Week 12: Absinthe Blind – Music for Security

29 May

Hey there, folks. This week I’m going to bring you another treat. This one isn’t quite something that I found in a thrift store, but it’s a great album none the less. I am, of course, talking about Absinthe Blind’s fantastic 2000 shoegaze album, Music for Security.

In late 1999, my Internet access almost solely consisted of what I could scrape together at work. That ended up with me spending some hours after work and on weekends, surfing for lack of anything better to do. It was a weird time in my life. Anyway, in my adventures, I found mp3.com. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the site, mp3.com was something of an open marketplace for independent artists, allowing them to post samples of their music and offer CDs (or the rare digital downloads) for sale through the site. Some great music died when the site went down – they got a little too big for their britches and decided to implement a system whereby you could put your CD into a PC, their servers would recognize the CD, and serve you their files. Pretty cutting-edge stuff for 1999/2000, but WAY too early and the labels killed it in its crib.

Anyway, some fairly big names built their fanbase on MP3.com, the unfortunate Linkin Park being the biggest among them. I could cruise the site for hours, picking among the refuse to find the gems. Absinthe Blind was one of my earliest finds. They grabbed hold of me right away, and I had to have their then-current album, Solarshift. I became a steadfast fan despite the fact that they rarely played outside of Illinois at the time. When Music for Security came out, I had to have it, and thus, I am now sharing it with you.

Describing Absinthe Blind’s music is kind of tricky. They’re clearly influenced by shoegaze bands like Ride, My Bloody Valentine, and Spiritualized, but they put their own twist on it, featuring a little more melody than some of those groups. How about I just give you a sample instead? Here’s Vanity Calls, which offers a pretty good idea of what you can expect:

If you’re at all into the shoegaze sound, you owe it to yourself to check out this great band. Sadly, they broke up in 2003 with no sign of a reunion, but it was a great run while it lasted.

  • Label: Hammerhead Records
  • Year: 2000
  • Found: Arlington, VA
  • Notes: N/A
  • Filesize: 73MB
Track List:
  1. Small
  2. Breathe the Screen
  3. Don’t Lose the Image
  4. Lifelike
  5. Standing with Knives
  6. If You Move On
  7. Three Hours Later
  8. Phoenix
  9. Invisible One
  10. Sandpaper Straight
  11. Giving up the Crown
  12. No Sound
  13. Man After You
Get tracks 1-7 here.

Get tracks 8-13 here.

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Week 11: New Order – Western Works Demos and Peel Sessions

21 May

Welcome back, folks. This week is going to be a lot of fun and a change of pace from the last few weeks. This week, we’re looking at two rarities from New Order.

I discovered New Order back in the mid-80s, with the release of True Faith and its inclusion in the “Bright Lights, Big City” soundtrack. I was familiar with most popular music at the time, but this song sounded so different from the sound ecosystem to which I had grown accustomed. It immediately intrigued me; it sounded so foreign and impenetrable. I started slowly picking up the band’s music, trying to decode it. I didn’t entirely get it, but I sure as hell loved it, and that’s all that really mattered.

So that’s a close to 20-year love affair with the band. I guess everyone goes through a New Order phase, but it turned out to be something other than a phase for me, and that’s okay. Anyway, with that in mind, imagine my excitement when I first discovered a cassette of the long-out-of-print Peel Sessions album at a thrift store in Rockville, MD and, this past Saturday, found a vinyl bootleg of the first New Order sessions. As soon as I saw the demos, I knew what had to happen: this post.

The first offering, as I said, is a vinyl bootleg of New Order’s Western Works sessions. That’s July 9th 1980 on the cover, not September 7th, but it’s a moot point as both dates are incorrect – this actually took place on July 7th, 1980. For those who aren’t familiar with New Order, they began life as legendary post-punk band Joy Division, which continued right up until the lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide on May 18th, 1980. The band wanted to carry on, but agreed that it would be wrong to continue as Joy Division. They had an early identity crisis, though: who would be the singer? What would the direction of the band sound like? This collection is a great historical snapshot of that time.

The first demo track, Dreams Never End, sung by Peter Hook (told you they were trying to figure out the face of the band), has no less than two separate mixes on this album – I prefer Mix 2 – and a separate, more evolved version below in the Peel Sessions tape. While Ceremony is the most obvious  bridge between Joy Division and what would become “real” New Order, I feel Dreams Never End shows the real evolution of the band during those six months.

The second track, Homage, is the only song on this set featuring Bernard Sumner, who would later become the band’s singer. Ironic, then, that the only song with the final lead singer never saw the light of day past these demos and a handful of live performances. It’s a brooder that has more in common with the Cure than what the band would later become.

The third track is Ceremony, probably the best-known early New Order song and a remnant from the Joy Division past. Like I said, it’s the clearest bridge between the two. What’s interesting is that this version features drummer Steven Morris; the final version featured Sumner.

The fourth track is Truth, which survives almost intact from the demo session to the Peel session, but features a different singer. Both versions sound more like Joy Division outtakes rather than New Order, but this would end up on New Order’s debut album.

The fifth track is Are You Ready, a track recorded with the members of Cabaret Voltaire and featuring their manager on lead vocals. It’s the real oddball of the set and threw me off when I first heard it.

All in all, it’s a weird little slice of history that’s worth hearing if you have even an inkling of interest in the band or that period. I recommend checking it out.

  • Year: 1980
  • Label: N/A
  • Found: Frederick, MD
  • Notes:
  • Filesize: 48MB
Track List:
  1. Dreams Never End (Mix 1)
  2. Homage
  3. Ceremony
  4. Truth
  5. Are You Ready?
  6. Dreams Never End (Mix 2)
Get the whole thing here.
Now, let’s talk about The Peel Sessions.

The Peel Sessions were issued by Strange Fruit records in 1990 and comprised of two separate sessions with John Peel, the first in January 1981 (Tracks 1-4), just six months after the Western Works session, and the second in June of 1982 (Tracks 5-8). By this point, Gillian Gilbert had joined the group and the band had started to take a decidedly more electronic path. The addition of the synthesizers is both very pronounced and, to my ears, welcome.

The 1981 session is of the most interest, as you can hear the band’s sound beginning to gel as compared to the relatively sloppy demo session. All of the tracks in the 1981 session would appear on Movement, and while the arrangements and production are noticeably different, many of them still sound unfinished on Movement.

The 1982 session is a bit more polished, with the synthesizers taking more center stage. It features a few tracks that would appear on 1983’s “Power, Corruption, and Lies” (generally cited as the real beginning for the band), including “We All Stand” and “5 8 6”. The other two tracks never appeared in any other format, so they’re something of a treat.

  • Year: 1990
  • Label: Strange Fruit
  • Found: Rockville, MD
  • Notes: This is two sets of recordings. Tracks 1-4 are from an early 1981 Peel Session. Tracks 5-10 are from June 1982.
  • Filesize: 69MB
Track List:
  1. Truth
  2. Senses
  3. I.C.B.
  4. Dreams Never End
  5. Turn the Heater On
  6. We All Stand
  7. Too Late
  8. 5-8-6

Get tracks 1-4 here.

Get tracks 5-8 here.

Week 10: Deerheart – Queen, Worker, Drone

14 May

Welcome back to Found Music. This week I’m excited to present a new treat: found vinyl! We went to nearby, historic Ellicott City over the weekend and I made some exciting vinyl finds, none more exciting (well, possibly one) than this one. This week we’re talking about the band Deerheart, and its album Queen, Worker, Drone. This is the Goldenrod Records release from 1997 (or so the vinyl claims), not the much later Coolidge Records version, which features different versions of these songs and a different tracklist.

Before we get started, I’d better warn you: this is not the precious, twee Deerheart whose music was featured in Gossip Girl. It’s pretty much the diametric opposite.

Someone described the sound of this album as Killdozer meets Tad, and I’d have to agree. For folks not familiar with either of those bands, that means you’re looking at heavy, sludgy, messy punk rock. The focus of the music is the heavy, driving drumming, with the guitar work swirling around that center. It’s hard to describe without evoking other bands, honestly. It’s the kind of band that sounds so much better on vinyl than CD – I’ve actually compared the files featured here with the cleaner CD version and prefer this take.

For samples of the CD/MP3 version, you can go over to Amazon and check it out, then come back here and get the heavier, sludgier vinyl version.

By the way, I realize this is two weeks of noisier music in a row. We’ll go to something a little lighter on the ears next week.

  • Year: 1997/2008 (?)
  • Label: Goldenrod Records
  • Found: Ellicott City, MD
  • Notes: The date on this is unclear.
  • Filesize: 52MB
Track List:
  1. Livestock Fire
  2. Small Teeth
  3. The Royalty
  4. Good Taste
  5. Zoo Dominance
  6. Pheasant
  7. Trevor
  8. The Ship
  9. Fawn
  10. Bosch

Get tracks 1-5 here.
Get tracks 6-10 here.

Week 9: Nobodys – I’ve Been Everywhere

7 May

As predicted, I missed last week – deepest apologies for that handful of readers who check this blog weekly. As a plus, Vegas was nice? I never did get the time to hit up a thrift store out there, as I had hoped, but there’s plenty of music to last us through the rest of this year. That said, let’s dig into this week’s offering: a covers album by Denver punk band Nobodys.

I can hear some people rolling their eyes already. “Great, another album full of ironic punk covers’. I thought the same thing when I broke the shrink wrap and realized what I had, but nothing of the sort. This album is instead a love letter to the bands they’ve toured with – including bands such as the Queers, Chixdiggit, and Guttermouth. The jacket even features pictures of members of the Nobodys with the bands that they cover here. It’s such a damned cool idea that I’m surprised I’ve never seen anything like it before. See the tracklisting below for the bands associated with each song, and a warning, some people might find the song “I like young girls” a bit offensive removed from the context of being performed by a band called the Queers. Otherwise, this is all pretty straightforward punk rock (of course the usual language warnings apply), and very well done. I’m surprised the Nobodys never really made it, but they might have come along a little too late for the sound.

As for the band itself, here is their description from their Myspace site, last touched in 2007:

Let’s face it. There are a lot of nobodys in the music scene today. But there is only one NOBODYS! Mixing four-chord Ramones-inspired rock anthems with an unadulterated pornography fixation, the Nobodys have sprung forth from the fertile grounds of Colorado Springs to become the reigning Ron Jeremys of the punk rock world! ALL HAIL THE NEW HEDGEHOGS OF ROCK!!

They might still be out there performing, for all I know. The MySpace has a few people commenting on the site in 2011, referencing a show the night before, but they haven’t released an album since 2001. Some fans say they’re still together, they just very rarely play together. Apparently lead singer JJ Nobody is manager and part owner of Three Nickles bar in Colorado and drummer  Justin Disease occasionally plays with the Queers (covered here).  Anyway, if you like punk, this is definitely worth giving a listen. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

  • Year: 2000
  • Label: Suburban Home Records
  • Found: Harrisonburg, VA
  • Notes: The track “Hidden Track” is a cover of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”.
  • Filesize: 37MB
Track List:
  1. No Wonder (Sick N Tired)
  2. I Like Young Girls (The Queers)
  3. Leaving Home (Digger)
  4. Double Fisted (Gotohells)
  5. C-Biscuit (Jugheads Revenge)
  6. Tonight (Automatics)
  7. Six Down (Pinhead Circus)
  8. Best Hung Carrot (Chixdiggit)
  9. Monster Zero (Queers)
  10. Die Tonight (Gotohells)
  11. High Balls (Guttermouth)
  12. I’ve Been Everywhere (Johnny Cash)

Get tracks 1-6 here.
Get tracks 7-12 here.

Week 8: 90s-Style EPS – Skiploader and Inward Eye

23 Apr

It’s EP week again, kiddies! I figured it was only fair to give you a couple of different options since there’s a good chance I won’t be able to update next week (trip to Las Vegas – wedding – long story). Thankfully, these are both pretty good EPs.

Let’s start with Inward Eye. I discovered these guys after my close friend and best man, Rob, saw them in concert a few years back. This EP has been kicking around my collection ever since, and I recently rediscovered it. I know, strictly speaking, this doesn’t fit the site’s normal profile, but it – and the band – need a lot more attention, as this is a quality EP. If you’re wondering what they sound like, especially since the album cover below suggests a punk band, instead think Our Lady Peace meets Spacehog. The Our Lady Peace comparisons seem especially apt, as the band hails from Vancouver, Canada (OLP is from Toronto). This EP has a very 90s sound, but in the best possible way.

The first track, Blind Paranoia, especially channels Our Lady Peace, but every song features the lead singer’s borderline falsetto/Robin Zander-styled vocals. The last track, You Know I Know, shows the band expanding a little into Jellyfish/Cheap Trick sounds. I don’t know, just check this thing out. It’s great, and SHOULD make you want to buy the full-length album, available here. Do it!

  • Year: 2009
  • Label: N/A
  • Notes: The label’s website is still up at http://inwardeye.com. There’s not a whole lot more information on the band there, but I can share that they’re currently working on a new album and will be touring again very soon.
  • Filesize: 24MB
Track List:
  1. Blind Paranoia
  2. Shame
  3. Times They Aren’t A-Changin’
  4. You Know I Know

Get the Inward Eye EP here.

Our second EP comes from major label Geffen Records but is way, way out of print, so I have no qualms sharing it. We’re talking about Skiploader.

I first discovered the band back in 1994 through a record store compilation long lost in the mists of time. I could have sworn they were on the DGC Rarities CD, but that seems to have been incorrect. I do, however, know that the song I heard was N2O and it made me want their Anxious.Restless EP – which was nigh-impossible to find even then, despite being on a major label. Eventually, Skiploader passed from my consciousness, an oddity from the past.

Until January of this year, when I stumbled across a copy of Anxious.Restless at a thrift store in Rockville, Maryland. I jumped at the opportunity to finally hear the whole thing, and it didn’t disappoint me. The EP leads off with N2O, and I wasn’t surprised to find that it’s the strongest song on the EP. After all, why not put the strongest track on a compilation?

Otherwise, though, it’s quite a strong EP with tracks reminiscent of a softer Helmet, 90s band Dig, and hints of the Afghan Whigs. Again, another album with strong 90s overtones, but highly recommended.

  • Year: 1994
  • Label: Geffen Records
  • Notes: The band could last be found on Myspace, but appears not to have logged in since 2009. I can’t seem to find much more information than that, so I can only surmise that the band broke up in 2009. You can see the N2O video at YouTube.
  • Filesize: 20MB
Track List:
  1. N2O
  2. All Smiles
  3. Trademark
  4. 12-5-92
  5. Stunt Double

Get the Anxious and Restless EP here.

Week 7: Shockwave Rider – The Shining

16 Apr

Note: This is not that Shockwave Riders – besides, that band is just that, Shockwave RiderS. This is an entirely different band.

Hey, kids! Do you like Big Star? How about Guided by Voices? Maybe Spoon, or Hum? If so, I have a treat for you this week. We’re featuring the defunct Virginia band Shockwave Rider, who kind of fit all of and none of those descriptions.

Shockwave Rider’s The Shining is a big, crunchy, fuzzy bit of rock that never fails to excite me, even with repeated listens. I am a huge Guided by Voices/Bob Pollard fan, and I can’t help but hear their influence most clearly on this album; especially in the first track, King Corduroy, which sounds like it could be an outtake from that band’s 1995 LP Alien Lanes.

The album doesn’t let up there, though, and the GBV influence remains strong throughout. The second track, Shooting Off Sparks, has a slightly harder guitar feel than you might hear from GBV (more Soundgarden than indie), with some nice atmospherics that wouldn’t feel too out of place in a latter-day shoegaze album. The third track, The Ballad of Mr. X, belongs in the same class with some of GBV’s slower work, maybe a lo-fi Hold on Hope.

Oh, did I mention lo-fi? This album manages to capture the lo-fi sound brilliantly while also featuring layered instrumentation. The space in the songs are great with a good pair of headphones, something that even GBV never quite managed to get right.

My favorite tracks are probably King Corduroy, Shooting off Sparks, Never Let Me Down (an acoustic, Beatles-tinged take), Some Girls, She Falls (seriously love that one), and Burn Bright, but honestly, I don’t think there’s a weak track on the whole thing. Sad that we’ll never see more of this band, but I’m glad to be able to share this with you.

  • Year: 2006
  • Label: Tired Orbit Records
  • Found: Rockville, MD
  • Notes: The label’s website is still up, though defunct, at http://www.thetiredorbit.com/. You can get more information on the band there.

Get The Shining here.

Week 6: Outrageous Cherry – Out There in the Dark

9 Apr

This week I’m pretty excited because I get to share an exciting band with you. Okay, I know, I get to do that a lot, but this is a really cool band if you’re into the whole retro-neo-60s sound thing. The band is Outrageous Cherry, and the album is Out There in the Dark, from 1999.

I first discovered the band when my all-time favorite band The New Pornographers covered their song Georgie, Don’t You Know for a bonus track on their “Togetherness” EP. The cover really made me sit up and pay attention, because it was a slight departure for the band. They also covered another song called “Togetherness”, though that sounded a little more in the band’s wheelhouse and stayed under my radar for longer. A little research, and I learned that the “Georgie…” song was by a band called Outrageous Cherry. Well, who the hell was that? Not a clue, so time to do some digging.

Well…it turns out there’s not much out there on the band. They’re from Detroit, and started as a vehicle for singer-songwriter Matthew Smith. This guy:

As far as I can tell, the band is still together and going strong. Here’s their bio from last.fm:

Named after a brilliant red hair dye, Detroit’s Outrageous Cherry explores the sunnier side of droning, fuzzy indie rock. The band started as a recording project in 1992 but blossomed into a full-fledged group when singer/guitarist/producer Matthew Smith, bassist Chad Gilchrist, guitarist Larry Ray, and drummer Deb Agnolli began performing live in 1993. Outrageous Cherry’s wistful noise-pop debuted with a limited-edition 7” of “Pale, Frail Lovely One” on the local Third Gear label. The song’s deceptively simple, garagey sound formed the template for the group’s style: on albums like 1994’s Outrageous Cherry and 1997’s Nothing’s Gonna Cheer You Up, Smith’s and Ray’s alternately jangly and feedback-laced guitars and Agnolli’s minimalist, floor tom-and-snare drumming combine with sweet vocals for a sound that falls between nostalgic and experimental.

Along with his duties in Outrageous Cherry, Smith also performs in the country-tinged Volebeats and often collaborates with His Name Is Alive’s Warren Defever on producing and recording projects, as does Gilchrist, doubling as Outrageous Cherry and His Name Is Alive’s bassist. In 1999, Aran Ruth replaced Gilchrist on bass, and the group released its first album for Del-Fi’s new music imprint, DF2K, Out There in the Dark. The group also contributed a version of “Keep Everything Under Your Hat” for that year’s Skip Spence tribute, More Oar. The band moved to Alan McGee’s new label, Poptones, for their next album, 2001’s prog- and space rock-influenced The Book of Spectral Projections, which was reissued the following year by Rainbow Quartz.

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to stumble across a promo copy of this album about a month after I discovered the band. Quite timely, considering that the CD was going for a decent amount on Amazon and eBay at the time (it’s since come down, but $5 for a used CD tells you something about the rarity).  If you’re a big fan of 60s music, especially Donovan, the Byrds, or the Velvet Underground or more recently The Shazam, The Coral, Scott Bomar, or Bobby Rush, I think you’d like it.

  • Year: 1999
  • Label: Del-Fi Records
  • Found: Bethesda, MD
  • Notes: Rip of Promotional Copy
Track list:

  1.   Georgie Don’t You Know
  2. Togetherness
  3. Where Do I Go When You Dream?
  4. Corruptable
  5. Eclipsed
  6. Easy Come, Uneasy Glow
  7. Tracy
  8. Only The Easy Way Down
  9. Song For Inoshiro Honda
  10. A Bad Movie
  11. It’s Always Never
  12. Out There In The Dark
  13. There’s No Escape From The Infinite

Part 1 of Out There in the Dark can be found here.

Part 2 is here.

You can also hear that New Pornographers cover of “Georgie Don’t You Know” here.