Posts Tagged ‘Velvet Crush’

The Springfields – Singles 1986-1991

Its absolutely fitting that The Springfields compilation should come out on Slumberland. The label had long attempted to release a single from the band, but their tenure ended before the connection could ever come to fruition. With Slumberland as the epicenter of a sound that long looked to the indiepop wave across the sea, The Springfields would have proven their quintessential band. They were American indiepop rooted deep in English sounds — not a common commodity in the timeframe of 1987-1991 as documented here. he Springfields were the first U.S. act to snag a single on that hub of UK pop activity, Sarah Records, with 1988’s “Sunflower.” They’d follow it up with releases on short-lived US levels Picture Book and Seminal Twang, but despite reaching out to UK fans and even Australia with a Sumershine release, they didn’t become part of the Slumberland family until now. Essentially, its just nice to see two American conduits of jangled joy coming together after all these years.

To some the band is also the polar half of Choo Choo Train, which served as the training grounds for much of Matthew Sweet’s circle of collaborators. Choo Choo Train was home to songwriters Paul Chastain and Rick Menck, but most of the same band members in CCT would come to release music withThe Springfields. The idea was that in Choo Choo Train the songwriting fall mostly to Chastain (and occasionally Sweet) and the The Springfields would become Menck’s banner, chasing the same influences that drove his favorite UK pop bands. Sweet rears his head again in The Springfields, documented here on the b-side “Are We Gonna Be Alright?” Mostly, though, this is a celebration of Menck’s output before the core would crumble and he’d go on to work under Sweet and Chastain would form Velvet Crush. In that regard, this is the flashpoint for so many power pop and indie pop points of origin. That alone makes it absolutely amazing to have these singles back in print and collected for the masses that haven’t heard them (of which, there are undoubtedly many).

The collection also winds up as a bit of a love letter to quite a few other bands that didn’t get their due on the first pass in The States, with quite a few of the b-sides winding up covers of bands that Menck enjoyed. The collection here contains covers of an unreleased Primal Scream track, (“Tomorrow Ends Today”), The Clouds (“Tranquil”), and The Pastels (“Million Tears”). Menck does each one justice and hopefully send listeners scrambling into the arms of those bands as well. There’s a Hollies cover thrown in as well, but they didn’t necessarily need the push the others did. There are hundreds of reissues sliding down the belts these days, but this one’s ranking pretty high on the necessary scale. Any jangle pop fan should have pushed ‘purchase’ around that first paragraph.



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Slumberland To Release The Springfields Singles Compilation

If you were an American indie pop fan in 1988, chances are you may have felt a little alone. While the C86 movement and sound took hold in the UK, here the prescription was likely grunge and lots of it, with the more aloof arms of College Rock and general “Alternative” not quite swooning at the idea of ’60 indebted sounds. Out west The Paisley Undergound had given way to some purchase for the same sounds, but even among those ranks the twee sounds of Sarah, Sha La La, Postcard, and Creation weren’t making the same impact here as at home. Thankfully there were a few homegrown outposts like Bus Stop and Picturebook that were giving the twee hearts of US bands a place to hang and, of course, just a year later Slumberland themselves would enter the fray and give a home to bands like Honeybunch, Velocity Girl, and Black Tambourine.

The label never released a Springfields release during the band’s original run, but now they’re gathering up the essential singles from the band’s short run and giving them a much-needed compilation and overview of this American indie-pop band’s impact on the sound. The band, notably included Ric Menck and Paul Chastain who would go on to work with Velvet Crush, Bag O’ Shells, Choo Choo Train and The Big Maybe. Should go without saying, but you need this one. You really do.



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Velvet Crush – In The Presence of Greatness

There just aren’t that many classic power pop tales that begin with, “straight outta Rhode Island,” but the clam neck state offered up Velvet Crush in 1989 and they’d work their way into one of the decade’s oft overlooked gems. To be fair the band actually got it together in Southern Illinois college towns, where the band’s Paul Chastain was helping care out a sound running the Picture Book label. The band picked up roots and headed to Providence, but nabbed some help from friend and fellow power-pop impresario Matthew Sweet. Sweet would record In The Presence of Greatness as well as play guitar on the LP. The band share’s a considerable crossover with his love of The Raspberries and Big Star, showcasing a similar love for the jangled, classic version of the genre on their debut.

The album gained some traction in college rock circles but wound up making the most impression oversees, where the band would wind up distributed by Creation. Problem there was in 1989 Creation was moving from jangles to shoegaze and while the band might have fit in with a longview of the label, at the time they were passé for a lot of British fans. Be that as it may, the record is a solid sender of jangle-pop, power pop and college rock. Its incredibly indebted to the old guard of power pop that preceded it by a decade, but they’re pulling it off as good as most.

The band would go on to get further attention around their sophomore LP, Teenage Symphonies To God, produced by ‘90s studio savant Mitch Easter (R.E.M., The dB’s), but the band would wind up stretching a bit outside of their comfort zone. The debut is a great genre dig for those who love the crossover of power pop and Creation. While maybe not the most essential of either of those camps, it’s a great curio from the era that was left to linger for far too long.



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