01. Raise the Flag
02. Lost Loved Ones
04. Echos of the Past
05. The Dark
07. This Hopeless Pride
08. In Silence
09. The Prospect
plus: I Found You
Saturday, October 30, 2021
As Jowe Head explains in Mayday's sleeve notes the band in their earliest incarnation were finding themselves - and their instruments quite literally. Coming from humble means, the band gradually cobbled together something resembling a drum kit, and were no strangers to secondhand guitars and other used accoutrements. Sonically, the Swell Map's aesthetic ran somewhat parallel to upstart and oblique post-punk contemporaries the Fall. From day one their penchant was shambolic and abrasive, with the occasional "sweet" chord or manicured shred of instrumentation occasionally penetrating the din. Splashes of found-sounds and even glints of Krautrock were tucked in, subtly or otherwise, but in the grand scheme of things the eventual trio pared down to Soundtracks/Sudden/Head yielded a sound uniquely their own. Amidst Mayday's hefty track listing are revealing early takes of some of the Maps' signature pieces - "Vertical Slum," "Read About Seymour," City Boy's (Dresden Style) and "International Rescue." There are a couple of thoroughly unique things here that really deserved some proper fleshing out once they got signed to Rough Trade- "Off the Beach," Deliferous Mistail," but the majority of this collection consists of prototypes of slightly lesser known songs in the Map's oeuvre - that and scads of lo-fi noodling and noisenik experimentation. Perhaps not the most ideal indoctrination for the unacquainted (or squeamish), Mayday Signals is a welcome dispatch to the Maps' most adorning adherents. It's available right now from Easy Action Records and Amazon on your choice of wax or CD.
The phrase "cult following" seems to adhere to Tommy Womack like white on proverbial rice. I suppose it's a reasonable assessment since he's not the stuff of household name status, despite his rep as frontman for Nashville local yokels Government Cheese in the '80s, and a little further in with the Bis-Quits. By the late '90s he spun off as a solo artist, and has gone strong ever since (not counting a serious and temporarily debilitating car wreck, and a stint in rehab). Tommy is a troubadour that's nearly seen and done it all, and he gives it right back to his audiences and fans via a telltale, sung/spoke delivery system that's nakedly frank, plaintive, and amusing. A worshiper of the Heartbreakers and vintage New York punk, his spin on things (at least for his latest, I Thought I Was Fine) is a tad less raucous, veering more in the vicinity of Cracker and occasionally Paul Westerberg, albeit twangier. Whether he's extolling on the autobiographical in "I Thought I Was Fine" or "Job Hunting While Depressed," or spinning unlikely anecdotes about Elvis, Tommy is if anything refreshingly earnest. If you crave songwriting with a linear, but utterly human tact this guy just might occupy the top slot on your wish list. I Thought I Was Fine is available straight from the folks who brought it two market a couple weeks ago, Schoolkids Records. You'd also be wise to peruse a recent article on him here.
Though the lineage behind The Brothers Steve (BTW, no one in the band is a "Steve") might be insignificant to some, it's an outright selling point for me. This quintet contain no less than three alum, from one of my favorite bands of the early aughts, and that would be an L.A. contingency monikered Tsar, whose self titled debut circa 2000 made me and a few thousand of my like-minded musical cohorts instantaneous fans. POWER pop baby, of the most dazzling and engrossing variety. The Brothers Steve, now up to their second LP, Dose indeed exude vestiges of their aforementioned predecessors, but what they have in their own right is thankfully pretty substantive, not to mention less grandiose. The group's modus opernadi is power pop of a less engulfing sort, generally in the same ballpark circa Redd Kross' Phaseshifter. The first half of Dose treads a bit uneven, with the oomph factor (or deficiency thereof) being a detriment, save for the T-Rex inclined "Wizard of Love." The latter portion of the album fares better bearing gratifying, melodious bashers like "Electro Love" and "Griffith Observatory." Another glammy stomper, "Better Get Ready to Go," is a more than satisfactory note to end the proceedings on. Fill your prescription for Dose over yonder at Big Stir Records or Amazon.The Armoires featuring the proprietors of Big Stir Records themselves, Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko. Yes, they even had me fooled! Each of the half dozen (or so) singles in this series encompassed slightly different musical pastiches, touching on jangle, power pop and even country, occasionally incorporating abundant harmonies and occasional orchestral flourishes. The overall effect resides somewhere between Pugwash and The Rooks (remember them)? Among well above-average originals "(Just Can't See) The Attraction" and "Ohma, Bring Your Light Into This Place," are a flock of interesting covers by the likes of XTC, John Cale, 20/20 and Andy Gibb. This myriad of mysterious singles have been gathered and housed on the Armoires aptly titled Incognito, available now directly from Big Stir and Bandcamp.
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Sunday, October 24, 2021
A. High on a Wire
B. No Idea
Saturday, October 23, 2021
01. A Month of Sundays
02. Someday Your Ship Will Come (Dance Mix)
03. Illustrated Man
04. Life Begins
06. World War Son
So it's come to this. I'm plundering semi-random MP3
folders on my hard drive in hopes of sharing something unique with you good
people. And to my credit, several of the twenty songs within this file
are relatively unique, not to mention some of which that are unavailable virtually
anywhere. I did something similar with my "letter folders" comps (sorry, the links are dead) several year ago, though I put that project on hold indefinitely for whatever the reason. So what the hell is my "streaming audio" folder, and how might it pay dividends to you? If you don't mind the spiel I'm about to unfold, read on
Most of the music I download is procured via purchasing it through legit sites, using file sharing platforms (think Napster and such), music links provided by fellow bloggers, and finally, files that are passed along to me by friends/acquaintances/various music pushers in emails, texts, etc. Usually it's just a matter of tapping the left button on my mouse and selecting the folder or directory I wish to route the files to. But what about all the music I can't so easily download, whether it be through video sources (YouTube, etc), Soundcloud. Myspace and other webpages I inhabit (or have formerly) where I can check out all the music I desire...but analogous to the Hotel California, the audio can never leave the webpage or video player it's resident to? Well, the solution to alleviating this conundrum has been remedied through audio capturing applications like MediaHuman (which literally creates an MP3 of any Youtube video you drag into the software interface), however this technology is relatively recent. In the past (and occasionally to this day) I need to utilize slightly less convenient streaming audio recorders (e.g. SoundTap), which captures whatever music I'm listening to on my PC in real time in the form of MP3s or wav files. Over the years I've accumulated a few hundred tracks by this latter method, and have kept them in a folder labeled "streaming audio," that I never get around to sorting or relocating. What resides in this folder, much like my greater MP3 library is very much specific to my tastes. You won't find many household names in there, but to me some of this music is priceless, as it's never been offered commercially, or even been locatable through a download-friendly resource.
Today I'm sharing nearly two dozen of these oft un/under-available tunes. I realize the actual source folder on my hard drive where they're derived from is pretty much irreverent to you, as from your perspective it's merely a collection of tunes in a folder. But as I said, the unavailability factor of the songs make them that much more precious (at least to me). I'm not going to provide a track list, per normal, but here' a few spoilers. You'll regale in some pretty splendid covers of (not from) artists as diverse Sonic Youth, NOFX, The Posies, Elliott Smith and the Pains of Being Pure at Hear. As for wholly unreleased tunes you can partake in scarcities from the likes of Dreams So Real and Fickle Friends. There's also a very early prototype of a song that would eventually be fully fleshed out for an album that would sell well over a million copies in the '90s. Best of all, if you're an aficionado of obscuro power pop circa it's golden era, check out rare single sides from the Frenchman and the Defendants. This is a true, blue hodgepodge to be sure, and with any luck you'll find a rewarding earworm or two amongst this haphazard collection. Enjoy!
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Saturday, October 16, 2021
03. Light Reads Heat
04. Drive Out
05. No Girls
07. Vegan in Furs
08. Process White
Friday, October 15, 2021
From the sound of it, this little spoken of UK quartet had an ear for a couple of their contemporaries, namely Mega City Four and the Senseless Things. Less vigorous than the almighty Megas, Sugarblast nonetheless had a keen melodic acumen, buttressed with an enticing cavalcade of ringing chords and bright vocals. No filler takes residence in this Mind, though the band opt for a curious, galloping rhythm on "Believe," and for the concluding "Stabbed" they get the notion to lay on the wah-wah pedal. This ep and the subsequent Sunny Outside ep (released that same year) were bundled onto one disk, though it appears Sugarblast's slim discography was an import-exclusive affair.
03. Mighty High Opinion
Sunday, October 10, 2021
**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**
Saturday, October 9, 2021
From my vantage point, Toybox is a conceptual piece, the gist of which being of a fictitious and fanciful nature, minus any real heavy-handedness. Still, it's sophisticated stuff that doesn't often skew toward conventional pop/rock constructs. Instead, think Syd Barrett or even Robyn Hitchcock's more oblique handiwork (in and out of the Soft Boys). He shoehorns a few Bowie-isms in too, but perhaps my radar is honing in on Colin's timbre here, any likenesses to may be a sheer coincidence. For Toybox, our protagonist doesn't bait you in with obvious hooks, rather he opts to finagle with texture, temperament, subtle mystique. If you're salivating for something as immediate and enticing as say, Ziggy Stardust, or the Soft Boys' Underwater Moonlight, I'll break your heart right here and now. Nonetheless, Colin is a stickler for wearing his influences on the sleeves of his wizardly garb - and he dispenses them to engaging effect on "Rock'n Roll Pinocchio," "Bat Watch" and "Casey's Last Trip." In the grand scheme of things Toybox is an acquired taste worth acquiring.
01. Toy Box
02. Mrs. Donovan-Jones
03. The Young Boys Belonging To Mr. Brown
04. Bat Watch
05. Little Girl In The Red Plastic Mac
06. The Roundabout And The Wigwam
07. Rock 'n Roll Pinocchio
08. Found An Old Wheel In The Woods
09. Straight Forward
10. Casey's Last Trip
11. What Lies Inside The Wizard's Hat?
12. U.F.O. Report No 1
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Gleaming Spires - Songs of the Spires (1981), Walk on Well Lighted Streets (1983) & Welcoming a New Ice Age (1985) (Omnivore 2021 reissues ) - An overview.
Say it's the late 1970s. You're in a promising but utterly struggling Los Angeles power pop outfit called Bates Motel. You play gigs frequently. You cut demos. Despite no shortage of talent record companies just aren't biting the line. As fate would have it you and your bandmates are fans of Sparks, who by this stage in the game are established auteurs and visionaries in electronic music around the world. You and one of your fellow com-padres in Bates Motel eventually get up the gumption to approach brothers Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks to check out one of gigs at a local dive to sell them on the idea of producing your humble but hungry outfit. The Mael's accept your invitation, but instead of them working for you, they invite you to work for them as Sparks new rhythm section. How could you possible decline?
That in a nutshell was the unlikely alliance of Bates Motel's David Kendrick and Leslie Bohem with a (slightly) higher profile artist who at this point in their already storied career have racked up lauded albums like Propaganda and Kimono My House, among roughly half a dozen more LPs. This merger officially put to pasture Bates Motel, and moreover buoyed Kendrick's and Bohem's confidence. Couple this with the fact the duo still had their own creative juices flowing, and no shortage of motivation to start a new combo parallel to their gig in Sparks, dubbed Gleaming Spires. Thus began a six year odyssey that would grant the aforementioned gents the opportunity to record three, creatively distinct albums, earn themselves a minor, but still coveted new wave hit forty years after the fact, and gain them national if not international renown. Omnivore Records have once again done yeomens work with model reissues of the Spires entire catalog, almost all of it on compact disk for the first time, featuring generous bonus material and thorough annotation, right down to song-by-song insight from Les and David themselves.
As debut albums go, 1981's Songs of the Spires was actually more of a glorified demo. Produced by a then emerging Stephen Hague, the album's nine songs were really designed to be shopped around so to speak, more as a means than an end. A copy landed of the tape landed on the desk of Posh Boy Record's honcho Robbie Fields who was so floored with what he'd heard, he insisted that he release the Spires demos as-is, against Les and David's wishes to re-record the tracks so they'd be more presentable to mainstream ears. Ironically, Songs of the Spires didn't bear a discernible sonic adherence to Sparks, despite much of the music being saturated with keyboards as much as guitars. In fact the record's mid-fi production qualities and sardonic pop acumen more closely resembled what Todd Rundgren was churning out with Utopia at the time - and to a much more diminished extent, Gary Numan.
Unlike the dude that unlisted from the Tubeway Army, the Spires weren't merely artful but genuinely fun. Case in point, the irresistible "Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?" Sounding like the most clever and lascivious four minutes the Tubes neglected to commit to tape, local "new music" peddlers KROQ FM made sure the tune was seared into the noggins of the greater metro-L.A. region, and it quickly and endearingly became Gleaming Spires signature song. It took a deft set of hands and mouths to concoct the likes of such a banger without straying into novelty territory, but this duo were up to the task. The other close brush with a "hit" from this era/album, "How to Get Girls Thru Hypnotism" was issued as a proper single. Deeper cuts on Songs... proved to be nearly as rewarding, namely the stark "Big Hotels," and the persuasive enough ballad, "While We Can." Songs of the Spires really wasn't one of those untouchable debuts per se, albeit the Spires were never able to surpass it in terms of sheer consistency. We're treated to no less than ten supplemental tracks, including the entirety of the subsequent Life Out on the Lawn ep from 1982. It's three songs were more left-field, not to mention less memorable than the album, but still approachable. What's especially revelatory here are half a dozen songs from the Spires/Sparks precursor band stated above, Bates Motel. For a traditional power pop act these fellows were surprisingly diverse and gave rise to the stunning "The Way Marlena Moves" and the sassy 'n raw "Only the Young Die Young."
Fast forward to 1983. Time for some changes in the house of Spires, and fairly significant ones at that. For their follow-up, Walk on Well Lighted Streets, the duo had now doubled in population to a quartet, adding Bob Haag on guitars and Jimbo Goodwin on keys. Second, they moved to a much more sizable label (does PVC Records ring a bell with anyone?). Bog Hague was re-enlisted as producer, but I'm sure it soon became evident to him that he was dealing with a demonstrably different ball of wax than the lads who cut Songs of the Spires. WOWLS marked the band's first legitimate grasp for the brass ring, with Hague modernizing and honing their technique enabling the Spires to compete with the A-list. No, they hadn't morphed into Duran Duran or Oingo Boingo, but the album depicted to your right boasted a similar finesse you'd encounter with many of the group's synth pop/top-40 crossover colleagues. As such, ...Streets doesn't falter so much as iron out the creases and kinks of the more acerbic tones and ironic prose that made their debut such a treat. The Spires were still considerably far from generic, but they were clearly en route to more routine environs. "A Christian Girl's Problems" is something of a respite for more established customers, hearkening back to the edginess of the first album, while "At Together" is curiously tension-addled and prickly. There's a veritable album's worth of bonus tracks to be had, many of them culled from the 1984 Party ep, an indulgent and perhaps loosely satirical spin on dance pop of the Spires era. "Funk for Children" packs a more propulsive groove than you might expect, and "Brain Botton" is delightfully surreal. Also in '84, the band's increased visibility landed them on the Revenge of the Nerds soundtrack with two numbers including a full band reinterpretation of "Are You Ready For the Sex Girls?" which sounds significantly blunted stacked up against the tune in it's original incarnation.Welcoming a New Ice Age. If there's anything to be said about this LP writ large is that it's hard to cast generalities as so many of the songs seem to occupy their own slice of airspace. The commencing "Mercy" is a bold, taut pop-rocker wielding genuine power chords, accented with just the right allotment of keyboards. It could realistically compete as their finest moment. The title piece and "No One Coming Over" exude appealing new-wave affectations, without getting too heavy handed. Further in, "What's Coming Next" might have been a more suitable fit for the previous album. "Unprotected" seems to aim for a certain degree of grandiosity but misses the mark by several notches. For the concluding "Harm" the band tossed in everything they had including fretless bass, tribal percussion, found sounds, and treated vocals. An offbeat but fitting way to put a nightcap on both the album and their career. The bonus material here does little to supplement ...Ice Age, but is likely to fascinate the few diehards in attendance. Appended are five compositions that intended to compose a good chunk of the soundtrack to School Spirit, a cheesy teen-sex romp that apparently went straight to video, with said soundtrack never coming to fruition. The tunes are as pandering to the target audience as you might expect, and don't get me started on the near-monstrosity that is the Spires' ridiculously forced rendition of Elvis' "Suspicious Minds." Then again, it was the mid-80s. Rounding things out are couple of numbers from a punky, one-off project dubbed Eleven Blue Men, comprised of Les and David alongside 45 Grave's and Dream Syndicate's Paul Cutler.
Sunday, October 3, 2021
**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**
Saturday, October 2, 2021
01. I'd Die Instead
02. Child of the Moon
03. Caught in a Dream
Friday, October 1, 2021
02. Concede to the Sun
03. Slow Day in Hell