Sunday, July 30, 2023

Say I'm sorry 'til I'm blue in the face...

Recent reissue of a vital indie rock album from 1985 that flew far too under the radar. 

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


Braid - live acoustic at Record Exchange, Raleigh, NC 6/19/98

I've been on the fence about sharing this one for many, many years, with my hesitation usually dictating my decision not to do so, largely due to the low bitrate of the files, which I was never able to find a more satisfactory rip of.  Hard to believe it's not only the 25th anniversary of this particular event, but likewise for Braid's career-defining album, Frame and Canvas. It's no coincidence that almost every song in this set was culled from that aforementioned album, one that was a quantum leap in terms of proficiency and songwriting over Braid's previous two full lengths, The Age of Octeen (1996) and Frankie Welfare Boy Age 5 (1995).  If you're already acquainted with Frame... you know what I speak of.  To the contrary, if Braid is an unknown quantity to you, before delving into this live set it helps to have an appreciation of the album, or even what the band was about in a more traditional live setting.

This ten song exchange is pared down and as minimal as this crew ever got, yet the sub-par fidelity of the recording happens to mesh well with the intimacy of the spartan setup on this particular summer solstice in '98. In 2011 Braid reconvened for live shows and even new recordings, and the band just finished up a slate of dates this month commemorating the quarter-century birthday of Frame and Canvas.

01. killing a camera
02. i'm afraid of everything
03. urbana's too dark
04. never will come for us
05. first day back
06. a dozen roses (sort of)
07. niagara
08. forever got shorter
09. (strawberry ann) switzerland
10. ariel

Empire State Games - 7" (1998, Makoto)

See that banner at the head of the page?  When I started W/O in 2007 I rattled off a number of genres that I intended to specialize in. I haven't made much of a concerted effort in recent years to cater to the emo quotient, but I haven't outright abandoned it either.  With that I present you with a stellar 45 from Empire State Games, a quartet not from New York State ironically, but would you believe Plymouth, MI?  This single came to light mere years before emo would become neutered and retooled almost beyond recognition, and is that much more precious for it. Neither adhering to the genre's subrosa's genesis, circa, Washington D.C. in the mid-80s, nor forecasting the capitulated strain thereof to follow shortly in the twenty-first century, bands like ESG instead played the compelling card of distortion, smothered melody, and slightly maudlin angst that made so many of their contemporaries like Garden Variety, Sideshow and even the Promise Ring such a colossal treat.  These guys didn't boast an extensive catalog, or even a full length to speak of, but they had phenomenal songs to fall back on.  Here are two of them.  If you dig what you hear, you might want to direct yourself yonder for a nice discography CD. 

A. 100 Years of Baseball
B. Dialogue (From a Movie)

Sunday, July 23, 2023

So pick your poison for the third time...

From 2002.  I've had track #6 (and even #2) stuck in my head for the past two weeks. Now it's time for them to get lodged in yours.

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


U.S. Mods - Station 7 (1988, Rockhill)

So much for me getting back on track and posting more often. At any rate, this one is of slightly higher caliber than what I've been offering of late. U.S. Mods.  Can't really tell you much about them other than they were a quartet, and apparently hailed from Dayton, OH.  Though they barely skewed towards genuine "mod" rock/pop, they did have a penchant for dabbling in power pop, collegiate indie rock, and even a loose approximation of post-punk.  Station 7 may not be a wall-to-wall Chanukah worthy platter, but there are a cluster of songs here that certainly are - "The Train," "Jumping Off Niagara Falls," "Sleeping With Father John," and the title cut.  Ample hooks, guitars, distortion and a rough hewn aptitude make Station 7 more than a pleasant surprise.  

01. Sleeping With Father John
02. Wake the World
03. Station 7
04. Is She Blind?
05. When's it Gonna Rain?
06. The Dreaded Year
07. The Train
08. Bricks
09. Jumping Off Niagara Falls
10. Not to be Found
11. Twirl Girl
12. Waiting All My Life
13. Father John's (Reprise)
14. Let's Take 'Em Away

Sunday, July 16, 2023

If I only could fit more of the truth inside those medium t-shirts…

Four eps, but all from the same artist released between 2021-22. For whatever the reason I decided to burn all of them to a cd-r to play in my car, and I soon discovered they all functioned together as a fairly cohesive album - and made for an outstanding listen too. I numbered each of the four folders in the order they were released, but assuming your new to the artist I wouldn't necessarily recommend that you listen to them in order, although it wouldn't hurt. 

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


Laughing Stock - Pipe Dreams (1985, Livestock)

Another mixed bag in a sea of mixed bags. Minneapolis' Laughing Stock had a few things going for them right off the bat, even before you heard a note of their music. Their lone, privately pressed record, Pipe Dreams was engineered by renown, Midwest indie-punk knob-twirler Steve Fjelstad, and the group recorded at famed Nicolett Studios. While it's unclear whether they were actually in cahoots with the Replacements, Paul Westerberg & Co are given a quick shout out in the album thank-yous. Not bearing any dreaded '80s production values is also a huge plus, albeit, some of the quartet's ideas here, aren't necessarily laughable, just lackluster. The good news is that L/S exuded a measurable quotient of momentum on the driving and guitars-y "The Boy Who Never Sleeps, "Carpathia Girl" and the harmony-laden "Amnesia." The sleepy ballad "Salutations" passes muster, but just barely. I'm not sure what these gents were thinking on the plodding, "The Local Bands," wasting a solid two minutes on the tune's somber, instrumental intro. They close things out with the frenetic, raging "Catholic Bulletin," though I'm not exactly clear what the source of the angst is. 

01. The Boy Who Never Sleeps
02. Amnesia
03. Salutations
04. The Local Bands
05. Carpathia Girl
06. Boy's Town
07. Laughingstock
09. Catholic Bulletin

Sunday, July 9, 2023

It's time to reach out any way, and put back color where it's dark.

Their fifth album found this crew placing themselves on an exciting, and considerably more tuneful trajectory. 

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


Balboa - Live Like This ep (1980, Single Sound)

Yet another record I don't own a physical variation of, but in the absence of something tangible I'll take whatever I can get, even ones and zeros. Hailing from Knoxville, TN and releasing this lone platter in their early '80s lifespan, Balboa angled for something poignant in a power pop-ish  realm on "Writer and Artist" and this ep's punky title cut, without slavishly skewing to said genre, or for that matter what was passing for new-wave at the time. The remainder of the record meanders into divergent paths, and frankly gets a little non-descript by the time they lay down "The Big Sleep." In doing my research on this foursome, I learned Balboa recently compiled these songs and about a dozen more into a digital compilation on Bandcamp at a really nice starting price. Consider this a sampler, and if you enjoy what you hear please consider sending a few dollars their way. 

01. Writer and the Artist
02. Live Like This
03. Be Somebody
04. The Big Sleep

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Drive Like Jehu - first album demos & live KXLU 1933 (R.I.P. Rick Froberg 1968-2023)

"NO!" I thought.  That was this past Saturday night when I learned of Rick's passing. How could a (seemingly, anyway) healthy 55 y/o male just drop dead in his sleep, much less someone who so strenuously and consistently contributed to my soundtrack (angsty as it sometimes is) since I was a teenager?  Perhaps Rick Froberg (aka Rick Farr or Rock Fork) had already reached the peak of the mountain in terms of artistic endeavors, but this was certainly an unfinished life. And he contributed to so many of our lives, fourfold in some cases, if you were an aficionado of his quartet of music endeavors Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes and Obits. Rick was a singular visual/graphics artist as well, somehow translating his mangled sonic splay on tape to the canvas. I'm not about to tell you any personal stories because I don't have any, nor do I have time to critique his fairly robust catalog, so will you settle for a few random thoughts?

Most Froberg devotees got on board with Jehu, but I was lucky enough to start with the first building block, the lovingly sinewy and dexterous Pitchfork, not from being a fan in their native San Diego, circa 1990, but rather via a review of their posthumously released Eucalyptus, possibly in a Alternative Press or Option. From what I recall a reference to Superchunk was all it took to have me bounding through the door, but there was so much more waiting in the wings.  Pitchfork's math-rock smarts, artful underpinnings and sheer technical finesse slowly unfurled upon each subsequent listen of Eucalyptus, to the extent that I soon became thoroughly rapt. Quite literally this was music that I had never encountered before...or would again.

By the time they were put to pasture in mid-90s, Froberg's Pitchfork bandmate John Reis was the prime-mover in the considerably more visible Rocket From the Crypt, yet he would soon be splitting his time with Rick's next endeavor, Drive Like Jehu. Not unlike Fugazi, DLJ forged their own indigenous and incendiary stripe of punk, possessing unwieldly dynamics and an altogether startlingly vicious m.o. that tended to make Pitchfork sound like something of a warmup in comparison. In the wake of Rick's passing, it's been stated numerous times online that he "found his voice" in Jehu. Equal parts catharsis, indignation, and vulnerability it can truly be said that his trademark timbre tapped something deep from the human condition. In terms of the band proper, Jehu were bejeweled with rancorous intent, often recoiling mere inches before careening off the edge of a cliff like umpteenth scenes in a Warner Bros. cartoon. And may I remind you, this band was responsible for perhaps the most uncompromising and commercially unaffected major label album ever, 1994's Yank Crime.  

I could speak volumes on Hot Snakes as well, but since this post only concerns recordings circa DLJ, I'll draw to a close here. The musical portion of this presentation concerns an early set of demos cut in 1990 for the first album. While I can only offer MP3s of those tracks, I'm giving you a lossless option for the live session they tracked for L.A.'s KXLU in October of 1993, which at the time found them previewing key tracks from Yank Crime.  As frustrating as Froberg's passing is, he leaves behind a devastatingly visceral legacy.

1990 demos - Hear
01. O Pencil Sharp
02. Turn it Off
03. Spikes to You
04. If it Kills You

KXLU FM 10/25/93 - MP3 or FLAC
01. New intro
02. New Math
03. Golden Brown
04. Do You Compute
05. Luau
06. Bullet Train to Vegas

Monday, July 3, 2023

You made a vow so you better leave him right now.

A collection of early eps from one of Australia's most melancholy but engrossing propositions of the 1990s. Sorry for another week of non-posting. Some heavy stuff happening on my end, but will have something for you in the next day or so.

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