Saturday, August 3, 2019

Summer of Subway: Choo Choo Train

For the third week in a row, it's an American act in the Subway spotlight. Although there were but two brief releases from this Midwestern band, in my humble opinion, they were by far the best of the Bristol label's Yanks. Paul Chastain and Ric Menck as Choo Choo Train graced these pages two years ago with the 1988 single "High." That just leaves Subway 20T to cover, the six-song 12" "Briar Rose E.P.," also released in '88. Let's listen to this classic in its entirety.

Briar Rose
Big Blue Buzz
Nothing Else
Flower Field
Every Little Knight
Catch Another Breath

This was such a prolific era for the duo that they were the centerpieces of at least three bands at the time, including the Springfields (mostly on Sarah and Summershine) and Bag-O-Shells (on the legendary Iowa City indie label Bus Stop). You may think they needed some good ADD meds, but the truth is every Chastain-Menck incarnation was good... really good. Most agree their best work would be just around the corner when they moved to Rhode Island and became power-pop outfit Velvet Crush, but that's another story for another day.

Today's trivia has been covered here before, but it's worth another mention. Matthew Sweet goes way back with these fellas, and they have worked on each other's productions many times. A couple of pivotal examples include Menck sharing drumming duties on Sweet's 'Girlfriend' and Sweet producing the first Velvet Crush album. As for Choo Choo Train, Sweet wrote "My Best Friend," a song that appears on the flip side of the "High" 12" single. He also penned the first song from today's selection, "Briar Rose." Hmm, that young man could go places.

So far in the Summer of Subway series:
Sex Clark Five
The Charlottes
Bubblegum Splash
Shop Assistants
The Soup Dragons
Rodney Allen
The Rosehips
Korova Milk Bar
The Clouds

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