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