Saturday, August 27, 2011

Magnetic Fields rarities

Like many, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Stephin Merritt: Obscurities, which came out on Merge last week. Though, probably also like many, I approach this album with mixed feelings. On one hand, I am of course excited to have a compiled and remastered selection of rarities from the Merritt vaults; at the same time, it makes all those 7"s I bought 15 years ago seem a little less precious. Or perhaps more precious as objects, but less precious for the music they contain, which is now available to all. As it should be (this blog is evidence of my feelings in that regard) - but like I said, these feelings are mixed.

Also complicating my reaction to the new compilation is the fact that it contains several old songs that have never (or hardly ever) seen the light of day - but also that there is a whole slew of obscure songs left off. A number of people have suggested that there should be a second volume released, but from the sound of this interview, that seems pretty unlikely. And so, I've put together this mix as an addendum to the Merge album. I've cheated a bit, because this contains a number of songs outside the timeframe of the Obscurities album, which only goes up to 1999. And there are still some other songs that I didn't put on - the content of all the Future Bible Heroes singles, for instance, or the dance remix of "I Thought You Were My Boyfriend," or the iTunes bonus track from Realism, or a few others. But this mix does feature all of Stephin Merritt's covers (the Numan and Bowie are particularly good), as well as many of more fabulous other tracks from compilations and smaller releases. It's a good listen!

Stephin Merritt
Obscurities (Addendum), compiled 2011

1. Stephin Merritt, "Get Carter" (0:30; Human League cover, 2000)
2. The Magnetic Fields, "I Die: You Die" (3:10; Gary Numan cover, 1997)
3. The Magnetic Fields, "'Heroes'" (5:56; David Bowie cover, 1996)
4. Stephin Merritt, "Beauty" (3:29; Tall Dwarfs cover, 1988)
5. The Magnetic Fields, "The Man Amplifier" (2:25; Young Marble Giants cover, 1995)
6. The Magnetic Fields, "Le Tourbillion" (2:17; Jeanne Moreau cover, 1999)
7. The 6ths (feat. Lloyd Cole), "Human" (3:20; Human League cover, 2000)
8. Stephin Merritt, "Not One of Us" (3:58; Peter Gabriel cover, 2010)
9. Stephin Merritt, "Dream Again" (4:11; Franz Ferdinand cover, 2011)
10. Future Bible Heroes, "Don't You Want Me" (3:50; Human League cover, 2000)
11. The Magnetic Fields, "If I Were a Rich Man" (5:08; Fiddler on the Roof cover, 1999)
12. The Magnetic Fields, "Plant White Roses (Susan Anway vocal)" (4:45; 1995)
13. The Magnetic Fields, "Crowd of Drifters (Susan Anway vocal)" (3:33; 1990)
14. The Gothic Archies, "City of the Damned (original mix)" (1:43; 1996)
15. The Gothic Archies, "The Dead Only Quickly" (1:10; 1996)
16. The Magnetic Fields, "Plant White Roses (Stephin Merritt vocal)" (4:06; 1994)
17. The Magnetic Fields, "The Nun's Litany (Stephin Merritt vocal)" (2:58; 2008)
18. Stephin Merritt, "A Man of a Million Faces" (4:18; 2008)
19. Stephin Merritt, "I'm in a Lonely Way" (2:19; 2007)
20. Stephin Merritt, "The Meaning of Lice" (3:02; 2006)
21. Future Bible Heroes, "Mr. Punch" (3:05; 2007)
22. Future Bible Heroes, "O! What a Dream It Was" (3:22; 1996)

Get it all here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Treepeople + Archers of Loaf

In the spirit of all those Teriyaki Asthma singles and my long-running desire to showcase bands from my home state of North Carolina, I thought it would make sense to build a post around this great double 7" release by Treepeople and Archers of Loaf. To boot, I recently saw the Archers on their reunion tour, although due to a scheduling snafu by one of my friends and the fact that the show started exactly on schedule, I missed almost their entire set, which was a bummer. By the way, what's up with bands actually starting on time these days? Is everyone getting old? Or are clubs starting to be all professional and shit? I'm not really complaining, as it is nice to get out of a club having seen three acts by midnight, but it feels a bit odd somehow.

Anyway, for those who don't know, Archers of Loaf were, alongside Superchunk and Polvo, one of the early-90s indie rock bands from Chapel Hill to "make it" on a national scale. They formed in 1991 and released their first album Icky Mettle in 1993. This classic has recently been reissued by Merge and the new version contains much of the material that I am posting here. As always, I encourage you to go pick that up if you'd like a clean copy of these songs. The band consists of Eric Johnson, Matt Gentling, Mark Price, and Eric Bachmann (later of Barry Black and Crooked Fingers). Treepeople were from the opposite side of country, having formed in Seattle after its various members left Boise, Idaho: Scott Schmaljohn, Wayne Rhino Flower, Pat Brown, and Doug Martsch (later of Built to Spill). They didn't take off in quite the way that the Archers did, but they definitely established a place for themselves in the PNW scene. (See their previously-posted appearance on Teriyaki Asthma VIII.) Their line-up changed over the years, most notably when Martsch left to form Built to Spill around 1993/94.

That was right around the moment that this single was recorded. The idea here was that each of the two bands would contribute one new song and one cover of a song by the other band. This leads us to the alluring prospect of hearing Doug Marsch sing "Web in Front" but sadly I believe he had already left the band at this point. At least it doesn't sound like his voice, and the single doesn't include line-ups for the bands - does anyone know whether its him or Schmaljohn singing? Regardless, this is a powerful selection of four songs by two great bands, and well worth a listen.

Treepeople + Archers of Loaf double 7", 1994
Sonic Bubblegum, no. 16

A. Treepeople, "Meet at the End" (4:04)
B. Treepeople, "Web in Front" (2:24)
C. Archers of Loaf, "Quinnbeast" (3:38)
D. Archers of Loaf, "Funnelhead" (2:51)

To give a bit of context for that single, I thought it would be nice to also share Treepeople's first single, from 1989. This one does feature Martsch and the rest of the band in full glory. They sound just slightly ahead of their time, considering this is from the (late) 80s - unlike, say, Nirvana's early output, this could easily be mistaken as having been written after indie/grunge/whatever became so much more mainstream a few years later.

Treepeople 7", 1989
Silence, no. 2

A. "Important Things" (4:24)
B1. "Handcuffs" (3:51)
B2. "In My Head" (2:10)

Sadly I don't have Archers of Loaf's first single (the stunning Wrong/South Carolina), but I do have their second one, which fittingly includes "Web in Front" to compare with Treepeople's version. This was the band's first big hit, and it still sounds great today.

Archers of Loaf, The Loaf's Revenge 7", 1993
Alias, no. 41

A1. "Web in Front" (2:05)
A2. "Bathroom" (1:45)
B. "Tatyana" (4:37)

Finally, since the Archers songs above have all been released on their Speed of Cattle comp or otherwise reissued on the new Icky Mettle release, I thought you might like to hear this single from a few years later, featuring "Harnessed in Slums" off their second LP, Vee Vee, plus a pretty great flipside that to my knowledge has not been otherwise released (yet).

Archers of Loaf, Harnessed in Slums 7", 1995
Alias, no. 72

A. "Harnessed in Slums" (3:12)
B. "Telepathic Traffic" (2:59)

Get all four singles here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bonus round: Teriyaki Asthma & Load

So, no sooner had I finished my last post than did I find myself at a record store in Williamsburg, sifting through old 7"s, and lo and behold what should I find but another volume of Teriyaki Asthma! For a dollar no less. (They had Level Records's Squirrel and Hamster records for cheap too, incidentally.) I thought about adding this to the post below but then a week passed, and then some more, so I figure better now to make this its own little mini-post.

Teriyaki Asthma IX feels a little bit like the series is going out on a whimper. After the downright badassness of Volume VIII - especially that Ween track - the four bands featured here seem pretty innocuous.
At least at first. Then I did some digging and discovered that the first featured act, Superconductor, was the first band led by Carl Newman (of the New Pornographers) and that, to boot, it featured six (!) guitars, two basses, plus drums. That must have made for a pretty amazing live act, and you can just get a glimpse of that here, in their cover of an excellent song by the La's. Stymie, the second band featured, should not be confused with the more recent band with the same name - this is the grunge band that never seemed to get it together and make many official recordings during its actual lifespan (their first single was called "Debut Posthumous Single"). On side two, Crackerbash would have been near the end of their run by the time they recorded this - not much info to be found about them. And finally, regarding Trash Can School: as an art guy, I have to give them props for referencing the Ashcan School in their band name, though I'm not sure what meaning we're supposed to derive from that. Maybe it's better just to settle in with their song, as we round out the run of the Teriyaki Asthma singles series.

Teriyaki Asthma IX, 1993
C/Z, no. 70

A1. Superconductor, "There She Goes" (2:27)
A2. Stymie, "One Proud Stout" (2:00)
B1. Crackerbash, "Head Lika Weedeater" (2:42)
B2. Trash Can School, "Hobgoblins" (1:56)

Get the single here.

And you know, while I'm in the bonus mood, I think I'll throw in that last demo by Load, which jamdkoff had requested a little while back. This is quite the epic endeavor - a 10+ minute operatic rock masterpiece. Or perhaps failure. Either way, all that spoken-word poetic diatribe-y stuff on the Load demo tape gets played out here to the fore. See what you think:
Get it here.

More soon!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Teriyaki Asthma

Having focused aplenty on Washington DC, let's move now across the country to Washington state, where we find Seattle's C/Z Records, a small label founded in 1985. C/Z may be overshadowed by its city's other indie label, Sub Pop, but it can in fact lay claim to some serious milestones in the development of indie rock in the Pacific Northwest. According to the label's website, C/Z released the first recordings by such heavy-hitters as Soundgarden, the Melvins, and Built to Spill - not bad. Perhaps more historically, they were the first label to put out a song by Nirvana - namely the track "Mexican Seafood," which appeared as the first song on the first volume of the label's singles series, Teriyaki Asthma, in 1989.

That's a pretty momentous way to start out a singles series, and over the next four years the label did well to keep up, including songs by Babes in Toyland, L7, Helios Creed, and others, as you will soon see. The majority of the Teriyaki Asthma tracks fit squarely within the grunge aesthetic of late-80s/early-90s Seattle, but there are some pleasant surprises, and overall I have to say there is a very high level of sonic quality here. I am not fortunate enough to own all the whole series (the first volume goes for over $100 these days), but I have amassed four of them, which I am presenting here. These and the rest of the singles, including the never-released Teriyaki Asthma X, have been released on CD by the label and seem to still be available here - as always I encourage you to go get those clean and pristine digital versions. In the meantime, have a gander at volumes five through eight below.

I may already have to eat my words about these records featuring mostly PNW bands, as Teriyaki Asthma V opens with a rager by Jonestown who were, from what I can tell, actually from Philadelphia. There's not much information out there about them other than that they featured Tom Greenwood, who went on to co-found Jackie-O Motherfucker in Portland. Gas Huffer actually was from Seattle, as was Daddy Hate Box, which was a side group formed by the singer from Coffin Break and the drummer from Tad. (Their band name is a play on Mother Love Bone, get it?) Porn Orchard hail from Athens, GA and for this single turn in a similarly raucous track, making this single a fine introduction to what Teriyaki Asthma has to offer.

Teriyaki Asthma V, 1991
C/Z, no. 25

A1. Jonestown, "Fuck Your High and Get You Up" (2:24)
A2. Gas Huffer, "Hijacked" (2:11)
B1. Porn Orchard, "What Kills" (3:57)
B2. Daddy Hate Box, "Look Like Hell" (1:56)

Things get interesting on Teriyaki Asthma VI. The first track is by The Thrown Ups, a band by this point in decline thanks to two of its three members devoting themselves to their more well-known act, Mudhoney. They turn in what is apparently a typically manic performance here, on what must have been one of their last recordings. Olivelawn is a bit more obscure, but came from San Diego and, as their song title suggests, clearly have some aggression to work out. Pain Teens are described on Wikipedia as "an experimental noise rock band from Houston, Texas" which I suppose sums up their song here, which sound great - but not as great as the single's last track. That one comes to us by none other than Unrest, who here turn in an instrumental noise groove that foreshadows some of their Imperial ffrr tracks. I'm always excited to post a rare Unrest track!

Teriyaki Asthma VI, 1991
C/Z, no. 36

A1. The Thrown Ups, "Walrus Head" (3:48)
A2. Olivelawn, "You're a Dick & I'm Gonna Kill You" (1:24)
B1. Pain Teens, "Come Up & See Me Sometime" (3:14)
B2. Unrest, "Caitlin Bums" (3:13)

Teriyaki Asthma VII continues with some of my fave indie heavy-hitters, including, on side B, Superchunk and Tsunami, who have been posted here numerous times already. Both these bands' tracks have been anthologized on their own singles comps. Side A features Poster Children, an Illinois trio (sometimes quartet) that has a surprisingly complete website covering every detail of their long history, so I don't feel much need to go on at length here, and C/Z standard-bearer Hammerbox. All these bands, I'm happy to report, prominently feature female members, making this record a nice antidote to the all-guy indie/grunge trend.

Teriyaki Asthma VII, 1992
C/Z, no. 41

A1. Poster Children, "It's True" (2:50)
A2. Hammerbox, "Promise to Never" (1:51)
B1. Superchunk, "Sister" (2:45)
B2. Tsunami, "Punk Means Cuddle" (2:28)

Our last entry from the Teriyaki Asthma series features another great selection. Starting us off is Treepeople, the band that spawned Doug Martsch of Built to Spill - though I am not sure he was playing with them this late in their career. I can't find any information whatsoever about Dose (anyone have any clues?) though MX-80 seems to be better documented, though largely in their later incarnation as MX-80 Sound. But wait, I skipped the most important track - Ween! What the fuck are they doing here? Making a holy racket and sounding like they don't give a shit and/or are as high as kites, surprise. Anyway, this is classic Ween circa Pure Guava and I believe not otherwise compiled. Good stuff!

Teriyaki Asthma VIII, 1992
C/Z, no. 49

A1. Treepeople, "Drawing Lessons" (1:37)
A2. Dose, "Eyesore" (3:30)
B1. Ween, "Long Legged Sally Was a No Necked Whore" (2:47)
B2. MX-80, "Surfin' Pope-X" (2:06)

Phew - get all four singles here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Machines (two of them)

Following on the heels of my Level Records posts, here are two absolutely stunning singles from the "Machines" series put out by Simple Machines records back in the day. This series comprised the first six releases on the label, one for each of the eponymous devices: wedge, wheel, pulley, screw, lever, and inclined plane. These were later compiled on CD, so if you want a cleaner copy, you should go get that. In the meantime, I'm posting the two entries from the series that are in my collection, with all the snaps, crackles, and pops like you're sitting listening to your own copies.

First up is Lever, which opens with a great rager by Severin, followed by Scrawl's cover of "Reuters" by Wire, which if not an improvement on the original (how could it be?) is an interesting and worthy entry into the legions of Wire acolyte-ism. Autoclave, who showed up here on the Teenbeat 50 comp a while back, reappear with another hit, and finally the disc wraps up with the real wonder of the bunch, Circus Lupus, whose song "Pacifier" I first heard on a mixtape in 1994 and is still blowing my mind all these years later. Who'd have thunk that you'd hear the influence of Steve Albini and Alain Jourgensen on a Simple Machines release? Listen and learn, my friends.

Lever split 7", 1991
Simple Machines, no. 5

A1. Severin, "Me & You" (4:10)
A2. Scrawl, "Reuters" (2:17)
B1. Autoclave, "Summer" (2:20)
B2. Circus Lupus, "Pacifier" (3:58)

For the final single in the Machines series, those Simple Machines folks really pulled out all the stops, squeezing four of the heaviest hitters of the early 90s indie scene into one amazing single. Inclined Plane boasts a cover of Flower's "Beauty pt. II" by Tsunami (featuring the label's stalwart leaders Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thomson), followed by (yet another) great Superchunk track. On the flip side is a tremendous instrumental by Louisville's Rodan, and finally, fantastically, Unrest's reworking of the Family Fodder hit "Debbie Harry", which is updated to become "Winona Ryder". Anyone who reads this blog knows how I love Unrest, so this is a very happy finale indeed.

Inclined Plane split 7", 1993
Simple Machines, no. 6

A1. Tsunami, "Beauty pt. II" (3:04)
A2. Superchunk, "Baxter" (4:04)
B1. Rodan, "Darjeeling" (4:16)
B2. Unrest, "Winona Ryder" (2:30)

Get both singles here. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Commemorative Rodent Series

Blame this one on completism. After I got the Load cassette from my grandmother and started corresponding with Damian at Level Records, I got their first 7", a compilation called Hamster that featured one of the Load tracks and was intended as the first in the Commemorative Rodent singles series. Turns out the series never really took, and there was just one more entry before Level closed and Damian et al moved on to bigger and better things. A few years ago I found Squirrel and was pleasantly surprised to find that it had an otherwise-unavailable track by one of my favorite Teenbeat groups, Tuscadero. That song, along with the Chisel song on the same record, is the true highlight here - with all apologies to readers who may feel otherwise, I'm afraid that most of the recordings here, especially on Hamster, simply aren't that good. So consider this post more of an anthropological study - you've heard the hits of the indie rock scene, now remember what it's like when things don't quite gel the way you wish they would.

With that said, a few words about the bands on Hamster: The back of the record lists both Worlds Collide and Ashes as animal rights activist bands ("hence Hamsters: don't kill 'em!") and sure enough I find a listing of Worlds Collide on a Krishnacore website. Apparently WC's singer Ken Olden also fronted such DC bands as Battery and Damnation AD, hardcore/emo bands that I am not at all familiar with, being more interested in the pop-side of the indie equation than the pure punk side. This might explain why I'm not crazy about "Effect of the Age". The Ashes track, on the other hand, is pretty good - and apparently band members Brian McTernan and Matt Squire have gone on to make names for themselves as producers and whatnot (check the wiki links). Load you know about from the last post. Finally, I Spy was (surprisingly) from Winnipeg of all places and were another hardcore/emo band (the singer went on to play in Propagandhi), represented here with a reggae-tinged song that predisposes me not to like the band, because I've never heard a reggae song I liked.

Hamster split 7", 1993
Level, no. 1

A1. Worlds Collide, "Effect of the Age" (3:20)
A2. Ashes, "Tainted Skies" (5:16)
B1. Load, "The Strike" (4:25)
B2. I spy, "Everything" (3:18)

Things improve considerably on Squirrel. For starters there is a very good - if not great - track by Tuscadero. This song sounds like it could have been their first release, though I believe they had already had a few singles out on Teenbeat by the time this came out. While they don't quite have their bubble-gum/girl-group/Joan Jett nostalgia-trip thing down yet here, they are clearly having a good time. Following their song is a great track by Ted Leo's early band Chisel, which beautifully marries a punk-pop vibe with white guitar noise - turn it up loud! On side B we have a track by Frodus, who it seems have recently reformed and who are here evidenced with a pretty good, mathy discordant number. The final track is one-off collaboration between the hardcore bands Bloodlet and Damnation, which brings us full circle back to Worlds Collide. But enough with the chatter, check out the tunes!

Squirrel split 7", 1995
Level, no. 5

A1. Tuscadero, "Island Girls" (4:04)
A2. Chisel, "Out for Kicks" (2:37)
B1. Frodus, "22-D10" (3:02)
B2. Bloodnation, "Flesh of Another" (4:17)

Get both records here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Hello again! It's good to be back. Thanks to those who left comments of support for the blog. I hope you like the new posts. To get us started back again, I am posting this cassette classic from my high school years. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in the pre-internet era, so for many years my only points of access into interesting music were when distant friends would send me mixtapes or zines. This cassette was the odd exception. It was given to me by, of all people, my grandmother, who worked in the dean's office at a private boys school in Washington DC. On rare occasions she would discover that some of the "boys" at her school had bands and introduce me to their music. Thus was I exposed to Load. (Several years later I would be similar introduced to Jonathan Fire*Eater in this way.)

Load released just this one cassette, the first song of which also appears on a split 7" that I will probably post soon. Both were put out on Level Records, which was run by Load's singer Damian. He and I actually corresponded (by letter!) after I got this tape and he sent me one other demo that I may also post at some point. This tape became a major part of the soundtrack for my junior and senior years of high school, and I still can't hear it clearly for all the associated nostalgia.

The funny thing is, just recently when I was thinking about putting this on the blog, I tried doing some research into the band. As you can see, the liner notes only list first names and, as noted, the band predated the web, so it's difficult to track down much information. But based on my searching I am now fairly certain that the singer is actually Damian Kulash, now the front man for OK Go, they of the manic viral youtube videos. It looks like a couple other members of Load were also part of the band early on. Crazy!

Anyway, Mr. Kulash et al are probably embarrassed by this music now, and admittedly it is a bit over-dramatic in places, but I still like it. Hope you do too.

Load, Load EP, 1993
Level, no. 1.5

A1. The Strike (4:13)
A2. Dive (4:11)
B1. All (3:56)
B2. Mirror (3:15)
B3. Cupid's Shotgun (4:05)

Get it here. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


hello there. as you have probably noticed this blog has gone a bit defunct, owing mainly to the fact that it is a pain in the ass to keep up with. but my links are still live, and this week i've gotten a couple of comments, and they got me to thinking that just maybe i might want to start posting again. i got started with this thing mostly because it provides a organized and attractive platform where i can geek out about my 7" collection. i don't consider myself particularly exhibitionistic, but when no one you know gets quite as excited as you do about the records you spend hours hunting for nearly every weekend, you find yourself wanting to reach out. so over time i've realized that i do, in fact, care whether there's an audience for this blog out there. thus, as i consider starting up again, i gotta wonder, would anyone notice?