Indie Basement (11/11): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
We've hit mid-November which means new releases have finally slowed down a little but I've still got six for you this week in Indie Basement: The John Hughes Mixtapes is '80s teen film gold, Love & Rockets launch a vinyl reissue campaign, plus new albums by Breanna Barbara, Jeb Loy Nichols, veteran electronic duo Plaid, Blinker the Star, and more.
If you need more of the week's new stuff, Andrew reviews L.S. Dunes, Smidley, Christine and the Queens and more in Notable Releases. For more Basement-related: GOAT Don Letts just announced his debut solo album which features Terry Hall, Wayne Coyne, and Hollie Cook; there are also new albums on the way from The Raincoats' Gina Birch, Beta Band's Steve Mason, and Fever Ray; Robyn Hitchcock will be touring with Kelley Stoltz; The Sisters of Mercy are finally coming back to the US; and The Flaming Lips' Space Bubble Concert Film is on the Criterion Channel.
Also: read my recaps from Iceland Airwaves.
A reminder that there's an Indie Basement section of the BV shop whose virtual shelves are stocked high with vinyl and merch from Love & Rockets, Mogwai, The Flaming Lips, King Gizzard, Pavement, Wet Leg, Mo Troper, Arctic Monkeys, Beach House, Broadcast, Stereolab, Belle & Sebastian, Talking Heads, Spoon, Lilys, Cocteau Twins, Can, Dinosaur Jr and more.
Various Artists - Life Moves Pretty Fast: The John Hughes Mixtapes (Demon)
John Hughes fans finally get the soundtracks they deserve -- mostly -- with this collection that mixes hits with long-sought-after rarities
"As always, we went for passion over popularity." That's John Hughes in the press release for the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack, but it sums up the approach he brought to choosing the music for his films which are some of the most beloved of the '80s. Unfortunately the actual soundtrack albums for Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles and others didn't always have the best songs that were in the films. This compilation -- available in a variety of editions, big and bigger -- does a good job of correcting that, and is a real white whale release for John Hughes fans. I wrote this up back when it was announced and here's part of it:
Life Moves Pretty Fast does not have everything. There are tracks omitted probably for budget reasons -- The Beatles "Twist & Shout" from Ferris Beuller, The Smiths' "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" from Pretty in Pink, not to mention Psychedelic Furs' title track) but none of those are particularly hard to find. What it does have are most of those lost treasures, especially from Ferris Bueller: The Flowerpot Men's "Beat City" (which was only released as a John Hughes Fan Club 7" and has been repressed for the super deluxe edition of this box), The Dream Academy's majestic instrumental cover of "Please Please Please," and The English Beat's "March of the Swivelheads" that soundtracks Ferris' mad dash home across neighborhood backyards.
There's also Propaganda's incredible "Abuse [Here]" which is the most memorable piece of music in Some Kind of Wonderful (sorry, Flesh for Lulu); The Revillos' B-52's-esque "Rev Up" and The Specials' "Little Bitch" from Sixteen Candles; and The Rave-Ups' "Positively Lost Me" which they perform live in Pretty in Pink but were not allowed to be on the soundtrack because A&M wanted songs written just for the film. They even included Pop Will Eat Itself's grebo-hip-hop cover of '60s garage rock obscurity "Beaver Patrol" from The Great Outdoors.
Pick up Life Moves Pretty Fast: The John Hughes Mixtapes as a double LP vinyl set or as a 4-CD/cassette/7" box set in the BV shop. The comp isn't available to stream but someone did make a playlist with as many songs as they could find:
Breanna Barbara - Nothin' But Time (Fuzz Club)
Garage rock artist and occasional Tricky muse returns after six years with her second album
Garage-psych is a genre more known for wild stage antics than wild innovations, but Breanna Barbera has always stood out thanks to good songwriting and her versatile, expressive voice. It's been six years since she released her debut album, Mirage Dreams, and since then the psych-garage singer's career has taken some unusual turns. Most surprising: being recruited by Tricky to be his main touring vocalist in 2017 that has kept them collaborating since, including last year's Lonely Guest album. For her sophomore album, Breanna hasn't undergone a radical trip hop reinvention -- though there is a bit of a revival at the moment -- and works once again with producer/collaborator Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) who makes the songs and her voice shine. There are a number of "hey what is this?" moments on Nothin' But Time, most of which are of the spectral variety, including the album's belter of a finish, "Weaning," and cinematic showstoppers "Me Too" and "Exist." But the knockout is "Old Soul," four minutes of smouldering heartbreak with a devastating vocal performance that goes from vulnerably brittle to soul-mining wail.
Jeb Loy Nichols - The United States Of The Broken Hearted (On-U Sound)
Dub producer Adrian Sherwood and Primal Scream's Martin Duffy contribute to Jeb Loy Nichols' warm, inviting album
Singer-songwriter Jeb Loy Nichols was born in Wyoming but moved to London in the '80s; at one point he ended up living in a squat with The Slits' Ari Up and had his horizons broadened by reggae and post-punk. In the '90s he led Fellow Travelers with his wife Lorraine Morley before going solo, and these days his style mixes folk, reggae, country, soul, electronic music and just about any other genre he can fit under his hat. The United States Of The Broken Hearted was produced by old friend, On-U Sound founder and dub/post-punk producer Adrian Sherwood, who produced Jeb's 2010 album Long Time Traveller, and it features contributions from Martin Duffy (Primal Scream / Felt), great reggae drummer Horseman, Ivan "Celloman" Hussey (Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra), and more. This is not a reggae album, though, but Sherwood brings dub's sense of space to these songs which are closer to John Prine than John Holt. It's a warm and inviting space for Nichols' world-weary, autumnal voice and songs with lyrics like "I’ve enjoyed as much of this good life as I can take." Jeb is down, but he is not out.
Plaid - Feorm Falorx (Warp)
Long-running Warp electronic duo still sound like a safe, friendly future on their 10th album
2022 is not a bad time to be a veteran electronic duo. Royksopp have released three albums this year (all pretty good), Orbital seem to be in a creative rebirth, and Chemical Brothers are still going strong. Now here's Plaid, aka Andy Turner and Ed Handley, who were making intelligent dance music before the term IDM was coined and have kept doing it since it stopped being used, and most of that time they've been doing it for Warp Records. Feorm Falorx is Plaid's 10th album and, according to the label, "finds the duo recreating a recent performance at the Feorm Festival on the planet Falorx. In order to survive the Falorxian atmosphere, the duo were converted into light to travel and perform." I'm not sure what that means, put it probably has something to do with the very cool artwork and videos for the album that were created with the help of AI software. Otherwise, this is not demonstratively different than what Plaid were doing on their first album for Warp, 1997's Not For Threes, still making what I call cocktail party techno that holds your attention but doesn't make the crowd want to break stuff. There are side trips to the beach and sleek Blade Runner cityscapes, not to mention a couple tracks that enter Neu! territory, but it all stays within Plaid's jurisdiction and has them in fine feorm.
Love & Rockets - Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven & Express vinyl reissues (Beggars Arkive)
The first in a series of vinyl reissues
Named after the Hernandez brothers’ underground comic, Love & Rockets reunited three-fourths of Bauhaus: guitarist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins, who made records as Tones on Tail, and Kevin's brother, David J, who had previously gone solo and played in The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy. Free from Murphy's more overtly arty leanings, Ash, J, and Haskins stretched their wings, incorporating a wide range of style that went far beyond goth even while they still looked the part. They could still be heavy and dark, but Love & Rockets also made pure pop and ethereal psychedelia, and weren't afraid to smile and have fun. They even managed to score a US hit in 1989 with "So Alive" that was the only pop song on an otherwise abrasive rock album. I love Bauhaus, but when they announced reunion shows in 2019 my main hope was that it would open the door for a Love & Rockets to return as well.
No word on that yet, but fans do have something to look forward to. Beggars Arkive have launched a vinyl reissue campaign that looks to continue through 2023 and begin with their essential first two albums -- 1985's Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven and 1986's Express -- which have been remastered from the original tapes at Abbey Road Studios and will be out January 13.
Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven really shows off the range of styles the trio were capable of, from Syd Barrett-esque folk, to dubby post-punk, to '60s inspired psychedelia to synthy new age. Daniel Ash and David J make great dueling frontmen whose voices sound even better together on classics like "Haunted When the Minutes Drag," "If There's a Heaven Above," and "The Dog End of a Day Gone By." John Rivers' production is reverby but stays just south of Big '80s excess. Preorder the vinyl.
Express, which was also produced by Rivers, was a big college radio hit in the US thanks to songs like "All in My Mind" (which gets two different versions on the album), the chugging "Kundalini Express," the storming "The Yin and Yang of the Flowerpot Man," the sultry "Life in Laralay," and "It Could Be Sunshine" which is at turns slinky and slashing. Love & Rockets' magic formula was to stay just on the cool side of weird and never at the expense of big catchy melodies. It's one of my favorite albums of the '80s. Preorder the vinyl.
One word of warning on these reissues: these are the original UK editions, which means Express does not have their great cover of The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion," which was their debut single that was tacked onto the end of Side 1 of the American release. Beggars says that the rest of Love & Rockets' albums will be reissued later in 2023, plus "two more releases." I'd bet one of them will be a compilation of non-LP material like "Ball of Confusion" and their Bubblemen side project. We'll see.
There's also a vinyl box set of remastered editions of all their albums that was limited to 1000 copies and is already sold out (it's out December 9) but don't fret, they'll all be available individually, including expanded editions of their underrated final two albums for Beggars, 1994's Hot Trip To Heaven and 1996's Sweet F.A.
Blinker The Star - Love Oblast (self-released)
Jordon Zadorozny has been making anthemic rock as Blinker the Star for 30 years, getting his start in the Alternative Nation-era early '90s, and has survived ups, downs, two major labels, working with Courtney Love and Lindsey Buckingham, plus other record biz hurdles. These days, Zadorozny self-releases his Blinker the Star albums but puts just as much care into them (though maybe not as much money) as he did when signed to A&M or Dreamworks. He's mellowed since the '90s and Love Oblast finds him in a decidedly introspective mode, and more interested in synths than distortion pedals. The album was made in just a month at his studio which sits on 50 acres of farmland in rural Ontario, and on songs like "Touch" and "8 of Hearts" it sounds like most nights he spent looking up at the stars.
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