Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sexy Time Tuesday

Has there ever been a more fucking perfect soundtrack for driving down the 101 Freeway in the dead of night?

The Gun Club - Sex Beat (MP3, 192kbps, 3.9MB)

Inexplicably, I avoided direct contact with Flipper for years. Sure, I knew their name, I could describe the album cover art to you in vague terms, but I had yet to really hear them until last year. They were one of those seemingly-permanently-filed-away bands to check out eventually, but I never seemed to cross paths with them. "Sex Bomb" sounds like James Chance being slowly crushed to death by a drunken steamroller. In an echo chamber. I harbor no bad feelings towards Mr. Chance, none, and I certainly wouldn't want him to be crushed to death by said steamroller, but if it sounded like this, how could I complain? Please, do whatever it requires, but try and listen to this as loudly as possible.

Flipper - Sex Bomb (MP3, 192kps, 10.8MB)

Wichita, Kansas jitterpunks The Embarrassment offered up this, their debut single, upon an unsuspecting public in 1979. All f0ur members of The Embarrassment wore glasses, and I'm generally pretty excited when there's just one dude in a band wearing 'em. "Sex Drive" is a twitchy, wound-up teeth-gnasher of a tune, sounding both cagey and horny at once, and dripping with fantastic teenage snottiness and awesome guitar wrangling. Totally wired, paranoid and just nerdy enough, "Sex Drive" could be the Feelies hopped up on diet pills and black coffee, with a healthy shot of Wire or Mission of Burma tossed in for extra-chewy angularity.

Heyday, a solid double-CD set released by Bar/None a few years back, collects singles, unreleased recordings, two albums and scattered scraps together in one tidy package. This saves countless hours spent trying to track this stuff down, and leaves you just that much more time to plan out the wild party you'll be having to celebrate these three sexy songs I've shared with you today. I'll bring the Lil' Smokies and hot fruit.

The Embarrassment - Sex Drive (MP3, 192kps, 7MB)

Monday, October 02, 2006

I got a pain down inside

I got a new job. It kicks my ass (but I'm enjoying it). I've not felt like writing in my down-time much, and my attempts at finally squeezing out Installment Three of the Thinking Fellers super-deluxe-bonanza have proved frustrating and fruitless. The more I fretted about it, the less I felt like doing it. It'll come eventually, but I think I need to get back into the rhythm of posting things off the cuff, and out of instinct and enthusiasm, rather than tying myself in knots over even doing them at all. If that makes even a scrap of sense, I'll Paypal you a cookie once I figure out how.

When I stumbled upon this YouTube treasure this evening (thanks to Ann Magnuson's blog, Ann, I love you, let's do pancakes sometime, call me), I knew it had to be posted here. Screamin' Jay's grunts and shrieks were just too precious to keep to myself, and the title of the song - "Constipation Blues" - spoke volumes of these past two months of creative cloggage. I don't think Jay's referring to writer's block or exhaustion, but it works for me, nonetheless.

This was an improvisation from a French television program filmed in 1983. I'd love to know how Serge and Screamin' Jay's night out on the town went following the taping....can you imagine?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Too much desire for one mouth to hold

Due to unexpected derailments (i.e.: life/work), our third and final installment of Eat This Grenade's salute to Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 has been delayed. Please stop back by mid-week....until then, just because I want you to be happy, here's one more track from the Fellers' Admonishing The Bishops EP for your enjoyment.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Million Dollars (MP3, 192kbps, 5.9MB)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Sleepwalkers, storm clouds, tail-biters and transformation.

So, I've been sitting here, listening to Mother Of All Saints intently for a while now, staring at the album cover, and wishing that the two lovers caught mid-embrace on it would turn to me and explain what the hell to say about such a weird, murky chunk of 70 minutes and 23 tracks, but as of yet, no luck. It’s such a blurry head-fuck of an album that I’m not even sure those are lovers pictured on the cover…they could be preparing to eat one another’s faces off, I can’t tell for sure.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 didn't sound a like a five-piece band on Mother Of All Saints, they sounded like five different bands. These tunes were loaded up with even more trap-doors and booby-hatches than before, and with each band member (except drummer Jay Paget) contributing lead vocals, you couldn't be quite sure what was around the next bend. The Fellers had always been slippery shape-shifters, prone to sudden mid-song acrobatics and genre-shuffling, but here, it felt like anything could submerge from the swirl at any moment. It was best to just let it wash over you and not ask too many questions.

"He's suspended in dreams tonight," crooned Brian Hageman on the lurching, manic "Catcher", the third track in on Mother, and it's a predicament that could apply to the whole album, rather than just the song's subject. From beginning to end, Mother Of All Saints sounds like a fever-dream, delirious and sweaty and a bit hazy. I don’t know what the band were ingesting during the recording sessions for this beast, but it was certainly potent stuff, if nothing else.

(l-r: Anne Eickelberg, Mark Davies, Jay Paget, Brian Hageman, Hugh Swarts)

The characters in these songs are desperate people, clawing frantically out of the speakers, shaking you soundly, repeatedly. "Speak to me! About your holy! fucking! experience!" shrieks Anne Eickelberg on "Tell Me", as the song self-destructs and collapses around her in a shuddering frenzy. "Hornet's Heart" features a narrator who wishes to buy a spike "for planting hornets in the heart of my wife". He needs this because the wife, well, she's had "conversations with my darker side....and now she's left me with a poison mind". The song twitches and spins in tight, tail-biting circles as we're told, "I let slip I love her so, I'd cook her to keep her warm".

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Hornet's Heart (MP3, 192kbps, 3.7MB)

One of my other favorites from Mother Of All Saints is the surreal sprawl of "Wide Forehead". Everything here just clicks - the band sounds huge, hallucinatory and thunderous, but in a truly skewed way. "Flakes fill the air and the bug-eyed embrace is ours....a 2-D cloud tries to stop your heart."

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Wide Forehead (MP3, 192kbps, 5.8MB)

The band embarked on a U.S. tour with Sun City Girls in '92, and once back home, spent much of the following year keeping a low profile. The Fellers released only a single EP during 1993...but what an set of songs it turned out to be. Despite being just four tracks, Admonishing The Bishops is the Thinking Fellers at the absolute peak of their powers. Featuring a crude cover drawing of what appeared to be levitating skewers speared with marshmallows, the EP found the band sounding entirely transformed, refreshed, renewed and - unexpectedly- achingly beautiful at times.

The lead-off track, "Hurricane", a slow-burning creeper, sounded like nothing the band had ever done before....a dreamy, eerie hypno-lullaby with a storm-cloud of churning noise at its center, the track immediately let the listener know that they were in for a journey over these next four songs. Mark Davies' keening, spooked vocals cut through the drone like a laser beam, and the whole thing slowly untangled itself into near-stillness, a few times...and roared back to life, repeatedly, in a shimmering, warped billow of guitar-spray. Here was a tune to sleepwalk to. The band was in telepathy-mode here - there's such an effortless, weightless feeling to the music, but a tense, ominous undercurrent at the same time. I could be completely biased, sure, as I've been in awe of this song for the past 13 years, but it still gives me the chills when I listen to it, it's so fucking beautiful and cracked and odd. I hope you enjoy it.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Hurricane (MP3, 192kpbs, 8.6MB)

Eat This Grenade! will crawl from the sludge yet again next Monday, August 7th, with the third and final piece of our Fellers retrospective....Until then, be well, keep your ears happy, and get some rest, it's late.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Lay down and drown in this happiness...

I don't know about you, but every few years, I'll stumble across a band that completely turns my tastes and perceptions regarding music upside-down. I've always been fascinated by the flowchart of how one artist will lead you to another, and which sounds, once they've hit your ears, will send you off in unknown, unexpected such band for me, many years ago, were San Francisco's Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Today's installment of ETG! begins a three-part special on the Fellers, as there's just too much to share in a single installment, and I didn't wanna overwhelm you all at once or anything...

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 had a huge impact on me when I first discovered them in the early 90's, as they literally sounded like nothing I'd heard before. Sure, they were a rock band, and had guitars at the core of their sound, but they also took cues from artists like Captain Beefheart and Zappa, being utterly unafraid to twist their songs inside-out, fuck with tempos and time-changes, and throw all sorts of freaky, funny psychosis into the mix.

The first seeds of the Thinking Fellers were planted when Brian Hageman, Mark Davies and Anne Eickelberg moved themselves from Iowa City (where they'd each played with bands such as Pink Gravy and Horny Genius) to San Francisco in 1986. Shoehorned into a one-bedroom apartment in El Cerrito, they began (according to their self-penned bio) consuming generic burgundy and listening to two different big-band radio stations simultaneously. Songs were written, noise was made, and an irate next-door-neighbor eventually forced them out of the garage and into the the Gilman Street Project, where they could make as much racket as they wanted . The trio was soon joined by Hugh Swarts and Paul Bergmann, previous bandmates from various Iowa City groups, and in a hasty scramble to name themselves before their debut show at Gilman, drunkenly pulled the moniker of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 out of their asses. They claimed they'd come up with "something better" for a band name. They never did.

In 1987, the five Fellers moved into a home together near a freeway overpass in Oakland, where they remained for the next three years. They also hooked up with longtime producer Greg Freeman, and put out their first release, a cassette entitled Wormed by Leonard. Their early recordings were chaotic affairs, jagged and unpredictable, with unexpected angles and terrifying moodswings. Ghostly one minute and feral the next, their songs were loaded up with fuzzed-out banjos, blasts of organ and chewy wads of distortion. The first thing I often think of when I hear the Fellers is disease, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. They simply sound infected. If a song could foam at the mouth and roll its eyeballs back in its head, then these early tunes were likely candidates for rabies shots.

The band released its debut album Tangle on their own label, Thwart Productions, in 1989, and were joined by drummer Jay Paget in 1990 after Bergmann departed due to family commitments. Another dense, weird batch of hallucinatory freak-outs, Tangle's standout was undoubtedly the white-knuckled dementia of "Sports Car", 5:18 of spittle-flecked, teeth-gnashing mania. Oh, and it's catchy as hell, too.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Sports Car (MP3, 196kbps (VBR), 7.5MB)

In 1990, the band signed to the then-fledgling Matador Records, and unleashed the cracked brilliance of Lovelyville upon their listening audience the following year. Here were fifteen chunks of sprawling, shuddering invention, and you even got a truly creepy cover version of Sugarloaf's "Green Eyed Lady" for the price of admission, too. Tacked onto the CD release was the 7-track EP, "The Crowded Diaper", featuring what some fans like to refer to as "Feller-filler": snippets of studio randomness, disconnected ramblings and atmospheric noodlings. Your appreciation of these kinds of scraps is probably pretty closely related to how funny you find either the sound of oboes/flatulence or titles like "The Wonderbread Display".

Here's a track from Lovelyville that shows off the Fellers doing what they do best, I'd say...sounding both fucking out-of-their-minds as well as surprisingly, unexpectedly beautiful. I don't even want to ruin the fun by heaping a bunch of wanky verbiage on top of it before it hits your ears, so I'm just gonna post the damn song and let you sort it all out yourself. Please listen carefully for the squawking seal barking before the song careens into its majestic slo-mo crescendo and lovely coda. It makes me laugh every time I hear it, even after all these years.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - More Glee (MP3, 192kbps, 8.7MB)

We'll return on Tuesday, August 1st with another couple offerings from the Fellers, centering around their 1992-94 period, and featuring selections from the Mother Of All Saints double-LP, as well as the Admonishing The Bishops EP, which contains, in fact, my favorite song of all time.

See you then...!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Heartbeat, increasing heartbeat

Who else but Russell Mael could work a sweater, scarf and gloves on a German television rock program so effectively? Appearing on "Music Laden" in 1974, Sparks were Americans (from Los Angeles, California, specifically), who, like Scott Walker, and so many before and since, found success in Europe, while Stateside attention eluded them. Sparks were completely punk rock, before the fact, but without being "punk rock" at all, really. They genuinely seemed to be off in a weird, inspired orbit of their own, making them only that much more alluring and endearing.

Sparks were a teenage favorite of mine, and despite being introduced to them in the early 80's, I quickly forraged backwards and discovered their early-to-mid 70's sounded like nothing I'd heard before. Weird, hyperactive glammy stompers careened into frenziedly-operatic triple-genre-pileups, and all the while, Russell's spectacular, elastic falsetto soared majestically over the proceedings beneath. I still have a soft spot for the best of their 80's output (namely, Angst In My Pants, and especially Whomp That Sucker), but to me, their finest moment is undoubtedly 1974's Kimono My House.

Hidden away on the flipside of the first single from Kimono ("This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us") was the sparkling "Barbecutie", one of my favorite Sparks songs, and an often-overlooked classic in their catalogue. Starting with a churning bassline, and crashing into a great swirl of organ lashes and plinky-piano loop-de-loops, "Barbecutie" surges along deliriously, and features yet another acrobatic vocal performance from Russell. Pop doesn't get much more perfect than this for me...

Sparks - Barbecutie (MP3, 192kbps, 4.4MB)

For further investigation, I'd point you in the direction of Rhino's 1991 double-disc anthology Profile: The Ultimate Sparks Collection. Collecting 17 years of the Mael brothers' demented genius, from 1971's "Wonder Girl" to 1998's "So Important", there's something for everyone here...yet, inexplicably, it's currently out of print. As Ron and Russell are still cranking out the albums, touring, and finding themselves new generations of fans, even now, perhaps a much-needed reissue could be in order.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

He's riding through your town with his head on fire

Soft Cell and Jim Foetus (aka Jim/J.G. Thirlwell, aka Clint Ruin, as he's referred to here) performing Suicide's "Ghost Rider" on BBC television in 1983. That's all I need to say, really, other than: enjoy.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I can't stand the sound of the Velvet Underground

Chances are, by now, you've heard Art Brut and their particular brand of scrappy, tongue-thru-cheek R'n'R, but today, I bring you a crackin' live rendition of the title track from their debut album, Bang Bang Rock & Roll. This particular recording is especially notable for a couple of reasons.

One, it's from Schuba's Tavern, located in Chicago, which is where I had a tremendously good cheeseburger at some point in 2004. I still think about that cheeseburger from time to time, it was that good. It also contains the unexpected drop-in of a lyric from "Department" by the Yummy Fur, a track featured on this very blog just a few months back. Listen up at the 1:47 mark....the moment I caught it, I couldn't wait to tell you about it.

Art Brut - "Bang Bang Rock & Roll" (Live at Schuba's Tavern, Chicago, 2005) (MP3, 193kpbs (VBR), 3.3MB)

Bang Bang Rock & Roll
has finally seen an American release (after almost a year's delay on from the original UK release), why not pick it up here? If you're a fan of fun, smart-arsed rock tunes with clever, ridiculous lyrics and great guitars, you might want to make a space upon your CD shelf for it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Strange Scraps and Sudden Sambas

We're back for today's installment of Eat This Grenade! with two great tracks from the consistently-bewitching brain of Mr. Howe Gelb, both in bite-size solo form, and with his band, Giant Sand.

Since releasing their first album in 1985, much has been made and mentioned of Giant Sand's Tuscon roots, and while describing their sound as "dusty", "cracked" or "desolate" is all too easy, it's really pretty apt. Their songs have a strange, lilting power to them, and a sound that could have only sprung from a sprawling, wide-open space like the Arizona desert.

"Satellite", from Giant Sand's 2000 Thrill Jockey release, Chore Of Enchantment, is up first. I think what I've always loved best about this cut is the sheer, lurching meatiness of it; layers of groaning, grinding slo-mo guitars battle it out with backwards tapeloop splatters, Gelb's croaky, stream-of-consciousness vocals and a surprisingly sweet melody to bring you six minutes and forty-eight seconds of gorgeous, hazy drone. It even stumbles into a weird, hesitant little sudden-samba for its final few seconds.

Giant Sand - "Satellite"
(MP3, 195kbps (VBR), 9.6MG)

A couple of years prior to Chore Of Enchantment, Gelb released his second solo outing, Hisser (V2 Records, 1998). Gelb assembled, performed and recorded practically the entire 19-track album on his own, apart from a few guest appearances. Standout track, "This Purple Child" (featuring Grandaddy, who, rumor has it, kickstarted their signing to V2 by slipping a demo tape to Gelb) really digs itself into your head after a few spins. Feeling almost like a more-subdued precursor to the fuzzy trippiness of "Satellite", the track floats along with a wobbly, creepy beauty all its own, and even with repeated listens, I can still hear strange, new scraps of sound buried in the mix.

Howe Gelb - "This Purple Child"
(MP3, 192kbps, 7.9MB)

You'll want to bring these along in the car on that next lonely, late-night highway drive, trust me.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Too many teardrops

Combining my deep and all-consuming love for both Talking Heads and cover renditions of "96 Tears", here's a clip of the whippersnappers at CBGB's in 1975 (sans Jerry Harrison, who'd not joined the band quite yet) performing the ? and the Mysterians classic:

Byrne's vox are surprisingly suited for this song, striking a perfect balance between the tense malice of the original and his unmistakable art-student-in-the-headlights wail. It's too bad they never officially committed a version of this to tape, but via the (seemingly never-ending) magic of YouTube, it's ours to behold for now, at least.

Thanks to both Nudnick of YouTube (for the upload) and Shizaam from Hipinion (for the tip-off).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Being Sucked In Again: A Desperate, Ongoing Love Affair With A British Music Monthly

Ask any music nerd in your life. Once a month, the newsstand unpacks the shipment and places the bible out on the rack. It's usually just about a hundred-and-a-half pages, spined quite sturdily, and oftentimes with a free CD affixed to the cover with some sort of horrific, gluey, snot-esque substance that's embarrassingly fun to play with once plucked off.

Your new issue of MOJO Magazine is here and you will lock yourself in the apartment for hours, draw close the entertainment beverage/substance of choice, put something snappy on the hi-fi and curl up with the finest music magazine in existence today. Phones will not be answered, e-mails unreturned. It will take days to consume fully. The articles are meticulously meaty, serving up satisfyingly in-depth histories and overviews of fantastic music groups and solo artists, and the photography throughout is always top-notch.

For years now, I've been avidly gobbling up MOJO, saving them lovingly in those deeply nerdy magazine collector scum cardboard boxes, and - most amazingly - sifting back through prior issues years later and discovering all sorts of things I'd not noticed my first few leafings-thru. That's the wonderful thing about MOJO, and especially about keeping it always come back to it. You'll be browsing through a copy you hadn't looked at in ages, and you'll stumble upon some huge article on _________ (fill in name of great classic cult band you somehow hadn't been introduced to until fairly recently, any number of them will do) and suddenly, you're sucked in again. Holy shit, how did I miss this the first time? Honestly, how many magazines have much solid repeat reading value whatsoever? I mean, apart from Cat Fancy and Soldier of Fortune?

I'm not gunning for a job offer here, honest, I'm not. I just love me some MOJO, that's all.

This month's issue (April 2006) is something of a mind-blower. We get a five-page retrospective/examination of Wire (finally!), a lovely visit with Morrissey in Rome, a really adorable illustration of the Flaming Lips on page 87 by Steve Klamm (shame about the wretched new album, though, but that's another subject entirely), a engrossing-looking whopper of a piece on one of my absolute teenage heroes, Billy Bragg, and finally, a 15-track CD of British psych nuggets!!

This is a lot of deep awesomeness for a mere $8.99 USD, really.

After even all that excitement, I also found this craziness in the always informative What Goes On! section, and I couldn't wait to share it with you:

Blondie Shoes

"A collaboration between Terry de Havilland and Mosley meets Wilcox using the photography of Mick Rock. Shoes and boots with a sole that prints an image as you walk."

Fucking incredible.

My question is: do these come in a Men's size 13? Please? I'm not really a tranny, nor do I deal with stack heels or strappy crap encircling my ankles all that well, but the thought of leaving a trail of Debbie Harrys behind me is a pretty enticing one.

Mosley meets Wilcox have also collaborated with Mick Rock on the production of this completely insane upholstered Blondie Bench.

"Upholstered bench in a shape taken from a Mick Rock photograph of Blondie."

More information on the Mosley Meets Wilcox / Mick Rock collection (including coffee tables, dishware, and a hanging lamp made of over 2000 translucent guitar picks) can be found here.

And no, despite this unexpected excursion today into grotesque consumerist merch-shilling on my behalf, I haven't forgotten about the MP3, honestly, I haven't. It's just down below, you'll see.

Today's tune is from the aforementioned MOJO Presents...Psych Out! ("15 Nuggets from the scene that inspired Pink Floyd! Starring Donovan, Small Faces, The Move, The Troggs, Kaleidoscope, The Zombies, Procol Harum and more."), April 2006 edition. This track features Brit psych cult hero Keith West, and was originally recorded for the soundtrack of Antonioni's 1996 paranoid pop-art fabulathon "Blow Up".

The In Crowd - Blow Up (MP3, 193kbps (VBR), 2.6MG)

That's just about it for this edition of ETG!...keep it loud and we'll see you again soon...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Do you believe in art?

Sad news last evening, as I learned via messageboard that Nikki Sudden (born Adrian Nicholas Godfrey), of the blindingly-fantastic late 70's proto-post-punk band Swell Maps (and later the Jacobites and a solo career) had died in New York City in the early hours of Sunday morning. As of yet, causes are unknown. Sudden was 49.

Instantly, I heard the sputtering first notes of Swell Maps' "Let's Build a Car" grind into life deep in my brain. Nikki might be gone, but those notes, all of those notes, every single ramshackle Maps tune that sounded like it was gonna just fall apart at any moment, even as it soared into the heavens on a thrilling wave of sweet noise and clatter and drone and fuzz, that stuff's gonna live forever. "Border Country" (my other favorite Maps moment, apart from "Let's Build a Car", easily), "Midget Submarines", "H.S. Art", "Read About Seymour", "Full Moon"...the list of brilliant Swell Maps songs stretches on and on, despite having released a grand total of only four singles and two albums in their career.

I like to imagine that Nikki and his bandmate/brother Epic Soundtracks, who died of unknown causes in 1997, are somewhere fluffier and cloudier than this place, and they're making the most glorious racket possible with their completely kick-ass new band.

Courtesy of the constantly-amazing YouTube, here's a video for Swell Maps' "Let's Build a Car".

Raise a drink to Nikki tonight....

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"I don't know if he's killing them or what."

It's no secret. Mark E. Smith is the most difficult boss in the world. The sheer scope of personnel-changes within The Fall is staggering, but luckily, we've been blessed with a few excellent post-Smith creations from survivors over the years, namely the Blue Orchids (formed by ex-Fall members Martin Bramah and Una Baines in 1979) and the Creepers (Marc Riley's band, founded in 1983 after his much-mythologized 1982 exit from The Fall).

The fate of ex-Fall members, many of which seem to have completely vanished from sight after their time in the band, is often speculated upon, with a quote about Mark E. Smith's possible employment-termination technique from the late John Peel being particularly amusing: "I don't know if he's killing them or what.". Amazingly, Dave Simpson tracked down over 40 ex-members for an excellent recent article in the Guardian entitled "Excuse me, weren't you in The Fall?".

(The Creepers, l-r: Pete Keogh, Marc Riley, Paul Fletcher, Eddie Fenn)

The Creepers were, for the most part, a much rowdier proposition than Riley's previous band. There's something lovably ramshackle about them, a big puppy dog clumsiness that's hard to resist over the course of their six albums. They sound like the kind of guys you'd wanna have a few pints with. Our featured cut from the Creepers today is from their final studio album, 1987's Rock & Roll Liquorice Flavour.

Liquorice Flavour - The Creepers (MP3, 192kpbs/3.9MB)

(Blue Orchids)

Bursting out of the gates with a sweaty zig-zag riff and haunted house organ, "The House That Faded Out" by the Blue Orchids is a paranoid pop party hit that time forgot, something you can blast on the hi-fi while the kids light the couch ablaze and jump on the coffee table. This track originally appeared as the b-side of 1981's "Work" single, but the version featured here today is a 1980 Peel Session track. The Orchids went on to release a clutch of fine singles and albums, eventually hooking up with Nico, serving as her backing band for a 1982 tour of Holland. LTM's wonderful anthology (featuring Peel Sessions, live tracks and a few rarities) From Severe To Serene is a fine place to start.

The House That Faded Out (1980 Peel Session) - Blue Orchids (MP3, 192kpbs, 4.8MB)

Remarkably, the Blue Orchids have recently rebanded, and have a new mini-album, Slum Cavern Jest out now. There's all the info you need right here, at the band's official site.

While both of these groups found their own sound away from Smith's prior influence, they both sort of carried on the grand tradition of spooky Fall classics like "A Figure Walks" or "Spectre vs. Rector" from time to time. There's been a long-running undercurrent of ghost stories and supernatural weirdness to Smith's lyrics, but it's always been tempered with enough smarts and wit to be genuinely entertaining and non-schlocky. It comes across in the Fall's 80's sound, as well, with the foggy murk of 1983's Perverted By Language being perhaps my favorite example of the band at their atmospheric, grotty best.

Back in a few days with a Scottish 80's jangle-pop obscuro treat. See you then...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Just the thought fills my heart with pink frost

The Summer of 1987 was a bleak time for fans of English guitar pop.

The Smiths were suddenly no more, and a nation of bedroom-bound miserables found themselves without a very favorite band. One of the first glittering hopes that arrived in the aftermath were The House of Love. The band formed in Islington in 1986, and released a series of fantastic singles, with their self-titled debut LP finally appearing in 1988 on Creation Records. Their sound was stately, shimmering and sweeping, perhaps most perfectly put on their 1988 single, "Christine". Guy Chadwick's sinister purr was backed up by Terry Bickers' wall of air-raid-siren guitar, and the song, once heard, had a knack of hanging around your brain for months afterwards. Even now, almost 18 years on, it's still a true classic of a tune, and one of the finest UK indie singles of the 80's.

The story that followed was a somewhat familiar one; band gets heaped with praise and accolades by the UK press, chart success follows, singles and albums released post-debut fail to pull off the same trick the second time around, drugs and ego and "artistic differences" take their know the drill by now. Bickers left the band a mere year after the release of their debut album, but The House of Love continued on for three more years. Despite the shadow of the debut looming large over the rest of the band's catalogue, there were some truly fantastic gems nestled in what followed, and today's selections showcase three particularly excellent rarities from The House of Love's 1990-1991 period.

( l-r: Chris Groothuizen, Guy Chadwick, Pete Evans, Terry Bickers)

First up, we've got a crackin' rocker called "Ray". Here's what Dave Roberts and Dag Nyholm's fine fansite has to say about it:

"During June and July 1989 the band entered Abbey Road studios to record their second album with Paul O'Duffy. Ten tracks were recorded including "Ray". The band and their label weren't happy with the recorded tracks and many were shelved. "Ray" was revived for the "Spy In The House Of Love" compilation in 1990 having had some of the vocals re-recorded."

The House of Love - "Ray" (MP3, 202kbps (VBR), 5.3MB)

Over the course of their career, The House of Love did a number of pretty inspired cover versions; I'd not heard their take on The Chills' "Pink Frost" until recently, and I was blown away by how well they pulled their own version off...such a beautiful song. This (as well as the next track featured) appeared on 1991's The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes EP.

The House of Love - "Pink Frost" (MP3, 199kbps (VBR), 4.9MB)

Finally, we've saved the best for last. "Purple Killer Rose" is a simmering slow-burn, with both Chadwick's vocals and Bickers' guitar work in pure slash-and-burn mode. This one truly ranks up there with "Christine", "Destroy The Heart" and a few more as one of The House of Love's mightiest moments. It's a shame that Six By Seven couldn't have tackled a cover of it before their unfortunate breakup last year, as they're one of the few bands I could imagine really nailing this one. Here's four minutes and nineteen seconds of majestic malevolence, enjoy it....

The House of Love - "Purple Killer Rose" (MP3, 197kbps, 6.2MB)

Amazingly, Chadwick and Bickers reunited for a new 2005 studio album, Days Run Away, their first together again as The House of Love, after over 15 years apart. You can find out more information about their reformation here.

That's just about it for this installment of Eat This Grenade!; we'll be back in a few days with some more noise....see you then.