Girlfriends’ Cull Shorts now available for mail order!
Bet you thought Cake Time zine issue #1 was CAKE-01, huh? Nah, that’d be way too easy. See, Cake Time zine issue #1 was actually CAKE-00, and CAKE-01 belongs to none other than now-pre-Bent-Shapes group Girlfriends. Got it?
Girlfriends’ final release is a compact disc compiling the band’s output from 2009-2011, with nearly all the songs from the early cassette, vinyl 7”s, and digital single, plus a new recording of “Slugger”.
Cull Shorts can be ordered through the Girlfriends Bandcamp page for $5, which covers the CD and an immediate digital download of the album. If you want to be a real completist, you can then download the original version of "Slugger" and "Good To Be True" for free (these are the only two recordings not on Cull Shorts). Killer.
Mail order options for the new Bent Shapes flexi coming soon!
Ben is guest DJing at the Indo tonight w/ Cool Kids Club
DJing at the Indo in Union Sq tonight w/ Cool Kids Club 10-1. I’m spinning venerated crash pop and future punk-damaged classics from Woody & the Splinters, Golinski Bros, Pussycat Trash, Silicon Teens, bis, The Dickies, Girls at Our Best!, Elton Motello, Flyind Lizards, Helen Love, Sexy Kids, Soup Dragons, The Embarrassment, German Measles, The Yummy Fur, and MORE!
Recent Vinyl Acquisitions #2 (Part II)
More 12” Single finds from the Rock n Roll Yard Sale:
Sonic Youth - Kool Thing Promotional 12” Single
I picked this up at the Weirdo Records booth, in their box of norm-ier shit (which also contained Alternative TV’s first record—hard to pass up, if only for “Action Time Vision”!). I’m sure the majority of people reading this post know all about “Kool Thing”, the first single off the first major label record by Sonic Youth, which begat a flashy, expensive, but totally enjoyable video and peaked at #7 on the Modern Rock Charts in the year before punk broke. With it’s driving, buzzsaw guitars, repetitive melodies and lyrical content, and a cameo by Public Enemy’s Chuck D (who happened to be recording down the hall from Sonic Youth as they embarked on Goo), it’s memorialized as one of the most commercially viable recordings the band ever made, which doesn’t bother me. I’m not an expert on the group by any means—even after collecting most of their oeuvre and reading David Browne’s 400-page epic biography of the band, Goodbye 20th Century, I feel like a novice among some of my friends—but for me Sonic Youth will always be at their most powerful when they’re at their catchiest. It could be a latent desire for a resurgence of weirdo vanguardism built on the wave of iconoclastic noisey pop that arose in the early 90s as major labels scrambled to sign anyone vaguely “alternative” (using hip “magnet bands” like Sonic Youth to increase cred). Or that explanation could be a cop-out meant to obscure the fact that I have a simple pop hook fetish. Either way, this song slays. The brutalist of radio rock riffage and the absurdity of the spoken-word ad-libs make for a formidable combination. The flipside of this single features a slower, denser 8-track demo version produced, unsurprisingly by J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr and Don Fleming of Velvet Monkeys, who were called in to consult on percussion and vocal tracks, respectively. Once you’ve heard the album version, the demo seems to suffer from a severe lack of deadpanned, solidarity-affirming Chuck D exclamations, but it’s an interesting listen nonetheless. Watch the video (replete, as the lyrics are, with references to LL Cool J) below.
The Fall - New Big Prinz White Label Promo Double A-Side 12”
I wish I had the copy pictured above, but this is a US promo, probably issued by Beggars, with a white label in a plain black sleeve featuring a sticker heralding the then-forthcoming album I Am Kurious Oranj, whose title was obviously a play on the Swedish film I Am Curious, (issued in two version as I Am Curious [Yellow] and [Blue]) but what was not so obviously a soundtrack for a ballet themed loosely around the 300th anniversary of William of Orange’s ascension to the English throne (thanks Wikipedia). I have the album on cassette, which I’ve listened to a few times in the van, but haven’t exactly fallen in love with. Luckily, “Big New Prinz” is one of the standout tracks. It’s a thumper that culls lyrics from the Fall classic “Hip Priest” off Hex Enduction Hour (a record that I may one day challenge my pal Amer to a duel over). Mark E. Smith’s sardonic opening, sprinkled with mutterings of “rockin’ records” gives the listener the feeling that he’s taking the piss out of “Hip Priest“‘s critically-acclaimed status, making the borrowed refrains from that piece of “drink the long draught for [big] priest” and “he is not appreciated” (the last word in the second phrase appearing in the form of a sampled group vocal) spitefully comical. In repeating “check the record” and “check the guy’s track record,” Smith is able to both reinforce his power over the listener, while rendering the praise garnered by his former “hit” ridiculous. It’s a clever trick, one that Smith’s entire career seems predicated upon. How else does one stay as influential for such a long period of time without seeming like they’re dragging a bloated rock n roll ego around if not by challenging their work along with everyone else’s? Peep a great TV performance of this track below—Mark E Smith seems to be just entering his personal tape recorder phase and Brix looks like if Frenchie from Grease was in the B-52s.
Total Spent: $10
Recent Vinyl Acquisitions #2 (Part I)
After a trip to the Rock n Roll Yard Sale, it’s time for another installment of Recent Vinyl Acquisitions. While this blog is mainly meant to focus on more contemporary little-known artists, these posts are a chance to brag about recent crate-digging scores with bigger-name acts and releases that don’t meet the 7”/single-of-some-sort requirements laid out for the majority of entries. Let’s start with a couple 12” singles:
Soup Dragons - Head Gone Astray 12” Single
I’d first heard of Scottish indie poppers The Soup Dragons via their inclusion on the C86 comp and a few other mixes floating around, but didn’t own anything on vinyl until this weekend when I stopped into Somerville Grooves. There I picked up Hang-Ten!, a US-only collection of their first three singles well-worth the few dollars I spent. The Head Gone Astray single is one of those featured on the LP and it’s fucking great. Starting with a low-volume 12-string jangle riff, the A-side launches into a catchy, punky pop number that features a healthy dose of the band’s lingering early Buzzcocks influence (for example, the nearly ever-present 1-note piano solo in this song which mirrors the monotone key(s) of “Something’s Gone Wrong Again”). It’s a great tune with a pretty developed structure: an extended intro, a few syncopated stops and dropouts, and a weird little legato vocal line in the prechorus which suggests, but never delivers a key change really add to the experience. B-sides “Girl in the World” and “So Sad I Feel” are also gems. I can only assume the former is an update on their debut flexi (drool) “If You Were the Only Girl in the World,” its snotty poppunk lyrics (“If you were the only girl in the world/I’d have second thoughts”) and petulant backing vocals (“What (what!) you (you!) said last night…”) recalling the amateurish charm that the Soup Dragons would mostly outgrown by their first proper full-length. “So Sad I Feel” waxes nostalgic, slowing things down while keeping the shamble intact. Though it lets the tension go slack with its lilting basslines and tom/crash-heavy pulse, it’s a fitting end to an otherwise high-strung single. Below is the video for “Hang-Ten!” from the collection of the same name.
Aztec Camera - Oblivious 12” Single
It should be glaringly apparent by now that Scotland has produced a disproportionate amount of great pop acts since the late 70s/early 80s. But if you didn’t catch on to The Rezillos, Josef K, or The Pastels the first time around, grow up on Teenage Fanclub or Nirvana covers of The Vaselines, get through high school or college with the help of Belle & Sebastian, grab the recent ultra-comprehensive Orange Juice box set, or buy your tickets for Veronica Falls’ current tour (yeah, they’re “based in London now,” but still), you may also have missed out on Aztec Camera. This 12” single is a showcase for the excellent opening track off their seminal 1983 album High Land, Hard Rain. It’s a joyful-sounding, bouncey anthem with acoustic funk licks, claves, and soulful backing harmonies that never get quite as cloying as some elements of the saccharine jazz-pop that follow on High Land. The song’s standout qualities make it a great candidate for a single, so I can’t say I was surprised to come across this Rough Trade 12” version. The B-side features “Orchid Girl” and “Haywire,” two tracks included on the CD version of the album since its reissue, but not found on the original Sire LP in my collection. The first is a lovelorn ode to someone who seems to both allure and terrify songwriter Roddy Frame, who can only manage to get so wound up on the track before his excitement ebbs out to a final sigh of a chorus. “Haywire” brings up the rear with an even sparser arrangement of acoustic jazz strummed over tambourine, each chorus suddenly brimming with group vocals insistently echoing the song’s title. The last two tracks fall a little flat for me for the same reasons the remainder of this single’s full album does: weak-kneed, heart-on-your-sleeve romances buoyed by well-crafted pop songs with 80s production inspire a sense of embarrassment in me that I can’t explain. “Oblivious” offers a moment of transcendence that probably wasn’t ever recreated the band. Scope Roddy and co. tearing it up in leather fringe jackets and bolo ties (???) on the BBC circa ‘83 below—babe alert!
Total Spent: $4
CUFFS - Privilege
It’s borderline criminal that I haven’t got around to writing a review of this single until now. First of all, for those who were wondering, CUFFS is the band that ties the previously-reviewed Four Eyes for my favorite contemporary Boston-area outfit. Technically hailing from Cambridge, the band is made up of a veritable who’s who of Northeastern indie popstars fronted by the inimitable Andrew Churchman, formerly of Pants Yell! He is joined by fellow ol’ Yell!er Casey Keenan on drums, guitarist Martin Pavlinic of Reports, and Big Troubles’ Ian Drennan. I’ve been a fan of these guys since Andrew’s solo demos of four tunes popped up on Bandcamp, and was stoked to see one of them, “Privilege,” end up as the A-side of their debut 7”. Where the initial version of this song swung easily through the verses, riding the pleasant, buzzy warmth of Andrew’s fourtrack, this recording (captured by Animal Hospital’s Kevin Micka) jumps and writhes. The sped-up rhythmic hits meet a treble-y lead that swaps arpeggios for strangled fuzz between earnest lyrics about the uncertain futures of youths attending upscale private schools and summering in Europe. It’s somewhat reassuring to hear the interlocking perma-solos going atonally AWOL over these lyrics to become the audible nod to the contradiction and ensuing frustration hinted at by the speaker. Some of the caterwauling riffage almost reminds me of later Pavement or Built to Spill at times. B-side “Archer” sees CUFFS laying down a driving intro that only lets up on the throttle for a couple laid-back verses. These highlight the neck-pickup jangle present in some of my favorite PY! tunes of old while also featuring some surfy Girls-esque treble guitar. The bass and drums really hold it down for Andrew’s signature softspoken vocals here, and it’s not too long before the layered, seat-of-your-pants leads pop in to wreak a little havoc between lyrics. CUFFS pickup the slack and run with it for a bookend outro, finishing up a terrific debut single in style. Grab this limited edition 7” with hand-screened covers at shows, via Ride the Snake’s website or from Slumberland while you can. CUFFS! (Ride the Snake, 2011)