Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Perusing Portland's Bins Again

Last week my boys were off school for something called mid-winter break. Back in my day, we didn't have this vacation. I hope you pictured me in a cardigan sweater, glasses on the end of my nose and waving a cane at no one in particular as I typed that last bit. Get off my lawn! Anyway, the family went to an indoor water park for a couple of days and then further south to Portland for a couple more days of fun. That gave me the chance to stop by one of my favorite used record stores. As I wrote back in 2013 when I discovered Crossroads Music, this place is not your usual shop. It's 35 sellers under one roof. Truth be told, I'm really only into the wares of one particular seller, and I couldn't wait to see what he had this time around. More than a year had passed since visiting, and the night before I checked online for the address only to find the shop had been forced to move across town last summer. Reading this on the one-year anniversary of my favorite shop in America closing (Wombleton Records in L.A.) made my heart sink, but at least Crossroads had weathered the storm.

One of the aspects of the old Crossroads that worked well for us was the neighborhood. The family had plenty to do nearby as I perused the bins. The new Crossroads, well, let's just say there was some thumb twiddling by the kids while Mrs. LTL guessed the occupations of the customers walking into the pot shop next door. I would have to work fast. I went up to the counter with my phone in hand. On the screen I had a 360-degree image of the old shop, and I was able to show the fella exactly where my seller's spot had resided. I was in luck. My guy still had a section in the store. As expected the already high prices were a little bit higher than I remembered, but he still had the goods.

Twenty minutes later, I had some decisions to make. This was the biggest selection of the Fall that I had ever seen, but the ones I wanted most were out of my price range. There were a couple of early albums from the Jazz Butcher I regrettably had to pass up too. I left with four albums and the hope I would have more cash next time I visited Portland. I'll get to all four purchases in time. For today, let's start with Rough Trade 46, the 1983 self-titled album from Jazzateers. I have a soft spot for any band with a Postcard Records connection, and the price was right. If Postcard had survived until the end of its second year, the "Wasted" 7" would have been Postcard 81-14. That's a cover of the 1976 single by Donna Summer. The version by Jazzateers finally saw the light of day on Cherry Red's 2014 release 'Let Your Son Grow Up To Be A Cowboy - Unreleased Recordings 1981-82'. Here's a racket from their first album where you hear the plea not to let your son grow up to be a cowboy.

"Looking for a Girl"

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Good to Be the King

Not to be confused with the king of the French from 1830 to 1848, Philippe Auclair is known as Louis Philippe when the Frenchman records music, and his gorgeous sound is chamber pop that's reminiscent of the Left Banke or the Clientele to these ears. Philippe's heyday came between those two bands, and today's single is from 1987.

Philippe's a real renaissance man, known as much as a football journalist as a musician, but it's amazing how often his name pops up on records in our collections. He's worked with many of my favorites, including Dave Gregory, Martin Newell, Stuart Moxham and Sean O'Hagan, and he was the backbone of the short-lived but legendary Cherry Red subsidiary él Records, in one way or another appearing on more than half of the label's recordings. When él folded, Japan's rabid indie scene saved his recording career, and this song comes from the 1996 Polystar best-of collection 'I Still Believe in You.' Prepare to get hooked to lush indie-pop royalty!

"You Mary You"

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Couple of Cowards

When nothing nothing comes to mind to write about, I usually end up saying to myself, "Well, there's always Elvis Costello." Actually, this one was inspired by the Swede a couple of weeks ago when he remembered T-Bone Burnett on his birthday. Costello and Burnett have worked together often and are probably most known for their single "The People's Limousine", recorded under the pseudonym the Coward Brothers. Costello was Howard Coward, and Burnett went by Henry Coward. Burnett should be thanked, I think, for helping Costello break out of the malaise that was the period around the album 'Goodbye Cruel World'. The duo played quite a bit in late '84, and the noise they made together had quite an influence on Costello's next move, 'King of America', which Burnett co-produced.

There are plenty of songs to illustrate their time together, and I'm half tempted to play Burnett's guitar work on the cover of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" or the '86 appearances when Burnett was part of Costello's live band the Confederates, Instead, here is the single version of "Blue Chair". It's a more raw and raucous take than the one Costello did with the Attractions on 'Blood and Chocolate'. It was produced under Burnett's alter ego Henry Coward, and he played guitar on the song as well but is credited as Burnett. Confused? How about this? Many of the instruments were played by another T-Bone... this time Mr. Wolk. Wolk is all over 'King of America', and it must have been quite a time for all with two T-Bones in the studio. The lone Attraction on this recording is Steve Nieve.

I have this single as a 12", and it includes a couple of other Burnett sightings, including "Shoes Without Heels" and "American Without Tears". If you find this one in a used bin for a few bucks, I would say it's well worth picking up. Of course, with all of the reissues and reissues of reissues of Costello's work, chances are you may already have these songs on the shelf.

"Blue Chair" (single version)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Formula Adds Up for Math and Physics Club

After five long years, 'Our Hearts Beat Out Loud' has been dethroned, and I can continue to say my favorite album by Math and Physics Club is whatever happens to be the band's latest release. 'Lived Here Before' came out a couple of weeks ago, and it's getting plays at LTL HQ daily. To these ears, the sound is a little richer, a little fuller and a little darker. This is not a metamorphosis, however, and that melancholy mood that's like manna to us indie-pop fans is still here. In short, this is the first vital release of 2018.

Order heavyweight blue vinyl from Fika Recordings, or get the fancy six-panel sleeved CD from Matinée Recordings.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

This Is Pop

As the shopping list grows, expect brief mentions of important new releases the next few posts. On this, the 25th anniversary of Martin Newell's album 'The Greatest Living Englishman', Captured Tracks is celebrating with a special vinyl reissue that includes a 10-page booklet with updated liner notes by Newell himself. If you only know Newell from his brilliant lo-fi recordings under the moniker Cleaners From Venus, this gorgeous piece of pop immaculately produced by Andy Partridge will come as quite a surprise. In my humble opinion, the name Newell should be included with the likes of English icons Hitchcock, Davies, McCartney and, yes, Partridge. Preorder 'The Greatest Living Englishman' for a Feb. 23 release.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Shame About the Rain Mix

Can it get any worse? I don't mean the weather. I mean that your host is blogging about the weather. Where do I go from here? Perhaps my bursitis or how the kids need to get off my lawn. In my neck of the woods, as the calendar turned to 2018, it started raining. It hasn't stopped. The forecast above was taken from my phone. Next week looks exactly like last week and the week before. For the most part, Seattle is like this from October to June, but this winter feels darker and wetter than the usual. Meanwhile, I'm beginning to believe in seasonal affective disorder.

I searched the word "rain" on my iTunes and came up with a whole mess of songs. Here are a few indie-pop favorites from yesteryear that will do nothing to get me out of this state. Yes, I'm wallowing in my misery. Actually, a couple of these would put a bounce in anyone's step... even with bursitis.

The Chesterf!elds - Shame About the Rain
The Loft - Why Does the Rain
The June Brides - In the Rain
The Suede Crocodiles - Stop the Rain
The Wolfhounds - Rain Stops Play
The Rain - Dry the Rain

Friday, January 26, 2018

'Tis the Season for the Long Winters

CC at Charity Chic Music had a fantastic post earlier this week on a 2002 sampler Seattle-based Barsuk Records put out called 'Treats'. This was the label's salad days, and the stable of stars included Nada Surf, Rilo Kiley, John Vanderslice, Death Cab for Cutie and many others. My favorite from that era, however, was the Long Winters, and I was shocked to learn today the band had never featured here.

The Long Winters centered around the work of singer-songwriter John Roderick, and he had a knack of surrounding himself with talent, mostly from Seattle, including Chris Walla and Michael Schorr of Death Cab, Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger and even Nabil Ayers, former owner of Sonic Boom Records, a great shop I often frequent. There would also be help along the way from legends like Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer of the Posies, as well as Scott McCaughey.

Early on, some compared the Long Winters to R.E.M., and I never really heard it. Before today, I had not listened to them for a very long time. I put this one on and, well, I have to admit I did hear a little of the fellas from Athens, Ga. Of course, it helps that Peter Buck plays mandolin on it. This song can be found on the 2003 album 'When I Pretend to Fall'.

"Cinnamon"

After three terrific albums and an EP between 2002 and 2006, we were promised another long player. In 2016, word was Roderick was getting close. That's an awful lot of long winters between albums, but I bet it will be worth the wait.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mark E. Smith (1957-2018)

I hope this song from Jens Lekman gave him a smile.

She said it was all make-believe
But I thought you said maple leaves
And when she talked about a fall
I thought she talked about a season
I never understood at all

I thought she said maple leaves
And when she talked about the fall
I thought she talked about Mark E. Smith
I never understood at all


"Maple Leaves"

Sunday, January 21, 2018

When BMX Bandits Finally Made It Onto 'C86'

BMX Bandits got screwed. They weren't deemed worthy of being on NME's 'c86' compilation, but by the late '80s no label would touch them because they were unfairly linked to a press-created genre that was no longer considered cool. Frontman Duglas T. Stewart took matters into his own hands and got a loan to finance the band's first album, calling it 'C86' with just a bit of irony. The cover art above sums it all up succinctly.

Fellow Bandit Norman Blake was just starting up a new band with his friend Raymond McGinley after their stint together as the Boy Hairdressers. The new band, of course, was Teenage Fanclub, and their first album would also be self-financed. Since BMX Bandits and Teenage Fanclub were sharing band members, as well as equipment, it was decided both albums would be recorded at the same studio back-to-back in 14 days. Teenage Fanclub didn't have a drummer, however. So Bandit and former Boy Hairdresser Francis Macdonald did the honors. Clear as mud, right? The sharing didn't end there. 'C86' opener "Right Across the Street" was originally intended for Teenage Fanclub, and "Let Mother Nature Be Your Guide" was written by Blake for the Boy Hairdressers.

Blake would play on one more BMX Bandits album, 'Star Wars', but by then Teenage Fanclub was taking off and needed all of his attention. Let's have a listen to those two Blake-penned songs from 'C86'.

"Right Across the Street"
"Let Mother Nature Be Your Guide"

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Now Here's a Christmas Card

Make that a Postcard! This was the first time since I was 12 that I didn't get an album for Christmas, but I can't complain too much after receiving this surprise. This print of the Postcard logo came from Edwyn Collins and James Endeacott's AED Records, and it took longer to ship from the UK than Mrs. LTL thought it would. I did get to open it on Christmas morning, however, and we just got it back from the framers a few days ago. It came out beautifully and really classes up the music room, I can tell you. My wife. I think I'll keep her.

To celebrate, let's listen to Postcard 81/5. "Chance Meeting" was the last of three singles Josef K released for Alan Horne's label. According to my trusty copy of 'Indie Hits 1980-1989: The Complete U.K. Independent Charts', the song entered the chart on May 16, 1981, peaking at No. 12. Speaking of the pride of Edinburgh, to all of my pals in Scotland, enjoy your snow day. I have Sky News on as I ready myself for bed, and it looks like you're waking up in a winter wonderland.

"Chance Meeting"
"Pictures (Of Cindy)"

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Chastain and Menck's Magnum Opus

There are plenty of other places to go with the duo of Paul Chastain and Ric Menck, but I'm going to conclude this brief series with the band and album they will be most remembered for... 'Teenage Symphonies to God' by Velvet Crush.

When this one came out in 1994, there was so much for me to celebrate. Let's start with the label. The lads followed up stints with the likes of Summershine, Subway and Sarah, to name but a few, by adding Alan McGee's Creation to their impressive ancestry. Then there was the band itself. Chastain and Menck were joined by Jeffrey Borchardt of Honeybunch fame. Mitch Easter not only co-produced the album at his legendary Drive-In Studio, one of the last albums done there, but we all know Easter likes to lend a helping hand on both sides of the glass too. Assistance also came from names like Stephen Duffy, Greg Leisz and many others. There would be songs penned by Matthew Sweet and Gene Clark from his days with Dillard & Clark. Bottom line, for me, this is an all-star cast.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say all of this added up to 'Teenage Symphonies to God' (oh, I forgot to even mention lauding Brian Wilson!) being just about the best 40 minutes of power-pop you'll ever hear.

"Hold Me Up"
"Why Not Your Baby"

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Capital Single From the Springfields

Another day, another endeavor by Paul Chastain and Ric Menck. The band we listened to yesterday, Choo Choo Train, chugged along in '87 and '88. Today's incarnation, the Springfields, were the locomotive and caboose to Choo Choo Train, releasing a 7" in '86 and then resuming from '89 to '91. Between these two bands, there was some label jumping, and the fact these lads from America showed up on legendary imprints the Subway Organization and Sarah Records will never cease to amaze me.

The three-track 7" we are going to listen to today is an Australian issue that came out in 1991 on the always dependable Summershine label, a brief home to many favorites of mine, including the Rainyard, the Sugargliders and yet another Chastain/Menck band that will be featured here next time. "Reach for the Stars", written by Menck, has a tremendous break in tempo at the two-minute mark, turning this from a head-bobbing jangly pop song to something quite psychedelic. It may give you whiplash in the same way the Kinks did that to us on the 1972 tune "Australia". The other song on that side is a cover of the Pastels' Creation-era single "Million Tears". If you're a fan of that band's work, you're going to love this rendition. Stick around for "Tranquil" on the flip side. I think you just might hear Stephen's influence there too.

If you live in the UK and find all of this vaguely familiar, you may have this exact same three tracks on a single that highlighted "Tranquil" instead of "Reach for the Stars". It was released the same year on Seminal Twang and with a completely different sleeve. That label was a short-lived division of Paperhouse that released a 7" a month and had a magazine-like look to their sleeves. Ring any bells? They highlighted some great bands.

"Reach for the Stars"
"Million Tears"
"Tranquil"