Monday, August 6, 2018

A Trip to There and Back Again Lane

Our Nottingham correspondent, MisterPrime, makes a triumphant return to tell us about a very special show he attended. Keep this up, MisterPrime, and I will have to consider bumping you up to senior correspondent. This seems like as good a time as any to pass on that many Sarah releases have just been added on Bandcamp too. Take it away, MisterPrime...

A Sarah Punk Social:

Even As We Speak, Boyracer, Secret Shine and Action Painting! At the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 21st July 2018

Obviously there was much excitement in the Prime household when I first heard the news (via that font of knowledge for all things indie, the esteemed Linear Tracking Lives blog, of course) that Stew and Jen at Emotional Response Records were reissuing a batch of old Sarah material earlier in the year. Better yet, the plan was to raise funds to bring the recently reformed Even As We Speak to the UK for dates to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their seminal 'Feral Pop Frenzy' LP, culminating in an appearance at Indietracks 2018. Even better, all three of the other bands involved in the reissues -- Action Painting!, Secret Shine and Stew's own band, the mighty Boyracer -- were acting as support. Admittedly all of the excitement was mine -- and the nearest gig (barring Indietracks itself) was up in sunny Yorkshire (apparently the organisers of the Festival were afraid of flooding the indie-gig-market in the Midlands otherwise) -- but my better half did then make the mistake of suggesting I get a ticket for the Brudenell Social Club gig there-and-then and sort out the details later. I would have put it off otherwise and ended up not bothering but, as it was, I now had no choice but to sort out trains, a Leeds6 B&B (apparently I'm "too old" to just kip on the station these days) and whatever else was required for this weird little middle-aged indie-away day.

I used to live in the neighbourhood as a student and it's largely unchanged, the typical northern back-to-backs occasionally giving way to a pub, chippy or off-licence. The cavernous student pub, the Royal Park, is still operating next door to the venue though it looks as if the interior might be a little more salubrious these days than I recall. The Brudenell Social Club has certainly had a makeover since I was last here -- in my student days it was still a Working Men's Club but I've been back in the interim to see Jonathan Richman play here in 2012 -- with more than a lick of paint and the addition of a whole new Community Room extension -- the scene for this evening's festivities -- just last year. I was surprised that tonight's gig was not in the Main Room, but I think I was maybe once again guilty of thinking it obvious that here was an event momentous enough to have sold-out months in advance and not to be attracting curious bypassers to pay on the door. Oh well, as it was the turnout was decent, the atmosphere was excellent and the room was more than passable. Perhaps I just have a newfound respect for bands and promoters who are still making the effort to get this stuff out there for the faithful. At least the merch stand seemed to be buzzing....

The opening three bands were apparently rotating the order of their appearances, but I must say it was fitting that Action Painting! were up first tonight. They are really just a footnote in the Sarah story, and it sounds like they've not even bothered to rehearse since 1992. In fact, they were terrible. But good terrible. Even better terrible than I would have anticipated. And they still have bags of attitude, singer Andrew Hitchcock taking the stage in in leopard skin fur coat and shades, bemoaning that "they promised us fucking dry ice!" The guitar lead coming out in the middle of "Mustard Gas" ("The Hit!") and being deftly caught and reinserted mid-solo actually improved the performance. A fun 20 minutes.

Which only served to make Secret Shine seem all the more considered and professional. They were the only one of tonight's bands that I'd actually seen before -- at a short-lived Nottingham venue somewhat improbably named the Imperial, back in 1991 (I think), supporting the Sweetest Ache -- and I recall being underwhelmed on that occasion. That said, here is a band that have not rested on their laurels and have honed their chops since they reformed a few years ago prior to releasing career-best material on last year's 'There Is Only Now' album. They always had the pop tunes to back up their deft take on that swooning shoegaze dynamic -- as well as a melancholic undertow that made them suitably Sarah -- but right now live, though they might still have a slightly polite look about them, the music does manage to soar in all the right places. Given a newfound fondness for all things shoegaze, one can only hope it's onwards and upwards for Secret Shine in the next few years.

I'd better be upfront about this and just make it clear right now that I bloody love Boyracer. Whilst they may indeed be "too twee for the punks and too punk for the twees", there are some of us out here for whom that particular niche is just about a perfect fit. Tonight Stew and the gang pulled off several joyous shards of hardcore indie punk, including pretty incendiary takes on "I've Got It And It's Not Worth Having", the classic "He Gets Me So Hard" and their take on the Clean's Dunedin-tastic "Tally Ho!" "I didn't used to be so prissy in the old days," says Stew, tuning up between songs before introducing a guest appearance from old member Simon Guild (I believe 1990-94, apparently) and a giving a shout-out to his mum. Let's just say there was that perfect fusion of strained emotion and uplifting punk thrash and there was me standing at the front with a big boyfuckingracer grin on my face.

And so to the headliners. Even As We Speak we were always a curious amalgamation of a band -- Australians schooled in the homegrown D.I.Y. ethic of the 80's Antipodean scene but curiously popular in England and taken to the hearts of Peel-listening and Sarah Records buying indie-kids despite their gloriously free and easy approach to incorporating all kinds of pop influences. Fittingly, even 25 years on they make up a suitably motley crew on the stage: Julian, smiling and bookish, switching between guitar, keyboard and laptop; Mary out front, looking glamorous in a bright red dress; Anita, workmanlike behind the kit; Rob, affable and bear-like, doing a strange little circular dance, stepping forward at one or two key points to interject a growled vocal or (only once, it must be said) pour beer over his head; and Matt, taciturn under a trucker's cap but able, when necessary, to deliver a properly heartrending vocal on "Nothing Ever Happens" or unleash a bit of Duane Eddy twang. All in all, a properly heartwarming, happy and human noise -- no more than you'd expect, I guess, from the world's foremost psychedelic indie pop/rock party band.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Summer Reading Program Continues

Next book up came yesterday, and I couldn't be more excited to get to the hammock to read about someone I have always wanted to talk to over a pint or two. Legendary A&R man and label cofounder Seymour Stein has finally penned his memoir, 'Siren Song: My Life in Music', and I'm hoping he has much to say about meeting and signing many of my favorite bands from the late 1970s and 1980s. I feel a little guilty about buying this book through a certain online giant instead of my local mom-and-pop shop, but I have to tell you I clicked the button in the morning and had it on my front porch just a few hours later... and I didn't pay a cent for shipping. That's pretty tough to beat. I'm hooked.

As expected, my dive into the music of Stein's Sire Records has already begun. That's where I'll probably stay on these pages for the next few posts. Let's start with a few from the excellent 'Just Say Yes' sampler series made famous in the late '80s. The first volume is at least partially responsible for me getting my first CD player. Sire's established acts were often represented by a remix, live performance or some other rarity not found on their latest album. For up-and-comers that may only have this one chance to get your attention, the label would usually give the listener one of their best. There will be plenty of time for the legends of Sire later in the week, but let's start with this lot of not quites. Each received a coveted slot on a Sire sampler (two in the case of Figures on a Beach) but still didn't quite become household names. Hey, they can't all be Ramones.

Figures on a Beach - No Stars (from 'Just Say Yes...' 1987)
A House - Call Me Blue (from 'Just Say Yo', 1988)
Royal Crescent Mob - Nanana (from 'Just Say Mao', 1989)
Bradford - Gang of One (from 'Just Say Da', 1990)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Button Battle

I almost got whiplash in the car the other day, but it wasn't from a fender-bender. In the spring, after nearly 15 years, we got a new car. One of the perks has been free satellite radio for a spell. My 12-year-old son digs a channel called '40s Junction. That's to be expected since he plays the clarinet and is heavily into big band, but it can cause a problem in the early mornings when the grouchy family is crammed in the car being dropped off at places like work, summer camp or wherever. Mrs. LTL didn't particularly want to start her day listening to this one on my son's station...

She went for this one from a station called '60s on 6...

Fight. Fight. Oh, it was so on. Growling, each of them were tapping their stations on the screen, back and forth, and all I kept thinking as I heard a snippet of one and then the other was that this number was a big hit for Vic Damone in 1949, and the Doors has their most successful single with the other in 1969. Twenty years to get from Damone to Jim Morrison near the top of the pop chart. Mind blown. In three minutes I had an entire history lesson going on in my head as I raced through the significant changes our world witnessed in those two decades. What do you think? Has music ever had a 20-year metamorphosis like that since? This wasn't at all what I planned to write about today. Perhaps I'll have another post a little later.

Oh, and if you're scoring at home, Morrison won the day. Mrs. LTL was riding shotgun, and my son had to reach over from the back seat. War is rarely fair.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Better Living Through Adam's Adventures

Good day. Just a quick word in case you were thinking I was face down in a ditch somewhere. All is well. Bogged down a bit by life, that's all. All the more reason I'm filled with envy our pal Swiss Adam in the Bagging Area has become a full-fledged member of the jet set. How about those mesmerizing photos from Italy, eh? I'm sure we can expect more of the same when he returns from France too. Here are a couple I may not be able to sing along to, but I have been humming while thinking about Adam making the most of the season. It's a slap and a reminder we are all on the clock with this summer thing.

Madness - One Step Beyond (Italian Version)
Orange Juice - Poor Old Soul (French Version)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

That's Entertainment

I had a nice walk down memory lane today as I found a box of books in the garage that probably hadn't been opened since about four or five dwellings ago. Why do we hang on to these things? The book that stopped me in my tracks was 'The Jam: A Beat Concerto' by Paolo Hewitt. This was the first music book I ever bought not about either the Beach Boys or the Beatles, and I immediately flipped to a page I remembered vividly from reading it in my youth. There's a print of Paul Weller's report card from Sheerwater County Secondary School, circa 1971. His teachers and the administration didn't beat around the bush about his straight Cs or Ds in every subject. Here are a few keepers from the unanimous decision on Paul.

Senior master: "Settle down to work before it's too late."
Housemaster: "Must do better!"
Form Tutor: "This report is much worse than it ought to be for a boy of Paul's capabilities. His behaviour in class often leaves much to be desired. His work will not improve until his attitude does."
General Science Teacher: "Troublesome and destructive boy."

As a kid who was really hating school at the time of this purchase, you can see why I would have loved this page. You showed 'em, mate.

It's warm and sunny here, and I'm off to the hammock in the backyard to read and reminisce. Perhaps this post will sway you with your vote in the ICA World Cup final over at JC's place. Do you have a music book from your youth that has a special place in your heart?

That's Entertainment (demo from 'Snap!')
That's Entertainment (album track from 'Sound Affects')
That's Entertainment (live from 'Dig the New Breed')

Friday, July 13, 2018

New Jetstream Pony in the Chute

Indie-pop fans rejoice today as a slew of new releases hit the shelves. I couldn't be more excited about 'Self-Destruct Reality', the new white-marble five-track 12" EP by Jetstream Pony, out via Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten. You know I would go practically to the ends of the earth to pick up any record with Beth Arzy or Shaun Charman on it, and when they do something together, well, I would even order order it from Augsburg!

The band's debut single "Like You Less" b/w "Had Enough" was No. 7 on my Festive 50 of 2017, and that turned out to be just a little taster of things to come. One moment you're bobbing your head to polished power pop straight out of the Sugarplastic catalog, and the next you are staring at your shoes and reminiscing about the fuzz-filled days of Shop Assistants and Chin Chin.

Jetstream Pony belongs in the same breath as Aberdeen, Trembling Blue Stars, Luxembourg Signal, Lightning in a Twilight Hour, Wedding Present, Popguns, Fireworks and all of the other bands these indie-pop heroes have graced us with during most of our music listening lives. Don't you wish your résumé popped like that? Order 'Self-Destruct Reality' on Discogs or contact the label directly via email at

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Long and Winding Road

More than 2,000 miles in the car... and we didn't kill each other. You may recall this time last year the family went to Zion National Park in the southwest corner of Utah. We liked that excursion so much we renewed our annual America the Beautiful Pass and headed back to the Beehive State all of last week. Our ultimate destination was Moab, a quaint little tourist town perfectly situated between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. There were memorable stops along the way but not a record store in sight. Probably best since vinyl would have melted in the stifling desert heat. I took a plethora of pics, and here is a small random selection to give you a taste of some of the most memorable hikes we've done. Believe me, these shots cannot do the scenery any sort of justice.

Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho

Snake River, Twin Falls, Idaho

Snake River, Twin Falls, Idaho

Turret Arch, Arches National Park

My youngest looking at North Window from under Turret Arch, Arches National Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

Skyline Arch, Arches National Park

My boys playing under a small patch of shade at Sand Dune Arch, Arches National Park

Hiking from Sand Dune Arch, Arches National Park

Balanced Rock, Arches National Park

In a strange coincidence, when we returned, the boys wanted to rest and watch a movie. We chose 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade', completely forgetting the opening scene would take us right back to the very spot we had just visited. Steven Spielberg may have a little better eye than me.

This discovery may come as a surprise to you, but it's possible to get sick of listening to music. At one point, I probably controlled the car stereo for about 10 straight hours before needing silence. There was Chicago Cubs day baseball to break up the monotony almost every day and, fortunately, I had several 2018 releases to pass the time. Loving the Tracyanne & Danny album, probably my favorite of the year so far, and the new one from Gruff Rhys is just beautiful. Coastal Fever Rolling Blackouts will surely make my year-end list too. It was an album I hadn't listened to in ages, however, that really became my soundtrack. The sprawling and meandering 'All This Sounds Gas' from Preston School of Industry seemed to make the miles melt away. When this was released back in 2001, the album barely made any impression on the public. You're all wrong!

A Treasure @ Silver Bank (This Dynasty's for Real)
Encyclopedic Knowledge Of

Friday, June 29, 2018

Tune in to Wolfhounds on Peel

The brilliant squad at Slumberland Records have been known to unearth gems from the age of C86. Chin Chin, 14 Iced Bears and St. Christopher are a few to come to mind. The label is about to up the ante, this time with a literal alum of NME's famous cassette. 'Hands in the Till: The Complete Peel Sessions' from Wolfhounds hits the shelves in July and, as the title implies, all three of the band's four-song appearances on the legendary BBC program, recorded between March 1986 and January 1988, are included. Several of their best known songs from debut album 'Unseen Ripples From a Pebble' through 'Bright and Guilty' are here, such as "Me", "Sandy" and "The Anti-Midas Touch". Here's a quick breakdown of the tracklisting. All songs are mastered from the BBC original tapes. If the following Soundcloud clip is any indication, we are in for quite a treat.

March 1986
1. The Anti-Midas Touch (listen below)
2. Hand in the Till
3. Me
4. Whale on the Beach
May 1987
5. Boy Racers, RM1
6. Disgusted E7
7. Rule of Thumb
8. Sandy
January 1988
9. Happy Shopper
10. Non-Specific Song
11. The William Randolph Hearse
12. Son of Nothing

Note: I don't see a link up quite yet, but for buyers outside of America, order from the equally fabulous A Turntable Friend Records. Also, I have read Rough Trade Records will have 100 copies of an exclusive and strictly limited yellow vinyl version with an additional art print. So very tempting, even to this Yank.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Ship Passing in the Night

Welcome to another edition of small-town news. I took the boys to see a nautical marvel last night at one of our favorite spots in Seattle. The largest ship to ever navigate Ballard Locks passed from Lake Washington out to sea on its way to Alaska. We go to the locks quite often in the summer to picnic and watch the yachts and fishing boats as they make their way to and from the Pacific. In the fall, we come to watch the thousands of salmon use the fish ladder as they make their way back to their birthplaces to lay eggs and spend their final days in the creeks and streams. Yes, we love Ballard Locks, and we joined the hundreds that lined the waterway to watch this curiosity. The 443-foot cruise ship had a slim seven feet to spare on each side of the lock. Most of the 208 passengers and 164 crew seemed to enjoy the spectacle as much as we did. I hope they liked the ukulele band performing "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" as they waited for passage too.

On the way home, I thought about boat- and ship-themed songs that would make good candidates to accompany this post. Too many to count, really, but "Six Months in a Leaky Boat", "Ship of Fools", "Chris-Craft No. 10", "Me Ship Came In!" and "Shipbuilding" were some early contenders. I decided on a rather obscure B-side by Close Lobsters from the 1987 12" "Never Seen Before" because the title works so well, and I'm always looking for an excuse to play this band anyway. What's the first song that popped into your mind?

Wide Waterways

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Live a Life of Ease and Dine on Green Cheese

I'm really digging Alyson's series on full moons as we follow the lunar calendar, and her latest is on the Strawberry Moon because, as she puts it, "for the Algonquin tribes of North America, June was the month the wild berries started to ripen and could be harvested." Upon reading this post last night, I began rolling moon-themed songs in my head, and the first one to pop into my mind was Echo & the Bunnymen doing "The Killing Moon", but then my mind wandered into jazz and easy listening territory. Frank Sinatra's delivery on "Fly Me to the Moon" is pure cool, and Julie London's take on "No Moon at All" is so sultry I blush just thinking about it. Having said that, I think my favorite might be Mel Tormé's "Swingin' on the Moon".

In 1960, as the race to space became an international obsession, the Velvet Fog recorded an entire album of moon songs. Most of them were standards, such as "How High the Moon" and "Moonlight in Vermont", but the title song and album opener was a Tormé original and a real gas. Backed by Russel Garcia's Orchestra, Tormé sings about taking a space trip with his gal. Here are a few of my favorite lyrics.

Let's have a honeymoon on the moon, honey
Far from the noisy earth below
And if your mama asks, "Why the moon honey?"
Just tell her your feller has gone inter-stellar

Hey, let's grab a holiday on the moon, honey
Far from the hustle of the crowd
And if your folks ask about our house, honey
Tell mater and pater we live in the crater

Now that's a smile! The song fades with Tormé singing, in order, the titles of every song on the album. Buckle up and take a rocket ship back to a simpler time.

Swingin' on the Moon

Monday, June 25, 2018

Piecing Together Jigsaw's Recent Releases

I had a fruitful trip to Jigsaw Records on Saturday. I picked up all four of those Sarah-related releases from Emotional Response I mentioned last month, and I also got a few of the latest records from Jigsaw I had been listening to incessantly via Bandcamp the past couple of weeks. When it comes to Chris and his prolific label, though, you had better be quick if you want to keep up. I got PZL139, PZL140 and PZL141, but he has already added 142 and 143 to his ever-growing list of releases.

Let's start with Flying Fish Cove. This Seattle-based band's self-titled four-song EP is indie-pop at its best and reminds me so much of Heavenly that the first 30 seconds of opener "Sleight of Hand" left me slack-jawed. There is a full-length album in the works, and Chris has recently joined the band on drums. There will be a few shows this summer. Check 'em out. Amelia would approve.

Next up is another four-song EP, and "Singular" should be played at maximum volume. If the name Candybomber sounds familiar, perhaps you have an EP by that name the Kensingtons put out in 2011. One half of the Kensigtons is Stewart Tudor-Jackman, and he has resurrected the name Candybomber for this debut project. The Kensingtons will be remembered as twee indie pop, but there was a clue Tudor-Jackman might be ready to go power pop in the vein of the Posies. If you get the chance, check out "The Ground Came Up To Meet Us" from the 2013 EP "Black Tag Parade" to hear what I mean. That's the song that hooked me on the Kensingtons. As for Candybomber, I'm taken by the crisp production. Not slick by any means but crisp and clean as a whistle.

Now for something completely different. There are some great bands out there paying homage to the sounds of Stereolab. A couple that come to mind are Cosines and Jigsaw alum Le SuperHomard. Watoo Watoo will surely remind you of Tim Gane and Lætitia Sadier when they were at their poppiest, and Chris hears some Felt and Broadcast in there too. No matter the influences you recognize, you will no doubt want to brush up on your French and hit the dance floor when playing long player 'Modern Express'.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Kitchenware Classic

David's excellent Kitchenware compilation featured at the New Vinyl Villain today brings me to another single picked up just last week at a shop in Seattle. I have a real soft spot for those early records from the Newcastle label, and I can't ever seem to pass one up, even if, as is in this case, it's one I didn't really need.

The 12" of Prefab Sprout's 1984 single "Couldn't Bear to Be Special" isn't any different from the version found on 'Swoon', and I already had the two B-sides (in the case of "Spinning Belinda" it has been a flip side on multiple singles), but it was just simply seeing these songs presented in a way my eyes had never visualized before that got me excited. I have always loved that 'Swoon' aesthetic. I didn't hesitate to buy it. In fact, before finding this 12", I didn't even know "Couldn't Bear to Be Special" ever was a single. Even now, as I type, I find myself looking at the cover and smiling. I'm still picking up Kitchenware records in 2018! Is there a better feeling than going into a shop and being surprised like that?

"Couldn't Bear to Be Special"
"Spinning Belinda"
"Donna Summer"