Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Picked Up in 2018 (Part 3)

Do you ever find a record and ask yourself, how in the world did this get here? Shockingly, I found both of these EPs in two different shops right here in Seattle last year. I like to think I know a bit about Scottish bands, especially of a certain era, but I somehow missed Jesse Garon & the Desperadoes until they appeared on Cherry Red's excellent 2013 box set 'Scared to Get Happy.' Since then, I think indie-pop fans all over the globe have become familiar with the Edinburgh band because they have continued to have a good run with the label, appearing on the 'C86' and 'C87' box sets in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Well, I have fallen hard for them. How can you not love a band that names themselves after Elvis' still-born twin? Brilliant.

Both of the above EPs are from their later years. In fact, along with sole album 'Nixon' via Edinburgh's Avalanche Records, the 1990 six-track 12" of "Hold Me Now"/"Grand Hotel" would turn out to be the band's final release. The four-track 12" "You'll Never Be That Young Again" preceded it by two years. The sound of Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes is a bit hard to pin down. The early years are a nice bit of jangle and right in my wheelhouse. By the late '80s, I hear some 10,000 Maniacs in there, and maybe just a little of my pals the Popguns too. Then they turn it way up on "Grand Hotel," a moving song about the '84 IRA Brighton bombing, and I'm back to square one when trying to describe them. All I know for sure is I dig 'em at any speed and volume. Hope you enjoy them too.

Hold Me Now
Grand Hotel
You'll Never Be That Young Again

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Picked Up in 2018 (Part 2)

I found this 7" curiosity about six weeks ago, and I'm really digging it. Velocity Girl grabbed the spotlight on these pages in 2015 when I was counting down my favorite songs from the 1990s. For those who want to know a little bit more about the band, I'll direct you to that countdown. In 1995, during their peak years at Sub Pop, Velocity Girl did a one-off 7" for Heaven Records out of Nottingham. If you don't know Heaven, it was founded in 1989 by a couple of fellas from Fat Tulips so they could release the single "Where's Clare Grogan Now?" The label managed to stick around until 1996. I thought it was cool that Heaven's singles often came with a fanzine and other surprises. Given that this single was released nearly a quarter century ago, I consider myself lucky to have found a pristine eight-page fanzine on Velocity Girl, as well as a label catalog and postcard, inside the sleeve. I enjoy relics like that.

Both sides of the single are covers. It takes guts to take on 'Ocean Rain'-era Echo & the Bunnymen. Velocity Girl strips away the lush orchestration, but otherwise stays fairly faithful to the original. Not at all bad. The real winner here, though, is the B-side. I keep going back to "Breaking Lines" again and again, and it has taken me back to the original too. "Truck Train Tractor" just might be my favorite song from the Pastels, and after revisiting both sides of my 12" from 1986, I do think this is the best all-around single Stephen & Co. ever recorded (so far). Velocity Girl did themselves proud with this B-side of a B-side. This lot clearly had taste tackling this one.

Velocity Girl - Breaking Lines
The Pastels - Breaking Lines

Postscript: I like the C86 connection too. "Breaking Lines" by the Pastels appeared on the legendary NME cassette, and Velocity Girl was named after the Primal Scream song that opened the tape. Cool.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Picked Up in 2018 (Part 1)

I'm embarrassed to admit until recently the only song you would have found on my shelf by the Apartments was "The Shyest Time." Robert Forster's references to the band and frontman Peter Milton Walsh in his book 'Grant & I' were what lit the fire and got me seeking the album 'The Evening Visits... And Stays For Years,' first released in 1985 by Rough Trade and lovingly reissued by Captured Tracks in 2015.

I use "lovingly" because the 26 pages of liner notes penned by Forster, Steven Schayer of the Chills and Walsh himself, along with photos, reviews and other gems would make this a must-have on its own. Throw in the demos Rough Trade heard before signing them, as well as the three-track EP "The Return of the Hypnotist" from 1979 and the "All You Wanted" single from 1984 and now you've got a must-have reissue even for those who already own the original.

Walsh assembled quite a band and recruited friends like Clare Kenny, Ben Watt and Graham Lee of the Triffids as well. This crew was described by the NME in '85 as "melancholy and lamenting, bitter, exhilarating and extremely witty" and 'The Evening Visits...' as "a pure heart-wrencher" that "should only be listened to after dark." What's in that Brisbane water? This album was arguably my favorite discovery last year.

Great Fool

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A January Moon

An amazing thing happened across the pond in the summer of 2012. Oh, yes, there was that Olympics thing being held in London, but I meant the June Brides reformed and released their first new music since the "This Town E.P" in 1986. This wasn't just Phil Wilson using his old band name either. Jon Hunter, Frank Sweeney and Simon Beesley were there too. The "Moon/Cloud" 7" initially came bundled with 'Between The Moon And The Clouds,' a 10-song CD full of interesting nuggets, including acoustic versions of classics by the June Brides performed by Wilson. Since then, the Brides have released "She Seems Quite Free," a three-song 7" in the fall of 2014, and Wilson has continued to appear as part of the Granite Shore. This fan has high hopes for more from Mr. Wilson and the June Brides.

Off topic, but I have a dream of someday hosting a three-day indie-pop festival here in Seattle. In the dream, Friday night would close with the Popguns. Saturday would wind down with Close Lobsters. The festival would conclude on Sunday with the June Brides. You would show up for that, right?

"A January Moon" is dedicated to blogging friends the Robster and Alyson. The Robster may be retiring (you will be missed!), but he had a tradition of kicking off a month with a song bearing its name. Alyson has penned some wonderful pieces on the myriad of full moons and the names given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar. You should stop by their places.