Sunday, October 24, 2021

She says nothing I'd like to erase.

It's time for another round of four eps. Get your fill of a quartet of diverse, but thoroughly unrelated acts you didn't know you couldn't live without.

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


The Outlines - High on a Wire 7" (1987, Gusto!)

Singles. 45s. Good things come in small packages, right?  Well you hope anyway when you're just taking a chance on a 7" with an interesting picture sleeve.  Was holding out for greatness here, but settled for something half-way decent.  Prior to listening I expected The Outlines record might be something of a treat given its copyright date, and the fact it was a private indie pressing from a Georgia combo. Given the pedigree of indie bands that called Athens and Atlanta home, I thought a quartet from an another big Georgia "A" town, in this case Augusta, would be worth a shot. In any case, this foursome certainly didn't jangle like R.E.M. nor did they operate on the same creative tier as Pylon, but a subterranean ethos was still at play. "High on a Wire" is angsty, but economic post-punk, with a mean, angular riff permeating the entirety of it's two and a half minutes. The Outlines don't succeed as effectively on the less pent-up "No Idea," which suffers from underwritten lyrics and a lack of a discernible hook. It appears this single is all this band had to offer the world.  A few scant details regarding the Outlines and some other indie Augusta, GA hopefuls from the same era are available in the text blurb accompanying this YouTube clip.

A. High on a Wire
B. No Idea

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Streetcar Named Desire - Life Begins ep (1983, Desperate)

Yet another in a long line of good bands that time and the internet seemingly relegated waaaaay to the back burner. As you might guess a search on this band's moniker brings up a deluge of irrelevant matches, but I can pretty safely say Streetcar Named Desire hailed from Toronto, ON. Emanating a placid mix of keys and guitars, with some tasteful saxophone fills this five-piece played a contemplative card without wandering into anything overtly melancholic. More wave than post-punk, they gracefully managed to avoid the more exploitative sonic trappings of their era (didn't hurt that they produced and likely released this on their own label).  Life Begins won't be making it into my desert island stack, but it's both a pleasant and rewarding listen with "A Month of Sundays," "Yesteryear" and the comparatively bustling and elaborate "World War Son" making the most significant impressions.

01. A Month of Sundays
02. Someday Your Ship Will Come (Dance Mix)
03. Illustrated Man
04. Life Begins
05. Yesteryear
06. World War Son

V/A - Songs From the Streaming Audio folder, pt. 1

So it's come to this.  I'm plundering semi-random MP3 folders on my hard drive in hopes of sharing something unique with you good people.  And to my credit, several of the twenty songs within this file are relatively unique, not to mention some of which that are unavailable virtually anywhere.  I did something similar with my "letter folders" comps (sorry, the links are dead) several year ago, though I put that project on hold indefinitely for whatever the reason.  So what the hell is my "streaming audio" folder, and how might it pay dividends to you?  If you don't mind the spiel I'm about to unfold, read on

Most of the music I download is procured via purchasing it through legit sites, using file sharing platforms (think Napster and such), music links provided by fellow bloggers, and finally, files that are passed along to me by friends/acquaintances/various music pushers in emails, texts, etc. Usually it's just a matter of tapping the left button on my mouse and selecting the folder or directory I wish to route the files to. But what about all the music I can't so easily download, whether it be through video sources (YouTube, etc), Soundcloud. Myspace and other webpages I inhabit (or have formerly) where I can check out all the music I desire...but analogous to the Hotel California, the audio can never leave the webpage or video player it's resident to?  Well, the solution to alleviating this conundrum has been remedied through audio capturing applications like MediaHuman (which literally creates an MP3 of any Youtube video you drag into the software interface), however this technology is relatively recent.  In the past (and occasionally to this day) I need to utilize slightly less convenient streaming audio recorders (e.g. SoundTap), which captures whatever music I'm listening to on my PC in real time in the form of MP3s or wav files. Over the years I've accumulated a few hundred tracks by this latter method, and have kept them in a folder labeled "streaming audio," that I never get around to sorting or relocating. What resides in this folder, much like my greater MP3 library is very much specific to my tastes. You won't find many household names in there, but to me some of this music is priceless, as it's never been offered commercially, or even been locatable through a download-friendly resource.

Today I'm sharing nearly two dozen of these oft un/under-available tunes.  I realize the actual source folder on my hard drive where they're derived from is pretty much irreverent to you, as from your perspective it's merely a collection of tunes in a folder.  But as I said, the unavailability factor of the songs make them that much more precious (at least to me).  I'm not going to provide a track list, per normal, but here' a few spoilers.  You'll regale in some pretty splendid covers of (not from) artists as diverse Sonic Youth, NOFX, The Posies, Elliott Smith and the Pains of Being Pure at Hear.  As for wholly unreleased tunes you can partake in scarcities from the likes of Dreams So Real and Fickle Friends.  There's also a very early prototype of a song that would eventually be fully fleshed out for an album that would sell well over a million copies in the '90s. Best of all, if you're an aficionado of obscuro power pop circa it's golden era, check out rare single sides from the Frenchman and the Defendants. This is a true, blue hodgepodge to be sure, and with any luck you'll find a rewarding earworm or two amongst this haphazard collection. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Don't save me when I'm starting to drown...

From 1988.  A fairly comprehensive assemblage of early eps and singles from these legendary psych/garage/punk Aussie's.

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


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Drive - Grease Girls mLP (1991, First Strike)

I thought this would be apropos follow-up to last night's Sugarblast post.  Drive. A short-lived trio of Liverpudlians who not merely held their own with UK contemporaries Mega City Four and Wonderstuff, but were seemingly groomed on the finest of American indie-rock (Hüsker Dü, Dinosaur Jr., Moving Targets, etc).  I shared a covers single by them several years ago when this site was in it's infancy, and today I've got an LP (or damn close to one anyway) for you comprised of two eps, Greasegun and No Girls.  All around solid, deftly honed tunes fleshed out with a veritable bouquet of incisive power chords, squalling solos and poignantly tuneful arrangements. Despite their influences Drive weren't blatantly plagiaristic of anyone, rather they were in the throes of enormously good company.  A more thorough Discography collection by Drive is available if you wish to delve deeper. 

01. Drive
02. Greasegun
03. Light Reads Heat
04. Drive Out
05. No Girls
06. Peephole
07. Vegan in Furs
08. Process White

Friday, October 15, 2021

Sugarblast - Mind ep (1992, Emergo Insight)

From the sound of it, this little spoken of UK quartet had an ear for a couple of their contemporaries, namely Mega City Four and the Senseless Things. Less vigorous than the almighty Megas, Sugarblast nonetheless had a keen melodic acumen, buttressed with an enticing cavalcade of ringing chords and bright vocals. No filler takes residence in this Mind, though the band opt for a curious, galloping rhythm on "Believe," and for the concluding "Stabbed" they get the notion to lay on the wah-wah pedal. This ep and the subsequent Sunny Outside ep (released that same year) were bundled onto one disk, though it appears Sugarblast's slim discography was an import-exclusive affair. 

01. Mind
02. Spinning
03. Mighty High Opinion
04. Believe
05. Stabbed

Sunday, October 10, 2021

I’ve got all the right questions but she doesn’t want the answers.

From 1991. Last week we lost he frontman/nucleus of the act I'm sharing this week. Though he was better know for his earlier and rawer records, the relatively conventional indie rock strains of this LP managed to reel me in.   

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


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Colin Lloyd Tucker - Toybox (1984, Plastic Head)

Little did I know a few months ago when I posted the Plain Character's Invisible Yearnings album I also had stashed away a then un-listened to used copy of a solo record by one of the Characters, Colin Lloyd Tucker, a mercurial and an avant-inclined musical sort, who's had his fingers in many a pie since the early '80s.  As with the aforementioned entry, I'm once again going to direct you to Nothin' Sez Somethin' blog for more pertinent details on Colin's extended body or work, but I'm going to concentrate specifically on his debut album here.  

From my vantage point, Toybox is a conceptual piece, the gist of which being of a fictitious and fanciful nature, minus any real heavy-handedness.  Still, it's sophisticated stuff that doesn't often skew toward conventional pop/rock constructs.  Instead, think Syd Barrett or even Robyn Hitchcock's more oblique handiwork (in and out of the Soft Boys).  He shoehorns a few Bowie-isms in too, but perhaps my radar is honing in on Colin's timbre here, any likenesses to may be a sheer coincidence.  For Toybox, our protagonist doesn't bait you in with obvious hooks, rather he opts to finagle with texture, temperament, subtle mystique.  If you're salivating for something as immediate and enticing as say, Ziggy Stardust, or the Soft Boys' Underwater Moonlight, I'll break your heart right here and now.  Nonetheless, Colin is a stickler for wearing his influences on the sleeves of his wizardly garb - and he dispenses them to engaging effect on "Rock'n Roll Pinocchio," "Bat Watch" and  "Casey's Last Trip." In the grand scheme of things Toybox is an acquired taste worth acquiring. 

01. Toy Box
02. Mrs. Donovan-Jones
03. The Young Boys Belonging To Mr. Brown
04. Bat Watch
05. Little Girl In The Red Plastic Mac
06. The Roundabout And The Wigwam
07. Rock 'n Roll Pinocchio
08. Found An Old Wheel In The Woods
09. Straight Forward
10. Casey's Last Trip
11. What Lies Inside The Wizard's Hat?
12. U.F.O. Report No 1

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Gleaming Spires - Songs of the Spires (1981), Walk on Well Lighted Streets (1983) & Welcoming a New Ice Age (1985) (Omnivore 2021 reissues ) - An overview.

Say it's the late 1970s.  You're in a promising but utterly struggling Los Angeles power pop outfit called Bates Motel. You play gigs frequently. You cut demos. Despite no shortage of talent record companies just aren't biting the line.  As fate would have it you and your bandmates are fans of Sparks, who by this stage in the game are established auteurs and visionaries in electronic music around the world. You and one of your fellow com-padres in Bates Motel eventually get up the gumption to approach brothers Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks to check out one of gigs at a local dive to sell them on the idea of producing your humble but hungry outfit.  The Mael's accept your invitation, but instead of them working for you, they invite you to work for them as Sparks new rhythm section.  How could you possible decline? 

That in a nutshell was the unlikely alliance of Bates Motel's David Kendrick and Leslie Bohem with a (slightly) higher profile artist who at this point in their already storied career have racked up lauded albums like Propaganda and Kimono My House, among roughly half a dozen more LPs.  This merger officially put to pasture Bates Motel, and moreover buoyed Kendrick's and Bohem's confidence.  Couple this with the fact the duo still had their own creative juices flowing, and no shortage of motivation to start a new combo parallel to their gig in Sparks, dubbed Gleaming Spires. Thus began a six year odyssey that would grant the aforementioned gents the opportunity to record three, creatively distinct albums, earn themselves a minor, but still coveted new wave hit forty years after the fact, and gain them national if not international renown.  Omnivore Records have once again done yeomens work with model reissues of the Spires entire catalog, almost all of it on compact disk for the first time, featuring generous bonus material and thorough annotation, right down to song-by-song insight from Les and David themselves.

As debut albums go, 1981's Songs of the Spires was actually more of a glorified demo. Produced by a then emerging Stephen Hague, the album's nine songs were really designed to be shopped around so to speak, more as a means than an end. A copy landed of the tape landed on the desk of Posh Boy Record's honcho Robbie Fields who was so floored with what he'd heard, he insisted that he release the Spires demos as-is, against Les and David's wishes to re-record the tracks so they'd be more presentable to mainstream ears.  Ironically, Songs of the Spires didn't bear a discernible sonic adherence to Sparks, despite much of the music being saturated with keyboards as much as guitars. In fact the record's mid-fi production qualities and sardonic pop acumen more closely resembled what Todd Rundgren was churning out with Utopia at the time - and to a much more diminished extent, Gary Numan. 

Unlike the dude that unlisted from the Tubeway Army, the Spires weren't merely artful but genuinely fun. Case in point, the irresistible "Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?" Sounding like the most clever and lascivious four minutes the Tubes neglected to commit to tape, local "new music" peddlers KROQ FM made sure the tune was seared into the noggins of the greater metro-L.A. region, and it quickly and endearingly became Gleaming Spires signature song.  It took a deft set of hands and mouths to concoct the likes of such a banger without straying into novelty territory, but this duo were up to the task. The other close brush with a "hit" from this era/album, "How to Get Girls Thru Hypnotism" was issued as a proper single. Deeper cuts on Songs... proved to be nearly as rewarding, namely the stark "Big Hotels," and the persuasive enough ballad, "While We Can." Songs of the Spires really wasn't one of those untouchable debuts per se, albeit the Spires were never able to surpass it in terms of sheer consistency.  We're treated to no less than ten supplemental tracks, including the entirety of the subsequent Life Out on the Lawn ep from 1982.  It's three songs were more left-field, not to mention less memorable than the album, but still approachable.  What's especially revelatory here are half a dozen songs from the Spires/Sparks precursor band stated above, Bates Motel. For a traditional power pop act these fellows were surprisingly diverse and gave rise to the stunning "The Way Marlena Moves" and the sassy 'n raw "Only the Young Die Young." 

Fast forward to 1983.  Time for some changes in the house of Spires, and fairly significant ones at that. For their follow-up, Walk on Well Lighted Streets, the duo had now doubled in population to a quartet, adding Bob Haag on guitars and Jimbo Goodwin on keys. Second, they moved to a much more sizable label (does PVC Records ring a bell with anyone?). Bog Hague was re-enlisted as producer, but I'm sure it soon became evident to him that he was dealing with a demonstrably different ball of wax than the lads who cut Songs of the Spires. WOWLS marked the band's first legitimate grasp for the brass ring, with Hague modernizing and honing their technique enabling the Spires to compete with the A-list.  No, they hadn't morphed into Duran Duran or Oingo Boingo, but the album depicted to your right boasted a similar finesse you'd encounter with many of the group's synth pop/top-40 crossover colleagues. As such, ...Streets doesn't falter so much as iron out the creases and kinks of the more acerbic tones and ironic prose that made their debut such a treat.  The Spires were still considerably far from generic, but they were clearly en route to more routine environs.  "A Christian Girl's Problems" is something of a respite for more established customers, hearkening back to the edginess of the first album, while "At Together" is curiously tension-addled and prickly. There's a veritable album's worth of bonus tracks to be had, many of them culled from the 1984 Party ep, an indulgent and perhaps loosely satirical spin on dance pop of the Spires era. "Funk for Children" packs a more propulsive groove than you might expect, and "Brain Botton" is delightfully surreal.  Also in '84, the band's increased visibility landed them on the Revenge of the Nerds soundtrack with two numbers including a full band reinterpretation of "Are You Ready For the Sex Girls?" which sounds significantly blunted stacked up against the tune in it's original incarnation.

Gleaming Spires last gleaming, so to speak, arrived with their third album, 1985's Welcoming a New Ice Age. If there's anything to be said about this LP writ large is that it's hard to cast generalities as so many of the songs seem to occupy their own slice of airspace.  The commencing "Mercy" is a bold, taut pop-rocker wielding genuine power chords, accented with just the right allotment of keyboards. It could realistically compete as their finest moment.  The title piece and "No One Coming Over" exude appealing new-wave affectations, without getting too heavy handed.  Further in, "What's Coming Next" might have been a more suitable fit for the previous album. "Unprotected" seems to aim for a certain degree of grandiosity but misses the mark by several notches.  For the concluding "Harm" the band tossed in everything they had including fretless bass, tribal percussion, found sounds, and treated vocals.  An offbeat but fitting way to put a nightcap on both the album and their career.  The bonus material here does little to supplement ...Ice Age, but is likely to fascinate the few diehards in attendance.  Appended are five compositions that intended to compose a good chunk of the soundtrack to School Spirit, a cheesy teen-sex romp that apparently went straight to video, with said soundtrack never coming to fruition.  The tunes are as pandering to the target audience as you might expect, and don't get me started on the near-monstrosity that is the Spires' ridiculously forced rendition of Elvis' "Suspicious Minds."  Then again, it was the mid-80s. Rounding things out are couple of numbers from a punky, one-off project dubbed Eleven Blue Men, comprised of Les and David alongside 45 Grave's and Dream Syndicate's Paul Cutler.

All three Gleaming Spires albums are available directly from Omnivore with compact disk and download options, and ditto for Amazon.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

The gang and the government are no different...

Although we encounter it infrequently at best, some bands opt to go with a live tape for their debut album: Hüsker Dü, MC5 and The Make-Up to name a handful. To me, this 1987 platter outshines most, if not all, that I've heard in this particular realm.  

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


Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Sunset Strip (w/ John Dowler) - Holocaust ep (1989, Au-go-go)

If you liked the Sunset Strip's Move Right In disk I posted a few years back, you just might fall in love with this precursor ep. Why?  Well for one, these guys deliver their absolute finest tune, "I'd Die Instead," a rich, deftly crafted piece suggesting everyone from Robyn Hitchcock to Television, that also just so happens to fuse together the most attractive attributes of psych, garage and jangle pop.  "I'd Die..." is accompanied by no less than three outstanding covers, starting with the Stone's ace 1968 b-side "Child of the Moon."  It gets even better from there with an adaptation of the Alice Cooper Band's Easy Action-era nugget "Caught in a Dream." The record finishes off with Big Star's dour but crucial downer ballad "Holocaust," featuring Aussie music scenester John Dowler on guest vocals. All in all this ep is nothing short of wonderful.

01. I'd Die Instead
02. Child of the Moon
03. Caught in a Dream
04. Holocaust

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Nameless - rumble ep (1990, Wise)

This Chicago trio were fortunately not as non-descript as their namesake implied, thanks to frontman Leonardo Biciunas' icy post-punk guitar runs that color so much of this ep with a healthy dose of sonic mystique. Oddly enough, The Nameless rarely balance things out with equivalently oblique lyrics, though the demeanor on rumble is certainly downcast, almost to a naval gazing fault. A poignant sense of melody goes a long way in compensating for this combo's plaintive prose, with "Concede to the Sun" winning considerable points with yours truly. Btw, fretless bass aficionados will appreciate Johnny Ortiz's nimble playing.  

01. Fall
02. Concede to the Sun
03. Slow Day in Hell
04. Restless

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Through the memories that twist your view, you’ll see that you are twisted too.

Nevermind wasn't the only album to celebrate it's 30th anniversary last week. Lots of incendiary power chords on this as well.

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


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Prefab Sprout - Demos and Recordings 1982

Yet another week has gone by with little or nothing prepared for you, my fine readers and visitors. With that being said, maybe the next seven days will yield something more substantive, but for now, we have this humble and seemingly sparse collection of early and unreleased Prefab Sprout material, much of it tracked live. If you're new to microcosm of Patty McAloon & Co. it's advised you start with their first few albums (Swoon, Steve McQueen...etc) or at the very least the handy and generous 38 Carat Collection anthology. 

As for this brief congregation of tunes, this is a fan-assembled set of 1982 era demos and live works-in-progress of songs that would appear on their debut single and first couple of albums. Longtime adherents to these Brit, sophisti-pop mavens will no doubt find these nascent, and frankly spartan versions of some of the Prefab's soon-to-be cult favorites revelatory to one extent or another. Source details for these songs are provided in the info file in the folder. Enjoy.

01. Cherry Tree (demo)
02. Bonny (rough demo)
03. Constant Blue
04. Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)
05. Technique
06. Diana
07. Green Isaac
08. Hallelujah

MP3 or  FLAC

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Overflowing money like the stars in multitude. If only you could win.

From 1998. Swedish indie pop with winsome keyboard flourishes...and a modest side order of kitsch.

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


Sorrows - Love Too Late...The Real Album & Big Stir Singles - The Ninth & Tenth Wave's

It was inevitable, but in the most rewarding way possible.  At some point I knew I was going to be bitten by the Big Stir Records bug.  The power pop-centric label established around 2017 first staked their claim by releasing dozens of digital singles from up and coming acts with a few "vintage" names on their roster as well (Jim Basnight of the Moberlys and Lannie Flowers of The Pengwins renown come to mind).  It wasn't until a couple of years later that Big Stir began to release full lengths, this time physically on CD.  CD compilations of the imprint's digital singles have proven to be extremely popular and the label is up to their thirteenth volume already (which I'll address along with the ninth and tenth installments below). Moreover, Big Stir Records has been a boon a for fans of traditional power-pop, the kind championed by sadly bygone labels like Not Lame and Big Deal. 

So what Big Stir release in particular made me take that one giant leap for ear-kind, so to speak?  A rebooted version of the Sorrows second LP, Love Too Late, originally released in 1981, and more flawed and compromised at the time than I could have ever imagined. The NYC based four-piece sprouted in 1977, at the height of punk and were a fixture at all the usual spaces like CBGS's and Max's Kansas City.  Though the Sorrows weren't punk by definition they certainly fooled a lot of their followers, who by the time of their 1980 album Teenage Heartbreak, issued by an affiliate label of CBS (Pavillion) had tamed their sound to a savvy but loose amalgamation of the Heartbreakers and the Romantics. Although they weren't necessarily dangling on the cutting edge of the power-pop/wave movement, Teenage Heartbreak was a phenomenally great debut and an undeniable hit with the cult that adopted the Sorrows. The record garnered them a small but respectable national fanbase, but the bean-counters at CBS expected a bigger return on their investment...and would go to enormous and craven lengths to ensure the band's '81 follow-up, Love Too Late, would yield the kind of revenue they insisted on.

Per the liner notes of Love Too Late...The Real Album, by late 1980 the band was prepping their second record.  Evidently, things were going well for the Sorrows before they strapped in for a flight to London to work with their high-pedigree dream producer Shel Talmy, who had made a name for himself working with everyone from the Who to the Kinks.  Unfortunately, Talmy and the band's management at CBS were steering the ship, and the Sorrows soon became unwitting and reluctant passengers.  On Teenage Heartbreak the vocals were a group effort between guitarists Arthur Alexander and Joey Cola, plus bassist Ricky Street, but for Love Too Late it was decided to whittle the mic responsibilities to just one member (presumably Alexander)... and a host of random session vocalists, apparently brought aboard to compensate for the rawer angularities of the quartet proper.  Although details are scant, original drummer Jett Harris' parts were substituted with those of yet another rando studio hack, against the Sorrow's blessing.  By and large the idea for LTL was to de-emphasize the band's vigorous guitar attack and play up synthesizers, that to my knowledge the band had no desire to bring to the table. The Sorrows exited the British isles with a record they were not merely dissatisfied with, but one which they felt was completely unrepresentative of them - literally and metaphorically. Love Too Late arrived in the marketplace in 1981, but given sluggish sales and the soul-crushing scenario presented above, it ultimately led to the band's premature dissolution. A full four decades later the erroneous album was finally rerecorded to the band's satisfaction by a majority of the original lineup in the guise of the aptly titled Love Too Late...The Real Album. 

For those who've heard it, surface level, there isn't anything necessarily wrong with the original '81 incarnation of LTL.  In fact, it's a thoroughly presentable and often enjoyable album with plenty of spicy guitar parts, but the band's power and panache is diminished for a far slicker m.o., to the point where they could pass for an updated Raspberries. You could certainly do worse, but again this wasn't the intention of the Sorrows.  For example, comparing the original/recently revised takes of Love Too Late's reved-up opening salvo "Christabelle" the backing vocals sound almost "canned" compared to the considerably more natural sounding accompaniment on this years "corrected" version.  Furthermore, purely from a sonic standpoint, the Real Album revision is discernibly more organic, and packs more of a bite. Similarly, the Beatles-indebted "Rita" is comparatively subtle and ineffectual in it's ho-hum 1981 state, whereas this year's model (literally, you could say) is crisp and catchy, with virtually every single component of the arrangement more prominent in the mix. Ditto for many if not all of the tunes when compared head-to-head.  In essence, The Real Album strikes me as the ultimate remix/remaster job, but these are in fact entirely rerecorded takes (with the great Robbie Rist enlisted as co-engineer I might add).  From the get go, Love Too Late was never going to be a desert island disc, and neither iteration of the record surpasses the energy and grit of the band's debut, Teenage Heartbreak.  Instead, the point of The Real Album was to finally scratch a forty-year itch, and right what was seen as an egregious wrong from the vantage of the record's four architects - and that's precisely what the Sorrows have accomplished here.   

Perhaps the only thing surpassing the popularity of Big Stir's copious deluge of digital singles is their quickly accumulating CD compilations of them. Before I give you a quick rundown of the Ninth and Tenth volumes, I should mention I'm already behind the eight-ball, as Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth installments exist as I type this!   Anyway, onto the Ninth Wave depicted to your left. The Persian Leaps don't appear until four songs in ("PRN") but I'd be more than content to move these folks to the head of the class given their crunchy and assertive aplomb.  Rossie Abbott arouses some well-placed yacht rock maneuvers via "Hold On," David Brooking's "Livin' Through the Plague" is as clever and spot on as current events get, and The Brothers Steve shake my proverbial bottle of ketchup as well. Irene Peña turns in a pair of Fountains of Wayne renditions, with her reading of "The Summer Place" being especially appealing, and Nick Frater's splendid "Alone Again (Naturally)" emanates Paul McCartney more than Arthur Lee and Love.

And speaking of Macca,  yet another wellspring of silly love songs abound on Big Stir's Tenth Wave singles collection.  What sweet a surprise to meet my eyes/ears than the inclusion of two songs by Melbourne, Australia's Icecream Hands, a band I assumed went the way of the buffalo almost two decades back. Sounding right and tight as ever I'm happy to say. Nick Frater's "California Waits" strikes me as the should-have-been feel-good anthem of this summer, while Anton Barbeau and Allyson Seconds' "Octagon" shapes up as a perfect example of twenty-first century power pop. More notably, this batch of 22 tunes features a bouquet of striking covers. NPFO Stratagem take two very different songs to task - Ringo Starr's "Back Off Boogaloo" and more surprisingly a lounge-induced rendering of The Dead Kennedys' "Nazi Punks Fuck Off." October Surprise tackle John Cale's "Paris 1919," The Popdudes take on "O-o-h Child," and The Incurables transform "Muskrat Love" into something fairly raucous. 

All of the aforementioned titles are available now through Big Stir's homepage, Bandcamp and Amazon. Be on the look out for an exceedingly limited red-vinyl pressing of the Sorrows Love Too Late...The Real Album!

Saturday, September 18, 2021

The Crystal Set - A Furious Mess 7" (1990, Red Eye)

A brief follow-up to the Crystal Set's From Now On LP I posted a little while back. Commandeered by Russell Kilbey (brother of the Church's Steve Kilbey) the Set could have very well been played on the radio adjacent to The Church, but of course that's a lazy notion.  At any rate, "A Furious Mess" is above average, turn-of-the-decade alt-pop with ringing chords and a mildly more linear bent than what their previous long-player suggested.  Almost addictive on repeat plays, while the slower, moodier flip, "Some Attention" is a solid fit for the b-side it became. "Furious Mess" is taken from the Umbrella, which Discogs claims to be a compilation of some sort, not so much a proper album. 

A. Furious Mess
B. Some Attention

Friday, September 17, 2021

Thin King - s/t (1989, Vision)

Ok, here's one from Switzerland.  Could be a first for this site, and what an interesting item Thin King were at that. Heavily reliant on organ (think Wurlitzer, or even Casio, but definitely not Farfisa) this trio go for an esoteric jugular wherein their instrument of choice lends their songs some much appreciated sway and whimsy. Don't go into this one expecting anything proggy, nor remotely classic rock - more like an indigenous stripe of leftfield indie pop, delivered with a charming Euro accent.  Mouthpiece and organ twiddler Hans Feigenwinter bears a slight vocal resemblance to Mitch Easter, purely a coincidence if you ask me, but worth a tangential mention if you're going into this one cold.  There's a myriad of hooky and appealing tunes here: "Till the Day Is Done," The New One" and "Goes Down," among others.  My copy of Thin King (and perhaps all of them) came bundled with a bonus single sided 12" featuring two non-album cuts, with the markedly edgy and aggressive "Isolated" being an instant hit with this set of ears. This appears to be a radio station promo judging from some of the sleeve markings, and it's a safe bet not many of these landed on North American shores.  Enjoy.

01. Steam Roller
02. The New One
03. Pop
04. Instrument
05. Till the Day is Done
06. Winner
07. The Call
08. Christmas
09. Goes Down
10. The Melody
11. Milky Ways
12. Polizei
13. Isolated (bonus)
14. Sucker (bonus)

Sunday, September 12, 2021

No clue.

From 2000. No other clues as I'm unable to make out the words. 

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


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Splitting the difference: Mr. T Experience/Sicko 7" (1992, Top Drawer)

Given the quality of these two bands/songs, I'm downright surprised I didn't get to this one earlier when I initiated my somewhat short-lived Splitting the Difference split single series, which was around 2009.  Featuring relative vets Mr. T Experience and Seattle newcomers Sicko, the songs comprising both sides of this wax total about three and a half minutes all told. Given each band had roughly a mere ninety seconds to make their case, they didn't waste a moment of it with Dr. Frank and Co. tearing though a Buzzcocks-endebted banger, "Together Tonight," loosely functioing as a punk rock answer to the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together." Sicko's verbose and speedy "80 Dollars" is an outright corker, a frustrated but melodious screed that seems to accomplish in a minute and a half what most groups normally can't squeeze into four. Such gold.  Unsurprisingly, this single went through several pressings on multiple labels, and if I'm not mistaken both songs later migrated to each band's respective odds and sods singles/rarities collections. 

A. Mr. T Experience - Together Tonight
B. Sicko - 80 Dollars

Friday, September 10, 2021

Variant Cause - s/t (1987, K.D.T.)

But it sounded so damn good in the record store.  That's what I said after I took it home and gave it a second rotation, anyway.  Regardless of how inviting the music, I'm sure a good 95% of you would have rejected this record outright, based on the gratuitous album jacket alone that represents everything that was egregious about '80s fashion. Neither by their sound or appearance, few would ever guess this coed crew hailed from Seattle.  Here's a quick and convenient backgrounder from Variant Cause's bio on Discogs.

The Pacific Northwest rock scene of the 1980s was a hotbed of creativity, with a multitude of bands developing uncommon sounds in relative geographic isolation. Variant Cause was one of those bands. Jan and Mark had been in Spokane's punk/wave group Sweet Madness, before re-forming as Next Exit and moving to Seattle in 1982. They changed their name to Variant Cause in 1985 and performed live and recorded till 1991. They are still gigging 24/7 on YouTube.

And with all the aforementioned details in mind, VC were first and foremost composed of stunningly adept musicians, but their disposition as a band was equally confusing. Shades of goth, funk, snyth pop, and a little kitchen sink experimentalism were all fair game in coloring their oft unpredictable canvas.  While there are few individual tunes I'm over the moon for here, I at the very least appreciate components or portions of wherever the needle drops on Variant Cause, even if it's merely a saucy guitar solo. Jan Greger assumes about 85% of the vocal duties, and I swear when I previewed this at Sonic Boom in Toronto it was a guy on the mic. Despite busy and robustly textured arrangements, it's way to challenging to stereotype Variant Cause.  A few bits, say "Kamikaze Cabaret" arouse trace elements of X and early Jane's Addiction.  And with titles like "Lankin' Leaning Colleen" you can rest assured this five (or possibly six) piece weren't likely to keep a straight face for long.  One tune vaguely out of character (even for them) would be the hopped-up rockabilly sensibilities of the concluding "I Faced the Insomnia Squad."  Make of this record what you will, and feel free to investigate a couple volumes of their work on Amazon. 

01. I Live By the Freeway
02. Lankin' Leaning Colleen
03. Exotic Locale
04. Out on the Streets For Love Again
05. Kamikaze Cabaret
06. Ain't Got None of Nothing No More
07. You Put Me in the Hospital Again
08. Here Comes the Glamour
09. Over-stimulation
10. I Faced the Insomnia Squad

Sunday, September 5, 2021

We fill our heads with safety nets...

From 1992.  If you were a Sundays fan, safe to say this one will be your bag, as it were.

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


Lakota - Hope For the Haunted (2005, Pop Up)

This is going to be a quick write-up, but really how many words do you need to impart that something's great?  Vigorous guitar-rock, sturdy as all-get-out with enough hooks to fish out your android phone that fell between the slots of the sidewalk drain.  Seriously, not one nanosecond of Lakota's Hope for the Haunted falters. RIYL: Hey Mercedes, The Stereo, Reeve Oliver, Doughboys, and for that matter the Foo Fighters choicer moments. 

01. Hope For the Haunted
02. She Has It
03. Quiet
04. Slow Fade
05. Julene
06. Video You
07. Ember
08. Make or Break
09. Perfect Faith
10. Ornaments
11. Wait and See
12. Holiday Heart

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Stockyard - Garden of Neglect (1989, Stockyard)

So, I'm not exactly where this one "fits" so to speak, this site included to a certain extent.  Despite Stockyard's hard rock bent, these guys sure in hell weren't going to be sandwiched between Foreigner and Damn Yankees on 99X FM.  A Chicago three-piece, Stockyard's penchant and approach was certainly a few notches above your garden variety happy -hour bar flunkies.  Some intermittent, bluesy guitar shreds are prevalent among the bulk of these nine tunes, but we're also treated to nervy punk salvos on "You'll; Get Yours" and "The Verdict."  Mouthpiece, bass slinger and all around natural frontman Jaime Gardiner is a flexible mofo, wielding a dexterous timbre that touches on everyone from Jim Morrison to Elvis, though he usually settles on something a little more natural.  No regrets at all about sharing this one, just slightly our of the Wilfully Obscure mold.  The aforementioned Mr. Gardiner and drummer Marty Mroz had prior involvement in Poison Squirrel.

01. You'll Get Yours
02. With a Ven
03. Boy in a Uniform
04. Garden of Neglect
05. The Problem
06. The Verdict
07. Days to Remember
08. This is What I'd Say to You
09. Mess and Panic

Sunday, August 29, 2021

You've got a motor for a mouth and a pack of cigarettes that keep your cardigan lousy.

From 2016.  

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


swimming 7" (1994, Rough Trade)

Not to be confused with the more current indie conglomerate of the same name, this Swimming were a largely unknown quantity, and per Discogs this was their lone release. They are said to have connections to a contemporary UK indie band, She (who were later rechristened Glitterbox) but this 45 packaged in a relatively scant black and white sleeve offers no personnel details.  The quartet in question was an immensely noisome bunch, with their a-side "cut her out" sounding like Sunny Day Real Estate jettisoning off on a fiery, dream-pop rocket, soon to crescendo into a smoldering plume of feedback and fuselage cinders.  Their second act, "crawl," is a heavy (and heavy handed) spasm of feral stoner rock, possessing some of the trappings of Monster Magnet and Spaceman 3. Not bad at all.

a. cut her out
b. crawl

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Creatures of Habit ep (1990, Fuel)

Another record I picked up, without a single note heard prior, simply because it looked interesting and had a reasonable price tag attached to it. Creatures of Habit were evidently creatures of the Twin Cities, but for what it's worth didn't follow in the footsteps of any of the more obvious Minneapolis forerunners (whose names I'm too lazy to type out).  Instead this quartet suitably fit the bar band mold, albeit they had a batch of original tunes worth unleashing to the world at large.  Despite bearing some discernable pedestrian appeal the Creatures fit the indie mold better than AOR, and more power to 'em if you ask me.  The band's rootsy, and even milder twangier inclinations were in fact smart, not hokey - a trick that can be hard to pull off, but these gents possessed the charm and chops to hone these five cuts into winners. 

01. Forever
02. Stand Up
03. Throw it Away
04. Are Here
05. Use It or Lose It

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Only his blue eyes still drill me as I get to know my friend the floor.

A 1991 collection featuring the bulk of this band's first three EPs spanning 1984-86.

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


Butterfly Child - Tooth Fairy ep (1991, h.ark!)

Apologies for not getting more music to you this past week.  I remember getting a request for this one a few years ago.  Tracking down files of it seemed like a wild goose chase at the time, but I was able to locate it more recently.  Butterfly Child wielded under the radar dream pop from the UK with occasional extra-heady guitar follies to keep things interesting, not unlike those early Moose eps. "Softest Things Since Skin" alone is alluring enough to make me seek out the rest of their catalog.  Surely I've passed over their recordings in used bins over the years being none the wiser. Enjoy.

01 softest thing since skin
02 words that end in 'g'
03 jaqueline frost
04 hollycopter

Friday, August 20, 2021

The Farewell Party 7" (1988, Cut Out)

I was encouraged by what I heard on the The Farewell Party's 1988 LP, Here a few years ago, and was compelled to seek out this single contemporary to the album.  The F/P's setup was essentially a quartet of Americans whom for whatever the reason decided to eke out a living in West Germany instead of the U.S.. Had this combo been a Stateside endeavor, I'm sure college radio outlets would have embraced them wholeheartedly, given this foursome's penchant for lucid indie-pop creations laced with artsy angles, vaguely hinting at the Go Betweens, Felt, Galaxie 500, and otherwise.  The two originals on this 45, "32 Views of Emma" and "(Such a) Fragile Thing" are at once inspired and  tuneful, bristling with freshness and potential that sadly didn't translate into a follow-up album or even another single.  If you're wondering if their take on the Door's "People Are Strange" is faithful to the original you'll just have to download this joint to find out.

A. 32 Views of Emma
B1. People Are Strange
B2. (Such a) Fragile Thing

Sunday, August 15, 2021

We're just two deep space lovers and this feels alright...

From 2012. Breezy, chilled-out synth pop my ears haven't been able to let go of for the past few weeks.  In a nod to the album title, this is one "variant" you'll crave being infected with.

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


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Regular Guys - Jayhawk Pop (rec. 1979-1981)

I have a feeling this one is going to be available as a limited engagement folks, so don't sleep.  The label responsible for this reissue, Hyped to Death was behind the wonderful Teenline compilations which I've made available on here for quite sometime.  Unfortunately, H2D's website is down, indefinitely it would appear, and I'm unable to determine if the Regular Guys Jayhawk Pop is still available to purchase. 

Though it may not have been a deliberate gesture on their part, rarely has a moniker so aptly summed up a band's m.o. Regular Guys were a turn-of-the-decade Lawrence, KS contingent who played power-pop inclined rock 'n roll, pretty much straight down the middle, with no oblique angles or artsy proclivities. Perhaps a tad too non-descript on some levels, they played a linear but potent game not unlike their midwest contemporaries Off Broadway (USA), Secrets and Hawks.  

During their lifespan they managed to eke out a remarkably memorable 1980 ep, It's a Secret, but it wasn't until 20+ years later that the full extent of their recordings were made available to the world at large.  Jayhawk Pop, commences with the four cuts from It's a Secret, and for it's plentiful remainder the compilation, traces the history of a slightly different permutation of the Guys, with Dave Stuckey replacing original guitarist/mouthpiece Mark Gilman.  And it's not all straight-up power pop either, as the Regular Guys explored related tangents such as proto-punk, roots rock, and less obviously Americana. The booklet, which I've scanned in, provides a more thorough backgrounder on the band than I ever could, and there are generous track-by-track liner notes to boot from bassist John Odell.  So dig in. The full track list is to your left.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

And when he can't speak from too much wine, you're always there with his line...

I was just reminded that it's the 25th anniversary of this one. This double album didn't merely introduce the world to a new band, but a full fledged collective to boot - one that paid dividends for a good decade or so. 

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


Plain Characters - Invisible Yearnings (1981, Abstract)

There probably isn't much I can tell you about these avant, UK post-punkers, or more specifically frontman Colin Lloyd-Tucker, than what's been conveniently disclosed on Nothin' Sez Somethin', wherein you can explore the arch of the man's entire career.  Plain Characters, who were responsible for this LP and some surrounding singles, were not the least bit plain as their ironic namesake suggests. At this stage in his career Tucker's timbre sat somewhere between Peter Murphy (albeit with more warble) and a less melodically inclined Bowie. Not a great selling point to start off with, and much of Invisible Yearnings exudes enough abrasive gestures to ward off all but the most adventurous of eardrums. The songs do bear structure however, with each of it's ten cuts possessing a relatively unique persona (or multiples thereof). Contrary to Nothin's assessment of this one, there are more than just a couple of memorable tunes here.  The aforementioned site's mention of the rhythm-prone "Menial Tasks" being amongst the more memorable ones is indeed worth singling out, suggesting what Duran Duran would have in store on their first two records.  Although the vast majority of Yearning isn't linear new wave, the mild melodic undercurrents that float "Not For Resale No. 2," "Counting Sheep" and the irresistibly percussive "O" make this an album worth tuning in for, even if it means lifting the needle now and again to bypass some of Tucker's more grating, experimental forays.  As for the rather beaten up sleeve, I resisted the temptation to make it more presentable in Photoshop, but the vinyl itself was thankfully in relatively flawless state. 

01. Affair 19.10.80
02. Labyrinth
03. Not For Resale No. 2
04. Zero Zero
05. Fingerprint City
06. O
07. Menial Tasks
08. Julia
09. Counting Sheep
10. The Four Lies

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Mercy Rule - demo (199?)

To paraphrase my friend's description of the amount of quality alt-rock to peruse in the early/mid '90s, the pool was flooded. Utterly in fact. Beyond the ubiquity of what was assailing (and sometimes delighting) us from the Pacific Northwest, there were other excellent regional scenes in locales ranging from San Diego to Dallas and Boston more than worthy of our attention.  Add to that tons of substantive American indie rock/pop from virtually every speck of the map. Indies like Amphetamine Reptile, Dischord, Teen Beat, Sub Pop, C/Z, Big Deal, and Caroline to name some of the more renown ones were all peaking during this epoch. Dream pop/shoegaze from both sides of the pond was a veritable banquet all to itself, and lets not get started on the pros/cons of Britpop. Lincoln, NE's Mercy Rule, were among hundreds of commendable 'fringe' acts jockeying for attention in the Clinton-era, that were passed over by well-intentioned listeners (myself included) who were utterly overwhelmed with all of the aforementioned and then some.

Mercy Rule were a female-fronted power trio who were ostensibly ingratiated into the post-hardcore/emo circuit, of which their one-time home label Caulfield Records were stalwart purveyors of.  Thing is, Mercy Rule didn't necessarily fit in with that contingent, and sonically their recordings were plenty emblematic of that.  Albeit plenty guitar-driven and angsty, they angled more in the vicinity of contemporaries Tsunami and the Poster Children - a pretty good place to be, unless you were making a break for the mainstream.  Nonetheless, by 1994, Mercy Rule had escalated to the roster of Relativity Records for their second and most successful LP Providence.  Three years later MCA had intentions of releasing the band's third full-length, eventually pulling the rug out from under them before it even made it to the pressing plant. What I'm sharing today is presumably the trio's first demo tape, in all it's rough hewn and borderline over-modulated glory.  Several songs here made it to their first EP, 100 MPH, though I couldn't tell you if the versions are the same.  A fairly concise roundup of the band's tenure can be read here, and two of the members folded into a subsequent combo Domestica

01. Someone Else
02. How it Feels
03. I Have Enough
04. Stand on Fire
05. It's Sad
06. What a Life

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Things are looking up, Shirley’s looking down.

From 1989. The third album from this Minneapolis bunch, just not who you're probably thinking of.

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


The Zimmermen - Way Too Casual (1989, Mushroom)

So it's been awhile since I revisited this Melbourne export - about thirteen years in fact since I shared a digitized version of the Zimmermen's 1986 debut Rivers of Corn.  One website (linked above) went so far as to describe them as "country rock," but to my ears Rivers... sonic aplomb lent itself more appropriately to the indie pop spectrum. Anyway, three years between albums can be a lifetime in the realm of a rock band and the Zimmermen, while still sounding familiar on Way Too Casual had adopted a more pedestrian bent. Not full blown hard rock or even Americana mind you, yet they were angling toward a tauter and more linear modus operandi.  ...Casual bears plenty of confident and driving rockers: "What Really Hurts," "Moral Obligation" and "Makes No Difference," all of which emanate varying shades of anthemic incisiveness.  These chaps were traditionalist as could be when it came to churning out ballads, with "All the Boys Need Love" and "Corsican Dreams" conveying themselves as all too ordinary, yet still listenable.  All told, Way Too Casual clocks in a solid, earnest day at the office.  

Unfortunately there's a small scratch on my copy of this record, affecting the beginning of "Shaking Hands" for one or two rotations, so pardon the 'jump' about ten seconds in.

01. What Really Hurts
02. Shaking Hands
03. Saddle Brides
04. All the Boys Need Love
05. Moral Obligation
06. Ties That Bond
07. Makes No Difference
08. Intellectual Dishonesty
09. Waiting
10. Corsican Dreams
11. Forever After