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!


Jackson said...

by the way, you may've already found this, but has some scant info on load . the hamster compilation is up on discogs too.

thanks for uploading! this should be interesting to hear.

smokeandmirrors said...

Um, yeah, I put those on discogs. I should have been the Level Records PR man! Hope you like the records. More soon.

Jackson said...

oh, well then.

good job putting them up on discogs, i appreciate that. can't tell you how many times i've found an obscure record on there. great site.

if the intenet had been up then, i'm sure you would've made a great PR man!

i'll get back to you on the records. they're downloading right now!

Mogwaione said...

I have the Teen Smash Hits For Students compilation released by Level I can share with you, email me if you'd like it. You can see what it looked like on my flickr here:

I also have an original copy (not the remastered version) of Fireflies by Frodus on CD that I can share, the scans of that are here:

I too have a copy of the Squirrel comp on vinyl, I'll try and put up some scans of the records themselves this week. Thanks though for sharing the Hamster 7", I'd never seen one before. If you have any scans of the vinyl on that one I'd love to see them. I think the very first thing I bought from Level was the Teen Smash Hits comp. I'd heard an interview on FM radio way, way back at the time the comp was released. My memory is fuzzy but I think the interview was with Damian by Dave Marsh of WHFS on his radio program Now Hear This. It was on that very same program I heard the song "Rocketry Is My Plan" by Frodus which led to my purchasing the Fireflies CD. I think you'd really enjoy the compilation, a lot of good stuff on it.

Mogwaione said...

Oh looks as though someone already put up full Scans of the Squirrel comp on discogs and the Hamster comp... Was there anything else released by Level besides what's on discogs... anyone know?

smokeandmirrors said...

I have a couple of Level catalogues (one from the Squirrel single and one from the Branch Manager single) that list the following other releases not on Discogs:

#2.5 Wicker Pig demo tape
#6 Stanley's Joyful Noise tape
#7 The Shivers 7"

There's also a CD EP by Rollercoaster listed as "coming out soon" but I don't know if it ever did. Anyway, I don't have any of these releases so I haven't entered them into Discogs.

Anyway, I'd love to hear the Teen Smash Hits comp - will email you separately for the link.

Mogwaione said...

Heres the link to that comp.:

Mogwaione said...

Hey and here's the scans of the Shivers 7", I haven't ripped it yet and I let someone borrow my turntable so for now just scans:

Mogwaione said...

I actually did rip that 7":