Features and reviews focusing on the known and unknown legends of Rock 'n' Roll; the private press heroes, doomed power poppers, psychedelic guitar warlords, avant garde outsiders, and lo-fidelity all stars.
Listening to Honey Radar’s latest albumRuby Puff of Dust reminds me of that scene in High Fidelity where Jack Black’s record store snob character in the film creates an instant demand for The Beta Band’sThe Three E.P.’s by playing it in the record shop owned by John Cusack’s character in the film. If I’m being honest, I’m not that crazy about Jack Black or The Beta Band (there goes the former insufferable clerk in me rearing its ugly head), but the truth of the matter is that any shop employee worth their salt who attempts the same stunt with Honey Radar’s latest will definitely be sending those crate digging heads to the shop counter when they hear it in exactly the same way.
You might ask why, and that would be a fair question I suppose. I’ve been listening to this record a lot the past couple weeks trying to pinpoint the exact reason for that. Here’s the best answer I can come up with. The group specializes in a potent cross-hybridization of 1990’s lo-fi indie and 1960’s psychedelic garage, cut with just enough d.i.y. mystique to make the whole thing irresistibly cool. Imagine classic lineup era GBV trying really hard to cutPiper at the Gates of Dawn in their basement, and you’ve got something pretty close to what these guys are up to. If the above couple of sentences has got you feeling pretty enticed, just wait until it hits the in-store play rotation at a record shop near you (if one still exists). I guarantee I’ll see you in line.
For fans of Midwestern lo-fi indie rock there’s something instantly familiar about The Smug Brothers latest effort Attic Harvest. Maybe it’s the sonics created by the Tascam MKIII 4-track cassette recorder that captured the songs presented here, or maybe it’s the fact that drummer Don Thrasher was in on the ground floor of the mid-90’s lo-fi boom playing drums on such early Guided By Voices classics as Same Place the Fly Got Smashed and Propeller, as well “I Am A Scientist” and “Gold Star For Robot Boy” from Bee Thousand. At any rate, this record is sure to light up the pleasure centers of the brain for those who like myself who grew up around the time of, and loved those early GBV records as much as I did along with albums of their ilk by acts such as Pavement, and Sebadoh.
Label press indicates that these guys have been at the wheel for a long time, as this release appears to be lucky number 13 (and the group’s first foray into vinyl) with the brothers recording this one in a power trio configuration consisting of core members Kyle Melton (guitar/bass/vocals) and the aforementioned Thrasher on drums along with new recruit Scott Tribble to flesh out the sound adding guitars and keyboards to the proceedings. While there’s plenty of jangling fuzzy guitars, faux English accents, and hooks to recall days of indie past like the excellent “Rare & Double Clutch.” The album truly reveals itself when it tries to push beyond those parameters like on the sneaky lo-fi pop of “Reminding Penumbra,” or the acoustic psychedelics that gleam on “Learn From The East.” For those who wish the dream of the 1990’s never ended, perhaps it’s time to check in with the Smug Brothers you just might end up walking away with a record under your arm, and earworms for days. Party like it’s 1994.
Listening to Anthology Recordings’ collection of obscure 70s FM wannabe superstars Sad About The Times is a bit like tuning into a classic rock station beamed in from an alternate universe. Instead of Uncle Lou taking us for a “Walk On The Wild Side,” Randy and The Goats introduce us to the “N.Y. Survivor” or instead of the harmonies of CSNY, imagine Kevin Vicalvi’s “Lover Now Alone,” in steady rotation for the last 40 years. These are just two examples of the aural delights, and cognitive dissonance that await the listener on this double LP.
As implied by the compilations’ title there definitely is a sense of melancholy that hangs over much of the music collected here. Most likely the result of a hangover from the idealism from the 1960’s that came crashing down or maybe it was just too much wood paneling. It’s hard to say for sure. Most of what’s collected here runs that gamut from power pop to gorgeous loner folk, though there are some psychedelic rock elements that linger on tracks such as on Oliver Klaus’ “Here Comes The Sun,” and Space Opera’s “Holy River.” It’s hard to deny the acoustic beauty of Sky’s “Sing For Me,” which channels the same sort of shimmering downer acoustic vibe that dominated side 2 of Big Star’s #1 Record or Antonia Lamb’s tale of an outlaw on “Wolf.” Hoover’s “Absolute Zero,” with its minor key bleakness gives Neil Young’s ditch trilogy a run for its money.
Unfortunately, at the time there was only so much room on radio programmers’ playlists, and only so many slots at the top. The music presented on here sank mostly without a trace, and doomed the artists to obscurity. Now in our modern age, we’ve got plenty more ways to hear. So it seems fate has given these songs a second chance at being heard, which they certainly do. A lost history awaits the listener. What a bunch of beautiful losers.