There were plenty of significant events in 1978, (“You’re The One That I Want” by John Travolta & Olivia Newton John was quite a popular track, for example), and one of the most low-key yet significant events was the debut LP release on the Corwood Industries label out of Houston, TX. Mysteriously enough it came out under the name “The Units”, but it was obviously a singular vision and not a band. That individual would come to be more commonly known as Jandek, and a total of 28 albums have been issued on Corwood to date. In 1978 however, there was no telling what was to come. Ready For The House was a mostly acoustic guitar/vocal record, of ethereal, shambling post-blues form. It set the stage for one the most individualistic and fascinating bodies of work in contemporary music. The original LP was casually issued in a beautiful color sleeve, featuring a mundane but striking image of a living room chair & table (replicated with almost pop-art brilliance on this CD). No other information was ever offered. As it remains today. Ready For The House sounded like no other record, and it’s doubtful that more than a handful of copies were sold at the time (promotional copies sent to out radio stations and reviewers were more voluminous). A second Jandek album wouldn’t come out till 1981. By the mid-80s a wealth of documentation had occurred and the early Corwood albums became notoriously unavailable just as people were finally getting up the gumption to consider buying them. This record has been “in demand” for over a decade now and Corwood has finally caved in and reissued it proper. Find out what you've been missing for the last 30 years!
The good people at Mississippi Records have taken their shot at reissuing twelve of James’ earliest recordings and released them in the form of 1931 Sessions. Known for their exquisitely designed and packaged obscure blues, folk, world, and R&B compilations, Mississippi doesn’t disappoint with this compilation. Tonevendor boasts this comp has “better sound quality than any reissue they’ve heard…it is Skip James though, so expect pops and crackles.” A rarely seen photo of James’ is hand glued to each album cover. Highly recommended.
Note: For all of you Ghost World fans out there, you may recall the Skip James song "Devil Got My Woman" playing a prominent role in that movie.
I must admit that mentioning Bee Thousand in another Guided By Voices album review can get frustrating. But Bee Thousand is a crucial album in the history of Guided By Voices. It was made in a period of very consistently great recordings. Bee Thousand, thanks to many early supporters of GBV (Chavez, The Breeders, et al), created a huge buzz around the indie world. Finally Guided By Voices had moved out of the Ohio area, and into major distribution.
Alien Lanes is the follow up to Bee Thousand, and although it is similar to that album, it is far better. It has essentially the same pop/experimental ratio as Bee Thousand but the pop and experimantal on Alien Lanes is simply of higher quality. Alien Lanes is more focused, better performed, and is nicely produced (compared to anything that preceeded it). The quality of songwriting is incredible. "Game of Pricks," "Motor Away," "Watch Me Jumpstart," "A Salty Salute," "Closer You Are," "My Valuble Hunting Knife," "Striped White Jets," and "My Son Cool" are just the great Bob Pollard songs. "Little Whirl," "A Good Flying Bird," and "Straw Dogs" are three of Tobin Sprout's best songs.
The experimental songs on Alien Lanes are also very good as they are used to keep the album surprising the listener. Clocking in at 16 seconds is the great pop fragment "Cigarette Tricks," but sadly it leads into the horrible "Pimple Zoo." I apologize to anybody who likes this song, but it is really horrible (perhaps they should have released it on the Nightwalker album). But the good news is that it only lasts 40 seconds, and the rest of the album (all 27 songs) is remarkable. Although Bee Thousand made me a fan, Alien Lanes is the album that made me fall in love with them (and happily buy some of the crap they would reissue and realease).
(credit: stylus magazine)
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After the recording of their debut album, Pleasures and Treasures in 2005, Sic Alps stripped it down to become the duo of Matthew Hartman and Mike Donovan. Their hazy, vintage psych/garage rock sound along with heavy touring of both the U.S. and Europe won them fans around the globe. They recorded a handful of singles & EPs during 2006 and 2007 which are now pretty much impossible to find, or fetching absurd prices on eBay. All of these singles (along with a rare compilation track, and one previously unreleased track) are included here in this convenient, remastered 26-track compilation.
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Room to Live originally appeared in 1982 and remains as essential to the Fall's discography as the previous year's Slates EP. Room to Live was similarly one of the great Fall collections of this era that was too short to be called an album and too long to be an EP or single. Its seven tracks epitomize the "Undilutable Slang Truth!" -- the phrase scrawled across the cover -- which in Mark E. Smith dialect translates as possibly the most archly political and scathing collection of diatribes the Manchester legend spewed forth onto record during what is arguably the group's creative peak. Room to Live marks one of the most inspired periods of the group, the era that produced the masterful Hex Enduction Hour and was in part fueled in by the political upheaval in England circa 1982 during the Falklands War (the subject became a bone of contention with many artists, yet few railed so spitefully as the Fall). Mark E. Smith is at his very best lyrically when getting riled up against the middle class, such as on "Hard Life in Country" and the hilarious "Solicitor in Studio." The latter track gathers a chugging momentum until peaking in uncontrollable feedback, and contains some of the most experimental and risky instrumental behavior his supporting cast ever brought to the studio. Room to Live may be a short, sharp stab of chaos, yet it remains undeniably one of the greatest pieces of post-punk genius the group ever recorded.