Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Triumphant Return of Matinée Recordings

The Santa Barbara-based indie-pop label didn't go anywhere, actually, but after a relatively quiet year and some time off to rebuild the Web site, Jimmy has relaunced Matinée's online shop with a bevy of brand-new downloadable singles from its stable of stars. For you longtime fans of Matinée, two of the bands will be familiar, but we haven't heard from them in so long you will no doubt get goosebumps from the moment you press play.

Our favorite Danes, Northern Portrait, are back in our good graces with "At Attention," and it's like no time has passed at all. (Has it really been seven years since the "Pretty Decent Swimmers" 10" and 'Ta!' compilation? Sheesh.) This lovely bit of jangle is the walk-up single to the full-length long player 'The Swiss Army.' Expect that one in your hot little hands early next year. Can't wait.

Laz has kept us busy recording as Bubblegum Lemonade, but it's shocking to read it has been five long years since his band with Sandra, Strawberry Whiplash, has had something in the new-release rack. The Scottish duo have promised a new album in 2021, and bouncy single "Press 4 for Love" indicates they aren't planning to fuck with their seasoned fuzz-pop formula. Good news for us. Make sure to take time out for 'Hits in the Car' outtake "A Rainy Day In Glasgow" too. Only an album that good could have kept this gem off the tracklist.

The next two bands are relatively new to Matinée but seem like a perfect fit. You may remember the Royal Landscaping Society and their terrific tune "Clean" earning a spot on my Festive 50 last year. Expect the Spanish duo to make a return engagment this year with the beautiful synth-heavy "Frost." As an added bonus, the virtual flip side is a cover by the beloved They Go BOOM! Can't go wrong with this one. Word is the 17-track album 'Means of Production' is on the way.

One last single for you. Swedish indie-pop duo My Darling YOU! had a bunch of EPs and singles on the Luxury label (mostly) in the first decade of this century, but many missed their often shambolic bursts first time around. Matinée is trying to rectify that with the 20-track compilation 'A Dream Come True,' due out next month. The manic keyboards of "We Break Up On Friday" is sure to whet your appetite for more of their "shouty pop." Great to have you back, Matinée. Now start hitting that download button, indie-pop fans.

Friday, November 13, 2020

More 'Strange Fruit' at the Produce Stand

Our trip through Snoqualmie Pass on Wednesday meant a stop in Thorp, Wa., population 246 and home to Thorp Fruit & Antique Mall, the weirdest place I have ever shopped for records. Some of you long-time readers may remember my first stop there a few years ago. Here's a refresher. This time through wasn't quite as rewarding, but there ended up being another one on Strange Fruit I nabbed, along with a couple of other decent finds. I would have been filled with more glee had I found the 12" of "Please Don't Play 'A Rainy Night in Georgia'" by Twa Toots (selling on Discogs right now for between $200 and $249), but an $8 copy of the band's session for John Peel was a big smile too. It had been on the shopping list for years.
These two titles above, also picked up in Thorp and which you no doubt recognize, are replacing inferior copies I have of two LPs on one CD reissues. Those never sit well with me... especially the art. I took these up to the counter, along with a box of honeycrisp apples, and called it a day. If you ever find yourself driving through Thorp, make your way to stall three on the second floor of Thorp Fruit for a surprisngly good selection of used vinyl. A real head scratcher, I know, but better to just go with it.
Here are a couple from Twa Toots ripped from my latest find.

Yo-Yo (Peel Session)
Please Don't Play 'A Rainy Night in Georgia' (Peel Session)

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Two Great Tastes That Go Great Together

Yesterday was a holiday, and we drove to the other side of the mountains to get a few much-needed hours of sun. When we returned last night, my copy of the new 'Love Tractor' reissue was waiting on the porch. Before I even opened it, I couldn't help but notice these beloved labels from yesterday and today sitting side by side in the bottom right-hand corner. Beautiful. Seems we have much to be thankful for from the great state of Georgia. More in a bit.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Love for the Love In and Must-Have New Release

More than two weeks ago, I picked up 'Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987' at the third and final drop of Record Store Day. It's a beautiful double-album box featuring orange vinyl and an 80-plus page 12"x12" book that's an oral history of the scene that bridges early '80s post-punk and early '90s indie rock as told by the band members that lived it. Until a few days ago, it was just sitting here unopened, taunting me, because life got in the way. Finally, the other night, after everyone in the household had gone to bed, I got comfy in the chaise lounge with my fancy headphones and listened and read simultaneously from beginning to end. What a delight!

Even though this is the kind of music that's the cornerstone of my collection, label Captured Tracks has dug deep (no dB's, Let's Active or other usual suspects), and there are only a handful of band names I recognize. Turns out, however, there are many personnel I know from other indie groups. Examples include Archer Prewitt, known for the Sea and Cake long before Bangtails. Donna Esposito is a name I recognize from the Cyclones (who appear on this comp), Cowboy & Spingirl and a couple of other bands, but I had no idea she was also in Riff Doctors. Lynn Blakey, who had a spell in Oh-OK appears here as part of Holiday and on and on. Even our hero Ric Menck, who you will find on my shelves as part of the Springfields (on this comp), Choo Choo Train, Bag-O-Shells and Velvet Crush, was also in the Reverbs around 1984, a band I never knew about until now. That statement can be said about many of the 28 bands featured, which is what makes this such an intriguing collection.
The opening words of the book are, "[w]hat if the U.S. had a compilation like C86?" NME's famous cassette is at least as revered today as it was when it came out 34 years ago. 'Strum & Thrum' is the best compilation of 2020. Like 'C86,' it's a collection fans of the genre will come back to again and again for decades to come. Perhaps we should all thank R.E.M. for releasing the "Chronic Town" EP, "Radio Free Europe" and 'Murmur' because many of the bands on 'Strum & Thrum' say they were inspired by these works... and it shows! 'Strum & Thrum' is set for wide release on Friday, and the only difference from the RSD version is standard black vinyl instead of that gorgeous orange wax. Grab a copy here. A note to Captured Tracks: When the dust settles on this release, how about a reissue of 'The Happy Forest' by the Reverbs?

One of the bands on 'Strum & Thrum is Los Angeles trio the Love In. They had one release, a self-titled six-song EP that came out in 1987. A few years ago while going down one of those YouTube rabbit holes I came across album opener "Late as Usual" and was hooked. Problem was, I couldn't find anything on the band. Just try searching the Love In on the Internet and see what you get. It drove me crazy. I did eventually find someone from the band to sell me the record. That's why I enjoyed this passage from band member Tom Sheppard in the book included with 'Strum & Thrum:'

"We printed, sold, and gave away maybe a couple of thousand copies of our EP, and we still get occasional requests from people asking for them. But sometimes it feels like it was all a paper dream, now crumpled and buried at the bottom of a junkyard. Try googling "Love In." You might find us on the 5,000th search page after every song with 'In Love' in the title, just below some archaic 1960s porn."

That's a lesson for you budding bands... he types as if there any kids reading this. Choose your name wisely, please. We didn't worry about such things in the 1980s. "Late as Usual" is the standout, and you can get that on 'Strum & Thrum.' Here are a couple of deeper cuts. Sorry about the surface noise and the pops. That's the way I got it. Again, lots of early R.E.M. influences. In the book, Mr. Sheppard tells a tale of meeting Peter Buck that's a great read but utterly heartbreaking.

Young Mr. Jones
On the Reds

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

From Duncan's Parcel of Pop (Part 6)

More goodies from my friend in New Zealand today. Two of the three 7" singles from the Wedding Present come from their Reception days, including one with additional singing from Amelia Fletcher. Let's find out how Duncan discovered Gedge & Co. It is a story that might sound familiar to many of you in the UK. Duncan, the floor is yours...

In 1985, a couple of friends and I started listening to John Peel's Radio 1 show. As with many others of our generation, it opened us up to a whole new world of music and changed our lives. We would excitedly meet up at school the next day to compare notes on the previous night's listening and swap tapes of missed sessions or new singles. I remember vividly the conversation we had the day after Peel played "Go Out and Get 'Em Boy", by the Wedding Present. We'd never heard anything like it; never heard guitars played so fast or at such ear splitting levels of treble. We loved it, just like we'd loved "Never Understand" a few months earlier. Just hearing the feedback screaming in at the start of the song still brings shivers to the spine.

Between us, over the next year or so, we collected all their singles and taped their two radio sessions. And in November 1986, we went to see them play live at the Garage Club in Nottingham... a very special night, where the crowd refused to let the band leave the stage at the end of their set until they'd finally agree to play "Felicity". It was hot, crazy and tremendous fun. One of those nights when the sweat was literally dripping from the ceiling.
But I have to admit that, by this stage, I'd started to think the band had painted themselves into a bit of a corner. In an early interview they said they would never record an LP, and there was only so many mad thrash-y singles a band could release before people got bored and moved on. Let's face it, how could they possibly top the exhilarating rush of "Living and Learning"? So it was a bit of a shock when the "My Favourite Dress" 7" EP came out. The band had taken quite a major shift forwards. No longer was it all about the guitars, the melodies and the sheer energy of their early singles. Now the focus was all on Mr David Gedge: his voice and his words had taken centre stage, and the music had become more controlled and more of a vehicle for the songs. I'd never paid too much attention to the lyrics in the past, but now there was no choice.

In each of the three songs on the EP, Gedge paints extremely vivid portraits of a peculiarly Northern English white working class milieu. Like Morrissey, but stripped of any of his romanticism, pretension or self-mythologising. Gedge's words are memorable and affecting, but also grim and uncomfortable. Perhaps his most famous line, "jealousy is an essential part of love", is arresting, but it's not a sentiment I recognise or have any empathy with. And even at the age of 16 I found the line "I must have walked behind you for more than an hour" from "Never Said" disturbing and a bit creepy. But it was becoming clear that the Wedding Present would be around for a while, and that Gedge's everyman persona would now be their USP.

Over the next couple of years and through to the release of their debut LP, the Wedding Present seemed to be constantly on tour, and I got to see them four more times during this period. The crowds were getting bigger and bigger and, suddenly, they were a "major act," which even the weeklies started taking seriously. And of course, 'George Best' became a massive seller. But for me, it will always be the period captured on the 'Tommy' retrospective that I return to and cherish. Three classic singles and the euphoric "Living and Learning", and then on to "My Favourite Dress", creating the link to 'George Best' and all that followed.
Duncan also included a couple of early articles from the music papers that were great reads. I particularly liked these quotes from Gedge in a piece by Neil Taylor that appeared just before a repressing of "Go Out and Get 'em Boy!" (repressed by Taylor's own City Slang label, by the way) and the release of "Once More." As Duncan mentioned, here's how David saw it: "I don't think we could ever make an album, unless it was a compilation of singles or something." He followed that up with, "If at the end of a couple of years we've made four great records then I'll be really proud, and that will do for me!" With roughly 36 years of hindsight, that's a smile, eh?

As for my all-too-brief history with the Wedding Present, it doesn't really make any sense. You would assume someone who worships at the altar of 'C86' would be a longtime fan of the band. Truth is, I never owned a single or album until the blogging era. I know. I know. Crazy. After a recommendation by retired blogger (sadly) Friend of Rachel Worth, I picked up the 23-track version of 'George Best' that Cooking Vinyl had released back in the late '90s. It was nothing short of a revelation. A couple of years later, Edsel did that blowout reissue campaign of eight of the band's albums. Rather than spend big bucks on those, I waited for fans to trade in their old copies for the deluxe editions. The only one of those reissues I bought was 'Tommy.' Although I have found plenty to enjoy on all of the albums, like Duncan, it is the fast and furious early singles and 'George Best' I like the most. In the ensuing years, I have been making up for lost time, concentrating specifically on picking up used vinyl copies of everything from the '80s but more recent releases as well. This was my favorite pickup because of the odd place where I found it. All of this fandom culminated in finally seeing Gedge in the flesh in 2017.

Yes, I lost a lot of good quality years when I should have been listening to the Wedding Present, but I'm doing my best to make up for the slight. Thanks for this further nudge, Duncan. I was going to feature the "Kennedy" single, but JC just posted it at his place yesterday. "My Favourite Dress" has appeared on these pages before. Hopefully, you don't mind a repeat.

My Favourite Dress
Every Mothers Son
Never Said