Sunday, February 28, 2021

I picture myself a happy man, and the picture don't contain your face...

From 1994. One of the best (and perhaps one of the only) non-sellout major label debut albums I've encountered.

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


Saturday, February 27, 2021

J & M Chain - Send Me Away - Early Demos

Ok, so right up front this is not an official releases, so lower whatever expectations you may have down a notch or three.  Even if you're an established customer of the brothers Reid (William & Jim), aka The Jesus and Mary Chain, remember that sixth generation cassette copy of Psychocandy your friend passed along to you in high school which was later partially chewed up by your tape deck?  Well, the fidelity of that maimed cartridge might actually be actually be preferable to this quite literal bundle of hiss, that in some cases could pass for recordings tracked inside a mine shaft. Per Wikipedia, the Reid Brothers were essentially gifted a Portastudio in 1983, in which they cut several demos (and from the sound of things their teeth as well).  I don't have any specifics on what year these thirteen songs were committed to tape - possibly 1983/84, and in fact some of them appeared with slightly souped up audio refurbishing on the two disc, deluxe reissue of Psychocandy from a few years ago.  Presented here is a more thorough selection of tracks from the Chain's nascent era, featuring early stabs at "Never Understand," It's So Hard," "Inside Me," and "Something's Wrong," all of which were rerecorded for Psychocandy and surrounding singles.  There's two versions of "Upside Down," plus the scarcely heard "On the Wall" and "Up Too High," the latter resembling the sonic aptitude of New Order's earliest rumblings, circa Movement. Even of the audio is sketchy from song to song, this collection of prototypes offers an inside peak to what this band would unleash on an unsuspecting, and ultimately grateful world in 1985. I believe this bootleg was originally offered on the now vanquished Pyrolysebred music blog, so I would like give credit accordingly.

01. Up Too High
02. On the Wall
03. Never Understand
04. Taste the Floor
05. Upside Down
06. In a Hole
07. Something's Wrong
08. Inside Me
09. It's So Hard
10. Send Me Away
11. Just Out of Reach
12. Vegetable Man
13. Upside Down


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Richard Hell and The Voidoids - Destiny Street Complete (1982/2021 Omnivore). A critique.

It's difficult to fathom spending five years (presumably anyway) preparing and perfecting one album, and later desperately wanting a do-over, if not a veritable re-recording.  Nonetheless this is the prism through which one Richard Hell (aka Richard Meyers) viewed his second album with The Voidoids, 1982's Destiny Street.  Typically superseded in stature by the band's debut, Blank Generation, regarded as a touchstone salvo in the early canon of punk, Destiny simply wasn't considered a desert island necessity by comparison. It wasn't an album heard blaring out of car stereos in 7-11 parking lots or dormitory windows contemporary to it's Reagan-era launch - and certainly not today. 

An alum of early incarnations of coveted proto-punk combos Television, and to a more minimal extent The Heartbreakers (Johnny Thunders' deal, not Tom Petty's) Hell turned out to be his own toughest critic. So much so that in 2008/09 Destiny Street was re-recorded with brand new vocals and guest guitar parts in lieu of the album's master tapes thought to be permanently lost or misplaced.  This version of the album was re-christened Destiny Street Repaired.  Fast forward ten years to 2019, when most of the original 24-track masters were recovered and returned to Richard Hell, and at long last he was able to do the proper remix/remaster he had wanted to for some-odd decades.  All three configurations of Destiny Street and album's worth of demos have been accumulated into handy two disk CD set, Destiny Street Complete, along with a remixed version of Destiny Street on vinylBefore we get into the mechanics of all these iterations, here's a quick thirty-thousand foot on where the Voidoids came from and how they carved out a corner for themselves on Destiny Street

If Richard Hell was to call it a career after his mid-70s stints with Tom Verlaine in Television and his briefer run as a Heartbreaker, his legacy would've largely been cemented right then and there with his name embossed in gold on top.  Even though he didn't stick around to track any officially released recordings with either of these contingents, he did perform with them, and is said to have been part of the construction crew that erected the stage at CBGBs.  Luckily for the world at large Hell was still brimming with creativity and not about to transition to the role of spectator anytime soon.  The original lineup of Hell and the Voidoids was it's most renown, with Hell hooking up with guitarist Robert Quine (1942-2004) a man who found himself in the company of Lou Reed circa the Velvet Underground's late '60s prime and went from there.  Quine's post-Voidoids resume included collaborations with Matthew Sweet, Lloyd Cole, John Zorn, and Lou Reed on his Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts albums. The rhythm section of the Voidoids was filled out by second guitarist Ivan Julian and drummer Marc Bell, with Hell adopting the role of bassist as well as frontman.  

Even back in 1976 when the Voidoids debut single, "Another World" on Ork Records, and their considerably more visible first album, Blank Generation in '77 surfaced, Hell & Co may have epitomized punk at that juncture in the genre's infancy, albeit by today's standards not so much.  Lacking the rip-roaring crush of guitars that made the Ramones...well, the Ramones, nor the in your-face angst and histrionics of their UK contemporaries, the Voidoids were nonetheless equal parts attitude and wry romantic inclination, that in their more thoughtful vestiges aimed a wink and the nod to the likes of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.  Blank Generation spawned two bona fide classics.  First, the title cut could arguably described as an indifference anthem, a veritable slacker screed wherein Hell declares he can quite literally take or leave the auspices of his soon to be bygone scene.  The additionally well-received "Love Comes in Spurts" was even brattier and faster, not to mention sardonic, with some Tom Verlaine-esque guitar antics ricocheting throughout it's New York Dolls-y canvas.  The album as a whole isn't the consistently classic totem it's oft chalked up to be, but sonically all ten numbers composing Blank Generation share concomitant DNA and a discernibly casual gait.  

This finally catches up to the belated follow up album I really intended to discuss, Destiny Street (Complete).  I say belated due to the five year layover between it and BG.  You'd think with this reissues' two fairly thorough sets of liner notes by Hell himself (including a reprise of those which appeared in Destiny's initial CD reissue from 1991) there would be a more thorough account for the half-decade lapse, however details are sparse.  He does however mention he begged Sire Records to release him from his contract and reluctance to tour after a brutal three week run opening for the Clash in Britain.  Then there was the matter of making lineup alterations to the Voidoids themselves.  Quine stayed on board, but Ivan and Marc failed to migrate from the original lineup.  Fred Maher filled in Marc Bells stead on percussion, and moreover, the Voidoids added a real asset to the band in guitarist Naux (birthname Juan Maciel).  Naux's pedigree was a bit lean at this point in his career, previously fronting a little known, but often excellent no-wavish tinted combo China Shop, whom I've written up on these pages. Sadly deceased some 27 years later in 2009, Naux wielded a dexterous, artful and challenging acumen, wherein he was effective in the realms of post-punk, funk, and myriad points in between.     

The original mix of Destiny Street is suitably enough presented first on disc one. Shortly after it was released in 1982, Hell had serious misgivings about the album as it was presented for public consumption, particularly with the guitar mix.  From a listener and fan's perspective I find nary any fault with Destiny Street's original iteration, but naturally the architect had considerably more invested in it.  As for the songs themselves, Hell states in the more recent set of notes that this was the Voidoids playing "real gone rock and roll, something like I grew up on."  If Blank Generation had a casual temperament, DS was wonderfully and unabashedly loose and rollicking, with Hell & Quine exuding five solid years of wood-shedding and a noticeably advanced aptitude across all tiers.  The proceedings start off with a sheer BANG! in "The Kid With the Replaceable Head," a fevered, high-energy, 145-second surge that out-rocks (or for that matter out-punks) anything the Voidoids previously placed their stamp on.  The song's effect is visceral to a fault, and I'd have to think it might have rubbed off on the Replacements by the time the famed Minneapolis quartet hit their stride in the mid-80s.  "Lowest Common Dominator" is another frenzied romp, "Ignore That Door" plugs into what the Heartbreakers initiated and inserts brief but dizzying guitar solos for good measure.  In terms of outright "catchiness" the prize is awarded to "Downtown at Dawn," a sassy, rhythmically aware banger that sounds like something the Rolling Stones might have misplaced for Tattoo You or Emotional Rescue.  Countering the aforementioned insurgent slammers, is Hell's confessional ballad, "Time," the album's thoughtful comedown that gracefully sidesteps any potential preciousness.  On top of all this, would you believe they made time to wedge in not one, but three covers?  The Kinks' roosty 1965 number "I Gotta Move" and Them's stomping "I Can Only Give You Everything" fit like a glove amidst everything else shakin' on Destiny Street, with the latter culminating in a deliciously shambolic ending. A reading of Dylan's comparatively sober "Going Going Gone" is another mellow respite. And while it's not necessarily an embarrassment, Destiny's concluding title cut is a drivel-y, indulgent narrative with a funky back-beat that nonetheless would have more appropriately served as a b-side.  Thankfully it doesn't undercut any of the otherwise phenomenal material Hell & Co. brought to the table on the Voidoids sophomore (and regrettably final) outing.  

The remaining half of Destiny Street Complete's first disk is a largely re-recorded (or Repaired) version of the album from 2009.  The redo was in large part due to the seemingly safe assumption (at the time anyway) that the master tapes had hopelessly disappeared, rendering a proper remix of Destiny to Hell's satisfaction an impossibility.  With Quine having passed away in 2004, and more recently mach-two Voidoids guitarist Naux, Hell decided to recut his vocals and bring aboard some several guest guitarists.  They include original Voidoid Ivan Julian, and additionally Marc Ribot, and Bill Frisell. A backup of the original rhythm section tracks were luckily preserved in Richard Hell's personal archive.  The Repaired incarnation of Destiny Street maintains the aesthetic of the original artifact with Hell's vocal parlance virtually unchanged, and the guitars more lucid in the mix, but not quite as biting as the more familiar takes.  In short, it's an interesting but not necessarily crucial update...perhaps with the exception of the primary architect's sanity and perfectionism.  As mentioned above, in 2019, the bulk of Destiny Street's original master tapes were recovered in a storage space, and on disk two of DSC, Hell finally gets his wish for the proper remaster he has been pining over for decades.  To my ears it doesn't futz with the original mix much at all.  As remasters usually go, Destiny Street's modest 2019 refurbishing is a tad clearer and more lucid.  Most notably, the volume is thankfully not pushed into the red, as remasters so often do more harm than good.  

The lengthier half of disk two rounds up an additional twelve tunes, predominantly demos of several album tracks, an ep's worth of worthy outtakes (e.g. "Funhunt" and "Crack of Dawn") and material from a pair of surrounding singles.  All interesting inclusions, but not crucial for the appreciation of the main course. Whether your a die hard acolyte of Hell and/or the Voidoids from the original inception of punk or a newcomer every version, variation and alternation of Destiny Street is now available at your fingertips direct from Omnivore Records as digital downloads or a well present two CD set.  Amazon has you covered too, and don't forget the stand alone vinyl LP variant of the 2019 remastered version of the album.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

You warned me of the potential cost, of losing myself to those who are lost.

A sheik update on keyboard-driven pop, circa 2015. 

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


Saturday, February 20, 2021

X-tal - The Humboldt Desert 7" (1991, Alias)

Even for someone like myself who gorges himself on "fringe" bands from the last century, even my fringes have fringes, so to speak.  I'm not talking about weirdo/outsider purveyors, so much as artists I didn't have an adequate time to investigate due to being so deluged with everything else that dropped onto my plate.  I knew of San Fran's X-tal (by name anyway) when they were still active in the '90s, but didn't hear a note until well into the 2000s.  Looks like I neglected on a genuinely talented bunch who emanated shades of the Feelies and Velvets not to mention oodles of other substantive, left-off-the-dial types.  The deftly written "The Humboldt Desert" is a near toe-tapping ditty about...deforestation?  Strangely enough X-tal's formula works like a charm here, as well as the two songs on the other side of the coin.  "More Fun in the New World Order" is not a sardonic cover of rewrite of the X staple, rather a riveting 86-second original railing against U.S. involvement in the Gulf War.

If anything else, let these three songs be a taster of sorts for the remainder of X-tal's recorded output, now available at your leisure on Bandcamp

A. The Humboldt Desert
B1. Damp in the Trenches
B2. More Fun in the New World Order  


Friday, February 19, 2021

V/A - Scream the Compilation (1987)

So yeah, there was a time when major labels (in this case Geffen) would not only take a chance on (relatively) unknown quantities but even compile a good ten of 'em on one LP, no less.  Scream (The Compilation) is fairly common, though it never made it into the digital era.  The basis of this record was to expose the world at large to a handful of Southern-Cali hopefuls who frequently played a mixed-media, multi-stage venue in Los Angeles, Scream.  The club, which was said to be a melange of live music, art installations and even intermittent freak shows sounds like the subject of a fascinating documentary, and while this record would surely serve as the soundtrack, it ironically consists entirely of studio material.  But that's fine, given that live cuts from fresh and/or arcane acts aren't always the most ideal way to introduce unknown talent to virgin ears.   

Scream... kicks off on an ambitious note with a band that already garnered a growing profile, and would soon be known to the universe in a couple more years. I opted not to go with the proper spelling of this quartet, nor the song title to keep the higher ups at bay, but the version here differs from the one that made onto their renown sophomore LP.  Caterwaul and The Abecedarians specialized in dazzling guitar-laden post-punk, the latter of whom I eventually became a serious follower of.  The Delta Rebels, souped-up bluesy hard rock was a sheer kick in the ass, while the similarly minded Hangmen kicked up a ballsy cloud of dust of their own, channeling a hint of southern rock in the process. At this stage in their tenure TSOL (True Sounds of Liberty) had more of a jones for metal than punk, and it comes across in Jack Grisham's wanky and somewhat contrived vocal affectations on their spin of Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower." And although the audio may be a bit bumpy on my rip of the Kommunity FK track that concludes this record, it's a smashingly stimulating four minutes of modern rock bliss. Immensely recommended.

01. Janez - Pugs in Zen
02. Caterwaul - Manna and Quail
03. Human Drama - Wave of Darkness (Highway 99)
04. Francis X and the Bushmen - Grey Talk
05. TSOL - All Along the Watchtower
06. Delta Rebels - Teenage Lipstick Girls
07. The Hangmen - Rotten Sunday
08. Tender Fury - Slaughter the Lion
09. Abecedarians - They Said Tomorrow
10. Kommunity FK - Something Inside Me Has Died (remix)


Sunday, February 14, 2021

People breaking the law just to make ends meet.

A solid career summation of these one-time Minneapolis mainstays.

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


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Vauxhall Seraux ep (1987, Uncarved Block)

Vauxhall Seraux were a New Jersey trio that are/were seemingly impervious to search engines, though the music on this EP isn't quite as clandestine - in nature anyway.  V/S's somewhat ubiquitous stripe of snyth pop could have straddled the Top-40/college divide effortlessly, though I can't vouch for them receiving a considerable amount of airplay in either arena.  Benefiting from two capable vocalists in Michael Miller and Chip Daggett, they commandeered their compact troupe through catchy, albeit none-too-innovative titles like "Come Away" and "Too Young," yielding similar results akin to higher profile contemporaries OMD, Hipsway, and the like. Despite some patently obvious 80s-isms I enjoyed this one.

01. M.D.Y.M.
02. Goodbye Yesterday
03. Come Away
04. Too Young
05. When I Touch
06. untitled outro


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Accolades arrive too late, the firing squad can hardly wait.

Ok, I've got something a little different for you this week. How about an entirely, 100% unreleased album, and an ep by the same band that never made it to the marketplace either?  Admittedly, these guys were a fairly unknown quantity when they actually had proper releases to their credit, but this stuff is too good for me to sit on forever.  This quartet's music was very much in tandem with the brutal throes of winter, and was as icy and foreboding as the frozen Michigan hinterlands they once inhabited. Consider yourself warned...or delighted. 

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


Saturday, February 6, 2021

Choir Invisible - Sea to Shining Sea ep (1984, PVC)

Borrowing their moniker from a fairly renown George Eliot poem and once containing drummer Danny Benair (a future Three O'Clock alum) in their roll call, the Choir Invisible were bona fide new wave hopefuls by the time this EP rolled around.  To the band's credit they were excellent, even pristine at times at their chosen craft, if not necessarily innovators.  With a template than ran the gamut from early Wire Train to Spandau Ballet, C/I's tunes revealed subtle melancholic hues that I presume might have set them apart from the flood of like-minded hopefuls circa Sea's... entry into the record racks.  Best of all there's nary a dissatisfactory moment among these half-dozen cuts...just so long as you have an affinity for new wave and/or the more benign vestiges of post-punk. Choir Invisible had their antecedents in L.A. punks The Flyboys. As you might be able to determine from the album jacket this record encountered some excessive moisture before I took possession of it.

01. Grey at Present
02. Questions Never Spoken
03. With Dreams
04. I Walked Away
05. Shared By a Voice
06. Devoted to a Memory


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Indoor Games - All of Your Lies 7" (1983, Holyrood)

We have another cold case on our hands, this one potentially hailing from Ireland, but not verifiable.  Led by a somewhat androgynous sounding vocalist in one Foss Paterson, Indoor Games can't quite keep their identity straight between their two cuts adorning this 45.  "All of Your Lives" emanates the mildly appealing ambience of a lower charting Top 40 one-hit-wonder, not coincidentally fitting quite appropriately with the sonic cliches of it's 1983 copyright date.  This one almost sounds like it could have landed somewhere on Yes' 90215, albeit "...Lives" is more danceable, and thankfully not obnoxious. The flip, "Take the Party Down" exhibits significantly different sounding vocals (though both tunes are credited to Paterson as the mic fiend) and plays out on a chillier and more serious tip.  Oodles of fretless bass populates it's four synth-laden minutes.

A. All of Your Lies
B. Take the Party Down


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Get Smart! Oh Yeah Me ep (2021, Capital Punishment, rec. 1987) & Von Hayes - Wa La! (2021)

They say the squeakiest wheel gets the oil.  In the mid-80s, in large part thanks to MTV, it was pretty easy to discern who was besotted with the proverbial grease, not to mention plump bank accounts.  Born and bred in Lawrence, KS, Get Smart! were short term fixtures on the college radio circuit, beginning with their initial release, 1981's Words Move ep.  It wasn't much longer until they garnered more attention with their debut LP in '84, Action Reaction, but just as even greater visibility took shape with their follow-up two years later via Swimming With Sharks on Restless Records, things very gradually creaked to a halt by the late '80s, save for a couple of stray 1990 gigs.  Get Smart's! indie-rock casualty story was one that was repeated virtually hundreds of times over during their era, but in their case this relatively plain-clothed and unsuspecting co-ed trio coupled their organic aesthetics with an edgy and often urgent incisiveness that most of their contemporaries (let alone mainstream titans like INXS, and so forth) could ever hope to tap into.  In 1987 plans for a third album were formally set into motion.  Half a dozen songs were cut with the late, great engineer Iain Burgess...and until 2021 were promptly put to pasture.  

In 2020 Get Smart! reemerged after a 30-year slumber, at an inconvenient time to say the least. While performing may be out of the question as far as the near-future goes, the band was able to tout one accomplishment last year, if only to put a nightcap on those heretofore abandoned 1987 recordings. So far as I know those original six songs weren't supplemented with any new ones, however Steve Albini was brought aboard to mix them for release. They're finally seeing the light of day in the guise of the band's "new" ep, Oh Yeah No, courtesy of Capitol Punishment.  Not straying far from where they left off with 1986's Swimming With Sharks, GS!'s key ingredients were not only firmly intact, but in full swing with Marcus Koch and Lisa Wertman Crowe's trading off on vocals (often times one being more dominant) with an overlay of serrated and nervy guitar textures that should sit right at home with aficionados of everyone from Pylon to The Embarrassment.  Yes, there's a post-punk context permeating much of this disc, but not so overbearing as to encroach on the band's tuneful, minor-chord constructs.  The Crowe-led "Under the Rug" and "Painted Floor" are two of Oh Yeah's... most effective moments, but moreover the searing finale "Paradise" could pass for the most potent tune X left off See How We Are.  Seems almost criminal that GS! left these nuggets languishing on the shelf for over three decades, but better late than never.  Had Oh Yeah No eventually expanded into a full fledged LP in say 1987/88, it just might have outstripped their past glories, which were nothing to sneeze at.  And now you can partake in Get Smart! old and new over at Bandcamp where CDs of this ep are available, alongside virtual editions of the cornerstones of their back catalog.  Many happy returns, with fingers crossed that some live dates will ensue when the world becomes a bit less contagious.

Even more marked of a non-household name is Philly's current Von Hayes, who like the aforementioned also boast a defiant, indie aptitude.  Who would have thought all the way back in the late-80s (and even into the early Clinton era) that Dayton, OH's once struggling Guided By Voices would cast such a wide influence on so many protege acts to diligently follow in their footsteps?  Numerous aggregations have drawn parallel lines on a not-so-slow decline with Robert Pollard and Co. over the years, including Car Seat Headrest, the Capstan Shafts and the even less heralded Von Hayes. To know Von Hayes is to know lo-fi dabbler Graham Repulski, who was once a component of their lineup...and potentially still is.  

The band are said to have worked with Repulski on their latest missive, Wa La!, but his name appears nowhere in the credits.  Regardless of the extent of his involvement, Repulski's fingerprints (and presumably his Tascam 4-track) are living all over Wa La!'s dozen, basement-dwelling numbers.  Von Hayes officially credited duo of Drew and Peter exude/exhume the charm of '90s era GBV, as if Do the Collapse and the ceaseless spigot of post reunion albums never happened.  It's all here - the closet vocals, rough-hewn instrumentation, mystique-laden prose, and most crucially a poignant semblance of melody.  Whether it's the consoling, bittersweet hues of "Sly Gravy" and "I Had No Idea It Was Today" or the more extroverted and ambitious "Quarantine Dreams" (gee, what might have inspired that title?) not to mention plenty of moods and modes in between, Wa La! can't help give one the impression that VH are here to plug a gap - and sprinkle it with their own little somethin' somethin' to boot.  Truthfully, we shouldn't give GBV all the credit here, with touchstones like Daniel Johnston, and to a lesser extent Lou Barlow also informing this combo's humble but wryly soaked ethic.  Wa La! is available physically and digitally now along with a spate of accompanying Von Hayes recordings on Bandcamp, and while you're at it, pay a little visit to Mr. Repulski as well.