Sunday, June 19, 2016

Record Shop + Live Show = Dreamy Afternoon

My favorite equation! Local indie-pop legends Math and Physics Club played an inspired in-store set at Sonic Boom in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood yesterday, and the shop was fully stocked with smiles from a throng of loyal fans that had not witnessed the boys at the Boom for about a decade. As touted a couple of weeks ago on these very pages, Math and Physics Club have a "new" release of sorts, and all but one of the songs performed came from 'In This Together,' a collection of B-sides, rarities and unreleased songs from the past decade. You might be asking yourself how a band could pull off playing only the bottom-feeders. Rest assured, Math and Physics Club never added by subtracting on the flip side, and jangly songs like "Graduation Day" and "It Must Be Summer Somewhere," (and, oh, how apropos that one was!) sounded like the hits they should have been in a just world.

The highlight for me (outside of finally meeting Jimmy from Matinée Recordings) was brand-new song "Coastal California 1985," which we'll listen to below, and I left the shop with a little hop after learning there would be another show at the Vera Project on Aug. 6. Unfortunately, within minutes, my mood was dashed as I ran smack into a bevy of naked bikers leaving the Fremont Solstice Parade. My eyes! My eyes! Secure your copy of 'In This Together' now!


Friday, June 17, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 12)

We spin the hits here at LTL... occasionally. I'll forgo trying to make myself sound like I knelt at the altar of the Church from the band's inception. There have been 24 studio albums in 35 years, and I own three of them... and none after the 1988 breakthrough 'Starfish.' It's also, in fact, the only one I have on vinyl, and that's why we're here. So, without further adieu, here is the Church's lone hit here in America, peaking at No. 24. These days, it's often heard while shopping for canned peas at the local supermarket, which should be depressing, but I love it wherever it pops up. I think it has held up rather well.

"Under the Milky Way"

EMI dropped the Church just before 'Starfish.' I suppose there was repenting and head rolling at HQ, but the label wasted no time riding the wave of enthusiasm, releasing the compilation 'Hindsight 1980-1987' one month after the meteoric rise of "Under the Milky Way." If you have that one or any of the early albums, then you know the sound of 'Starfish' is a bit of an outlier. Anyway, the follow-up single, "Reptile," ended the momentum, but I really liked it, especially the biting lyrics. The song was written while the band was living and recording the album in Los Angeles. This and a couple of others on 'Starfish' document how much they hated it there and missed being in Australia. L.A. has been known to have that effect on people.

"Reptile"

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bubblegum Lemonade Leaps From the Bedpost

Admit it. The past few years have felt like life has been slowly losing its flavor like a piece of old gum. Glasgow band Bubblegum Lemonade haven't had a long player since 2013. Coincidence? While you chew on that, I'll happily pass on the news from Matinée Recordings that we are, indeed, expecting new album 'The Great Leap Backward' later this year. In the meantime, to whet your appetite, the indie-pop stalwart presents the four-track EP "Beard on a Bike."

Watch out for this two-wheeled weirdo. He's crazy. "Beard on a Bike" will be included on the new album, but the other three tracks are exclusive to this CD. So pedal over to the Matinée site and preorder it right now because that's where they are peddling it. The return of Laz's Rickenbacker will have you poppin' wheelies and dreaming of warm summer days. If you know Laz from Strawberry Whiplash, a band that made my year-end top 10 albums list just six short months ago, I would rank "Beard on a Bike" right up there with "Stop, Look and Listen" as his best single in the rack. Certainly not a lot of coasting from Laz these days.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 11)

This will sound familiar to regular readers because, well, I listen to a lot music with this aesthetic. You know... loud, fuzzy, female and oh, so very DIY. Subway vets Bubblegum Splash! and the Rosehips might come to mind. Karen, Esther and Marie-Anne hailed from Switzerland, but Chin Chin always seemed Scottish because they were closely associated with Shop Assistants. They used to open for them, and many of Chin Chin's songs from the self-released 'Sound of the Westway,' their one and only long player, showed up on an eight-song band compilation legendary Scottish label 53rd and 3rd released in 1987. Like many of the bands already lazily name-dropped here, Chin Chin were influenced by the punk of the Clash and the harmonies of Phil Spector's girl groups in equal measure. Just lovely.

Chin Chin's music on their own Farmer Records is a difficult and costly endeavor, but you have been able to find a reissue of the 1985 album 'Sound of the Westway' fairly easily since 2010. I have had an original copy of their 1984 single "We Don't Wanna Be Prisoners" on my shopping list for decades, but the going rate on Discogs is about $275. Too rich for my blood. Anyway, here is a favorite from 'Sound of the Westway.' New music next time.

"Never Surrender"

Monday, June 13, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 10)

As expected, not much love for China Crisis this past weekend, but the following three songs were mentioned in the comments section, and they just happen to be the ones I had planned to post if there was to be a part two to the China Crisis story. So, why not? Speaking of comments, Echorich went into quite a bit of detail about the band last time, and I can't do a better job of encapsulating China Crisis' entire career. I'll refer you there for his heartfelt description. As always, thank you, Echorich. I mentioned last time China Crisis went through quite a metamorphosis with third album 'Flaunt the Imperfection'. The fellas were enamored with producer Walter Becker of Steely Dan fame. His influence was so strong Becker was named as a member of the band on the album credits, and there's no denying the long player bears a resemblance to Becker's more popular band. This may have alienated a handful of seasoned fans, but 'Flaunt the Imperfection' attracted many more into the fold. In 1985, the album peaked at No. 9 on the UK chart. This may seem like a minor feat, but it also charted here in America (a first!), peaking on the Billboard 200 at No. 171. I can even remember hearing single "King in a Catholic Style (Wake Up)" on the radio once or twice.

China Crisis would turn to Becker once more for 1989 album 'Diary of a Hollow Horse,' but preceding that was 'What Price Paradise.' The 1986 album was produced by the hit-making team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. Once again, I think you can feel the influence of those behind the glass. Echorich described it as a "sparkling gem of sophisticated pop craft," and I couldn't agree more. This would prove to be the band's high point on this side of the Atlantic (No. 114), just as their popularity was beginning to wane at home. The lush "Arizona Sky" found regular airings on MTV, and it has always been my favorite song from the era we are listening to today. As with the previous post, the numbers alone reflect highs on the UK singles chart.

"Black Man Ray" (No. 14, 1985)
"King in a Catholic Style (Wake Up)" (No. 19, 1985)
"Arizona Sky" (No. 47, 1986)

Friday, June 10, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 9)

Here's another band I imagine will split the audience. Hopefully you're closer to the crowd that cheers... rather than jeers. I have the first four albums from China Crisis, plus assorted singles from the same period, but it's the long player 'Working With Fire And Steel (Possible Pop Songs Volume Two)' that keeps me coming back. I'm attracted to the same synth-heavy new-wave sounds found on their debut, 'Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms - Some People Think It's Fun To Entertain', as well, but I think it took the fellas an album to perfect it. With that in mind, for today's selections, I'm sticking with my favorites from the 1981-1984 period. All of them will be ripped from my 12" singles. I'll also include how these songs fared on the UK chart. This might not be the first band that comes to mind, but it must have been a terribly exciting time to be a part of the vibrant Liverpool area music scene in those days.

China Crisis went through a pretty significant change in sound after the second album. If the interest is there, we may listen to selections from the next two albums later this weekend.

"African and White" (Remixed and Extended Version) (No. 45, 1981)
"Christian" (No. 12, 1982)
"Fire and Steel" (Mix) (No. 48, 1983)
"Hanna Hanna" (Extended Version) (No. 44, 1984)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Who Will Lift the Silverware?

Let's warm up for Euro 2016 with an anthem for the ages from the Popguns. It's called "Red White & Blue." Who knew the Pickles Family were so into the Croatian national football team? Obviously, I'm being cheeky.* They are from Brighton, for Christ's sake. You may remember me posting this song a couple of years ago, but as Simon said on the band's Facebook page last week, "it was too late for the World Cup in 2014 - we assumed England would stay in longer!" This one is jolly good fun, and maybe someday fans worked up to a lather will sing it right along with chants like "England Till I Die." If your country is on the pitch in the coming days, may your squad find the back of the net. I can say that since I don't have a dog in this race.

*But you have to check out Croatia's red, white and blue unis when they battle Turkey on Sunday. You'll wonder where these jockeys parked their horses.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

An Earful of Aussies

The new releases are stacking up, and I really want to put in a good word for several of them... which I hope to do in batches this week and the next. Perhaps my favorite of the lot is the Goon Sax, a teenage trio that calls Brisbane home. There's an old African proverb that says when you follow in the path of your father you learn to walk like him. When your father is a legend, such as Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens, I imagine it's both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps the surname opens doors, but it always seems fans of the patriarch will judge junior more harshly than is fair. Even if I scrutinized the upstart Louis Forster in that fashion, the Goon Sax would still escape unscathed.

Much like his dad's band, the songwriting is split between two members. Forster writes two-thirds of the songs on debut album 'Up to Anything,' and James Harrison pens the rest. You will instantly know the ones that are Forster's because his voice sounds so much like his famous father. Check out the title track below for a prime example. The entire album is full of catchy indie pop with just the right dash of '80s jangle. You can tell they are fans of the Pastels and early Talking Heads, and there is that seemingly simplistic side to the instrumentation. The lyrics will probably take you back to your own uncertain days as an 18 year old. I find Harrison's tales to be particularly heartbreaking, but it's nothing age, impending accolades and smiles from adoring fans in the front row shouldn't be able to cure. All in all, if the Goon Sax are a band still finding its footing, there is much for pop fans to be excited about.

'Up to Anything' is on Chapter Music, the home of many other great Australian bands, like the Twerps and Crayon Fields in 2015, that seem to make my best-of lists at the end of each year. With the addition of the Goon Sax, it looks as if the label will be represented again in 2016.







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A new acquaintance of mine from Australia turned me on to Community Radio only a week ago. He thought the Sydney-based band's laid-back approach to pop would be right in my wheelhouse, and how right he was! Thanks, Paul. They have been around for about six years. So, I have been playing catch up. As you can see (and hear) below, fans have been pacified with occasional songs the past couple of years as Community Radio assembled a self-released long player. Well, all of that patience is about to be rewarded. The 11-track 'Look Now You're Cursed' is slated for July 15 release. Give these a listen, including "Crystal Ball," which made its debut just this week, and I'll remind you of this album as we get closer to the big day.







Sunday, June 5, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 8)

It was only about six weeks ago I featured the Chesterf!elds to tout their impending appearance at NYC Popfest, but the C86-era vets happen to be next on the shelf. So, let's call this a second stab at convincing you there is much more to this band than "Ask Johnny Dee." Here are the four songs they recorded on Dec. 17, 1986, for Janice Long's BBC Radio 1 program. "What's Your Perversion?" and "Love Mountain" first appeared on the "A Guitar in Your Bath EP," released by Subway Organization earlier that year. "Two Girls and a Treehouse" and "Oh Mr. Wilson" would come out on the band's first LP, 'Kettle," also via Subway, in 1987. Both of those pieces of vinyl are highly recommended. Enough. Time to spin that jangle!

"Two Girls and a Treehouse"
"What's Your Perversion?"
"Oh Mr. Wilson!"
"Love Mountain"

If, by chance, there is someone out there that saw the Chesterf!elds in New York a couple of weeks ago, please give me your impressions. I have caught two clips online and was most pleased, but it's certainly not like being there.

Friday, June 3, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 7)

When it comes to "The Genius," I prefer his work on Atlantic Records, but today we are going listen to a few songs from his early days at ABC. It would be ridiculous not to take the time to rip Ray Charles' two volumes of 'Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.' So, from 1962, here is the album opener, made famous by the Everly Brothers in 1957. Slow burners like "You Don't Know Me" and "Born to Lose" are the songs that most remember from 'Modern Sounds,' but I like the ones that make your head bob.

"Bye Bye Love"

In 1964, Charles released two albums. The first was 'Sweet & Sour Tears.' As the title suggests, melancholy was the mood. Later in the year came 'Have a Smile With Me,' and the atmosphere couldn't have been any different. Unfortunately, the listening public frowned. It barely busted the top 40. His previous six albums all peaked in the top 10. Today, 'Smile' is an all but forgotten long player. Figures it's just about my favorite from the ABC era. "Light" songs like "Two Ton Tessie" and "Ma (She's Making Eyes at Me)" are full of brass and sass. Here was the only single. Wouldn't you like to be smack dab in the middle, too?

Ten Cadillacs, a diamond mill
Ten suits of clothes to dress to kill
A ten room house, some barbecue
And 50 chicks not over 22
Then throw me
(Smack dab in the middle)
Oh, I wanna be
(Smack dab in the middle)
Ahh, now boys you can see why I wanna be smack dab in the middle now
So I can rock and roll to satisfy my soul


"Smack Dab in the Middle"

From the same album, I dedicate this one to all of the hipsters that have yet to get the memo. It's over. Line up like sheep for your shearing. As Ray sings:

Walk with him, talk with him
What do you find?
More on his chin
Than he's got on his mind
And that's the story that I heared
'Bout the man with the weird beard


"The Man With the Weird Beard"

Monday, May 30, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 6)

Some of you may remember my fondness for the Chamber Strings from the post I did on them during the countdown of my favorite '90s songs. I had hatched a recent plan to have them come up on Memorial Day so I could feature the song "Make It Through the Summer" and ask you for your go-to summer songs. As I was ripping vinyl and reading up on the Chamber Strings last night, something unexpected hit me over the head like a hammer.

Frontman Kevin Junior died earlier this year at the age of 46.

His passing was just days after the death of David Bowie. Missing this news makes his demise seem worse somehow. There was a four-sentence blurb in Billboard, and that was about it. He deserved more attention. When I reluctantly moved back to Chicago from Washington, D.C., in 2000, the one saving grace was returning to a vibrant music scene, and the Chamber Strings were the first new band I really got into during that era. Although there would only be two albums, 'Gospel Morning' and 'Month of Sundays,' both are exceptional examples of lush pop inspired by the likes of Big Star, the Faces and T.Rex, and I'll be forever thankful to Junior for producing them.

There were many lost years after 'Month of Sundays,' but the classic lineup of the Chamber Strings did reunite for a while in the latter part of the '00s. They produced one limited-run 7"... just enough to get the handful of us who cared excited again. It looks as though there may still be a few left. Here is the A-side of that single from 2009.

"I Come Apart (A Tragic Comedy)"

If you only have a few minutes, though, I implore you to go straight to this one. Don't expect the summer feel of a "Fun, Fun, Fun." It's more like the melancholy "Surf's Up." I'm having trouble finding the words to convey how much I love this song. Just listen.

"Make It Through the Summer"

OK, now let me know some of your favorite summer songs, and let's hope this summer is better than the winter and spring has been.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 5)

Nick Lowe is just about as good as it gets for me, and there was a time in my life when I had to have everything associated with him. Thus, I have four albums from his ex-wife on the shelf. I rate Carlene Carter's output during her time with Lowe as such:

'Two Sides to Every Woman' (1979) Fair
'Musical Shapes' (1980) Excellent
'Blue Nun' (1981) Excellent
'C'est C Bon' (1983) Poor

It's no coincidence the two albums deemed excellent are the ones with heavy participation from her husband. In fact, 'Musical Shapes' is Carter backed by Rockpile. 'Blue Nun' mixes up the roster a bit, but she is still surrounded by the pals of Lowe that would become his band after Rockpile, including James Eller, Bobby Irwin, Paul Carrack and Martin Belmont. 'Musical Shapes' is a little bit country. There are elements of that sound in 'Blue Nun,' but pop starts to creep in, too.

By 'C'est C Bon,' Carter has gone all pop, and many of Lowe's clan have flown the coop. Eller and Rockpile drummer Terry Williams are there, but not even Lowe makes a credited appearance. There are a few song titles Lowe fans will know, such as "Don't Give My Heart a Break," which appeared on Carrack's 1982 album 'Suburban Voodoo,' but it's a largely ear-scraping experience from beginning to end. There wouldn't be another album from Carter until 1990, the year her divorce from Lowe was official. In a jaw-dropping development to Lowe fans everywhere, it was about then that Carter's career took off, and she enjoyed a fruitful first half of the decade on the country charts.

Here are a few songs taken from those first three albums. I won't subject you to 'C'est C Bon.' You'll know this first one from the B-side to Elvis Costello's "Less Than Zero" single on Stiff in '77. For you trivia buffs, John McFee plays pedal steel on the original and Carter's cover. The second song is a duet with Rockpile's Dave Edmunds. It was composed by country songwriter Richard Dobson. The third song was written together by Carter and Lowe. This is an example of the gritty/sleazy singing style found throughout these early albums. I bet she could even make a church hymn sound dirty.

"Radio Sweetheart" (from 'Two Sides to Every Woman')
"Baby Ride Easy" (from 'Musical Shapes')
"Me and My .38" (from 'Blue Nun')