Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Flipper - Generic

I'm not sure how or why something can be called both dumb and incredible in the same breath, but Flipper's Generic (or Generic Flipper or just Flipper if you prefer) is such an example. You've probably at least heard of this band before, so now check out their finest work at the link below. "Sex Bomb" is 8 minutes of pure glory.

Download here!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Connecticut Gems Vol 1: Miracle Legion

If you were a product of a upbringing similar to myself, you probably watched a fair amount of television. There's also a good chance that you were witness to the birth and coming-of-age of a young cable network known as Nickelodeon. Along with that comes wondrous memories of the network's original programming, harking back to the days of shows like You Can't Do That On Television and later output like Ren & Stimpy, etc etc etc.

And while this remains a music blog and not 'Brian's House of Nostalgia', I bring up the topic of this cable network to touch on one particular item. A song that, at the time, seemed too quirky and boring to arouse the attention of my young, ignorant ears. However, for whatever reason, that song stayed with me for years. And judging from my conversations with fellow members of my generation, the track stuck with many others as well. Of course I am referring to the theme from The Adventures of Pete & Pete, entitled "Hey Sandy".

The band responsible for this 56 second burst of indie rock is one of those questions that your wise-ass friend thinks only they know the answer to. As though you forgot the band name, Polaris, so prominently seen on the kick drum during the opening credits' sonic climax (see the video below at about 38 seconds in). But oh, dear friend, you are incorrect. Polaris was merely the pseudonym for New Haven's own indie rock darlings, Miracle Legion.

Miracle Legion began in 1984 and established themselves as a New Haven mainstay, quickly releasing their first EP, 1984's A Simple Thing on the local Incas Records label. After then releasing a series of albums through Rough Trade (1987's Glad featuring an appearance by none other than Pere Ubu), the band was signed to Morgan Creek in the early 1990's. It was shortly after this move, however, that legal problems with the label began, keeping the band (and more so the band's name) in limbo. Also, at about the same time, two fans of the band were starting production on a new show for Nickelodeon and wanted the band to perform original music for the show. Stories vary, but supposedly original guitarist Ray Neal, discouraged by the whole ordeal with Morgan Creek, declined the offer (another story states that Neal was merely spending a semester abroad and was unavailable to record at the time). The remainder of the band decided to press on and record under the pseudonym Polaris for the sake of the show. Neal eventually returned the band and they released their final full length album Portrait Of A Damaged Family in 1996.

Miracle Legion's material was fairly consistent over the course of their existence, bearing great similarity to their famous 56 second clip (the actual track "Hey Sandy" clocks in at about 2:36). REM worship notwithstanding, Miracle Legion played indie rock that contained both a strong pop sensibility as well as a strong melancholy side as well. While you might be more inclined to relive some memories by replaying the video for the theme from The Adventures of Pete & Pete over and over, I have also included Miracle Legion's excellent 1984 EP, The Backyard (their first on Rough Trade) for your listening enjoyment as well.

Download here!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Retainers - She Likes To Get Attention 7"

Lo-fi is a bit of an understatement when referring to Minneapolis' own Retainers. Fuzzed-out rock n' roll that is both horribly abrasive and wonderfully catchy at the same time. Check out one of their more recent releases, the 'She Likes To Get Attention' single, at the link below. If you dig it, please check out their other equally incredible tracks on their Myspace page.

Download here!

the Zero Boys - Vicious Circle

The Zero Boys' "Vicious Circle" LP remains one of my favorite hardcore albums of all time. Infectiously catchy hardcore with a driving pace that never lets up, I guarantee that if you played this record for some friends who had never heard the band and asked when this was released, few, if any, would correctly guess that this record was actually more than 25 years old (unless you played the rather obvious track 'Livin' In The 80's'). The recording quality on this album is quite stunning, something that is not incredibly common with hardcore records of the time (or since, for that matter). Singer Paul Mahern's very distinctive and clear vocals, along with excellent lyrics, help transform these songs into memorable classics. "Anthemic hardcore" is a term all too easily passed around nowadays, but I truly believe such a label accurately sums up "Vicious Circle". The ominious, near-dizzying introduction to the opening track is a fitting how-do-you-do for a record that is unrelenting in its sonic assault to your senses. If you are not familiar with this record, check out the link below and enjoy!

Download here!

Friday, April 11, 2008

the Wipers - debut 7"

While Zeno Records' collected reissue of the Wipers' first 3 albums was quite thorough and had a wealth of non-ablum tracks (various B-sides, the "Alien Boy" EP, demos, etc), one glaring omission was the band's debut 7", which was later included in its entirety on the "Bored With The USA" compilation series (Volume 3). While a bit rough around the edges, these excellent songs provided a glimpse of the direction that frontman Greg Sage would take the band over the next few years.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Chronicles of Wino, Vol 1: Spirit Caravan

I owe Scott 'Wino' Weinrich a drink. Not in the sense that alot of metalhead dudebros would think, handing him some lukewarm Bud Light, giving him the cliche 'hail satan' metal salute, yelling something like "FUCKING METAL!!!" and then scampering off to relay the story to anyone willing to listen. If possible, I'd want to hand him four fingers of Bulleit bourbon (no water, no ice), shake the man's hand and simply say "Thanks" and walk away. I mean, after all, its the very least I could do for the person who was single-handedly responsible for rekindling my faith and interest in achingly slow, crushing (dare I say) "stoner" rock.

Spirit Caravan specifically recaptured my interest in a genre that, for a time, seemed somewhat stagnant. Of course, I fully acknowledge a certain level of redundancy that goes into this musical personality, along with the terribly obvious Black Sabbath mimickry and the weed references that try so hard that they sting you like a bad joke made by a teacher of yours in high school. These things never bothered me. But a few years back I began to find that my anticipation for a given band's new record was always met with some level of disappointment. Dead Meadow's 'Feathers' (2005) and Neurosis' 'The Eye of Every Storm' (2004) were two such disappointments. Of course my own limited knowledge of some of the variety of bands in the genre didn't help and soon enough, I found that my interest had waned to the point where these bands seemed like all but a distant memory.

Years later, a friend of mine let me borrow his copy of Spirit Caravan's Dreamwheel EP (1999) and I was blown away. I was in my car when I first put it on and nearly pulled over just to take in exactly what was pouring out of my speakers. I was so enthralled, in fact, that when I got to my destination, I put the CD in my friend's stereo and made him listen to it before any further conversation was had. We both simply sat there and smiled.

And while I learned that Spirit Caravan had, by that point, ceased to exist, the discovery of this one band completely redirected my interest almost immediately. Plodding riffs, an amazing voice, and intelligable, everyman-esque lyrics help make Spirit Caravan one of my favorite bands of all time. There's something incredibly interesting about Wino's songwriting in how he can write undeniably heavy, crushing songs without making them completely alienating. They're beautiful in that sense. This beauty encapsulates the very reason why Spirit Caravan is my favorite of all his projects thus far.

If you are unfamiliar with Spirit Caravan, I would strongly recommend tracking down the 2004 compilation album The Last Embrace, which contains 19 tracks from their first two full length albums, some unreleased tracks, and all of their singles. The one glaring omission from this collection, however, is the aforementioned Dreamwheel EP. You can download that via the link below. Also, be sure to check out the Youtube audio track posted below. The track is entitled Sea Legs, from their first full length album, Jug Fulla Sun.

Download the Dreamwheel EP here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

That Dog "Never Say Never"

I often feel that by this point in my life I have purposely (and sometimes not-so-purposely) crafted a nice, tidy little image for myself. You know, generalizations that can be made about my personal preferences that are equal parts fact and inside-joke-extremes.

Welcome to Brian and the wonderful world of the mid-90's.

This primarily stems for my fascination with Nirvana as a kid. The memorization of trivia, dates, records, songs, bands that influenced them, and other facts associated (directly or indirectly) with this band was, at one point, the basis of my very existence. This eventually waned after middle school, however it had left its mark on me. Years later, as I read Michael Azerrad's 'Our Band Could Be Your Life', I was able to make the connection between my middle school obsession and my current deep-rooted interest in the development of punk/indie rock into the vernacular of popular culture. Suddenly, that particular circle seemed complete. It all made perfect sense!

And thus my nerdy interest in all things from that time period began to make itself apparent. Suddenly I found and purchased every Soundgarden album on vinyl (even their lackluster final whimper, 'Down On The Upside'), scoured eBay for various Superchunk singles, and made the joyous discovery that my copy of Shonen Knife's Sup Pop Singles Club record had a slight defect, yet still played flawlessly.

I'm glossing over a fair amount of the back story to mask the true extent of my madness, but let's just say that I am usually particularly thorough when I enter what I will call 'a phase of great interest'. And it's for that very reason that I was surprised to find out about this hidden gem of a band known as 'that dog.' only last week!

that dog. was an LA group tinged with many of the post-punk, pseudo-grunge characteristics that both blessed and plagued the mid to late 1990's. A sound that is so dated and identifiable that it makes you smile and cringe in the same motion. that dog. had enough inside connections within 'the biz' to make you wonder if they truly had to work a day in their lives (lead singer/guitarist Anna Waronker's father Lenny was a well-known producer for Warner Bros and her brother happened to play with Beck and REM at about the same time; sisters Rachel and Petra Haden's father, Charlie, is a well-known free jazz bassist). However those those privileges can be overlooked since it just so happened that this band wrote some damn catchy songs!

Bubblegum pop with a bit of grit and distortion might not be the key to your heart, but it sure as hell works for me. Take a peek at this video from their final album, 1997's 'Retreat From The Sun'. The song is "Never Say Never".