Monday, August 15, 2016

The Macca and MacManus Demos

My mother is in town for much of this month. It's nice to have her here, but the extra bed in our house happens to be in the music room. I had hoped to rip ahead for my vinyl series, but it didn't happen. I popped my head in the doorway yesterday with the thought that I would work on the next artist, but I saw clothes folded on top of my turntable and a suitcase on the desk where my laptop would normally sit. In other words, I'm going to have to take a break from ABCs of My Vinyl Collection.

I know some of you can't stand Paul McCartney. Hopefully the other half of the above equation will get you to stick around for the rest of the post. A few weeks ago I read at the excellent Super Deluxe Edition that McCartney's 1989 album 'Flowers in the Dirt' is up for a blowout reissue in October. Excitement is brewing because Sir Paul has promised demos from his work with Elvis Costello back in the summer and fall of 1987. You know some of their work together because they turned up as finished songs on Costello's albums 'Spike,' 'Mighty Like a Rose' and 'All This Useless Beauty,' as well as McCartney's albums 'Flowers in the Dirt' and 'Off the Ground.' Others have never had an official airing, and there might even be one or two demos, such as the rumored "Indigo Moon," that have never even made it to the bootleg stage.

What I would really like to hear, though, are the songs Costello produced for McCartney during the making of 'Flowers in the Dirt.' McCartney ended up scrapping those takes because they were considered too sparse, but I have always felt the biggest problem with 'Flowers in the Dirt' is the too-polished sound. Will any of the songs produced by Costello become extra tracks on the reissue? I'm hopeful but skeptical.

In the late '90s I lived in Washington, D.C., and I used to make frequent trips up to New York. One of my regular stops was to a record store, now sadly closed, at least in the physical sense, called Midnight Records. They specialized in bootlegs, and I got many great ones from the Brian Wilson and Elvis Costello sections. In 1998, Vigotone Records released 'The McCartney/MacManus Collaboration.' The disc included, among other things, eight demos the duo did together. I thought this is as good a time as any to give a few of these a listen. To me, these four are the best of the lot. They are sung in unison, much like the Everly Brothers or Gary and Marc from the Jayhawks, and I really like their voices together. Some of the finished songs may have missed the mark, but the demos are pretty special.

"The Lovers That Never Were" (demo)
"My Brave Face" (demo)
"You Want Her Too" (demo)
"So Like Candy" (demo)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Farewell to Fortuna POP!

In the lower right-hand corner of this blog's front page I pay homage to my favorite music labels, past and present. In case you haven't heard, Fortuna POP! has recently moved from present to past with founder Sean Price's announcement that, "Nothing lasts forever. After 20 years, 200 releases, a mountain of debt and very little sleep, Fortuna POP! is drawing to a close." This is a real blow, but I'll be forever grateful to Price, and I know we will be in good hands with Slumberland, Matinée Recordings and other indie labels that have helped the stable of stars at Fortuna POP! receive exposure here in America and around the world.

Here are some of my favorite moments through the years. Thanks for all of the great music and the passion, Sean, and best of luck with the next chapter in your life. As Airport Girl proclaimed during your label's infancy, "the foolishness that we create through love is the closest we come to greatness."













Friday, August 5, 2016

Reissue Roundup

Time to catch up on some reissues that have caught my eye. A few of these came out earlier in the summer, and some should be marked on our calendars for later in the year. Let's start with the ones you can buy right now:

Josef K - 'It's Kinda Funny'

Les Disques du Crépuscule has assembled all of the band's singles on one lovely piece of vinyl, even the B-sides. Yes, that includes the Crépuscule and Postcard offerings. As you can see, the art from the 'Sorry For Laughing' single has been used for the album cover. Seeing it in the 12" size after all of these years is startling but cool.



Paul Haig - 'Metamorphosis'

While we are on the subject of Josef K (and Les Disques du Crépuscule, for that matter), 'Metamorphosis' is a two-disc collection of Paul Haig's singles, demos and experimental tracks from between 1981 and 1983. Haig's liner notes take you through this interesting time in his career before he signed with Island. If you are a fan, you may know quite a bit of the work on disc one, such as "Justice" and "Running Away"/"Back Home" (12" version), but even you seasoned veterans are bound to find something new on the second disc or rarities, like the electronica of 'Drama.'



The Bangles - 'Ladies and Gentlemen... the Bangles'

Earlier this year, I beamed as I shared a couple of favorites from my vinyl collection... the first single and EP from the Bangles. Now you can own them, too. This 16-track collection of remastered rarities, demos and live recordings concentrates on the band's earliest recordings before they were signed to a major label. This has been available as a digital download for ages, but Omnivore Recordings has taken the extra step to release it on CD. I got it for the demos, and it was well worth it. This is one you need to have on the shelf.



Velvet Crush - 'Pre-Teen Symphonies'

Omnivore has a couple of other reissues that have piqued my interest, but I'll just tell you about one more today. As you no doubt know by now, the '90s isn't my favorite decade for music, but Velvet Crush is an exception, particularly the 1994 album 'Teenage Symphonies To God.' It's a power-pop classic, produced by my hero Mitch Easter. If you can't get enough of that one, you will surely be interested in 'Pre-Teen Symphonies,' a look at the creation of the band's most revered album. There are eight demos and eight live tracks taken from their 1994 show at Cabaret Metro in Chicago. You'll fall in love with Velvet Crush all over again.



The Chills - 'Kaleidoscope World'

What can I possibly say that hasn't already been said? So many fans of the Chills were introduced to the band with this compilation of early works that first came out in 1986. It's an absolute must for fans of the Dunedin Sound and bands that adopted their indie guitar pop aesthetic in ensuing years. The eight-song album has grown through subsequent reissues, and this incarnation has a whopping 24 tracks! If you haven't yet fallen for the charms of the Flying Nun label, this is a great spot to dip your big toe. The double album with expanded gatefold (or CD) should be out Aug. 19.



14 Iced Bears - '14 Iced Bears'

I never pass on an opportunity to promote something from the C86 era. At the time, outside of some nice words in the press and the backing of one John Peel, 14 Iced Bears seemed like a bit player, but the Brighton band's legend continues to grow. There have been at least three comprehensive compilations (I own two myself), and they are rarely forgotten when labels celebrate that golden age of indie pop with box sets and such.

The folks at Optic Nerve Recordings have taken a different and more comprehensive tack with this reissue series. They are releasing the actual albums with a bevy of bonus tracks included. I have snatched several vinyl reissues by Optic Nerve, including ones by the Monochrome Set, McCarthy, Girls at Our Best and Wolfhounds, to name a few, and I'm always so impressed by the love and care they put into these packages. The 1988 self-titled debut of 14 Iced Bears will be a double album that includes the singles that preceded it. Frankly, bonus tracks "Inside," "Balloon Song" and "Come Get Me" are worth the price alone. Follow-up album 'Wonder' will be receiving the same treatment. Although the 1991 effort was a radical shift in sound, both of these albums are worth the wait. Look for them around Nov. 11.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 18)

Capping off my least productive month in seven-plus years of blogging with an all-time favorite. A trip to the shelves shows an even dozen pieces of vinyl from Lloyd Cole. As someone who switched almost exclusively to CDs in 1988, it's no surprise that 11 of the 12 are from the Commotions era. Only a 12" of "No Blue Skies" bucks the trend. In overall quantity, vinyl beats CD by a whisker in my Cole sections, but I go to both formats with regularity. My gaping hole in the collection is the four-disc set 'Cleaning Out the Ashtrays.' I really do need that one.

Today's selection is from the 'Easy Pieces' era. Although it was a smash, some fans don't think it holds a candle to debut album 'Rattlesnakes.' That's a tad bit harsh. 'Rattlesnakes' is perfect. 'Easy Pieces' is not. It's still better than almost anything that came out in 1985. The 12" single of "Cut Me Down" was released in several different versions around the world. For once, those of us in America got a great tracklist:

"Cut Me Down" (Extended Remix)
"Lost Weekend" (Extended Mix)
"Forest Fire" (Live)
"Perfect Skin" (Live)

Depending on where you lived (or how good an import section you had access to), your B-sides may have included an instrumental take of "Perfect Blue," a 7" remix of "Cut Me Down," studio versions of "Forest Fire" and "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" or a live version of "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" Based on those selections, it seems early fans weren't the only ones enamored with 'Rattlesnakes.'

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer Reading Program

This is the hammock my family got me for Father's Day a few years ago. What a beaut! It's a double tucked in a quiet corner of the backyard between two 100-foot evergreen trees. I don't use it nearly enough. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we only get 90 days of sunshine a year. Finally, this week, it's beginning to feel like summer. I have resolved to spend 30 minutes on my hammock with a good book every day that I can for the rest of the season. It won't surprise you my favorite books are about music. I recently took a trip to the discount book shop and picked up Alan McGee's 'Creation Stories,' Simon Reynolds' 'Rip It Up and Start Again' and Elvis Costello's 'Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink'. I also got the trivia book 'Don't Dream It's Over: The '80s Music Party Game' for our road trip to Yellowstone coming up in a few weeks. In this area, I'm a savant, and Mrs. LTL will be cursing my name before we get through the first mountain pass.

One book that, it seems, will just miss my summer reading program but will be on my shelf as soon as it's available is Robert Forster's 'Grant & I'. The jacket above tells all you need to know... This is sure to be a must-read for fans of the Go-Betweens. Forster recently gave an update on his literary endeavor via his Facebook page:

Here in this post is the cover of my book 'Grant & I'. Seven years in the writing, to be released in Australia and New Zealand on Penguin/Random House at the end of August. I hasten to add it is currently on prospective publishing house desks around the world, and I hope it will be taken up and available everywhere. The book has been a massive undertaking - to tell the story and learn how to tell it over 87,000 words. I have little idea how it will be received, as only a few people involved with its production have read it, and I am in the days before reviews appear and the opinion of friends around the world arrive. So I am nervous. Knowing though that I gave it my best and when I read some of its pages, I always want to read more. A good sign. I look forward to it being in shops and in people's hands and hearing reactions. My final word on it for now, is that it is a book about a friendship, and one that existed almost as much in the years when we weren't in the band, as when we were.

Let's listen to the last joint composition by Forster and McLennan. The song was released on Forster's melancholy album 'The Evangelist'. At the time of the release, in 2008, two years after McLennan's death, Forster told the Independent that McLennan had the melody, song structure and the first five lines of the lyric. Forster finished it. "Demon Days" is stunning in it's beauty. As we hear in the refrain, "something's gone wrong, something's not right". Indeed. Grant, you are missed.

"Demon Days"

Thursday, July 21, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 17)

I didn't really "get" Cocteau Twins until fairly late in the game. The album that did it for me was the 1988 album 'Blue Bell Knoll.' This would be the first album for many of us on this side of the pond because it was the first to receive major-label distribution in America. That happens to be the year I bought my first CD player. I would go back and buy 'Treasure' in relatively short order. Later, in 1990, I would be first in line to get 'Heaven or Las Vegas.' To this day, that's probably still my favorite. What can I say? I'm a pop fan at heart, and that album is the most accessible. It also probably explains why I prefer Kate Bush's 'Hounds of Love' to her other work.

So, I have three albums from Cocteau Twins, but they are all on the wrong format for this series. That's the way things stood until 2012 when I visited Stephen Pastel's record shop in Glasgow. The singles collection 'Stars and Topsoil' was released on vinyl for the first time on that very day, and I thought it would be cool to pick it up in the band's home country.

In recent years, I can't tell you how many times I have been disappointed with new vinyl purchases. If, like me, you buy a lot of wax, you no doubt have run into the same quality-assurance problems I have. Every time I open a new record I cross my fingers it won't be warped, chock full of surface noise or just plain poor in sound. 'Stars and Topsoil' is not one of these problem albums. All four sides of the vinyl sound perfect, and I often play it on my stereo just because I love how wonderfully it fills the room. From that album comes today's selection. "Carolyn's Fingers" was, I believe, a U.S.-only single, and it's the song that got me to buy Cocteau Twins for the first time. I don't think Elizabeth Fraser's voice ever sounded better.

"Carolyn's Fingers"

Friday, July 15, 2016

Georgia on My Mind

I rarely tout upcoming live shows because so many readers come from lands far away, but every once in a while a lineup so intrigues me it seems worth urging you to pack your suitcase and make the trek. Certainly doesn't hurt when the destination is worth a visit on its own merit too. Then throw in the fact that the brains and brawn behind it all are salt of the earth and I just can't help but feel it's my duty as an indie-pop disciple to spread the word.

Athens Popfest was in hibernation for a few years there, but Mike Turner and his crew at HHBTM Records have returned with a roster that rivals (if not surpasses) those past parties. Like celebrations of yore, there are plenty of great band's from Turner's label, as well as from personal favorites such as Slumberland, Kanine and Jigsaw. Like over at NYC Popfest, organizers realize there are old "mature" indie fans like myself that still yearn to get out there. Remnants of Elephant 6 remain, like Elf Power and Spaceflyte (Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo), but the biggest draw for me is the triumphant return of Athens legends Love Tractor. As Duckie would say, "let's plow!"

Unlike some other music festivals, at Athens Popfest, you won't have to choose between different stages and bands going on at the same time. If you want to see all 50 bands, go for it. The schedule abides. And you'll have plenty of money in your wallet to shop at Wuxtry Records too because four-day passes are only $57. To put it in perspective, a certain four-day festival coming up in Chicago will set you back $335, and for that you get the privilege of standing shoulder to shoulder with dehydrated chest-bumping dudes dry heaving in your ear. Just sayin'.

Here are my top 10 reasons why you should go to Athens Popfest, Aug. 10-13. The defense rests.

1. Expert Alterations


2. Lunchbox


3. Deerhoof


4. Daniel Johnston


5. Bent Shapes


6. Casper & the Cookies


7. Elf Power


8. Love Tractor


9. Dressy Bessy


10. Bunnygrunt

Monday, July 11, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 16)

We're up to my favorite C86 band. As you can see from the photo above, I have just about everything a fan of Close Lobsters could want, often on multiple formats, in fact, and I can't wait to add to the collection later this month with the release of the 'Desire and Signs' EP. This one has been pushed back twice already because of production delays. Fingers crossed that July 29 finally ends up being the day.

So, I have kicked around what to play today and have decided since you're an intelligent lot that would most certainly already own the obvious stuff, I would go for songs you might not have in your collections. Let's start with a couple from the band's session for Janice Long's Radio 1 show, recorded on June 29, 1986. To the best of my knowledge, "Nothing Really Matters" never showed up on another of the Lobs' releases. Not sure why. It's quite good. You'll be quite familiar with "Heaven .... Rains," as it was called at the time, because the band's first single "Going to Heaven to See If It Rains" would be released that fall and make it to No. 9 on the UK indie chart in December. Both versions are brilliant and chock full of subtle differences.

"Nothing Really Matters" (Janice Long Session)
"Heaven .... Rains" (Janice Long Session)

This next one comes from Bob Stanley's Caff Corporation, released in the fall of 1989. Both of these songs ended up having proper recordings and, at least in the case of "Just Too Bloody Stupid," would be much improved on the demo you're about to hear. Stanley did not agree, as you will read below, but perhaps he was being cheeky. Let's have Bob explain how and when he got a hold of these versions and what he thought about the lads at the time. Here is the insert. It's a nice piece of Lobs' history. Thanks to Mrs. LTL for snapping this for me. She's the family shutterbug. Caff 4 is my most valuable piece of music from Close Lobsters. The 7" typically goes for about $50, but I would say the investment should be made only by die-hard fans that already have everything else in the band's brilliant discography.


"Just Too Bloody Stupid" (Caff Version)
"All The Little Boys And Girls" (Caff Version)

Let's listen to one more single. The "Steel Love" 7" was released in 2012 on Firestation Records. It was an exciting year for fans of Close Lobsters. The band reunited to play Madrid Popfest, their first live show since 1989. A few other popfests would soon follow, and the fellas have remained fairly active ever since. Only 200 hand-numbered copies of "Steel Love" were made, and they were first sold at Popfest Berlin that year. The A-side was a demo recorded in 1990. The B-side was a live recording of "Head Above Water," captured in 1989. I tracked down a copy online not long after its release. I honestly don't remember what I paid for it, but I don't recall getting the shaft. While researching "Steel Love" today, I came across the song on YouTube. There was one comment, and it appears to have come from Andrew Burnett, frontman of Close Lobsters. He wrote, "Great track terrible sleeve. The group did not sanction the sleeve and completely disown it." He's correct on both the music and the art that accompanied it. Personally, I think these songs deserve a proper go in the studio.

"Steel Love"
"Head Above Water"

More music from Scotland in the next installment...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 15)

Here's the first from the Flying Nun stable to be featured in in this series. So, it begs the question... what happened to the Chills? Patience, my friends. They are coming up in the D section. Huh? Trust me. It will all make sense. Anyway, back to the Clean, probably my favorite band from New Zealand to this day. This first song is taken from 'In-A-Live,' a five-song 12" recorded at London's Fulham Greyhound on July 13, 1988, when they opened for the Bats. This was an incredibly important show in the history of the band. They hadn't been together for several years. Craig Taylor, manager of the Chills, invited Geoff Travis (of Rough Trade fame) to see them. Within a day or two, Travis was ready to sign them. Without that show, there may have never been 'Vehicle,' the Clean's first full length album, released in 1990, nine years after the band's first single. I have mentioned 'Vehicle' quite a few times on these pages already. So, suffice it to say the album is a masterpiece. Incidentally, 'In-A-Live' isn't too shabby either. It was single of the week in Sounds upon release in 1989.

From 'In-A-Live,' here is "Anything Could Happen." The studio version appeared on the 1981 EP 'Boodle, Boodle, Boodle.' To reacquaint you with 'Vehicle,' let's listen to "The Blue" as well. If, by chance, you haven't heard the Clean, I would suggest starting with the 46-song double CD 'Anthology' Merge Records unleashed on unsuspecting Americans in 2002. It's quite a collection made even better with a four-album vinyl box set that came out in 2014. As for 'Vehicle' and 'In-A-Live.' these were tough finds until Captured Tracks lovingly reissued them together in 2013. Since then, the label has continued to dig up gems from the glory days of Flying Nun. You would do well to seek out more of this "Dunedin Sound."

"Anything Could Happen" (Live)
"The Blue"

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 14)

This will be short and sweet for two reasons. I don't really need to rip much of my vinyl from the Clash. I already bought them all up on CD many years ago. Plus, I assume you're a well-versed scholar on one of the most vital bands from this or any other era. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't be here. Still, skipping them in this series seemed such a pity.

Since JC over at the (new) vinyl villain recently concluded the excellent 19-week series "The Clash on Sundays," taking us on a ride through all of the band's singles, I thought I would just pick my favorite album track and move along. Easy, right? I ended up sweating it out for quite a while today before finally deciding on this song, track one, side two from the double album 'London Calling.' If the entire song was sung in a foreign tongue and called "Spanish Blooms" or something else dainty, the Clash might have had a world-wide hit with this perfect piece of pop. Yes, this is a pop song to these ears, and I love the contrast between tune and topic. Like most great works of art, it's thought provoking and beautiful. Was there any genre the Clash couldn't conquer? Expect lots of crackles and pops because I played this one to death until I bought it on CD when it was reissued in 2000.

"Spanish Bombs"

So, what's your favorite from the Clash? I go back and forth between "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" and "Straight to Hell," and I think the most underappreciated single was "Hitsville U.K."

Sunday, June 26, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 13)

This one hasn't been played for more than 30 years, but spinning it today immediately took me back to when I bought 'Golden Shower of Hits' in 1984. I know it was 1984 because that's when I saw 'Repo Man,' and this 14-year-old became immediately smitten with everything about the movie (the word "film" just doesn't apply here), including the soundtrack. Here are but three great moments of many from a movie I could probably recite by heart:

1. Kevin: There's fuckin' room to move as a fry cook. I could be manager in two years. King! God!

2. Bud: Credit is a sacred trust, it's what our free society was founded on! Do you think they give a damn about their bills in Russia? I said do you think they give a damn about their bills in Russia!?
Otto Maddox: They don't pay bills in Russia, it's all free.
Bud: What are you, a fuckin' Commie?
Otto Maddox: No, I aint no Commie!
Bud: I don't want no Commies in my car! [pause] No Christians, either!

This one takes a moment to explain. Otto is trying to have a serious conversation with his parents while they are watching a televangelist. This is what you hear in the background coming from the TV.

3. Reverend Larry: The lord has told me personally, 'Yea, for I walk with the lord, Amen.' He said, 'Larry you and your flock shall seek the promised land. But only if you first destroy the twin evils of godless communism abroad and liberal humanism at home.' Oh, joyous hallelujahs. Smash'em down. Now my friends. Occasionally we get a letter from a viewer that says now the only reason Reverend Larry comes on your television set is because he wants your money. And do you know what? They're right! I do want your money. Because god wants your money. So I want you to go out and mortgage that home and sell that car and send me your money. You don't need that car...

Wow, I'm really getting off topic, and I'm not going to have anything to write about when I get to the soundtrack later in the series. Anyway, for a few minutes in 1984, thanks to the movie, I really got into punk, specifically from the West Coast. That's why I have Circle Jerks on the shelf. The title of the album sounds like a compilation, but it's their third studio album, circa 1983. I heard this first song on 'Repo Man,' but it's on this album too. It happens to be my favorite and quite fitting given the political atmosphere here and around the globe. Hold on tight.

"Coup d'etat"

If you remember the "Stars on 45" disco medley from 1981, this might be a smile. "Golden Shower of Hits (Jerks on 45)" is six pieces of schlock that tell the story of a couple's love affair, surprise pregnancy, quickie marriage and ultimate divorce using the songs "Along Comes Mary," "Close to You," "Afternoon Delight," "Having My Baby," "Love Will Keep Us Together" and "D-I-V-O-R-C-E." I don't know if they quite pulled it off, but it's a hell of an effort. Fans from their earliest days hated it, but it's almost as if they weren't in on the joke. The name of the song and Keith Morris' belch at the end of "Close to You" should have given them not-so-subtle hints.

"Golden Shower of Hits (Jerks on 45)"

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!