Monday, April 29, 2024

V/A - Downtown NYC (1988, Virgin)

I marvel that there was a time when major labels would have the gumption (and purse) to simply take a chance and release something seemingly on a lark.  If not necessarily a full length album by some thoroughly unknown quantity, at least the occasional compilation featuring unproven artists of that ilk, including those doggedly left-of-center.  The ten-song various artists foray dubbed Downtown NYC, released with ostensibly little fanfare in 1988 was just such a record, and a strikingly eclectic platter at that. 

Downtown NYC is not one of those legendary time capsules, like say, No, New York. documenting a certain niche, rather a mish mash of widely disparate genres, for the most part honing in on new and upcoming talent.  The only real semblance of a unity here in fact is the opening cut, a euphoric, soulful spin on Petula Clark's "Downtown" by the impromptu Downtown Chorus featuring members from a handful of the other bands occupying this same 33 1/3, the Uptown Horns, Jerry Harrison, and I would imagine some session musicians to boot. The overall effect is that a of a lively Broadway cast recording.  This leads into the album's finest moment, a just-under three-minute slice of guitar pop genius from Mark Johnson. "Breakin' Rocks" is a perfect-ten that sounds 100% inseparable from anything that might have jumped off the first two Marshall Crenshaw albums, and is quite literally worth every penny of this record's cut-out-bin admission. I'm flabbergasted and will be checking out the arears of this mans catalog soon.  Surprisingly the only band featured here with any Wilfully Obscure overlap is Rude Buddha who's sassy "No More Gravy" is more nervy than anything on their 1985 Blister My Paint ep.  As for Loup Garou, I was never a mark for zydeco, but damn, these gents are mightily adept at their craft. 

Side two offers several pleasant surprises.  Going into this, I wasn't at all familiar with the late Frank Maya, who was a comedian by trade, however more notably on "Polaroid Children" he's backed up on guitar by Naux, a one-time Voidoid and part of the creative heft behind China Shop, a rather arcane but rewarding artifact of New York's no-wave syndicate.  Soma Holiday's syncopated synth-pop boasts more 1980s production indulgencies than one can shake a stick at, the absolutely frenetic and dissonant Ritual Tension are in prime under-your-skin form as usual, and Ok Savant whose discography consists of merely two compilation showings (this one included) involves the talents of Vernon Reid on "Rain."

01. The Downtown Chorus – Downtown
02. Mark Johnson - Breakin' Rocks
03. Rude Buddha - No More Gravy
04. Bernie Worrell - Telestar
05. Loup Garou - Two Step Du Loup
06. Frank Maya - Polaroid Children
07. Soma Holiday - Kiss Of A Stranger
08. OK Savant - Rain
09. Ritual Tension - Like a Slob
10. Songs From A Random House - Sheltered Life

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Monday, April 22, 2024

Mission -- The Last Detail (1983, Frantic)

Not to be confused with the British Mission U.K. (in fact, this Maryland-based quartet may have been responsible for forcing them to graft "UK" to the end of their moniker) this crew ironically sported a vividly evident Anglophile stripe themselves.  Definitely not full-fledged goth in the classic sense, Mission still managed to water down the likes of Bauhaus, with a vocalist in tow (David Jon Cawkwell) whose pipes nonetheless suggested discernable shades of Peter Murphy.  The Last Detail is passable, even satisfying on "What Goes Around," and more so on the positively punky "Interrogation," yet the going on this mini long-player rarely veers towards anything exceptional.  And why is that bands of their ilk/era always felt the need to offer an ironic reading of an overplayed classic rock tune, in this case a tired Monkees retread of all things? I hardly think the world was hankering for a noir take on "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone," but for better or worse it was committed to tape. Enjoy (or not).   

01. Dreaming
02. Reasons Why
03. Where Were You
04. What Goes Around
05. The Girl Next Door
06. Interrogation
07. Stepping Stone

Sunday, April 21, 2024

It's April 22, and everybody knows today is Earth Day...

Power pop-adjacent from 1991.

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


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Human Switchboard - Fly-In ep (1977/2019, Fat Possum)

What better way to commemorate another Record Store Day in the books than with a visit to a preceding RSD release?  Perhaps the only reason I never got around to featuring Cleveland's long departed Human Switchboard was because their catalog more or less became available via the handy Who's Landing in My Hangar? Anthology collection in 2011. Oddly enough as seemingly thorough as that album (and it's attendant bonus downloads, if I recall) was that wouldn't be the final H/S reissue in the pipeline.

Naturally, you took note of this records original 1977 copywrite date, and although this coed trio (eventually a quartet) called one of punk's early Meccas their hometown, they hardly bore any overlap with, say Pere Ubu or the Dead Boys, or for that matter other class of '77 mainstays like the Ramones and Talking Heads.  The four song Fly-In ep finds the band slotting in more appropriately with the likes of Question Mark and the Mysterians due in part to a mildly churning undercurrents of organ.  You won't find much in the way of jarring power chords here, rather a comparatively meager, and dare I say tentative lo-fi garage-pop aptitude overflowing with charm and integrity.  Fly-In's concluding number "San Francisco Nights" oozes an aplomb thoroughly steeped in the vein of the Velvet Underground, yet it's derivative nature is it's very selling point.  The 2019 Record Store Day reissue of this was adorned with wonderful packaging, a rather thick, 40-some-odd page black & white zine chockablock with articles, record reviews, gig flyers/posters and such, all pertaining to the band in question.  I didn't have the time or patience to scan the vast majority of the text, but I did sneak in roughly a page of concise liner notes.

01. Fly-In
02. Distemper
03. Shake It, Boys
04. San Francisco Nights

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Nothing left to do but watch the street undo....

Chilled-out, smooth-as-glass pop from 2019.

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


Seaweed - Beasides

I've had a full week to get my act together and rip some new (or more accurately, used) vinyl...but alas, I never got around to it.  Which is why I had to scrounge something up from my hard drive, specifically a fan-made compilation of b-sides and rarities from Tacoma WA's finest sons, Seaweed.  Over the course of five albums Adam Stauffer and Co. were an integral staple of my '90s soundtrack, bearing a distinctive roar that was never quite punk or grunge, but easily appealed to both sensibilities.  Adroit masters of the two minute form, they parlayed the buzz built-up on Sub Pop concoctions Weak and Four, and miraculously, when they took the major plunge for 1995's Spanaway they delivered on said accumulated promise in a monstrous way.  Seaweed were one of those rare beasts that rarely if ever exuded a misstep. 

As far as this somewhat haphazard collection is concerned it is presented somewhat chronologically, and for better or worse is chockablock with covers.  Yes, they pursue Fleetwood Mac's most overplayed hit, but they compensate for it with excellent readings of songs that Beat Happening, The Fastbacks, Jonathan Richman, and even hardcore cult legends The DehumanizersWeak's "Squint" is subjected to a radical remix, while "Losing Skin" is massaged much more subtly, skewing closer to it's original incarnation. And there's plenty more gold to boot.  A big shout out to whomever curated this collection. 

01. Bewitched (Beat Happnening)
02. Foggy Eyes (Beat Happnening)
03. Measure
04. Turnout
05. Taxing (demo)
06. Baggage (demo)
07. Pumpkin (Wwax)
08. Squint - The Killerest Expression
09. Go Your Own Way
10. Losing Skin (remix)
11. She Cracked (Jonathan Richman)
12. Kid Candy (radio edit)
13. Sing Thorugh Me (The Dehumanizers)
14. Shephard's Pie
15. My Letters (The Fastbacks)
16. Brand New Order
17. Days Missed Dearly

Monday, April 8, 2024

in your painted room, your first cameo.

From 2016.

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


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

PopeAlopes - Yolo County Line: The Good, the Bad, The Ugly (2002, P on the K)

This one has been on the burner for at least a decade and a half.  The fact that I had a request for this several months ago was certainly an impetus, but it was almost an inevitability that I would get around to sharing this bountiful three-CD mini box set of scarcities and rarities by the PopeAlopes, a Davis, CA indie proposition responsible for five redeeming and substantive albums through the late-80s and mid-90s.  Heck, I even reviewed Yolo County Line proper in 2011, but wasn't ready to disseminate it's content at the time as it was still available (albeit in small quantities). This likely isn't the case anymore, so without much further ado...

Going into this near 50-song collection of b-sides, outtakes, piss-takes, and concert and cable access TV performances it would be ideal to have some familiarity with the 'lopes, and seeing that I've featured their first couple of proper albums An Adder's Tale and Kerosene it's not beyond the realm of possibility to take that plunge.  A lot of you might be asking what in the hell were these chaps all about.  The aforementioned review can clue you in on that, but I tend to a spirited yet casual mélange of the following: The Reivers, Long Ryders, The Doors, and perhaps more minimally the likes of fIREHOSE, R.E.M. and the Replacements. If you go by what Trouser Press has to say the PopeAlopes come across as acolytes of True West, but my interest in T/W never extended that far to levy such a comparison. At last half of Yolo... consists of live recordings, the audio of which sounds to be culled from soundboard tapes. 

The collection is divvied up between what the band regards as material that ranges anywhere from decent to mediocre to not-so-much, but my assessment is that if they had the cojones to make this material available for public consumption in any amount even "the ugly" quotient of this is set is still relatively approachable.  And oh yeah, there's no shortage of covers populating this thing - "Wichita Lineman," "2000 Light Years From Home," Opal's "Happy Nightmare Baby, Galaxie 500's thoroughly winsome "Pictures," not to mention a riveting reading of T. Rex's indispensable "Telegram Sam."  As for originals, if I had to sweat it down to just one particular song to recommend in the band's repertoire here, I'd settle on the angular yet relentlessly ringing "Blesh." I've provided the entire tracklist directly to your right, and tucked the full artwork including liner notes inside the CD 1 (The Good) folder.  Enjoy. 

CD 1/CD 2/CD 3