Friday, July 31, 2020

Nothing But Happiness - Detour (1987, The Remorse Label)

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
05. Facsimilie
06. Don't Laugh
07. Couldn't Make You Mine
08. My Summer Dress
09. Blue Kiss
10. Narcotics Day


Sunday, July 26, 2020

I've stood some ghostly moments with natives in the hills...

From 1978.  Every band has to have a start.  This was theirs. 

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


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Local Rabbits - Basic Concept (1998, Murder)

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
05. Nightingale
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


Sunday, July 19, 2020

The obvious is to unwind, but I still thought we had some time.

This week it's a noise pop pearl from 2015. 

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


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Big Idea - The Big Idea (1987, YoYo)

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
06. Shameless
07. You're Alright
08. The Great Joy
09. Coming on Strong
10. Left and Gone


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Airstrip 1 - Longer to Live 12" (1981, Oval)

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.

A. Longer to Live
B1. English Guns
B2. Crime


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Burn down days like cigarettes...

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.

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


Orange Helicopter - s/t (2001)

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


Friday, July 10, 2020

The Glory Box - Donkey ep (1990, PolyEster)

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, Fudgeland followed in 1991, and a generous spate of singles and EPs surrounded it as well.

01. Cut
02. To You
03. Intersect
04. Regrets
05. Aarr


Sunday, July 5, 2020

In the Exorcist baby, you were really insane...

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. 

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


Saturday, July 4, 2020

Drake Tungsten (Britt Daniel, pre-Spoon) - Clocking Out Is For Suckers tape (1994)

This isn't the first Spoon related 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
10. untitled
11. Interview 2
12. I Can't Believe Kurt Cobain Is Dead
13. Secrets
14. Dismember
15. I Wanted To Be Your Friend
16. Call Me When You Come Home
17. Are You Part Of The Movement?


Friday, July 3, 2020

Action Kit - Here Comes the Wolf Tone (2006, Jump Cut)

"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 Kit did 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
04. Cavefish
05. Like Pushing Waves
06. Hansa Clipper
07. My Hagiography
08. Panning Mine
09. Pacific Time
10. Balloons for Mel
11. Fair Game

By request of the artist I've removed the download link.