Oct 4, 2010

Hovercraft. Live. Unknown.

0 Blurts

This was on the flip side of the Mercury Rev show posted below. Whoever sent it to me didn't record where or when it came from. Judging by the accented voices you can hear at the beginning, this was recorded somewhere in the UK, which probably dates it to 1999 as that was the only year they toured in England (outside of one London show in '97).

There's some tape hiss, but it's quickly drowned out by Hovercraft's ear-scouring levels of demented noise (There may be a good way to remove ambient tape artifacts, but whenever I've tried it, it just leaves the rest of the audio sounding clippy. Besides, as Cat and Girl have said, tape hiss is the only authentic sound).

Hovercraft preferred to improvise live, lurching and swaying between mid-century, abstract industrial training-film music and reverberating, psychedelically mechanistic interstellar overdrive. It could be the soundtrack for a very destructive ballet about a belligerently drunk, hyper-jointed, giant robot stumbling down a dark alley.

Hovercraft

Oct 1, 2010

Mercury Rev. Astoria Theater, London. 11/2/93.

0 Blurts

A volcanic upwelling of psychedelic magma. A slow motion film of Neil Young crashing the Death Star face first into the unicorn sequence from Fantasia. A circus of jelly-bodied squid wobbling around the ring on unicycles, cards fluttering in the spokes.

It's the David Baker years, when a slippery black-light liquid ran thick in their veins. Back then, they could even out-flame the Lips.

1. Very Sleepy Rivers
2. Syringe Mouth
3. Something for Joey
4. Chasing a Bee
5. Meth of a Rockette's Kick
6. Boys Peel Out

Astoria


Update 10/7/10: VoltronsHead made a video for Meth of a Rockette's Kick, which you can now sample below.

Sep 28, 2010

Les Rallizes Dénudés. Tachikawa. December 17, 1976.

2 Blurts

Despite LRD's explosive aural and visual assault on their audiences, Takashi Mizutani was never a flashy singer, usually sounding instead like a lost spirit on the verge of revelation, wandering in an existential forest of his own making. This must have been a happier night, as White Waking is positively poppish, and even the trademark, brain-scouring levels of white noise are uplifting. There's still plenty of menace, like the way the bass stalks Mizutani throughout Flames of Ice, but even there the crackling guitar lead eventually outstrips it, swelling with light and enveloping the once dark forest.

I've written before about the nihilism of LRD's music, but my point is that it's a benevolent indifference. They would never do anything so gauche as to rock you like a hurricane. Similies are for chickenshits. They are a hurricane, but not metaphorically, either. The kind that sees you leaving with a mic stand blown through your cranium (OK, that may not be benevolent. But you buys your ticket, you takes your chances). Thy're as close as you can get to safely watching elemental catastrophe as performance art.

Like the vast majority of the Rallizes' output, this is of bootleg quality (although they may be the only band for whom that works in their favor), but whoever recorded it must have been sitting in the auditorium's sweet spot. The separation is great, and you can tell the instruments apart for once. It's almost like listening to them in widescreen. The guitar comes through really well, and you can actually hear the notes Mizutani's picking out (I particularly like the spirited run towards the end of Angel). And whoever was playing bass for them that night really knew how to lay that shit down, which is a whole new dimension for them.

The vertiginous, see-sawing Heat Wave—powered by a surprisingly confident, stomping bass line and some great rock drumming—finds Mizutani leading them all to fantastic new heights, thundering along like a herd of naked biker hippies, straight into the sun. It's one of his all-time best moments—the sort of thing that raises the hair on the back of your neck and makes your heart catch in your throat. You know without a doubt that this was one of those songs that took over a crowd, instantly transforming them into a solid, beastly, interconnected mass of head-banging, transcendent abandon. It'll make your soul explode.

Dream finishes things off by melting back into a tense, worrisome, brittle space. A dream askew with shadows and twigs. The forest closes back in, and the white light streamers slither and shake back into the darkness. It's an inversion of where they started with White Waking and the perfect end to the night.

Tachikawa

Sep 25, 2010

The Field Mice. Sensitive.

3 Blurts

Sarah 018
Released: February 27, 1989
Tracks:
01: Sensitive
02: When Morning Comes To Town

Sensitive

Sep 24, 2010

Au Pairs. Playing With a Different Sex.

0 Blurts

A bit of queer feminist reggae-disco punk-funk for your weekend. Have The Gossip covered We’re So Cool, yet? They should.

Like Gang of Four, The Au Pairs made authoritative, tight, and imminently danceable songs that rocked their politics just as hard as their grooves. Lesley Woods sang with a smoky, snarky, blues voice and played a twitchy guitar that she used to scratch up the hollows of the throbbing, syncopated punk rhythms. They wanted to take over the world, or at least the pop charts, but disappeared after two albums.

They aimed big while revolutionizing the small. Unlike a lot of political-with-a-capital-p bands, their politics were personal, honest, funny, awkward and unflinching. They weren’t telling anybody what to think, or even what they thought. They were just dramatizing situations and roles, and left it up to their listeners to make the connections to larger contexts. Most of their lyrics address power hierarchies, whether between romantic couples, governments and people, or even within bands. The mixed genders of the group and their use of Jamaican dub aesthetics were both ways to bypass and test the flexibility of those levels of authority. Simultaneously playing with and ignoring sex and gender (sort of like The Raincoats), they mixed it up with everyday stories of the negotiating that goes on in all types of relationships.

Come Again (banned by the BBC) looks at the way even the most private of spaces and moments are fraught with competing demands and sympathies. There’s nothing more transcendently fun than an orgasm, but here (even progressive) women have to be aware of the pressures on them to perform for their partners—it’s only polite—and sometimes fake it; even when they want it, even if they know their partner is trying, especially when they don’t and he isn’t. And what about feeling like you have to because you’re a new woman who changed the rules, and has sex on your own terms—because those women always have orgasms, now, right? Just thinking about it can throw you off your game, even when things had been going well. An allmusic review patronizingly called their songs “hectoring”, but Come Again rocks like crazy and ends with this hilarious and all too recognizable chorus:

Is your finger aching? I can feel you hesitating.
Is your finger aching!?!
Yes, thank you, I got one. Yes, it was nice.
Yes, we should go to sleep now. Yes, yes it was fine—
We must, we must do it again sometime. We must—
Yes, but I'm tired. Cum again? Wot?
Shit, I forgot to put my cap in!

The album came out at a time when the British government was busy ignoring rising levels of Fascist youth violence directed at Asian and Pakistani communities, gay clubs, feminist spaces and performers—anything not white and right wing. At the same time, the government was torturing female IRA prisoners (many falsely accused) while maintaining a public face of innocence. In Armagh, Lesley calls out the way torture and rape are used as tools of governments and patriarchies, both of whom hide behind professions of belonging to a higher order that couldn’t possibly be guilty of those things. We don’t torture / We’re a civilized nation / We’re avoiding any confrontation, Lesley mockingly chants throughout the song.

I wish she were still around today. In just under thirty years, “We don’t torture, we’re a civilized nation” has mutated from denial to excuse to justification. “We’re civilized people, and civilized people don’t torture, therefore all that stuff you’ve seen and heard about that looks like torture isn’t.” It’s become a hallmark of right wing discourse to argue in bad faith and to claim that the horrible thing being done isn’t really happening, and even if it is, they’re just doing it to protect you. Witness the disingenuous claims that anti-choicers don’t hate women or want to punish their sexuality. Why, no! They love women so much, they’re taking away their rights and choices so they don’t make any of those stupid decisions women (especially poor women) are likely to make when there isn’t a man around to tell them what they really want. Right now, in the US, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) is trying to make the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits federal Medicaid funding for abortions services) permanent law. As it stands, it’s a budget item that gets voted on each year (which is bad enough, and has been going on for 34 years), but making it permanent law would have the effect of making abortion coverage illegal for low income women on Medicaid, federal employees, and military women. It would also effectively end abortion coverage in private employer policies, and endanger life-saving emergency abortions at state and local public hospitals. If you live in the US, visit this link to The Center for Reproductive Rights, where you can write to your Congressional representative and tell them to oppose this act.

Playing

Sep 22, 2010

Outer Limits Recordings. Foxy Baby.

0 Blurts

As my girlfriend is fond of saying about a certain genre of my music collection, “this sounds like something you’d listen to”. And it is. Originally released during the microsecond the Outer Limits Recordings website was operational (so presumably the work of Sam Meringue. See also: Wingdings), Foxy Baby has been reissued on lovely marbled pink vinyl by Not Not Fun. It’s officially described as telling "the strange, fragmented story of a young weirdo artist who has an encounter with an exotic otherworldly woman (the titular Ms. Foxy Baby), becomes obsessed, loses her into the cosmic blur of the city, then slips backstage at one of her shows to find her, where they mysteriously share a final cigarette while staring out across the metropolis’ skyline, then ascend into a holy void of alien lights”, but unless that story line is inscribed somewhere in the wax itself, I defy you to figure it out from listening to the album.

It’s always intriguing how much this stuff evokes the 80’s without ever sounding like any specific part of it. It’s synth-pop by way of Ariel Pink and James Ferraro; a tumultuous mulch of new-wave sounds, answering-machine beat-boxing, trippy FX, and the speed of submerged highways specially built for talking Camaros. A Xeroxed copy of a memory. It’s the music of apocalyptic sci-fi movies that only appeared on late night Canadian TV channels, flavored by the scaly rust of industrial decay under neon light. Fitness video grooves and phazer fire commingle and jumble while squeezing through wormholes into desert supermodel dimensions. I can never tell if anyone is actually making these sounds or if they’ve just been found and subjected to some mysterious process that involves dubbing them through millions of generations of cassettes dug out of the back seats of abandoned cars.

Foxy Baby

Buy it from Not Not Fun

Sep 21, 2010

The Housemartins. Glastonbury 1986.

0 Blurts

A little companion piece to yesterday’s demos. Here’s the Housemartins opening the main stage on the last day of the 1986 Glastonbury Festival. That year also came with The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, The Pogues, Madness, The Brilliant Corners, Nightingales, The June Brides, Robyn Hitchcock, The Go-Betweens, and Half Man Half Biscuit, among others. If only time travel were possible.

Glastonbury

Sep 20, 2010

The Housemartins. Themes For The Well-Dressed Man. Demos.

2 Blurts

A very early demo tape from everyone’s favourite purposefully dorky, sincerely sarcastic, Christian Marxists. Also includes some tracks from a BBC session.

1. All Men Are The Same
2. When Will I Be Released
3. Skatsburg
4. Swansea
5. Singapore
6. It's History
7. Time Spent Thinking
8. The Day I Called It A Day
9. Taxi to Singapore
10. Caravan Of Love (live)
11. He Ain't Heavy (live)
12. Heaven Help Us All (live)

Themes

Sep 10, 2010

Elf Power. Treasures From the Trash Heap.

0 Blurts

I quite often describe bands as being the equivalent of some hypothetical cross-breeding of their influences. It’s rarely true and can unfairly diminish the singularly unique elements they’ve created. So without discounting the fact that Elf Power really are something wholly more and better than the sum of their antecedents, I think it’s fairly possible to draw an accurate, if inverted, phylogenetic map of their sound.

Really, it’s only because of how secure they are in their own identity that they can be so successful when revisiting the songs of their heroes. It’s why Nothing’s Going to Happen1 is one of their best albums, and possibly the best representation of what they do, despite being made up entirely of covers. The Flaming Lips, Brian Eno, R.E.M., T. Rex, Wire, Sonic Youth, Jesus and Mary Chain, Roky Erickson, Robyn Hitchcock, The Buzzcocks, The Byrds, Hüsker Dü, and The Misfits all find some expression in Elf Power’s perfectly balanced mixture. Maybe it’s because their own songs—filtered and soaked in so many different elements—can function like a simultaneous mixtape that it’s so easy to like the band. They’re clueing you in to where they’ve come from and what they’ve loved along the way like your older sister sending you back all the cool bands she discovered in college.

This album was only available at their Back to the Web tour, and collects pretty much everything they’d done that never made it onto an album, or was only available as part of some other compilation you didn’t have. As an obsessive collector, I have to commend and thank them for really doing this type of album right. I want it all, and they’ve put it on here. Demos, more covers, a few live tracks, a remix, and a number of songs that just never saw the light of day. And they’re all really, really good. Historical Ant Wars rules. Back to the Web was a bit of a return to their old sound after a few albums that had found them stepping away from their early dive-bombing buzz, but Treasures From the Trash Heap is an even better encapsulation of the early days (although it covers every period). Like R.E.M.’s similar Dead Letter Office, it’s like getting to rummage around in your favorite band’s junk drawer. Without the pressure to create a coherent album, everything just reverts to being its own weird type of fun.

1. Temporary Arm (country version)
2. Face in the Sand (demo)
3. Feel a Whole Lot Better (Byrds cover)
4. Dandy in the Underworld (T.Rex cover)
5. Another Face (demo)
6. Hole in My Shoe (demo)
7. All the Same
8. Rise High Giant Fly
9. Historical Ant Wars
10. Empty Pictures (demo)
11. Princess Knows (Olivia Tremor Control cover)
12. Invisible Men (demo)
13. Dark Circles
14. Underneath the Bunker (R.E.M. cover)
15. Arrow Flies Close (live at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto)
16. Blackbirds
17. Invisible Men (techno version)
18. Run Through the Forest
19. I Know I
20. Spiders
21. It's Not Cold
22. Reuters (Wire cover, live at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto)
23. Honey (Spacemen 3 cover, live at the Landfill, Athens, GA)
24. The Slider (T.Rex cover)


1. Actually, A Dream In Sound and Creatures are the pinnacle of their work, but Nothing’s Going To Happen seems to hit right in the middle of what they’re usually aiming for.


Treasures

Sep 1, 2010

Anorak Girl. Plastic Fantastic.

0 Blurts

If it weren’t for the references to the Spice Girls and Tamagotchi, and the fact that they claimed to be a Helen Love cover band, you could easily believe that this long lost bit of casio-powered pop had danced its way out of the band’s bedroom back when twee was going all electro. Even the name is an obvious nod to the scene’s choice of outerwear.

As it is, they showed up out of nowhere in 1996, released two singles and promptly disappeared. No one’s entirely sure who was in the band (There’s some speculation it involved Helen Love members in an even goofier mood, or a spoof perpetrated by the Reading UK band Cuckooland. Another bio claims they were from the Isle of Wight, so who knows). Whoever they were, they left some adorably twee disco tunes full of chirpy, sparkling keyboards, punk guitar, and heavenly vocals.

To give you some idea of how cartoonishly fun they were, I’ve half convinced myself that Andrew WK stole the thrashing keyboard/ guitar intro and rousing horn section from the chorus of Cybersex.

Plastic Fantastic

Aug 31, 2010

Dolly Mixture. Peel Session. August 7, 1979.

0 Blurts

1. A Dream Come True
2. Ernie Ball
3. He’s So Frisky
4. New Look Baby
5. The Locomotion
6. Theme From Dolly Mixture

Germs of Youth records has put out a limited vinyl reissue of Dolly Mixture's Demonstration Tapes, hand stamped and signed by the band. They're only making 300, so hurry.

Peel Session

Aug 30, 2010

Another Sunny Day. Demos.

0 Blurts

1. Eternal
2. Her Friend
3. I Guess I'm the One Who's To Blame
4. I Want You
5. It's OK if You Don't Want Me
6. The Boy from St. Ives
7. What's Wrong

Demos

Aug 28, 2010

The Golden Dawn. George Hamilton's Dead.

0 Blurts

Sarah 017
Released: 1989
Tracks:
01: George Hamilton's Dead
02: The Sweetest Touch
03: Let's Build A Dyson Sphere

George Hamilton

Aug 27, 2010

Great Lakes. Great Lakes.

0 Blurts

From back when references to “the collective” meant Elephant 6, not Animal.

Actually, The Great Lakes were on Kindercore, but this album does feature most of of Montreal and Elf Power in guest spots, and Robert Schneider of the Apples In Stereo produced it. In fact, of Montreal’s Jamey Huggins was an official member of both bands, and when I first encountered the two groups playing a double bill, nobody seemed all that concerned with which one they belonged to. At one point, this enormous hillbilly-looking guy (wearing nothing but overalls and a beard) wandered out of the crowd, climbed onto the stage and played a gorgeous French Horn solo. I assume he was friends with the band, but they were weird times.

Of Montreal had just put out The Gay Parade and were having a lot of fun onstage with wild costume changes and confetti, but the Great Lakes put on a more musically powerful set with great, blooming swirls of well orchestrated psychedelia. If you were into the Athens scene at the time, you know that this style was not exactly in short supply, but while the Great Lakes shared a common chemical makeup with the rest of the collective, they cooked the ingredients with a little more care. None of these songs spiral out into the directionless abstractions of Olivia Tremor Control, nor do they share the latent prog tendencies of the Apples, or of Montreal’s penchant for twee storytelling. A bit like The Essex Green crossed with The Zombies, their songs are buoyant affairs built on vivid layers of swaying melodies that float and drift like an early morning dream. Storming and Become the Ship have a nautical flair, and An Easy Life and Virgil recall the Beatle’s habit of incorporating British music hall elements in their psych-pop (it occurs to me nearly every song on here echoes the relaxed footfalls of that band’s Fixing a Hole or Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, which is a pace I have no problem keeping up with). Elsewhere, A Banana’s gentle synths sigh and flutter like a leaf tumbling through the cool fall air.

It’s a non-stop parade of elegant, sunny pop and retro joy, and although they never achieved the (relative) fame of their scene-mates, it’s still some of the best music the Elephant 6 had to offer.

Great Lakes

Aug 26, 2010

The Driscolls. The Complete Recordings.

5 Blurts

Update 9/8/10: I've uploaded a new copy of the file and redirected the link. If any of you still have problems with it, let me know.


Other than a skeletal entry on Tweenet, there's not a lot of information about these guys to be found. I'm pretty sure they were from Bristol, and a several of their singles were released by Tea Time Records, a label they started with one of my favorite lost bands, Mousefolk. Like a lot of 80s indie groups, they seemed to exist mostly on compilations, appearing on at least fifteen different tapes (including Airspace II, Are You Ready?, Corrupt Postman, and Something's Burning In Paradise). They have a 60's garage pop sound that can fall anywhere between the Kinksian Mrs. Jones to the walloping Call Me Anything. Groovy Little Town was probably their biggest "hit", and like most of their tunes it's a total earworm.

I love that they haven't even bothered to even change their set dressing between these two videos (probably couldn't afford to).

Girl, I Want You Back



Groovy Little Town


Complete Recordings

Aug 13, 2010

Acid Mother's Temple & The Cosmic Inferno. Iao Chant From the Cosmic Inferno.

0 Blurts

For some unfathomable reason, iTunes lists this as being Responding to the Treasures of Faith from the album, Staying On the Road to God. That may not be too far off. Kawabata Makoto has often paid tribute to his musical heroes and fellow travelers by adapting their music to his own transcendental wavelengths. He’s built entire albums around Popol Vuh’s Hosianna Mantra and Terry Riley’s In C. Here, he goes a step further, turning Gong's Master Builder into an epic shamanistic journey of heavy-metal astral-projection. It's like the Boredoms' Vision Creation Newsun being possessed by early Hawkwind. Introduced by an unaccompanied chorus of solemn Buddhist chants, the track quickly explodes out of the gate with the furiously head-banging "OM Riff", never stopping to look back for the next fifty-one minutes.

If you're new to the Acids, this might be a relatively safe introduction. Their trademark layering of spacey electronics, rocket powered riffage, and propulsively thunderous drumming is all here, but where they can occasionally wander off into aimless, free-form chaos on record, this comes the closest to capturing their rapturous live sound. On OM, their path to religious ecstasy is pretty well plotted. Although they take the opportunity to travel from space rock through prog, Celtic and Asian folk influences, ambient drone, and full-on psychedelic racket, they never meander. Each section evolves naturally out of the previous one. Oliver Sacks wrote about the way migraines arrive fully formed, but distant. The whole experience is there, but it's like watching it approach from the horizon until it envelopes you. Similarly, the various styles the Acids traverse are all inherent in the preceding sections. They're just drawing them out as they go along.

Recorded in the midst of line-up changes, the band takes the opportunity to sum up their deep history as well as use Gong’s source material to propel them into new territories. Elements of their outer-space freakouts have been stripped down to their essential bits and channeled through the OM Riff’s monster-sized bad-assery, imbuing them with a singular vision and sense of purpose. Kawabata is unquestionably a guitar god, although his usual style has little to do with the specific notes he's playing. It's all about the feel of the song, or more accurately, channeling whatever he's feeling—which is probably something like growing to be 5000 feet tall and reaching through the heavens to grapple with the infinities of atom-smashing, burning star cores of the universe. When he’s really on, he can make you feel it too. By the time the OM Riff crashes in again for the final third of the album, it’s pulled elements of all the preceding movements along in its gravitational wake. This is the true sound of the Cosmic Inferno. Kawabata’s soloing like a maniac, his controls set for the heart of the sun. Higashi Hiroshi’s electronics could be an Aurora Borealis of scintillating scotomas; or just as likely, you’ve gone subterranean, and what you thought were shimmering stars was a wildly writhing mass of glowworms. And Shimura Koji and Okano Futoshi power the entire trip with their dual, hammer-of-the-gods drumming.

This is pure, glorious, brain-melting exhilaration all the way, and easily one of the top five albums in the Acid’s sprawling Temple.


Here's the original version by Gong. Now imagine that stretched out for nearly an hour and played by Dr. Manhattan on an LSD freakout.


Iao Chant

Aug 11, 2010

Ifwhen. Null Set.

0 Blurts

Sometime after posting All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavor’s Turning Into Small, I got an email from guitarist Merc letting me know that he and drummer Brian Doherty had a new band called Ifwhen. Actually, they’ve been around since 2003, but they do have a new EP that’s available as a free download from their website. I’ve got it linked below in mp3 format, but if you head over there you can also get it in FLAC, plus download their cover of Syd Barrett’s No Good Trying.

Ifwhen doesn’t sound exactly like ANL&LF, but it does sound like its natural progression. The shoegaze and post-rock elements have become very compressed, and the songs are more jaggedly three-dimensional. There’s a geometric feel to it, as if they aren’t playing melodies, but unspooling the schematics of theoretical architecture from an AUTOCAD machine that’s just finished reading House of Leaves.

The logic/programming implications of their name become readily apparent in the multifaceted intersections of sound and direction. Each song is a maze of possibilities being explored simultaneously. It verges on noise, but like ANL&LF, Ifwhen is always revolving around and reflecting a solid pop core through its many twirling prisms. It’s the Everlasting Gobstopper of ear candy. It’s still highly disorienting—psychotically (psychedelically) schizoid, like listening to Barrett, Belong and Melt Banana all at the same time—but they really are working to fuck your shit up for your own good. They’re trying to change your perception.

And they can do it, too. Unlike most post-MBV bands, Ifwhen don’t compose based on volume, or reverb, or textures, or shades of color. They aren’t feeling things out improvisationally, they’re reconfiguring the actual internal structure of the music. Keyboardist Mary McDowell can actually play in two different time signatures (one with each hand) at the same time. And Merc’s guitar has a way of constantly folding in on itself like origami that never resolves into known shapes. Everything is oblique without being obfuscatory. The hidden song structures will slowly crystallize on repeated listens as you learn to navigate their psychohedron space.

Null Set

Aug 7, 2010

Another Sunny Day. What's Happened?

0 Blurts

Sarah 016
Released: 1989
Tracks:
01: What's Happened?
02: Can't You Tell It's True?
03: Impossible?

What's Happened?

Aug 5, 2010

V/A. Wig In a Box.

0 Blurts

The Religious Right Can Suck My Left One.

In honor of yesterday's victory for equality in California, here's the incomparable Hedwig and The Origin of Love.



I once spent an entire evening standing next to John Cameron Mitchell at a Breeder's concert thinking, "Hey that guy looks familiar. Do I know him from somewhere?", and then he climbed on stage and they tore through Angry Inch and I felt like a dork, especially since I missed the opportunity to ask him if he autographed body parts.

The Breeders, along with a slew of alternative icons1 contribute covers and tribute songs to this wonderful little compilation that benefited the Harvey Milk School for LGBTQ youth. And as much as I love the original Origin, I think Rufus Wainwright may have recorded the definitive version. Also, if I ever became president, I would put all my effort into reuniting Sleater-Kinney and possibly getting them to make Fred Schneider at least a semi-permanent member of the band.

OK, all my effort after ensuring that LGBTQ Americans had full equality under the law. The ruling striking down California's bigoted Prop 8 is a great and important victory, but unfortunately it's still only another small step towards truly egalitarian civil rights. The pro-hate crowd will continue to fight this until it ends up in the Supreme Court, where real justice is iffy at this point. You can help by joining with or donating to groups like The Courage Campaign, Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

1. Frank Black, Robyn Hitchcock, The Polyphonic Spree, Spoon, Imperial Teen, TMBG, Cyndi Lauper (who absolutely tears the roof off on Midnight Radio), Yo La Tengo, Yoko Ono, etc.

Wig In a Box

Aug 3, 2010

Tunnelrunners Update

0 Blurts
Madoc Roberts—leader of the rip-roarin’ DIY punkers The Tunnelrunners—contacted me to let me know that Sing Sing is considering a release of their remaining songs, though nothing is certain yet. If you have a record player, go and order the Plastic Land seven inch and let Sing Sing know there’s an audience waiting to hear the rest of their material. With their incredibly catchy melodies and adrenaline-fueled playing, I’m astonished these guys aren’t remembered as punk superstars. Even today, it’s one of the best releases I’ve heard all year, so don’t let them down this time.

Jul 30, 2010

Wake Ooloo. Stop the Ride.

0 Blurts

The last Wake Ooloo album, in case anyone was waiting.

Stop

Jul 27, 2010

James Ferraro. Marble Surf.

0 Blurts

If you're unfamiliar with James Ferraro...remember the guys in high school who planned to start a band and then change their name for every release, and it didn't matter if anyone knew how to play an instrument? James Ferraro actually did that. If he's most well known for anything (and he isn't), it's probably The Skaters. As a "solo" artist, he's had more identities than it's worth listing here. He's probably the only person who's more prolific than Acid Mothers Temple. You could spend a lifetime trying to track down all of his releases and never be sure you'd found them all, or if they were even the right ones. It can be pretty hit or miss, too, depending on your patience for lo-fi, scrambled tape messes of wasteland-psychedelic samples and alchemical keyboards and random noises that sound like they were rescued from a box of betamax tapes. That whole alternate 80's universe that bands like Wingdings, Sun Araw, Dolphins Into the Future, Infinity Window, Matrix Metals, et al are floating in? James invented it. I think he's kinda genius, but it's an acquired taste.

Except for Marble Surf. This is simply the most endlessly beautiful thing I've ever heard. In a post-post-Eno way, he's composed a slow-motion, ocean-sized waterfall of washed-out angelic choruses, watery steel drums, and dreamy synths that repeat the same basic structure for forty minutes (there are two tracks, but they're essentially the same piece of music). Eno proposed the idea of "holographic" music that would be indistinguishable from any other part of the recording no matter where you started listening to it. Marble Surf does it in a way that's gorgeously, almost psychedelically hypnotic rather than ambient.

At first it might seem like he's just set a brief snippet of music on repeat, but as you get drawn in it's clear that he's actually playing this. Musical cues come in at slightly different points on each loop, making it sound shiveringly, shimmeringly alive and organic, like light sparkling on water. Even when new instruments do arrive, it's so subtle and matched to the grand astral pageantry of the whole that you hardly notice they weren't there before. It's a cloud-floating heroin-basted rimjob from jesus in a Terry Reilly calypso dream. It's J.S. Bach for the polaroid-transfer, new-age tapes set. It's weightless and epic and magnificent and ecstatic and transcendent all at once, and it's the best fucking thing I've ever heard.

Marble Surf

Jul 24, 2010

St. Christopher. You Deserve More Than A Maybe.

0 Blurts

Sarah 015
Released: February 27, 1989
Tracks:
01: You Deserve More Than A Maybe
02: The Kind Of Girl
03: The Summer You Love

Maybe

Jul 23, 2010

The Scrotum Poles. Revelation.

0 Blurts

I assume that when you've named yourselves The Scrotum Poles you're not expecting chart success, or that many bookings (of course, you could say the same thing for The Butthole Surfers, and things turned out OK for them). I figured it was a riff on The Sex Pistols, but the band claims the name came from a book called The Choirboys. I'll let you write your own Catholic Priest joke.

They did pretty well for themselves considering they mostly recorded in their bedroom to two-track tapes. The one time they went into a studio proper, the sound engineer realized that all their instruments were incorrectly tuned and spent the afternoon putting them to rights, only to be forced to detune them when the band couldn't figure out how to play their songs in the proper key.

I first heard them on one of the Messthetics compilations where their song Pick the Cat's Eye's Out was one of the clear standouts. (I should point out that "cat's eyes" are what the British call highway reflectors, and that the band is not singing about blinding helpless kitties.) According to the band, they found the lyrics written on the back of a set list left behind by another group, Bread Poultice and the Running Sores. Yes, I'm sure that sort of thing happened all the time back then.

The record starts out with a great bit of down-tempo post-punk melancholy, Why Don't You Come Out Tonight, which puts me in the mind of Seventeen Second's strumminess. Then there's Night Train, which may or may not sound like a cross between LiLiPUT and the Swell Maps. After that they go pop, and they do it really well. There's the aforementioned Cat's Eyes, and sing-along Helicopter Honeymoon. Radio Tay rounds things out with some straight up punk.

It's all brilliant. Like most DIY bands, they make up for lack of skills with outsized enthusiasm, but even beneath the poor recording equipment (and residual vinyl pops and crackles) it's obvious they knew how to write a great pop song, which is no simple thing.

Here they are charmingly acting like a bunch of adorable dweebs.


Revelation

Jul 22, 2010

The Tunnelrunners. Plastic Land.

0 Blurts

Formed in 1977 and broken up by 1981 (to return to college like so many others before and since—damn you, higher education.), The Tunnelrunners barely played any gigs (most people stumbled into their shows by accident), and sold about twenty records (the last one to show up on ebay went for something like £700). Thankfully, someone found a copy and reissued five of their raw, hang-on-tight masterpieces.

Plastic Land, especially, features some fantasticly joyous guitar lines soaring through the lo-fi fuzz and rhythmic thrash. Bright and sharp and melodic, it makes me think of the sound you'd get if you played the evolution of C-86 in reverse and steered a course that took the attitude and songcraft but not the cuteness into early punk. It's rather Buzzcocks-y now that I listen to it again (especially Words, which must have been written with that band in mind). I Can, You Can, Fall In Love has that sweet-tart punk buzz with just a dash of the Beatles to throw you off the scent. They were more DIY than punk anyway (the lead singer had decidedly unpunk long, shaggy hair and a mustache, although this was the glorious period before punk came with quotation marks around it), but far more talented than most of that scene. Every one of these few songs is just perfect and makes me wish they'd stuck around longer and recorded more.

What a rush. I fall in love with it even more every time I spin it. Copies should still be available from Sing Sing records. Only six bucks!



Plastic Land

Jul 9, 2010

Robyn Hitchcock. Invisible History.

1 Blurt

1. Astronomy Domine
2. Outlaw Blues
Recorded 1980 at the Hope and Anchor. Also on Two Halves for the Price of One.

3. Postman's Knock
Recorded at the Portland Arms, November 1978. Left off Live at the Portland Arms album.

4. Look Into Your Mirror
Companion Piece to Of a Walnut, which eventually surfaced on 1976-81. Session recorded in 1977 in Robyn's living room.

5. Smoothie
Underwater Moonlight outtake.

6. Innocent Boy
Possible outtake from aborted 1978 Radar album.

7. The Man Who Invented Himself
Different mix from original test pressing of Black Snake Diamond Role.

8. Nightride to Trinidad
9. Kingdom of Love
Disco remixes by Steve Hillage.

10. Listening to the Higsons
Portastudio recording from 1982. Drum machine programming by Vince Ely of the Psychedelic Furs. B-Side to Eaten By Her Own Dinner 7".

11. Dr. Sticky
B-Side to Eaten By Her Own Dinner 7".

12. Surgery
Fegmania era outtake.

13. Calvary Cross
Live on 1986 US tour.

14. Legalized Murder
Globe of Frogs outtake.

15. Ruling Class
Queen Elvis outtake. Peter Buck on guitar.

16. More Than This
17. The Ghost In You
18. Birdshead
Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop, July 1988.

19. Fairplay
20. Linden Arden Stole the Highlights
Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop, May 1991.

Invisible History

Jul 3, 2010

Christine's Cat. Your Love Is...

0 Blurts

Sarah 013
Released: July 1989
Tracks:
01: Your Love Is...

Your Love Is

Jun 30, 2010

Best Friends Forever. Romance Conflict Adventure.

0 Blurts

Oh my god...You guys?...Seriously... Ohmygod....

I think there is an excellent chance of this being your new favorite band. Yes, they’re cute and amateurish, but cute and amateurish in a way that's actually totally awesome. These were the girls in high school that you always wanted to hang out with, but they already had so many secret handshakes and insider jokes and possibly their own language that you never managed to get that close to them, even though they really weren’t trying to exclude you. They would have been theater nerds if theater nerds weren’t so insufferable. They’re dramatic, but they know being dramatic is hilarious. And now they’re here to let you in on the joke.

Jes and Bri have known each other since they were wee lasses, and have been making music together since the eighth grade in Minneapolis. They actually started out as a semi-emo, Smashing Pumpkins inspired instrumental rock band, although in their current form you would think they spent their childhood listening to K Records and the Unicorns. All the songs are indeed about romance, conflict, or adventure and they are also quirky, ramshackle, and silly—and yet completely heartfelt.

Handpocket employs the always welcome, but underutilized glockenspiel (it’s the new cowbell!), and rhapsodizes about inviting your paramour to casually feel you up in public. Also, you will learn that both of the singers nearly died in childhood ice fishing accidents. It’s incredibly catchy, especially the way they sing PUT PUT PUT PUT Put your hand in my back pocket during the chorus.

Ghost Song explores the existential and physical problems of dating the non-corporeal, and sexily implores their see-through boyfriend to “put [his] ghostly tongue in my mouth and move it all around and around”. Don’t laugh, spectrophilia is a real condition and sounds like one of the most inconvenient sexual fetishes of all time.

Eisenhower is the Father thanks the prez for building the interstate highway system so that years later she could travel cross country with her crush, and even if they had an accident it wouldn't be so bad because maybe they'd end up sharing a hotel and see each other in their underwear.

Actually, I shouldn’t have said they were amateurish earlier. The first couple of times through you're too busy laughing at the last cheeky line to notice that the bass playing is wickedly propulsive and detailed, the drums are rocking, complex, and far more creative than you hear from most professional bands, and the organ can effortlessly switch from roller-rink funk to cartoonish glee depending on what's called for.

Jes and Bri work crazy well together (as BFFs would), trading lines, sometimes harmonizing, sometimes stepping all over each other, occasionally belting it out like an out-of-tune opera star. They have incredible chemistry, which is really what lets the band pull off what would otherwise be novelty songs in the hands of lesser mortals (It's practically impossible for a band to be funny but not gimmicky). They make it sound as simple as if they got the directions off the back of a soup can.





Romance Conflict Adventure

Jun 28, 2010

Wake Ooloo. What About It.

0 Blurts

I really like this one. I tend to fall for albums that have a bit of sprawl and eclecticism to them rather than a purity of vision (I’ll take the Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Wish over Disintegration any day). There are more rooms to wander into and explore. Part of the shifting stylistic focus is due to other members of the band taking a shot at the songwriting, so if you liked Dave Weckerman’s Yung Wu project, you’ll get a little more his unique vision here (the dude has some pretty odd lyrics, and his voice is even more informal than Glenn’s). I think it’s also probably unfair to listen to Wake Ooloo at this point expecting to hear another Feelies album. Of course, it’s hard to escape the memories, what with Glenn’s flatter-than-Lou-Reed voice, and a couple of songs do sound reminiscent of the slower moments on later Feelies records, but for the most part, this is its own beast. The rocking parts rock harder than they used to, and the poppier bits are usually just out for a nice stroll. There’s a nice mixture of lackadaisical slide guitar, country blues, classic rockisms, and garage burners.

What About It

Jun 26, 2010

Field Mice. Emma's House.

0 Blurts

Sarah 012
Released: December 1988
Tracks:
01: Emma's House
02: When You Sleep
03: Fabulous Friend
04: The Last Letter

Emma's House

Jun 25, 2010

Sex Church. Dead End/Let Down.

0 Blurts

It seems inevitable that a goth band would eventually name themselves Sex Church. I'm just surprised it didn't happen twenty-five years ago. The genre was already awash in religious/erotic iconography (I used to have this sweet t-shirt that combined a medieval painting of the Virgin Mary with a similar painting of Jesus in such a way that made her look both topless and intersex), and everybody knows goths like to make out in graveyards and old churches. Even a large contingent of my non-goth friend’s stories of their first time begin with, “So, I was away at church camp…”

Dead End rides a stomping, Bauhausian bass line out of the gloom before wading knee-deep into a black pool of fuzz and feedback. From there it takes off on an endless, mesmerizing blanket of deep purple tones and crushed velvet vortexes. Chiming guitars skitter and pluck at silver threads while the rest of the band ascends a hypnotic Spacemen 3 riff that becomes the song’s driving force. At the last minute, they suddenly perform a graceful swan dive and explode into a joyful chorus of Jesus & Mary Chainisms. The B-side is more gloom and dirge; smeared lipstick to the a-side’s electric tangle of bird’s nest hair.

Sex Church is made up of former members of Catholic Boys, Vapid, and Ladies Night, none of whom I am familiar with, although I notice that Nick G was in The Tears.

They have a new EP out on Convulsive Records, too.


Sex Church

Jun 24, 2010

Pink Floyd. A Sucerful of Outtakes.

0 Blurts

The Syd Barrett estate is putting together a visual history of Syd’s artwork as well as a treasure trove of unpublished photos from his youth and early years in Pink Floyd. The vast majority of these images have never been seen before. If enough people are interested, it will all be published as a large format, cloth-bound, slip-cased, limited edition collector’s book. Right now, though, not enough people have signed up to make it worthwhile for the book to be published. If you think you might like a copy, head over to the Barrett Book website and register your email address. You are not ordering or promising to buy a copy by registering, you’re just letting them know you might want to.

To put you in the mood, here’s a collection of early Floyd recordings, including the extended version of Interstellar Overdrive and Syd’s last songs as part of the band, Vegetable Man and Scream Thy Last Scream.

1. Lucy Leave
2. I’m a Kingbee
3. Interstellar Overdrive
4. Astronomy Domine
5. Experiment
6. Flaming
7. The Gnome
8. Matilda Mother
9. The Scarecrow
10. Vegetable Man
11. Pow R Toc H
12. Scream Thy Last Scream
13. Jugband Blues
14. Silas Lane

Tracks 1 and 2—First Pink Floyd studio session
Track 3—Studio session, 10/31/66
Track 4—Live in London, 5/12/67
Tracks 5 and 14—Studio outtakes, 1967
Tracks 6 through 9—BBC session, 9/30/67
Tracks 10 through 13—BBC session, 12/19/67

Promo video about the book


A video for one of my all-time favorite Syd songs, Bike, that the band shot for Belgian TV


A Saucerful of Outtakes

Jun 23, 2010

Bikini Kill. Revolution Girl Style Now. The Demos. Plus a Peel Session.

0 Blurts


Kathleen Hannah could scream like nobody’s business. I’m talkin’ a hyper-tantrum wail that could pierce walls, lies, ignorance, ideologies, and indifference. She could sing it sweet, too, when she wanted, and the band could more than equal her furious, explosive energy or turn it down to 11 for some laid-back indie sing-alongs. This is movement punk—where the Riot Grrrls traded in anarchy for feminism—angry, articulate, fearless, and playful. Rebel Girl could put up a fight with any other punk song ever recorded. They were out to save lives; to reclaim the “radical possibilities of pleasure” when surrounded by rape culture; to define cool on their own terms in their own voices; to make their own noise, write their own stories; to be the subjects, not the objects of history. They channeled the transgressive, cathartic energy of punk into REVOLUTION GIRL STYLE NOW! If you’re a teen girl, don’t go another day without adding them to your collection. If you’re anybody else, you need to hear them, too.

Punk rock feminism rules, Okay?

Revolution

Jun 22, 2010

Wake Ooloo. Hear No Evil.

0 Blurts

Glenn Mercer loosens up and floors it down a twisty road leading somewhere between the Feelies, Tom Petty and Felt. It sounds like Glenn just wanted to crank it up and rock his socks off while Dave walloped the drums. There’s still plenty of the Feelies’ texture and knotty guitars, but louder, coarser and unplanned. It almost feels like you’re listening to an unknown Feelies album, but one where they were weary of being so uptight and precise and said “Awfuckit. Let’s just play.”

Hear No Evil

Jun 21, 2010

Exuma. Exuma.

4 Blurts

I’m an obsessive music collector, driven by the fear that somewhere out there my favorite band exists, and I haven’t heard them yet. Exuma may be that band. I stumbled across them on some random internet music blog and was absolutely floored by their power. It was like hearing your earliest, great musical discovery again for the first time.

Now, this is unquestionably a weird album. It could be the soundtrack to some grainy, underexposed “documentary” of dubious voodoo rituals that nobody quite understands. And yet it doesn’t sound at all unfamiliar. It’s a sing-along, dance-along album of strange and beautiful afro-calypso-soul-folk-voodoo-blues that will chill you to the bone and light a bonfire in your soul. It sounds like Ritchie Havens singing Paul Simon songs arranged by Dr. John over the underworld’s PA system. Oh, and they’re all zombies, and every spirit of the in-between is there to sing and chant and mourn and praise and keen right along side you in a fever dream of exhilaration and joy.

It’ll get under you r skin and stay there.


Exuma

Jun 14, 2010

Ministry. Jesus Built My Hotrod.

1 Blurt

Ministry never did anything for me, which is fine because Gibby Haynes fucking owns this song anyway.


Jun 11, 2010

The Trypes. The Explorer's Hold.

1 Blurt

The first of many side projects, this little ep is probably closest to their "classic" nervous sound. Aside from the lovely, Brenda sung opener (which sounds more like future Speed the Plough material), there's the requisite cover (the Beatle's Love You To, which seems like such an obvious fit I'm surprised it took them this long to get to it), and two songs that sound like outtakes or demos from Crazy Rhythms.

Explorer's Hold

Jun 10, 2010

Yung Wu. Shore Leave.

2 Blurts

Another of the Feelies' alternate incarnations, this one features Glenn, Bill, Stan, and Brenda along with recent Feelies addition, Dave Weckerman. John Baumgartner, from The Trypes and Speed the Plough, is also along for the ride.

Actually, this was Dave's side project. He takes lead on vocals and wrote the songs, but with Stan Demeski's characteristic rolling toms, Brenda's rich bass leads, and those wonderfully humming, intertwining guitars, there's no mistaking the band. Recorded in between The Good Earth and Only Life, it's a rootsier affair packed with all the shimmering, strumming, sea-faring folk-rock you've come to expect from a Feelies' side project. They cover both Neil Young and Brian Eno, and the album as a whole sounds a bit like what might happen if the latter produced the former. I guess they got out all their pent-up nerves on Crazy Rhythms.

I've yet to be disappointed by anything Feelies related, and this is definitely one of their more charming and beautiful affairs.

Shore Leave

Jun 8, 2010

Speed the Plough. Speed the Plough.

8 Blurts

Speed the Plough were one of several bands that radiated out of the Feelies on-again-off-again period. Begun as The Trypes—featuring Glenn Mercer, Bill Million and Stan Demeski—they recorded a single, understated EP before disentangling once again, with Brenda Sauter defecting to join the reformed Feelies. The Trypes became Speed the Plough, with Bill Million contributing guitar and production duties. Multi-instrumentalist John Baumgartner, rock critic Jim DeRogatis, woodwind and percussionist Toni Paruta remained, along with Marc Francia, Frank O’Toole and Pete Pedulla rounding out the group and adding several more guitars and drums.

The result retains the influence of the Feelies’ rustic, atmospheric work on The Good Earth and adds cerulean horns and accordion drones, shifting the setting from the golden hour to the deep blue twilight just before inky darkness absorbs the day. It’s a drifting, pastoral version of the Feelies’ tightly-wound, prim psychedlia, and achieves a rich, bucolic beauty of the sort I think R.E.M. would have liked to make—but instead opted for repeatedly having themselves photographed standing around in fields of grain. In fact, this is exactly the album I would want to hear if I could spend the day drifting waist-deep in a grassy field, or rocking to sleep in a hearty wooden dinghy floating on silver ribbons of water through a sea of cattails.


Speed

Jun 2, 2010

Emily's Sassy Lime. Desperate, Scared, but Social.

0 Blurts

Another craptacular week where I'm not going to have any free time. Stealing this description from wikipedia. I'll just say they sound like Sleater-Kinney as teenagers:
Emilys Sassy Lime (a palindrome) was an all-Asian American teenage riot grrrl trio from SoCal, formed in 1993 by Wendy and Amy Yao, and Emily Ryan. According to Experience Music Project, they formed after sneaking out of their homes one night to see a Bikini Kill and Bratmobile show, striking up a correspondence with Molly Neuman, the drummer of the latter band. They didn't live very close to each other and didn't have cars, so they often had to write their songs over the phone, sometimes leaving seminal ideas for tunes, jingles, and melodies on each others' answering machines. When they finally did have a chance to record, they did so on a singalodeon, a cheap off-the-shelf lo-fi tape recorder. They barely ever practiced (often forbidden from doing so by their parents who considered their studies a bigger priority), making their sound a random, spontaneous indie garage punk-noise collage of "Whatever, just play." They didn't have their own instruments for years, so with every show they played, they had to borrow someone else's in the DIY punk spirit of sharing, often swapping with each other carelessly and making every show sound totally different.

In 1995, they all appeared as dancers in the Kathi Wilcox-directed "Mad Doctor" video for The PeeChees, and they broke up the following year when they finally graduated from high school and attended separate colleges. In 2000, they all participated in the very first Ladyfest in Olympia, the Yao sisters collaborating with Sharon Cheslow in the experimental sound installation performance art project of Coterie Exchange, and in 2003, Emily Ryan starred in one of Jon Moritsugu's critically acclaimed no budget guerrilla underground punk films called Scumrock. Amy Yao's been involved over the years with several different bands, frequently collaborating with Tobi Vail, and completed her MFA in sculpture at the Yale School of Art. Wendy Yao currently owns and runs a shop and DIY indie-punk artist space in LA's downtown Chinatown neighborhood called Ooga Booga.

Social

May 27, 2010

Noseflutes. Zib Zob and His Kib Kob.

0 Blurts

It’s been a busy week, and I haven’t been able to pay attention to the blog as much as I’d have liked, so here’s some more divine weirdness from the Noseflutes.

I keep asking “why aren’t these bands better remembered?”, but obviously this was never going to be top 40 music. Still, even by the standards of the weird and wooly British underground, the Noseflutes were wildly inventive and really managed to make their purposefully awkward, herky-jerky rhythms and Dada-soapbox vocals gel into compellingly hard rocking songs. They have the same deconstructivist aspirations as A Witness (but less sing-alongable) and the punk spirit of the Membranes (but less bludgeoning).

Eminent could almost (almost) be a Camper Van Beethoven song. Charms has some delightful steel drums. Spitball on My Kisser veers wildly between extremes with exciting, crazed, shrieking choruses. No Plans peeks over the wasteland at country-blues with a punk slide-guitar.

I was going to say they were an art-house version of the Ron Johnson bands, but that makes me think of something refined and winking, like Roxy Music. They’re really more art-studio, and this is kind of a masterpiece.


Zib Zob

May 26, 2010

Washed Out. Tour CD-R.

0 Blurts

We saw Washed Out with Small Black a while back, and I snagged this little tour-only CD of demos and samples and experiments at the merch table. Having only heard Washed Out’s split 45 remix of a Small Black song (which is excellent, btw), I was a bit surprised that his solo portion of the show was mostly a techno/rave type thing. It sounded nothing like the sun-bleached, Balearic “chill-wave” that I’ve since encountered by him on record. His portion of the set with Small Black was amazing, though. I loved the self-titled EP they put out, but (like Le Loup, who we saw a couple of nights later) they’re so much better live. Their endlessly yelping, pogoing, joyous, upwardly spiraling indie-tribal dance jams reminded me a lot of Animal Collective’s energy back around Sung Tongs. Anyway, I wish this little album were longer and more fleshed out, but only because what’s there is so sunny and good natured. It’s dance music for people in hammocks.

Washed Out

May 22, 2010

The Orchids. Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink.

0 Blurts

Sarah 011
Released: 1988
Tracks:
01: Defy The Law
02: Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink
03: Tiny Words
04: Walter

Underneath

May 21, 2010

Vaselines & Beat Happening. Live in London. 06/16/88.

0 Blurts

Even with Kurt Cobain’s imprimatur (Nirvana covered three of their songs), the Vaselines remained primarily a cult phenomenon. Which is too bad because, they were the perfect noise-pop band, and recorded possibly the best records by any group from their decade. Short, catchy, cute and psycho, the Vaselines were classic indie-pop tweeness leavened with punk’s raw edge. They had a naïve, nearly desperate enthusiasm for their songs—all played with pure, guileless abandon and wads of humor. Like a Hello Kitty cut out of ragged sheet metal. Or being shot at with volleys of sweet tarts. If your favorite Velvet Underground songs were the Moe Tucker ones…that fragile sweetness backed up by a band that could explode into vicious feedback at any moment, then you need the Vaselines. You can sing along with them even on the first spin, and you’ll never get the songs out of your head again.

Their friends in Beat Happening had nearly sub-levels of technical skill, were completely ambivalent about tuning, melody and key, and sang casually obsessive songs about teenage love and lust (We tip over apple carts / With the pounding of our hearts, runs a typical lyric). Calvin sounded like an indie-geek version of Barry White and Heather’s voice was achingly sweet in a way that made you think of cardigan sweaters and kittens (without also making you want to throw up). Somehow or another, they ended up playing a lot of hardcore shows with bands like Black Flag or Fugazi, and during their sets handed out candy to the bewildered audiences. They elevated naiveté to an art form.

They also wrote some of the most indelible and influential music of the last twenty years—from twee, acapella laments of unrequited love, thumping, two-chord rockers (also about crushing on a guy or gal who is currently going out with someone who isn’t you), sweet catchy pop about the timelessness of an Indian Summer, and aggressively noisy musical scribbles (again, with lyrics that were probably scrawled on a torn scrap of paper and pushed through the holes of your girlfriend’s locker).

This adorable tape finds them both playing together in London, with some hilarious between song asides.


Live in London

May 19, 2010

Secret Shine. After Years.

0 Blurts

Secret Shine devoured When You Sleep like an overripe orange, and now its viscous juice and glistening pulp sweetens their lips and sticks to their fingers. It’s gone viral in their DNA, and they’re pushing it back out through their pores. Loveblind (sample it below) is simply unfuckwithable. It doesn’t matter if they’re simply MBV devotes. All the shoegaze bands were (to the point where a MBV comparison is meaningless in telling you what they sound like. To expand, Secret Shine sound a bit like a warmer Lush with elements of the Cure’s Disintegration and a bit of the Pixies or the Jesus & Mary Chain’s spikiness). All that matters is how universally awesome they were at it.

After Years collects the Ephemeral and Loveblind singles, the Untouched album, and the Greater Than God EP, and places them all in chronological order so you can hear them progress with each song. Born as indie popsters in the classic Sarah Records mold, Secret Shine always wrote the songs first before worrying about the atmospherics. That they ended up being quite good at it didn’t overshadow the fact that you could have loved them in any genre.



After Years

May 17, 2010

Pigbros. Peel Sessions.

1 Blurt


8/21/85
1. Cheap Life
2. Hedonist Hat
3. Lick Bones
4. War Food

5/6/86
5. Bad Attitude
6. In Doubt
7. Immensity Home
8. What Counts

Peel Sessions

May 12, 2010

My Bloody Valentine. Loom. Vancouver. 7/1/92.

0 Blurts
Amazing facts about My Bloody Valentine:
  • Since its release in 1991, Loveless has been played on a continuous loop through underwater speakers, inspiring certain erotic feelings in cetaceans, and is single-handedly responsible for the resurgence of the Humpback Whale population
  • Before being mastered, the original tracks were beamed into space, bounced off the rings of Saturn, and then filtered through a device that mimics the sound of dragonflies on absinthe.
  • Loveless sounds the same in every known alternate universe.
  • Early copies of the album came with packets of Dramamine to counteract wooziness.
  • Not that I would know, but under certain influences you can actually listen to the album just by looking at the cover.
  • The band was named after an unsuccessful Bing Crosby Christmas special.
  • At least one track was created by dropping magnetic recording tape through the Aurora Borealis.
  • Vinyl copies of Loveless actually contain minute trace amounts of love, Pixie Stix, and Kevin Shields’ pocket lint.
Loom

May 10, 2010

The Birthday Party. Peel Sessions.

0 Blurts

The only hits the Birthday Party ever landed were to their audience’s guts. “Dangerously unhinged” barely begins to describe their mutant hybrid of punk, goth, funk, improvisational jazz and psychotic-sleaze-blues.

The band seemed locked in a death-battle with melody, thrashing and throttling the life out of it, often sounding like each member was playing a different song to the others. Meanwhile, Nick Cave strutted and preened like a demonic carnival barker daring you to buy a ticket to the most depraved freak-show around.

Their bared-teeth wit and gleeful nihilism sound like nothing else ever attempted. “Wherefore art thou, babyface?”, Cave screeches, summoning the haints and voodoo-dollies that haunt the roots of rock and outlaw country—spavined vinyl gods out for a final, delirious spin.

Peel

May 8, 2010

The Springfields. Sunflower.

0 Blurts

Sarah 10
Released: July, 1988
Tracks:
01: Sunflower
02: Clown
03: Are We Gonna Be Alright?

Sunflower

May 6, 2010

Sway. The Millia Pink and Green.

0 Blurts

Information on the band is almost nonexistent. The website listed on the album has disappeared, and the band itself abruptly and inexplicably changed names a number of times. As far as anyone knows, they’ve broken up, which is too bad as this seems to be regarded by those who like their pop dreamy as one of the best shoegaze albums of the decade (admittedly, there probably aren’t a lot of bands still working in this category).

Instead of following MBV’s swarming, electron-honeybee buzz, Sway tend more towards the blissful, liquid pigmentation of Slowdive, Chapterhouse, and Lush. Their waterfall guitars are blurred and melted like those super-saturated polaroids of flowers that used to show up all the time on fffound.

Short and sweet.

Pink and Green

May 5, 2010

All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors. Turning Into Small.

1 Blurt

Although it’s fair to say that All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors sound like an exquisitely realized cross between My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab, they’re actually more interested in shaping and manipulating those waves of feedback and distortion into a kind of frazzled, cubist space-rock rather than solid sheets of blissed-out headspace. Eschewing classic shoegaze’s supposed avoidance of straightforward melodies, they compose their swells of woozy, stomach-ache synths and guitars as “actual” songs, slipping in subtle instrumentation, psychedelic washes, and shuffling funk beats amidst the syrupy speaker-drippings. Your Imagination could be the blueprint for A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and Lattershed totally makes out with New Order. The whole album feels like being swept under in a threatening but majestic riptide.

Small