Sunday, March 28, 2021

...and I'm losing all the stupid games that I swore I'd never play.

From 2000.  One of the first great albums of the twenty-first century.

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


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Land of the El Caminos - Subourbon (2001, boojm)

Though it does take me awhile (in this case almost five years!) I eventually make it through the mounds of bargain bin CDs I buy, and just a few months ago I slid this marvelous disk into my auto in-dash. Land of the El Caminos were a Chicago trio who really had their fingers on the pulse of the indie rock motherlode that befell an appreciative world in the 1990s.  Grabbing inspiration not so much from their hometown scene, rather Chapel Hill, NC, the Caminos pilfered a lesson or two from the likes of Small 23 and Archers of Loaf.  In fact mouthpiece and six-string wrangler Dan Fanelli bears a scratchy vocal timbre not far removed from the Archers' Eric Bachman.  No, you're not getting 75 mph pop-punk here, but instead a wiry, but melodically-enhanced splay of bittersweet notions and amped-up sonic appeal that doesn't lean too hard on your typical slacker fence posts.  The surprisingly sober Subourban emanates charm and "feels" for miles - or as long as it's eleven gallon tank will carry us on "Boxed in a Wind Tunel," Sold Me Out," and the concluding "Fragments," which features some shredding J. Mascis-esque fretwork. Two more LotEC albums exist, and I hope to get my mitts on them soon.

01. Slouching in My Spine
02. Boxed in a Wind Tunnel
03. We Never Learned How
04. Heaven
05. Keep On
06. Sold Me Out
07. Greener
08. So Sick
09. Knee Deep
10. Rock Star Crush
11. Fragments


Friday, March 26, 2021

Classix Nouveau - The Liberty Recordings 1981-83 (Cherry Red, 2021) - A brief review

Arriving in the London new music scene in 1979, Classic Nouveaux were born a few minutes late to be forerunners of the soon-to-be-ample goth and new romantic movements, but were nonetheless earmarked and shoehorned into the latter whether they desired said placement or not.  They bequeathed a catalog of memorable singles and albums, albeit the quartet never ascended to the echelons of the Duran Durans or Culture Clubs of the world, despite bearing a fairly unique image, not to mention a pedigree that consisted of two expats from punk ground-breakers X-Ray Spex.  While three quarters of this foursome brandished a well-coifed visual aplomb that could have comfortably slotted them amidst the rosters of A Flock of Seagulls and Kajagoogoo, it was frontman Sal Solo who bore the band's most striking visage. Egg-bald, with pasty white skin and gaunt facial features, Solo also dabbled in gender bending attire and makeup, with an austere, commanding poise to match.  Take even the most furtive glance at any Classix press photo and it's a cinch to determine who the alpha male of the group was.  Boasting several charting UK singles, sadly none of them were chart toppers.  They were hot to trot for a moment across the pond thanks to heavy rotation on MTV, but success was an even more elusive proposition in the States otherwise. Ironically, they translated best in former eastern bloc locales Poland and Yugoslavia, and even performed in those nations while the iron curtain was still a metaphorical sword of Damocles. Cherry Red has remastered and consolidated C/N's three (technically four) LPs with their accompanying singles and remixes into the handy micro-box The Liberty Recordings 1981-83. In addition to one stop shopping it also remedies the fact that the separate CD reissues of their album have fallen out of press.  

Despite the aforementioned inclusion of two X-Ray Specs (Jak Airport and BP Hurding) Classix did not specialize in avant punk meanderings in the least, instead opting for a more current and streamlined forte wherein the band opted for a quasi-noir tact on their debut platter, Night People, a record that at it's apex yielded a catchy-as-all-get-out stunner of a single, "Guilty." It's driving rhythm and keen melodic strengths garnered them modest chart placement in their native Britain, and the video was a cult hit in America thanks to the quickly burgeoning MTV.  Night People wasn't Classix' most accessible record, and that could be due in part to Sal's discernibly gruff vocal aplomb on several of the deeper album cuts.  Still, the album offered plenty of fun respites with some tunes even exuding a mild theatrical sway (e.g. "Inside Outside" and "Tokyo).  Comparatively raw and frenetic stacked up to later triumphs La Verité and Secrets, Night People was fit for release in North America as a self-titled release with a slightly altered and reshuffled song selection and entirely unique art.  But why?  I have yet to come across a definitive account for the alternate Yankee version, but strictly by virtue of my own perceptions, I reckon Liberty wanted to substitute some of Night People's less approachable cuts for a smoother listening experience for discriminating American ears. Both versions of the record are presented in their entirety on The Liberty Recordings, with unique but contemporary b-sides added to each. 

1982's La Verité massaged and contoured Classix' overarching approach without blunting it.  "Because You're Young" is bejeweled in soaring hooks, and a more pronounced new-wave aptitude is present on the record with an abundance of soothing, lucid keyboard fills.  Less consistent than the debut, it spawned the combo's biggest hit, "Is it a Dream' (scaling it's way to #11 in Britain).  Truthfully, La Verite houses a handful of tunes that should have been as prominent as the aforementioned, namely "Never Again" and "Because You're Young." "1999's" post-punk sub-context is a relative anomaly here, and a highly  rewarding one at that.  If you're seeking an analogy that correlates with Classix' musical development at this phase of their tenure, you could make a solid case that La Verite was their equivalent to the Psychedelic Furs Forever Now, as both were key transitional albums that blended a retention of the band's respective nascent gestures, simultaneously forecasting what would shortly be in the offing. A generous ten bonus cuts, including a cavalcade of single versions/edits and worthy non-LP b-sides are appended.

Classix Nouveau's swan song, Secrets found the band making a break for the dance floor without tripping over themselves, and better yet, maintaining enough restraint to keep themselves from spilling over the brink altogether.  More in keeping with what David Bowie was offering around the same era than caffeinated troupes like Dead or Alive, Classix Nouveau adopted sophistication as their new calling card on Secrets, splitting the difference between rhythmically sentient appeal and plush, deftly crafted songwriting. Though a departure from their early modus operandi, "Forever and a Day" and "Never Never Comes" downplay the melodrama, and instead reroute the emphasis on accessibility, if not sheer infectiousness.  As with the other albums in this collection, we're treated to a phalanx of supplemental material, entailing extended remixes, and a fine stand-alone single "The End...or the Beginning," which preceded the album.  

In 1985 the band called it a career, with singer Sal Solo literally going solo with his first album Heart & Soul arriving later that year. He soon thereafter pursued arranging and performing Christian music.

Classix Nouveau's The Liberty Recordings 1981-83 collection is available direct from Cherry Red Records and Amazon

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Soak me in soul-shifting light...

Hard to believe this one has reached the thirty year mark. One of '91s most transcendent and immersive albums. This is the 2005 reissue including seven blissful b-sides to fill out the disc. Enjoy.  

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


Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Unknown - s/t (1988, Fetal)

According to the mighty Discogs, there are/were no less than fifty bands running amok at one point or another named The Unknown.  I wouldn't have guessed there would have been quite that many who would have opted for such a self-deprecating moniker, but so it goes.  This one was a Maryland quartet who slotted in comfortably with the college rock set, specializing in "serious," but breathable tunes. The pensive "Eternity" and "Perfect Ground" bleed melancholic, naval-gazing hues, without emanating anything overly indulgent. While the aforementioned were pleasant enough, the band up the ante on side two of The Unknown, which is where these guys really sink their teeth in, with the strident, up-tempo "Dear Mrs. Jones," followed-up the even janglier "Slow Song" wielding tingly arpeggios like there's no tomorrow.  

I was only able to find a couple of relevant references to these guys, including the Unknown's follow-up, Fall, here. On YouTube you can check out frontman Jonny Alonso many years after the fact performing a solo version of this album's closing piece "Songinsee."

01. Eternity
02. I Wonder Why
03. Perfect Ground
04. The Clock
05. Dear Mrs. Jones
06. Slow Song
07. Salvation
08. Songinsee


Friday, March 19, 2021

Perfect Vision - ...Our Broken Crown ep (1984, Leave it Art)

This was a sweet dollar bin surprise I snagged a few years ago (not that you see many quality dollar vinyl bins anymore, but I digress).  Perfect Vision, were a creative synth/post-punk proposition from Cambridge, England.  From what I've been able to glean the band had two lead singers, one whom sounded mildly akin to Peter Murphy, and likewise one who bore a slight vocal resemblance to Dave Gahan, but largely that's where the comparisons ended.  Our Broken Crown gets off to a dissonant, art-damaged start with a foray titled "Laugh at the Breakage," that sad to say could frighten you off from the rest of the record.  I wouldn't let it, because side two is wholly redeeming with these chaps making considerable melodic strides on "This Hook" and "Swim to Me," the latter of which could adequately compete with the best of anything the Comsat Angels gave us in the earliest phase of their tenure. Poking around the blogosphere, I soon realized there were other sources discussing Perfect Vision, but the songs I'm presenting here are rips from my own copy of ...Broken Crown.

01. Laugh at the Breakage
02. Drive Me
03. This Hook
04. Swim to Me


Sunday, March 14, 2021

I wanna go bang on every door...

No clue other than the title.

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


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Dramarama - The Best Was Yet to Come (199?)

Well, another week of embarrassingly minimal content for ya'll. Sorry folks.  Dramarama.  No strangers to this page, but I haven't followed up on them in awhile. This was a fan-curated collection of songs, seemingly thrown together haphazardly, but the emphasis on songs that were recorded when they were on their last legs in the '90s (pre '00s reunion of course).  We get what appear to be demos of songs re-recorded and properly made available for public consumption, ironically just in the last few years. "It's Only Money," "Swamp Song" and "Everyday" eventually appeared on their last LP, Color TV"Indian Gin and Whiskey Dry" was their contribution to a Bee Gees tribute, and likewise was "Raw Ramp" for a Marc Bolan & T. Rex covers comp.  I think "Sincerely" (Dwight Twilley cover) and "7 Minutes More or Less" were taken from the band's 18 Big Ones hits collection. I don't know where "Crime Scene" is from. Might just be a random outtake.  Anyway, it's a neat, but curiously random listen.  Enjoy.

01. Crime Scene
02. Sincerely
03. Indian Gin and Whiskey Dry
04. Prayer for Survival (acoustic)
05. It's Only Money
06. The Swamp Song
07. Everyday
08. 7 Minutes More or Less
09. Raw Ramp


Sunday, March 7, 2021

And if all the world's a stage, count me out of this play...

I was reminded this weekend that it's the twentieth anniversary of this one.  My favorite album of 2001, a debut so good the band didn't release a follow-up for another decade!  This is the two CD version with an equally populated bonus disc of all the contemporary b-sides and more.  Awe inspiring stuff.

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


Saturday, March 6, 2021

DT and the Shakes - Masquerade (1990, Impact)

Not to be confused with a covers band of the same name, this DT and the Shakes called the environs of Washington D.C. home and were mostly active in the late '80s, bleeding into the next decade a tad as well.  Per the Washington Post (who provide more details than I ever could) this foursome were purveyors of "garage thrash." Fairly accurate assessment, as were other acts in their league like early Soul Asylum plus late, great lesser knowns Carnival Season, Finger and The Junk Monkeys. Call it a melodically-informed holy racket, or whatever, but despite the 31 year-old carbon date on this sucker, I'll take "I Found My Disguise" and the dazzling title cut over most of what passes for 'rock' these days.  The only legitimate curiosity surrounding Masquerade is the inclusion of no less than four, minute-long unlisted pieces which are predominantly mellow instrumentals providing no logical continuity or segue, and add not one iota to the eight structured songs that surround them. Why?  Because they could I suppose.  I included them in the audio but omitted them in the tracklist below.  

Finally, if you enjoy what you've heard here, dive into, Smooth Studio Crafted Teen Fodder over on Amazon downloads, which evidently compiles an early DT&S ep and single.  

Thirty Miles
Brother John
Garage Song
I Found My Disguise
Take a Dive
Last One Out


Friday, March 5, 2021

Expando Brain - Prouder Than Chowder 7" ep (1989, Vacant Lot)

By the looks of the record sleeve you might surmise Expando Brain weren't competing on the same wavelength as contemporaries U2 or Tears For Fears. The Flaming Lips might be a safer bet, but let's not carried away. Truth is, I've already shared a record (Mother of God...) by these Massachusetts natives several years back, and had some positive props to drop on them.  As for the record at hand, Prouder Than Chowder's copyright date is 1989, three years succeeding the Mother of God LP, leading me to think even before I slapped in on the turntable I'd be an encountering an older and more advanced Expando Brain.  In actuality these five songs were tracked in 1985, one year before the aforementioned album.  "I Blame You," and the even more inviting "Woodblock" hint at some of these guys' lovingly rough hewn, albeit vaguely tuneful attributes.  Perfect for the late night PM slot on your local college station. Side two offers a trifecta of serrated, minute-and-a-half bangers wherein E/B indulge their DIY punk itch exuding a combination of tension and gleeful abandon.  

01. I Blame You
02. Woodblock
03. Relationsheeps
04. Drug Yacht
05. God's Words