I recently enjoyed one of the best record hauls of my life at a friend's garage sale. He was unloading records for a friend, and had probably 800 or so in tow. Due to my own scheduling conflict with the sale's actual date, I got "first dibs" on the records, and walked away with a box of 50 under my arm. Several of the records were but a dollar, with the most expensive one coming in at $4. It was a diverse grab-bag too: from excellent and near-mint copies of Chad & Jeremy, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Sir Douglas Quintet and other '60s groups, to first-generation punk like Chelsea, The Dictators, and The Rezillos, to country classics like Gram Parsons, Guy Clark, Dolly Parton, and Webb Pierce, to oddball releases like Plus' The Seven Deadly Sins, Terry Riley's A Rainbow In Curved Air, and electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick's Silver Apples of the Moon. I'm going to spend the remainder of the week -- starting with today -- looking at a few of my more striking finds that I've had time to digest.

Lothar and the Hand People were strange, to say the least. Based in New York (after forming in Denver), the quintet was a mediocre garage band who just happened to employ the services of a theremin, which they named Lothar. The theremin -- along with moog and non-traditional percussion -- gave the band a palette unlike their contemporaries. The fact that the band was signed to Capitol Records, for which they released a pair of records in 1968 and 1969, is just fucked up. (Look at the following picture, the cover to the record I picked up, and tell me if it looks like a major label release.)

Their debut album, Presenting...Lothar and the Hand People, is an inconsistent, flawed affair, mostly because of the group's split-personality. Part of the time, they're a sort of primitive Devo-cum-Mothers of Invention, and the rest of the time they shoot for a more straightforward garage rock sound typical of the time's average bands. Still, they're fucking weird and quirky as well, which I suppose is why I find them so charming.

"Machines" sure does predict the 21st Century with ease, even if the idea of machines controlling our lives wasn't an original one. And their cover of "Bye Bye Love," which was turned into a household tune by The Everly Brothers, showcases their warped personality as they add a theremin melody over the top of the traditional cover. It's hardly remarkable as a great cover, but worth noting nonetheless if for no other reason than the odd choice of selecting such a non-hip tune to cover in 1968.

Lothar and the Hand People - "Machines"

Lothar and the Hand People - "Bye Bye Love"

The group went on to release Space Hymn in 1969, whose title track was a hit. To my knowledge, I haven't heard the album or the song, but Julian Cope loves it so it can't be too bad. A web site was created to promote the re-release of Presenting by Razor & Tie. Check it out to read an article about the band from 2000.


"Sad songs for Ivy League fucks" -- that's how my ex-girlfriend once described The Clientele. I found the description to be humorous, as she wasn't really serious in her seemingly harsh assessment. There's certainly something about The Clientele's sound that suggests sophisticated snobbery. Much as with '80s cult faves Felt -- whose music paved the way for The Clientele -- this trio from London creates a textural, mesmerizing style of indie pop steeped in the soft psychedelia of Donovan, Love, and to a lesser degree Nick Drake. I've always said that The Clientele are best listened to as the spigot is sealed tight on a summer rainstorm. Certainly, Clientele frontman Alasdair MacLean does little to dissuade the notion that the best art is created from a still sadness. But unlike other groups who mope through routine remorse with a predictable lack of flair, The Clientele's music often speaks to a subtle warmth. I credit that to MacLean's beautiful guitar work, which is something to behold in person.

Pitchfork leaked a song from their forthcoming album, Strange Geometry, which will be released in less than a week in the UK and on October 11 in the States. And, in case you missed it, here it is again. It's a pleasant surprise: an energetic slice of melodic pop goodness that stands in contrast to their previous album, The Violet Hour, which seemed stuck in the doldrums almost to a fault. Notice the little melodic twist on guitar/glockenspiel -- which Pitchfork correctly identified as a wink to "Sloop John B" -- that appears periodically.

The Clientele - "Since K Got Over Me"

Not to sound like a jerk, but if you can't find something to like in this tune, then I feel for you. Visit The Clientele or sample some more of their songs. I'd highly recommend picking up the compilation of their early singles, Suburban Light.


Oh how I've waited to get my grubby little hands on these songs! Finally, the kind folks at Domino have secured the rights to release the bulk of Orange Juice's Ostrich Churchyard, a 1992 compilation of songs recorded in 1981 that were intended to be the group's debut album on Postcard Records. Copies of Churchyard have always been available, if you were willing to hand over a healthy chunk of change. Now, for a reasonable price you can purchase The Glasgow School, which collects a majority of Churchyard along with the group's earliest singles (on Postcard) and repackages them in a cool gatefold CD with liner notes from drummer Steven Daly.

So, why should you care? Well for starters, this is where Edwyn Collins got his start. He's that wacky guy that had the hit single, "A Girl Like You," in 1994. ("I've never known a girl like you before..." Picture me singing it out loud with a coy, goofy look on my face.) But the real reason you should care is because every Scottish band of the past 20 years worth their indie cred swears by Orange Juice. (In case you're wondering, that list likely includes Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, The Pastels, Life Without Buildings, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, The Orchids, et cetera.) This record is essential listening for anyone who's ever wondered (out loud, preferably) whether any other singer from the '80s could possibly beat Morrissey at his own game. Oh yes, it can be done! These Scots are the bridge between the Velvet Underground and twee pop. Believe it, and it shall be!

Orange Juice - "Lovesick"

Orange Juice - "Louise Louise"

For a longer review of The Glasgow School (and some additional background on Orange Juice) go here. The photo of Edwyn Collins was taken from Phillipe Carly's collection of photographs of new wave bands.


Sorry Robyn Hitchcock fans, this post isn't about The Soft Boys. Instead, it's about a solitary soft boy, one Dan Bejar, who when not moonlighting on New Pornographer recordings has a lovely little band of his own called Destroyer.

If you've only recently discovered Destroyer, in either its electronic symphony version or its Frog Eyes-as-backing-band version, you may be surprised to learn that Destroyer was once a cabaret-styled rock band. Thief, released in 2000, is the proof. I like The New Pornographers as much as the next guy -- and I'm fond of Carl (A.C.) Newman's solo work, too -- but in my mind Bejar has always stood shoulders above his Vancouver brethren. His imagination -- which displays itself in both his awkward commentaries and his grandiose melodic flourishes -- simply sets him apart.

Who else but Bejar could take a collection of ballads and mold them into raucous, rockin' anthems screaming for a packed stadium audience? Dig this...

Destroyer - "Canadian Lover/Falcon's Escape"

Destroyer - "City of Daughters"

Still not convinced of this record's brilliance? Well, if you won't take my word for it, then maybe you'll listen to The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle, who calls Thief "a masterpiece". Read an older interview with Bejar here, or visit him at Merge Records, where you can hear some more recent mp3s. Unfortunately, Thief is out of print (the last time I checked); but you can find a few copies for sale over at Gemm.


Remember three years ago when we were in the midst of a garage rock revival thanks to The Strokes and The White Stripes? Sure you do. That was a great time! We broke out our black leather jackets and tight, torn jeans, mussed up our hair, went out to the local dive bar, and got shitfaced every weekend! Man, my right ear is still ringing from the madness!

My moniker, The Noiseboy, was originally chosen as my DJ name several years ago when I began spinning in bars around town. Dating back to my early days as a bar DJ -- I was a college DJ before that, which is an entirely different creature -- I spun primarily garage rock, mixing in traditional rock and roll, '70s hard rock, punk, mod, and a bit of what I termed "grits" (outlaw and olden-times country). The name was inspired by '70s rock scribes Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer, and Nick Tosches -- who jokingly referred to themselves as "the noiseboys" -- and then hung around when I needed an identity (tell me about it!) for Blogger.

My DJ days are hardly over, even though it's been well over a year since I gave up my regular gig at Mike & Molly's. In November, I'm going all the way back to my college roots to find a niche on the radio dial. As a wink and a nod to ideal of escapism that permeated the late-'60s/'70s, and in honor of Marc Feld aka Marc Bolan aka T. Rex, my show will likely be titled Life's a Gas.

So today, I offer a tribute (yes, my tongue is firmly planted in cheek) to the debut of "The Noiseboy" with a song from the original garage rock revival circa the late-'70s/early-'80s. One important thing missing from the heralded 21st Century garage revival is the sound itself: fuzz-tone guitar, Farfisa organ, sleazy attitude, and frenzied energy. That wasn't missing from the '80s revival; they got it right that time around as evidenced by bands and artists like The Chesterfield Kings, The Fleshtones, Billy Childish, and The Cynics.

Chief among those bands was Boston's The Lyres, who were led by a prep-school dropout by the name of Jeff Conolly. Conolly collected two things: Farfisa organs and records. He earned his longtime nickname "Monoman" because of his obsessive collecting of vinyl, which you can read all about in Brett Milano's book Vinyl Junkies (highly recommended if you're pulling jury duty!). After his late-'70s punk band DMZ split, Conolly started The Lyres and headed into the studio during the summer of 1980 to record a handful of songs that were never given an official release. For your enjoyment, here's one of 'em (taken from the Lyres album AHS 1005).

The Lyres - "She Pays the Rent"

For more on The Lyres, go here or here.


The short film Syd Barrett's First Trip -- which is exactly what it sounds like, Super 8 footage of Barrett's earliest descent into hallucinogens -- isn't really worth a rental if either: a) you're not into Barrett-era Pink Floyd or Barrett's solo material; or b) you think that psychedelic pop is nothing more than a convenient excuse to get stoned, smack a xylophone with a hammer, and pretend that listening to a guitar being played backward sounds totally awesome, dude.

The same could probably be said about Jennifer Gentle as a band. Considering that they took their namesake from a Barrett lyric that appears in the Pink Floyd song "Lucifer Sam," it's safe to say that Jennifer Gentle has probably already rented -- hell, might even own -- Syd Barrett's First Trip. After listening to the Italian group's domestic debut for Sub Pop, Valende, I'd go so far as to say that they actually know where Syd lives. They've likely visited the Patron Saint of psych-pop once or twice, enjoyed some magic mushrooms with him, maybe even swiped his songbook.

Valende is either the most promising slice of psychedelia to bloom in the oughts -- a rather clever wink and a nod to the stranger seventies -- or it's an annoying, frustrating collage sure to test even the most patient of listeners. That wasn't an either/or proposition: it actually is both things. A majority of the record remains somber and abstract, is mellow at times to the point of no return, and plays up the duo's childlike, spastic sense of disillusion. Personally, the singer's off-kilter voice doesn't bother me, but I suspect I just have thick skin. Check out the brilliant rave-up "I Do Dream You," a dead ringer for The Clean covering Faust at their most playful. Makes me wonder if Jennifer Gentle is really Clinic's weird second cousin. For comparison's sake, I'm also including "Circles of Sorrow," whose pace -- like a majority of the album -- never stretches beyond a belly crawl. It's dainty melodies -- flavored with glockenspiel, hushed vocals, a dreary violin, warm bass tones, and a repetitive acoustic guitar line -- drift around as if buoyed in a sleepy sea. I never thought that I would ever type this sort of comparison, but the song sounds like Piano Magic head-butting The Clientele.

Jennifer Gentle - "I Do Dream You"

Jennifer Gentle - "Circles of Sorrow"

Visit these wackos at their home away from home.


In case you missed the news, Robert Moog, creator of the you-guessed-it, died on Sunday at the age of 71 in his home in Asheville, North Carolina. His cause of death was brain cancer. The news sends a tingle down my spine, because I was actually in Asheville on Sunday.

For more info on Bob, you can start at his site. Many of you are probably already familiar with electronic music and know of Moog's impact on modern music. Today, I'll pay homage to his brilliant invention with an oldy but goody: the Silicon Teens.

Their 1980 album on Sire Records, Music for Parties, is a total blast. We can trace twee pop's roots back as far as we'd like, but there's no doubt that this record had a little bit to do with the development of keyboard-based indie pop in the '80s and especially the '90s. The Silicon Teens were actually one man, Mute Records founder Daniel Miller (pictured above). Using various vintage synthesizers -- including the moog -- and drum machines, Miller dusted off some of his favorite tunes from the '50s and gave them a revamp that any 11 year-old kid with a crush on Cyndi Lauper would love. From "Let's Dance" to "Oh Boy!" to "You Really Got Me," Miller cruises through a long list of oldies (and a couple originals) with amusing results. I've chosen his cover of Chuck Berry's "Memphis Tennessee" along with the instrumental "Red River Rock," which Johnny & the Hurricanes had a top-10 hit with in 1959. Oddly enough, the Silicon Teens version of "Red River Rock" was used in the soundtrack to the Steve Martin/John Candy comedy Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Silicon Teens - "Red River Rock"

Silicon Teens - "Memphis Tennessee"

This was the lone full length for the Silicon Teens. There isn't much available on the Teens online, but you can read up on Miller's influence on technopop here.


I'm back in the saddle again after a wonderful vacation. Believe it or not, I did NO record shopping on this trip out east, despite spending a couple days in Asheville, North Carolina, which I would highly recommend visiting if you haven't been there. I've got a sunburn to nurse, a couple hundred e-mails to sort through, and a cat that needs some attention.

Thanks for the kind words in my absence. I'm glad to be home again...and to welcome me (and you) back, here's a clip from Magnolia Electric Co.'s newest record, What Comes After the Blues. Magnolia Electric Co. frontman Jason Molina really reminds me of Bruce Springsteen; he's got The Boss' knack for both a simpleton appearance and a smalltown pathos. And like Springsteen, Molina makes up for any height disadvantages with a deep well of a soul and an appreciation for rock and roll's roots.

But I'm done blowing hot air up Molina's tailpipe; the truth is that I really wanted to like What Comes after the Blues every bit as much as I liked Molina's last studio album with a full band (and his last as Songs: Ohia), Magnolia Electric Co. I spent hours wandering alone on the train tracks with this album in my iPod. But damn it if I couldn't find it in me to like this new one as much as his last. Curse Molina for setting the bar so damn high.

Molina has finally settled on a backing band -- his own Crazy, Heartbreakin', E-Street, Bullet Band -- and the lineup carried over from Magnolia to Blues. These cats can play, knowing when to squeal and when to hush, never stepping on the toes of Molina's emotive, warbling voice. The main ingredient that's missing on Blues is a cupboard full of exceptional tunes. Sure, we get the bluesy brawn of "The Dark Don't Hide It," the ramshackle folk of "Northstar Blues," and the shuffling, heartbroken soul of "Leave the City." And Molina is still penning those memorable one-liners, the kind that ring true in a "well, duh" sorta way, but are poignant nonetheless. (He reminds me of Townes Van Zandt in this respect. And I consider that a high compliment.) But, there's no song on Blues that resonates as loudly as "Hang on Magnolia" or "I've Been Riding with the Ghost" from his previous album. I suppose that means that Molina isn't perfect, which sure does fit his persona to a T. I should probably just stop my bitching and quit searching out the faults.

Magnolia Electric Co. - "Leave the City"

Visit Molina and Co. at their home on the range, where you can download bootlegs of various live shows and swap them with your friends just as if you were fans of Dylan or the Dead! Visit the site of their exceptional label, Secretly Canadian, for some more tunes from this record.

And one last thing: I'm removing the link to the mp3s from my first 9 posts if you haven't listened to those tunes yet, hurry up slowpoke!


Okay, so I mostly chose Neil Young's classic 1974 album On the Beach for today's selection because that's where I'm headed: to the beach. I'll be on vacation for the next twelve days, so you won't be hearing from me for a while. For that, I apologize. But, this vacation is 28-plus years in the making. I'm due. I'll be spending a week on the "Crystal Coast" (as they call it) in North Carolina, and then a few days in the Smoky Mountains. Jealous yet?

But On the Beach is worth writing about regardless of my vacation plans. I'm often surprised by the number of music nuts -- even Neil Young fans -- who haven't heard this record. Possibly it's Young's other hits-laden '70s releases that have overshadowed On the Beach, but more likely On the Beach has been doomed to relative obscurity (along with several of Young's other late-'70s recordings) because it was out of print for ages. The fault lies squarely on Young's shoulders: his stubborn preference for 180 grams of virgin vinyl over 1s and 0s kept this gem off the shelves.

Thankfully, in 2003, Reprise Records finally got Young's okay to reissue the album on CD. And while I don't have Young's blessing, I'm going to share a song with you today. It's impossible to find a dud on this album, so I can't go wrong with choosing the record's opening song. Go ahead and pick up a copy of this today, before Young changes his mind again and pulls On the Beach from the shelves.

Neil Young - "Walk On"

Be sure to say "hi" to Neil, and if you're a vinyl junkie you can pick up his recent greatest hits album on LP.


I wasn't quite as taken in by M. Ward's 2005 full length Transistor Radio as I was by his 2003 release, Transfiguration of Vincent. But, when considering Ward's music, saying that I didn't like his new record as much as his last one is like saying to an A student, "Sorry, but this paper only rates a B+".

Ward has been compared to everyone from Townes Van Zandt (don't see it) to Tom Waits (okay, getting warmer) to Grandaddy (nice try, but no cigar). He's also been called "somber adult alternative," which makes me cringe. (Do I really listen to "adult alternative"?) I peg him as more of a Ron Sexsmith type, a bittersweet singer-songwriter with a bit of a quirky streak. Or, maybe better yet, Sexsmith jamming with Calexico. But even that comparison misses the mark. Ward's skewed vision of the world -- as evidenced on songs like "Big Boat," "Deep Dark Well," and "Four Hours in Washington" -- is one of a traveling minstrel, a slightly-deranged yet charming wallflower who has seen it all (including things you and I just can't see).

It's that warped, Tom Waits-like imagination that is Ward's calling card and the fuel for his pleasant blend of Americana pop. The fact that more people don't know about this guy is truly a shame, because his recordings are consistently superb. But look no further than the guest list of musicians on this recording -- Jim James of My Morning Jacket, John Parish of PJ Harvey fame, Howe Gelb, and Vic Chesnutt -- to discover how Ward is viewed by his peers.

M. Ward - "Hi-Fi"

For more on M. Ward, visit his home on the web.


There's at least five known bands that have gone by the name The Outsiders, and my guess is there's probably another 10 or more if you want to snoop around for older regional groups that never released a proper full length. The two you might be familiar with are the British punk rock band led by Adrian Borland, who went on to form The Sound. Then there's The Outsiders from Cleveland who scored a hit in 1966 with the song "Time Won't Let Me." This isn't either of those Outsiders.

These longhairs -- and I do mean long -- were from Amsterdam, Holland. So in a sense, they were truly outsiders to the late-'60s garage rock scene. Their contribution to the second Nuggets box, "Touch", is a spastic single released in the Netherlands in 1966. The trademark of that song is the raw guitar sound of Ronny Splinter and the vocals of multi-instrumentalist Wally Tax, whose smooth voice and unorthodox approach stands in contrast to the throaty screamers often employed by garage rock groups of the day.

I ran across a copy of their 1968 full length CQ on CD through Karl Ikola's Anopheles mail order, and promptly snatched it up to sit on the shelf near fellow Dutch garage rockers Q 65. The record really blew me away, and I was even expecting it to be good. It's part intense, primitive rock 'n' roll, part bizarre psych-rock, and part trippy, mellow folk-rock that recalls early Can and the Velvet Underground.

I'm not going to blather on and on about this dandy of an album; you can click the links below if you want to read more about the band. But I will go above and beyond the call of duty and post three mp3s from CQ to show you just how enthusiastic I am about this album.

The Outsiders - "Happyville"

The Outsiders - "Misfit"

The Outsiders - "You're Everything On Earth"

For more on the band, pick up a copy of Richie Unterberger's book Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll for an entire chapter on The Outsiders, or see this, this, or this. You should be able to order CQ from Forced Exposure.


I'm told that Gary Higgins fits into the ever ambiguous category of beard-folk, a subgenre of freak-folk, otherwise known as psych-folk. (On a side note, can you be a member of the beard-folk set if you don't have a beard? I guess not. But, what happens if Sam Beam and Devendra Banhart shave off their chin hair tomorrow? Is their license to practice beard-folk revoked?)

Sad-folk would probably be a more appropriate description for Higgins. My first few spins through the Drag City reissue of Higgins' 1973 album Red Hash have left me slightly underwhelmed. It's not that Red Hash is without its intriguing moments; rather, the mood and pacing of the record is a constant flat line -- a steady, somber crawl. The entire album is a melancholy affair. It's sort of like listening to a Nick Drake record that features the valleys but not the occasional peak.

Still, take any of these songs on their lonesome, and there's much to love. The acoustic guitar picking and strumming of Higgins and Jake Bell is at times hypnotic. When the guitar is coupled with the sonic backsplash of cello, mandolin, piano, and flute, it lends the music a timeless feel, as if we were eavesdropping on a "prog-rock" band from the 15th Century. Higgins occassionally pitches his tent in the early-'70s singer-songwriter camp as well, as on "Cuckoo," when Higgins sings "I've really gone insane / Can't even spell my name / The cuckoo is in pain, again / Please don't die on me, Mr. Cuckoo, please". Not exactly a chipper song.

But as I said, from start to finish Red Hash is downright glum and often haunting a la Nick Drake. In that sense, Higgins' modern equivalent is probably Iron & Wine. Matter of fact, if Sam Beam hasn't yet heard Higgins' album, I'd be shocked. The two color their folk with the same box of 64 crayons. Nods also could be made to Six Organs of Admittance -- who are partly responsible for rediscovering Higgins after all these years -- Devendra Banhart, and cult weirdos Skip Spence and Pearls Before Swine.

Higgins is one of those "lost" artists. Like Jackson C. Frank, Higgins' recorded output amounts to a handful of songs. Also like Frank, Higgins disappeared from the scene faster than he arrived. Supposedly, Red Hash was hastily recorded just days before Higgins was to enter prison (marijuana possession). An attempt at a self-release was thwarted after only a few records were sold. (Which explains, I suppose, why we haven't heard much from him or about this record since 1973.)

Gary Higgins - "I Can't Sleep"

Gary Higgins - "Stable the Spuds"

There really isn't much more info available on Higgins, but Vinyl Mine has posted an mp3 from Higgins' recent live appearance on WFMU. If you don't already, you should check in with Vinyl Mine frequently -- it's a great music blog.


Low is still going strong after more than a decade. And as the century turned, the brothers Kadane successfully morphed Bedhead into The New Year. But whatever in the world happened to Codeine, the third piece of the mighty slowcore triumvirate? Codeine arguably got the slow/sadcore ball rolling when they released their Sub Pop debut, Frigid Stars, in 1990. After releasing a great EP, Barely Real, in 1992 and their second full length, The White Birch, in 1994, Codeine was never heard from again.

By the release of Birch, original drummer Chris Brokaw had left the band to focus his attention on his other band, Come. Original members Stephen Immerwahr (bass/vocals) and John Engle (guitar) recruited Rex drummer Doug Scharin (also of H.I.M. and June of 44) to join the group. But that lineup only lasted for one full length as well.

Brokaw played guitar for Come until they split up as the century turned. He also formed Pullman with Bundy K. Brown and Doug McCombs. He then spent some time backing former Come frontwoman Thalia Zedick on her solo career, performing with Steve Wynn, and drumming for The New Year, before starting a solo career of his own. He released three full lengths under his own name between 2002 and 2004. (Anyone heard 'em?)

Immerwahr went on to play bass in a band called Raymond, of which it's nearly impossible to find any trace of on the world wide web. And I have no idea what happened to Engle, which is a shame since his guitar work with Codeine was just short of brilliant.

With Slint and The Pixies reforming, maybe it's time to give a shout out into cyberspace for a Codeine reunion. Pretty please?

Codeine - "Barely Real"

(From the EP of the same name.) For a more detailed bio, hit up Sub Pop or this fan site, which also offers several mp3s.


Just why The Go-Betweens' back catalogue has gone so overlooked by the masses in America is beyond me. The group did much better in terms of recognition (and earning their niche in history) in their home countries of Australia and the UK, but across the pond, it seems like we tend to neglect the group. Even their turn-of-the-century reunion hasn't seemed to resonate all that much with younger folk. I made it to The Go-Betweens' Chicago stop on their original reunion tour a few years back, and while the crowd was enthusiastic, the venue was far from sold out. Possibly, the group's lyrics are too esoteric; certainly, their songs are less immediate than many of their perceived peers, like Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths. And for certain, they're hardly a "sexy" band.

Maybe my perception of a lack of respect is just dead-wrong. But I don't know anyone other than my long lost friend Tom who has a true appreciation for this band. (Maybe I just know the wrong people?) Still, we Yanks don't have much interest in investigating the foreign bands that influenced the modern, import indie pop that we enjoy, like Belle & Sebastian, The Clientele, The Lucksmiths, The Shout Out Louds, or what have you.

By the time The Go-Betweens released Spring Hill Fair, their third studio album, in 1984, they had already cemented their reputation amongst critics. The year prior, the band added a fourth member, Robert Vickers, on bass, moving singer-songwriter Grant McLellan to lead guitar duties. The results were an even more vibrant, layered sound, as evidenced on the pristine "Bachelor Kisses," the jumpy "Unkind and Unwise," and the frantic "Man O' Sand to Girl O' Sea." But remaining constant is The Go-Betweens' knack for literate storytelling as well as their preference for subtlety, even in the relatively tame tones of McLennan's lead guitar work. In an interview with Melody Maker from back in the day (which is recounted in the liner notes), McLennan says "People often mistake subtlety or reticence for naivete or wimpiness. ... You just can't have those qualities if you want to be in the charts." Or, possibly, remembered fondly by Americans.

Here's my favorite Go-Betweens song on this album (and overall), written by McLennan's bandmate, Robert Forster, a John Lennon to McLennan's Paul McCartney.

The Go-Betweens - "Draining the Pool for You"

Visit Grant and Robert here. For an extensive band bio, click here.


As an aside to his work in the Dead Boys, Stiv Bators' solo career was fairly decent, if short-lived. But, considering that this man once was involved in the writing of such brash punk classics as "Sonic Reducer" and "Ain't Nothing to Do," Bator's legacy as a Dead Boy casts a long shadow -- and rightfully so -- over his pop leanings as a solo artist. That said, Bator's Disconnected, originally released on Bomp! in 1980 as the Dead Boys were disintegrating, is an often overlooked power-pop gem that Bomp! reissued in 2004.

Bators' '60s influences come to the surface on this recording, which finds the music more accessible and his vocal tracks far more subdued. Much in the same way Iggy Pop's brand of nihilistic rock became pedestrian once he hit the studio as a solo artist, so too is Stiv Bators' effort tame and almost charming at times on Disconnected. "Evil Boy" was co-written by Dead Boy Jimmy Zero, and stands as one of Bators' strongest songs regardless of era. While the chorus finds Bators repeating "I'm an evil boy," he does so in a coy, whiney style that's nonetheless addictive. It's pretty funny, actually. Other highlights include the exceptionally catchy "Make Up Your Mind," the brooding swagger of "A Million Miles Away" (no relation to the Plimsouls song of the same name), the frantic drums-guitar interplay of "Swingin' a Go-Go," and the playful "Ready Any Time."

In hindsight, it's easy to see how a band like The Replacements might have taken notes while listening to this record. Disconnected is worth investigating for fans of the Dead Boys as well as folks who find much to like in '80s power-pop. It's worth the price of the disc simply to read the insightful (and downright amusing) liner notes from former Bators' bassist Frank Secich, who recounts Stiv's "car surfing" days with ease.

Stiv Bators - "Make Up Your Mind"

For more info on Stiv, see this fan site or visit Bomp!.


Surely you're already familiar with Sufjan Stevens, winner of the 2004 award for most confusing first name to pronounce for a singer-songwriter employing spiritual overtones yet cashing in on the indie music community at large (i.e. most likely to appear at Cornerstone and still be praised by the God Almighty of indie press, Pitchfork). Kidding aside, Soof-e-yawn (as I've been told is correct) just released album No. 2 in his tour of the fifty states, and it's about my home state of Illinois. A wise marketing move on his behalf, no doubt attempting to capitalize on the media blitz surrounding the Fighting Illini's title game against those talented Tar Heels.

But this post isn't about that Sufjan endeavor; instead, it's about the town of Brinkley, Arkansas, a cozy village of 3,600 east of Little Rock. The folks over at NPR challenged Sufjan to write a song about a town of their choosing; in exchange, they'd prep him for a future album and give the song a spin on the radio. A pair of NPR reporters traveled to Brinkley, intereviewed the locals, and handed the tapes over to Sufjan, who then chose to focus on a symbolic, nearly-extinct bird known to hang out in the mucky lakelands surrounding the community. The "great god bird," otherwise known as the "lord god bird" or the "ivory-billed woodpecker," became the basis for Sufjan's song, which once again displays his knack for "getting" the communities he sings about without ever having actually lived there. Listen for yourself:

Sufjan Stevens - "The Lord God Bird"

Read more about this story here. Visit Sufjan Stevens on the web here.


Welcome to my new(est) music blog. I figure third time's a charm. The formula is simple this time around: let the music speak for itself. Hope you enjoy.

My friend Tim made his first venture into the world of Belle & Sebastian records last week -- purchasing Sinister and Arab Strap -- and mentioned a few days later that he was enjoying them. So, I told him that I would make him a mix featuring songs from all of the group's other releases. An easy enough task, for sure, although choosing which song to pluck from the single I'm Waking Up to Us proved to be trouble. I ended up going with the title track, as to me it stands out amongst the rest of Belle & Sebastian's catalogue. The woodwinds coupled with the string section give the backdrop a decidedly baroque feel, yet the song itself is torn right out of the Love songbook. Stuart Murdoch does his best Arthur Lee impersonation on this tune, both in terms of vocal delivery and lyrical content.

If you're not someone who blindly purchases everything B&S releases, this particular EP -- unlike some of the band's more recent EPs -- is well worth the cash. All three songs are both exclusive and quite good, a reminder of the group's EPs of old.

Belle & Sebastian - "I'm Waking Up to Us"

Visit B&S on the web here.