Saturday, May 22, 2010
Two new CDs that I have recently picked up have transported me to a different time. The first one is from the great UK label LTM’s most recent release in their continuing Auteur Labels series. The series has featured some fantastic UK labels who released some of the most influential music of post-punk in the late 70s and early 80s. This release features the fantastic US label Independent Project Records founded in Los Angeles in 1980 by Savage Republic co-founder Bruce Licher. This 23 track compilation spans the history entirely (notice the clear gap from ’96-’08) showcasing its varied assortment of artists and their amazing groundbreaking sounds. I first ran across this label in the mid-to-late 80s when I picked up Camper Van Beethoven’s landmark debut Telephone Free Landslide Victory (1985), featuring, of course, their quirky single “Take the Skinheads Bowling” (included here). The next time I ran into the label was when I found the debut LP from Nebraska’s For Against’s Echelons (1987). It wasn’t until late 1990, while away at college that I encountered a For Against release on the label which absolutely changed my life. The first in IPR’s series of 10” colored vinyl only releases featured some unreleased and experimental tracks from this amazing band. This “Archive Series” debuted with the promise of a new installment every other month which could be had via subscription. These records were interesting, thought provoking, and most importantly, entertaining, but the bonus was the fantastic artwork that made up these special records. The records were numbered and pressed in an old fashioned letterpress printer and looked otherworldly. They provoked the imagination and upon arrival would send me off to stereo to absorb every nuance of these incredible products. These records expanded my horizons and exposed me to what felt like a special secret world. I started my subscription (my number was 0340) shortly after having to return home from college due to a lot of strife with my family. My mom was going through the early stages of a battle with cancer that she would eventually lose, while I was due for some serious surgery myself. These records were an oasis for me; a chance to escape from the horrors of hospital visits full of bad news and be transported to a world full of potential and discovery. Listening to this compilation reminded me of how amazing this music really was with the added bonus of hearing some of the artists from the label’s earliest releases for the first time! It is essential.
This was when my addiction to music went from bad to worse. I began to delve further into this new secret world of music that I was quickly discovering by uncovering layer after layer of how to track these things down while stuck in a small Oregon town. I started to read small regional music fanzines voraciously, mostly for the record reviews and the tiny little ads provided by tiny little record labels. I started writing letters to the bands and labels directly and mail ordering from them for the smallest of costs. Soon enough I was receiving records in my mailbox more than a few times a week! Wil and I even started putting together a little ‘zine of our own in the early 90s named, not surprisingly, “This Wreckage.” It was fun and exciting to feel involved even in the remotest of ways.
This brings me to the other new CD that’s been gracing my player constantly: Black Tambourine. This band was only around for two years at the end of the 80s and all but one of their (few) songs were released posthumously. This CD follows 1999’s Complete Recordings and tacks on six more tracks. Two are simply demos of prior tracks, while four more are new recordings of old songs from their few live sets from back in the day. Hearing this rough and tumble music with sugary sweet melodies buried beneath walls of guitar fuzz reminded me how fun and invigorating the music was and is and how clearly it inspired and drove me through such hard times. It makes me want to dig out my old records again as well as my old holey Black Tambourine T-Shirt showing the girl with the bob-haircut pointing a gun, which once led Archie Moore in 1994 (then member of Velocity Girl, former member of BT) to stop during a set at La Luna and approach me at my familiar perch with friends near the front, stage left, and ask me where the hell I got that shirt. I was speechless and the show continued, but the answer was simple. I got it when I bought Black Tambourine’s first full 7” EP via mail order from Slumberland Records for like $4 postpaid. I’m sure it included a note of thanks from label honcho Mike Schulman (also a member of BT) on the backside of a piece of scrap paper with their small discography Xeroxed on the back. This CD release is number 111 twenty-some odd years later. I recommended these guys to everyone back then. I still do.