Monday, November 9, 2015
This 7" is so Kansas City...well, except Giants Chair had Wisconsin roots before attending KCAI and HitIt! Recordings was based out of Chicago...but, other than that, you can't get more Kansas City than this.
The bands were both torch carriers for the early, post-hardcore emo sound coming out of Kansas City in the 1990s. Boy's Life took their out of tune guitars and Dischord-esque style a bit more national because ultimately, they were on a better label than Giants Chair. The song "Worn Thin," is a perfect example of the band, strained vocals over the top of so much guitar.
Giants Chair stayed a bit more hidden than Boy's Life nationally, but their sound was equally as influential. The track "Ever Present," displays the band's attacking style. Everything up front, all at once before they take a step back and dismantle the song before bringing it all back together again. It's high energy and stands well on it's own in the context of this single.
Equally as Kansas City about this 7" is the sleeves were done at Hammer Press. The simple, elegant design make it worth every bit of $3 you probably had to pay when it was first released and the $20 you'd have to pay today.
The back cover of this LP indicates the Sensational Wonders are from the "twin cities of Kansas City (Missouri and Kansas)." Which means that we have singers from both sides of the border and the groups record label never bothered to visit Kansas City. If they had, especially in 1986, they would have realized that Kansas City, Kansas has nothing but the KU Med Center and is at best, Kansas City, Missouri's evil twin.
That aside, these guys provided their own instrumentation and soaring vocals. The production is weighted in 80's slickness, but it's not a terrible album. The Sensational Wonders go from soulful, to a country gospel on this LP. Some solid call and response moments, great vocals, and the group gets pretty fevered on a number of occasions.
Also of note, this LP was released from a Shur Fine Records in Georgia. Indicating the band's gospel reach went a good distance outside the metro area, they were part of a national gospel scene. Not dealing with a privately released church album here.
A much later and younger version of the Sensational Wonders
Thursday, November 5, 2015
The Lawrence based Cowboy Indian Bear recently disbanded in 2014, which is a shame. The band could do a lot with a small budget and a lot of talent, listening to them is like listening to a lo-fi Coldplay, but cooler, with much better songs.
The band certainly doesn't "rock", which is fine, because they find enough soul to keep you interested. Putting on this LP, you're greeted with the atmospheric "Waiting," which is loaded with sounds, and makes you feel like you just got home. It's an inventing opener and a perfect introduction to the albums well thought out soundscapes and experiments in post-modernism.
You look at the cover of 'Live Old, Die Young' and see four Lawrence, KS hipsters and you're going to make obvious assumptions, some of which may be right, but there's so much more going on here. The obvious assumption is the current Eno/Radiohead/post-rock fascinations hip with all the kids. But, what's unexpected is this slick, well-produced 80's modern-soul vibe you can get from the record. Partially due to the soulful vocals, but there's a dance element hidden among all the noodling on guitars, electronic experimentation, and layered harmonies. It keeps it more interesting than other bands of the same ilk.
And again, the album feels like home. It's effortless and comfortable.
Let it Down