Friday, September 27, 2013

Uncrush Was Ever Being So Born To Calamity? 7" crank! A Record Company 1997

Uncrush Was Ever Being So Born To Calamity? 7" crank! A Record Company 1997 CAT# crc010

Yeah, so who titles their 7" singles anything other than the songs that appear?  The songs that appear on this 7" are 'The Moron the Merrier' backed with 'There's a Roof in the Leak'.  Yet another KC band that was picked up by crank! in the 90's.  I'm not sure why the label picked these guys up, but I don't really want to talk about the music, I'd rather tell a long winded hipster douchbag story.

At the end of highschool and beginning of college I got involved as much as possible with music.  I was at the Community College right after highschool and most my friends were in Lawrence and I was bored.  I began writing for eZines and working street teams for indie rock labels.  Street Teams were kids that the labels supplied free promo material to so the kids could pass it out at shows and record stores.  Stickers, fliers, buttons, that type of swag.  Sometimes, but not very often, the label would get you onto the guest lists of shows and such.  Plus, they'd give you free albums.  I sparked up an inter-net conversation with Jeff Matlow way back when and he allowed me do work for crank!

Honestly, crank! was one of the best labels to do it for.  Jeff Matlow was uber-connected and the label could get me into just about any show.  Plus, he did stuff for the major labels due to his previous connections.  For example, when Jimmy Eat World's Clarity came out on Capital, someone asked crank! to promote it's "emo-ness".  I got like 20 free copies of the CD two months before it came out to hand out to record stores and other cool places.  For like a month and half, I was the coolest .emo kid in Kansas City, all the kids were asking me for burned copies and such.  I got to review it right away for a zine, it was solid.  So, all in all, my opinion of Jeff Matlow was that he was a cool guy.

So, I got this box of free crap and I was ready to go to work.  I took a bunch of .crank! swag to a show at the Bottleneck.  I can't remember who was playing, Farewell Bend, maybe?  I'm thinking somebody local or with local ties but, I can't remember.  Anyway, I'm handing it out between bands, during songs, etc.  A tall drunk guy comes up to me and asks, "What have you got?"  I reply, "crank! Records stuff, stickers, you want one?  They put out Vitreous Humor and Boys Life."  He says to me, "I know who they are, they put out my record."  I reply, "What?" (It was loud).  "They put out my record, I'm in Uncrush."  So, I'm surprised and I'm like, "Oh cool, I like your 7" I have it at home, you probably don't need these then, do you?"  "Yeah, yeah, I do, that fucker ripped me off, he owes me money."  At that point, things were getting awkward, I replied simply, "Oh."  He then grabs everything I had in my hand and demands the rest.  I'm not a wimp or anything, but he's tall and I'm like 5' 5" on a good day, plus he was drunk.  I gave him everything else I had.  He stormed off, went out the back door to presumably toss the stuff or put it in his car and I thought he was gone.

He wasn't. I remember at the end of the night, the bouncers had to physically put the guy to the ground.  He tried to take a beer outside of Bottleneck at last call.  He was more drunk than before and I assumed, the wrongdoing by crank!, brought forth by my stickers, was to blame.  He was not about to hand over the drink to the bouncers.  He said absurd things like, "Fuckers, I played at your bar a month ago."  "It's cool, I know the owner."  "Hey man, I know the band."  All things you'd expect from a drunk guy that didn't want to give up his beer.  Finally, they threw him to the ground and called his friends over.  I'm just glad the cops weren't brought in, it was getting physical.

The next time I had the chance to get into an email conversation with crank! I asked about the event.  The drunk guy was a member of Uncrush, that was confirmed the night of the show.  And, truthfully, I believed the guy.  He was obviously pissed about something and maybe crank! was just like other labels; evil.  Jeff Matlow quickly sent me his side of the story.  Obviously, he painted himself as the good guy.  He fronted Uncrush money.  The reason they thought they never got royalties is because the record never sold and the money owed was never made back.  Matlow claimed he actually lost money on the release.  Well of course that's what he would say.  He's a businessman, I was a kid who could drag his name through the mud on web boards and eZines.  Of course, so could the singer of Uncrush, but whatever, I felt I needed a third party to explain.

Coincidentally, I had a friend who was in touch, knew both parties and explained the situation.  I'm not going to name names, that'd be shitty.  Story goes, upon the release of this 7", Uncrush and another Kansas City band embarked on a tour from the Midwest to California.  Usual indie-rock tour at the time, mostly self booked, a few shows supplied by the label, but a lot of house shows and a lot of miles in a van.  Uncrush enjoyed the tour.  Every show they played, they put the money made towards gas to get to the next place and the rest went to beer and partying.  They did this all the way from Kansas City to California.  This practice would be fine had they booked shows on the way back, but they didn't.  After the shows in California, the plan was to go straight back to KC.  So, when Uncrush got to California and met with Jeff Matlow, they didn't have enough money to get home.  The label gave them the money to get home, a fairly substantial amount I'm told.  I mean that's a hell of drive from California to KC in a crappy van.  The money was just given to the band, no questions asked.  The band got home.

My friend had no reason to make up the story or validate Matlow's version.  He was friends with Uncrush.  In fact, he prefaced his story by telling me he didn't really like Jeff, his opinion being that he was kind of douchebag jock, not really the kind of guy you'd expect to be running an indie rock label.  I believed his story.  However, to Uncrush's credit, I assume there had to be some reason to be sour.  For one, the only other thing crank! did with the band was put them on a compilation album.  Second, no one really knows any of the conversations that took place between the label and band.  Could have been some half-truths like, the 7" was selling great and they were led to believe they'd get more than they got from it.  Could have been told the label would be releasing further material from the band and it never came to fruition.  The truth probably lies somewhere between all three accounts.

As for the 7", it showed faint signs of promise.  The A-side, 'The Moron the Merrier' is chaotic and sloppy, oddly enough, it feels drunk.  The strained vocals make it endearing and add to the loose sound.  It's menacing and loud, but at the same time, manages to mix in some jangly guitars and melody.  As a three piece, they can push out a lot of sound when they want to.  Bad news, on the B-Side they had no desire to repeat the formula.  'There's a Roof in the Leak' is as pointless as the title.  It just mills around and never ends.  It does sound drunk, but with no energy.  Like what happens at 3:00 AM about 30 minutes after going to Taco Bell, it's uncomfortable and lasts way too long.

The Moron the Merrier
Nap from the Don't Forget to Breathe comp.

Shooting Star III Wishes Virgin/Epic 1982

 Shooting Star III Wishes Virgin/Epic 1982 CAT #FE 38020

Shooting Star is a fairly successful Kansas City band that played the AOR/Studio Rock card in the late 70's into the early 80's.  They are a footnote in music history for being the first American band signed to Virgin Records.  The bios state they formed in Kansas City, MO.  However, the founding members were Shawnee Mission South Alum, so their roots are in Kansas.

Apparently, this isn't the place to start with this band.  Which in a way is good, because it's awful.  It's just MOR studio rock.  I've read that this album was desperate attempt to have a hit album and they drew influence from the likes of Journey, Loverboy, and probably Toto.  I guess prior to this LP, they were closer to Foreigner rock than Journey?  I don't know, shit all sounds the same to me.  It's still a little too heavy to be yacht rock, but moments aren't far off.

The first song isn't much different than what would later be accepted as heavy metal with the likes of Poison, Bon Jovi, Warrant, etc.  It's a shame they didn't grow out there hair until 1987 and just play to that crowd, they had the skills to do that.  However, they quit that good time hard rock sound almost immediately on this album in favor of slow tempo ballads and soft rock meant to appeal to high school age girls.

It's all pretty trite.  Due to their success locally and the fact that their Alma Mater is literally a block from my house, it's pretty easy to find their LPS for a dollar, I'm hoping their earlier releases are far more enjoyable.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Boys Life Departures and Landfalls Cargo/Headhunter 1996

Boys Life Departures and Landfalls Cargo/Headhunter 1996 HED 063

So good.  The first album was aggressive and powerful.  This LP is a bit more restrained, but still employs the same dynamics as the debut.  It was recorded by Bob Weston and done directly to analogue tape.  As such, it is probably the most live sounding studio album the 90's ever heard.  Further, without Trombino producing, you get the sense the band was allowed to be a bit more true to themselves.  There's a definite twang on some of those chords.  It's still very dissonant and start/stop, but more organic sounding.  If post-hardcore can sound roots oriented, it's on this album.

Everything just comes together so well in this album.  By the time you get the 3rd song, 'Twenty Four of Twenty Five,' you feel so involved.  The guitars, despite being loud and out of tune draw you in and feel warm.  The 7 minute reprieve of 'Twenty Four of Twenty Five' is like a smoke break until the album regains course with 'Radio Towers' onto the B-Side which doesn't hold back.

It was the band's best and final work.  The "twang" and space they created in the songs shows up in the later projects.  The Farewell Bend was a toned down version of this album, but didn't really catch on.  The group Canyon, which featured Brandon Butler and Robert Winkle from Boys Life, was a fantastic Lo-Fi take on Americana.

Fire Engine Red
Radio Towers

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Season To Risk Biter B/W Oil 7" Red Decibel 1992

 Season To Risk Biter B/W Oil Red Decibel 1992 CAT # CS7 4908

Season to Risk was an aggressive rock band from KC.  I've heard them called hardcore rock and that suits them well.  Hardcore in the sense that it's a heavy crushing sound.  Too punk to be metal, too metal to be punk.  My brother recalls them as a band he used to throw on the tape deck before heading out to skateboard.

They had a revolving cast, but singer Steve Tulipana and guitarist Duane Trower were the core members.  This release features Paul Malinowski who also gigged with Shiner.  Malinowski was also credited as a songwriter while in the band and added the post-hardcore feel of the group.

In their day, they were one of the more successful KC bands.  They signed to a major label, did music video shoots, and were even seen performing in the Hollywood movie Strange Days.  This 7" outside of the slick John Wayne Gacy artwork is typical of their sound.  'Biter' is a scorcher, bunch of guitars and a pounding rhythm section.  Tulipana runs a ton of vocal effects that make the song and band sound polished and professional.  The song was featured on their self titled debut album, as 'Bitter'.  'Oil' is aggressive sludge rock.  It's nothing spectacular, but enjoyable.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Butterglory Rat Tat Tat Merge 1997

Butterglory Rat Tat Tat Merge 1997 CAT # MRG153

There are problems with this LP.  Previous work was very homespun and the cuteness of it all allowed you to ignore the band's flaws.  Once the production got cleared it up, the band's shortcomings come to light.  For one, they sound an awful lot like Pavement.  While they were contemporaries with the band, I've talked to some people in the know.  I asked about the Pavement sound on this LP and most have said the band was pretty in tune with what Pavement was doing (wink, wink).  Second, they borrow heavily from others.  I mean, obvious influences are great.  But, there are tunes that walk the line with lifting.  R.E.M. and the Velvet Underground come to mind when spinning this LP.

Aside from that, this album has what I consider the greatest song the band recorded, 'Carmen Cross.'  I love the song, it's not up on YouTube and I'm not savvy enough to transfer anything to the site myself.  But, if you get a chance, listen to it.  The winding melody and Debby's child-like vocals are great.

More over, their are moments of genuine originality.  Songs like 'Fight Fight Fight', and to a certain extent, 'Serpentine', showcase a slacker cowboy vibe.  You get a feeling the band wanted to do country, but in true lo-fi fashion scraped all the pomp surrounding the genre and just laid down what felt right.  Also, the negatives aren't that bad.  If you tell me (and a lot of other people) it sounds like Pavement, we're going to buy that record.  And, if you're going to lift, The Velvets and R.E.M. are pretty solid choices.


Monday, September 23, 2013

BE/NON Moi Ou Toi B/W Not Tonight Curve Groove 2011

BE/NON Moi Ou Toi B/W Not Tonight Curve Groove 2011 CAT # CG-001

I'm not a huge BE/NON fan, but both things I have came to me brand new and incredibly cheap.  This was put out by a recently out of business record store in Gladstone, MO called Earwaxx Records and More. It was a solid store, I loved it.  The owner was generally behind the shelf and gave great deals on trade.  He also put out VG - stuff and sold it to you at a super fair price.  I love getting nice, playable, copies of stuff and paying less because the cover has some issues.

Anyway, from what I understand, the owner of Earwaxx purchased a large collection of LPS for $6000.00.  He immediatly sold some high end items off and recouped his investment plus.  Opened Earwaxx and gave great deals, apparently made a good business out of it, and even attempted a record label.  For whatever reason, he closed shop.  I asked in the last days, he really didn't say anything other than it was a solid money maker for him, he just had other problems that needed to be dealt with.

His label only released 100 of these.  This is copy 64 out of 100 and it's on gold wax, I'm assuming all the rest were gold as well.  It's more of Brodie Rush's experimental psych rock.  The first side, 'Mon Ou Toi,' is a bit of a drag.  Repetitive synth rock with tribal beats.  Reminds me of the first Fun Boy Three album (who people don't give a chance due to it's 80's looks), but a little angrier.  That, or it sounds surprisingly like Rex Manning's chorus to 'Say No More Mon Amour!' from the movie Empire Records, which isn't anything you want to sound like...maybe it's just the similarity in phrasing, but seriously, I really hear that.

However, 'Not Tonight' is fucking brilliant.  Newbies are going to hear the Elephant 6 collective in it, but it's heavily rooted in 60's psych complete with a chiming 12 string guitar.  Great sounds, it's centered around a simple drum loop and the band just keeps adding to it.  Vocal effects come in, more stuff added.  It's really a great track.  Makes up for 'Moi Ou Toi' by leaps and bounds.

BE/NON Live at Earwaxx-Not Tonight

The Embarrassment Sex Drive B/W Patio Set Last Laugh Records Reissue 2011

The Embarrassment Sex Drive B/W Patio Set Last Laugh Records Reissue 2011 NO CAT #

Even in underground rock circles, there are songs that just completely ignored rules and did their own thing.  In garage rock the song 'Blackout of Greetly' by Gonn comes to mind.  All the rockers around them doing 2 1/2 minutes tracks and they released a 5 minute behemoth of fuzz and acid.  More popular example, the Velvets releasing a 7 minute character study around 'Heroin'.

After the 70's had ended and England claimed punk, there were tons of rules.  You couldn't be slow, you couldn't be long winded, and you had two choices, political with an agenda or total gutter sleaze.

In comes the Embarrassment, living in the middle of the country probably caring very little about the punks to the East and West.  They crafted a 5 minute epic called 'Sex Drive.'  Just driving drums and whirling guitars, lyrics about a highschool jock type character with sweet wheels getting the chicks into his car and showing no respect.  It's amazing.  It didn't subscribe to any rules to stand apart.  The isolation of Kansas allowed these guys to be more punk rock than they probably wanted to be.  Because, that's what the genre was supposed to be about, not following rules and creating something yourself.

'Patio Set' is seriously got to be the most labeled "The B-Side is good, too" song ever.  It's literally about a patio set at first, but it turns into some sort of metaphor for a girl.  It was his favorite patio set, then it gets old, I guess.  I don't know.  It better showcases what the band would later become, jangly, 80's indie rockers.  But, when compared to 'Sex Drive' everyone is right when they just state, "The B-Side is good, too."

Two years after its initial release in 1980, Flipper would release a song titled "Sex Bomb," a 7 minute repeating rant.  Everyone gives those Northwesterners a ton of credit for being a game changer, truthfully, I think they heard 'Sex Drive' first.  There was really nothing that sounded like either tune in the genre.  Black Flag would later perfect sludge rock, but this masterpiece from Wichita, KS came first.

To score an original 'Sex Drive' 7" is near impossible.  If you spot one and it's not over $100, buy it.  This is a near perfect reissue with everything you need.  And, last I check they are still available from Last Laugh Records.

Sex Drive

Friday, September 20, 2013

Boys Life S/T Crank! A Record Company 1995

Boy Life S/T Crank! A Record Company 1995 CAT #CRC004

First, the mid-90's was an amazing time for KC & Lawrence's music scenes and it was an amazing time for indie rock.  However, it was an awful time for vinyl.  If a band was on a "true" indie in the 90's that was other than say, Matador, they were lucky if the album was mastered for vinyl.  Rather, and likely to save money, the CD master was slapped onto vinyl in effort to be cost effective and still give the indie-rockers what they wanted at shows.  Crank! was no exception, this pressing suffers problems and I remember the CD version sounding much more crisp.  Just saying.

Moving onto the album, in highschool, this was as cool as a Fugazi record.  I mean these guys were relentless.  Out of tune guitars blazing, their early days were frenzied attacks on song structure.  And, they were in or near my hometown, that was exciting.

The band was picked up by the Crank! label after founder, Jeff Matlow, put out the first Vitreous Humor 7".  Matlow was familiar with the local scene after signing the Manhattan band, Truck Stop Love, to the Scotti Brothers label as an A&R guy.  When Scotti Brothers refused to sign Vitreous Humor on the account that they already had a band from Kansas, Matlow quit and decided to go it alone.  Along the way, he picked up some other locals.  He signed Boys Life and another Kansas City band, Uncrush.  His label brought a ton of  attention to the area.  And, when Crank! released Mineral's Power of Failing, suddenly, Viterous Humor and Boys Life became associated with the developing emo scene.

The record isn't emo.  It's post-hardcore.  Similar to Jawbreaker, Quicksand, and Fugazi.  It was recorded by Mark Trombino from Drive Like Jehu and it shows.  Trombino didn't let the band hold back, it goes from a restrained whisper to an all out assault.  The LP does suffer a bit of same-ness, in that, after a while, you get it, they're going to whisper, scream, guitar feedback, end.  It's a bit formulaic.  However, the out of tune guitars and occasional out of key yelps keep it interesting.  Second, working with Trombino allowed the band to explore their genre and develop as a band.  The song 'Temporary' which was first recorded for a split 7" with Vitrous Humor (previously discussed) is slowed down here, showing the band was focused on sound and texture and not just old punk rock tricks.  And sure, they borrow from Drive Like Jehu, but this is Kansas City, we had no fucking clue who that band was until we heard this.

Golf Hill Drive

Kill Creek Proving Winter Cruel Mammoth Records 1996

Kill Creek Proving Winter Cruel Mammoth Records 1996 CAT#MR-0135

Someday, this album is going to get its due.  It's gotten in the Lawrence scene, it's an accepted masterpiece here.  But, I'm talking nationwide, this album is going to get discovered.  For Kill Creek, it was a the nail in the coffin album.  In 1996 no one wanted to hear Scott Born's divorce album.  Sure, several years ago Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend album was a hit and it was about divorce, but it sounded happy.  This album was fucking depressing.  And, if you put it on because you were a fan of St. Valentine's Garage, well forget it, you didn't want to have anything to do with this.  I mean, it was 1996, by this point, all you had to do was do that fake gargle thing Eddie Vedder does and you could get yourself a pretty substantial modern rock hit.  You didn't even have to be from Seattle at this point or wear flannel, you just had to act like a pissed off teenager.

Kill Creek had that choice.  They could have easily sold out.  They had a major label and would have had the support if they dialed it in and served up something easy.  But, apparently that never crossed their mind.  They rallied behind the broken heart Scott Born and recorded an album no one expected, not even their fans.

And to be fair, it got some local radio play.  The song,"Unsteady" was in heavy rotation on the then "sort-of" cool 105.9 FM.  But, I'm not sure that meant much and probably had a lot more to do with the support of station programmers than it did people that listened to the station.  Outside of 105.9, I don't remember this getting much pub.  I would be willing to bet, Mammoth heard it and gave up on it shortly after putting it out.  The label was on the verge of going under and probably found it difficult to promote an album filled with references to alcoholism, pills and divorce.

Ultimately, everyone missed the mark on it.  Because years later, I'm convinced this is a masterpiece.  This is a an adult R-Rated record dealing with heavy topics.  Now, as an actual adult, the heartbreak behind it all sounds comforting and familiar.  I mean, it sounds like a Wilco album before Wilco existed, yeah, it's that good.  And someday, someone important is going to unearth this thing and convince everybody else.  I'm sure of it--someday it will be considered a lost classic.

It starts with the hit, 'Unsteady,' and the lyrics, "I'll stay sober when I come home this October, and I'll break the windows and let the chill put us to sleep."  The album keeps going from there.  In one line, you know exactly what's going on and what the rest of the album entails; cold, loveless relationship, looming divorce and alcohol abuse.  The song 'With You Around,' starts with Scott Born almost crying, "Well the cancer of the twisted word has pulled apart the confidence you've encouraged."  Holy shit!  Right?  What a bitch this woman is, that or Born's drug addiction is the source of  his twisted reality.  The song 'Role Model' about choosing sides in the divorce ends, "To the hurting kind, your some kind of role model.  It takes guts to save your pain from your friends."  And the song, 'Falsified,' man, it's absurd, hurtful and poetic all at once, "Eight years falsified by the last days.  I crushed your pride with the weight of five months crashing down in between us; three nights not one can repair.  And our cats are so playful while we fight; they're used to our years of sharpened claws."  And it ends on the tune "Punishment" which should be a nod to what Scott Born deserves after putting it all out for consumption like this.  I mean, I've seen some people deal with bad divorces, but the fact that Scott Born told ALL makes you almost want to side with his ex.  I can't imagine she deserved such vengeance.  Coincidentally, the producer of the LP, Ed Rose, once told me they called "Proving [actual ex-wife's name] Cruel" in the studio.

And that's the album, it sounds like a cold. dark, loner, folkie album.  Parts of it are, but it's beautiful.  You don't get this much reality out of music.  It's so autobiographical it's disturbing, but you can't turn away from this train wreck.

Role Model

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Butterglory Crumble Merge 1994

Butterglory Crumble Merge 1994 Cat #MRG 071

Long before the male/female duo of Mates of State formed in Lawrence, KS and moved to California to become rock stars, the duo of Matt Suggs and Debby Vander Wall moved from California to Lawrence, KS to become lo-fi, obscure, indie rockers.

The two were on the cutting floor of the biggest scene in 90's indie-rock.  They were contemporaries to the likes of Pavement and Archers of Loaf.  They were label mates with Neutral Milk Hotel, Polvo and Superchunk.  They never really got the same attention as the others, but they were in on it, they were part of the lo-fi scene.  They have a really twee-pop sound to them.  When Debbie takes lead vocals, you have to think Mo Tucker style Velvet Underground.  When Matt takes the duty, it's what you'd expect, indie-slacker style a-la Pavement.  They don't stray from from the pop spectrum, you get some feedback here and there, but no unexpected burst of guitar wailing.  It's all very cute.  And, as the liners indicate, it all sounds homespun on this LP.

Back in the day, my favorite part about the band wasn't even the music, it was the fact that Debby Vander Wall worked at the Love Garden.  I mean, most if not all record stores, have the cute indie rock girl working behind the counter.  She may look mousey and wear thick framed eye glasses, she may be covered in tattoos and look dangerous, but regardless, she's cute with great taste in music and you develop a crush on her trying to buy an album that starts a conversation with her.  Not only was Debby that girl at the record store, but she was in a band!  I mean, how could you not fall victim to that infatuation.  She not only has killer taste in tunes like you, she's in a band that tours and puts out albums.  You could be pictured on the liner notes, co-write a song, and be a part of it all if you could only find that one record that impresses her.

The Skills of the Star Pilot
Waiting on the Guns

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Anniversary Your Majesty Vagrant/Heroes & Villains 2001

 The Anniversary Your Majesty Vagrant/Heroes & Villains 2001 CAT # VR359/HV011

I'm torn with this LP.  It's the last Anniversary LP and it was a complete departure from the band's previous output.  Virtually everything leading up to Your Majesty was centered around Adrianne Verhoeven's  (listed on this album as Adrianne Pope because, she was briefly married to Rob Pope of the Get Up Kids) quirky keyboards and vocals.  The songs written by Josh Josh Berwanger and Justin Roelofs were good, but made better by Adrianne's contributions to them.  Maybe they got sick of it, maybe their egos didn't like Adrianne getting all the attention, but after doing a split EP with the band Superdrag that would hint to this, they redefined their sound.

The quirky bubblegum indie rock is gone on Your Majest.  Instead Berwanger and Roelofs became obsessed with groove and classic rock sounds.  Big guitar, funky breaks and sweeping arrangements.  Verhoeven still plays a role, but it's mostly vocal, she adds keyboards but it is building tool rather than a featured instrument.

Admittedly, they show they got the hooks to undertake the new sound.  The first three songs on Your Majesty are huge.  In fact, they are so good, I think they fooled most people into believing this was a great album.  They did the LP in Los Angeles to show they meant business and definitely got a big boy sound out of the sessions.  However, after the first three songs, I tend to find this LP boring.  Songs like 'Husam Husam' and 'Devil on my Side' typify what you find throughout the album.  Grand sweeping ideas that lead to nowhere.  The slick production and over-dubbing make things sound important, but it's just empty and never seems to live up to its ambitions.

I really hate to be Debbie Downer, because again, the first three tracks are incredible.  They lead into each other effortlessly.  The groove on those tunes feel so good and hit you in the face like a Buddy Miles drum break.  It may be that those three songs are impossible to live up.  Maybe, I'm missing the genius behind a song like "The Death of a King" with it's wind sound effects (yeah, sound effects, who the fuck are these guys?) in the background and prog-rock keyboards, but it takes six minutes to get to the absolutely pointless 'Follow the Sun'.  I'd rather just listen to the first three tracks again.

Sweet Marie-1st Song-So good.
Crooked Crown-2nd Song-Feel that groove
Peace, Pain & Regret-3rd Song-Different feel, but solid and great bottom

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kansas S/T Kirshner 1974

Kansas S/T Kirshner 1974 CAT #32817

The best thing about the debut by Kansas is the cover.  This is the greatest cover on any album ever.  You don't like John Brown and the story behind Bleeding Kansas?  Fuck you, you're a racist.  Yeah dude, Kansas was on the right side; Free State.  That's how we roll, you're welcome.

Other than that, there's an absurd amount of fiddle on this LP.  I've never thought to myself, hey, these keyboards and rambling chord progressions could really use some fiddle.  But, the band Kansas did.  I guess that was going to be there calling card back in the day.  They were going to be that prog-rock outfit with a fuckin' fiddle.  Heads will explode.

Aside from that, there's a lot of boogie in the album.  It has its moments within the songs.  But, it lacks any sort of focus.  It's all the bands tricks at once.  They would get better, focusing on boogie and harmonies more so than all the prog and fiddle.  All lot of the songs show promise at the start before the band just starts lumping everything they have into them.  For one, The Pilgrimage, could have been solid had they not destroyed it with an organ break and a guitar vs. fiddle dual.  It's just that way throughout the entire thing.  The band focuses too much on trying to show you their virtuosic skills rather than their songwriting skills.

The Pilgrimage

Vitreous Humor My Midget B/W New Victoria 7" Theater Mute America 1996

Vitreous Humor My Midget B/W New Victoria  Theater Mute America 1996 CAT#7006-7

Solid 7" from Lawrence, KS' Vitreous Humor.  Odd, this one is a bit tougher to track down than the stuff on Crank!, you'd think Mute would've been the more widely distributed, but who knows.

Regardless, the 7" represents sonic growth in the band.  The initial releases we're kids obsessed with the indie rock coming out of North Carolina in the 90's.  This adds elements of KC style post hardcore and definitely finds the band gleaming the emo sound from their label mates at Crank!.  My Midget spins for two minutes, building and building until Danny Pound decides to throw in some lyrics.

"New Victoria Theater" only appeared on this release.  It's a solid tune so it raises the question, why wasn't it contained on the Post Humous CD release?

My Midget

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Appleseed Cast Low Level Owl: Volumes I+II Deep Elm Records and Big School Records 3XLP Color Vinyl (Gold)

The Appleseed Cast Low Level Owl: Volumes I+II Deep Elm Records and Big School Records 3XLP Color Vinyl (Gold) 2013 CAT # BSR-007

People love these albums.  I mean, they put this reissue out in 2013 and they are freaking gone, already bringing in high dollar on eBay.

Personally, I prefer Mare Vitalis.  I'm likely in the minority there.  I just thought that album had more energy than these (keep in mind, these originally came out as two separate albums).  Plus, Mare Vitalis had "Fishing the Sky" which is the greatest thing the band ever recorded.  I'm just overwhelmed by the response to these albums, I've read that after this album, The Cast became America's answer to Radiohead, and I've read people gush over the experimentation with post-rock sounds.

I remember getting the CDs from Aaron Pillar for free after having to beg him.  Then, after he reluctantly handed them over, I felt bad because the albums can be challenging to get through, I barely listened to them.  There's a lot of space, a lot of experimentation, and it takes a while to soak these in.  At the time, I wasn't in the mood for that.  Further, it just proves, that this has nothing to do with Radiohead, we're not even going to jump into that idea because it's absurd.

However, I would like to address the post-rock experimentation.  The band dicks around a lot on these LPS.  On the liners, they state it's because they have a lot of ideas.  I think the truth is, they needed/wanted to get out of their contract with Deep Elm as soon as possible.  These albums were the answer; two sprawling releases that coincide with each other.  And in between the songs, there's not just segues, there's more songs of looped guitars and drum tracks filled with ambiance and atmosphere.  That part of the LP is what set the emo kids off.  Probably because they never heard Brian Eno, but I guess it was all new to their ears.  If they were familiar with it, they called it Godspeed You Black Emporer-esque, but again, they never heard Eno.  The experimentation is just looped tracks for the most part, some drumming building up and Pillar's guitar slowly adding depth.  It's decent, just not memorable.

In between the segues, there is some incredible songs though.  Had this been just one LP, it's easily 5 star material.  The droning sounds do bleed into the actual songs, but that what makes the songs great, not the albums.  However, by the fan base embracing the Low Level albums and the critical praise, it did send Appleseed Cast in a whole new direction.  The work that followed perfected the sounds found here.  The time since these LPS have been released took them out of Emo scene and firmly entrenched them in the post rock scene.  And, despite being Kansans by choice only, they are currently Kansas' most important band touring and putting out new music.

On Reflection
Steps & Numbers

Buddy Bohn Take a Letter Maria B/W Sweetwater Happy Tiger 1970

Buddy Bohn Take a Letter Maria B/W Sweetwater Happy Tiger CAT # HT 524 1970

The performer, Buddy Bohn , is not local to Kansas.  The thing to note here is the songwriter on the B-Side, Val Stoecklein.  He continued on as a songwriter after the break up of the Blue Things and the failure of his solo release.  He wrote some tunes for the label that put out his solo release, Dot.  Oddly, he later wrote some B-Sides for the religious indie label, Happy Tiger, in the late 60's into the 70's.  He also contributed to a fairly obscure psych LP entitled Environment/Evolution by Ecology and contributed to a rock opera entitled, Truth of Truths.  I used to have Truth of Truths but pitched prior to the idea for this blog and because it's religious pap.

The performer, Buddy Bohn, is some sort of travelling troubadour who has played all over the world street corner style.  He gives Stoecklein's tune a very outsider folk feel.  It's decent, but certainly not a hidden gem.

Dan Sturdevant Band Tyrannosaurus Rex B/W Ol' Man River Private Press Release 1979

Dan Sturdevant Band Tyrannosaurus Rex B/W Ol' Man River Private Press Release 1979 No Cat #

I'm not sure why this exists?  The lyrics to Tyrannosaurus Rex seem to be a shot at dependency on oil.  It was put out in 1979, the U.S. Gas Crisis was several years before this was released, so that's not the answer.  You can try the lyrics, but they are as cryptic as a 14 year old girl on Facebook.  There's also a possible explanation on the back side following the lyrics stating; "Of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex's remains make up a very small part of the biomass in creating oil--and who knows if, in the apparently natural evolutionary design, man will be superceded by "three legged creatures"?"  What?  What the fuck is Dan Strurdevant referring to?

Regardless, it's local.  Recorded in KCMO.  It's awful.  Kind of lounge-y, but not over the top enough.  It seems as if everybody was trying really hard to create a fun, laugh along song.  Problem, the song is awful and it's not funny.  The B-Side is a cover of Ol' Man River.  It's awful, too.  You figure it's because how do you follow such a killer A-Side, right?  More likely, the guy just thought his idea had to see the light of day, he didn't have any other songs to offer but had to get the one he did out there as soon as possible.

***Afterthought, did some research, Mr. Sturdevant, does a lounge act in KC and still pens some tunes from time to time.

Eh, a Christmas song about KC

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chris Connor I Miss You So Atlantic 1956

Chris Connor I Miss You So Atlantic 1956 Cat #8014

I'm a sucker for vocal jazz or what has become known as Torch Jazz.  Good news about that, I've been picking stuff up at thrift stores for a dollar.  Also good news, if they turn out to suck, they're usually worth more than you think, there's quite a scene for this stuff.

Mind you, I'm not an expert on it and in all actuality, I picked this particular LP not knowing what it was but, was intrigued by an all black Atlantic label.  Put it on, said "fuck, yes, I love this stuff."  Then I did some research.  To my surprise I discovered Chris Connor was a native of Kansas City and attended the University of Missouri to study music.  She would leave KC in 47 to achieve fame in New York.  In the early 50's, she caught on with Stan Kenton (born in Wichita) and worked as a vocalist with him.  That association and a hit sinlge led her to her first solo debut in 1953.

This isn't the most sought after LP of hers and for good reason.  It is vocal jazz, but it lacks any sort of punch, a very pop-orientated effort.  However, you do understand why Connor was able to sustain her career well into the 1970's.  Great voice and not over the top with it like other female singers of the time.  Cool jazz style, very much a female version of Chet Baker.  She restrained herself and doesn't go into absurd fits that are over the top with emotion.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Proudentall The Anniversary Split 7" Paper Brigade 1998

Proudentall/The Anniversary Split 7" Say Something B/W All Right For Now Paper Brigade 1998 NO Catalog #

First thing I want to mention, Matt Rubin released this record before he could drive.  He has recently released records and such, but currently works on online projects out in New York and Paper Brigade is no longer a fully functioning label.  I can't remember if he put this out or the 5 Song Reflector CD first, but the point I'm trying to make is that he was living with his parents when he started a record label.  Just a bit more on Matt Rubin, he's a cool guy and we used to hang with the .emo kids in Lawrence, KS.  He put this record out, Reflector, and the Casket Lottery locally.  The most tragic thing, he wasn't old enough to drive to shows, further, he wasn't old enough to get into shows to see these bands perform.  He obtained the money to create his label by hopping on the boom when he was like 12 or 13 years old.  He designed and ran a Neo-Ska website that became the biggest of its kind.  He then sold the website for a large amount of money as a teenager because he discovered he liked punk rock and wanted to start a label instead of continuing on a website.  Cool, right?

Now, this 7".  Let's not kid ourselves, this is Lawrence rock via Blue Valley/Shawnee Mission.  Both these bands have ties to burbs of Kansas City.  However, you can't tell from the tunes.  Proudentall was a great band.  I'm about 99% positive this is the only release they ever did on vinyl.  Matt Dunahoo, who I believe was the undisputed leader of this band, was a KJHK Music Director and an all around active Lawrence musician.  For whatever reason though, this band never caught on locally (never mind nationally) the way they should have.  I would have to credit the lack of success to Lawernce Hipsters and bad luck.  Matt is a passionate dude and wears things on his sleeves.  I think that rubbed people the wrong way.  This song for example, owes heavily to Slint.  Matt, who can sing well, speak-sings over the entire thing.  That trick is employed by bands like Slint, Seam, Codeine because the singers weren't singers at all.  I think that aspect of band came off as disingenuous.  Fact is, Proudentall was just paying respect and utilizing great influences.  Proudentall also suffered from horrible luck.  Their 2001 CD only release, 'What's Happening Here' was put out by Caulfield who prior to 2001 was a leader in the Emo Scene.  The label had released KC's Giants Chair, and the extremely popular Denver band, Christie Front Drive.  However, by 2001, Caulfield had lost Christie Front Drive to a break up and was struggling to keep it's niche among Polyvinyl, Jade Tree and a kajillion smaller labels.  'What's Happening Here' was well reviewed, those that got their hands on a copy loved it, and the band attempted to support it on tour.  However, Caulfield didn't get the album out there to college radio or offer much in the way of promotion.  Proudentall called it quits shortly after.

The Anniversary side is a good bridge between high school and college rock.  Prior to this release the members of the Anniversary tooled around in Blue Valley high school bands, playing places like Gee Coffee in Olathe.  Most notably, The Nuclear Family, who featured Justin Roelofs, got local radio play with a track called, and I'm not kidding, "Gerdy, Gerdy, Wow, Wow."  They even toured in their later days with Goldfinger who was a moderately successful alt rock band.  Later, Roelofs would start the Broadcast with Adrianne Verhoven & Josh Berwanger.  They would add members and change the name to the Anniversary because the never realized there was a very popular indie band from England called the Broadcast (yeah, you see what I'm saying here, this band wasn't hip at all yet).  The song 'All Right For Now' on this 7" represents the transition from young local rockers to ultra-chic local hipsters.  It's very much an obvious nod to the Rentals, but hey, we're not ripping off Weezer or Green Day.  It was getting there and discovering themselves as a band.  Of course, they would later completely reinvent themselves as a band before calling it quits.

Proudentall's Swan Song
More Proudentall
Anniversary All Right For Now