Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Like Soul Man: 5 days of GBV

I'm going to try something new with the blog for now. There are only so many out-of-print records I can go on about, 1) it gets tiring, and 2) I listen to more than just OOP material.

So in a noble experiment, well, not so noble or experimental, but challenging in that it will force me to get creative, I'm going to attempt to nail down my 5 favorite Guided By Voices tracks, one per day. Anybody with some slight knowledge of US indierock/"low-fi" knows how difficult of a challenge this may be, because in the time it's taken to read what I've written so far, Bob Pollard has probably written and recorded 10 songs.

To save my sanity, and make it a more reasonable challenge, I'm limiting myself to the "classic" GBV era (pre-Cobra Verde musicians, ending approximately with the 1996 LP Under The Bushes Under The Stars. No slight on the latter lineup, because the couple times I saw that lineup live they did bring it, but any GBV fan knows that the soul of the band died, or dimmed, when guitarist/foil Tobin Sprout left after the '96 LP.

I'll probably begin with the first-of-the-five in the next day or so (because, like the ultimate construction of their legendary Bee Thousand LP, the many lists I've made in preparation for this post are nearly completely different from each other), as I really need to nail down my absolute top 5 tracks. It's really fucking difficult with this band, even taking out the wilderness years 1985-1991 and concentrating on the Propeller/Vampire on Titus/a million EPs/Bee Thousand/another million EPs/Alien Lanes/more EPs/Under The Bushes Under The Stars sequence - there are, perhaps, close to 200 songs to choose from (and, of those, only a third don't really rate for this post).

So... without dwelling on it, what are my readers' top 5 "classic era" GBV songs? Interesting to see where everyone's head is at with this one. My posts will likely start in the next couple days.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

the big reveal: POSTER CHILDREN Toreador Squat

With thanks to Josh D of The Wizard's Super-Special Rock and Roll Good Times Jamboree! for the actual cassette and transfer, I am excited to bring you a World First - or at least a Power of Independent Trucking first - as previously discussed: 

with exclusive liner notes from the band!

I have been on a semi-serious hunt for this record (tape) for twenty years, or, as long as I've known of its existence. We've previously blogged the Poster Children here, and I extended my plea to readers of my blog. Lo! #1 - faithful reader Josh D rose to meet the challenge, and went way over and above the call of duty in finally ending my two-decade quest by ripping his original 1988 copy of this cassette. Thanks Josh!

So... now that I have this record, let's do some reading about it on the Internets. Why not - a good way to kill time while soaking in the first-time listen to this wonderful burst of Midwest pop/postpunk.

But... where's the discussion? Why does nearly every website that even bothers to mention this record simply recycle the same verbiage every other site uses? Needless to say, there is virtually nothing written about this record beyond very uber-basic background info, and minimal at that.

So I took the bull by the horns and went direct to the source. I emailed the band and Lo! #2, they responded. And they love the blog! And after a very basic brief about what I was doing, they opened up the cooperation floodgates. I was amazed, impressed and eternally grateful. Thanks Rick and Rose!

To make a long, boring, technoweenie discussion short, this record (tape) was the band's first release, if you can call it that. Recorded in an attic in Champaign, IL in early 1988 on a Portastudio 4-track cassette recorder, these songs were the Poster Children's calling card in the very early days of their career. Selling the tapes locally at shows and indie record shops, the band quickly developed a following and, well, the rest is history.

Not a whole hell of a lot of these tapes were made. I honestly didn't think I'd get a response to my plea, knowing the age of the tape and the age bracket of those who would have bought or been given a copy back in 1988. That Josh D responded, and with an actual, original tape (and not some mp3's from a generated dub of a dub), still floors me.

Because of the complete dearth of information on the Internets, Rick Valentin (guitars/vocals) and Rose Marshack (bass) - the two original and primary Poster Children - agreed to 1) let the blog host lossless copies of this record, and 2) write the "liner notes"! Needless to say I was thrilled. It is so very rarely that a band is as personable, reachable, fan-friendly and just plain *nice* as these guys are. And they don't mind giving their music away! That is to say, Rick felt it wouldn't be appropriate to charge people for this record these days.

That said... as I did last time I blogged a PC record, I encourage all listeners to visit the band's "Hat" on their website and drop some cash in the hat via PayPal, whatever amount you feel necessary, if you like. By all means don't feel obligated to do so, but it's a nice gesture. I will be doing the same even though I've purchased every PC album released since this tape.

Enough appetizers. Let's get to the main course. And this being The Power of Independent Trucking, as is my wont, I cleaned up the tracks quite a bit, as the straight-off-the-highspeed-dub tracks did need some massaging. I indicated the same to the band when I initiated contact about this endeavor.

Rick's response to my initial hesitant query:

I think this is a great idea! I've been trying for years to get the original four-track master from the guy who recorded Toreador Squat and I don't think it's gonna happen, so having a cleaned up version of the cassette would be the next best thing...

I'd be fine with you hosting it on your blog and I'm sure we can dredge up some memories of the recording for liner notes...

And then after some back-and-forth, this:

As far as Toreador Squat goes, I definitely feel like these are bonus-type tracks, the kind of thing fans would like but not necessarily something I would feel right charging for.

Thanks for getting the ball rolling with this! Getting these tracks cleaned up and digitized was something I've had on my to do list forever but never got around to (and probably never would have!)

And then Rose emailed me indicating she loved my blog so much she shared it on Facebook ;)

So, shall we?

(notes by Rick Valentin except where noted)

The cover and title of the cassette came from a type of paper bag. Rose hand-drew the insert -- this was before we discovered Zipatone and before we had Photoshop. There are a bunch of [Thomas] Pynchon references in the credits (The Paranoids, a muted post horn, W.A.S.T.E.) -- we were really into The Crying of Lot 49 at the time (and really anti-Fountainhead, hence the Ayn Rand un-credit).

Trashcan Records was a cassette-only label run by Jim Slusarek and Chris Corpora which released a couple of compilations of Champaign music and put out individual “albums” by a few local bands. Jim set up his Portastudio and microphones in our attic rehearsal space and recorded us playing our instruments live, then we added vocals afterwards. Chris would make duplicates of the master on his tape deck and we’d package up the tapes and sell them at shows and in local record stores.

These recording sessions were in the spring of 1988, just a few months before we recorded the bulk of Flower Plower with Iain Burgess, so the a lot of the tracks are duplicated on FP but there are a few that never made it into the Iain sessions, I’m not sure why, probably because we ran out of time/money.

01 Hollywood USA 
 I think the original title for this song was "The Cowboy Song" and (in our minds) it was some kind of combination of rockabilly and Naked Raygun.

02 The Bump Bump Song
We always had a problem with new songs, we wanted to play them right away but they usually didn’t have finished lyrics so we’d have to name them by some musical characteristic rather than the subject. This song had “bumps” in the rhythm so it became the "Bump Bump Song".

03 Rain On Me
The one thing I notice on this track is the hi-hat (or lack thereof). During the Flower Plower sessions Shannon (drummer) was feeling left out of the overdub process so he added a hi-hat over his drum part, which I notice every time I hear the song - it’s kind of nice to hear the original drum part on the cassette version.

04 Detective Tracy 
 Rose’s dad (a jazz trumpeter) always liked this song because it had that goofy break where we did the walking bass and guitar parts. The lyrics came from a weird combination of classic Dick Tracy comic strips and dealing with religious zealots in college.

05 Carrie Look Ahead 
This is one of the songs that fell by the wayside by the time we recorded with Iain Burgess. I think it was because we had a newer “quiet” song ("She Walks" [ed: available on Flower Plower]) and didn’t want to record too many soft numbers with the man who had engineered [Naked Raygun's] All Rise and [Didjits'] Hey Judester.
ROSE: I've always wanted to re-record "Carrie Look Ahead", named after a type of digital logic adder! 

06 And So It Goes... (The Skanky Song)
[ed: Recorded live at Mabel's, Champaign IL 3 May 1988]
I wouldn’t have remembered this song if it wasn’t on tape. I’m not sure what the deal is with the vocals - it sounds like a Bob Mould impersonation that went horribly awry!

07 Jeremy Straight
This was our attempt at a Naked Raygun song, complete with "Oh-way-ohs".

08 White Noise (Black Light)
[ed: re-titled "Question" for Flower Plower]
In the early days of the band, I would bring in a song into practice that I’d written myself or worked on with Rose -- I think this is the first song we wrote together as a band and it seemed better than any of the songs I wrote myself so “jamming” became our predominant method of songwriting after this.

09 The Un-Reggae Song 
This one was a Joe Jackson-y ska-ish song with some David Byrne-isms thrown in. So we were about 15 years ahead of the New Wave revival! Or more likely about 5 years behind the times...

10 Carvers of New York City 
For some reason I always thought of this as our attempt at a Cheap Trick type of song but I’m not really sure why I thought that - maybe because I was singing at a higher pitch than normal? The lyrics came from randomly selecting words and phrases from an article in the Atlantic Monthly - there was a story about people carving fake African figures and masks.

11 State of Mind 
This was a song from the band Rose and I were in before PC, The Evidence. It has more of the Minutemen/Hüsker Dü thing we were into at the time.

12 The Weenie Song 
Another weenie song that didn’t make the Flower Plower cut as our songs got more aggressive overall.

13 Five Minutes
Another Evidence song, definitely of the attempted Hüsker Dü variety.

14 The Half-Time Song 
I don’t think this one had lyrics until the recording session. When we played live I would just jabber and hope that no one could hear. The center section is me talking to a baby kitten, Bob, that Chris had just adopted.

- - - - - -
Tracks 1-4, 7-9 were re-recorded with Iain Burgess later in 1988 and released on Flower Plower.
Track 10 was re-recorded with Steve Albini in 1990 and released on Daisychain Reaction.
Tracks 5-6, 11-14 were never re-visited or released beyond this cassette.

Original transfer from the 1988 cassette by Josh D, as mentioned above
Remastered (though it does bring out some of the flaws in the high-speed dubbing process) in September 2010 by the Analog Loyalist. HINT - it sounds much better in headphones ;)

Oh, you want the files? Lossless FLACs are here
See for a FLAC decoder or suggested players.

With the most sincere thanks to Rick, Rose, drummer Shannon and Josh, I bid you all to enjoy!

Friday, October 8, 2010

beat the (for profit) bootleggers!

What surprises me is it's taken so long for something like this to happen. Bastards.

Remember - you heard these tracks, these actual versions, here first!

Spread the word far and wide, all but the Moonlight tracks are available, FREE - and lossless, right here on this blog.

On to our regularly-scheduled programming....