Friday, November 29, 2019

Another Journey Into the Wild

I was told the other day it was too early for holiday music, but what about music recorded on the holiday itself? On the shelf next to the somewhat obscure Wild Flowers we listened to last time you'll find the more familiar Wild Swans. I have just about all there is to have by the Liverpudlian band, and I'm pulling out the holy grail this evening. I rarely play the 2013 double-LP hardback-book edition of 'Incandescent' because it was kind of pricey and, although quite sturdy, I'm always afraid I'm going to ruin it somehow. That's too bad because records are meant to be played, not just admired for their physical beauty, and there are plenty of gems to be had on the wax. There are remixes of their first single, multiple BBC sessions, demos and live recordings, not to mention a beautiful booklet chock full of photos, memorabilia, interviews and reminiscences from Paul Simpson himself.

From Christmas 1981, when the Wild Swans were supporting fellow Liverpool band Echo and the Bunnymen on their UK tour, here are both songs from the band's legendary first single. Two things Paul mentions when introducing the songs on stage worth noting are that the coveted 12" was not even out yet (he says January but it would actually be March 1982) and he didn't know which one of these songs would be the A-side for the Zoo release. As for the performance, Simpson says in the liner notes, "I don't remember us ever being this good on stage." Here's yet another spot where I'll be stopping once we have time machines.

God Forbid (Live)
The Revolutionary Spirit (Live)

Saturday, November 23, 2019

When the Wild Flowers Nearly Bloomed

Have been spending lots of time in the W section of the vinyl collection. Dusted off and resurrected these two 12" singles from 1985 and 1986. David Newton co-founded this band in 1983 but moved on to form the Mighty Lemon Drops in 1985. He was replaced by Dave Atherton, and the band signed on to the legendary indie label Chapter 22. Bands on the roster at that time included, among others, Mighty Mighty, the Mission, Pop Will Eat Itself, Suicide and the Pastels.

It's a funny thing that Newton wasn't on these two singles because they sound an awful lot like the Mighty Lemon Drops, particularly "A Kind of Kingdom." By extension, Echo & the Bunnymen may come to mind as well since the Mighty Lemon Drops always sounded a lot like Ian and the gang. Both of these songs would eventually reappear on the 1987 long player 'Dust.' The Wild Flowers never had a hit on the UK indie charts in the '80s, but they did garner enough attention to sign a deal with Slash Records in America. They were the first ever British act to do so. Prepare to pogo.

A Kind of Kingdom
It Ain't So Easy

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Both Sides of Split 7" Deserve A-Side Status

Calvin Johnson's K label is arguably best known for releases from his band Beat Happening, early Beck or a slew of local bands in and around his hometown of Olympia, Washington. Some of us, though, revere Johnson for bringing UK indie pop to our shores by licensing the occasional single or album from the likes of the Pastels, Flatmates, Bis, Teenage Fanclub and a bevy of bands from Amelia Fletcher's musical tree, including Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research and Tender Trap.

Speaking of Marine Research, here they are in 1998 sharing a single on K's 7" series International Pop Underground (IPU). This is one of those split singles where each band covers a song first recorded by the other. Boise's own Built to Spill spent the better part of two decades on major label Warner Bros., but they released the single "Joyride" on IPU in 1994, for which "Sick & Wrong" was the B-side. That's the one Marine Research nabbed. Built to Spill took "By the Way" from Heavenly's 1996 album 'Operation Heavenly.' That would have been the last release from Amelia and Co. before drummer (and brother) Matthew Fletcher passed away. Thus the new band name and fresh start. This split single would have been the first release as Marine Research. Their single "Queen B" would come out on Where It's At Is Where You Are a little later in the year. The chapter called Marine Research was a short one, but there were some great songs, especially the sublime "Parallel Horizontal."

Built to Spill - By the Way
Marine Research - Sick & Wrong

Friday, November 15, 2019

Songs for the Stocking

It's my tradition to purchase one holiday-themed album per year. I try to make it a new release whenever I can, but long players from this decade like Tracey Thorn's 'Tinsel and Lights' and Nick Lowe's 'Quality Street' are few and far between. For instance, last year I "settled" for a reissue of ATCO's 1968 classic compilation 'Soul Christmas.' No such problem this time around because Texan chanteuse Molly Burch will be the one to get me in the spirit with 'The Molly Burch Christmas Album,' out today via the always dependable Captured Tracks. It's a mix of holiday standards and Burch-penned originals sung by a voice that melts my heart every time I put on her records. I know there are a few of you humbugs out there who don't care much for holiday music, and I do get it, but this is an album that will have you rethinking your Christmas list.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A Loud Shout Out for Shout Out Louds

In the early 2000s, I caught Swedish fever and haven't really ever been able to shake it. Jens Lekman, the Concretes and Shout Out Louds have all spent time on my turntable this weekend, and it's this U.S. promo 12" from the latter that has won the day this time around. Debut album 'Howl Howl Gaff Gaff' was released in their home country in 2003, but I didn't hear it until Capitol picked it up in May 2005. By then the album had been remastered, and the tracklist had changed significantly. Five songs from EPs were combined with six songs from the original album to create a collection with nary a duff note. The two standouts were "Very Loud" and "The Comeback," the latter released as a single in the fall that year.

I prefer the album version of "The Comeback" in all of its simplicity, but these alternative takes would be fun out on a dance floor. Tommie Sunshine has made a career out of remixing songs like this, and electro-rockers Ratatat would have been just a handful of months from hitting it big with their "Wildcat" single. As for Shout Out Louds, they have released four albums since "Howl Howl Gaff Gaff," but to these ears they have never come close to bettering their debut. It's an old story read on these pages time and time again.

The Comeback (Tommie Sunshine's Radio Edit)
The Comeback (Big Slippa Mix By Ratatat)
The Comeback (Album Version)
The Comeback (Instrumental)