeavor, and best of all we get an entirely unreleased tune here in the guise of "Dance Fuckers," an 85-second balls-to-the-wall slammer that bleeds the same cathartic ferocity of one of my favorite Batch selections, "Ick."
As an unrelated bonus I'm tacking on an unissued Beatles medley the band posted on their MySpace page, way back when that platform had some clout. BTW, Big Drill Car have reunited (very) sporadically in the twenty-first century for live shows and even contributed a handful of new songs to the aforementioned Never Ending Endeavor collection.
01. What You Believe (beginning fades in)
02. Dance Fuckers
03. Thin White Line
04. Friend of Mine
07. Step Right Up
08. The Shake plus: Polythene Pam/She Came Through the Bathroom Window