Wednesday, July 25, 2007

MORE SINGLES GOING STROONAD!

And not just plain ol' singles, but seven-inchers in general of both an old and new to mine ears variety!

The Television Personalities-"Bike","No One's Little Girl"/"Seasons in the Sun" picture-disc (Twist Records)

Back during the 70s/80s cusp I was just as big on Rough Trade Records as the next pretensioso, if not even moreso. However, my drooling devotion to not only the label but the post-hippie/punk idea behind it began to wane around the same time their product began limping into a shallow, even-more-socialist (if you can believe that, and I'll forgive you if you don't) version of its former self given all of the notoriety and general hubbub they received thanks to the likes of ROLLING STONE magazine. Yet, no matter how many times I felt jaded by what seemed so on-target in 1979 yet tres-shuck in '84 I must admit that I still retained more'n a little soft spot in my heart for the Television Personalities. Back when getting hold of Creation and John's Children records was mighty hard indeed, the TV Personalities (and their sister band the Times) made for a more'n adequate substitution mixing all of that BOMP!-inspired poppage in with the likes of the Velvet Underground as well as that whole late-seventies upheaval in music that was capturing the attention of a few misguided souls out there. Naturally it took a few duff recordings to shake me back to reality, but for a short time it was stuff like these Personalities that made for a fine bridge between 1967 smart pop moves and 1980 art-punk aktion.

On this decade-old wonder I reviewed back in one of those long-forgotten back issues of some rag or another, the Personalities prove that twenty years in the business doesn't mean one has to go from addle-minded primitiveness to even more addle-minded professionalism like the Who and so many other once-bright lights did. Here leader Dan Treacy and whomever stuck around reach far back to the root-of-it-all twisting around Pink Floyd's "Bike" and onetime labelmates the Raincoats' ode to crybaby feminist pamperism "No One's Little Girl" while making a trainwreck outta Terry Jacks' infamous "Seasons in the Sun" onna flip. The whole thing sounds just as psychotically strained as you'd like it, just like it was 1979 all over again and yer drooling all over those import singles inna record shop thinking about whether yer gonna spend that $6.98 on an album or some NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS back issues. And, in keeping with late-seventies import-single chic, this 'un comes in a picture-disc format featuring Treacy's mug onna front and a swirling psychedelic design a-la those old Vertigo labels on the back you can hypnotize yourself with while the record is spinning! Like Dave Lang's underwear, it's nice to know that some things do not change!

***
The Human Switchboard-"Prime of My Life"/"In My Room" (Square)

While we're talking about late-seventies glories being re-lived in a late-oh-ohs world, it would be futile not to talk about the Northeast Ohio underground scene that was getting oh-such-wondrous acclaim all over the realm while at the same time the members of the entire variety of groups who were playing the area couldn't get arrested if they were caught strangling Anastasia Pantsios with one of her leotards personally given to her by the Balzer Brothers. It sure was a sad case, with fantastic acts from across the tri-county area playing music that, like the best of anything, took the previous ten or so years of accomplishment and rechanneled it into even greater glory. Yes, there were plenty of bands back then that were making the grand case for the Cleveland/Akron/Kent area really becoming a "New Liverpool" (as far as bands as well as industrial hotspots go---yeah, I know all about that misinterpreted Mark Mothersbaugh comment too!), and it's really a shame that there was no NEW YORK ROCKER-styled publication (CLE coming the closest, granted!) to document this scene and give all these upstarts the needed push or perhaps we'd be talking about Ex-Blank-Ex and the Lepers the same way people talk about Blondie and the Ramones in hushed, hallowed tones these days!

Anyway, I do recall loads of praise being heaped upon the Human Switchboard once 1981 rolled around and the concept of locally-produced underground rock suddenly hit the higher-ups...naturally by that time the "new" concept of a roaring underground rock scene had been about six years old, but I guess we can forgive these slow-learners for once. The Switchboard, who began life as a rather nice/perhaps even quirky post-psychedelic garage band, had suddenly arrived in that same BIG TIME that shamefully avoided all of those other "new wave" offerings of the day with appearances on WMMS-FM's "Coffeebreak Concert" radio show as well as the afternoon local talk-show program on one of the bigger VHF stations (no GHOUL for these guys 'n gal!), and did I ever tell you about the time I thought I spotted a jean-bedecked Myrna Macarian shopping with a rather dainty mother/daughter team at a Cle-area shopping mall and decided to do a little light-hearted stalking myself??? Of course in a few years it was like nothing happened, but for a brief spell the Human Switchboard were the Northeast Ohio's token original music band for all the squares to drool over in order to assuage their guilt over ignoring the rest of the scene for the past ten years!

Anyhow, here's a not-so-rarity of a 45 that still gets occasional play here at the padded cell, the band's second single from '79 featuring help from none other than the infamous 15-60-75 (the Numbers Band) horn/percussion section! And yeah, "Prime of My Life" sure sounds like some great Numbers outtake even though guitarist/vocalist Robert Pfeifer ain't exactly another Robert Kidney in terms of vocal depth or an ability to weave what Peter Laughner once called "Voodoo Music" out of his collegiate mind. But it still sounds boffo as the horns careen all over the place and Macarian's organ lets off some mighty John Cale screeches to boot! Flipster "In My Room" does have sparks of that voodoo charm Laughner spoke of, yet it still has a college town ooze which keeps it from achieving heavy-spin duty here. Whaddeva, these sides are perhaps the group's best moments and a surprise if you remember them as being an eighties new wave trophy band or something to that effect.
***
Tin Huey-BREAKFAST WITH THE HUEYS single ("Robert Takes the Road to Lieber Nawash"/"Squirm You Worm") (Clone)

Whereas the Human Switchboard epitomised the college atmosphere of Kent, Tin Huey were the industrial belch of Akron, maybe even more'n Devo. And, like the Switchboard, whereas Huey began life as an eclectic sort of underground band owing as much to the Velvet Underground and Stooges as Miles Davis and Robert Wyatt, by the eighties they had also fallen into the new wave pit of doom having forsaken their original integrity for something that was a little more ginchy as their subsequent releases will bear out. Still, Tin Huey had plenty of their original smart-garage mindset firmly in place when they recorded this just-pre-Warner Brothers single back in the heavy-duty year of '78, still churning out the Canterbury stuff alongsides a more punk-oriented midwestern spew in an avant punk cum cold wave style that epitomized recordings by everyone from MX-80 Sound to Pere Ubu but like with most of these eclectic aggros it worked. It took a few years before the more irritating aspects of this "new music" as they put it would come home to roost, and frankly I think maybe it would've been for the better if all that attention wasn't drawn to the Akron area which only influenced the bands there to become more show-worthy, something that unfortunately changed the entire movement from one of verve and drive to something I think would have been better left in the toilet. But as they say, in one thousand years it's all gonna run together!
***
Andrew Klimek-AFTERBATHINGINTURPENTINE EP ("Felt Hammer"/"Anna Told"/"Drapery Hooks of my Love") (Mustard)

Closing out our late-seventies NE Ohio soiree's a neat slab that I recall reading all about (via the COVENTRY SHOPPING NEWS) at the REAL WORLD THEATER/Phantasy Nightclub back in July of '79 while awaiting Bernie and the Invisibles' trek to the club's tiny stage. And really, that article was a porverbial brain-buster for back then Klimek's future-and-ex-wife Charlotte Pressler made both Klimek and this upcoming EP out to be one of the more exciting efforts to come out of the Cle area in quite some time. Not only by detailing Klimek's varied history in the underground (having jammed with brother Jamie's Mirrors in 1973 [age twelve] playing echoplex and stylophone before forming Tender Buttons and joining Ex-Blank-Ex/Johnny and the Dicks!) but with his entire home-spun musical vocabulary which once again took the Velvet Underground into even more uncharted realms that seemed oh-so-apocalyptic back in those brave new days. And yeah, even all that got dumped into the eternal commode of useless ideas we put so much stock in at one time once the eternal magic of the Velvets filtered down into the barren-brainfold of the likes of Michael Stipe, but back in 1978 the promulgation of post-Velvets rock was a mighty noble endeavor indeed and for that Klimek should be eternally saluted!

Playing with an all-star band (former Ex-Blank-Ex bassist Jim Ellis of CLE fame, ex-Mirrors/Ex-Blank-Ex Michael Weldon on drums and Weldon's brother Christopher on glass and electric saw), Klimek sure puts out one mighty fine slice of just what Cleveland meant for more'n a few hungry rockists back in those best/worst of time days. And that's not only with a sound and vision that's firmly rooted in that city's Velvet Underground appreciation, but with the same wild approach to the rock subject-at-hand that has the same quirkiness and feeling which typified a whole lotta other smart projects that came outta the area at the time. Everything from Brian Sands' REHEATED CHOCOLATE TANGOES to the early Pere Ubu sound was somehow channeled into this recording which takes the standard Velvets drone (thanks to Chris Weldon's saw?) and reshapes it into something a whole lot more twisted, sort of like Brian Eno doing HERE COME THE WARM JETS after attending an abnormal psych seminar. Things do come to a head on "Drapery Hooks of my Love" where the admitted Beefheart influence spreads out into even more frightening vistas, especially when the music is suddenly being played backwards. I remember hearing this at the Drome back in '80 asking in jest how the guy playing it for me (some hippie who was biz partners with Johnny Dromette) got his turntable to spin backwards. I don't think the joke hit him in quite the right way, but it was rather invigorating.
***
Startoon-Who's Been Naughty"/"Birthday Heaven" (Anamaze)

I thought this long-forgotten New York City underground group's first single from '76 entitled "Rocking in the Bowery" (both sides the same!) was nice enough in sort of a punky Young Rascals way, but this 'un from two years later shows that the band has improved to the point where they now sounded more like a punky Sparks! It's good enough hard power-pop that wasn't exactly what people were thinking when they thought about "New York Rock" but it suits its purpose fine enough. Just what that purpose was remains to be seen, but whatever it's another one of those lost rarities that never did seem to find their way outside of the city limits.
***
The Birds-LET'S DO THE VELVETS! single ("Femme Fatale"/"Here She Comes Now") (Important, available through Volcanic Tongue)

Believe-ya-me, a clear-vinyl tribute to the Velvet Underground sung by a Japanese missy woulda had me doing tumbles of joy-infested nirvana had I come across a copy twennysome years back, but nowadays the idea really couldn't get me all hot 'n bothered after years of lackluster Velvets rehash even if a woman of Far Eastern heritage is doing the vocalizing. And frankly this single done by former Acid Mothers Temple member Cotton Casino along with some Scandie named Per Gista Galaen (say that three times fast!) really doesn't capture any of that early Velvets aura which made not only theirs, but their immediate benefactors' recordings so fine but I've come to expect that. However, I should say that I admired the way Casino mimicked Nico's voice in utter homage even if lines like "She's going to blake your heart in two" do give her away. Nothing special here, though it does beat similar Velvets stabs along the lines of X-tal's manyfold.
***
The Beatles Costello-WASHING THE DEFECTIVES EP ("Soldier of Love", "I Feel Fine"/"Theme From a Summer Place", "Outer Limits") (Pious)

Here's a late-seventies self-produced oddity so bizarre yet so stuck in mid-sixties basement rock mentalities that I coulda sworn that Moxie Records had something to do with it. But fear not, for Dave Gibson had no hand in this one and for all intent purposes the pressing is fine enough sans any spek of dirt or grime personally rubbed into the grooves courtesy the late Mr. Moxie himself! Actually this one was masterminded by none other than the equally-late Joe Pope, the guy who ran the Beatles-oriented STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER fanzine dynasty way back in the seventies, and in an attempt to cash in on the new wave homemade record bonanza (with the help of former Sidewinders Andy Paley and Eric "Slowhand" Rosenfeld along with some newcomers to the Boston scene) the man of international reknown released this extended play which asks the musical question...why? All kidding aside, this is a fun to get into li'l record featuring really-sub garage band instrumental takes on "I Feel Fine," "Theme From a Summer Place" and "Outer (actually, "Out Of") Limits" along with a vocal "Soldier of Love" and it all has that great knotty pine suburban feeling to it that is probably why I was thinking Moxie all along! If you're the kinda guy who used to love combing through your latest BOMP! and Metro Music catalogues back in the very early-eighties, this is the one for you!
***
Comateens-"Danger Zone"/"Cool Chick" (Teenmaster)

I should admit to you that there was a time when I was about as interested in the Comateens' various eighties releases as I was in a lotta the other new wave gone bad material coming outta En Why See back in the mid-eighties. After all, with a whole slew of once-engaging rock denizens of the Rotten Apple having taken some of the worst turns imaginable with regards to the creation of exciting music (witness the likes of Ian North, a guy who seemed like such a teenage punk in 1976 yet went for the New Romantic style once 1981 clocked in!) I figured why should I get burned once again especially when all of my hard-earned could be put to better use buying up old PEBBLES albums! However, after giving a listen to the aptly-titled Velveteen EP with former New York stars Lisa Burns and Sal Maida (joined by North on syn-drums!) doing the early-eighties bump-and-grind and liking it all the while as well as playing disc two of that CBGB LIVE OFF THE BOARD sampler almost nightly enjoying the electronic pop of Rods and Cones not forgetting Chemical Wedding, maybe it is time to give these Comateen kids another chance even though to me they all look like dago hoodlums, even the gal!

This early release, done while the group was frequenting the stage of Max's Kansas City opening for Von Lmo amongst other 1979 bright lights, shows the 'teens not quite into the electronic eighties sound but you can hear the roots of it all amidst the pop moves and quick flash. At least the music is still firmly rooted in tough En Why See style and grace with perhaps a touch of the new electronic ghost permeating here and there but it's not like FASHION had yet to rear its ugly rear turning the Comateens into yet another big label tax writeoff. It's positively a winner and def. a keeper; yet another one of those records that never did seem to make their way into the latest Disques Du Monde catalog and for that more than a few of us are the worse off for it.
***
The Fans-"Telstar", "Lonely Girls"/"Ekstasis" (Blue Beam)

I'm sure some of you creaky oldtimers remember when this one came out and was readily available via your faverave import service. T'was in early-'77, and I guess this disc did have some impact with the music-buying public out there because the electro-version of "Telstar" which commences Eee-Pee eventually ended up as the bumper music for the weather reports on WBBW-AM in Youngstown Ohio! And really, given what a dump of a city Youngstown was when it came to rock & roll acknowledgement (whether it be via radio or bands), something like the Fans getting daily airplay was nothing short of an accomplishment whether it be as filler music or not!This disc certainly was an eye-opener esp. considering how the early-Roxy Music-derived sounds that appear on this came outta none other'n Atlanta Georgia. John Cale discovered them down there and told Hilly Kristal, and soon the Fans were playing around the burgh opening for everyone from Talking Heads to Orchestra Luna but that's no reason to buy this record (or maybe not to buy it!)...the sound is def. English Art/Fop-derived, nothing like the Southern Rock native to the Fans' headquarters that was all the rage, and although later recordings reflected a more new wave approach at least this 'un shows exactly what Young Ameriga could do in the garage at least before the taint. Vocals are kinda flittery but they actually do fit in with the powerful playing (thanks to guitarist Kevin Dunn, a stateside Manzanara if there ever was one!) and all I gotta say is that if you've heard all of those Roxy sides and want more, this is definitely the one to seek out! I have a tape of 'em doing "Sister Ray" recorded live around the same time this EP came out located somewhere in my cassette collection...it might be worth the ten or so years for me to seek it out and preseve it on disque for all time! (And also worth seeking out is Dunn's '79 electronic rip of Chuck Berry's "Nadine" done right before that infamous plop into the new wave cesspool of the early-eighties!)
***
Saddlesore-"Old Tom Clark"/"Pig Ankle Strut" (Drag City)

Here's that late-nineties Drag City reissue of the impossibly-rare Texas Revolution label single by the group Saddlesore with Mayo Thompson somewhere in the ranks...y'know, that single that actually got advertised in ROLLING STONE??? I dunno how many brain-numbed hippoids Texas Revolution suckered into buying this platter but I'm sure the ones that did muster their way outta whatever drug haze they be imbued in would have been satisfied with the then-in-vogue Old West imagery resplendent on the a-side. B-side seems too askew and almost in the same vein as Thompson's CORKY'S DEBT TO HIS CIGAR (sic) elpee of the same stratum but since I thought even that was more or less a harbinger of late-eighties underground miasma I think I'll have someone the caliber of Tim Ellison comment on that. Interesting enough double-sided weirdie that I'm sure still has a lotta meaning for someone somewhere out there.
***
Meercaz-"Lovesick"/"Unlust" (Point Wrex)

Unlike the above-mentioned flotsam this 'un's a recent recording endeavor from a year or two back that only goes to show you that making noisy records in your garage is not a lost art form. This Meercaz guy (the bloke featured on the front cover who looks remarkably like Shuggie Otis during his early recording days) lays down a pretty dense wall of metallic thunder on the a-side sounding more like what a good portion of the heavy metal idiom did sometime before that all flopped over into the progressive rock category around the time Black Sabbath got Rick Wakeman to guest on SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH. Still punk enough that you'll love it though...while on the flip 'caz and gang do a more punky riff-up that'll probably remind you of one of your fave early-eighties moments (Spike Kagan?) done back when we were all consoling ourselves to the fact that maybe the hard-edge did die out around the same time the B-52s became the standard-bearers for the new sounds. A worthwhile grabber w/o an address to clue you into...maybe the guy who sent me a copy of this'll write in???
***
And now, because you didn't ask...a TEN-INCH EP REVIEWS!!!

Bon Vivants-SOUL ACTION (Old Gold, available through Slippytown)

Just found my copy of this juicy recently-released platter while looking for Hawkwind's WARRIOR ON THE EDGE OF TIME which as of this writing remains lost! But at least I have this oft-spoken about ten-incher which, although a 45 rpm player, could qualify as an album given how it packs four full-length tracks on it per side just like all of those other great ten-inch wonders that began re-cluttering up the place in the new wave early-eighties! Anyway these Bon Vivants hail from Atlanta Georgia but please don't let Softy-Southern visions of perky little Michael Stipes clutter up your subconscious...these guys are total rockism fanatics and if they do owe anything to the Confederacy it's the mid-South ravings of the likes of Big Star and the Sneakers 'stead of the prissy boys from the Vivants' neck o' the woods.

In fact, this thing that SOUL ACTION reminds me most of is that debut Sneakers EP from '76 which got more'n a few punks all excited not only with the post-Ramones pose on the sleeve but the use of pop and smart production moves that sorta hinted at...well, I dunno but Eddie Flowers thinks this one merges everything from early Eno to Raspberries to Simply Saucer and Big Star too, and I'm sure if this 'un (and this group) happened to make its way out thirty-two years back they'd be selling like hotcakes thanks to Lester Bangs' mention in CREEM's "Rock-A-Rama" while CBGB and Max's'd be climbing over each other to give 'em precious stage time! It's that good, and the fact that it all exists in the blandoid present day is only testament to the true greatness which is Bon Vivants!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I always loved Human Switchboard,
even in their later years when they were the darlings of Trouser Press. I even bought and enjoyed
Bob's and Myrna's respective solo records. Whatever happened to Mr. Pfeifer's career after he was
a suit at Hollywood Records? If PF Sloan could just have a successful
"comeback," then Robert Pfeifer
should be able to have one. That
college-educated second-generation Lou Reed angle is needed now more than ever, at least in my home!
As long as Jon Tiven DOES NOT
produce Pfeifer's comeback album!
(don't know if Pfeifer has been
playing with Rufus Wainwright, though...)

Bill Shute

Clayton S said...

Hiya Chris,

Thanks for the Meercaz mention. Anybody reading w/ any interest, I'm sorry, the record's pretty much sold out. Only 200 pressed up for this one. Some stores (Discourage/Anthem Records) are carrying 'em and do mailorder, so you can try there.

Anyhoo, anybody that wants to hear newer tracks can go here: www.myspace.com/meercaz

Band contact: caz2mirror@yahoo.com

Thanks again!

-Clayton S.

tim ellison said...

Was there ever really a college atmosphere to Kent? Nowadays, there is virtually no college-related life either in the town or on the campus. People call it a "suitcase school" or something because it's all kids from all around NE Ohio and they all go home for the weekends or something? Seriously, there was virtually no college atmosphere there at all the two years I was there.

As to Corky's Debt to His Father - I'm not exactly sure what you meant about the late '80s indie miasma...I think it's kind of like Skip Spence's Oar. I don't know if I would call either of those records visionary like I would call Syd Barrett or Marc Bolan visionary, but there's a little spark of genius there. I would say I like it more than Oar. Not into the sluggish vibe of that record, to be honest.

I also kind of like the sound of that record. Cool bass sound.

Christopher said...

From what I discerned, there was a Kent College Scene in the seventies. Dunno how much I did scam the day I was there, but I would guess that there was an active college kid underground that would obv. give birth to the likes of the Switchboard, not to mention any Akron or Cle counterparts there may be. Anyone who was there for longer than a day care to comment?

CORKY seemed more like a harbinger of underground/indie things to come, like circa. 1988 but I could be wrong (again???). I actually prefer OAR as far as these things go...oddly enough I can't see how Greg Prevost, in his review of CORKY in an early issue of FUTURE, could compare it to GOD BLESS THE RED KRAYOLA! THe Caroline Peyton LP's another early precursor to that sort of experimental and perhaps cyborg sound.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to the Klimeks?! I'd love to see a full run-down on their lives & times hint hint

Christopher said...

An all-Klimek article would be nice if someone could dredge up the facts! (Don't look at me...hint hint!) Last I heard Jamie was in Cleveland and out of music, and who knows what Andrew or Karen K. Karen Karen are up to!

Anonymous said...

There certainly was a "college scene" in Kent when the Devo guys were going to Kent State, perhaps the shootings destroyed it (which according to the Mothersbaughs was what inspired the whole Devo concept).Didn't Lux and Ivy go to Kent State also, around the same time? IIRC, Lux is originally from Kent.

BTW, "Seasons In The Sun" was Rod McKuen's translation of Jacques Brel's "Le Moribond". Like all of McKuen's other Brel translations, (e.g. "If You Go Away", a hit for Neil Diamond back in the late '60s) it totally misses the subtleties of Brel's language.(Then again, there weren't any subtleties or craft in the lyrics that McKuen wrote for his original material! Being pretentious, sappy and retarded all at once was a bitch....) The English language version was originally recorded by McKuen, but Jacks had the hit with it. I'd like to hear the Television Personalities version, it HAS to be better than McKuen or Jacks.

Anonymous said...

On a related note, the new Styrenes CD contains a Jamie Klimek song:

http://www.rent-a-dog.com/english/catalogue/styrenes.html

Anonymous said...

Bob Pfiefer was arrested this past Friday in L.A. Just Google his name and "arrest" for the details. He was under heavy popo scrutiny for the past two-years due to his association w/ Anthony Pellicano the notorious L.A. PI who seems to be in every show-biz type's soup.

Kent had a college vibe up through the early '80s. Randy Russell & his fellow loons were operating out of some kind of squat downtown. The Numbers Band was still playing at the same bar they'd appeared at every Friday night for 52 years straight. I like the overall desolate feel of Kent.

Hesske

Anonymous said...

DOH!

The Pfiefer arrest was last year. I was looking at today's date when I wrote the preceding. Don't know the upshot of anything.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

the BIG STAR bootleg LP (Revival Wax, ACC-1) was released in 1986 as stated on the labels. I bought my copy at that time.

Best.

Christopher said...

Maybe on your label...

Jeff Reding (VidMag Media) said...

There was most definitely an active Kent scene through at least the mid-80s. The Numbers Band is still alive and well (featuring, by the way, Terry Hynde, Chrissy's brother. One of the best bands from around that time was the F-Models. JBs was the place to go to see local and national acts. I saw The Dickies there in the early 80s.

Sometimes it was hard to separate the Kent and Akron scenes because they kinda overlapped. Urban Mutants, Hammer Damage, Tin Huey, and Zero Defex were some of the best. There were a bunch more, but it's 4.30 in the morning and my brain is shutting down for the night and I can't think of anyone else, lol.

Thanks for mentioning the Klimeks, Human Switchboard, Styrenes and Brian Sands (an old friend I've known for close on three decades now).

Even though he isn't from this area, I met Von Lmo once when I was in New York and got to see them perform at Max's.