Sunday, September 25, 2022

Got us going faster than we've ever gone before.

The bonus disc and only the bonus disc of the 2011 expanded edition of this 1998 masterpiece.

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


Unaccounted IV ep (1984)

There's not much info, if any to be had on this presumably North Carolina based quartet, whose self-released ep may be their lone surviving artifact. Unaccounted IV's strain of power pop is not so much of three-chord variety, rather a bit more highbrow a la The Motors. There are other subtle Brit Invasion maneuvers baked into the band's proverbial cake, the Zombies among them. What these guys really strive for (and frankly readily achieve) is their penchant for remarkably adept harmonies regardless of how fevered their tunes are executed. I'm mighty impressed. 

01. Room For Three
02. Girl on a String
03. You're Always Alone
04. The Incredible Shrinking Mind
05. Room for Three (Dance Remix)

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Did you ever see something so beautiful, you had to look away?

The (almost) complete discography from a bygone D.C. area band that ran in the same circles as Fugazi and Soul Side...yet sonically gravitated much closer to Van Halen at times. I'll be damned if these guys didn't turn this far-fetched combination into a winning formula.

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


Saturday, September 17, 2022

V/A - WXYC Demolisten Vol. 2 (1991)

This one was scarce enough not to earn a page on Discogs, but whatever.  Coincidentally or not, this cassette compilation was released in tandem with the Chapel Hill, NC indie scene threatening to go national, but truth be told, only a portion of WXYC Demolisten 2's roster was from said college town...but not all that's presented here is traditional indie rock. Casting a wider net than one might guess WXYC's dandy little reel goes so far as to represent world music and metal. Nonetheless, the brunt of what's here largely caters to the Wilfully Obscure set with fine contributions from Dillon Fence, Eight or Nine Feet and Willard.  

I'd be remiss if I didn't note that the purpose of Demolisten is/was to expose fresh and/or unsigned talent, which this tape capably does. By the time this installment in the series rolled out of the tape factory, Superchunk were more or less off to the races, so to speak, but as is the case with any given concert it helps to have a proven headliner.  The inclusion of an acoustic and/or demo version of one of their crucial, early single sides, "Cool" is an easy highlight, though I believe it also wound up on the Aussie Self Mutilation comp from around the same era.  Satellite Boyfriend, a band whom I've intended to raise some awareness of (and likely will in the near future) make an appearance, and tar heel, ska-punk favorites the Pressure Boys close things out with a rendition of "Radar Love."

01. Dillon Fence - Daylight
02. Pure - Senseless
03. Eight or Nine Feet - No Title
04. Mbonda Afrika - Mbele Mbele
05. Johnny Quest - Speed is All You Need
06. Satellite Boyfriend - Break Me Down
07. Superchunk - Cool
08. Willard - As Beautiful
09. The Heydays - Lonesome Jake
10. Annabel Lee - Soul Child
11. Pressure Boys - Radar Love

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Cool enough to cool you down, like a summer vacation...

A compendium of rarities, unreleased tracks, b-sides and other assorted nonsense (literally).

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


Saturday, September 10, 2022

Itensive Care - Assault Down Memory Lane (1989, Fresh Sounds)

Intensive Care were North Carolina denizens yet even though they were a product of the tar heel state in the mid to late '80s, I'm not so sure if they were part and parcel of the so called "Comboland" scene, but no matter. Assault Down Memory Lane sounds like a befitting title for say, a Too Much Joy record, and certainly enough these guys were something of a cheeky bunch. Still, I/C care weren't ones to let a little humor hijack a song so much as enhance it. They weren't hopping on any metaphorical bandwagons either, bearing a rollicking modus operandi featuring an undercurrent of whirring snyths that by and large take a backseat to your usual indie guitar-rock splay. The high-strung "Perfect American" is a punky standout that's virtually worth the price of admission alone, but elsewhere Assault is chockablock with charms of varying tempos and persuasions. If Intensive Care don't bowl you over on first listen, give this one a few subsequent spins, because it's worth the investment. 

01. Assault Down Memory Lane
02. Stirring Up Trouble
03. Song to the FBI
04. Marijuana Past
05. Perfect American
06. Tourist Attraction
07. Middle-aged Cynic
08. Girl Scout Berret
09. Burn it Down
10. When a Lunatic Loves You
11. The Real You
12. All in a Day's Work
13. True Seeker

Sunday, September 4, 2022

You can cry now, or you can cry later…

Last week we received some difficult news that half of the songwriting team of this band passed away. They never made any inroads with the mainstream, but their catalog (predominantly recorded in the '80s) speaks for itself.  This compilation makes the an exceptional case for that.

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


The Donner Party - UC Davis Coffee House, Davis, CA 4-7-89

Judging by the relative popularity of the Donner Party's two CD anthology I shared almost ten years (and the number of requests I've garnered over that span of time to refresh the download links) I thought it might make sense to post this bootleg seeing as there are few, if any, D/P live shows in circulation. For the uninitiated, San Fran trio in question played whimsical, not to mention sonically humble pop with a bevy of themes often encompassing wives tales, ironically morbid scenarios, character vignettes, and several benign, offhand references to Satan.  Drummer Melanie Clarin would occasionally sing lead vocals and had a penchant for harmonizing with frontman Sam Coones. Post-Donner Party, Coones would achieve some renown via the considerably more visible Quasi in the '90s.

The set presented here is an audience recording of a gig at a college coffee house in the university town of Davis, CA. While you'll encounter selections from D/P's two self-titled records that surfaced in 1987 & '88 there's also an emphasis on then-unreleased material that would have comprised the band's third album. It would be another eleven years for the world at large to finally hear these shelved songs (specifically in studio from) when they were finally presented as part of the aforementioned anthology. This set is a nice companion piece to the regular albums, but it may not be the most ideal introduction to the band. Enjoy (or not)

01 Godlike Porpoise Head of Blue-Eyed Mary
02 Sickness
03 Spiders
04 The Ghost
05 Harold Payne
06 Everyone is a Girl
07 Your Mother
08 Nutty Booty
09 Friendly
10 Kore Cosmu
11 Unfriendly
12 Trepanned
13 The Nixie
14 Birthday Suit
15 Treepig
16 King Chico
17 Irene Goodnight (encore)

MP3  or  FLAC

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Braille Closet - Voice of Age ep (1988, Fountainhead)

Yet another salvo that would mesh just fine thank you very much with the scores, if not hundreds of collegiate indie rock troupes I've peddled on these pages for as long as I have. Braille Closet were denizens of Orlando, FL, a town which boasted more musical talent than I would've suspected.  The Voice of Age ep preceded a pair of albums and thus far is all that I've heard from them, but to my sensibilities they made a near-flawless first impression.  Among the six tunes here, B/C cook up quintessential left-of-the-dial fare with a strong absorption of then-contemporary Anglophile guitar pop, alongside a sharp awareness of domestic purveyors of the form (specifically R.E.M.). Think intelligent, insightful lyrics plied with lean and clean jangly leads, and you'll have a pretty solid handle of what this four-piece have in store. Dare I say Voice of Age is not dissimilar to what the Ocean Blue would unfurl in a couple of years?  Enjoy.

01. Jane I Sympathize
02. Turn and Face the Strange
03. Quiet Place
04. Seven Times Better
05. Midnight Sun
06. Tomorrow Russo

Sunday, August 28, 2022

You burn like you're bouncing cigarettes on the road

A debut from 2005.  England's answer to Interpol?  Guess I'm not feeling to adventurous this week.  Hope you'll enjoy nonetheless.

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


Parts Found In Sea – Seat Of The Writing Man ep (1984, Checkmate)

This is the second record I've shared by Ontario quartet, but unlike '87s Every Soul's House, Seat of the Writing man isn't a live document.  Bearing a collegiate indie rock aptitude Parts Found in Sea seem to chart in the same vicinity as a number of bands on the soon-to be emerging Homestead Records (think Nice Strong Arm, Salem 66). There's a cool subterranean charm at play here and Parts play the artful without being artsy shtick to convincing effect. Though lacking immediacy Seat of the Writing Man is an acquired taste that's worth acquiring. 

01. Seat Of The Writing Man
02. Look Through Water
03. Satellite
04. Ghost Train
05. Bird Song
06. Body Sends Us

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Reason lost you out at sea...

From 2014. We might never have it as good from this band again.

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


Saturday, August 20, 2022

Gels! - Quality Time (1991, Tension)

I went into this one a bit blind, but given it's $6 price tag I can't really complain, considering Quality Time has a few redeeming moments.  Gels!  Had no idea who in the hell this band was when I eyed their record at In Your Ear in Boston (sadly soon to shutter, if not already).  All signs point to them as being denizens of San Fran, with a handwritten address (no less) on the back cover that I partially Photoshopped out to assure no one's privacy was violated. And speaking of the rear sleeve, I took an educated guess that these guys might be down with the Descendents, Dino. Jr, or SST in general. I was relatively far off the mark but not completely.  Instead, Gels! seemed to be painstakingly taking cues from early Soul Asylum. Thoroughly loose and rambunctious, albeit not quite punk, plied to bumpkin tendencies a la Meat Puppets minus a healthy quotient of the charm. The better tunes here, "Sitting Still," "Quaker" and perhaps another nugget or two would have composed a pretty dandy ep, but Quality Time just doesn't consistently skew to the tenant of it's title. Gels! homage to Pirner and Co. is obvious to the point of being plagiaristic, however if you dig albums like Made to Be Broken as much as I do, the aforementioned tracks are actually something of a treat. The trio's rendering of the country standard "Good Time Charlie" plays the record out on an irreverent note.  Perhaps a bit too green for a full length when this initially dropped in '91, it would've been intriguing to hear what development they might have made on a follow LP, but for better or worse this disc was the first and final word on Gels.

01. Sitting Still
02. Lovejoy
03. Pinto
04. Flame On
05. Broth
06. mistRBig
07. Quaker
08. Domtar
09. The Shit
10. Good Time Charlie

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Go ahead and do it, I don’t care anymore...

A two-fer this week from 1990-91. This band's debut album and a compilation of singles that barely preceded it. 

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


Beer on the Penguin - Hold On (1987, Renaissance)

Another record not actually part and parcel of my collection, but one eternally grateful to have files of thanks to the time and generosity of whomever ripped it. Despite such a unique moniker, little is written about this Michigan quartet.  Beer on the Penguin skewed closer to the left end of the dial but were deft enough to compete on a mainstream level, given the opportunity. I'm honing in on nodes of everyone from Big Country to Crowded House, and the ringing guitar lines smack of Cactus World News, a delightful thing in my book. Though Beer on the Penguin may be a dandy name to you and I it may have not served these fellows well. Anyway, really dug what I heard here and hope you will as well.

01. Looking For You
02. Hold On
03. Pictures
04. Always Seems the Same
05. Better Days
06. Time For Tears
07. She

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Popdefect - Ode to Billie Joe ep (1987, Heart Murmur)

On the strength of an earlier ep, 1983's Playing For Time, I was compelled to investigate this L.A. three-piece further, for a relatively modest financial investment anyway. Though it strikes me as being something of a novelty the apparent "draw" here is a cover of Bobbie Gentry's fatality ballad, "Ode to Billie Joe."  Though the execution of said song is more than satisfactory thanks in part to some irresistibly jangly fretboard runs, it's hard to see how a rendition of such an aging chestnut could woo ears of '80s hipsters, but whatever.  This 10"'s two mildly sardonic flip-sides are more in keeping with what the garage-leaning Popdefect are about, sort of a low-rent  Meat Puppets peppered with glints of early Replacements. Perhaps nothing here could be deemed "crucial" in the canon of vintage indie rock, yet I was still impressed with what I heard to usher these songs into the digital realm.   

A. Ode to Billie Joe
B1. Devil in My Zip Code
B2. Futility Train

Sunday, August 7, 2022

No clue.

Early archival recordings from a veritable Memphis supergroup. 

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


Saturday, August 6, 2022

Eagertones - s/t mLP (1987)

If you like (slightly) spiky '80s power pop sans new wave or snythy frills Seattle's Eagertones fit that bill to a proverbial "T." Roughly in the same vein as the Romantics, Paul Collins Beat, and for the few of that might remember them Philly's A's, these fellas kept the formula pretty simple, but plenty fun, injecting an all important quotient of irony to liven up the proceedings. Probably nothing you haven't encountered before, but standout numbers including "We're Only Kids" and "Shanghai Shanghai'd" make this mini-LP a treat. There's not much out there by the 'tones save for a few songs on hard to come by locally released compilations, that I unfortunately am not fortunate enough to own. By the way, there's a slight jump towards the beginning of "Henry VIII" that at time I'm unable to remedy. I'll offer an updated version, perhaps at a later date.

01. It's Not the Way
02. We're Only Kids
03. Love Song 21
04. Henry VIII
05. Ink & Needle Tattoo
06. Shanghai Shanghai'd
07. Rock Rock (This Must be the Stone Age)

Sunday, July 31, 2022

She weaves with every thought, every thought I never had.

A debut mini-album from 1989, later expanded to a full-length.

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


Beetkeepers - s/t (1988, No Other)

I haven't ventured many forays into "folk pop," even of the collegiate variety which Columbus, OH long defunct Beetkeepers could rightfully be housed under.  This trio operated above the fray in this often tricky realm, not overdoing it with No Depression seasoning, rather skewing more in the vicinity of R.E.M.'s Reckoning, albeit more economically with sparer sonic heft than Michael Stipe & Co. Frontman/mouthpiece James Olsen was either blessed or cursed (take your pick) with a set of pipes that approximated James Taylor and perhaps less-so Paul Simon, but regardless of your opinion of said icons, this circumstance fortunately doesn't blunt the impact of anything on Beetkeepers. Olsen's prose is deft, and refreshingly a cut above average, managing not to resemble his combo's left-of-the-dial contemporaries, due largely in part to the group's spartan, folky tenor. Several Beetkeepers songs have been disseminated on YouTube if you wish to partake in a sample before diving into the LP in general. 

01. For All Parts East
02. Don't Walk Alone
03. Since He's Been Gone
04. In the Blazes
05. Young One
06. Ghost House
07. Holiday Time
08. National Rose
09. Written in the Dark
10. Talking in Bed
11. What My Childhood Did to Me
12. True Ways

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Maybe there's a river under this one...

From 2012. Almost as enticing as a new Sonic Youth album.  

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


Green On Red - Gas Food and Lodging demos (1984)

Unfortunately it's been another week of nil activity and shirked responsibilities on my part, but for what it's worth more than complacency was to blame for yet another drought-ful seven days. In fact I didn't have time to digitize any more wax for you, so it's another cut and paste job for you, culled from my ever-expanding archive of torrent downloads.  

Green On Red. To my ears not always the most representative of the Paisley bunch, but who the heck said they were even trying to fit in?  After two self-titled EPs (well, maybe the second qualifying as a mini-LP) which found the band functioning at their most artful and psych-tinged apex, their 1983 long-player Gravity Talks tightened their competence and sonic prowess, finding them transitioning to new environs. That transition to an often saucy melange of edgy guitar rock and plenty of Americana seasoning congealed two years later on 1985's Gas Food and Lodging, often regarded as the quintessential feather in their cap. There are far greater GoR authorities than I, so I'm tempted to wrap my write-up here. I'm able to offer this one to you in your choice of MP3 or FLAC. Hope you enjoy.

01. Gas Food Lodging
02. 16 Ways
03. Old Black River
04. Hair of the Dog
05. This I Know
06. Sea of Cortez (end cuts)

MP3  and  FLAC

Sunday, July 17, 2022

During therapy nightmares visit me. Flying nails attack the soles of my feet...

From 1996. Bubblegum the punk.

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


Mables - s/t cassette (1993, Elephant Six)

As soon as I caught wind of the Apples in Stereo circa the mid-90s I was enamored instantly. Between stellar albums like Fun Trick Noisemaker and Tone Soul Evolution and an incredible bevy of early eps and singles (collected on 1996's Science Faire) I was all but wed to the retro-fitted pop splendor of Denver's finest export of the decade. The co-ed, Robert Schneider-led troupe in question toured frequently, and were a prolific bunch at that pumping out a new album or single almost annually. Even in a year that saw the release of the aforementioned Tone Soul Evolution, Apples fans were endowed with another treat, a full length record, Pyramid Landing and Other Favorites, by Schneider's solo spinoff project, Marbles, or so it seemed like a spinoff anyway.

Turns out, Marbles started simultaneous to the Apples themselves - and Pyramid Landing was only their second release. In 1993, a self-titled Marbles cassette was issued on the then nascent Elephant 6 label, presumably in exceedingly limited quantities. Since it was released prior to the World Wide Web really taking root, few knew of Marbles existence, and while it eventually took on the prominence of a collector's item it wasn't representative of what Schneider (and Co.) would have to share in the ensuing years.  With the world's newfound adoption of the Apples circa the Clinton-era, it was no secret that Schneider was a relatively profound acolyte of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. This is evident on this often scattershot and mercurial tape, with the overall effect being less Smile, and considerably more Smiley Smile. A bevy of lo-fi, bedroom frivolities dominate these ten tunes mingled with an assortment of found sounds and a slyly avant subtext.  The actual "songs" seem to get lost in the ether sometimes, bearing only a fraction of the trademark hooks Schneider would soon make his calling card. Marbles is interesting and occasionally amusing, but hardly essential. Nonetheless, it exists, and I'm sharing it here. As for Marbles' much more recommendable Pyramid Landing collection that album features re-recordings of several songs on that tape, albeit in more melodic and presentable guise. 

I don't have an original copy of this scarce cassette, so thanks to whomever was responsible for digitizing it.

01. Laughing
02. Kite
03. Swimming
04. Head
05. Bottom of the sea
06. Pyramid Laughing
07. Death My Bride
08. Invisible
09. Inverse Gazebo
10. Play Fair

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Someone is listening. That someone is you.

We're back at it with four eps, featuring a quartet of artists I haven't or have barely featured here before. Two from the late '90s, and another pair from the decade just past. Enjoy.

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


Saturday, July 9, 2022

Ghost of an American Airman - Some Day (1988, Plain Paper)

Had a request for this one many, many moons ago, and was curious to the point where I went to the trouble of actually locating a physical copy. Hailing from Belfast, Ireland but hardly bearing the socio/political heft of say, slightly more successful forerunners U2 or even the Alarm, Ghost of an American Airman's m.o. was less cumbersome, instead skewing towards more conventional themes. The Airman, fronted by Dodge McKay were forward-thinking enough to chart on the modern-rock continuum, albeit with discernible commercial ambitions, despite their debut, Some Day arriving on an indie label, ostensibly their own Plain Paper Records. Each side of the album commences with a bona-fide, radio-ready clarion call - "Big Lights" and "I Hear Voices," the latter of which made it to a single, and rightfully so given it's indelibly seismic chorus hook, one these ears just might never cease to tire of.  Though consistently listenable, not everything on Some Day bears the same must-hear urgency as the aforementioned, but "Time Means Money" wields another killer melody, sounding akin to what the Fixx were responsible for during the same era, while "Precious" finds the quartet holding their own against contemporaries Simple Minds.  All told, a rewarding find.

01. Big Lights
02. What I Want
03. Dance on Air
04. She's the One
05. Strange Times
06. I Hear Voices
07. Precious
08. Flesh and Bone
09. Saving Grace
10. Time Means Money

Sunday, July 3, 2022

It takes much more than bread to live...

A pair of mid-80s, Beatles-esque power-pop classics collected on one CD.

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


Saturday, July 2, 2022

The Paper Train - Run to the Alley (1987, SLIDD)

In the canon of groundbreaking '80s indie/alt-rock, sadly, you are not likely to find this particular record, but for what it's worth it's still pretty decent. Hailing from the outskirts of Rochester, NY The Paper Train were a coed quartet whose earnest aplomb thankfully didn't reek of the more garish and hair-sprayed trappings of their era. Blending just enough modernity to a predominantly basic guitars/bass/drums setup. PT's employment of keyboards was merely a subtext, not the emphasis. The band succeeds mightily on Run to the Alley's mid-tempo numbers, "Call On Me," "Catcher in the Rye," and "Wasn't Made to be Afraid." the latter of which exudes some vague R.E.M.-isms to nice effect. The tense "Lyndon LaRouche" is a sometimes scathing character study (not to mention an offbeat song topic), but nonetheless, the Paper Train pull off something effective. From what little I've been able to glean this was the band's first and final offering. 

01. Call On Me
02. The Phoenix Sings
03. Wasn't Made to Be Afraid
04. Through the Wire
05. Catcher in the Rye
06. Lyndon LaRouche
07. Endless
08. The Cabin
09. Time After Time
10. Run to the Alley

Sunday, June 26, 2022

And all I really want to do is tear straight in to you - explode, unload a hail of insults until you finally get it.

A live album recorded in 2005, but not entirely released until last year. One of my favorite live documents of the century so far. 

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


The Chapter House - From The Other Side...Of The Glass Asylum (1986, Glass Bead)

Not that Chapterhouse, but would you believe another one? Yep, and this combo were from the UK as well. Not dream pop, so much as nuanced wave spliced with an iota of post-punk. A lot of what comprises From the Other Side... is largely anti-climactic, despite Chapter House's aim for achieving some semblance of mystique. Occasionally, washes of vintage Simple Minds and Psych Furs emanate on this platter. Highlights  including "Those Final Words" and "The Proud One" could nearly pass for early Creation Records fare. Perhaps I'm giving them too much credit, so don't take my word for it, download this for yourself. BTW, I don't own a physical copy of From the Other Side... so a big round of applause to whomever took the time and effort to rip this. 

01. The Proud One
02. Reflections
03. Those Final Words
04. The Stillest Hour
05. Order of the Ages
06. Grounds on Fire
07. The World is a Ghost
08. The River Girls Song
09. Of Times Gone By

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

VA - Hanging Out at Midnight (1986, Midnight)

Though technically this is a label "sampler," so to speak, Hanging Out at Midnight functions and flows as a proper compilation, rather than an overt or glorified sales pitch. Midnight Records (the now defunct label and store in downtown Manhattan, not to be confused with Midnight Music in Britain) were purveyors of some of the best garage revival acts in the '80s, and also stretched it's tentacles around surrounding music arenas including power pop. There are some relatively known commodities here, including the Fuzztones and Cheepskates, but only the most dedicated scenesters are likely to have much firsthand knowledge of say, The Tryfles primordial stomp and the riff-addled Backbones. The Wind and Woofing Cookies veered in the vicinity of traditional college radio, and not surprisingly are among my favorites here. Perhaps the biggest anomaly amongst the Midnight roster, was Rochester's Absolute Grey, a co-ed troupe charting a noir, post-punk course. The Love Pushers, who entailed in their lineup two budding music journalists, Jim Testa and Jim DeRogatis contribute the excellent indie rock homage "Radio Girl," however when I went to make the digital transfer the song skipped frequently. This may have been more the result of the record pressing itself and not my turntable, and although I may try tracking it again, I'm fortunate to have an alternate source for the tune which I've substituted here. Finally, the Fuzztones gnarly reading of the Sonics "The Witch" has some describable swells of intermittent static I unfortunately wasn't able to compensate for, try as I might.

01. The Mighty Mofos - I Need You
02. The Cavemen - Labor Day
03. Woofing Cookies - Girl Next Door
04. The Wind - Good News, Bad News
05. Absolute Grey - No Man's Land
06. Love Pushers - Radio Girl
07. The Tryfles - No
08. The Cheepskates - About Time
09. The Kingsnakes - So Good
10. The Backbones - The Rain Won't Stop
11. Howard and Tim's Paid Vacation - That Won't Make You Love Me
12. Fuzztones - The Witch

Sunday, June 19, 2022

I can pump my own gas now, I'm crossng the line.

Talk about a guilty pleasure. Not sure what ya'll are going to make of this one, but I've been listening to it non-stop for the past two months and intermittently for years before. The lyrics and concepts presented are as frivolous as they come, but the hooks and arrangements are incisive enough to transcend everything else. For what it's worth, the band in question has largely disowned this album, but whatever.

I didn't have much to offer you last week, but I'll try to compensate with a compilation LP I should have ready to post tomorrow night.

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


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Biff Bang Pow! - A Better Life - Complete Creations 1981-1991 box (2022, Cherry Red) - A peak inside the box.

Lots of bands find themselves in the often precarious position of being on a record label that's larger in stature than they are. Biff Bang Pow! were no different, albeit they had a pretty sweet fallback - they owned the label, or at the very least the band's prime mover, Alan McGee did. If you don't know the label, it's none other than Creation Records, the name a reference to one of McGee's favorites, '60s UK psych-pop purveyors The Creation, and his band itself was dubbed after one of that band's most well known songs. But even if you were a resident of Britain back in the '80s it would have taken more than a pedestrian awareness of Britain's indie circuit to have a consciousness of BBP. Yes, Creation Records was responsible for launching Oasis into the mainstream, but also scores of slightly less visible but equally pivotal acts like Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Felt. The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the House of Love among myriads more. Being Creation's "house band," so to speak brought plenty of perks, but notoriety wasn't necessarily one of them, as BBP didn't have a foothold on mainstream UK charts, and perhaps not surprisingly little to sparse distribution in the U.S. 

McGee was a Glasgow, Scotland transplant who uprooted in London with fellow Glasgowan Andrew Innes in the early '80s. They cut their teeth under the banner of a short-lived group called The Laughing Apple (who I'll address momentarily), but a little further into the decade Biff Bang Pow! came into being, in earnest by 1983, when their first single "Fifty Years of Fun" saw the light of day. A steady stream of releases throughout the Thatcher era saw the band emerging as one of the most prolific focal points in the Brit UK indie scene (of which in no small way they helped to kick off). Though a fairly well guarded secret outside the mainstream, in the lens of history they're regarded as the quintessence of the particular strain of guitar pop they specialized in, and in terms of specific songs, even the gold standard. Cherry Red has boxed and anthologized the entirety of the BBP cannon across the six disk A Better Life - Complete Creations 1981-1991, with expanded versions of all the albums and EPs, offering generous supplemental live and studio material, including that of McGee's precursor bands.

That conveniently leads into the sixth CD in this collection, which might as well be the first since it consists exclusively of material prior to the formation of Biff Bang Pow!  The aforementioned Laughing Apple were a trio McGee formed shortly after arriving in London, who boasted a brief discography to say the least - one ep and a pair of singles, all of which are collected here. L/A were defiantly post-punk brandishing some definite Fall-isms, not to mention what sounds like a consumption of what early (and I mean early) Scritti Politti were responsible for.  Apple were a tad abrasive, but wielded powerful hooks and charm, transforming "I'm Okay," "Participate!" and "Wouldn't You" into edgy delights that demand repeat listens. Some unreleased Apple demos are appended as well as a three song demo tape from Newspeak, McGee's even earlier DIY endeavor from when he was still based in Scotland. The Newspeak version of "Wouldn't You?" is a wonderful lo-fi incarnation, reminiscent of one of their most criminally overlooked contemporaries, The Freshies.  The disk closes out with some interesting but non-essential dabblings accredited to McGee and Swell Maps/Television Personalities bassist Jowe Head.

With the lowdown on McGee's predecessor bands out the way, now the story of Biff Bang Pow! proper can be told (or as least as far as their discography is concerned). Partnered with Richard Green alongside other members of BBP's often fluid lineup, the band's debut full length (technically a mini-LP), Pass The Paintbrush, Honey, leads things out with their fevered, cataclysmic second single "There Must Be a Better Life," brimming with chiming guitars, a propulsive back-beat and headstrong vocals, making for the same visceral introduction that perhaps only the Smiths could equal. It's accompanying seven tracks are a mixed, but usually enticing lot, with the psych-tinged "The Chocolate Elephant Man" and the manicured-noise of "A Day Out With Jeremy Chester" leaving superb impressions. The Laughing Apple's "Wouldn't You" proved to be so damn irrepressible it's reprised here in a new recording. Appended to Paintbrush, is the band's premier single, the urgent "Fifty Years of Fun." "In the Afternoon," better known as a tune done by Revolving Paint Dream, another band that involved McGee and Andrew Innes, makes an appearance here in an early, alternate guise, as do a few demos to round things out. Pass The Paintbrush, may not strike anyone as an un-toppable album (and it ain't) but it's still one of the most satisfying records BBP attached their name to.

A good one year late for the C86 indie movement they were keenly responsible for, McGee & Co's. second LP, The Girl Who Runs The Beat Hotel emerged in 1987. That's a full two years between releases, a veritable epoch in the '80s indie timetable. Of course, McGee was a growing and gathering label mogul, which I'm sure had a tad to do with the layover. The development on ...Beat Hotel is startling, especially in terms of BBP's production advancements. The song-for-song quality control evidenced on Paintbrush is retained if not improved here - and perhaps much of that record's revivalist-psych affectations. Tucked in amidst the band's overarching distortion/jangle splay are some acoustic forays, specifically ...Beat Hotel's title piece, a harbinger of sorts for what later BBP records would entail.  By now, the lineup had increased to accommodate Christine Wanless (another of McGee's co-conspirators in Revolving Paint Dream). Contributing background vocals sporadically, but seizing the mic outright on "If I Die," Wanless puts a proverbial fresh coat of paint on things, to almost jarring effect. In addition to the ten-song album, the appendix of Beat Hotel is particularly generous, starting with six tracks for an abandoned record, Sixteen Velvet Friends, that was to slot between this album and Paintbrush. Half of these songs are heretofore unreleased and demonstrable of BPP's rawer, nascent approach, though not necessarily revelatory. Still, a huge find for established customers. Plenty more booty to be had as well including several above-average b-sides and unreleased alternate takes including a demo of the title track with Christine Wanless on lead vocals. 

To say that Oblivion, the band's second album from 1987 is "the one where it all came together" would be a misstatement. The truth is Biff Bang Pow! always had "it," but up to this point hadn't quite channeled the "it" into something transcendent that might have appealed to folks beyond the hipsters and those with their noses buried deep in the latest issue of Melody Maker.  Even if the album didn't boast the requisite sales numbers to escalate BBP to household name status, it served as an excellent distillation of what they had attempted to create up to that point - and the closest they would come to making a perfect record. Home to one of their most crucial signature songs, "She's Got Diamonds in Her Hair," and several others on the same album side that could vie for a similar spot, Oblivion wasn't merely a showcase of ten songs ranging from good to timeless, but a metaphorical fulcrum in their catalog, not only for it's middle placement in the BBP discography, rather it's seamless balance of grit and polish. Drop the needle anywhere and you're unlikely to find these songs skewing to any particular extreme, as they get by on the sheer viability of their own merits. And whether people took note or not, Oblivion functioned as a fairly accurate precursor to the soon-to-be world-dominating Brit-pop circuit. The A Better Life iteration of the album tacks on a handful of alternate takes, and get this, a full concert from September of '87 tracked in Dortmund, Germany featuring not only a healthy portion of the LP in question, but a bevy of classics.

Love is Forever followed in 1988. Easily Biff's most varied and adventurous platter, though not  surprisingly, still relatively accessible. "Miss California Toothpaste" driving strangle and drumb could pass for a choice Oblivion b-side.  Things take a turn for the Ameri-cousti-rana when the crew whips out a harmonica for "She Haunts" and "Searching For the Pavement," but a little further in they're up to their collective elbows in amp-shredding freakout-mode on the uber-ballsy "Electric Sugar Child," with "Ice Cream Machine" kicking up a fervent yet tidier plume of guitar-laden dust. The penultimate "Startripper" makes for a strummy, contemplative comedown, sans any melancholy notions. Hitched to this wagon is the 1990 mini-album, Songs For the Sad Eyed Girl, a transitional affair of sorts wherein McGee unplugs for seven cuts. It's not quite Darklands, nor are we treated to a Billy Bragg-esque, socio-political ax to grind, rather the man of the hour finds this particular guise a more suitable vehicle for his most plaintive and unencumbered songwriting yet. 

Last but not least, the transition is fully realized on the almost entirely acoustic, go-it-alone outing, Me. I'm sure multiple music scribes before little old me have deemed this album tantamount to an Alan McGee solo record, so for better or worse I'll graft myself to the end of the line. Me is thoroughly lucid and exudes a discernible purity, albeit not consistently memorable. For die-hard BBP devotees only, but there are a couple of earworms worth an honorable mention: "I'm Burned" and "Lovers."  One of the bonus selections, "Long Live Neil Young and All Who Sail in Him" is almost livelier than anything on Me proper, though I don't think anyone will be mistaking this LP for Harvest anytime soon.

A Better Life - Complete Creations 1981-1991 is outstandingly packaged, and naturally, contains hours of music that's been a best-kept secret for far too long. It's available direct from Cherry Red and Amazon as we speak.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

A solider in time, knows just what he holds dearly.

Reissue of a 1988 album that coincidentally introduced me to the band. 

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


86 - Closely Guarded Secret mLP (1985, OHP)

Atlanta, GA was never going to be a post-punk haven, but someone forgot to tell the long departed 86 this. Some of you visited and imbibed their second album, Provocation several years ago on this site, but since then I've come into a possession of their debut. The trio's proposition of dissonant, jagged guitar lines, a heightened percussive acumen, and subversively tuneful delivery melded together if not seamlessly, at the very least, gracefully. There's plenty of wiry tension and sonic mystique ensconced in some of Closely Guarded Secret's best and brightest like "The Prisoner" and "No Answer." By record's end, on "Turn It Over," 86 dabble in the type of rhythmic finesse that Gang of Four and APB made their calling card, with the concluding "Pezz" almost suggesting where Go4 might have taken us next if they hadn't called it a day. 

01. The Prisoner
02. No Answer
03. Stand in Fire
04. Yoth Culture
05. Man Overhead
06. Turn it Over
07. Pezz

Tree Fort Angst – Tilting At Windmills ep (1995, Bus Stop)

Personal recommendations are powerful and downright essential in getting the word out about new and emerging artists, and although I knew of the existence of Tree Fort Angst in the '90s I failed to get the "message" so to speak. The band's nucleus was Terry Banks, a one-time member of  the much heralded Brit indie outfit St. Christopher. Though based in the U.S. TFA weren't to-the-core Anglophiles, but instead slotted loosely between twee and power pop.  Thoughtful as TFA's themes and winsome as their tunes were, maybe I was initially dissuaded by the band's name more than anything else, as taken literally it purveyed something of a frivolous notion. Nonetheless, better late than never and I consider myself a much belated convert, as least as far as this particular record goes, one of their last from what I understand. The bulk, if not all of their vinyl catalog has since been consolidated across a couple of CD collections, Knee-Deep In The Rococo Excess Of Tree Fort Angst and Last Page in the Book of Love.

01. Tilting at Windmills
02. Save Me
03. This is the Day
04. Why Couldn't You See This Coming?

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Keep in mind I’m the only one listening.

Excellent co-ed indie from 1994 you've likely never encountered. Enjoy. 

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


Saturday, June 4, 2022

Man Sized Action - Five Story Garage (1984, Reflex/Garage D'or) - 30th anniversary edition.

I apologize again for getting delayed in the mountain of dead links I need to restore. Secondly, I haven't been giving you a ton of new content either, but for the time being here's one that's fairly substantial. Though they're rarely mentioned in the same breath as '80s Minneapolis luminaries Husker Du and the Replacements, Man Sized Action had a sizable presence in the Twin Cities indie/punk circuit. Inspired to start a band in part by witnessing enough Husker shows firsthand in the earliest part of the decade, and later winding up on the band's in-house label, Reflex (not to mention having their debut, 1983's Claustrophobia produced by Bob Mould) MSA bore more of a post-punk adherence than hardcore. Never quite subscribing to Husker's noise-pop aesthetic (and certainly doing a 180 from the Replacements topical buffet) the band instead opted for something more subtly melodic, but equally engulfing. 

I'm not sure how much of conscious effort it was on their part, but on Five Story Garage MSA seemed to be taking it's cues from what contemporaries Middle Class and Rifle Sport were angling for. Shades of clangy, echoing guitar sync up perfectly with frontman Pat Wood's rapid-fire spoke/sung prose - a sonic tangent that was approached on the band's first album, but far more thoroughly perfected on FSG. And the whole thing (eight songs) is over within the space of about twenty minutes, but this doesn't feel like you're typical hardcore soiree. There's bona-fide depth here not to mention development in terms of the band's overarching acumen - and sadly this record and MSA in general were predominantly a local phenomenon, one not name-checked alongside the Husker Du's of the world, but for that matter the Mission of Burma's either.

In 2014, Garage D'or Records, a label helmed by the late Terry Katzman (the man who also incidentally produced Five Story...) decided to give the album a second breath of life via a CD reissue, appending practically another album's worth of even newer MSA songs, recorded live in 1986, giving the listener a general idea of what a third hypothetical LP by this five-piece might have amounted to. The whole thing is yours for the downloading below.

01. On the Phone
02. Can't Get Enough
03. Units
04. Start All Over Again
05. Replica
06. Couch Potato
07. Fifty Seven
08. Different Than Now

Live 1986 @ Uptown Bar, Minneapolis
09. Arsenal
10. Better Days
11. Lunch Box
12. Conditoin of Mind
13. The Girl Song
14. Double Negative
15. History
16. Won't Last Forever

Sunday, May 29, 2022

When I wed I will dream in a champagne haze of my first affair.

Reissue of a 1985 album. Word arrived last week that the vocalist for this Irish combo passed away on the 18th. Without giving much more away I can definitively say this - he leaves behind one hell of a legacy.  This LP is a huge component of that. 

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


Saturday, May 28, 2022

La Danza - s/t ep (1983, Frodo)

The somewhat oblique purple and green animal-type-thing occupying this otherwise ebony album jacket belies a record with a half-dozen smart yet accessible post-punk tunes from an Austin unit I can't find a shred of info on, save for a token Discogs entry. La Danza's moniker of choice translated into English is The Dance, the band's ep kick's off with a cut dubbed "Why Do I Disco?," and these guys (and girl) owe more than a wink and a nod to Gang of Four...yet these folks won't necessarily have you cutting a rug. Irony aside, each song on this extended player sports something of it's own personality, with the aforementioned "Disco" tapping into La Danza's emerging counterparts Pylon. Further in, the more melodic "Silhouette of a God" finagles a morsel of U2's sonic aptitude, and "Vouchsafe's" marshal rhythms suggest an appreciation for Wire, without making it too obvious. La Danza may not astound, however it manages to consistently impress. 

01. Why Do I Disco?
02. Italian Song
03. Astrology
04. Silhouette of a God
05. Everything is Mine
06. Vouchsafe