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