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)