Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Boys - ...On Safari box (2020, Cherry Red/Captain Oi) - An overview

Like myriads of artists I've discovered posthumously, my gateway is often their signature song.  I'm reluctant to use the term "hit" as most of the bands I listen to don't have any to their credit.  In the instance of London's The Boys, "Brickfield Nights," the leadoff track and single from their 1978 sophomore LP, Alternative Chartbusters, was a modest success on their side of the Atlantic, and by the 1990s it appeared on many compilations anthologizing British punk.  Rightfully so, because even though it lacked the rapid-fire salvos or scathing commentary of the Sex Pistols  it was still sonically potent.  Moreover it was relatable, with the Matt Dangerfield-helmed quintet waxing on the short term nostalgia of their youthful camaraderie.  But what happened when The Boys transitioned to men - or at very least maturing post-adolescents?  Any such quandaries regarding their musical evolution can be explored on the new five disk collection The Boys...On Safari, with it's emphasis on The Boys third and fourth albums, To Hell With the Boys and Boys Only, as well as associated singles, demos and period recordings for the Safari Records imprint right up until the band's 1982 dissolution.

From the get-go, it seemed evident that The Boys were conscious of punk rock's often stifling limitations, and to their credit they opted not to take the purist fork in the road that everyone from the Damned to Crass made the exit for.  A pop angle was omnipresent even on their '77 self-titled debut, and by the time they graduated to album #3 they were just as frequently termed "power pop."  Whatever genre they transcended/slotted into the songs preceded all other factors, and they infused some phenomenal ones into To Hell...  After a brief but muscular tread through the instrumental standard "Sabre Dance," The Boys roar out of the gates with two visceral, and eminently powerful rockers, "Rue Morgue" and "Terminal Love" the latter so anthemic it could have vied as the the logical successor to the noted "Brickfield Nights."  Both songs not only played to the Boys sophisticated melodic strengths, but like "supergroup" contemporaries The Rich Kids (feat. ex-Pistols Glen Matlock and pre-Ultravox Midge Ure) the Boys equally nodded to the brasher inclinations of punk and the streamlined accessibility of seventies hard rock.  So spectacular were these two numbers it wasn't an easy feat to follow them up here, though the rollicking sway of "See Ya Later," and "Waiting For the Lady" is nervy, par-excellence power pop."  Oddly enough, a seven+ minute ballad "You Can't Hurt a Memory" is shoehorned into the midst of all of this, and a slow building one at that.

1981's Boys Only tamps down a trifle on the comparative formality of To Hell With the Boys, diminishing the tension in favor of a tight, but more casual modus operandi, wherein they go so far as to pitch us a reading of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World," among a spate of  stimulating originals including "Weekend," "Monotony" and the ballsy punk-pop crunch of "Little White Lifeline."  I could do without the goofy anomaly "Miss You," but even though Boys Only could qualify as the weakest link in the band's slim catalog of albums it's still superior to what many of their competitors had churned out over the course of their entire careers.

Another centerpiece of the ...On Safari collection is an exclusively curated compendium of rarities, bustling with nearly two dozen tracks. Many of these songs had already been bonus-ized on Captain Oi's 1999 reissues of To Hell... and Boys Only, but they're collected in one tidy spot here, plus the disk features an assortment of demos and outtakes cut between 1979-80.  Like many notable bands of their stature, Boys b-sides rivaled their more famous flip-sides and key album tracks.  Both halfs of the excellent "You Better Move On"/"Schoolgirls" 45 are here, joined by equally stimulating side-tracks "I Love Me" and "Cool."  And if you revere To Hell's... aforementioned "Terminal Love" and "Rue Morgue" as much as me, you'll find the original mixes of those here too.  

In between the two proper albums cut for Sarafi, The Boys conceived an alter-ego of almost parallel notoriety, The Yobs.  The fourth disk here is composed of The Yobs Christmas Album, from 1980, wherein Dangerfield and cohorts put an unorthodox and ribald spin on roughly ten renown Xmas standards and even went to the effort of preparing a couple of their own, like the buzzsaw narrative "Ballad of the Warrington."  Sonically approximating Swidle-era Pistols and the Toy Dolls, the Yobs while cheeky at best and utterly profane at worst, weren't as shambolic as you might except. In fact they were downright tight and sufficiently produced.  Problem is the joke wears a little thin absorbed in multiple doses, unless of course you're a stickler for sardonic holiday tunes doled out in utterly thick Cockney accents.  Some of the classics retooled are "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and "Auld Lang Syne."

And what would one of these succinctly packaged, budget sized boxes be without a disk dedicated to relevant BBC sessions or an in-studio concert?  We get a ten song show tracked in February of 1980 drawing heavily from To Hell With the Boys, alongside more established standards "First Time," "New Guitar in Town," and "Brickfield Nights" (as if you weren't expecting that one) blended in for good measure.  A primo set that flashes by all too quickly.  The Boys...On Safari is available at your disposable direct from Cherry Red or Amazon.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

i'm insufferable when i'm in heat...

From 1999. (Good) trouble from down under.  An absolute keeper.

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


Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Front - Le Bete Humaine ep (1987, Nocturnal)

Between the chugging rockabilly strut of the title cut and bluesy slow-walk of the concluding "Ball & Chain" The Front deliver three solidly memorable guitarsy burners that intermittently smack of Lords of the New Church and Screaming Blue Messiahs.  Foremost among them is "Temples," bustling with sass and an anthemic ethos so fiery I'm not even sure if these guys knew they possessed such a potent stockpile of ammunition. This Front aren't to be confused with another band of roughly the same era bearing said moniker who existed for a spell in the early '90s and later changed their name to Bakers Pink.

01. La Bete Humaine
02. Lost Seekers
03. Temples
04. Son of Sam
05. Ball & Chain


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Rockin Bricks - Havin' A Wild Weeknight!! ep (1982, Major Label)

I know this record is almost forty years old and that I should cut these guys some considerable slack, but I'm puzzled as to why Rockin Bricks lead off their only record with a frivolous piece of party tripe (a la Oingo Boingo) like "Planning My Weekend."  That coupled with a not so credible moniker might have you suspecting this record is an outright throwaway - but stay with me folks, because these Jersey kids redeemed themselves to an almost colossal extent on Havin' A Wild Weeknight!!'s remaining three tunes.  "Heartbeat," "Foreign Girl" and "Can't Say No" rain down like manna from the power pop skies like some of the greatest songs the Romantics (and I mean that band's halcyon era) never got around to penning. I'm picking up on some jangly leads throughout recalling the Plimsouls and other like-minded combos as well.  So skip track one and fall in love with other 75% of Weeknight, because it just might make your month.

01. Planning My Weekend
02. Heartbeat
03. Foreign Girl
04. Can't Say No


Sunday, September 20, 2020

I wanna skip the dishes and drown in the sink...

From 2016. Marvelous. Perfect, in fact.

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


Notes on new music - Exploding Flowers, Sofa City Sweetheart, Bye Bye Blackbids and Stutter Steps.

What possesses the benignly mercurial affectations of the Rain Parade, the mid-fidelity penchant of early Guided by Voices, and is chockablock with comely, chiming arpeggios and empathetic vocal aplomb?   Why it’s none other than Stumbling Blocks, the new LP by L.A.’s Exploding Flowers.  Applying just any one of the aforementioned characteristics would likely emanate a certain magic unto itself, but with all elements functioning in tandem the Flowers imbue “Among Burn Out Stars,” “Far, But Never Gone,” and the especially striking title cut with an even more mesmerizing alchemy altogether.  Contrary to the album moniker, no stumbling blocks here, just a dozen winsome stepping stones with myriad charms and a keen forward-thinking temperament that’s retrofitted in all the right places.  Stumbling Blocks is available from the band's Bandcamp page or The Beautiful Music.      

It's been awhile since I checked in with San Diego's Sofa City Sweetheart, just over a decade in fact, when their self titled 2008 effort made it's way into my CD player (remember those?).  Not many more sofa albums have filled the gap between that one and 2019's Super(b) Exitos, which surprisingly finds focal point Juan Lopez bartering in the same thoughtful, warm-hued singer/songwriter pop that's equal parts invigorating and empathetic. Tunes including (but not limited to) "Stanley Waited" and "Stop the Thinking" exude the competent, harmony-ridden craftsmanship of Sloan and Mike Viola, while simultaneously bearing the emotional heft that the late Elliott Smith made his calling card.  There are lilting ballads along the way as well, featuring ornate and refined flourishes of piano, strings and even an abundance of cooing oohs and ahs.  Much to revel in here, as well as SCS's Bandcamp site, which not only offers Super(b) for a modest amount of shekels, but other goodies like an even more recent collection of Elliott Smith covers.  

Seemingly exploding into the spotlight just this year (but actually boasting a good decade or so under their belts) Bye Bye Blackbirds featuring frontman Bradley Skaught are one of the hottest commodities in modern day power-pop.  No, I ain't talking about the three-chords-in-three-minutes-and-we're-outta-here variety of said genre, rather the more immaculately prepared and considered variation thereof, entailing rich, deftly honed musicianship and an uncanny melodic finesse.  Wedding the aesthetic of bygone, under-the-radar pop classicists the Grip Weeds and The Rooks to Roger McGuinn-esque guitar fills, not to mention a twenty-first century aptitude, The Blackbirds have seized on a polished but breathable formula that practically screams "class." Produced by Doug Gillard, with engineering assistance from another vaunted pop demigod, Chris Von Sneidern, Boxer at Rest is a bouquet of sophistication, harmonies and appropriate nods to the past, yielding such should-be hits, signature songs, etc as "So True" and "All Our Friends."  Skaught and Co. even have the wherewithal to break out a horn section on occasion.  Boxer at Rest can be had via Amazon, and physical versions are for sale over at BBB's Bandcamp corner of the web. 

Once or twice a year an unsolicited gem makes it's way into my mailbox.  Here's one of 2020's most impressive entries into that not-so-expansive rectangular receptacle.  Bathed in analogue hues with an ever-so-slight undercurrent of keyboards supplementing the usual guitars and drums, the real key to Stutter Steps' charm doesn't merely reside in their sonic facets, rather Ben Harrison's mildly melancholic and casual parlance.  Bearing a resemblance to East River Pipe, Outrageous Cherry, Galaxie 500 (Stutter Steps collaborated with Dean Wareham previously) and to a less obvious extent the Velvets, the Steps are going for depth on Reeling without outright sinking.  What Harrison extols about isn't always identifiable to the listener, but his ruminations never overreach into any sort of histrionics or gratuitous drama.  My only quibble with this otherwise excellent disk is it's general sameyness from song to song.  Then again it's hard to argue that I'd want them to upset the apple cart when their results are so uniformly effective.  Reeling is available now from Blue Arrow Records and, you guessed it, Bandcamp.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Red House - 25 Reasons/Teenbeat 7" (1983, Wave Seven)

Here I am sharing a single I don't actually own (but really have no excuse not to).  This isn't the Red House from New Jersey whose album I shared eons ago, rather this was an even less renown band bearing the same moniker.  The Red House in question were actually Minneapolis denizens, and frontman Mark Freeman came from a late '70s post-punk outfit, NNB, who also released but one single before closing shop.  Both tracks here border on excellent, with "25 Reasons" representing itself as a comparatively insular but forward-thinking pop-rock number.  The darker "Teenbeat" is antithetical to it's title with minor chord shadings and a subtle but well-placed piano line situated around the chorus.  A big thanks to whomever ripped the files for this one. 

A. 25 Reasons
B. Teenbeat


Friday, September 18, 2020

Pinko Pinko - Traffic (1996, North of No South)

I learned of Pinko Pinko the old fashioned way - a friend lent me their CD.  I already knew going into this one the band was of Swedish stock, but had I not I would have unsafely assumed them British, because right down to the seemingly mimicked accents they sounded every bit the part.  Traffic was their parting shot, and after a few spins it occurred to me that this is what I had really hoped the first couple of Blur albums could have amounted to back in the day.  Blur didn't truly win me over until Parklife, and even on subsequent albums they didn't do a whole lot for me, but Pinko points to where those guys might have gone if they had modified their aesthetic a tad and went for something more ironic.  Another one of Pinko's Britpop contemporaries, Salad, come to mind on more than a few occasions here, albeit no one in P/P is female.  Traffic isn't swimming in obliqueness, though it's hard to ignore its creators wry and not-so-obvious maneuvers. Again, this band sound nothing like their Swedish brethren and are Anglophiles to the ever lovin' core.  Check this out and draw your own conclusions.  In addition I've tacked on a couple of era b-sides.

01. No. 1
02. Lately, My Mind's Been Going Lots Of Places Without Me
03. Nosebleed
04. On the Show Tonight
05. Shangri-La
06. Juvenile Delicay
07. Mad helicopter
08. Cheekbone
09. Oh Mother, Oh Brother
10. Sirocco
11. People in Motion
12. Nature is Hasty (Nosebleed b-side)
13. Nobodyknows (Cheekbone b-side)


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Waiting, hoping for a sign that what's forbidden can be mine.

A CD of outtakes and demos from this band's 2001 career summary box set.

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


VA - Unloved: A Tribute to the Music of Arthur Lee and Love ep (1994, Chunk)

As far as tribute comps go...let's just say this isn't one of the more appealing ones.  Plenty of reasons for that but none too dramatic to torpedo this affair outright.  Arthur Lee & Love are good enough  candidates as any for this type of homage, and in fact the same year this double 7" ep made it's way onto shelves so did an entirely unrelated Love tribute CD, We're All Normal and We Want Our Freedom.  For whatever the reason, Unloved only plucks songs from one of the group's albums, namely their 1966 debut.  Not a bad record at that, but if you're craving any favorites along the lines of "Andmoreagain," "The Good Humor Man..." or even "Seven and Seven Is," you're flat out of luck, Jack. 

My next big complaint is the performances. New Radiant Storm King who I normally enjoy could have really pulled off something sweet with "My Little Red Book" if it wasn't for the fact that Peyton Pinkerton decided to phone in his vocals.  Next, Love's "Signed D.C." wasn't exactly exciting to begin with (after all, it was a ballad) and the Lyres live take is respectful but anticlimactic.  The Supreme Dicks are/were true to their name, insisting on employing a ridiculous vocal effect on "Can't Explain," winding up resembling something like Ween.  The Veronica Cartwrights win this rather meager sweepstakes with a linear but heartfelt reading of "A Message to Pretty."  One more thing - Discogs' page for this record depicts an entirely different (and more attractive) sleeve than the one above.  Dare I say there were multiple pressings of Unloved?  But anyway...

01. New Radiant Storm King - My Little Red Book
02. Lyres - Signed D.C
03. The Veronica Cartwrights - A Message To Pretty
04. Supreme Dicks - Can't Explain


Saturday, September 12, 2020

White Animals - Nashville Babylon ep (1981, Dread Beat)

My apologies for making you wait so long for some new tunes this week.  If you're a long time visitor of his site you may have come across this Nashville combo before.  In fact, I've shared three whole White Animals long-players that came out between 1984-87.  They struck me as erstwhile purveyors of the more pedestrian end of the college rock thing...but their first ep, Nashville Babylon was quite the horse of a different color.  Behold, six no-frills rootsy cuts of unadulterated rock 'n roll in the manner of the Flamin' Groovies, by a crack quartet  wielding an acumen that could realistically slot anywhere between the Easybeats and George Thorogood.  The Animals weren't quite Nuggets, but vastly removed from the mainstream FM hoi polloi of the day. Two covers on this ep make their intentions relatively well known, specifically a hearty rendering of the Yardbirds signature cut "For Your Love," and kicking off side-B, the blues-pop pearl "Tobacco Road" (originally done by the Nashville Teens, later popularized by Johnny Winter and others). There's a discernible purity to this disk that never quite translated to W/A's later records, as good as some of them were.  Enjoy.

01. Old Jazzmaster
02. For Your Love
03. Only Sorrow
04. Tobacco Road
05. I Need Somebody to Love Me
06. I Need You So


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Sometimes I feel like a palm tree in the middle of the pavement...

From 1997.  This quartet's only album, from what I can tell.  Signposts vaguely point to latter-era Replacements.
**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**


Saturday, September 5, 2020

Weather Permitting - Into the Ground (1987, VOT)

I suppose there isn't one individual dot on the map Weather Permitting strike me as sounding indigenous to, circa the era of this record.  England for sure - in a heartbeat in fact.  Maybe down under in Christchurch, NZ or more broadly Australia.  Heck, toss New Jersey in there too...but Montreal?  Yeah, it surprised the heck out of me to learn WP's actual stomping grounds were in Quebec, because they sure in hell don't resemble any Canadian band I've laid ears on before. Not that they were swilling out anything particularly exotic mind you, but these Anglophiles had a solid grasp of what was going in Britain's indie scene of the day, taking a page from the June Brides, Bodines and Felt.  They have enough jangly inclinations to conjure up a likeness to New Zealand's Bats, and a gift for meaningful strummy song-craft faintly recalling the Triffids.  And if your sensibilities are anything like mine you may even hone in on the tincture of American, left-of-the-dial fixtures the Feelies.   

Into the Ground isn't an outright revelation, as there were so many records sharing its aesthetic that made it to the table prior to Weather's arrival, but the band's acumen and quality control are demonstrably impeccable wherever the needle lands.  I could name several favorites here - "Almost
Happy" and the sorta two-for-one "Land/Goldmine," but I'm content to let you pick one of your own.  In 2011 Raised on Canadian Radio blog offered a brief but informative backgrounder on the quartet that you may wish to refer to.

01. The Hounds
02. Almost Happy
03. In the House
04. I Needed You
05. Into the Ground
06. Love is Good
07. Land/Goldmine
08. After All This
09. Her Moods Will Change


Friday, September 4, 2020

Children's Crusade - Scorpio Moon 7" (Scat, 1990/rec. 1985)

Children's Crusade were your classic definition of a footnote band for more reasons than one.  The lineup entailed future overachiever Doug Gillard who would later hone his talents in a plethora of higher profile combos with national audiences including Death of Samantha, Cobra Verde, Gem, and predominantly in the twenty-first century by way of Guided By Voices and Nada Surf - not to mention as a bonafide solo act in his own right.  C/C's footnote status is further cemented by the fact that their discography (prior to this archival 45) consisted merely of a cassette, where these three songs were derived from.  It's a gentleman named Fraser Sims (who served a mid-80s stint in Cleveland hardcore kingpins Starvation Army) on the mic, with the credits indicating Gillard was responsible for all other aspects of the band's sonic force majeure.  And what a force to reckoned with, usurping their noisome inspiration from some of the more subterranean SST Records stablemates of the day. The six and a half-minute "Blue Venus Aflame" boasts faint art-punk leanings, and were it not for Sims half-spoken vox this might pass for a Meat Puppets outtake.  "Your Time is Through" is this disc's most blatant charmer, a borderline melodic, mid-tempo piece that bore resemblance to the Crusade's fellow Buckeye state contemporaries Great Plains.  The concluding "St. Jack's Bible" is grimy and cranky as all-get-out, making it's aforementioned accompanying flipside sound like a downright anthem by comparison. Plentiful liner notes can be located on the record's inner and back sleeves.

A. Blue Venus Aflame
B1. Your Time is Through
B2. St. Jack's Bible