The Warmers-s/t

December 17, 2008


The Warmers

s/t (Dischord 1996)

It may not be the most glamorous album to write about here, but there is something primal and minimal about the Warmers that impels me to revisit it every few months. At first listen, it bears close resemblance to a more ramshackle Fugazi mixed with an even more messy Gang of Four, but there is a lot more going on here than implied by my lazy comparisons. Comprised of Alec Mackaye of Faith/Ignition, Amy Farina of the Evens/Lois and Juan Luis Carrera of the Slowdime label, the Warmers died out way before they should since their s/t debut is such a concise slice of compact riffs, tight drumming and simple, but effective shouts. Yes, these three components have fueled many a punk band, but the Warmers had it down to a science. There isn’t an ounce of fat or a bum note to be found, just the most economical path to getting to the punchline while batting you about the ears in the process. Where Fugazi and even the Gang of Four have worn out there welcome in this biased household, the Warmers’ imperfect masterpieces keep me reaching for this album more often than any other release on Dischord.  It is a damn shame that the band peetered out since there is something hypnotic about their tightly wound usage of repetitive riffs that pointed towards something even greater. Before you look for revelatory moments, remember it is definitely a grower, not a shower.

Adventures in Stereo

Blue Album (Creeping Bent 1997)

Primal Scream was always Bobby Gillespie’s outlet for whatever genre’s corpse he felt like fucking at that particular moment. I’m not going to act like I didn’t believe Screamadelica and XTRMNTR were bold statements at the time of their release, but hindsight is a cruel mistress. Almost their entire catalogue sounds so dated and opportunistic these days, but I guess that is the nature of their game. However, I still love their debut album, Sonic Flower Groove, since it is more fey than a Little Lord Fauntleroy costume. Their early singles for Creation are even better statements of their twee purpose as the band succeeds in crafting perfect pop tunes with the heft of an empty garbage bag, This is no insult because I still hum along to “Velocity Girl” each time I hear it because it is one of the most concise and perfect sides of pop perfection.

Jim Beattie was a founding member of Primal Scream, but left before that pasty-faced Scot believed he was a hallucinogenic prophet, then Mick Jagger’s uglier kin, then a cyberpunk, trip-hopping danger to no one. He left to focus his efforts on Spirea X, a band that recorded an amazing single for 4AD before following it with an underwhelming album. The single got me all worked up over his continuation of the Creation era of Primal Scream, but his songwriting grew thin over the course of a full-length. I wrote the fellow off until I encountered the two cds released under the moniker of Adventures in Stereo. One was Blue, the other yellow, but both seemed to be semi-official releases due to the uncleared samples that formed the foundation for Beattie’s second stab at twee.

Beattie and vocalist Judith Boyle pay homage to Phil Spector’s work with 60s girl groups, but keep things somewhat fresh by incorporating tape loops and samples as the bedrock for their upate of 60s AM radio. To be honest, most of this wouldn’t sound out of place on K, Creation, Sarah or Slumberland, but the songwriting places it a step above most of their contemporaries. The Blue Album is just a stellar collection of moody, introspective indie-pop that reminds me of Tracey Thorn’s solo album or her work with the Marine Girls. It’s a dated formula, but it works wonders here.

It’s a shame that the Yellow and Blue albums were released in such limited quantities because the band shit the bed on its subsequent releases. What was once a charming patchwork quilt of AM Gold and twee was abandoned in favor of more beats and a slicker sheen. What was once rough is now sanded smooth and their music suffered because of it. Therefore, they now populate budget bins and no one cares to investigate the origins of what made them special.