**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**
**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**
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)
07. Green Isaac
**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**
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.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!
A. Furious Mess
B. Some Attention
01. Steam Roller
02. The New One
05. Till the Day is Done
07. The Call
09. Goes Down
10. The Melody
11. Milky Ways
13. Isolated (bonus)
14. Sucker (bonus)
A. Mr. T Experience - Together Tonight
B. Sicko - 80 Dollars
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
10. I Faced the Insomnia Squad
01. Hope For the Haunted
02. She Has It
04. Slow Fade
06. Video You
08. Make or Break
09. Perfect Faith
11. Wait and See
12. Holiday Heart
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