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


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.