Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Timeless Melodies of the La's

Lee Mavers' obsession with the batch of songs that would eventually become the La's self-titled album (without his blessing) is the stuff of legend. There are quite a few fans obsessed with these songs too, and I count myself among them. I have the singles, album, deluxe edition of the album and a box set, all more or less dedicated to around 20 tunes. Mavers had a particular sound for these songs swirling in his head, and not even a dozen studio sessions, 10 band members, at least seven producers, three years of recording and £1 million thrown at it could give the perfectionist exactly what he wanted to put down on wax.

As you know, the label finally had enough and asked producer Steve Lillywhite to do what he could to assemble a finished product. On Oct. 1, 1990, the album was released to critical acclaim. Mavers did his part to contribute to the album's minor chart success by panning it wherever and whenever he could. He also slyly reminded everyone the only way to hear the real La's was to see them live. If you lost control of an album you put your heart and soul into for three years, perhaps you would act the same way. The only problem with that tact is the album is great. It's chock full of indie pop that sounds as good today as it was the day it came out. Always will be, too.

Mavers' obsession with these songs didn't end with the release. Here's an insightful moment found in the extensive liner notes from the 'Callin' All' box set in 2010:

Lillywhite believes the reason the La's have never made a second album is that, according to Mavers, they are yet to complete their first. "It's still going on. I have no doubt that in his mind the first album has never been made. After we finished I got a call from Johnny Marr, who excitedly told me that Lee had asked him to go into the studio as a producer. A few months later I got a desperate call from Johnny: 'Steve he just wants to re-record the old songs!'

You can't help but wonder if he's still tinkering to this day. As for fans like me, we do our own tinkering. It's quite an exercise to create our own mixes of the album from aborted sessions led by producers like Mike Hedges, John Leckie and John Porter. For instance, I'll take the single version of "There She Goes" captured by Bob Andrews over the one found on the LP. I admit overuse of the album take on every two-bit rom-com through the years may have contributed to this bias. Here is that original and a couple other favorites that seem to always pop up on my mixes via these two releases below. Enjoy.

There She Goes (original single version, Bob Andrews, producer)
Timeless Melody (Mike Hedges, producer)
Feelin' (John Leckie, producer)

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Bevy of Blooms From Fleur

I was going to post about the many charms of Fleur several months ago, but then both 7" singles and the LP sold out. Happily, everything has been repressed, and now you have what I imagine will be a small window to catch up.

Here are the vitals. Fleur is Dutch singer Floor Elman. She sings in French and is backed by Les Robots. Her songs appear on Spanish label Bickerton Records. She also fronts a band called the Colour Collection on the same label. By now, your head should be spinning. The sound of Fleur takes you back to yé-yé with a splash of '66 garage. Names popping up to describe Fleur include Les Terribles, France Gall, April March and, of course, Françoise Hardy. Yes, her voice is that good.

While we're here, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the other stable of stars on Bickerton from all over the world. In particular, I'm really digging '60s-inspired Dutch band the Mocks and Americans the Premonitions. Both are on the shopping list. Bickerton has a slew of incredible reissues that will be of interest to regular readers too, from the likes of the Pandoras, Phil Seymour, the Times and many more. Take a gander at Bickerton's roster.

Back to Fleur. For those of us on this side of the pond feeling wary about ordering from Spain, Richmond-based label 6131 Records has just come to the rescue with a release of the self-titled album from 2020. If you can possibly spare the time, you can listen to the 2019 and 2020 singles as well as the album via bandcamp below. Get ready for your next obsession.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The MIDDYs: Favorite Albums

Will need to make this quick. Mom is in town for the first time since the pandemic began. Here are the 10 albums (in no particular order) I have been listening to from the first half of 2021. If you saw my pal McPop's album list in the comments section of my favorite songs post earlier this month, there won't be too many surprises below. I should add I moved the album from Holsapple & Stamey from the reissues list to this one because, frankly, it's not really a reissue and makes more sense here. I replaced it with a real prize by the Apartments. Would love to hear about the albums you have been listening to from the first half of 2021. July is off to a great start too. The new one from the Goon Sax is a real keeper.

The Reds, Pinks & Purples - 'Uncommon Weather'
The Lodger - 'Cul-De-Sac of Love'
The Catenary Wires - 'Birling Gap'
Massage - 'Still Life'
Holsapple & Stamey - 'Our Back Pages'
The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness - 'Songs From Another Life'
Quivers - 'Golden Doubt'
The Telephone Numbers - 'The Ballad of Doug'
The Chills - 'Scatterbrain'
Various - 'Something Beautiful'

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The MIDDYs: Favorite Reissues

Nancy earns the oh-so coveted graphic spot because, put simply, I have listened to her double-LP compilation more than any other reissue so far this year. 'Start Walkin'' kicks off a Sinatra reissue campaign that will have me reaching for my wallet at least a couple of more times in the coming months. In no particular order, here are my other reissued favorites from the past six months.

Various - Optic Sevens 3.0 Series
Best singles club ever! Highlights this time around included Chin-Chin, Girls at Our Best and the Clouds.

BMX Bandits - 'Star Wars' and Janice Long sessions 1986-1987
Duglas gets his due in 2021. Trifecta with 'Life Goes On' reissue due in late fall.

Nancy Sinatra - 'Start Walkin' 1965-1976'
Her version of "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" just might be better than Cher's. Booklet includes fine photos and in-depth interview.

Dropkick - 'The Best of Dropkick'
Only 300 copies on vinyl missed the mark, but that's the lone complaint. Turns out the older material was as good as recent albums.

Stereolab - 'Electrically Possessed [Switched On Vol. 4]'
Collection of mostly 21st century odds and ends has proven I should have been paying attention beyond the '90s.

Linda Smith - 'Till Another Time: 1988-1996'
Took a punt on this lo-fi charmer because of my complete trust in anything put out by Captured Tracks. Rewarded once again.

The Clean - 'Mister Pop' and 'Unknown Country'
Merge continues to mine the band's discography for a grateful American audience. LPs from 2009 and 1996 get a vinyl upgrade.

Remember Fun - 'Contentment'
The secret is out. This band and the Church Grims are two of the best janglers you never heard of to ever come out of Scotland.

Oh-OK - 'The Complete Reissue'
Back in print after a decade! Linda and Lynda... unsung heroes from the famed DB Recs' stable once again resurrected by HHBTM.

Martin Newell - 'The Off White Album'
Louis Philippe inspired like Andy Partridge did on predecessor 'The Greatest Living Englishman' with similarly satisfying results.

Various - 'Nice Try, Sunshine!'
Fourteen (mostly) obscure indie-pop bands straight outta Sweden get a new lease on life.

The Verlaines - 'Live at the Windsor Castle, Auckland, May 1986'
The title says it all, doesn't it? Flying Nun vets perfrom an entire show during the band's salad days.

The Replacements - 'Pleased to Meet Me Outtakes & Alternates'
Always liked the album but not quite enough to buy the expensive deluxe edition. This RSD release was the perfect solution.

The Apartments - 'A Life Full of Farewells'
Was always late to this band's charms. Catching up with the '90s era due to a vinyl press from French label Talitres.

The Loft - 'Ghost Trains & Country Lanes – Studio, Stage And Sessions 1984-2015'
Time to trade in your copies of 'Once Around the Fair' and 'Magpie Eyes.' As the title implies, this is those comps plus a whole lot more.

Jasmine Minks - John Peel session 1986 and Janice Long session 1986
New label Precious Recordings of London have proven they know how to assemble something special. BBC sessions from Blueboy are up next.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

The MIDDYs: Favorite Songs

I know you have been marking your calendars and waiting for this moment with bated breath. Without further ado, here are my favorite songs (in no particular order) from the first half of the year. Albums and reissues will follow. Extra points to the first reader who identifies the undeserving Grammy winner above.

A few of these picks will feel like old friends. After a stint with Terry Chambers as TC&I, Colin Moulding had, seemingly, given it all up. Yet, here he is, one of the stars of the beloved XTC, with his first solo single. Before this year, I had not bought an album from Teenage Fanclub since 'Howdy' more than 20 years ago. Although 'Endless Arcade' probably won't make my list, there are bright spots. These days, Crowded House are mostly a family affair plus Mitchell Froom, and it's great to have one of my favorite songwriters back at it. Speaking of long-awaited comebacks, Acid House Kings have given us their first new music in a decade. A couple of names that may surprise you are Jim McCulloch of Soup Dragons and Rachel Love from Dolly Mixture. These new sounds are worlds away from their old bands, but the quality is there in spades.

A quick word about Verandan. That's Ville Hopponen's latest project. You will know him best from Cats on Fire. How often do you mourn the loss of that band? Amelia and Rob are on the list twice, first with Hue Williams, formerly of Pooh Sticks, as Swansea Sound. I didn't include any songs from albums that will make my MIDDYs list, but the Catenary Wires are here with a recent cover of the Mamas and the Papas that my family has been listening to obsessively. If you have paid attention to past lists on these pages, just about everyone else has appeared here before except Hadda Be. The Scottish band has received plenty of favorable press, and I will agree album 'Another Life' has its moments. What are your favorite songs from 2021 so far?

Colin Moulding - "The Hardest Battle"
The Goon Sax - "Make Time 4 Love"
Massage - "Michael Is My Girlfriend"
The Umbrellas - "She Buys Herself Flowers"
Teenage Fanclub - "Home"
Crowded House - "To the Island"
Gruff Rhys - "Loan Your Loneliness"
A Certain Ratio - "Keep It Together"
Red Sleeping Beauty (featuring Mary Wyer) - "Second Time"
Acid House Kings - "A Little Dancing"
Jim McCulloch - "When I Mean What I Say"
Verandan - "Hideaway"
Stephen's Shore - "Brisbane Radio"
Real Numbers - "Brighter Then"
Boyracer - "Bulletproof"
NAH... - "Airy Day"
Rachel Love - "Primrose Hill"
Swansea Sound - "Indies of the World"
Hadda Be - "Another Life"
Ducks Ltd. - "As Big as All Outside"
The Catenary Wires - "California Dreamin'"

Friday, June 18, 2021

Can't-Miss Release From the Catenary Wires

I'm interrupting my family vacation, quite happily, to remind you indie popsters today marks the official release of 'Birling Gap,' the third album from the Catenary Wires. If you're here, you no doubt already adore Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey in all of their musical incarnations, from Talulah Gosh to Tender Trap and everything in between. The Catenary Wires began as just the two of them, bedsit style, with 2015 mini-album 'Red Red Skies.' I fell hard for this melancholy stripped-down approach, at the time calling the duo indie pop's answer to Johnny and June. I say without an ounce of hyperbole "When You Walk Away" is my most listened to song of the 21st century. I know every strum, syllable and sigh. What I really like best about the album, though is Pursey emerging from the shadows to share the spotlight with Fletcher.

It would be four long years before follow-up 'Til the Morning,' and this time there would be a full band pulling out all of the stops. There is an array of instrumentation on the album, including even brass, and top-notch production would come from Andy Lewis. Lewis plays quite a bit on the album as well, and he, along with Fay Hallam and Ian Button, hit upon something, a chemistry that is palpable to the listener in much the same way as Heavenly at the band's peak.

Lucky for us, this core has stuck together, and they have grown immensely as a unit on 'Birling Gap.' All it takes is one listen to the singles "Mirrorball" and "Face On The Rail Line" to hear the Catenary Wires are going to take us on a vast and varied journey this time around. If you know this place, the album title and cover alone tells you this will be an ominous and distinctly English adventure but with universal messages. There is still a moment or two that may remind you of 'Red Red Skies,' but most of these songs sound more complex and worlds away from lo-fi. Don't expect this one to be a grower either. The harmonies will give you goosebumps right out of the chute. In short, every note and word works, from the mostly sad and anxious to the occasionally sweet and amiable. As we near the halfway point of 2021, in a year chock full of impressive releases, 'Birling Gap' is the best album I have heard so far.

In America, pick up 'Birling Gap' on the always reliable Shelflife label. For the UK and the rest of the world, purchase your copy on Amelia and Rob's own recently launched Skep Wax Records. In case my fawning hasn't been enough, here are a couple of videos to give you another nudge. Oh, and here's yet another... Don't miss more on the album during one of those famed Twitter listening parties of the great Tim Burgess coming up on June 21st.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

'The First Year Plan'

Time for another vital label compilation from my youth. With the advent of deluxe editions and such, I suppose FAST Product's 1979 collection 'The First Year Plan' isn't looked at in quite the same way, but these FAST releases used to be tough to find... especially if you were a kid growing up among the cornfields of Illinois. Take, for instance, FAST alumni the Human League. If you lived close to a cool record shop, maybe, you could find FAST singles. Today, you can pick up a CD reissue of 1979 album 'Reproduction' and get the "Being Boiled"/"Circus of Death" and "The Dignity of Labour Parts 1-4" releases as bonus tracks and, at least where I live, have it delivered to your home same day, all for about $12. Progress? I guess so, but not nearly as fun.

As usual, I'm off the subject. If you haven't seen Grant McPhee's 'Big Gold Dream: The Sound of Young Scotland 1977-1985,' the documentary featuring Edinburgh's FAST and Glasgow's Postcard labels, you really should. FAST founders Bob Last and Hilary Morrison feature prominently, as well as many of the other major players.

I found 'The First Year Plan' in a used record store in the mid-'80s. Inexplicably, my copy came from Australia, and it doesn't even say 'The First Year Plan' anywhere on it. What I didn't know until years later is there was a similar sampler for the North American market that came out in 1980 on the Passport/PVC labels called 'Mutant Pop 78/79.' The only difference between it and 'The First Year Plan' was the addition of two songs from Edinburgh post-punk band the Flowers and the omission of the second single from the Mekons. I think the cover is so well done if I come across it on my travels, I will snag it in an instant.

The bands on FAST hailed from Northern England and Scotland. Many of them on 'The First Year Plan' would go on to bigger and better things. I'll let you opine on the bands that actually peaked on FAST. I am of the opinion FAST-era songs "Love Like Anthrax" and "Damaged Goods" improved significantly (especially the production) on Gang of Four's album 'Entertainment!' In my younger days, I was never all that chuffed about Sheffield band 2-3, but when I ripped this album the other day it was as if I had never heard them before. Now I can't stop listening. Unfortunately, for them, they are known more for their role in introducing the Human League to Last than their own music. And what can you say about the Human League that hasn't already been said? Even Last knew there was something there and took the band's offer to manage them when they moved to Virgin. He knew when to give up the position too. Scars came and went in a heartbeat, but they did leave us with 'Author! Author!' post FAST. I picked up the deluxe edition earlier this year after reader Jonder mentioned its release in the comments section late last year. Highly recommended. Then there is the Mekons. The band took quite a turn stylistically in the mid-'80s, but their new sound worked for me. I enjoy it all.

Let's listen to some of this "difficult fun," as FAST used to describe the music. Starting with the Mekons "pissing out the noise" on their debut single is a must.

The Mekons - Never Been In A Riot
Scars - Horrorshow
The Human League - Being Boiled
2-3 - All Time Low

I'm going to be out most of the rest of the month, but I hope to check in on Friday with a quick reminder about a new release you really should pick up. Until then, be good, popsters.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Dig Deep for Doc on Lasses of Scottish Pop

Light bulb. Genius. Director Miranda Stern envisions a "feature-length documentary celebrating the songs, stories and journey of Scotland's all girl-bands from 1960 to 2010." Stern has a hell of a start on this thing already, but she needs more cash to see this one come to fruition. C'mon. You know you want to see it. The Ettes. Sophisticated Boom Boom. Strawberry Switchblade. There's still time to kick in for 'Since Yesterday: The Unsung Pioneers of Scottish Pop.' Click here for Kickstarter, whet your appetite with a little video taster of things to come, then click on the button marked "back this project." Easy. Think how those buttons on your jacket will pop as you watch the documentary on a screen near you.

Strawberry Switchblade - Secrets (Peel Session, 1982)
Sophisticated Boom Boom - The Only One (Live)

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Early Edition of The Times

A new pal of mine mentioned the Times to me the other day. In 12 years of blogging, I have never had a post on Ed Ball's band. Time to right this blatant wrong. Unfortunately, my record collection is limited to Ball's work on those early albums with Dan Treacy in Television Personalities and, at about the same time, his first few albums he recorded as the Times.

Both the Television Personalities and the Times have had a mess of 21st century reissues that have had me pulling out these relics. One in particular, a 7" reissue of "Red With Purple Flashes" that came out last year, had me obsessed. I loved watching the Whaam! label spinnning 'round on the turntable, and it stayed on the platter for weeks. If you're new to the Times, those early records are mod, share traits with your favorites from the Jam and the Creation and, to these Yankee ears, sound about as British as you can get. If you're from North America and love the Kinks, you'll understand what I mean about that Brit feeling.

Confession time. I have an ulterior motive in bringing up Ed Ball. There are really two chapters to The Times. After '86, Ball went on a sabatical of sorts by shuttering his Artpop! label (for a while) and taking a job at Creation Records. A couple of years later, Ball resurrected the Times on Creation with a different sound. It seems Ball decided to "go with the times" and record synth-driven dance-floor fillers. Is this an apt description? Too simplistic? I don't really know this era, but my friend mentioned "Manchester," and that's a song from the Creation years that has me investigating. I need some help, indie-pop fans. Should I be looking into these later years of the Times? What about some of his other bands, such as Teenage Filmstars, 'O' Level, Love Corporation and Conspiracy of Noise? I know there are some releases under his own name too. Where should I start? What's vital? There are a couple of comps out there covering much of Ball's career. Are these any good?

While you're pondering those questions, let's listen to some of my favorite songs from chapter one of the Times. Here are two songs from each of my three favorite albums. I have a particular affinity for 'This Is London.' A couple of things to know: Dan Treacy was in the band for 'Pop Goes Art! It was released on Whaam! This was the first LP release, but it was not the first album finished. 'Go! With the Times' was released in '85 but recorded in '80.

Biff! Bang! Pow! (from 'Pop Goes Art!' 1982)
I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape (from 'Pop Goes Art!' 1982)
Goodbye Piccadilly (from 'This is London,' 1983)
Whatever Happened to Thamesbeat? (from 'This is London,' 1983)
Red With Purple Flashes (from 'Go! With the Times,' 1985)
My Andy Warhol Poster (from 'Go! With the Times,' 1985)

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Spirit of Radio

While in the car, I heard these two songs back to back on KEXP the other day and thought for sure I knew where the DJ would be going as the trifecta. Alas, I was wrong. He started with "Glorious" from grossly underrated shoegazers Adorable, led by Pete Fijalkowski. Not sure why this wasn't a single. If you lived in the UK or Japan, the song kicked off debut album 'Against Perfection.' Came out in '93 on Creation Records. Some people hear "Bone Machine" by Pixies. Do you hear that? I don't, but I do think Interpol, in the early days, may have been into this song. The following version is about 30 seconds shorter than the album version. The intro is taken out and gets right to it. Can be found on band comp 'Footnotes 92-94.'


Next up was "I Don't Know Why I Love You" by the House of Love. This is probably their best known song on this side of the Atlantic. Still gets played quite a bit on nostagic alt radio stations. It came out on their first album for Fontana. No, not as good as that brilliant debut album for Creation, but it does have its moments. By this time, cracks in the band were showing, and Terry Bickers would leave the mess behind after this one. Opening lyrics still make me guffaw. "I don't know why I love you, your face is a hammer in my head, I remember every word you said, I just don't know why I love you, I don't know why I care, I never even liked your hair, I feel like a seventh heir, but I don't know why I love you..."

I Don't Know Why I Love You

As I was listening, in my mind, I was anticipating something by the duo Pete Fij & Terry Bickers to follow these two great songs. I have never heard anything by them together on a radio station, and I was pretty excited at the prospect. I thought for sure the DJ would come on after this trio of songs and tell us all about what these two have been up to in the 21st century. It really stuck in my craw. I'm here today to right this wrong. Please imagine the following in a DJ voice: "From the 2014 album 'Broken Heart Surgery,' here are Pete Fij and Terry Bickers, addicted to love by the sound of this one, with 'Betty Ford.'"

Betty Ford

Ah, that's better. Note to self. Look for their 2017 album 'We Are Millionaires.' Several years ago my pal (and quite possibly yours too) the Swede sent me a note about 'Broken Heart Surgery' being up my alley. He was so right. It's the type of recommendation that would have never happened without our little community here. For that, I am thankful. As for any bad feelings toward KEXP for missing this golden opportunity, I'm exaggerating, of course. Hearing Adorable and and the House of Love back to back was the best six minutes of radio I had heard in a long time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

'Big Noise' From Manchester

I'm over the moon about seeing the name Mike West today over at Charity Chic Music. CC has highlighted a couple of songs from West's 21st century Americana outfit Truckstop Honeymoon, and it was a delight to hear his voice again. If you ever wondered whether you can take Manchester out of the man, the answer is a resounding yes. Since his move to America in the '90s, West has developed a bona fide Kansas twang.

Since reading about Truckstop Honeymoon this morning, I have taken out my records from his much earlier band, the Man From Delmonte. You regulars may remember me digging deep with a series on them in 2018, but there is one album I didn't highlight. 'Big Noise' is a live recording from their home away from home, legendary Manchester club the Boardwalk, circa Jan. 13, 1989. It was released on Manchester-based label Bop Cassettes that same year. If that label sounds familiar, it may because of their famous 'Manchester North of England' compilation that came out in 1988 and featured the likes of James, Bradford, Pepplekade 14, Inspiral Carpets, the Waltones, the Railway Children and the aforementioned Man From Delmonte.

'Big Noise' was reissued by Vinyl Japan in 2000 at about the same time as they released a couple of compilations on the Man From Delmonte that gathered singles, radio sessions and other odds and ends presented as 'The Good Things in Life,' parts 1 and 2. Highly recommended. On with the show... ripped from vinyl moments ago. Thanks for the inspiration, CC.

The Good Things in Life
Big Noise
(Will Nobody Save) Louise
Lasha Me

Thursday, May 20, 2021

NB Is For New Boyracer

Big day, indie-pop fans! This is our first chance to hear a track from Boyracer's impending long player, and it's a cracker. Already, I can hear yourself asking, who are Stewart's partners in crime this time? If you have been paying attention, surprisingly, there are no surprises. Christina Riley makes a triumphant return after hanging around since 2019 and knocking it out of the park on 2020 album 'On a Promise.' When a band boasts 50-plus members since its inception, that makes her a bona fide veteran. Riley's guitar soars, but it's the way her voice melds with Stewart's that makes this duo such a sweet treat. Matty Green returns as well, and you no doubt remember that name from the band's salad days on Sarah and Slumberland.

Mark your calendars. Boyracer's 14th album, 'Assuaged,' hits the shelves on July 5 via Stewart's own Emotional Response label. (If I may digress, has his label been any stronger? Stewart's stable of stars have littered my recent year-end lists with the likes of Seablite, Mick Trouble, Even As We Speak, the Ocean Party, Blues Lawyer, the Bachelor Pad and a slew of Sarah reissues, to name just a few off the top of my head.) To whet your appetite for the album, Boyracer gives us a whole mess of hard-nosed jangle on "Bulletproof." A little more pop than punk on this one, it ought to come with a warning because this song is a real earworm. Don't expect to get much done today. I'm proud to premiere "Bulletproof" this morning with a handful of other like-minded indie-pop outlets.

For those of us of an, ahem, certain age, it's popular thinking "B Is For Boyracer" and the Sarah era is the band at its best. Hey, I love that early stuff too, but could this be conjecture? Stew and Christina have something pretty special going on right now, and there is plenty of room on this bandwagon. Climb aboard. Boyracer remains a riveting ride.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

An Encore to That Party From the Pooh Sticks

Picking up where we left off last time, in 1991, the Pooh Sticks one upped the 53rd & 3rd release of live album 'Orgasm' with a deluxe edition of sorts (before we knew the term) by putting out 'Multiple Orgasm' (get it?) on their original home, Steve Gregory's Swansea label Fierce Recordings. Side A of the album was the show featured in the last post. Side B contained 10 unreleased songs recorded in 1988. I'll let the notes from the back cover of 'Multiple Orgasm' fill in the details, but you'll see the plan was to duplicate the box set of their earlier single releases.

Songs 10-19 are studio recordings made by the Pooh Sticks over the two weekends immediately following [the perfomance on Side A]. Originally planned as "Multiple Orgasm", a boxed set of five 7" 45s ("Cinnamon"/"Do Something to Me"; "Saturday Night's The Big Night"/"It's a Good Day For A Parade"; "Do It Again (A Little Bit Slower)"/"Goody Goody Gumdrops"; "Force Fed By Love"/"Tear The Roof Right Off My Head"; "Just Another Minute"/"When The Night Falls) to follow up the successful "Alan McGee" set, the release was cancelled in favour of the 53rd & 3rd album.

A couple of the 10 songs would show up later in the '90s as B-sides to singles, but for the most part, "Multiple Orgasm" would be the only place you could pick up these rare tracks. I'll let you be the judge as to whether they should have been made more readily available, but I will say they aren't quite to the standard of the five singles in the "Alan McGee" box. Still enjoyable, nonetheless. Here a few of my favorites.

Saturday Night's the Big Night
Do It Again (A Little Bit Slower)
Goody Goody Gumdrops

Thursday, May 13, 2021

A Party With the Pooh Sticks

I finally got a hold of a physical copy of "Indies of the World," the latest single from indie-pop all-star band Swansea Sound featuring Hue Williams, Amelia Fletcher, Rob Pursey and Ian Button. You will want to seek this one out. As expected, the purchase also has my turntable busy with those early releases by the Pooh Sticks.

'Orgasm' is a live album released initially on the legendary 53rd & 3rd label. The show was recorded on Sept. 17, 1988, in Trudi Tangerine's basement. Trudi may or may not have been a member of the band. Honestly, I don't know. There is quite a bit of ambiguity surrounding personnel. What I do know is Trudi can write. Trudi's liner notes accompanying the Optic Nerve reissue of the 1988 box set of the five singles immediately following debut "On Tape" is a hell of a read.

'Orgasm' has the same vibe as Beach Boys' Party!' You feel as if you're eavesdropping on a few pals hanging out. There is a lot of banter between songs which made ripping the songs into individual tracks for today's post a challenge. Here are those five one-sided singles from the box set performed live. Sounds like a good time was had by all. More on the Pooh Sticks circa 1988 next time.

I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well (Live)

Heroes and Villains (Live)

Indiepop Ain't Noise Pollution (Live)

1-2-3 Red Light (Live)

Heartbreak (Live)

Monday, May 10, 2021

Show Review Sends Chills

New Zealand correspondent Duncan has been to a show. Yes, a show. He's going to use terms like Indian summer and being out on a patio too. Let's control our envy and imagine a time when we are all seeing our favorite bands together again. Take it away, Duncan...

The Chills
Meow Club
7 May 2021

Friday treats us to a rare, warm Wellington autumn evening, and we're all determined to enjoy this last vestige of an Indian summer. The crowd has spilled out onto the Meow Club's patio and the road, as people enjoy a drink or two before the show. This is my third time seeing Martin Phillips (either with or without his Chills) in the last four years, and it would be easy to start taking the band for granted. But tonight they are simply excellent. In fact, I'd rate this the most enjoyable Chills show I've ever been too. It's one of those evenings where everything seemed to come together perfectly: the company of good friends, a great venue and terrific sound.

We are still discussing the big important issues of the day, like why Martin has given his last 12 LPs titles with the initials S.B., when the band finally emerge. The stage tonight is banked by shelves of books and antique radiograms. Very appropriate. The show's a sell-out, and the place is heaving. Martin looks resplendent in a lovely blue shirt and his bright red Gibson semi-acoustic. It's great to see him looking so healthy and happy and after all the years of illness and mental health issues.

Bathed in deep-blue light, the Chills set off with the customary opener, "The Night of Chill Blue", which still somehow manages to tingle the spine after all these years. As I look across to my friend Andrew, he points out that we are stood next to the minister of finance. It's moments like this that make living here in Aotearoa so special; I mean, how many other countries would you find yourself dancing and singing along to an 80s indie band with a senior government minister?

I think it's fair to say the band play it safe tonight. The first part of the show is packed with favourites:"'Bad Sugar", "Wet Blanket", a ferocious "Oncoming Day", and peaking with an exhilarating rush through the peaks and crests of "Male Monster From the Id". The band are on fine form, and playing with huge confidence. We get a smattering of new songs ("Little Alien", "Destiny", "Monolith"), of which "You're Immortal" is the real stand-out. Perhaps as close to an epic as Marty has penned, the song is lifted further by the addition of electric violin from Erica and trumpet from new bassist Callum, I'm transported to a world of pale fountains, orange skies and exploding teardrops. More of this please, Mr Phillips.

And then we're back to the hits. And although tonight's versions of "Kaleidoscope World" and "Pink Frost" are a bit flat, missing the brittle fragility of the originals, by the time "Heavenly Pop Hit" and "Leather Jacket" have the whole crowd dancing and wildly singing along, all is forgotten and a big grin is splashed across my face.

If I have any gripes, they are minor. Martin doesn't include any of his more more esoteric or interesting songs (highlights of recent shows have been unexpected treats like "Satin Doll" and "Lost In Space"), and yet again they don't play any of my personal favourites ("Flame Thrower", "House With A Hundred Rooms", or the eternally magnificent "Dan Destiny and the Silver Dawn"). But hey, you can't have everything! They encore as always with a celebratory romp through "Rolling Moon". It simply wouldn't be a Chills gig if it didn't end with everyone joyously singing along to, "Please, O God, don't take us home".

As the crowd reluctantly departs into the night, everyone is buzzing: We all seem to agree that this was a very special show. And so I walk home, whistling the refrain to "Rolling Moon" and feeling very lucky indeed to be alive and living here in Wellington, 2021.

The Chills' new LP, 'Scatterbrain', is available from Fire Records.


Thanks, Duncan. Wish I could have been there. It doesn't look like anyone has posted any clips from this show yet, but we can still enjoy a live song from recent times. New one "Destiny" was played at the Festival of Lights 2021 in New Plymouth, NZ. Enjoy.

Friday, May 7, 2021

'90s Power Pop! Schwing!

Sup. Did you catch that '90s phrase? I don't think the '90s were fly, as the kids used to say, and haven't had many nice things to say about that time on these pages. The decade did, however, produce some of my favorite power pop. Acts like the Sugarplastic, Wondermints, Matthew Sweet, Velocity Girl, Velvet Crush, Jellyfish (and its many offshoots) are just a few off the top of my head that had their finest moments, but I'm going to dig a little deeper because all of those bands have made appearances here before. The following are taken from the third volume of Rhino's excellent 'Poptopia' series that came out in 1997. This CD was always great in the car because there was no filler and was best listened to loudly. Highly recommended. If you don't like it, talk to the hand. Are you hating these '90s phrases yet?

If, like me, you worship at the altar of Big Star, you're going to dig Idle Wilds because it's clear this Philly outfit did as well. The band was on the Ardent label, the same one that released Big Star's albums, and Jody Stephens was even their A&R man. Alas, all of that Big Star mojo wasn't enough to crawl out of obscurity, and Idle Wilds called it quits very quickly. It was many years before Big Star became appreciated by the masses. Perhaps it can happen for Idle Wilds too. As if!

You're All Forgiven

I may have found another reason to dislike the '90s... ugly album covers. These last two have been pretty awful, eh? I have nice memories of listening to Baltimore band the Greenberry Woods when 'Rapple Dapple' came out in '94. The guy who owned the record store I was working at was crazy about them, and we played it to death. These guys had everything going for them. They were signed to Sire and had opening slots with a bunch of bands you would know. Two albums of catchy AM pop were met with indifference, and that was that. "Trampoline" has always been considered their signature tune. If you don't like this one, best to move on, but it's fly.


Are you getting jiggy with it?

I'm bugging out with all of this '90s lingo. Let's wrap it up. The Tearaways were a Cali band and the only one on this page that stuck around beyond the '90s. I don't know much about their career, but the band's first album was a slow grower that eventually got quite a buzz going in power-pop circles, especially when considering it was released on the band's own Fried Records. The Tearaways jumped around to a couple of indie labels during the decade, but all of these years later, it's that debut, 'See the Sound,' for which they are remembered. It was produced by veteran L.A. producer Earle Mankey, best known (by me, anyway) for working with 20/20, the Three O'Clock, the Pop and other So-Cal-based bands. I always liked the chorus to this slow side of power pop. "Jessica something... what was her name? Something about her remains." Whatever.

Jessica Something

Friday, April 30, 2021

The Pursuit of '80s Power Pop

In 1986, the Pursuit of Happiness had a minor hit in its home country of Canada with "I'm an Adult Now.". A couple of years later, the song was re-recorded and appeared on their debut album, the Todd Rundgren-produced 'Love Junk.' "I'm an Adult Now" beacame part of the regular rotation on MTV's '120 Minutes,' and it peaked at No. 6 on the U.S. Alternative Airplay chart. I was never quite sold on the song. It felt like a novelty or an anthem wannabe, and the tune has aged badly. On the other hand, another single from the album, "She's So Young," was a beauty with a timeless melody.

She's So Young
Speaking of Rundgren, his name has popped up on a couple of my favorite blogs in the last week, here and here. Rundgren's Utopia was the first band I ever saw live. Talk about the time of my life! It was the last day of middle school. Class got out early, and I swam all afternoon with my friends without a care in the world. We listened to a tape of 'Oblivion' on a boom box and talked about girls and music. This was back among the corn fields of Illinois, and we didin't get the likes of Rundgren (or anyone else, really) in our rural part of the state. Even today, I remember the show so vividly. Rundgren wore a beret and shades, and he did the pogo while playing a tiny Casio keyboard held in one of his hands. I wore the latest craze, parachute pants. Shudder.

At the time, I had two Utopia cassettes, 'Oblivion' and 'Adventures in Utopia.' Here's one from the latter, released in 1980. In 2001, a few live performances from the band were released as full albums, including 'Oblivion Tour,' the one I saw in 1983. I'll include a taster from that one too.

Set Me Free
Crybaby (Live)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Spinning the Power-Pop Hits

You don't get a headline like that too often on these pages. Felt like putting together a little mix of classic '70s (and very early '80s) power pop today, but I ended up coming back to songs associated with Phil Seymour again and again. Let's start with his time in Dwight Twilley Band. Dwight and Phil had been friends since their school days in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1974, the band went out to Los Angeles and were signed to Shelter Records within two weeks. Shelter, incidentelly, was co-run by fellow Tulsan Leon Russell. The fellas were told to go into the Leon's Church Studio with an engineer to get acqainted with the equipment. As soon as they got in there, Phil said to Dwight, "Let's record a hit single right now." Right out of the shoot, "I'm on Fire" was the result. It peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1975, and they got to be on American Bandstand to boot. Phil is credited as the drummer, bassist and, of course, he shared those great vocals with Dwight.

I'm on Fire
Seymour remained in Dwight Twilley Band for two albums, charting modestly at No. 138 and No. 70, respectively, before going solo. You can't help but wonder whether the need to go it alone stemmed from the outfit being called Dwight Twilley Band when Seymour had so much do with the outfit. Like Dwight Twilly Band, Seymour had his greatest success with the very first single. The ballad "Precious to Me," from the self-titled debut album, made it to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1981. Through the years, power-pop fans have become more enamored with the rougher and rowdier B-side "Baby It's You." The song often pops up on compilations celebrating the genre.

Precious to Me
Baby It's You

Seymour's first album did fairly well, peaking at No. 64, but wealth and fame did not follow. The follow-up album wasn't as good, frankly, and his label folded soon after due to the death of its founder. He bounced around after that, joining the Textones on drums for a while. In '85, he got sick. Seymour returned to Tulsa and played in local bands until his death in '93 at the age of 41. I can't possibly end the post this way. It's meant to be a celebration of Seymour's work. I'll add that he and Twilley were good friends with Tom Petty, and you can hear Seymour's beautiful voice backing Petty on hits like "American Girl" and "Breakdown."

Perhaps my favorite of Seymour's contributions to the power-pop scene, outside of his first solo album, was his work with 20/20. They were another band from Tulsa. When they saw what Twilley and Seymour were doing in L.A. the fellas headed west as well. They signed to the legendary indie label Bomp! and released this 7" in 1978. Seymour provided some gorgeous harmonies. I'm not saying this is my favorite single in my collection, but it would be in the conversation.

Giving It All
Under the Freeway

Seymour continued to help 20/20 after they signed to CBS offshoot Portrait and released a classic long player in 1979. Although this one was a deep track that was also a B-side to the single "Cheri," with the passage of time, "Yellow Pills" has probably become the band's most well-known song. There is also a popular power-pop fanzine called Yellow Pills, and that has certainly helped with the song's status.

Yellow Pills

Friday, April 23, 2021

Martin Followed Masterpiece With Masterpiece

Whether with Cleaners From Venus, Stray Trolleys, the Brotherhood of Lizards or as a solo artist, Martin Newell has never let me down. A trademark of his recordings are their lo-fi sound, which is part of the charm, but they always have a great melody and a brilliant turn of phrase. I don't know about you, but I have found those qualities will trump production values just about every time. In the early to mid-'90s, Newell took a different approach to a couple of solo albums where the influence of his producers are felt and the pop is, dare I say it, downright accessible. The first, 'The Greatest Living Englishman,' is considered by many to be his masterpiece. Newell's pal, producer Andy Partridge, is all over 'Englishman,' and if you like Lennon/McCartney circa '66, this is where you would want to start with his work. I grabbed the reissue in 2018 and hoped the lesser-known followup would get the same treatment.

Since 'The Greatest Living Englishman' has been called his 'Sgt. Pepper,' Newell had a little fun by calling his next LP 'The Off White Album.' (The back cover with a browning apple was a nice touch too.) Partridge may have hung around a bit, but the producing duties went to musician, journalist, writer and all-around Renaissance man Louis Philippe. I could go on an on about the Frenchman -- he has been a firm favorite of mine since his days as the heart and soul of the él label -- but all you really need to know on this page is he is a disciple of Brian Wilson, a genius with writing and arranging strings and quite an aficionado on the organ. You'll get plenty of those elements on 'The Off White Album,' along with some guitar (and quite an impression of Cream-era Clapton) from Dave Gregory of XTC. Philippe and Gregory must have gotten on like gangbusters because they would go on to work together quite a bit, but I digress, again. All of this gives 'The Off White Album' a radically different sound and feel than 'The Greatest Living Englishman,' but the high standard set by its predecessor is right there. Here's my favorite song from Newell's most sophisticated album...

Captured Tracks, the label that not only reissued 'The Greatest Living Englishman' but most of Newell's discography, has come to the rescue again with 'The Off White Album.' This one came out a few weeks ago, and it has rarely left my turntable since then. The white vinyl (What else could it be?) sounds great, particularly Newell's vocals and that string quartet. My only criticism, and it's very slight, is Newell's liner notes aren't nearly as entertaining as the novella-like description accompanying its earlier incarnation. Don't let that put you off. You're going to want to grab this one. Here's a clip making the rounds from the upcoming documentary 'The Jangling Man: The Martin Newell Story' expected out later this year. It's sure to whet your appetite.

In '95, here's how Newell concluded his thoughts on how 'The Off White Album' would be received. Let's give him the last word.

Not a bad collection of songs, all in all. I suppose some people will like them and some won't but it's only pop music so I hardly think they're going to change the world. And all the rock mags in the U.K. will ignore it or damn me with faint praise. And people in my village will say, "That sounds nearly like a real record Martin." Or if they're more sophisticated they'll say, "Is it generally available?" Then I'll sigh and say, "No, but I'll be selling it off a barrow in the high street." Then boring bastards will come up to me in the pub and tell me what's wrong with it. Then obsessive females will write me strange letters telling me that we were made for each other. And if it doesn't set the world alight, all my rivals will smile smugly and despise me. But if it is a huge success, they'll all say it was luck and hate me even more. And all this time I'll just be writing and doing a spot of gardening and occasionally writing a letter to the local paper about seeing the first goat of autumn. And I suppose eventually I'll do another record...

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Three-Minute Eggs

I'm going to stick with the label samplers a while longer. Today's selection is not one where I go back to its initial release. I did not know about Egg Records, straight out of Glasgow, when label founder Jim Kavanagh began releasing records in 1988. Eight releases later, in 1991, it was all over, and I had missed the festivities completely.

Around the turn of the century, I began reading about this mysterious indie-pop label and wished I could get my hands on some product. My wish was granted a short time later when Kavanagh began putting out the once vinyl only relics on CDs. From 2003 to 2007, he released a bevy of band compilations and label samplers, and that's when I picked up 'Souvenirs From Egg Records,' a whopping 27-track gift from the heavens featuring 15 bands, mostly from Scotland, but a couple from Australia and Canada too. Among the treats Kavanagh assembled during this period were collected singles from the early years of Even As We Speak, a new album co-release from the Bats, a re-release of Baby Lemonade's legendary 1987 songs on Sha La La and Narodnik and many more.

It was well and good to have these reissues, but I continued to keep an eye out for opportunities to buy those original Egg releases on vinyl. I came across Egg 002 recently when a friend of mine put it up for sale. 'A Lighthouse in the Desert' is a four-song sampler featuring some of my favorite Egg bands. "Mr. Watt Said" has appeared on these pages before (in the summer of 2017), but I don't think you will mind hearing it again one bit... especially if you like the June Brides. This is my absolute favorite song on Egg, just beating out "Meet the Lovely Jenny Brown" by the Bachelor Pad. Three of the four acts have had a recent resurgence of interest thanks to compilations by Emotional Response Records (The Bachelor Pad) and Firestation Records (The Church Grims and Remember Fun). These are highly recommended purchases. Even the Prayers have popped up on Cherry Red compilations ('C88' and 'C89').

Clearly, Kavanagh's place in indie-pop history is secure, but my hope is someday his headquarters at 17 Prince Edward Street is thought of in the same way as 185 West Princes Street is when it comes to another legendary Glasgow-based label.

'A Lighthouse in the Desert' (Egg 002, 1989)

Side A
The Prayers - Puppet Clouds
The Church Grims - Mr. Watt Said

Side B
The Bachelor Pad - Silly Girl
Remember Fun - Cold Inside

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Happy (Mitch) Easter!

I have two annual traditions here at LTL. One is Big Country's 1983 New Year's Eve concert highlighted each Dec. 31st. The other is songs written, produced, recorded or performed by the great Mitch Easter you'll find on these pages every Easter. As this blog nears its 12th birthday, I would say I have picked the carcass of that Big Country show clean. When it comes, to the work of Mr. Easter, however, I never seem to want for material. After all, one look at Discogs shows his production credits alone at 248. Enjoy another basket of goodies featuring the work of our hero.

Let's go way way back to 1976 when Easter was in Sneakers with the likes of Chris Stamey and Will Rigby. These are from the self-titled six-song 7" EP played at 33 1/3. No, the material doesn't quite live up to what Stamey and Rigby would do in the dB's or what Easter would come up with in Let's Active, but there is a spark that will make you realize they were all heading in the right direction.

Love's Like a Cuban Crisis

Talking of Let's Active, we can't let the holiday go by without something from Mitch, Faye and Sara. This one is from the 1984 album 'Cypress' and features Faye on lead vocals. Rest in peace, Ms. Hunter. Interesting to note Don Dixon was co-producer with the band on 'Cypress' and the engineer on the release by Sneakers above. Like Easter's, his name seems to show up all over the place in my record collection.

Blue Line

Now for something from that long list of production credits. Easter worked extensively with Cali power-pop band Game Theory. The 1985 album 'Real Nighttime' was the band's second and the first with Easter behind the glass. I would rank it right up there with 'Lolita Nation' as their best. Scott Miller, the genius behind the band, worked with Easter almost exclusvely as his producer for the next decade as he moved from Game Theory in the '80s to the Loud Family in the '90s. Until next Easter, here's one from 'Real Nighttime.'


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Edge of the Road

Another day, another pivotal label sampler from my youth. Once or twice a year I dig around online with the hope I'll discover someone has stepped up to the plate and released a compilation featuring all the work by the Raw Herbs. I strike out every time. I have had this discussion with Mister Prime, reader and occasional Nottingham correspondent, and we can picture the release so vividly. It's perfection, really. One beautiful piece of wax featuring all four singles and two songs from the sampler featuring today...

Side A
1. Old Joe
2. That's How It Is
3. She's a Nurse But She's Alright
4. So Wired
5. Don't Bury Me Yet
6. I'm Falling

Side B
7. In My Bones
8. The Storm
9. At My Funeral
10. The Second Time
11. He's Blown In
12. You and Me Again

If you want to get fancy, put it out on CD as well and include the rumored album that was completed and shelved. Then have an interview with Andy Wake, founder of Medium Cool Records, in the booklet filled with photos and reminiscences from the band. All of this is a pipe dream. First, I think Cherry Red owns the Medium Cool catalog. There was a double-disc retrospecive of the label planned, but that was about 15 years ago. Other than occasional songs popping up on Cherry Red comps (such as 'C88,' for one example), nothing. Then there is this sad piece of news. I somehow missed that Wake passed away. Must have been at least a year ago, maybe longer. I didn't know him, but his label has always meant a lot to me. Medium Cool had very early releases from the Siddeleys and the Popguns, for cryin' out loud!

After reading about Wake, it seemed appropriate to put on 'Edge of the Road.' Four bands, eight songs. All great. Here's a taste. Rest in peace, Mr. Wake. Now, c'mon, Cherry Red. If you really do own these gems, don't sit on them. There is an audience for this stuff. I promise.

The Raw Herbs - At My Funeral
The Waltones - Bold
The Corn Dollies - Mouthful Of Brains
The Rain - Dry The Rain

Friday, March 19, 2021

Red Sleeping Beauty Returns With a Buddy

Talk about two great tastes that go great together. Stockholm-based band Red Sleeping Beauty has teamed up with Mary Wyer from Sydney outfit Even As We Speak to produce one of the all-time great guest appearances in indie-pop history. Wyer's voice belongs in the same conversation as Wendy Pickles', Beth Arzy's and Amelia Fletcher's as the genre's most beautiful, and she sounds perfect here backed by the trio's vintage drum machines and synthesizers.

"Second Time" is the first single from Red Sleeping Beauty's fifth album, expected later this year, and you can pick up the song at Matinée Recordings and streaming outlets everywhere. While we wait patiently for this one to fill the floor of your favorite club, and it surely will someday, I have it on good authority the kitchen makes a fine spot to shuffle your feet. Click below. Give it a go. It's the best you'll feel all day. "And let's try it all a second time, let's fall in love for real this time..."

Thursday, March 4, 2021

In Love With These Times

Well, no, not these times. Let's go back to 1989. Lately, we have had a lot of chatter on these pages and in the comments about Flying Nun, and that has had me thinking about one of my favorite label samplers from my youth. The legendary 'Dunedin Double' was before my time, but another one of Flying Nun's comps came out at exactly the right time to reel in this impressionable very late teen. If a label sampler is worth its salt, when the dust settles you have picked up at least a few new albums and started following a couple of bands you stick with for the rest of your days. 'In Love With These Times' was that type of album for me. It wouldn't be long before I went back to get the 'Dunedin Double' either, but that's a tale for another day.

Three of the four bands on the 'Dunedin Double' were still going strong seven years after that release and appeared on 'In Love With These Times.' That would be the Chills, Sneaky Feelings and the Verlaines. (Who could have guessed all three of those bands would have new albums two decades into the 21st century?!?) The original version of 'In Love With These Times' featured 13 bands on vinyl and a whopping 19 bands on CD. I have the vinyl, which is cool, but in hindsight, CD would have been better because Dead Famous People would have been on my shelf much earlier. 'In Love With These Times' has been reissued a couple of times, including once as a 13-track CD edition that accompanied Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd's 2016 autobiography of the same name. I haven't read this book, but I couldn't resist ordering it earlier this evening.

Here are a few from 'In Love With These Times.' This song from the Chills appeared on the 1987 album 'Brave Words.' I know there is at least one reader who really like this album. He even uses a song title from the album for his online moniker. Look Blue Go Purple sure knows how to get their jangle on. If you don't have the band's comp 'Still Bewitched,' pick this one up right away. This song from Sneaky Feelings is two minutes of off-kilter pop that sounds so very Flying Nun to the ears of this Yank. Apologies for not picking something from the Bats, Snapper and all of the other bands on this sampler. They are all certainly worthy.

The Chills - Rain
Look Blue Go Purple - Cactus Cat
Sneaky Feelings - Trouble With Kay