Dec 30, 2011

V/A. Garden Party. Alienor Records.

1 Blurt

Some lovely stuff here, particularly the gorgeous Bedflowers who sound like Opal if Amelia Fletcher had joined up after Kendra Smith left. Also, is it just me or does Bulldozer Crash's Changing sound a whole heck of a lot like Just Like Heaven?

Side A

1. Des Garçons Ordinaires - Summer Games
2. Bulldozer Crash - Changing
3. The Spinning Wheels - Don't Get Me Wrong
4. Meek - Beautiful Day
5. The Straw Dogs - My Cherished Lonelyness
6. La Sintesis - September
7. The Bedflowers - My Ex-Lover's Adress
8. Antiseptic Beauty - Shoegaze
9. Les Daffodils - So Easy As You Lie
10. Flame Up - Let The World Smother You
11. Charming Boys - Rain

Side B

1. The Little Rabbits - The Boy Who Never Saw The Light (live)
2. Penelope Trip - Inside The Taxi
3. The Gravy Train - Happy Again
4. Les Chaplinn's - Sunny Day
5. The Prayers - Sister Goodbye
6. The Lovelies - Stupid Habit
7. Kaleidoscope - Dream 2
8. Koma Kino - Weaky Town
9. The Penelopes - A Place Called Home
10. Alival Tiosihteeri - Nasta Kaupunki
11. Mosaic Eyes - Klaus' Eyes
12. Die Time Twisters, Verdammt! - Denn Jetzt Bist Du Da

Garden Party

Best of 2011.

0 Blurts

Best Albums

24. Speed the Plough - Shine
23. The Feelies - Here Before
22. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
21. Dignan Porch – Deluded
20. Seapony - Go With Me
19. U.S. Girls - U.S. Girls on KRAAK
18. Craft Spells - Idle Labor
17. The Bats - Free All The Monsters
16. Blasted Canyons - Blasted Canyons
15. Terror Bird - Human Culture
14. Amen Dunes - Through Donkey Jaw
13. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
12. Wax Idols - No Future
11. Xray Eyeballs - Not Nothing
10. The Cars - Move Like This
9. Wild Flag - Wild Flag
8. Tom Waits - Bad As Me
7. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
6. Veronica Falls - Veronica Falls
5. Dum Dum Girls - Only in Dreams
4. Blouse - Blouse
3. Royal Headache - Royal Headache
2. Men - Talk About Body
1. Shannon and the Clams - Sleep Talk

Best singles

Bake Sale - Bake Sale
Beach Fossils / Wild Nothing - Gruesome Flowers: A Tribute to The Wake
Blouse - Into Black
Catwalk - One by Words
Head On Electric - Ghost Hunter
Terry Malts - Something About You
Midnite Snaxxx - A Guy Like That / Jackie
Pope Anything - Witch Tits
Vein Cranes - True Believer
Wax Idols - All Too Human / William Says
Xray Eyeballs - Crystal

Best Reissues

Chalk Circle – Reflection
Various Artists - The Hidden Tapes: A Compilation of Minimal Wave From Around the World '79-'85
Various Artists - Those Shocking Shaking Days: Indonesia Hard, Psychedelic, Progressive Rock and Funk 1970-1978

Sep 10, 2011

James Dean Driving Experience. Complete Recordings.

1 Blurt

These songs are like snapshots; the wet, chemical alchemy of real-life emotions frozen and blurred, crystalized and captured in velvet-grained silver gelatin. That's not a knock. Good pop distills the messy ambiguity of life and rearranges it into perfectly balanced nuggets of time and sound, allowing us to romanticize our pain, or even see it as heroic. (Those old vinyl 45s are legendarily fetishistic, and by their very nature as self-contained physical objects allow us to externalize, manipulate, and catalog our emotions from a safe distance. It's not for nothing that these sleeves all feature the detached, isolated, context-free iconography of romantic cinema. Starlets looking as cool, cold and untouchable as actual stars, and yet here you are turning them over in your hands.)

My experience with so much of C-86 is about what it's like to feel a feeling instead of being the direct embodiment of feeling itself, which is why so much of it evokes things safe and wistful. It's instant nostalgia (I miss the comfort of being sad, indeed) ionically charged with the symbolism of things acutely felt, existing in the infra-thin moment between loss and possibility.

That tart crispness becomes a roundabout way of eroticizing isolation—the tingling sensation of being wrapped in a warm sweater on a cold day and getting goosebumps anyway. While rock and roll of the past aimed directly at the groin (and what it might be doing in the vicinity of someone else's), C-86 is a generation or more removed from the 60's pop it reveres and acknowledges that temporal distance by underpinning the physical and emotional distance between the singer and subject, and between the song and its listener. To make up for the carnal absence it prefers to idealize loss itself the same way it idealizes the white pop and girl group sounds of the 60's. Everything is perfect in memory. Your skin can feel just as electric as your ears when being touched by invisible waves.

I think this is why the majority of C-86 and twee bands of the 80's existed primarily on singles. The songs on albums have to relate to each other, but singles come to you as individuals. You can have private relationships with them. They're meant to be handled. Singles are flirts, constantly demanding your attention to flip them on your record player, or pore over their enigmatic sleeves. Albums belong to the world, but singles are yours, no matter how many other people have one.

But, whatevs. The James Dean Driving Experience are actually pretty upbeat (and as evidenced by their name, a bit cheeky), but mostly dreamy. It's perfectly realized jangle-pop in the vein of the Sea Urchins, Remember Fun, or Hey Paulette. The download includes the singles and eps for World Weary & Wise, Lonely Hearts XI Versus The Rest Of The World, Dean's Eleventh Dream, Clearlake Revisited, and Sean Connery.

Jul 13, 2011

Oppenheimer Analysis. New Mexico.

0 Blurts

Achingly beautiful cold-wave fluttering between melancholic minimalism and elegant, fizzy electro-pop from way back in 1982. Andy Oppenheimer has the most gorgeously androgynous voice, perfectly suited for his songs about cold-war paranoia and detachment. The coming atomic Armageddon and technological dystopia were perennial themes of 80's new wave, made all the more poignant here, as Andy was apparently an actual science writer and nuclear expert. I had the same thought upon hearing it as I did when I discovered Eleven Pond—this has got to be one of the most sublime albums released that decade and somehow no one has ever heard of it. You need this now.

New Mexico

Jul 8, 2011

Alex Bleeker & the Freaks. Alex Bleeker & the Freaks.

0 Blurts

Somebody reshuffled Real Estate’s cards, and instead of turning over Woods or Beach Fossils, they cut deep into the middle of the deck and came up with Neil Young. This side project from bassist Alex Bleeker features most of the Real Estate crew, along with Julian Lynch on guitar, and sounds for all the world like an unsung Laurel Canyon band coming down with the last good buzz of the 70’s. Wistful and meandering with undercurrents of real power, it rolls down the highway like a Studebaker into the evening’s twilight. Cozy and easy going with tidal rhythms spiked by Lynch’s loose and ragged soloing, it’s classic rock for the “let’s rock the beach” set.


Jun 25, 2011

Another Sunny Day. You Should All Be Murdered.

0 Blurts

Sarah 22
Released: November 1989
01: You Should All Be Murdered
02: Horseriding
03: Green


Jun 21, 2011

14 Iced Bears. In the Beginning.

0 Blurts

Finally, an album that won’t make you want to have sex with your mother!

Tired of music that does nothing but feed your unholy Oedipal desires? Weary of bands whose idea of a MILF is waaay too narrow? Who isn’t? Let’s face it, popular music today is a minefield of pants-tightening paeans to the insatiable itch to put the “mother” in “motherfucker”. Gaga’s miming it on stage, fifteen years ago the Dave Matthews Band devoted a double concept album to it, and back in the 80’s you couldn’t get Phil Collins to shut up about it.

Well, worry no more! The 14 Iced Bears special blend of jangle-pop and psychedelic-punk is 100% guaranteed to take your mind off boning the baby cannon that brung you into this world, or your money back.


Jun 10, 2011

V/A. Positively Teenage!!?.

2 Blurts

1. The Love Parade - Dave Clark 5
2. The Gravy Train - Devil In Your Shoe
3. Lavender Faction - In My Mind
4. The Sunflowers - Sunflower Babies
5. St.James Infirmary - The Sun Don't Shine
6. The Mayfields - Out To Sea
7. Penny Candles - Memory Box
8. Regulators - Southside Johnny
9. Remember Fun - P.S. Elaine
10. Church Grims - Plaster Saint
11. Marc - Clearer, Brighter, Sharper
12. Felicity's - Why Don't You Come Round
13. Crimson Mints - Makes Me Want To
14. Mousefolk - Wishing The Summer Away
15. The Fat Tulips - All That Matters
16. The Love Parade – Eternally
17. The Gravy Train - All Fall Down
18. The Sunflowers - Sunflowers Mum
19. Perfect Kiss - So Many Alike
20. Church Grims - Seen It All
21. Panda Pops – Submarine
22. The Williams - Still Keep Coming
23. St.Christopher – Charmelle
24. The Driscolls - It's Your Daughter
25. The Sohfas – Thorns
26. The Spinning Jenny's - Gardeners Weakly
27. Bulldozer Clarts - Walks Away
28. Librarians - Stripping In The Cemetry
29. Strawberry Story - For The Love Of Billy
30. Hellfire Sermons - Down All The Days
31. Patrick Skelly & The Prescriptions - Land Of Tears

Positively Teenage

Jun 2, 2011

V/A. Ideal Guest House.

0 Blurts

Songs introduced by Ted Chippington
1. Big Flame - Man Of Few Syllables
2. The Wedding Present - You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends (Version)
3. The Soup Dragons - Fair's Fair
4. The Creepers - Sharper And Wider
5. The Shop Assistants - Home Again (Live)
6. The June Brides - This Town (Acoustic)
7. Rob Grant with Yeah Yeah Noh - Mr. Hammond Has Breakfast In Bed
8. Stump - Kitchen Table
9. The Legend - Everything's Coming Up Roses
10. Pigbros - Barren Land
11. Stitched Back Foot Airman - The Deadly Spore
12. BMX Bandits - Sad
13. Bogshed - Jobless Youngsters
14. Chumbawamba - Kinnochio


May 20, 2011

The Jags. Evening Standards.

0 Blurts

I have this fantasy that the sleeve for this album got made first and then handed to the band with instructions to make an album that would fit inside it. Because nothing else could have produced the synesthetic mesh of image and sound found here. It may not be an unjustly overlooked classic of new wave power-pop, but it may have unintentionally created its iconic apotheosis. Four nattily dressed lads stand looking studiedly aloof in front of the clean lines of a bauhausian office building beneath a romantically airbrushed turquoise sky. Sort of a cross between The Cars portraits on the back of Candy O and The Feelies Crazy Rhythms. The Jags themselves sound (a lot) like early Elvis Costello, and were in fact dismissed by critics as unworthy imitators when this was released in 1980. I was actually never a big fan of Costello, so this doesn't bother me, as I don't consider him terribly sacred. Their song Back of My Hand made the Top 40 and is occasionally resurrected on power-pop comps, but they never quite equaled it or scored another trip to the mainstream. It is undoubtedly the catchiest song on the album, but the rest of the songs are strong, punchy bundles of crisp, nervous energy, and to the people who encountered them, they're very fondly remembered.

Here's the problem, though. Either someone in the Jags had very recently been dumped, or they were just generally misogynist pricks (could be both/and). It seems like eighty percent of the songs on here are about how women are this stupid, sadistic alien species with the single-minded goal of breaking men's hearts, fucking with their lives, trapping them into bourgeois marriages and—of course—doing all this with men who aren't them. I know, I know...these sort of attitudes towards women are so common in popular music that if I had to edit out all the bands that weren't perfectly feminist, there would be precious little left to listen to. I'm hoping to get a copy of Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music for my birthday. Writing of the Sex Pistols' Bodies she said
It was an outrageous song, yet I could not simply dismiss it with outrage. The extremity of its disgust forced me to admit that I was no stranger to such feelings---though unlike Johnny Rotten I recognized that disgust, not the body, was the enemy. And there lay the paradox: music that boldly and aggressively laid out what the singer wanted, love, hated---as good rock and roll did---challenged me to do the same, and so, even when the content was antiwoman, antisexual, in a sense antihuman, the form encouraged my struggle for liberation. Similarly, timid music made me feel timid, whatever its ostensible politics.

They Jags may not be political in their stance, but the feathery-haired guy who sort of looks like Bruce Campbell on the cover is a pretty sharp songwriter and clearly has a vision he wants to communicate. It's the typical vision of nice guys turned bad boys due to not being given the pussy they so clearly deserve, but at least he owns it heart and soul. If guys start bands to be more attractive to women, I will never understand why they then go on to write songs insulting women and generally calling them heartless sluts for dating guys who weren't them before they had their own stage. Especially when you consider that (at least in the 80's) women were the primary audience for and consumers of new wave and power-pop music. Who did The Jags think their audience was? Who were they writing to?

Their saving grace is that the music is really catchy and choosing pleasure is its own kind of rebellion. Also, without the lyrics sheet I rarely know what the singer is singing about. It's just that...when you do read them—jeebus they can be pretty bad. Woman's World outright states in the chorus that It's a woman's world we live in / And a woman don't think straight, handily pointing out the confusing, oppressive, and flighty pussyarchy white male rock stars are forced to live under.

Then there's their one hit, Back of My Hand. Pandagon was talking about giving out fake phone numbers to get creepy guys to leave you alone at bars, and how women aren't entitled to the space to just be out with their friends. It was in response to this post at The Hairpin about how stalkery guys can be in those situations, and it made me think of this song, which sounds at first to be about getting a woman's phone number, but is actually full of thinly veiled threats of violence. With the double meanings of "I've got your number" (I have your phone number / I know what kind of person you areand what sort of sneaky thing you're up to) adding "written on the back of my hand" makes it pretty clear that he's threatening to hit the woman in question for the sin of not calling him for dates. Savor this run of lyrics and see what you think:

You only call me if you're feeling blue
You tell me I don't pay attention to you
But if you only knew just what I'm going through
You wouldn't phone those guys who mess around with you girl
You're not unreadable, you're not unbeatable
I know just what you are, don't push your luck too far
You're not untouchable, not just another girl
I get in touch with you, I only wish you knew...
I got your number written on the back of my hand
I got your number...

The weird thing is that I remember there being a lot of masculine gender panic over insufficiently manly new wave acts in the 80's, which was coupled with anxiety/resentment that this style was supposedly being driven by sexual young women having the hots for this new, androgynous version of the male. So to find this kind of sexual push back—a warning to women to know their place—in the songs that helped inspire that panic is odd to say the least. It seems like for every gain women achieve in regards to freedom and pleasure, there's a backlash—even within the cultural items that women's choices have helped make successful.

Evening Standards