About Jon Chaisson

Writer, obsessed music listener and collector, okay bassist and guitarist, hoopy frood. Questionable logical circuits, but he gets by.

Thirty Years On: 1991, Part I

The other day KEXP was celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of albums that had come out on 24 September 1991, particularly four albums that have become important classics of the alt-rock genre: Nirvana’s Nevermind, Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, Pixies’ Trompe Le Monde, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

But there was SO much more than just hearing “Under the Bridge” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on extremely heavy rotation, as the modern ’80s, 90s and beyond’ iHeart playlists will lead you to believe. This wasn’t just the year punk “broke” (which even then I thought was a questionable boast), nor was it the year MTV decided that their 120 Minutes playlist would suddenly also be their regular daytime rotation. It was a year filled will burgeoning Britpop, electronica, college-rock inspired pop, and everything in between. And weirdly enough a ton of it had an extremely positive edge to it. As young Gen-Xers finally given the stage, we’d just entered the first year of the last decade of the last century of the current millennium. When the clock ticked over to 2000 (yes, yes, I know…stfu, no pedants allowed on WIS), we thought and hoped everything shitty and broken in our lives to date would have been fixed by then. We were hoping beyond hope that several painful years of destructive Thatcherism and Reaganism and the Gulf War Live On TV would wilt away and we’d finally get our own and make things better. [It of course didn’t exactly work out that way despite our best efforts, but for a while I’d like to think we had a good thing going.] And our music definitely mirrored that, especially in the early nineties.

Let’s see, where was I in 1991? In college! Finishing up my sophomore year at Emerson with a new circle of friends, getting ever so slightly better grades, still holding onto a shaky long-term/long-distance relationship and already planning not to return back to my hometown for another summer. I was going to stick around in Beantown one way or another. I was consistently broke af and I probably wasn’t in the most stable of emotional places at the time, mind you, but I was bound and determined to get out of that particular rut one way or another. I signed up to work the summer at the college library and rented out a huge dorm room from Fisher College down the block. By the time junior year started, I moved in with a friend on Beacon Street and stayed there until August of 1992.

So kick back, kids, this one’s gonna be a long one! [I should probably create a Spotify playlist as well, come to think of it…]

The Judybats, Native Son, released 16 January 1991. Perky, quirky and catchy as hell. This was always a fun band to hear on WFNX, back before they leaned so heavily on grunge later that year. This is a very early 90s sound that was everywhere then: kind of inspired by REM’s poppier side, lighthearted and extremely melodic.

Pop Will Eat Itself, The Pop Will Eat Itself Cure for Sanity, released 22 January 1991. The Poppies pull back considerably on their noisy ‘grebo’ sound this time out and entertain us with club grooves. The samples are still there, but they’re more intertwined in the melodies rather than just blasting out of nowhere.

Jesus Jones, Doubt, released 29 January 1991. “Right Here Right Now” might be played to death and is most definitely a product of its time, but Doubt really is a fantastic banger of a record from start to finish. It’s relentlessly groovy and beat-heavy and translates well both on the radio and on the dance floor. It also sounds amazing in headphones, considering they were masters at highly creative sampling and sound production.

Material Issue, International Pop Overthrow, release 5 February 1991. Another classic album of its time that takes a page from the Replacements with its mix of jangly and wobbly pop and punk. This could have easily been released a good few years earlier or a decade later and fit in nicely with other current sounds.

Throwing Muses, The Real Ramona, released 18 February 1991. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Muses. They could slide between awkward and hard-to-grasp tunes and gorgeously pop melodies — sometimes within the same song — and they were also sort-of local, which was always a plus for me. [Boston’s music scene in the 80s and 90s was flipping AMAZING and I really should give it its own blog entry soon.] “Counting Backwards” remains one of my favorites of theirs.

The Charlatans UK, Over Rising EP, released 25 February 1991. After their lovely, psychedelic debut album Some Friendly, the Charlatans chose to prove that they weren’t just a flash in the pan Madchester group. This EP might capture some more of that signature sound, but it also hints at a darker and heavier sound they’d capture the next year on their sophomore album.

The KLF, The White Room, released 4 March 1991. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing “3AM Eternal” somewhere on someone’s radio, in the club or in the car. The duo’s musical and political shenanigans never really translated to the US, but this song and album did make a significant dent in the psyche of kids just entering their 20s. Its production is freakishly trebly — the bloop-bleeps, synth stings and PP Arnold’s blistering vocals are all pushed into the red — but that’s how the clubs loved it.

Too Much Joy, Cereal Killers, released 12 March 1991. The TMJ boys were firmly entrenched in that ‘goofy punk’ style that had been a staple of college radio for most of the 80s, but thanks to a major label deal with Giant, for a few years they were able to sneak onto alt-rock radio with some super catchy and fun tunes like “Crush Story.” Later that summer I was able to see them live at the Hatch Shell!

REM, Out of Time, released 12 March 1991. After a super-long tour supporting 1988’s Green — their first major-label record — they followed up with an extremely glossy album that on one hand turned off more than a few IRS-era fans but on the other hand shot them straight into the stratosphere, all without a tour to promote it. Somehow a gloomy mid-tempo song with a strange southernism as its title ended up becoming their hugest hit to date…and still gets radio play to this day.

The Godfathers, Unreal World, released 12 March 1991. The last album of theirs to be released by Sony in the US, this album may not have gotten much airplay or promotion, but it was one of my favorites of that year and it got a ton of play on my Walkman. It’s not as angry as Birth School Work Death or as Johnny-Cash-bluesy as More Songs About Love and Hate; instead it leans more towards garage band psychedelia (including a powerful and badass cover of The Creation’s “How Does It Feel to Feel”) and it’s strong from start to finish.

Slint, Spiderland, released 27 March 1991. Considered one of the first important albums of the post-rock genre, this record was a hell of a headscratcher for some of us that had never heard this type of sound before, but those of us hanging out in the record stores and building up our college radio station’s library, it quickly became a staple. I used to play “Good Morning, Captain” some days during my WECB run because it was just so weird yet amazing.

*

More to come soon!

Mixtape: ‘Does Truth Dance Does Truth Sing: The Singles 1988’

I’ve definitely talked and written a lot about 1988, considering it was a high point in my teen years socially and emotionally, as well as creatively. Everything just fell into place in a positive way. I knew this feeling wouldn’t last, but I chose to embrace it and let it lift me up while it lasted, and I’m glad I did. I used to return to those memories sometimes out of desperation, especially during my mid-90s slump, but nowadays I can return to them with fondness and maybe a bit of amazement. I really did have a lot more personal clarity then than I thought I did, and I sometimes use that as a reminder of how to live in the present.

I’d been making proto-mixtapes for years taping stuff off the radio, but 1988 was when I made the deep dive into the alchemical science of creating personal mixes. And since 1988 had been not just a personal high but a musical high as well, I was determined to celebrate that with a year-end mix. This was my first attempt at a multi-tape (non-radio tape) mix of this kind.

DTDDTS: The Singles 1988 is admittedly not my best mix work, as I was still feeling my way in making these things. It sort of rambles halfway through and drifts to a close with a sigh rather than a cheer…my mistake was overloading the first tape with so many great songs! (Whenever I listened to it I usually stuck with that first tape.) It does kind of redeem itself near the end, though, and in retrospect, I think it mirrors my mood at the time: once my friends left for college, the last couple of months of the year weren’t nearly as exciting or positive for me. Still: I do like this mix, and it contains so many songs that have remained personal favorites for years.

Side Notes:
–Most of these songs were sourced from original albums or singles, but several on Sides E and F were lifted from recent 120 Minutes episodes or taped off WAMH or WMDK. There are a lot of album cuts on this one, which really shows how closely I was listening to a lot of these albums.
–I made several “reissue” versions of this over the years, partly to fix the flow but also to add more songs that I’d left off or replace songs I no longer had in my collection. (I have in fact created digital versions of all of them.) This playlist is the original created 27 December 1988 during Christmas vacation.
–The title comes from the last song on Side B, “A Public Place” by Wire. Years later in 2013 I named a year-end mix ‘We Sing and Dance as We Go: The Singles’ after another Wire then-current lyric. Sort of a personal 25th anniversary thing, I suppose.
–This contains exactly one Flying Bohemians song which is thankfully not on Spotify as it is embarrassing as it is hilarious. Why I didn’t use “Night” or one of our better tracks, I’m not sure. “Nothing Spectacular” was me and Chris fucking around on guitars and making a hash out of a moody 80s riff, with Jim H scratching one of Natan’s Van Halen records while he was in the other room. Chris provides an amazingly torturous guitar solo.
–I put my favorite song ever at the time, The Church’s ‘Under the Milky Way’, on Side A Track 5. When I revived the year-end mixes in the 45-minutes-a-side format in 2013, I also revived that as well. My favorite song of that particular year will always have that spot.

SIDE A:

1. Morrissey, “Will Never Marry”
2. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “The Mercy Seat”
3. Jane’s Addiction, “Jane Says”
4. Front 242, “Headhunter (Version 1.0)”
5. The Church, “Under the Milky Way”
6. The Primitives, “Crash”
7. The Godfathers, “When Am I Coming Down”
8. The Timelords, “Doctorin’ the Tardis”
9. The Smithereens, “Only a Memory”
10. Peter Murphy, “All Night Long”

SIDE B:

1. Siouxsie & the Banshees, “Peek-a-Boo”
2. The Sugarcubes, “Coldsweat”
3. Cocteau Twins, “Carolyn’s Fingers”
4. ‘Til Tuesday, “(Believed You Were) Lucky”
5. They Might Be Giants, “Ana Ng”
6. Camouflage, “The Great Commandment”
7. Erasure, “Chains of Love”
8. The Art of Noise feat. Tom Jones, “Kiss”
9. Information Society, “Running”
10. Wire, “A Public Place”

SIDE C:

1. Ministry, “Stigmata”
2. Grace Pool, “Out of the Wild”
3. The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Sidewalking”
4. Morrissey, “Everyday Is Like Sunday”
5. Shriekback, “Dust and a Shadow”
6. The Flying Bohemians, “Nothing Spectacular” *
7. A House, “Call Me Blue”
8. Information Society, “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)”
9. REM, “Orange Crush”
10. Cocteau Twins, “Blue Bell Knoll”
11. Pet Shop Boys, “Always On My Mind”

SIDE D:

1. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, “What I Am”
2. Big Pig, “Breakaway”
3. The Mighty Lemon Drops, “Inside Out” *
4. In-D, “Virgin In-D Sky’s”
5. Peter Murphy, “Time Has Got Nothing to Do with It”
6. The Psychedelic Furs, “All That Money Wants”
7. Midnight Oil, “The Dead Heart”
8. Stump, “Charlton Heston”
9. Dr Calculus, “Full of Love” *
10. SinĂ©ad O’Connor, “Never Get Old”
11. Shriekback, “Go Bang”

SIDE E:

1. Pixies, “Gigantic”
2. Graham Parker, “Get Started, Start a Fire”
3. Camper Van Beethoven, “Turquoise Jewelry” *
4. Crowded House, “Mansion in the Slums”
5. Living Colour, “Cult of Personality”
6. The Godfathers, “Birth, School, Work, Death”
7. Sonic Youth, “Within You, Without You”
8. The Church, “Reptile”
9. Joy Division, “Atmosphere”
10. The Primitives, “I’ll Stick with You”
11. Wire, “Kidney Bingos”

SIDE F:

1. New Order, “Fine Time”
2. Marc Almond, “Tears Run Rings”
3. The Fall, “New Big Prinz”
4. Cowboy Junkies, “Sweet Jane”
5. Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, “My Bag”
6. The Feelies, “Away” *
7. Hunters & Collectors, “Back On the Breadline”
8. Sparks, “So Important”
9. Hugh Cornwell, “Another Kind of Love” *
10. Ministry, “Flashback”
11. Morrissey, “Suedehead”
12. Information Society, “Make It Funky”

* — Not available on Spotify, but I’ve added the YouTube link if it’s available.

Mixtape: Songs for ‘Meet the Lidwells!’

I started writing Meet the Lidwells! A Rock n’ Roll Family Memoir during the summer of 2017, and like any other book project I’ve worked on, I created a mixtape for it. Surprisingly, for a novel that leans super heavily on music, there’s only one volume! Still, it’s not as if I could create a mix containing music that, y’know, doesn’t actually exist in real life.

Most of these songs are from the early 90s, which is when most of the book takes place, and are inspirations for songs written by the Lidwells in the book. I did choose to add a few then-recent songs as well just to balance it out, but for the most part these were all songs that I loved and listened to during my college and post-college years in Boston.

Some side notes:
–The prevalence of EMF hints at the poppiness of the early Lidwells releases, as they were more of an alternapop band at the start of the novel.
–A number of songs (and scenes) were actually pilfered from a trunked novel of mine called Two Thousand that I’d worked on in the 90s. The La’s track “Looking Glass” in particular was originally supposed to be part of the climax of that story but used instead as the “Listening” scene with Thomas talking about when they performed that song live. The remix of that Real People song (sadly not available online right now, it’s a banger) was also once part of that novel as a denouement scene.
–I added Belly and Veruca Salt to hint at what Amy and Hannah’s songs would sound like.
–The Stone Roses’ “I Am the Resurrection” is mentioned in the book as one of the main influences on The Lidwells’ first hit “Grapevine” with its stomping beat.

[SHAMELESS PLUG: The ebook is available at Smashwords for $2.99!]

SIDE A:

1. EMF, “Children”
2. REM, “Pop Song ’89”
3. The Real People, “Window Pane”
4. Belly, “Gepetto”
5. EMF, “Girl of an Age”
6. The Cure, “Friday I’m in Love”
7. The House of Love, “You Don’t Understand”
8. My Bloody Valentine, “Soon”
9. 9 Ways to Sunday, “Come Tell Me Now* *
10. Belly, “Now They’ll Sleep”
11. Matthew Sweet, “Time Capsule”

SIDE B:

1. Veruca Salt, “Seether”
2. The Black Keys, “Gold On the Ceiling”
3. Guster, “Barrel of a Gun”
4. Fenech-Soler, “Kaleidoscope”
5. Belly, “Super-Connected”
6. Matthew Sweet, “Girlfriend”
7. The La’s, “Looking Glass”
8. The Stone Roses, “I Am the Resurrection”
9. The Real People, “Window Pane [12″ Extended Remix]” *

* — Not available on Spotify

ABBA Returns!

If you haven’t heard already, last week’s huge music news was that everyone’s favorite Swedish pop group from the 70s and 80s has reunited! Not only with one but two new songs, with a new album coming in early November!

So let’s take a quick listen to the two new songs that are already getting airplay and millions of YouTube plays:

“I Still Have Faith in You” is an absolutely lovely ballad that, no lie, actually made me think, Wow, this could be a great solo centerpiece for a jukebox musica– oh. OH. Right. [It took me a moment to remember Bjorn and Benny pretty much instigated the modern stage musical style in the first place with Chess! Heh.] [ANYWAY.] This is my favorite of the two, as it really sets the tone of not only “hey, we’re back!” but “it’s been so long, can we still do this”. And they pull it off PERFECTLY. From the quiet and plaintive beginning to the determined finale with its breathtaking layered vocals, this song is absolutely flawless. And it’s definitely going to be used for stage auditions, no doubt.

The video for this one’s interesting in that it starts off as a chronological montage of the band members from their childhoods to starting the band to their worldwide success. We’re treated to wonderful (and lovingly remastered) footage of backstage preparations, meeting fans, recording in the studio, and even snippets of some of their iconic music videos. And right about 3:30 in, the song breaks down to a quiet solo refrain (“do I have it in me?”), as we see footage of the foursome once again heading towards the stage…only to see what is a stellar use of amazing computer-enhanced imagery, with the foursome on a new stage, singing this new song while appearing as themselves at their commercial peak. This hints at what will be a special London show, where they’ll be performing songs old and new while being motion-captured as their younger selves. It’s extremely joyful and reverent, especially as we realize the song isn’t just about the band themselves but their own fans.

And the other new song, “Don’t Shut Me Down”:

Okay, just in case you’d forgotten this is the ABBA we all know and love, we’re treated to a nice little musical prologue that sets the scene…only to hit us broadside with a piano glissando and a groovy mid-tempo disco beat right out of “Dancing Queen.” This one is proving to be the radio hit due to its more classical pop format, and also that it really does sound like a song from Arrival or The Album. It’s super catchy and danceable and lyrically clever without being a pastiche, further proving just how strong Benny and Bjorn’s songwriting chops truly are.

If these two songs are any indication of what the new album Voyage will sound like, sign me up because I’m already a fan. Well, I’ve been an ABBA fan since I was a kid, having constantly borrowed the albums from my older sister who was an even bigger fan back in the day. [For the record, my favorite album of theirs is Arrival and song is “SOS”. That song just has the most amazing chord progression.] I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Letting It Be

So this year’s Super Deluxe Beatles Reissue box set will be their final released album, Let It Be. It’s one of the most written-about, bootlegged and debated projects of their entire career, and that’s a hell of a lot for a project that lasted less than a month.

For years I only knew about the Beatles discography in a chronological order, and even though I knew this project took place before the recording and release of Abbey Road, there was a sense of finality to this record that was hard to miss. It wasn’t until I did the Blogging the Beatles series a few years back that I really took the event chronology seriously and revised my thoughts about the record.

I first saw the film back in the early 80s over my cousin’s house when it was on The Movie Channel, and like Yellow Submarine, I’d recorded it onto cassette so I could listen to it again at a later time. I’d bought the record at the local department store not that long before so I knew the songs. By the mid-80s I knew about the numerous bootlegs that had come from those sessions, thanks to Charles Reinhart’s You Can’t Do That!: Beatles Bootlegs and Novelty Records 1963-80, which I’d bought around the same time.

But what about the whole Get Back/Let It Be project, anyway? Is it really as bad as John Lennon made it out to be in his 1971 bile-fueled Rolling Stone interviews (“[Phil Spector] was given the shittiest load of badly-recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something of it”)? Well, in all honesty, I think it was an interesting project that could have been a lot better and helped turn the corner in their career as a band…if they and those around them had given the band a decent hiatus. And I’m not talking a few weeks off, I’m talking maybe a few years, like most bands do nowadays between records. Give them time to be people. Do a solo record or two. Learn how to be human again instead of an icon. Sure, it was a different time and a different place and expectations were absurdly high. They’d just finished recording and releasing The Beatles just a few months earlier just after their India trip, along with the release of the Yellow Submarine movie, and by all accounts they should have taken that overdue vacation.

And yet, only months later they were back together, kicking out all sorts of ideas to top themselves once more. A return to touring? Their semi-live performances of “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” for their proto-music videos had inspired Paul and John more than they’d expected. But Ringo was already starting his film career, working with Peter Sellers in The Magic Christian (thus their hanging out at Twickenham), and George wasn’t keen on being shifted around all over the place like a few years earlier. Eventually they decided to have themselves filmed to perhaps be used as a television special.

The recordings from the Twickenham Studios are loose and meandering due to the soundtrack being recorded on a Nagra tape deck instead of a professional studio one and left running all day long. They were only there for two weeks, but most of the bootlegged material seems to stem from that time. Some of it is well-known: the “Commonwealth”/”Enoch Powell”/”No Pakistanis” riff that morphed into “Get Back”, the countless oldies covers they played to pass the time, and of course That Argument between Paul and George. Thanks to the Let It Be movie, we’re kind of led to believe it was a tense and angry time, though to be honest that tension rarely shows in the music itself, and Peter Jackson’s upcoming miniseries promises to show there were a lot of happy times as well.

Unhappy with the chilly and cavernous film studio, they took a week off, met with each other at George’s house to talk out some personal issues, and headed to their newly-complete Apple Studios on Savile Row. These recordings comprise the tighter, more complete songs that made the final album, as well as the famous rooftop performance that took place on the next-to-last day of the project.

The Super Deluxe box, which drops October 15, has been a source of a lot of debate between music blogs, Beatle podcasters, and even fans. For a project that had a ridiculous amount of source material, the box set remains conservative: A 2020 remix/remaster done by Giles Martin, the first producing attempt by Glyn Johns (he did two), an EP of related non-album remixes for completeness, and two cds of sessions and outtakes. Some feel they should have provided so much more, considering.

My take? I think it’s just the right size. I haven’t heard every single Nagra/Apple recording out there, but I’ve heard enough to know that, like the previous special editions, there’s a point where some of it really is not worth the effort. Never-completed songs that last less than thirty seconds, loosely played covers, and a lot more talking than you think. I mean, if you’re really hankering for that uber-completeness, look for the insanely involved A/B Road, an 83-cd bootleg from Purple Chick that features nearly a hundred hours of recordings.

Perhaps John wasn’t too far off when he called it “badly recorded shit”, but perhaps it was actually because so much of it essentially a weeks-long jam session with very little aim or reason to it. The Beatles were insanely creative and productive when they put their minds to it, but they (especially John) could be insanely lazy and dithering when they weren’t in the mood, especially by that point in their career. And they really were desperate to take a long overdue break by then.

Listening to the original 1970 album now, it still feels like it has a bit of finality to it, but a positive finality, of wanting to end on a high note, even if they had to dig through the source tapes to find it. While Abbey Road was the proper send-off on a high-quality, high-moment note, Let It Be was the final relaxed exhalation.

Favorite Albums: Think Tree, ‘eight/thirteen’

I never really got along with my freshman year roommate in college for various reasons and we rarely had anything in common except certain tastes in music. We both leaned heavily towards college radio and things alternative. He was quite a bit more into the indie scene than I was — he went to all the shows whereas I was just fine sitting alone on my bed with the headphones on listening to it — but occasionally our paths crossed and we introduced each other to different bands.

Think Tree was one of his favorites that he foisted upon me pretty early on, and I loved them immediately. They were a local Boston band that defied any easy description; they seemed to embrace the same gloomy semi-industrial sound of Nine Inch Nails (but without the apocalyptic nihilism), the off-kilter humor and weirdness of Butthole Surfers (but without all the body-horror jokes) and maybe even a bit of the musical ubernerdiness of Wire (but without getting too arty about it).

“Hire a Bird” was their first official single, dropped at the tail end of 1989, and it was a huge favorite of the college radio stations, as well as both WBCN and WFNX, who had always gone out of their way to champion any local band with pride. It’s definitely a weird song but it’s catchy as hell. Singer Peter Moore delivers his vocals with an affected hillbilly grampaw lisp (something he’d do for most of their first album and live sets), over a bed of Will Ragano’s acoustic guitar, Jeff Beigert’s popping percussion, and the samples and synths of Paul Lanctot and Krishna Venkatesh. The resulting din is so off-kilter yet weaves around itself so perfectly that it works. And surprisingly, the song is a highly poetic sermon about the dangers of environmental disaster, with a semi-hopeful ‘at least we’re trying to fix it all’ chorus. The final sample that ends the song, lifted from the football game scene in Robert Altman’s MASH and taken completely out of context to underscore the song’s theme (‘we are our own enemy’), was the icing on the cake.

It took nearly a full year for the band to finish off and release their first album eight/thirteen, but it was highly anticipated by the local fans and stations. Record delays are always a dangerous thing, because when they are finally released, the scene that the record would easily fit into often no longer exists in that form. There are so many excellent albums out there that never quite reach their full potential due to fans having moved onto the next sound or scene. [This, alas, would happen to Think Tree themselves when they spent nearly two years between this and their second album Like the Idea, which is great on its own yet failed to find interest in a scene now obsessed with grunge and Britpop.]

The songs of eight/thirteen feature the best of their live set of 1988-90, hitting all their heights and highlighting their car-crash style. Sometimes it’s serious and gloomy, other times it’s funny and poppy, sometimes it’s both at once. Songs like “The Lovers” are goth dance, while songs like “Memory Protect” hint at the sample-heavy clang of Einsturzende Neubauten or Test Dept.

I got to see Think Tree a few times live during my college years, and I firmly believe that was their best platform, as they put on a raucous, hilarious, and completely bonkers show every single time. You never knew what was going to happen, or what the hell Moore was going to sing or chant about next (he had a brilliant ability to riff a wild fire-and-brimstone sermon like a demented Elmer Gantry, especially on songs like live favorite “The Word”). They would sing about prehistoric monsters (‘Iguanodon’), strong women of the wild west (1992 single ‘Rattlesnake’) and the strangeness of religions (‘Holy Cow’, another live favorite with its wonderful chorus “you worship the thing that goes moo!”) and whatever else they could think of and make it sound both freakish and fun at the same time. It was like watching a band that would have fit perfectly on The Adventures of Billy and Mandy. Album closer “The Moon” (formerly the b-side to the “Hire a Bird” single) is a perfect example of this.

Moore has recently dropped a few Bandcamp releases from the band over the years, with two live rarities albums in 2020 and a demos-and-b-sides rarities album this year (fittingly, all of them dropped on August 13). eight/thirteen is still available for streaming and downloading elsewhere, though Like the Idea is still a bit harder to get due to it having been released on Caroline Records. Most of their songs are available on YouTube, alongside a few interesting rarities like a Dutch TV appearance. Moore would continue his musical career (and his musical oddness) under the name Count Zero and even popped up as a bandmate for Blue Man Group! This album does remain quite the oddity but it’s still one of my favorites from my college years.

Spare Oom Playlist, August 2021 Edition

Taking a break from my mixtape posting shenanigans to bring you a bunch of the tasty new goodness I’ve been listening to over the previous month.

Ty Segall, Harmonizer, released 2 August. Ty is a fascinating musician that pulls off being weird and poppy at the same time. This was an unannounced surprise release recorded during the pandemic, so it’s definitely a bit more muted than his previous records, but just as entertaining.

BLACKPINK, THE ALBUM [JP Version], released 3 August. I don’t follow too many K-Pop bands but this is one I do, and their tunes are all full of sugary fun. This is a Japanese-language version of their 2020 debut.

George Harrison, All Things Must Pass: 50th Anniversary Edition, released 6 August. George’s third solo (and first commercial) album remains one of my top favorite post-breakup albums by the Fabs. This has been getting some sniffy reviews by some of the music blogs, but I have to respectfully disagree with them; the original had been drenched and drowned in that Phil Spector chamber sound and really dated the tracks, and I find the new 2020 Giles Martin mixes to sound infinitely better. They sound so much clearer and brighter now!

Jungle, Loving in Stereo, released 13 August. The band’s third outing is just as funky and groovy as ever. They’ve always kind of reminded me of Daft Punk by way of the Brothers Johnson, and that’s certainly a good thing.

Angel Olsen, Aisles EP, released 20 August. Olsen surprises everyone by lightening her usually rough exterior with a wild left turn into 80s nostalgia, covering five new wave classics. This could have easily been a terrible career idea, but she pulls it of wonderfully with creativity and humor.

The Joy Formidable, Into the Blue, released 20 August. The band continues their noise fest with a strong and solid record that’s been getting some decent play here in Spare Oom over the last week!

Halsey, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, released 27 August. This one intrigued me as she’s teamed up with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who’ve been putting out amazing (and often creepy) soundtrack scores together over the last decade or so. Halsey’s soft vocal delivery works perfectly playing off the twitchy Reznor/Ross electronics.

Supergrass, In It for the Money: Deluxe Expanded Edition, released 27 August. Yes, I will always look for a reason to post That Video With Supergrass On Pogo Sticks. I love this record because of its experimentation; they still maintain the punky goofiness of 1995’s I Should Coco but they’re already leaning towards the UK psych rock of their 1999 self-titled album.

CHVRCHES, Screen Violence, released 27 August. A welcome return after an extended hiatus, their latest further explores their darker and stronger sounds and comes up with some amazing aural landscapes. Well worth checking out.

Toad the Wet Sprocket, Starting Now, released 27 August. So wild that this dropped thirty years to the day since their breakthrough album Fear, which got a ton of play on my stereo and Walkman during my college years! They’ve returned with a lovely record and even managed to get none other than Michael McDonald on one of the tracks!

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As I’ve mentioned quite often in the past, September is considered the start of Q4 in the music biz so I’m expecting some super awesome records to come out within the next couple of months. See you soon!

Mixtape: Listen in Silence…The Singles II

This one reminds me of Silver Lake Cemetery. In that short summer between graduating high school and entering college, I got a job at my home town’s Public Works department and spent the entire season mowing the several local cemeteries. Silver Lake had always been my favorite because it was the biggest and most varied in landscape and we could take our time with it. We could easily find a quiet spot and hide for an hour if we wanted. It gave me a lot of time to think. I went through cases of AA batteries listening to my Walkman that summer.

I really love this one a lot; I played this one to the point of nearly wearing it out. It’s full of songs then getting airplay on 120 Minutes, WMDK, records picked up at Al Bum’s and Main Street Music, with a few oddities thrown in. I’d started it with the two first tracks on each side, requested from a friend’s music collection, and I built it up from there. The idea was for the first side to be upbeat and/or energetic, with the flipside being downbeat and/or moody. It wasn’t the last complete mixtape of my hometown teen years — the first Untitled gets that honor a few months later, which I’ll post here at a later time — but it does have that feeling of finality, which was deliberate, especially with that Smiths/Joy Division double-punch at the end. I was more than ready to escape this place and head out into the real world.

[Side notes: The Procol Harum song does stick out a bit, but the reason it’s there is because it was used prominently in the movie New York Stories which my friends and I had gone to see that summer. The GnR song sticks out a bit too, and that was because it had originally been added more as an add to my collection rather than an integral part of the mixtape, but it does kind of fit moodwise. The two Love and Rockets songs are in fact the very same song, played in completely different styles, fitting in perfectly with my upbeat/downbeat theme.]

Listen in Silence…The Singles II, created June 1989

Side A
1. That Petrol Emotion, “Creeping to the Cross”
2. Siouxsie & the Banshees, “The Killing Jar”
3. The Cure, “Babble”
4. The Smiths, “The Queen is Dead”
5. Soul Asylum, “Sometime to Return”
6. Love and Rockets, “Motorcycle”
7. The Cure, “Fascination Street [Extended Remix]”
8. Voice of the Beehive, “Beat of Love”
9. The Smiths, “Shoplifters of the World”
10. Camouflage, “That Smiling Face”

Side B:
1. Guns n’ Roses, “Patience”
2. Talk Talk, “Life’s What You Make It”
3. REM, “The One I Love”
4. Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
5. Julian Cope, “Charlotte Anne”
6. Ultra Vivid Scene, “Mercy Seat”
7. Love and Rockets, “I Feel Speed”
8. The Cure, “Plainsong”
9. The Smiths, “Reel Around the Fountain”
10. Joy Division, “Atmosphere”

Mixtape: Untitled XII

Early 2002 was definitely a time for personal change. Considering we ended the previous year with a terrorist attack and the reactive political wargasms that inevitably followed, I’d started unplugging a bit and refocusing on what was important to me. Part of that was writing A Division of Souls and beginning The Persistence of Memories. I was reading a hell of a lot more, continuing my comic and cd run, and writing new songs on my guitar. Trying to live life a bit more positively.

Nearly all the songs from Untitled XII come from Newbury Comics runs. A lot of deep cuts with some radio songs sprinkled in between. So where did I hear about them? From CMJ sampler CDs and music magazines, mostly. I’d read the reviews and pick out the ones that sounded like they’d be in my wheelhouse. It worked out great 80-90% of the time, too! It’s also a return to form with my mixtapes, as I’d kind of run out of inspiration from around late 1999 onwards. There are a few good but not great mixes from that time. I’m sure it was partly due to my leaving HMV, partly a change in musical tastes, and other non-musical things (personal and otherwise) affecting me in one way or another. But I remember starting 2002 with the determination that I’d be in a much better place emotionally and mentally, and immersing myself in more great music definitely helped.

Side notes:
–I was introduced to Mistle Thrush by my former HMV manager Tom, who’d become a Newbury Comics manager. The singer was a good friend of his and, as it happens, part of NC’s upper management!
–Cornelius gets three tracks as Point was getting very heavy play in the Belfry. He’s been in the Olympics news lately for acting like an arse some years ago, but I still love this record.
–The Massive Attack song is a bit out of place being four years older than every other track here. Some cosmetics commercial used it as a backing track at the time and got me back into listening to Mezzanine during my writing sessions.

Untitled XII, created 14 February 2002

Side A:
1. Cornelius, “Point of View Point”
2. Massive Attack, “Inertia Creeps”
3. Mistle Thrush, “Enginehead”
4. Pulp, “The Night That Minnie Timperley Died”
5. Rufus Wainwright, “Across the Universe”
6. POD, “Youth of the Nation”
7. Stephin Merritt, “This Little Ukulele”
8. Elbow, “Little Beast”
9. Starsailor, “Tie Up My Hands”
10. Foo Fighters, “The One”
11. Bis, “Two Million”

Side B:
1. Sigur Ros, “Svefn-g-Englar”
2. Turin Brakes, “The Door”
3. Cornelius, “Smoke”
4. Ben and Jason, “The Wild Things”
5. The Strokes, “Last Nite”
6. Puddle of Mudd, “Blurry”
7. The Church, “Radiance”
8. Mistle Thrush, “3 Girls Walking”
9. Cornelius, “Brazil”
10. Stephin Merritt, “Tiny Flying Player Pianos”