Monday, March 24, 2008

Lamestain may hate the Posies sometimes

Although the Posies sometimes get lumped in with the rest of the Seattle bands from the late 80s and early 90s, in truth, the only factors that connect the Posies with grunge, Sub Pop, etc. were geography and time period. They sprouted up 90 miles north of Seatttle, at Sehome High School in Bellingham, having almost nothing to do with the nascent grunge scene down south. In fact, they had even less to do with the garage rock/Estrus Records scene in their home town. While everyone else bashed out fuzzed-out, three-chord rock at the Central and while their bands formed, disbanded, and interbred, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow were crafting pop songs in their bedrooms and overdubbing bass and drum tracks on demo tapes. In fact, the record Failure,

later released by Pop Llama Records, had been well circulated as a demo tape in1988 before the Posies had added bassist Mike Musbeger and drummer Rick Roberts and started gigging regularly as a four-piece.

The common reference point for the Posies these days is Big Star, at least in part because Ken and Jon joined the reactivated Big Star in the late 90s. (It’s even mentioned in the first sentence of Trouser Press’s entry on the Posies.) At a certain point (specifically, “Apology” on Dear 23), the influence of Alex Chilton and co. started creeping into their music, but Failure doesn’t contain even the slightest hint of Big Star. Rather—as all of the press and even my dad noted at the time—the Posies resembled the Hollies, with a significant dash of early 80s English pop, like XTC.

In fact, for Dear 23, they even recruited former XTC producer Jon Leckie to man the boards. (Leckie also worked with the Fall, the Stone Roses, New Order, and, erm, Gene Loves Jezebel.) It’s awfully difficult to listen to this record (or even Failure) objectively anymore, as everything about it reminds me of high school. Some of Leckie’s lush soundscapes and effects (e.g., song endings fade into the sound of falling rain) layer a bit too much melodrama on the music; this, combined with the Posies sometimes corny lyrics, makes it a perfect soundtrack for high school’s melodramas but perhaps not for older listening. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a great record, but one that must be accepted with its limitations in mind. I don’t think it’s an accident that my absolute favorite track from this era is the completely unadorned b-side to “Suddenly Mary,” “Spite and Malice.”

"Solar Sister" live.

The wikipedia entry has a brief explanation of the nasty label pressure put on the Posies after Dear 23 (which was actually fairly successful!). In short: they started recording a follow-up, dumped/lost their bassist, scrapped the follow-up, started a new follow-up with Don Fleming, received a thumbs down from the label, added a few “hits,” got the thumbs up, replaced the rhythm section, yadda yadda yadda. The follow-up, Frosting on the Beater, has without a doubt aged the best of all their records; the harder edge that Fleming emphasized always existed in their live shows but not on their records, and it compliments the sugary harmonies wonderfully. I won’t talk about it much here, as I’m already rambling on like an old man. Failure came out when I was in high school? Christ, I should start sprinkling No Salt on my supper. Then again, if I’m making jokes about being old, it means I’m not old yet: unfortunately, it means I’m middle aged and unfunny.

We got off the train around this time. I never cottoned to the fourth record, Amazing Disgrace, and we kind of burned out on seeing them live. (We saw them around a dozen times, as they played frequently in Bellingham and Seattle. A few shows were terrible, but others were fantastic.) They had attracted a considerable cult following by this point—I remember reading an old email mailing list ages ago and learning that some fans had seen them fifty and even 75 times before Amazing Disgrace was even released! The Posies soon broke up, somehow managed to become extremely prolific while inactive, and then reformed. The new songs I’ve heard from their myspace page aren’t bad at all—in fact, I quite like some of them. What’s notable is that sounds remarkably different than their previous eras, and I commend any band that exists for 20 years while both maintaining their strengths and exploring new grounds.

Burning Sky Records will release a tribute record this spring. The band’s homepage is here. A good discography can be found here, and if you’re burning to download live shows via bittorrent, check out the message board on their homepage.

From Failure:
“I May Hate You Sometimes”
“Ironing Tuesdays”

From Dear 23:
“You Avoid Parties”

Suddenly Mary ep

“Suddenly Mary”
“Feel” (Big Star cover)
“Spite & Malice”

From Frosting on the Beater:

“Solar Sister”
“When Mute Tongues Speak”

And all of them are handily collected on this .zip file.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Empty with the Derelicts

February 8th 2008 marked a sad day for us Lamestain grunts as the northwest’s premier punk label, Empty Records, shut its door after 20 some years. Empty USA, as it became known as after a bizarre lawsuit over the eMpTy name and logo, released great records by legendary bands, such as the Fartz, Gas Huffer, and the Supersuckers, as well as more current and certainly worthwhile acts like Pure Country Gold and King Louie and the Loose Diamonds. To read more about their history, go here and read Blake Wright and Dan Halligan’s musings.

To celebrate Empty’s long run, we thought it would be cool to post the first ever Empty USA 7” release, the Accused/Morphius split. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a copy of it before deadline, which is really too bad, because if memory serves me right, Morphius were a cool local thrash band that sung a lot about drinking beer. So instead we will bring you another early Empty Seattle band, the Derelicts.

Dan once again beat us to the punch and posted about the Derelicts a few months ago, so instead of rehashing something that was better said on 10 Things, we’ll just blab about the posted songs. And while not all of the below songs were originally released on Empty Records, they were all compiled on the now out-of-print Empty CD Going Out of Style in mid- 90s.

“I Wanna Get Out” is from their Time to Get Fucked Up 7”, which was released on Empty Records in 1990. Recorded by Jack Endino at Reciprocal Studios, it featured a cool record cover drawing by Gas Huffer’s Joe Newton; the Derelicts were singer Duane Bodenheimer, guitarist Neil Rogers, bassist Ian Dunsmore, and drummer Rick Bilotti.

Of all the great Seattle comps, one of the lesser known records was 1991’s Bobbing for Pavement on Rat House Records. Showcasing the punk rock scene centered on the East Denny house, the record also features songs by Gas Huffer, the Gits, D.C. Beggars, Bay of Pigs, Big Brown House (featuring Ben London, later of Alcohol Funnycar and Sanford Arms), Hammerbox, and My Name. The Derelicts’ song “Dirty City Rotten Life” is one of the better songs on the comp, and once again, was recorded by Jack Endino. Broken Rekids reissued Bobbing for Pavement on CD in 1994.

One thing certain about the band is that they had great choice in cover songs. We already posted their version of Fleetwood Mac-by-way-of the Rezillos “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight” during our Regal Select Appreciation Month a while back, and now we are going to give you their versions of the Frantix’ Flipper-esque classic “My Dad’s A Fucking Alcoholic” and the Cosmic Psychos’ “Lost Cause.”

“My Dad’s a Fucking Alcoholic” comes from their 1989 Love Machine LP, which was released by early Empty co-founder Vocker Stewart’s label, Penultimate records (PEN010). Recorded by Jack Endino at Reciprocal and guided by “2 cases of beer and a fifth of cheap whiskey,” the Derelicts do a great version of the Frantix song a few years before everybody else learned about the original version from its appearance on Killed by Death Volume 6. Members of the Frantix later went on to the Fluid, and you can hear the original version on the just-released Local Anesthetic compilation. Joe Kilbourne also played bass for this cover song.

“Lost Cause” was originally released on the 1991 Estrus Half-Rack 3x7 box (ES715-717), which also included songs by the Fastbacks, Mummies, Mudhoney, Phantom Surfers, Untamed Youth, Prisonshake, Gorilla, Seaweed, and the Mono Men. It might seem strange now that bands like the Derelicts or Seaweed (who covers Beat Happening) would be on a garage punk compilation, but at the time, nobody thought of it. Estrus pressed 2000 of these and even included a drink coaster in the box. The original version comes from Cosmic Psychos’ 1989 Sub Pop release, Go the Hack. We are also going to post it because we love that crazy gang of drunken Aussies. L7 also used to do a version of “Lost Cause,” but we favor the Derelicts’ version.

Goodbye, Empty!

"I Wanna Get Out"
"Dirty City Rotten Life"
"My Dad's a Fucking Alcoholic"
"Lost Cause"

Cosmic Psychos "Lost Cause"

-- MC Tom

Monday, March 10, 2008

Historia de la Musica Tad, vol. IV

In some regards, it’s not so amazing that Salt Lick is no longer in print. TAD probably experienced more bad luck than any other band from that era: they faced two enormous lawsuits (relating to the original scandalizing cover of 8-Way Santa and to appropriation of Pepsi’s logo for the “Jack Pepsi” single) and endured being dropped by two different labels (Giant/Warner Brothers and EastWest/Elektra), with the second of the label-losses happening a mere week into a tour. In other regards, it is amazing that Salt Lick fell out of print: we consider it among the greatest and most important records from that era, and now that indie rock has become a certifiable genre and has substituted wimpiness and affectation for genuine menace, it sounds fresher and more vibrant to my ears than it has for any time since Sub Pop released it in 1990.

The line-up on Salt Lick doesn’t differ from that on TAD’s debut, God’s Balls (Tad Doyle on guitar and vocals, Kurt Danielson on bass, Gary Thorstensen on guitar, and Steve Wied on drums), but the sounds differ quite a bit. God’s Balls sounds sludgier, slower, and more lumbering (in a good way), whereas Salt Lick has a slightly more industrial sound. If God’s Balls sounds like grave-digging, then Salt Lick sounds like demolition work. To put it better, Salt Lick sounds like Tad has been laying some cable, in both senses of the term. This is not to imply that I prefer the sound of one record over another; both were recorded appropriately. The recordings largely reflect the trademark sounds of their engineers—Jack Endino and Steve Albini.

"High on the Hog," w/ Kurt Cobain on vocals

I contacted both Doyle and Albini for comments. Doyle has been too busy to get back to me, which is fine. Albini mentioned that he doesn’t remember the sessions too well—they were 20 years ago, after all—but gracefully attempted to answer some questions anyway.

Lamestain: Did the band indicate why they wanted to record with you? (Meaning, were there any past recordings that they especially liked or referenced?)

Steve Albini: I liked God's Balls and mentioned it to Tad when I met him. That may have influenced his decision, but he never mentioned it.

Lamestain: What was the recording process like? The record was recorded well before you opened Electrical Audio. Where did you record it? Did the band use their own instruments or instruments at the studio?

Albini: Everything was recorded and mixed at CRC. They used their own guitars, I don't remember about the rest.

Lamestain: The bass sound--which is fantastic--recalls Big Black a little. Was this planned in advance or did it relate to the recording process (for example, as a result of the instruments used)?

Albini: Don't remember doing anything special. Sorry.

Lamestain: Were there any leftovers from the sessions? Any songs that appeared in different versions on later albums?

Albini: I think everything they recorded ended up on the EP.

Lamestain: Is there anything you especially love or dislike about how that record turned out?

Albini: I have mixed feelings about it. I remember some songs sounding more ass-kicking than others but not being able to put my finger on why.

Lamestain: Finally, I've been curious about the provenance of a song called "Habit & Necessity," which appeared on an early Dope, Guns, and Fucking comp. It doesn't exactly sound like anything from either the sessions with you or those with Jack Endino while at the same time sounding a little like each of those sessions. Did you record this?

Albini: Doesn't sound familiar. Sorry. That was pretty lame, sorry. I don't have that many vivid memories about those sessions.

"Wood Goblins"--too "ugly" for MTV

We’ve been happy to see TAD finally getting their due, even if it’s coming nearly two decades too late. One of Seattle Weekly’s blogs claimed that “Wood Goblin” was the best Northwest music video ever made. We’ve heard rumors of the possibility of TAD reissues. The Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears DVD came out a little more than a month ago (it’s highly recommended); it's reviewed here, indicating that we’re not the only people feeling nostalgia for TAD. Doyle has insisted that his heart isn’t in to the possibility of the reunion, so this will probably be the closest we get. As much as we would leap at the chance to see TAD again, we would like it more if some of you young whipper-snappers reading this blog would finally quit being such pussies and pick up the mantle where TAD left it.

Because of the possibility, however remote, that these records will see reissue, we’re only posting a couple of mp3s. Really, you have no excuse for not owning it already—none whatsoever! We also found a live show from this era via the computernet that we’ve added below. The sound quality is surprisingly good.

Axe to Grind

Live December 1st, 1989

Pork Chop
Wood Goblins

Boiler Room
(Unkown track)
Nipple Belt