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


Friday, March 4, 2022

Citrus Groove - Hit the Ground/Beautiful Thing 7" (1991, Honeychain)

Here's one of my lengthiest belated follow-ups ever. I posted the closest thing these guys had to an album, the Sunswayed mini-LP all the way back in 2009. I knew there were a couple of singles surrounding that release and the one presented here is their first. Not quite hopping all the way onto the shoegaze caboose, but still several light years from any of the prevailing mainstream trends of their day, Citrus Groove's indie pop aesthetic was organic and bejeweled with oodles of melodic moxie. Recommended for fans of their contemporaries Fudge, and a good dollop of Slumberland Record's early roster.    

A. Hit the Ground
AA. Beautiful Thing