Sunday, September 29, 2013

Summer's Over And I Want More: Superchunk Live KEXP Session

There are days where it seems like the only thing getting me through another awful commute -- on foot, on the MTR, riding a ferry, or in a taxi-cab's backseat -- here in Hong Kong is the presence of Superchunk on my iPod.

Silly, I know. But there's something about Mac McCaughan's voice that does it for me. He manages to sound like an angry man yelling for people to stop arguing. There's a hint of hope in his yelps.

And that guitar-roar behind him fills in the gaps where his voice doesn't go.

Nowhere is that unique combination of voice-and-roar better heard than on "Out of the Sun" from the fantastic new record, I Hate Music.

Now the infield’s green but we’re all just in between
A short hop and the losing run

A song about baseball? The end of high school? The end of youth? The start of adulthood? Fill in your own meaning.

Here, the band expands the track into a Built to Spill-sort-of-jam and Mac shreds on the axe. The yearning on the record is more rage against the dying of the light here.

So leave me alone and "get me away from everyone." I'll be the gweilo on the MTR platform with this seeping through his earphones in Yau Tong or North Point.

I'd love to be home and waiting to see Superchunk live on this tour at D.C.'s Black Cat or (new) 9:30 Club. Original bassist Laura Ballance isn't hitting the road with Mac, Jon, and Jim but fill-in bassist Jason Narducy acquits himself quite well in these live KEXP clips. Dig it.

Follow along on

There are more live cuts from the session on YouTube but if you only watch one more, watch this devastating version of 1995's "Detroit Has A Skyline Too" from Here's Where The Strings Come In.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Awesome New (Working) Track from Pulco (Ash Cooke of Derrero)

Sounding shockingly like Mac McCaughan's Portastatic, Ash Cooke is here with a new track from his "band" Pulco. Called "Open Your Wallets", this is Sebadoh by way of Wales. Derrero reborn with a stack of early Pavement records by their sides. Really great stuff.

It's not enough that Ash was just part of the Relycs project but now he's back to work in his home studio on the next Pulco release.

Once again pushing the boundaries of lo-fi, Ash as Pulco has really created a catchy tune in this one.

Hope this Welshman doesn't mind being compared to North Carolina's finest (that Superchunk bloke)?

More details are here:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reissue Of Lost Album From The Bongos Is Rocking Good News Indeed

What an awesome and wonderful treat we have in this record. Turns out Richard Barone and The Bongos recorded an album back in 1985 and it's only now seeing the light of day. Phantom Train is out on October 1 on the newly-resurrected Jem Recordings.

(I could write a book on Jem back in the mid-1980s. I got my job at The Record Co-Op mainly 'cause I used to scour the cassette walls there for PVC [a Jem imprint] tapes from Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, and Bill Nelson. Jem's PVC brand really got a lot of good music out in that era and I bought a heck of a lot of it on tape from the Record Co-Op. I would never have heard all that stuff without those cassettes in 1986 and 1987 since I didn't have a turntable and hadn't bought a CD player yet.)

Phantom Train, recorded in 1985 and intended for release the following year, is a poignant reminder of a time when clever guitar-pop ruled American college radio airwaves. Before it was called "alternative", it was "college rock", at least in the U.S.

And that label meant a certain kind of sound even if there was range in that sound. The Bongos were smart, poppy, and decidedly too good for the era of The Power Station and Duran Duran.

"My Wildest Dreams" is spiky and soaring, a genuine lost classic single. Just fantastic.

"I Belong to Me" would end up, in another version, on Richard Barone's wonderful Cool Blue Halo (1987) (also set to be reissued by Jem Recordings).

Then there's a rocking cover of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman". Back in the mid-1980s, I always wondered why some band like R.E.M. or Game Theory didn't cover this classic and little did I know that The Bongos had was sitting in a vault only to be released decades later.

"Diamond Guitar", which you can play below, has echoes of both T.Rex and R.E.M. It's a beautiful track that balances Barone's aching vocals and the chiming and crashing riffs around it.

Add in "Tangled in Your Web", another early version of a Cool Blue Halo fave, and Barone fans have got another reason to get this reissue.

But it's all not Barone's show; band-mates Frank Giannini, Rob Norris, James Mastro, and Steve Scales deserve a lot of the credit for the crisp power-pop on the 13 tracks on Phantom Train.

The release of this record is fantastic news for anyone who remembers the glory days of U.S. "college rock" as fondly as I do, or anyone who just wants to hear a smart pop record.

Get more details on Richard Barone's official website:

Or on the Facebook page for The Bongos:

Friday, September 20, 2013

The New Lines Drop Glorious New LP (Lorelei's Drummer Is On It Too)

The New Lines have dropped a new record, Fall in Line, on Moon Glyph, and it's a blissful collection of tunes.

This is hard music to describe and, for lack of a better comparsion, I'll go with The 6ths. There's hints of 1960s acts like The Zombies at their baroque best here. And you can feel bits of Broadcast bobbing to the surface.

Still, Hewson Chen and crew have crafted a really lush and inviting record. And, on all but 3 cuts on Fall in Line, drum-work is provided by Davis White of Lorelei.

Check out that ascending keyboard line on "The Frog Whisperer" and tell me it's not divine and inspiring. A subtle mix of Dif Juz, Durutti Column, Silver Apples, and Magnetic Fields, the tune is, like the rest of this record, something special.

If there's any fault to be found with Fall in Line it's that the songs do seem similar in style. I say that as if it's a bad thing but when you consider the loose concept album form the record is taking, it's something to be admired. Odessey and Oracle is not exactly a grab-bag of styles either. It's very same-y and I'll say that The New Lines are, in their own way, doing something equally special here.

Heck, on "Only The Vulture Knows", The New Lines even sound like they're doing a B-side from that Zombies masterpiece.

On the title track and elsewhere, Hewson Chen and his crew sound like they've been listening to Elephant's Memory too...or at least those early Broadcast EPs which evoked "Old Man Willow" and made you feel like you were hearing something from that party with Joe Buck and Ratzo Rizzo.

Another thing I liked about this record is the instrumentation, and not just Davis White's jazzy, mellowed out Ginger Baker-ish bits on the kit. If you take away the vocals, there's still a lot to absorb here. And even if you like Hewson Chen's vocals as I did, and you don't want to focus on the lyrics or the themes running through the record, Fall in Line still works its beautiful magic.

Fans of Stephen Merritt and Stereolab and any band that took even an ounce of inspiration from those artists would be wise to seek out this new album from The New Lines.

Fall in Line was for me an unexpected surprise full of trippy keyboard lines -- like from an old Radley Metzer film soundtrack -- and subtle, Durutti Column-esque riffs.

The band are playing in NYC on September 21, 2013 and details are here and my D.C. peeps should be sure to check them out in Arlington on September 29. Details are here for that gig.

Follow The New Lines on their Facebook page:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Tube-Inspired Cassette Project From Ash Cooke (Pulco, Derrero), Adam Leonard, and Stephen McLeod Blythe

On what is sure to be a real collector's item in the very near future, Ash Cooke (Pulco, Derrero), Adam Leonard, and Stephen McLeod Blythe (Unexpected Bowtie), have teamed up, called themselves Relycs, and put out a project called Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations.

The London Underground-inspired release will be limited to 30 copies only. Details from the "band" elaborate:

Format for the release is limited edition C30 Magnetic Tape, each with 3 full colour numbered postcards, a credits sheet + a digital download. The tapes come in stickered, numbered slip cases and there will be 30 copies only.!!!
Ash Cooke tackles "Aldwych Branch Line" and the results blend SFA-style chord changes with Space Invaders-style sound fx. The looping melody recalls the best bits of Derrero for any of you long-time fans out there.

Adam Leonard brings out the big organ for "Lord's Station" and the result is something sinister and...a tiny bit rollicking. Who knew -- apart from Jimmy Smith -- that an organ could be so funky? It's like slowed down soul. The sort of thing you can play on Halloween to keep the ghosts dancing.

Stephen McLeod Bythe's "Down Street" is chirpy Gameboy noises over a percolating rhythm track. It's Squarepusher sent back to the set of the original Tron (1982).

It's an interesting concept for a release and I'd suggest that you grab one of these now...and rest safe in the awareness that there are only another 29 out there in the world.

For more details on Ash Cooke and Pulco (and any possible Derrero reunion), check out:

For more details on Adam Leonard and his various projects, check out:

And for details on Stephen McLeod Blythe and Unexpected Bowtie, check out:

You'll have to buy Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations to hear it but, for now, here are a few goodies.

Here's "Gnarl Chess" from Pulco's Clay Cuttlery

And here's one of my favorite Beatles covers ever -- Adam Leonard's delightful mauling of "Lovely Rita"

And finally "Marks for Effort" from (and friends) by Unexpected Bowtie:

Free Dot Dash MP3 Ahead Of Terry Malts Gig At DC9 This Sunday

By now, you've surely bought and played -- many times -- the thoroughly excellent new album, Half-Remembered Dream by Dot Dash?

No? You are so unhip that you haven't done that yet? Well get over to iTunes or to get your hands on that record.

But, download, crank up, and enjoy "Bloom/Decay" below.

What an awesome, awesome piece of postpunk business this is. As if it wasn't already a great song, that "ravedown" near the end is one of my favorite moments on the new album.

While Terry Banks, Danny Ingram, and Hunter Bennett are still burning the Dash flame, guitarist Bill Crandall has recently called it quits. His replacement? Mr. Jim Spellman, one-time drummer for Velocity Girl.

Show up at the Dot Dash gig this Sunday -- the 2nd with Spellman? -- and see if the former Velocity Guy -- (Sorry!) -- can throw down those tasty Steve Diggle-ish licks that Crandall layered all over this latest long-player.

Either that or shout out requests for "Audrey's Eyes" and see if Spellman pushes Ingram off the kit in some powerpop Pavlovian reaction.

Dot Dash are playing with Slumberland Records' Terry Malts, as well as Queen Kwong.

Follow Dot Dash on their Facebook page:

Details on the gig with Terry Malts are here on Facebook and here on the DC9 website.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Show Me The Woner: Quick Round-Up Of Major New Releases (Including the New Manics Record)

I don't normally review major releases -- (unless I've received a review download link from some label) -- but I feel like it today so here goes.

The first and only massive disappointment is AM by Arctic Monkeys which I more or less hated. Am I the only one who doesn't dig this one? It sounds like Maroon 5 to me. I loved the band in the past but I'd be hard pressed to sit through much of this record again.

Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action from Franz Ferdinand is a remarkably solid affair. What a nice surprise this record was for me! "Fresh Strawberries" charms, and "Bullet" rocks and throbs like SFA trying their hand at an old Chic tune. A really fantastic album as far as I'm concerned.

The new Superchunk is, like every 'Chunk album for me, a thing of regular rotation on my iPod. "Out of the Sun" and "Overflows" now get as much play on my morning commute as "Stretched Out" and "Everything at Once" did...and do.

The Third Eye Centre by Belle and Sebastian isn't a new record but it's a pretty nice new collection of tracks from the last near-decade. B-sides and oddities, there's some great stuff here -- "Desperation Made a Fool of Me" for one.

Babyshambles' Sequel to the Prequel is pretty consistent -- a shock! -- but a bit too long. If the whole record had had the passion and fire of "Fireman" I'd be writing that Doherty had surpassed the Libertines' stuff but sadly the rest of the record is more of the same. Solid but not inspiring.

"Inspiring" brings us to the Manics.

At some point when they've packed it in, someone -- me, maybe? -- will write a summary of the Manic Street Preachers and their quarter-century career and that writer will use the word "masterpiece" at least 4 times: The Holy Bible (1994), Everything Must Go (1996), Lifeblood (2004), and Rewind the Film (2013).

I suppose I should add that if you didn't like Lifeblood that we may have to agree to disagree as Manics fans!

Sublime, mature, full of grace and quiet passion, Rewind the Film so thoroughly marks and defines an era of the Manics' long career that it should surely be spoken of in the same breadth as those other fantastic records I just listed above.

"Running Out of Fantasy" soothes and vexes me; the title cut warms me like a lullaby; and "3 Ways to See Despair" makes me think -- at least for a few moments near the middle -- of Roger Waters and Pink Floyd's "Empty Spaces" (but this tune is nowhere near as depressing).

I've only played Rewind the Film all the way through, in order, about 6 times so it's sure to take another dozen to fully assess this record.

I also had the joy of buying the CD on the day of release at an HMV in this former British colony.

(At HMV in Causeway Bay...see picture!)

That was not quite as awesome as it would have been to buy this record in Cardiff but it was darn cooler than ordering the CD online from the U.K. and waiting for it to get shipped to Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Download Scorching Demos From D.C.'s Emma Peel (ex-Government Issue, ex-Minor Threat, ex-Youth Brigade) Here!

This is an amazing find!

Here is the 1993 demo tape from D.C.'s own Emma Peel (sometimes written as emmapeel). It features Government Issue's John Stabb on vocals, Danny Ingram from Youth Brigade and Dot Dash on drums, Rob Frankel on guitar, and Minor Threat's Steve Hansgen on bass. For some background on the band, you can check out my career-spanning interview with Danny Ingram here.

The band is tight and the songs are hard, a bit brutal, but also catchy. "Miserable Little Year" is downright lyrical thanks to John Stabb's vocals and that hummable chorus. And "The Hurting Closet" is even more pummeling here thanks to Danny's drums.

These tracks were recorded at Inner Ear in Arlington, VA, in 1993. Recorded, mixed, produced, and engineered by Brooke Delarco and the band.

A BIG "Thank you!" to Brooke Delarco for getting me these files. And another big "Thanks!" to the real punk godfathers Danny Ingram and John Stabb for giving the A-OK for this post.

And here's a bonus: a cover of The Undertones' "Male Model" recorded live at the 9:30 Club in 1993.

Thanks to 13th Floor Vendetta for the image of the single below. You can find out a bit more about the band's only real release on that blog.