It's been a staggering seven years since I presented Newkeys debut long-player, Acts of Love, but I don't recall it being half as enticing as this exponentially better 45. A D.C.-area combo that the hepsters of their era apparently wouldn't touch, the Newkeys possessed an anonymous but effective power-pop angle, that would have capably slotted in on a myriad of '80s comedy soundtracks, just as much as your hole-in-the-wall dive of choice. The out-and-out catchy "Not Just Alright" is the obvious keeper here, which coincidentally or not, is reminiscent of some of their equally clandestine contemporaries like the Dads and Volcanos. In what might be the first for a 7" (or perhaps even any record, period) the band includes an alternate ending to "...Alright," commencing immediately after you assume the track has ceased. Check out my original piece on the Newkeys here for more fun facts.
Ugh. Why do I keep making blind record purchases? Typically, '80s titles are pretty easy to gauge by sleeve art, and doubly so of the band shot invariably adorning a good portion of the back cover. I assumed that Metairie, Lousiana's Something Blew would be no exception, so upon examining the bouncy font gracing the front, and the vaguely bratty visages on the reverse, I walked away thinking this quintet had something punky, or at the very least lively to extol. Within seconds of queuing up the lead-off "In Dependence" I hear...flamenco guitars? Nothing heavy handed mind you - a very minute flourish in fact, but talk about being thrown for a loop. I was soon faced with the sobering realization that S/B were about as edgy and provocative as contemporaries An Emotional Fish and Nuclear Valdez, if those names mean anything to you. More center-left than left of center (not to mention intermittently unplugged) these gents do toss us a couple bones with a modicum of selections that approximately befit their image, namely "Mistake" and "Losing Track." Elsewhere, the goings are notably innocuous, but despite my harshin' this platter is at the very least endurable. If anything else, check out Something Blew's prescient musings regarding climate change in "Talk TV," offering quips like "Lets think about Alaska as a tropical retreat."
01. In Dependence
03. Losing Track
04. Creating Happiness
05. In the Dark
06. Talk TV
07. Your Day
08. Beauty Waits
From a review in issue #50 in Big Takeover magazine:
I say this is amazing?This young-ish
Beantown five-piece is armed with an awareness of indie-guitar rock that finds
them wise well beyond their years.Even
if this already brief three-song EP was whittled down to just the scintillating
opener “Resignation Letter,” you’d still be enamored by the Also-Rans
appreciation for early Archers of Loaf, Treepeople and Versus and their ability
to apply these well-worn influences into such warm, buzzing songcraft.Can’t wait to hear more.
Topeka, Kansas in the 1980s - you had to be there. Full disclosure, I wasn't, and perhaps the "had to" portion of that statement might have been a bit of an exaggeration, but if you were present and of legal age to attend club gigs you may have been a better person for encountering some or all of the bands this entry concerns. All three of which, btw cut their music at the now defunct Leatherwood Studios in Topeka.
To the detriment of the music world in general, Psychic Archie wasn't a moniker that was likely heard far outside of America's heartland. Composed of Mike Donoho, Clay Gailbraith, Kirk Morris and Chris Garner, the Archie's lineup congealed after two local predecessor bands Abuse and The Tunes called it a day circa the early Reagan-era, the first specializing in punk, the latter in relatively preened and polished power pop. While the Archies didn't entirely disavow either of those genres, Donoho and said cohorts painted from a learner, yet lovingly gritty sonic palette that today might mundanely be classified as garage rock.
Between 1984-85 Psychic Archie were responsible for two ep length cassettes, remastered and re-sequenced on the newly minted compendium 4 Tracked. It's not necessarily a wall-to-wall goldmine, but the band's best moments are stunning. This is due in part to local Topeka collaborator Alan Oliver, who wrote two of PA's most memorable songs, "Happy Man," and "No Pictures of Dad." That latter gem was licensed to Josie Cotton (yes, of "Johnny Are You Queer" fame) who performed the song on an episode of the '80s sitcom Square Pegs. The Archies spin on "No Pictures of Dad" isn't as gussied up as Cotton's, rather they transform it into a mid-fi marvel, tweaking it to such a bittersweet extent that you might mistake it for something Guided By Voices wrote, say, in 1990. "Happy Man" was later adopted by a fantastic, one-album-wonder of a band, The Leatherwoods who covered it on their 1992 Topeka Oratorio LP. As you might guess, that band named themselves after the recording studio where PA recorded. And there are even more must hear salvos - "Don't Kiss Me Stranger," the previously unreleased "Flag of My Own," and "Every Time it Hurts," which if listened to attentively reveals a slight similarity to The Paul Collins Beat classic "Walking Out on Love," just when the chorus hits.
Onto life before Psychic Archie. Commandeered by future Archie's frontman Mike Donoho, The Tunes were responsible for a lone 1982 ep. It's a remarkable slice of turn-of-the-decade power pop record, impeccably crafted and honed in the manner of the Rubinoos, Undertones, Pointed Sticks and even lesser knowns like the Speedies. Original copies fetch upwards of $100, and a 2013 vinyl repress has also come and gone, but a digital incarnation of the ep has been expanded as Love Uncool. The four insurgent blasts from the record are par excellence perfect "tens," if not rock-solid "nines." Better yet they're buttressed with six demos that predate the ep by a year, many of which are equally peerless. Folks, this is how it's done, and if you don't believe me try "Crowded Heart" on for size to get the Tunes irresistible and infectious gist.
Abuse were another precursor to PA, featuring amidst their three man lineup Clay Gailbraith and Chris Garner. A decidedly surlier bunch than The Tunes, you might say that Abuse were about as close to the definition of punk that Topeka had encountered circa the band's 1979 inception...and their discography was even slimmer than the Tunes. Literally. While the Tunes culminated in an actual vinyl record, Abuse's meager body of work was relegated to a three-song flexi disk in a Lawrence, KS fanzine, Talk Talk. It's been reprised entirely onto CD along with one bonus cut. "In America" boasts a linear, socio-political bent, but "No Money" sticks to the ribs with quips like "I never said I didn't like money, I only said I didn't like you."
All three reissues are available as we speak via the Psychic Archie website as hard copy CDs or digital downloads. A fairly extensive article regarding the heyday of the Leatherwood Studios "scene," as it were , can be found over at Shea Magazine's site. For a limited time, I'm offering a sampler of what I've critiqued here. In addition to one song from each of the reissues, I'm including a live version of "No Pictures of Dad" performed by Lions and Dogs, a Psychic Archie spinoff band. Enjoy.
Psychic Archie - Every Time It Hurts The Tunes - Crowded Heart Abuse - Love is Alright Lions and Dogs - No Pictures of Dad (live)
Little did I know that when Seaweed's fourth album, Spanaway hit in 1995, it would be the last we'd here from them for almost half a decade. Just before their 1999 follow-up (Actions and Indications) materialized, the king of kale himself, Adam Stauffer dished out a surprising offering to tide us over. Gardener was a collaboration between Stuaffer and Van Conner of Screaming Trees renown. Originally conjured up in 1996, the group quietly slipped an LP, New Dawning Time onto the market in '99 without so much as a whisper. Booting Seaweed's aggro punk-pop straight to the curb, Gardener was exponentially more loose and breathable, with a significant acoustic penchant. Clearly in the drivers seat, Stauffer trades off on vocals with a bevy of female counterparts on New Dawning Time, and the same setup carries over onto both sides of this one-off 45. "Boys of Summer" is indeed the Don Henley composition, one which made Top 40 radio in the mid-80s at least mildly tolerable. The Gardner treatment entails a lo-fi makeover with Stauffer sharing the mic with Iana Portner - accompanied by the intermittent chatter of a news/sportscaster sampled in the background, that thankfully does little to tamp down the melancholy charm of the song. "Two Sides" featuring co-ed vox from Sarah Stauffer (Adam's wife?) exudes a slightly more extroverted flair not to mention a rock solid hook, matching or exceeding anything on New Dawning Time.
BTW, per Discogs, this single was evidently housed in an actual paper bag (hence the name of the label/series) but mine came in a stamped chipboard sleeve. Make of that what you will.
These Aussie lads appeared to have had a solid indie pedigree, though by the sounds of this disk the Cuckoos could have likely crossed-over...but did they? Haven't been able to find any pertinent details on them through the usual search engines. Singer Simon recalls Colin Hay, Julian Cope and even a tad of David Bowie all wrapped into one, but Sticks and Stones is well short on mystique. Some genuinely strong tunes here nonetheless. I could envision the Cuckoos sharing a bill with Icehouse circa the Flowers album, Noiseworks, or some other quasi "wave" combo of the era. I'll leave you with this little morsel - in it's entirety, Sticks... is more consistent than any given INXS album. Then again that might not be saying much, eh? Enjoy.
01. Wheels of Your Heart
02. Climb That Mountain
03. Autumn Lasts Forever
04. Splinters of You
05. Your Lover Tonight
07. Rescue Me
It doesn't take long for a spate of quality releases from Saint Marie Records to accumulate. Submitted for your approval, a rundown and encapsulation of some of the finest and most intriguing propagators of the scene, that as they saying goes, celebrates it's own personal self. We'll kick things off with an exploration of reissues from two twentieth century progenitors who never quite achieved
Secret Shine'sUntouched was never issued in the States upon it's 1993 release, and from what I've been able to glean, they were given short shrift on their UK home turf. Why? Well, this quintet was patently standard fare for the dream pop crowd, and it didn't help that S/S copped liberally from more established contemporaries Lush, Slowdive, and the Valentines. That little theory aside, Untouched contains some phenomenal, if not particularly groundbreaking music, quintessential of shoegaze's golden era, and in my book earns a slot as one of the best 25 albums the genre had to offer. Eight songs, and regrettably, no bonus tracks.
From the comparatively rural locale of Ithaca, NY (later relocating to Providence, RI) came Difference Engine, whose 1993 debut, Breadmaker I dedicated some text to a couple of years ago. Theirs was a cleaner and less congested approach to the form, but no less intoxicating. Margaret Ayre's ethereal vocal penchant and her compatriots tingly guitar leads lingered more in the atmospheric realm of contemplative indie rock than full-bore, shoegazer bludgeoning. It was this transcendent aptitude that lent Difference Engine a blissful plateau unto themselves. The 2015 reissue of Breadmaker boasts a crisp remastering job and appends a hard to find compilation track "Ed's Apache Ghost."
The term "nugazer" gets bandied about a little too much for comfort these days, but in regards to Hamburg's Julia Beyer-helmed Seasurfer, that tag is apropos insomuch they don't necessarily salute the class of 1990, rather sonically-charged modern successors like Silversun Pickups. Their, Headlights ep brews up a dark, gale-force surge sans any labyrinthine maneuvers to bloat the overall effect. If possible, try to snag a limited and expanded version of the ep, Live in the Headlights, containing a ten-song live set wherein Seasurfer transform Slowdive's "Dagger" into a veritable arena rock anthem. These folks seriously pump in concert.
What band melds the cavernous howl of Jesus and Mary Chain to the hammering scuzz-pop of Isn't Anything-era My Bloody Valentine, while managing to convey a general semblance of melodicism? Enter Static Daydream, the brain child of Ceremony/Skywave alum Paul Baker. A scalding swath of feedback and echoey vocal effects permeates damn near every speck of Static Daydream, and even if the album imbibed in it's entirety may hint of a recurring daydream, barbed hooks like those accentuating "More Than Today" and "Until You're Mine" will encourage many a repeat listen to this eleven-song post-punk suite.
In what's becoming a perennial tradition Saint Marie has strung together another jam packed, mondo three disk compilation set, the fourth installment in the reliably gratifyingStatic Waves series. And like any worthwhile label-associated collection (i.e. sampler) there's not merely a a handful of exclusive tracks, rather the vast majority of them, in this case numbering well over twenty out of 33 songs total. The entirety of Saint Marie's active stable is on board - Bloody Knives, Spotlight Kid, SPC ECO, Presents for Sally, Keith Canisius, High Violets, Deardarkhead, Cherry Wave, all of the aforementioned in this write-up, and then some. Jeff Runnings from For Against is launching a solo endeavor early this spring, and you can preview a special mix of a track from it, "Outside Oslo" here. I was also chuffed to The Emerald Down on the Static roster as well, a name that hasn't been on my radar for ages. Only $9.99 for all of this and more kids.
You can find all of these items (in most cases on vinyl in addition to ones and zeroes) straight from the source at Saint Marie online. A query on Amazon and iTunes should get you going as well.
It wouldn't be the least bit of an exaggeration to say this one is something of a no-namer - but an intriguing one at that. The almost un-Googleable Mrs. Peacock were a trio that strutted their proverbial "stuff" in/around the environs of Gloucester, MA, Side one (tracks 1-3) is impressive DIY post-punk flirting on the fringes of goth. A bit of noir mystique, chiming guitars, and a mouthpiece faintly recalling Julian Cope tally up to more latent potential than one might expect. Two iffier items occupy the flip of My Brain..., with the ambient drone of "Sally's Song" out-weirding anything else in sight. Overall, not bad for a 50 cent yardsale find.
In 2010 I posted an ep from a rather arcane Orange County, CA outfit dubbed Blue Trapeze. Ring a bell? Anyway, here is what appears to be their first record. Coincidentally or otherwise, Who Were You Then? is steeped in shades of paisley psych-pop, de rigueur for it's era, with that very strain of musique blossoming full tilt in nearby Los Angeles, spearheaded by such proponents as Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, etc.
Blue Trapeze's spin on things was considerably more organic and delicate, faintly exuding the aura of Love's Forever Changes, particularly that album's more hushed tendencies. At least that's what I got out of it, but naturally, your results may vary.
Note: There were some skips on track five, "Projections." Not much I could do to rectify this, even after cleaning the record, but I do have an alternate transfer of the album from someone else, and I've included their rip of that song if you wish to hear an unblemished version.
01. The Day This Life This World
02. You and Me
03. This Fear
04. In the Still Darkness
06. Passion Like Paper
07. Ever Selfless
08. Walk Through the Field
09. Who Were You Then
How do you explain why an album so heralded and lauded as this one has been out of print and commercially unavailable, even digitally, for close to 30 years? Cliched as the word might be, "sprawling" is an apt adjective to describe Game Theory's feast of a double album, 1987's Lolita Nation. Bursting at the seams with 27 tracks, with the inclusion of a myriad of loopy instrumental segues and detours (not to mention an album title that would suggest something of a skewed story-line) would give many (even myself) the impression Lolita was a concept piece. As it turns out, not any more so than say, Double Nickles on the Dime or London Calling. In fact, if you're looking for anything resembling a "plot" or "theme," be it subtle or obvious, you're merely deluding yourself. Whatever the case, for the first time in several decades you can dissect and debate to your heart's content, thanks to a remastered and expansive reissue of Lolita Nation on Omnivore Records.
Thankfully, one thing Lolita isn't is rambling. There's a palpable method to the late Scott Miller's sequencing and flow of what many regard as his career best album, albeit not a particularly narrative one. Lolita Nation nonetheless has quietly cultivated a mythos in the years since it's Reagan-era conception. A one-fan-at-a-time conversion ensued over the subsequent decades as it was handed off from friend-to-friend, much in the way Big Star's three albums were posthumously disseminated throughout the '80s. And even though Game Theory made their case more concisely (and arguably more consistently) over the course of crucial precursors like Real Nighttime and Big Shot Chronicles, LN captures Miller and Co. revisiting their indigenous aesthetic and charm of yore on signature-tunes-in-waiting, "Chardonnay," "Little Ivory," and "The Real Sheila." Another tune smacking of classic Game Theory's is "The Waist and the Knees," though to the contrary of the aforementioned it's cascaded in jarring blasts of synths and other intermittent techno trickery. Things take a decidedly more avant turn on "Dripping With Looks," and then we have the oddest duck of all, "All Clockwork and No Bodily Fluids Makes Hal a Dull Metal Humbert," two challenging minutes of loopy studio effects and a pastiche of dissonant audio snippets and samples. Lolita Nation is the one album in the Game Theory oeuvre that adamantly defies generalities.
A couple of more observations and then we can dig into the bonus disk. Once again, the band enlisted Mitch Easter as producer and engineer. Sonically Easter and Scott Miller were on parallel wavelengths, part of a unique vanguard of artists who stretched the more eccentric facets of collegiate rock over a relatively accessible pop/rock canvas. With that in mind, you'd be forgiven if you mistook "Nothing New" as a Let's Active tune. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that Game Theory adopted a new band-mate prior to Lolita, specifically Donnette Thayer, whose up-front vocal presence on "Look Away" and "Mammoth Gardens" charted the band on a tauter and more assertive course, a tact that would be extrapolated even further on the band's 1988 swan song, 2 Steps From the Middle Ages.
Onto the supplemental material. A whole disks worth in fact, almost as lengthy as Lolita Nation proper. Among it's 21 servings of rehearsal and live takes, rough mixes, and radio session material, you really won't find any unique Game Theory compositions that aren't represented on the album. Instead, you'll be treated to a wealth of imaginative covers, encompassing such disparate artists as David Bowie, The Hollies, Iggy Pop, The Smiths (for chrissakes, wow!), Public Image Ltd, Sex Pistols and even Joy Division. But it's not all remakes mind you. The proceedings commence with the unedited, near eight minute version of "Chardonnay," that had to be pared down considerably for the album to accommodate the original 74-minute limitation of compact disks, circa 1987. Rehearsal demos of "Little Ivory" and "The Waist and the Knees" are represented at their spontaneous best, but it's seven radio session offerings from 1987-88 that really take the cake, and in fact are where many of the covers are sourced from.
So what makes Lolita Nation so endearing to Game Theory fans? Taken into account it's breadth, depth, inherent contradictions, not to mention a tad of experimental wanderlust, the answer to that question lies solely in the eyes/ears of the beholder. To have an behold the rejuvenated Lolita Nation for your own, head over to Omnivore headquarters, Amazon or iTunes.
Looks like I'm about half a year overdue in my presentation of the fourth volume in the much coveted Teen Line series of primo, power pop arcane-ology, that is writ large the province of this very website. Only thing is, I didn't assemble any portion of Vol. 4 or the three installments preceding them. Teen Line was a formally in-progress and now sadly incomplete and abandoned project that was in the hands of the Hyped to Death curators who were also responsible for the Messthetics and Homework series, loosely modeled after the considerably more renown Killed By Death DIY punk comp empire.
To backtrack on something I just mentioned, much of the roster crowding up Teen Line 4 actually isn't as arcane as you might expect, with veritable heavy hitters like 20/20, Real Kids, Paul Collins (Beat), Sylvain Sylvain. That being said, there's a host of others I've already introduced you to over the course of Wilfully's tenure - Wild Giraffes, Ramrods, The Strand, Radio Alarm Clocks, Velvet Elvis, and The Wind. If that weren't enough there are some true-blue cult classics from the likes of Shane Champagne, The Toms, The Quick, the Sighs, not to mention a cavalcade of others I never broached myself until I made their acquaintance with this dandy little disk. The full tracklist is to your right.
Out of all the indie-rock hopefuls to emanate from Rochester, NY during the Clinton-era none charmed me as much as Muler fronted by the deftly skilled David Baumgartner. Many singles came and went between 1993-98, but more notably a smashing debut platter in 1997, The State of Play, chockablock with tuneful turbulence and heart-on-sleeve text. In 2010 or thereabouts, I was happy to learn of Muler's exceedingly belated followup, Hope You Found a Home. That record signaled Baumgarterner and Co.'s graduation from post-adolescent to common ailments of maturity. It was a Muler album alright, but to varying degrees I was able to discern that the record stylus was slightly amiss of the grooves, lacking some of the spark and verve of a more vibrant and visceral past. To my delight Muler's needle is locked right back in place all over the freshly minted Unlikely Soldiers, which if anything picks up where 1997's State of Play left off. The rush of clangy chords and dense arrangements is thriving on "Soldier," "Jumping Jack Queen" and "Olivia," and the guys are still suave enough to dig into the well of small-scale dilemmas, eschewing any potential emo schmaltz to the curb. I still have Muler loosely pegged as a fusion of Buffalo Tom and the Promise Ring, but that strikes me as more of a tasty coincidence than deliberate plundering. In any event Unlikely Soldiers isn't an unlikely return to form, so much as a welcome one. It's available digitally through Bandcamp, Amazon and iTunes. Excruciatingly limited physical runs on LP and cassette are available per the Bandcamp link. No CDs? It's like 1982 all over again.
We checked in with Cincinnati based denizen Casey Weissbuch (aka Slanted) a year ago via his premiere offering, the slanting and often enchanting Forever, crammed fulled of maneuvers that signaled allegiances to inspirational antecedents of yore like Polvo and Dinosaur Jr. Slanted's new ep, Desire for Lust delves a bit further into the weeds, downplaying verse-chorus-verse song structures in exchange for tweaked and decidedly more introverted motifs. "Santa Fe" occupies a downcast, droney space, entailing a smidge of avant weirdness, a la Creeper Lagoon, while the concluding "My Universe" indulges in a chilled-out, lackadaisical stride. I do believe I'm picking up some co-ed vox here as well - either that or Casey is really adept at throwing his voice. Check out Desire for Lust at a price of your own discretion here, and lay yours ears on the aforementioned Forever if you haven't already.
I haven't dedicated much space to Dayton's Smug Brothers in a good five years, specifically not since the insertion of 2011's Fortune Rumors into the marketplace. Hardly ones to sit idle, they've been churning out roughly an album a year and their latest salvo, Echo Complex is split release between the Bros and Brat Curse. I'm not going to avoid saying it - these guys do exude a considerable resemblance to their hometown boys done good, GBV (think Under the Bushes, Under the Stars era). They even involve an alum of that recently disbanded American treasure, Don Thrasher in their lineup, but the going here isn't as derivative as I might be leading on. Try the pop-sided "(A Minute for) Ruby Skate" and the mildly angular "Razor Thin Races" out for a spin and you'll get the idea. Lot's of bite-sized "shorties" here, some of which clock in around a mere thirty seconds. As usual, Bandcamp has you covered.
I realize that you can preview all three of these items on an abundantly aforementioned music platform, but for what it's worth I've strung together a brief three cut sampler. Enjoy, and if you like what you hear support the bands!
You might call this a belated follow-up to an Indian Rope Burnsingle I flung out here in 2012. I must have enjoyed it, because I went to the effort of tracking down more stuff by them. The Kent, OH band in question was a trio at the time of this nineteen-song disk, and sad to say, it really doesn't contain any phenomenal or must-hear selections, but occasionally some good ones including "Stranger" and "Have You Heard." There's a post-punk, anglophile modus operandi running amok here, bringing to fruition what a Yankee version of Love and Rockets might have amounted to - that and a watered down spin on Red Lorry Yellow Lorry on some of the album's later selections. It would appear that all three gents in IRB contribute vocals. Problem is, no one in this Buckeye skeleton crew possesses the melodic timbre to propel these songs into the endearing and memorable thresholds they sometimes teasingly suggest. The percussion sounds robotic, and it was no surprise for me to learn the band adopted a more industrial tack on subsequent records. Perhaps Indian Rope Burn will grow on me, but for now, you be the judge.
02. she's helpless
03. stupid for you
04. two steps
05. flying past the window
07. close the door
08. part II
09. say when, now
10. love problems & pipe bombs
12. dead man's body
13. horror show
14. daydreaming at night
15. spider web
16. looking for home
19. have you heard