Sunday, December 26, 2021

It's cold in your bed, and those flowers have long been dead.

The 2012 sophomore record where it all clicked into place for one of this past decade's most dazzlingly consistent indie contingents. 

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


Saturday, December 25, 2021

Major Nelson - Christmas With Major Nelson tape (1994)

Technically, I'm sharing this one on Xmas for purely superficial reasons. The title of this cassette album, Christmas With Major Nelson, is only printed on the spine of the tape sleeve, and that's literally the only mention of the holiday.  You won't find any traditional carols here, nor any original Christmas compositions, rather sixteen songs uniquely written and performed by the band in question, Major Nelson, whom from what I can tell took up residence in Charlotte, NC, and were responsible for handful of homegrown releases, this being the first.

So what might this quartet have in store for you?  Some good old-fashioned, distortion-prone indie rock is what, the kind championed by the likes of Buffalo Tom, Verbow and Lotion, though M/N don't throw down quite as much of a raucous.  Though a bit too nondescript for their own good at times, Major Nelson impress on this tape's more high-strung numbers like "No Home Outside This House," "Role Reversal" and "Everytime I Look Away." Nothing on here is going to make the world halt on it's axis, but these guys had a clue and deserved to be more renown than their meager indie status afforded them.

01. Connection
02. No Home Outside This House
03. Old Songs
04. Take Me Down
05. Role Reversal
06. Unforgiven
07. Letter to Paula
08. Tracy
09. Won't Be Back
10. Bars-n-Cars
11. How This Movie Ends
12. Late One Night
13. Rob Reiner
14. The Right Time
15. Everytime I Look Around
16. Dead End


Sunday, December 19, 2021

I did my shopping alone this year...

This is a 1994 benefit compilation album featuring fourteen acts covering a seminal post-hardcore/emo record, circa 1987, note-for-note, song-for-song.

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


V/A - Songs From the Streaming Audio folder, pt. 2

When I introduced the first installment of this series in October I wasn't sure if many of you would take to it, but to my surprise a couple hundred of you did. So here's volume two in what is likely going to be followed up of two more tranches of some of the rarest audio on my hard drive, the bulk of which I had to record in real-time from audio streams. Click on the link above for a more in-depth explanation of what I'm referring to, but in a nutshell, not all music existing on the web can necessarily be captured with a simple click and "save." Gong to these extra lengths to extricate audio in this guise poses a little more legwork on my end, but the rewards can be substantial.

In this folder I cover letters G through M.  The tracks aren't in any numerical order, and as was the case last time I'm not providing a tracklist, but here's a few spoilers. Should you be daring enough to download this set you'll be treated to a rare demos by Haircut 100, Guided by Voices and Monsterland, plus juicy live nuggets from some of my personal "small of fame" favorites Motion City Soundtrack and The Lives of Famous Men. There are covers galore with God's Reflex, Hit Squad, Jeff Caudill of Gameface and My Vitriol all getting in on the fun. A deeper dive into the folder will reveal a Juliana Hatfield outtake, and deep vintage power pop cuts courtesy of Mr. Nice Guy and Hot Bodies. And for my final giveaway, check out author/attorney Mike Papantonio's blistering and thoroughly brilliant critique of has-been Republican celebrities, circa the 2012 election.  Enjoy. 


Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Toons - Looking at Girls (1982, Rhino)

By request. The Toons were an unabashed L.A. pop six-piece with no less than two guys solely assigned to vocal duties (or so reads the lineup details on the back sleeve of Looking at Girls).  As demonstrated by their acumen and overarching "chops," these gents were vying for something more lucrative than what Rhino Records might have accorded them at the time, but not an undesirable label to commence your career with either I suppose. Side one shines from beginning to end, with four keepers including the Rundgren-esque power pop of "Space Girl" and the equally melodious title piece. "Elena" showcases the Toons more than adept penchant for inserting Beach Boys-clad harmonies in the right spaces, though it's seven-minute running time could have been truncated by half that length without losing much of anything. The other side of this twelve inch coin illuminates the lesser half of the Toons collective profile, with regrettably embarrassing '80s indulgences, most egregious being the cartoon-ish robotic vocal fills permeating "Video Games" and "Mind Death."  Nearly as disappointing a gesture is the sapsucker piano-ballad "Where Are You Tonight" which finds this occasionally satisfactory combo pitifully pandering to the soft-rock set. Looking at Girls was not succeeded by a follow-up of any kind so far as I can surmise. 

01. Space Girl
02. So Far
03. Looking at Girls
04. Elena
05. Video Games
06. Where Are You Tonight
07. Love Your Neighbor
08. Mind Death (Sally Only Had One Eye)


Sunday, December 12, 2021

She says she wants to please, but I'm the one down on his knees...

From 1989. I offered the demos for this album some time ago. Thought it might make sense to share the finished product, even if it's in the guise of a Mystery Monday.  

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


Friday, December 10, 2021

The Romantics - Made in Detroit ep (1993, Westbound)

After all of last week's Chanukah hysterics I decided to take a break for about a week, and unfortunately in that interim I didn't get around to prepping much for you - but I do have this.  I'm not sure how much demand there was for a fresh Romantics record in the mid-90s, but apparently this five song salvo from '93 is fetching collector's prices nowadays.  Hmmm.  Anyway, this one was a painfully LOUD departure from their eighties Nemperor Records fare, with the boys bent on laying to waste the last functioning vestiges of your eardrums.  Granted, it's roughly a mere seventeen minutes all told, but Made in Detroit is the Romantics uncharacteristic excursion into sheer aggression with everything bleeding into the red.  More pub rock than power pop this time around, the band's cheeseburger and milkshake formula is firmly intact, with a slick yet ballsy-as-all-get-out sheen that finds the quartet striving to recapture a younger halcyon era they never possessed to begin with. Frankly, I'm not sure why they're straining themselves to the extent they are here, or moreover who in the hell they intend to impress. Certainly not kids bopping to Stone Temple Pilots  ...Detroit's full-throttle modus operandi borders on the obnoxious, but it sports more torque than a Mustang, and would suitably function as part of the soundtrack were you to opt for a spin in one circa the Clinton-era. Detachable faceplates anyone? 

01. You and Your Folks
02. Love it Up
03. I Wanna Know
04. Runaway
05. Leave Her Alone


Sunday, December 5, 2021

You made me beat my heart out.

Catchy female-fronted post punk from 2015.

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


Imperial Drag - 41 demos! (199?)

So it's come to night eight, and it's time to dredge the ample lake that is my music collection for one more special treat before the candles are extinguished.  This is one of the most voluminous shares I've doled out to so far, not just for Chanukah but likely the entire year. I wish I had access to the same unreleased/outtakes/demos cache from my favorite artists as I do for Imperial Drag. Ironically, Imperial Drag are not one of my foremost favorites, and I happened into this collection more than I sought it, but I thought it might be best to present you with some history. in fact I'm going to let Wikipedia fill you in on some of the preliminaries. 

Imperial Drag formed in 1994 after keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr.'s previous group, Jellyfish, broke up. Joining with Jellyfish live band member Eric Dover, bassist Joseph Karnes, and drummer Eric Skodis, the group released a self-titled effort in 1996 on The Work Group. They charted a hit on the U.S. Billboard Modern Rock chart with the single "Boy or a Girl", which peaked at #30 that year. The group's glam rock-influenced image, however, failed to win fans over in the wake of the grunge era. The group's album received poor reviews and did not sell well, and they disbanded in 1997. Manning moved on to a solo career in the 2000s. 

I'm not sure if one's career being summarized in a 111-word paragraph is such a hot way to be memorialized, but whomever penned the above hammered home most of the basics. I remember when Imperial Drag originally came out. I owned the album, but was hardly a fanboy, and in fact, given that I was besotted with the likes of Guided By Voices and Ben Folds Five at the time, I/D resided on my mind (and CD-changer's) back burner, seemingly forever. I was aware of Manning Jr.s pedigree, and was actually getting caught up on Jellyfish's second album Spilt Milk right around this time.  Nonetheless his new project's overarching vibe simply wasn't hitting the right notes with me at the time, but on the same token I wasn't planning on trading in my I/D CD, nor was I willing to dismiss the band outright.

I didn't realize it at the time but the main mouthpiece in the group, Eric Dover had a prominent role on Slash's Snakepit's (yes, that Slash) debut, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere, which released in 1995. In fact, this occurred simultaneous to his Imperial Drag tenure. As with Slash's Snakepit, Dover took up most of the time at the mic with Imperial Drag.  But if you were expecting a third helping of Jellyfish's psych-kissed power pop on Imperial Drag you had something else coming.  Upon release, much was made of the quartet's "glam" bent, and having a slow-burning T-Rexy banger as their lead-off single ("Boy or a Girl") only reinforced this understandable notion. But even there, I/D were also tapping into Redd Kross' then-current m.o. as well.  Maybe I didn't want to admit it at the time but the song was eminently catchy, even if the hand-claps and such had me scurrying. Sure enough, there was more of that to be found on the album alongside vague forays into Memphis soul, classic rock, boogie, and less so blues.  What we weren't privy to at the time was the fact that Imperial Drag had a tentacle or two around Cheap Trick-inflected power pop, something revealed on non-LP goodies "She Cries All Night" and "Why Can't I Be Someone Else." To be honest, I/D had a lot of plates spinning simultaneously, not all of which were represented on the album, mush less an LP that even most Jellyfish holdover couldn't seem to be bothered with at the time. 

You'll find all 14 album tracks here in their original versions, and a whopping 27 more tunes, essentially three albums worth of tunes all told.  Imperial Drag, though only lasting one album struck me as the kind of band that reveled in dipping their fingers in a myriad of pies, and you've got the opportunity taste all of them at your leisure here.  BTW, I think it was Bruce Brodeen of Not Lame renown who may have originally disseminated these tracks, as the last portion of which are labeled as "Not Lame exclusives." A hearty thank you if you're out there reading this sir. As a final FYI, this file is 334 mgs and it's only available as MP3s. Dig in!

01. She Cries All Night
02. Smellin' Like a Rose
03. Mother Nature
04. Boy or a Girl
05. Breakfast by Tiger
06. Turpentine & Honey
07. Gypsy Sister
08. There You Go Again
09. Sweet Sweet Love
10. Could've Been You
11. Scardy Cats & Egomaniacs
12. I Won't Pay to Buy It
13. Countless Poets
14. Look Back Over My Shoulder
15. Hey Honey Please
16. Please Leave Me Home for X-mas
17. Lovin' From the Oven
18. Do You Spy
19. Strange
20. I Didn't Feel a Thing
21. Private Hell
22. Morning Star
23. What Makes You Think
24. Slowdown
25. Not Enough
26. Why Can't I Be Someone Else?
27. Playboy After Dark
28. Crosseyed
29. Down With the Man
30. The Man in the Moon
31. Zodiac Sign
32. The Salvation Army Band
33. Stare Into the Sun
34. Illuminate
35. Working Class High
36. Overnight Sensation
37. A Bruise is Still a Bruise
38. Dandylion
39. Half Off Sale
40. Spyder
41. Suzy Suicide


Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Cavedogs - Soul Martini demos (1991-92?)

The Cavedogs certainly didn't own the '90s, and weren't even a known commodity outside of their native Boston when they cut their teeth as far back as the mid-80s. Nonetheless, those who caught the video for "Tayter Country" in the wee-hours of the morning on MTV, or who were in earshot of the song on various left-of-the-dial outlets, were compelled to locate the band's 1990 debut, Joy Rides for Shut Ins.  Coming off as some kind of delightful mutation of latter-day Replacements and say, Crowded House, the trio of Brian Stevens (bass/vocals), Todd Spahr (guitar/vocals), and Mark Rivers (drums/vocals) made two utterly compelling albums for Capitol Records, that were a hit on college radio, but crossover success eluded them, and they called it a day not longer after the 1992 release of Soul Martini, the album this entry concerns. 

The three protagonists in question were often corralled into the power pop pen, and to a certain degree logically so, but the Cavedogs bore an intricacy and dexterity their peers must have breathless to compete with. Not merely whiz-kids cruising in the melody/harmony carpool lane, these guys possessed a songwriting aptitude that was at once clever, verbose and even a bit consoling. Problem was that wasn't what mainstream kids were pining for around the turn of the decade, and post-1991, what little momentum the Cavedogs garnered from their first album had diminished, alongside enthusiasm for some of their like-minded counterparts - Jellyfish, Smithereens, Material Issue, etc. Still, established customers realized that Soul Martini wasn't a sophomore slouch in the slightest, boasting a dozen hook-savvy numbers chockablock with wit, irony, and an ever so perfect amalgam of polish and grit. Tonight I offer you a collection of demos for the entire record and a couple more tunes that wound up as b-sides. As for the cassette these songs come from, it isn't a dubbed bootleg, so much as an official in-house tape that floated around the offices of Hollywood & Vine, with copies possibly winding up in the hands of radio music directors and such.  There is no mention of the cassette on Discogs, and aside from my personal copy I have never encountered another one. The iterations of the fourteen cuts here were hardly primitive or meagerly recorded incarnations of what was to become the finished product, but they are wholly unique recordings, even though it sounds like 98% percent of the building blocks for Martini were squarely set into place.  If the Cavedogs are brand new to you, tracking down an original copy of Soul Martini would be an ideal place to start, but since these demos are so in tandem with the album various, there's absolutely no harm in delving in right here. Enjoy!

01. Sunny Day
02. Love Grenade
03. Folderol
04. Part of This
05. As You Were
06. Wang (eventually titled "Trazan and His Arrowheads")
07. Rosie (There Goes Rosie)
08. Boy in the Plastic Bubble
09. I, I, I
10. Murder
11. Sorrow
12. Circus Song
13. On For the Ride
14. Ghost Story

MP3  or  FLAC

Friday, December 3, 2021

First Man Over - s/t (1986, Attention)

And so we come again to that annual Chanukah installment, wherein I laud and share files of a particular indie rock record that really spun my top this year. It's a subjective endeavor I suppose, as what might strike me as a revelation might seem comparatively routine to you.  In the grand scheme of things, satisfying as it is First Man Over's lone LP (more akin to a mini-LP given it's brevity) doesn't quite pass muster as a desert island disk. To be honest, I didn't even purchase it this year, rather a pre-pandemic.  2021 was however the year I made a concerted effort to acquaint myself, and by and large I loved what I heard. 

The Toronto trio in question evolved from another TO-area combo Kinetic Ideals, an icy post-punk setup who emphasized keyboards in near equal amounts to guitars. Alan Murrell and Jean-Claude Chambers made the migration from Kinetic Ideals to the considerably more approachable First Man Over adding Patrick Duffy on percussion. FMO ditched the electronics altogether and went straight for the jugular with a more linear but forward thinking agenda wielding a discernible pop overbite. Strummy, jangly and sonically dense FMO skirted between power pop ("Somewhere," "Diamond Mind") and moodier indie rock ("It's Happening," "Umbrella Man"). The album's concluding piece, "Here it Comes" manages to fuse these diverging styles into one, with an extra heavy dollop of melody, and in the process, angles vaguely in the vicinity of what Husker Du had cooking around the same time. Just these eight songs are what consist of the band's oeuvre (or what they managed to release anyway) and even if I don't have anything particularly profound to note about First Man Over I fully endorse what they did in their fleeting lifespan. Feel free to comment if you do as well.

01. Somewhere
02. Sincerely
03. It's Happening
04. Fire Engine
05. Blue
06. Umbrella Man
07. Diamond Mind
08. Now or Never


Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Ocean Blue - Extras: demos & live (1986-94)

This is hardly the first time I've given The Ocean Blue the "live and rare" treatment.  Four years ago I treated you to two complete O/B concerts wherein the band covered their first two albums in their entirety, and earlier on I pitched a handful of early demos and such to you.  Tonight is a half and half bundle, so to speak.  Since last year, I've found a vastly improved and expanded clutch of demos, and a live set from 1994, albeit shorter than the album shows I mentioned above.

I was onto this Hershey, PA quartet as soon as their 1989 debut dropped.  In fact, the band's signature song from that album, "Between Something and Nothing," with it's indelible cascade of tingly arpeggios was a clear distillation of their obvious affection for The Smiths and Echo & the Bunnymen. They signed to Sire either when they were still attending or fresh out of high school, and made inroads not only on college radio but with then-emerging commercial-alternative outlets as well.  An astonishing feat for any nascent musical aggregation, and in their case they had the tunes and chops to back up any perceived precociousness.  Though never a top tier favorite of mine (heck, I haven't even been exposed to so much as one note from their "reconvened" records from this decade past) the Ocean Blue's early output is still pretty impeccable.      

All told there I've got eleven demos culled from multiple sessions for you tonight, and even though it's a solid LP's worth of tunes it somehow feels like it's still an insufficient amount. David Schelzel and Co. had those chiming guitar chords down pat from the get go. Demos are really nothing more than prototypes or glorified dry-runs before the finished product gets committed to tape, but to think they came up with so many tight, deftly crafted tunes while they were still in their teens is flabbergasting.  A few cuts here didn't make it to the aforementioned debut - "Frigid Winter," "Wounds of a Friend," and "Be Still," all striking me as album-worthy. There's a little overlap with the demos I posted a few years ago, but the sound here is exponentially better.  I downloaded these from one of my file-sharing haunts, and apparently track five is unaccounted for, so apologies in advance.

I'm not certain if the nine-song Ventura, CA concert from 1994 was the band's full set that night, but if not, the fact that it's a soundboard recording adequately compensates. The band was supporting their third and final album for Sire, Beneath the Rhythm and Sound, with songs from it and the preceding LPs all being represented.  Fittingly, a Smiths cover plays them out. Finally, if you want to learn more about the Ocean Blue past, present and future, check out a podcast interview with Schelzel from 2019 here.  

1986 demos
01. Frigid Winter
02. Wounds Of A Friend

1987 demos
03. Vanity Fair
04. Between Something & Nothing
06. untitled
07. Be Still
08. The Office of a Busy Man
09. Ask Me Jon
10. Blue sky
11. life was Easy
12. Renissance Man

Live Ventura, CA 6/20/94
13. Don't Believe Everything You Hear
14. Sublime
15. Bliss is Unaware
16. Between Something & Nothing
17. Marigold
18. Drifting, Falling
19. Ballerina Out of Control
20. Cerulean
21. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

20/20 - Spaceland, Los Angeles, 1/27/96

Why share a seemingly random 20/20 show from twenty-five years ago?  For starters they were a phenomenal quartet who helped codify and write the blueprint for power pop in one of it's most crucial and formative eras.  Secondly, live 20/20 boots are a tricky commodity to come by. Case in point, I shared a portion of a 1979 gig from the Palladium in NYC many years back and haven't stumbled across much more in the way of concert recordings since (though no doubt some are out there).  Suffice to say when I had the chance to lab a DAT recording of a reunion show from 1996 I dove right in. 20/20 are a specimen I'll gladly accept in any iteration and era, and if you have half an inkling as to what the band in question are all about you know exactly why.

Why is it that bands (often of the one/two-hit-wonder variety) like the Romantics, Tommy Tutone and the Knack were anointed as the flag bearers for power pop circa the turn of the '70s and '80s, when much more representative artists (namely the Records, Rubinoos, Shoes, and of course, 20/20) were resigned to the cut out bins, and given short shrift by the mainstream music establishment?  If any of you are like me, perhaps you've pondered this as well. For better or worse what sells is what sells, and while the band did seize a recording contract with a division of Columbia Records in 1979, with two flawless albums to show for it (20/20 in 1979 and Look Out! in '81) they didn't quite come equipped with the shtick and short-lived charm of their chart topping contemporaries.  Fresh and beaming as 20/20's brand of guitar pop was when they initially arrived on the scene, the general public was distracted by shinier objects, so to speak, fleeting as they were.  After the band's deal with Columbia fizzled out, the independently released Sex Trap arrived in 1982 and a year thereafter 20/20 pulled the plug. Thanks to renewed interest in power pop in general circa the mid-90s, folks like myself were inclined to plunder the back catalogs of bands we missed out on when we were too tethered to Top-40 radio ten years or so before.

I'm not sure if this was the germ that sparked the reunion of 20/20 for their 1995 album 4 Day Tornado, and while it didn't exactly bear the exact tincture of the band that birthed classic sides like "Yellow Pills," "Tell Me Why" and "Cheri" it was a treat to have them back in any capacity. With the new record came some live shows, even if the quartet in question stuck primarily to their home turf of southern California. All of the aforementioned songs made the cut for this set, alongside deeper album cuts, and naturally, a bouquet of tunes from their then brand new record. It's hard to say if the guys were as spry in 1996 as they were when they established themselves nearly twenty years earlier, though you'll hear few complaints from me (save the exception of them omitting the debut LP's rather crucial "Jet Lag" from the setlist).  As I've noted, 20/20 concert tapes are a genuine rarity, and since another reunion doesn't seem particularly evident this show from Silverlake's hallowed Spaceland might be your last (and only) ticket.

01. Remember the Lightning
02. Song of the Universe
03. The Night I Heard a Scream
04. Tell Me Why
05. My Tuesday
06. She's An Obsession
07. A Girl Like You
08. Stone Cold
09. State of Grace
10. Cheri
11. Nuclear Boy
12. Yellow Pills
13. Tonight We Fly


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Three killer EPs: This "Blue Piano," Holiday, and Downy Mildew

As mentioned a few nights ago I'm forgoing my usual Chanukah singles cluster (again), but I've got the next best thing, a collection of some of the better EPs that made it to my turntable in 2021.  These three doses of collegiate indie rock that are at minimum very good, and at max are off the charts altogether. I buy roughly 20-30 or these short format 12"s every year it seems, and even if the continuing pandemic has slowed me down a tad I haven't run out of gas yet, so let's begin, starting with...

...Montreal's startlingly great This "Blue Piano" who bled cyan hues of the best English exports of their era including but not limited to early Aztec Camera, Orange Juice and to a lesser degree Prefab Sprout. You can draw your own comparisons, but TBP had the UK indie aesthetic down pat and didn't sound contrived or forced in the slightest, forecasting the C86 gold rush just as effectively as the aforementioned acts that actually resided in Britain. The John the Baptist ep's two bookends "I Before E" and "Euphoria," delight and dazzle as much as any era Postcard Records or Rough Trade release. Mighty lofty words, I know, but don't take my word for it. Hear for yourself, and while you're at it check out the band's Soundcloud space for even more.  

This "Blue Piano" - The John the Baptist ep (1984, Waste Island)  MP3 or FLAC
01. I Before E
02. Ground's Gone
03. Summertime
04. Euphoria

Equally as superlative, we have D.C.'s Holiday. No, this isn't the same Holiday that made waves in the '90s, rather the co-ed quartet this blurb concerns featured Lynda Hopper, alum of noted Georgia wunderkinds Oh-OK. Last year I discussed at length the virtues of the then newly released Strum & Thrum compilation on Captured Tracks, and mentioned I had familiarity with the bulk of that double-albums prestigious roster.  There were however a handful of exceptions that even I hadn't been tipped off to yet, with Holiday being one of them. More advanced and virtually doubly rewarding as Oh-OK, Hopper and Co. were groomed on REM's early catalog, and somehow managed to shoehorn even more of an accessible pop angle into the five songs populating hello.  I never tire of those bright, clangy chords, not to mention a little reverb.  This very well could have been a Mitch Easter production, but the band took the reigns themselves for their stunning and regrettably lone record. 

Holiday - hello ep (1987, Nightshade)  MP3 or FLAC
01. John Buffalo
02. At the Movies
03. Change
04. Ingrid
05. Problem to Problem 

Of the three bands featured tonight, Downy Mildew actually boasted something of a pedigree, releasing a succession of albums in the 80s-90s that may not have made strides on the Billboard album charts, but to their credit were a staple of college radio playlists during their run. While virtually every piece of music they attached their namesake to was at minimum listenable the early stuff did it for me, and it didn't get much earlier than this self-titled 1986 platter. Generally speaking, with four songs eps there isn't much room for slack, yet on the second tune in, "The Drive" DM took their sweet time (seven minutes to be precise) and came up with something a bit, um, repetitive and frankly, boring.  This record's more convincing salvos, "Experience in the Far Southwest" and "Purple Parlor" are concise by comparison, and are downright rewarding in their jangly acumen and bright, textured execution. All four cuts comprising Downy Mildew were appended to the CD addition of the band's 1987 Broomtree album, but I think my vinyl rip of this one offers a slightly richer sonic experience.  

Downy Mildew ep (1986, Texas Hotel) MP3 or FLAC
01. Experience in the Far Southwest
02. The Drive
03. Purple Parlor
04. Bad Dream

Monday, November 29, 2021

VA - The Iodine Book Report - Virtuous Precognitions 1967-1972 (four cd-r set assembled by Robert Pollard)

A quick read of the header to this piece will indicate Wilfully Obscure is in relatively uncharted territory.  "Since when did he start covering music from 50+ years ago?" you might be asking yourself.  Indeed, this collection is a rarity in more ways than one. First and foremost The Iodine Book Report is not an assemblage of bygone punk or even proto-punk artists, and in fact traditional power pop, as we knew it by the late seventies isn't represented among this compilations 85 tracks.  So what gives?

Well, the fact that this set was curated by Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices was a major draw for me. Secondly, I'm actually partial to vintage psychedelic and garage, and comparatively less so beat music.  Though it isn't one of my fortes I'm actually a bit of a Nuggets guy.  No, you won't find me plunking down $300 for a first pressing of a 13th Floor Elevators or Seeds single, nor will I ever own an original 1967 mono copy of Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Nonetheless, I'm happy to indulge in CD reissues of the aforementioned and I have a modest appreciation of everyone from Bubble Puppy to the Creation. Regarding the album at hand however, IBR delves much, much deeper than the aforementioned acts I just mentioned. By and large it has to given it's status of an unofficial and unlicensed release, one that was printed up in an edition of merely twenty copies on cd-r. The publication date of Iodine is unknown, but almost certainly within the past two decades. It may have only gotten as far a few of Bob's close associates and friends, and I don't recall it being made available for purchase at any time/place online. And no, I don't own a physical version myself.

The scope of IBR is period specific, but geographically things get a bit more vague, drawing on a pool of artists largely from Europe and the UK, with homage paid to the Netherlands as well. There are contributions from a handful of Stateside acts, but they seem to be minimal by comparison. I haven't done a side-by-side comparison but from what I'm able to glean there isn't much overlap here between the rosters populating the Nuggets and Pebbles compendiums, and I'm not even spotting much common ground between the much loved-upon Chocolate Soup for Diabetics CD series. As prolific of a recording artist Pollard is wont to be, he's an avid record collector, with many of the tracks here presumably culled from scarce singles in his own personal archive. In fact, the total net worth of all the original vinyl copies IBR is pieced together from might be enough to mortgage a modest trailer home.

Diversity is a watchword as far as this one goes, ranging from the heavy, epic-length acid rock of  Stray's "All in Your Mind" to Gordon Waller's prim orchestral pop on, "Rosecrans Boulevard," the latter of which Zumpano went to the trouble of reinterpreting in the '90s.  If you're looking to delve into pure amped-out psych and rawer garage selections you can largely stick to the first disk. It lends itself to some of Iodine's longer, headier and frankly more ragged pieces, with recommended selections by Wimple Winch (pictured above), Juganaut, Flower Traveling Band and The Hush.

Strangely enough, this compilations other odd-numbered disk (that would be #3) houses a disproportionate share of quality songs, by worthy but unheralded Brit Invasion combos The Poets and Mandrake Paddle Steamer. The Virgin Sleep deliver a spartan dose of minimalist psych in the form of "Halliford House," The Smoke exude what can be best described as "power-folk," The Stray wow us with another uptempo banger, and The Four Kinsmen's "Glasshouse Green, Splinter Red" is harmony-laden pop that yields a colossal Beatles-esque hook. The most intriguing item on disk 3 is by the curiously monikered The Sound of Imker, a fiercely distortion-prone Dutch troupe who's "Train of Doomsday" was once described by Jello Biafra as possibly qualifying for the first hardcore punk song ever. To this day I swear it sounds likes Credence Clearwater Revival interpreting Motorhead, and has earned it's rightful spot in this collection.

For whatever the reason Iodine's second and fourth cds weren't as effective in maintaining my interest, but even they boast a small bevy of keepers including a couple of relatively renown Dutch exports, Q65 and the Outsiders (the latter pictured to your left). BTW, The Outsiders were aggressive beat enthusiasts, responsible for one of the best albums to ever emanate from the Netherlands, 1968's excellent C.Q.  Disk two's most enticing contributions come courtesy of Paul's Collection, Elli, Argosy and the aptly dubbed Euphoria

The fourth and final quotient of IBR, is notably limp by comparison (save for the aforementioned Q65/Outsiders). To these ears The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band sadly never lived up to their lofty premise (boy, I've wanted to get that off my chest for ages, but I digress). Nonetheless, disk four isn't a complete loss - Timebox and the Traveling Salesman channel jangly inclinations, mild as they may be. Fire's bouncy "Man in the Teapot" bears a winsome gate.  California's Millennium were downright mainstream given the standards of this other wise obscuro collection, and The Action have long been coveted by acolytes of early UK mod. 

If the Iodine Book Report strikes you as a fish-out-of-water endeavor for Wilfully Obscure it generally is.  Yes, there's a lot here that will have you reaching for the advance-button...but when the going is good you'll be hitting 'repeat' in equal amounts. Hopefully I've pointed you to some of the more worthwhile moments.

CD 1
01. Stray – All In Your Mind
02. Mother Sunday – Midnight Graveyard
03. Cloud Burst - Fragile
04. Weird Stoat – Rising Heartbreaks
05. Honeysuckle - She Brings Me Down
06. Juganaut - A Taste Of Hell
07. Blonde On Blonde – Ride With Captain Max
08. The Savage Resurrection – Thing In "E"
09. Wimple Winch – Atmospheres
10. The Ballroom – Baby, Please Don't Go
11. Flower Travellin' Band – Satori Part One
12. Wimple Winch – Save My Soul
13. Damascus – Mighty Mushroom
14. The Hush - Grey
15. Nimrod – The Bird
16. Vamp – Floatin'

CD 2   
01. The Petards – Tartarex
02. Kiss Inc. – Hey Mr. Holy Man
03. The Cool - Highway Song
04. The King Biscuit Entertainers – Stormy
05. Serendipity - Round & Around
06. Paul's Collection –    Man
07. 1st Century – Dancing Girl
08. Flowers, Fruits & Pretty Things – Wanting You
09. Chris Carpenter – Waterfalls
10. The Calliope – Ryan 5
11. 1st Century – Looking Down
12. The Ark - Poverty Train
13. Paul's Collection –    What Have I Done?
14. Elli - Never Mind
15. Whichwhat –    The Wind Out Of Nowhere
16. William Sheller – Living East, Dreaming West
17. The Exception - Don't Torture Your Mind
18. Blackthorn Winter – I Will
19. Euphoria – Hangman's Rope
20. Argosy – Mr. Boyd
21. Tuesday's Children – A Strange Light From The East
22. Andy Ellison – Cornflake Zoo
23. Tidal Wave – Spider Spider

CD 3   
01. The Poets - That's The Way It's Got To Be
02. The Klan - And I Love It So
03. The Glass Opening – Does It Really Matter?
04. The Virgin Sleep – Halliford House
05. The Executives – Moving In A Circle
06. Brains Ltd. – Change Your Life
07. The Nicols – She Had A Name To Find Out
08. Global Village – Keep Your Feathers Fine 2
09. The Smoke – Utterly Simple
10. Andromeda –    Let's All Watch The Sky Fall Down
11. St. Giles's System – Swedish Tears
12. Sound Of Imker – Train Of Doomsday
13. The Dream – The Doting King
14. Crying Wood – Blue Eyed Witch
15. Group 1850 – Don't Let It Be
16. Linda Van Dyck With Boo & The Booboos – Stengun
17. Mandrake Paddle Steamer – Overspill
18. Stray – Mama's Coming Home
19. The Four Kinsmen – Glasshouse Green, Splinter Red
20. The Poets – I Am So Blue
21. The Attack – Strange House

CD 4   
01. The Eastern Alliance – Love Fades Away
02. The Driving Wheels – One Year Ago Today
03. Primrose Circus – In My Mind
04. The Outsiders – I Love You No. 2
05. Timebox – Poor Little Heartbreaker
06. Wimple Winch – Marmalade Hair
07. Gordon Waller – Rosecrans Boulevard
08. Los York's – Mi Mente En Ti (When My Mind Is Not Alive)
09. The Third Power – Lost In A Daydream
10. Fire – Man In The Teapot
11. Now – Marcia
12. Q65 – It Came To Me
13. Bodast – Mr. Jones
14. Mandrake Paddle Steamer – Strange Walking Man
15. The Traveling Salesmen – Days Of My Years
16. Gordon Alexander – Miss Mary
17. The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – I Won't Hurt You
18. The Millennium – It's You
19. Curt Boettcher – Sometimes
20. The Action – Brain
21. Wally Tax –    You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
22. Wally Tax –    The Dream
23. Wally Tax –    Last Night
24. Wally Tax – You Didn't Call Me
25. Wally Tax – I've Been Too Good To You

Disk 1  Disk 2  Disk 3  Disk 4

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Material Issue - Live Chicago 1991, Chatter interview tape & V/A - Just What This World Needs: a Tribute to Material Issue (2000, Veronica)

 Welcome to night numero uno of the Festival of Lights...which might actually resemble resemble night eight of Chanukah 2018, when I also featured Material Issue, with the selection that evening primarily focusing on rare and unreleased studio offerings.  This year I decided to go with an (almost) complete live show, a promo interview circa International Pop Overthrow, and a relatively hard to come by tribute album.

To recap MI's career would be something of a redundant exercise, simply because so many of you know the story, but I'll be as concise in this blurb as possible. A power trio from the Chicago suburbs kicked off their tenure in the mid-80s and slowly but surely ingratiated themselves into the greater metro area scene, flirting with punk and soon settled into a well-honed power pop modus operandi.  After excising every morsel they could out of their local DIY circuit by way of consistent gigging and well received indie releases, Material Issue signed to Polygram and released a stunning 1991 debut, the aforementioned International Pop Overthrow featuring signature singles like "Diane," "Valerie Loves Me" and "Renee Remains the Same." It sold roughly 300,000 copies, but the band saw diminishing returns with their sophomore LP Destination Universe in '92, and Freak City Soundtrack two years later. They were eventually dropped by Polygram, but continued to play and record.  Frontman Jim Ellison took his own life on June 20, 1996.  A posthumous fourth MI album, Telecommando Americano arrived in 1997, and to a modest extent the band's legacy grew over the ensuing decades.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and my appreciation of Material Issue seems to have accumulated exponentially post-1996.  I was aware of Jim and Co. as soon as IPO dropped in '91, and considered myself an appreciative listener, just not a hardcore devotee. There wasn't necessarily one red-pill moment that suddenly thrust me into the latter camp, rather the build-up to mega-fandom was slow but steady.  It's easy and certainly tempting to reflect on MI with an air of melancholy, but the liveliness and poignancy of their music makes it almost impossible to adopt such an attitude.  While there is likely little material left in the vault for surviving bandmates Ted Ansani and Mike Zelenko to release to the public at large, the two infrequently perform as Material Reissue with past guest vocalists often entailing Phil Angotti. A Material Issue bio-pic Out of Time is slated for it's debut showing later this week. 

As for the music this entry concerns, the meat and potatoes is a live soundboard recording of a June 1991 performance at the Vic Theatre in their hometown. If not a gig of seismic proportions it does capture them at the peak of their prowess and popularity, with all of the key cuts from IPO represented, as well as an encore heavy on covers (Simon & Garfunkel, Thin Lizzy and The Sweet). John Haggerty of Naked Raygun was enlisted as a guest guitarist for this show, not an obvious pick. This concert is one of the volumes in the MI Issues bootleg series (no. 15 to be specific). I've got it for you in MP3 and lossless FLAC below. 

Though it was only made available as a promo to radio outlets, record shops and the like, a relatively well circulated interview cassette, Chatter was issued by Polygram in conjunction with the release of IPO in 1991, and a copy made it into my hands. The eleven minute reel features snippits of assorted album cuts and is interspersed with interview soundbites, with Jim assuring potential listeners of Material Issue's "real band" bona fides. Though it's not specifically mentioned, you can almost bet he makes this point on the heels of Milli Vanilli being outed as frauds. A little further in he reveals the inspiration for "Valerie Loves Me," but since this thing is such a brief listen as a whole I shan't indulge any more info than that. 

Finally, a Material Issue tribute album from 2000 that I acquired just within the past year.  Just What This World Needs, features thirteen relative unknowns from Chicago and surrounding environs "issuing" (so to speak) their spin on MI favorites and the occasional deep cut.   Notably absent is "Renee Remains the Same," one of the band's most recognizable numbers that amazingly none of this album's participants were willing to adopt. What is on here is typically satisfactory, with the renditions usually skewing in the direction of the original compositions.  One exception is Ness' take of "She's Going Through My Head" featuring piano accompaniment and a lovingly fucked with arrangement.  And with that, let's all hope Material Issue's songs remain resident in our respective noggins for many years to come.  Track lists and links are as follows:

Issues #15 -  Live at The Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL, June 1991

01 Li'l Christine (intro missing)
02 Very First Lie
03 The Kids Are Alright
04 Diane
05 International Pop Overthrow
06 Out Right Now
07 She's Going Through My Head
08 Renee Remains The Same
09 This Letter
10 So You Want To Be A Rock N Roll Star
11 Echo Beach
12 Trouble
13 Valerie Loves Me
14 Jet
15 The Boxer
16 Cowboy Song
17 Ballroom Blitz

MP3  or  FLAC

Chatter interview tape 1991 - Hear

V/A - Just What This World Needs: a Tribute to Material Issue

01. Muchacha With Scott Lucas – Diane
02. Land Of The El Caminos – Valerie Loves Me
03. Marvelkind - Trouble
04. Moreno - Kim The Waitress
05. Dorks - Goin' Through Your Purse
06. Kiss n Ride - What Girls Want
07. Joygirl - Chance Of A Lifetime
08. Aberdeen - A Very Good Thing
09. Made 2 Fade - International Pop Overthrow
10. Dragon Girls - Funny Feeling
11. Box-o-Car - A Very Good Idea
12. Ness - She's Going Through My Head
13. Today's My Spaced Out Day – This Letter