Friday, March 29, 2019

Red Sleeping Beauty - "The Swedish Winter"

It was like manna from heaven... or maybe crispbread would be more apropos. After vanishing for 15 years, legendary Swedish trio Red Sleeping Beauty reappeared in 2016 with a veritable smörgåsbord of odes to 'Architecture & Morality'-era OMD, Kraftwerk and other favorites from the golden age of synth pop. 'Kristina' was lauded by all who heard it, including yours truly, and even though Niklas, Kristina and Mikael promised more, could our delicate indie-pop hearts really endure another decade-plus drought after the euphoria of 2016? Besides, topping 'Kristina' would be an exercise in futility, right?

A mere three years later, Matinée Recordings has joined the impressive list of fabled indie labels to release music by Red Sleeping Beauty, and new album 'Stockholm' is the band's best album. Full stop. Start saving your kronas because this one should be out on or about April 12, and you can preorder right now.

And now, for your listening pleasure, Linear Tracking Lives has been granted the distinct privilege of premiering the lead single from the aforementioned 'Stockholm.' Red Sleeping Beauty channels dance-era Saint Etienne for "The Swedish Winter," a celebration of emerging from the prolonged darkness at the first ray of light. The best day of the year, indeed. Could the repeated line "here comes the summer" been in honor of the Undertones? I don't know, but here's hoping. This one is destined to be a club classic. Skål!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

R.I.P. Ranking Roger

This place is starting to feel like the obituary pages, but Ranking Roger deserves to be remembered and celebrated. Pull out something from the Beat or General Public tonight. You won't be disappointed. In fact, chances are, you'll smile and wonder what happened to that pork pie hat that made you look so sharp all those years ago.

Ranking Roger had a solo single in 1988, not long after General Public dissolved, that got a few plays on MTV's '120 Minutes' before disappearing into the abyss. For whatever reason, this song has always stuck with me. The last time I played it here was back in 2013 when I posted four remixed and extended versions from the 12" single. Let's listen to the album version from 'Radical Departure' today. "So Excited" was co-written by Dave Wakeling during the General Public days and would have fit in quite nicely on 'All the Rage.' In fact, a couple of members of that band played on this song.

I'm not sure if the rift between Ranking Roger and Wakeling was resolved, but they did share the stage in 2017. That's a good sign. As we have been reminded several times in recent days, life's too short. Don't wait to mend fences.

So Excited

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Ray of Sunshine

bye-bye bitter winter
here's the sun
welcome back at last
that day has come
another year of joy
just begun...

These are the opening lines to the perfect song to listen to today. Give the 1990 song "The First Day of Spring" from Friends a spin. You may not know the band, but their tale will sound familiar. Mid-'80s UK indie-pop band gets a tiny following at home but finds a larger and more passionate audience in Japan. Far-East labels worship them and reissue their catalog to this day. Like I said, old story. I hope the sun is shining where you are. If not, sit tight. It's coming. Really. In the meantime, this song will warm the cockles. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it's like summer (until tomorrow, anyway), but I won't rub it in. Happy spring!

The First Day of Spring

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

At the Movies

We lost one of the greats the other day with the passing of Wrecking Crew alumnus Hal Blaine. In the early '90s, I really got into the drummer's work with Phil Spector's 'Back to Mono' and the Beach Boys' 'Good Vibrations' box sets. Imagine the tales Blaine must have been able to tell. During that same period I was discovering the Wrecking Crew, I read Brian Wilson's book 'Wouldn't It Be Nice,' and 29 years later I still remember when Wilson told of showing up at Blaine's house unannounced soon after Wilson's father Murray sold all of Brian's songs... for a song. Click on the image below to read about that one. Man, the things Blaine saw...

Do yourself a favor. This weekend, fire up Denny Todesco's documentary 'The Wrecking Crew' or Gil Baker's 'Session Men: Los Angeles' and get educated. Here are a few clips:

And now for something completely different. With spring comes hope, and I'm sure hoping the following concert movie comes to my town. When Aretha Franklin passed away last year, you may remember me mentioning my affection for her jaw-dropping live album 'Amazing Grace.' The inspired performance was from the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in the Watts section of Los Angeles. The original album was a Grammy winner, but it was an abbreviated version of the Jan. 13-14 shows. In 1999, Rhino expanded the Atlantic release and included both nights, along with the wonderful introductions by the Rev. James Cleveland. I didn't get 'Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings' until my mother gave it to me for Christmas, but I have been making up for lost time by keeping it in the car and playing it over and over again. I digress.

The late director Sydney Pollack filmed the making of the album, but he didn't synchronize the picture and sound correctly, and his footage sat for decades. The film has been fixed and will be released in New York and Los Angeles on April 5. Like I said, with spring comes hope. Hopefully, the film will get a wider release soon after. Seattle, please. Here's the trailer. It looks even better than I imagined it while listening to the album years ago...

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Bowing at the Feet of B-I-D Spells Bid

The Monochrome Set
Barboza, Seattle
March 5, 2019

What with dinner, dishes, homework, kids' lunches and a 6AM alarm call, it takes something pretty special to get me out on a Tuesday night. A rare sighting of the Monochrome Set on this side of the Atlantic, celebrating 40 years, no less, meant the plates would have to pile up just this once.

The show was to begin at 8, and that's when I arrived. I knew there was an opening act, and an unfamiliar record store down the block called to me like a siren. When I had broken out of my trance, it was 8:30, and I dashed to the quaint little basement venue. There was only one person in front of me trying to get in, and he told the gatekeeper he was with the band. She eyed the distinguished gentleman up and down suspiciously and asked with doubt, "You're with the band?" Even from the back I could tell it was Bid. I sidled beside him, put my hand on his shoulder and told her, "Believe me, he's with the band. He's been with the band since before you were born." He looked at me, smiled at her and asked, "So, I'm with the band then?" She waved him through, and I had a brief but memorable encounter with my musical hero.

Turns out the opening band still hadn't gone on yet, and I was able to walk right up to the stage. I held my ground on this 1 sq. ft. piece of property as if my life depended on it and never moved again for the rest of the evening. The opener eventually introduced themselves. "We're the Purrs and we're from down the street." For the next 30 minutes or so this quartet made me feel like the guy being blown away on those iconic Maxell ads. Two songs in I noticed the guy standing beside me stuffing Kleenex in his ears. I envied him. Don't get me wrong. There was nothing wrong with this band, and the crowd seemed to appreciate their efforts. Their sound was just made for much bigger rooms, and my delicate indie-pop sensibilities and auditory nerves were shaken by the assault.

As the Monochrome Set were setting up (yes, they took care of their own gear), I couldn't help but wonder how they were feeling. As the tour poster above attests, the lads played New York the night before. That's nearly 3,000 miles, folks. In case you're a fan who has lost track and are wondering about the personnel these days, the most recognizable name to you outside of Bid would be Andy Warren on bass. He's been with the Monochrome Set off and on since 1980. Keyboard wizard John Paul Moran has been around off and one since the reformation in 2010. No, Lester Square was not there. He was part of the reformation as well but left after recording the 'Spaces Everywhere' album in 2014. Mike Urban behind the kit is the newest member, but even he was in the band briefly in 1990.

Shockingly, the show was not a sellout, but the room was fairly full and definitely full of enthusiasm. Just the right age group too. Some of you know what I mean. Feeling like the old man in the room has become tiresome. I went to this show solo, which can be a drag, but these were my people. I wanted to become friends with all of them. I wanted to scream, "I can't believe you're all from Seattle! Where have you been?" I read that tickets had not sold briskly on the East Coast, and one fan on social media claimed the Bowery Ballroom had been 75-80 percent empty. I hope that was an exaggeration, but at one point Urban told us with a big smile that they had just come from the East Coast and that this was better. Since we were the first show on the West Coast, we could take that as a huge compliment.

On to the set list. As you can see, they dove right into the classic era with the first three songs and, as you would expect, latest album 'Maisieworld' received a fair representation. That was fine by me. Like all of their albums this decade, it's a beautiful piece of work. I would have been fine if every note of 'Eligible Bachelors' would have been played, but I'll take the trio they ripped through.

After 17 songs and an impending car ride to Portland ahead of them, you would have thought they would have said goodbye after the crowd-pleasing 40-year-old "Eine Symphonie des Grauens," but there was encore after encore. "Goodbye Joe" was my personal highlight until they came out for what was to be the last time. Bid and the gang seemed perplexed as they scanned a tablet trying to figure out if they could come up with even one more song they knew. Someone nearby shouted, "Jacob's Ladder!" To say the room was encouraging is an understatement. Bid rolled his eyes, sighed, and said with a chuckle, "I wrote it, but I'm not sure I played it." They gave it the ol' college try, with Moran hitting the difficult bass vocal parts with perfection. Bid got a case of the giggles here and there as he attempted to conjure up the lyrics, but it was a damn fine rendition and the topper of the night for me. Their last song was the first song I ever heard by them (34 years ago!) and the one I wanted to hear the most.

I ran into Bid outside a few minutes later and was able to tell him, "Best Tuesday ever."

'Fin' is a 1986 release of live performances spanning the Monochrome Set's career through 'The Lost Weekend' era. Seems like a few from that one is the most appropriate to listen to today.

Jacob's Ladder ('Eastern Eye,' March 19, 1985)
Alphaville (Electric Ballroom, May 23, 1985)
Eine Symphonie Des Grauens (Bristol Trinity Hall, May 21, 1980)

Saturday, March 9, 2019

As the Record Turns

On our last exciting episode of As the Record Turns, Chris at Jigsaw Records had procured two big boxes of singles from an indie-pop fan and put them up for sale in his shop. I made a nice haul, and you can read about that here. The cliffhanger was there would eventually be another shipment from the same seller, and this time it would be vinyl not of the 7" persuasion. Those records arrived a week ago Thursday. There would be 116 pieces, mostly of the LP variety, along with a smattering of 10" EPs and 12" singles.

For those of you who live vicariously through the record purchases of those in our little corner of the 'Net (no judgments, I'm one of them!), here's what I picked up. I didn't get to peruse the boxes until Friday afternoon, and a few of the best pieces had already been snatched, such a few early 12" singles from the Popguns, but there were still a few interesting scraps. Overall, the boxes of 7" singles were a bit more exciting to me because they were just about all from my favorite genre. That wasn't completely the case this time. Here's my catch:

Clockwise from the upper left we have:

The Wolfhounds - "Me" (12")
The Popguns - "Landslide" (12")
The Wedding Present - "Anyone Can Make a Mistake"(12")
The Fireworks - "Black & Blue" (10")
The Groove Farm- "The Big Black Plastic Explosion" ‎(12")
The Groove Farm - "Driving In Your New Car" (10")
The Groove Farm - 'Alvin Is King' (LP)
Boyracer - "We Are Made Of The Same Wood" (10")
Microdisney - 'The Clock Comes Down The Stairs' (LP)
The Lucksmiths - "Staring At The Sky" (10")
The Wolfhounds - "Cruelty" (12")

After the initial euphoria began to wear off, I started to question how many of these records I really needed. For instance, take that 12" of "Me" from the Wolfhounds. I had the 7" already and, worse, I also have the Optic Nerve Recordings edition of 'Unseen Ripples From A Pebble' on CD with the B-sides. The same can be said for many of the finds pictured above. I have said it before, and I'll say it again. Collecting all of these formats is a sickness, isn't it? I'm most happy about the three picked up by the Groove Farm. That brings me just a little closer to having the entire discography of the Subway Organization... probably my favorite label. I came to the Wedding Present late in life, and I'm still trying to gather all of the singles from the 1980s. Nearly there now. All in all, a decent haul. It could be a while before the next episode of As the Record Turns. We don't get too many boxes like these showing up in these parts.

I'll never pass up the Lucksmiths on vinyl. Here's one from 1999.

The Lucksmiths - The Golden Age of Aviation

Hold the phone! This old man actually went to a show the other night. All about that next time.