Thursday, April 30, 2020

Robert Seidler - Cig Sisters ep (1987, Hill Avenue)

Many espouse the notion that an album should never be titled after one of the songs on the LP itself.  In the case of Robert Seidler's Cig Sisters I'd argue to the contrary, given the song bears such a prominent presence.  It's not an anthem mind you, yet "Cig Sisters" bears enough nervy, pedestrian panache that ever so faintly absorbs the choicest entrails of Dramarama, and to a lesser extent mid-80s Psych Furs.  Seidler's mid tempo, alt-rock shtick isn't particularly innovative, but muscular salvos like "Summer Air" and "I Can't Believe" are gratifying all the same.  Even some of the other songs that failed to persuade me on my initial listen of Cig Sisters are gradually sinking in.  More records by the man and his quartet of co-conspirators exist, albeit not in my collection.  You can find out a few more details here.

My copy of Cig was a radio station copy, the front cover of which was defaced so drastically I purloined a more representative image off  Thanks to whomever was thoughtful enough to make it available.

01. Cig Sisters
02. Summer Air
03. I Can't Believe
04. Lassie
05. Country Faces
06. Cig Sisters (reprise)


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

REM - Murmur outtakes, rough mixes (1982-83)

What I'm presenting tonight will either come as something of a revelation or a bit of rehash.  I say rehash because most of this collection of outtakes and alternate versions has been previously situated in a numerous bootlegs of varying audio quality, depth and sequencing.  I didn't assemble this collection, I'm merely dispatching it as I found it.
REM's Murmur was/is/always will be every bit the landmark it's touted as being.  A gale force surge of fresh air that sounds untouchable and out of place today as it did when it made it's bow in 1983.   The formula?  A tapestry of oblique prose, minor-key melodies and forward thinking, yet disarmingly warm charm.  Murmur's un-superfical notions must have presented itself as a stark anomaly for it's era.  Then again, I wasn't on board for it when it officially surfaced, out of sheer ignorance and inaccessibility.  I wasn't tuned into college radio back then, yet the record shaped and defined that humble left span of bandwidth, one which I would not only sacredly internalize, but eventually play an active roll in.  Fast forward ten years later and the mainstream not only embraced REM, but the format in which Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry perhaps unwittingly staked their collective reputations in.  Numerous Grammys, platinum records, and arena tours would ensue, but that first REM record (not to mention the preceding Chronic Town ep and Hib Tone version of the "Radio Free Europe" single) would remain peerless...even by it's own architects.

The tracklist and source details are as follows.  Some tracks were omitted due to eventual official release.  The variances between the album and these alternate takes are sometimes minimal, and in instances significant.  Please note, "Laughing" (track 25) cuts out early.

01. Catapult (Stephen Hague Vers. 1)
02. Pilgrimage (Mitch Easter Vers. 1)

1983-02-16 (rough mixes w/Mitch Easter)
03. Pilgrimage (vers. 2)
04. Catapult
05. Perfect Circle
06. 9-9
07. West Of The Fields

Live In Studio
08. Band Talking
09. That Beat
10. Pretty Persuasion - omitted due to being officially released
11. All The Right Friends
12. Tighten Up - omitted due to being officially released
13. There She Goes Again
14. Moon River - omitted due to being officially released

Murmur basic & rough mixes
15. Talk About The Passion
16. West Of The Fields
17. Moral Kiosk
18. Sitting Still
19. Ages Of You
20. Perfect Circle
21. We Walk
22. 9-9
23. Shaking Through
24. Romance
25. Laughing (cuts out)

MP3  or  FLAC

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Were there really ever "good old days?"

Observant and literate indie pop from small town Pennsylvania circa, 1993.


The Seen - Under The Sun/In the Rain (1986, Red Dog)

Our fellow instigators at Shotgun Solution re-posted the rare debut single from State College, PA's The Seen, and inspired us to digitize their lone album, Under The Sun/In the Rain.  As per the bio enclosed with my copy, this trio made their objective fairly loud and clear - to consciously not resemble anything that was part and parcel of the era they found themselves situated in.   

Under the Sun... isn't an indulgent throwback to the '60s so much as a subtle one, with a relatively modest modus operandi that often slots between the Association and The Zombies, graded on a lo-fi curve.  Sonically, the Seen nail the aesthetic they're going for to a 't' on psych-infected slices of folk rock "Why Am I Here?" "Nancy's Song" and the jangle laced "In the Rain." 

What few references that have surfaced online regarding these guys put more emphasis on their garage/mod cred, but aside from the comparatively aggressive "The Letdown" and melodically strident "Younger Than Yesterday," the tension is kept to a minimum on this disk.  Often recalling a long lost private pressing from say, 1968, Under the Sun... yields almost ceaseless quality control, so long as you're on the same page as the Seen.  Though I can't find a relevant link to share at the moment, at one point I learned the album in question received a limited digital reissue of some sort, but currently you're better offer hunting down a not-so-tricky-to find original vinyl copy.

01. Younger Than Yesterday
02. The Silence Whispers
03. Heartbeat
04. In the Rain
05. A Perfect Girl
06. Why Am I Here?
07. The Letdown
08. Nancy's Song
09. Wall
10. Four Walls
11. Black and White
12. Under the Sun


Sunday, April 19, 2020

No clue.

It's a full on mystery this week.  Not even going to give you the year.

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


Hinterland - Kissing The Roof of Heaven (1990)

Hopefully this coming week I'll be posting some fresh vinyl rips and maybe re-ups of expired links.  I recently had a request for this one, and truthfully haven't had much time to live with it.  Nonetheless I appreciate where Hinterland was coming from.  In a nutshell, this is the other fork in the road U2 could have taken post-Joshua TreeKissing the Roof... is the sort of textured, contemplative music I was getting my fill of in middle school, just before I made the full scale ascendancy into alt/indie rock.  Sort of mines the same vein as David & David, Blue Nile, Not Drowning Waving.  Maybe even a mellower Cactus World News.  Robbie Robertson from The Band put a solo disc in 1987 that would have meshed nicely with this one, if that's worth anything to you.  Hinterland were of Irish stock, and at the moment I don't have much else to divulge on them except that this album was more rewarding than I was anticipating.

01. Dark Hill
02. Handle Me
03. Reporter
04. Stanley's Minutes
05. God's Reverb
06. Galway Bay
07. Dive the Deepest
08. The Artists
09. Aeroplanes
10. Desert Boots
11. Senior Romantics


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Shudder to Think - 1987 demos

Before I go any further, these tracks were admittedly made available on another site several years ago, and while the page still exists in cyberspace the link to the actual songs has been seemingly eviscerated with no promise of return. 

Shudder to Think.  Where do I begin?  I can either start with the mix tape a friend made me while I was still in grade school that included some gnarlier than gnarly, well chosen tunes from the band's first couple of Dischord Records LPs.  An equally vivid impression cemented it's way into my noggin the first time I heard Shudder on the radio, circa 1992 by way of "Shake Your Halo" down from the newly released Get Your Goat.  Yes, there something about hearing a lyric that references a fish being scrunched into a tattoo gun that really leaves an indelible mark.  From these moments on I was irrevocably hooked on Craig Wedren and Co. for largely the remainder of the decade.  I never looked back, but then again why would I want to?  

Regarding that aforementioned lyric, the band wasn't always so gratuitously surreal.  That phase in their career didn't peak until the early '90s.  In fact, they boasted a decent wardrobe of songs dating back to the Reagan era, starting with the batch of selections featured here.  As artful and left of center as they would ultimately reveal themselves to be on Get Your Goat and even 1994's major label sanctioned Pony Express Record, STT were still a fairly suitable match for the Dischord crowd, albeit hardcore punk could barely be traced in their bloodline.  Pop punk was another story.  Unlike the Descendents or even Dag Nasty, Shudder's concerns weren't linear nor did they extrapolate much in the arenas of suburban angst and scene politics - but an immensely strong melodic undercurrent was right there from day one.  If anything they dipped there toes in the Misfits sonic cauldron when it came to doling out hooks, and it's hard to argue the imagery laid out in "It Was Arson" and "Abysmal Yellow Popcorn Wall" didn't at least border on the macabre.  

Some of these songs would be re-recorded for the subsequently released It Was Arson 7" ep in 1988, and the outright wonderful Spells, Curses, Voodoo, Mooses full length a year later.  To my knowledge, a handful of these songs (incl. "Believable," "Cloak of Wine" and "Cure Song") never gestated past the demo stage.  The audio quality is what it is, and the pitch could even be off a tad, but for Shudder fans this set is a grail-like find.  A big thanks to whomever went to trouble of digitizing this.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Head Medicine blog did a nice multi-installment feature on the band that's worth a read.

01. Ro
02. Take the Child
03. Abysmal Yellow Popcorn Wall
04. Torch
05. It Was Arson
06. Questionable
07. Cloak of Wine
08. Thou Shalt Not Kill
09. Imagine
10. Cure Song
11. Too Little Too Late
12. Let it Ring
13. I Grow Cold
14. Believe


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Fire one for losing and two for hiding...

From 1993.

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


Pounding Birds - A Perfect Language ep (1991, Heyday)

Pounding Birds are something of a cold case, presumably hailing from San Francisco given their inclusion on this regional compilation.  It's your typical collegiate jangle and strum proposition with discernibly more of the latter.  This quartet may have been gently nudged into being by the likes of R.E.M. and Miracle Legion, albeit the band's inspirational antecedents aren't always evident.  I wouldn't go into A Perfect Language expecting anything especially high-strung, but "Another Coat of Paint" and "Drinking Poison" speak to the Birds heightened melodic acumen.

01. Another Coat of Paint
02. Sweet Mistake
03. Drinking Poison
04. Tear Something Down
05. Hatred


Friday, April 10, 2020

Chicken Scratch - Pass the Porcupine (1988, Community 3)

In spite of the haphazard sleeve art and hokey moniker, Chicken Scratch's surface level frivolities belie some genuinely commendable tunes.  Sounding like an amalgam of Agitpop (who are thanked on the back cover), fIREHOSE, and the Volcano Suns, this Jersey trio is cut from doggedly indie rawk cloth.  Not everything they fling at the wall sticks, and to be honest some of Pass the Porcupine's quieter pieces don't do them justice, but this record's more memorable moments like "House the Size of Your Mind," "Scary Clock," and "Take It Away" bear just enough accessibility to draw you further into their dissonant and often challenging microcosm.  Two albums followed, but I have firsthand knowledge of neither.

01. House the Size of Your Mind
02. Mailman
03. Pulling Sheep
04. 400 Years
05. Take It Away
06. Mumbling About Ducks
07. I Gave at the Office
08. Moon Crawl
09. Acid Rain Dance
10. Ignoring the Breadcrumbs
11. Cement State Park
12. Scary Clock
13. Birds
14. Three Blind Mice


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Pain is only a pulse if you just stop feeling it...

Something slightly different for M/M.  Here's the expanded edition of a 2002 debut this band was never able to quite top. 

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


It's not right, it's not fair - A remembrance of Adam Schlesinger and Fountains of Wayne + FOW acoustic 2008-09

If the past 30+ days wasn't enough of a mind-fuck already, the passing of Adam Schlesinger on April 1 from complications relating to Coronavirus made our dystopian state of affairs a much more devastating reality.  Even though we had a full day's warning that Adam had contracted this miserable (and in his case) lethal illness it wasn't enough to prepare us for what became the inevitable.  Then again, an otherwise healthy person dying at merely 52 hardly seems inevitable to most of us. 

I never felt a personal connection with him despite being a pretty dedicated adherent to Fountains of Wayne, the power-pop inflected quartet he co-founded with Chris Collingwood in the mid-90s.  Another band he had a hand in formulating, Ivy, made it onto my sonar almost from their inception, though there wasn't quite enough there for me to latch onto. You're no doubt familiar with Adam's resume, as many articles and memorials have laid out far more thoroughly and eloquently than mine - co-writer of That Thing You Do's  famous theme song (one of the most popular tunes ever by a fictional band, The Wonders), collaborator with numerous other musicians, songwriters, CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfreind show, Steve Colbert, power-pop supergroup Tinted Windows and the rest of it.  A recent piece on Stereogum demonstrates the depth and breadth of his work and is well worth a read.

For me, Adam Schlesinger largely began and ended with Fountains of Wayne.  I didn't regard myself as an obsessive fan or even a completest, and only got to see them perform once - yet I did absorb the albums fairly thoroughly.  Collingwood dominated the microphone, with Adam assuming the role of lead guitarist and apparently the key songwriting force.  I cautiously say apparent, because even though both guys are given equal songwriting credits in virtually every set of album notes I perused, Adam's penchant as a go-to song-scribe is so legion that it's a somewhat logical deduction he carried a hefty serving of text and insight to the table.  And now that I mention it, what of that insight?  In FOW both men had a knack for tapping into middle-class, suburbanite mindsets, especially filtered through the vantage point of up-and-coming bachelors striving for some semblance of a white-collar career, and of course a love life.  Not unlike Ben Folds, Adam and Chris wrote plaintive vignettes steeped in often ironic but relatable themes married to devastating chorus hooks.  I often thought 2003's Welcome Interstate Managers (which coincidentally housed their lone mainstream hit, "Tracy's Mom) went a little overboard with it's Office Space inspired motifs.  Moreover, by the time their follow-up, Traffic and Weather hit in 2007, I got the impression things were getting a bit formulaic - yet I kept coming back, because try as one might you can't kill off the memory of a great melody or clever couplet.

Somewhere around 2018 or '19 I learned that the Fountains had no plans to reconvene.  It was a sad notion even before Adam's startling death last week.  Being that Chris was a wholly capable frontman, I can easily see him strapping on a guitar at some point with the intention of keeping nuggets like "Survival Car" and "Red Dragon Tattoo" alive, but of course, it will be under his own banner, not Fountains of Wayne.  With that sobering thought in mind I leave you with ten acoustic FOW recordings.  I don't have the origination details of the first five cuts, but they were apparently recorded without the presence of an audience.  "Little Red Light" onward are culled from a performance at Mountain Stage in Charleston, WV from March 2009.  Enjoy

01. It Must Be Summer
02. Someone to Love
03. I-95
04. Joe Rey
05. Fire in the Canyon
06. Little Red Light
07. The Summer Place
08. Valley Winter Song
09. Cemetery Guns
10. Red Dragon Tattoo