Monday, March 31, 2008

Brian Jonestown Massacre - Convertible

(Bomp/Tangible, 1993)

Unlike the early-’90s Britishisms of the band’s first single, the snaky guitars and rhythms of “Convertible” hint at an Eastern influence, something that was to become far more prominent on later records as Newcombe refined his technique and expanded his arsenal of instruments. Here, however, we have mid-’90s Brian Jonestown Massacre in embryonic form, releasing what sounds like a rough run-through for a demo, its fine vocal unfortunately buried. The song is similar in feel to the Acid 45 that was included in the same 6x7” set (“The Tangible Box”), and, as with that single, “Convertible” opens with a silent lockgroove cut into the vinyl. On the other side, “Their Satanic Majesties 2nd Request (Enrique’s Dream)” is a druggy guitar-effects collage with samples of a hellfire preacher laid atop it. Entertaining to hear once, but it’s mostly of interest for lending its title to a BJM album three years down the road.

Bomp used to sell “Convertible” both individually and as part of the complete set, and around 2002 or 2003, as stock dwindled, they were hawking copies signed by Anton Newcombe.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Brian Jonestown Massacre - She Made Me

(Bomp/Tangible, 1992)

The debut single from a very young Brian Jonestown Massacre. Like Ride and early Blur, this record sees the BJM working at the intersection of shoegaze and pop, particularly on “She Made Me” (which is also titled “She Moves Me” on the label): the shimmering waves of guitar are present, but there’s a standard verse-chorus-verse structure and a definite emphasis on the beat, as the borderline-baggy drums are right up front in the mix – the slower, less percussive recording heard on the Methodrone album is comparatively lifeless. “Evergreen,” which also shows up on Methodrone in more polished, finished-sounding form, is looser, spaced-out psychedelia that gets lost in its own echo-laden dreaminess and simply doesn’t have the A-side’s kick... stick with the LP version of this one. It’s interesting – and a little surprising – to hear these early Brian Jonestown songs, where the music is driven by atmosphere rather than attitude, and the lyrics and frontman are of little or no importance. Interesting, yes, but not necessarily better, as this style doesn’t seem as well suited to Newcombe’s songwriting strengths or his undeniable talent for loudmouthed rabble-rousing. Still, it’s a pleasant genre exercise, and a successful enough imitation of then-current British styles.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bratmobile - Kiss And Ride

(Homestead, 1992)

As far as punk primitivism, it doesn’t get much primitive-er than this. It’s disjointed, tentative, and skeletal, with an energy level a notch above comatose. The gal on vox sounds bored outta her very skull, and the rest of the band – drums + guitar – generally sounds like it’d rather be somewhere else. Anywhere. Watching TV or sumpin, dunno. Strange… the brain can easily hear what these songs would sound like in the hands of a zillion other groups, but Bratmobile makes them distinctive by stripping the music down to the most basic elements – just the notes themselves, really – and ignoring frills like dynamics and overdubs and anything even resembling rock/punk posturing. The disc is aggressive in its amateurishness, and, while nothing spectacular, is still oddly appealing for it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brainiac - Internationale

(Touch & Go, 1995)

Time for bitterness! Piece of shit trust-fund junkie named Jeff who I used to know in New Haven considered these guys his all-time faves. I’ll be fair here, even though that should be three strikes right there (hope those trackmarks are gangrenous by now, Jeff!). “Go Freaks Go” is mathy electro screech, flirts with being dancetastic but never gets there… dudes are paving the way stylistically for !!!, I suppose, just with less funk (in the drums for sure) and less instrumental finesse. It’s all about tension rather than release with Brainiac, and it’s hard to buy the action they’re selling; never BLOWS UP like it oughta, and there’s the nagging sense that you could give any group of bored hardcore kids a synth and eventually hear them churn out something of equal/greater merit. The B is a wavery, watery, percussion-less piece called “Silver Iodine” that simply floats past without distinguishing itself beyond its effects-pedal navelgaze. Much like spinoff group Enon, Brainiac has measure-long flashes of genius but never delivers on its own promise in the long run. Shrug shrug shrug and a-rooty-toot-toot.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Brain Donor - She Saw Me Coming

(Impresario, 2001)

Brain Donor is, of all things, Julian Cope and two members of Spiritualized fusing the whole of their hard-rock and heavy metal influences into a single beast. Double-necked guitars, full makeup, platform boots, picture discs… nothing halfway about it. It’s a curveball coming from these guys, but still, when the musical game plan is laid out on paper, it all sounds like it should be so, so right – Cope is a smart feller with notoriously good taste, the band members know their stuff, and I too love the early heroes of guitar trash (although, and this isn’t going to win me any friends, I am in fact a Creatures of the Night man when it comes to Kiss). The bigger shock might be that the whole thing actually comes together so well on record. This is fun, dirty r’n’r, no fucking around. “She Saw Me Coming” is an amphetamine kick, a convincing approximation of late-period Stooges, totally mean and streamlined, with Cope doing his best Iggy. The dual-channel solos show more technical precision than any Stooge, but the flash adds excitement rather than flab. On the other side, there’s a stoner feel to the rolling “Shaman U.F.O.,” and here the strained vocals are a minor nuisance in what would otherwise be a fine acid-stomp instrumental. Any small complaints aside, though, none of this record feels forced or faked; it’s just rough and raw sleaze rawk done the way it should be. Brain Donor could have – should have? – been an embarrassing bellyflop, but on this first single, at least, they have it down cold.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Boyracer - AUL 36X EP

(Slumberland, 1993)

Interesting dynamic at play on this Boyracer single. Even if the vocals are pure indieboy (swinging from twee to punky snottiness), there’s some real crunch in the guitars and drums. All in all not terribly dissimilar to labelmates Black Tambourine, but these five short songs are tighter and more pissed than those happy noisepopsters… call it shoegaze as played by a misanthropic hard-rock garage band, perhaps??

Friday, March 21, 2008

Boyce & Hart - L.U.V.

(A&M, 1969)

Oh, this is rich. A song arguing for what would be, in 1971, the Twenty-sixth Amendment, “L.U.V.” demands that the United States LET US VOTE. “Us” being, of course, those under 21… presumably the bulk of Boyce & Hart’s audience. Increasingly “with-it,” the duo was trying to tap into the times by recording a would-be musical rallying cry for all those folks who were young enough to be drafted and who were also quite reasonably asking for the right to vote. The single stiffed at the time, and, almost 40 years later, this clunker is hopelessly campy, from the sleeve’s clearly staged “L.U.V. rally” photos, to its starry-eyed lyrics (“A way to change things peacefully / And live together in harmony”), to its patriotic drums-n-fife intro. The thematically-fitting sapfest “I Wanna Be Free” – a hit in 1966 for the Monkees – even gets resurrected for the B-side. Overall, an amusing time capsule, little more. And hey: You guys supposedly “won” in 1971, so why did you promptly screw it all up and let Nixon get installed for a second term in ’72? Nice work, youth of America. Gimme McGovern!

Boyce & Hart - We're All Going To The Same Place

(A&M, 1968)

“We’re All Going to the Same Place” is a good example of the socially-aware bubblegum that makes Boyce & Hart’s third record, It’s All Happening On the Inside, such an odd listen. On its face, such an idea is an interesting and admirable one, even if there isn’t much deep thinking in evidence (“We’re all going to the same place / We’re running together in the same race / Only positive / Nothing negative”). It’s also helpful that the duo largely remembers the importance of writing a catchy, intricate single, this time featuring an ominous arrangement of pounding percussion and ticking-clock piano-bashing before the more upbeat choruses’ pleas for togetherness. Vocals remain a strength, the lead displaying more dramatic urgency than any prior Boyce & Hart 45. So what’s wrong? Simply put, the message-driven seriousness of the lyrics and arrangement drain the song of the sheer fun that makes the best B&H records so effective. It’s catchy, yes, but it’s also sort of a drag, feeling forced in its relative weightiness. I’ll give it an A for effort, a B- for execution.

Exciting note: My copy happens to be a promo, so it includes the title song on both sides. The standard commercial version has “Six + Six” on the B, a non-album track that shows up on Rev-Ola’s recent best-of compilation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Boyce & Hart - Sometimes She's A Little Girl

(A&M, 1967)

Heya sucker. SHIT. I’m in a lousy mood and wanted bigtime to dump on this record for kicks, but dammit it’s a definite GOOD’UN and I am thus unable. Goshdarn Boyce & Hart. Argh! You’ve wholly thwarted my crapmood, doodz. “Sometimes She’s a Little Girl” is dominated by admittedly awesome mid-period Beatle-esque guitar pickin’ and is a shoulda-been Monkees’ hit (shades of “Last Train to Clarksville”). Uncharacteristically, the chorus turns sappy instead of rockin’, but it’s a fine reversal for these savvy smartfucks and even ends in an orgy of strings. And “Love Every Day”?! A delicate, safely psychedelic ballad – melodicism up the arse – with wavery, almost-falsetto choruses… what kind of JERK would hate on this one?? Not this jerk, no sir! There’s even some rhythmic triplet fun ala “Strutter” that further boosts the quality-meter. Both songs rule rump through the night, and I’ll hear no argument from the wealthy, internet-using cashew gallery. WHY ALWAYS SO GOOD AND SO CLEVER, BOYCE N HART? WHY?! Look no further for your uberpoppers, people. A paragraph later, my mood is fixed; this record sorta rules.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Boyce & Hart - Out And About

(A&M, 1967)

Fresh back from a weeklong fact-finding mission to the West coast, and I’m happy to report that the trip was a success, as I did indeed find many facts. Even at this distance I can hear your eyebrows arching in a questioning manner, so let me present a sampling that will prove my investigatory prowess. FACT: You can assemble a strong Moody Blues collection for under $10. FACT: People in San Francisco wear what seem to be fashionable hats. FACT: Gothy drag queens do not always provide funny commentary to Death Wish 3. FACT: Third-story house-fires spread horizontally (to the third floors of adjacent buildings) rather than downward. FACT: Sometimes passersby without warning punch a bacon-wrapped hot dog that you’re holding for another member of your party. See? Those are just five of the many, many truths that I gathered over the course of my research on that crazy side of the country, and I’m sure we’ll discuss those and more at great length in the weeks to come, so “stay tuned,” as they say. Right now, however, it’s time to have a frank one-on-one about Boyce & Hart, two guys I first became aware of while watching a Bewitched rerun on a high-school sick-day years ago. The episode in question is cornier than the corniest corn you’ve ever shucked, but it led me to a song – “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight” – that I’ll forever swear is one of the best bubblegum-pop records of all time. Unforgettable. Perfect, even. And while I can’t look the internet in the eye and claim that they ever bettered that masterpiece, there are more than enough goodies in their discography to warrant a little digging: not only did Boyce & Hart write many of the Monkees’ best hits, they also put out a handful of gold-medal singles and a few fun-timey albums (except that last one, which has all the “serious” material on it). Take this single, for example. Cocksure, bass-driven verses build to peppier shouted choruses (“Out and about!!”) after a thumping drum bridge that’d do those badasses the Dave Clark Five proud. The arrangement is near genius, with those tension-building bursts of rhythm guitar, layered backing vocals, and sawing violins all surfacing, reappearing, and overlapping in the most effective ways possible in order to deliver a simple message of teen boredom and freedom. Turning the record over, “My Little Chickadee” is the sort of drippy, Tin Pan Alley goofiness that Davy Jones would warble on a Monkee album, but it at least displays a certain level of jokey self-awareness in its Jimmy Durante-style spoken bits. Still, forget about it; “Out and About” is king here, and it’s solid evidence of these guys’ brilliance. Pop fans oughta hear ’em or be sorry. FACT!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

David Bowie - Blue Jean

(EMI, 1984)

Awful. AWFUL. Like Let’s Dance, but worse. Not only is a shockingly complacent Bowie sticking with that sterile saxes-n-synths sound, his pop songwriting has also seriously nosedived on the wannabe-hit “Blue Jean”; when a braindead failure like this is your album’s lead single, there’s trouble afoot. “Dancing With the Big Boys” sinks even lower, with nadir-scraping lyrics and jaw-dropping bloat (female backing vocals? Silly “deep voice” effect?! STOP IT PLEASE.). This stuff is so forgettable and without merit that it manages to defy lengthy comment. Grasping for very, very small comforts, at least we can be happy that the drums on “Blue Jean” sound halfway natural. Uh… congrats?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

David Bowie - White Light/White Heat

(RCA, 1983)

Whoop-de-doo, it’s a pair of poorly-recorded and/or mixed live recordings from 1973 that are historically significant, perhaps, but not a whole lotta fun to listen to. Since the world needed another lousy Velvet Underground cover, Bowie and the Spiders From Mars strip “White Light/White Heat” of its tense, scuzzy excitement, turning it into faceless bar-band glam – a description that applies to plenty of the era’s Bowie rockers, by the way – that manages to rival Lou Reed’s Rock ’N’ Roll Animal version in terms of sheer dullness (don’t worry, Lou: you still win). Bah. Who put this cock in my rock? “Cracked Actor” makes a satisfying racket as it bashes along in its rudimentary way, but doesn’t differ enough from the studio version to give it any real worth. Why does this single exist?? Why does ANY live single exist?? Feel free to ignore it and its parent album (Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture) altogether, or just watch the concert video if you have some burning desire to experience old Ziggy on stage.

David Bowie - Modern Love

(EMI, 1983)

With his move to EMI, David Bowie electrified the world – again! – by taking on the exciting new persona that he would maintain for more than a decade to come, “The Thin White Guy Who Releases Shitty Albums.” Maybe he wanted to prove something right out the gate to his new label (and his old one) (and himself?), because the Let’s Dance singles are as crass a grab for the mainstream, the charts, and the big bucks as you’re gonna hear: peppy, unchallenging, synthesizers up the wazoo, awful sax solos, rough edges all smoothed away and coated with production gloss… Yeesh. Take the blandest of his earlier rock ’n’ roll efforts, dress them up in expensive state-of-the-’80s studio nonsense (those fake-sounding drums…!!), and this is the result. It’s impossible to deny that “Modern Love” is catchy, but it’s still a little sad to see the difficult late-’70s Bowie – frustrating as he could be – disappear into those designer suits. Even his failures a few years prior were always at least identifiably HIM, which can’t be said for this numbingly straightforward bit of radio pop. He even pulls the ultimate cop-out with a live version of the A-side on the flip that sounds IDENTICAL TO THE STUDIO RECORDING. Except with cheering, of course. Oh boy. It serves to prove nothing more than how soullessly reproducible and plastic this material is. Thumbs down.

Monday, March 10, 2008

David Bowie - Ashes To Ashes

(RCA, 1980)

Time for another legendary Bowie Persona, and for this go-round it’s the unforgettable “Asshole In A Clown Suit.” Yet again, an artistic bulls-eye for Mr. B; yes sir, it looks like David’s successfully gone from Ziggy to Zippy! Oh… ZING!! ZING ZING ZING! Better call the jape-crisis hotline, Bowie, because you just got japed bigtime by a serial japist: ME! HAW! But seriously, folks, all my cleverness aside, this isn’t a bad single at all – even if the B does lazily recycle Lodger’s percussive “Run On” for some reason; ho-hum other than the tom-toms and the droning backing vox. Right? Now, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the sproingy guitar (??) effect that pops up throughout “Ashes to Ashes,” but doggone me if this isn’t a catchy friggin’ song, and it’s got SO MANY DIFFERENT LITTLE SEGMENTS. I mean, it’s complicated stuff; it keeps changing and changing and changing! Weird! And the whole thing still works! If there’s gonna be an argument made for Bowie as a Smart Songwriter, “Ashes to Ashes” is the song to put on display. There’s also a perverse pleasure in hearing him trash his past by recasting Major Tom as a junkie in the chorus …which fact, he deadpans, we all knew about Tom all along. Did we?! I sure didn’t! If I had known, I woulda DONE something about it: laffed at the stupid weak junkie! And OK now lemme ask you this: Is there another pair of singles in your brainspace where the B-side of the first leads directly into the A-side of the second?? Cuz that tear-jerk remake of “Space Oddity” on the flip of “Alabama Song” is definitely setting the table for “Ashes to Ashes.” You’re a canny cookie, David, a canny cookie indeed.

David Bowie - Alabama Song

(RCA, 1980)

It’s surprises a-plenty on this post-Lodger, pre-Scary Monsters standalone 45. Surprise #1: Bowie takes a stab at “Alabama Song.” Unlike the Doors’ retrospectively self-parodic drunken circus version, Bowie’s hurtles forward with schizophrenic changes in tempo and mood, the general air being one of terror and disgust as he lurches his way through the song. Alternately jagged, swirling, and smooth, it’d be nightmarish if it wasn’t so dang campy in the self-aware, self-mocking posturing of the vocals. An extremely entertaining listen, and an admirable middle finger as a non-album single. Surprise #2: Bowie re-records “Space Oddity” on the B-side. Surprise #3: It’s fantastic! He sounds tired and beaten on here, emphasizing the heavy sadness of the lyrics, and the stark arrangement (acoustic guitar, bass, simple piano, minimal drums) lends a weight to the musical accompaniment that wasn’t present in the original. Blasphemous to say, perhaps, but this might actually be better than the familiar hit version. GASP. And as if all that wasn’t enough, as an extra-special bonus for all you freaky kids out there the sleeve folds out into a four-panel poster of our hero Davey looking weirdly fascistic!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

David Bowie - Heroes

(RCA, 1977)

The music’s that same ol’ dramatic choo-choo chug-and-soar that you know/love, but HEY Bowie’s singing in some crazy gobbledygook! “Chante En Francais,” says the sleeve, whatever THAT means. Good joke, Dave! And good song, especially when you start howling in that pained voice a few verses in! Uplifting stuff. There’s also a third version of “Heroes,” released elsewhere, that’s sung in a made-up language called “German,” and I actually like that one best; the hard consonants give the vocals – Bowie’s finest, for my money (Euros) – an extra edge that further ups the emotional intensity. Listen to all three and judge for yourself, and then immediately throw them away in favor of the classic Wallflowers remake that anchors the smash-hit Godzilla soundtrack. Jakob: the talented Dylan.

The other side features the brief, near-instrumental “V2 Schneider,” which is more synthesized merriment, jaunty low-end giving it a bouncy levity not unlike that of “Autobahn.” Given that Kraftwerk happened to include a member named Florian Schneider, go ahead and connect those dots, Mr. Dot-Connector.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

David Bowie - Fame

(RCA, 1975)

In 1975, David Bowie decided to surprise everyone, even those of us yet to be born, by ditching the glam racket, buying a suit, and recording an album of sleek, forgettable “soul” poop – a real cocaine soundtrack for swingers all across the land, even those of us yet to be born. But though it’s true I can only remember about three of its eight songs twenty minutes after taking it off the turntable (that hammy cover of “Across the Universe”…yech!), Young Americans gets bigtime kudos for including the deathless “Fame.” Now, is it underwritten? Sure. A little off-putting and whiny lyrically? Well, yes. Still, this is a truly dirty funk single that, unlike everything else on the LP from whence it comes, transcends distracting genre-dabbling to achieve GREATNESS on its own merits. Bowie and pals sound like they’re actually having a whole lotta fun in the studio, and there’s an easy, jammy looseness to this hard-edged ass-shaker that stands in contrast to the up-tightness I sense in too much of his music. Again: Dirty. Note that you’re better off with the LP version of “Fame,” since this single mix chops off about 45 seconds, making the track feel even less developed than it is.

The flip is “Right,” a sax-soaked bit of soul-funk that is a good example of the kind of shrug-worthy muzak that makes up most of Young Americans. Honestly, if I want to hear Bowie “do black,” I’d rather listen to his mid-’60s Pye singles (compiled on all sorts of LPs and CDs), which take a Motown-lite approach and are loads o’ laffs. Catchy, too, unlike this bloodless, expensive-sounding snoozer.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

David Bowie - Space Oddity

(RCA, 1973)

RCA dragged “Space Oddity” out of the rubbish in 1973 and, ever savvy, wrapped it in an appropriately Ziggified sleeve (forget that foofy Barrett-loving folk-hippie of the song’s native ’69!) in order to squeeze more cash out of Bowie’s newfound mega-fanbase. It borders on novelty, but “Space Oddity” is one of the more emotionally accessible Bowie songs; where a lot of his material feels heartless and empty – are there many superstars who are less fun? – this one does a good job of connecting with the listener. The alienation of the lyric’s astronaut is handled deftly, and his passive acceptance of his fate at the song’s end is sad and slightly chilling, especially if, as “Ashes to Ashes” tells us a few years later, the whole thing’s actually about junkiedom. Musically, rich acoustic strumming and warm mellotron sell the package, sounding like a more pop-conscious spin on early King Crimson balladry. The label keeps things eerie by putting “The Man Who Sold the World” (from 1970) on the B-side, its mysterious lyrics suggestive of insanity or creeping panic – a skin-crawling classic. Bowie was always into image, but these two songs – especially when heard on this single, outside of the larger context of an era-spanning best-of – demonstrate how satisfying he could be before he allowed his play-acting to overwhelm and often suffocate his music.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Boo Radleys - At The Sound Of Speed

(SpinArt, 1993)

A British guy in his mid-30s recently laughed in my face when I told him I liked the Boo Radleys, and indeed, a decade after their breakup, the band seems to be reviled, forgotten, or simply ignored. Perhaps they did overstay their welcome, hanging in there long enough to be C-listers of – in order – the shoegaze, Britpop, and electronica-humping scenes, but their catalog contains plenty of rather rich pop, and I’d maintain that the hits do outweigh the mediocrities in the end. This early American release features a pair of songs that first showed up as B-sides to the UK “Lazarus” EP, and they give a fair, if brief, glimpse of the band’s basic strengths and limitations.

The Johnny-come-lately “At the Sound of Speed” takes a few superficial aspects of shoegaze – the layers of guitar, the start-stop tempos – and applies them to a commercial-minded rock/pop template. There are still enough surprises (trumpet?!) and mood shifts to keep it interesting, and the end result often sounds like a smarter, more ambitious, more competent Oasis. While overbaked and no masterpiece, it’s not nearly as bad as the favorable Oasis comparison may make it sound. The much quieter “Let Me Be Your Faith” feels far less forced, drifting along on watery psychedelic guitars and a near-pastoral understatedness that ultimately has greater impact than the A-side’s crafted posturing. Nice. When these guys weren’t bending over backwards to be what the marketplace wanted them to be, there were a lot of great songs – like “Let Me Be Your Faith” – to be had, and those peaks make it well worth any popster’s while to trawl the dollar bins for Boo Radley albums and EPs, or to even spring for Creation’s double disc of career highlights. It’s rarely mindblowing, but the group was smart enough and with-it enough to put together a solid decade’s worth of pleasant material, and that’s nothing to be sniffed at.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bobsy - The End Of April

(Drive-In, 1999)

Wow, not bad! Singapore one-man-band Bobsy offers gentle acoustic pick ’n’ strum and appealing double-tracked vocals on this surprisingly moving, folksy lament for the end of something/anything. There’s a certain Byrdsian quality to its mournfulness that’s reminiscent of a tradition-minded McGuinn ballad, and it burrows deeper with each play. The similarly hushed, yearning B-side adds some glockenspiel (is it??) and maintains an admirable quality level, but it can’t reach the eyebrow-raising heights of the flip. Fair enough. Research indicates that this guy never released a follow-up, which is a shame, based on the impressive evidence heard here. Still, “The End of April,” even if it does end up a one-off burst of modest brilliance, is certainly a fine legacy and a finer listen. Check ’er out.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Black Tambourine - Throw Aggi Off The Bridge

(Audrey’s Diary, 1992)

Well I was washing my hands at work this afternoon when I happened to glance into the mirror and exclaim, “Hey! I don’t look nearly enough like a ten year-old girl!” And I didn’t! So I sprinted forth and entered the area haircuttery, which is, oddly enough, staffed by the former personal stylist for Joey Ramone (dat’s NYC, I s’pose). When I emerged thirty minutes later, I was a dead ringer for old pal Ramona Quimby, sure to be called “miss” at Starbucks and carded at bars all ’round the town for the next many months. And here I am at home, getting ready to review a Black Tambourine record, when it is with SHRIEKING MAD LAUGHTER that I realize I now bear an unsettling resemblance (hair-wise) to the luvlee lady of this fine rock band. Time to grow a beard! While I’m doing that, I’ll give this single – their second and last – some serious thought, follically linked to it as I am. Though the three songs on here were recorded during the same month as those on the “By Tomorrow” 7”, they show a sillier, punkier, rockin’er side of Black Tambourine that reminds me quite a bit of the Pooh Sticks in the total careening pop wackiness. Cluttered drumming, frenzied noise guitar, wonderful vocal melodies, and, best of all, death wishes for Stephen Pastel’s girlfriend sung with Pam Berry’s cheerful innocence on “Throw Aggi Off the Bridge.” Plus a rather crunching, trebly Love cover (“Can’t Explain”)! Wha?! Fun, the whole thing, start to finish. Please just buy that darn Complete Recordings comp already; there is no good reason not to own this music. Do you like my beard?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Black Tambourine - By Tomorrow

(Slumberland, 1991)

First a helpful collectorfreak note on the artwork, since this single was released with three different covers. There’s one with a tiger jumping through a glow-in-the-dark hoop (probably the rarest; mine is numbered 11/100), another with a girl splashing in a puddle (mine is hand-crayoned), and a third with a raindrop photo sleeve (oops, I don’t own this one). Find ’em all and love ’em all! Because the MUSIC is early-90s US pop underground at its best: Fuzz and reverb overlaid with roaring guitars, plus a hint of jangle underneath... strictly the good stuff. There’s some intriguing pre-Beatle girl-group influence at work as well, especially on the vocal patterns of the swinging “Drown” (and, to a lesser extent, the record’s lyrical concerns as a whole). Still, while catchy, concise, and inviting, these four songs are less cutesy than what European cousins like the Pastels or Vaselines were getting up to at the time, and a track like “Pack You Up” is downright dark shoegaze. Noisy pop simply doesn’t get much better than Black Tambourine, and these guys ’n’ gals were only around long enough to release two singles and a few stray tracks, all of ’em (plus a demo) now collected on the Complete Recordings CD/10”. Genius single, genius band. Really.