Friday, December 19, 2014

4th night of Chanukah: Miracle Legion - Simple Thing tape (1983, Incas)

Behold.  The holy grail of Miracle Legion recordings!  For many years I only knew of the existence of the Simple Thing cassette/demo by virtue of it's mention in ML's entry in the Trouser Press Record Guide.  Granted, I'm making this a Chanukah offering, I know pretty darn well that this nugget won't qualify as particularly special or revelatory to the better part of you reading this.  So what's the big deal?  In a nutshell, I'm a mondo fan of Miracle Legions first two records, namely their 1984 debut ep, The Backyard, and their first full length, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise which arrived three years later.  Both are quintessential strum and jangle college radio staples that warranted a CD reissue decades ago (hint, hint Omnivore, Captured Tracks?)  No muss, no fuss.  Just effortlessly great pop tunes...that for better or worse received way too many comparisons to R.E.M., but I digress.

I don't own an original copy of Simple Thing, but I befriended someone who does.  Those of you acquainted with this fine Connecticut export may recognize a few songs by name ("All For the Best," "Little Man," etc) but will discover that these much rawer, nascent arrangements sound foreign by comparison to the incarnations that wound up on proper ML records.  The scintillating "Fight to Fight" is steeped in austere, jagged post-punk, and provides ample evidence that the band absorbed an earful of the first three U2 albums.  Ditto for the equally appealing "Stephen, Are You There."  Other selections aren't as compelling but are nonetheless cut from the same foreboding fabric.  When all is said and done, Simple Thing, paints a rough, and dare I say amateurish portrait of a band with a couple of really hot ideas, and lots of fine tuning ahead of them that would really pay off in the end.  A big round of applause to MT for setting me up with everything.  As obscurities go, this is inexplicably rare.

BTW, I previously shared a promo-only, 1992 Miracle Legion ep that's still for the taking here.

01. Fight to Fight
02. Little Man
03. All For the Best
04. Stephen, Are You There?
05. Loyalty
06. The Heroes Calling

MP3 (320 kbps)  or  FLAC

Thursday, December 18, 2014

3rd Night of Chanukah: The Square Root of Now - Bent Around Corners (1987, Parallax)

Ok, I might be cheating a bit with this one.  Technically, I posted this album way back in 2010.  It was my own vinyl rip, and I opted to remove it a few months later when I learned someone involved with SRoN was selling CD-Rs of a remastered version of it.  Since it's no longer for sale, I'm making it available again in it's remastered iteration - and this time I have more to say about it.

I purchased The Square Root of Now's Bent Around Corners based on it's eye-cathching, Kandinsky-esque cover art, but truthfully the rather oblique song titles adorning the back of the sleeve piqued my curiosity further.   Bent...turned out to be a surreal and sublime re-imagining of new romantic synth pop, the mainstream variation of which was already starting to taste pitifully stale and formulaic.  The record's three architects, frontman Dan DeWeese, bassist and keyboardist Fritz Martin, and drummer Chris Hall took full advantage of the state-of-the-art recording apparatus of the day, without submerging themselves (or their audience) in anything too gaudy or gratuitous.  The mystique exuded in the record's eleven songs aren't merely attributed to their esoteric nomenclature (albeit "If Motif; Why Wagon" and "Honndakanaya" are reflective of just that) rather there's a prevailing sonic aptitude that screams "exotic" pretty much anywhere the stylus falls on Bent Around Corners.  Martin's fret-less bass is a huge part of the equation (pun intended), and is every bit as sensual as the band's more traditional implements.

The production here is nothing short of plush and resonant, particularly when DeWeese waxes romantic on blissed-out ballads like "Compile Your Love" and "After the Rain."  In my original write-up I posited you could draw parallels between Square Root and relative contemporaries The Three O'clock and Glass Moon.  That observation holds true, particularly on the beaming opener, "Between the Light," which wouldn't sound too out of place on the Three's Arrive Without Traveling LP, also from '87.  Bent... concludes with a strapping finale in the guise of the title cut which crescendos to multiple hooks and sumptuous highs, leaving anyone within in earshot to wonder what a second SRoN album would have amounted to.  Regrettably, this was their first and final lap.

It's a bit hard to believe that music this weird, wonderful, and frankly other-worldy emanated from the unlikely locale of Jackson, Mississippi.  Ultimately, it's that dichotomy which makes Bent Around Corners even more of the singular and revealing treasure it is.  Sad to say, DeWeese passed away in 1999 from natural causes.  More can be read on him and Square Root on Facebook.  A huge debt of gratitude goes to Chris for setting me up with these files.

If anyone is interested in a FLAC version of Bent... let me know.  I'll try to make it available at some point.

01. Between the Light
02. Compile Your Love
03. If Motif; Why Wagon
04. Lunge Into Serious
05. Ceramic Angels
06. After the Rain
07. Tundra Stuff
08. Honndakanaya
09. Silly Spender
10. Count Me In
11. Bent Around Corners

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2nd night of Chanukah: The Wake - s/t ep (1985, Stonegarden)

If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery. R.E.M. should have been tickled pink, assuming they ever heard this obscuro L.A. bunch.  Just as the Beatles inspired untold hundreds if not thousands of wannabees to follow their legendary lead, Athens, GA's own fab four had more than a pronounced effect on impressionable collegiate dudes who might have otherwise still been mired in Ramones riffs were it not for incendiary missives like Murmur and Chronic Town.

Given a highly ubiquitous moniker, common last names, and their existence a solid decade before most of us had our hands on PCs, querying anything relevant regarding this L.A. based five-piece is an exercise in utter futility.  Yes, The Wake were undeniable acolytes of R.E.M., with a mouthpiece in Michael Horton who bore more than a faint resemblance to Michael Stipe.  Guitarist and songsmith Todd Larsen isn't the second coming of Peter Buck, but the aesthetic is present on the brisk and strident "Lion's Heart" and more so on the arpeggio laden "The Crystal Mile."  The record's comparative 'ballad,' "Forever Fair" wields a charm of it's own even if it's considerably meager to what Stipe & Co. could have done with it were it their own concoction.  Throughout The Wake, Larsen's prose is gently enlightened and pretension never bests him.  The Wake's formula was a simple yet effective one, something of an antithesis to all the Paisley Underground hoopla that was transpiring in the quintet's own backyard.
Despite the concluding "Flaming Crown" striking me as a bit of a slouch, this ep ranks as one of my best retro discoveries of the year. 

01. Lion's Heart
02. Forever Fair
03. The Thunder Man
04. The Crystal Mile
05. Flaming Crown

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

1st night of Chanukah: Magazine - (Maybe it's right to be nervous now) box (2000, Virgin)

As you might remember, when I announced the third annual Wilfully Obscure Chanukah series the other day, I mentioned something about a box set.  Well, here it is.  Magazine were a UK post-punk outfit who convened in 1978 and expired three years later.  They managed to churn out four studio records in that timespan - Real Life, Secondhand Daylight, The Correct Use of Soap, and Magic, Murder and the Weather, and a live album, Play, in between.  To some extent, Magazine were renown for their lineage more than anything else.  Prime mover Howard Devoto, was the co-founder and co-frontman of the Buzzcocks.  Devoto has been quoted as saying "I wasn't that wild on punk rock," and with that he departed the Buzzcocks before they even cut their first album.  Indeed, straight-up punk Magazine weren't.  Instead, Devoto and his three compatriots employed keyboards and dabbled in an array of sparse, artful textures.  Their debut LP, Real Life did occasionally concede to frantic tempos that didn't sound terribly removed from the Buzzcocks, but future singles and albums (often reminiscent of Wire and Brian Eno) clearly smashed that mold.

Maybe it's right... is an out-of-print three disk set that collects all of Magazine's non album singles, b-sides, alternate takes and live tracks, with an entire disk dedicated to Peel Sessions.  Disk one covers the Real Life and Secondhand Daylight eras, while the second gives equal deference to The Correct Use of Soap, and Magic, Murder and the Weather.  You might describe this as a vastly expanded edition of the band's initial odds and sods compilation Scree.  While the much more exhaustive Maybe... is potentially too much to bite off for the newly acquainted, it houses a wealth of classic Magazine tunes - "Shot By Both Sides," "A Song from Under the Floorboard," and "The Light Pours Out of Me," albeit in different versions.  You can check everything one disk at a time per the links below, and you can click the pic to your right for a full tracklist.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that Magazine have reunited for live shows and a new album in recent years.

Disk 1 - Real Life/Secondhand Daylight era
Disk 2 - Correct Use/Magic Murder era
Disk 3 - The Complete Peel Sessions

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tell me how long?

From 1981.  This trio, said to have been a key influence on bands like Fugazi, was a spinoff of a popular British punk band.

Game Theory - Dead Center (org 1984, Omnivore reissue 2014) - A brief overview

When it was announced in April of last year that Scott Miller had unexpectedly passed away at 53, it dawned on me that he had dropped off the radar of most fans (myself included) years if not decades ago - those fans, of course being devotees of his oblique, but renown cult-rock conglomerates Game Theory and Loud Family which ran roughly from 1982 to the mid 'aughts.  Upon learning the news, I wondered if I'd ever hear again of Millers accomplishments, let alone name outside of the hardy subset of indie-rock fans that embraced his music for the past three decades.  Sure, there was likely be a posthumous release of unreleased material, or perhaps something resembling a career-spanning "anthology," but as it would turn out something far more exhaustive would soon materialize - the incremental recommissioning of Game Theory's entire catalog via Omnivore Records beginning in late summer of this year.

Two months back I offered a few words on Blaze of Glory, GT's auspicious 1982 debut LP, the first installment in Omnivore's reissue campaign.  Dead Center (which compiles the bulk of the 1983 Pointed Accounts of People You Know ep, and it's follow-up short player Distortion) was initially a European release on the French Lolita label in '84.  However this isn't first time this material had seen a digital release, as both Dead Center and Blaze of Glory were combined on the 1993 Alias Records Game Theory release, Distortion of Glory.  Confused?  Like Blaze of Glory, the songs comprising Dead Center were slightly remixed and re-tweaked for the Distortion of Glory compilation (though I'm not sure if fans were actually paying attention).  The Omnivore reissues set the record straight, restoring both records to their originally intended mixes.

The songs comprising Dead Center (partially produced by the Three O clock's Michael Quercio) are more of a continuation of Blaze... than outright development (that would have to wait for 1985's Real Nighttime).  Game Theory's forward thinking pop, cloaked in a palpably mercurial and off-center ethos often drew comparisons to Big Star.  Truth is, Miller was way more Sister Lovers than #1 Record, as his band earliest efforts frequently hinged on the unpredictable.  "Nine Lives to Rigel Five," Shark Pretty," and "Penny Things Won't" all operate in a reliable neo-pop realm, not dissimilar to GT's contemporaries the dB's and Let's Active.  Further in, the driving "Shark Pretty" and "Too Late for Tears" up the ante rhythm-wise, and the beginning of the curious title track is a synth-indulgent foray that mines a DEVO-ish vein.  Although all songs are credited to a named drummer (Dave Gill) I suspiciously detect a drum machine being employed in more than a few instances...

As you might expect, Dead Center is buttressed by a bevy of bonus tracks - nearly a dozen of 'em at that.  There's a lo-fi acoustic run-through of Badfinger's "No Matter What," and an impromptu live rendition of R.E.M.'s "Radio Free Europe" that Miller manages to pull off adeptly.  Van Morrison's "Gloria" and Bryan Ferry's "Mother of Pearl" also get the in-concert Game Theory treatement.  There's not much in the way of studio extras, save for Michael Quercio's rough mix  of "Too Late For Tears," which is quite nice.  

Dead Center is available direct from Omnivore, or from such old reliables as iTunes, Amazon and Insound.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Watching the candles burn - The eight nights of Chanukah returns Tuesday night!

Wilfully Obscure's third annual Eight nights of Chanukah celebration is upon us, where we roll out eight consecutive nights/days of extra special, BFD audio curios.  In lieu of posting one monumental upload for Christmas, I decided to spread the goodies out over the eight nights of Chanukah (check out the preliminary details for 2012 & 2013).   This made sense on a couple of different levels.  For one, it accorded me the opportunity to share several mind-blowing "gifts" instead of just one mind-blowing whopper.  Secondly, Chanukah represents personal relevance to me.  We all know you were envious of that boy down the block who had a yarmulke festooned to his head, who was given the privilege of lighting the menorah, and of course, reveling in eight glorious nights of presents.  Once again, I'm paying it forward.

Entries from 2012 and '13 have included Velocity Girl, Jellyfish, The Pursuit of Happiness and Redd Kross, but name recognition is not necessarily guarnateed.  That being said, you are assured that whatever I share under the banner of the Festival of Lights is of exceptional quality and yours truly at least.  I'd be also be remiss if I didn't talk about quantity.  One night it could be a three disk box set, the next merely an ep, but just to reiterate, it's all good.

All of this begs the question, "Has Wilfully Obscure been holding out on us for the last 11 months?"  Somewhat...but not quite.  In short, the presents I plan on revealing over the eight nights of Chanukah are of considerably high caliber.  I like to think that everything I share qualifies as good to excellent, but to paraphrase that sage Orwellian dictum, some are more equal than others.  One final note of housekeeping - I will forgo Mystery Monday for the week of December 21 in order to maintain the continuity of the holiday as it falls on the calendar. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Poetry Grenade - Rocket (1990, Sonic Boom)

The gentle weaponry suggested in the moniker of this female-helmed Twin Cities quartet is an appropriate metaphor for the astute guitar-pop enshrined within RocketPoetry Grenade's polite panache may pull a few punches, however they aren't shy about throwing their proverbial muses around.  The band's overarching penchant generally occupies the same sonic strata as college rock contemporaries Tsunami and Vomit Launch.  And while not markedly innovative, PG usually pinpoint the sweet spot between contemplative and something considerably more rousing.

01. Cry
02. Occupation
03. The Door
04. Insufficiency
05. Rockeet
06. Crooked Words
07. Earthquake
08. Sea Monkey
09. Kicking & Screaming
10. Postcard 32
11. Spin

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sixteen Deluxe "Idea" 7" (1994, Trance Syndicate)

This isn't the first time I've reserved space on these pages for a Sixteen Deluxe 45, but I'll be damned if this isn't way more stimulating than the one I put up back in 2010 (when they only had a Myspace site, btw).  This 7" came to pass prior to their 1997 major label bid, Emits Showers of Sparks, an album that never completely sank in with me.  After hearing this much rawer, lo-fi precursor I plan on revisiting it, because SD absolutely wail on the noise addled, "Idea" wherein Carrie Clark's thinly distorted vox surf atop a J Mascis-y guitar line.  The flip, "Honey" is exponentially more adventurous - four minutes of ungodly, slow-burning shoegaze muck, that's so thick you might question whether your record player is still spinning at 45 rpm.  I'm lovin' it.  The band is making this, and a good chunk of their back catalog available thru Bandcamp on a name-your-price basis, but the rips I'm offering here are of my own handiwork. 

A. Idea
B. Honey

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I think the problem is I feel I’m all alone.

The third album of raw punk ‘n roll from a co-ed, Seattle legend.  Pointed Sticks cover track two.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Doughboys - Shine & Disposable eps (1993, A&M)

The Doughboys dizzying trifecta of initial albums (1987-90's Whatever, Home Again and Happy Accidents) were near-monumental to us "popcore" types, and while they steadily matured and blossomed during that era, true-blue fruition and consistency didn't quite rear it's head until 1993's Crush LP.  Crush was a hook-laced, should've-been-gigantic juggernaut of a platter that channeled the pummeling energy of those aforementioned disks into a much more orderly framework, benefiting from a truly professional producer in the form of Daniel Rey.  The Doughboys melodic structures were heightened to an even loftier plateau, and yes, while Crush was unmistakably polished, the "makeover," so to speak was worth it, yielding an amazingly gratifying spin cycle of a dozen tracks, including "Fix Me," "Melt," and "Tearin' Away."

The sessions for that album also gave rise to (at least) four outtakes that easily held their own with those that were reserved for the main course.  Luckily they were made available for public consumption, spread across two CD singles in their native Canada, and in the States on a pair of promo eps that I'm sharing today.  "Shawn's Stories" from Shine, and "Good Cop, Bad Cop" culled from the Disposable ep were streamlined slammers that I revisit almost as frequently as Crush itself, and I might also point out that the latter of those numbers hints at the subtle tweaks the Doughboys would have in store for album #5, Turn Me On three years later.  If my assumption for you newbies is confirmed, you'll indeed want to devour the album writ large. Crush is still available from Amazon and iTunes.

Shine ep
01. Shine
02. Forward Stop
03. Good Cop, Bad Cop

Disposable ep
01. Disposable (edit)
02. Disposable (LP)
03. Shawn's Stories
04. 16 Sins

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Western Eyes - s/t (1984, Trace Elements)

I stepped into this one relatively blind, based on nothing more than a seal of approval from the venerable Trouser Press.  One of Western Eyes most rewarding revelations was the prime mover of their lineup, Robert Poss who would later form and helm another New York based band near and dear to my heart, Band of Susans.  If BoS' scalding guitar maelstroms spelled sensory overload for you, Western Eyes were considerably more approachable, and better yet, song oriented.  Possessing the forward thinking aplomb of post-punk latch-hooked to a warmer and more conventional hard rock stride, W/E loosely approximate how Bruce Springsteen might have interpreted say, Mission of Burma or Nice Strong Arm - and it ain't nearly as offbeat as it sounds kids.  Melodically endowed charmers like "Television Rules," "Wonderful Life," and "Exchange it For a Dream" feature edgy guitar interplay between Poss and six-string co-conspirator Andrew Halbreich resulting in some genuinely thoughtful tunes along the journey.  Alas, my secondhand copy of Western Eyes is used and abused to say the least, and that translates into mucho surface noise.  While I was poking around online for anything relevant to this quartet, I learned that another blogger had offered this title up previously, so perhaps their rip is cleaner. 

01. A Better Story
02. All Too Real
03. Exchange it For a Dream
04. Swan Song on Broadway
05. Sacrifice
06. Shroud of Turin
07. Television Rules
08. Wonderful Life
09. No Less
10. Twenty-four Hour Protection
11. New Grub Street

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

D.D. Ranged - s/t 2x7" ep (1988, Deranged)

Another band that time forgot, hailing from a locale that I sometimes suspect likewise of, Mobile, AL (Ok, that one was very below the belt.  My apologies to all the Alabamans in the audience, I simply couldn't resist). Suffice to say, I can't enlighten you with very many details on this alternating trio/quartet who contain within their ranks a guitarist that coins himself as Self AbuseDiscogs categorizes D.D. Ranged as "punk," but I part ways with that classification.  Then again, I have yet to encounter the two full lengths that preceded this ep, The Fold and Unfolded.   As for the record I'm sharing tonight, D.D. Ranged are a scruffy looking lot with earnest indie-rawk aptitude that's not far off the mark from left-off-the-dial contemporaries like the Libertines USA, Alter Boys and Bleached Black.  Nothing too aggro here, and all the better for it if you ask me.  Spiffy gatefold packaging on this one as well.  Would love to hear those earlier albums and whatever else may exist by these lads.  Comment as you see fit.

01. Summer of Love
02. Second Hand Soul Girl
03. Girl Friday
04. Can't Hold On

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I'm coming clean, and it's a mess.

From 2006.  The third and said to be final album from a challenging, idiosyncratic pop/rock conglomerate with themes ranging from wrenching angst to the relatively lighthearted.  An acquired taste, but once the hooks set in...  As a bonus, you're also getting a Posies cover which appeared on their previous LP.