Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pull Trigger on New Single From the Popguns

Remember back in June when I was fawning over a stream of "Lovejunky," the first new song from Popguns in nearly two decades? Well, Matinée Recordings has just announced the arrival of the 7", and it's a real corker. A couple of things to keep in mind: The physical release is on cherry-red vinyl and limited to 500 hand-numbered copies. If you're saying, "So what? That song is going to show up on 'Pop Fiction,' the band's full-length album out later this year... I can wait," then shame on you.

Don't you remember what it's like to actually hold a single in your hand and to gaze at the picture sleeve as the record spins seductively? And believe me, as you can see above, this cover is a beautiful piece of art. Do I sound like an old coot? OK, then, how about this? There are two B-sides, and neither one of the songs will be on 'Pop Fiction.' Mmm-hmm. Thought that might get your attention. I have had the good fortune of hearing "Long Way To Fall" and "Home Late," and let me tell you, if these are the songs that didn't make the album, we are in for a real treat.

Matinée is selling the "Lovejunky" single exclusively for the next two weeks before your local mom-and-pop shop gets a crack at some copies, but I suggest you don't wait around for that. Give the A-side another listen right now, then get to the label's online shop.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Reissue Roundup (Part 2)

Artist: Dexys
Album: 'Nowhere Is Home': The Deluxe Editions
Label: Absolute Dexys
Release Date: Oct. 20
Details: Dexys' comeback album 'One Day I'm Going to Soar' is a tremendous piece of musical theater and one of the most interesting albums of this decade. Fans lucky enough to see the record performed on stage have lamented that although the recording is wonderful, it's nothing compared to experiencing it live. That's why all four distinct versions of 'Nowhere Is Home' look so special. The one you buy all comes down to fandom, choice of format and, of course, funds.

Depending on the edition, there is a film, complete live performance and many other extras centered around Dexys' residency at the Duke Of York's Theatre in the spring of 2013. For a complete rundown, including a very tempting six-disc whopper, check out the band's Pledge Music page. As for me, I'm all about the four-album 180g vinyl, but I will get the double-DVD film and performance separately. Brother, can you spare a dime? OK, I agree this isn't for the casual listener, but I do think the 2012 album 'One Day I'm Going to Soar' is an absolute must... and you can buy that these days for a song.

'Nowhere Is Home' Live Quadruple LP Vinyl Tracklist
1. Now
2. Lost
3. Me
4. She Got A Wiggle
5. You
6. I'm Thinking Of You
1. I'm Always Going To Love You
2. Incapable Of Love
3. Nowhere Is Home
4. Free
5. It's Ok John Joe
1. The Waltz
2. Geno
3. Listen To This
4. Until I Believe In My Soul
5. Tell Me When My Light Turns Green
6. Until I Believe In My Soul Part 2
1. Liars A to E
2. Old
3. This Is What She's Like

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Reissue Roundup (Part 1)

So far, I have set my sights on six reissues out this fall, and half of them are from the fine folks at Optic Nerve Recordings. The label has done such a fine job with past vinyl resurrections from the likes of McCarthy, the Flatmates, Cleaners From Venus and the Monochrome Set that I'm sure I'll want these new releases in my collection. I'll get to the other three reissues I'm interested in procuring next time around, but today is all about Optic Nerve.

Artist: Girls At Out Best!
Album: 'Pleasure' (Preorder)
Label: Optic Nerve Recordings
Release Date: Oct. 20
Details: They weren't all gals, but the band was fronted by "Jo" Evans, and she certainly knew how to deliver a line. This 19-song version of the 1981 post-punk classic 'Pleasure' is a double LP with gatefold sleeve. The vinyl is a transparent yellow with pink, red and blue splatter. Optic Nerve's stab varies just a bit from the 22-track 2009 CD reissue from Cherry Red, but the must-have singles released through the band's Record Records, Rough Trade and Happy Birthday labels are here. The inner sleeves are printed with lyrics and photos, and the album will include a "Pleasure Bag" with four postcards, two stickers, a stencil, a reproduced tour poster and reproduced promo posters for the "Go For Gold" and "Politics"/"Its Fashion" singles. Other goodies include a press photo and flyer. Whoo!

'Pleasure' Tracklist
A1 Pleasure
A2 Too Big For Your Boots
A3 I'm Beautiful Now
A4 Waterbed Babies
A5 Fun-City Teenagers
A6 £600,000
B1 Heaven
B2 China Blue
B3 Fast Boyfriends
B4 She Flipped
B5 Goodbye To That Jazz
C1 Getting Nowhere Fast
C2 Warm Girls
C3 Politics
C4 It's Fashion
D1 Go For Gold
D2 I'm Beautiful Now
D3 Fast Boyfriends
D4 This Train

Girls At Our Best! - Getting Nowhere Fast

Artist: The Monochrome Set
Album: 'Eligible Bachelors' (Preorder)
Label: Optic Nerve Recordings
Release Date: Nov. 24
Details: The gifts aren't quite as plentiful as with 'Pleasure,' but there are two bonus tracks on the cream-colored vinyl, and I don't have either one of them. Also included is a "Cast A Long Shadow" poster. You won't care about the lack of swag when you see that the preorder price is an absolute steal. The Monochrome Set made a few must-have albums, but I believe this 1982 album is the band's best.

'Eligible Bachelors' Tracklist
The Jet Set Junta
I'll Scry Instead
On The 13th Day
Cloud 10
The Mating Game
March Of The Eligible Bachelors
The Devil Rides Out
Fun For All The Family
The Midas Touch
The Ruling Class
The Great Barrier Riff
Cast A Long Shadow

The Monochrome Set - The Jet Set Junta

Artist: The Wolfhounds
Album: 'Unseen Ripples From a Pebble' (Preorder)
Label: Optic Nerve Recordings
Release Date: Nov. 17
Details: I'm tempted to repeat the above message that this is the one to get, but in recent years, the Wolfhounds have reunited and have been recording. So, that feels kind of rude. If you're searching for a comprehensive chronicling of the band's early years, however, this reissue of the 1987 album is the place to start. Just about everything from their time on the Pink Label and Idea Records can be found on the double LP. In fact, there are a whopping 15 bonus tracks. The only song I see missing is "Feeling So Strange Again." You may remember that one from NME's 'C86 ' cassette. Choose between clear or black 180gram vinyl. There's a lyrics sheet and plenty of press clippings, flyers and photos. I can't wait to see what Optic Nerve digs up next.

'Unseen Ripples From a Pebble' Tracklisting
A1 Me
A2 Sandy
A3 Rain Stops Play
A4 Goodbye Laughter
A5 Lost But Happy
A6 The Anti-Midas Touch
B1 In Transit
B2 Cruelty
B3 Rule Of Thumb
B4 Progress Caff
B5 Public Footpath Blues
B6 Handy Howard
C1 Stars In The Tarmac
C2 L.A. Juice
C3 Another Day On The Lazy “A”
C4 Cut The Cake
C5 Dead Think
C6 Midget Horror
C7 One Foot Wrong
C8 Slow Loris
D1 Restless Spell
D2 Whale On The Beach
D3 Me (7” Version)
D4 Hand In The Till
D5 Disgusted, E7
D6 Cold Shoulder
D7 Boy Racers RM1

The Wolfhounds - The Anti-Midas Touch

Monday, September 22, 2014

Home in on the Luxembourg Signal

For fans of Sarah Records, it's been a year to reminisce and rejoice. So far there has been an art exhibit, a documentary film and a book announcement. Looking back is all well and good, and it's certainly wonderful to see Sarah receive accolades in a way it never did when it existed, but let's not forget there are still some label alums making great music in 2014. For starters, check out 'Cornish Love Songs' from the Hit Parade and 'Kick to Kick' from the Steinbecks. (That's the Sugargliders' Josh and Joel Meadows.)

Back in the spring I heard a most wonderful piece of dreampop. The single "Distant Drive" had a timeless sound -- familiar but fresh at the same time -- full of soaring guitars and a just a hint of shoegaze sensibilities. Wow, who were these guys? Turned out I did know the Luxembourg Signal. Three members of the band were from Aberdeen, a Sarah band that, gasp, came from right here in America. It's kind of like Go-Betweens on Postcard. Geography be damned. They were, simply, a fine fit. If you were a fan of those Sarah days, the impending full-length release will be right up your alley, but this is no retread. Expect a slightly louder, darker and more mature affair.

The album was due for a Sept. 30 release, via the always dependable Shelflife Records, but a delay in the delivery of the vinyl has pushed the date back to Oct. 21. This is becoming an old story as the scarce number of vinyl pressing plants struggle to keep up. Tough not to have mixed feelings about that development, but that's a story for another day. I'm going to spend the rest of the week on more new releases and reissues. They are coming fast and furious now. In the meantime, here are a couple of real gems from the Luxembourg Signal. Preorder now!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Couple of Killer Album Closers

Just another day. It's not like I'm voting on the future of my homeland or anything. All the best to my pals in Scotland. If I could do anything to mark this auspicious day, I would be on a plane to Los Angeles to buy Scottish sounds from Postcard, Creeping Bent, Fast Product, Chemikal Underground and the like. You see, Wombleton Records is celebrating its 4th birthday tonight. If it's not my favorite shop in all of America, it's certainly in the top 2. Wombleton just got back from one of their legendary vinyl-finding trips, this time to England, and they will be unveiling a bevy of used booty at 8PM. Check out some of what you'll find right here. Man, I'm 1,135 miles from heaven, and it feels even further.

Since I have "La La Land" on my mind, here are a couple from the city's mid-'90s power-pop scene. Both of these songs are -- what is commonly referred to in the biz as -- deep cuts. In fact, they are final tracks from two absolutely perfect full-length debuts. I love both bands dearly, but neither can be described as prolific, and I have always found their sporadic and extremely limited output frustrating. It probably doesn't help that, to my knowledge, neither band has officially retired from recording. So, I keep holding out hope there will be new work... even though Wondermints haven't had a new album since 2002, and Sugarplastic's last release was in 2005. It really is a pity, but at least we have these catchy gems. Both debut albums are out of print, but you can still find used copies from the links below.

Wondermints - "Carnival of Souls" from 'Wondermints'
Sugarplastic - "Howl a Little" from 'Radio Jejune'

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rays of Summershine From the Rainyard

When I think of great Aussie pop, the first bands that come to my mind are the Go-Betweens, Triffids, Sugargliders, Lucksmiths, Crayon Fields and, going way back, Easybeats. Well, I think the Rainyard should be added to this shortlist. Until recently, the only song I knew from this band straight outta Perth was "Hell Bent Suicidal Over You, Baby." It was the third single the legendary (in a just world, anyway) Summershine Records ever released, way back in 1990. The song was also on the label compilation 'Just a Taste' that saw the light of day here in America via Slumberland nearly two decades ago.

A couple of years ago, members of the band bundled all of their output, from the aforementioned single to songs from a slew of compilations, and self released it as the digital album 'A Thousand Days.' Turns out the lads were jangle gods that would have fit in quite nicely with the C86 crowd that clearly influenced them.

Last month, Pretty Olivia Records took these 15 songs and reissued them on vinyl. The Spanish boutique label pressed 300 copies, and they seem to be going fast. You can still download it too, but c'mon, these hooks were made for wax.

The Rainyard - So Happy Now

Here's a little bonus from the aforementioned 'Just a Taste' sampler.

The Rainyard - Hellbent Suicidal Over You, Baby

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Phil Wilson on Caff

On July 1, 1986, Phil Wilson's band officially called it quits with a press release that read, "The June Brides have decided to part company and become legend." In 1987, Wilson as solo artist would release two fantastic singles for Creation, "Waiting For a Change" and "10 Miles." The label, seemingly, put its weight behind these records by releasing them as a 7", 12" and double 7" with gatefold sleeve. Alas, these songs weren't chart busters, and Alan McGee, busy with his new act the House of Love, was on to bigger things.

It would be about two years before we would hear from Wilson again. Thankfully, Bob Stanley's Caff Corporation released the one-off "Better Days" in the second half of 1989. Like most of Caff's output, this single was a low-budget affair. While Wilson was backed by the Triffids on his first Creation release, now he was playing bass and guitar while being backed a drum machine. In retrospect, the lyrics seem ominous ("I can't find the place where I belong"), but it really is a bouncy number. Here is what Wilson had to say in the insert for this 45:

'Better Days' and 'You Won't Speak' were recorded as demos in Spring 1988 by myself and Andrew Innes at the Acid Factory (this is a rather silly name for his spare bedroom). Creation were no longer interested in releasing my stuff and I couldn't be bothered to tout around looking for a new deal. So the songs have languished on a shelf ever since. I, in he meantime, stopped being a shiny pop person and became a boring old Civil Servant - a position that suits me down to the ground. At the moment I have no plans or desire to return to the cesspool of the music business. Thanks to Caff, however, for releasing this, and to you for buying it!

Phil Wilson

It would be nearly 20 years before another new release from Wilson. If you have heard 'God Bless Jim Kennedy" and the two 7" singles from the reunited June Brides, however, you know this story has a happy ending. Buy the brand-new EP "She Seems Quite Free," and get yourself an education. In the meantime, here's the A-side of CAFF 3. It's one of the toughest singles to find. Currently, there are none for sale on Discogs or Ebay, but it is available on the must-have compilation 'Every Conversation: The Story of June Brides & Phil Wilson.'

Phil Wilson - Better Days

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Razorcuts on Caff

This is probably my favorite song to come from Bob Stanley's legendary label. Razorcuts had quite the pedigree -- Subway Organisation, Creation, Flying Nun -- and a concluding single with Caff always seemed fitting. The four songs on "Sometimes I Worry About You" were early demos salvaged from the original masters at Redchurch Recordings in London.

As you can imagine, this is a tough find. Currently, there are three of these singles for sale on Discogs starting at a pricey $65. I'm lucky enough to have this one, but when I attempted to transfer it to digital form for this post, well, let's just say my turntable wasn't as enamored with the single as I am. Then I recalled, hot on the heels of its wonderful but woefully out of print 'R is for... Razorcuts' compilation in 2003, Matinée Recordings had revived a couple of these songs for the "A Is For Alphabet" EP in 2003. I was shocked to find it was still available from the label. So, for this occasion, I snagged one.

Stanley contributed to the liner notes of the aforementioned 'R is for... Razorcuts.' Here is a condensed version of his wonderful prose (apologies to the author for chopping it up a bit). It not only succinctly tells the story of the band, but it sums up the entire feeling of the music scene at the time.

Things had been bleak.

The screaming low point of Band Aid's Xmas 45 pushed buttons nationwide. Fuck this. A back to basics insurrection of the three B's (Beatles, Beach Boys, Byrds) gave Britain a new wave of treble-laden beat... Red and black, the colours of the Angry Brigade and the sleeve of Your Generation, were the colours of the new wave's offspring; key fanzine Hungry Beat and a rash of polythene-bagged ruff pop 45s. DIY not EMI was the clarion call.

Pretty early on came the Razorcuts' debut of Big Pink Cake (Ronettes drums added to the B recipe) backed with I'll Still Be There. The latter still stands apart from its contemporaries thanks to its Mies Van Der Rohe-like simplicity - tambourine, twelve-string plangent harmonies. I can hear little else. "In love or despair, you know I'll still be there." For a generation of would-be Roger McGuinns and Jean Sebergs, this was our song.

This was a medium as suited to singles and EPs as it was to informal venues like The Coal Hole on The Strand or The Black Horse on Royal College street. Fanzines and phone numbers were swapped. The atmosphere was fervently anti-rock - Razorcuts concerts often had the feeling of a social. Short-term revolutions and lifelong friendships were hatched. Two more grade A singles - Sorry to Embarrass You and I Heard You The First Time - prefaced a Razorcuts deal with Creation. Creation's philosophy was different: the boys 'planed it to Leamington Spa to record two LPs but no further singles. If this lost them pop momentum it at least paved the way for the baroquerie of Gregory's Carousel and Tim's Red Chair Fadeaway. But by this time new action was to be found in Manchester dungeons and the balmy Balearics.

Finally, here is the lead song from CAFF10, officially released in 1990. "Sometimes I Worry About You" is a 16-track demo recorded on Oct. 24, 1984. The other three songs on the EP were demos from late 1985 and early 1986, including "Sorry To Embarrass You." You may know that one because it was rerecorded for Subway in '86 and became a Top 10 indie hit.

Razorcuts - Sometimes I Worry About You

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Another Sunny Day on Caff

Bob Stanley released singles from a few of my indie heroes, and here is one of the biggest of that bunch. From 1988 to 1990, as Another Sunny Day, Harvey Williams produced some of the best singles Sarah Records ever released. During this prolific period, Caff put out this one-off 7" of early demos... and covers at that. Here's a portion of what Mr. Stanley had to say in the insert:

...[H]ere's another archive goodie, this time from Penzance's titan of teen pop, Harvey "Festive" Williams (as he was known in his baseball days). Both "tracks" were "cut" on a now deceased portastudio Stamfordbrook, W. London. 'Gen Eng' was a 1983 single by OMD which appeared later that year on their seminal 'Dazzle Ships' album. Says Harvey: "That LP was a perfect combination of submarine noises, anguished vocals, thrashed guitars and Czechoslovenke radio. I accept no substitute." 'Kilburn Towers' meanwhile is from a 1968 Bee Gees LP called 'Idea'. Over to Festive: "'Kilburn Towers' is a typical, beautiful late sixties Bee Gees ballad. Strings and mellotron to the fore, atmos melody, Barry's chestwig. Without the Bee Gees I could not live." Until the Spring has sprung, Bob

Thought for the day from Ronnie Corbett: "Jesus sounds remarkably like cheeses."

There are three of these 7" singles from Another Sunny Day available on Discogs, ranging from about $64 to $114. Both of these songs are also available as bonus tracks on the Cherry Red reissue of 'London Weekend,' one of my favorite albums from the era. Without further adieu, here's CAFF 7, the label's first release of 1990.

Another Sunny Day - Genetic Engineering
Another Sunny Day - Kilburn Towers

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Songs From the June Brides

It was a banner day when I got this news in my inbox yesterday. The followup to the brilliant single "A January Moon," from the reunited June Brides, will be out in September. As before, the "She Seems Quite Free" EP is a joint 7" between Occultation Recordings in the United Kingdom and Slumberland Records in America.

Below you'll find our first listen to one of the three tracks. "Being There" and "She Seems Quite Free" are penned by Phil Wilson, and guitarist Simon Beesley concludes the trio with "I'm Undone." In case you're late to the party, original members Frank Sweeney and Jon Hunter round out the classic lineup. Did you ever think you would hear that trumpet again? Wonderful. On drums this time is Steve Beswick. He played with the Wild Swans on 'The Coldest Winter For a Hundred Years," truly one of the best albums of this or any decade. Arash Torabi is on bass. Fans of Phil Wilson's 2010 solo album 'God Bless Jim Kennedy' will remember his name.

If you pick up this 7" from one of the aforementioned labels, gifts abound, including a special full-color insert and badge. So, you know what to do. Enough of me, already. Please listen. "Everything changes... as love rearranges us all." Interesting words, Mr. Wilson.

Update: I'm rubbing my eyes in disbelief. The band has shared another song. Here's "She Seems Quite Free."

And Yet Another Update: It's a trifecta! Here is Mr. Beesley's "I'm Undone." Now we can hear the entire EP.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Orchids on Caff

Clearly, Bob Stanley was a strong supporter of Sarah Records. As a music writer, he championed the label on paper. Check out his review of 'Lyceum.' As the head of Caff Corporation, he released three one-off singles plucked from Sarah's talented stable. When you consider there were only 17 singles on Caff, three is a pretty hefty number. CAFF 11 comes from the Orchids, and this 7" was released when the Scottish band was at the top its game. It was September of 1990. 'Lyceum' had been out for about a year, and the fantastic single "Something for the Longing" had hit the shelves about six months earlier. I didn't realize until many years later, when 'Lyceum' was reissued by LTM in 2005 with this single as part of the bonus tracks, that "An Ill Wind That Blows" and its flip side were actually demos that the band recorded in 1987. Even though the Orchids was in its infancy, just that it wasn't evident these were early rudimentary recordings are a testament to the quality. Sarah always had a reputation as music for sad sacks. "An Ill Wind That Blows" certainly feeds into that label, but I think it's wonderful.

As I write this, there are three copies of "An Ill Wind That Blows" on Discogs... ranging between $40 and $100. If that's too rich for your blood, the 'Lyceum' reissue is still in print.

The Orchids - An Ill Wind That Blows
The Orchids - All Those Things

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Claim on Caff

Do you remember Jon Favreau's 'Dinner For Five' that used to be on IFC? If I ever hosted a program like that, one of my first guests would be Bob Stanley. One of the myriad of reasons why I would have no audience, however, is that I'm not sure I would even ask him about Saint Etienne. He's a first-rate writer and chronicler of music, and he is known to have an incredible vinyl collection. How could I possibly get around to the importance of 'Fox Base Alpha' during the 30 minutes... including commercials? I'm sure I would be able to hear everyone's remote controls click as I stare at Stanley with starry eyes and spend an entire segment asking him about his days running Caff Records while the other guests pick at their food and curse their agents under their breaths.

For the next few posts, I thought it might be fun to listen to a few songs from the legendary label. Caff's run was quite short, from 1989 until 1992, but the 17 one-off releases, all on 7" and limited to 500 copies each, have certainly left a mark. A quick look at ebay shows prices range from $30 to $130 for one of these pieces of vinyl. Perhaps singles by Manic Street Preachers and Pulp will be the ones the masses will remember most, but those aren't the ones that first pop into my mind.

Let's start with CAFF 8. Ah, the Claim. Here's a bit of what Stanley had to say about the lads. I lifted this from the liner notes to 'Black Path,' the band's retrospective put out by Rev-Ola in 1995: "The Claim: hopelessly obscure but with enough melodic clout, character and charm not to let it worry them unduly. It's very English, not in a whimsical 'village green' way but in a kitchen sink, fish and chips way... Until this urgent, honest, heart-warming pop becomes fashionable again, the Claim will have an audience limited to those who can appreciate good music without any hype, dogtags or slogans."

More because of geography than anything else, the Claim are often compared to the Dentists, but I have always heard more of the band's love for the Jam (not as much on this single, however) and their heroes the Jasmine Minks. While you give this a listen, read a recent piece Stanley wrote for the Guardian that every record collector is sure to enjoy.

The Claim - Birth of a Teenager
The Claim - Mike the Bike (featuring Vic Templar)