Browsing Category Reissues

Razorcuts – Storyteller (Deluxe)

It was a hectic summer and I hope you’ll forgive this one slipping beneath the waves for a bit, especially since there wasn’t a lot of dust kicked up about it Stateside. Optic Nerve has done the world a huge favor in reissuing both of Razorcuts essential LPs along with extended bonus discs that cull some key singles into the mix. The band, fronted by Gregory Webster and Tim Vass alongside a rotating cast of contemporaries, exemplified the C86 jangle-pop sound that has smitten so many, yet they’re often left shy of fame in hindsight. The band issued singles on Subway Orginization, Flying Nun UK, Sha La La, Caff Corporation, and Lamia and quite a few of these bits make it onto the second LP on offer here, making this a bit of an indispensable look at the band. Included are the band’s key singles “Sorry To Embarrass You” and “Big Pink Cake” along with harder to dig up splits with The Wolfhounds and covers of The Band.

As for Storyteller itself, the album finds the band in thrall with their own sound — wistful, tender, breezy – a bit of a beacon of light in 1988. The band had worked out their kinks by this point and, while the early singles have an immediacy on display, the lineup for Storyteller finds a thread through Webster and Vass’ influences, tying up sunshine pop, ‘60s jangle from The Byrds to the Beau Brummels, and a big indie heart that places them easily in the Creation roster while never skewing twee. I’ve always been a fan of the band’s follow-up, which acted as my entry point to Razorcuts and the label has also issued this along with a second disc that scoops up the rest of the EP tracks and compilation bits that don’t make it onto the early extras here. I’d recommend them as a pair, even for the casually curious jangle-pop fan. Both records are an absolute delight and the expansion packs here make put a wealth of previously harder to nab material back on vinyl all in one place. Sadly after Mile High Towers the band would crumble and crack. Vass would go on to play with Red Chair Fadeaway, and Webster would start up The Carousel and Saturn V. Notably, though they reunited under the name Forever People in 1992 for a one-off single on Sarah Records, making their indie-pop label trip complete.



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Circulatory System – S/T

Among the crown jewels of the Elephant 6 universe (of which there are quite a few), The Circulatory System’s eponymous debut is one of the most intriguing, and with this reissue it also proves well worth re-exploring. Along Olivia Tremor Control’s Dusk At Cubist Castle and Black Foliage, this LP completes a trifecta of layered, hallucinatory, free-associative psych-pop by Will Cullen Hart that captures precisely what’s so fascinating about the label and its orbiters in the first place. While ‘60s jangles have also been a hallmark of the label, its often the bands that seek to create large scale collage-pop curios that capture the imagination best. The album dovetails off of Black Foliage’s fascination with dreams, creating a disorienting world that shifts beneath the listener’s feet without warning, but never ceases to delight with its haunted music box house of mirrors approach. Meanwhile, the album acts as a landing pad for the entire Elephant 6 stable, containing performances by just about every member of the collective save for Bill Doss, with 21 contributors making their way onto the rolls.

One of the true tragedies of the album, though, was that its release in 2001 caught a moment in time that saw vinyl hit a valley and the album was issued only on CD, followed later by digital release. To remedy this, the band launched a Kickstarter last year and raised the means to finally get this gem onto double LP and we’re all luckier for that. It’s an album I’ve revisited from time to time, but it’s been a few years and sitting down again, it bears few scars of the time in which it was created — feeling forever like a dreamscape deluge of pop pinwheels and dark, forbidden corners of the mind suspended aloft from the hallmarks aughts pop. The album isn’t one that can be broken out into piecemeal parcels for casual digestion. It is, for all intents, the album format made manifest, and once the needle hits that first groove it’s almost impossible to escape from four sides of interlaced intrigue. It occurs to me that we may be in a period when the Elephant 6 has escaped a generation of listeners, so this release could well act as an inviting entry to a world built as dense as any fantastical realm newcomers may have encountered in pop culture. The record remains a fascinating piece to pick apart, wander around, and built imaginary maps within its walls. This year bears the fruit of that Kickstater campaign so I’d recommend nabbing one while they exist, who knows if it will slip away from grasp again.




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TV Eye – The Lost Studio Recordings 1977-1978

Like many, I’m sure, the death of Dave Kusworth has sent me spiraling through Jacobites’ back catalog and some solo Kusworth LPs, all wonderful examples of his idiosyncratic songwriting over the years, but the dive pulled up one I wasn’t familiar with. Dave’s first band TV Eye, which bears some deal of influence from the band that penned its namesake, has found its recorded output reissued in the last couple of years and its worth a rifle through the tracks in its own right. Kusworth and his cohorts were all still in high school when these tracks were recorded, all between 17 and 18 and while its definitely a bit rough, the band channels the snottiness of garage and the raw edge of porto-punk that came before it into something that radiates its own kind of glorious damage. The record pulls in some of that Stooges mania, but they never get that raw (who could) and more often they storm through some Voidoids/Heartbreakers territory that’s equally fun.

The comp contains five studio cuts and the rest are culled from some rehearsal sessions, which give a working mindset to their songs and inject a bit of raw edge to the collection. Its certainly not the sound that Kusworth has been associated with for the majority of his career, but along with The Hawks and Rag Doll, it make up a good trifecta of his formative years. The collection is put together well and 40 years on, these sound as sharp as they ever did. This one has appeal to the Kusworth completists, but hey for the roots of punk crowd, there’s plenty to hang onto here as well.




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14th Wish – I Gotta Get Rid of You

HoZac has remained one of the most consistent houses unearthing vital punk treasures these days and its in no small part due to their mining of the 1980’s catalog of David Peel’s Orange Records. Peel’s stable included some notable nuggets in among the crust, including early GG Allin, Eddie Criss with Wayne Kramer laying down guitar, and David’s own ramshackle records. This pretty much unknown single by 14th Wish. The band has pretty much zero presence in the punk history books, but this two-sider captured by Peel is a nice slice of chugging punk that’s got a bit of NYC sneer and a good hangover of Modern Lovers running through its hair of the dog delivery.

The A-side’s got a bit more grit in its gut with a fuzztone that’s practically vomiting fuzz but its tempered by not giving into the frantic tempos of the time and that sauntering bass. The vocals by Halo Peace are appropriately nihilistic/caustic and the guitar jags at the end are worth the wait. The label’s pulling some Tapeworm comparisons (I can hear that) but the cut kinda reminds me of the Twinkeyz b-side “Little Joey” with its mid-tempo stomp and finger-in-the-socket guitar shanks. The flip is a bit more staid than this one, but still a lot of fun. Haven’t seen this one knocking down any doors in 2020, but its a good piece of the puzzle in the NYC punk swarm that barreled out of control around the time.




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The Cigarettes – “The Sky’s Not Blue It’s Happy”

There’s no shortage of reissues houses that will dig into their designated corners of the forgotten landscape, but I’ve always admired Anthology for going deep in many directions at once. From surf soundtracks to soft-psych and Swedish legends, the label might not be as cohesive on the surface as others, but their dedication to quality remains a hallmark. This latest is seemingly the beginning of some digital only releases, and its marked as one of the only ones that doesn’t net a lavish physical package, though that shouldn’t reflect on the music itself. The name The Cigarettes was used before (UK punks reissued through Optic Nerve) and surely after this iteration, but this crew from Geelong is worthy of the moniker. The band had another life following the punk and post-punk trail from New York, but they split for the tail end of the ‘70s and wouldn’t reform until the ‘80s.

With few expectations heaped upon their return, the band’s Alan Wright and Mark Gove lead the charge on these recordings and its swerves away from the punk doldrums that might have clogged up their works had they stuck the path without a break. The album works an instrumental approach, slinking through a dirty neon pulse of ‘80s funk and smooth groove. There’s a plastic veneer over their playing that both dates this album instantly and yet also puts it into an odd spectrum of influence that feels reminiscent of recent bands looking to flirt with the past in unexpected ways. That ‘80s heat is all over it, but its not the FM band that we’re talking here. Think late night television, b-movie scores, and wood-paneled clubs with dismal cover charges. This is a nice retrospective from Anthology that speaks to their ability to dig up some of the best of the binned visions of the past.




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Musica Transonic – S/T

If you’re not paying attention to the output of Black Editions by now, then there’s no saving you. Getting the P.S.F. catalog back on the racks and doing so with a keen eye to detail might be the closest thing to doing divine work in the godforsaken clutches of 2020. The label has a few on the slate this summer, but for now I’m giving the necessary nod to Musica Transonic and its ineffable impact. The record brings together an unshakable trio of Japanese talent that included Nanjo Asahito (High Rise), Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple) and Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins). I remember grabbing a CD of this quite a few years ago and the record hits like an overload to the senses, pulsing with riffs that are burnt to the very core, and a constant barrage of rhythm that shakes the very marrow from the bones. At proper volume this one should finally liquify the last of those brains that Marty McFly hollowly threatened melt so long ago. If this was in the walkman there’d have been no walking away and no going back.

While structure and riff isn’t quite what the record is about, it makes up in pure sonic assault what it lacks in memorable, head nodding fodder. Like free jazz lit on fire and shot through the atomic combine, this record is meant to be felt physically and with the reissue Black Editons have unearthed an extra dose of bonus material to fry your insides as well. The record was the next evolution after Nanjo burnt a hole in the underground consciousness with High Rise, pushing the listener to the limits and feeling like there’s more going on here than one can possibly focus on. It boasts a pre-AMT Makoto Kawabata stepping up to shred the soul with Yoshida bashing out a beat that’s more involuntary bodily harm than groove. This is peak P.S.F. and it’s packaged up all nice with some foil embossing brining the dazzling colors of the cover to life. Don’t warn your neighbors, just let Musica Transonic introduce you to them when you get it in the mail.




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The Red Lights – S/T

It’s always nice to get a little more context on rock’s mythical figures. For some, The Gun Club looms large as a totem of punk that refused to fit the format and hew towards any set of agreed upon standards. Their 1980 debut is often seen as the match strike for Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s career, but the unearthing of these demos from The Red Lights give just a touch of context and background to his songwriting. Pierce was West Coast based at the time and writing for Slash Magazine — enamored with reggae and helming a Blondie fan club. With reggae’s looseness and power pop’s pulse he began writing songs and opening some gigs at The Whisky. The Arena, and The Rock Corporation. The five songs here are a far cry from the sweaty, possessed visions of The Gun Club, but Pierce’s persona still comes rippling through.

With an earnest approach that lets all the light of power pop into the picture and occasionally at white reggae bounce that would make even The Police blush, he sketches out the start of a career that would get much deeper and darker quite soon. The voice is undoubtedly the focus. It’s raw, but its Pierce finding his bearings and getting ready to rip a punk hole into blues for us all to enjoy. Lovely to have this archival EP out into the world. Probably one for the collector’s but any punk upstart would do well to see how a career gets going. Split pressing here between In The Red and Spacecase.



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Randy Holden – Population II

Riding Easy went all in on the reissue of this solo LP from Randy Holden — a heavy hitter to be sure, though more beholden to the riff than the hook. With no less than five versions of the LP, they seek to assert its classic status. In this light, Holden is held up as being from Blue Cheer, and to be sure he was in Blue Cheer for about an album, playing on their ’69 LP New! Improved! Blue Cheer, in the expanded lineup that attempted to improve upon the perfection of the band’s Vincebus Eruptum from the previous year. While this BC album is well produced, it fails to capitalize on the lighting strike that tore through VE, melding garage to a sludge that would become metal in years to come. Though I might more accurately give Holden the edge for helming guitar duties in The Other Half rather than Blue Cheer, if pressed on his legacy. In that outfit he cut blues with a rusty hacksaw, aiming for psychedelia, but coming up just short of a full trip. Population II splits the difference between his previous endeavors, thickening the stew with the classic sludge of Blue Cheer, but adding in a good dose of the ragged soul of The Other Half.

What’s been said here is that Holden hit on Doom before Doom existed, and sure there’s a certain sense of foreboding dread in some of the passages here, but in the same year Sabbath would scare the shit out of anyone holding this up as Doom’s genesis. That’s not to say that Population II doesn’t have a heavy whollop… it does. Holden claims this was never officially released, but Hobbit, who also released Saphire Thinkers alongside a few other collector’s fodder like Rockin’ Foo and Plain Jane around the same two year span seems to have obtained a tape to press. The label reeks of tax shelter ethics, so its certainly possible that they scooped this one up without too much official insight. The record’s been bootlegged endlessly in the interim but Riding Easy give it the royal treatment, returning Holden’s debut to a platform that might warrant his live legacy. The metal merchants and the sludge huffers gonna love this if they don’t already have it, so dig in.




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Hypnolovewheel – “Parallel Universe”

Growing up through the ‘90s it seemed that those of us in more remote areas had to scrap a bit harder to find music outside of limited shelf space in the few stores that existed in the area and the FM dial. I’m still coming upon pockets of bands that seem like they should have had prominence that were just completely lost on the wider net of listeners. Long Island band Hypnolovewheel definitely falls in this category. The band suffers from the ‘90s phenomenon of “horrible cover art overshadows the music inside.”. There was plenty of this trend at the time, but maybe see their collection of covers for yourself. It’s too bad, though, because the band embraced a wide swath of sounds prevalent at the time and made them all work.

From their alt-jangled beginnings on Turn! Turn! Burn! that recall The Embarrassment, to the smudged shoegaze blare of Angel Food and their final stop at power pop swagger on Altered States, the band had an enviable aural trajectory but never seemed to grip too long. Even with a bit of push through ‘90s Marvel (Hypnolovewheel would feature in at least one Spiderman comic at the time) and with opening slots for plenty of large-scale NY headliners, they seemed pretty contained to the East Coast. There wasn’t a huge push behind them. Their first two albums appeared on Fabian Aural Products and they moved to Alias for the rest of their output, but would dissolve after Altered States in ’93. The band’s Dave Ramirez would play with King Missle for a bit while they were still active and following their demise he’d work with James McNew in Dump.

Aptly this collection from Cara Records really ties together their catalog, with selections across their spectrum of sound plus some exclusive demo cuts that haven’t appeared elsewhere. Its a good primer and tends to wrap up some of the band’s most interesting singles and cuts, but their whole catalog is worth perusing at length as they do have plenty of deep cuts that don’t appear here. This is a nice spotlight on a band that seemed to get lost in the cracks like so many swallowed by the ‘90s.



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Jan Dukes de Grey – Sorcerers

Often overshadowed by its follow-up Mice and Rats in the Loft, which would see Derek Noy expand his compositions into long, winding epics that pushed the norm at the time, there’s plenty to love in hindsight about Jan Dukes de Grey’s debut. The group was formed as an offshoot of Buster Summers Express, which Noy had been a member of before he began working on his own compositions, splitting to work on his own band in 1968. When approached by guitarist/flautist Michael Bairstow about joining the Express, Noy instead convinced him to form the new outfit with him and the group began crafting Noy’s expansive library of songs into an album, eventually signing with Decca.

Cue the usual tales of underperforming sales and poor distribution. While the band did well on the road, opening for Pink Floyd and The Who, the record was met with tepid reactions, which isn’t entirely fair. While its pretty standard hippie folk for the time, there are some notable inclusions that push them, if not to the top of the pile, past quite a few of the more revered stragglers. There’s a bit of an early Tyrannosaurus Rex warble in these tracks (apparent in the title track for sure) and Biarstow’s flute adds some lightness to the record. They’d change labels following the release of Sorcerers, putting out their seminal Mice and Rats in the Loft on Transatlatntic in 1971. The band then shifted lineups until the name wore away, replaced by the simple Noy’s Band.

Noy’s Band wouldn’t find much footing and eventually that too was disbanded. Not would go on to play in a proto-punk outfit, Rip Snorter before trying once again with Jan Dukes de Grey in 1975 with his wife, Fiona Deller and a rotating cast of mucians. Through connections with Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, the band obtained a production deal with Britania Row studios and put together their third and final album, Strange Terrain, which, through costing a small fortune to record was never released at the time. It was finally issued by Cherrytree in 2010, which brought a bit more light to the band among folk-heads at the time. Good to see the band’s early works getting the reissue treatment, though.




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