Sunday, November 19, 2017

I'm not looking for escapism, I just want to escape.

A compilation covering this UK post-punk outfit's 1980-83 studio recordings.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Reels - s/t (1979)

Denizens from down under, The Reel's peppy, organ-induced wave/pop was seemingly derived from the blueprint of such Elvis Costello slammers as "Radio, Radio" and "Moods for Moderns." To the band's credit, E.C. wasn't their only muse, boasting heightened rhythmic sensibilities that were more advanced than straight pub rock or power pop.  Robust but never overwhelming, The Reels manages to tread lightly into the same realm ska-lite demigods Madness were contemporaneously propagating.  The results are often infectious, with dizzying delights like "Prefab Heart," "Plastic Pop," and "Misused, Abused" all vying for the epitome of what this Aussie crew had to offer at the time.  The Reels didn't do squat in the States, and moreover they didn't hit pay dirt on their own home turf a couple years later with their breakthrough, Quasimodo's Dream.  If this record alone won't suffice, fear not, there's more Reels available on iTunes and such.

01. Plastic Pop
02. Baby's in the Know
03. Love Will Find a Way
04. Don't Get Me Wrong
05. Wonder Why
06. Misused, Abused
07. Prefab Heart
08. Spot the Ridge
09. Apathy
10. Go Away
11. The Meeting
12. Livalafaway

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Crossfire Choir - Back to the Wall (1988, Track Record)

By popular demand here's the follow-up album to the first Crossfire Choir LP that I shared with you late last week.  The Ed Stasium-produced Back to the Wall eschews a lot of the gratuitous '80s gloss of the Choir's debut, and by and large opts for a more organic penchant.  The results aren't always consistent, but Wall finds the boys with their fingers on the pulse of something approaching power pop on "Do What You Want" and "Even Now."  "Bombs" and "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" exhibit some discernible and much appreciated vigor, while the concluding "Shrink Rap" is a goofball, hip-hop pisstake that buttons up the record in less than dignified fashion - but not enough to dissuade you from exploring the preceding eleven songs. 

01. Catalyst
02. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
03. Back to the Wall
04. Driven Man
05. Bombs
06. Neverland
07. Canary Song
08. Even Now
09. I Don't Feel Like Dancing
10. I Don't Think So
11. Do What You Want
12. Shrink Rap

Monday, November 13, 2017

In a jungle made of stars it's raining jewelry.

Cheeky but often sublime nouveau wave from 2011. 


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Crossfire Choir (1986, Passport)

More rock o' the '80s, comin' atcha.  So...this one wasn't exactly what I was expecting.  I've been interfacing with Crossfire Choir's albums for awhile - more like a decade or so to be exact.  I initially took the plunge with their third record, Dominique a couple years ago (which I'll get to in a future post) but I thought I'd start chronologically with these Florida to NYC transplants. A good half of the quartet's self-titled debut is actually pretty respectable, albeit nondescript at points.  Residing in the middle of the FM bandwidth, the band offer meager concessions to us left field types, sporting an array of mainstream-ish likenesses such as late '80s Duran, the Alarm, and Glass Tiger (yeah, I know, but occasionally accurate).

Oddly enough, C/C would wind up accumulating artistic cred as their tenure progressed, which was usually the polar opposite with any of their contemporaries, famous or otherwise.  So far as this platter is concerned, revelations are in short supply yet it's more than listenable, perhaps with one glaring exception.  One of Crossfire Choir's key selling points for yours truly was the inclusion of a CD bonus track (remember those?), "Frantic Romantic."  Any indie music-head worth their salt would make the safe assumption this was a cover of the Scientists post-punk classic, but startlingly it's an original - one that veers heavily in the vicinity of Oingo Boingo to boot.  Bummer.  Here's a link to an archived article on the Choir pertaining to the era surrounding the record in question. 

01. Love Hate Relation
02. Nation of Thieves
03. To Be Young
04. Walk Walk
05. The Last Word
06. Well Lets...
07. What's it to Ya?
08. Disappointment

09. Blue Eyed Thunder
10. Spark In Your Eye
11. Left Behind
12. Hell Hath No Fury
13. Waiting
14. Heaven and Earth
15. The Bringing
16. Frantic Romantic

Me - Here Comes Everybody 7" (1993, spinART)

I picked up this one based on a pretty reliable trademark of quality, the spinART Records logo.  The bargain price didn't hurt either.  Bearing an undeniably selfish moniker, Me evidently called Bristol, England home.  You can imagine what a Google-induced nightmare awaits you when looking up this five piece, but I digress.  On top of that, they aren't the most convenient to typecast either.  The A-side, "Here Comes Everybody" is awash with subtle neo-psych overtones, mildly akin to the Boo Radleys, and even less so the Lilys and Elephant 6 conundrums Olivia Tremor Control. To my ears the second flip-side, "Lucy" is the real deal, which deliberately or not finds Me melding C86 Britpop to the harmony laced aesthetic of old school power pop champs the Rubinoos.  My cup runneth least for a good three minutes anyway.  Several more Me singles and full lengths are available.  

A. Here Comes Everybdoy
B1. Quester
B2. Lucy

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Holiday Slides - Ornate Coalmine (1989, $in¢ere)

An ace find here. What de minimis info that exists online regarding Holiday Slides somehow fails to mention this record.  For shame, because this New York trio come barging straight out the gate with "Fall of Rome," sounding like the best thing the Replacements didn't lay down for Don't Tell a Soul.  And believe it or not, it ain't downhill from there folks.  "That's Your Darling for You" is a glossy but wondrous slice of sophisti-pop faintly channeling the Three O' Clock and Squeeze.  In fact, the tenor of Ornate Coalmine feels like something of a precursor to soon-to-arrive conglomerations like Jellyfish, the Wondermints, Owsley, and heck, throw a little Sloan in there too.  Plush arrangements and polished songcraft utterly belie the fact that this was presumably a privately released album.  Not everything they fling at the proverbial wall sticks, but in addition to the aforementioned, make sure to investigate "Go to the Police With What You Know" and "Fe Fi Foe."  A cassette album that preceded Ornate, Can You Count the Brunettes? has been made available in rerecorded form on Bandcamp

01. The Fall of Rome
02. That's Your Darling For You
03. Fe Fi Foe (Be Big About This)
04. Down on Our Luck
05. Rick Wakeman
06. Astronauts on Your Birthday Cake
07. Ring
08. What a Lovely Surprise Karoline!
09. Have a Heart
10. Jason's Home
11. Go to the Police With What You Know
12. Terminal Hotel

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Where did I put this month's rent?

From 1998, but technically a year prior.  Divine crunch-pop with a slight Weezer underbite.


Zeitgeist - Translate Slowly (vinyl mix) (1985, DB)

A couple of you have pointed out the CD version of  Zeitgeist's (later The Reivers) Translate Slowly, which I initially shared back in 2007 is a different mix than the vinyl version.  So, voila, I'm presenting you with the vinyl mix, taken from my own copy. Yes, sonically there are differences between the two of them, with the original analog version striking me as a tad bit murkier and grittier.  The CD mix, as as you might expect, is the brighter of the two, yielding a more lucid semblance to just about every given facet of the record.  The link to that version is here, where it's always been. 

For the uninitiated, Zeitgeist/Reivers crafted an impeccable album of jangly and clangy left-of-the-dial rock (this one).  After the name alternation they made two more equally substantive albums (Saturday and The End of the Day) for Capitol Records in the later '80s, and then some independently, including a reunion record in 2013.  Check out my original entry for Translate Slowly here, and the band's impeccably detailed website

PS: Track twelve has a skip that I couldn't do anything about.  My apologies. 

01. Araby
02. Cowboys
03. Legendary Man
04. Blue Eyes
05. She Digs Ornette
06. Things Don't Change
07. Translate Slowly
08. Sound and the Fury

09. Without My Sight
10. I Knew
11. Freight Train Rain
12. Hill Country Theme

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Nice Strong Arm - Cloud Machine ep (1989, Homestead)

In the mood for some insular, densely packed indie rock, often approaching something of a melancholic maelstrom?  Yeah, me too.  NYC noiseniks Nice Strong Arm never failed to satisfy in this realm.  I featured their Mind Furnace and Stress City LPs prior to tonight's offering, both of which garnered no shortage of approval.  I'm about 95% certain the Cloud Machine ep was NSA's final recorded spasm, featuring two new studio tracks on side one, with the flip providing some live action.  "Cloud Machine" is another slyly dissonant, subtly melodic post-punk jewel in the band's sinewy oeuvre, amped-out to the hilt I might add.  Can't get enough of that guitar.  The instrumental that follows it, "Cop Show" doesn't make quite the same impression, but a live (at CBGB's no less) run through the choice Furnace kernel "Faucet Head" on side two more than compensates.

01. Cloud Machine
02. Cop Show
03. Faucet Head
04. Life of the Party

Monday, October 30, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

VA - Teen Line #6 American Powerpop & Pop-Rock Singles A-B

Since I won't be delivering any more musical delights until Monday, I thought I'd make the weekend count by sharing this sixth installment in my Teen Line compilation serial, as it were.  Teen Line was a formally in-progress and now sadly incomplete and abandoned project that was in the hands of the Hyped to Death curators who were also responsible for the Messthetics and Homework series, loosely modeled after the considerably more renown Killed By Death DIY punk comp empire.  Culled from numerous self-released and small indie label 45s (with a selection from the occasional LP) the Teen Line series informally cataloged and canonized some of the finest American power-pop/punk songs the late '70s/'80s had to offer - that in all likelihood you wouldn't have known about otherwise, especially three to four decades after the fact.

The names populating this disk may be virtually unknown, but minor as characters like The Bandables, B-Lovers, Ambulance and Blue Shoes were, the quality of their brief recorded output was pretty staggering. I believe The Bandables and Bats are the only acts here that have appeared on these pages prior, but considering how I've raved about both of them you'd be crazy not to investigate the par excellence flock of once indie pop hopefuls they're surrounded by here.  Vol. 6 consists of 27 selections, and the complete tracklist is to your right.  To check out the five previous Teen Line installments and/or read more about the series in general, point your cursor here

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Love American Style - Undo (1997)

Once upon a time (say early/mid '90s) there was a very good noise-pop band called Smashing Orange, who as it so happened were overshadowed by another band from that era who also had the word "Smashing" in their moniker.  Before I digress any further I won't provide you any other clues besides that.  Preceded by a couple of superlative eps in 1991, the next year saw the release of their debut, The Glass Bead Game, a white-hot cocktail of dream-pop amidst a molten, amped-out stew of feedback and Rob Montejo's distant vocal aplomb.  S/O soon made the major label jump, churning out one more platter, 1994's No Return in the End.   Sadly, No Return... did in fact illicit the premise of it's title, bearing none of the hazy or raw hallmarks of the debut, and instead opted for a more streamlined m.o. that was often indistinguishable from many of the band's contemporaries.  Smashing Orange called it a day not long after, but wouldn't you know it, Montejo would soon straddle a new rocking horse, Love American Style.   

Their lone LP, Undo, actually undoes a lot of the pedestrian drag that plagued No Return.  While not an out-and-out throwback to his shoegazing days of yore, Montejo colors from a diverse set of palettes here.  "Not About to Lose It," and "Divider" mine a pretty divine Superdrag vein, the shuffling "Easy" and the strummy acoustic respite "Anodyne" point to a considerably more lucid penchant, while a measured amount of tremolo smoothly infiltrates "The Sky Will Be Milk" to primo effect.  Undo may fall shy of a masterstroke, but once you're acquainted with it, partaking in this disk is nonetheless a treat.

01. Hail the Flounder
02. Undo
03. Easy
04. Not About to Lose It
05. Ticket
06. Divider
07. I Know You Know
08. Whipping Cinders
09. Radio Smile
10. Be In Your Body
11. Anodyne
12. The Sky Will Be Milk

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Jesus is just alright with me, if Moses is Shaun Cassidy.

A remarkably amusing and often rewarding impromptu album of sorts, containing fourteen songs written in four days and cut in eight hours in 2009 by an L.A. power pop mainstay and his touring band.  It took a few listens for this one to sink in, but I love it.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ten Tall Men - Nickelbrain ep (1986)

This bygone Berkeley, CA unit bears no shortage of affinity for the Minutemen and Gang of Four's brand of skittish, post-punk.  I'd like to say Ten Tall Men (truthfully, a much more scaled down trio of questionable height) bear an innovative streak a mile wide, but sadly, that would be a stretch.  At the very least, Nickelbrain offers six, two and a half minute bursts of angular persuasion with challenging syncopation, and occasionally even a sprinkling of catchiness to boot.

01. Nowhere but Down
02. Nickelbrain
03. Hit the Road
04. What Are Friends For?
05. Your Time Will Come
06. We All Want Just What We Can't Have

Friday, October 20, 2017

Trikona Frame - tape (1986)

You might say I'm sharing this partly for superficial reasons.  I have some rather lofty stacks of cassettes on my dresser, and this one has been sitting in the midst of one of those piles for several years, having gone largely unlistened to.  Well, I finally got tired of staring at it every day and decided to digitize it, file it away in a shoebox...and of course, offer it to you.  I believe I bought this one in a lot of demo tapes, and in fact had no familiarity with this band prior.  Trikona Frame were a female-fronted quintet who ostensibly called Akron, OH home.  No pertinent info is available on them in the digital realm, and they strike me as a classic "cold case." both their moniker and cassette sleeve fascinate me to no end.  The music enshrined within, not so much, but still considerably unique.  These Buckeye co-eds have a roots rock fervor to them, flirting with rockabilly on occasion.  The singer (whose full name isn't disclosed) exudes a quasi-performance art tact.  Think the Waitresses' with less charm and halfway-there hooks.  "Waterfall" is the closest they delve into conventional 'wave,' and frankly, I could have gone for more of this particular mode, but what we get is what we get.  Make of Trikona Frame what you will.

01. White Fish
02. Cowboy
03. Turn 13
04. Nice Weather
05. Pavanese
06. Waterfall
07. Pretty Feet

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Puppies - Fun is Right ep (1981 Hi-Rise)

These cheeky lil doggies function more along the lines of a Dalmatian than say, a German Shepard. This, their apparently lone 12" is more ironic than rambunctious, not unlike a cozier spin on what DEVO were peddling around the same era.  Sonically, the Pups were patently a product of their era, but less than gratuitous about propagating it.  Fun is Right's highlight is the nifty "Public Buildings" a synthy mid-tempo piece vaguely smacking of Gary Numan.  Unfortunately, it immediately leads into the ridiculous "Cat Food." Side two wins the consistency contest, despite "Worst In Me" winding things down on a lukewarm note.  In short, half stimulating, with the latter at least warranting a cursory listen.  Enjoy (or not).

01. Public Buildings
02. Cat Food
03. Mechanical Beat
04. Suite Little Unit
05. Atmopshere
06. Worst in Me

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Some have called it ignorance, others have called it bliss.

Four very solid EPs, including an especially bruising four-song salvo from 1991. 


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Notes on new music: The Pengwins and Trip Wire

Just about every year (or two) a rather unique musical package comes down that pike that few people in the world are aware of.  Luckily a decent chunk us are Pengwins fans, and we're fully down with the program.  As a means of archiving (and now disseminating) the recordings of his locally vaunted power pop act, Lannie Flowers has done something unique with his Pengwins catalog, by reissuing one vintage song from their original late '70s incarnation and placing it on a 7" disk, pairing it with a considerably more recent recording.  But merely releasing a "single" won't how about decking that 45 out in a full color box containing photos, a CD of the single with extra audio goodies, a download card, liner notes, and some appropriately associated paraphernalia?  They've done it again with Volume 4 of this incredibly rewarding series, and if the swag isn't enticing alone how 'bout the tunes?  The a-side, the 2007 recorded the Danny Wilkerson penned "Go Away" is as fine as anything they've committed to tape, sounding like something Cheap Trick would have been proud to put their stamp on back in their '70s/early '80s heyday.  And speaking of the '70s, the ballad-esque "oldie" on the flip, "Just a Dream" circulates back to 1977.  The CD also tacks on an alternate mix of "Go Away" and "Ladybug," an early iteration of "Just a Dream."  The whole enchilada is available from Spyderpop Records.  For more details on the Pengwins reissues series, check out one of our earlier entries here.

It’s not the core TripWire lineup of Marty Schneider and Bill Hunt that garnered my attention , so much as the new buck that’s been welcomed into the fold, none other than Jeff Shelton of Well Wishers and Spinning Jennies renown.   To my understanding, the San Fran-based Trip Wire had already carved out a power pop reputation for themselves, and with Shelton on deck that proposition has been further cemented on the band’s sophomore long-player, Cold Gas Giants.   In fact, the selections here the man in question belly’s up to the mic for, “I’m Not the Enemy” and “Growing Old” bear a discernibly crunchy, riff-rock penchant.  To a certain extent, Shelton’s contributions stand in contrast to much of the remainder of CGG, an album that finds this combo finagling with various accoutrements from horns to a string section.   Schneider is the one who predominantly wields the Trip Wire songwriting quill, and he’s wont to operate in a traditional singer/songwriter context.   The band gets by capably, and even exudes some diversity, but I have to wonder how much more of a treat Cold Gas Giants would have amounted to if they opted to color outside the lines every now and then.  You can hear and purchase it for yourself through Bandcamp, Kool Kat Music, and Amazon. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Modes - Legacy Collection 1980-86

My apologies for another unconscionably long music drought.  Will try to get to some re-ups later this weekend, and potentially a review or two.  For now I can offer you this.  The Modes were DIY pop-meisters from Boston who straddled that utterly fine line between new wave and power pop, in warm, often slightly cheeky fashion.  By the mid-80s they secured a major label contract...which ultimately fell through.  A breakup ensued, but not before The Modes cut a dozen or so tracks as demos which were resuscitated from aging master tapes for this collection.  There's a couple of clunkers amidst otherwise promising material in this enticing fifteen song set.  Original copies of may still be available here

01-I Just Wanna Hear From You
02-What to Do What to Feel
03-Together Forever
04-Bad Risk
05-I Only Want to be Wanted
06-Little Rockets
07-Fight Me Off
08-Live Like You're Gonna Die Tomorrow
10-How Can We Say Goodbye
11-Please Make Me Wanna Care
12-How'd We Ever Get so Girl Crazy?
13-You're in Trouble
14-Try My Best
15-A New Marionette

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Flamin' Goovies - Fantastic Plastic (2017, Severn) - A brief review

A new Flamin' Groovies album doesn't come along every year.  Or even every decade.  That being said, will once in a century work for you?  Improbable as it may seem, 2017 brings a brand new Groovies album, Fantastic Plastic, reuniting the band's key songsmiths/players Cyril Jordan and Chris Wilson.  In fact, it's been almost four entire decades since that duo operated in tandem (even the 1991 Groovies disk, Rock Juice only entailed Cyril).

For those of you in the audience who may not quite be enlightened to whom these gents are, the Flamin' Groovies christened their collective ship in the mid '60s in San Francisco, but they bore little to nothing in common with the Haight-Ashbury contingents of the day.  Bypassing psychedelia and flower-power in favor of back to basics roots rock, the Groovies eventually settled on a garage-cum-proto power pop penchant releasing six albums up until the late '70s, culminating in their rightfully lauded and visceral signature piece, "Shake Some Action."

Longtime aficionados of this combo would be well within their right minds if they concluded that Fantastic Plastic barely emanates the tenor of the Groovies original incarnation.  After all, Jimmy Carter was in the White House when these guys were still at it full time.  Instead, what you can purloin on Fantastic are occasional shades and colorings of their former selves if only infrequently.  "Cryin Shame" and "I Want You Bad" (the latter an NRBQ cover) reacquaint us with the Groovies resonant jangle of yore.  You might say these songs in particular hearken back to "First Plane Home," a breezy, mid-tempo endeavor from the band's halcyon era.  Otherwise Cyril and Co. are starting off with a veritable clean slate.  The opening "What the Hell's Going On" is a sweet, Stonesy jaunt that plays out more convincingly than anything Mick and Keef have doled out in the last thirty years, and sprite "Crazy Macy" is the closest they come to replicating their ragin' vintage aplomb. 

Fantastic will surely reaffirm a good quotient of the Groovies old school faithful - and that's exactly  who this record is tailored to.  Millennials be damned.  You can hook yourself up with a copy over at Severn Records, Amazon, and iTunes

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Liquor Giants - Every Other Day at a Time (1998, Matador)

I've previously featured the Liquor Giants second album, the splendid Here on these pages before, but have been hesitant to post anything from their later catalog, as it was still available digitally.  For whatever the reason that's no longer the case with their two Matador Records LPs, Liquor Giants (1996) and the record that followed two years later, which is what you're looking at/hearing now.  LG golden throat and prime-mover Ward Dotson was an alum of the Gun Club, a critically acclaimed Los Angeles outfit who's pastiche was significantly derived from the blues and rockabilly.  Their debut, Fire of Love comes recommended from yours truly, but I'm digressing here.  Ward's proverbial Liquor cabinet wasn't stocked with boozy roots rock, so much as straight-up guitar pop that often fell somewhere between Tom Petty (yep, that guy again) and Wilco.  The self titled third album never sank in with me, but the Liquor Giants found themselves right back in their melodic groove on Every Other Day..., featuring many a prizewinner like "Dearest Darling," "Caroline," and "Kentucky Lounge."  If not an out-an-out classic this one's a sheer pleaser, and the closest they would venture to achieving their utmost potential.  Though several minutes long, track fifteen was an entirely blank placeholder, and thus I omitted it.  The remainder consists of a sharp reading of the Move's "Fire Brigade," while the unidentifiable concluding track strikes me as being another cover, though I'm stumped at what it's title is.  Feel free to chime in. 

01. It's Raining Butterflies
02. Beautiful Flo 
03. What's the new Mofo?
04. Dearest Darling
05. Kentucky Darling
06. I'll Never Mind
07. Medicine Ball Games
08. Multicoloured Hipsnake
09. Meaningless
10. It Only Hurts When I Smile
11. Riverdale High
12. Caroline
13. I Know I'm Wrong
14. Summer School
16. Fire Brigade
17. title unknown