Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rex Hobart & The Misery Boys A Couple of Hard Luck Favorites 7" Bloodshot Records 2001

Rex Hobart & The Misery Boys A Couple of Hard Luck Favorites 7" Bloodshot Records 2001 CAT # BS 075

First, in one of the all time weirdest moments in Kansas music history, Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys opened for Fugazi in Olathe, Kansas at Gee Coffee.  Oddly, the fact that the honky tonkers opened for Fugazi isn't the strangest part.  Members of Rex Hobart's Misery Boys (or a member) were in the Homestead Grays in Lawrence, Kansas back in the 80's.  And while the Grays were not a hardcore band by any means (they were rooted in Americana) they released on Lawrence's Fresh Sounds, Inc. label.  The same that released a few hardcore bands, the Embarrassment, and the Micronotz.  The Grays were in that scene of bands and throughout travels and shows, likely crossed paths with Ian MacKaye at some point.  Also, Rex Hobart is Scott Hobart of the band Giant's Chair (the previously discussed band) and I'm pretty sure Giant's Chair would have crossed paths with Fugazi in the 90's.  The strangest part is that it happened in a dump of a venue, years after it was considered cool and relevant, and 30 minutes South of KC, 45 minutes East of Lawrence.  The guy running Gee Coffee at that time was not the original owner and a huge douche.  All the same, it happened, and Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys were accepted and put on a great show and all that.

I believe at the present time, Rex Hobart has hung it up.  When the group entered the Kansas City scene, they were a great honky tonk band.  Members of Rex's Homestead Grays had left for Nashville to become BR-459, a genuine country band, he stayed in Kansas City.  His early stuff showcases a love for honky tonk and classic country.  Later in the band's career, they'd soften the edges in hopes of finding success, but were still rooted in real country sounds.

This 7" may be only thing available from the band on vinyl.  It falls on the later half of their career and features two covers.  Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days, Wasted Nights" and Poison's "Every Rose Has It's Thorn."  The Fender track is a solid pick, great tune, done well.  The Poison track has to represent some hope of a novelty hit, right?  I mean, I guess it's a decent song and yes, it's clearly a "country" song, but that doesn't mean you need to cover it.

Oh, and the best part about the 7", inscribed in the run off are the words "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Fucking Go."  D.L.R.

Giant's Chair Red And Clear Caulfield 1995

Giant's Chair Red And Clear Caulfield 1995 CAT # 15

This came out in 1995 and at the time, the group was best described as post-Hardcore.  Similar to other Kansas City bands such as Shiner, Season To Risk, and Molly McGuire, but with a high art value.  By the time the band called it quits, they had become a fairly influential and highly regarded as Emo pioneers.

I think the "emo" tag is mostly due to association with the Nebraska label Caulfield that released most the band's catalog.  Caulfield put out Denver band, Christie Front Drive, who were favorites within that scene.  At that time, indie labels were still thought of as a brand.  For example, you'd buy the Christie Front Drive CD, LP, or 7" and you'd get a small catalog of the labels other releases.  Each album would have a short blurb about how great it was and at some point, you couldn't resist, you started buying other stuff the label put out.  See Sub Pop and Dischord, those labels were brands and worked it to great success.  Caulfield was the same way on an even smaller scale and Kansas City's Giant's Chair was one of the first acts the label put out.

Ultimately, Christie Front Drive with their mumbled lyrics and 3 minute intros were very much an emo band.  Giant's Chair, not so much.  However, due to their popularity within the scene, many later bands began grabbing ideas from them.

Either way, they're a pretty phenomenal band and still sound amazing today.  I believe I'm correct when I say they formed as students at the Kansas City Art Institute.  Very much in the Quicksand realm of post-Hardcore, start stop dynamics, lots of guitar, sing to scream choruses.  They do throw in the high art value by concentrating on dynamics rather than volume.  Like Boys Life, they also loved to drop out of tune for effect.  I always loved how their songs would hang on an idea, like a choppy guitar riff for 30 seconds to a minute, before charging on into a totally different direction.  "Kick the Can" has always been one of my faves on the album and represents the group well and provides insight as to why everyone considers them "Emo".  "Full on Flat White" does as well and since I couldn't find "Kick the Can" on YouTube, it's linked below.

Full On Flat White

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Travis Millard Occumm Pucky Vol. 1 Lost Broadcast Records 2013

Travis Millard Occumm Pucky Vol. 1 Lost Broadcast Records 2013 CAT# LB00107

I think at this point, it's safe to say that Travis Millard is the coolest artist from Olathe, Kansas, ever.  In fact, I think it's safe to say Travis Millard is the coolest Olathe, Kansas native, ever.  He's a well established artist.  He does his Fudge Factory Comics, he's done of album covers (Get Up Kids, Dinosaur Jr., and others), his artwork appears on skateboards, and he's done cartoons-something of his appears on Sanjay & Craig on Nickelodeon which my kids and I love.  Finally, he's a legitimate artist supporting himself through artwork, that's tough to do and rad.

He's an Olathe South graduate, which is also the high school Alma Mater of 3/5 of the Get Up Kids and myself.  He was a few years ahead of me and we were part of a Junior High system, so we were never in the same building, I can't consider him anything other than an acquaintance.  Second, I wasn't an "art" kid.  Always wanted to be, always loved looking at it, just couldn't do it myself.  Friends and I always admired him from a far--he's a legend in Olathe.  He played in a band, made incredible drawings and if you ever talked to him he was always incredibly nice.  When I got to college at KU and worked for KJHK, he did stuff for the station all the time.  T-Shirt art, this incredible show poster that I can't for the life of me find, so again, the nicest guy ever and he did that stuff at no charge to the station if memory serves.

This 7" release represents the stuff he did in college.  They are entertaining little demos he did in around Lawrence, KS with various bands/friends.  5 songs on a 45 RPM record, so some of the tunes are really just ideas.  Also, it features some pretty well known players.  Most notably, Kori Gardner of Mates of State plays guitar on the song "All Your Friends", but it also features Josh Cobra Baruth on "Little Home" and "Crush", who played drums for Appleseed Cast.  Every tune is incredibly raw.  But, like his artwork, the music is very imaginative.  I get a Syd Barrett feel from some of it, out of key pop songs, very clever and picturesque rhymes, but not acid damaged, just the cleverness and guitar effects.  There's also a good amount of Northwest influence on the tracks, kind of K Records, Built to Spill-ish, which could be more due to the demo style recordings than it is Travis Millard.  The song "Little Home" is a legitimate gem, raw, but would be worth polishing up and redoing.  "Crush" is decent, it gets a bit too adventurous and seems to forget it's a pop song.

Overall, I'm stoked this exists and even more stoked it's only Vol. 1.  Is Vol. 2 going to be more college-era demos?  Maybe the high school stuff he did, which I was pretty sure as a Junior High-er was the coolest thing I'd ever heard from someone in my hometown.  Maybe some brand new stuff?  Should be solid no matter what.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Embarrassment EP Cynykyl Records 1981

The Embarrassment EP Cynykyl Records 1981 NO CAT#

Of all the Embarrassment stuff I've tracked down, this is my favorite.  Have you heard "Celebrity Art Party"?  It's not just one of my favorite songs by a local group, it's one of my favorite songs by any band, ever.  It's a mastepiece.  Humerus lyrics that hold up today, a neurotic, nervy beat, the Feelies couldn't match this tune's greatness back in the day.

The other 4 tunes on this EP are winners as well, plus they're divided into a 'Happy Side' and a 'Snappy Side'.  Personally, if had to get rid of one track, it'd be "Elizabeth Montgomery's Face," but that's just as much a fan favorite as any other of the band's tunes.  It also features the song, "Wellsville," which is Small Town, Kansas and highway travel; the notion that if you blink you'll miss it and how that idea relates to life.  It's done with humor though and not as deep as I'm making it sound here.  I used to play the track once a week when I hosted Plow the Fields on KJHK, I was kind of obsessed.

Anyway, I could go on gushing about this EP more, but it gets kind of redundant.  If you've never heard this band and have the means, this is highly recommended.

Homemade Rock Video for Celebrity Art Party

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Gadjits Wish We Never Met Hellcat Records 1999

The Gadjits Wish We Never Met Hellcat Records 1999 CAT# 80416-1

For about two weeks I was into new ska until I realized I really only liked the Specials and the original Jamaican stuff.  Despite that two week period, I never enjoyed this band despite their local status.  So why did I buy this?  I don't know, because it's local, and I was pretty sure I'd never see another copy.  I even had a conversation about it with the owner of Zebedee's.  I was begging him to pull something from his stacks within the same price point that would blow my mind.  A hard to find local album he had buried somewhere.  Instead he recommended I pick up the new Blood Birds LP and looking back, he was 100% right.

The band does represent the ultimate in Overland Park, Kansas hip-ness, though.  And, despite their attempts to make Overland Park sound cool on the back sleeve, it's still a pretty boring town.  There was a legitimate Overland Park teen-scene at the time.  There was this band who signed to Hellcat Records which was operated by Tim Armstrong of the band Rancid.  They toured extensively as teenagers and were fairly notable in the neo-Ska scene.  There was the pre-Anniversary band Nuclear Family that toured with the likes of Goldfinger.  Then there was all the Gee Coffee bands (Gee Coffee being an all ages venue that booked teen bands) that were gigging locally and from the Blue Valley area.

Wish We Never Met is what you'd expect from privileged, suburban, white kids that play punk music.  Their anger sounds forced.  The swearing sounds disingenuous.  Their world views are sheltered and childish.  The ska is well, new ska.  There's been reviews that say the band incorporated jazz, maybe for about 30 seconds they do before they call out "Pick It Up!" and go into a ska chord.  It's not any different from the countless other bands that tried to push this genre to the mainstream after the success of the Mighty Mighty BossTones.  Rancid was the only decent one of the bunch and they were far more rooted in punk than they were ska.

The three Phillips brothers that formed the band are admittedly a talented bunch.  Musically, you can tell that ska was something they enjoyed, they had the technical ability to go beyond it, they just chose not to.  Later, they did a 180 with the band and stopped the ska thing.  They became a soul/rock/punk hybrid band similar to the Strokes.  The first stuff they did in this fashion was released as the Gadjits.  Later, they would change their name to the Architects which for a brief time featured Adrianne Verhoven of the Anniversary.  They still gig under that name and have far outgrown their teen ska days.

Oddly, the drummer of Radkey is often photoed in his Architects shirt.  Which, if I wanted to go conspiracy theory on, I'd have to say the Phillips brothers are the ones feeding Radkey the tunes in one last attempt to hit the big time.  Then again, maybe the kid from Radkey actually likes the Architects, I don't know.

Thinkin' About You
Bad Gadjit

The Get Up Kids There Are Rules Quality Hill Records 2010

The Get Up Kids There Are Rules Quality Hill Records 2010 CAT# QUAL - 003

Yeah, outside of the first 7" this band put out, this is the only thing I've ever paid for by the Get Up Kids.  Not that it matters, I just wish I had bought more because members weren't always around to give me free shit back in the day and I have some holes I'd still like to fill.

Truthfully, I bought this album, listened to it once, and shelved it.  Threw it aside as the band attempting to be something they weren't.  I listened to to the album, waiting for Jimmy Suptic to do a pick slide and Matt Pryor to yelp about a girl and it never happened.  It's filled with a lot of electronic accompaniment and finds the band going to the early DC scene that was the epitome of cool when they first started.  It felt like they were trying to be angry which doesn't suit the band.

Then, as something to throw on for a quick fix I started spinning the 10" that came out previous to this LP, Simple Science.  And, while I still scoff at the use of a William Burroughs sample every time I play it, I've started to enjoy the four tracks it offers up.  So, next logical step, give There Are Rules another try.

After giving it another try, it's pretty fucking good.  It doesn't sound like the Get Up Kids, though.  But, had another band produced something similar to this, it would have been met with rave reviews.  Instead, it gave another reason for Pitchfork to call Kansas City boring and blast the Kids at least one more time.  But, hey, There Are Rules review does say the hatred the band got within the indie-community was a bit over the top.  Which might be a failed attempt to apologize because anyone can  read the previous Pitchfork reviews and realize Pitchfork was the the ring leader and trendsetter for Get Up Kids bashing.

Moving along, there are some great ideas here and an amazing Side 1.  Again, I stress it sounds nothing like the Get Up Kids, but it's good.  To go in order, "Tithe" and "Regen't Court" go back to the Fuguazi/DC sound the band discovered in high school.  "Shatter Your Lungs" is a brilliant little post-modern pop song.  "Automatic" and "Pararelevant" are high energy.  "Rally Round the Fool" is probably the weakest of side 1, mid tempo, experimental-ism that uses echo effects and programmed beats because Portishead apparently is still cool.  Side 2, not quite as strong, but has it's moments as well.  "Better Lie" starts with it's Strokes-esque vocal effect to get Pryor's voice down an octave so the band can be a bit darker.  "Keith Case" is featured on the Simple Science EP and features about the only chorus that resembles something you'd find on previous work.  "The Widow Paris" feels a bit programmed, a bit 80's goth, not executed as good as it could have been.  The band throws a nod to the early British post-punk scene with "Birmingham" before things get a bit wishy-washy with the sentimental tackiness of "When It Dies."  The album ends with "Rememorable," which is a stupid ending song title but, it's got a lot of crunchy guitars so it's enjoyable.

Overall, it's an album filled with all the influences they felt they couldn't touch as Get Up Kids Mach I.  Their previous success pigeonholed them to a specific sound.  Their career took them all over the world where they discovered albums, bands, influences that were previously off limits.  I mean crap, Pyror had to create the New Amsterdams after discovering Elvis Costello, it had no room in the Get Up Kids sound.  The Pope brothers did rhythm for Koufax just to sound retro.  In the end, it doesn't sound like a band trying to reestablish a career, it sounds like a band finally allowed to get some things off their chest, a one last hurrah type event.

Shatter Your Lungs
Regent's Court

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Embarrassment God Help Us Bar None 1990

The Embarrassment God Help Us Bar None 1990 CAT #7 72635-1

When I first tracked this down, I was a disappointed with it.  The production is beefy, loud, and unforgiving. The band re-records previous classics and it just sounds forced.  It was also released in 1990, yet it seems to hearken back to 1985 for influences, which make it sound more out of place than the production.

It was a reunion album of sorts.  The band's catalog was secured by Bar None so the all encompassing Heyday 1979-1983 could be released.  Apparently, the people at Bar None were so enamored by the Embarrassment they asked them to do an album to coincide with Heyday and a post-83 compilation that was never released.  The band obliged.  Simple as that.  The fans didn't expect it and I don't even think the people at Bar None expected it, but it happened.

Listening to it again, it has it's moments.  While certainly not the band in its prime, any Embarrassment is good Embarrassment.  The first track, 'Train of Thought' is excellent and wouldn't miss a beat on anything they released previously (this goes equally for the song's reprise on the flip side "...The Train Repirse").  "Horror of the Fire" has a good roots rock vibe and likely would have been scoffed at it the band's earlier days, but gets the nod on a release like this.  "Podmen" has some great guitar work.  At the same time though, I could do without the song "Albert."  The remake of "Sex Drive" draws too much on metal and hard rock.  Finally, the remake of "Burning Love" is worthless and adds nothing to the album.

Horror of Fire
Train of Thought

The Get Up Kids On A Wire Picture Disc Vagrant/Heroes & Villians 2002

The Get Up Kids On A Wire Picture Disc Vagrant/Heroes & Villians 2002 NO CAT#

The career killer.  At least that's what a member of the band once told me.  There's an element of truth to it.  It wasn't a well received LP and afterwards, the band made one more attempt  on the Guilt Show album, but that seemed disingenuous.  The band had changed, grown up, members got married, had kids--they were too old to be Get Up Kids.

Over time, I've come to enjoy the album.  It's got some of the best songs they ever wrote as a group.  Problem I've always had with it was the production.  And, I'll address it, just a bit of a back story.

Prior to On A Wire's release, the Get Up Kids were in a position to break out of the indie-scene and become relevant as a mainstream artists.  They toured Something to Write Home About relentlessly.  They'd become fairly well known outside of their .emo confines by touring with the likes of Green Day and Weezer.  They were now outside of college music/indie rock scene and on that somewhat hip highschool/sorority girl level of popularity.  All they had to do was write Something To Write Home About part II.

Instead, they tried to grow up before their fan base did.  They wrote their most competent and adult themed songs to date and hired a big time producer to get them to the next level.  Scott Litt was put in place.  It made sense for what the Get Up Kids wanted.  They didn't just want to be popular, they wanted to be respected and have a substantial career should they reach commercial success.  If you look at Litt's work with R.E.M. the move made sense.  Litt's production put that band into the mainstream without making the band compromise their individuality.

For whatever reason, Litt sucked out any energy of these songs.  It sounds as if the band is shooting for adult contemporary radio, not modern rock.  I heard the songs live, when they were new, still had energy and a groove.  Litt didn't allow it.  The production mirrors the placid early Matthew Sweet stuff he did, or the bore-a-thon that was the first Indigo Girls album.  It bears no resemblance  to All Shook Down by the Replacements, which he should have referenced.  And there is some blame on the Get Up Kids, the songs distance themselves from their previous work.  But, listen to "Grunge Pig" (terrible title), "Stay Gone", or "Wish You Were Here", there's a rock song trying to escape, there's a groove that was ignored, shelved for the notion that housewives in Middle America like things subdued and boring.

It's an album that should have been great, but offers disappointment.  Again, I stress, great songwriting, great ideas, just poor execution.  To it's benefit, it's not the fucking travesty Jimmy Eat World carried out during the same time.  I mean, that band sold out.  They went from relevant Emo band to writing songs for 14 year old girls.  And, it does sound grown up.  Better than the band's long time nemsis, the Promise Ring, who tried to stay young well into their mid-30's before giving up.  And, despite trying to go big time, they stayed local.  They utilized long time friends and producers Ed Rose and Alex Brahl on some tracks.  They hired Olathe, Kansas native, Travis Millard, to do the artwork and even create a video.  Most local band ever.

Overdue Video with Travis Millard's amazing artwork

Sunday, October 20, 2013

John Biggs The Roads We Travel Blue Valley Records 1979

John Biggs The Roads We Travel Blue Valley Records 1979 CAT# 001

Private press LP from Manhattan, Kansas.  I got this by posting records on Instagram.  There's an absurd amount of people that post, brag about, and talk about records on Instagram.  I got into it just recently, started following @soundtracksunday.  He posts a lot of soundtracks and his thing is he started the soundtracksunday hash-tag in which you listen, post, and hash tag a soundtrack on Sundays (obviously).  I posted a copy of the Rockers soundtrack and mentioned I had a double, @soundtracksunday asked if I wanted to trade.  I replied, sure, but sent it to him without committing to any sort of trade at the time.  A few months later I got this out of it, cool right?

It is decent.  John Biggs is a picker and falls a bit more on the country side of things than he does the bluegrass side.  I wish there was a larger scene for stuff like this in Kansas.  Many, many, years ago there was Big K Records out of Kansas City that did a lot of root driven country music.  There's also the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas.  It's a large acoustic music festival catering to pickers, bluegrass and old time music.  There's also an absurdly large scene that goes from Springfield to St. Louis, Missouri.  Some of it incredibly good.  Most of it a little too influenced by Jesus, the Ozarks, and Branson, Missouri.  But, the good stuff is really good.  Since the furthest I'm going to get away from Kansas is St. Joseph, Missouri, I wish there was more stuff like this available from Kansans.

Biggs is good when he keeps it on the country side.  His originals aren't too bad.  The traditional songs that make up the bulk of the album are the best moments.  My biggest complaint is that his voice is in the higher registers.  The arrangements are crisp and it tends to make his voice sound like a minstrel Renaissance fair singer.  That, and he's from Manhattan, Kansas, but that goes without saying.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Rooftop Vigilantes & Mannequin Men Split 7" Replay Records 2012

Rooftop Vigilantes & Mannequin Men Split 7" Replay Records 2012 CAT# RR004

Man, the Replay Lounge in Lawrence, KS puts out records now.  That's freaking rad.  My favorite year in college was spent living at 1001 Rhode Island, a block down the street from the Replay.  Walking to a place to get drunk is the best way to get drunk.  And, I was still cool.  I remember when I was 24 and done with school; all the sudden I found myself saying, "When did all these fucking kids turn 21," at the Replay.  It's a hip place.  So hip, that the KU Greek community thinks it's a gay bar.  That's insanely stylish.  Now, they put out records to boot, again, that's freaking rad.

Before I go into this 7" though, just a few more notes on the Replay. I sneaked into see the last Regrets show (under age).  And, I saw Elliott Smith perform there with like 5 other people in attendance.  I love that place.

This 7" came to me by chance, but it's still readily available at the Love Garden and I assume the Replay.  I wouldn't know about the Replay, I'm too old and square.  The 7" features Lawrence band, Rooftop Vigilantes, along with Chicago punks, Mannequin Men.  The Mannequin Men I know, they're kind of a Chicago garage-punk fixture now-a-days.  Not local, but shows the Replay means business with their record label.  They probably couldn't have paired them with a better band.  I don't know anything about the Rooftop Vigilantes other than these songs are great.

The tunes 'Automatic Trash' and 'Trouble Making Words' are relentless.  The band is literally everything I've wanted pop punk band to sound like.  I've never wanted to hear suburbanite kids play crisp, clean chords and sing with a fake British accent about boogers and farts.  Pop punk should sound like this.  Literally, punks attempting pop tunes while screaming and leaving all the mistakes in.  The garage sounds you get from these tracks--the winding organs, the broken scream along harmonies, the loud guitars--it's perfect.  Highly recommended garage rock.

Bandcamp Site
Live at the Replay
Replay Record

Canyon Empty Rooms Gern Blandsten Records 2002

Canyon Empty Rooms Gern Blandsten Records 2002 CAT# GERN064

Well, it's not completely local, actually, it's not really local at all.  Canyon is DC band with local connections.  After KC's Boys Life disbanded, Brandon Butler left to hang out in DC.  He did Farewell Bend, that didn't last long and members formed this band.  By this album, Butler brought in his former band mate, Joe Winkle, to play along.  So, half KC, half DC, but ultimately, formed in the Nation's Capitol.

It doesn't sound like either the KC or DC branded post-hardcore.  Its the inevitable outcome of an aging hipster, I mean, how long can you listen to punk before it all starts to sound the same?  Sooner or later Neil Young makes far more sense than Iggy Pop.

Another key aspect to the sound of this band is the time in which the group formed.  The first Canyon LP came out in 2001 and Empty Rooms was the following year.  The indie rock scene was a bit obsessed with the likes of Low, Bedhead, Karate and other bands that were being dubbed slo-core.  It made sense for the for these guys to slow it down--slow was the new loud.

What Canyon did perfectly on this album was dig deeper than Codeine's Frigid Stars.  They took cues from lo-fi pioneers like Smog and added country music to their blend, kept the space rock in check, and went Crazy Horse on it.  There are moments on the album that are perfect and things blend effortlessly.  However, there are just as many spots that sound forced, especially true when the dig into the country side (I blame the DC guys, they don't know about that shit).

1st Song, Sleepwalker. Near perfect.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rainmakers 25 ON Big Dipper Records 2011

Rainmakers 25 ON Big Dipper Records 2011 CAT # BDRLP091

Pretty rad that this band is was so big in Norway and Scandinavian countries that they still can release music there.  This is an import vinyl issue that I bought locally at Vinyl Renaissance fairly cheap, they could barely give the thing away.  Which typifies the KC scene.  You can be a KC band, be huge somewhere else and everyone back home either calls you a sell out or doesn't know who the fuck you are.

There are even a couple of tunes here devoted to Kansas City, like the band is begging the hometown to embrace them.  'Missouri Girl' (pronounced Misery Girl) is exactly what you'd expect, a song about a Missouri Girl (Walkenhorst's wife).  It's no 'California Girls,' but it's a solid attempt.  'Kansas City Times' talks about the back roads of surrounding towns, also a good outing.  You can't say the band ignored their roots, they were always proud Kansas Citians; even when their audience is almost entirely foreign.

Overall, it's a decent album.  You can't expect a masterpiece from an aging, semi-retired band.  The Americana they relied on in the late-80's is now highly pronounced and well developed.  Bob Walkenhorst's lyrics are still literate and clever.   The production is far better than it was in the 80's.  Walkenhorst still sings in a style reminiscent of the 80's, but you get used to it and it's toned down over the years.  If the legend is true and these guys are huge in the Slavic countries, this isn't a bad way to represent KC.

Kansas City Times (Live)
Turpentine (Live)
Missouri Girl (Live)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Radkey Cat & Mouse EP Wreckroom 2013

Radkey Cat & Mouse EP Wreckroom 2013 NO CAT#

So, here's a group of under-the-age of 20 brothers from St. Joseph, Missouri playing American style punk.  Oh, and they're African American.  So, black teenage brothers from the heartland playing punk rock, nationally, needless to say, there's a lot of hype around them.  They've toured, been featured in the Village Voice, have a limited 12" release, yet there bio states they just recently learned to play music?  I don't know, man.  There's a lot to go over with this band.

For one, it's pretty apparent someone is setting this band up to be the next big thing.  You don't have limited, self-released, import only, 12" EP come out with out someone footing the bill.  You also don't have such an amazing back story without taking a few liberties.  Three brothers from St. Joesph who magically picked up instruments and almost instantaneously put out a record?  On word of mouth alone they book tours in Europe? And seriously, they have a "look."  The middle brother and bassist looks like the lead singer of Thin Lizzy.  I mean, it's an obvious modeled look.  I've been to St. Joesph and that isn't a look the teenagers are sporting.  And if the band is so "brand" new, where did they score the sweet gear?

So yeah, I have my reservations about the band's riveting back story.  I think there's a lot of fabrication.  However, I don't think it's a bad thing, I mean, it's pretty clear, they are going to be the next "big" thing.  And, the first BIG release is going to be something incredible.  I just think whoever is putting out that release is behind the scenes feeding the hype machine.  These songs are just too good to believe all that.

On Cat & Mouse, the band plays straight ahead early American punk.  You'll read a lot of comparisons to Danzig-esque vocals and the Misifits and those comparisons aren't far off.  Not quite as hardcore as the Misfits, but close.  Dark and menacing with the aggression and energy of early Black Flag, the brothers pummel through 5 teen rockers.  And it's well produced, dual tracked vocals, flashes of keyboards, guitar solos, it's old school punk with pop flashes.  They do find some polictical or teenage angst as well, the song 'N.I.G.G.A. (Not Okay)' is exactly what you think it's about.  And, the fact that it's from teenagers makes it even better.

But seiously, the whole just started playing charade is bullshit.  I'm guessing the brothers have been playing together in the basement for some time.  Long enough to know how to bash out clever punk tunes, but not old enough to hide their musicality.  I'm going out and stating the debut full length is going to be leaps and bounds beyond the screamers here.  It'll probably be brilliant, too.  But, this EP will always be a good punk throwback; a reference point.  Think of the jump the band At The Drive-In made from their basement punk debut to In/Casiono/Out.  The Strokes from musical obscurity to starting a genre of fashion punk.  Or, the Refused's Euro-Hardcore to the blistering neo-Punk of the Shape of Punk to Come.  It's going to be something epic and big.

N.I.G.G.A. (Not Okay)
Already on Later w/ Jools Holland, really?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Capybara Dave Drusky The Record Machine 2012

Capybara Dave Drusky The Record Machine 2012 CAT# TRM - 040

I first heard this band on a local radio station's local music show.  Generally, the station plays alternative rock and the local show is not much different.  They played something from the band's first album (digital only release) and I was blown away.  So many stringed instruments in one song, mandolins, guitars, maybe ukulele too.  I ran home, got on-line and discovered the band was called Capybara.  Had no idea who they were, but found out later the Record Machine was working with the band to release stuff.

I've really wanted to discuss more Record Machine releases, but, records are expensive and I'm broke.  I did try and hint to Nathan Ruesch of the Record Machine that I'd blog about his stuff.  However, hint wasn't taken and Nathan probably has no desire to give out free records to a blog no one reads.  Regardless, I'd been listening to this album a lot at work in digital format and told Nathan how much I liked it because it reminded me of R.E.M.  So much so that I started sending Nathan R.E.M. tunes from the Murmur and Reckoning albums.  He kind of agreed by stating he could hear the similarities.

Seriously though, this band is a throwback to early 80's indie.  Atmospheric, clever harmonies, lots of crisp guitars, mumbled vocals with literate lyrics.  And, I'm not saying they lift from R.E.M., it's just a similar sound and I'm sure these guys have good things to say about the previously mentioned albums.

Honestly, this is my favorite thing going locally right now.  As stated, I enjoy it at work with headphones.  I enjoy it at home on the turntable.  The whole album has a great ebb and flow, it brings you up with snappy percussion and then slows down with something epic like the song, 'Wild'.  I stress the term atmospheric, the LP never achieves anything that "rocks" which make the R.E.M. comparisons even more relevant.  But, there are great pop songs hidden in the crescendo effects and vocal "oooohhhs" and "aaaahhs".  Seriously, you'll think you've heard some of these tunes in Volkswagen commercials due to the dreaminess of it all.  Buy this LP.

Late Night Bike (pretty rad label)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bloodstone Party TNeck/CBS 1984

Bloodstone Party TNeck/CBS 1984 Cat #FZ39146

Eh, the story behind this band is better than the album pictured here.  I've listened to it a few times and I can't remember anything other than the slick 80's production.  What happened to soul music in the 80's?  I mean what a fucking crime?  Soul music is great until about 1978.  Disco happened, I get that.  But, there was some solid late-70's disco influence boogie coming out and this band put out sides like this.  Then in the 80's things just had to sound plastic and fake.  All the "soul" was removed in favor of programmed beats and the occasional "Yooow!"  Earth, Wind, & Fire was good at the sound, but everyone else sounded like a cheap imitation.

Somewhere in all the synthesizers and programmed beats, I'm sure there was some good songs here, but I can't find them.  Further, there's probably some great samples and sounds that beat jockeys have used in hip-hop production, I just don't care.  Again, if you don't have 8 members, don't try and sound like Earth, Wind & Fire by using studio tricks, it just falls flat.

But, the band does have an interesting story.  The band formed in the early 60's as soul/doo wop group called the Sinceres.  Later, they toured with a horn section regionally as a Motown influenced review and became a huge attraction in Westport.  In the 70's, they picked up instruments and learned to play as a band and changed their name to Bloodstone.  First they attempted Los Angeles and didn't find success.  They then left for England and were signed by Decca.  They were doing the Al Green sound, funky, but with a rock edge (remember, they were rocking their own instruments).  Success in England brought them back to the States and the song 'Natural High' was a R&B hit, the album of the same name would go Gold.  That was about the band's peak, but they continued to put out records, even did some stuff with Motown at one point.  Solid KC band and one of the few well known soul acts to come from the area.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mates Of State Bring It Back Polyvinyl 2005

Mates Of State Bring It Back Polyvinyl 2005 CAT #PRC-105-1

So, the beginnings of this band starts in Lawrence, KS.  The now married, Kori Garnder and Jason Hammel, were playing in bands in Lawrence, KS, separately.  They started dating, played together in the Lawrence band called Vosotros.  When that band ended, the two became Mates of State and played a few shows locally.  Then they moved to California and hit the big time.  Some people loved them just for the connection to the scene.  But, a lot of people called them sell outs.  A lot of rumors went around about the band; how they left due to feeling unappreciated and always hated the Lawrence scene, how they talked shit in California on Cow-Town, Kansas.  I remember when the My Solo Project album came to KJHK people would call just to complain that we played it.

Truth was, Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner weren't planning to be a full time band.  They were planning a life together.  When Hammel got accepted to a Med school in San Francisco, they moved.  Gardner started a teaching career, Hammel began further schooling.  They recorded some tunes and an album, it got attention and Mates of State became a full time gig.  The two would also wed one another, making their cute indie-pop even cuter.

Further, to the dismay of the haters, I'm not even sure the either member is a Kansas native.  Maybe Gardner is?  I don't know.  But, Hammel came to Kansas for college from Minnesota. So, other than forming in Lawrence, KS, this band isn't all that local.  Looking back, I'm not sure people had any right to be pissed about anything.  Screw it though, I'll claim them as a Lawrence band, they're awesome.

They are a great indie-pop duo.  And, I can't stress how much cuter they are knowing they are married with children.  I mean, that's freaking rad.  Kids, marriage, cool indie rock tunes, it's like Yo La Tengo without all the Velvet Underground (that is no way a knock on Yo La Tengo).  This is the duo's 4th album and in my opinion, the best they have put out.  It's full of hits.  Songs just sound ripe for movie soundtracks, commercials, and television.  You cannot deny the album's pop sensibilities and charm.  You can find a new favorite song every time you put this one on.

Yep, a rock video. Like U Crazy
For the Actor

The Moeder's Family Life with the Moeder's M.D.M. Productions

 The Moeder's Family Life with the Moeder's M.D.M. Productions 1978 No Cat #

Saw this in a thrift store, looked at it and thought two things, private press and religious.  Looked on the back sleeve, private press was pretty obvious, but not religious.  Even better, the family is from Oakley, KS.  Oakley is "Nowhere," Kansas.  Literally over 200 miles West of Wichita, 200 miles South of Denver.  It's a very small Western, Kansas town and very few people live there.

After purchasing this, I read the back cover and was already in love.  It's a family band, brothers and sisters, trying hard to bash out some pop tunes.  The bio is phenomenal, it states the oldest daughter, Roxanne, keeps the band together and is enrolled in modeling school in Florida.  The other sister, Dona, is the bubbly one and sings and plays guitar with her sister.  The brothers, they are hit and miss as far as the family band is concerned.  Mike plays bass sometimes, but his heart is with farm and livestock.  Drummer Jim likes horses and is self taught (because you'd never know by listening) and Steve is the youngest, he just kind of hangs out and plays percussion instruments.

The LP consists of a an original and covers.  None of the cover tunes are credited to the composer.  It states it was put out by M.D.M. productions, but listing to it, I got to assume that just means dad rented studio space in Hays, Kansas and hit record button.  It's amateur at best in terms of production.  Best part about it, the address and the home phone number are listed on the back as the spot to purchase your own copy of The Moerder's.  Seriously, I guess in 1978, giving out your address and home phone on an LP was cool and nothing to worry about.

So, it sounds terrible, it's amateur and poorly recorded.  I mean jeez, you can clearly hear out of tune guitars.  But, if this came out on K Records, people would call it twee-pop and rave about it.  It's impossible not to smile while listening to the girls sing their favorite country tunes such as Dolly Parton's 'Jolene,' Willie Nelson's 'Good Hearted Woman' and Kenny Roger's 'You Light Up My Life'.  It's all so honest.  And, accidentally, the band makes the songs their own due to the amateur nature of it.  The singing is monotone and off key, I've mentioned the drumming and guitars, the levels are completely flat, and the original tune, 'Family Life,' is highschool poetry at best.  The band has conviction, it's for real and it is honest.  I'm seriously contemplating making the trip to Oakley, KS, knocking on the door of the address listed on the back and asking if they still have a few copies of this.  I'd love to hand them out to friends and attempt to make this LP a "thing".  Try to hype the Private Press market with it.