Monday, November 29, 2010

The Boo Radleys - "Barney (...And Me)" 7"

The Boo Radleys - “Barney (...And Me)” 7”
Creation, 1994
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2009
Price: $.50

Oh beautiful Britpop from Creation Records! The Boo Radleys were one of those band I highlighted after printing out a master list of indie-pop bands when the twee phase kicked off, and I never really found any of their stuff until after that phase ended. I did see this 7” and jump, though. I mean, fifty cents for a mid 90s alt rock record on Creation? Yes please! “Barney (...And Me)” is a pretty terrific song, accented by a stupid little flute melody that is strangely endearing and some sweet boy-girl harmonies. It's comfort food music. Guitars, nice melodies, simple stuff. “Barney (...And Me)” is a single from their third album, Giant Steps, which I need to listen to now. The b-side “Zoom” is a wonderful, Sarah Records-y tune that like some forgotten Field Mice song, what with the strummy clean guitar, little guitar riff, and forlorn sadboy vocals with a brighter hook. Like all my favorite 7”s, this is one of the treasures I hoped to unearth...despite not actually unearthing anything, just listening to records I already had and should have listened to ages ago. Alas! No dwelling on the past! This is a pretty excellent little 7” that is most certainly going to lead to digging up the rest of the Boo Radley's discography.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk/ Boo and Boo Too - Baby Boo Split

Baby Bird Don't Drink Milk/ Boo And Boo Too – Baby Boo Split
Lovely Sea, 2009
Acquired: Release show, New, 2009
Price: Pretty sure it was free with the price of admission.

Ah yes, the 7” of Lawrence's two most up and coming bands of 2009 released by the label Seth and Edmond started to release this record. It's weird that this came out only a year, year and a half ago, because 2009 sounds so long ago. Both songs sound like songs you put in the middle of an album. Neither are really overly catchy or anything like that, and maybe that's the point. Baby Birds' contribution, “3,” was one one of their myriad CDRs, and actually come to think of it, the closest they come to writing a pop song. It's all in the drums though. All in the drums. It's really long though, or FEELS really long. I just listened to it through at 45 RPM and still thought it was kind of long, but yeah, if Baby Birds have a song they can call a song that was really awesome, it's probably “3.” They probably sound completely different though, if they're still a band that is. Same with Boo and Boo Too, if they're still a band, their contribution “I Am the Lorax” pry sounds nothing like what they sound like now. Granted, “I Am the Lorax” sounds more like an Ad Astra Per Aspera song crossed with I dunno, some gloomy Bauhaus with layers and layers of reverb as usual. It feels a little slight, but that's just my opinion and I'm just bummed that “Ripper's Hell” never got a proper release. Although, that's going under my assumption that Boo and Boo Too broke up, which I really have no evidence of. I just assume that when bands stop playing shows they've broken up...or been cannibalized by other local musicians to form new bands. Who knows.

Mike Bones - "What I Have Left" 7"

Mike Bones - “What I Have Left” 7”
The Social Registry, 2008
Acquired: Seth gave it to me, Used, 2009
Price: $0

Seth was cleaning out his 7” collection when I was at his house last year and gave me an extra copy he had of this saying it was good. And he was right, it was good. It's the single to the album A Fool For Everyone, which I've never listened to, and I hadn't ever listened to this single until now. It's a great, sad song that builds and builds and the little guitar/piano melody that runs through the whole thing is just great, and it's very interesting hearing everything build and build around it especially towards the end when it gets kind of epic. Can't really describe it, though I SHOULD be able to describe it, pretending to be a music critic and all. There are strings, which makes anything epic, naturally. The B-side is a remix of the song by Social Registry label mates Sian Alice Group, and despite my general wariness of remixes by other bands given that they end up sounding just like the original but with a beat or some shit cut out, the song is good enough that the remix actually sounds OK. It's more spare, and more rearranged than remixed, and while it kind of totally falls apart at the end, it's mostly good. And now I'm going to get A Fool for Everyone, because if the songs are even half as good as this one, it's sure to be a solid record. Even if it sucks, this song is gonna be one of those songs that floats around. Years from now, some random person will find it in a cutout bin and buy it for a quarter and go “Hey, this song is really great whatever happened to Mike Bones?”

Listen to the song, it's very very good. Very classic singer-songwriter sounding.

Bomb Pops - "Paler" 7"

Bomb Pops - “Paler” 7”
Audrey's Diary, 1992
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2007
Price: $.25

Strummy Minneapolis band whose guitars all sound out of tune on the A-side, “Paler.” I actually think I thought this band was the Blow Pops, who I'd read about somewhere in my search for a million indie-pop bands. It's quite ramshackle and though quite nice, kind of forgettable and a little too long. The insert tells me that Audrey's Diary released Black Tambourine's “Throw Aggi Off the Bridge” 7”, which I would pretty much kill to have, but that's beside the point. OK, wouldn't actually kill, but man, I wish I had that record. The B-side has a couple of nice little instrumentals that kind of amble along. It's all very nice, but hardly anything happens on this 7”.

The Blow Pops - "Stop!" 7"

The Blow Pops - “Stop!” 7”
Get Hip Records, 1990
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $1

Power pop from Milwaukee with just the right amount of throwback charm and not overshadowed by the mid-90s college rock vibe that lurks under the surface (in that the guitars sound slightly like REM). Awesome vocal harmonies for the really nice and authentic sounding 60s psych pop vocals. Honestly, the label design is pretty reminiscent of the Capitol labels on Beatles 45s, and kind of perfectly matches the sound coming off of this thing. This is their first single, and while “Stop!” is quite good, the b-side “I Know Nancy” grabs me a little bit more. It's the harmonies, and the kind of mash of sound that SHOULD sound jumbled but just sounds warm and comforting. This is a fun, Nuggets-inspired 7” that, while not terribly original, is still quite enjoyable and done right.

Blondie - "One Way Or Another" 45

Blondie - “One Way or Another” 45
Chrysalis, 1979
Acquired: Salvation Army, Used, 2002
Price: $.50

One of the very first records I ever acquired on my own, shortly after getting a turntable in the very early 00s. I had just started driving, and frequently drove over to the Salvation Army on K-7. I got this and Devo's “Uncontrollable Urge.” I'd always heard that Blondie was somehow associated with punk rock, which I very much loved at the time, and it was the only other coolish thing there besides Devo, so that's why I have this. And it's kind of rad. Well, it would be rad had I not heard it in a million movies, movie previews, and TV commercials thus making it really fucking annoying. Oversaturation sucks, and I really can't think of why I'd go out of my way to listen to this song when I can just turn on the TV and wait for the next Swiffer commercial or whatever. Thus, Blondie wasn't really punk rock at all, but the kind of right place at the right time New Wave that grafted itself so easily to the mainstream. Maybe Debbie Harry was just too pretty, because really, she is. I see the cover to Parallel Lines at work pretty often, and I'm always amazed by how good looking she is. The b-side, “Just Go Away,” is well, it's fucking great and gritty and fun and not at all oversaturated. Not that that makes it better. If I took both songs and played them for someone who had never heard them, that person would immediately be like “'One Way Or Another' is so much better!” but in this universe, where “One Way or Another” is totally fucking lame and obnoxious because it's so frequently associated with some horribly un-engaging (is that a word? Disengaging? That doesn't sound right either) film protagonists running from something in a montage. “Just Go Away” rocks and is practically soulful, though, so this 45 earns its keep in the record collection.

Bis/Heavenly - "Keroleen"/"Trophy Girlfriend" Split 7"

Bis/Heavenly – “Keroleen”/ “Trophy Girlfriend” Split
K, 1996
Acquired K Records Mail Order, New, 2008
Price: $4

In my twee pop days of late college, Heavenly was the most flawless twee band I'd ever encountered. I really can't think of a single song of theirs I don't like, and even now I have a hard time trying to pick out my top five favorites. “Trophy Girlfriend” is definitely top three though, because like many Heavenly tracks, it's fucking perfect. Those almost P.U.N.K. Distorted power chords that open the song remind us where Twee's roots lie, and the only slightly veiled bitterness in Amelia Fletcher's iconic vocals and naturally, the way that the verse is hooky enough to be a lesser band's chorus. This song kicks ass, and that's kind of where Heavenly excelled. Having rising from the ashes of twee-punk heroes Talulah Gosh, it just makes sense. Sure, there's the blisteringly sweet love-song twee pop of “C is the Heavenly Option” and “Our Love is Heavenly,” but hell, both of those songs are pretty much kiss off songs (the latter especially). “Trophy Girlfriend” is a cleaner sounding tune, and was the lead-off track from their final LP Operation Heavenly. Sadly, Amelia's brother and Heavenly's drummer Matthew Fletcher took his own life prior to this album's release, making it Heavenly's last album and “Trophy Girlfriend” their last extraordinary single. The profound tragedy was, in a strange turn, referenced by the Hold Steady on their latest album, which is one of the reasons I can't bring myself to admit that it's easily their weakest effort. “He wasn't just the drummer/ He was the singer's little brother.” Oof. Still, Heavenly were the best. People can talk shit on twee all they want, and oftentimes, yeah, twee is kind of annoying, but Heavenly did it without playing up the overly cutesy schmaltz that's come to overrun the genre. It's punk rock for wimps and sensitive kids.

Bis contribute two songs to the b-side, and I don't know anything about this band because all I ever did was play “Trophy Girlfriend” over and over and over again. It's quite cool, listening to it right now. Bratty DIY punk mixed with influences ranging from dancey New Wave to art punk to Sarah Records with vocals akin to Bikini Kill. “Keroleen” is the jam, a fun artsy little tune in the same thematic vein as “Trophy Girlfriend” whereas “Grand Royale with Cheese” is a little synthy instrumental that's almost overshadowed by its backbeat. Perhaps if “Keroleen” were devoted its own 7” it might stand out more, but here it just stands in the shadow of one of Heavenly's best tunes. Still, it's a nice contrast and really, I think that's what the point of the International Pop Underground was. A bunch of different bands from England and America (in this case, both were British) forming a sort of pop loser union that made for some of the catchiest and most interesting records of the 90s.

Note: I've always thought of this as the Bis/Heavenly split, even though I believe Heavenly's track is on the A-side. However, the cover for Bis' side looks more like a front cover, so this will continue to be filed under B despite having written the little thing up there out of order.

The awesome video for "Trophy Girlfriend"

The Beau Brummels - "Just a Little" 45

The Beau Brummels – “Just a Little” 45
Autumn, 1965
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2005
Price: $2

One of the first 7”s I remember buying, having discovered this band on my then girlfriend's Nuggets CD box set via their song “Laugh, Laugh.” I saw this at Love Garden, grabbed it, and pretty much instantly fell in love with it. I don't know why I didn't follow “Laugh, Laugh” down the rabbit hole further, I feel like I missed out on a whole 60s psychedelic pop phase my freshman year of college. But then again, the conditions for indie rock were just so much better. Still, those Nuggets box sets hold a special place in my heart, and this is one of those perfect little songs that exists on a 7” piece of wax forever or until the world melts. The b-side “They'll Make You Cry” is also quite good, and like “Just a Little” twists some folk rock influences into a mysterious little number with a harmonica line that sounds straight out of some seedy b-movie western. Diggin' these jams, diggin' 'em good.

The Beatles - I Want to Hold Your Hand 45

The Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand 45
Capitol, 1963
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $2

Well, it's the Beatles, and for me this is where pop music starts. This song. I remember hearing it all the time as a kid when the only radio station we ever listened to was Oldie 95 and I remember this having an impact on me. I never became one of those dudes who was obsessed with the Beatles or anything like that, but there really isn't a time when I can't listen to the Beatles. At work, they're one of the few rock bands that are actually allowed over the speakers and it's a nice change from yawny classical or random blues (which ultimately, just makes working depressing). The Beatles are the best band in the world because well, it's just too much of a pain in the ass to try to refute that. This is where pop music starts, this is the reason you have Katy Perry and all that trash and it's also the reason you have Beat Happening and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart or whatever. This is what I think of when I think “catchy song.” Song that, from the first note, lodges itself in your brain. It's stupid simple, and that's why it's great. Maybe someone should do a modern version of this song, something along the lines of “I Want to Text Message You Sweet Nothings” or “I Want to Do the Nasty With You in a High School Parking Lot,” but that would cheapen the simple, and still SOMEWHAT desire to just simply hold someone's damn hand, which is somehow still a big thing, even with the internet and all that.

Informative video with song!

END OF A (7")

Actually, A's were done a couple months ago but I became distracted with other things (work, Pitch writing, video games, Harry Potter, etc). That, and it was a pain in the ass to keep getting up, walking ten feet across the room to flip the record, then play the track again, and then put on a new 7" and I finally just brought Jenny's little portable all-in-one turntable/CD player/Radio thing out and have it sitting two feet away from me on the coffee table. Lazy? Yes. But now getting through the B's isn't as much of a pain in the ass!

Many of the latest updates haven't even been 7"s, merely records I've been picking up at work. They will be lumped in with whatever letter I'm on at the moment, which will serve the blog's function of calculating how much money I've wasted and ultimately, figuring out what all of these records are worth and seeing if I could break-even if in a rash moment I decided I needed to sell off all my records.

LP Collection = $2593
A = $99.25
Total = $2692.25

It's going to suck when I add sales tax to this...

The Troggs - Vintage Years

The Troggs – Vintage Years
Sire, 1976
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2010
Price: $4

Shittttttt, I forgot how much my little heart swells for 60s psychedelic garage music. I mean, swells to the point where I can overlook “I Want You” being the exact same song as “Wild Thing” but with maybe one different chord and less than half the inspiredness. Inspiredness isn't a word, is it? Inspiration, right. But yeah, I listen to this and a chord is struck in my black little heart. A chord that makes me want to play music because this is a primal scream for the anyone-can-play-guitar generation. Four homely nerds bashing out grungy tunes in a fashion that puts you there with the band, in the garage or wherever. It's that feeling of getting things to tape. The raw excitement of “let's record this right now, as it is.” It may not be the best recording or whatever, but it's the one that people are going to remember. You get that certain desperation in the singing that you don't get in a proper studio. Overall, a nice collection of songs that sound a lot alike but still kick some ass.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Reigning Sound - Love and Curses

The Reigning Sound – Love and Curses
In the Red, 2009
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2010
Price: $11

A lot of my favorite records have a certain universal quality. That is, when I heard the Reigning Sound's Love and Curses for the first time I immediately related to it in a way where I thought “this is exactly how I felt in 2008.” Going through a pretty stiff break-up that whole year, this record would have come in handy, as it's one of the best damn break-up records I've ever heard. Full of pain and misery but never maudlin and never feeling sorry for itself. Maxims of heartbreak are delivered with balls. LITERAL maxims of heartbreak, like in the magnificent opener “Break It,” which well, is one of the most eloquent and non-weepy but utterly painful songs I've ever heard, inquiring the heartbreaker to break the singer's heart one more time to remind him that it no longer belongs to her. It oozes with pain but plays it cool, which is an incredibly hard thing to do, and something that only seasoned vets like the Reigning Sound can pull off.

I knew basically nothing about this band when I listened to the record for the first time, which was at work. The CD came in, and I remembered hearing good things about it but remember being so over-burdened by all the garage rock coming out at the moment that I never made time for it. So it came in to work, I put it on after we closed, and then I bought it the next day and it has rarely left my car stereo since. After a couple weeks, the album proved that it wouldn't wear itself out, which is a pretty clear sign that I need to buy it on vinyl so I did, and it's one of those records that haunts the three major set pieces of my life: Home, Work, Car. I listen to this record in all three places as much as humanly possible and it never wears out. I've been courting this record for a month, and now I feel really bad for going home with a headache before the Oblivions played at Scion Garage Fest and even more annoyed with skipping Greg Cartwright's solo show at Love Garden the night before because, well, I didn't know who the fuck that guy was. And then a week later I fall in love with this stupid record. Such is life. Finding a record you're going to keep with you for the rest of your life at the cost of missing a show that you would have throughly enjoyed with all your heart had it happened a week later.

I think this is a perfect record. I've felt pretty beaten down by music since I left the music director post at KJHK and realized what a toll it takes on you when you have to keep on the tip of every single thing that is coming out to make sure nothing slips through the cracks and as much stuff gets out as possible. When I graduated, I no longer had to pay attention to anything new and sank into a wonderful abyss of mid-90s alternative rock. Maybe that's why Love and Curses was such a beautiful fit. It's like a wedding, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. It's definitely all those things. A group of geezers releasing a new album that shames the up and comers trying to do garage rock revival while playing a borrowed genre themselves and playing heartbreak in the spirit of all those long lost blues legends. Something like that. It's like comfort food. I'm a sucker for a good break-up record, and despite being in an incredibly stable relationship and being happier than I've been probably ever, I still can't get enough of this record. I listen to it all the time. I listen to it in the car whenever I get sick of whatever new record I'm listening to in an attempt to get back with the program, I listen to it when I cook dinner and do the dishes, I listen to it at the gym. It's versatile and all-purpose and even though I don't relate to the feelings that Cartwright is so perfectly expressing on this record, I still remember when I did feel exactly like “Love Won't Leave You a Song,” “Debris,” and “Call Me” at a point in my life and I think that's what's really important. It's a record that strikes a personal chord. It was written for me, and hundreds of other men who've made the mistake of not letting go. Which is most of us, I assume, which is why this is a perfect record. You've been there, they've been there, but man, they do it with brilliant turns of phrase, perfectly placed organ solos, bitchin' solos, and gravelly pack-a-day vocals that hammer the point home. Heartbreak was never this much fun, and to any woman who's ever wanted to know what dudes go thorough when they get their hearts broke, well, this is pretty much definitive.

I want to say this is my favorite song on the record, but there are at least 5 songs that fit that description. This one best exemplifies the Reigning Sound's ability to walk the line between tenderness and bitterness, again, without seeming like a bunch of fucking pussies.

John K Samson - Provincial Road 222 7"

John K Samson – Provincial Road 222 7”
Anti, 2010
Acquired: Kings Road Merch, New, 2010
Price: $5

The price is a guesstimate, since it came with a really beautiful T-Shirt of the cover in a bundle for $20. Being the diehard Weakerthans fan that I am and having missed a chance at picking up the first 7” in the series Samson is doing about Manitoba roads, City Route 85, I figured I had to make up for it. And totally worth it, I should say, because this is an amazing little 7”. The Weakerthans latest LP, Reunion Tour, took a while to grow on me but once it finally did I understood I loved it because the character's Samson creates are the devastating kind you find tucked away in underappreciated novels and underseen small-run arthouse films. The songs on Provincial Road 222 are about about a school teacher who needs to end her affair with the principal, hockey star Reggie Leach and his deserving a spot in the hockey hall of fame, and a teenager with a broken computer, full of sorrow at his inability to keep playing Call of Duty 4. Pretty straightforward, everyday stuff, but the details that Samson packs into each of these songs is what makes him one of the best songwriters of the present time (or ever, since I've always assumed that time would be kinder to the Weakerthans than the head-up-ass critics who dare write them off). “Petition” (which takes the form of a well, song form) and “Stop Error” (which is set to I believe a Bach chorale) are fun little song experiments, but the A-Side's “The Last And” is the real killer. Heartbreaking and beautiful, sad and relatable.

"The idea probably came from the Simpsons."