If I had done a best reissues of 2014 this long overdue reissue of Crayon‘s Brick Factory would have been near the top of it. Formed in the early 90’s in the sleepy college town of Bellingham, Washington, Crayon were equally influenced by the punk inspired grunge of Seattle and the punk inspired indiepop of Olympia. Bellingham is about 80 miles north of Seattle and 150 mile north of Olympia, but Crayon sounded like they were about right in the middle of both of those city’s well known aesthetics at the time.
The two styles juxtaposed with each other in the form of Crayon’s two singers. Guitarist Brad Roberts’ songs were the raw punk ones that sounded like a wounded Husker Du or Sebadoh (Brick Factory was one of Lou Barlow’s favorites records of 1994 as told to Spin). The other half of the songs were written and sung by bassist Sean Tollefson had a more twee feel that nodded to Beat Happening.
Most people lean to either Robert’s punk scrawl or Tollefson’s embryonic twee, but the accidental genius of Crayon was that they had the guts to combine them into one band and one album. Tollefson went on to form Tullycraft along with Crayon drummer Jeff Fell. Robertson seemed to disappear from the music universe along with the CD only release of Brick Factory that went out of print shortly after its release. Now for the first time ever Happy Happy Birthday To Me have reissued the album on vinyl. It comes with a bonus download of the band’s other 7-inch singles, compilations tracks, demos and live cuts. Twenty years later it still sounds unique and great.
Funny how Austin’s Big Boys were considered by many to be hardcore and/or skate punk. Sure, they were skaters and they were punks but their music isn’t so easily put into either of those categories. Back in the early 80’s, if you were doing something out of the ordinary or mainstream you were considered a punk. Punk was not just Sex Pistols, Clash and Ramones. In those days punk was what you made it, and Big Boys were one of the originals who made it up as they were doing it.
Don’t let the hardcore, skate punk tag scare you off. Big Boys had more in common with Gang of Four, XTC, Pylon, the Embarrassment and the Minutemen. Back in the early 90’s Touch and Go reissued the band’s full output on CD on the Skinny and Fat Elvis disks. Those two CD’s are highly recommended to get the full Big Boys picture, but up until now nobody had done a vinyl reissue. Light In the Attic has just changed that via their Modern Classic Recordings imprint. They have just reissued the band’s first album Where’s My Towel aka Industry Standard on vinyl in an array of colors in a vibrant yellow gatefold sleeve. Not only is it pretty to hear, but pretty to look at too.
My pre-order came in on Saturday and the record was on my turntable most of Sunday and then on my headphones at work today. It has been total fun to rediscover Big Boys in the vinyl medium they way it was originally intended. The years have not made this record any less vital, humorous and intelligent.
stream: Big Boys – Self-Contortion (from the Light In the Attic reissue)
Check out this short documentary that LITA had made for the reissue. Guitarist Tim Kerr and bassist Chris Gates (Singer Randy “Biscuit” Turner died in 2005 from Hepatitis C) reminisce about what it was really like.
Before we close the door on 2012, There is one more list of records I have to get off of my chest. The reissue category is fast becoming my favorite list to make. For some reason it ends up being more eclectic and thus more interesting to me than my list of albums and singles. I hope you find something here to spice up your record collection.
This lightening hot compilation from the Minneapolis / St. Paul scene of the 60’s and 70’s will make you sweat. There are so many great songs on it that you will wonder why Motown never started a sister label in Minnesota.
I’ve been wanting to hear Seattle’s Green Pajama’s debut album forever. It was initially released on cassette back in 1984 and impossible to find nearly 30 years later. It finally got a reissue this year on CD and is a treasure trove of paisley pop. The Green Pajamas are one of Seattle’s great unsung bands and Summer of Lust is all the proof you should need.
Green Pajamas – Mike Brown:
3. Francis Bebey – African Electronic Music 1975-1982 (Born Bad)
This record could be the missing link between Stereolab and African pop. Cameroon artist Francis Bebey’s compositions are a total eye-opener and relief from the flooded market of African psych and funk compilations that seem to come out on a weekly basis.
I had never heard of Tronics, but anything coming out on What’s Your Rupture is worth my money. Love Backed By Force apparently came out in 1981 and was the creation a guy from London who called himself Zero Baby. It sounds like he probably hung out with Young Marble Giants and Television Personalities listening to Ramones records.
Tronics – TV On In Bed:
5. The Diabolical Biz Markie – The Biz Never Sleeps (Cold Chillin’)
Debut album Goin’ Off is the Biz’s best record, but that reissue got totally hosed up substituting original tracks with new mixes. Sacriledge! The Biz gets it right with the reissue of his second album. The Biz Never Sleeps has a sense of humor which went against the rap grain of the time, but he also knew a good beat and melody to keep everything sounding fresh.
Compiled exclusively from lost cassette releases, Danger Electrified Tracks is a set of synth based dance tracks that should have, at the very least ,been released as 12″ records. At least now this forgotten brilliance is on vinyl!
This London band was active 2004 and 2007 releasing three singles and a Japanese EP. The epitome of obscurity. Idolatry seeks to rectify that compiling everything the band recorded in one place. Listening to this compilation will have you scratching your head wondering how these songs were not championed by pop lovers everywhere. Very accomplished pop for a band that never ‘made it’.
The artifacts from northeast Ohio keep slipping out of dusty attics. A few years ago the Cleveland’s Mirrors got a reissue and now Akron’s Bizarros get the double vinyl treatment. Sure you’ve heard of Devo, Pere Ubu and Rocket from the Tombs but there’s more from Ohio and Bizarros are good place to continue with their heavy Velvets influence.
Bizarros – Lady Doubonette:
9. Bulldozer Crash – Today Will Be Yesterday Soon (Jigsaw)
Bulldozer Crash could have been on Sarah Records, but fate made them even more obscure than that. Thank god for Seattle’s Jigsaw records for putting out this compilation of impossible to find indiepop bliss.
Bulldozer Crash – Today Will Be Yesterday So Soon:
Which Lee Hazlewood reissue on Light In the Attic to pick for this list? Easy, all of them. For the neophyte go with the LHI Years, it’s a great introduction. For the seasoned go with A House Safe For Tigers, it has some real jems and trademark Hazlewood peculiarities. For the obsessive go with the 7-inch box set You Turned My Head Around. You not only get Hazlewood but bands and artists hand picked by the man himself for his label.
This year was a bonanza of Clean-related reissues on vinyl. You will probably hear a lot more in 2013 about the brilliance of Flying Nun now that Captured Tracks has teamed up with the New Zealand label for a cadre of reissues. These three probably wouldn’t be considered the cream of the label, but for obsessives like myself they were vital.
This box set of three Cleaners From Venus albums was the mother load for Cleaners fans. Three of the band’s albums that were only ever released on cassette, had been pretty hard to come by. Funny thing was, in all their lo-fi pop brilliance Blow Away Your Troubles, On Any Normal Monday, and Midnight Cleaners aren’t even considered to be their best albums.
This is the only record Hollins and Starr ever released. It came out in 1970 and it’s kind of hit and miss, but when it hits on all of it’s eclectic folk pop pressure points it’s a musical massage that’ll make you melt.
The Rainyard were from Perth, Australia. They released an EP and a single in the late 80’s and then a few more tracks were scattered on compilations. Finally, the band took it upon themselves to accumulate all of their songs and self-release it as A Thousand Days. Every one of these songs is a jangle fueled paisley pop injection of bliss.
Up until this release Wendy Rene had been a footnote in the lengthy and illustrious Stax Records history. She had some resurgence of interest in her when the Wu Tang Clan sampled After Laughter (Comes Tears), but now thanks to Light In the Attic we get this amazing compilation that fully illustrates her talents.
We’re All Trying To Get There was the name of the out of print and incomplete Sarah compilation was the closest anyone had to a Sugargliders album. Thanks to this compilation the next generation pop kids can now easily one of Melbourne, Australia’s better kept secretes all over again.
I first encountered Melbourne, Austrlia’s Sugargliders sometime in the 1990’s on a Sarah Records compilation called Engine Common that I bought from Go! records in Arlington, Virgina. It wasn’t love at first listen though. I remember thinking Fruitloopin’ was just a little too twee for me but interesting and catchy. Letter from a Lifeboat was also on that compilatin and had this weird lo-fi sampled beat and mildly funky guitar that I kinda liked. Those two songs stood out on that compilation and I made a mental note to look out for this mysterious Australian band.
Time passed. Living in the U.S. in the 90’s you had to actually seek this stuff out, which I neglected to do. More time passed. 1994 came and went and brothers Joel and Josh Meadows who were the Sugargliders decided to quit being the Sugargliders and start being the Steinbecks. Another year went buy and Sarah Records closed up shop.
Then one sunny southern California afternoon in the late 90’s I dusted off that old Sarah compilation that I bought back in Arlington and rediscovered the Sugargliders. All of a sudden their earnest and wistful acoustic songs sung in a heavy Australian accent connected with me. I went on a Sugargliders binge, scouring record shops, ebay and email lists for their, by that time, out of print catalog. I found enough to satiate myself. The Trumpet Play EP with it’s lite funk, Blueboy-esque guitar and smile inducing faux trumpet solo was procured. Then I lucked out at some dusty store in L.A. that I forget the name of and found the Ahprahran, Top 40 Sculpture and Will We Ever Learn? EP’s. I ended up stealing some of their songs that came out on Summershine singles (before they signed to Sarah) from Audiogalaxy because they were impossible to find. I put everything I had onto a CD that kept in my car for a few years until it started to fade and decay they way CD-r’s do in a hot car. I miss that CD.
Now thanks to Matinee records, a scavenger hunt and a home-made CD-r is no longer necessary to get a Sugargliders fix. The Santa Barbara label has just released a Sugargliders compilation entitled A Nest With a View that plucks the best songs from both their Summershine and Sarah releases. It’s not everything, but it’s the best with one or two missing gems that if you get bitten will have you on the internet ordering records from far off places. Happy hunting!
Why is it that the older you get the more old music you buy? Probably because as you get older you start to realize how little you know about music. Here’s to all the labels that do the crate digging for you, because there is no way in hell you could have found all of this stuff on your own. Here are the top 15 reissues that I crossed paths with this year.
I was vaguely familiar with El Rego and his infectious African soul from a couple of his songs being on the Analog Africa compilations African Scream Contest and Legends of Benin, but really I bought this record based soley on it’s eye-catching cover and it didn’t disappoint. You might think that tiny Benin is to small to have its own godfather of soul. Wrong, and after hearing this, I’mu hoping that this only volume I. The vinyl version comes with a bonus 7-inch to further entice you. mp3: El Rego – Hessa
2. Groove Club Vol. 1: Le Confiserie Magique (Lion)
There’s a ton of great French psychedelic pop spread across 22 tracks on this compilation. When you talk French pop, the first thing you probably think of is the ye-ye girls, but this compilation argues that you should open your mind. mp3: Bernard Chabert – Il Part En Californie
Martin Newell is a prolific fellow. His band the Cleaners from Venus released treasure troves of albums to virtually no acclaim. Songs for…A Fallow Land was released as a cassette in 1985 while the Cleaners were still going. This record is further proof that Newell’s songwriting talents are as deep as he and his band the Cleaners from Venus are obscure. mp3: Martin Newell – Gamma Ray Blue
It’s kind of amazing how many of these instrumentals sound surf inspired. Dick Dale and the Ventures have got nothing on bands like the Panthers, the Aay Jays and the Blue Birds. They effortlessly mix the east with the west making for a wild ride.
This is the sound of Goteburg, Sweden circa 2001 and the club Starke Adolf that a few bored indiepop geeks decided to start. The Sound of Starke Adolf is a mouthwatering sample of jangly twee/indiepop songs they played at the club. Nineteen obscure pop gems that are just waiting for someone to rediscover in their little corner of the world.
This compilation unearths some excellent archealogical finds from the obscure and little known Bay Area synth, new wave and dark wave scene of the 80’s. There’s is the aggressive post punk sounds of Nominal State and Batang Frisco, the silly sounds of Necropolis of Love, the new wave of Los Microwaves and the gay sounds of Danny Boy and the Serious Party Gods. A lot to discover and little something for everyone. mp3: Nominal State – Middle Class
7. Index – Black Album + Red Album + Yesterday & Today (Lion)
This came out at the very end of last year, but too good to leave off of this year’s list. Index formed in Detroit in 1967 and recorded two records that went unnoticed until 80’s. By then their records were impossible to find. This two disc compilation gathers both albums and an additional 17 songs. It’s dark, bleak and droning garage psych and they reinvented the Byrds’ Eight Miles High long before Husker Du ever set hands on it. Fans of the Sonics, Spacemen Three, 13th Floor Elevators and the like will not be disappointed. mp3: Index – Israeli Blues
Compared to Motown, Mowest (Motown’s effort to set up a west coast operation) was a giant failure, but as a compilation Mowest is a complete success. The best stuff here is from Frankie Valley and Four Seasons and Odyssey. There are echos of the classic sounds of Motown, but it’s filtered through Ray-Bans. There is also some great psychedelic folk on here courtesy of Odyssey, who’s song Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love loans itself as the title of this album. mp3: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – The Night
Analog Africa only put out a couple records a year using the quality not quantity rule. Every release is extensively researched, comes with a thick booklet of interviews with the musicians and labels that originally released the records in Africa. This compilation focuses on Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta. It makes a great companion to the Ouaga Affair compilation that was released on Savannahphone in 2009. This record will shake the dust off of any preconceived notions you may or may not have had about sub-Saharan Africa and will get any party jumpin’. mp3: Issouf Compaore – Dambakale
Chicas is one quirky and enlightening compilation that documents the feminine side of Spanish pop in the 60’s and 70’s. Like any good history lesson there is good and bad, but the good here outshines the few head scratchers. There’s a little bit of everything here: soul, garage, folk, pop and some choice covers like Lia Uya’s version of Three Dog Night’s Liar which totally reinvents the song. London and Paris weren’t the only cities swinging in the 60’s. mp3: Lia Uya – Mientes
11. The June Brides – London, England 1984-1986 (Social)
Walking into a record shop and seeing this in the bins gives one the feeling of comfort similar to still being able to buy a newspaper at a coffee shop. This vinyl only retrospective is beautifully packaged, contains liner notes courtesy of Phil Wilson and Simon Beesley and is chock full of jangly horn laden pop gems for fans of the Go-Betweens and Orange Juice who want to dig a little deeper. mp3: June Brides – In the Rain
Seattle’s Medical Records seems to keep diving down into the depths and resurfacing with sunken treasures on a very consistent basis. Dalek I was the collaboration of liverpudlians Alan Gill and Dave Hughes. This minimalist synthpop classic came out 1980 but you can hear it’s influence in countless records in the DFA catalog of today. mp3: Dalek I – Destiny (Dalek I Love You)
13. Left Banke – Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina & The Left Banke Too (Sundazed)
Where did baroque pop originate? Who knows, but a good place to start your search would be with the Left Banke. If you’re short on cash, go for the debut Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina for those obvious two reasons, but the follow up has it’s charms that you don’t want to deny yourself. I can pretty much guarantee that whichever one you choose, you’ll be back for the other one pretty soon. mp3: Left Banke – Pretty Ballerina
1990 was a long time ago in indie years, but when you place the needle on this record it sounds as fresh and exciting as it did to a know-nothing college kid way back then. You could call it shoegaze, but it’s too strange and off kilter with it crazy rhythms and raw production to be so easily pigeonholed. It kind of defies categorization as all the best records do. Featuring Ian Master’s delicate voice, Graeme Naysmith’s slashing guitars and Chris Cooper’s amazing drumming, the Pale Saints debut album is a record of which I never tire. mp3: Pale Saints – Sight of You
Burger is mostly known for releasing cassettes, but give them a record they really like and they’ll give it the vinyl treatment. The Resonars second album Bright and Dark came out in the middle of CD golden age, 1999 to be exact, on the Get Hip Label. I missed it in 1999 and probably so did many others. Not happening this time. This psych gem plucks from the Hollies, Byrds, Beatles, Long Ryders and the Rain Parade to make a stone cold classic that virtually nobody heard the first time around.
A Few More if that wasn’t enough: Ishilan n-Tenere – Guitar Music from the Western Sahel (Mississippi/Sahelsounds) | The Psychedelic Aliens – Psycho African Beat (Academy Records) | Lou Champagne System – No Visible Means (Medical) | Jeff & Jane Hudson – Flesh (Captured Tracks) | The Servants – Youth Club Disco (Captured Tracks) | Chalk Circle – Reflection (Mississippit/PPM) | Radio Dept. – Passive Aggressive (Labrador) | Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust (Yep Rock) | Fac. Dance (Strut)
With the 90’s revival in full swing, don’t you think you owe it to yourself to do a little research to find out what all the rose colored nostalgia is about. We here at the Finest Kiss are here to help. Stop number one on the 90’s history tour is Washington, DC’s Edsel who have just digitally reissued two of thier albums from that era: The Everlasting Belt Company and Detriot Folly.
Edsel mined the more atmospheric side of post punk. Early on, their records sounded good, but the they didn’t really stay with you, but as their career progressed the songs got better and the band developed a distinct sound that would worm it’s way into my long-term memory. The transition seemed to happen between their second album The Everlasting Belt Company and the third one Detroit Folly. Everlasting Belt Company took the heavier elements of the shoegaze movement, some DC hardcore and some old fashioned Krautrock to form a dense album that had its moments, but it didn’t really leave a lasting impression. It felt self-conscious as if they were still trying emulate their influences and overwhelm you with sound.
mp3: Edsel – Buckle (from The Everlasting Belt Company)
By the time Detroit Folly arrived. It was obvious that Edsel had made some great strides with their sound. Their influences had been distilled into something new, and unique. The first thing you notice is their sense of restraint and use of space. They’re not in a rush to bowl you over, instead they sneak up on you. Songs slithered like snakes into your sleeping bag. The twin guitar and vocal front of Sohrab Habibian and Steve Raskin was at the forefront and much more intricate than on Belt Company. They seemed to finish each other’s sentences and their guitars intertwined into this kind of restrained, dissengagement that created a unique intensity. There was a new sexuality in their sound too, like they figured out how to incorporate T Rex, Rolling Stones and Gang of Four into one record. Detroit Folly was the record that cemented Edsel in my mind permanently. It’s a record that many history tours don’t stop at, but off the beaten path tours are the best ones.
mp3: Edsel – Draw Down the Moon (from Detroit Folly)
For a band that released a few singles, a posthumous EP and only 1000 copies of their only album, a three disc box set might seem like overkill for an obscure all girl band from the UK. Dolly Mixture may have been better known at the time of their existence as Captain Sensible‘s back up singers. Captain Sensible of the Damned had two hit singles in the early 80’s away from the Damned. Both (Happy Talk & Wot) were campy, nudging in on Ian Dury territory and of course over the top, but more importantly employed the backing vocals of the Dolly Mixture.
Dolly Mixture were a force to be rekoned with in their own right, mixing the pure pop of 60’s girls groups with a bit of glam, mod and punk. They were a precursor to indiepop and can claim a direct influence on the Riot Grrrl movement. They were an all girl band who stuck to their guns, not caving to major label males’ demands that they let men play the music on their records leaving them to just be pretty faces. It’s sad to think that this is one of the reasons they were forced to self-release their debut album the double record Demonstration Tapes which actually only contained demos. Listening to it today, it sounds perfect as ‘just’ demos though maybe a little warbled because of less then pristine storing of the masters. Their voices still shine through and are pure as the driven snow, the guitars, strings and percussion evoke a Tamala/Motown sound that probably would have been lost if they had been produced. One of the three discs in the box set contains the Demonstration Tapes double LP (the album was also reissued on vinyl as an extremely limited edition of 300 copies as well). The second disc compiles their singles and the third disc contains a few covers, some demos and tracks that fell between the cracks.
The liner notes were written by Bob Stanley of St. Etienne. Stanley is a long-time fan and even counted Debsey Wykes at one time as a member of the St. Etienne’s touring band. There Wykes met Paul Kelly who compiled the songs for this box set restored them from crusty old tapes and did the layout for the release. You may remember Wykes and Kelly were in Birdie together in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Birdie put out two rather nice records that kind of continued along the Dolly Mixture path but added in a little Free Design and not surprisingly some of the mellow dance vibe of St. Etienne.
So you may ask, what kind of influence does a band that existed for a few fleeting moments 30 years ago have on today’s bands. You need look no further than Sweden’s Liechtenstein. Yeah, there are quite a few bands out there today that you could tag with a Dolly Mixture influence, but Liechtenstein, besides being a trio of women who play their own instruments, harmonize and make pop songs that can sound sweet and innocent on one side and then on the next cop a punk attitude. Their debut CD Survival Strategies in a Modern World came out last year on Slumberland, but not ones to rest, have just released a new 7″ single on Swedish label Fraction Discs.