domingo, 30 de octubre de 2016

The Blue Aeroplanes


The Blue Aeroplanes are an art rock group from Bristol, England, that has drawn comparisons to critically acclaimed rock bands like The Velvet Underground because of their eclectic style and the songwriting sensibility of group leader Gerard Langley. The original core of the band included Langley's brother John on drums, Nick Jacobs on guitar, and multi-instrumentalist Dave Chapman. However, personnel other than Langley has varied, and (on both records and in performances) they have always been augmented by a large cast of semi-regular sidemen. (By the time of their 1991 album, 'Beatsongs', the Aeroplanes' lineup included guitarist Angelo Bruschini, guitarist Rodney Allen, bassist Andy McCreeth, drummer Paul Mulreany, and guitarist/keyboard player Alex Lee, with another eight musicians listed in the credits.) The group released 'Bop Art' on the Abstract Records label in April 1984, then signed to Fire Records, for which they recorded their second album, 'Tolerance' (October 1986), and their third, 'Spitting Out Miracles' (1987), plus several EPs. 'Spitting Out Miracles' was their first U.S. release, followed by the compilation album 'Friendloverplane' (1988), a double LP on Fire in the U.K. that was reduced to a single LP on Restless in the U.S. The Blue Aeroplanes then signed to the Ensign division of Chrysalis Records and charted in the U.K. with two 1989 singles, "Jacket Hangs" and "...And Stones," as well as their 1990 and 1991 albums, 'Swagger' and 'Beatsongs'. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

sábado, 29 de octubre de 2016

Aztec Camera


Aztec Camera was the brainchild of Roddy Frame, a Scottish songwriter and vocalist whose precocious talent -he was still in his teens when the band cut their acclaimed debut album, 'High Land, Hard Rain'- earned the band a loyal cult following. With Frame's knack for catchy, upbeat melodies and wordplay that often invited comparisons to Elvis Costello, Aztec Camera became a major critical favorite in the U.K. and the U.S., even as the band went through frequent personnel changes. 

Aztec Camera was formed in 1980 by Frame, then just 16 years old and living in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. The initial lineup of the band consisted of Frame on guitar and vocals, Campbell Owens on bass, and Dave Mulholland on drums. Aztec Camera made their recorded debut on 1980's "In and Out of Fashion", a compilation cassette of Scottish bands released by Pungent Records in association with Glasgow-based Fumes Magazine, and in March 1981, the group released a single through the respected Scottish indie label Postcard Records, "Just Like Gold" b/w "We Could Send Letters," which rose to number ten on the U.K. Independent charts. The British music journal New Musical Express gave Aztec Camera their seal of approval by licensing an alternate acoustic version of "Just Like Gold" for "C-86", a cassette-only compilation curated and released by the magazine. After issuing a second single through Postcard, "Mattress of Wire" b/w "Lost Outside the Tunnel," Aztec Camera signed with Rough Trade Records, who released the single "Pillar to Post" b/w "Queen's Tattoos" in 1982. 1982 also saw the departure of Dave Mulholland from the group, with John Hendry taking over as drummer. 


In 1983, Aztec Camera's debut album, 'High Land, Hard Rain', was released by Rough Trade in the U.K. and Sire in the United States. The album earned rave reviews (with many citing the fact Frame was just 18 when he wrote most of the songs) and respectable sales (especially in England), and guitarist Craig Gannon and keyboardist Bernie Clark expanded the group's lineup to a quintet. Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits came aboard to produce Aztec Camera's second album, 1984's 'Knife', but as the group's sound became slicker and more ambitious, Frame became disenchanted with his bandmates, and by the time he went on tour in support of the 'Knife' album, Campbell Owens was the only other original member of the group left in the lineup, and it would prove to be his last tour with Aztec Camera

After a stopgap EP of live tracks and B-sides was issued in the United States in 1985, the third Aztec Camera album, the R&B-influenced 'Love', appeared in 1987. Though it was issued under the group's name, Frame recorded the material with a handful of session musicians, and from that point on, Aztec Camera would not have a consistent lineup on-stage or in the studio, with Frame assembling a different set of players for each project. 'Love' proved to be a commercial success in the U.K., rising to number 10 on the album charts, but it barely made the Top 200 in the United States, and the next two Aztec Camera albums, 1990's eclectic 'Stray' and 1993's electronic experiment 'Dreamland', didn't even chart in America. After 1995's 'Frestonia', a low-key and primarily acoustic effort, failed to excite fans or critics, Frame retired the name Aztec Camera, and his next project, 1998's 'North Star', appeared under the name Roddy Frame. A compilation that followed the group's career up to 'Dreamla`nd, The Best of Aztec Camera', was issued in Japan in 1999 and in the U.K. in 2001; a more comprehensive two-disc set, 'Walk Out to Winter: The Best of Aztec Camera', followed in 2011. In 2013, AED Records brought out a 30th Anniversary edition of 'High Land, Hard Rain' in the U.K., with Domino following suit in the United States in 2014; in support, Frame played a handful of solo shows in which he performed the album's 13 songs in their entirety. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

viernes, 28 de octubre de 2016

TV Smith's Explorers


Formed from the punk debris of UK punk band The Adverts, The Explorers saw TV Smith (b. Timothy Smith, Devon, England; vocals) and Tim Cross (guitar) combine with Erik Russell (guitar), Colin Stoner (bass) and John Towe (drums). After only one gig at the London Marquee in March 1980, Cross quit, and three performances later, Towe followed suit. With Mel Wesson and Dave Sinclair, respectively, stopping the musical gap, the new line-up signed to Chiswick Records. The aggressive ‘Tomahawk Cruise’ was voted Single Of The Week in Sounds music paper, but failed to chart. Over the next two years, the band recorded several singles and an album for the Epic Records subsidiary Kaleidoscope, until Smith moved on to a solo career. After recording "War Fever" and "Channel Five", he formed a new outfit, Cheap, before resuming his solo career. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

jueves, 27 de octubre de 2016

The Soft Boys


The Soft Boys have turned out to be one of the most influential bands in shaping contemporary alternative music, though few are completely familiar with the quirky band's legacy. Formed in Cambridge, England in 1976 on the heels of the punk revolution, The Soft Boys eschewed the three-chord nihilism of punk and opted for a crude version of psychedelic/folk-rock that was well on its way out of fashion, but oddly, just on the cusp of a resurgence. 

Robyn Hitchcock recruited Cambridge musicians Morris Windsor on drums, Andy Metcalfe on bass, and guitarist Alan Davies, and recorded 'Give It to the Soft Boys' in Hitchcock's living room in 1976. Davies was soon replaced by guitarist Kimberley Rew. The band released a single, "(I Want to Be An) Anglepoise Lamp," followed by the 'Can of Bees' album in 1979. 


While recording the follow-up, Metcalfe left the band and was replaced by Matthew Seligman. The new lineup started fresh and recorded 'Underwater Moonlight', the album that found the band trading psychedelic jams for a more straight-ahead jangle pop-guitar rock sound. The LP has become extremely influential in the guitar rock canon -The Replacements, R.E.M., and the L.A. Paisley Underground scene all claimed it as a prime influence. The album launched a thousand bands, but it turned out to be The Soft Boys' swan song. Two more recordings were released posthumously: the '2 Halfs for the Price of One' EP in 1981, and some early sessions compiled on 'Invisible Hits' in 1983. The first EP was re-released in 1984 as 'Wading Through a Ventilator'. 

Windsor and Metcalfe began to collaborate with Hitchcock again in 1984 as The Egyptians, while Seligman became an in-demand session musician and Rew went on to form Katrina & the Waves. Hitchcock has had a prolific post-Soft Boys recording career, sticking to the unusual style he's forged and finessed since 1976, with 15 albums to his credit. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

miércoles, 26 de octubre de 2016

Pulp


Most bands hit the big time immediately and fade away, or they build a dedicated following and slowly climb their way to the top. Pulp didn't follow either route. For the first 12 years of their existence, Pulp languished in near total obscurity, releasing a handful of albums and singles in the '80s to barely any attention. At the turn of the decade, the group began to gain an audience, sparking a remarkable turn of events that made the band one of the most popular British groups of the '90s. By the time Pulp became famous, the band had gone through numerous different incarnations and changes in style, covering nearly every indie rock touchstone from post-punk to dance. Pulp's signature sound is a fusion of David Bowie and Roxy Music's glam rock, disco, new wave, acid house, Europop, and British indie rock. The group's cheap synthesizers and sweeping melodies reflect the lyrical obsessions of lead vocalist Jarvis Cocker, who alternates between sex and sharp, funny portraits of working class misfits. Out of second-hand pop, Pulp fashioned a distinctive, stylish sound that made camp into something grand and glamorous that retained a palpable sense of gritty reality. 

Jarvis Cocker formed Pulp in 1978, when he was 15 years old. Originally called Arabicus Pulp, the first lineup consisted of schoolmates of Cocker. After a year, the band's name was truncated to Pulp. While they were in school, Pulp performed a handful of gigs. The band recorded a demo sometime in 1980-1981, giving the tape to John Peel at one of his traveling shows. Peel liked the tape and invited the band to appear on his show. Pulp had their first Peel Session in November 1981. Instead of leading to record deals and pop stardom, Pulp's appearance on Peel led nowhere. Discouraged by the band's lack of success, every member but Cocker left the band in 1982 to go to university. The following year, Cocker assembled a new lineup which featured eight members, including keyboardist Simon Hinkler, who would later join The Mission. In this incarnation, Pulp had distinct folk overtones, as well as new wave underpinnings. The group landed their first record contract, releasing their debut album, 'It', in 1984. It didn't make much of an impact and the band fell apart again. After the second incarnation of Pulp disintegrated, Jarvis Cocker formed another version of the band, with guitarist/violinist Russell Senior, who became Cocker's first full-fledged collaborator. Cocker and Senior added drummer Magnus Doyle and bassist Peter Mansell to the group, as well as Tim Allcard, who did nothing but read poetry. Musically, Pulp backed away from the folky inclinations of 'It', adding keyboardist Candida Doyle in 1985, which led to a darker sound; shortly after her arrival, Allcard left the group. In 1985, Pulp released a series of singles on Fire Records. Just as their fortunes were looking up, Cocker became injured severely. As he was trying to impress a girl, he fell 30 feet out of a window, injuring his pelvis, foot, and wrist. For two months, he was confined to a wheelchair, but he performed concerts anyway. 


Released in 1986, Pulp's second album, 'Freaks', was a dense, dark affair. Following its release, the band split during the filming of the video for "They Suffocate at Night." All of the members, except Cocker and Senior, left the group. For a year, the band was dormant, but Candida Doyle returned in 1987, with drummer Nick Banks and bassist Steven Havenhand joining shortly afterward. Havenhand was soon replaced by Anthony Genn, who was soon replaced by Steve Mackey. Although the group had a stable lineup, they weren't gaining much of a following. In 1988, Cocker moved to London with Mackey and began studying filmmaking at St. Martin's College. While he was studying, Pulp was offered the chance to record another album. The resulting album, 'Separations', was recorded in 1989 and reflected Cocker's newfound obsession with acid house but it also boasted some full-fledged pop songs. 'Separations' was released nearly three years after it was completed. Cocker was prepared to stake out a career in film when a single from the album, "My Legendary Girlfriend," was released. NME named the song Single of the Week in 1991 and Pulp's career suddenly took off. 

In early 1992, Pulp left Fire Records for Gift, and began releasing a series of singles that consolidated the success of "My Legendary Girlfriend." In particular, "Babies" earned the band a great deal of attention. "Babies" led to a contract with Island Records, their first major-label deal. Island released 'Pulpintro', a compilation of the Gift singles, as the band recorded its major-label debut, 'His 'n' Hers'. Upon its spring 1994 release, 'His 'n' Hers' earned positive reviews and became an unexpected success, reaching the British Top Ten; it was also nominated for the 1994 Mercury Award. For the rest of 1994 and the early part of 1995, Jarvis Cocker suddenly became omnipresent on British television. These suave, humorous television appearances became legendary, making Cocker somewhat of a national hero, as well as a sex symbol. 


No matter how popular Jarvis Cocker had become, the band didn't break into the big time until they released "Common People." The single became a massive hit upon its May 1995 release, debuting at number two on the U.K. charts. In July, Pulp accepted a last-minute headlining slot at Glastonbury Festival when The Stone Roses had to cancel. Pulp's set was rapturously received, launching the band into superstar status in England and conveniently setting the stage for their forthcoming album, 'Different Class'. During the recording of the album, guitarist Mark Webber -the president of Pulp's fan club- became a full-time member of the group. The first record to feature Webber was the double A-sided single, "Mis-Shapes" and "Sorted for E's & Wizz," which was released in August, two months before 'Different Class'. The single became a number two hit, despite a major tabloid controversy over the lyrics to "Sorted." 

'Different Class' arrived in late October to rave reviews throughout the British press. The album entered the charts at number one, going gold within its first week and platinum within the second. At the end of the year, the album topped many best-of-the-year lists. In February of 1996, 'Different Class' was released in the United States to positive reviews. The massive fame and attention that 'Different Class' brought Pulp influenced the direction of their follow-up, 1998's world-weary, paranoid 'This Is Hardcore'. The album's troubled sound and somewhat mixed reception led some to speculate whether or not the group would continue; the band's members took some time to pursue side projects such as DJ-ing at various nightclubs and remixing tracks for artists like Black Box Recorder and Death in Vegas. Meanwhile, they continued to play live, performing at various festivals, including the Meltdown festival curated by Scott Walker. Walker proved such an inspiration for the group that Pulp hired him on as the producer of their new material after recording with Chris Thomas went unsatisfactorily. The resulting album, 'We Love Life' -its name inspired by the September 11 terrorist attacks- was released in the fall of 2001 in the UK and in the spring of 2002 in the US to critical acclaim. In 2006, Cocker released a solo album entitled 'Jarvis'. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

martes, 25 de octubre de 2016

Moving Targets


Springing from the fertile grounds of Boston's parochial hardcore punk-rock scene, Moving Targets are a little-known but seminal link in a chain that joins hardcore and other early-'80s Boston music strains like collegiate art rock and folk-rock to '90s alternative rock. 

Forming in 1981 around the songwriting, blistering guitar work, and emotive vocals of Kenny Chambers, the original power trio included bassist/vocalist Pat Leonard and the strong-man drumming of Pat Brady. After a few years of trying to scrape together gigs in the competitive early-'80s Boston rock club scene, Moving Targets' first significant exposure came in 1984 via "Bands That Could Be God" (Conflict/Radiobeat), a record of various Massachusetts punk and post-punk bands compiled by Gerard Cosloy, the soon-to-be head of the Homestead and Matador record labels. The LP included three songs recorded with Lou Giordano, one of the founding producers of Boston's legendary Fort Apache studio. Giordano had worked with the influential Minneapolis trio Hüsker Dü, who were clearly a major influence for the Targets. 


Working with Giordano, the band continued to record, eventually finishing a 15-song demo, which led to their signing to the Boston punk label Taang! (which is also responsible for unleashing Lemonheads and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones on the rock world). These demo songs form the basis of the band's explosive debut LP, 'Burning in Water', from 1986. The album is an essential piece of post-punk, combining the band's love of hardcore, '70s progressive rock, and classic rock. It openly showed the influences of seminal art-punk-rock group Mission of Burma -a Boston band also capable of punk anthems- as well as another Burma-influenced group, Hüsker Dü, who released their legendary LP "New Day Rising" the same year as 'Burning in Water'. 

Moving Targets learned a great deal from the 1984 Hüsker Dü record "Zen Arcade" and seem to almost anticipate "New Day Rising", latching onto many of the same ideas on 'Burning in Water': combining the urgent energy and aggression of punk with the understanding and reverence for more traditional forms of music. The Targets do not come off merely as imitators; they are eager students who have digested various influences and end up sounding like none of them specifically. 'Burning in Water' is its own beast, moving punk-rock songcraft into another class. While akin to Hüsker Dü's output, the Targets possessed a distinctive and decidedly Boston flair. The LP announced the arrival of an influential band. Any mid-'80s underground rock & roll band in Massachusetts would have been affected by its release and the LP also resonated overseas, where the band toured to some success. 


Moving Targets were devastating in a live setting. The original lineup was the best and most magical. Chambers shredded the guitar and his vocal cords on highly crafted songs. Brady proved to be an untouchable drummer, fitting fills, rolls, and crashes into impossibly tight corners like a punk-rock Keith Moon or Neil Pert. Bassist/vocalist Leonard showed an unusual melodic sense on the bass, somehow managing to keep up with the incendiary performances of his partners, while never sounding hurried and rarely approaching the bass like a guitar, unlike some power-trio bass players. 

Alas, the volatile lineup was not meant to last, and was soon fractured. The disarray sidetracked the group and Chambers acted as a second guitarist for a few years with one of the first punk metal bands Bullet Lavolta. All the while, Chambers continued to write for Moving Targets. Bassist Chuck Freeman entered the fray as Leonard's replacement, the two sharing the workload for the band's follow-up LP, 'Brave New Noise', released in 1989. The CD version of the record includes 'Burning in Water', making the collection a slam-dunk for fans of intelligent melodic post-punk. 


The sound of 'Fall' is a bit more polished, textured, evenly paced, and varied than 'Burning in Water/Brave Noise', in other words: a somewhat predictable pattern for the band to follow. They parallel Hüsker Dü's development into pop-punk and folk-punk territory, shedding a bit of the more overt Burma influences and displaying some of the more mainstream hard rock guitar work that Chambers had practiced over the intervening years with Bullet Lavolta. But the changes are mostly welcome signs of growth and the songs are rewarding. 

That trend continued with 1993's 'Take This Ride', though this time the lineup had been stripped down to just Chambers as the only remaining founding member. He rounded the group out with Jeff Goddard on bass and Jamie Van Bramer on drums, two members of Boston band Jones Very. The band was simply not the same, missing Brady's pummeling drums in particular. The group now resembled a Chambers solo project, and indeed he did release some solo recordings: 'Double Negative' in 1990 on European label Cityslang (featuring Goddard); 'No Reaction', which was recorded in 1993 and released in 1994; and 1996's 'Sin Cigarros'. He has been relatively quiet since. Goddard went on to play with The Lune and Karate. Leonard continued to play in local bands and Brady was, at last report, a firefighter. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC]

lunes, 24 de octubre de 2016

Gang Green


Far and away the biggest name to emerge from the Boston hardcore scene, Gang Green was an unabashed party band specializing in beer-soaked, warp-speed three-chord thrash. Obsessed with beer, skateboarding, sex, and more beer, the group slowly added stronger hints of heavy metal as their career wore on, but otherwise followed much the same blueprint both musically and lyrically. Predictable though they may have been, their simple party-hearty philosophy, coupled with their irreverent streak of humor, was not only cultishly adored but influential as well, exerting an undeniable pull on the frat-friendly Orange County punk scene. Lead singer/guitarist Chris Doherty was the lone constant in the lineup, and managed to keep "the King of Bands" (as they were dubbed, from the Budweiser slogan) going off and on for more than two decades. 

Chris Doherty formed the first incarnation of Gang Green in 1982, along with bassist Bill Manley and drummer Mike Dean. This lineup cut seven tracks (none longer than a minute-and-a-half) for the scene-documenting compilation "This Is Boston Not L.A." (on Modern Method), but soon disbanded. One more Gang Green track appeared posthumously on Modern Method's 1983 EP "Unsafe at Any Speed", and the remainder of their studio recordings appeared on a three-song EP for Taang, 'Sold Out', in 1984. (All of this material was later reissued on the CD 'Preschool' in 1997.) In the meantime, Doherty joined another local punk band, Jerry's Kids, and later moved on to Stranglehold and the ska band The Cheapskates (a forerunner of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones). 


Doherty struck out on his own to re-form Gang Green in 1985, along with Jerry's Kids drummer Brian Betzger and the Stilphen brothers, Chuck (guitar) and Glen (bass). This lineup debuted with the 7" single "Skate to Hell"/"Alcohol," the latter of which became a staple of the band's live act (both the song and the substance). The EP 'Drunk and Disorderly, Boston MA' followed in 1986, as did the band's first-ever full-length album, 'Another Wasted Night' (on Taang). Featuring a jokey, attention-grabbing cover of Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry," 'Another Wasted Night' attracted a cult following that grew steadily over the next few years. 

The Stilphen brothers subsequently left to form a metal band called Mallet-Head. After a brief interlude with guitarist Tony Nichols (also of the metal band Meliah Rage), the Stilphens were replaced more permanently by guitarist Fritz Erickson and bassist Joe Gittleman for Gang Green's 1987 Roadrunner debut, 'You Got It' (which was immediately preceded by another EP, 'P.M.R.C. Sucks'). Bucking the dominant Gang Green trend, both Erickson and Gittleman stuck around for awhile, completing the 1988 EP 'I81B4U' (a parody of Van Halen's "OU812") and a second album, 1989's 'Older...Budweiser'. Gittleman then made his exit, later joining The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and was replaced by former D.R.I. bassist Josh Pappe for the 1990 concert set 'Can't Live Without It'. 

Roadrunner subsequently dropped the band, spelling the end of their second and most successful incarnation. Doherty and Betzger formed a Green Day-styled punk-pop outfit called Klover, which released one album on Mercury in 1995 before imploding under label difficulties. Doherty then reconvened Gang Green for a third go-round, this time with drummer Walter Gustafson (ex-Outlets), guitarist Bob Cenci (ex-Jerry's Kids), and bassist Matt Sandonato (also of The Chubs). This lineup recorded an entirely new album, 'Another Case of Brewtality', for Taang in 1997, covering much the same subject matter that Gang Green always had. An EP, 'Back and Gacked', followed in 1998. While the group has been silent on record, they continued to perform live, chiefly around the bars of Boston, on into the new millennium. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

domingo, 23 de octubre de 2016

Friends Again


While many of their compatriots wrote new wave pop songs propelled by jangling guitars, Glasgow, Scotland's Friends Again distinguished themselves from their peers by combining '60s-influenced rock with funk, R&B, and country. Featuring Chris Thompson (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), James Grant (lead guitar, vocals), Neil Cunningham (bass), Paul McGeechan (keyboards), and Stuart Kerr (drums), Friends Again formed in 1982. The band produced three singles, "Sunkissed," "Honey at the Core," and "State of Art" on Moonbot Records before signing to Mercury Records. The group released a self-titled EP in 1983 and then recorded their debut album, 'Trapped and Unwrapped', in 1984. The LP explored the band's various musical influences, veering from '70s-style funk ("Lullaby No. 2") to soulful balladry ("Old Flame") sung with Thompson's David Bowie-esque croon. However, the LP received mixed reviews, namely for Bob Sargeant's slick production, and it was also a commercial failure. Longing for an outlet for his own songs, Grant left the group in 1984, and Friends Again immediately fell apart. Grant formed Love and Money in 1985, delving deeper in the funk, R&B, and country influences that guided Friends Again. McGeechan, Kerr, and Cunningham followed Grant in Love and Money while Thompson created The Bathers in 1987. [SOURCER: ALLMUSIC

sábado, 22 de octubre de 2016

The Dream Syndicate


The Dream Syndicate are at the foundation (alongside The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, and R.E.M.) of contemporary alternative music simply because at the time when most bands were experimenting with new technology, the Syndicate deigned to bring back the guitar. Fronted by Steve Wynn (b. Feb. 21, 1960) and including Karl Precoda (guitar), Dennis Duck (drums), and Kendra Smith (bass), the band formed in Los Angeles after Smith and Wynn had relocated there from Davis, CA. They debuted with a self-titled, unbelievably Velvet Underground-like EP on Wynn's own Down There label. It was shortly off to Ruby/Slash for 'Days of Wine and Roses', the most lauded record on the college charts that year. The record has been cited as influential from artists as diverse as Kurt Cobain to The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson. Live, they had developed into an assaultive guitar band prone to jamming, which helped earn them the tag as leaders of L.A.'s paisley underground movement. 


Released in 1984, 'Medicine Show' was met with mixed response by the college crowd. By this time, Smith had left the band and was replaced by Dave Provost on bass and Tom Zvoncheck on keyboards. Wynn took his cues from Neil Young & Crazy Horse on the record rather than Lou Reed (who was considered a preferable source at the time), and the rootsier sound caused a backlash with the fan base. As the band label-hopped, a new lineup and falling morale spawned 'Out of the Grey' (Big Time) in 1986 and the Elliot Mazer-produced 'Ghost Stories' (Enigma) in 1988. The band had realigned to include Mark Walton on bass and Paul B. Cutler on guitar. They recorded 'Live at Raji's' in 1989 as their swan song. 

Wynn has since recorded albums as a leader and with Gutterball (featuring the House of Freaks and Silo Bob Rupe) and is continuously collaborating with other musicians. His 1996 solo record had him backed by the Boston band Come. Smith went on to work in Opal with David Roback, a prototype version of his Mazzy Star, and has since recorded solo albums as well. After a long hiatus from music, Karl Precoda reappeared in 1997 fronting The Last Days of May, a neo-psychedelic instrumental trio. Duck continued to work with Wynn as a touring drummer and bassist Mark Walton played with The Continental Drifters. A documentary of Dream Syndicate's last tour, 'Weathered and Torn', has been released on DVD. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC]

viernes, 21 de octubre de 2016

Julian Cope


Musician, writer, historian, and cosmic shaman Julian Cope was born in October 1957 in Deri, South Glamorgan, Wales. He was raised in Tamworth, England, and like many a young artist, suffered through academia as a perpetual outsider. In 1976, upon attending college in Liverpool, Cope found himself part of a community of musicians -and kindred souls- including Ian McCulloch, Pete Burns, and Pete Wylie. After various incarnations and not-so-amicable departures (McCulloch went on to fame with Echo & the Bunnymen), The Teardrop Explodes were formed. One of the more influential bands of the late '70s, the group delivered a volatile mix of neo-psychedelic rock and electro-pop. As the band's success grew, so did Cope's reputation for debauchery, resulting in erratic, drug-addled stage behavior that occasionally led to bloodletting. In 1983, after numerous lineup changes and legendary feuds between Cope and Zoo Records figurehead Bill Drummond, the band ceased operations. 

By 1984, Cope's love of hallucinogens -as well as a toy car collection that occupied nearly an entire year of his life- was at an all-time high. Despite his altered state, he released 'World Shut You Mouth', his solo debut on Mercury Records. An elegant collection of chamber pop and Teardrop-fueled electricity, the album divided critics and fans alike, especially upon the release of director David Bailey's macabre video for the first single, "Sunshine Playroom." Not to be deterred, Cope retreated to Cambridge and recorded the follow-up, 'Fried', a chilling chronicle of self-oblivion that included cover art of the artist in a sandbox wearing nothing but a gigantic turtle shell. It was a fitting image, as Cope -despite getting married- spent the following year in utter seclusion, half-heartedly laying down tracks of Syd Barrett-inspired acoustic lunacy for what would eventually become 1989's 'Skellington' LP. 


In 1986 Cope signed with Island Records and released his most successful record to date, 'Saint Julian'. The album's crisp production and modern rock sensibilities brought the artist out of his shell -so to speak- resulting in an exhaustive tour and numerous television appearances, including a memorable gig on The Tonight Show that found the singer becoming quite intimate with his patented jungle-gym mike stand. The disappointing 'My Nation Underground' followed in 1988, resulting in three years of supplemental releases that included a collection of Teardrop Explodes B-sides, the aforementioned 'Skellington', and the highly collectible 'Droolian' -the latter was released in Austin, Texas, as part of a campaign to release Thirteenth Floor Elevator Roky Erickson from jail. 

In 1991 Cope released the ambitious double-LP 'Peggy Suicide'. Inspired by a vision the artist had of Mother Earth throwing herself off a cliff to her death, the record came as a revelation to many. Gone were the slick arrangements of his previous Island releases, replaced here by the brooding funk, soul, folk, and cosmic garage rock that would follow him into the new millennium. His refusal to submit to more than one vocal take, the inclusion of Michael "Moon-Eye" Watts on guitar, and the raw production/organ/bass provided by longtime collaborator Donald Ross Skinner became the bedrock on which his subsequent work depended. Cope's obsessions with Krautrock and pagan history -only briefly hinted at on 'Peggy Suicide'- were brought to the forefront on 1992's 'Jehovahkill', another creative triumph that unfortunately failed to connect with the public at large, resulting in his forced "departure" from the label. 


He released his next two recordings, the angular and cautionary ecological rave-up 'Autogeddon' (1994) and the fatherhood-inspired '20 Mothers' (1995) on the Echo label in the U.K. and on American in the States. Cope spent a great deal of this period purging himself of his seemingly endless creative energy through side projects on his mail-order-only label Ma-Gog, a creative outlet that eventually morphed into the website/community/record label Head Heritage. He released 'Interpreter' in 1996, a return to pop form that saw the self-described "Arch Drude" tackling both environmental and social issues with renewed vigor. He began working on Brain Donor, a four-piece, face-painted, triple double-neck guitar-playing garage rock-punk outfit that released its debut, 'Love, Peace & Fuck' on Head Heritage in 2001, followed by 'Too Freud to Rock 'n' Roll, Too Jung to Die' in 2003. 'Citizen Cain'd' and 'Dark Orgasm', both of which relied on two discs of sonic fury and pop mayhem, were released in 2005, followed by 'You Gotta Problem with Me' (no question mark) in 2007, 'Black Sheep' in 2008, the Che Guevara- and Leila Khaled-dedicated 'Psychedelic Revolution' in 2012, and 'Revolutionary Suicide', his 29th studio album, in 2013. 

Cope had been compiling his memoirs into book form throughout the '90s; "Head On", a chronicle of his life up to the demise of The Teardrop Explodes, was published in 1993, followed by its sequel, "Repossessed", in 2000. His first fiction novel, "One Three One", appeared in 2014. He also trudged all over the country in search of stone circles while researching his exhaustive coffee table book, "The Modern Antiquarian: A Pre-Millennial Odyssey Through Megalithic Britain", and wrote "Krautrock Sampler", a critically acclaimed guide to German space rock. He has spoken at numerous festivals, museums, and universities on both topics. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

jueves, 20 de octubre de 2016

Blood On The Saddle


One of Los Angeles' more notable band of hillbilly thrashers, Blood on the Saddle was originally formed by vocalist and guitarist Greg Davis with bassist Ron Botelho and Hermann Senac, who alternated work on drums and vocals. Months after they began playing shows, Blood on the Saddle was augmented with yet another vocalist, Annette Zilinskas, formerly of The Bangles. (She had left the band just before the release of their first LP in 1984.) The group debuted with a respected self-titled album on New Alliance in 1984, but moved to Chameleon in 1986 for 'Poison Love', an album just a bit more mature than the country chaos of their first. Third album 'Fresh Blood', though released by SST Records, was their last. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

miércoles, 19 de octubre de 2016

The Avant Gardeners


The Avant Gardeners were -as the name suggests- an avant-garde combo, based in Okehampton, Devon, and lining up as Russell Murch (vocals, guitar), Martin Sanders (guitar), and Nigel Rae (bass, keyboards), plus Only Ones drummer Mike Kellie, working around his commitments elsewhere. 

A demo recorded at a local studio found its way to Virgin Records, who released a four-song Avant Gardener EP in September 1977, 'Gotta Turn Back'. The band then fell silent for several years, before re-emerging in the early '80s on the Italian Apaloosa label. Two albums, 'The Avant Gardenerz' and 'The Church of the Inner Cosmos', were released in 1980 and 1984, respectively. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

martes, 18 de octubre de 2016

Tuxedomoon


The music of avant-garde, electronic-oriented collective Tuxedomoon ranged from new wave pop to jazz fusion to more experimental synthesizer soundscapes (usually including saxophone and violin), which were frequently married in concert to performance art shows. The group was formed in San Francisco in 1977 by two electronic music students at San Francisco City College, Blaine L. Reininger (keyboards, violin) and Steven Brown (keyboards, other instruments). Brown's local theater connections supplied equipment and occasional vocalists in Gregory Cruikshank and Victoria Lowe, plus more frequent contributions from singer and performance artist Winston Tong. Punk and new wave were opening up the San Francisco music scene at the time, and Tuxedomoon landed an opening slot for Devo in 1978 at around the same time they cut their first single, "Pinheads on the Move." Lowe quit the band before their first EP, 'No Tears', which featured off-and-on members Michael Belfer (guitar) and Paul Zahl (drums). Tong and Belfer departed temporarily, and Peter Principle (b. Peter Dachert) joined as a full-time member. 


Tuxedomoon signed to The Residents' Ralph Records in 1979, which eventually got them overseas exposure. Feeling that their ideas were more in tune with the European electronic music scene, the group toured Europe after 1980's 'Half Mute', for which Tong returned with filmmaker and visual artist Bruce Geduldig. After 1981's 'Desire', the band relocated permanently to Rotterdam, where Reininger began to branch out as a solo artist. Tuxedomoon were also hired to score a Maurice Bejart ballet, the results of which were released in 1982 as 'Divine'. Reininger left for a solo career in 1983 and was replaced by Frankie Lievaart and horn player Luc van Lieshout

In between side projects and scoring, the band sought an international deal for its forthcoming LP, 'Holy Wars'; it was eventually released in 1985 and became the band's biggest commercial success. Tong left the group for good that year, leaving Brown and Principle the only remaining San Francisco members; multi-instrumentalist Ivan Georgiev was hired to replenish the group's sound for 1986's 'Ship of Fools' album and tour. After 1987's jazz fusion-oriented 'You', Tuxedomoon significantly slowed their rate of output, but members remained active with outside pursuits. They issued only two albums, 'The Ghost Sonata' (based on a 1982 production) and 'Joeboy in Mexico' (with the name Tuxedomoon nowhere to be found on the packaging), during the '90s. The following decade, Brown, Principle, Reininger, and van Lieshout reconvened to release 'Cabin in the Sky' (2004), 'Bardo Hotel Soundtrack' (2006), and 'Vapour Trails' (2007). A 2007 box set, the elaborate '7707 tm', marked Tuxedomoon's 30th anniversary. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

lunes, 17 de octubre de 2016

Snapper


Noise rock unit Snapper was led by singer/guitarist Peter Gutteridge, an unsung hero of the New Zealand pop scene whose résumé included stints as a founding member of both The Clean and The Chills. Snapper evolved from the lineup of another Gutteridge-led band, the Dunedin-based Phromes, and the lineup featured on the group's excellent self-titled 1988 debut EP included organist Christine Voice, guitarist Dominic Stones, and drummer Alan Haig. The LP 'Shotgun Blossom' followed in 1991, and appeared to strong reviews; after the subsequent departure of Stones, Gutteridge's ex-Clean mate David Kilgour stepped in to assume guitar chores, and with the exit of Haig, former Toy Love drummer Mike Dooley signed on as well. After a 1994 single, "Vader," Snapper was effectively reduced to a duo, with only Gutteridge and Dooley remaining; together they recorded 'ADM', issued on Flying Nun in early 1996. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

domingo, 16 de octubre de 2016

Psychic TV


After Genesis P-Orridge dissolved the seminal industrial rock outfit Throbbing Gristle, he and Gristle cohort Peter Christopherson, plus Alternative TV's Alex Fergusson, formed Psychic TV in 1981 as a means of continuing their confrontational, shock-oriented approach to music and their multimedia live performances. Psychic TV draw much of their inspiration from the literary underground, including situationist philosophy, William Burroughs (who was a professed fan), the Marquis de Sade, and Philip K. Dick. The group also claims to be the mouthpiece for its own quasi-religious group, The Temple Ov Psychick Youth. P-Orridge has been branded a dangerous deviant in several publications, and police raided his home in 1992, seizing videos, books, and magazines following a television show concerning child abuse in which a Psychic TV performance art video was shown out of context. 


As for the music itself, Psychic TV's earlier years continued in the experimental vein of Throbbing Gristle's work, encompassing melodic pop, barely listenable white noise, gentle ballads, industrial found-sound collages, spoken word pieces, and experiments with ethnic instruments and world music, all tied together by a Dadaist sensibility. 'Force the Hand of Chance', the group's first album, was released in 1982, with 'Themes' and 'Dreams Less Sweet' (featuring input from Geoff Rushton, aka John Balance) arriving soon afterwards. During the '80s, Psychic TV's prodigious output totaled over 20 albums. Much of this stemmed from a publicity stunt beginning in 1986 for which the group attempted to release one live album, each from a different nation, on the 23rd of each month for 23 months. Even though the group didn't quite achieve its goal, the 14 albums Psychic TV released in 18 months were enough to get the group into The Guinness Book of World Records. Christopherson and Rushton both left the group rather early on to form Coil, and Psychic TV have since become an open-ended collective. Psychic TV scored a minor U.K. pop hit in 1986 with "Godstar," a tribute to Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, and 1988 saw the group's first album release in America with 'Allegory and Self'. 

Beginning in 1988, P-Orridge became a pioneer on the British club and rave scene. Records from the Chicago house scene by Frankie Knuckles and Farley Jackmaster Funk made their way to London, and when P-Orridge noticed the word "acid" on one of them, he dubbed the British psychedelic variation "acid house" and began recording and experimenting with the style on 'Jack the Tab: Acid Tablets, Vol. 1' and 'Towards Thee Infinite Beat'. P-Orridge has since released albums under the name Psychic TV as well as using a variety of aliases to produce "compilation" albums actually featuring his own music in collaboration with Fred Giannelli, Dave Ball (of Soft Cell), Richard Norris (who later formed The Grid with Ball), and other electronic musicians. After a "self-imposed exile" in which P-Orridge and family fled England and moved to California, Larry Thrasher (of Thessalonians) joined Psychic TV, and the group began to return to its previous psychedelic pop-influenced sound. In addition to new albums such as 'Trip Reset' and 'Cathedral Engine', several Psychic TV collections, as well as new material, appeared in the '90s; the best of the retrospectives are the two singles compilations 'Hex Sex' and 'Godstar', and the 1999 overview 'Best Ov: Time's Up'. P-Orridge and Thrasher also formed a related group called Splinter Test


New Psychic TV material took a back seat as P-Orridge's commitment to his spoken word project Thee Majesty and a new philosophy he dubbed "Pandrogeny" occupied his time. It was the latter that had him going under the knife for breast implants and enforcing the use of the pronoun s/he. Psychic TV work began again in 2003 (as PTV3), with two years of touring leading to studio work. A new album was delayed when Throbbing Gristle reunited for a short time, but work resumed in 2006. The finished product, 'Hell Is Invisible...Heaven Is Her/e', arrived a year later. P-Orridge's wife and bandmate, Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, died of heart failure a few months after its release. A tribute to her, 'Mr. Alien Brain vs. the Skinwalkers', was released near the end of 2008, featuring versions of Syd Barrett's "No Good Trying" and The Velvet Underground's "Foggy Notion." 

Numerous live albums recorded throughout Psychic TV's history continued to appear on labels such as Cold Spring and Vinyl-On-Demand. New singles also appeared on Vanity Case and Angry Love Productions, including a 2010 take on Funkadelic's classic "Maggot Brain." The studio album 'Snakes', simply credited to Psychic TV, appeared on Angry Love in 2014. The album fused the group's heavy psychedelic rock sound with themes relating to voodoo culture. In 2015, Dark Entries released a single featuring Psychic TV's 1988 acid house track "Alien Be-In," including new mixes by Giannelli, Silent Servant, and John Tejada. Following a limited mixtape-style LP titled 'Fishscales Falling', released on Record Store Day in April of 2016, Psychic TV's album 'Alienist' appeared in September. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

sábado, 15 de octubre de 2016

The Motorcycle Boy


This UK ‘indie’ pop group was formed in 1987 by former Shop Assistants singer Alex Taylor (vocals) with ex-Meat Whiplash personnel Michael Kerr (guitar), Paul McDermott (drums), Eddie Connelly (bass) and outsider, ‘Scottie’ (b. David Scott; guitar). Their debut single for Rough Trade Records, ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’ (formerly a title for Burl Ives), reached number 3 in the UK independent chart. Despite this promising start, and much music press attention, they failed, largely through disorganization, to set the live circuit alight and subsequently broke up soon after the release of their lone album, which was recorded for major label Chrysalis Records. Alex Taylor was reportedly last spotted working as (ironically) a shop assistant for a record store chain. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

viernes, 14 de octubre de 2016

Downy Mildew


This Los Angeles, California, USA quintet comprises Jenny Homer (vocals, guitar), Charlie Baldonado (guitar, vocals), Janine Cooper (bass, ex-Pet Clark), Rob Jacobs (drums, percussion) and Salvador Garze (violin). Cooper replaced original, long-time bass player Nancy McCoy, who opted to devote herself to motherhood, in time for 'Slow Sky'. Downy Mildew’s origins can be traced to the mid-80s when renowned independent label Texas Hotel Records released their debut EP and two follow-up albums (these were later reissued on new home, High Street Records). Recalling California’s vintage 60s pop mood, with the group weaned on the sounds of The Beach Boys and Mamas And The Papas, songwriters Homer and Baldonado used these influences as a platform for their simple but affecting pop songs -often orchestrated in tandem with unexpected lyrical twists. With the duo writing both individually and collaboratively, this three-pronged approach led to considerable stylistic diversity within the band’s albums, with Baldonado’s enduring affection for Burt Bacharach (including a cover version of "Walk On By") noted by several critics. Earlier, 'Broomtree' had announced these disparate songwriting approaches, with Baldonado’s writing more rooted in the folk rock tradition, contrasting with Homer’s harder, up-tempo style. Comparisons to 10,000 Maniacs were, at this stage at least, not too far wide of the mark. Another unifying factor in the band’s appeal, that of accomplished musicianship and self-reliant production, was further evinced with 'Mincing Steps'. A cohesive collection of songs performed in a quasi-orchestral style, it managed to balance grandeur with harmonic pop essentials. 'An Oncoming Train', Downy Mildew’s acclaimed debut for High Street Records, saw them enlist the services of Mitchell Froom associate Tchad Blake, who had previously worked with Los Lobos, Suzanne Vega and Tom Waits. Their relationship together continued with 'Slow Sky', which refined the group’s sound further. The familiar elements -lush male/female vocal interchanges overriding darker lyrical sentiments- were offered a new sheen by virtue of the group’s evident self-confidence and poise. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

jueves, 13 de octubre de 2016

The Comsat Angels


Erroneously regarded as a synth pop band -and, every now and then, as a band that peaked with a song placed in a scene of Real Genius -The Comsat Angels were one of the finest bands of the post-punk/new wave era. Often as moody if less dramatic than Joy Division, their first and best albums -1980's 'Waiting for a Miracle', 1981's 'Sleep No More', and 1982's 'Fiction'- featured abstract pop songs with sparse instrumentation, many of which were bleak and filled with some form of heartache. The albums were almost unrelentingly sullen, but they were always transfixing. The band then fell prey to various commercial pressures for several years. In the '90s they resurfaced with a pair of powerful albums that resembled logical extensions of their earliest work, and then they vanished again. 

After numerous incarnations and name changes, the Sheffield-based Radio Earth -guitarist and vocalist Stephen Fellows, drummer Mik Glaisher, keyboardist Andy Peake, bassist Kevin Bacon- found themselves opening for Pere Ubu in Newcastle. After the gig, the quartet realized that they had been blown off the stage and intimidated by the headliners' sense of focus and ability to confuse. Following a rethink, they came back as the less self-conscious Comsat Angels (the name referenced a short story by J.G. Ballard). They took a loan from Glaisher's father to record and release the 'Red Planet' EP in 1979; BBC DJ John Peel, who was sent a copy, liked what he heard, requested a few more copies and booked the band for one of his famous Peel Sessions. 


An unintrusive deal with Polydor allowed the band to make three stunning albums and pay back Mr. Glaisher, but the label didn't know how to handle the band and the more influential music journalists shied away for whatever reason, though the coverage the band did receive tended to be glowing. Only "Independence Day," from the first album, managed to chart in the U.K. The albums were not distributed in the States, but the band did support Gang of Four during some 1982 dates and were shocked at the reception they received -the result of spins on college radio stations. 

The Comsats left Polydor for Jive, and 1983's 'Land', produced by Mike Howlett, was a marked departure and a conscious aim for the top of the charts. It backfired, but 1985's '7 Day Weekend', produced by Miles Davis associate and funk-pop producer extraordinaire James Mtume, fared worse. (A parallel: imagine a fourth Wire album that resembles Level 42 much more than Wire.) Released on Island in 1986, 'Chasing Shadows' came to life with some help from high-profile fan Robert Palmer; it too was second-rate compared to the first three albums, despite being less compromised, and the Comsats were pleased enough to refer to it as their fourth album. 'Fire on the Moon', finished the following year and not released until 1990, was the band's lowest point, a very bland hard rock album credited to Dream Command


At this point, The Comsat Angels came to a full realization that their efforts at pleasing others -label heads and consumers alike- had been fruitless. They signed with RPM/Thunderbird in the U.K. and Caroline in the States, and released 1992's 'My Mind's Eye', a toughened updated of the 1979-1982 period. Unsurprisingly, it was met with commercial indifference and spotty critical praise. Kevin Bacon, who had started to produce other artists, left the band after its release. Terry Todd came in as Bacon's replacement on bass, and Simon Anderson was added as second guitarist. In 1995, the Comsats issued 'The Glamour', their hardest album. It would also be their last. 

Fellows released an album of ambient guitar instrumentals in 1997 and also managed Gomez. Bacon produced additional acts (Finley Quaye, Longpigs, Ziggy Marley) and put together some of his own electronic material. Glaisher and Peake continued to work together sporadically. In 2009, the band briefly reconvened for a handful of gigs. From the mid-'90s through the mid-2010s, all of their albums were either issued or reissued on CD. 'Waiting for a Miracle', 'Sleep No More', and 'Fiction' alone were expanded by RPM (1995), Renascent (2006), and Edsel (2015). The last of those labels also combined 'Chasing Shadows' and 'Fire on the Moon'. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC]

miércoles, 12 de octubre de 2016

The Blake Babies


While Blake Babies made several engaging records in the late '80s and early '90s, they never broke out of the collegiate rock circles where they were adored. It wasn't until 1992 that their leader, Juliana Hatfield, began getting recognition as a songwriter in more mainstream publications, but that was after the group was broken up. Over their four albums, Hatfield's songwriting and thin, girlish singing improved drastically as the band's post-R.E.M. alternative pop grew more muscular, branching out into both punkier and folkier territories on each record. By the time of their last full-length album, 1990's 'Sunburn', guitarist John Strohm was emerging as an impressive songwriter in his own right. After a final EP in 1991, the band split, with Hatfield emerging as an alternative superstar and Strohm and drummer Freda Love forming the acclaimed guitar pop band Antenna


In 2000 The Blake Babies came out of a ten-year retirement to record a new album, 'God Bless the Blake Babies'. The album was released March 6, 2001, on Rounder Records. Drummer Freda Love conceived the comeback, talking the other two original members into a reunion. She was rewarded with having her first Blake Babies composition "Nothing Ever Happens" be the first single. Older and better musicians, this version of the band sacrifices the charm of the amateur indie pop for a smarter, crafted sound that works as a natural progression of the band. The side projects and solo careers shaped the individual members into hardened veterans of the music industry, and their experiences give their new material a depth that their earlier work lacked. Spring of 2001 saw the band hit the road playing old haunts like Chapel Hill, NC's Cat's Cradle and new versions of the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., and the Knitting Factory in New York City to receptive audiences. John Strohm called it the best The Blake Babies ever sounded. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

martes, 11 de octubre de 2016

Ausgang


One of the lesser-known British goth bands of the early to mid-'80s, Ausgang put out one album, one mini-album, and a handful of 7" and 12" singles between 1982 and 1987. Theirs was a Batcave-like sound: spiky guitars, stiff punk-funky drumming, clipped yelping vocals, dark, alienated ranting songwriting, and little melody. Even relative to goth bands like Alien Sex Fiend, they made little impact in the United States, where very few are aware of them. A compilation of much of their material, 'Last Exit...The Best of Ausgang', came out in 2001. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

lunes, 10 de octubre de 2016

Turbines


Powerful blues-based rock quartet from Roxbury, Massachusetts, USA, who sparked to life briefly in the mid-80s but disappeared just as quickly. With a line-up of Jack Hickey (guitar), John Hovorka (guitar, vocals), Fred Nazzaro (drums) and David Shibler (bass), the Turbines occupied a space somewhere between the frenzied rockabilly of The Cramps and the mannered dark élan of early Nick Cave. It later transpired that the band were close allies of The Blasters, whose country punk experiments constituted another comparison invoked over the course of their two albums. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

domingo, 9 de octubre de 2016

The Smiths


The Smiths were the definitive British indie rock band of the '80s, marking the end of synth-driven new wave and the beginning of the guitar rock that dominated English rock into the '90s. Sonically, the group was indebted to the British Invasion, crafting ringing, melodic three-minute pop singles, even for their album tracks. But their scope was far broader than that of a revivalist band. The group's core members, vocalist Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, were obsessive rock fans inspired by the D.I.Y. ethics of punk, but they also had a fondness for girl groups, pop, and rockabilly. Morrissey and Marr also represented one of the strangest teams of collaborators in rock history. Marr was the rock traditionalist, looking like an elegant version of Keith Richards during The Smiths' heyday and meticulously layering his guitar tracks in the studio. Morrissey, on the other hand, broke from rock tradition by singing in a keening, self-absorbed croon, embracing the forlorn, romantic poetry of Oscar Wilde, publicly declaring his celibacy, and making no secret of his disgust for most of his peers. While it eventually led to The Smiths' early demise, the friction between Morrissey and Marr resulted in a flurry of singles and albums over the course of three years that provided the blueprint for British guitar rock in the following decade. 

Before forming The Smiths in 1982, Johnny Marr (born John Maher, October 31, 1963; guitar) had played in a variety of Manchester-based rock & roll bands, including Sister Ray, Freaky Part, White Dice, and Paris Valentinos. On occasion, Marr had come close to a record contract -one of his bands won a competition Stiff Records held to have Nick Lowe "produce your band"- but he never quite made the leap. Though Morrissey (born Steven Patrick Morrissey, May 22, 1959; vocals) had sung for a few weeks with The Nosebleeds and auditioned for Slaughter & the Dogs, he had primarily contented himself to being a passionate, vocal fan of both music and film. During his teens, he wrote the Melody Maker frequently, often getting his letters published. He had written the biography/tribute "James Dean Isn't Dead", which was published by the local Manchester publishing house Babylon Books in the late '70s, as well as another book on the New York Dolls; he was also the president of the English New York Dolls fan club. Morrissey met Marr, who was then looking for a lyricist, through mutual friends in the spring of 1982. The pair began writing songs, eventually recording some demos with The Fall's drummer, Simon Wolstencroft. By the fall, the duo had settled on the name The Smiths and recruited Marr's schoolmate Andy Rourke as their bassist and Mike Joyce as their drummer. 


The Smiths made their live debut late in 1982, and by the spring of 1983, the group had earned a small but loyal following in their hometown of Manchester and had begun to make inroads in London. Rejecting a record deal with the Mancunian Factory Records, the band signed with Rough Trade for a one-off single, "Hand in Glove." With its veiled references to homosexuality and its ringing riffs, "Hand in Glove" became an underground sensation in the U.K., topping the independent charts and earning the praise of the U.K. music weeklies. Soon, Morrissey's performances became notorious as he appeared on-stage wearing a hearing aid and with gladioli stuffed in his back pockets. His interviews were becoming famous for his forthright, often contrary opinions, which helped the band become a media sensation. By the time of the group's second single, "This Charming Man," in late 1983, The Smiths had already been the subject of controversy over "Reel Around the Fountain," a song that had been aired on a BBC radio session and was alleged to condone child abuse. It was the first time that Morrissey's detached, literary, and ironic lyrics were misinterpreted and it wouldn't be the last. 

"This Charming Man" reached number 25 on the British charts in December of 1983, setting the stage for "What Difference Does It Make"'s peak of number 12 in February. The Smiths' rise to the upper reaches of the British charts was swift, and the passion of their fans, as well as the U.K. music press, indicated that the group had put an end to the synth-powered new wave that dominated Britain in the early '80s. After rejecting their initial stab at a first album, they released their debut, 'The Smiths', in the spring of 1984 to strong reviews and sales -it peaked at number two. A few months later, the group backed '60s pop vocalist Sandie Shaw -who Morrissey had publicly praised in an article- on a version of "Hand in Glove" that was released and reached the Top 40. "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" reached number ten, becoming their highest-charting single amid a storm of controversy about its B-side, "Suffer Little Children," which was about the notorious Moors Murders. More controversy appeared when Morrissey denounced the hunger-relief efforts of Band Aid, but the group's popularity was not affected. Though The Smiths had become the most popular new rock & roll group in Britain, the group failed to make it outside of underground and college radio in the U.S., partially because they never launched a full-scale tour. At the end of the year, "William It Was Really Nothing" became a Top 20 hit and 'Hatful of Hollow', a collection of B-sides, BBC sessions, and non-LP singles, went to the Top Ten, followed shortly by "How Soon Is Now," which peaked at number 24.
'Meat Is Murder', the band's second proper studio album, entered the British charts at number one in February of 1985, despite some criticism that it was weaker than 'The Smiths'. Around the time of the release of 'Meat Is Murder', Morrissey's interviews were becoming increasingly political as he trashed the Thatcher administration and campaigned for vegetarianism; he even claimed that The Smiths were all vegetarians, and he forbade the remaining members to be photographed eating meat, even though they were still carnivores. Marr, for his part, was delving deeply into the rock & roll lifestyle and looked increasingly like a cross between Keith Richards and Brian Jones. By the time the non-LP "Shakespeare's Sister" reached number 26 in the spring of 1985, The Smiths had spawned a rash of soundalike bands, including James, who opened for the group on their spring 1985 tour, most of whom Morrissey supported. However, all of the media attention on The Smiths launched a mild backlash later in 1985, when "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" was pulled from 'Meat Is Murder' and failed to reach the Top 40. 

"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" revived the band's fortunes in the fall of 1985, and their third album, 'The Queen Is Dead', confirmed their popularity upon its release in the spring of 1986. Greeted with enthusiastic reviews and peaking at number two on the U.K. charts, 'The Queen Is Dead' also expanded their cult following in the U.S., cracking the Top 100. Shortly before the album was completed, former Aztec Camera guitarist Craig Gannon became the band's rhythm guitarist, and he played with the band throughout their 1986 international tour, including a botched American tour. The non-LP "Panic," which was criticized as racist by some observers for its repeated refrain of "Burn down the disco...hang the DJ," reached number 11 late in the summer. A few months after its release, Marr was seriously injured in a car crash. During his recuperation, Gannon was fired from the band, as was Rourke, who was suffering from heroin addiction. Though Rourke was later reinstated, Gannon was never replaced.

The Smiths may have been at the height of their popularity in early 1987, with the non-LP singles "Shoplifters of the World" and "Sheila Take a Bow" reaching number 11 and ten respectively, and the singles and B-sides compilation 'The World Won't Listen' (revamped for U.S. release as 'Louder Than Bombs' later in 1987) debuting at number two, but Marr was growing increasingly disenchanted with the band and the music industry. Over the course of the year, Morrissey and Marr became increasingly irritated with each other. The singer wished that Marr would stop playing with other artists like Bryan Ferry and Billy Bragg, while the guitarist was frustrated with Morrissey's devotion to '60s pop and his hesitancy to explore new musical directions. A few weeks before the fall release of 'Strangeways, Here We Come', Marr announced that he was leaving The Smiths. Morrissey disbanded the group shortly afterward and began a solo career, signing with Parlophone in the U.K. and staying with The Smiths' U.S. label, Reprise. Marr played as a sideman with a variety of artists, eventually forming Electronic with New Order frontman Bernard Sumner. Rourke retired from recording and Joyce became a member of the reunited Buzzcocks in 1991. 

'Rank', a live album recorded on the 'Queen Is Dead' tour, was released in the fall of 1988. It debuted at number two in the U.K. A widely criticized, two-part 'The Best of the Smiths' compilation was released in 1992; the praised 'Singles' compilation was released in 1995. Joyce and Rourke sued Morrissey and Marr in 1991, claiming they received only ten percent of the group's earnings while the songwriters received 40 percent. Rourke eventually settled out of court, but Joyce won his case in late 1996. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC]