Snapper - Shotgun Blossom (1990)

The tag that Snapper often got in retrospect was that they were the Stereolab before Stereolab, though that only captures part of what made them and the Shotgun Blossom album such a great listen. Certainly in an uncanny way the group musically found the feedback/organ drone/motorik drive combination that Stereolab had as an early calling card (the fact that the second song is called "Can" is also a fairly clear tip of the hat to a past inspiration). The fact that the glammy stomp of "What Are You Thinking" predates Stereolab's "Transona 5" by four years is even more striking in retrospect. Instead of sweet French singing or the like, though, Peter Gutteridge and Christine Voice's vocals were often lower-key purring, almost desperately whispered, drawing connections back to fellow Kiwi acts such as This Kind of Punishment (whose Peter Jefferies guests on drums for the concluding "Rain"). Also, Gutteridge and Dominic Stones' guitar work balanced between minimal obsessiveness and brawling, massive soloing, the latter kept as part of the mix instead of the standout element ("Eyes That Shine" is a perfect example of this, with its snarl/buzzsaw opening notes and almost liquid melodies flowing through the noise). The tension between overdrive and restraint on many levels recurs throughout Shotgun Blossom after being established with a bang on the opening "Pop Your Top." The soaring, meditative guitar lines cutting through the mayhem on "Hot Sun" is a prime example, as is the full-on space/motorik combination "Emmanuelle." The swagger on songs like "Telepod Fly" suggests even older rock roots -- the squeal/shout at the end of certain lines is a kick. When the band tries something different here and there, so established is the sonic template in general that the results are downright surprising, thus the sweet semi-Byrds jangle of "Dead Pictures" (immediately followed by "Snapper and the Ocean," which blends that with the usual sound in a perfect combination).

V-3 - Launchpad Explosion 2x7" (1997)

One of Ohio legend Jim Shepard's final releases before his tragic suicide -- mostly a straightforward lo-fi rock collection with some odds 'n' sods. This is easily up there with his best work.

Crime - San Francisco's Still Doomed (1976 - 79)

Being ahead of your time is often a bad career move, and Crime is as good an example of this theory as any band around. Crime was one of the very first acts to emerge from the West Coast punk scene, and certainly the first to record. But given California's reputation as the holy land of all that was mellow, it would take a few years for the West Coast underground to gain credibility, and record companies were ignoring the new California bands in favor of what was happening in New York City at the time. Crime only released three singles before calling it quits in 1982, and this collection of two sloppily recorded demo sessions, released by a small British label in 1992, is as close as anyone will ever get to a proper Crime album. But San Francisco's Doomed does manage to capture what a wild, powerful, and thoroughly unique band Crime was; Johnny Strike's guitar lines took a blues player's call-and-response style and stripped the structure to the frame after beefing up the body with a cranked-up Marshall stack, while Ron the Ripper's hyperactive basslines ran roughshod up, down, and around the melodies and neophyte drummer Hank Rank drove the songs home with lots of muscle and little fuss. The songs are manic bursts of pure energy that sound a shade more sophisticated than what the Ramones were doing at the same time, but with a surreal menace that's something else altogether, aided by the twisted but forceful vocal/lyrical style of Frankie Fix. It might not be absolutely clear just what "Piss on Your Dog," "I Stupid Anyway," or "I Knew This Nurse" are supposed to be about, but that won't stop listeners from trying to bellow along. Brutal, rough-edged, and with no audible sense of compromise, Crime was among the best and most distinctive of the early West Coast punk outfits, and while a deserved major retrospective has thus far eluded the band, San Francisco's Doomed at least preserves Crime's sound on plastic in all its abrasive glory, and it's a wonder to behold. San Francisco's Still Doomed was mired in legal hassles throughout much of the 1990s and was finally issued again on CD in 2004 with two bonus tracks in the form of alternate takes of 45 rpm tracks "Hot Wire My Heart," (later made infamous by Sonic Youth's cover version), and "Baby You're So Repulsive." Unfortunately, Crime's killer single "Gangster Funk" is still missing in action as are the original versions of the two bonus cuts, making this a welcome but still not definitive reissue.

Ash Ra Tempel - Ash Ra Tempel (1971)

In light of the 1990s post-rock scene and the often clear links back to Krautrock of all stripes, Ash Ra Tempel's monster debut album stands as being both astonishingly prescient and just flat out good, a logical extension of the space-jam-freakout ethos into rarified realms. Featuring the original trio of Enke, Gottsching and Schulze, Ash Ra Tempel consists of only two side-long tracks, both of which are gripping examples of technical ability mixed with rock power. If more progressive music was like it, there wouldn't be as many continuing complaints about that genre as a whole. "Amboss" contains the more upfront explosions of sound, though it mixes in restraint as much as crunch. Starting with Gottsching's extended guitar notes and Schulze's cymbals, it begins with a slow, ominous build that is equally haunting, as mysterious as the cryptic artwork of temples and figures found on the inside. Quick, rumbling drums slowly fade up some minutes in, with more crashing guitar mixing in with the previous tones, creating a disorienting drone experience. The active jam then takes over the rest of the song at the point, the three going off just as they want to (Gottsching's soloing in particular is fantastic) before all coming back together for an explosive, shuddering series of climaxes. "Traummaschine," in marked contrast, is a quieter affair, with Gottsching's deep drones setting and continuing the tone throughout. Fading in bit by bit, the guitars are accompanied by equally mesmerizing keyboards from Schulze, creating something that calls to mind everything from Eno's ambient works to Lull's doom-laden soundscapes and, after more distinct guitar pluckings start to surface, Flying Saucer Attack's rural psychedelia. Halfway through, soft percussion blends with the music to create a gentle but persistent intensity, cue for a series of shifts between calmer and more active sections, but all kept more restrained than on "Amboss."

The Fugs - The Fugs' First Album (1965)

A loping, ridiculous, and scabrous release, the Fugs' debut mashed everything from folk and beat poetry to rock and rhythm & blues -- all with a casual disregard for sounding note perfect, though not without definite goals in mind. Actually compiled from two separate sessions originally done for Folkways Records, and with slightly different lineups as a result, it's a short but utterly worthy release that pushed any number of 1964-era buttons at once (and could still tick off plenty of people). Sanders produced the sessions in collaboration with the legendary Harry Smith, who was able to sneak the collective onto Folkways' accounts by describing them as a "jug band," and it's not a far-off description. A number of songs sound like calm-enough folk-boom fare, at least on casual listening, though often with odd extra touches like weirdly muffled drums or out of nowhere whistles and chimes. Others, meanwhile, are just out there -- thus, the details of the perfect "Supergirl." Then there's "Boobs a Lot," the post-toke/acid lament "I Couldn't Get High," and the pie-in-the-face to acceptable standards of the time, "Slum Goddess." Throughout it all, the Fugs sound like they're having a perfectly fun time; the feeling is loose, ragged, but right, and while things may be sloppy around the edges, often that's totally intentional. Certainly little else could explain the random jamming and rhythmic chanting/shouting on "Swinburne Stomp." Good as the original album is, the CD version is what any serious fan needs to find, thanks to the inclusion of 11 bonus tracks. Some come from the original sessions, including the signature tune "We're the Fugs" and "The Ten Commandments," while others appear from various live jams. Then there's the self-explanatory "In the Middle of Their First Recording Session the Fugs Sign the Worst Contract Since Leadbelly's."

Husker Du - Land Speed Record (1981)

A brief live EP, Land Speed Record races through its songs without regard for melody or riffs. It's quite an impressive sonic blitzkrieg, so much so that the individual tracks themselves leave little lasting impression. Because of that, it's best to take in the album as a whole.

Chain and the Gang - Down with Liberty... Up with Chains! (2009)

An incestuous affair even for K Records, Chain and the Gang boast an indie all-star lineup with members of Old Time Relijun, Desolation Wilderness, Dub Narcotic Sound System, Finally Punk, the Curious Mystery, Hornet Leg, the Vibrarians, and K-Records' head honcho himself, Calvin Johnson. In all, 14 people back Nation of Ulysses/Make-Up vocalist Ian Svenonius, who effortlessly and haphazardly drizzles his words over the lo-fi collective's minimal slop. With an elitist hipster charisma, Svenonius sounds like a cross between Alan Vega and Jim Carroll (in other words, a curt but affable loud-spoken New Yorker type) as he lectures in loose rhymes over simple song structures. Guitar, drums, fuzz bass, organ, some sax, and percussion (including claps) push the girl group sha na nas and railroad work songs on Down with Liberty...Up with Chains! into art punk territory, that, in typical K fashion, was recorded in an always raw, basement recording style. A few songs miss the mark and sound like unrehearsed jams, but at the album's middle, things get soaring and peak with the highlights "What Is a Dollar?," "Interview with the Chain Gang," and Deathbed Confession" -- three thoughtful songs that poke jabs at "a society rotten with fascists," as Svenonius might say, while staying true to their lax, clownish roots.

Jandek - Skirting The Edge (2009)

The latest full-length studio album from Corwood, "Skirting the Edge", can be seen to be one of the artist's darkest moments to date. This all acoustic album has four tracks and is an unrelenting and often-times bleak collection that seems to reflect on love, life, death, ill-health and material possessions.

This album is an excellent addition to the catalogue of releases from Corwood, and is one of the label's most challenging in terms of its themes. Those with a particular interest in the acoustic material Corwood has released in the past will relish this album, and the record comes highly recommended, alongside the other recent all-acoustic album, "Myth of Blue Icicles".

Nudge Squidfish - Marriage Vows 7" (1982)

A frequent and long time collaborator with Mike "Rep" Hummel & Tommy Jay. This single is just as weird (if not weirder) than the stuff those two produce. You might remember Nudge's awesome track "Jess" that appeared on the recently released Harrisburg Players compilation. Add this to your ever growing collection of music coming from Rep & His Gang.

Vertical Slit - Twisted Steel and the Tits of Angels (1996)

A compilation of select tracks from out of print singles and cassettes from Jim Shepard's first band. Probably not the best place to start (his solo albums or V-3 stuff would be better) but if you are fixin' to hear more from this lo-fi legend this should satisfy your appetite. You can hear bits of MC5er Fred "Sonic" Smith, Sonny Sharrock and Can's Michael Karoli in Shepard's alternately piercing and massaging use of feedback, while his lyrics coat everything in sight with overlapping bile and black humor.

13th Floor Elevators - Sign of The 3-Eyed Men 10-CD Box Set (2009)

Paul Drummond’s love affair with the 13th Floor Elevators continues to be a uniquely fruitful one. First, after years of painstaking research and sourcing interviews with the surviving members of the Elevators and their entourage, came Eye Mind, his hugely detailed biography of this most amazing yet strangely jinxed of bands from the genre-defining first wave of US psych.

Later, having been given unprecedented access to the International Artists masters, Drummond subsequently found himself trusted with the task of assembling what, from day one, was always intended to be the ultimate Elevators box set. With all tracks remastered and remixed by the band’s original engineer and producer Walt Andrus, the 10 CDs that make up Sign Of The 3 Eyed Men include both the original mono and alternative stereo mixes of the Elevators’ two most celebrated albums, Psychedelic Sounds and Easter Everywhere, plus a remastered version of their swansong Bull Of The Woods. Additionally, the box set also includes the first official release of Headstone: The Contact Sessions. Recorded hot on the heels of the Elevators’ legendary debut single, You’re Gonna Miss Me, in February 1966, Headstone was originally slated to be their debut album, predating Psychedelic Sounds by six months. Also seeing the light of day for the first time is a reconstruction of the “lost” third album, A Love That’s Sound (aka Beauty & The Beast). Needless to say, each of these titles come with an impressive array of outtakes, 45 versions, unreleased acetates, backing tracks, alternate mixes and demo and rehearsal recordings.

Completing the 10-CD set are three previously unreleased live collections, Live! In Texas, which features radio broadcasts, TV appearances and audience recordings from Austin, Dallas and Houston in 1966, Live! In California, Avalon Ballroom (from November 1966) and 13th Floor Elevators Live: Death In Texas, which includes the infamous 1967 Houston Music Theatre show and the 1973 reunion in Austin.

Despite their legendary status as trailblazers and the world’s first truly psychedelic band, the Elevators’ career has, until now, been defined by missed opportunities, record company ineptitude, Roky Erickson’s catastrophic mental breakdown and Stacey Sutherland’s desperate attempts to overcome his personal demons. The arrival of this eagerly-awaited box set finally the record straight on the Elevators’ legacy, sanctioned as it is by the surviving members of the band, with its title coming from the Elevators’ selfappointed mystic and electric jug-playing visionary Tommy Hall.

By way of visual accompaniment the set also includes a 72-page book illustrated with vintage concert posters and previously unpublished photos, plus a specially-produced selection of reproduction memorabilia. Thanks to its scope, Sign Of The 3 Eyed Men is the long-dreamed-of trip to the promised land for Elevators fans everywhere. With its release limited to 3,000 numbered copies worldwide and only available from the message is clear: get your skates on or risk missing out on something very special!


Real Estate - Fake Blues 7" (2009)

With the current lo-fi scene getting more and more cluttered with bands who seem to channel their efforts into trying to sound like they don't give a shit its refreshing to hear a band like Real Estate come through. With their shimming surf guitars and reverb drenched production it's hard not to fire off all of the usual adjectives associated with clean summery pop music. There is definitely an overwhelmingly relaxed vibe to this music and it's not unlike some of the best stuff that the band Fuck made for Matador in the mid-to-late 90's. Highly reccomended stuff and I look forward to hearing the full length that is supposed to drop later this year.

The Ronettes - The Best of The Ronettes (1992)

For a couple of years, the Ronettes made music that was as moving and unforgettable as any made during the rock era. Their voices merged sensuality, longing, anguish, and sentimentality, with Ronnie Spector's angelic leads framed by Phil Spector's sweeping production, and the lyrics of Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Spector, and others. While such songs as "Walking in the Rain," "Be My Baby," "Baby, I Love You," and "(The Best Part of) Breaking Up" may seem hopelessly naive and possibly sexist in today's cynical world, they're still classic love poems. Ronnie Spector's voice retains its allure and appeal, and the 18 tracks on this CD will never become dated.

The Sonics - Boom (1966)

The Sonics' second album is every bit as explosive and influential as their debut outing, loaded with gritty Northwest rock & roll. Sandwiched in between the abrasive classics of "Cinderella" and "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (with the Wailers on backing vocals), the funk sass of "The Hustler" and "Shot Down," the demonic "He's Waitin'," and the sledgehammer, inside-out version of "Louie, Louie" (only three chords to play and they don't even play 'em) are the band's straight-ahead takes on old R&B chestnuts like "Skinny Minnie," "Let the Good Times Roll," "Don't You Just Know It," "Since I Fell for You," "Hitch Hike," and a nice barn-burning version of "Jenny Jenny." Where the Wailers cut down the trees and paved the highway, the Sonics were the first group from their neck of the woods to take that music somewhere wilder than their original inspirations. The second chapter of Northwest rock & roll after you absorb the Wailers' Golden Crest sides.

Sebadoh - Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock (1992)

Sebadoh made its Sub Pop debut with Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock, which collects the highlights of the import compilations Rockin' the Forest and Sebadoh vs. Helmet. Lou Barlow's contributions are the gems here, especially the transcendent "Brand New Love," which first appeared in acoustic form on Weed Forestin' (and was later punked up by Superchunk); almost as good are "Vampire" and "Good Things," while an apt and poignant cover of David Crosby's "Everybody's Been Burned" underscores the emotional frailty which binds all of Barlow's work.