Sunday, January 24, 2016

Things we like: Craig Bell, Paul Kikuchi, Tame Tame & Quiet

1) I don't know much about the '70s-'80s Connecticut music scene, although I grew up on Long Island (just a short ferry ride across the Sound) and lived there until 1978. I do remember a pedal-to-the-metal drive from Bridgeport to Hartford to see Frank Zappa in October of '77. My pint of vodka, cleverly concealed in a female companion's purse, was confiscated at the door, so I had my first experience of what I would later learn is called schadenfraude when I heard of the Civic Center roof's collapse under the weight of snow during the blizzard a couple of months later. I also remember a (Bridgeport?) radio station that played four hours of Ornette Coleman and associates every Sunday, and a Hartford band called Little Village, a Yardbirds-Stones derivation in the manner of Aerosmith, who had a self-released album that got some spins on my local FM station ca. '77.

But it was to the Nutmeg State that Cleveland proto-punk pioneer Craig Bell moved in 1976, to work for the railroad, after being present at the creation as a member of Mirrors and Rocket From the Tombs. In short order, he was back in the band wars, helming a succession of outfits including Saucers, Future Plan, the Plan, and the Bell System. In true DIY fashion, Bell released a few singles for his own or friends' bands on an indie label, Gustav Records, and in 1982, compiled an LP's worth of studio recordings by like-minded Connecticut bands, It Happened...But Nobody Noticed, which was subsequently upgraded to a double CD in 2008. The bands represented here are of surprisingly consistent high quality, all inhabiting the territory roughly delineated by the labels punk/new wave, garage, and power pop, with energy and melody the hallmarks. It's probably my favorite regional comp since ('60s-focused) Michigan Mayhem! Vol. 1, or the Fort Worth Teen Scene series.

As is my habit with comps like this, to avoid giving anyone short shrift, I'm going to provide three-word descriptions of each of the bands/tracks. Here we go:

Poodle Boys - "Pop," not "pot."
Subdueds - Lotsa fast changes.
Scout House - New England Merseybeat.
Hot Bodies - Del Shannon dirge.
The Furies - Count Fivish singer.
Saucers - RFTT/Mirrors re-tread.
The Snotz - Post-Loaded doowop.
TV Neats - Exuberant Farfisa poptune.
International Q - Radio Birdmanish velocity.
Troupe Di Coupe - Horn-driven mysterioso
No Music - Fuzzy Kinkoid aggro.
October Days - Proto-Goth gloom.
The Bats - Surf-punk raver.

And over on the second disc:

Stratford Survivors - Thin Lizzyish pounder.
Disturbance - Twitchy art damage.
The Excerpts - Raspberries-flavored pop.
Epitome - Quavery garage grunt.
Valley of Kings - Dissonant surf-punk.
The Not Quite - Garage psych apocalypse.
The Sabres - Four steps down.
Dada Banks - Cold War Troggs.
Radio Reptiles - The drummer's band?
The Cadavers - Costello meets Who.
The Plan - New wave ambivalence.
Happy Ending - Protest with saxophone.
The Reducers - Ringing closing anthem.

I've saved the best for last. In 2011, Saucers -- which planted Bell in the middle of two Malcolms (Doak on keys and vox, Marsden on guitar and vox) -- reconvened to cut a five-song EP, Second Saucer, that Craig justifiably calls "a hidden gem." The Velvets influence is strong in these tunes, with some '80s keyb flourishes added. Indeed, "Security" sounds nothing less than Doug Yule (OK, Malcolm Marsden) singing a particularly brutal descendant of "Sister Ray." Bell's own best moment here is the Dylanesque "Where Have They Gone," which boasts a tortuously melodic (think mid-'70s Phil Manzanera) Marsden guitar solo. Brisk and bracing. Now, we await release info on Bell's aka Darwin Layne rarities compilation.

2) Seattle-based Paul Kikuchi's a percussionist and composer whose works often have an air of ambient spaciousness, but on Chemical Language, he's teamed with saxophonist Wally Shoup and guitarist Bill Horist for a program of extemporizations characterized by more pulse and grit than we're accustomed to hearing from these men -- approaching Last Exit territory. On the title track, Shoup's alto weeps with the soul cry of the blues, while on "Delusion and Disintegration," he and Horist (who employs a burry, saturated tone throughout) conduct a heated exchange while Kikuchi subdivides time with his deeply-tuned toms. Another installment in an estimable body of work.

3) When Stoogeaphilia played a show with Tame Tame & Quiet a couple of weeks ago, TT&Q frontman Aaron Bartz gave me a quick and dirty walk through his band's discography. Debut CD Tin Can Communicate (2007) predated bassist Paddy Flynn's tenure in the band, and 2009's Fight In Words was recorded to document TT&Q's since-discarded Flynn-era repertoire before the bassist joined the Navy. The band reformed in 2013, with Jeff Williams replacing Flynn on bass last year, and they just released a cassette EP, Peach Hills, which was recorded at Cloudland Studios (also the site of a recent Brokegrove Lads studio encounter), with Britt Robisheaux at the controls. Aaron says they're working on material for a new album. Throughout the band's trajectory, their signature elements have been his slightly distressed vocals, and his and Darren Miller's unconventionally intertwining guitar lines.

The TT&Q boys will be at Shipping and Receiving on Friday, January 29, opening a bill that also includes instrumental surf supergroup Chrome Mags -- who possess massive improv potential since adding master percussionist Eddie Dunlap (Mondo Drummers, Rageout Orchestra, ex-Master Cylinder) and bassist Robert Kramer (my Brokegrove Lads buddy and ex-Tabula Rasa/Gumshoe/Purple Overdose) to their lineup -- and the mighty Me-Thinks, born again hard with new second guitarist Johnny Trashpockets (One Fingered Fist, ex-Elvis Took Acid) and a fresh Matthew Barnhart-produced 7-inch awaiting release that founding Me-Think/"secret weapon" Will Risinger declares (from exile in Arkansas) is "the best thing they've ever done." A bill to conjure with, for sure.


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