Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Superchunk - Watery Hands 7'' (Merge, 1997)

Watery Hands 7''

Rating: 8.5 sleeping pets out of 10

Superchunk has released a lot of seven inches, and this is one of them!  Both of these songs are also available elsewhere ("Watery Hands" on the full-length "Indoor Living," "b-side "With Bells On" can be found on the singles comp "Cup of Sand"), but it's still nice to have the original release.  The title track is one of the best Superchunk songs from their late nineties pop era. 

The Left Banke - Walk Away Renee 7'' (Smash, 1966)

The Left Banke
Walk Away Renee 7''

Rating: 10 shunned uncles out of 10

How would you even classify the Left Banke?  Baroque pop?  Whatever you call it, it's grand.  This single is one of the best pop songs of the sixties for my money, and as a whole this band is criminally underrated.  The fact that this song was written by a 16 year old just boggles my mind...too bad they couldn't keep their shit together for longer. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Grandpaboy - I Want My Money Back 7'' (Soundproof Monolyth, 1997)

I Want My Money Back 7''
Soundproof Monolyth

Rating: 7 green girlfriends out of 10

For those that don't know Grandpaboy is pseudonym that Paul Westerberg records under from time to time.  I have no idea why, and it's not like it's a secret, but he does it anyways.  This seven inch predates the Grandpaboy full-lengths by a few years, and neither song here (the title song and "Undone") seem to be featured anywhere else.  "Undone" is the better of the two, sounding like a late-era Replacements song much to my joy.  I could honestly give or take the title track, it almost feels like a goofy novelty track. 

Swell - Get High (Spirit Music Industries, 1991)

Get High
Spirit Music Industries

Rating: 6 prison people out of 10

Swell were a San Francisco band I was always aware of but never knew anything about.  Then I bought this seven inch out of the Amoeba bargain bin, and now I'm, least as educated as these two songs taught me.  They sorta did the nineties jangle pop thing walked a fine line between overly produced radio pop and indie pop.  The title track is also on their self-titled first full-length, with the b-side "The Price" unique to this slab of purple wax.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Wig Out at Jagbags (Matador, 2014)

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Wig Out at Jagbags

Rating: 7.5 rural postcards out of 10

As someone who has spent the better part of his life listening to Pavement for hours and hours and hours, frankly it's impossible not to hear a new Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks record and compare the two.  Is that fair?  Probably not, but when you formerly fronted one of the most important bands in my personal development, that's just the kinda shit that's gonna happen. 

Anyways, personal bias aside, this is pretty good record.  For whatever reason I've not been paying much attention to this Stephen Malkmus solo stuff outside of his first one "Pig Lib," and perhaps that was a mistake on my part.  And bias or no bias it still sounds pretty much like a Pavement record - how could it not with Malkmus writing and singing the songs?  "The Janitor Revealed" and "Houston Hades" especially sound like outtakes from the Pavement record "Terror Twilight" or maybe "Brighten the Corners."  I'm not complaining, this shit makes me feel young again. 

As a side note, if the album title "Wig Out at Jagbags" isn't cribbed directly from something Robert Pollard said, you just know at a minimum it's a phrase he uttered at some point in his life.  It's just way too Pollard-y not to have come from his brain, if even telekinetically. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ernie Graham - Ernie Graham (Liberty / 4 Men with Beards, 1971 / 2014)

Ernie Graham
Ernie Graham
Liberty / 4 Men with Beards
1971 / 2014

Rating: 9 house dicks out of 10

Whoa.  WHOA.  This paraphrase the kids, today, I can't even.  You ever listen to something old and immediately get pissed that it hasn't been in your life forever?  That's how I felt after first hearing this self-titled record from Ernie Graham.  Ernie was an Irish musician who I guess floated around the scene overseas for a number of years, known in certain circles but never really breaking through.  He played with a number of different bands and opened for the likes of Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, but never got over that hump.  

This is his only solo record, a mesmerizing eight song near-masterpiece that has Nick Lowe and his band at the time Brinsley Schwarz playing the music for Ernie.  The record actually starts out mellow with a few Bob Dylan and/or Nick Drake type numbers, nice songs all three.  But it's when he hits "The Girl That Turned the Lever" that I nearly lost it - it was like discovering a long lost song by the Band, and one that would have been at the top of their catalog.  The album keeps this trend up with the next song "For a Little While" and later "Don't Want Me Round."  How this man did not achieve stardom after penning these three songs will haunt me until my final days now.  If these tracks missed, how does anyone make it?  The music world is truly a dumbfounding place. 

Archers of Loaf - The Results After the Loaf's Revenge 7'' (Merge, 1994)

Archers of Loaf
The Results After the Loaf's Revenge 7''

Rating: 9 carpenter fathers out of 10

Two great songs by one of the godfathers of nineties indie rock (and one of my all-time favorite bands), Archers of Loaf.  Neither "What Did You Expect?" or "Ethel Merman" are album tracks, but both are featured on their compilation "The Speed of Cattle."  "What Did You Expect?" is one of their best songs and was a live show staple, not sure why it never got put on one of their regular records.  

Note: basically this exact same seven inch with a different cover was also released by Alias, who put out all of their full-lengths.  Not sure which one came first, not going to research it, don't really care.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Jawbox / Tar - Static 7'' (Dischord / Touch and Go, 1993)

Jawbox / Tar
Static 7''
Dischord / Touch and Go

Rating: 8 blonde pearls out of 10

Jawbox playing a Tar song called "Static" on one side, with Tar playing a Jawbox song called "Static" on the other.  Yep, it's as awesome as it sounds.  Jawbox almost gets the Tar sound down, but it's not quite there - still, a great rendition.  I was quite surprised to hear how Jawbox Tar sounds on their song though, I was fully expecting their signature sludgy rock sound.  Find this and buy it. 

Spatula - Radio Helmet 7'' (Now Sound, 1994)

Radio Helmet 7''
Now Sound

Rating: 7.5 rainy streets out of 10

Chuck Johnson may be known for beautiful solo guitar playing these days, but in college he was the main man in Spatula.  They were down and played with all of the bigs from the nineties Chapel Hill music scene, but they were always a little outside, a little different from what those bands were playing.  It was indie rock, but there were always eastern flavors thrown in, tinges of math rock, world music, and of course great guitar playing.  Anyways, they were great, this record is great, tony the tiger is great.  Three songs total here, all of them gems, and none seemingly on any of their records, making this a must have for a fan like myself. 

The Mutants / Impatient Youth - '78 on 45 7'' (Shredder, 1988)

The Mutants / Impatient Youth
'78 on 45 7''

Rating: 6.5 love rings out of 10

My copy of this has no sleeve, is on marbled white vinyl, and I have zero idea where I got it from.  Maybe one of the Shredding Paper dudes gave it to me when I was reviewing for them?  Regardless, this slab is a throwback to the golden age of Bay Area punk rock.  Side A is two tracks by the Mutants, with the second track "Insect Lounge" sounding like a sloppy, slightly punker New York Dolls.  Side b is also two tracks, this time by Impatient Youth.  I'd heard of the Mutants but these guys were totally foreign to me - it's a little more straight-forward first generation punk, not as good as the Mutants side, but still catchy. 

Also - while the release date of this is 1988, these songs are dated 1978.  Now does that mean these are 1988 recordings of the songs, or they are 1978 recordings that didn't get released until 1988?  I have no idea.  It certainly feels raw enough to be late seventies though. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Watching The Detectives 7'' (Columbia, 1979)

Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Watching The Detectives 7''

Rating: 8 emotional girlfriends out of 10

What's not to like about an extended live version of the classic Elvis Costello track "Watching the Detectives"?  Well, other than the occasional feedback on the microphone that is (this happens throughout the entire record, not just this track).  It's an exceptional version of the song, and as an added bonus the b-sides are "Accidents Will Happen" and "Alison."  Only thing keeping this from getting a perfect ten are those damn squelches. 

Pernice Brothers - Jimmy Coma 7'' (Sub Pop, 1997)

Pernice Brothers
Jimmy Coma 7''
Sub Pop

Rating: 7.5 twisty haired guys out of 10

"Overcome by Happiness" by the Pernice Brothers is a nearly perfect pop record, and this seven inch features one of the best songs from it, "Monkey Suit."  While this release predates the full-length, I find it interesting that the song from the album is actually the b-side, and the title track is not featured on that record.  Anyways, Joe Pernice and company absolutely perfected highly literate downer pop.  Anything they put out from this area is a must have.

The Cave-Ins - Know That You Will 7'' (Visalian / Omnibus, 2000)

The Cave-Ins
Know That You Will 7''
Visalian / Omnibus

Rating: 6 firetruck calls out of 10

The Cave-Ins were an SF band from the early 2000s that would often appear on gigs I would go see.  Much like this record, they were always ok but never got me overly worked up.  I would call their sound "lullaby indie pop," as this would likely be good music to put on late at night while going to sleep. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dinosaur Jr. - I got Lost 7'' (PIAS, 2007)

Dinosaur Jr.
I got Lost 7''

Rating: 7 church devotees out of 10

This four song Dinosaur Jr seven inch was included with vinyl copies of their album "Beyond" - think of it as a bonus EP.  Or don't, totally up to you.  It definitely feels like more of the same from that record, like they just released this small player because they didn't have enough songs to release an entire second 12''.  The best tracks are both on the second side, "What if I Knew" and "Yer Son" - both deserve a brighter spotlight than this seven inch that will likely often get overlooked. 

The Mindbenders - A Groovy Kind of Love 7'' (Fontana, 1966)

The Mindbenders
A Groovy Kind of Love 7''

Rating: 8 organ solos out of 10

This single by the Mindbenders is one of those songs everyone knows but no one knows the name of the band who sang it.  Here, listen for yourself.  The Wiki says it reached #2 in the US, though it doesn't seem like you hear it a ton these days - not much staying power I guess.  Phil Collins had a cover of the song in the late eighties that sounds nothing like the original and is full-on maudlin ballad - also, it was a huge hit.  

The b-side "Love is Good" is a surprisingly strong track as well, or maybe I just had very low expectations.  Sort of an upbeat stomper that stands up to repeated listens. 

Stinking Lizaveta - Sink 7'' (Egg Yolk, 1994)

Stinking Lizaveta
Sink 7''
Egg Yolk

Rating: 6 petite butterflies out of 10

This appears to be the first record Stinking Lizaveta released.  It was recorded by Steve Albini and the cover is silkscreened, so I'm guessing they didn't make a ton of them.  This feels a lot jazzier and nowhere near as heavy as my brain remembers this band, though I must admit I haven't listened to them in a number of years.  Both songs here ("PK Party" and "Wheaton") are also available on their first full-length "Hopelessness and Shame."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Rum Diary - Back in the Hardcore Days 7'' (Devil in the Woods, 2006)

The Rum Diary
Back in the Hardcore Days 7''
Devil in the Woods

Rating: 6.5 consolidated contracts out of 10

I saw the Rum Diary live a whole bunch of times, my time in SF matching up pretty well with their highly active years.  These two songs ("High Hawk" being the other side) are very much in line with their other material, that being some blend of dream pop and shoegaze and post-rock and straight-forward indie rock.  At their best they were always a bit like a less-dynamic version of Yo La Tengo.  The title track is also available on their last full-length "We're Afraid of Heights Tonight."

Monday, May 5, 2014

Superchunk / Coliseum - Split 7'' (Merge / Temporary Residence, 2011)

Superchunk / Coliseum
Split 7''
Merge / Temporary Residence

Rating: 8 packs of chesterfields out of 10

Two bands I love covering another band I love?  Yeah, this one was pretty much guaranteed to be a home run.  Released as a part of the Record Store Day shenanigans of 2011.  Superchunk does a very Superchunk-y version of "Horror Business" on side A, something I've also heard them do a live a time or two.  Side B is Coliseum performing "Bullet" in their typical metal way, brutal and melodic at the same time.  Both bands do a great job of really making the material their own.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring / The Mean Jeans / The Wrong Words / Jack Oblivian - 4-Way Covers Split 7'' (Trouble in Mind, 2011)

Eddy Current Suppression Ring / The Mean Jeans / The Wrong Words / Jack Oblivian
4-Way Covers Split 7''
Trouble in Mind

Rating: 7 rusty zithers out of 10

Trouble in Mind has done a few of these four-way seven inches featuring their bands and other like-minded acts performing covers, and I thought for sure I had reviewed this back when I got it after it came out but it appears as if I was wrong. The overview is I quite enjoyed this, every track is highly listenable.  Let's check in on it track-by-track:

Side A:
Track 1 - Eddy Current Suppression Ring "We Got the Beat," originally by the Go-Go's.  This ended up also getting included on their singles comp "So Many Things."  They keep the tune fairly true but add their wonky vocals to throw it a little askew.  
Track 2 - The Mean Jeans "Forever Young," originally by Sparks.  No, not the Alphaville song.  Regardless of the originator, they pop-punk it up and definitely make it sound like a Mean Jeans song. 

Side B:
Track 1 - The Wrong Words "Here's Where You Belong," originally by the Grass Roots.  Didn't know this one going in, but the Wrong Words make a nice little (slightly) power pop ditty out of it. 
Track 2 - Jack Oblivian "Moses & Me," originally by Tommy James & The Shondells.  It's a foot stomper.  

All Smiles - Moth in a Cloud of Smoke 7'' (Dangerbird, 2007)

All Smiles
Moth in a Cloud of Smoke 7''

Rating: 6.5 lost hands out of 10

Right off the bat let's mention that All Smiles is the solo act of Jim Fairchild, guitarist of Grandaddy, because that fact is the reason that I (and I'm guessing a lot of other people) decided to listen to this record.  It doesn't particularly sound like Grandaddy though - the first band I thought of while listening was Coconut Records (Jason Schwartzman's pop band), and the vocals are a little reminiscent of Ben Lee (especially on the second track "Summer Stay (Winter Version)").  The songs are definitely decent, and I'm certain I would have liked them even without the connection to one of my very favorite bands. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian, 2014)

The War on Drugs
Lost in the Dream
Secretly Canadian

Rating: 9 run down gas stations out of 10

As is often the case, the things I love the most are the ones I have the hardest time writing about, and that is definitely the case with this new War on Drugs record "Lost in the Dream."  This is possibly the earliest I've ever felt "record of the year" was decided, but it's really going to be surprising (and completely awesome) if anything as good as this record comes out the rest of the year. 

A big part of what makes reviewing this hard (or at least my type of sophomoric "sounds like" reviewing) is that the band doesn't neatly slot into any of the subgenres - this is just a rock record.  An honest, beautiful, straight-forward rock record.  Yeah, there are a lot of moments that sound like Tom Petty, the occasional Bruce Springsteen/heartland rock vibe, and the extended, almost-psychedelic guitar work, but at the end of the day it's just a really well crafted collection of songs that blend well together.  And the songs are often epic - many of them stretching into the six, seven, even eight minute range - but it never feels like it overstays it's welcome.  The total record is right around an hour, and by the time you hit the end you just want to start the whole thing right back over, which I've done multiple times now.     

King Khan and the Shrines / Destroyer - Split 7'' (Merge, 2014)

King Khan and the Shrines / Destroyer
Split 7''

Rating: 7 weeping willows out of 10

The fourth Merge subscription seven inch - this one on purple vinyl (As you can sorta see above).   The King Khan contribution is a cover of the Saints "Know Your Product," and he fills the songs with horns and a real party vibe - if I didn't know better I'd think it was one of his original songs.  The Destroyer side was written by a Chilean named Victor Jara, but having no knowledge of the guy or song I couldn't tell you any more than that.  I'm guessing it was recorded at or near the same time that Dan Bejar recorded the "Five Spanish Songs" EP, because it is very much that flavor.  And in Spanish.  That part might be the giveaway.  It still feels very much like a Destroyer song, hard not to with that voice. 

Granfaloon Bus - Coffee Girl 7'' (Hairy, 1994)

Granfaloon Bus
Coffee Girl 7''

Rating: 6.5 pressurized subs out of 10

Granfaloon Bus were a local Bay Area band that I got to see a little bit of at the tail end of their years, well after this seven inch was released.  Despite the terrible name, they were a decent band.  The title track has a strong Flaming Lips (and I'm talking nineties era Flaming Lips here) vibe, with a little bit of twang thrown in for good measure.  Side B track "Sip Away" is more of a straight-forward alt-country song, not really good or bad to be honest.  The A side is a keeper though.  One of the band members would go on to be in the great pop act the Wrong Words. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mogwai / Dweeb - Split 7'' (Che Trading, 1996)

Mogwai / Dweeb
Split 7''
Che Trading

Rating: 8 booted girls out of 10 (for the Mogwai song)

First things first, this record has some of the worst album art I've ever seen.  I remember thinking about not buying it at the time it was so bad, but my love of Mogwai won in the end.  Their song here "Angels vs. Aliens" would also be included in their singles comp from that era "Ten Rapid," so owning this record at this point is more for the memorabilia factor than anything.  That and "Ten Rapid" goes for way too much money on vinyl.

As for Dweeb, I'm pretty sure I never listened to this before right now, and I don't think I missed anything.  Seems like they were basically trying to rip off Bis.  Or maybe Bis ripped them off, and I have no desire to check timelines at this point.  At least the song is short (if you discount the techno ending). 

Analogue - Average Luck Charm 7'' (Sonic Bubblegum, 1995)

Average Luck Charm 7''
Sonic Bubblegum

Rating: 7 insane mothers out of 10

For a label that wasn't local, Sonic Bubblegum sure seemed to release a lot of local records, including this seven inch (and others) from local mathy weirdos Analogue.  I could make the obvious comparison that this band (and release) are very reminiscent of Slint, but given Analogue publicly said it was listening to "Spiderland" that got the band together I guess you could call this a "no duh" observation.  The title track is superb and b-side "Christmas" ain't bad either.  I mostly remember these guys as a live band though, with their giant guitarist the size of mountain and his even bigger hair.  It's entirely possible my memories have distorted him to be bigger than he actually was, but that's ok - memories don't have to be perfect so long as they are enjoyable. 

The Mendoza Line - Draft Day Jitters 7'' (Kindercore, 1996)

The Mendoza Line
Draft Day Jitters 7''

Rating: 6 psychoanalysts out of 10

As near as I can tell this is the first release by the Mendoza Line, an EP of four songs on clear green vinyl.  IT would be a struggle to call any of this crucial, but all of the songs are pretty good - They have a jangle pop sound that they occasionally amp up into Replacements territory, and other times drop off into near alt-country.  I prefer the upbeat songs of side A (those being "Jefferson" and "7th Round") over the mellower fare of side B ("I Behaved That Way" and "Latch Key Heart").