Saturday, September 13, 2008

Evil Wiener, Spatula, and Tinsel

And just like that! Another post. This one features the sonic stylings of three Chapel Hill-area bands that strike pretty different positions within the indie rock scene: nerdy pop songs (Evil Wiener), edging-toward-experimental rock (Spatula), and, for lack of a better word, classic post-grunge indie rock (Tinsel).






Evil Wiener self-titled 7", 1994

Amish Records, no. 2

A1: We're Both Crazy (2:42)

A2: High School Rock'n'Roll Story (2:11)

B1: Get Well Soon, Maria (2:52)

B2: Mexico (3:00)

Evil Wiener has been playing in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro music scene for nearly 20 years, yet there is a surprising dearth of info on the web about them. This record is, I believe, their first recording. [Correction: This is their third release; it was preceded by the split single with Spatula (see below) and their 7" of Xmas songs, now available digitally at thinking about the needle. Thanks to Billy S. for the info!] The band consists of Bill McCormick (aka Billy Sugarfix), who writes the songs, sings, and plays guitar; Groves Willer, who plays bass; and Chuck Garrison, who drums (and who played in the initial Superchunk lineup). For many years McCormick split his duties in the band with his day job as a school teacher. He also runs the website
Custom Serenade, through which you can order your very own Billy Sugarfix song for just $100. Crazy, huh? The band has a website, and while it doesn't have a lot of info, it does have a particularly glorious selection of concert posters from the past 15 years, which offer a really nice snapshot of the Chapel Hill indie scene: see Evil Wiener World.






Evil Wiener/Spatula split 7", 1994

Stay Free! Records, no. 2

A: Evil Wiener - The Truth About Mary Poppins (4:51)

B1: Spatula - Break (2:41)

B2: Spatula - Your Heart's Cold (2:04)


Apparently this record came for free with an issue of the legendary
Stay Free! magazine, though I bought it (used) in a record store like anything else. It features another great song by Evil Wiener, but is especially notable for being the debut of another wonderful Chapel Hill/Carrboro band, Spatula. Spatula started out as a twosome - Chuck Johnson singing and playing guitar, and Matt Gocke drumming. Later (after these records) they added Chris Eubanks on cello and veered toward more experimental territory, with almost entirely instrumental songs. At this point, though, they were pretty firmly in the indie rock territory, and sound remarkably full for a two-person band (I am happy to say this was true for their live shows at the time, too). Allegedly they got their band name because Gocke didn't have any drum sticks starting out and played using spatulas... Anyway, they put out several albums and I believe broke up sometime around 2006.






Spatula/Tinsel split 7", 1994
Over the Counter Records, no. 4

A: Spatula - Pachinko (4:46)

B: Tinsel - The Mole (4:52)


I can't actually find any information about Tinsel at all, other than that Rob Munk sang and played guitar. And I remember that they played a show at the Cat's Cradle with Spatula celebrating the release of both bands' records on Jesus Christ Records, now defunct. If anyone knows more, let me know!


OK, enough from me. Get all three singles
here.

Portastatic

And I bet you all thought I had abandoned this blog. Nope. I wish I could say that I had spent the majority of the past six weeks relaxing on vacation somewhere, but in fact things have been incredibly busy, and one of the first things to go was posting here. But I've been working on several posts, so hopefully this will be the first in a rapid succession of new music posted for your delectation.

I suppose I shouldn't be posting this one at all, really--as I was ripping these singles I did some scouting and learned that just this past Tuesday Merge released a compilation of Portastatic's singles and compilation tracks, which includes all the songs featured here. I prefer not to post records that are still readily available, but I'm making an exception on this one, since these are so good. Please take this post as a teaser and go right out and buy the double-CD release of
Some Small History here.

Portastatic is the solo project of Mac MacCaughan, of Superchunk, who also founded and still co-runs the magnificent Merge Records. The three records I am posting here exhibit the range of styles typical of Portastatic in the mid-1990s: low-fi home recordings, many acoustic (but not all) with some interesting effects thrown in for good measure. I'll admit I am particularly partial to this selection because of the two Magnetic Fields covers included - both from the Distant Plastic Trees album which I think was not yet generally available at the time of these releases. I'll have more from the wonderful world of Stephen Merritt later, but for now enjoy this foray into MacCaughan country.





Portastatic, Naked Pilseners 7", 1994
Matador Records no. 76
A: Naked Pilseners (5:22)
B1: Feel Better (2:23)
B2: Josephine (3:54)





Portastatic, Spying on the Spys 7", 1996
Merge Records no. 117
A: Spying on the Spys (3:59)
B: Do You Want to Buy a Bridge? (3:25)



After Hours Issue #3, 1997?
A1: You Love to Fail (3:34)

This last one is from a Japanese split single with pratically no informaion on its label. The other bands on the single are The Ladybug Transistor and Land of the Loops--the Ladybug Transistor song is from their first album Beverley Atonale, which came out in 1997, so I assume that's around the time this was released. Maybe there's more info inside the aforementioned Portastatic compilation...

Get all three singles here. More to come very soon.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Raymond Brake & Rebar

Today, after a delay longer than what I would have liked, I bring you three singles by two of the greatest bands to come out of the early-90s scene in Greensboro, NC: The Raymond Brake and Rebar. My brother Bart is currently a musician in G'boro (see this site) and when I was first telling him about these bands I was surprised to hear how forgotten they seem to be there... even though it sounds like the houses that these records were produced out of (208 Wilson and 908 Spring Garden) are still rocking on. So this post goes out to Bart and to all the young musicians still playing in Greensboro. Hope you dig it.



The Raymond Brake, 7", 1994
A1: Shallow (4:17)
A2: Healthy As You Feel (3:02)
B: Kilo (6:21)

This self-titled single is I believe the first release by The Raymond Brake, on D-Tox records (number 17), recorded December 1993 and released early in 1994. D-Tox also put out the great Pyloric Waves CD compilation, which I may post at some point. The Raymond Brake were part of the same "Math Rock" movement that spawned Polvo, Trans Am, etc. (though I prefer them to either of those better-known bands), meaning that there are lots of discordant guitars, sudden angular shifts of direction, and so on. After releasing this single, the band went on to sign to Arlington, VA's Simple Machines Records, which put out a CD and a single in 1995 (still available here) and toured the country with Archers of Loaf, Karate, and Liquorice in 1996. What would ultimately be their last release, an EP titled Never Work Ever, came out on Hep-Cat Records the next year. The band split in 1998. It consisted of:

Andy Cabic: guitar, vocals
 
Joel Darden: drums 
Peder Hollinghurst: bass (replaced by Matt Houston in 1997)
Ryan Stewart: guitar, vocals

According to a post last year by Darden at Used Bin Forever (here), after the band split, Cabic moved to San Francsico and formed the band Vetiver, Hollinghurst is in NYC, Houston's in Austin doing music and design work, and Stewart is a chef in Durham. Darden himself still lives in Greensboro, where he teaches high school US History.




Rebar, 7", 1995
A1: The Burn That Is On Me (3:36)
A2: Blanch (3:19)
B: Acquaintances (3:58)

Rebar's history seems to have been marred by mishaps that prevented them from releasing anything beyond the singles posted here, plus one compilation track. This, their first single, was released on Crunchy Record Stuff (number 001) in 1995. Most of the information I have about the band comes from this half-functioning semi-defunct website. Since you can explore that on your own, I'll just say this is a great single--great sounding, great looking (transparent yellow vinyl, ooh la la)--along the lines of The Raymond Brake but much heavier and intense. The band when this was recorded consisted of:

Brent Dunn: bass
Greg Sigmon: guitar (later replaced by Masa Koyama)
Jae Skaggs: drums

Sanders Trippe: vocals, guitars

Trippe and Dunn went on to form Vetiver with Andy Cabic from The Raymond Brake. Skaggs later played in the bands Ch'rora, Sclix, and Great Harvest Murder Company. Not sure what happened to Sigmon or Koyama, other than that Koyama apparently had to move back to Japan, presumably bringing Rebar's run to an end.




Rebar/The Raymond Brake split 7", 1995
A: The Raymond Brake - Davliks (3:17)
B: Rebar - Transparent (7:02)

Nothing much more to say about this, other than that it is a split single between the two bands, put out on Crunchy Record Stuff (002) in 1995 on glorious transparent red vinyl. Kudos to Rebar for using the maximum space available on a 7" by recording their side at 33rpm and playing until they literally ran out of room--the song really does end that way, it's not a ripping malfunction.

OK, enough from me. Get all three singles here. Enjoy, and hopefully I'll have more for you soon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

June

The Mythic Signifier has been a bit quiet lately due to a frantic week at work, but now we return with the first entry in what will likely be a constant thread here: singles from the early/mid-90s Chapel Hill music scene. Today I give you the (to my knowledge, only) three singles released by June. I saw this band I think only once, opening for Squirrel Nut Zippers on Halloween at the Cat's Cradle, must have been 1995. I remember they played a great cover of Bela Lugosi's Dead. Early the following year they released their one and only album on Beggar's Banquet records (titled, like their first single, I Am Beautiful, it is now out of print), and promptly disbanded shortly thereafter. The album includes most of the songs on these singles, but in different recordings--I think the 7" versions are superior in all cases. I hope you think so too.



I am Beautiful 7", Friction Media, 1993
A: I am Beautiful (3:17)
B: The Theme of the Anti-Hero (5:29)



Stripteaser 7", Friction Media, 1993
A: Stripteaser (3:30)
B: The Long Dance (3:29)



Genius 7", Squealer Records, 1994
A: Genius (3:32)
B: All of Me (4:31)

Unfortunately, my copy of the Genius single has not weathered as well as I'd like, so you will notice a single unavoidable little skip in each side of the single. Sorry about that - but luckily for you, the record appears to still be available from Squealer, so you should just go out and buy it yourself here. (Also note that "All of Me," one of the greatest of June's songs, is not available anywhere else.)

At the time of these three recordings, June consisted of:
Kat Cook, vocals
Mathew Gross, drums and vocals
Andy Magowan, bass and violin
John Price, guitar
Tricia Tuttle, guitar and vocals

Download the singles here.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cupid Car Club, M.P.


For my second post I give you another exemplary, if very different, single from the early 90's D.C. scene. Cupid Car Club's self-titled single is a paean to, of all things, teenage hipster suicide cults. The cover recounts the suicide of each of the band's members in image and text in the form of an easy do-it-yourself guide, so you too can "join their club." The back cover, which I unfortunately do not have a decent picture of, offers fragments of obituaries for each of the members. That of singer Ian Svenonius is worth excerpting:

"...apparently slashing his wrists in a friends bathroom. Suspected of being a werewolf, Svenonius was best known for his preacher style sermonizing with various affiliated 'social clubs'; The M.P. Skulkers, Carbonas, and the especially notorious Cupid the 'Car Club'. The wrist slashing punctuated an obsession with a late night underworld peopled entirely by drinamyl fueled boys and girls who would, he claimed, 'Dig a grave big enough to dump the wretched legacy of a life squandered on the idiotic principles of the living world and climb into the car club coffin'. Svenonius advocated young, romantic suicide marketed as a sort of new teen craze, for the purpose of 'empowerment' and claimed his 'car club ephemeral...eternally'."

Obviously this whole thing is a bit tongue-in-cheek--a tendency that would be picked up in force two years after this single, when three of the four band members (Svenonius, James Canty, and Steve Gamboa) would go on to form The Make-Up. The fourth member of Cupid Car Club, Kim Thompson, would join Delta '72. More on both these bands in a later post. For now, have a listen to Cupid Car Club's assaultive stylings--especially the standout final track, Grape Juice Plus. The single was originally released on Kill Rock Stars (#215) in September 1993 and has never been issued on CD. You can also find more info on the band here.

Tracklist:
A1-Edge of the Envelope (2:15)
A2-Vapor Rub Out (2:47)
B1-Child Custody Commandos (1:54)
B2-Grape Juice Plus (3:55)

Download it here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

First post: Bavarian Mods

To start things off here at The Mythic Signifier, I am posting one of my favorite 7" singles by Unrest, the "flagship band" (quoth AMG) of Arlington VA's Teenbeat Records. I'm including all four tracks from Bavarian Mods and Other Hits, including "She Is Today," even though it only consists of the sound of the record player needle being jostled and then about three minutes of silence. Still, to really appreciate the final track "Nova Scotia" you need to weather your way through that silence--on my turntable at least the last track is beyond the point where the auto-return function kicks in, so you really do have to listen to the silence to get to the last song.

Bavarian Mods and Other Hits was released in 1992 on Teenbeat and Homestead Records, and is Teenbeat #84 and Homestead #184. The band at that point consisted of Mark Robinson, Phil Krauth, and Bridget Cross. The song "Bavarian Mods"--one of the gems of the Unrest discography--was later remastered and reissued on the CD compilation BPM [1991-1994], which I strongly recommend purchasing. The rest of the single, including the band's epic rendition of Argent's "God Gave Rock'n'Roll To You" (which was subsequently covered by Kiss as "God Gave Rock'n'Roll To You II," thus the suffix "III" on this version), has never been issued on CD. [Correction: The Argent cover actually did come out on the Dutch East India Company comp Buy This Used Compact Disc. Thanks to Ned for the info!] Enjoy.

Tracklist:
A1-God Gave Rock'n'Roll to You III (4:46)
B1-Bavarian Mods (1:17)
B2-She Is Today (3:09)
B3-Nova Scotia (1:16)

Download link in comments.