Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Elevators - Frontline (1980)

More Massachusetts tuneage for you, only these lads weren't from Boston, rather a little further west in Northampton.  What few references that exist online regarding The Elevators invariably attach the new wave tag to this quintet, but power pop is more applicable.  Adopting the more gimmicky attributes of The Cars and Cheap Trick, it's pretty clear a few songs into Frontline that the Elevators are not cut from austere cloth.  There's something cheeky afoot on this record, but a more ironic angle would have made this one stick out a little more.  Lines like "Love is like wearing a rayon shirt/making me itch and making me sweat" are about as deep as these folks get.  Frontline doesn't offer much in the way of knockouts, but fortunately it's a record that will capably stimulate fans of Tommy Tutone, The A's and the Clocks.  

01. Frontline
02. Girlfriend's Girlfriend
03. Stop the World
04. Stickball Kids
05. Lie Detector
06. Don't Let me Die
07. Tropical Fish
08. Lies
09. Johnny
10. Friends
11. On the Wire

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Turning a trick on a west end street...

Nouveau yacht rock anyone?  Yes, this is better than I'm making it sound.  I've even tacked on a podcast with more details on this mysterious duo.  Enjoy.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Nova Mob - s/t (1994, Restless)

Thursday morning I learned that Grant Hart, drummer and co-vocalist of my all time favorite band, Husker Du, had passed away from cancer, a diagnosis I was ignorant to up until the announcement.  That plain-clothed power-trio from Minneapolis set me on the most exciting and visceral musical trajectory of my life.  They opened many a door for me.  I never witnessed Husker Du live, but had the opportunity to spend some time with Grant Hart, and am grateful for having the privilege of doing so.

The truth is, I had a closer affinity to Bob Mould's post-Husker endeavors than Grant's.  Still, every record he put his stamp on was at the very least worth investigating.  The self-titled second album from Grant's next band, Nova Mob, was well above average and worthy of the kind of copious praise heaped upon Sugar and Bob's early solo records.  It's also the most guitar-oriented album Grant was involved with outside of   Husker Du.  Some outright great songs present - "Old Empire," "Little Miss Information" and "Shoot Your Way to Freedom."  Many Hart related releases preceded and followed Nova Mob, but it's the closest he would come to perfection in his own right.  It's quite sobering to know that the voice behind these songs, and so many classics like "Green Eyes," "Sorry Somehow" and "Turn on the News" has been silenced.  Rest in peace, Admiral of the Sea

01. Old Empire
02. Shoot Your Way To Freedom
03. Puzzles
04. Buddy
05. See and Feel and Know
06. Little Miss Information
07. I Won't Be There Anymore
08. Please Don't Ask
09. The Sins of Their Sons
10. Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
11. If I Was Afraid
12. Not Talking About
13. Evergreen Memorial Drive

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Boys With Toys - Big House (1985, Hot Fudge)

Info on this Iowa City trio is pretty scant, but a brief primer can be found here.  I believe Brad Jones (ostensibly the Boys frontman, though I can't confirm) eventually went on to record a solo disk for Big Deal Records a decade after Big House hit the racks.  As for Boys With Toys proper, they struck a pretty reasonable compromise between power pop and rootsy rockabilly.  Their "pop" angle loosely resembled the Romantics and Plimsouls...but I wouldn't get too excited.  "Every Young Boys Heart" and "Ain't No Picture Show" twirl my knob the most.  Enjoy (or not).

01. Every Young Boys Heart
02. Cold Grey Morning
03. I Been Dreamin' too
04. Ain't No Picture Show
05. Holdin' On
06. Two by Two
07. In The Mood for Me
08. Oh Oh, No No
09. Rockin' and Rollin'
10. Don't Put Your Perfume on Tonight

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Looking at my watch and I'm half-past caring.

The Japanese version of this Scottish band's 1990 debut containing several b-sides as bonus tracks. 


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Bob Mould - Workbook demos (1988)

My apologies if it seems like I've been phoning it in lately.  Hopefully in the near future I'll be able to provide you with a "normal" amount of content again.  Until then I have this.  Workbook was Bob Mould's first album after dissolving Husker Du in the tail end of 1987 (or was it early 1988).  That band veritably changed my life and musical trajectory.  It surprised a lot of people when Bob returned to music with an unabashedly acoustic endeavor.  By coincidence, Workbook was very much in the same league as Richard Thompson, another acoustic-y singer/songwriter.  At any rate, here are eight drum machine-driven sketches for the album in question (some of which btw never gestated past the demo stage)Dare I say an audio workbook for a Workbook?

01. Brasilia Crossed With Trenton
02. If You're True
03. Sunspots
04. Wishing Well
05. Walls in Time
06. Heartbreak a Stranger
07. Dreaming I Am
08. Trade

MP3 (320 bps)  or  FLAC

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Walt Mink - El Producto (1996)

Hard to believe an indie band of any stripe would become more inspired upon making the jump to a major label.  Nevertheless, Urge Overkill, Surgery, and what's that other one...oh yeah, Nirvana, all seemed to gain a stronger sonic/lyrical foothold when the big boys rang the dinner bell.  This phenomenon could be pure coincidence, but I'd lump Walt Mink into that elite fold, with their lone Atlantic Records release, El Producto.  Their third proper album, Producto yielded little in the way of hits (thanks in part to a nil-promotional push), but in terms of proficiency and hook saviness it's probably the most convincing album of their tenure.  From the buzzy power pop of "Betty," the dexterous guitar splay of the uncanny "Overgrown," to the bowl-em-over thrash pop scorcher "Little Sister," you'd be hard pressed to claim this lil' rekid doesn't persuade in one way or another.  Gotta love those arpeggiated guitar fills too.  Make sure to check out our previous Walt Mink entry surrounding a pair of early demo albums here

01. Stood Up
02. Everything Worthwhile
03. Betty
04. Overgrown
05. Settled
06. Me & My Dog
07. Little Sister
08. Up & Out
09. #246
10. Listen Up
11. Sunshine M
12. Love in the Dakota

Sunday, September 3, 2017

I didn't try to take your love away, I just never knew I had it.

From 2001 & 2003.  Why their first two albums (these ones) go ignored is beyond me.  BTW, LP #7 drops this week.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Fudge - Southside Speedway (1994, Caroline)

In 2009, I offered you no small amount of music/insight regarding Richmond, VA's Fudge, whose weirded-out spin on dream pop was nothing less than sublime on a spate of early singles and an often phenomenal debut, The Ferocious Rhythm of Precise Laziness.  By the time of that particular album (1993) the whole shoegazer shtick was getting a little predictable, but I'll be damned if this crew didn't incorporate something a little indigenous into the recipe - something I was never quite able to put my finger on.  What a difference a year made.  By the time of their '94 follow-up, Southside Speedway, the band had eschewed a lot of that crazy cool haze and tremolo - a development that was a bit of a bummer at first blush.  I have to wonder how many Fudge-istas threw in the towel after checking out SS for the first time.  I know I was almost tempted to, but I persisted and grew into it in almost no time.  On an album that turned out to be their swan song, Southside tilted heavily in the vicinity of American indie rock, with signposts pointing to Superchunk and Monsterland.  There are a few instances of dissonant dross on this bad boy, but thankfully there's plenty of equally primo material that any combo of their ilk would be more than proud of.  But don't take my word for it.  Check out "Patty Hearst Machine Gun," "Superstar Junky," and "Our Francis III," just a handful of excellent songs that transcend any genre-fication Fudge were saddled with (for better or worse).  BTW, the links to most of my previous Fudge entries have been fixed.

01. Tree Fort Stash
02. Dart GT
03. It's Morning, Already
04. Patty Hearst Machine Gun
05. Our Francis III
06. Southside Speedway
07. Feather Splitter
08. Lucky's Tightest T-Shirt
09. Car Stereo Blast Off
10. Superstar Junky
11. Shirts & Skins

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Guided by Voices - Kit Kat Acoustic Break session, 1997

For better or worse (most likely the latter) we're right smack dab in the middle of the week where I have little or nothing on the burner ready to fire.  Hopefully I'll have my act together in a few days, but until then, here's another selection from my dwindling folder of Guided by Voices rarities and curios.  This is the band's installment in the Kit Kat Acoustic Break series.  These live, in-studio sessions originated from the mid-90s and were pressed up on CD and sent to college radio stations for weekly airplay.  You'll no doubt recognize host, Pat Dinizio from Smithereens renown.  His approach was anti-climactic at best, but he was at least hip to GBV.  I don't have an original copy of the disk, but I was able to find a digitized version of the set, presumably taped from an FM radio broadcast.  It's the Mag Earwig lineup of GBV (Doug Gillard, etc), nipping on the heels of the "classic" lineup (Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, etc).  And yes, Pollard and Co. managed to maintain their sobriety for the entirety of the set.  Am not quite sure if that's a plus or a minus, but anyway.

Seven songs: Quicksilver, Not Behind the Fighter Jet, Bulldog Skin, Choking Tara, My Impression Now, Now to War and Teenage FBI.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A crush too much for pen and paper.

An album of deftly crafted, textured indie pop from 2012.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Intra Muros - Why Not More Parmesan? (1985, Glass o' Milk)

Here's yet another slab of vintage wax that I honestly can't recall acquiring - not that I'm complaining.  I do have some modest complaints with the music enshrined within however, 99% of which I can attribute to Intra Muros' primary mouthpiece, Julie Willing, whose attempted Siouxsie Sioux impersonation frequently escalates to those pesky operatic trills that really grate on my nerves.  Thankfully she functions at a more modest keel on a decent portion of Parmesan, alongside her three male compatriots.  The Muros were through-and-through post punk, Anglo-indebted as all-get-out, with signposts pointing squarely not only to Siouxsie but early Cure.  Furthermore, I'll be darned if guitarist John Broderick and bass plucker Mark Romero didn't purloin a morsel or two from New Order focal points Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook.  In spite of Parmesan's, not so cheesy goth-y aplomb, a few anomalies like "President Jim" and "The Future" sidestep this motif revealing that this Huntington Beach, CA crew had some insight into what was transpiring on their own side of the pond.  Cool.

01. 33 RPM
02. Manifest Destiny
03. 269 Birds
04. Flag
05. Within the Walls
06. Fear
07. President Jim
08. Too Much Sun
09. The Future

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Incognito Rockers - s/t ep (1984, Mystic)

I usually don't gravitate anywhere near a record with an "olides" or "swing" bent regardless of how conservatively those m.o.'s might be employed, but I suppose I'll make an exception for this one.  Incognito Rockers were a lively co-ed six-piece, presumably from southern Cali, who dish out a couple beauts on here that are precisely in said vein.  "Kiss It" is a risque throwback that's one milkshake short of a sock hop.  "Just As Much Charm" is another malt shop slammer, doubly as catchy as the aforementioned.  Elsewhere, "Cat and Mouse"is a Blondie-ish snyth rocker that would have also fit nicely on one of X's mid-80s platters.  Some intermittent saxophone is fittingly wielded on this record, adding that much more to the fun quotient.  This one's damn near a blast.   

01. Kiss It
02. Cat and Mouse
03. Attention
04. Just As Much Charm

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Raspberries - Pop Art Live (2017, Omnivore) - A brief overview.

It was touted as a reunion that was likely to never happen, but occasionally hell apparently does indeed freeze over every now and then.  November 26, 2004, The House of Blues in Cleveland, OH.  That was the date and locale for the reunion of one of the foremost prototypical power pop conglomerations ever to grace a stage.  The Raspberries.  I'm not sure what accounted for the avoidance of a Raspberries pre-20004 was all about.  Perhaps it was rooted in inter-band conflicts, disinterest in the four gentleman involved, or merely the passage of three decades, and the gradual eroding of relevance an epoch like that can levy.  Thing is, to fans of the Raspberries the band in question never became irrelevant.  Despite the indifference of radio (save for two or three signature songs), the intermittent availability of the quartet's complete catalog (even on their own home turf) or the gradually diminishing profiles of it's alumni, the Raspberries were one of the go-to bands that turn-of-the-millenium adopters of power pop gravitated to after having their minds blown from their posthumous discovery of the first two Big Star albums.  Not that the 'berries were the obvious intersecting link between Big Star, and say, The Posies, but you get the idea.  By the way, if you're going to plunder inspiration from a trifecta of outfits whose monikers start with a "B" (Beatles, Bafinger, and the Beach Boys) you better make them count.  Crica 1970-75, The Raspberries certainly did.

So low and behold. it happened.  A Black Friday evening in the so-called Mistake on the Lake saw Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, David Smalley and Jim Bonfanti gracing the big HOB stage to deliver a two-hour, early Christmas gift to a sold out and anxious audience.   On that night, even if the Raspberries decided to pull the plug after ten or eleven songs the crowd would have gotten their money's worth.  Or let's say, the four men in question were a bit rusty and worse for the wear.  I bet that would've been A-ok for most attendees.  And for a final hypothetical, imagine if the group merely ran through their setlist with nary an anecdote or thoughtful gesture to impart on the audience.  I'm 99.99% certain their constituency that night would've gladly let it fly.

But imagine if none of those pessimistic scenarios came to pass.  As miraculous as it sounds that's exactly the way things went down, and a double CD live document of the gig is captured marvelously on Pop Art Live.  Imagine if you will a dream setlist featuring not only every key Raspberries tune (including but not limited to "Overnight Sensation," "I Wanna Be With You," 'Play On," and "Let's Go all the Way") but a teaming slew of deeper cuts from all four albums.  There's no less than half a dozen "fits-right-in" covers on top of that, including the fab four's "Baby's in Black," "Ticket to Ride" "No Reply," The Who's reliable "I Can't Explain" and two songs from The Choir, a Raspberries precursor outfit who penned the oft-covered "Cold Outside."

Performance-wise you couldn't hope to encounter a band that was tighter and more on-point than this one, with all four guys sounding more aligned and at the peak of their game than perhaps even the Raspberries heyday.  And dig the harmonies, from gentleman who were doing this in their fifties at time of this recording!  An inexplicable phenomenon, but if you want the proof it was all captured on tape.  Finally, there's a bit of a Storytellers thing evidencing itself on more than a few songs, with Eric and Wally sharing the lion's share of the observations.

Technically, the Cleveland House of Blues show wasn't exactly a one-time event (select shows in other mondo American markets followed) but it was so thorough and definitive, laced with such impeccable, par excellence quality control it would have made for one of the greatest one-off reunion performances ever.  That being said, if you missed it, you missed it - but luckily all 28 magic moments that transpired on that stage are now available to experience in a more petite medium, literally at the press of a button.  Pop Art Live can be had straight from Omnivore Records, Amazon, iTunes, and hopefully a local music vendor near you. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Overdemanding and underfed...

The oft overlooked fourth (and what was then proposed to be) final album from these power pop titans.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

I don't ever want to play the part of a statistic on a government chart...

Sorry I haven't given you much this week.  I hope this will suffice.  Prototypes for songs from album number four.  15 tracks. 


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Capstan Shafts - Fixation Protocols (2008, Rainbow Quartz)

Three weeks ago I enlightened you with an entry regarding lo-fi outlier Dean Wells, or more specifically his musical alter-ego the Capstan Shafts.  You took quite a shine to the 2007 album I shared, Environ Maiden, and voila, here's the followup.  In that earlier piece I emphasized Wells affection for Guided By Voices/Robert Pollard's penchant for "leave 'em wanting more" ethos.  Brevity is still a watchword on Fixation Protocols, but the overarching effect is less derivative of the Fading Captain.  Sometimes that yields songs that are less than immediate, yet wholly rewarding on subsequent go-arounds.  In short, expect the artful, just not necessarily the grandiose.

01-Asymptonic freedom
02-Shaky days, bring honey
03-Eyeliner skywriting etc
04-Middles of June
05-Anthropecene stealers
06-Miss Cenozoic
07-What used to become you (now befalls you)
08-Communists in 19th century America
09-A heart that never flies
10-Get Honest
11-Brightest page in the history of man
12-Her novel 'canal zone poetry'
13-Little world saver
14-Boy to take you nowhere
15-Behemoth to a Flame
16-The Hell With the Days Again
17-The Stunted Kid
18-Fixation Protocal
19-Squeals of Resignation
20-Song for monometallists
21-The framers blameless enterprise
22-Voting Hopeless

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Cement Trampoline - Glad to Be Alive (1989, Imagine!)

Never mind the (quasi) mullets, this Bay Area foursome weren't quite as "boss" as their collective visages suggest.  Cement Trampoline were presumably minor players in their hometown scene, with faint inclinations to not-so-local contemporaries raging from the Feelies to Dramarama and even the Smithereens.  Glad to Be Alive finds these humble gents mixing things up with several gradations of speed and intensity.  "Pushing the Panic Button" is a thing of jagged riff-rock beauty, with "Everything Means Touch" coming in at a close second.  "Lifeline" is strummy, power pop manna, the mid-tempo "Pick Me Up" isn't necessarily capable as it's title purports, but C/T save their finest for last, a swift jangly salvo in the guise of "Now!"  Some of the in-between tunes I've failed to mention are a little too slow or pedestrian for my edgy tastes, but I'll let you suss out which ones they are.

01. Lifeline
02. When You Hear My Song
03. I Keep Hoping
04. Step Lightly
05. Pushing the Panic Button
06. Gallup to a Crawl
07. (Shake) The Hand of Fate
08. Everything Means Touch
09. Lucky As You Are
10. Pick Me Up
11. Now!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

I shot an actor in the street. It was my debut at directing.

From 1999.  I've even tacked on a bonus track from the Japanese version.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Suburban Sprawl - Ice (198?, Lott)

Our friends at Mine for Life recently reminded me of a relatively unknown band whose CD I picked up years ago, but never gave much of a listen to.  File Suburban Sprawl under post-new wave?  Not overwhelmingly synthy or guitarsy, this well coifed quintet from points unknown, strike me as having gotten their foot in a certain door that was just about to slam firmly shut by the late '80s.  Bit of a nondescript angle here, but Ice's hottest idea, "Serious" would slot in well with say, Wire Train or Red Rockers.  Suburban Sprawl sported a pretty plush sound,that wasn't fully arrived on the bulk of this disk, and sadly it looks like they never followed up on this album's promise.  Discogs pegs Ice's copyright as 1987, but the sleeve notes don't provide a date.  I'd put it at 1988 or later.  The tray card tracklist is a bit scrambled as well.  I'm not entirely sure what the title of the sixth cut is, but seven is definitely "Wanda Wanda," not "Wireless."  Check out the non-LP "Borders" from the Mine for Life blog link above. 

01. Baby Feet
02. At a Glance
03. Stay Forever
04. Ice
05. Keep the Faith
06. Wireless (?)
07. Wanda Wanda
08. Serious
09. Feel Appeal
10. Weekends
11. Resident
12. Never Say Never

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Maurice and the Clichés - C'est la Vie (1982, RMS)

I learned of this combo not in 1982 when this was released, rather a good 25 years later online.  From what little I've been able to glean, Maurice and the Clichés ostensibly had origins both in Vancouver, BC and Seattle.  There's not much of a timeline out there to gauge them by, but C'est la Vie appears to be there sophomore salvo, kicking off with the single "Soft Core."  The song in question is a deadpan, yet sardonic spoke/sung piece with vague references to, you guessed it, pornography.  The song's mildly robotic tenor soon gives way to the considerably more tuneful, driving modus operandi Maurice and the Clichés are revered for, at least in some small circles.  "It's All Talk," "Beautiful Girls," and the swift, ringing title track, are gold nuggets with turn-of-the-decade power pop emblazoned all over them, that will do aficionados of Elvis Costello and early Joe Jackson just fine. 

01. Soft Core
02. It's All Talk
03. Reach for the Top
04. Working Girls
05. Unschuld
06. Social Casualties
07. Beautiful Girls
08. Dead Reckoning
09. Skyline
10. C'est la Vie

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Black out the words for the blind have eyes.

The bonus disk from an expanded reissue of this storied UK band's fourth album, originally from 1996.