Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I'm so disappointed. Last week was Keeping It Peel, the annual day to celebrate the life and work of legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. Last year I posted some great Peel Sessions from XTC and the Housemartins. I already knew then what I wanted to post for this year's Keeping It Peel, but I ended up missing the damn day. Unbelievable. Sorry for being tardy.

Between 1979 and 1983, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark made four appearances on Peel's program. The last show was transmitted on Feb. 21, 1983, one month before the release of the band's fourth and most experimental album, 'Dazzle Ships.' Of "Genetic Engineering," Peel said it was "a much more muscular sound than we're used to from OMD." Paul Browne, the man behind the OMD magazine 'Messages,' called this take "more robust and percussive" than the album version. He went on to say this version of "Of All the Things We Made" was "poignant and wistful." Peel always had a way of bringing out the best in a band, and he did it again here.

OMD - Genetic Engineering (Peel Sessions) (mp3)
OMD - Of All the Things We Made (Peel Sessions) (mp3)

Monday, October 29, 2012

They Might Be (World Series Champion) Giants

Just before the 2011 Major League Baseball season got under way, my brother and I traded our traditional emails about predictions for the upcoming year. I'm a disgruntled Cubs fan. He's a smug (and rightly so) Cardinals fan. After watching him play at Wrigley for a few seasons, I wrote there is no way the Cardinals could win a World Series with Ryan Theriot as part of their infield. Fast forward to last night: Theriot, now a member of the Giants, celebrates as World Series champion... again! Two for freakin' two! Nostradamus I am not, but c'mon!! You gotta be kidding. Well, as we used to say back in the day, "you just can't quiet 'The Riot.'"

With a tip of the cap to San Fran for sweeping the Detroit Tigers in four, here are my four favorite non-singles from They Might Be Giants. OK, I'm cheating a bit. You won't see the bands earliest works because I have them on vinyl and I don't want to take the time to convert to mp3 right now. Take my word for it, though. The albums these songs are taken from should be in your collection... especially 'Flood.'

TMBG - Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love (mp3) from 'Flood'
TMBG - Narrow Your Eyes (mp3) from 'Apollo 18'
TMBG - Sleeping in the Flowers (mp3) from 'John Henry'
TMBG - James K. Polk (mp3) from 'Factory Showroom'

One more thing about the World Series. It might be time for FOX color analyst Tim McCarver to call it quits. In game 1, he
seemed to forget that Barry Bonds once ruled the Bay Area. Then, last night, during game 4, the aging McCarver suggested catchers switched from wearing soft caps to helmets behind the plate just 20 years ago. That's 1992, folks. The last catcher I remember wearing a cap behind the plate was Rick Dempsey. He retired in 1992, several years after he was a regular in the lineup. So, perhaps McCarver could use him as reference to mask his error, but I believe most catchers were wearing helmets at least a decade earlier. I'm a little long in the tooth myself, and I can see how an older gentleman could mistake 20 years with 30+ years, but I'm not a part of baseball's No. 1 broadcasting team.

Friday, October 26, 2012

How Do You Feel About Felt?

After several days sequestered with the music of Felt, the verdict is in. The summary of the evidence shows, quite clearly, Felt should be one of my favorites:

Exhibit A: They were influenced by the right bands.
Exhibit B: They influenced the right bands.
Exhibit C: They were on the right labels.

And yet, after all of these years (and a retrial of sorts), I have been found guilty (again) of indifference. Felt's frontman, the mysterious Lawrence, is known to love Television, and Stuart Murdoch is known to love Lawrence. Check... and check. The band was around for 10 singles and 10 albums between 1979 and 1989, all on either the legendary labels Cherry Red or Creation. Check. Lawrence sounds like Lou Reed with just a hint of Lloyd Cole. Check. Felt's middle years, in particular, are chock full of jangle. Check. So, what gives?

Other than the fact I don't like the percussion found on the early singles, I don't have an explanation. And I do like a few songs, such as "Primitive Painters," "Penelope Tree" and the song below. All three songs can be found on the collection 'Stains on a Decade.' Not all of the band's singles are there, but you can get a pretty good feel for Felt since both the Cherry Red and Creation years are represented.

If there are any big Felt fans out there, please enlighten me. What do you consider the band's best work... and why?

Felt - Ballad of the Band (mp3)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cover Me Impressed: Two McCartney Tunes

Regular readers of this blog know my love for Sir Paul is nearly boundless. I say "nearly" because even I drew the line when he pulled a Rod Stewart earlier this year with 'Kisses on the Bottom.' Still, there are reports Macca is working with producers Mark Ronson and Ethan Johns. So, I'm hopeful he may still have another 'Chaos and Creation in the Backyard' in him. I'm serious. Stop your snickering. OK, that's it... no McCartney for you. You'll have to settle for some knockoffs.

This first one is taken from Brendan Benson's 2003 single "Metarie." I was once a huge Benson fan. His first two albums,
'One Mississipi' and 'Lapalco' are must-have purchases. Although I haven't dug his last couple of records, Benson continues to record excellent covers. Last year he released a very limited vinyl-only four-song 12" that included his takes on David Bowie's "Candidate," the Kinks' "Strangers," Elvis Costello's "Beyond Belief" and Randy Newman's "Love Story." These are well worth your time. As for the McCartney version of "Let Me Roll It," you can find it on the legendary 'Band on the Run.' As you probably know, the song is famous for keeping the fiery Lennon-McCartney feud alive.

The other cover is from an artist that feels like a long lost friend. I was really into Freedy Johnston in the early '90s, but I completely lost track of his work for more than a decade. His 2008 covers album
'My Favorite Waste of Time' brought me back into the fold. There are two Macca songs on there, as well as nuggets by Marshall Crenshaw, NRBQ and the Hollies. If you gave up on him as well, try his latest album, 'Rain on the City.' It will take you back to those early albums. I promise.

Brendan Benson and the Wellfed Boys - Let Me Roll It (mp3)
Freedy Johnston - Listen to What the Man Said (mp3)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Servants' Lost Album Resurrected

If you worship at the altar of NME's 'C86' compilation, there's reason to rejoice. Think back to track five, side two. That's where most of us were introduced to the dreamy jangle of the Servants. The song, "Transparent," would also appear in '86 as the B-side to the band's first single, "She's Always Hiding." There was also a four-song 12" around that time that featured the cerebral "The Sun, a Small Star." Unfortunately, it would be 1990 before the Servants released a full-length album. All of the usual industry drama played a part in the lengthy delay: Personnel changes (including the addition of Luke Haines), a solo album by frontman David Westlake, label switches and budget cuts. The aptly named 'Disinterest' was worth the wait, and critics liked it, but many fickle fans had moved on to new sounds.

Westlake and Haines would also move on, and they would do quite well in their separate endeavors, but not before working on a followup to 'Disinterest.' Alas, only the lads themselves and a few friends would ever hear it... until now. Cherry Red Records, my heroes, will release 'Small Time' later this month. It includes a second disc, 'Hey Hey We're The Manqués,' chock full of early takes that would later become 'Disinterest.' This entire set has been assembled and cleaned up by Westlake himself, and Haines has penned the liner notes. Since it's on Cherry Red, I'm sure it will be very well done.

Here's a tune from one of my prized religious artifacts, 'CD86: 48 Tracks Taken From the Birth of Indie Pop.'

The Servants - The Sun, a Small Star (mp3)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cover Me Impressed: 'Clevor Trever'

Ian Dury's 'New Boots and Panties!!' was a big one for me. My first exposure to Dury was "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" and "What a Waste" on my favorite soundtrack ever, 'That Summer!" From that album, I became obsessed with all of the acts on Stiff. I have a vivid memory of spinning 'New Boots' for a friend after school in what I thought was an empty house. Well, for those of you who know the album, recall that "Plaistow Patricia" begins with Dury's best profanity-filled tirade. Well, it was just about the funniest thing this 14 year old from the sticks had ever heard, and I lifted the needle over and over just to play that one line. My friend seemed shocked... for some reason. Then I saw him. It was my father, and he was shooting daggers with his eyes. I knew I was about to be humiliated in front of a peer. Then, something odd occurred. My father exhaled and said, simply, "You better not let your mother hear that." He walked out with the sound of Davey Payne's spastic sax blaring from the family stereo. It was the first time I remember thinking Dad might be cool.

Dury originally wrote "Clevor Trever" thinking he would give it to Stiff mate Wreckless Eric, but he just liked it too much to give it away. In 2001, not only did Wreckless Eric finally get his chance to record it, but Dury's legendary band, the Blockheads, backed him up. The song appeared on 'Brand New Boots and Panties: A Tribute to Ian Dury.' Greats like Paul McCartney, Madness and Billy Bragg each gave renditions that are pretty true to Dury's 1977 work. Now that's respect.

I own a Japanese edition of 'New Boots' that includes an in-depth interview Dury did with Vinyl Mogul. He breaks down the album song by song. If you have a couple of minutes, you might enjoy his thoughts on "Clevor Trever."

Ian Dury - Clevor Trever (mp3)
Wreckless Eric - Clevor Trever (mp3)

Bonus: Ian Dury Talks About Clevor Trevor (mp3)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Even More on the New Madness Album

Just a quick note: If you have Spotify, you can listen to five new Madness songs in their entirety. If you don't, no worries. 'Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja da Da' will be out in two weeks. Preorder now. As I mentioned earlier, "My Girl 2" is the first official single, and it will be released next week. And yes, it is one of the five songs available for streaming.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Q&A With Josh Meadows of the Sugargliders

For vinyl fans, the early '90s were dark times. Thankfully, a handful of independent labels like Sarah saved the 7" single from extinction. While thumbing through a stack of 45s at that time, you couldn't help but stop when you got to the Sugargliders. The sleeves were absolutely beautiful in their simplicity. Cool name. All lower case. Typewriter print. Great colors and art. Who were these guys? Well, the brothers, Josh and Joel Meadows, were on Sarah. So, they had to be good.

For the most part, in the ensuing 20 years, if you wanted to own a piece of the Sugargliders, you had to make a major investment for a used 7" from some smug record collector. Well, Matinée Recordings has made life easier (and much cheaper) with the just released 20-track compilation 'A Nest With A View 1990-1994.' Seems like just the right moment to catch up with Josh for a chat about those glorious Sarah years, eh? I want to thank him for answers that were as honest as his songs.

LTL: You fellas were wide-eyed teens when the Sugargliders formed. Who were you listening to back then? Did you ever think, "wow, I want us to be like those guys?"

Josh: When Joel and I first started writing songs we were really into the Smiths, Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Everything but the Girl, Durutti Column, Prefab Sprout, Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, REM, Billy Bragg and the Housemartins, as well as Australian bands I'm Talking, Stephen Cummings, the Go-Betweens and the Stems. Those were the groups we most admired when we started thinking we wanted to be part of the whole pop music thing. I don't think we ever considered we were in the same league as any of those bands, but we started to write songs and play them live and we found, to our surprise, there were people who liked what we did. We loved pop music and we believed good pop songs could change the world, both of us being able to name plenty of songs that had changed ours.

LTL: I'm a big fan of Sarah. How do a couple of lads from Melbourne end up on the legendary Bristol label? What instantly comes to mind when you think of those years?

Josh: I had a Saturday job in an indie record store in Melbourne that was run by Jason Reynolds, the man behind Summershine Records. Jason used to stock all the cool imported 7" singles from English and US labels like Cherry Red, Creation, 4AD, Sub Pop, Factory, Bus Stop, Parasol, Subway and Sarah. That's where I first heard the Orchids, the Field Mice, Another Sunny Day and other Sarah acts that Joel and I came to love. And, like so many other people around the world, we came to love the label too -- not only the bands. While some indie labels seemed happy to mimic major labels, Sarah was fiercely proud of its independence, its separateness, from the music business of the time. It didn't want to be part of the whole corporate side of the music industry. It wanted to discover wonderful songs and foist them upon the unsuspecting public, one hand-packaged 7" single at a time. Joel and I were immediately attracted to Sarah's music, aesthetics and politics.

How did we come to be on Sarah? We had released three singles through Summershine and one through Brighton (UK) label Marineville. We had a new song, "Letter from a Lifeboat," that we thought was something special. So we spent all our money recording it really well and sent the tape off to Bristol.... It was an exciting time. It was a time of furiously writing, recording and releasing 7" singles and playing the songs live at every opportunity. We never had a business plan and all our marketing was very, very basic. We simply wanted to make pop music and express the concerns that were weighing heavy on our hearts.

LTL: Ten singles. Four years. Done. For fans, it felt like the Sugargliders ended abruptly. Can you explain how that all went down? Any regrets?

Josh: It did end rather abruptly, although there was no bad feeling between Joel or I or Robert (bass player in later era Sugargliders) or any of the labels we recorded for. Joel and I decided to end the band because the songs we were writing called for more of a full band treatment and we wanted to shake off the "acoustic duo" tag the Sugargliders had been lumbered with. We didn't want to keep playing the same old songs over and over forever. So we ditched the 'gliders and started the Steinbecks. Sometimes I think maybe we should have kept the Sugargliders going and let the band evolve to fit our new material, but at the time we just wanted to kick over the statues and do something new.

LTL: The songs on 'A Nest With a View' are about two decades old now. Some musicians don't like to listen to their old material, but how do you think these tunes hold up? Can you play this disc with a smile? Do you cringe? Both?

Josh: I recognise that a lot of our early stuff is poorly recorded and embarrassingly naïve. I hadn't listened to many of the Sugargliders recordings for years and years because I had written them off in my head as unlovely and part of another era that is long gone and unmissed. Some years ago Mike Babb from Drive In and Microindie tried to persuade Joel and I to do a Sugargliders compilation, but we stuck our noses in the air and said we were happy with the artefacts as they were originally recorded and released and we didn't believe in reissues. Remember, we're Smiths fans -- we know all the lyrics to "Paint a Vulgar Picture"! Then last year Scott Thurling from Popboomerang broached the subject of a retrospective album. He convinced us the time was right. If people wanted to find out about the Sugargliders from scratch, the only things they were likely to come across would be eBay bootlegs of very poor cassette recordings, inaccurate information on various indie pop "fan" Web sites and extremely unflattering live videos. The actual recordings the Sugargliders put out between 1990 and 1994 were now really hard to get hold of. Surely we wanted people to be able to hear the Sugargliders at their best, not their worst! So we said yes.

Deciding which 20 songs we would include on the album was an interesting process. Each of our 7" singles had three songs on it, so we aimed to leave at least one track "exclusive" to the original single, although in the end we included all three songs off "Trumpet Play" and "Top 40 Sculpture." There are also a couple of "rare" songs –- "Everybody Supermarket," which we recorded for an International Pop 7" in 1991, and "Another Faux Pas," which was on the Marineville 7". I think it is a good selection. Some of the sounds are very dated, but I feel like every song on 'A Nest with a View' has a kernel of truth about it and I am proud of that. The ones that make me smile are "Seventeen" and "90 Days of Moths and Rust.' We had all 20 songs mastered by the great Ross Cockle at Sing Sing studios in Melbourne, which gave them a real audio lift. Brad Welsh at One Degree did a beautiful design and layout job with the sleeve. And we were flattered when Jimmy Tassos of Matinée Recordings approached us about releasing the album in the USA.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sweet Gives Hint on Next 'Under the Covers'

If, like me, you thoroughly enjoyed the first two Matthew Sweet/Susanna Hoffs collaborations covering their favorite songs from the '60s and '70s, respectively, you might like this little nugget from an interview Sweet did recently with, of all places. We have known for quite a while that a third volume on the music of the '80s has been dancing (maybe even breakdancing, come to think of it) in the artists' heads, but I think this is the first time we have had a timetable and a list of bands they might be covering. Read on, straight from the home of Shotz Brewery:

OMC: Tell me about the album you're working on with Susanna Hoffs from the Bangles?

MS: It's our third album. We're starting to work on it this fall and hopefully it will come out next year. It will have '80s covers like "Standing Still" by REM. Also, The Pretenders, XTC, Marshall Crenshaw, Roxy Music, Squeeze. Maybe "How Soon Is Now" by The Smiths.

Let's just get passed the incorrect song title ("Sitting Still") from him for a second. Sweet and Hoffs have always done an inspired job selecting tunes for this series... Love, Velvet Underground, Zombies, Raspberries, and the list goes on... but, if the above comes to fruition, this one on the "Me Decade" would be without peer. If you don't have 'Under the Covers, Vol. 1' and 'Vol. 2,' it's a good time to catch up. Here is the duo's take on the Mike Nesmith tune I wrote about the other day:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In Music News...

I have wanted to comment on the following for a while, but I'm never going to be able to give these items their due. So, here's a quick wrap on some artists you find regularly on this blog:

You can stream A.C. Newman's 'Shut Down the Streets' in its entirety from the widget above. Matador has had this up for a week already in anticipation of the official release on Tuesday. Preorder here.

Rolling Stone was the first place to officially post a song from Tracey Thorn's upcoming holiday album, 'Tinsel and Lights,' out Oct. 30 on Merge. I was searching Soundcloud for the widget when I came across another song from the album posted by Thanks very much. I'm really getting excited about this one.

There is an official release date for the first three-song EP in Marshall Crenshaw's subscription series. "I Don't See You Laughing Now" comes out Nov. 23, and you can still get in on the action by filling out your info here.

After some down time, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are back with a fun 7". It's due out at the end of the month, but it's already available for streaming. Does it sound familiar to you?

Congratulations to Reigning Sound. After a decade of reputation building, the old-timey garage greats have signed with Merge. Expect a new album soon. If you don't know these guys, give "Stick Up For Me" a listen. It's from their last album, 'Love and Curses.' Prior to that, the band backed Mary Weiss from the Shangri-Las on her first album in 30 years. I highly recommend her comeback from 2007, 'Dangerous Game.'

Reigning Sound - Stick Up For Me (mp3)

Finally, I was really sad when I read on Big Country's Web site Tony Butler was retiring from the band. I felt that, somehow, Mike Peter's involvement had really worked. I liked their 2011 single, "Another Country," and was looking forward to seeing what the band would come up with for a full-length album (to be produced by Steve Lillywhite). Seeing Big Country in Glasgow back in February has been my highlight of the year. In hindsight, maybe Butler wasn't as into it as I would have hoped. If he no longer enjoyed it, all I can do is thank him for a great 30 years. He will be missed. Big Country has already announced his replacement, original Simple Minds bassist Derek Forbes. So, it seems, the band will go on. With only Bruce and Mark left from the classic lineup, I wouldn't mind seeing them rename the band, to be brutally honest, but I wish them nothing but the best. Hey, if Roger and Pete can do it... Here's a B-side from the "Where the Rose Is Sown" 12" just for Tony.

Big Country - Bass Dance (mp3)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Get a Sense of The Sound

It seems like whenever one talks about post-punk band the Sound you'll eventually hear bewilderment in the speaker's voice as he laments how they should have been a much bigger deal. Who am I to go against the grain? The sound of the Sound wasn't far removed from legendary bands from the period, such as Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen. The critics seemed to get it, and the Sound did have solid pockets of fans in places like New Zealand, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, but it's tough to be a huge success in a place like America if your records are only available as imports. Members of the Sound felt (like most bands that don't make it, I suppose) the label wasn't quite the ally it should have been.

Earlier this year, the reissuing label 1972 brought back the Sound's first two albums, 'Jeopardy' and 'From the Lions Mouth' and, as luck would have it, those are the two of the band's five albums worthy of having in you collection. This is lead singer/guitarist Adrian Borland at his best. He certainly doesn't have the same baritone sound as Joy Division's Ian Curtis, but there is a certain desperation in his delivery that reminds me of him. Sadly, although Borland lived two decades longer than Curtis, they met a similar demise... both due to circumstances with their mental health.

Here's one of the Sound's most recognizable singles. It's taken from the 1981 album 'From the Lions Mouth.' Pick this one up here.

The Sound - Sense of Purpose (mp3)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cover Me Impressed: 'Different Drum'

One of my favorite (and most popular) series of posts here on Linear Tracking Lives! was Mike Nesmith Week back in the spring of 2011. When I get to feature the great Nesmith alongside one of the legends of C86, well, that's a pretty good day for me, too.

Nesmith wrote "Different Drum" in 1965, the same year the Monkees were being assembled. Linda Ronstadt made the song famous in 1967 when she recorded it with the Stone Poneys. It peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard chart. Nesmith wouldn't release his own recorded version of the song until it appeared on his tongue-in-cheek titled album 'And the Hits Just Keep on Comin'. It's a beautiful and completely understated piece of work featuring guitar and vocals by Nesmith, pedal steel by "Red" Rhodes... and that's it. No drums, bass or anything else. Although Nesmith's version was never a single, this song, along with "Joanne," his only Top 40 hit as a solo artist, are his most popular songs and biggest showstoppers in concert.

Apologies to Ms. Ronstadt, but I'll take the Pastels' cover. Stephen & Co. released it as a single in 1990 on K Records. Finding the 7" is a tall order, but it does appear on 'Truckload of Trouble,' the band's 1993 compilation from Seed Records. As compilations go, it's wildly incomplete. When it comes to the Pastels, however, you take what you can get your hands on. It appears to only be in print now as a digital download, and that's a shame. Is it just me, or is this band in desperate need of a definitive box set?

Michael Nesmith - Different Drum (mp3)
The Pastels - Different Drum (mp3)