Thursday, February 27, 2014

'Now, On With the Countdown!' -- Casey Kasem

I recently hit post No. 800, and I feel like marking the occasion with a list. So let's take a trip back to the 1980s and listen to my 50 favorite singles from the UK Independent Chart. This is the decade when the chart began, and it truly had purpose and meaning in those early days. The guidelines were strict but simple: Every aspect of a label's operation had to be independent. For example, even the independent spirited Stiff Records couldn't be part of the countdown because the outfit received help with distribution. Of course, the very success of the indie chart ended up being its downfall. By the early 1990s the majors smelled another way to make a buck and set up "independent" labels that made the chart, as Iain McNay described it, "a farce."

All entry dates and ranks will be taken from the book 'Indie Hits 1980-1989: The Complete Independent Charts (Singles and Albums).' This reference bible was compiled by Barry Lazell and put out by Cherry Red Records in 1997. I highly recommend it.

I'm choosing 50 songs because for most of the decade that was the size of the singles chart. My other rules are that an act can only appear once and must actually be from the UK. I hope this makes for a fun March and April full of rants and raves from the peanut gallery. All posted songs for this little project will be available for only about 48 hours. In other words, don't be tardy. As a little walk up to the countdown, here are a few of my favorite singles from the chart that somehow sneaked in from other parts of the world. There weren't many that pulled off this feat.

fIREHOSE - Sometimes (No. 18, July 2, 1988)
The Go-Betweens - Cattle and Cane (No. 4, March 19, 1983)
Hüsker Dü - Makes No Sense at All (No. 2, Sept. 14, 1985)
Minor Threat - Salad Days (No. 20, Aug. 10, 1985)
Pixies - Gigantic (No. 4, Sept. 3, 1988)
The Sugarcubes - Cold Sweat (No. 1, Jan. 30, 1988)
They Might Be Giants - They'll Need a Crane (No. 13, Feb. 18, 1989)
X - Los Angeles (No. 14, Aug. 2, 1980)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

'Played' Should Have Been Played By More

Of all the bands that were once part of Creation Records, the Bodines were probably the most perplexing. The fellas had three successful singles for the label, each peaking in the top 10 on the UK Indie Chart in 1986, and one of those songs, "Therese," appeared on NME's legendary 'C86' cassette. The lads were loaded with jangle and swagger. So much so, in fact, they wanted to leap to the big leagues before they even made a proper album for Alan McGee's outfit.

If you believe the stories from the label's staff, the Bodines signed with Magnet like they were already rock royalty, showing up in a Mercedes limo, trashing offices and generally causing a raucous. The band later told Melody Maker those tales were "bullocks." At any rate, with a rep like that, you had better have some hits. Instead of making a splash, the band's first release was a remix of "Therese." Now, I really like the production, but a slightly different version of their best known song from the Creation days was not a buzz-worthy move. Even the B-side was their third single from the Creation days.

The band's first and only full-length album for Magnet was released in the summer of '87. There were three singles from 'Played.' None of the trio, "Therese," "Skankin Queens" and "Slip Slide," charted. The album barely made a dent, peaking at No. 94. All of this sounds like piling on, but the truth is I love this album. Ian Broudie's production is crisp and clean. Honestly, there isn't a dud on either side, and it has aged well. Listening to it today, I can't believe it wasn't a smash. You probably already know "Therese," and I posted "Skankin Queens" several months ago. So, today we'll listen to the third single.

The Bodines - Slip Slide

Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Song and Comp From the Jasmine Minks

One of Alan McGee's earliest and finest finds for Creation was Scotland's the Jasmine Minks. All four of the band's '80s albums for the legendary label, along with some more recent material from the reunited outfit, have been reassembled for a massive 51-track two-disc set. 'Cut Me Deep' also includes a brand-new song recorded this past November. Check out 'Christine' below.

When you think Creation, chances are the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream or My Bloody Valentine are the bands that first come to mind, but I would argue the vastly underrated Jasmine Minks should be thought of in that group. If you missed them the first time around, seek out "Where The Traffic Goes," "Cut Me Deep," "Cold Heart," "What's Happening" and "Think!" online right now. After sampling these five songs, you won't be able to resist this compilation. 'Cut Me Deep' was supposed to be out next week, but Amazon is now showing it as a March 10 release. Hey, after 30 years in the making, what's another two weeks?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Research the Merits of Marine Research

I have a plethora of posts from Talulah Gosh, Heavenly and Tender Trap under my belt, but I just realized I have glossed over the core members' Marine Research years. Perhaps it's because the band's time with this moniker was so brief, or maybe the reason is because there was a dark cloud over that period. You see, in 1996, Talulah Gosh/Heavenly drummer Mathew Fletcher committed suicide just before the release of 'Operation Heavenly.' So, in 1997, the four remaining members of Heavenly regrouped and were joined by drummer DJ Downfall to become Marine Research.

'Sounds From the Gulf Stream' would be the band's only full-length album. Just like the Heavenly days, the 1999 record came out here in America on the legendary K Records. For some reason, many listeners seemed to think the band's sound changed with its name. I don't think 'Sounds From the Gulf Stream' is the group's strongest effort, but I have always liked the album and think it's more or less full of the same twee pop I had come to expect for so many years.

Marine Research disbanded shortly after the release. Even though three members of Marine Research would continue to perform together, the absence of personnel would mean another name change. In 2001, Amelia Fletcher and partner in life Rob Pursey would be joined by Downfall to form the wonderful pop outfit Tender Trap.

No, if you're new to the Talulah Gosh/Heavenly/Tender Trap family tree, 'Sounds From the Gulf Stream' is probably not the place to start, but don't be scared off by any reviews stating this one isn't worth your time.

Marine Research - Parallel Horizontal

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Which Minutemen Song Gets Your Vote?

In 1985, Minutemen planned a triple album with the self-explanatory title '3 Dudes 6 Sides 3 Studio 3 Live.' Fans would vote for their favorite songs from the Minutemen catalog, and the winning tunes would comprise the live portion of the mammoth project. The band distributed printed ballots at shows in the summer and fall of '85, and there was also a ballot inside the studio album '3-Way Tie (For Last).' After the album owner chose his 30 favorites, he could mail it to SST so his voice could be heard. You can see the ballot below. Voting was to end on April 1, 1986... D. Boon's birthday.

Sadly, the death of D. Boon in December of '85 put an end to the idea of '3 Dudes 6 Sides 3 Studio 3 Live' and, for that matter, the entire band.

In 1987, well after Mike Watt and George Hurley reunited to become two-thirds of fIREHOSE, the surviving members of the trio decided to tally the results and release a live double album. The songs were culled from radio sessions and live shows. Some of the recordings came from the fans. This makes for a far from perfect album, but I love the DIY aesthetic. It's a great tribute to a fallen comrade. According to the back cover of the album, the following results are from ballots received by SST between January and April 1986.

This Ain't No Picnic
If Reagan Played Disco
Jesus And Tequila
Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs
King Of The Hill
Little Man With A Gun In His Hand
The Punch Line
No One
The Cheerleaders
History Lesson, Part II
Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing
Joe McCarthy's Ghost
Shit You Hear At Parties
Paranoid Chant
I Felt Like A Gringo
Ack Ack Ack
Song For El Salvador
Dreams Are Free, Motherfucker!
The Price Of Paradise
Take Our Test
Party With Me, Punker
Hey Lawdy Mama
Split Red

Here are my two favorites from 'Ballot Result.' Amazingly, the album is still in print, and you can buy it here. I consider this a must for all Minutemen admirers. Go get it right now. What's your top Minutemen tune?

Minutemen - Little Man With a Gun in His Hand
Minutemen - I Felt Like a Gringo
Note: Live on the air from Athens, Ga., radio station WREK, circa Nov. 30, 1985

Monday, February 10, 2014

New Neil Finn This Week

Where has the time gone? It's difficult to believe 12 years have passed since 'One All,' but Neil Finn follows up that second solo album this week with 'Dizzy Heights.' I have heard two songs so far, and it's pretty obvious Finn wanted to challenge himself and his fans with something a little more than the catchy pop-song formula that has made him famous. Yes, I think this album will be a grower.

'Dizzy Heights' was co-produced by Dave Fridmann. I know him from his work with the Flaming Lips, and he appears to have pushed Finn sonically in much the same was as he did with Wayne Coyne and pals in the 'Yoshimi' days. It's also interesting to note Finn's album is a family affair. I heard his wife sing on the last Crowded House album, and I also saw her perform with the band when they toured America nearly four years ago, but she plays some bass on 'Dizzy Heights, and their sons also contributed to the record. It will be interesting to hear how this infusion of youth plays out on wax.

Well, let's get to the music. Here are a couple of songs. "Flying in the Face of Love" is the song that's being pushed right now, and it's less experimental and easier to digest than "Divebomber," but both of them will eventually grab you. If you have an extra 12 minutes, check out the interview below he gave recently to a radio station from Perth. Finn talks about bending pop out of shape, his appreciation for Tame Impala and how easy it would be to get Crowded House going again. He also plays a stripped down "Flying in the Face of Love."

Finn is a touring madman between now and May. Is he coming to your town? He's coming to mine.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

When the Wife's Away, Scritti Politti Will Play

Mrs. LTL! has a bevy of business trips in February. You know what that means: I'll be listening to gobs of Green sans soul-penetrating stares. I'm not going to go too far back today. We'll get to some early stuff next time.

One of my biggest pet peeves (other than people using the term "pet peeve") is the band compilation with a new song or two tacked on the end so the die-hard fans who already own everything will buy a "greatest hits" they don't need. In most cases, years later the new songs sound completely out of place alongside the established songs.

I would have felt a lot better buying a 7" of "A Day Late and a Dollar Short" with "A Place We Both Belong" on the B-side. Alas, these two brilliant songs closed Scritti Politti's 'Absolute' compilation in 2011. Yes, I bought it... and only for these two songs. How could I resist? Green worked on them with David Gamson back in 2007. You may know that name (among other reasons) because he was all over the 'Cupid & Psyche 85' and 'Provision' albums.

Listening to "A Day Late and a Dollar Short," there is little doubt Green and Gamson still got the goods. New album, please. While you're at it, see if Fred Maher might want to join in on the fun, too.

Scritti Politti - A Day Late and a Dollar Short (mp3)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Woodentops On the Way

The Woodentops' 'Giant' was one of my giants in 1986. So, when I was on Cherry Red's site the other day I was excited to see the band is about release its first new album in 25 years. The first single from 'Granular Tales,' out Feb. 24 (March 4 in America), is "Third Floor Rooftop High," and that song will be available for download on Feb. 17. You can sample a bit of it here. In the meantime, listen to these full songs from the label:

I have read a couple of early reviews, and the word is very good. Here is a little video vignette on the making of the new album that's quite entertaining.