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