Thursday, May 31, 2012

Almost Whatever It Takes to Possess Care 12"

I love vinyl, but I don't really consider myself a record collector. Some of us obsess about a wrinkle in the corner of a cover (and how it will alter the album's grade)... and some of us have no problem with a few pops and some surface noise (and maybe even prefer it... adds character!).

Still, there are a few pieces of vinyl I would really like to own. One of them is, from 1984, the 12" of Care's third single, "Whatever Possessed You." I have never seen it in a record store. Never. Believe me, I look every time. I watch eBay with regularity, and it does show up there from time to time, but it always seems ridiculously expensive. There is one copy for sale there now for $72.50. It has been there for weeks... taunting me. Truth is, I have wanted it for so long that acquiring it in this fashion and at this price seems defeatist. I really want to pick it up in a brick-and-mortar store. Better yet, I want to find it at a shop where the person who priced it had no idea of the treasure he briefly possessed. OK, maybe I am a collector.

For now, I have to settle for "Whatever Possessed You," along with the flip side, "Besides 1 & 2," from the out-of-print Care CD compilation 'Diamonds and Emeralds' that came out on the Camden label in 1997. Incidentally, I found that a second-hand book shop for $5. That was a smile. If you have an absent album that haunts you, feel free to share.

Care - Whatever Possessed You (mp3)
Care - Besides 1 & 2 (mp3)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Curtain Call: The Mighty Lemon Drops

In case you're new to this blog, Curtain Call is an occasional series where I present one of my favorite live albums for, well, a curtain call. Today's selection isn't a live album per se, but the Mighty Lemon Drops 1987 eight-song EP 'Out of Hand' concludes with three head-boppin' performances recorded at London's Astoria Theatre on Nov. 22, 1986. Back in the day, I played the hell out of this EP. I had not listened to it in many years, but I have kind of rediscovered it as bonus tracks to a reissued version of the band's first album, the fantastic 'Happy Head.' All three of the following songs can be found in their studio form on that LP.

I was fortunate enough to see the Mighty Lemon Drops on Feb. 3, 1990, at Cabaret Metro in Chicago. Wow, that was half a life ago! Since they were touring in support of their new album, 'Laughter,' some would say I showed up a wee bit late for the party. Based on that night, I would disagree. The opener was the Ocean Blue, a new band from Pennsylvania that showed a lot of promise with a stellar self-titled debut album they were on the road supporting. Somehow, they sounded an awful lot like all the British groups I was attracted to. In hindsight, although the best days were already behind both of these bands, I count the Ocean Blue/Mighty Lemon Drops show among the best concerts I have ever attended.

The Mighty Lemon Drops - My Biggest Thrill (Live) (mp3)
The Mighty Lemon Drops - Hypnotised (Live) (mp3)
The Mighty Lemon Drops - The Other Side of You (Live) (mp3)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cover Me Impressed: 'I'm Not Sayin''

In order to to salvage what little cool cred I may have, it would be easy to pass off the Primitives as little more than a guilty pleasure, but that would be dishonest. Fact is, I really dig them. Now, usually when I do one of these Cover Me Impressed posts, I provide mp3s of the original and the newer take (or two). In this case, however, I don't actually own the cover... at least not in the physical sense.

In case you missed it, a few weeks ago the Primitives released an entire album of covers, the well-received 'Echoes and Rhymes.' It's the band's first LP in 21 years, and I was mildly excited about it when, back in April, I saw the video for the single "Turn Off the Moon." So much so, in fact, I did something I almost never do. I bought the song from iTunes. I like owning records I can touch. What I didn't count on at that time was I would end up seeing another video for a song from the album I would like even more. The dilemma became whether I should buy the second song from iTunes, complete the entire album in download form or try and find the actual CD. Since the album is an import that would cost me $22.16, for now I have chosen to buy the second song for a buck. I hope you like it as much as I do and you find your own method of buying it.

The song, "I'm Not Sayin', is a Gordon Lightfoot composition made popular by Nico in 1965. Big fan. The song can be found on her 'The Classic Years' compilation. Obviously, this single CD barely scratches the surface of her fascinating career, but it includes some great songs from 'The Velvet Underground & Nico,' 'Chelsea Girl,' 'The Marble Index' and more. I consider all three of those records essential buys.

The Primitives made a curious choice when covering "I'm Not Sayin'." Guitarist Paul Court takes lead vocals. Don't worry. Tracy Tracy does show up later on the song, albeit in a supporting role. It totally works for me. Check out the video below. It's a great song, and the video has a cool Nico, circa 1960s, vibe.

Nico - I'm Not Sayin' (mp3)

Friday, May 25, 2012

How Do You Follow Up Shop Assistants?

With Chin Chin, of course. The female Swiss trio knew the Shop Assistants quite well. They toured parts of Europe together back in the day and, for a spell, were peers on the legendary 53rd & 3rd label, run by Stephen Pastel and others. Chin Chin's sound owes a bit more to first-generation punk bands like Ramones and the Clash, as well as '60s girl groups, but their sound is only a tad left of Shop Assistants and others among the C86 movement.

Chin Chin is another one of those bands whose work was damn near impossible to find... until two years ago when my heroes at Slumberland reissued the 1985 'Sounds of the Westway' album. Here's what I had to say about it then. If you don't have this one, you may be out of luck. It appears to be out of print again. Give these a listen and think about the bevy of bands out there right now that owe a lot to this nearly forgotten record.

Chin Chin - Dark Days (mp3)
Chin Chin - My Guy(mp3)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Are You Being Served? Two From Shop Assistants

Are you free, Mr. Lucas? Wait, wrong shop assistants. These Shop Assistants weren't on the floor very long, but their small stock of songs have left a lasting impression on this customer.

The first song I heard from the Edinburgh band was "It's Up To You" on the legendary 'NME C86' compilation. Like many tunes of that ilk, it was fuzzy and catchy, but I didn't run out and look for more from the band. I have no excuse. I didn't hear anything else from Shop Assistants until two decades later when they showed up on the often criticized (but not by me, I can assure you)
'CD86: 48 Tracks From the Birth of Indie Pop' compilation. One great song could have been a fluke. This second song, "Safety Net," finally got me off my duff. There was but one full-length album to be had, a 1986 self-titled affair sometimes called 'Will Anything Happen,' but it was in and out of print for years. It took me quite a while to track it down, but then I found out that Four Men With Beards, a reissue label with damn good taste, had dusted off the classic and released it on 180 gram vinyl. It was worth the wait. Here is a quick look at the label's offerings.

Here are a couple of singles from Shop Assistants. "Safety Net" was released as a 7" in February 1986. "I Don't Wanna Be Friends With You" was the first single from the band's one and only album. The single came out in September 1986, and the LP followed in November.

Shop Assistants - Safety Net (mp3)
Shop Assistants - I Don't Wanna Be Friends With You (mp3)

If, by some slim chance, you were expecting this post to be on more B-level American power pop from the late '70s and early '80s, as I mentioned last time, I apologize. My USB turntable is acting up again. The plan was to have obscure tunes from the Pop and the A's, but it will have to wait.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Elvis Brothers Have Entered the Building

If my USB turntable continues to work, I'll stick with the early '80s power pop for a couple of more days. I have a soft spot for the Elvis Brothers because they come from the cow pastures of Illinois, the same as myself. The real reason to like them, however, is they released three very solid albums that have held up quite nicely. I highly recommend them all, but the trio's debut,
'Movin' Up,' is probably my favorite. Here are a couple of fun tracks from side one. Let's take the way-back machine to 1983... a time when the fellas were on a major label, were recording at the legendary Power Station in New York, were being produced by the same guy that handled the debut records of Ramones and Talking Heads and were opening for the likes of Big Country, Billy Idol, INXS and Cheap Trick. Glory days, indeed!

The Elvis Brothers - Hidden in A Heartbeat (mp3)
The Elvis Brothers - It's So Hard (mp3)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

No Trouble With Classic Any Trouble Single

Whenever I listen to early Joe Jackson, Rockpile, or 'My Aim Is True'-era Elvis Costello, I almost always think about following it up with 'Where Are All the Nice Girls?' by Any Trouble. That's exactly what happened last night after playing Jackson's "The Harder They Come," and it was such a nice fit. If you don't know the band's story, in a nutshell, Any Trouble was part of Stiff Records' glory days. The lads made two critically acclaimed albums (including the 1980 debut 'Where Are All the Nice Girls?') for the label. Inexplicably, the public didn't take to either one of these works. Any Trouble stuck around a few years beyond those first two albums, and there was even a reunion album in 2007, but I don't own anything beyond the Stiff output. Is any of the post-1981 material worth my while? If you have any thoughts, let me know.

Let's listen to Any Trouble's first single. The B-side of the power-pop classic "Yesterday's Love" was a slightly different (and more lo-fi) version of the album track "Nice Girls." If you can't find the 7", this take can also be found as a bonus track on the
2007 reissue of 'Where Are All the Nice Girls?'

Any Trouble - Yesterday's Love (mp3)
Any Trouble - Nice Girls (mp3) (single B-side version)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Single From The dB's

Ah, I just opened my email, and my day has been made. Thank you, dB's. This song, "That Time Is Gone," will be on the impending release of 'Falling Off the Sky,' out June 12. It's the dB's first album with the original lineup in 30 years. So, yes, kind of a big deal. I can't wait. And in case you missed it last fall, click here to get a newish song from the dB's that doesn't appear to be on the album.

'Falling Off the Sky' Tracklist
1. That Time Is Gone
2. Before We Were Born
3. The Wonder Of Love
4. Write Back
5. Far Away And Long Ago
6. Send Me Something Real
7. World To Cry
8. The Adventures Of Albatross And Doggerel
9. I Didn't Mean To Say That
10. Collide-oOo-Scope
11. She Won't Drive In The Rain Anymore
12. Remember (Falling Off The Sky)

Friday, May 11, 2012

12 Inches of Love: ABC's 'The Look of Love'

Among the multitude of 12" singles in the collection, "The Look of Love" would, surely, at least make the discussion of my favorite. ABC shot of the gate with a trio of fantastic singles before releasing 'The Lexicon of Love,' the band's debut album. "The Look of Love" was the the last of the three (the other two were "Tears Are Not Enough" and "Poison Arrow"), preceding the 1982 album by about a month.

The 12" single doesn't include one of those traditional eight-minute extended versions. If you wanted such a remix, you would have to wait until later in the year when Trevor Horn, producer of 'The Lexicon of Love,' released a maxi single in the United States. The original 12" is made up of the song in four parts. Part One is the album version. Part Two is an instrumental. Although it only clocks in at 50 seconds longer than the album take, Part Three is the closest thing to an extended remix. Part Four is an epilogue of sorts. It's another instrumental take that lasts less than a minute. If you listen to the 12" in its entirety, it brings the record to a really satisfying conclusion.

My love affair with ABC, admittedly, was brief. I have never owned anything other than 'Lexicon'-era material. I do love it so. That album, however, along with another commercial success from the same period, the Human League's 'Dare,' were absolutely pivotal in steering me -- a curious 12-year-old music fanatic with few outlets other than Top 40 radio -- in the right direction.

ABC - The Look of Love (Part One) (mp3)
ABC - The Look of Love (Part Two) (mp3)
ABC - The Look of Love (Part Three) (mp3)
ABC - The Look of Love (Part Four) (mp3)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Hives Bring Me Down With New Single

Today, the Hives released this video from 'Lex Hives,' the band's first album since 2007. That's an awfully long time to come up with a song that's so derivative. It will take most of you about 10 seconds to realize you've heard "Go Right Ahead" before. It was when you were a kid and your parents were listening to AM radio in the station wagon. Yep, that's more or less "Don't Bring Me Down" from ELO back in '79. I haven't had this big of a chuckle since 2001 when I thought I was listening to Tom Petty's "American Girl" and it tuned out to be The Strokes' "Last Nite." Anyway, 'Lex Hives' will be out June 5. Jeff Lynne's check should be cut by then.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Couple From Close Lobsters and a Thank You

I had been dreaming of Close Lobsters' April 27 reunion in Glasgow ever since I mentioned it in January. Of course, I knew I couldn't go. I'm pretty sure I used my dream-trip privileges for several years to come when I saw Big Country at Barrowlands in February. The next best thing would be if I could live vicariously through my Scottish pal, the Vinyl Vinyl. Would he be going? I emailed him the day of the show with the hope he would be covering it for his Year in the Life of Gigs series. I was legitimately excited when he replied he was on his way to see them. Atta boy!

About the time I assumed the band would be hitting the stage, I pulled 'Foxheads Stalk This Land' off the shelf and sang along like when I was a lad. A couple of days later, Mr. Vinyl Villain, indeed, posted his thoughts on the show, and I really felt like he took me there. I wrote a "thank you" comment after the review, but now I need to thank him again. A Close Lobsters T-shirt from the show arrived in the post today. Now I really feel like I was there. Thanks, pal.

Let's listen to some Close Lobsters. I'll assume you have already picked up 'Forever, Until Victory,' the fantastic singles collection released by Fire in 2009. Here are a few songs that aren't on the compilation.

Close Lobsters - Violently Pretty Face (mp3)
(from 'What Is There to Smile About?' EP)

Close Lobsters - I Kiss the Flowers in Bloom (mp3)
(from 'Foxheads Stalk This Land')

Close Lobsters - My Days Are Numbered (mp3)
(from 'Headache Rhetoric')

Friday, May 4, 2012

Brush Up on Your Swedish: Early Komeda

I was bitten by the Komeda bug in 1996 when the Swedish outfit released 'The Genius of Komeda,' its first album in English.

Along the way, I picked up everything by the band that I could find, including today's picks from the 'Pop Pa Svenska' album and 'Plan 714 Till' EP. These are Komeda's first works, from 1993 and 1995, respectively. The band's signature sound is already there, but I have to admit I wish I knew what Lena Karlsson was singing about. Both of these releases were originally issued on the the North of No South label, but Minty Fresh reissued them together on one disc in 2001. If you were a fan of Komeda's English-language albums, you will want to get this one, too. If you haven't heard Komeda before, check out this video for, perhaps, the band's best-known single. It can be found on the
'What Makes It Go?' album.

Komeda hasn't made a new album in about a decade, and most of the band's members are on to other things, but I'm still hopeful for another gem sometime down the line.

Komeda - Bonjour Tristesse (mp3) (from 'Pop Pa Svenska')
Komeda - Herbamore (mp3) (from 'Plan 714 Till')

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On the Tube: New Song From Nick Lowe

Did you catch Nick Lowe on 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' last Friday? He sounded great. Lowe performed "Sensitive Man" from his latest album, 'The Old Magic.' The real treat, however, was for those in the live studio audience. After the closing credits, Lowe played a new unreleased song called "Tokyo Bay," and it's a real rocker. I was trying to think back to the last time we had a fun upbeat number like this from him. For some reason, "Shting Shtang" came to mind, but that was more than a decade ago. That can't be right. Nick, I wouldn't mind more like this one.

And just for fun, here's a REALLY upbeat song taken from TV in 1978.

Can you believe I had actually gone five weeks without writing about Lowe?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tune in to Early Television Personalities

For the second time in as many weeks, I have done a little digging into a favorite musician only to find out he is very ill. I'm not sure how I missed this but, back in October, Dan Treacy of Television Personalities was in a lengthy medically induced coma following an operation to remove blood clot on his brain. He was finally brought out of the coma in December. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of Treacy's 2012 will be spent in the hospital. It is probably too much to ever expect more music from this gifted artist, but I'm going to use all three wishes to hope for his speedy recovery. If you're a social-network type, it appears you can get periodic updates on him via Treacy's Facebook page. His sister is taking care of any new news.

The reason I was looking into Treacy was because I finally ventured beyond Television Personalities' brilliant debut album to purchase the third album, 'They Could Have Been Bigger Than the Beatles.' It's mostly comprised of early singles, demos, outtakes and unreleased tracks recorded between 1979 and 1982, and it was initially released in 1982 on the Ed Ball/Treacy label Whaam! Records. Thankfully, the good folks at Fire Records (also home to Close Lobsters) reissued it on glorious vinyl. The album has a lighter touch, but the lo-fi sound of Treacy's earliest work is still here. It kind of reminds me of Apples in Stereo's first few singles. Listen to the album opener below. Then buy it here.

Television Personalities - Three Wishes (mp3)