I made a quick run to Iowa City last week– mostly with the intention of picking up the August issue of Little Village Magazine so I could have a hard copy of the review I wrote for it (Rockygrass band Finnders & Youngberg’s new album FY5). While I was there, I stopped into the Record Collector to see if there was anything worth picking up. Of course, there was. One great aspect about the Record Collector is that they have a pretty extensive used vinyl section that has a lot of 90’s college rock in it! Like a lot of collectors, I seem to be spending a lot of collecting time rebuying things I bought back in high school and college– I’m building an R.E.M. collection for example, and finding obscure releases like Love Tractor. I came away with some really great nostalgia releases on this trip:
Angry Samoans – Yesterday Started Tomorrow (EP, PVC Records, PVC 6915, 1986)($20) I kind of spent a lot on this particular release. Anyone who hung out with me in high school got to hear this EP a lot. Back then, the only way I was exposed to most new music was through KUNI the closest public radio station (now part of Iowa Public Radio), and I would wait anxiously for Night Music to start. In fact, I used to tape it so that I could listen to it the next day in hopes of finding some new gems. One early find was the Angry Samoans through their great song “It’s Raining Today.” Though I didn’t know it at the time, The Angry Samoans were contemporaries of seminal LA punk bands like X, The Circle Jerks and Black Flag, which I became aware of through late-night showings of “Urgh! A Music War” and “The Decline of Western Civilization.” Though, Yesterday Started Tomorrow was a departure in sound for the band– choosing to embrace its love of 60’s garage rock. A great record that still holds up today.
Love Tractor – Themes From Venus (LP, DB Recs, DB92, 1988)($5.00) An obscure band– likely only known from people who lived in Georgia at the time or people who saw the documentary Athens, GA Inside/Out. A band I’m always keeping an eye out for. I’ve managed to pick up three LP’s of their vinyl career thus far. Themes From Venus was a return to their original label home DB Recs after a one-record stint at minor-major label Big Time Records which had distribution by BMG and RCA in the US with their album This Ain’t to Outerspace Ship and it’s single– a cover of “Party Train” (almost the precursor to “Love Shack” by the B-52’s!) Love Tractor started as a band that only occasionally had vocals, but over time that changed. Maybe they learned how to sing and play their instruments? Here is “Venus” from Themes From Venus.
The dB’s – The Sound of Music (LP, IRS Records, IRS-42055, 1987)($7.00) I became familiar with The dB’s when they opened for R.E.M. on the Document tour in Davenport at Palmer Auditorium. Though The dB’s are known for the writing partnership of Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey– much in the tradition of Chris Bell and Alex Chilton of Big Star or Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook of Squeeze– The Sound of Music was post Stamey’s departure from the band. Holsapple tried to carry the mantle of The dB’s for two more albums before they gave it up. The album is a blend of jangly Byrdsian guitar power pop with country influence like a lot of bands at the time — we call it Americana I suppose these days, but back then it was just rock. I always loved “Never Say When.” These days both Stamey and Holsapple have solo careers and release the occasional album together.
Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever (LP, MCA Records, MCA-6253, 1989)($7.00) Firstly, big props to Record Collector for pricing this record very reasonably. Recently, I was visiting one of my other favorite record shops and they were asking $40 for a copy of this record– not nearly in this nice of shape either! The justification by the kid behind the counter who did the pricing at that store was that there are copies of this on eBay going for $40. Sadly, they will probably get that price for it from someone who isn’t willing to do a bit of searching. As it is, I’ve seen nice copies on discogs.com for less than $20. Plus, it is just a matter of time before the big remastering project that is well underway for Petty’s catalog will eventually hit this record and create a completely new 180g version with bonus tracks. Anyway, what is there really to say about this record that hasn’t been said– HUGELY successful release from Petty during the period when Jeff Lynne of ELO had infiltrated a bunch of camps with his production: The Traveling Wilburys, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison. So, you end up with these guys all hanging out and working on each other’s records as well as collaborating on the Traveling Wilburys. If you see Petty in concert these days, he seems to do more songs from this album than almost any other in his catalog. All the big hits: “Running Down A Dream,” “Yer So Bad,” “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down.”
Ultra Vivid Scene – Joy 1967-1990 (LP, 4AD/Columbia C4 6227, 1990)($8.00) This was one of those “holy shit!” moments flipping through the bins. One of my very favorite albums coming from the astonishingly fertile 4AD camp in the early 90’s. The Pixies blasted the doors open and bands like UVS, The Cocteau Twins, The Breeders and Lush found themselves with major label deals in the US. UVS is pretty much the project of Kurt Ralske. He had three albums as UVS before moving on to other things. These days he seems focused on graphic arts. This album was the breakthrough for him and largely due to the single “Special One” which featured prominently Kim Deal from the Pixies, as did the video for it which got some MTV rotation. Kurt was a lucky, lucky man in 1990.
Stuff I put back: Camper Van Chadbourne, plus a reissue of Blind Joe Death by John Fahey on Takoma– apparently a recent reissue.