Radar Bros.

The Singing Hatchet(See Thru/Chemikal Underground 1999)

http://www41.zippyshare.com/v/43809736/file.html

At first listen, the Radar Bros sound like any number of 90s sad sacks enamored with grandiose crescendos and morose sentiments set to song. A quick stroll through my admittedly hazy memories uncovers a panoply of Acetones, Lows, Idahos, American Analog Sets and Red House Painters equally enamored with this weathered, but worthwhile formula. At the time, I thought of every single one of these bands as my sullen stalwarts on those rainy days that bled into lonely nights, but time has eaten away at their charms. What was once soothing and intimate to these ears, now sounds bloated and boring. However, the Radar Bros are still as cozy as an afghan blanket. Yeah, they mined the same territory as the rest, but there has always been something panoramic and ostentatious about their music. To be honest, the real reason I love this band, especially their work on The Singing Hatchet and its followup And the Surrounding Mountains, is how it all falls somewhere between the vibe of a slow-motion Pink Floyd ballad and Neil Young at his most bruised and confused. That’s a bit of a dishonest and hyperbolic statement since the Radar Bros aren’t even in the same stratosphere as either, but they do a stellar job of conjuring up the same troubled, but beautiful hoodoo of both. During the 90s and early 2000s, Radar Bros just kind of perfected this languorous, glacial pace that served as the perfect canvas for some honest to god anthems that kind of make you wish they were big in the 70s so you could smoke a bowl and wave a lighter as they plodded through imaginary hit after imaginary hit.

The Singing Hatchet is one of the unsung albums of the 90s. The opening track “Shifty Lies” is kind of the most perfect and sublime beginning to an album that seems mired in defeatist posture. Hell, the chorus to the song is “shifty lies and senseless visions, overflow like frozen rivers, stand in line and watch the time, you’re cattled up and weeks behind, how long, how long until we reach the bottom of the lake?”  It starts off like some 70s cosmic Country and Western meditation until it suddenly swells and rises to an almost proggy chorus glorifying resignation and ennui. It’s kind of epic in its own minor league way. It paints the lovable loser as unlikely hero who sees life as it truly is.

The rest of the album just grows more dour. “You’re on an Island” amps up the 70s prog quotient with some intro that sounds like an Alan Parsons Project instrumental that stumbles into some existential ballad where our protagonist kind of wonders a bit too hard about  lost love a bit too much. In fact, it’s kind of creepy. I guess that’s another reason why I like this album. There’s some unsettling themes going on underneath the Live at Pompeii vibe. In fact, “Shoveling Sons” is kind of macabre too as it centers around  some apocalyptic tale about young men digging the graves of the old as the earth crawls to its inevitable end. I like how the story doesn’t match the instrumentation which carries on as if its some stoned anthem about lazy days in a hammock. It’s kind of one long bummer after another, but there is something so soothing and relaxing about how each song gently eases you down another notch toward a crummy mood. I guess that’s why I gravitate to The Singing Hatchet so much. It’s kind of a thematically perfect narrative about a protagonist who gradually loses the will to fight and grows to like it.

Magicistragic Mix Tape #3

January 25, 2012

Magicistragic Mix Tape #3

http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?htszd3j5szs6s7g

I haven’t compiled one of these in many a moon, but the tea leaves have gathered in such a way to make it so. Anyhow, the vibe is one of mellow hibernation as the pace never quickens and life remains static as you waste an hour or so listening to whatever has been echoing throughout my domain. Pay special attention to Nathan Abshire who is pictured above since I am kind of dumbfounded by how great his music is lately.

Please befriend magicistragic on facebook if you would like additional links, videos and the inane prattlings of  yours truly.

arthur verocai-cabocia

the woods band-everytime

howard nishioka-incresha

wild nothing-live in dreams

papercuts-once we walked in the sunlight

nathan abshire-pine grove blues

meat puppets-up on the sun

fairport convention-tried so hard

carlos paredes-variaes em r minor

comet gain-you cant hide your love forever

pink floyd-fearless

clive palmer-the girl from the north country

charlie rich-i can’t go on

grateful dead-pride of cucamonga

james gang-there i go again

john villemonte-i am the moonlight

kevin ayers-all this crazy gift of time

monochrome set-inside your heart

the humblebums-mary of the mountain

sparks-slowboat

the hollies-stop right there

leon russell-out in the woods

barefoot jerry-come to me tonight

Ecstasy of St. Theresa

Fluidtrance Centauri ep

http://www.mediafire.com/?zy0tmxlyyym

During the heyday of shoegaze, there were many more classic eps than actual albums. Slowdive, Ride, Swervedriver, Moonshake, Telescopes, Moose and others had their brightest achievements on their first eps, not their full length albums. Yes, Pygmalion, Mezcal Head and Nowhere are great albums, but their singles and eps just encapsulate all that was excellent about these bands in a consise statement. All of the aforementioned bands had bright futures in which they delivered on their potential to varying degrees, but there was one band that only had that one great ep and not much else.

Czechoslovakia wasn’t exactly a hotbed for musical innovation, but it did spawn Ecstasy of St. Theresa. the band was named after St. Theresa’s vision of a handsome angel that appeared at her bedside to pierce her with a spear and set her her heart afire with passion. I always loved the sexual nature of this beatific image and it fits the hazy, sensual air of their ethereal music. The ep is derived from a Peel Session and stands as the pinnacle of their short career. Later albums found them embracing early 70s Pink Floyd and the ambient scene of the time, but these three songs tapped into the majesty of the Cocteau Twins at their most ornate moments circa Treasure and mated it to the woozy feedback of My Bloody Valentine. It is a combo attempted by most of their contemporaries, but none of them succeeded except this band. The first track”Fluidum” is so perfect and such a distillation of all that I loved about the few years this genre thrived. It is oozing with a lazy sexuality that reminds one of a day spent in a bed exploring the birds and the bees.

Jennyanykind

Revelater (Elektra 1996)

http://www.mediafire.com/?mt0ddyvcbnu

The major label frenzy to sign anyone within sniffing distance of your Nirvanas and Sonic Youths resulted in greater exposure for some and ruin for others. Were advertisements in shitty rags, MTV airplay and product placement in the rural malls really going to make Jennyanykind, Scrawl, Jesus Lizard and Jawbox more palatable to most folks? Hell, most of these bands weren’t even palatable to me by this point.

I have no clue why a major label like Elektra decided to sign a band that was enamored by Jesus Christ, Jerry Garcia, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Howling Wolf, Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd and market it as an indie-rock album. Sure, their work had a raw, punky edge at times and their earliest work was released by the No. 6 label(Beme Seed, Crystallized Movements, Luna, Nada Surf, etc), but this was surely a big ass square block in a teensy-weensy round hole. It’s a shame since Revelater cuts the fat from their meandering jams and rants which results in bizarre southern rock songs about the apocalypse, humility in the face of god’s power, the dangers of a sinful life and repentance.

This isn’t a shtick–No sight of high pitched whines and tree costumes ala Danielson. Michael Holland’s lyrics are earnest explorations of his own struggles with faith and the misdeeds of his past. He comes off as troubled and angry on half of the tracks while the other half play loose and fancy free with light-hearted hippie psych that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early 70s Dead record. I’m more interested in the angry, conflicted side of Holland that searches for meaning in the universe in a three-minute pop song on his major label debut. What were they thinking? It was commercial suicide and sit kind of sunk the band for good. Yes, they released many more albums, but they sort of blew their cosmic, soul searching load on this one.

Revelater got no respect from anyone. Its been dismissed by hipsters, hippies and christian rockers alike. However, I believe it may be one of the most underrated albums to result from the major label feeding frenzy of the 90s. Revelater is a fried, almost paranoid ode to the power of a vengeful god masquerading as an indie-rock album. Love it to death and like most of this band’s work. i’ll be posting more this week.