Sunday, 8 December 2013

Extra Glenns - 'Infidelity' (Harriet)

Oh, to yearn for times past. Harriet Records! The innocence of this all - John Darnielle and Franklin Bruno coming together for three perfect songs, as perfect as anything else Darnielle penned at this fertile time. 'Infidelity' is elegant in its minimalism, capturing that wobbly experience just perfectly with the classic chorus 'I let my hand rest a minute on your stomach / like there was nothing to it'. 'Going to Lubbock' is the sleeper, but Bruno's arrangements, backup vocals and second guitar bring a mild arpeggiated complexity to the chorus that hadn't yet been seen in any Mountain Goats materials of the time. And then the flip - the glorious 'Malevolent Cityscape X', which sounds like an outtake of something from the Peter Jefferies/Alastair Galbraith scene, with it's backwards, sinewy electric guitar line ripping over the verses. It all comes clear for the passionate, practically shouted chorus. It's one of the most perfect few minutes of music Darnielle ever has laid to vinyl (or tape or plastic); it's erupting, wild and yet still recognisable, even iconic. In 1993 nothing could stop this. By repeating the word 'perfect', can I make it clear enough how much I love this record?

The Ex - 'Slimy Toad/Jake's Cake' (Ex)

Two angry blasts from the Ex, part of a series of which this is the first and we already did the last in the 12" blog. 'Slimy Toad' is an attack on (I think) F.W. deKlerk, accusing him of profiteering and pretending to care about Mandela, or something like that. As usual, G.W. Sok has a lot of words and this is pretty to the point, though the fact that I'm not actually sure what it's about probably says something about his ability to communicate his messages clearly. There's less herky-jerky drumming here, but a wall of noise guitar line that is pretty damaging.  'Jake's Cake' begins with what sounds like Terrie or Andy rubbing a slide frantically over the fretboard while the other brings in a somewhat off-kilter Devo-like riff. Lyrics, well, they're a bit more impressionistic though no less angry. Maybe I'm just too removed from 1991 politics now to remember who 'Jake' is supposed to be. It would be nice if I had the whole set of these....

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Elf Power - 'The Winter Hawk' (Kindercore)

I remember Elf Power. I remember seeing them, even them staying at my house, liking them, both this 7" and their first full-length.... but I don't remember anything about what they sounded like. This isn't to say they were forgettable, but I guess I forgot them. (I do remember them covering Eno's 'Needles in the Camel's Eye' live, and it was pretty good). This is their debut 7"; they were led by a really lovely guy named Bryan Helium, and were affiliated with the Elephant 6 label, though perhaps in a second-tier setting. This is a nice record; post-R.E.M. jangle (they were from Athens, after all), some violin playing, and a warbly clarinet opens things up with 'Grand Intrusion Call'; 'Heroes and Insects' goes for a dirgy, almost doom-like instrumental approach before some trebly strumming lightens it up. This seems a million miles away from the catchy Beatlesisms of the Olivias, until the B-side comes with the title track. This is more like it, "it" being that lackadaisical indie-pop sound that I still associate with the Kindercore label. Vocal harmonies and some recorder (or melodica, or something) makes this easy and light, but still not particularly 'catchy'. It's a pretty mixed bag, this 7", and stronger than I remember it - let's face it, I don't remember anything - and maybe its diversity is the explanation. The closing cut, the impeccably titled 'Exalted Exit Wound', takes things out on a fuzz+acoustic combo, instrumental again, and reminding me a bit of 'Here Come the Warm Jets' (the song), again an Eno connection. 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Elephants - 'Music Machine'/'Jesus' (Paper)

The Elephants are an already-forgotten band from Kentucky that lived in the world of melodic guitar pop, though without much notable influence from the Elephant 6/Apples in Stereo gang that shared the stage with them. 'Music Machine' is a bouncing, bright song with lots of space, and a vocal melody that isn't easy to compare to. But it's the B-side, the somber 'Jesus', which is chilling - singer Jason Zavala's investigation of a personal relationship that is somehow fragile, tender and honest despite the subject matter and the 'ba ba ba ba' vocal bit. His voice has a complexity and dynamic that's deliberately underplayed, until the last movement comes along and it gets dangerously "emo" -- yet the overall aesthetic of the Elephants is so far from that, we're spared any clich├ęs. The liner notes include a website address which seems to be for a music shop in California, so I'm impressed by the lack of Internet presence for a band this recent.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Eat Skull - 'Jerusalem Mall' (Woodsist)

Coming off their great second album, I expected more from 'Jerusalem Mall', the song, which (if you're gonna command the A-side alone) should deliver more punch. Overall, this 7" feels like a bit of Eat Skull's different sides. My preference is for the fun, poppy stuff, represented here by the 7"s best track, 'Don't Leave Me on the Speaker'. Unlike 'Jerusalem Mall' this sounds bright, with the guitars working in a style that is melodically ramshackle instead of discordantly ramshackle. 'Thank you! Smokebreaks' is a fast punker along the 'Nuke Mecca' lines from Wild and Inside; fun, sure, but I think these work better on the longform player where there's a lot more meat in the sandwich. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Dutchess & The Duke - 'Never Had a Chance' b/w 'Scorpio' (Hozac)

For some reason I was really taken by She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke, the first of two albums from this Pacific northwest pair. The "duke" sings lead over hard-folk strumming, with the "dutchess" doing backing vocals, and that's about it. He has a real early-Stones affect to his voice, and the whole exercise feels pretty retro -- but with really, really solid songwriting. This single continues the feel, starting with 'Never Had a Chance' which is good, set up over a twangy guitar part accompanied by a tambourine or some other such percussion. But it's the b-side, 'Scorpio', that kills. It's a sad, simple look back at lost love, with a dual-vocal chorus of 'I'm a long, long way from you / my heart....' that's incredible familiar, derivative even, yet un-pinpointable. The Duke truly dominates this band - his vocals are double-tracked even - but as soon as this song ends, I start it over. I'm fairly certain that this pair has split up and he's gone on to make records as Case Studies, who also made a pretty good album. On pretty green vinyl, too. Let the early 60s live on forever.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Dogbowl - 'I Am Too Drunk Everynight Because Of The Blue Fur Bosom Girl' (Vital)

The 7" section of venture is obviously my least attended-to, as I just made the first post in 2 years. This is an accurate reflection of how my 7" box (or boxes, rather) is the least attended-to section of my music accumulation, which is a shame since there's so many gems. But there's also a lot of oddities buried in this mud, such as this single from Dogbowl released in 1991. Dogbowl is of course the original guitarist for King Missile, during their earliest records. He brought a softer, more folk-based sound to King Missile and is also, I think, responsible for the true bits of genius such as 'World War III is a Giant Ice Cream Cone'. He left and the Missile went towards full-on rawk, but I always felt John S. Hall's sense of humour meshed really well with Dogbowl. Now this is basically novelty music, except novelty music with arthouse tendencies, and for that reason I have a real soft spot for this single. Side A, the title track, has beatnik style brass accompaniment over Dogbowl's lonely lament -- and the quite literal cover art shows the girl in question. It's weird, but too funny to appeal to anyone except deliberate oddballs. The B-side, 'Here Comes the Man with the Plucked Out Eyes', is the 'classic' that I keep going back to (or would, if I remembered to listen to this song more than every 7 years). It's built around a driving beat that keeps stopping to let some droning pulse almost overtake it - like a horror movie, except the vocal delivery and instrumentation and pretty much everything else makes it ha-ha funny. Yes, I bought this single in high school. Yes, I still like it lots. No, I've never listened to anything else by solo Dogbowl, nor have I been particularly curious.