Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Secrets - Success Without College (1980, Rio)

It seems as is there are more bands named The Secrets than records made by bands named the Secrets (or even by combos sporting that word's singular incarnation). To be more accurate, these Secrets were Canadian, and were touted as having contained members of the Viletones and The Diodes, but this foursome weren't wholly indebted to punk or even power pop. Though they explore a myriad of tangents within just ten tunes in under a half-hour here, these guys were unabashedly rambunctious rock and rollers.  They play it straight down the middle on "Suzie Peroxide" and "All the Girls in the World," kick up some nervier dust on the aptly dubbed "Rock Music," and propel "New Blood" with an irresistible roots rockin' kick. You'll find a handful of anomalies to boot on Success Without College, namely "Strictly From Cough Syrup," a full fledged dive into the blues, while "Zoom" finds the Secrets pulling off an a capella doo-wop cover (originally by the Collegians) with ease. Finally, their run through Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" outdoes Van Halen's wanky take by a longshot.

01. Suzie Peroxide
02. Teenage Rampage
03. Pretty Woman
04. All the Girls in the World
05. Zoom
06. Tatto City
07. Rock Music
08. Strictly From Cough Syrup
09. New Blood
10. Take Another Look

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Muffs - Really Really Happy (2004/2022, Omnivore) - A brief review

The very fact that The Muffs spent the better part of a decade (that would be the '90s) on a major label is as wholly logical as it is a bit antithetical. Logical in the respect that front-woman/guitarist Kim Shattuck, bass wrangler Ronnie Barnett and drummer Roy McDonald composed a power trio who were of classicist pop stock - so much so that one of the band's most obvious calling cards was built on a foundation of '60s girl group harmonies. The Muffs penchant for songs averaging approximately 150 seconds in length lent even more cred to their accessibility factor. In fact, it was this swift in-and-out brevity that helped ingratiate them with certain contingents of the punk community, even after they made a break in the early-90s for Warner Bros. As for why it was a relatively antithetical, if not ironic choice for the Muffs to hitch themselves to such a corporate behemoth...well, the group's moniker alone probably wasn't a big selling point to suburbanites, despite their charming image. Furthermore, though Kim was able to carry one hell of a tune and dole out devastating hooks, she wasn't what most would call a natural singer. Her incorrigibly sassy and fractured whine (not to mention famous intermittent roars) were immediately endearing to those who enjoyed such savage proclivities, yet they were hardly the kind of affectations the general public were tolerant of - even if they were the same folks responsible for propelling Green Day's Dookie into umpteenth-platinum status. 

Over the course of three dynamite records for the WB (The Muffs, Blonder and Blonder, and Happy Birthday to Me) commercially, the Muffs never really caught a break. And despite a strong emphasis on creative control and no shortage of muscular power chords our protagonists never slotted comfortably with any of the given punk sub-genres of their day, be it grunge, ska, Epitaph/Fat, post-hardcore, etc.  Though I don't know the circumstances surrounding their departure from Warner Bros, such a fate often brought bands of the Muff's stature to their knees - and often to a logical dissolution. They did not in fact split up, but instead soldiered on for their first independent full length, 1999's Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow on Honest Don's Records. It would be another half decade before the world received their next Muffs fix, 2004's Really Really Happy, which has been reissued by Omnivore who've appended a half-dozen rarities from the same sessions, plus a heretofore unreleased disk of Kim's home recordings housed under the title of New Improved Kim Shattuck Demos

Free to really let it crank and let their aggro-punk flag fly, ...Really Happy curiously enough finds the trio even more disciplined despite having regained a firm footing in indie-land.  The overarching ambience exuded by the Muffs here is about as composed and linear as they've ever sounded, with leaner guitar tones and an even more economical sonic palette than what they were aiming for a decade prior. When ...Really Happy initially surfaced in 2004 it was heartening to discover the band were definitely not trying to out-heavy or out-punk themselves, but doubly more relieving was that Kim's raw vocal panache was thoroughly intact, sounding as indulgently and utterly human as ever. Not a career-defining record, ...Really Happy was nonetheless phenomenally consistent, brandishing all of the Muffs' telltale facets including no shortage of bubble-gummy overtones permeating numbers like "Everybody Loves You," "A Little Luxury," and "How I Pass the Time."  Simultaneously simple yet somehow flabbergasting in its execution, The Muff's formula never yielded a completely unsatisfactory song. In addition to ...Happy's proper seventeen songs the CD version of this reissue appends three more from foreign variants of the record, along with a handful of outtakes including a primo half-minute salvo, "Just the Beginning," and the promising fragment "I Hate Gym."

Kim Shattuck passed away on October 2, 2019 after a valiant but ultimately fatal battle with ALS. Her diagnosis wasn't disclosed to the public until that time. In the liner notes to the reissue of ...Really Happy, bandmate Ronnie Barnett addresses her directly, stating that her demos were "accomplished works of her own that were truly special."  Barnett was thoroughly on the money, and after hearing the New Improved Kim Shattuck Demos portion of this collection you not only get an inside seat to the makings of the record, but a sense of how strenuous her quality control was. Accompanied by basic percussion tracks, these early incarnations of the songs were largely representative of what the finished product would amount to, albeit presented in a slightly more spartan and streamlined context. We're even treated to a song that never made it past the prototype phase, the subdued "Even Now."

The nicely expanded Really Really Happy is available on double CD and a single LP directly from Omnivore or Amazon.  The Kim Shattuck Demos also saw a stand alone vinyl release this past Record Store Day.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Locked down, shut out, and your smile is just throwing fuel on the fire.

From 2006. I can vouch for the entire album, but more specifically,  tracks 2 through 4 deliver a seismic, melodic k.o.

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


The Psycho Daisies - Pushin' Up Daisies (1985, Sublapse)

Not as high strung as their moniker suggests, for their debut mini-LP, The Psycho Daisies dealt us a cheeky melange of Americana tinged with lightweight Paisley affectations. Truth is, perhaps with the spaghetti western bent of "Killed or Be Killed" this quartet don't really hit us over the head with anything. Instead, on most of Pushin' Up Daisies, you might pick up on traces of Green on Red or post-Days of Wine and Roses Dream Syndicate, but in the grand scheme of things the Daisies are an earnest bunch in love with guitars-y mid-temp rock and roll, sans the patently bad gimmicks their era was so insistent on accentuating.

01. Did it For Her
02. Kill or Be Killed
03. Blew Me Away
04. Get Off on Your Porch
05. Doesn't Come Around
06. In Doubt
07. Wrap Your Arms Around Me    

Friday, May 13, 2022

Notes on new music: mercvrial and Collider.

It's been about three years since we've heard more from mercival aside from a volley of recent singles, but after soaking in 2019's rewarding the stars, like dust ep, I'm more than ready for a full length. brief algorithms is indeed the long player in question, and for these America-expats (now residing south of the border) the equation hasn't changed that much for the band whose indebtedness to Anglophile rock and post-punk is still very much the the unshakable bedrock they're wont to reside on. Managing to retain an austere poise, but breathable enough to encourage some discernible flexibility, this Mexican quartet balance the precise instincts of forebears For Against with the empathetic fortitude of the Chameleons and Catherine Wheel. They haven't completely shed the more omnipotent dream-pop sensibilities of the aforementioned the stars... ep, but I'll be damned if ....algorithms isn't a much more lucid beast, capably demonstrated on "Dance in the Dark," and the outright stunning "Dark Stars." "Be That Someone" propelled by a volley of ringing guitars is equally hard to resist, while the concluding "Cats of Cavtat" pulses along like late '80s Wire.  mercvrial's overarching sonic aplomb can get a tad formulaic, but they mix things up with a couple of poignant and not-so-obvious covers, namely Pink Floyd's "Matilda Mother," and the early Ultravox chestnut "Hiroshima Mon Amour." Laudable taste for sure, given they've tackled primo signature tunes from the likes of The Chills and Fudge previously. brief algorithms, is available on the UK Crafting Room Records imprint, and can be had on white vinyl or digitally via the increasingly essential Bandcamp

In the where-the-hell-did-this-stroke-of-genius-come-out-of-left-field-from? file, we have Washington D.C.'s Collider, who I gratefully happened on just a month ago.  Let everyone else slobber on their Wet Leg and give me a coed troupe like this any day. Some thirty years ago I couldn't get enough of such heavy-handed shoegaze interpreters as Lilys and the Swirlies on my side of the pond who ingeniously tweaked what their comparatively straight-laced prodigies in the UK had bequeathed.  In a nutshell, Collider are exuding a similar vibe, albeit with even more heart and sincerity. Striking a visceral charge from the word go on "Now What," you pretty know what you're in for on Fell, the band's second full length. It never ceases to amaze me what wonders a little flanged guitar and a robust array of effects pedals can do. The truth is most of Collider's nugaze contemporaries are reluctant to go overboard and really indulge, and while this foursome exercises plenty of impulse control, they're not afraid to wield a modicum of "weird" now and again.  The band's creative and dynamic chops are wed to incredible melodic structures, with perhaps their only peers being Amusement Parks on Fire. Younger ears may find Fell to be something of a revelation, whereas Gen X'ers like myself will bask in a gauzy, sonic soup that's at once seemingly bygone and brilliantly refurbished.  Fell can be had for a modest fee here.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Are you sick with a lack of imagination?

A long overdue, not to mention frequently excellent solo album from 2019.

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


Los Punk Rockers - Los Exitos de Sex Pistols (1978, Nevada/Dial Discos)

If there's anything I've brought you over recent months/years, this one will certainly qualify as a bona fide curiosity at the very least. The Sex Pistols, along with their LP Never Mind the Bollocks and it's attendant singles were a worldwide phenomenon spanning perhaps every continent with the possible exceptions of Africa and Antarctica. Nonetheless, in Spain circa 1978, it must have cost something of a small fortune to license foreign releases, even if the foreign nation was part of the same continent, much less within a few hundred miles as the crow flies. The truth however is that ...Bollocks did see an official release in Spain, ostensibly in limited quantities - and perhaps with a hefty price tag affixed to it. 

For whatever the reason (a few have been speculated here) some enterprising individual in Spain seized on a way to cash in on the "wave," so to speak and orchestrated a bunch of studio musicians accompanied by a snarky unnamed mouthpiece to recreate ...Bollocks note-for-note - or at the very least as similarly as possible.  This is where Los Punk Rockers, a nameless cabal of Hispanic punk interpreters swept in to fill in this perceived void. It's been rumored the perpetrators who ghost-recorded the album consisted of members of Spanish prog-rockers Asfalto.  This which might explain what lends any professional sheen to Los Exitos de Sex Pistols whatsoever. The band's rhythm section is fairly tight, and whomever is mimicking Steve Jones guitar parts doesn't deliver them as robustly as the real McCoy, but close enough I suppose. As for the man they chose to put on the mic, this individual's pipes are questionable at best and demonstrably insufficient at worst. Within the first dozen or so seconds of "Holidays in the Sun" it becomes glaringly apparent that the unaccredited vocalist doesn't possess a mastery of the English language.  Further into the record he seems to emanate some sort of mangled hybrid of English and undecipherable warble, the latter of which could be a dialect of Spanish that I'm unable to discern. I'll give credit where it's due in terms of this dude's overarching sneer, which doesn't quite rival Johnny Rotten's but at times sounds authentic enough.  

Again, this album's sheer existence is a real mystery given that the Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks saw an actual Spanish pressing. Nonetheless, those who've been able to find a copy of Los Exitos de Sex Pistols over the years will attest that it's one of those long lost, "so-bad-it's-good" cult classics. I'm presenting it here, although I don't own an original copy, so a big thanks to whomever ripped it and provided album art.  A more thorough examination of the album came be read here.   

01. Holidays in the Sun
02. Bodies
03. No Feelings
04. Liar
05. God Save the Queen
06. Problems
07. Seventeen
08. Anarchy in the UK
09. Submission
10. Pretty Vacant
11. New York
12. EMI

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Always blow your kisses you mistake for adulation..

The lone 1991 album from a band gone too soon they neglected to tell you about. Sorry for the lack of content last week folks. Was out of town. Will try to get to restoring some files/requests very soon. 

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


Sunday, April 24, 2022

She stoops to conquer me.

A random two-fer this week. One is a 1992 ep that for some reason felt more like a mini-album, and a 2016 full length that left me wanting even more. 

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


Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Violets - Athens, GA 1988-1992 (2020, Crooked Beat)

Another year, another Record Store Day (This year being the fifteenth), and to one extent or another I've probably attended a good twelve or thirteen of these increasingly pricey and populated events. As was the case in previous years, I've decided to showcase an album/single released on a prior RSD.  I don't think I encountered The Violets prior to this collection that was anthologized for 500 lucky purchasers in 2020. As it's title capably implies the era this Athens quartet occupied falls right within the realm this site so often articulates. The following blurb wasn't penned by myself but capably addresses the gist of the band's proverbial fifteen minutes of fame:

The Violets were a punk/indie band from Athens, GA, mainly active from 1988-1992. The band was best known for their song 'I Hate The Grateful Dead,” which briefly charted on the College CMJ charts in 1991. That original 7" record is a big collectors item these days and the song has remained quite popular, even among Grateful Dead purists, who view the song as a humorous poke at the obsessive fan culture that still surrounds the Dead. Back in the 1990s Grateful Dead -based merchandise shops were even known to carry the record.

...except the band in question had a lot more going for them than a perceived (and I suppose justifiably so) novelty song. There's certainly a discernible undercurrent of humor to some of the ten songs in this collection, yet the Violets were serious and ostensibly ambitious enough to bring a bevy of thoroughly structured and considered tunes to the table. Sonically I'm hearing plenty of early-ish Soul Asylum pizzazz amidst "Dew Drop Inn," "Corrosion," and "Evolution."  And one of the band's champions was none other then David Barbe (who eventually comprised 1/3 of Sugar), a fellow Georgian whose '80s outfit Mercyland coincidentally or not seemed to inform the Violets overarching bent. The record (my rip, BTW) contains both sides of the "Grateful Dead" 7", tracks from scarce demo tapes, and previously unreleased ditties, making a representative argument that the Violets legacy was more than a fleeting, inside joke. While most of what's here veers towards earnest, Minneapolis-informed punk-pop, the concluding "Forsyth" is a slow, bluesy lament about the reputation that said Georgia County earned for itself in the Jim Crow-south.

01. Dew Drop Inn
02. Corrosion
03. Big Wheel
04. Streetlight Sky
05. David Close
06. Evolution
07. Basement
08. I Hate the Grateful Dead
09. Motorman
10. Forsyth

Sunday, April 17, 2022

I’m trapped inside the body of a 45-year old kid.

From 2010. Smart, assertive and sometimes melancholy indie guitar rock built on a solid singer/songwriter bedrock.

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

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Statues - "We're Disparate" 7" (2009, House Party/P. Trash)

Ontario's Statues seemingly didn't make significant inroads outside of Canada, which is a crying shame considering every morsel I've heard this trio was nothing less than flawless. Subscribing to a similar aesthetic as roided-up mod punks the Marked Men and The Briefs, Statues were a trifle less rigid and all the better for it, because being a little rough around the edges can go a very long. In short, there's plenty of rawness but it's contained inside reasonable parameters, and yeah, these guys were capable of carrying something resembling a tune. I've read of comparisons to Wire and The Fall, but I'm not hearing an alignment with either. If you dig this there are other Statues singles, and thankfully, full  lengths to be had. 

A. We're Disparate
B1. To the Top
B2. Young Enough

The Love Wolves - demo (1991)

Tape time. Been awhile since I shared any reels, this one procured from the consistently rewarding Graham's Records in Erie, PA, just a hop, skip and a jump off the I-90 doncha know?  The Lone Wolves were a NYC garage combo with a driving, punky underbite, reminiscent of many a fine Get Hip Records act (say, The Cynics) who also strike me as early adopters of Mudhoney. Lots of gooey fuzz and reverb here with "Demon Child" and the Heartbreakers-ish "Two Sisters" bumping and grinding their way into my sensibilities the most. "Ain't That Fine' is a Ray Charles tune, if that helps give you an idea of where the Wolves were emanating from. Evidently, this cassette may have led to a record deal with the Italian Helter Skelter imprint for a 1993 LP, Eat Ya!

01. Lone Wolf
02. Demon Child
03. Ain't That Fine
04. Out of Time
05. Two Sisters

Friday, April 15, 2022

Reviews you can use: Deadlights, Richard James Simpson, Lannie Flowers & Spygenius.

I always thought interventions led to a twelve-step program. That being said, don't take Deadlights' Eleven Step Intervention as a half measure.  Back with their second album in as many years, Deadlights is the brainchild of Jeff Shelton, whose more prolific outfit The Well Wishers was/is responsible for a steady volley of crunch-laden power pop albums with nary a bum tune in earshot. Deadlights, on the other hand, occupy a more insular space wherein Shelton indulges his jones for more austere Anglophile-informed rock, loosely resembling the likes of Catherine Wheel and the Chameleons UK - just don't expect anything derivative. Eleven Step... with it's chiming and negligibly echoing guitars is a nuanced and often subdued beast, flirting with post-punk, and perhaps less so, dream-pop textures. Not everything leaps off the page here, but when Deadlights bust-out in sonic full bloom on the "The Great Unknown" "Out of Step With the Modern World," and the uber-melodic "Just Let Go" Shelton strikes me as almost limitless in his capabilities. As for a surprise rendition of Pink Floyd's Meddle-era deep cut, "Fearless," the overarching construct of the song is left intact, but is gracefully filtered through Deadlights modus operandi, blending in seamlessly with this record's ten originals. And speaking of numbers, if you're looking for that proverbial twelfth-step, I'm pretty sure what that directive might entail, specifically buying this album on Bandcamp or Amazon.  

Well goddamn.  Back in the '90s this is what some folks would refer to as "wtf music," which believe it of not was a less belittling term-of-art than such lazy, generic nomenclatures as "experimental" or even "avant garde." Richard James Simpson has been hovering around intermittently all the way back in the '80s with the left-field indie venture Invisible Chains, and a bit later in the alterna-grungy Teardrain. Now up to his third solo record, Sugar the Pill, the gentleman in question has unfurled a concaved and occasionally unwieldy flag where sonic abstractions aren't tantamount to the journey so much as the outright destination. It's very hard to toss out generalizations here, but Sugar's oblique, alien and often downright unsettling vistas recall such artistes as Zoviet France and Negativland, minus the creative samples and sound-bytes of the latter. I'm not gonna lie, RJS' vibe is difficult if not impossible to convey in the written word. And despite a near-total lack of pop acumen on Sugar, there are at the very least some more structured pieces that invite a repeat listen or two. "Starry Hope" and "We're in the Wolf's Mouth" are dirty, power-chordish romps that could pass for Jack Endino productions circa 1989, "Love Becomes a Stranger" is a relatively straightforward piece where discernible guitars mesh with orchestral elements, and dare i say "Take it Back" could pass for a bona fide piano ballad. In the for-what-it's-worth department, The Germs Don Bolles contributes percussion on a few songs here. You can sample Sugar... on Soundcloud, or better yet obtain a physical or digital variation to have and hold via Amazon.

When is a new Lannie Flowers album not a new Lannie Flowers album?  Enter, Flavor of the Month - The Remixed March to Home Singles, the latest installment in his catalog which is actually a compilation of a a dozen or so digital tracks that made their way into the virtual slipstream between 2018-19. If you stick exclusively to music portals like Spotify, or if you opt for the paid download route having these songs on a physical medium may not be a priority, but as for myself, I tend to overlook digital releases, sometimes even by my favorite artists. 

I've dedicated no small amount of space to Mr. Flowers previous endeavors, all the way back to his earliest in rumblings in the Pengwins, a band that can claim their origins back to the '70s.  Lannie's plaintive, power pop delivery system has been informed by everyone from the Plimsouls to Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, not to mention many dots on the map in between. If you're new to the man in general it's not easy to determine where you should start exploring his ever-growing body of work, but Flavor of the Month could very well be the ideal jumping off point, especially for fans of classicist singer-songwriter guitar pop who crave not only hooks but a smidgen of bite to boot. A deluxe vinyl edition of Flavor is set to drop later this year, but CDs are available now from Spyderpop/Big Stir Records and Amazon.  

Going into a covers record where you're ignorant to many/most/all of the titles is akin to attending a foreign film without speaking the language. In both cases you might luck out and get something sweet out of the experience, but an awful lot is going to get lost in the translation. Occasionally, there are bands possessing enough refined taste and competence to transcend such a scenario, and to our benefit we have that in the guise of Spygenius' Blow Their Covers.   

Not only are most of the compositions here unknown quantities, Spygenius was equally so for yours truly. From what I've been able to glean their original material takes it's cues from the most hallowed of the hallowed (Beatles, Beach Boys, etc). Following up five proper albums, Spygenius' Blow My Covers doesn't consistently excavate material from under-the-radar types (though there is some of that going on - Kelly's Heels anyone?) but also relatively deep album cuts and singles from numerous renown names - Squeeze, The Monkees, Gene Clark, Traffic and Buffalo Springfield - just don't get your hopes up for reveling in renditions of any old familiar favorites from the aforementioned.  This album's slowly revealing cavalcade of surprises is the reason why it succeeds to the extent that it does - not to mention Spygenius' well honed capabilities, especially when they get around to taking on a tune very near and dear to my heart, the Soft Boys' Byrd-sian classic "Queen of Eyes."  BTW, The Beatles aren't represented here, but strangely enough Lennon and McCartney are, by virtue of "Step Inside Love," a tune they penned for the late Brit crooner Cilla Black. You can preview, and for that matter, preferably buy Blow Their Covers over at Bandcamp, and direct from Big Stir Records.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Put the lampshade on...

A collection of this band's earliest, and possibly most inviting recordings. 

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


Saturday, April 9, 2022

Crystalized Movements - Dog...Tree...Satellite Seers (1987, Forced Exposure)

The album I'm presenting tonight is a gem. A jewel. A gold nugget. And it's the glorious byproduct of a band I made the grave misfortune of neglecting no only for most of my life, but even for the better part of my operation of this humble blog. The Crystalized Movements were something of a mainstay in their home state of Connecticut, and even though the word did in fact get out regarding this quartet, both in the States and abroad, they were the provenance of the indie and hipster cognoscenti of their day and never transcended their cult status. 

Much was made about the band's psych and garage rock bona fides, but the Movements weren't content to wallow in that echo chamber, and furthermore, seemingly possessed a keen awareness of what was transpiring in locales like Minneapolis and Athens, GA, not to mention on indie imprints such as SST. Sonically overpowering the majority of the Paisley Underground hopefuls of their day, the band incorporated equal parts aggression and melody without any overt "trippy" maneuvers, yielding jangly, driving, and strikingly memorable numbers like this album's "Up Falling Down," "Spinning Around," and "In Other Words." In fact there are portions of Dog...Tree... that could constitute some of the finest songs that were quite frankly left-off-the-dial to the detriment of thousands of potential fans. The converts they were able to make inroads with, alongside many gob-smacked record critics managed to keep the Movements tucked in their back pocket, and that's largely where they stayed until the band's ostensible dissolution in the mid-90s. But don't take my word for it. Hear these gents for yourself and them move back/forwards through their catalog, because it's a downright rewarding one at that.  BTW, this is not the original album jacket, rather a slapdash cut and paste job that Forced Exposure Records saw fit to package the 1988 reissue of the album in.

01. There's No More
02. It's All Gone Black
03. Up Falling Down
04. She Don't Care
05. Wondering Where
06. Spinning Around
07. Down to Reach You
08. Don and Nancy's Trip
09. In Other Words
10. Death Rats/Overture
11. The Final Squeal

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Why don't you say goodbye? You know you never try.

One stop shopping for these legendary, L.A. power-pop mavens.

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


the terrible parade - ed mcmahon says 7'' (1991, Presto!)

Looks like I went a whole decade plus without a follow-up to my original Terrible Parade entry from 2009. No, unfortunately it's not another full length (they only made one, 1990's Where Were You When the Light Went Out), but they did follow it up with a single containing two entirely new songs. Sonically, they lightened their attack for the ace A-side, the acoustic "Ed McMahon Says" that ponders what it would be like to be handed a check for a cool million from the man in question. The flip, "Telephone Man" mines a strikingly similar vein (thematically  anyway) to New Edition's "Mr. Telephone Man," though Terrible Parade's take on this often doleful topic is in the form of a wholly unique tune with smarter lyrics. 

a. ed mcmahon says
b. telephone man

Saturday, April 2, 2022

The Difference - Sign of the Times ep (1983, Sugar Maple)

The opening title, "P.M.T," on The Difference's lone ep, Sign of the Times, commences with a deliciously echoing, post-punk guitar line that gradually segues into something more pedestrian, albeit in an inviting way.  The remainder of the record skews in the direction of mainstream-ish '80s pop/rock that might have also persuaded a few left-of-the-dial types as well.  In fact. "If Not For Love"is downright sprite and bouncy - "pop" without an overdoes of the "power" quotient. There's no shortage of potential on Sign of the Times, but this appears to be the only recorded evidence The Difference furnished us with.

01. P.M.T. (Pre Menstrual Tension)
02. Sign of the Times
03. If Not For Love
04. When Tomorrow Comes

Sunday, March 27, 2022

My hero's my burden, and my burden is me.

From 1988. At the peak of their powers this band fused together the finest elements of the Who, Bruce Springsteen and U2. Interesting back story on these guys which you can read via a link included in the folder.

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


Golden City - s/t mLP (2009, Magic Bullet)

Sorry I wasn't able to offer you more this week, but for what's it's worth this one is pretty excellent. You've probably never heard of Golden City. Fair enough, but you may be familiar with frontman Eric Richter's relatively more visible mid-90s proposition, Christie Front Drive, who were regarded as one of the flag-bearers of the rekindled emo movement of that decade, alongside contemporaries Boys Life, Mineral, and most famously, Sunny Day Real Estate. CFD split after an album and several short form releases, with Richter going on to helm The 101 in the aughts.  Golden City was the band that followed shortly after that, with Richter again leading the charge and Jeremy Jones also making the migration over from 101. To the handful of you that have heard G/C's lone album (with some people technically referring to it as an ep) you know there's not much separating it from The 101 (whom I might try to cover in a Mystery Monday at some point). Loud, chiming guitars with just-right distortion plied to relentless melody lines, and driving, up-tempo arrangements. Golden City is love-at-first-listen caliber indie rock with nods to latter era Promise Ring and lesser known greats Muler, minus any dramatic entanglements.  This one is available digitally from Bandcamp, and possibly Spotify, so I won't be leaving this up for long.  If you enjoy what you hear I encourage you to support the band!  Enjoy. 

 01. Gray
02. Diamond Suits
03. Cars in Space
04. Ragdoll
05. Big Country
06. Cavalry
07. Stars
08. Hit the Ground

Sunday, March 20, 2022

I was never a part of it.

This album turns forty this year. Enjoy. 

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


Apollo Landing - Kleptomania 7'' (1993)

Here's another new-to-me find. Apollo Landing were a Boston five-piece, described as "feminist indie rock" per the archival page linked above, though the band featured only one member with double-x chromosomes, vocalist Jenny Kuhla. Though more than an album's worth of material was recorded over their tenure, only two short-form releases were made available for public consumption including this presumably self-released 45. Two slices of relatively manicured indie pop here, not far removed from the likes of Helium and Belly, with the more distortion-heavy "Marianne" winning me over the most. Based on what I'm hearing, Kuhla was a natural on the mic, and had Apollo caught a genuine break they could have been fairly major contenders in the alt-rock sweepstakes. According to my online sources (all one of them) the band was supposed to have released a posthumous collection in 2018 dubbed, Hysteria, though there doesn't seem to have been much follow-up on it. Guitarist Tony Striker has released a handful of albums under his own name.   

A. Kleptomania
B. Marianne

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Units - New Way to Move ep (1983, Epic)

The Units 1980 debut Digital Stimulation, has been regarded as an underground electro/pop classic for four decades and counting. Arriving on 415 Records prior to the label's affiliation with CBS Records, the coed San Fran wunderkinds demonstrated a pop awareness on Stimulation, but clung to avant ideals. A second album, Animals They Dream About, produced by Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe renown was shelved for a good three decades and change. If that wasn't enough the band's third album, also with Nelson working the boards never made it to market either. However, a handful of songs from those third LP sessions were part and parcel of New Way to Move, the Units lone major label outing. Adopting a slightly catchier (not to mention dancier) m.o, the ep's two lead-off numbers, "The Right Man" and "A Girl Like You" are effective stabs at mainstream-ish wave/pop with just enough left-field affectations baked into the cake to keep things interesting. The remainder of the record, isn't as consistent, but say for example a band like Oingo Boingo got their hands on "Your Face," and we might have a real monstrosity on our hands. New Way to Move would be the band's last recorded effort until a collection of remixes, Connections sprouted in 2011.

01. The Right Man
02. A Girl Like You
03. New Way to Move
04. Your Face
05. More Alike
06. More More Alike

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Reviews you can use: Bye Bye Blackbirds, The Loud Family & Anton Barbeau, Hoodoo Gurus

In 2020, I admitted my naivety when I momentarily mistook The Bye Bye Blackbirds then most recent album, Boxer at Rest for their debut, when in actuality it had been preceded by three full lengths.  Chalk that up to Boxer being my first exposure to the band, as well as prime-mover Bradley Skaught, who seemingly wound up on everyone's radar overnight. Most notably, Skaught's plaintive songwriting chops belie an almost startling adeptness for arranging and honing songs, with equal measures of grit and polish, topped off with gallons of class, sans the sass. Rounded out to a six-piece for August Lightning Complex, the Blackbirds aren't ones for extremes. You won't find any full fledged "bangers" or even ballads amidst August's ten songs, nor are they wont to reign this affair in at a static or even keel. However, there are a few things here that pounce out at me like a savage, ravenous lion, namely "Mechanics," and "Favorite Stars," both par excellence, richly crafted bullseyes, situated in the vicinity of power pop, but not necessarily rooted there.  Also consider the more subdued "Something From the Old World" and the harmony-laced "We Got Lost" affording the band more flexibility. My only objection on August, is the meandering "Marching," which winds on for nine-plus minutes, and would be equally effective if edited to half that length.  

I'm tempted to say that Skaught and Co. are prodigiously enlightened...but who might those prodigies be?  It's immensely hard to quantify these things, but here goes. Tom Petty?  In all probability. Wilco?  Likely a coincidence.  Sloan?  Well, just refer to the aforementioned. "Mechanics," and "Favorite Stars." And much like Sloan, this combo play the 'meticulous' card to a fault without conveying themselves as the least bit forced. Not an easy task to pull off, yet it's wholly evident the Blackbirds are masters of this very tact. August... is one of those records where simplicity merges with sincerity, and begets a wellspring of rewards in the process. Grab a strike of the Lightning at Bandcamp or Amazon

If you were more or a casual Loud Family fan (admittedly like yours truly) this next one may have slipped past your radar. The Loud Family of course was the long running band fronted by the late Scott Miller, formally of seminal pop auteurs Game Theory, who I may have brought up once or twice on these pages. 2006 saw the release of What if It Works?, a collaboration between Miller and  singer/songwriter Anton Barbeau, which is being reissued by Omnivore next week with practically an album's worth of supplemental tracks. While the album itself was a one-off effort, the duo's association with each other dates back to a couple decades prior when Anton was introduced to Scott at a latter-era Game Theory gig in 1988. In the ensuing years the two hung out and performed at coffee house gigs around UC Davis and Sacramento, and eventually, the then-budding Anton presented a tape of songs to Scott he had been working on. Over the next fifteen years both Scott and Anton pursued their respective meal-tickets, the former with the Loud Family and Anton as a solo act, not to mention the proprietorship of his own label, Idiot Records. Nonetheless, Scott was tuned into what his soon-to-be partner was doing, and by the early '90s they dabbled in producing songs together, but the two weren't officially a "band," per se.

Scott had disbanded the Loud Family around 2000 and had largely walked away from pursuing music. At some point in the '00s, Scott's wife Kristine remarked about how well he and Anton sounded together, and that largely sparked the idea to make a record. Towing along former Loud Family alum Kenny Kessel and Jozef Becker, the combo went about recording What if it Works?  What was initially slated to be an EP snowballed into a full length, and not merely a footnote either. Scott is the slightly dominant songwriter here with both trading off on vocals. While the Loud Family dealt in elaborate and challenging arrangements, the Miller/Anton collaboration boasted a looser and more casual bent. In fact, What If's opening salvo is their interpretation of the Stones "Rocks Off," and a raging one at that.  It's immediately followed up by "Song About "Rocks Off," which ironically isn't as much of a response to the tune in question as it's title suggests. It's a great song in it's own right, and is one of the most effective things Miller penned since his tenure in Game Theory.  Following this is Anton's own excellent "Pop Song 99" which bears the unmistakable gait and tincture of early Game Theory, circa Blaze of Glory.  Scott's trademark lyrical charms and melodic agility on "Total Mass Destruction" and "Mavis of Maybelline Towers," are compelling as ever. Hard to believe he was semi-retired from music at the time! Anton's "Flow Thee Water" and the album's uptempo title track are equally satisfying and showcase his ongoing progression as a slightly off-center pop scribe, akin to Scott Miller himself.  Along the way they also indulge in a cover of Cat Steven's "I Think I See the Light."

As mentioned before, there's a huge clutch of bonus swag on this reissue, including a couple of fine Anton-penned outtakes, "Third Eye" and "Little Daisy," along with early prototypes of roughly half of the record. And don't get me started on Anton's gritty, Stooges-esque "I Wanna Make You Come Just By Looking at Your Eye."  What if It Works? will be available March 25 direct from Omnivore, Amazon, and hopefully your local music vendors.

What can I say?  With a tenure of over forty years, The Hoodoo Gurus simply will not die. Granted, they've been together intermittently of late, with their last album Purity of Essence having dropped in 2010, but not only are they still in existence, they've retained 75% percent of their original 1981 lineup (Dave Faulkner: vox/guitars, Brad Shepherd: guitars, Richard Grossman: bass)!  Purloining elements of garage rock and punk, with neither of those genres ever quite dominating, these Aussie vets are virulent rockers to the core who've never lost their ethos or sardonic bite. Their latest, Chariot of the Gods, their tenth studio effort overall, is for better or worse not a return to their nascent sonic forte, the kind that engendered global fandom with records like Stoneage Romeos, Mars Needs Guitars, etc... Heck, at times Chariot barely resembles 1991's Kinky.  That said they're back with 13 or 16 fresh songs (quantity dependent on your format of choice) and if your an established customer it's time to break out your Mastercard.

There are some honest to goodness corkers here - "World of Pain," "Hang With the Girls," and "Don't Try to Save My Soul," all of which are plenty taut and potent, still bearing much of their eminently powerful sound of yore without resorting to a outright throwback. Conversely there's a slew of linear, yet relatively uncharacteristic numbers hitching a ride on this Chariot. "Get Out of Dodge" "Settle Down" and "Carry On" skew close to power pop, but the comparatively tranquil "Was I Supposed to Care" and the Lou Reed-indebted "Got to Get You Out of My Life," suggest what a Dave Faulkner solo record might culminate in. Chariot of the Gods is one of the most varied albums in the Guru's voluminous canon, and while not necessarily representative of past triumphs, it's a testament to their sheer longevity not to mention capabilities. If you're brand new to these guys, a good jumping off point might be a best-of collection, or better yet, Blow Your Cool or Mars Needs Guitars, before sinking your teeth full bore into Chariot. The vinyl variant of the album features three bonus tunes, and is available from their website. Finally, the band is touring Australia in early April, and are playing two shows in the States later in the month in Nashville and Philadelphia!

 Watch this space for additional record critiques to come this weekend.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Make the most of a million times no.

From 1983. Quite possibly the only album I really enjoyed by this band.

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


Saturday, March 12, 2022

Late Rivals - Casting Shadows (198?, Crown)

Another blind purchase, sealed no less.  Not turning up much pertinentn info about Late Rivals, who may have been denizens of Tennessee, albeit their isn't a single southern accident to be identified amongst this album's eight tunes. Definitely a collegiate edge to much of Casting Shadows, particularly "Ghostown" and "My Marcelle," both of which illicit some tasteful R.E.M. jangle.  A thoroughly listenable, and occasionally rewarding record, just don't expect much in the way of mystique. BTW, no copyright date was provided anywhere on the graphics, but it's pretty safe to say this dates from the mid/late 1980s. 

01. Wilderness
02. Ghostown
03. All Mixed Up
04. Stars
05. Her Tie's Bind
06. My Marcelle
07. Slow Down
08. When You're Gone

Sunday, March 6, 2022

...but this is hopeless, i'm handing in my my four days.

Four ep's from four disparate artists, each coincidentally, representing a different decade.

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


Saturday, March 5, 2022

Ceedees - s/t ep (1986, Freedom)

The Ceedees' 1980 debut, Hit the Ditch, certainly had it's charms, not to mention quirks. In fact, I extolled on these bygone Canucks in a piece I did surrounding said record about five years prior. They took their sweet time with a follow-up considering this ep arrived over half a decade later, but it was worth the wait considering the Curtis Drieder-helmed trio sounded genuinely improved, with a stash of smart, memorable tunes, often topical in nature, and sonically, packing a much tighter wallop. I'm picking up on some XTC-isms throughout this one, albeit the Ceedee's have a singular mouthpiece in Drieder, bearing no likeness to Andy Partridge. As for highlights, "I Wanna Be Somebody" sports a sprite, Let's Active-esque power-pop gait, and "Hook in Me" is sung from the vantage point of a fish who's experiencing anything but a pleasant day. According to the album insert, at the time of Ceedees release a book was available from the band featuring lyrics to no less than 40 compositions, leading one to wonder if that plentiful batch of tunes was actually committed to tape. Check out a nice essay regarding this album over at Vinyl Burn blog. 

01. Eskimo Lullabye
02. I Wanna Be Somebody
03. France
04. Hook in Me
05. I Worry About My Baby