Sunday, January 28, 2018

Shame About the Rain Mix

Can it get any worse? I don't mean the weather. I mean that your host is blogging about the weather. Where do I go from here? Perhaps my bursitis or how the kids need to get off my lawn. In my neck of the woods, as the calendar turned to 2018, it started raining. It hasn't stopped. The forecast above was taken from my phone. Next week looks exactly like last week and the week before. For the most part, Seattle is like this from October to June, but this winter feels darker and wetter than the usual. Meanwhile, I'm beginning to believe in seasonal affective disorder.

I searched the word "rain" on my iTunes and came up with a whole mess of songs. Here are a few indie-pop favorites from yesteryear that will do nothing to get me out of this state. Yes, I'm wallowing in my misery. Actually, a couple of these would put a bounce in anyone's step... even with bursitis.

The Chesterf!elds - Shame About the Rain
The Loft - Why Does the Rain
The June Brides - In the Rain
The Suede Crocodiles - Stop the Rain
The Wolfhounds - Rain Stops Play
The Rain - Dry the Rain

Friday, January 26, 2018

'Tis the Season for the Long Winters

CC at Charity Chic Music had a fantastic post earlier this week on a 2002 sampler Seattle-based Barsuk Records put out called 'Treats'. This was the label's salad days, and the stable of stars included Nada Surf, Rilo Kiley, John Vanderslice, Death Cab for Cutie and many others. My favorite from that era, however, was the Long Winters, and I was shocked to learn today the band had never featured here.

The Long Winters centered around the work of singer-songwriter John Roderick, and he had a knack of surrounding himself with talent, mostly from Seattle, including Chris Walla and Michael Schorr of Death Cab, Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger and even Nabil Ayers, former owner of Sonic Boom Records, a great shop I often frequent. There would also be help along the way from legends like Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer of the Posies, as well as Scott McCaughey.

Early on, some compared the Long Winters to R.E.M., and I never really heard it. Before today, I had not listened to them for a very long time. I put this one on and, well, I have to admit I did hear a little of the fellas from Athens, Ga. Of course, it helps that Peter Buck plays mandolin on it. This song can be found on the 2003 album 'When I Pretend to Fall'.


After three terrific albums and an EP between 2002 and 2006, we were promised another long player. In 2016, word was Roderick was getting close. That's an awful lot of long winters between albums, but I bet it will be worth the wait.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mark E. Smith (1957-2018)

I hope this song from Jens Lekman gave him a smile.

She said it was all make-believe
But I thought you said maple leaves
And when she talked about a fall
I thought she talked about a season
I never understood at all

I thought she said maple leaves
And when she talked about the fall
I thought she talked about Mark E. Smith
I never understood at all

"Maple Leaves"

Sunday, January 21, 2018

When BMX Bandits Finally Made It Onto 'C86'

BMX Bandits got screwed. They weren't deemed worthy of being on NME's 'c86' compilation, but by the late '80s no label would touch them because they were unfairly linked to a press-created genre that was no longer considered cool. Frontman Duglas T. Stewart took matters into his own hands and got a loan to finance the band's first album, calling it 'C86' with just a bit of irony. The cover art above sums it all up succinctly.

Fellow Bandit Norman Blake was just starting up a new band with his friend Raymond McGinley after their stint together as the Boy Hairdressers. The new band, of course, was Teenage Fanclub, and their first album would also be self-financed. Since BMX Bandits and Teenage Fanclub were sharing band members, as well as equipment, it was decided both albums would be recorded at the same studio back-to-back in 14 days. Teenage Fanclub didn't have a drummer, however. So Bandit and former Boy Hairdresser Francis Macdonald did the honors. Clear as mud, right? The sharing didn't end there. 'C86' opener "Right Across the Street" was originally intended for Teenage Fanclub, and "Let Mother Nature Be Your Guide" was written by Blake for the Boy Hairdressers.

Blake would play on one more BMX Bandits album, 'Star Wars', but by then Teenage Fanclub was taking off and needed all of his attention. Let's have a listen to those two Blake-penned songs from 'C86'.

"Right Across the Street"
"Let Mother Nature Be Your Guide"

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Now Here's a Christmas Card

Make that a Postcard! This was the first time since I was 12 that I didn't get an album for Christmas, but I can't complain too much after receiving this surprise. This print of the Postcard logo came from Edwyn Collins and James Endeacott's AED Records, and it took longer to ship from the UK than Mrs. LTL thought it would. I did get to open it on Christmas morning, however, and we just got it back from the framers a few days ago. It came out beautifully and really classes up the music room, I can tell you. My wife. I think I'll keep her.

To celebrate, let's listen to Postcard 81/5. "Chance Meeting" was the last of three singles Josef K released for Alan Horne's label. According to my trusty copy of 'Indie Hits 1980-1989: The Complete U.K. Independent Charts', the song entered the chart on May 16, 1981, peaking at No. 12. Speaking of the pride of Edinburgh, to all of my pals in Scotland, enjoy your snow day. I have Sky News on as I ready myself for bed, and it looks like you're waking up in a winter wonderland.

"Chance Meeting"
"Pictures (Of Cindy)"

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Chastain and Menck's Magnum Opus

There are plenty of other places to go with the duo of Paul Chastain and Ric Menck, but I'm going to conclude this brief series with the band and album they will be most remembered for... 'Teenage Symphonies to God' by Velvet Crush.

When this one came out in 1994, there was so much for me to celebrate. Let's start with the label. The lads followed up stints with the likes of Summershine, Subway and Sarah, to name but a few, by adding Alan McGee's Creation to their impressive ancestry. Then there was the band itself. Chastain and Menck were joined by Jeffrey Borchardt of Honeybunch fame. Mitch Easter not only co-produced the album at his legendary Drive-In Studio, one of the last albums done there, but we all know Easter likes to lend a helping hand on both sides of the glass too. Assistance also came from names like Stephen Duffy, Greg Leisz and many others. There would be songs penned by Matthew Sweet and Gene Clark from his days with Dillard & Clark. Bottom line, for me, this is an all-star cast.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say all of this added up to 'Teenage Symphonies to God' (oh, I forgot to even mention lauding Brian Wilson!) being just about the best 40 minutes of power-pop you'll ever hear.

"Hold Me Up"
"Why Not Your Baby"

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Capital Single From the Springfields

Another day, another endeavor by Paul Chastain and Ric Menck. The band we listened to yesterday, Choo Choo Train, chugged along in '87 and '88. Today's incarnation, the Springfields, were the locomotive and caboose to Choo Choo Train, releasing a 7" in '86 and then resuming from '89 to '91. Between these two bands, there was some label jumping, and the fact these lads from America showed up on legendary imprints the Subway Organization and Sarah Records will never cease to amaze me.

The three-track 7" we are going to listen to today is an Australian issue that came out in 1991 on the always dependable Summershine label, a brief home to many favorites of mine, including the Rainyard, the Sugargliders and yet another Chastain/Menck band that will be featured here next time. "Reach for the Stars", written by Menck, has a tremendous break in tempo at the two-minute mark, turning this from a head-bobbing jangly pop song to something quite psychedelic. It may give you whiplash in the same way the Kinks did that to us on the 1972 tune "Australia". The other song on that side is a cover of the Pastels' Creation-era single "Million Tears". If you're a fan of that band's work, you're going to love this rendition. Stick around for "Tranquil" on the flip side. I think you just might hear Stephen's influence there too.

If you live in the UK and find all of this vaguely familiar, you may have this exact same three tracks on a single that highlighted "Tranquil" instead of "Reach for the Stars". It was released the same year on Seminal Twang and with a completely different sleeve. That label was a short-lived division of Paperhouse that released a 7" a month and had a magazine-like look to their sleeves. Ring any bells? They highlighted some great bands.

"Reach for the Stars"
"Million Tears"

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

All Aboard

Back in November I had a post on Ric Menck that got me on a real kick, and I have been listening to his bands obsessively ever since. It's going to be all Menck around here for the rest of the week. Let's start with something from Choo Choo Train. Americans Paul Chastain and Menck were, inexplicably, on the Subway Organization, one of the UK's best indie-pop labels ever, and they had a couple of releases for Martin Whitehead in 1988 before quickly rolling down the tracks. The "High" single was the followup to the jangle-filled goodness of the "Briar Rose EP". Paul takes lead vocals on the A-side, and that's Ric on the flip. Back tomorrow with another Chastain/Menck group from just about the same time period.

Trying to write shorter. That was my New Year's resolution. Yes, quantity over quality.

"Wishing on a Star"

Monday, January 8, 2018

On Bowie's Birthday...

Enjoy the unbridled enthusiasm of 60 children from rural western Canada tackling one of David Bowie's classics in music class, circa 1976. This warms the cockles of my heart. To Hans Fenger, the teacher behind these recordings, I thank you. As for Mr. Bowie, you will never be forgotten.

The Langley Schools Music Project - "Space Oddity"

Friday, January 5, 2018

'Oblivious' Week (Part 4)

As I wrote earlier this week, if you don't typically find yourself veering in the direction of '80s remixes, this last day of examining the "Oblivious" singles will be a letdown because the following takes have all the bells and whistles that make the era cringeworthy to so many of you out there.

These two remixes were a 1984 fan-club release on 7" that was issued in a plain white sleeve. The names associated with these will be well known to you. Colin Fairley will have popped on your records as a co-producer or engineer of works by Nick Lowe, the Bluebells, the Go-Betweens and many more. Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley need no introductions as that team were hit-making machines during this period. As fans of Elvis Costello, Dexys Midnight Runners, Madness and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions may tell you, their overly polished heavy-handed building-block style wasn't for everyone.

The 7" itself was one that I had sought out for many years, and I even made a feeble online bid or two for it quite a while back, but that gotta have it feeling was quashed in 2014 when a deluxe edition of 'High Land, Hard Rain' included these curiosities. Now, I have been known to like a good '80s remix more than most of you. Even though I have quite a few copies of the album in my music room, I couldn't resist having these versions. In summation, I'm sure I would have been taken by these remixes in 1984, but neither did much for me in 2014. When Roddy stutters "they're calling all the sh-sh-sh-sh-sh shots" in the Langer/Winstanley remix, well, it sends shivers down my spine. There is no excuse for their liberal use of echo effects either. However, if for some inexplicable reason you don't own 'High Land, Hard Rain', I do heartily recommend the Domino reissue, avoiding the flat sounds of the 2012 Edsel version completely.

"Oblivious" (Langer/Winstanley Remix)
"Oblivious" (Colin Fairley Remix)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

'Oblivious' Week (Part 3)

This is the third and final of my "Oblivious" singles, but I saved my favorite for last. There is just something about a double 7", especially if it's housed in a gatefold cover. As you can see below, I got a little snap happy with this one, but I couldn't help myself. It's just so beautiful. David Band sure knew how to illustrate and layout these things, didn't he? This UK only version of the single came out on Nov. 18, 1983 and was part of that very successful re-release campaign I mentioned the other day... the one that took the song all the way to No. 18 on the chart. The B-side, again, was the excellent "Orchid Girl" (see part 1 of this short series), but the real gems came on the second 7". These are the ones we will listen to today.

The live takes of "We Could Send Letters" and "Back on Board" were recorded at Toronto's legendary El Mocambo (badly misspelled on the cover) on July 11, 1983 for CFNY-FM 102's Carlsberg concert series. I sure would like to get a hold of a copy of this entire show. As these 'High Land, Hard Rain' tracks prove, Roddy Frame and the lads sounded great that night. I imagine them having the time of their lives as they attempted to conquer the world. What were you doing at 19? Time machine, please. Dating back to the Postcard days, there are just so many great versions of "We Could Send Letters", and I have always had a soft spot for this particularly melancholy take. Frame's solo around the five-minute mark is a real keeper. I will be invading the CD shelf tomorrow for the final post on "Oblivious". Time to lace up your dancing shoes.

"We Could Send Letters (Live)
"Back on Board" (Live)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

'Oblivious' Week (Continued)

Let's skip ahead a bit to the 1984 four-track maxi-single Sire released in the United States and Canada. If you have an aversion to those blowout 1980s remixes, no need to fret this time, but you may not want to stop by here on Friday when I pull out some extended versions that could send you into convulsions. This remix of "Oblivious" was done with a very light touch by Felix Chamberlain and Ted Templeman. I don't really know anything about Chamberlain, but Templeman was feelin' groovy as part of Harpers Bizarre before becoming a big-time producer best known for Van Halen's '1984'. I only mention this because Roddy Frame would go on to take the smash hit "Jump" in a completely different direction on the B-side to "All I Need is Everything" and the "Backwards And Forwards" 10" EP. If I ever met Templeman, I would ask him why he was attracted to Aztec Camera since he doesn't have another band like them on his résumé. They weren't exactly the Doobie Brothers.

Two other songs on this maxi-single, "Orchid Girl" and "Haywire", were covered here yesterday, but I consider the other song to be Aztec Camera's best ever B-side*. "Queen's Tattoos" is a twangy hip swivelin' romp that first appeared as a flip side on the October 1982 single "Pillar to Post", Aztec Camera's post-Postcard debut. This may seem like cheating to include it here, but you have to remember the "Pillar to Post" single wasn't released in America. Without its inclusion, it could have been years or even decades before we discovered this gem.

As has been suggested in the comments yesterday, back tomorrow with a couple of live songs from a special 2x7" edition of "Oblivious".

"Oblivious (Remix)"
"Queen's Tattoos"

*Postcard era excluded

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

'Oblivious' Week

Some people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot. I wasn't born yet, but I do recall the moment I first heard Aztec Camera's "Oblivious". It's one of my all-time favorite singles and one that has been put on the turntable hundreds of times in my life. I have a few different editions of the single, and what better way to start the year than with an airing of all the releases, remixes and B-sides of that fine record. Oh, that guitar!

Let's start with Rough Trade 122T, released in January of 1983. This is a 12" that included the bonus B-side "Haywire". All of the flip sides from the 'High Land, Hard Rain' era were far from throwaways and seemed to these ears to be works from a much more mature artist. Inexplicably, "Oblivious" wasn't an instant hit, peaking at a modest No. 47 on the on the UK Singles Chart, but this gorgeous piece of pop was re-released late in the year and did much better, reaching No. 18. It didn't sniff the Billboard Hot 100 on this side of the pond, but I vividly recall the video of a very young Roddy Frame hanging out in a treehouse receiving plenty of plays on MTV. Back with another 12" of "Oblivious" tomorrow.

"Orchid Girl"