Sunday, April 30, 2023

Arizona's airport is called Sky Harbor. I wonder if that's what the last song on Clarity's about?

I have four eps for you this week.  Boogie 'til ya puke ya'll.

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

Durnago 95 - Dreams & Trains (1986, Stonegarden)

Another slim week for new content, I know, so apologies in advance.  What can I tell you?  Whether I was even going to share this one or not what highly debatable, given the status of this record itself. My used and somewhat abused copy of Durango 95's Dreams & Trains is at the very least somewhat above "beater" status, but there are some surface noise issues and flaws (namely a skip midway in "When You Looked Away") that I'm going to have to address in the future. 

There were numerous Durango 95s in existence, both simultaneous to, and post the one I'm referring to here. This one was a quartet whose lone LP was produced by Earle Mankey.  The Durango's modus operandi generally slotted into power pop, not far removed from the Plimsouls formula (check out the devastatingly hot "Great Buildings" and "First Dreams in Color"), but elsewhere there are abundant and twangy Americana fixations these boys were wont to excise (e.g. "Better Than That," makes for a tight three minute hoedown). Talented for sure, but sadly there wasn't much more where this came from. At it's height Dreams & Trains resembles a lost Mitch Easter or Don Dixon production. One of the staffers at Goldmine magazine was such a fan he did a fairly lengthy piece on Durango's frontman Frank Barajas just a few months ago.

01. Runaway Train
02. Dreams & Trains
03. When You Looked Away
04. Better Than That
05. Great Buildings
06. First Dreams in Color
07. Durango 95 (Strangers Theme)


Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Reviews you can use: Chris Church, Popular Creeps, Jeremy Porter and the Tucos, The Black Watch, the Well Wishers.

I've been on a review hiatus for quite a few months now, which I apologize for. To whomever has sent me music in late '22 to the present thanks for your patience.  Here are a few words on a handful of titles that have made an impression or two. 

I've been guilty as the next guy of ignoring the most recent release(s) from a prolific artist, namely one who has say, ten+ albums to their credit. From Robert Pollard to Neil Young to Motorhead, I've quite literally taken all of these institutions for granted simply because I have so much from them already. I may not be as familiar with Chris Church's quickly accumulating catalog as the aforementioned, but I'm conscious of the fact that just about every time I turn around I learn he's got a new CD under his belt. I'm glad I opted not to sleep on Radio Transient, because it's one of his most inspired and inventive in recent memory. Church has always been a deft power pop craftsman, yet there's something different about this album's commencing tune, the brash, multilayered "GCRT," that grabs you by the collar with it's mix of lush instrumentation, technical finesse and frantic vocals. Although the going on the remainder of RT isn't always as urgent, it's an embarrassment of riches, much in league with what Tommy Keene, Marshall Crenshaw, and even Todd Rundgren were supplying us with in the mid/late '80s. Yes, there's a certain slickness to the arrangements here that could seemingly pass for major label-budget muster, say three decades ago, but every iota of this disc is thoroughly heartfelt and delivers a spate of stunning high water marks, like "Going Til We Go," and "Over and Out." Radio Transient is already a contender for one of 2023's best albums, and has me scurrying to see what else I've recently missed from Chris Church. It's available now straight from Big Stir Records

Hailing from Detroit but distinctly conjuring up a musical reference due west in Minneapolis, Popular Creeps swiped their moniker from a Chris Mars solo cut. Truthfully, there aren't exactly 180 degrees of separation between this quartet and the Mats, but the Creeps rough-hewn stripe of warm, reverby rock n roll eschews any semblance of filler or pretense. Frontman Lenny Grassa previously made a name for himself in a wonderful, like-minded outfit dubbed The Leonards in the latter increments of the twentieth century and hearing him again on the mic is a welcome surprise. Both of his bands seemed to be tilting in the vicinity of early Figgs, not to mention bygone southern aggregations like Snatches of Pink and Finger. Given the low visibility of these names however, my observation might amount to nothing more than sheer coincidence. Their second album (and first for Big Stir) All of This Will End in Tears wields some serious pent up aggression in the guise of the absolutely cranking "Tear Me Apart" and "From the Past," both of which embrace pure punk, or at the very least the biting power chords thereof. Overall these guys tend to function at a less strenuous pace on Tears, just don't hold out for any ballads lurking on this record. It's 2023 kids, and this is about as earnest as it's going to get.                                                                                                                                                                   

I've got even more Detroit tuneage to enlighten you about, namely Jeremy Porter and the Tucos, a combo who've been in business for about a decade or so who are touting their most recent album, 2021's Candy Coated Cannonball. Nothing too unusual here - singer-songwriter fronting a sharp, guitarsy three-piece whose plaintive confessions usually hit the mark and occasionally yield something gnarly, like the indelible "Dead Ringer," which strikes me as the best slice of power pop Wilco forgot to come up with on A.M.  In fact, there are shades of '90s indie rock cropping up delightfully all over ...Cannonball, and when these guys really nail the bullseye on the power chord enhanced "Girls Named Erica" and the looser "What Could Be in That Box" Jeremy and the Tucos impact along the same lines as the Lemonheads. I discovered more than a few interesting ideas here.  Smash the hyperlink above and set yourself up with a copy of Cannonball on CD, digital, or even clear wax. 

And now we're up to the Black Watch's difficult twenty-second album...or is their twenty-third?  At any rate, John Andrew Frederick and Co. have given us a hell of a lot of music over the years, and seem to up the sophisti-rock ante with virtually every successive release. As for this being a "difficult" album, I say that partly in jest as Frederick strikes me as a bit wearier and perturbed than usual on Future Strangers, albeit not by much. No, this isn't the Black Watch's Disintegration or Unknown Pleasures or really anything uber-cathartic, yet it is divinely moving and contemplative. In fact, any given salvo Frederick utters is likely bejeweled with an advanced quotient of depth. Occasionally the scope of what B/W offer isn't immediate and takes a few listens to unfurl, but Future Strangers offers a bevy of visceral charges in the guise of "Off You Go Redux!," the compelling title track, and "In My Head" which emanates a waft of frosty, post-punk entrails. If this album isn't their masterstroke it's at the very least one of their most poignant and affecting. Atom Records or Bandcamp have you covered should you opt top indulge (and yes, it's available on wax).

Not unlike Bob Mould or Sloan. San Jose's Well Wishers insist on stringent quality control, so much so that even before the laser hits the disk, or you push "play" on your streaming portal of choice, satisfaction is virtually a given.  That's a pretty small pantheon of artists you can pin such a claim on, but prime-Wisher Jeff Shelton has been proving my point over and over on roughly a dozen albums over the course of two decades. And while I haven't shared much in the way of WW music over the years, I've offered plenty of text regarding Shelton's modus operandi - an evenly paced mix of guitarsy crunch and chime, an ace melodic acuity, and an unimpeachable consistency. 2022's Blue Sky Sun, plays to the Well Wisher's strengths to more gratifying effect than practically any other installment in Shelton's catalog I can think of, and he just may have outdone himself on "Idiot Smile" and "Who Lost That Feeling." Tossing in a cover of Guided By Voices' "Game of Pricks" is a swell and even welcome gesture, but given that our protagonist is on something of a streak, I would have easily forgiven him for another original. Blue Sky Sun is yours for purchasing on Amazon and Bandcamp.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Crept into the hallway, already at home on the carpet and walls...

A nice, tidy career summation from 2014, that does an apropos job of collecting most of this band's highlights, dating back to 1981. 

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


The Form 7" (1985, T/T)

A rather miscellaneous Minneapolis bunch, The Form, appear to only be survived by this single, minted on Twin/Tone Records damn near four decades ago.  No, I don't know if they ever opened for the Replacements or drank from the same water fountain as Mould and Hart, but I enjoy what I'm hearing on this 45. The A-side, "Happens That Way" is a rugged slice of pop punk with nervy playing and attitude to spare. On the flip is a genuinely smart and stimulating punk rock reading of Mott the Hoople's signature piece, "All the Young Dudes."  Frontman Nic Santiago later had a stint in Babylon Pink. Enjoy.

A. Happens That Way
B. All the Young Dudes


The Veldt - s/t RSD ep (2021)

Another Record Store Day is in the books, and as in years past around the consumer-driven "holiday" I often try to share something I purchased from a previous RSD weekend, especially if it's a release containing exclusive music.  The Veldt aren't an entity I've delved into on this site (save for maybe a past Mystery Monday) but not counting a prolonged stretch of time when they were put to pasture in the aughts, they've actually been in existence since the mid-80s.  Never commercially embraced, the Raleigh, NC combo consisting primarily of brothers/founders Daniel and Danny Chavis, The Veldt's brand of surreal, shoegaze-adjacent rock has benefited from the incorporation of myriad elements ranging from soul to psych. Briefly signed to Mercury in the early/mid-90s, The Veldt's 1994 debut, Afrodisiac had a way of persuading reverb/delay-tactic appreciating types like myself, and captured the hearts and ears of dream-pop aficionados internationally, albeit the band's legion of fans was always humble, as most of their career was spent recording for under-the-radar indie labels. During the peak of their visibility in the '90s they opened for the likes of the Pixies and Cocteau Twins in the States among others.

The Veldt resurfaced nationally roughly two decades later and were responsible for a spate of eps and singles, including the vinyl-only 2021 RSD exclusive ep I'm sharing today, said to have been limited to 250 copies as a benefit for the Winston-Salem based Shalom Project.  Despite the near-three decade gap since Afrodisiac and the preceding 1992 Marigolds ep, "Color Of Love Is Blue" and "Calvary" exude many of the dense, distortion-prone tendencies of their earlier records...and then some.  Elsewhere, "Reverie" traverses into trip-hop terrain, while "The Gattaca Blues" finagles with a downtempo drum and bass motif. 2022 saw the release of their first full length of the twentieth-century, Entropy is the Mainline to God.

01. Color Of Love Is Blue
02. The Gattaca Blues
03. Reverie
04. Calvary
05. The Butcher (Acoustic Paris 06)


Sunday, April 16, 2023

Why when you were happy here with me?

From 2006. Twelve covers of classic power pop songs from an act you've likely never heard of.

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


Dustdevils - Gutter Light mLP (1988, Rouska)

Time for a mini-LP, this one from the noisome and droney, but altogether great Dustdevils, a New York by way of UK export, whose Rhenyard's Grin album I shared a few years back. Like Sonic Youth they started too late and were too developed to attach themselves to the caboose of New York's no-wave scene, but managed to make some of that aesthetic part and parcel of their modus operandi. Much like their aforementioned '87 debut, Gutter Light is continusouly cresting to new heights of distortion and feedback, while vividly colored with Jaqi Delany eerie, caterwauling vocal parlance (think SST-era Kim Gordon or Live Skull's Thalia Zedek for comparisons).  Any given Dustdevils song may seem relatively devoid of melody, but like fellow Big Apple brethren, Band of Susans their dense song structures are so enveloping there's plenty to latch onto and always make for a fascinating listen. 

01. Ordinary Madness
02. Whim of Iron
03. Whte Temper
04. Losing Ground
05. As I Lay Dying
06. The Freeze Whistle
07. Oyster Catcher


Sunday, April 9, 2023

They take a hard look at you, shocked at the view.

From 2007.

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


Invisible Pedestrian - s/t (1988, Footlong)

From my understanding Invisible Pedestrian had roots in Czechoslovakia, automatically making this quartet outliers. As for their music they couldn't have sounded more Anglo, dishing out vaguely socially conscious "modern rock," akin to what contemporaries The Call, The Alarm and Rhythm Corps specialized in around the same era. Sure, you could certainly fare better, but considerably worse too. A fairly consistent listen throughout, Invisible Pedestrian exudes an especially poignant highlight in the sprite, U2-endebted "Ordinary Taxpayer," easily my go-to number here. Btw, the album was released in Germany under the title Lessons of History, with a far more flattering album jacket.    

01. She Was Standing There
02. Me and the Clouds
03. Some Things Are Never Change
04. Lesson of History
05. Ordinary Taxpayer
06. Picture
07. The Kind
08. Something That I Don't Know


Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Vital Sines - Collage ep (1985, Midnight)

Vital Sines were a Toronto quartet who made headway in the Canadian indie-circuit, thanks to this ep's title cut, an icy, noir slab of discernible goth-rock wielding all the attendant aesthetics one might expect.  Thankfully not a one-trick-pony, they were even more adept at harnessing the jittery post-punk affectations of Gang of Four and APB, evidenced by "Hype" and "Ice Statue," both irresistible and effective attempts that capably plunder the staccato-laced, funk-rock party bag. Collage has me itching to delve into the handful of Sines releases that preceded and followed it. 

01. Collage
02. Hype
03. Ice Statue
04. Rhythm of the Dark


Sunday, April 2, 2023

She's passed on all her friends, when will her crying end?

My apologies for not getting any new music to you last week. I'll try to remedy that in the next two days. As for this week's M/M it's an album that was originally meant to see the light of day in 1996 but didn't until almost two decades later (although songs from it were able in the intervening years, if you knew where to look). 

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