Sometimes I’ll have mp3’s laying around on my computer that I have no idea where they came from. The computer will be playing on shuffle and something will come up that I don’t recognize it. Then I’ll be gobsmacked at how good it is, and wonder where the hell I got it. That happened more than a couple times with Sweet Bulbs. I had a couple songs that I probably downloaded either from Skatterbrain or Gorilla vs Bear. While I was downloading, one of my kids screamed about something and I promptly forgot to listen to them. Months pass by, then Kissing Clouds comes up on shuffle and I’m finally hooked. Better late than never I suppose.
Not to let my serendipity go to waste I thought I would post a couple songs by this band from the greater NYC environs that you can pack away on your hard drive to discover at some later point. Of course if you are a shoegaze fan with a penchant for the Lilys before they went mod and the Swirlies before Seana left then you may want to intentionally listen to Sweet Bulbs right now and on purpose. Their album just came out on Blackburn and is ten songs of swirling rampaging maelstrom guitars and distant, slightly reverbed, and mostly girl vocals. Honestly these songs sound like they could have been recorded with vintage 90’s equipment and one of them plucked out to be included on One Last Kiss.
Wow, we actually made it to the end of the cd. I’m glad this was a single disc unlike the Pop American Style compilation that March records put out a few years later. Not that I didn’t enjoy doing this series, it just ended up being more time consuming than I initially thought it would be. Without further ado, the final song on …One Last Kiss was courtesy of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania band Wimp Factor 14. Wimp Factor 14 aren’t the type of band you would expect to hear coming out of the steel town. They had a slightly awkward sound, that always reminded me of Nothing Painted Blue mixed with Firehose. The lyrics always had a geeky bent to them, over a bare bones arrangement. The band produced one album, Ankle Deep that came out on Little Teddy. It was produced by Rob Christiansen of DC band Eggs. They also put out a handful of singles that appeared on Harriet and Four Letter Words. Main wimp Frank Boscoe went on to form Vehicle Flips after the demise of Wimp Factor 14 and guitarist Gary Miklusek moved to Seattle and started Tullycraft with ex-Crayon guys Sean Tollefson and Jeff Fell.
If I were going to pick a city to move to solely based on the music scene, Philadelphia would be a very strong contender with the likes of Brown Recluse Sings, Scary Monster, Surefire Broadcast, and Creeping Weeds. Creeping Weeds have a similar reedy sound to Wimp Factor 14, but a bit looser. They have a decidedly lo-fi sound with singer Pete Stewart sporting a warbly voice that slips into a nice falsetto every once in a while that seems to make the choruses even more catchy. The band released an album early last year and are in the midst of putting together their second. They recently posted a couple new songs to their MySpace where conseqently you can hear their cover of BOAT‘s I’m a Donkey for Your Love. They are also wrapping up a short east coast tour with BOAT, if you live in Pittsburgh or Chicago you can still catch.
Here are the two remaining dates of their tour with BOAT for you people in Pittsburgh and Chicago:
Aug 22 @ Brillobox w/BOAT and The Harlan Twins – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Aug 23 @ Schubas w/BOAT – Chicago, Illinois
Black Tambourine was, in hindsight a kind of indiepop super group. At the time they existed they were just a bunch of anonymous kids in Washington, DC. The band counted as members Archie Moore and Brian Nelson who both went on to Velocity Girl, Pam Berry who went on to be in the Belmondo, Gloworm, Shapiros, Castaway Stones, and the Pines (wow, she’s been in a lot of bands). She also co-founded Chickfactor magazine with Gail O’Hara, and she had the honor of having a Shins song named after here. Mike Shulman, the drummer went on to play in Whorl and found Slumberland records. The band are credited with being one of the first to employ a combination of C-86 and British dream pop in their sound that so many other American indie bands would mine as well. They managed to be influential without actually releasing an album. All of their output is compiled in one place and still available on a Slumberland cd called Complete Recordings.
The Vivian Girls sound like they are direct descendants of Black Tambourine channeling the sounds of the Shop Assistants and holding dear the Motown girl groups and the Phil Spector wall of sound. Currently they seem to be one of the it bands residing in the New York City environs. They are at the center of a scene that includes like minded NYC bands the Crystal Stilts and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Being an it band, doesn’t mean they’re huge, but they have created a buzz among music geeks. Mention the Vivian Girls to your mom and she’ll look at you cross eyed. It’s not like telling her about the Fleet Foxes, who’s she’s probably heard of, at least if your mom lives in Seattle. So the Vivian Girls have a lot of buzz an album that’s currently out of print and a few singles.. Their out of print album will be reissued on vinyl and compact disc this fall courtesy of In the Red. In the meantime you can buy some of their singles over at their myspace.
Sept 2 Brooklyn, NY – Death by Audio
Sept 6 New York, NY – South Street Seaport
Sept 12 Swarthmore, PA – Swarthmore College
Sept 19 New York, NY – Cake Shop
Sept 20 Princeton, NJ – Terrace Club
Sept 21 Philadelphia, PA – Danger Danger Gallery
Sept 24 Nashville, TN – Exit/In
Sept 26 Memphis, TN – Hi-Tone (Goner Fest)
Sept 29 Knoxville, TN – Pilot Light
Oct 1 Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
Oct 3 New York, NY – Rocks Off Concert Cruise
Oct 12 Boston, MA – Great Scott
Oct 13 Danbury, CT – Heirloom Arts Theatre
Oct 15 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
Oct 16 Brooklyn, NY – Market Hotel
Oct 17 Baltimore, MD – Sonar
Oct 18 Philadelphia, PA – The Barbary
Oct 19 Washington, DC – Rock and Roll Hotel
Nov 8 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
Nov 10 Boston, MA – Paradise
Dec 2 London, England – Brixton Windmill
Dec 3 London, England – Old Blue Last
Dec 4 Nottingham, England – The Social
Dec 5 Liverpool, England – Club Evol
Dec 6 Glasgow, Scotland – Captain’s Rest
Dec 7 Leeds, England – Cockpit
Dec 8 Coventry, England – Colosseum
Dec 9 London, England – Madame Jojo’s – White Heat
Dec 10 Manchester, England – The Deaf Institute
Dec 12 London, England – Vice Kills Proud Galleries
Dec 13 Bristol, England – Club Kute at Cooler
The Lilys initially were influenced by My Bloody Valentine as is evidenced by their track on …One Last Kiss and their first album In the Presence of Nothing. Their album was recorded by Jay Sorrentino and had backing vocals provided by Beth Sorrentino both of Suddenly Tammy! I think In the Presence of Nothing was the first album put out on SpinArt, it was a co-release with Slumberland. The one constant in the Lilys is Kurt Heasley, and that is really it, because not only do band members revolve, but the sound of the band is aslo in constant flux. After In the Presence of Nothing, A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns dropped the MBV fixation and went for straightforward pop, then Ecsame the Photon Band slowed everything down to a Spacemen 3 pace and drone to amazing effect. Not one to rest in a comfortable spot Heasley moved the Lilys on to mod, looking to the Who and the Kinks for inspiration. Here is where the band took off in popularity, A Nanny in Manhattan was used in Levi’s commercial over in the UK and the album got a fair amount of play on the radio. It also lead to getting signed to major label status and another album of mod-ish pop songs called the Three Way on Sire. Heasley and his band went on to record an album of electronica and then he kind of disappeared for a while. There have been two albums in the 00’s, 2003’s Precollection and Everything Wrong is Imaginary which came out a couple years ago. It’s a varied and interesting career that started with fascination with MBV, you could always be reassured that if you didn’t like the current taste of Heasley the next album would be completely different.
Instead of taking several albums to come to a psychedelic pop sound, Athens, Georgia band King of Prussia arrive sounding fully formed with just such a sound. Even more amazing is that the band recorded their album in bedrooms into a portable eight track recorder. Save the Scene at seven songs is somewhere between and album and and ep, but at any rate, it’s lush, melody filled psychedelic pop. The band are on the Kindercore label which has recently come out of hibernation. It’s a great pairing, with King of Prussia sounding like a second generation Elephant Six band, employing the bright sunny pop sensibilities of that scene with a more classic 60’s vibe of the Byrds or Beatles.
The story goes that Lois Maffeo and then Love Michelle Harrison were living together in Portland and came up with the perfect name for a band in Courtney Love. Maffeo used the name for her band, and Harrison used the name for herself. Maffeo’s incarnation of Courtney Love was never quite as famous, or infamous as Harrison’s. Maffeo’s band put out a hand full of singles on K and Feel Good All Over and the odd compilation track. It was pretty basic acoustic based punk rock, not very distant to what Lois would go on to do under her own name. Baseball Bat off the …One Last Kiss compilation was a catchy acoustic riff, full of attitude and spite. I’m just glad I wasn’t the guy at the receiving end of the baseball bat!
Did you ever, or maybe you do know someone that tells you more about themselves than you ever wanted to know? Athens, Georgia’s Cars Can Be Blue are kind of like that. Cancer of the Uterus, Psoriasis, graphic sex details, abortions, dating Batman, it’s all in there, but it’s set to simple punk riffs that remind you of something from K records. Cars Can Be Blue are a duo consisting of Becky Brooks who sings the songs and plays guitar and Nate Mitchell who handles the drums. They began as improve comedy team, but ended up as band. The name Cars Can Be Blue comes from a sketch from the MTV comedy the State. They have two albums out on the Happy Happy Birthday to Me label. Their second album just came out in June. It’s called Doubly Unbeatable and was recorded by Jeff Walls who played in another band from Georgia, Guadalcanal Diary. They may be a bit more in your face than Courtney Love the band ever were, but certainly funnier than Courtney Love the person has ever been.
If you missed them at the Athens Pop Fest, here are the remaining dates of the current Cars Can Be Blue tour:
Aug 19th @ JJ’s Bohemia – Chattanooga, TN
Aug 20th @ Star Bar – Atlanta, GA
Aug 21st @ Eclipse – Jacksonville, FL
Aug 22nd @ TBA – Orlando, FL
Aug 23rd @ Wayward Council – Gainesville, FL
Aug 25th @ Gallery Above – Panama City, FL
Aug 26th @ Sluggo’s – Pensacola, FL
Aug 28th @ TBA – Athens, GA
Aug 29th @ TBA – Macon, GA
Aug 30th @ TBA – Atlanta, GA
Named after an early Primal Scream song, Velocity Girl originally started out with Bridget Cross as their singer. When Cross left to join Unrest, Sarah Shannon joined the band as the new singer. Soon after that they recorded their seminal classic Forgotten Favorite. I don’t think they ever surpassed it’s sublime noisy beauty. The Washington, DC band was made up of the remnants of other DC bands like Black Tambourine (guitarists Archie Moore and Brian Nelson) and Jim Spellman from the Highback Chairs. They followed up their appearance on …One Last Kiss by signing with Sub Pop and releasing their first album, Copacetic. Copacetic never quite surpassed the dizzying heights of Forgotten Favorite, but songs like Crazy Town and Pop Loser came close. They shifted gears a bit for the follow up album, the John Porter produced, Simpatico (my favorite), toning down the feedback and going for the jugular with straight ahead pop songs. I defy anyone not to sing the woo-hoo’s in the chorus of Sorry Again!
From Washington, DC circa 1992 we go out to Long Beach, California circa now and Katie the Pest. The band or at least Talia Rose who is the singer, guitarist and songwriter have been around in some form or another since the early 00’s. They have a handful of releases under their belts including a split album with Banner Day and and EP called This Giant Will Kill You. The sound is kind of a merging of some of the great girl groups of the early 90’s including Tsunami, Tiger Trap, Cub, Henry’s Dress, and of course a little Velocity Girl. I think the new split single with Sterling Says is my favorite thing they’ve done to date. Apparently there is a new album that has been recorded and ready to go…anxiously waiting to hear it. In the meantime, here is Spit It Out.
Back in 1993 Providence, Rhode Island’s Small Factory was one of my favorite bands. Their first album For I Do Not Love You had the right combination of bright, bouncy, lo-fi pop, rushes of guitar freakouts, a perfect cover of Lois’s Valentine, and a girl drummer who also sang in Phoebe Summersquash. Actually all three of the band wrote and sang with bassist Alex Kemp taking most of the lead vocals and guitarist David Auchenbach and Summersquash providing the backing vocals. While I really, really like I do Not Love You, their best cd is the Industrial Evolution that came out on the now defunct Boston label Pop Narcotic. It compiled all of their early singles released on the likes of Slumberland, Pop Narctotic, Collision Time, and Simple Machines. Their early stuff sounded like they were tying to be the Verlaines, and then the Blake Babies, which are both good things. They eventually transcended those influences, but at the same time losing the innocent pop sweetness that made them so endearing in the first place. They broke up after their second album that came out on Virgin subsidiary Vernon Yard. Kemp and Summersquash went on to form the Godrays, but that band never captured the magic of Small Factory. mp3: Small Factory – Hey Lucille
When I first started matching up bands for this series, some of them were so easy. The bands seemed to be joined through time by their sound and influences. Others parings may have been a stretch and a leap of faith. But for this one, I knew who it was going to be right from the start. Putting Scary Monster to Small factory as easy as picking daisies at a flower shop. On Scary Monster’s MySpace they have a quote “Do you like Phoebe Summersquash?” Front guy Neal Ramirez even wrote a song called Phoebe Summersquash. But it isn’t just the Phoebe Summersquash obsession, it’s the fact that their acoustic based pop and Ramirez’s voice are dead ringers for Small Factory. Oh, and they have a girl drummer who sings too, her name is Carly Marcoux. One other sad thing that the bands have in common is that their both broken up. Scary Monster, earlier this year self released a cd-r album called Makeout Party at Werewolf Club, and they seemed on their way to establishing themselves to a wider audience. But Ramirez has moved from Philadelphia out to Los Angeles effectively ending the band. Too bad, because the world can always use another band that sounds like Small Factory.