Sunday, January 29, 2023

And if you’re sleeping and having nightmares in your head...

Everyone knew this recently departed gentleman's main gig, but in 1990 he struck his neck out with a rewarding, little publicized spinoff project that harnessed the grit and tuneful gait of early Dinosaur Jr. R.I.P.

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


Rational Youth - s/t ep (1983)

Sometimes an album jacket meshes almost perfectly with the very music it cloaks. A collection of seemingly random shapes and colors all corralled in a slightly off-center rectangle amidst a plain, light grey backdrop punctuated by a pattern of small blue triangles captures the aesthetic of what Montreal's Rational Youth were trying to exude here. The band's preceding 1982 debut, Cold War Night Life bore an even starker album sleeve, almost perfectly mirroring the icy, post-punk synth salvos awaiting the listener. For their major-label debut in '83, R/Y managed to sand down some of the more serrated edges that endeared themselves to their original tranche of fans without going too soft.  The five-song Rational Youth balances the quartet's subtle, noir sensibilities with a brighter pop accessibility, a la A Flock of Seagulls, but for whatever the reason, R/Y weren't able to cash in on the techno-pop zeitgeist burgeoning around them. Nonetheless, a second album, Heredity, materialized in 1985, and after the band's dissolution multiple retrospectives and live albums sprouted, and even a  few reunion gigs occurred as recently as 2021, albeit with a modified lineup. Three of the five songs appearing here were rerecorded for a 2021 ep, Wavelength, which is available here.   

01. In Your Eyes
02. Just a Sound in the Night
03. Latin Lovers
04. Holiday in Bangkok
05. The Man in Grey


Monday, January 23, 2023

Agitpop - Open Seasons (1988, T/T)

Word went out approximately two weeks ago that Agitpop frontman and focal point John DeVries passed away. Like the overwhelming bulk of artists I spill ones and zeroes on, I didn't know DeVries at all, but being acquainted with his music, and more specifically the four albums he and his two Hudson Valley, NY compatriots were responsible for in Agitpop was more than sufficient so far as my ears were concerned.  Often referred to as art-pop/punk, and even more consistently compared to the likes of the Minutemen and fIREHOSE, DeVries and Co. were coming from a considerably different angle than their southern Cali contemporaries. 

Dissonant and off-kilter to be certain (not to mention a real acquired taste if you were a more conventional pop listener) this trio bore warm and sentient affectations as well, especially on their final album, Stick It! wherein they were making significant tuneful strides. Truth be told they were halfway there on their penultimate LP, Open Seasons. DeVries' singular, half sung/half spoken parlance made for cutting commentary, yet occasionally a soothing and poetic balm too. Agitpop by and large occupied their own airspace, leaving indigenous chemtrails like "Straight Through to Nashville" and "Girl But Not a Friend," in their oblique wake, but not without inserting an ever-so-sly accessibility factor if you could spot it. 

Incidentally, for several years now I've been sharing a hard-to-come-by Agitpop promo ep from '89 that you can check out here. Furthermore, after the band were decommissioned (sometime around 1990 or so) DeVries went on to serve as mouthpiece for another downstate New York act, Cellophane, who I have yet to familiarize myself with.  

01. Straight Through to Nashville
02. It Won't Be Long Now
03. Getting Up to Go Down
04. Top of the Stairs
05. Three Boys and Space
06. Memory-Go-Round
07. Kick Back the Hands
08. Stagnant
09. Out to Pasture
10. Without a Trace
11. Girl But Not a Friend
12. Inventor


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Only accidental, the car was just a family rental...

My apologies for not getting anything new out to you this past week. Will try to rectify that tomorrow. In the meantime, for this week's M/M I've got something a bit left-of-center in mind. The relentlessly lo-fi and occasionally outright bonkers 1998 album I'm presenting features many a song (type thing) that would qualify as noise, or at the very least something glaringly unstructured. I suppose the key selling point here is that every so often this fast and loose collective hits you over the head with some pretty sweet hooks - that is if you're patient enough for them to present themselves.  Case in point, track 24 sounds like something Elvis Costello should have penned in 1978, albeit with a more polished arrangement.  This is one of the more interesting things I've offered in awhile

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


Sunday, January 15, 2023

Time to loose this senselessness, of happiness with no address.

From 2019.  The sophomore effort from a plaintive pop duo who feature a considerably big star. 

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


Junk Monkeys - Soul Cakes (1989, No Wonder/Restless)

Up until now I've presented you with every piece of the Junk Monkeys puzzle...except one. I've held off on sharing Soul Cakes out of concerns of redundancy. Technically, the band's only compilation, Soul Cakes pools together the brunt of the 1988 Kick Out the Jelly mini-LP, a few slices from the preceding Firehouse, and a couple of new songs ("Trade" & "Time Ain't On My Side") only made available here. It was a convenient way for folks like myself to become acquainted with J/M's vinyl-only, early affairs after being blown out of the water circa the band's 1991 Five Star Fling LP, a quantum leap from everything they attempted before. Akin to bands like the Magnolia's, this Detroit quartet were one of the most convincing students of the Replacements' punk 'n roll homeroom call. Perhaps not consistently wielding the wit of Westerberg & Co., at the very least the Monkeys boasted the same slightly manicured rambunctiousness and enough hooky acumen to pull off any three-minute song that landed on their setlist. As mentioned, they didn't quite fulfill their potential until the early-'90s, but considering what these guys concocted from scratch prior to getting signed, the band's earliest salvos are pretty remarkable. 

01. Lost My Faith
02. Anywhere With You
03. I Couldn't Smile
04. Trade
05. Today is Summer
06. Round and Round
07. Medicine
08. So American
09. Time Ain't On My Side
10. I Want More


Sunday, January 8, 2023

Just let the wind blow, just let it carry me home...

Noisome post-punk from 2013. Hard to believe this one's a decade old.

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


Fear of Strangers - s/t (1982)

Formally known as The Units (releasing one single under that namesake) and hailing from Albany, NY Fear of Strangers achieved a relatively high profile in the local/DIY community. Not necessarily capitalizing on new wave or punk, but often bearing the sway and gumption of both, the Val Haynes-fronted, coed quartet in question released their lone full length in '82. Perhaps a little overshadowed by local boys done good, Blotto, FoS were more my cup of tea, wielding a bevy of relatable themes and some out-and-out catchy guitar pop (dare I say the homespun video for "Shopping For a Dog" aired on MTV in the early '80s)?  Seemingly innocent and workaday as the going sometimes gets on Fear of Strangers, Val and crew breech into headier fare on "Guerilla War," which questions the ethics of U.S. military involvement in El Salvador, and furthermore manages to forecast the scope of American foreign policy into the next decade or two as well. Even more prescient, "Vigilantia" imagines an open carry dystopia where, you guessed it, everyone is armed to the teeth. Not every morsel on this LP is a revelation, but it's more charming moments make Fear of Strangers an above average artifact

01. I Need to be Told
02. Shopping For a Dog
03. Any Other Way
04. Guerilla War
05. Factory
06. Is it Worth It?
07. Volts
08. Happy Hearts
09. Hat and Coat
10. Black Sheep
11. Vigilantia


Friday, January 6, 2023

A not-so tedious endeavor in the precise art of underwhelment - Best of the Blog mix 2022.

After consecutively assembling these annual compilations for a good decade now, much like the token ball-drop in Times Square, I'm sure plenty of you saw this coming. I may be a day late and a dollar short, but at the very least give me some credit for consistency. The original premise when I did my first Best of the Blog mix was to whittle down the foremost highlights from a years worth of postings, sometimes totaling roughly 200 a year (not counting Mystery Monday entries).  Since then, the amount of content I've been able to offer has gradually been scaled back to roughly 100 titles a year (again, not counting MM posts).  To shed a little light on my diminished output, look no further than the laundry list of legit reasons and/or excuses I extolled upon a year ago. 

These compendiums are not just a convenient foot-in-the-door portal to what many of you would consider an overwhelming amount of vintage records and such that I tend to serve up over the course of twelve months, but also as a reminder to myself that I haven't exhausted the pool of bygone and unheralded bands from the twentieth century that I continue to discover, or at the very least get around to digitizing. Thankfully, 2022 wasn't an exception. The 25 songs that made the cut for this mix are loosely sequenced by genres to ensure relatively comfortable song-to-song segues, but you're sure to encounter a odd transition now and again.  Keep in mind, I don't profess to be a pro at this shtick by any means. In keeping with tradition, I've tossed in a handful of previously un-shared nuggets from artists I haven't covered before. They are noted with an asterisk. Enjoy, and stay tuned. 

01. Steppin' Razor - Follow the Leader
02. Ghost of an American Airman - Big Lights
03. Last Gentlemen - One Possession*
04. Love Pushers - Radio Girl
05. Tree Fort Angst - Save Me
06. River Roses - Phoenix 99
07. Breck & Scott - Day Into Night
08. True Rumor - Iowa
09. Gels - Quaker
10. Golden City - Diamond Suits
11. Hotline TNT - Lawyers in Love*
12. Crystalized Movements - Up Falling Down
13. Braille Closet - Tomorrow Russo
14. Eagertones  - We're Only Kids
15. Unaccounted IV - You're Always Alone
16. Bad Sneakers - Pictures of You
17. Paper Train - Catcher in the Rye
18. Red Rain Coat - Footsteps
19. Room Nine - Sea Without a Shore
20. Crawl Away Machine - Maps of Asia
21. 86 - The Prisoner
22. Eternal Triangle - Small Town
23. The Difference - P.M.T. (Pre Menstrual Tension)
24. Late Rivals - Ghostown
25. Lonely Bunker - Last Toast*


Sunday, January 1, 2023

My world is full of strangers, and I spend the day in chains...

A debut from 1994. 

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


Corps Diplomatique - This Can't Be Heaven (1987, SAM)

Happy New Year! Since I didn't get around to ripping any new vinyl this week, I thought I'd offer a long-lingering, but downright dandy record that's been taking up residence on my hard drive.  Corps Diplomatique were a Danish combo, who from what I can tell had no foothold in the U.S. or North America, but that didn't prevent them from having a rather distinct "rock of the '80s" modus opeandi in mind. This Can't Be Heaven, thankfully isn't smothered in bombast, or anything terribly excessive, but pretty much anywhere the needle drops, it's obvious this platter was a fairly big budget affair. Closest direct comparisons that come to mind would be Then Jerico, and tangentially mid-80s U2, but the guitar-work ricocheting amidst any given track is riveting, recalling the icy, echoing hues of  everyone from the Cult to Cactus World News, and even the Comsat Angels.  I really dug this one, and could definitely go for a CD reissue. 

01. The Picture
02. Generations
03. From the Tower
04. Victory/Everything
05. Soldier
06. Vicious Circle
07. The Trail
08. Children
09. Leaving