Sunday, June 30, 2024

Johnny if you want to survive, you got to play your part to stay alive.

Vintage goods from the Netherlands.  In a perfect world I would have been tipped off to this one decades ago.

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


Saturday, June 29, 2024

Marginal Man - s/t (1988)

Before I received a request for this one a couple of weeks ago, my awareness of Marginal Man began and ended with their 1984 Dischord Records debut, Identity, wherein the band made a solid case for their hardcore punk bona fides, a la 7 Seconds and Government Issue.  Even back then they suggested further development was on the horizon, and by the time they got around to their third album (this one) they may as well have changed their moniker along with their rebooted ethos.  There's not a shred of the early, proto-emo dabblings from their days of yore to be had on Marginal Man, rather this crew completely traded that inspired guise in for gritty, punk 'n roll vaguely recalling the Lime Spiders, early Snatches of Pink, and likely some more obvious comparisons that I'm blanking on at the moment.  Sounded like these guys were making a play for the radio as well. I certainly appreciate the snarl factor here, and it's a satisfying listen, just quite a 180.  Would be fascinated to learn what led to Marginal Man's drastic transition, because I'm sure there's a story there.

01. Time
02. What Did He Say
03. Metal Madness
04. Gentry
05. Under a Shadow
06. Home
07. I Had a Feeling
08. Mind on Hold
09. Spirits
10. Sea of Sorrow

Friday, June 28, 2024

Painted Willie - Live From Van Nuys ep (1986, SST)

I'm always a bit late to cracking open books I purchase, even when I obtain them relatively close to their publishing date.  In fact I'm usually a couple of years behind the curveball with anything I read, save for the occasional periodical.  Jim Ruland's Corporate Rock Sucks - The Rise and Fall of SST Records has been no exception, and as I write this I'm about three-quarters of the way through the tome in question.  If you've been an early adopter of Wilfully Obscure, Painted Willie might not be quite such an arcane quantity, as this is the fourth post I've dedicated to them, yet despite their SST pedigree there isn't much in the way of ephemera to be had on them, online or otherwise.  Maybe you can chalk up their low-key legacy to the trio's stubbornly "intermediate" aptitude, which entailed no shortage of skate-punky riff-ola, and a prowess for arpeggios which never completely gestated.  Their reliably fun, albeit good-but-not-great penchant did however translate effectively in a live setting, and this bite-sized chunk of a March 1986 gig situated near their home turf is actually a decent introduction for the uninitiated.  The track selection for Live From Van Nuys is wisely cherry-picked, centering on some of the Willie's most immediate and memorable salvos, chief among them the power-chord ridden "The Big Time" and "Crossed Fingers." They plow through Love's "Little Red Book," upping the tempo of the chorus, just shy of butchering the overarching effect. Truthfully, I admired P/W for what they were, meager as their capabilities sometimes were - and therein resided 90% of their charm.    

01. Crossed Fingers
02. The Big Time
03. Kill It
04. Upside Down Town
05. Little Red Book
06. Cover Girl

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Reviews you can use: The Mosquitos, Falling Stairs and sparkle*jets u.k.

In case you haven't noticed I'm way overdue for some reviews of current releases and reissues, and I'm going to try to address that over the course of the next few paragraphs.  I appreciate everyone that has been gracious enough to set up vinyl and CDs.  Being provided with physical media is more of a luxury than ever, and if I haven't been thoughtful enough to those who go to the trouble your generosity is appreciated.  More critiques to come in the near-future, I might add. 

Spandex. Breakdancing. Mullets. And just about dayglo-everything.  For better or worse this is the world in which Long Island's Mosquitos were forced to toil and contend with.  But guess what? They weren't having a lick of it.  In fact, it would seem like this quintet hadn't gotten the bat signal that the world had evolved past say, 1966.  Stuck in their own time-warp, not unlike similarly bespoke San Diego brethren The Nashville Ramblers, this quintet carved out a small niche within the environs of New York's power pop circuit alongside contemporaries The Bongos and Fleshtones, yet their antecedents were entirely steeped in British Invasion and Merseybeat pop, with nary an inclination to the present day - and you can take that literally.  Their discography consisted of a well received 1985 ep, (That Was Then, This is Now), and if you want to get technical a few demo tapes, but that lone record was essentially all that was made available for public consumption - until 2023, which saw the release of the double CD This Then Are the Mosquitos, and the more concisely consolidated vinyl incarnation, In the Shadows.  

The Mosquitos replication of the Cool Britannia epoch was awe-strikingly spot-on, wherein the band's five protagonists uncannily could have slotted in precisely with Help!, Face to Face-era Kinks, or the Dave Clark Five, etc.  They completely had the instrumentation, tonality and poise of the mid-60s down to a science, so much so that "I Know a Secret," "You Don't Give a Hang (About Me)," and "Put Your Foot Down" could have passed for veritable oldies - that is if it wasn't for copyright dates revealing these tunes were actually minted two decades later.  The 'squitos were genuinely expert and adept at the card they were playing, but for every fan they successfully roped in, there was likely to be a dozen or so would-be-listeners that were put off by their schtick, or more realistically, completely checked out in a haze of MTV and video games.  That being said, the bustling forty song-plus This Then... is really aimed at two parties - Brit Invasion aficionados and the Mosquitos small but gonzo fanbase.  Though their studio work was limited (hovering around fifteen numbers) the band was remarkably well documented, with about ten quality soundboard recordings of live gigs surviving over the ensuing decades, yielding much of This Then's... retro-laden manna.  I'd be remiss if I failed to mention The Mosquitos were responsible for writing the original version of the Monkees '80s comeback hit, "That Was Then, This is Now," which might ring a bell to a lot of Gen-X'ers in the audience.  A bit cloying?  Sure, but if you're down for what these not-so pesky insects were dishing out there's a bountiful hive of music to adore here. This Then... is available directly from Kool Kat Musik or Bandcamp

Having surely made your acquaintance with Falling Stairs when I posted their marvelous That and a Quarter mini-album several years ago (2010 if you're keeping tabs), you'll be pleased as punch to know that they've made their slim but estimable catalog available again - physically no less. In  reference to the moniker of this long defunct Queens, NY quartet, you’ll find nary a stumbling block on Falling Stairs first record in 35 years.  Not that everything occupying the twelve grooves on Life is a Kick Trial 1988-1993 is actually ‘new’ per se, considering this is a retrospective absorbing the entirety of the aforementioned, That and a Quarter alongside five scarce and/or heretofore unreleased tracks.  F/S deserved a better lot than their meager exposure on a few left-of-the-dial outposts accorded them, with a warm, reverby vibe that smacked of halcyon era R.E.M., not to mention lesser renown buried treasures like Bleached Black, Beauty Constant and Lifeboat.  From the jackhammer power pop fervor of “Man-Made” to “Good Intention’s” acousti-folk lilt …Kick Trial makes a crucial argument for this combo's neglected legacy. It's available immediately as a limited vinyl and digital release here.

Not unlike the Mosquitos compilation I went on about at the beginning of this piece, my assessment of sparkle*jets u.k.'s 2023 platter, Best of Friends is loooooooong overdue.  So much so in fact the band is actually on the verge of releasing a new album this summer, Box of Letters, which I'll try to share my thoughts in a more timely manner.  So, why am I not dedicating space to the new one, when Best of Friends is several months (if not close to an entire year in the rear view)?  Because for me ....Friends is the most consequential item in the sparkle*jet's long and storied catalog. In a nutshell, back in the mid/late-90s I couldn't get enough of the groovy power pop (and adjacent) music scene emanating from the City of Angels.  It seemed as is every other month during the Clinton-era another crucial, revelatory album from a Los Angeles-based cabal was dropping, be it in the guise of new CDs from the likes of The Wondermints, Baby Lemonade, The Sugarplastic, and more that I'll be disclosing momentarily.  

Best of Friends is a covers album that's a self described "love letter" to the 'jets' local peers - bands and songwriters they shared bills with, came up with, and generally speaking, mutually supported.  It functions both as a flattering tribute and as an ingenious time capsule of sorts, revisiting the music of essential L.A. aggregations Cockeyed Ghost, Double Naught Spies, The Negro Problem, Sugarplastic, Shazam, and Big Hello just to rattle off a portion of those paid homage to here.  You'd think half the rosters of Not Lame and Big Deal Records are represented on ...Friends, because veritably speaking that's practically the case.  And represented reverentially at that, with the coed 'jets in almost all cases impeccably retaining the original arrangements. True, the original incarnations of TNP's "Mahnsanto" and The Wondermints' "In and Around Greg Lake" are stunningly priceless, yet the new coatings of paint they're treated to here illicit a similar visceral rush - a feat than any given tribute album should strive for, yet so rarely achieves. Heck, along the way I even discovered a handful of songs from phenomenal acts like the See Saw and Kompost that were brand new to this set of this ears, offering plenty of motivation for me to investigate their respective bygone catalogs. And with 21 selections, there's no shortage of hooks to engulf yourself in.  Best of Friends can be had directly from Big Stir Records and Bandcamp, digitally or on double-LP and CD.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

I got a ringing in one ear and reason whispering in the other...

From 2006.  This one's a bit more aggressive than what I usually offer, but when I first encountered it two year ago I was utterly compelled.  The second greatest band to ever hail from Bellingham, WA?

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


Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Great Divide - s/t ep (1987, Big Fish)

I'm about to lose some serious indie cred for this one, despite the fact that it's a legit independent release.  The truth is, I had a lot of affection for '80s Top-40 when it was still a going concern.  Although this Cambridge, MA co-ed six piece, whose name was never uttered by Casey Kasem, The Great Divide nonetheless would have fit in like a glove wedged between say, The Hooters and Mr. Mister.  To be even more specific, these folks resembled a carbon copy of one of their equally lesser-known contemporaries, Tuesday Blue.  There's more sheen on this ep then you'd ever attempt to wax your proverbial pony with, but I'll be damned if "The Touch" and "Walk Into the Fire" don't exude the same affectations that had the aforementioned success stories dominating the middle-of-the-dial four decades ago. I'm not quite as moved by the second half of The Great Divide, even taking into consideration the title track's crafty juxtapositions.  True, this isn't quintessential Wilfully Obscure terrain but I stand by it, albeit with some reservations.  

01. The Touch
02. Walk Into the Fire
03. Open Roads
04. The Great Divide

Monday, June 17, 2024

Alter Boys - Counter Intelligence (1995, Ng)

I've taken quite the hiatus from posting anything regarding the Alter Boys - and considering they haven't been a recent proposition I suppose they have as well.  Yep, you heard it here first folks, way back in 2011 when I spoon fed you a 1987 album dubbed Soul Desire, and a few months later an even more stimulating single from earlier in their career.  The Alter Boys ramshackle, Replacements-cum-U2 bash 'n pop was utterly irresistible when I first laid ears on that wonderful debut 45, "Piles," and it still elicits something of a rush. Yet, I know all along that this NYC conglomerate weren't merely a Reagan-era venture, and that Counter Intelligence, a mid-90s reunion album of sorts also existed - and, voila, today it's yours for the taking. Boasting a tighter and logically more mature aptitude, CI beats Soul Desire to the punch in the diversity department, dipping it's collective fingers in a myriad of pies while still skewing to the informal moxie that brought me to the table in the first place. ...Intelligence isn't necessarily one for the time-capsule, yet the Alter Boys casual but committed aplomb yielded a dozen (mostly) solid songs, and functioned as a comforting antidote to the flashier and billowy trappings of it's era.

01. Gashound
02. Hold Me Up
03. Let's End
04. Nothball
05. Ironlung
06. Cry a Little Bit
07. C'n Opn'r
08. If You're So Smart
09. Sundown
10. Diesel Down
11. How Long, Far?
12. Another Lonely Weekend  


Sunday, June 16, 2024

I get ripped apart, pick it up and take it home again.

For me and many of my friends this was one of the most significant records of 1997, maybe even the decade.  It was frustrating not seeing these guys break through to a national audience.  Perhaps there were valid reasons for this, but as the song says, "you can't fight something you can't see..."

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


The High Five - Working For the Man 7" (1984, Big Village)

My apologies for not presenting you with new music this week.  I intend to make it up to you by sharing two items on Monday (one of them most certainly being a Mystery Monday installment). 

Over the years I've featured titles that are bona fide classics (some far more renown than others) that have more than earned their installation in the echelons of indie/alt rock glory.  I'm afraid the single I'm offering today isn't quite of that lofty caliber...though it's still certainly commendable.  The hard scrabble, stick-it-to-the-man, ethos laid out on the comic strip gracing the sleeve of this 45 does indeed lend itself to the modus operandi of Liverpool's The High Five, albeit this quartet's delivery system wasn't particularly punk, pub, wave or the like. That doesn't render the band any less anthemic however, with these gents loosely conveying themselves as a kinder, gentler Big Country or Alarm.  A full length, Down in the No-Go, followed in 1986, and I'm curious to lay ears on it to gauge what their inevitable progression yielded. 

A. Working For the Man
B. Walk Them Back

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Now that you're old enough to lose your own mind...

Deftly crafted, retro-fitted indie pop from 2014.

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


Jules Shear - Demo-itis (1986, Enigma)

I never really caught the bug for Jules and the Polar Bears, and by extension Jules Shear solo/songwriting career that eventually followed. Why?  Maybe  because the Polar Bears were before my time, so to speak, and even though they were the product of a major label, they existed outside the realm of Top 40 radio, an arena I didn't investigate wholeheartedly until the mid-80s.  Nonetheless, I can easily justify the acclaim that was so frequently siphoned onto said band.  

That being said, I'm not sure why I opted to take the plunge with Demo-itis, which technically isn't even a proper album, rather as it's title makes obvious, prototypes of songs to be pursued and perfected at a later date.  Oddly enough, the vast majority of these songs (save for "If She Knew What She Wants" and "She's in Love Again") didn't make the cut for his bona fide solo records.  As Demo's compiler, Sam Franklin is wont to point out in the liner notes, that's not so much a byproduct of these tunes being throwaways, rather the exact opposite - Jules Shear was so prolific and substantive that this collection exists as a means of salvaging many primo compositions that would have otherwise languished on the shelf.  

I'm not sure exactly how many of this baker's dozen tracklist were actually sold or given to other artists to make their own, perhaps for two well known exception, "If She Knew..." which went to the Bangles for 1985's Different Light, and of course, the considerably more veritable hit "All Through the Night" which Cyndi Lauper ballad-ized and took to the bank. Jules' early incarnations of both future-hits sound a tad stiff held up to the more famous versions, yet somehow more earnest than the ones the general public became acquainted with.  Elsewhere, there are plenty more invigorating guitar-pop salvos, including "Deliver Love," "Chain Within a Chain," and the aforementioned "She's in Love" which would have held up to just about anything on the first two Marshall Crenshaw albums. The driving "Trained For Glory" sports a rollicking, Dylan-esque air, "Eligible For Parole" wields Rockpile-ish punch galore, and the synth-endebted "Take The Risk" indulges in some mild concessions to the new wave era. Not bad for a record of glorified outtakes!

01. Deliver Love
02. Chain Within a Chain
03. If She Knew What She Wants
04. Trained For Glory
05. Different Sands
06. Eligible For Parole
07. She's in Love
08. I Didn't Know Your Smile
09. You Are My Heartache
10. He Tore My World Apart
11. Take the Risk
12. All Through the Night
13. I Know You're Not Alive

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Don’t say I’ve got no heart. What I put together, I can take apart.

A collection of this New York quartet's studio recordings circa 1977-78.  It's about as far as I delve into no-wave.

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


Saturday, June 1, 2024

Bastro - Rode Hard and Put Up Wet ep (1988, Homestead)

Often plagiaristicly resembling Big Black (and to a lesser extent Breaking Circus) Bastro's messy, cathartic guitar-laced industrial grind practically worships at the altar of Albini & Co. on their debut ep - and maybe that explains why I can't get enough of it.  Featuring two expats of Squirrel Bait (David Grubbs and Clark Johnson) Bastro, in tandem with their Chicago icons, employed a drum machine. Despite what sounds like a jumbled, claustrophobic mix, Rode Hard... at the very least is not diminished or diluted in the songwriting department, with the bristling "(I've) Ben Brown" effectively hailing the band's breathless arrival.  "Loam" and "Three Eggs In a Sock" breach similar caustic, post-punk depths, and in fact there are virtually no respites in sight on this wonderfully furious record, save perhaps for "Counterrev: Bhutan" a cacophonous instrumental peppered with free-jazz horns. Two full lengths were to follow: Diablo Guapo and Sing the Troubled Beast before Grubbs carved out a niche for himself in the '90s with Gastr Del Sol and Palace.

01. (I've) Ben Brown
02. Three Eggs in a Sock
03. Counterrev: Bhutan
04. Gold Fillings
05. Loam 
06. Extract