Sunday, November 26, 2023

It did me better in the long run, it did me better in the end.

From 1981. Essentially a one-off album from a band commandeered by a prolific singer, songwriter and toiler of cult renown. One of his most linear and satisfying forays into power pop. 

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


Let's pretend that we could never reach the end...

When this dropped a few Black Friday's ago (2017 to be exact) it seemed kind of, well, random.  Why demos for the P.O.V. album, and why only three selections from that particular title?  In the '80s Todd Rundgren and Utopia reliably toured and dropped a new album roughly every year until they ceased around 1985.  P.O.V. was the finale for Runt and Co., and while it didn't quite reach the infectious Beatlesque plateaus of Deface the Music (1980) and the even better self-titled Utopia two years later, P.O.V. did bear copious fruit.  If you're an aficionado of this era of the man and his band in question, from album to album you by and large knew what you were in for with each succeeding release - tight production, a predictable mix of ballads and taut rockers, perhaps a little prog seasoning, and of course Utopia's trademark, heavy-handed harmonies. Thankfully it was an era when the major labels still peddled some integrity amidst an ever-accumulating quotient of commercial gloss and overbearance.  It seemed like such a simpler and more gratifying time but I digress.  Once again, the ep I'm presenting here is only three songs deep with prototypes that were quite hashed out already and would differ little with the finished versions. Slight as they may be the discrepancies are present, and the tunes are thoroughly rewarding. Enjoy.

A1. Secret Society
A2. Mated
B. Play This Game

Monday, November 20, 2023

The Darling Buds - Killing For Love: Albums, Singles, Rarities and Unreleased 1987-2017 (2023, Cherry Red)

Perhaps not as lyrically profound as the H.E. Bates novel this photogenic coed quartet (and eventual quintet) purloined their moniker from, The Darling Buds were responsible for a profound amount of affecting and winsome guitar pop that spanned two decades and six robust years, churning out a trio of renowned albums.  The packed and newly released 85-track Killing For Love box corrals not only these full lengths (Pop Said, Crawdaddy and Erotica) but virtually every contemporary b-side, early recordings, demos and even a few representative live cuts in one fell swoop illustrating the prowess and quality control that the Buds seemed capable of exuding at virtually every turn.

Helmed by frontwoman Andrea Lewis the band was established with guitarist Harley (Geraint Farr) in 1986 in Caerleon, Newport Wales. Inspired in part by the blossoming UK indie movement of the era the Darling Buds though plenty raw at first quickly segued if not into a "hit-factory," per se, a wholly reliable guitar pop entity delivering vivacious, three-minute refrains adorned with saccharine hooks, crunchy guitars and a dollop of '60s girl-pop savvy.  Structurally, they were on an even keel with home-country mates The Primitives, so much so that comparisons were inevitable. Commencing their swath with the 1987 "If I Said" single (and a clutch of heretofore unreleased demos from the same period compiled on the "early years" portion of Killing For Love) the Buds came across as veritably savage in their most nascent phase, but for the most part downright catchy.  The Jesus and Mary Chain were an early reference point, but this proved to be a fleeting phase for the band, as Lewis and Co. were already on their way to shedding some of their noisome tendencies by the time '88 rolled around for two more singles "Shame On You" and "It's All Up To You" both making their digital debut in their set. Unmoored from the constraints of the mainstream record industry the Darling Buds packed a visceral bite on these wonderful early 45s and even though three-plus decades have passed they still illicit an intoxicating rush.     

The Bud's debut, Pop Said arrived in 1988 on Epic, and even the dented the charts. More significantly it was a quantum leap from their preceding releases, manicuring some of the noisome clamor without stifling an iota of the effervescence. Still very much in the punk-pop wheelhouse the overall effect of the band at this interval wasn't unlike the early Go Go's, minus some of the harmonies of course. Pop Said is a start-to-finish whirring buzzsaw of a hookfest, relentlessly indelible and sing-songy in the most sophisticated guise this stripe of music ever presents itself.  A near-perfect record, one that only the Buds could (slightly) improve upon.  The album is accompanied in this set with no less than ten b-sides and alternate versions.

Their attack and acumen got doubly tighter on 1990's Stephen Street produced Crawdaddy, which may not have lit up the charts back home but seemingly gave our protagonists exponential notoriety in the States, at least with the burgeoning alternative clientele of the time. "Tiny Machine," "Crystal Clear," and "It Makes No Difference" should have beckoned as FM radio clarion calls on both sides of the Atlantic.  Just when I thought the Darling Buds couldn't have exuded any greater universal appeal they deliver an equally dazzling follow-up that in fairness occasionally tamps down on the extraneous guitar crunch in favor of something more rhythmically aware. Crawdaddy was incontrovertibly the next logical step in their progression. As for the three extra versions of "Tiny Machine" tacked on at the end, why not?

Not a sea change so much as subtle evolution, their third and final LP, Erotica featured no less than two songs conducive to dream-pop, "One Thing Leads to Another" and "Angels Fallen" boasting discernably flanged guitar effects that were nearly startling on my initial listen. Elsewhere "Sure Thing" could have comfortably rubbed elbows with the likes of Juliana Hatfield and Velocity Girl.  Thanks to a considerable push from Epic, "Long Day in the Universe" and the sugary confection "Please Yourself" made the most sizable waves, garnering even more endeared Yankee ears, but bona fide stardom wasn't in the cards. Shortly after Erotica's album cycle the Buds decamped to Los Angeles and managed to eke out some promising demos just prior to what would be an amicable breakup. 

That leads me to the fifth and final installment of Killing for Love, a nicely patched together odds and sods composite of some random but fascinating demos from yesteryear, a few Erotica-era live cuts, the contents of the aforementioned L.A. demo session, with the finale featuring all four songs from the band's underpublicized 2017 reunion EP, Evergreen, a brief but effective return to form.  True, Killing... is an exhausting archive of the Darling Buds catalog writ large, but even more than a tidy summation of the band's career it's a testament to their consistency as songsmiths and dazzling melody-peddlers. Frankly, this is astonishing stuff kids. The whole enchilada is available in a clamshell box set straight from Cherry Red or Amazon.

Spun up meals on crooked wheels.

From 2016. Like a postpunk Sundays adorned with a noir edge, a few notches short of goth. 

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


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Art Kritics - Duck and Cover (1987, Da Dü Discs)

And now for something a tad frivolous (but just a tad). Boasting a correspondence address of Springfield, MA this quartet is otherwise a cold case with virtually no archival web presence...until now. Sort of an acerbic punk/power pop setup here, not overwhelmingly reminiscent of anyone, but they seem to share the same headspace as say, Too Much Joy at times. Side one of this platter seems to boast some of the Art Kritics sharper ideas, with a fine opening salvo, "Last Phone Call" which deftly fuses guitars and synths in that telltale mid-80s AOR manner. "Cyndy Changed Her Name to Charlie" is that more impressive, and oddly enough isn't as sardonic as it's premise suggests. "All By Myself" isn't the Eric Carmen chestnut, but the band does tackle the Chambers Brothers' classic "Time Has Come Today" relatively convincingly.  Duck and Cover is a fun, if not quite revelatory romp. 

01. Last Phone Call
02. Cyndy Changed Her Name to Charlie
03. How Do They Sleep at Night
04. All By Myself
05. America
06. Feeding Me Dirt
07. Time Has Come Today
08. T.V. Patrol
09. D N A

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Who are they to say, I do thing’s my own way.

A compilation of singles and non-LP scree spanning 1991-93. Mostly unintelligible lyrics on this one. Dig in.

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


V/A - You're a Super Lady 7'' ep (1996, Corduroy)

I couldn't get enough of Canadian indie rock in the '90s, and even though labels like Sub Pop and Murderecords, Teenage USA, Cinnamon Toast, and Mint had a lot of the bases covered, there were oodles of bands that went underrepresented. You're a Super Lady is a compilation 45 that from what I understand was accompanied by a fanzine, that I either never received or misplaced. Luckily I still have the wax (and oversized picture sleeve) which does a succinct job of covering four neglected outfits, including a favorite of mine, Mystery Machine that ironically as it turns out weren't so neglected given they were signed to Nettwerk Records. They're contribution, "3 Fisted" is a jangly, distortion prone tempest that was a b-side from their spellbinding Glazed album, circa 1992. There's not much info to be had on ThanatoPop and Loomer, although the later churn up a noisome maelstrom that will charm the pants off the Unwound fans in the audience. The all female Halifax quartet Plumtree were able to garner a reasonable following, with three albums to boast for themselves, and a crunchy, muscular indie pop sound that transcended the typical twee contingents of their era. 

01. ThanatoPop – Friend Surplus
02. Mystery Machine - 3 Fisted
03. Loomer - Montazuma's Revenge
04. Plumtree - Fatherhood

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Life in General - s/t ep (1982, Panece)

By 1992 it was a cinch to typecast music emanating from Seattle. Ten years prior, not so much.  Life in General were gestated under the name of X-15, but released two records under the banner of LiG including this ep in '82.  Despite the brevity of their tunes, they didn't quite breach into punk or hardcore environs (and certainly not some proto form of grunge), yet they struck me as discerning connoisseurs of UK post-punk a la Bauhaus and Gang of Four, with mouthpiece Kelly Mitchell dead-panning Peter Murphy at times, just not as austere. The urgency coursing through "The Fog" and "Affliction" really feed into Life's distinctive schtick and make this all too-fleeting ep something of a revelation, or at the very least a revelation when it dropped some 41 years ago. Live versions of material from this record along with a subsequent single and previously unreleased tunes were later compiled under the band's former X-15 moniker in the guise of Bombs and Insurance

01. Respite Lost
02. The Fog
03. That's Life
04. Affliction
05. One Way

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Everything you touch just ends.

 From 2017. 

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