Tuesday, August 20, 2019

'Lost' LP From Jazzateers Finally to Go Vinyl

It's been rumored for what feels like forever. The Creeping Bent Organisation even went so far as to assign it a number (Bent 078) in the middle of the last decade. Then chatter really picked up again last summer. Finally, Douglas MacIntyre of Creeping Bent confirms 'Blood Is Sweeter Than Honey,' the Jazzateers album shelved more than three decades ago and released only as part of CD comp 'I Shot the President' on Marina Records in 1997, "will finally see light later this year... as a deluxe LP package." To the best of my knowledge, "Pressing On" was the only song from that "lost" album that ever saw the light of day on vinyl when it was released as a 12" single in 1986. Well, that is until Marina released "Here Comes That Feeling" as a 7" taster to 'I Shot the President' more than a decade later. I'll pass on details of the release date and what deluxe means in this case as soon as I hear. Exciting isn't the word. I'm absolutely busting.





Saturday, August 17, 2019

Summer of Subway: Pop Will Eat Itself

Pop Will Eat Itself never released even so much as a single on the Subway Organization, but they did appear on the label's first release, the legendary compilation 'Take The Subway To Your Suburb' (SUBORG 1, 1986). It's easy to assume that at least for a heartbeat the band considered a relationship with Martin Whitehead's venture. That same year, PWEI's self-released debut single "Poppies Say Grrr!" was single of the week in the NME and received regular play from Janice Long. The band was off and running. Soon after, they picked up with the excellent Chapter 22, known to indie-pop fans for releases around this time by Mighty Mighty and the Pastels and a little bit later by Ned's Atomic Dustbin. Craig Jennings of Chapter 22 still manages PWEI to this day.

You may recall Richard March of PWEI came up earlier in this series because he produced Birmingham band Surf Drums. That's an earlier incarnation of Subway vets Korova Milk Bar. Annie Taylor from Korova Milk Bar would go on to marry March, and that band would also make the move from Subway to Chapter 22.

Back to PWEI's apperance on 'Take The Subway To Your Suburb.' These two songs were covers from opposite sides of the track. "Orgone Accumulator" first appeared on the Hawkwind album 'Space Ritual' in 1973. "Like an Angel" was a No. 4 indie hit by the Mighty Lemon Drops in January of the same year 'Take The Subway To Your Suburb' hit the shelves. Now that takes balls. Both of these songs would show up again in 1987 on the band's Chapter 22 release 'Love Missile F1-11.'

You know the rest of the story, but suffice it to say PWEI added hip-hop and more samples and electronics to the noise and by 1989 became Top 40 hitmakers for RCA.

Orgone Accumulator
Like an Angel

So far in the Summer of Subway series:
Cowboy and Spin Girl
Choo Choo Train
Fastbacks
Sex Clark Five
The Charlottes
Bubblegum Splash
Shop Assistants
The Soup Dragons
Rodney Allen
The Rosehips
Korova Milk Bar
The Clouds

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Summer of Subway: Cowboy and Spin Girl

The last of the Americans on Subway this week. Cowboy and Spin Girl were the boy-girl duo of Donna Esposito and Frank Bednash. A few of you out there may remember Esposito from her days with New York power-pop outfit the Cyclones, whose 1981 song "You're So Cool" was an underground hit along the Northeast Corridor.

Although an obvious fan of the label, I bought Cowboy and Spin Girl's self-titled eight-song long player (SUBORG 10) a few years back more because Mitch Easter produced all the songs on the B-side at his legendary Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem, North Carolina than the fact that it was on Subway. Easter's relationship with Esposito went back at least to the days of the Cyclones when he filled in on bass for a while. Cowboy and Spin Girl's connection to the indie label in Bristol, however, is completely unknown to me, and they didn't stick around long. This 1988 album is the only release they had on Subway.

In the '90s, the band moved on to legendary Midwest label Parasol for a couple of catchy singles and an album. The pair weren't done, but the moniker Cowboy and Spin Girl was retired. They stuck with Parasol, moved to Seattle and became Toothpaste 2000 for a while. In more recent years, they changed names again. To the best of my knowledge, they live in the Portland area now and go by the name Mas Rapido.

Back to the Subway album. For the most part, this is power pop in the vein of the Bomp! label. Album opener "White Lies" is the song that sounds closest to quintessential Subway. It's lo-fi and a little fuzzy but not as much as, say, Shop Assistants or the Rosehips. As they went on to do their entire careers, Esposito and Bednash split the songs 50/50 and, to be frank, I have always preferred Esposito's work to Bednash's. Furthermore, I have always gone for Easter's B-side much more than the A-side produced by the band in New York. Perhaps that's just me, but I'll let you be the judge. Here's a taster...

From Side A: Produced by Cowboy and Spin Girl
White Lies
Tomorrow's Hits Today
From Side B: Produced by Mitch Easter
Turn Me On
Set the World on Fire

So far in the Summer of Subway series:
Choo Choo Train
Fastbacks
Sex Clark Five
The Charlottes
Bubblegum Splash
Shop Assistants
The Soup Dragons
Rodney Allen
The Rosehips
Korova Milk Bar
The Clouds

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Curtain Call: The Wake

These are the liner notes culled from the 1992 Fierce Recordings release of 'EEC Punk Rock Mountain: A Sarah Bootleg.'

Though the EEC Punk Rock Mountain closed its doors in 1987, it still lives on in our hearts. To celebrate its wonderfulness, on June 1st 1991 Start-Rite kids the world over were treated to gigs by their most favourite guitar groups in venues renamed one night only after the legendary Bristol indiepop club. All six concerts (Orchids in Hamburg; St. Christopher in Paris; Gentle Despite in Leeds; The Wake in Athens; Field Mice in Seattle; Heavenly in Tokyo) began and ended simultaneously, each book-ended by a tape tear-filled speech of remembrance by either Clare or Matt from the flag-flying Sarah Records, and were bootlegged in degrees of sound quality proportional to the common-sense level of the Fierce operative concerned.

This is an album we'll revisit again, but I wanted to end this brief three-part series on the Wake's Sarah years with something from the stage. As mentioned in the previous two posts, "Major John" was an A-side out that very year, and "Carbrain" was the flip of the 1989 single "Crush the Flowers." Expect a very different sound than their synth extravaganzas of the early to mid-80s. And, as the folks at Fierce mentioned, these are bootleg recordings. Have mercy.

Major John (Live)
Carbrain (Live)

I nicked this flyer from the Sarah Records site to give you a taste of these rather special Wednesday night shows in Bristol known as EEC Punk Rock Mountain. This one is circa 1986. Another in a long line of time-machine moments for many of us, I should think. Click on it for a better look.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Another Sarah 7" From the Wake

For this second of back-to-back posts on the Wake, I was all set to do a compare and contrast between the Factory and Sarah eras. After a look back on these pages, it seems I have already had numerous listens from the Glasgow band's days on the Manchester label. Instead, since we did the debut single on Sarah last time, let's focus on the followup and final 7" from their days on the Bristol label.

Between the 'Make It Loud' (Sarah 602, 1990) and 'Tidal Wave Of Hype' (Sarah 618, 1994) albums came the "Major John" 7" (SARAH 48, 1991). By now, it seems the Wake's time on their new label had rubbed off on them. This sounds like a Sarah single. It would also be the last appearance of drummer Steven Allen. He had been with the band since it formed in 1981. Most of the band's time on Sarah had really been a hybrid of the Wake and the Orchids, with fellow Glaswegians James Moody and Matthew Drummond often filling in as guest musicians. Caesar would return the favor a while later when Moody eventually left the Orchids and he filled in on stage. Caesar and Carolyn would continue and keep the ship afloat a while longer.

Bottom line: Both of the Wake's Sarah singles should have gone places. Unfortunately, when Sarah shuttered, so did the Wake.

Major John
Lousy Pop Group

One more from the Wake in this era coming up. I promise that will be it... for a while, anyway.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Summer of Subway: Choo Choo Train

For the third week in a row, it's an American act in the Subway spotlight. Although there were but two brief releases from this Midwestern band, in my humble opinion, they were by far the best of the Bristol label's Yanks. Paul Chastain and Ric Menck as Choo Choo Train graced these pages two years ago with the 1988 single "High." That just leaves Subway 20T to cover, the six-song 12" "Briar Rose E.P.," also released in '88. Let's listen to this classic in its entirety.

Briar Rose
Big Blue Buzz
Nothing Else
Flower Field
Every Little Knight
Catch Another Breath

This was such a prolific era for the duo that they were the centerpieces of at least three bands at the time, including the Springfields (mostly on Sarah and Summershine) and Bag-O-Shells (on the legendary Iowa City indie label Bus Stop). You may think they needed some good ADD meds, but the truth is every Chastain-Menck incarnation was good... really good. Most agree their best work would be just around the corner when they moved to Rhode Island and became power-pop outfit Velvet Crush, but that's another story for another day.

Today's trivia has been covered here before, but it's worth another mention. Matthew Sweet goes way back with these fellas, and they have worked on each other's productions many times. A couple of pivotal examples include Menck sharing drumming duties on Sweet's 'Girlfriend' and Sweet producing the first Velvet Crush album. As for Choo Choo Train, Sweet wrote "My Best Friend," a song that appears on the flip side of the "High" 12" single. He also penned the first song from today's selection, "Briar Rose." Hmm, that young man could go places.

So far in the Summer of Subway series:
Fastbacks
Sex Clark Five
The Charlottes
Bubblegum Splash
Shop Assistants
The Soup Dragons
Rodney Allen
The Rosehips
Korova Milk Bar
The Clouds

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

An Awakening

To these ears, the Wake had many memorable moments during their years on Factory Records. The 1985 album 'Here Comes Everybody' should have been the Glasgow band's time to finally step out of New Order's shadow with a smash. Alas, they weren't able to shake the copycat label, and the album stalled at No. 20 on the indie chart.

A move to Sarah Records in 1989 didn't make them household names either, but nobody started up with the Bristol label with that goal in mind. What did happen, however, was a change in musical direction that would never get them confused with Bernard, Hooky and the gang ever again. From 1989, here's SARAH 21, the Wake's debut single for Matt and Clare. It doesn't get much poppier than this A-side, and many consider this the band's high-water mark. Personally, I think the flip is even better. More from the Wake next time.

Crush the Flowers
Carbrain

Monday, July 29, 2019

Hungry Beat Satiated

Let's make a racket. Here are Fire Engines performing at Valentinos in their hometown of Edinburgh on Aug. 9, 1981. This show was recorded by a fan and officially released in 2005 on the mostly odd but occasionally brilliant comp 'Codex Teenage Premonition.' Davy and the lads are in fine form. Sadly, it would be all over for these post-punk pioneers just a few months later, but their legacy was already being set in cement. Recordings like these, in all their lo-fi glory, continue to inspire youngsters to start bands. Here's a rousing rendition of the band's debut A-side. Turn it up. Feel the aggression.

Get Up and Use Me (Live)

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Summer of Subway: Fastbacks

Here's another American band with a short-lived moment on the Subway Organization. Seattle's own Fastbacks signed with hometown label PopLlama in 1987. Here in the Pacific Northwest, Conrad Uno's label is legendary for launching the careers of local acts like the Young Fresh Fellows, the Posies, Girl Trouble and the Presidents of the United States of America, among many others. The first album to come from Fastbacks was '...And His Orchestra,' released in 1987. It has been described as poppy punk, and that would remain their sound to until they disbanded around the turn of the century.

'...And His Orchestra' was picked up by Martin Whitehead's label in '88 and released as suborg 8 for distribution in the UK. The album would spawn two Subway singles in 1989, "In The Winter" (subway 24) and "Wrong Wrong Wrong" (subway 26). There would be no such singles here in America. That would be it for Fastbacks on Subway. As the Fastbacks turned the calendar to the '90s, the band's timing would be impeccable as they would sign with a certain Seattle-based label that seemed to be gaining some traction. Yep, that one.

Here's a bit of trivia for you. Although the core of the band would remain Kurt, Lulu and Kim for decades, Fastbacks had a knack for going through drummers like socks. Many of them were famous musicians from around the Seattle music community. Even Duff McKagan, better known as the bassist for Guns N' Roses, kept the beat for a while. Here are those two A-sides from Subway. Enjoy.

In the Winter
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Summer of Subway: Sex Clark Five

Diving deep for the first of four straight Saturdays featuring bands from the Subway Organization that came from the other side of the pond. Sex Clark Five hailed from Huntsville, Alabama. I know what most of you are thinking.

Huh?

This is what may have happened. SC5 had but one release for the Bristol label, the 1988 album 'Strum and Drum!' (SUBORG 7), which the band had already self-released in their home country a year earlier. By that time John Peel was a huge supporter and had been singing the praises of this album and preceding single "Neita Grew Up Last Night." 'Strum and Drum!' would have been a tough get in the UK (as it was in the United States, for that matter), and Subway stepped in to sell it to those legions of fans who had heard it on Peel's show. Of course, I may have it all wrong... especially that part about legions of fans. I do know Peel continued to support SC5 on his program for decades to come, and they recorded sessions for him in 1990, 1994 and 2000.

What did SC5 have in common with other Subway bands? Short songs. Fifteen of the 20 tunes on 'Strum and Drum!' clock in at under two minutes. Often, they are more like 90 seconds. Oh, and lo-fi. You won't hear the fuzz of a Shop Assistants or a Rosehips, however. This is shambolic and manic power pop. Acoustic and electric guitars clashing at the goal line like 'Bama and Clemson for the national title. In 1990, SC5 shared a 7" flexi with Pixies, and that's a pretty fair pairing of their sound at the time. Principal songwriter James Butler is equal parts silly and cerebral. You can be learning about how WWI started one minute and the bad girls in high school detention the next. I always felt like if the timing had been right SC5 would have been a nice fit as part of the Elephant 6 collective. Then again, maybe they had to march to the beat of their own drum. Bottom line: 'Strum & Drum!' is one of a kind and an album that should be remembered as more than a Subway footnote.

The Men Who Don't Know Ice
Detention Girls
Modern Fix
Alai
Sarajevo

Friday, July 19, 2019

A Bevy of Beth

Like the band's singles that have preceded it, Jetstream Pony's recent release of the excellent "Mitte" demo again has me obsessed with Beth Arzy's other bands. Trembling Blue Stars, the Luxembourg Signal and Lightning in a Twilight Hour have had their turns on the turntable this week, but it's Aberdeen that has pushed its way to the front of the line this time around. As much as I kneel at the altar of Sarah Records, I think Aberdeen's third single, the one they did for Sunday Records, just may be the best from the band's first go around.

Snapdragon

One of my favorite acquisitions of the last couple of years has been the album 'Three Wishes: Part Time Punks Sessions.' Back in 2011, Aberdeen were joined by the June Brides and 14 Iced Bears in Los Angeles for live studio recordings and an appearance on the popular radio show. Aberdeen not only went back to the Sarah days for the appearance, but they pulled out the splendid "Snapdragon" as well. Sadly, to the best of my knowledge, Aberdeen hasn't released a new studio recording since. Of course, Ms. Arzy has been pretty busy.

Snapdragon (Part Time Punks Sessions)

Oh, and to whet your appetite for that eagerly anticipated Jetstream Pony album rumored to be around the bend, here is that demo that got my earworm started in the first place. Quality. Let's cross our fingers a physical copy will be a little easier to come by than the band's previous releases. I have had to make due with digital downloads so far, and that's not my usual modus operandi.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A Swindon We Will Go

Some of you may recognize these two blokes above... at least I hope you do. Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers were in one of the best bands on the planet, after all. Back in 2017, they reunited under the moniker of TC&I and released a four-song EP called 'Great Aspirations.' To promote the release the fellas hit the stage together for the first time in 32 years to do a mini-residency in XTC's hometown. Fortunately, the occasion was recorded for posterity and will be released as 'Naked Flames: Live at Swindon Arts Centre' on August 9 via Burning Shed.

The 13-song album is a mix of TC&I and XTC material. Hold on to you hats! The album concludes with "Generals and Majors," "Making Plans For Nigel," "Statue Of Liberty" and "Life Begins At The Hop." Here's one from the 'Mummer' era that the duo just may have bested. Sacrilege, you say? Just listen...



OK, you should be good and ready to pre-order 'Naked Flames: Live at Swindon Arts Centre' and everything else by TC&I just about now. Have at it, friends.