Sunday, March 25, 2012

Record Store Day 2012: Sundazed

As usual, Sundazed has some interesting releases lined up for Record Store Day this year.

Gene Clark fans should be particularly pleased to see a trio of 7" single releases featuring the late Byrd. Recorded under Gene Clark's name, "One In A Hundred"/"She's The Kind Of Girl" is actually something of a long-lost Byrds reunion. Recorded in 1970, the other four founding members of the Byrds backed up their former leader for these recordings. This single features the songs in their "unsweetened" form, sourced from the surviving, original rough-mix mono reels. "Why Not Your Baby"/"Lyin' Down The Middle" features two non-LP b-sides from Clark's post-Byrds project, Dillard & Clark, recorded between the duo's two wonderful albums. The single was cut from the original A&M mono masters. Finally, there is The Byrds' "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better"/"It's No Use," both cut from the original Columbia mono masters.

Other limited edition releases from Sundazed include a double 7" issue of the two singles Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band recorded during their brief, early career, stint at A&M, "Diddy Wah Diddy"/"Who Do You Think You’re Fooling" and "Moonchild"/"Frying Pan." Dave Aguilar’s original vocal is restored to the Chocolate Watchband's "In The Midnight Hour" and "Psychedelic Trip" is a previously-unreleased instrumental version of the band's "No Way Out." 

Sundazed will also release limited edition 7" singles by The Martin Denny Orchestra, The Neanderthals, Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Blues Project and The Blues Magoos especially for Record Store Day 2012. Try not to trample anyone in your rush to grab them from your local wax merchant.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Record Store Day 2012: Public Image Ltd. "One Drop"

Another potentially interesting Record Store Day 2012 release: One Drop EP by Public Image Ltd, their first new material in 20 years. John Lydon describes the track as "a reflection of where I grew up in Finsbury Park, Lon-don. The area that shaped me, and influenced me culturally and musically, a place I will forever feel connected to." 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Record Store Day 2012 Sparks Unrest

UNREST Perfect Teeth / 7" Box Set from Teen-Beat on Vimeo.

Record Store Day 2012 is less than a month away (it falls on April 21, so it's precisely 29 days away). There is an official list of releases up on the RSD website, but I'm not sure if it's complete. It's certainly long. I haven't looked at the list too carefully, but a couple items immediately jumped out at me as looking interesting.

First is a re-issue of Unrest's 1993 album Perfect Teeth in its original 6 X 7" vinyl boxset formation. It's also available for pre-order directly from Teen Beat. I bought this when it came out (if memory serves, the singles boxset premiered a couple months before the CD was released on 4AD), but I ended up selling it on eBay. A few things probably factored into my decision to let this go: First of all, it's kind of inconvenient to have to flip the singles every couple minutes. Second, if I remember correctly, the original vinyl was kind of noisy. And of course, I'm sure I needed the money. Perfect Teeth is still one of my favorite albums from the early to mid-nineties, and it's good to see it back in print and getting special treatment, hopefully on quieter vinyl this time around.

Another release that looks interesting is a Shuggie Otis 7" of "Inspiration Information" coupled with a non-LP b-side that is "previously unreleased and comes from Shuggie's personal archive of the Inspiration Information sessions." This sounds intriguing for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it indicates that Shuggie Otis has personal archive of the Inspiration Information sessions.

I'll mention other releases that look interesting, and discuss what various stores in the Providence, RI area have planned over the next few weeks.

The Kids Are Alright: Hospitality Edition

Another new band whose music I've been enjoying lately is Hospitality. The MP3 of their self titled debut album, released earlier this year by Merge Records, is on sale for $3.99 at Amazon at the moment. The first track "Eighth Avenue" is also available as a free download. It's worth checking out, in my opinion.

I think I mostly skipped a generation of indie rock. I have to confess that I was never able to get into bands like Arcade Fire or Spoon. I hope fans of those bands don't take offense, because I'm not saying they're lousy acts, it's just that their music sounded tired to my semi-jaded ears.

Maybe it's only because more time has passed, but that's not the case with Brooklyn trio Hospitality. Yes, I could site the obvious old-school, indie-rock influences for this band chapter and verse: I hear echos of twee British pop bands like Talulah Gosh and The Shop Assistants. I also hear the influence of spiky post-punk acts like Delta 5 and Bush Tetras that keeps the band's tunes from sounding too precious. But the comfortably familiar nature of their music never sounds anything less than completely fresh to my ears.

Here's the hype from Merge:
The angular, intricate, and intelligent compositions of Hospitality signal a sophisticated new pop voice. Singer Amber Papini’s idiosyncratic songwriting and incisive lyrics coupled with the band’s rich arrangements on its self-titled debut explore youth, New York, and the bittersweet commingling of past and present in a way that feels just right, right now. 
Papini’s singing has a wisp of an English accent via Kansas City (she learned to sing by imitating Richard Butler on The Psychedelic Furs’ Talk Talk Talk), and her lyrics create a moonstruck, even cinematic vision of New York City, where the band formed in 2007. The production by Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells) and band member Nathan Michel imbues the entire record with an intimate yet prodigious sound, layering period keyboards with horns, synthesizers, and treated guitars.

I'm not sure I totally understand the video, but I do appreciate its pro-New York, anti-L.A. sentiment. I really like how you can see the Statue of Liberty in the background at "Malibu Beach" and the NYC Parks and Recreation symbol visible on the stage at the "Hollywood Bowl."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Kids Are Alright: Neo-Shoegaze Edition

No doubt I'm late to the party, but I've been enjoying the work of some of the neo-shoegazer bands that have cropped up lately. I haven't looked at my feet so often since the heyday of My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Lush in the early 90s. Fortunately, I'm still able to see my feet, although I need glasses to properly focus on them these days.

Wild Nothing - "Summer Holiday" from the album Gemini.

Beach Fossils - "Adversity" from the EP What A Pleasure.

Real Estate - "Exactly Nothing" b-side of "Easy" 7" single.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Echo & the Bunnymen - Reverberation

Echo & the Bunnymen's 1990 release Reverberation is the kind of album that I love to write about. Like Love's Reel To Real, or The Velvet Underground's Squeeze, Reverberation was maligned by critics and fans alike upon it's release, but it's earned a much more favorable posthumous reputation, at least among a vocal minority of fans. Take a look at the customer reviews on Amazon which have titles like, "The best Echo and the Bunnymen Release, Hands Down," "Ian Who?," "A Classic on par w/ Ocean Rain," and "Track Listing" (okay, that last title doesn't really tell you much, but trust me Dave from San Jose really likes the album too).

So are these folks nuts? The conventional wisdom regarding Reverberation is that it never should have been made. Lead singer Ian McCulloch dropped out of the band and embarked on a solo career in 1988. Drummer Pete de Freitas died in a tragic motorcycle accident a year later. Nevertheless, guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson thought it was a good idea to carry on as Echo & the Bunnymen, so they recruited new lead singer Noel Burke (formerly of St. Vitus Dance), new drummer Damon Reece, and promoted "fifth Bunnyman" and touring keyboardist Jake Brockman to full Bunnyhood.

The backlash was as virulent as it was predictable. Some called the new group "Echo & the Bogusmen." Reviews of Reverberation were scathing. Entertainment Weekly reviewer Bob Mack called it "a turkey best left to be gobbled up by the band's relatives, close friends, and diehard fans." But for the most part even the diehard fans (yours truly included) didn't buy the album, and the group was quickly dropped by WEA/Sire. The new group soldiered on, releasing a couple more independent singles that garnered little attention before splitting up in 1993. By 1994 McCulloch and Sergeant were working together again in Electrafixion, and with Pattinson back on board in 1997 the Bunnymen moniker was dusted off and Echo & the Bunnymen Mach II was little more than a bad memory.

With the benefit of hindsight it's obvious that Sergeant and Pattinson would have been better off rechristening the new line-up "Hitler's Children" rather than carry on as Echo & the Bunnymen. McCulloch summed up the feelings of many when he said in a March 1992 interview with Robert Sandall in Q: "I just can't understand why they carried on with the name... It did them no favours, and however it can be defended, it spoils the memory. It's not so much that it's unforgivable, but it is a pity that we don't see each other and never talk to each other."

It's probably hard to understand why all of this mattered if you weren't a fan of Echo & the Bunnymen during the 1980s. After all, Van Halen carried on without David Lee Roth. Pink Floyd didn't change their name when Syd Barrett left, or later when Roger Waters exited. Fleetwood Mac changed lineups almost as often as I change underwear. So what was the big deal about having a guy named Noel Burke singing for Echo & the Bunnymen?

To really make sense of the reaction, you have to understand that Echo & the Bunnymen were a band that inspired fierce devotion. I am speaking from experience when I say you could take a lot of shit for listening to a band called Echo & the Bunnymen in Ronald Reagan's America. Anybody could be a fan of Van Halen and fit right in, but pledging allegiance to a band called Echo & the Bunnymen in 1980s America was like taping a giant "kick me" sign on your back.

Nearly a quarter of a century later it's a lot easier to set all that aside and listen to Reverberation with fresh ears. So is it actually any good? Yeah, I think it is. Is it "hands down the best Echo & the Bunnymen album"? Not in my opinion.

Noel Burke's voice is pleasant, and songs like the single "Enlighten Me" and "Gone, Gone, Gone" are solid. Geoff Emerick's production and the light psychedelic touches like backward sitar are pitch perfect. On the whole I find the album more appealing than the last "real" Echo & the Bunnymen album (the self-titled one with "Lips Like Sugar," etc.).

But it's hard to get past the fact that the drama and depth that Ian McCulloch brought to the best Bunnymen material is missing. Of course the drama the McCulloch brought to the worst Bunnymen material is missing as well. Reverberation isn't likely to turn certain people off the way an album like Heaven Up Here might, but by the same token it's hard to imagine this version of the band inspiring fanatical devotion either. I think it could have been a very good start for a new band with a different name, one that might in time have gone on to greater levels of mainstream popularity than Echo & the Bunnymen. To my ears their follow up independent single "Prove Me Wrong" from 1991 sounds a bit more distinctive than the material on Reverberation, and it's a shame the band was unnecessarily doomed by the larger-than life legacy of its departed singer.

I realize I am damning the album with faint praise. That's not my intention. I like it. It's true that it was unjustly dismissed by critics and fans at the time of its release. It deserved a better fate. I've probably listened to it a dozen times since I spotted it sitting forlorn and unloved in the used bins at my local record store. I've enjoyed it every time I listened to it, but I can't honestly say any of it has sunk in as deeply as my favorite Echo & the Bunnymen albums. But I don't think the people praising the album on Amazon are nuts, or even merely trying to be provocative. It's a thoroughly enjoyable album that is very easy to like.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fanatical Food Fighters

My nine-year old son has started a band with three of his fourth grade buddies called The Fanatical Food Fighters. As far as I can tell this mostly means the four of them get together at recess and make jokes and sing. Song titles include "I'm Weird Guy Of The Year," and "Sugar Ruuuuuush!"

This is what happens when schools ban dodgeball.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Don Fleming on The Colbert Report!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Exclusive - Don Fleming, Elvis Costello & Emmylou Harris - "Goodnight, Irene"
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Flowering Toilet favorite Don Fleming was featured on The Colbert Report last night along with some lady named Emmylou Harris and a guy named Elvis Costello (somebody might want to let this Costello fellow know there was another guy named Elvis who was pretty darned famous).

Fleming appeared on Colbert to promote his work with The Alan Lomax Archive and the Association for Cultural Equity, which is one of America's true national treasures:
The Alan Lomax Archive and the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE) is pleased to announce the launch of the ACE Online Archive — the fulfillment of over a decade of the restoration, digitization, and cataloging of Alan Lomax's life's work. Considered America’s foremost folklorist, Lomax devoted seven decades to documentation, research, and advocating for cause of cultural equity, which he defined as "the right of every culture to express and develop its distinctive heritage." The ACE Online Archive includes nearly 17,000 full-streaming audio field-recordings, totaling over eight hundred hours, collected by Lomax between 1946 and 1991; scans of 5,000 photographic prints and negatives; sixteen hours of vintage radio transcriptions; and ninety hours of interviews, discussions, and lectures by Alan Lomax and his colleagues. Each media collection can be browsed as well as searched, and is accompanied by detailed descriptions.

Materials from the sound, photograph and video collections have been used in film, television, and print; Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers are among the filmmakers who have utilized them. Alan Lomax’s field recordings have been used as samples in many modern compositions, including Moby’s "Natural Blues," from the album Play, and in the new Bruce Springsteen album Wrecking Ball, which features samples from Lomax’s archive on two of the songs, "Death to My Hometown" and “Rocky Ground.” Additional sessions will be added to the ACE Online Archive when restoration and cataloging is complete. These will include Lomax's 1954–55 Italian and 1985 Louisiana expeditions and several of his collections made under the auspices of the Library of Congress; among them his 1937 Haiti and Eastern Kentucky collections.

ACE Online Archive homepage
Sound Collection Guide
Photograph Collection Guide
Alan Lomax Archive and the Association for Cultural Equity

Perhaps next time Stephen will have Don on his show for a long-awaited Velvet Monkeys reunion featuring original drummer Dr. Rhythm.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Olympic Records - Providence RI

Olympic Records, 580 Wickenden Street, Providence, RI
There is another new record store in the Providence Rhode Island area, and I wanted to check in and offer you my report. I knew Olympic Records was going to be my kind of place as soon as I walked in the door. On my right was a wall full of vinyl records, on my left three pinball machines, and The Replacement's Tim was playing on the store's turntable.Vinyl, pinball, The Replacements...I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. If Olympic offered a selection of microbrews it would be pretty close to my idea of heaven.

Vinyl only!
Olympic is very much a vinyl focused shop, I didn't see any CDs for sale, although I noticed a few on a rack behind the checkout counter hidden like a dirty secret. I dug through the bins a bit and spotted a lot of tempting stuff. I ended up picking up used copies of The Jam's Beat Surrender EP and The Incredible String Band's No Ruinous Feud, as well as a new copy of Fugazi's Steady Diet Of Nothing. I saw a lot of newish indie-rock vinyl from acts like Panda Bear, Animal Collective and Veronica Falls, as well as some reissues of older indie faves like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. It's been a long time since I've seen a copy of We're The Meatmen And You Suck! in a record shop, and I found it strangely comforting to see a copy hanging on the wall along with vintage pressings of albums by Ignition and The Sex Pistols.

Olympic does not yet have huge amounts of used vinyl, and there is plenty of room for growth in their bins. What is there is well chosen and looks to be in excellent condition, so you don't have to waste time sorting through a bunch of beat up Boston and R.E.O. Speedwagon LPs in order to find the good stuff.

Pinball! (L-R) Bally's Paragon; Bally's Future Spa; Williams' Black Knight
The store's owner, Kevin, is a very friendly guy, and he told me that business has been good so far. I was impressed when he used his iPad with a reader that plugs into the headphone jack to process my debit card. He told me this was the cheapest way he found to process credit cards. Neat. He was kind enough to spot me some change so I could play a game of pinball. I played a (very quick) game of Black Knight (I need to brush up on my pinball skills). I'll have to give Paragon and Future Spa a spin on my next visit. All three machines feature amazing classic pinball art and are in beautiful condition cosmetically and are in full working order.

With the more old-school shop Round Again Records just down Wickenden Street, Exit 2 off I-195 in Providence is an excellent destination for vinyl record fans.  I'd recommend parking near Olympic, making your way down the hill to Round Again, then crossing the street to enjoy some sustainable coffee from the Coffee Exchange before your return trip.

I remain somewhat skeptical about the so-called "vinyl revival," but I've seen two new record shops devoted mostly to vinyl LPs open in Providence over the past couple years, and they seem to be attracting a younger clientele, so maybe there is something to it after all.

Another Old Radio Show

WDCV has audio from another of my old radio shows up on their tumblr blog. You'll need to go there directly to hear it. This show aired sometime in March of 1991, which means that the cassette tape I took the audio from will be old enough to buy a drink sometime this month.

Here is my playlist from that evening:
0:00 PSA Followed by bitter DJ Rant
0:38 Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass - "Green Peppers"
2:05 Tom Zè - "Mã"
5:49 Sly And The Family Stone - "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)"
10:18 Daniel Owino Misiani - "Joshirati Misiani "
15:10 DJ Announcements
15:30 Fugazi - "Waiting Room" *listener request
18:20 Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band - "Ella Guru"
20:48 Robyn Hitchcock - "The Ghost In You" [Psychedelic Furs Cover] *listener request
23:59 Phil Ochs - "Tape From California"
30:38 DJ Announcements
31:25 Chris McGreggor Brotherhood Of Breath - "Country Cooking"
36:30 Bad Brains - "Day Tripper/She's A Rainbow [Live]" [Beatles/Rolling Stones Cover]
41:00 Kip Kyler And His Flips - "Jungle Hop"
43:00 The Busters - "Bust Out"
45:30 Elvis Presley - "Patch It Up [Live]" *listener request
48:56 DJ Announcements
49:35 Rahsaan Roland Kirk - "Multihorn Variations"
54:26 Das Damen - "Sky Yen"
57:05 Gilberto Gil - "Quilombo, o El Dorado Negro"
61:28 Snakefinger - "The Man In The Dark Sedan"
65:46 Tom Waits - "16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought-Six"
70:18 Sun Ra And His Arkestra - "Space Is The Place"
79:10 DJ Announcements
79:51 Sly And The Family Stone - "Ride The Rhythm" and "Family Affair"
85:23 Love - "You I'll Be Following"
87:40 Yung Wu - "Aspiration"
91:17 The Mekons - "I Can't Find My Money" [Cuts Off]
I think I was in a slightly pissed off mood that evening, in part because I was going to be graduating in a couple months and wouldn't have a radio show anymore. Also, at the time I felt certain songs were getting overplayed on the station (I specifically mention Material Issue's "Valerie Loves Me" in my opening rant, and I have to confess I still find that song slightly annoying). I was very much of the view that college radio should have a freewheeling, "anything goes" kind of vibe to it, and not simply mimic the highly repetitive nature of commercial radio with a different playlist of "hits." Not everyone shared, or even appreciated, that vision which is understandable. 

My playlist that evening was an attempt to redress that balance, although I notice that some college radio favorites of the era also make appearances. Some of those were listener requests, but even at my most bitter I wasn't the kind of person who was going to turn down a request for music by Fugazi or Robyn Hitchcock in order to prove some pedantic point. And I certainly would never turn down a request to play Elvis the King under any circumstances.

While I winced a couple times listening to my opening rant, I still find this pretty fun to listen to, and when the tape cut off during The Mekons' "I Can't Find My Money" I was pretty bummed, not just because it's a great song, but because I found myself wondering what I was going to play next.