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