Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pleasure Leftists - tape (2011-13)

I typically steer clear of sharing music that's commercially available, but I'm making a semi-objection to that rule here.  More about the mechanics of that in a moment, and why you should consider supporting some of this band's proper releases in a moment.  Let me formally introduce you to the Pleasure Leftists, a now potentially defunct Cleveland, OH aggregation that should settle the notion once and for all that there is indeed current music that's still substantive and moving.  Helmed by Haley Morris, she commandeers her three male compatriots through a churning, whirling maelstrom of post-punk-cum-darkwave rock, bristling with tension and density, bearing an unmistakable reverence for melody.  Given Morris' ceaseless, banshee-like wail comparisons to (you guessed it) Siouxsie and the Banshees might be inevitable, but in fairness, that class of '77 never quite served their shtick up this relentlessly heavy and pounding.  Over the course of two eps and 2015's Woods of Heaven, the Leftists quality control is/was strenuous, making damn sure every ounce of energy seeping from the pores of this co-ed quartet counted in a colossal way.  Visceral, baby.

So, what exactly is that blueish blob in the upper-right corner?  It's the cover of a limited and very lo-fi Pleasure Leftists cassette, featuring music from the group's 2011 & 2013 eps, both of which are conveniently self-titled.  The only unreleased goodie here is a cover of the Cure's "One Hundred Years," which commences side two. Presumably printed up to sell at live gigs (I bought mine at a record show), the fidelity of this tape is meager at best, with the vinyl and officially released digital versions far outstripping it.  But to give you a taste of what this band has to offer I'm sharing this in a mere 56 kbps, a paltry rip compared to the typical 320 kbps I tend to offer.  Also, I didn't separate the tracks.  Why?  To encourage you to purchase the considerably better sounding iterations of these recordings physically on wax or legally sanctioned MP3s.  Give both sides of this cartridge a whirl, feast on the ample goth-y mystique, and support the Leftists on the platform of your choice - iTunes, Amazon, emusic, and if you want to locate actual vinyl specimens, may I suggest you try here.

Side one: Animal Heart/Future Fights/Passage on a Ghost Ship/Nature of Feelings/Morning in a Room/Suits
Side two: 100 yrs/Hunger Split/Not Over/Elephant Men

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V/A - I´m In Love....with That Song! - Austraslian Replacements tribute (1999, Antfarm)

Closer to when I started this thing of ours called Wilfully Obscure, I shared two regional Replacements tribute compilations.  Sorry Ma Forgot to Let Out the Cat, featuring Athens, GA artists, and So What, concentrating on Austin, TX talent.  While the sentiment and premise behind these albums were fine, the music was considerably inconsistent.  In 1999 came a third Mats tribute, I´m In Love....with That Song!, this time not merely siphoning the talent of one particular city scene, rather an entire continent, yielding much more satisfactory results.

No household names to speak of here, just minor, albeit credible Oz power pop luminaries including DM3, Jack and the Beanstalk, Ice Cream Hands, and the Pyramidiacs.  There are some excellent renditions of "IOU," "Alex Chilton," and "Left of the Dial."  Less obvious songs are broached as well - "Favorite Thing" and 'Rock n Roll Ghost."  Erbs and Pisces is Smudge's Nic Dalton and Tom Morgan.  They simultaneously take to task the Replacements first single, "I'm in the Trouble" b/w "If Only You Were Lonely" with intriguing results  Full tracklist in the photo to your right.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In a dark room I can see you shining bright...

C86's twenty-first century second coming. 


Ghosts of Record Store Days past - Sloan & Metz/Mission of Burma

Another Record Store Day has just crept into the annals of retail history.  This year marked the tenth anniversary, and although attendance was full bore per-usual (not to mention the frustratingly scarce limited runs of day-specific releases) something seemed a tad anticlimactic about this one.  At any rate, I thought I'd revisit a couple of relatively recent bygone titles from 2015 and '16 respectively.

Technically it's not titled as such, but he four-song ep known as Alternates, was Sloan's contribution to the RSD fray two years back, featuring (yep, you guessed it) four alternate takes of songs that made the cut for their 2014 platter, Commonwealth.  Side A takes the cake for me, with a more fleshed out ensemble take of the Jay Ferguson penned "Neither Here Nor There," and an a slower, revealing arrangement of Chris Murphy's "Get Out."  Sloan's latest volley of albums haven't necessarily been their most rewarding meaning this companion piece to the aforementioned Commonwealth falls shy of essential for casual fans, and arguably not entirely crucial for diehards.  You be the judge.

The concept for the pairing of relative post-punk newbies Metz, and intermittently active vets Mission of Burma has an elementary theme - have each cover a song by the other.  Ironically, Metz don't take to task one of Burma's lauded signature songs (e.g. "Academy Fight Song) instead settling on an album cut from 2006's Obliterati, the group's second aughts era reunion album.  I'm not as acquainted with Metz oeuvre, as it were, but Mission of Burma's coarse take of "Get Off" leaves me with the impression that both combos are a match made in dissonance heaven.

Sloan - Alternates ep (2015, Yep Rock)
01. Neither Here Nor There
02. Get Out
03. 13 (Under A Bad Sign)
04. The Lesson (One Portrait) 

Metz/Mission of Burma 7" (2016, Sub Pop)
Metz - Good, Not Great
Mission of Burma - Get Off

Friday, April 21, 2017

Christmas - In Excelsior Dayglo (1986, IVR)

Couple weeks ago I got a pretty hep request for Christmas' (the band) idiosyncratic debut In Excelsior Dayglo...and here it is.  While I'm considerably partial to their much more developed sophomore disk, Ultraprophets..., (circa 1989) IED revels in it's own indigenous vibe - sometimes dissonant, occasionally challenging and always unscrupulously skewed.  This Beantown co-ed trio, splits up vocal duties between string wrangler Michael Cudahy and drummer Liz Cox, the latter bearing no small resemblance to the B-52's Kate Pierson.  Writ large, there isn't a pervasive pop angle to the record, and from a sonic standpoint Christmas remind me heavily of indie contemps Agitpop and Volcano Suns.  To a lesser extent, the Pixies too, but that's a loose comparison at best.  As mentioned, their next record proved to be more substantive, but there's no disputing that much like the holiday they nabbed their namesake from Christmas were indeed a singular and revealing entity.

01. Big Plans
02. Loved Ones
03. Boy's Town Work Song
04. True Solider of Love
05. Tommy the Truck
06. Girl Police
07. Dig We Must
08. Pee Wee
09. Everything You Know Is Wrong
10. Pumpkinhead
11. A Pig Amongst Men
12. The Hottest Sun
13. Fish Eye Sandwich
14. Junk

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Glass Eye - Christine ep (1988, Bar None)

Nine years ago I wasn't expecting such a fevered reaction to two records I shared by an old school Austin, TX outfit, Glass Eye.  Those releases, the Marlo ep from 1985, and 1986 full length follow-up, Huge saw gazillions of downloads and at least two or three rounds of refreshed links.  Amazingly, the band's official website is still intact, and evidently interest in Glass Eye is still palpable.  I didn't realize it at the time I procured it a couple years ago, but the 1988 Christine ep was an appetizer of sorts for the quartet's second LP, Bent By Nature.   The dynamic title piece is intermittently disciplined and wiry and one of the single most effective songs in their catalog.  A traipse through Paul Simon's "Cecila" absorbs a full two minutes of it's precious 150 seconds building up to it's frenzied crescendo, albeit still gratifying.  Christine winds things out with the sardonic country rendering, "The Ballad of Abraham Lincoln," a song bearing, shall I say, schizophrenic tendencies.

01. Christine
02. Cecila
03. Perder La Guerra
04. Comeback
05. The Ballad of Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pale in the sun, parched in the rain.

This would have been more suitable yesterday, but around here we save the mysteries for Mondays.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Thumbs - No Price on Earth (1982, Ramona)

When the Thumbs were active in the late '70s/'80s there was a myriad of directions they could have ventured into - ska, new romantic, rockabilly, hardcore, AOR, etc...  The long and short of it all is that they wound up as an honest to goodness rock and roll band, sans any pretensions or gimmicks.  Granted, that m.o. is much more scarce these days, said option wasn't much more tempting in the Thumbs era.  About four years ago, I shared their previous, self-titled 1979 effort.  At that point I found these Kansas blokes to be a tad common, and by a matter of degrees they still were three years later, but with age comes progress, and if you're lucky, inspiration.  The Thumbs were indeed blessed with a spoonful of luck or two to tighten up their power pop cum bar band pastiche on No Price on Earth, hinting that they just might have listened to a Jonathan Richman or Velvets album or two. Kansas City to Lawrence Vinyl blog has provided some useful insight into this record as well, but isn't sharing the music contained within.  That's where we come in.

01. The Coast is Clear
02. Who Wants This Sadness
03. Jennie Says
04. Like You
05. I'm Jesus
06. Out of His Mind
07. It Won't Satisfy
08. No Twist
09. (I Almost Feel) Like Facin' the World
10. Anyday
11. Things You Gotta Know
12. The Payload
13. Last Word

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fancey - Schmancey (2007, What Are)

Sorry I've been slack of late.  I should have more needle-drops to post in the non-too-distant future. Here's one I wrote up for a publication about ten years ago.

As if it wasn’t enough to man the coveted guitarist position in what is arguably the world’s preeminent indie-rock combo, the Vancouver based New Pornographers, Todd Fancey stretches his schedule for a band in his own rite and namesake.  Although NP reign supreme in terms of the hipster quotient, Fancey are more overtly pop than his full-time outfit could ever hope to be. In fact, Todd has coined his concoction as “super pop,” and with immense, sublime wonders such as “Heaven’s Way,” Downtown II,” and “Lost in Twilight,“ Schmancey is a veritable saccharine avalanche.  Absorbing it’s 14 selections in one sitting might be tantamount to an overdose, but aficionados of The Pearlfishers, Heavy Blinkers, and Zumpano (a defunct Vancouver band with ties to New Pornographers) will be more than up to the challenge. 

01. Witches Night
02. Lost in Twilight
03. Call
04. Gulf Breeze
05. Bitter Life
06. Blue Star
07. Fader
08. Karma's Out to Get Me
09. Whoa
10. Feels Like Dawn 
11. Heaven's Way
12. Downtown II
13. Let the Breeze In
14. Cross 'o Gold

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Growing on you, but wearing on me...

Primo Can-inide rock from 1998.  Track seven is in my head more than I care to admit.  So much so, I've even supplied an alternate version of it.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rain Parade - Maxwells, Hoboken, NJ 12/2/83

The folks attending this early December gig at Hoboken's legendary Maxwells got an early Christmas present with a visit from one of L.A.'s rising stars.  From the notes of the original taper, the Rain Parade had some competition with an inordinately chatty audience that particular night.  Nonetheless, the paisley vibe was discernible, with a huge oriental rug occupying half of the standing room (or in this case, sitting room with a good bit of the audience seated on the tapestry).  Standards such as "What She's Done to Your Mind," 'Saturday's Asylum" and a run through Syd Barrett's "It's No Good trying" are all present and accounted for.   A fascinating memento for Rain Parade aficionados of what was apparently a very unique gig.  Special thanks to whomever digitized this set and supplied sleeve art.

Also, explore RP's compilation of demos, Demolition here.

01. Any Other Way
02. No Easy Way Down
03. No Good Trying
04. Kaleidoscope
05. I Look Around
06. What She’s Done To Your Mind
07. Look At Merri
08. Saturday’s Asylum
09. Talking In My Sleep
10. It’s Gonna Work Out
11. All My Friends
12. This Can’t Be Today
13. Carolyn’s Song
14. 1 Hr ½ Ago

MP3 (320 kbps)  or  FLAC

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Scruffs 7" (1980, Sounds Interesting)

In 1977 this Memphis quartet "broke the ice" with Wanna Meet the Scruffs?, a colossally lauded proto-power pop album that unfortunately a relative few could partake in the invitation of.  Chalk that up to limited availability I suppose.  Furthermore, given it's esteemed reputation, it's been said that the fortunate few who owned the record dare not relinquish their copy under any circumstance.  When it was finally brought into the digital age in 1997, the band revealed a treasure trove of unreleased recordings pre/post-dating Wanna Meet...  Potentially, a lot of Scruffs fans back in the day may have missed the single I'm presenting here, as it seems nothing of theirs was nearly as publicized as that glorious debut.

Despite their locale and numerous connections, The Scruffs didn't gravitate to Big Star so much as the Raspberries.  That influence isn't as pervasive on recordings subsequent to Wanna Meet, but by the time of this 1980 7" the band wasn't quite MTV caliber either...but they were oh so close.  "When Donna Romances" is a nugget of power pop bullion for the ages, still subscribing to the precious moxie of that first album.  The flip, "Rock n' Roll Heads" plays it faster and looser - literally, possessing a tell tale Ramones-y rhythm, curtailed just shy of the punk threshold.  You can check out some additional Scruffs recordings, including some that are relatively recent here.

A. When Donna Romances
B. Rock n' Roll Heads 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

One Plus Two - The Ivy Room ep (1985, LSR/Homestead)

If it seems unimaginative of me to follow up my One Plus Two post from last week with yet another ep by the same folks in less than a week, I'm guilty as charged.  In fact, on the heels of the Watercolor Haircut, I fielded a request for the band's follow-up The Ivy Room.  Am still picking up on that strummy, Athens, GA vibe, and this record just might be the finest out of the three of them.  Pretty much everything on Ivy jibes with me, however I found side two to be the spunkier side of the coin.  Shut your eyes, pretend it's left-of-the-dial time in 1985, and light a stick of patchouli for yourself.

01. Other Days
02. September Night
03. Mystery to Me
04. Secret Question
05. Promise
06. Windows

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The bread they make there tastes like thin air.

Circa 1990.  Not to be passed up.


One Plus Two - Watercolor Haircut ep (1984, New Math)

I first/last wrote about One Plus Two almost a decade ago, so I suppose that makes me overdue.  Information on this quartet was scant at best back then and ditto now.  The equation in question were a co-ed indie pop foursome, potentially hailing from North Carolina, and from the sounds of it, it wouldn't surprise me if Mitch Easter was occupying their orbit (though he isn't credited here).  The edgy record sleeve and oblique title lend themselves to a band with some mystique to enlighten us with, though in the case of One Plus Two their angle of attack was comparatively plaintive.  Strum.  Jangle.  Hooks.  Collegiate sensibilities.  Etc.  Chances are you've encountered a record of this stripe before, but for what it's worth it's done properly and satisfies in spades. .

01. Look Away
02. Much More
03. Over You
04. Pictures

Friday, March 31, 2017

Catching up with Saint Marie Records

By now, Saint Marie Records has etched it's name as the foremost purveyor of all things dream-pop and nu-gaze into the hearts, minds, and tremolo bars of those who can and will never get enough of those genres.  Pumping out one mesmerizing musical missive after another, the Fort Worth, TX imprint has performed yeoman's work in exploring and fostering up and comers like Whimsical and Seasurfer, to reissuing long-unheralded curios from decades past.  Here's a snapshot of where things stand today with their latest, and quite possibly greatest. 

As blown away as I was with Secret Shine's par excellence debut, Untouched from 1993, it did seem to get lost in the woozy, dream-pop ether of that genre's abundant era.  Their recent aughts reunion endeavors like 2008's All of the Stars heralded the return of a comforting musical presence, but I couldn't have envisioned the depth and scope of their newest salvo, There is Only Now.  Slotting in at a nexus between early Slowdive and Nowhere-era Ride, TION is chockablock with billowy, deep sonic caverns that allure and envelope in sublime fashion, with themes that negotiate a merger between the euphoric and sobering.  This record is above and beyond your proverbial "return to form," instead upping Secret Shine's ante into a new stratosphere.

With a name like Whimsical it has to be twee...right?  Not so fast.  The Indiana-based band in question are not as cutsey as their moniker applies, yet their melodically ravaged songs are eKrissy Vanderwoude, who steers her quintet to a less lofty, albeit no less intoxicating plateau. The driving and deliriously fetching "Surreal" and "Thought of You" demonstrate their modus operandi best.  The nutshell backstory of Sleep to Dream, the Whim's second album. is that most of it was tracked in 2004, but was shelved until 2016 when it was dusted off and finally completed.  Who ever thought a decade-plus of procrastination could yield such stunning results?
ntirely approachable.  If you ever wondered what the Cocteau Twins Elizabeth Fraser might have amounted top without all those fluttery vocal trills, you may have found your answer in Whimsical's

Seasurfer's Heasdlights ep from a couple of years back was no fluke.  This co-ed German conglomerate lay it on thick, pouring everything they have into the dense-as-all-get-out Under the Milkway...Who Cares.  At nearly every turn the band emits a galvanizing surge of tremolo, muscle, and near-disorienting noise, a la My Bloody Valentine and Curve circa Doppelganger.  From song to song there isn't much variance in Seasurfer's overarching modus operandi, but a strong semblance of amped-out haze and mystique nonetheless commands your undivided attention.  A phenomenal album for the car I might add.

I recall being enlightened to The Emerald Down's Scream the Sound album when it was originally unleashed in the early 'oos.  It was a time when "the scene that celebrates itself" wasn't exactly celebrated so wholeheartedly anymore.  Kinda like when hair metal went out of vogue in 1991 I suppose, but I digress.  But by sheer osmosis or otherwise, the Rebecca Bayse-helmed quartet had the benefit of over ten-plus years of bi-coastal dream pop/shoegazer rock to immerse themselves in - and ultimately the acumen to redeploy that wherewithal into something as special as the heroes that inspired them.  Prodigies of Slowdive, Cocteaus and Pale Saints, Emerald Down weren't out-and-out revisionists nor carbon copies, rather their ethereal atmospheric aplomb was the quintessence of what so many of their inspirational antecedents were hinting at before they prematurely dissolved.  Scream... is blissed out head music for the eons, and even much of the teaming new crop of hopefuls cant touch on what Emerald seized upon here. While I've merely broached the topic of the reissue of Scream the Sound, TED has a voluminous backstory to indulge you with, and a detailed biography can be located here.

Orange are another bygone act the bulk of us have yet to make our acquaintance with.  Better late than never given the impeccable ear candy this San Francisco treat had to offer by way of their lone LP from 1994.  Orange focal point Sonya Waters was a London transplant who possessed a delicate set of lungs that incorporated the best parts of the Sundays' Harriet Wheeler and The Cranes' Alison Shaw.  That approximation alone would have command of my ears even is she was singing the proverbial phone book, but far better, Shaw parlayed her talents against a Lush-ious backdrop, yielding results that struck me as uncannily similar to Emma, Miki and the boys.  Coincidence or not as the aforementioned goes, Orange's Complete Recordings is a convenient one-stop shopping excursion, featuring some jaw-droppingly gorgeous songs like "Feijoa," "Heather" and their unique spin on the Pixies "Gigantic."  My only complaint here is a thorough lack of liner notes (not even so much as a simple band roster or copyright date) in an otherwise visually captivating album sleeve. 

Like the other bands profiled in this feature, February may have purloined a thing or two from shoegaze visionaries of yore, but this defunct, co-ed Minneapolis crew weren't solely tethered to that premise.  February weren't burdened with any overarching Achilles's heel, so to speak, rather their lack of focus is pervasive on their locally released 1997 album, Tomorrow is Today.  Given a new lease on life two decades later, Tomorrow certainly strikes me as a product of it's time, swinging on the coattails of the fading Madchester movement on the danceable "Caught" and whatnot.  No, that one doesn't cut it for me, but I'll be damned if the heady, gazey strains of "Riproar" doesn't get the juices flowing, at least for a couple minutes anyway.

All records discussed herein can be obtained straight from Saint Marie and the usual digital outlets Amazon and iTunes. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Ceedee's - Hit the Ditch (1980, Carrot)

Hmmm.  Bought this one based on the oddball album jacket, the band's potential power pop pedigree.  Truthfully, I was anticipating something a little more avant-garde than that, say in the post-punk realm.  No go as far as that notion was concerned.  The Ceedee's were a southern Ontario enterprise (possibly hailing from Peterborough) who's take on pop music was relatively conventional, yet smarter and wryer than your typical pedestrian flunkies.  I appreciate their homegrown allure, even if they are a tad unfocused from song-to-song.  The first few tunes on Hit the Ditch are the most effective, vaguely reminiscent of the Tarney Spencer Band and even Todd Rundgren.  Bear in mind, the keyword in that sentence is vaguely.  The title track and the Canada-centric "Patriotic Song" are must listens, the latter bearing a pretty colossal chorus hook. "Let Me Share (in the Ordinaire)" is a bit of a goof, with some Devo-esque vocal tricks, and "Mama Raised a Misfit" inches ever so slightly in the vicinity of punky hard rock.  An ep followed Hit the Ditch in 1986.  You can access an interview with the Ceedees via the link above. 

01. Hit the Ditch
02. The Patriotic Song
03. Television City
04. Explain the Man
05. Let Me Share (in the Ordinaire)
06. Mama Raised a Misfit
07. Lemontown
08. He Plays Guitar
09. City Lights Hobo
10. Yarsole Yarsole

Sunday, March 26, 2017

I'm always in the toilet pissing out the noise.

It's another batch of four EPs.  Among these are forays into minimalist punk, singer/songwriter alt-pop, southern rock, and an exceedingly guilty pleasure I'm not likely to live down anytime soon.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Dils - Live! (1987, rec 1977 + 80, XXX)

I have a feeling recording time at studios in/around L.A. in the late seventies must have been a king's ransom.  How else you can you explain why punk legends The Dils only recorded about ten two-minute (if that) songs in a their three/four year life span.  Perhaps that might explain why Dils live records were fairly ubiquitous at one point.  The trio was helmed by brothers Tony and Chip Kinman, operating guitar and bass respectively, with both sharing the mic - and rumored to have communist ideologies among other eccentricities.  Rounded out by a cast of rotating drummers, the band released three singles between 1977-80, bequeathing such cult punk, h/c standards as "Class War," "Mr. Big" and "I Hate the Rich."  Think the first Redd Kross ep to give you a general idea where they were coming from.  The Dils sparse body of work was surprisingly incisive given the brevity of their songs, not to mention a performance aptitude that was often just a notch or two above rudimentary.  As for the album I'm featuring, all I know is someone had a tape deck running at two separate Dils concerts.  The gig from 1980 is the lengthier and the more rewarding of the two, featuring a bevy of Dils "classics," including some of the aforementioned and some surprises like a cover of Buddy Holly's "Modern Don Juan."  The 1977 set that rounds this thing out (tracks 11-14) is potentially incomplete and largely devoid of sophistication (e.g. "Baby You're My Whore").  As an aside, my incarnation of The Dils Live! is a cassette, though LP was also an option.

01. Tell Her You Love Her
02. Tell Me What I Want to Hear
03. It's Not Worth It
04. You're Not Blank
05. Red Rockers Rule
06. Mr. Big
07. Sound of the Rain
08. Gimme a Break
09. Modern Don Juan
10. Class War
11. You Can't Shake It
12. Baby You're My Whore
13. The Expert
14. It's Not Worth It

(1-10 from 1980, 11-14 from 1977)

The Creation - Action Painting (2017, Numero) - A critique.

For some, what if the British Invasion wasn't an invasion, so much as a breach or even a de minimus sideswipe?   We can't attribute such a notion to omnipresent heavyweights like The Beatles, Stones, Kinks and The Who, but what about acts that registered on a lower tier in their native UK...and perhaps not at all on the Yankee side of the pond?  Chestnut, Hertfordshire, England was ground zero for The Creation, a band whose stature was minimal in proportion to their aforementioned contemporaries, but their cumulative value and influence seemingly grew exponentially in the decades following their 1968 dissolution. 

In their initial 1966-68 lifespan, The Creation failed to release a proper full length on their own home turf, but dispensed a volley of singles according them with not one, not two, but four career defining signature songs - "Painter Man," "Biff, Bang, Pow," "Making Time" and "How Does it Feel to Feel."  Sonically, they were a loose amalgam of The Who, Small Faces, and to a lesser extent, the Monkees.  They weren’t as unkempt as the Troggs, or as dizzying as Floyd, and they certainly didn’t pack the harmonies of the fab four...yet there was something incendiary to The Creation, albeit even if they didn't set either side of the Atlantic alight.   Numero Records has recently and thoughtfully endowed us with, Action Painting, comprising the entirety of their original sixties recordings, spread across two fully loaded CDs, packaged in a sturdy hard-shell case.

The first half of Action predominantly concerns the Creation's commercially available studio recordings, that have been sliced and diced over the ensuing decades in myriad compilations and reissues.  The first of those collections, We Are the Paintermen came to light in '67 while the quartet was still active, but I should mention it was only available in Germany.  Furthermore, the Creation only earned one Top-40 in the UK, "Painter Man," which barely scraped the charts in October 1966, eking in at a modest 36 at best.  From my per-view, as someone who hadn't been conceived until the seventies, these fellows didn't sound or even look particularly different than what was coming off the Brit-prop production line.  But the fact that (relatively) current artists like Ride and Teenage Fanclub have taken Creation classics to task speaks volumes of the enduring effectiveness of the band's original material.

Whether they charted or not, the Creation really did have songs.  Some would argue they benefited from having two different front-men (though not simultaneously).  Original singer Kenny Pickett was ousted from the band in 1967 by former bassist Bob Garner.  Pickett didn't part without writing some of The Creation's most well known pieces, namely "Try and Stop Me," "Biff, Bang, Pow," and the less spoken of but melodically winsome "Nightmares."  The mod-stomping kick of "Making Time" might as well be worth the price of admission alone.  Garner's ascension to vocalist and prime mover also came with increased song-penning duties, and he brought the fan-favorite, "How Does it Feel to Feel" to the table.  "...Feel" was a mildly woozy, slow motion romp, predating the kind of modus opernadi that Marc Bolan would perfect in a few years via T. Rex. Again, it's one of The Creation's signature pieces, but five different versions populating almost a full tenth of Action Painting spells overkill to me.  Pickett would rejoin his former cohorts in 1968, but by then it was largely over. 

The second disk commences with four songs from the precursor to The Creation, The Mark Four, a competent, if not terribly innovative beat band, who like the Beatles cut their teeth gigging in West Germany.  The meat and potatoes of the second half of Action Painting emphasizes a raft of fresh stereo mixes of virtually every key Creation composition and then some, and also delves into some ace rarities, not the least of which is a stirring reading of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone."

As mentioned a little north of this paragraph, following their 1968 dismantlement affection for the Creation blossomed not only in Britain, but the US and points beyond.  By popular demand, the band sporadically reunited in the eighties all the way into the '00s.  Both Pickett and Garner have since passed away.  Action Painting is a more than thorough document of The Creations halcyon era, and makes a compelling argument that the sixties didn't belong solely to the Beatles, Stoines and Who.  Sample and purchase direct from Numero, Amazon and iTunes.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Think As Incas - Palestine One Mile ep (1988, dOINK)

I'm not sure how prominent Think as Incas were in their hometown of Memphis, but the quartet saw frontman David Shouse migrate to the ranks of future Sub Pop-all stars The Grifters.  There are virtually no other commonalities between the two groups, which is all good and well with me since I wasn't terribly compelled by the Grifters.  The Incas were of college-rock stock themselves I suppose, opting to pursue a more traditional tact a la The Connells, adopting a dab of the Georgia Satellites tartness   without conveying themselves as blatantly derivative of either.  Couple o' saucy rockers here, appearing in the guise of the title cut and "Wishing Again," while the acoustic finale, "I'm the Boy" could pass for a sobering Uncle Tupelo ballad in a heartbeat.

01. Wishing Again
02. The Great Kiss Off
03. A Man Needs a Gun
04. Palestine One Mile
05. Tommy's Tiny Brain
06. I'm the Boy

Sunday, March 19, 2017

I’m a little cut up and I feel frustrated.

A 1997 compilation from one of Australia's greatest, if not so latest. 


Friday, March 17, 2017

Boys Life ep (1982, Seco)

Punk/wave/indie bands that prominently feature saxophones tend not to exude the sweetest of vibes, but Boston's Boys Life were at least something of an exception.  You can probably chalk that up to Neal Sugarmen, whose reeds don't overpower so much as augment.  The trio was definitely on the left-of-the-dial level, frequently bearing a pop acumen.  Sonically, Boys Life impress me as being a bit advanced for their time, and in all honesty, I would have pegged this record as a product of 1987-88 rather than five years prior.  And is it just me or does frontman John Surette remind you of Gray Matter/3/Senator Flux singer Geoff Turner?  Pure coincidence of course.

01. It Came From Here
02. Water
03. From A to Z
04. Happy People
05. True Believers
06. Person I Want to Be

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Muffs - Happy Birthday to Me (1997/2007, WB/Omnivore) - A brief overview.

On the surface, there may not be much to differentiate one Muffs album from another, but the subtleties are there.  After a spate of singles released on tastemaking indie labels like Sympathy for the Record Industry, Kim Shattuck & Co. took their bratty gumption to the next level in 1993, signing to Warner Bros., unleashing a near monumental debut LP, The Muffs.  That record's punky ethos and yearnful, heart-on-sleeve reveries should have extended the then quartet's cult appeal to a national audience, but that would have to wait.  The next Muffs salvo, Blonder and Blonder saw the light of day in 1995, boasting a slight curtailment of their debut's more primal elements, playing up Kim's vague girl-group flirtations without meddling with the Muff's proven recipe.  And for a third act? 

Happy Birthday to Me marked the Muffs last realistic stab at grasping the fabled "brass ring," and it came with a six-figure budget to aid and abet the trio of Shattuck, Ronnie Barnett and Roy McDonald (yes, of Red Kross renown) to crank their turbo pop machine over the top.  Yet the band's third album (and first self-produced) wasn't an out-an-out departure from previous attempts, nor did it extend any palpable commercial overtures.  The Muffs had the accessibility thing down from the get go, but now more than ever they had the songsThe Muffs may have showcased the band at their most iconic and identifiable, however Birthday demonstrated the band's growth, shedding some of the angsty, rough and tumble roar while keeping things plenty sassy.  And yes, there are a lot of love songs on this one (what, you thought there weren't gonna be any?) yet Kim's pen is dipped in irony and even resignation, not so much spite and devastation.  "Is it All Okay," "Where Only I Could Go," and yes, even the pointedly titled "I'm a Dick" all deserve a slot on any Muffs mix tape.

In the grand scheme of things, Happy Birthday didn't exactly shift the needle for the band's fortunes.  I'm not even sure if it outsold the previous records.  The Muffs stint with the WB was over after the album cycle, but more records and tours would follow.  That's consolation in itself I suppose, but the real icing on the dessert?  Twenty years after the fact, the partially feasted on chocolate cake in the inside back page of the booklet looks as scrumptious today as it did then.  Omnivore's 2017 reissue features six album demos to sweeten the deal.  Buy it direct, or move that cursor on over to iTunes or Amazon.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Big Wheel - East End (1989, Giant)

After Louisville, KY punk wunderkinds Squirrel Bait split in the late '80s, throaty vocal sorcerer Peter Searcy invested his efforts into the demonstrably more lucid Big Wheel.  The quartet subscribed to a comparatively standard rock n rule schematic, occasionally spiked with the slightly frenetic tincture of S/B...just don’t get your hopes up if you're pining for another Skag Heaven.  Frankly, Big Wheel were innocuous riff-brokers, but if you’re taken with Searcy’s singular timbre, the band infuse just enough groove into the proceedings to keep things afloat.  I'm not sure what's up with them titling a song "Metallica" that has absolutely no relevance to the band (though I have to admit, it shreds harder than anything else on here).  Bit of a head scratcher I suppose.  East End was followed up by two more Big Wheel volumes, Holiday Manor and Slowtown.

01. Bang, Bang, Bang
02. Model Home
03. Times You Need to Think
04. Big legged Woman
05. Erect Song
06. Time of Your Life
07. Sound so Familiar
08. Body and Soul
09. Billboard Song
10. Half of Everything
11. Spanish Salsa
12. Metallica

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Maybe your tin cans could just cut right through this sand.

Primo Brit-pop too impeccable to be uttered in the same breath as Oasis and Blur.  This was issued in 2004, but contains material dating back to 1995.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Arctic Circles - Time ep (1986, Mr. Spaceman)

The title of this record involves something I'm well short of these days, but I digress.  I have no relevant info to offer on the Arctic Circles, a bygone Aussie psych/garage band.  Nothing here particularly shakes me up, but superficially, you'll encounter ample Hammond organ.  At times, these guys strike me as a more serious variation on say, Inspiral Carpets.  Make of the Arctic Circles what you will.

01. Time
02. W.A.S.P.
03. My Window
04. Celina
05. Taste

Thursday, March 9, 2017

86 - Provocation (1987, Twilight)

I made my acquaintance with Atlanta's 86 a good ten years after they disbanded, via an ep titled Minutes in a Day.  Not an overwhelmingly awe-striking record, but the band's Yankee spin on tuneful Brit post-punk put their foot in my door, so to speak.  After said revelation, it would be eons before I excavated any further 86 ventures, but low and behold the follow-up to Minutes, 1987's Provocation eventually found it's way into my hands.  What a difference a year can make between records.  Provocation still bore a decent chunk of 86's collective worship of clangy, Anglo crown jewels C.S. Angels and the like, but the album was equally informed by a more dissonant quotient of American indie-rawk:  The Wipers, Nice Strong Arm and an assortment of lesser names that would crop up on imprints such as Homestead Records.  This recipe tempts delightfully on paper, but in practice...  It's still a recommendable album, but you might be better off sticking to side two (tracks 6-11).  You can peruse much more detailed text on 86 here and Beyond Failure blog, who are hosting the bulk, if not all of their discography.

01. New Pair of Eyes
02. The City
03. Shade of Black
04. Seven Weeks and One Day
05. Kings Mountain
06. Eyeless
07. Sonambo
08. Wondering
09. Getaway
10. Inside
11. Wheel of Confusion

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The only thing worse than bad memories is no memories at all.

From 1999.  One of the coolest and most creative albums to close out the twentieth century.  This one's a bit of an acquired taste.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Greg Kihn Band - Next of Kihn (1978, Beserkley)

For what it's worth, it's long perturbed me that aside from two sizable hit singles that are still in classic rock rotation ("The Breakup Song" and "Jeopardy") there seems to be a complete media blackout on the Greg Kihn Band.  I don't get it.  The dude had far more hits than the aforementioned, not to mention a keen kihn commercial accessibility that played effectively to both the AOR masses, and us power pop types.  Most artists of his stature have enjoyed exhaustive album reissues/expansions, but save for a best-of or two Kihn's catalog has languished out of print.  In fact, the GKB's debut Next of Kihn made it into the digital era for what seemed like two minutes.  I don't get this.  Really don't get this.  Why do they want to deprive this man of a legacy and kill off the memory of his band?

Truth be told, Next of Kihn is a mixed bag, with some lengthier pieces that may have seemed ok when the record was tracked in '78, but don't quite translate forty years after the fact.  It's the more concise cuts that do the trick for me - "Sorry," as well as the absolutely pumping "Cold Hard Cash" and "Museum."  Maybe not the textbook definition of power pop, but they truly don't write 'em like this anymore.

Incidentally, a new Kihn album is slated for later this year.

01. Cold Hard Cash
02. Museum
03. Remember
04. China Town
05. Sorry
06. Everybody Else
07. Understander
08. Secret Meetings

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Glass Penguins - Raspberry (1987, Green Monkey)

This cassette album from a good three decades ago will be of interest a got lot of you.  Not due so much to the renown of Glass Penguins prime mover Michael Cox, but some of his collaborators, including Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks), Scott McCaughey & Chuck Carroll (Young Fresh Fellows) and last but not least Jon Auer of The Posies who co-engineered Raspberry.  By and large this is Michael's baby, with the aforementioned primarily playing background roles.  No true blue revelations here, but all and all a pretty good tape that sonically pursues DIY, bedroom/power pop avenues. The opening "Girl I've Never Met" and later, "Out of the Rain" might mesh appropriately on an early Game Theory record, "I'm Sure" is brisk, assured acousti-pop, and "Out of the Rain" packs plenty of kickin' propulsive panache.  Michael does ample justice to the Knack's "Number and Your Name" and Neil Diamond's "Look Out (Here Come's Tomorrow)."

01. Girl I've Never Met
02. Shadow of a Fish
03. Your Time
04. Out of the Rain
05. Fine to Me
06. I'm Sure
07. Number or Your Name
08. She Moves Me
09. Look Out (Here Come's Tomorrow)
10. Pull Yourself Together
11. It's Never Too Late