1992 Demos Dessau Studio

A few weeks ago, I was lounging on a porch in Connelsville, PA enjoying a humdrum afternoon and fixating on the clouds, racing children and au naturale scenery unfolding before me. I was silently standing next to a friend as we nervously peered at a bumblebee that kept hovering nearby. I know they can’t sting you, but they still make me damn nervous, but that’s a whole other bag of chips. Suddenly, a bird darted from the heavens and ate the shit out of that aforementioned bumblebee. Being a couple of city slickers, this thoroughly entertained and amazed the two of us. It was just one of those small moments where something simple stuns you in a simple, yet embarrassingly powerful way.

Now, how does this goddamn bumblebee have anything to do with Codeine? Long ago, I felt that same sense of dumbstruck awe when I first listened to Codeine’s Frigid Stars as my perceptions of music were slightly shifted by their relentlessly slow-motion approach to music. Each note was drawn out until the last shreds of emotion could be wringed from the strings. Drums plodded and Stephen Immerwahr’s plaintive, monotone cries just broke your heart with every verse. It wasn’t a perfect album. but my virgin ears haadn’t encountered such sad sounds. Well, I found Morrissey to be pretty damn sad, but I was the maudlin little fucker in those days. However, Codeine’s music struck me as new because it was unbearably heavy without resorting to bursts of noise, cookie vocals or Sabbathy grind. It was new. It was their own sound and it blew my mind for a second just like a bird devouring a bee in mid-air. I’d like to thank that bird. That bumblebee was beginning to make me very nervous.

This recording consists of demos that focuses mostly on Frigid Stars and the Barely Real ep. It’s a bit more loose and delicate than the recorded version and it has a live version of “Broken Hearted Wine” which is cause for celebration at this dingy desk.

The Spinanes

The Imp Years (Merge 2000)

If only I had my crystal ball to predict which 90s indie-pop bands will be most fondly remembered by futuristic hipsters who may be able to telekinetically download albums in the shake of an ass cheek. Oh shit, I found it and believe that Portland, Oregon’s Spinanes will be hailed as one of the most beloved voices in this crowded room.

I believe my love for this band is firmly rooted in the fact that they echo many of the moody, introspective and catchy qualities of the Verlaines, Bats, Chills and other hallmarks of New Zealand’s Flying Nun Label. In fact, the chorus on “Hawaiian Baby” consists of a soothing chant of “Verlaines, Verlaines, Verlaines…” Well, you get the idea. Yes, they are somehow indebted to and part of the K records ethos of twee, but their lyrics and music were so much more mature and melancholy that that.

Their debut Manos was full of piss and vinegar. Lots of loud, amplified pop song played at a frenetic pace, but The Imp Years predicts the direction of their later albums more than the debut which followed these classic singles. Rebecca Gates carries much of the action as there is just something about her vocals that make you empathize with the heartaches and wariness that permeate these songs. Check out their second album Strand if this collection of singles speaks to your troubled heart.