Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Chanukah, anyone? Eight consecutive nights of downloadable gifts are imminent.


Another year and another Chanukah is upon us.  2023 is almost in the books and ready to be sealed away, but not before the annual Festival of Lights, which in our case means no more, but no less than eight consecutive nights of gifts in the guise of extra special uploads from me...and hopefully extra special downloads for you.  Comparatively speaking new content has been low this year, so this is perhaps the best and most constructive way I can compensate. Will I outdo myself from previous years?  Regrettably, maybe not but i just might come close. You'll have to tune in starting this Thursday night (the 7th, yes, damn early this year) to find out.  You can anticipate the reliable flurry of un/under-released vinyl, bootlegs, live offerings and demos. 

You might be asking what initially motivated me to begin this tradition altogether.  For one, it gives me a convenient excuse to share several mind-blowing "gifts" instead of just one big reveal on Christmas.  Secondly, Chanukah represents personal relevance to me.  We all know you were envious of that kid down the block who had a yarmulke festooned to their head, who was given the privilege of lighting the menorah, and of course, reveling in eight glorious nights of presents.  Once again, I'm paying it forward.  Previous Chanukah entries have featured WireVelocity GirlJellyfishHusker Du and Teenage Fanclub, but name recognition is hardly a guarantee.  As in past years, there will definitely be familiar faces, but also several entrants that have never garnered face-time on W/O.  Bear in mind that what's crucial and/or special to my ears may not be of equal essence to yours, but kindly, try to humor me.

At the top of each Chanukah upload will be a thumbnail photo of a menorah, with the appropriate number of lit candles to denote each succeeding evening until all eight slots in the candelabra are occupied on the concluding night of December 14. 

  • Look for the first Chanukah posting this Thursday evening, and then for the remaining seven nights 'round supper time all next week. 
  • Mystery Monday will be taking a break this coming Monday (Dec. 11) so as not to disrupt or distract from the continuity of the eight consecutive nights of the holiday.
  • Some offerings will be made available in FLAC (in addition to standard MP3).
That's it in a nutshell. Download responsibly. 

Sunday, December 3, 2023

This war of words is killing me.

A fairly astonishing debut from 2001. RIYL Seaweed and Ultimate Fakebook.

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


Six Finger Satellite/Green Magnet School – The Declaration Of Techno-Colonial Independence 2x7'' (1992, Sub Pop)

Here are a couple of really inventive bands that for whatever the reason I've rarely brought up on these pages before. Rhode Island denizens Six Finger Satellite, as their adjacent picture to your right is likely to suggest, were a band who very much functioned on their own wavelength so to speak. Bearing the same artful, aggro aesthetics of Volcano Suns, 6FS wielded wily dynamics and flirted with avant affectations, yet possessed a lopsided accessibility that catapulted both of their songs here, including the wonderfully urgent "Sex Transistor" over the top. These guys were a trip to witness live, and left us with roughly a half dozen albums, mostly rearing their weird little heads in the mid-90s.

Also from New England, and equally as fascinating were the Massachusetts based Green Magnet School, a noisy, sonic caterwaul of an indie rock proposition who were amped-out as all get up and sublimely guitar driven. Lots of angularities too and they had a penchant for gravitating towards austere motifs without ever succumbing to anything overtly gloomy. The concise, blitzkrieg assault of  "12 Guage" mines an early Jawbox vein, while a considerably slower cover of Neil Young's Freedom deep cut "Don't Cry" is surprisingly enthralling and effective.  GMS' 1990 debut platter, Blood Music is a heady, hot mess of a fever dream that is not to be missed. I might be sharing more from these folks at some point.

Six Finger Satellite
01. Crippled Monster Bearing Malice
02. Sex Transistor

Green Magnet School
01. 12 Gauge
02. Don't Cry

Sunday, November 26, 2023

It did me better in the long run, it did me better in the end.

From 1981. Essentially a one-off album from a band commandeered by a prolific singer, songwriter and toiler of cult renown. One of his most linear and satisfying forays into power pop. 

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


Let's pretend that we could never reach the end...

When this dropped a few Black Friday's ago (2017 to be exact) it seemed kind of, well, random.  Why demos for the P.O.V. album, and why only three selections from that particular title?  In the '80s Todd Rundgren and Utopia reliably toured and dropped a new album roughly every year until they ceased around 1985.  P.O.V. was the finale for Runt and Co., and while it didn't quite reach the infectious Beatlesque plateaus of Deface the Music (1980) and the even better self-titled Utopia two years later, P.O.V. did bear copious fruit.  If you're an aficionado of this era of the man and his band in question, from album to album you by and large knew what you were in for with each succeeding release - tight production, a predictable mix of ballads and taut rockers, perhaps a little prog seasoning, and of course Utopia's trademark, heavy-handed harmonies. Thankfully it was an era when the major labels still peddled some integrity amidst an ever-accumulating quotient of commercial gloss and overbearance.  It seemed like such a simpler and more gratifying time but I digress.  Once again, the ep I'm presenting here is only three songs deep with prototypes that were quite hashed out already and would differ little with the finished versions. Slight as they may be the discrepancies are present, and the tunes are thoroughly rewarding. Enjoy.

A1. Secret Society
A2. Mated
B. Play This Game

Monday, November 20, 2023

The Darling Buds - Killing For Love: Albums, Singles, Rarities and Unreleased 1987-2017 (2023, Cherry Red)

Perhaps not as lyrically profound as the H.E. Bates novel this photogenic coed quartet (and eventual quintet) purloined their moniker from, The Darling Buds were responsible for a profound amount of affecting and winsome guitar pop that spanned two decades and six robust years, churning out a trio of renowned albums.  The packed and newly released 85-track Killing For Love box corrals not only these full lengths (Pop Said, Crawdaddy and Erotica) but virtually every contemporary b-side, early recordings, demos and even a few representative live cuts in one fell swoop illustrating the prowess and quality control that the Buds seemed capable of exuding at virtually every turn.

Helmed by frontwoman Andrea Lewis the band was established with guitarist Harley (Geraint Farr) in 1986 in Caerleon, Newport Wales. Inspired in part by the blossoming UK indie movement of the era the Darling Buds though plenty raw at first quickly segued if not into a "hit-factory," per se, a wholly reliable guitar pop entity delivering vivacious, three-minute refrains adorned with saccharine hooks, crunchy guitars and a dollop of '60s girl-pop savvy.  Structurally, they were on an even keel with home-country mates The Primitives, so much so that comparisons were inevitable. Commencing their swath with the 1987 "If I Said" single (and a clutch of heretofore unreleased demos from the same period compiled on the "early years" portion of Killing For Love) the Buds came across as veritably savage in their most nascent phase, but for the most part downright catchy.  The Jesus and Mary Chain were an early reference point, but this proved to be a fleeting phase for the band, as Lewis and Co. were already on their way to shedding some of their noisome tendencies by the time '88 rolled around for two more singles "Shame On You" and "It's All Up To You" both making their digital debut in their set. Unmoored from the constraints of the mainstream record industry the Darling Buds packed a visceral bite on these wonderful early 45s and even though three-plus decades have passed they still illicit an intoxicating rush.     

The Bud's debut, Pop Said arrived in 1988 on Epic, and even the dented the charts. More significantly it was a quantum leap from their preceding releases, manicuring some of the noisome clamor without stifling an iota of the effervescence. Still very much in the punk-pop wheelhouse the overall effect of the band at this interval wasn't unlike the early Go Go's, minus some of the harmonies of course. Pop Said is a start-to-finish whirring buzzsaw of a hookfest, relentlessly indelible and sing-songy in the most sophisticated guise this stripe of music ever presents itself.  A near-perfect record, one that only the Buds could (slightly) improve upon.  The album is accompanied in this set with no less than ten b-sides and alternate versions.

Their attack and acumen got doubly tighter on 1990's Stephen Street produced Crawdaddy, which may not have lit up the charts back home but seemingly gave our protagonists exponential notoriety in the States, at least with the burgeoning alternative clientele of the time. "Tiny Machine," "Crystal Clear," and "It Makes No Difference" should have beckoned as FM radio clarion calls on both sides of the Atlantic.  Just when I thought the Darling Buds couldn't have exuded any greater universal appeal they deliver an equally dazzling follow-up that in fairness occasionally tamps down on the extraneous guitar crunch in favor of something more rhythmically aware. Crawdaddy was incontrovertibly the next logical step in their progression. As for the three extra versions of "Tiny Machine" tacked on at the end, why not?

Not a sea change so much as subtle evolution, their third and final LP, Erotica featured no less than two songs conducive to dream-pop, "One Thing Leads to Another" and "Angels Fallen" boasting discernably flanged guitar effects that were nearly startling on my initial listen. Elsewhere "Sure Thing" could have comfortably rubbed elbows with the likes of Juliana Hatfield and Velocity Girl.  Thanks to a considerable push from Epic, "Long Day in the Universe" and the sugary confection "Please Yourself" made the most sizable waves, garnering even more endeared Yankee ears, but bona fide stardom wasn't in the cards. Shortly after Erotica's album cycle the Buds decamped to Los Angeles and managed to eke out some promising demos just prior to what would be an amicable breakup. 

That leads me to the fifth and final installment of Killing for Love, a nicely patched together odds and sods composite of some random but fascinating demos from yesteryear, a few Erotica-era live cuts, the contents of the aforementioned L.A. demo session, with the finale featuring all four songs from the band's underpublicized 2017 reunion EP, Evergreen, a brief but effective return to form.  True, Killing... is an exhausting archive of the Darling Buds catalog writ large, but even more than a tidy summation of the band's career it's a testament to their consistency as songsmiths and dazzling melody-peddlers. Frankly, this is astonishing stuff kids. The whole enchilada is available in a clamshell box set straight from Cherry Red or Amazon.

Spun up meals on crooked wheels.

From 2016. Like a postpunk Sundays adorned with a noir edge, a few notches short of goth. 

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


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Art Kritics - Duck and Cover (1987, Da Dü Discs)

And now for something a tad frivolous (but just a tad). Boasting a correspondence address of Springfield, MA this quartet is otherwise a cold case with virtually no archival web presence...until now. Sort of an acerbic punk/power pop setup here, not overwhelmingly reminiscent of anyone, but they seem to share the same headspace as say, Too Much Joy at times. Side one of this platter seems to boast some of the Art Kritics sharper ideas, with a fine opening salvo, "Last Phone Call" which deftly fuses guitars and synths in that telltale mid-80s AOR manner. "Cyndy Changed Her Name to Charlie" is that more impressive, and oddly enough isn't as sardonic as it's premise suggests. "All By Myself" isn't the Eric Carmen chestnut, but the band does tackle the Chambers Brothers' classic "Time Has Come Today" relatively convincingly.  Duck and Cover is a fun, if not quite revelatory romp. 

01. Last Phone Call
02. Cyndy Changed Her Name to Charlie
03. How Do They Sleep at Night
04. All By Myself
05. America
06. Feeding Me Dirt
07. Time Has Come Today
08. T.V. Patrol
09. D N A

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Who are they to say, I do thing’s my own way.

A compilation of singles and non-LP scree spanning 1991-93. Mostly unintelligible lyrics on this one. Dig in.

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


V/A - You're a Super Lady 7'' ep (1996, Corduroy)

I couldn't get enough of Canadian indie rock in the '90s, and even though labels like Sub Pop and Murderecords, Teenage USA, Cinnamon Toast, and Mint had a lot of the bases covered, there were oodles of bands that went underrepresented. You're a Super Lady is a compilation 45 that from what I understand was accompanied by a fanzine, that I either never received or misplaced. Luckily I still have the wax (and oversized picture sleeve) which does a succinct job of covering four neglected outfits, including a favorite of mine, Mystery Machine that ironically as it turns out weren't so neglected given they were signed to Nettwerk Records. They're contribution, "3 Fisted" is a jangly, distortion prone tempest that was a b-side from their spellbinding Glazed album, circa 1992. There's not much info to be had on ThanatoPop and Loomer, although the later churn up a noisome maelstrom that will charm the pants off the Unwound fans in the audience. The all female Halifax quartet Plumtree were able to garner a reasonable following, with three albums to boast for themselves, and a crunchy, muscular indie pop sound that transcended the typical twee contingents of their era. 

01. ThanatoPop – Friend Surplus
02. Mystery Machine - 3 Fisted
03. Loomer - Montazuma's Revenge
04. Plumtree - Fatherhood

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Life in General - s/t ep (1982, Panece)

By 1992 it was a cinch to typecast music emanating from Seattle. Ten years prior, not so much.  Life in General were gestated under the name of X-15, but released two records under the banner of LiG including this ep in '82.  Despite the brevity of their tunes, they didn't quite breach into punk or hardcore environs (and certainly not some proto form of grunge), yet they struck me as discerning connoisseurs of UK post-punk a la Bauhaus and Gang of Four, with mouthpiece Kelly Mitchell dead-panning Peter Murphy at times, just not as austere. The urgency coursing through "The Fog" and "Affliction" really feed into Life's distinctive schtick and make this all too-fleeting ep something of a revelation, or at the very least a revelation when it dropped some 41 years ago. Live versions of material from this record along with a subsequent single and previously unreleased tunes were later compiled under the band's former X-15 moniker in the guise of Bombs and Insurance

01. Respite Lost
02. The Fog
03. That's Life
04. Affliction
05. One Way

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Everything you touch just ends.

 From 2017. 

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


Monday, October 30, 2023

Reboot: Fictions - s/t (1980, Intercan)

At long last the drought is over.  Finally some new content...sort of. I went into this Canadian troupe's lone album cold a few years ago, but it wasn't until recently that I purloined an original copy, and as such a cleaner rip...and a more thoughtful reassessment. Fictions' album sleeve exuded seemingly telltale art/post-punk vibes. Was really expecting to parachute into a noir-ish new wave neighborhood, but ended up landing amidst something all the more lighthearted, even jovial at times in fact. There are some lightweight punky inclinations here (see "I Let Go" and the skinny tie endowed "Snob Appeal") albeit don't hold your breath for any political overtones or preachiness. Elsewhere "Shuffle" and "Fixation" could go toe-to-toe with anything the Cars were dishing out around the same time. In a nutshell, I was expecting something along similar lines to the Comsat Angels, and wound up with something more in the vicinity of the Pointed Sticks or early Joe Jackson. Go figure.

01. Won't Wash Away
02. I Let Go
03. Don't Look Down
04. Shuffle
05. Better
06. Fixation
07. Snob Appeal
08. Jersey Shore
09. Dimestore Romance
10. Do it With the Lights On
11. Praying for the World

Sunday, October 29, 2023

To the memories in your mind that misbehave.

From 2020. Smooth, but forward-thinking indie pop exuding a deftly balanced blend of gits and keys. Signposts point to everyone from Roxy Music, China Crisis, Merchandise, and I'm sure you'll draw your own conclusions as well. 

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


Sunday, October 22, 2023

Take me back to 1979 so I can find my open eyes.

A debut album from 2003. The last throes of Brit-pop, or a new chapter altogether?  Give this a few listens to sink in.

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


Friday, October 20, 2023

Dwight Twilley - Between the Cracks - Vol One (When!/Not lame)

The passing of Dwight Twilley on the 18th of this month was more than just another celebrity R.I.P., it was more akin to the passing of an era. Yes, there were a couple of noted Top 40 entries to his credit, but it was really the dedicated power pop cognoscenti that really felt the brunt of this loss. Occasionally whispered in the same breath as Big Star and Badfinger, Dwight Twilley (with the closely associated Dwight Twilley Band that found him paired with the late Phil Seymour in the late '70s), he wasn't always the immediate practitioner of the form that people associated with the genre.  Though musically active (perhaps right up until his unexpected passing) visibility was another story, despite the caliber of his recordings, especially the two landmark DTB albums, Sincerely (1976) and Twilley Don't Mind (1977) that veritably thumbtacked power pop on the proverbial map. 

A lot of you have no doubt read a flurry of remembrances on social media, or have found yourself spinning Twilley albums over the past couple of days. I had no personal connection to him, nor do I necessarily consider myself a major fan, but I appreciated his music, even ravenously at times. Most of what he had to offer is still available via paid download and streaming (and even the occasional reissue), and as of right now, the only thing I have to offer that's even slightly under the radar is this 2000 compilation composed out of outtakes and such, that ranges from 1973 to '94. Per the liner notes a good half of the songs are situated from 1983, just prior to his  '84 Jungle album, the last record of his to score a charting hit by way of "Girls."  That little morsel of trivia out of the way, for an album of abandoned material Twilley exuded a remarkable amount of quality control across a disparate and diverse selection of tracks. So much so, that even if you're a newbie to the man in question, Between the Cracks functions as a representative sampler of his arc as a songsmith.  It's another reminder of a bona fide talent that even the most observant of us took for granted, especially in the latter decades of his career.

01. Black Eyes
02. Let Me Down
03. Don't You Love Her
04. Lullaby
05. Forget About it Baby
06. Round and Around
07. Reach For the Sky
08. Too Young For Love
09. Eli Bolack
10. Oh Carrie
11. Living in the City
12. Christmas Love
13. To Get to You
14. Where the Birds Fly
15. No Place Like Home
16. Perfect World

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Reboot: Ultracherry Violet - I Fall to Pieces (1994, Bedazzled)

This one has been a long time coming. Shortly after I shared this in 2014 it was pointed out to me that the third track on this album, "Remember" wasn't the song in question, rather a duplication of another album track, "Losing My Friends." Indeed this was frustratingly the case, the byproduct of a careless mastering job on Ultracherry Violet's one and only LP, I Fall to Pieces.  Heck, I should have been alert enough to notice it before I posted the thing nine years ago.  Nonetheless, when I became conscious of this snafu, I didn't pull the link because the album was otherwise perfect.  It never occurred to me to reach out to anyone in the band...but many years on someone else did, and although doing a repress of the CD wasn't in the cards, the missing piece of the puzzle (the aforementioned "Remember") was recently posted on YouTube

I've updated the folder with the corrected track and have made it available to download per the link below.  The original write-up for the album can be accessed here, and for the uninitiated, if you're an aficionado of '90s dream pop from either side of the Atlantic, this one is something of a revelation. A big thanks to Sam who alerted me of this truly "lost" recording. 


Sunday, October 15, 2023

Poetry has given way to this.

 A debut album from 2004.

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


Drive me up to London now it's got too dark to see...

Thanks for being patient with me while I find an adequate amount of time to prep more vinyl for some uploads in the very near future. Until then I'm happy to offer you a clutch of 1990 demos from Ride, tracked just prior to a spate of then-forthcoming classic eps and albums. The birth of dream pop, or merely the next essential segment in the evolving continuity of shoegaze in general?  You be the judge.  "I'm Fine Thanks" is the most under-released nugget here, eventually appearing on the rarities compilation Firing Blanks, but to my ears this is a different incarnation, or at the very least mix of the tune.  One version of 
 "Chelsea Girl" has the beginning chopped off, and likewise with the ending of "Unfamiliar," which is a real pisser, but what can we do?  Enjoy in either MP3 or FLAC. 

01. Chelsea Girl #1
02. Drive Blind #1
03. I'm Fine Thanks (aka You Fuck Me Up)
04. Chelsea Girl #2 (cuts in)
05. Drive Blind
06. All I Can See
07. Close My Eyes
08. Unfamiliar (cuts out)

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Straightjacket your own beauty, because it's just a breakdown away...

Four eps.  It's been a few months since I've done one of these. Two decades spanning two millennia represented.  

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


Cotton Mather - Kontiki teaser tape (1986)

So I had some internal debate on whether to share this or not, but if not on Wilfuly Obscure, where?  Per the picture to your right, it's pretty easy to discern this wasn't made available to the general public (but soon would be in a slightly modified guise).  Austin, TX power pop mavens Cotton Mather made a few ripples when they're near-perfect debut, Cotton is King was dropped in 1994, but it's '97 follow-up, Kontiki, was significantly more lauded and met with far wider embrace. Prior to the album's release, Cotton main man Robert Harrison apparently distributed a few hand made tapes of new material he had been working on. One of those cassettes was handed off to a leading luminary/tastemaker in the scene, as it were, and decades later I was fortunate enough to have it fall in my hands. 

As per the title of this entry, this little three-song reel wasn't an advance for Kontiki, so much as a teaser or appetizer.  The first two tracks, "My Before And After" and "Spin My Wheels" would soon feature prominently on the album, with the third, "Innocent Street" being relegated to a b-side. "My Before.." strikes me as either a demo or unmixed version of the final product, which I like to think bears a slightly more organic hue here. "Spin My Wheels" is definitely an alternate take of the song, and an electric version at that. It was later released on the bonus CD of the 2012 deluxe edition of Kontiki.  In addition, that expanded version of the album included "Innocent Street" as a bonus selection too, albeit in an acoustic iteration whereas my cassette provides a differing electric take.  So there you have it. Three songs from 1996 that eventually saw the light of day a year later...with a few discrepancies. Enjoy.

01. My Before and After
02. Spin My Wheels
03. Innocent Street

Monday, October 2, 2023

Bobby Sutliff - Only Ghosts Remain...plus (1987/2023, Jem) - a brief review.

It's nearly impossible for a recent passing to not overshadow the music of the artist involved. In the cases of high profile specimens like John Lennon and Kurt Cobain it took years for a lot of fans to come to terms with their premature deaths before they could simply sink back in and enjoy the music again. For better or worse, Bobby Sutliff was not a household name, even at the arguable apex of his career in the mid-80s, but fans of both his solo endeavors and the work he did with the more renown Windbreakers certainly felt something when it was announced he lost his battle with cancer in August of 2022. There was really no controversy or prolonged drama tethered to Bobby, and those like myself who didn't know him personally were still able to associate him exclusively with his catalog of music.  Unlike the aforementioned Lennon and Cobain, however, when someone of Bobby's small-of-fame stature departs, their loss tends to exist in a vacuum, one in which there is no media pile-on or ubiquitous airplay on Sirius XM.  But above all else the music lives on with their faithful minions, and a recent reissue of his 1987 solo LP, Only Ghosts Remain is a much needed reminder of his relevance.

Making his bow in the early '80s from the somewhat unlikely locale of Jackson, MS as half of the songwriting quotient of the Windbreakers, Bobby, partnered with Tim Lee, would be responsible for three memorable albums of collegiate guitar pop (Terminal (1985), Run (1986) and A Different Sort (1987), not to mention a handful of preceding EPs. Fortified with national distribution, despite being anchored to smaller indie labels the Windbreakers were something of a staple on left-of-the-dial radio outlets, and were a decent live draw, but they didn't come close to breaching the mainstream.  To fans of jangle-laden indie rock coming remotely from the same environs as R.E.M. (and maybe less so the Dream Syndicate) the Windbreakers were a breath of fresh air.  They were advanced enough to exist in the '80s, yet managed to thoroughly sidestep the most egregious and embarrassing trends of the era. When OGR was released the 'breakers were still a going concern and from what I've been able to glean there was no acrimony between Sutliff and Lee.  That said, it was advisable for Bobby to put the album's eleven songs under a separate umbrella.

Just to get a little bit of trivia out of the way, Only Ghosts..., essentially began life as a Mitch Easter-produced five song EP, the lovingly dubbed Another Jangly Mess, that was only available as a European import which I've seen conflicting release dates of 1986/87.  Another one of Bobby's collaborators, not to mention erstwhile music publicist Howard Wuelfing was so enamored with what he heard that he encouraged PVC/Jem Records to bankroll the recording of another batch of songs, once again with Mitch Easter at his fabled Drive-in Studios to flesh out an entire LP.  Thus, Only Ghosts... was born. Despite being culled from two sessions the album doesn't feel patchworked together in the least, and is as consistent if not more so than anything the Windbreakers had been responsible for up until that point. 

During the era surrounding OGR's recording/release, the Windbreakers was ostensibly Bobby's main meal ticket - yet not one iota of the record sounds half-hearted, or casually strewn together. Retaining much of the 'breakers edgy, forward-thinking pallor while simultaneously emboldening Bobby's overarching sonic heft, this was an album that seemingly had one foot steeped in indie rock aesthetics, with the other sporting an ambitious stride that could have instantly impressed more pedestrian ears. 

The Windbreakers were partial to downcast themes and moreover, were known to exude a pessimistic tenor when it suited them, but as a solo entity Bobby was discernably more assured, and even downright confident. The driving, decided "Same Way Tomorrow" made for a primo opening salvo, declaring something of a brash clarion call. "Always Love You" and "Couldn't Help Myself" mine a similar, if slightly less strenuous vein. Further in, Only Ghosts... reveals itself as more of a mid-tempo specimen, albeit our protagonist is wont to circumvent traditional ballads. The overall effect is comparable to the first couple of Matthew Sweet albums, not to mention the Sweet-adjacent Velvet Crush precursor Choo Choo Train. Intoxicating jangly and strummy notions like "Won't Be Feeling Blue" pour down like an unremitting waterfall, and while the context of any given Bobby Sutliff tune is a cinch to glom onto, there's more than surface level depth at play here.  OGR may not rewrite or out-innovate anything that came before it (by the Windbreakers or otherwise) but it's nonetheless a life affirming example of par-excellence power pop, with an aptitude that's nothing short of wholly earnest. 

As mentioned above, Only Ghosts Remain has been given a new lease on life on the label that originally minted it, Jem Records.  The album's original running order has been bested with eleven additional cuts from three of Bobby's subsequent albums (Bitter Fruit, Perfect Dream and On a Ladder). Amazon has you covered via CD or digitally.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Numb to the world and it's dangers, dumb to the world and it's strangers.

An expanded edition of this English band's 1987 debut. 

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


Upangybottoms - Upangymania (1987)

You'd be forgiven if you took this band's moniker as anything less than frivolous, but fear not, Oingo Boingo Upangybottoms weren't. Light hearted? Indeed, jovial even, yet while the emphasis on Upangymania is certainly fun this Edmonton, Alberta trio were deft pop-craftsmen in that early Posies (say Failure) sort of way.  For all of it's inherent cheekiness, this album is relatively situated in the power pop realm with "Cry," "Christine" and "She's Gonna Let You Down" are all representative examples of the three minute form.  Elsewhere, the brisk "Tell Me Why" bears an acousti-folk bent, while the comparatively wacky "Egyptian Holiday" sports the goofball motif it's likely to imply.  

01. She's Gonna Let You Down
02. Tell Me Why
03. Cheryl My Friend
04. Cry
05. Pushin' Up the Daisies
06. Christine
07. Mister Adams
08. Egyptian Holiday
09. How Many Times
10. Boys and Girls

Sunday, September 24, 2023

I became much more quiet when I learned to speak.

From 1994. So overlooked that even I'm prone to forgetting about them for extended stretches of time. 

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


The Monks - No Shame: The Complete Recordings (2023, Cherry Red) - A brief review.

Just a quick disclaimer, this is not the group of American ex-pats named The Monks who in the mid-60s recorded the lauded, proto-garage "Black Monk Time" LP. 

Right place, right time, right song.  It's rare when all three circumstances are perfectly in alignment, however toss in a fourth improbable factor to boot. When The Monks charted with their 1979 debut single, the sassy, Cockney-esque punk classic, "Nice Legs, Shame About Her Face" the gentlemen responsible for it weren't aware they were even an extant band at the time. This unintentional hit was in fact never designed to be a single (by the Monks anyway), much less the beginning of a career that spanned two albums in just as many decades. Nonetheless, their place in history was solidified, and their discography has been bundled up in the guise of No Shame, a double disk collection that tacks on virtually a whole third album's worth of bonus material.  

Sometime in the late '70s a trio of British musicians who boasted lineage to the rather prim and proper folk-rockers the Strawbs (Richard Hudson and John Ford) and the even more unlikely prog combo Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera (Terry Cassidy) were looking to branch off into something decidedly different - even if it meant fielding songs to unrelated artists. "Nice Legs..." was cut as a four-track demo, and oddly enough would remain as such. So the story goes it was specifically tailored to be adopted by an unnamed punk outfit who ultimately rejected it, but Carrere Records caught wind of the track and insisted on releasing it as is.  With that The Monks were born, though the song was released on such a lark that nobody assumed anything would come of it.  

As fate would have it, by mid-'79 "Nice Legs" gained traction in the charts, peaking at #19 in the UK, and The Monks were suddenly a red hot commodity, in spite of the fact they didn't exist as a band yet. But capitalize they did! Additional members were quickly supplemented to the lineup (fleshing out to a quintet all told), a record contract with EMI was inked and an album of par excellence punky power-pop, Bad Habits, hit record shelves later that year. Only with the release of the LP no subsequent hits followed, at least not in Britain, and in America Habits was an import-only proposition.  Due to label-politics at EMI and an overall reluctance to prioritize the album after The Monks were 'outed' as being punk-imposters (so to speak), the Monks took advantage of a licensing deal in Canada, and were soon off to the races again with yet another top-20 single ("Drugs in My Pocket"), albeit exclusively north of America. Bad Habits ran up the charts in the provinces, managing to go double platinum there, and it's status was deservedly so boasting a consistent bevy of often sardonic but substantive melodic slammers including "Spotty Face" and the title track.  Even when operating on a less-strung level the Monks were still mightily effective, and I'd recommend this album for enthusiasts of The Jags and Joe Jackson who are seeking something a bit more irreverent. The bonus content on Habits includes b-sides, alternate versions, and three Devo-ish inspired outtakes.

The band's second album, 1980's Suspended Animation, had it's target audience aimed almost exclusively at the Canadian market, given the runaway success of Bad Habits there.  It didn't yield any major hits, but managed to spin gold (about 50,000 units) up there, and found the band broadening their pastiche to incorporate ska/dub ("I Don't Want No Reds" and "King Dong"), sprite jangle pop ("Cool Way to Live"), and back again to zippy, serrated punk-pop ("Don't Bother Me, I'm Christian," "Grown Ups" and "Oxford Street," the latter featuring a fake street-busker lead in). Still cheeky as hell, The Monks really seemed to be honing in a niche on Animation, even if that niche was situated in just one North American country. A tour of Canada followed the album's release, with Huw Gower of the Records brought aboard to fill one of the guitar slots. Plans for a third album were mapped out, with about a half dozen songs being cut for it, but due to more record label drama and changing priorities for some of the Monks, it was ultimately aborted. These songs, some pointing in a subtler new-wave direction comprise the bonus material for Suspended Animation

The sharply packaged and well annotated No Shame is a testament to the creative germ of a one-off song parlaying itself to something far more substantial and rewarding, and is available at your fingertips from Cherry Red Records, Amazon and beyond

The Clergy - Glow tape (198?/199?)

As it turns out I may have usurped this from another blog at one point, but I really hope not. That being said, I don't own a physical copy of The Clergy's Glow cassette, but I certainly am endeared to it. Pretty much all details I can offer about this coed, Rockhampton, Australia five-piece are sourced from Cloudberry Records always useful website. Twee was the name of the Clergy's game, and that game is a whole ton easier when you have a charming but humble chanteuse absorbing some of the vocal duties, in this case Cherri Busby. Despite a glaring absence of a copyright date (though 1989-91 were established years of the band's existence) Glow exudes much of the same wet-behind-the-ears charm that made so many of the British indie staples of the mid/late '80s such a treat. Even back in 2014 I was impressed enough with The Clergy to include the strikingly melodious "Pieces" (which could pass for an ace Blake Babies outtake) on my best of the blog mix for that year, so I thought I'd finally treat you to the whole album. Cherri tragically passed away in a car accident in 1994, but prior to that she formed another band, St. Jude, with her brother John Busby, also part and parcel of The Clergy.

01. Pieces
02. This Ugly
03. Ride
04. Futile Child
05. The Dream
06. Something
07. I Am the Sun
08. Sorrow
09. You're Not Real
10. By This Time Tomorrow Baby
11. Vietnam
12. Warm

Sunday, September 17, 2023

But now I kick my mind out in the wind and driving rain...

Recorded in 1982 but remained unreleased until 1990. These are essentially demos or working versions for this UK post-punk staple's aborted third album. Not the greatest introduction if you're new to them, but better than what a lot of folks might have ya'll believe. 

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


Thursday, September 14, 2023

V/A - Everyone a Classic!!! Vol. 4

It probably won't be until next week that I have the opportunity to rip some new wax for you, but in the meantime, I do have the fourth installment in the excellent Every One a Classic!!! series. These are fan curated compilations of underexposed British/Irish punk, power pop and mod.  A good half of this one in particular featured bands that were wholly unheard by me, and even the ones bearing some name recognition are hardly ones I bring up in conversation - Tours, Cigarettes, Valves, and most significantly to my eyes and ears, Seventeen who featured a pre-Alarm Mark Peters.  As for the completely unknown quantities, I took a bit of a shine to Squire and The Jump. Take the plunge and find a fave or two of your own.

01. The Cigarettes – They're Back Again, Here They Come
02. Hoax - Nice Girls
03. The Dyaks - Gutter kids
04. Shag Nasty - Looking For Love?
05. Vicitimize - Where Did The Money Go?
06. UXB - Crazy Today
07. 3rd Men – Your So Fashionable
08. Moral Support - Just Where It's At Tonight
09. Seventeen - Bank Holiday Weekend
10. Tours - Language School
11. Squire - Get Ready to Go
12. Private Sector – Just Just (Wanna) Stay Free
13. The Valves - It Don't Mean Nothing At All
14. The Jump - Shake it Up
15. Smart Alec – Scooter Boys

Sunday, September 10, 2023

I'm not cutting you down, I'm just carrying the axe.

From 2002. The second album from my all time favorite "side project."  It's a grower folks... Track nine is a Posies cover. 

**Please do not reveal artist in comments!*

V/A - The Class of '81 (1980, Upper Class)

More like the class of 1980, considering that's the year this thing was copyrighted, but anyway.  Been hanging into this one for a few years before I finally got the motivation to share it. What can I tell you about eight vintage Brit bands that I know zilch about?  The Class of '81 was (mostly) produced by Bram Tchaikovsky (the guy who split from The Motors before they really started to go downhill), and there isn't a ton of straight-up punk (save for the much comped Innocent Vicars, who are likely the only ones here bearing a trade of name recognition). The pair of hopefuls that appear twice on ...'81, Exeros and Emil & The Detectives weren't really to my liking but tolerable. I outright loved Bino's "Dream (For My Sake)" a tuneful waver that doesn't sound far removed from what Bowie was dispensing around the same era. Ditto for "New Day," courtesy of The Fringe who impressed me in that Magazine/Rich Kids sort of vein. Finally, The Void and The Troopers kick up some respectable post-punk dust, and hopefully boasted a legacy beyond this compilation. 

01. Void - Pop Love
02. Exeros - Accident
03. The Troopers - Love You
04. Emil & the Detectives - Girl
05. Bino - Dream (For My Sake)
06. Picasso's Optician - Given Up Trying
07. The Fringe - New Day
08. Emil & The Detectives – Instant Magnet
09. Exeros - Chita
10. The Innocent Vicars - Starship 22

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Pennies from a skyscraper can kill...

A 2004 collection of demos and outtakes from one of my top tier favorites of the '90s.

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


Cap'n Swing - Almost the Cars demos (1976)

Since another outpost in cyberspace has already written exhaustively on these recordings, I'm probably going to defer to them to do most of the explaining.  As for my part, I'll break this down fairly succinctly.  Cap'n Swing were the band populated by Benjamin Orr and Ric Ocasek after the their folk-rock combo, Milkwood and of course, the hallowed Cars.  This is a collection of eleven demos cut two years prior to the Cars now legendary and eponymous debut circa 1978.  Cap'n Swing bore zero resemblance to Milkwood, and despite the diminished roll of keyboards here, these songs skew considerably closer to what the pair would be responsible for courtesy of their impeding meal ticket.  Heck, we even get a sneak preview of "Bye Bye Love." Further in, "City Lights" and "Strawberry Moonlight, sport some proto-punky pizazz, while "Jezebel" and "You're Always Brighter" mine Rundgren-esque veins without being too obvious.  And it would be hard to overlook that the midtempo "Come Back Down" conveys itself as a vague rewrite of "Sweet Jane." Yes, a few things here are a bit overlong, but again these are demos and not necessarily intended for the general public. Enjoy.

01. Bye Bye Love
02. Strawberry Moonlight
03. Jezebel
04. Goes on Sleeping
05. Twilight Superman
06. You're Always Brighter
07. City Lights
08. Dream Trader
09. You Can Have 'Em
10. Come Back Down
11. Crazy Rock-n-Roll

Monday, August 28, 2023

Three Hour Tour - next time... (1993, Parasol)

In the mid-90s I was paying more attention to music than ever, yet there were some artists I just plain missed the memo about. Three Hour Tour was among them, and much to my detriment. I was aware of their existence via the proliferation of Parasol Records catalogs and mailings at the time, but it wasn't until recent decades that I really took the plunge, and this 45 was an ideal spot to dive in. As it turned out, 3HT were a marvelous power pop proposition from the fertile plains of Champaign, IL, brandishing a classist bent a la The Posies and Matthew Sweet.  The A-side, "'Til the Next Time' is a deftly honed slice of three-and-a-half-minute hook manna from the skies that doesn't so much as waste a nanosecond, and its two flip sides are just about as arresting. I discovered that lead Hour Darren Cooper's lineage reached back a decade earlier through his collaboration with Ric Menck and Paul Chastain in the embarrassment of jangle pop riches that was Choo Choo Train.  In fact, Chastain joins in on some of the magic here via a co-songwriting credit with Cooper on the bittersweet "Prancing Horse Farms." All three songs here would appear on the subsequent 3HT album, 1969 a few years later, though I can't vouch for them being the same versions.

A. 'Til the Next Time
B1. King of the Mountain
B2. Prancing Horse Farms

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Karma is a killer, regret can really nail you too.

From 2019. They got off to a bit of an uneven start with their first reunion album, but this one was an improvement.

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


Chewy Marble - demo (1996)

Here's a name that might ring a bell for some of you.  Chewy Marble were an L.A. area trio who did their thing not only when power pop in general was enjoying something of a renaissance,  but were part and parcel of a primo local scene including the likes of the Wondermints, Baby Lemonade, The Sugarplastic and Cockeyed Ghost among several others. Chewy, helmed by singer/guitar slinger Brian Kassan, never quite hit you over the head with anything intense or crazy, but they possessed a bevy of killer tunes, especially the ones populating their 1997 debut.  I'm offering the contents of their '96 demo reel, which was generously passed along to me recently by a friend. All three songs were rerecorded or at least remixed for that subsequent first album, but the demos wield a bit more immediacy than the finished versions, so encountering this was a treat. "My Reaction" and "Peculiar" abound with a Posies and Jellyfish-like charm, while the piano-ballad, "Touch and Go" rolls some Badfinger-isms into the equation.  Again, Chewy Marble weren't household names by any stretch, but in their three album lifespan they did pretty damn good.

01. My Reaction
02. Peculiar
03. Touch and Go

Monday, August 21, 2023

My punk rock friends are old and weak.

From 1997.  A delightful power pop debut bearing an all-important serrated edge.

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


Sunday, August 20, 2023

The Cradle - "It's Too High" 12" (1987, Rough Trade)

What's this?  A no-profile Rough Trade Records outfit from arguably the prime of that renowned label's tenure, making virtually no impression online or otherwise with just one scant 12" single to their credit?  Spawned in Manchester, The Cradle were a quintet whose humble discography was pared down to the mere ten minutes that I'm making available today, possibly for the first time in ones and zeroes (albeit Cloudberry blog insightfully fills in some of the backstory blanks). 

Sonically, the Cradle's template, while not wholly derivative angles in the direction of contemporaries Echo and the Bunnymen and St. Julian-era Copey, minus a good bit of the fading mystique both of those figureheads could still lay claim to.  Furthermore, guitarist Ivor Perry's fretboard prowess was of such Marr-esque caliber (feast your ears on "Walk Around") that after Johnny absconded from Moz in '87 The Cradle was put on ice with Perry's name bandied about as a fill-in for the famed Smith. As for the record, we're treated to two very rich, promising songs...and an instrumental, "Wires," that tacks on a spoken poem bit for it's caboose.  Amazingly, The Cradle never featured on any various artists comps either, even of the Rough Trade variety, but it appears mouthpiece Andy Housley fronted another band earlier in the mid-80s T'Challa Grid, whose tape, The Strangest Trials I really wouldn't mind hearing. As you know, I live for this stuff.

A. It's Too High
B1. Walk Around
B2. Wires

Nixon's Head - The Doug Factor ep (1986, Ichiban)

I liked their 1987 album, Traps, Buckshot & Pelt, but I'm feeling even more affection for Nixon's Head's preceding ep. The Doug Factor manages to factor in what these Philly lads may have been tuned into at the time, ranging anywhere from the Ramones to Agent Orange, and even the Mighty Lemon Drops. Perhaps those touchstones were purely coincidental, but whatever infiltrated their sensibilities, N/H's garage punk timbre and subtle underdog penchant made for some wailing rock 'n rule on "Still," and the exponentially more pounding "Bad Vibes." If Doug... isn't outright phenomenal, it's often tantalizingly close. 

01. They Can't Touch Us
02. Still
03. Bad Vibes
04. First Steps

Sunday, August 13, 2023

You wind me up like a crooked tree

From 2021. One of the most fetching young singer/songwriters to come down the pike since Juliana Hatfield. Delighted I took a chance on this.  

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


Saturday, August 12, 2023

Life Without Principle - s/t (1989, Intrepid)

My takeaway from this one? Surface level perception in only worth so much. My expectations for Life Without Principle were far from what I actually got. What I thought would be a band solidly steeped in left-of-the dial aesthetics, either of the serious post-punk or lovingly shambolic (a la The Replacements) varieties instead skewed considerably closer to mainstream notions. Surprisingly, even the presence of synths doesn't particularly imbue this trio with new wave bona fides. By and large, the eight songs occupying this self-titled platter can stand on their own, though LWP's commercial aspirations (try the frequent, wailing guitar salvos on for size) were loftier than I could have anticipated.  "Find Yourself Inside" is my clear favorite here, suggesting the band had tuned in to some of Tommy Keene's then-most recent albums. My copy of LWP was no-so-tastefully defaced by a radio station, so Discogs for the win for supplying me with a non-blemished pic of the front sleeve. 

01. I Hear You Singing
02. Find Yourself Inside
03. Much Too Much
04. Let's Go There Anyway
05. Don't Cry For Me Now
06. Business as Usual
07. No Going Home
08. You Can't Hide From Love

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Science can wait, democracy now.

Practically two albums' worth of demos and outtakes tracked in this band's heyday of 1979-82.

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


Wellabee - s/t (2001, Eclectic)

Wellabee will when nobody will!  Or so how I like to think this band's motto might have rung. Truthfully with the exception of one article I was able to unearth there ain't nuffin' out there on this Sarnia, ON foursome (though a documentary on the boys was supposedly in the works at one point).  And it sounded like these lads were really young when this came out in 2001, possibly still in grade school.  Oodles of fuzzy, distortion-prone guitars populate every nook and cranny of this one with no shortage of Weezer-ims and gratuitous grunge tricks, though somehow curtailed from the sheer excess of either. Something about Wellabee grabbed me on my initial listen that never did on subsequent encounters, but thought this was worth submitting for your approval (or not).

01. Orange!
02. Graduation
03. Proud of Me
04. Her Picture
05. Menasha
06. It's Not Sunday
07. Collar
08. Whisper
09. Christine
10. Tuck in My Shirt
11. Oreo-Fence (Springs is Here Again)