NOW AVAILABLE: Secretly Canadian is excited to release this long-unavailable, sought-after release.
The Ghost is a dark affair.
As a matter of content, its themes are bleak, on the verge of total blackness. Loneliness, alienation, desperation, and dark, anxious nights. As a matter of atmosphere, the album is even darker. Surface noise has never been so important to a record’s mood and tone. Yes, it sounds like it was recorded on a highway, but this is a dark fucking highway at a lonely, desperate hour and the only set of keys you have are those to the car that won’t take you any closer to home. It’s dead and you’re scared and totally alone. It’s just such an occasion that Jason Molina sings and plays of in a roundabout way on The Ghost. Recorded in one day direct to Jason’s boom box with the tiny little microphone, this brand new batch of songs was written in a very short period in the early months of 1999. For Jason, fidelity was never an issue, in fact it was a tool. The boom box’s inefficient battery-powered motor is just as integral to the recording as the vocal and guitar performance that occurred that February afternoon in Jason’s room on his day off of work. This recording may be noisy but it is not a demo. It was originally made available in limited quantities—to be sold on the Songs: Ohia tour of the East Coast with Drunkin the Spring of 1999 and the European tour in the early Summer 1999, however Secretly Canadian recently discovered enough parts of this release to resurrect it one more time.
Never has a Songs: Ohia album's process been so integral to its overall feel as is the case with DIDN'T IT RAIN, the band's sixth proper full-length. The album, like the working class South Philadelphia neighborhood in which it was birthed, has a real used goods kinda feel to it. Engineer Edan Cohen employed what some may consider "old-fashioned" recording techniques -- the entire album was recorded live with no overdubs, the full band playing in one room with the players always within arms' reach of one another; singers Jason Molina, Jennie Benford and Jim Krewson (the latter two of Jim & Jennie And The Pinetops) sharing microphones singing live together, sometimes sitting in chairs, sometimes standing. The result is a sound which resembles the warmth and personality of the classic Muscle Shoals Sound recordings of the early- to mid-70s: Willie Nelson's PHASES & STAGES, the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses", and others by Aretha Franklin, Boz Scaggs, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Wilson Pickett.
Inspired by the Mahalia Jackson song of the same name, the title track is a beautiful song about the shifting tides of life and the old cycle of "a lot of shit going down before shit clears up". It's a damn fine place to start an album that seems in no hurry whatsoever to make a universal statement, instead perfectly content to walk its own path toward resolution. And damn if Songs: Ohia principal songwriter Jason Molina hasn't gone and created a record that is even more intensely personal and healing than any of his previous works. Neil Young had his AFTER THE GOLDRUSH, this is Molina's DIDN'T IT RAIN. Indeed, this is the album with which Molina really leaves his mark as a serious songwriter and artist. On 1999's genre-bending Ghost Tropic full-length, Songs: Ohia made it clear that it could make a cohesive album that took its listener on a journey from front to back. Its dislocated feel set a haunting tone, and its largely instrumental and drone-like quality was the process of the Ohia eluding itself and its own tendencies, searching for the underside of its roots freshly yanked. With DIDN'T IT RAIN, Molina & Co. return to the beauty of the song form and offer up a startlingly soulful and introspective song cycle in which Molina -- accepting a comfortable degree of anonymity amongst the other players -- meditates on what it means to feel rooted again (in the city of Chicago, where he's called home for the past three years), sounding more sturdy at his core than ever.
The sound movement on GHOST TROPIC will seem sudden to some; without warning. To others, it'll seem a very logical step in a very foreign direction. On its fifth proper full-length, Songs: Ohia has stepped outside the box and has delivered its most subtle record of fantastic depth to date. Indeed this is the most cohesive and "album-like" Songs: Ohia has ever been. The eight songs on the record sprawl out into one another, telling one long sonic tale, allowing very little room for chapter breaks or piss stops. In this regard, Lou Reed's moody classic BERLIN comes to mind as a worthy fore-bearer. But it's the strange ethnic flavor in which GHOST TROPIC is steeped that makes it stand apart from its predecessors, albums which were all received as crossing guards for the Great American lost highway. Surely this album will leave those expecting such fare scratching their heads. Blending the electro-acoustic minimalism of the David Bowie and Brian Eno Trilogy with the percussive worldliness of Tom Waits' SWORDFISHTROMBONES, the group seems to hop the globe from a British Isles folk rock influence to an Ennio Morricone-like Spaghetti Western feel to the faintest echoes of the Chinese Classical ringing like a death murmur in the distance. And the songs, they build in a slow, unconscious manner, pulsing with an intensity, but never betraying their most simple core with too much instrumentation or calculated progression. Yea! GHOST TROPIC is the first album which reveals Songs: Ohia's own Tropicalia Blues in full bloom.
But what has brought Songs: Ohia to this critical juncture? Perhaps it is purely circumstance -- that four men were brought together to play as bedfellows for a week on the great plains of Nebraska. Acted out and recorded at the Dead Space Recording Studio in the state's capital of Lincoln, GHOST TROPIC was performed by principle Songs: Ohia songwriter, singer and guitarist Jason Molina; Appendix Out principle and Ohia alumnus (having played on THE LIONESS) Alasdair Roberts of Glasgow, Scotland; Lullaby For The Working Class drummer and new Ohia recruit Shane Aspegren; and engineer Mike Mogis of Lullaby For The Working Class and Bright Eyes.
Opening with an epic and ending with a little spartan ode, THE LIONESS is songwriter Jason Molina's fourth and most dynamic and empassioned full-length album to date. Recorded at Chem19 Studio in Glasgow, Scotland, with his Glaswegian friends Aidan Moffat and David Gow of Arab Strap, and Alasdair Roberts of Appendix Out, as well as with Songs: Ohia veterans Geof Comings and Jonathan Cargill, it is, on its exterior, a much darker affair than each of its predecessors. Perhaps it was the Scottish weather and company which gave it such a feel, for at the core of THE LIONESS, there is a warmth and tenderness unmatched by previous Songs: Ohia recordings. Indeed, this is a dark and sultry record, but not a melancholy one. While the last Songs: Ohia album AXXESS & ACE was an album which revealed many of the painful truths about love through its loss, this is an album about the beauty of love as seen from its rich foundational and experiential stages.
Songs: Ohia is Jason Molina. On Axxess & Ace he is assisted by Geof Comings (Party Girls), Michael Krassner (the Lofty Pillars, Boxhead Ensemble, Edith Frost Band), Joe Ferguson (Pinetop Seven), Dave Pavkovic (Boxhead Ensemble), Julie Liu (Rex) and Edith Frost. It was recorded by Krassner at his Truckstop Studios in Chicago. What resulted was the most full-sounding Songs: Ohia record to date. Liu's aching violin playing with Molina's desperate vocals transport the songs to great depths.
"There is no bullshit on this record. It's a love song record, so I wrote as directly to the point as I could. There is nothing snarling or cynical anywhere on the record. It is not invented stuff either. It's a desperate record, it's a jealous record, it's an imperfect record. It is also as incomplete as a man. This record wasn't made to rid me of any doubts or to heal me. The end result should show a man, anxious to learn, anxious to share, anxious to curtail all that is selfish. A note about the record as physical fact: it was done almost entirely live and first take. None of us were paid and the musicians all heard these songs for the first time on the day we made the record. Needless to say we could never have predicted the range and the urgency of this record's atmosphere. We are all very proud of this new Songs: Ohia record Axxess & Ace."
The fabled second Songs: Ohia full-length, originally released in 1998 on cd by Happy Go Lucky and lp by Secretly Canadian, will enjoy a re-release by Secretly Canadian this August. The new version of the cd will have expanded artwork and will be widely available around the globe. Still available on LP as well.
Lorain, Ohio; it's a tough place to grow up. You either escape or you don't. Given the industry that exists (or existed) there - the steel mill, Ford plant, and shipyard - the mix of people is like none other. One thing is for sure though, it's blue collar through and through. What's this have to do with a new release from Songs: Ohia? Well, Jason - main Songs man, like myself, grew up in this god-forsaken hole of a city and as much as you can leave the city, it never leaves you.IMPALA offers further testament to the songwriting talents of Jason Molina. The 13 tracks contained herein offer a glimpse into the soul of a man burdened with trying to exorcise the demons of life, loss, and subsistence. This isn't something one can fake. It comes from growing up with the knowledge that the factories your parents worked in are not an option for you and that your only real option is to try and get out (easier said than done).
Paired down to only Jason and Geof Comings for this release, the tracks on IMPALA are simultaneously the sparsest and most textured yet to be released by the band. Consider this to be the most honest and strongest release yet from Songs: Ohia. Our suggestion; Head to the local Knight's of Columbus, grab a seat at the bar, order a Genesee, and drink away your pay check to this one. That's what they're doing in Lorain.
On the eve of the release of the first release by the Jason Molina-fronted Magnolia Electric Co. (a double-live album which will be available in stores in January 2005), Secretly Canadian is proud to make three classic Songs: Ohia albums available to the public on vinyl for the first time in years. The self-titled debut full-length (1996, Secretly Canadian) is a classic, standing as a beacon shining through the storm for what we call today, in 2004, "new folkies". Out of print on vinyl since mid-1998 (originally released in two pressings of 500), it will come in a stunning triple-gatefold jacket which includes expanded artwork as well as the bonus song which is not on the CD version but was on the vinyl editions. Also being repressed are Songs: Ohia's third album Axxess & Ace (out of print since its release in March 1999) and fourth album The Lioness (2000, Secretly Canadian) — the latter being widely regarded as one of Molina's finest albums.
Whether it's someone searching or someone who doesn't want to be found, we can't help but be drawn to the drifters. Steven A. Clark is that next stranger to roll into town, a restless artist recasting R&B. He's a straight-talker in a genre filled with wish-fulfillment, whimsy and cliched beats; think the Outlaw Josey Wales raised on N.E.R.D. and 808s & Heartbreak.
A lone wolf in a world of ego and fantasy-driven R&B, Steven A. Clark makes music from a place that is personal yet universal, mining his own experiences with love and heartbreak to create songs that are inherently relatable. Raised in the '80s and '90s - a time when artists like Michael Jackson, Sade and Seal were shattering music's racial boundaries with their distinctive sounds and global appeal - Clark makes music for that same utopia, but with a distinct, contemporary twist.
"My music is real because it has to be, it's about my life because it has to be," Clark says of his approach. "I don't see any other way."
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Steven A. Clark grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a military town best known as the home of the Army's Fort Bragg. Naturally introverted - he was named "Most Quiet" in his high-school yearbook - Clark found his outlet while studying at North Carolina's High Point University; music took hold of his focus.
Sensing that his artistic opportunities in small-town Carolina were limited, Clark chased his ambitions to Miami and began to explore and challenge his boundaries. The creative result of this period was an EP called Stripes. While Clark was gaining musical footing, he found himself on a personal precipice, falling in and out of love. He channeled the emotions from that relationship and subsequent breakup into his next release, Fornication Under Consent of the King. Behind the playful, suggestive title was an even more mature and coherent effort, bonded by Clark's own ethereal production and frank, inward-looking lyrics.
After some time in the studio and much soul searching, Clark is stepping back out with LATE a 3 song EP for Secretly Canadian. As with previous releases, Clark wrote all of the music and self-produced the majority of it, bringing in composer Sam Hyken to add string arrangements to songs such as "Lonely Roller" and "Just Ride." Dancing in the spaces between a young Peter Gabriel's transparent, generous vision for musical pop art, and Anthony Hamilton's classically tinged R&B, LATE is just the beginning for Clark, a prelude to his fresh, captivating perspective.
"I'm growing as a musician but in the way I live my life, I'm still kind of wondering and searching," Clark says of the new project. "I still feel like I have to share this part of my life... These records are a personal story of true love for the first time, and not being ready for it, and not wanting it. They embody how I feel about love, and my approach to life and making music."
Precision, minimalism, repetition, and unsettling deviations of said repetition - these are the building blocks of the surly universe created by Montreal's Suuns. It's a universe of high tension. A universe of resistance and surrender to all the hopelessness, anxiety and privilege of being self aware out here at the edge of history. Now, with Grammy-winning producer John Congleton at the helm, Suuns' sonic cornerstones have become heavier, more penetrating, nearly tactile. Hold/Still, their 3rd proper album, exists at the intersection of 20 Jazz Funk Greats and Kid A - a serpent's hiss that is also yearning and hot-blooded. Its contents are the proof as to why Suuns absolutely deserve to be listed next to the names of dark groove adventurers like Stott, Forest Swords, Arca and Haxan Cloak. You've been proper warned.
Images du Futur builds upon the intensity of Suuns' 2010 debut, but often does so through new textures and subtler dynamic maneuvering. Album standout "Edie's Dream" begins with a single bass line repeated from which layers build & rise — first drums, then a wash of white noise; echoes of guitar, then chanted vocals. The song's clever shifts are jazz-touched and delicate, almost subliminal. It all makes for a stark, skeletal boogie — more an astral projection than a song. "Edie's Dream" exemplifies the restraint of which Suuns is capable and works to make the unhinged moments all the more devastating.
Lauded by Pitchfork and NME — the former saying "few bands this young are operating on quite this scale, and fewer still have the brass-- and the patience-- to pull off a big, glitzy, complex record like Zeroes QC," and the latter declaring them 2011's Best New Band — Suuns have deepened their approach, using minimalist techniques to create maximalist works. Produced once again by Jace Lasek from Besnard Lakes, Images blasts out of the gate with "Powers of Ten," laying out a sort of manifesto for the record in the very first lines: "Got it together/I read in the paper/all of theses strangers/stranger and stranger.../No, no, no, no, how you try and remember/how all of these pieces/all fit together." Shemie says of the process, "As a band we were trying to look at our music from further and further away, seeing more details in the picture as we expanded the landscape."
With a couple weeks off this summer in Montreal, we thought we'd take a crack at a few new songs. Stark and futuristic, these are extended jams that may or may not materialize as condensed versions of themselves on records to come. Open air textures, repetition and exploration were the name of the game for us on this one, and the finished product is a refined mining of the ideas that came out. "Bambi" is a creepy story of love lost and found, while "Red Song" is just that: a song about color.
Montreal’s Suuns possess a rare trait in rock music: restraint. They use it like an instrument, which makes their debut full-length Zeroes QC as unsettling as it is wonderfully exasperating. It’s immediately apparent in album opener “Armed for Peace,” a track that starts off like a robot breaking down in a hot desert; the song’s mechanic beat plods like iron-shoed footsteps as the melody of a wheezing synth mirrors the crackling sound of old transistors and circuitry being cooked in the sun. It’s deceptively lulling, the tension almost unnoticeably wrenching up and up until the track unexpectedly opens into a barrage of nose-diving guitar riffs and crashing drums – yet the band still stays locked on the song’s linear, forward-motion direction.
Zeroes QC is a warm yet dark, propulsive collusion of pop, post-punk and experimental rock – one that allows the group to musically shapeshift without losing any of the sense of tension and unease that runs throughout the record. During tracks like “Gaze,” tightly wound guitars and bass ring and buzz atop Liam’s metronomic, powerhouse drumming, with Ben’s cool, detached vocals acting as a nervy counterweight as he delivers falsely assuring lines like, “Don’t you be yourself, you are someone else.” Often his close-miced sing/speak is as metronomic as it is melodic; in “Arena” Ben’s rhythmic “What-choo, what-choo”’s are reminiscent of Suicide’s Alan Vega as he leads the band’s death disco groove into a bloodbath of razor-sharp guitars, while his icy, hushed delivery in “Sweet Nothing” is almost as motorik as the song itself. Most impressive, though, is how Suuns effortlessly sculpt memorable pop songs from experimental building blocks, frequently using noise and space as actual hooks. All of this amounts to a great first album – one that is as timeless as it is thrillingly modern.
Back in November of 2012 Suuns and close friend Radwan Ghazi Moumneh of Jerusalem In My Heart spent a week in a Montreal studio creating a collaborative album pulling in their two distinct sounds into one set of fluid and trippy recordings. These songs were not heard live until over a year later at Pop Montreal in 2013 which jump started both sides' efforts to finish this truly unique record.
More than two years later now we are proud to present the final product, a self-titled collaborative album from Suuns and Jerusalem In My Heart out April 14th.
It was 1987. Loren MazzaCane Connors, not yet recognized by a world audience, had already recorded and released his 8 volume Dagget series and his five albums with folk singer Kath Bloom. He had abandoned his guitar for a 3-year period, and returned to it with renewed vigor. He was not yet recognized as one of the great musical loners of the age (his future Black Label solo recordings and the eventual unearthing of the Dagget series were the titles that would establish Loren as such). He was, in fact, performing live and about to record some of the most potent recordings of his career -- recordings which may challenge any present notion of Loren being a true loner at all. It was on these recordings that he first played with his future wife Suzanne Langille. Together they performed Langille-adapted traditionals and gospel standards, slowing them "down to a crawl." Two albums were released on his own St. Joan label under the moniker Guitar Roberts with Suzanne Langille, entitled BLUESMASTER 1 and BLUESMASTER 2, in 1987 and 1988, respectively (both issued in small runs of 200). This album represents the best of their material as a duo from those two records (there were also intermittant solo guitar compositions on both BLUESMASTER recordings), plus the one song they performed as a duo from Loren's 1989 IN PITTSBURGH full-length ("Haunted House") and three previously unreleased recordings from the same period. In her spare and "deeply considered" arrangements for these songs, Suzanne allows all the room necessary for their collective personality to shine through, making for truly timeless performances. These recordings were Suzanne's first to be released publicly. They showed a singer who was unafraid to push herself to lay claim to these folk tunes and make them her own, particularizing them with her own experience and thus imbuing them with a rare vitality. These recordings layed the groundwork for the work they would later do on the albums COME NIGHT, THE ENCHANTED FOREST, LET THE DARKNESS FALL and with their new group Haunted House. After even a casual listen to the songs on this collection, it's quite difficult to imagine either Suzanne or Loren playing with another performer, or alone for that matter. The grace and intimacy with which they perform these songs together gives the impression that they'd been playing together since childhood. It's no wonder Loren found so much fulfillment in playing music again.
Let the Darkness Fall is the return of singer / lyricist Suzanne Langille. She is once again joined by longtime collaborator Loren MazzaCane Connors as well as Atlanta's Andrew Burnes and David Daniell of the group San Agustin. The result is an intensely bleak, yet satisfying, musical excursion. A much steamier affair than Suzanne's and Loren's previous concept album THE ENCHANTED FOREST, LET THE DARKNESS FALL showcases Suzanne's lyrical intonation and her zesty, more sensual vocal style. Her deep and throaty vocals parallel the doleful sounds of the trio on songs like "Strong And Foolish Heart" and "A Sadness In Me." The album is full of gently churning and ethereal moments which are steeped heavily in the musical and emotional concentration that only the wisdom afforded to veterans of this group's tenure can allow. Loren's lone blue notes quietly escape to the forefront of the dual guitar weaving of Andrew and David. Six of the seven songs are darkly textured by the bending tones of what is often a three-guitar chorus. LET THE DARKNESS FALL finds Suzanne and Loren entering their fourth decade of performance, while Andrew and David are beginning their second. But does it offer a clear picture of where these artists are headed? Perhaps. Or maybe it's simply a month of frolic in the life of four fine musicians.
After over a decade of appearances on Loren MazzaCane's albums, Suzanne Langille releases a full length of her own songs. THE ENCHANTED FOREST combines Suzanne's celestial voice and lyrical talent with Loren's crystalline guitar work. Loosely based on John Lebar's 1945 film of the same name, Suzanne acts out the story of a lost child, a forest's impending end and those that try and save it, through the voices of six characters. As on previous MazzaCane albums, Suzanne's soulful and blues-filled moans create burning holes in the hearts and ears of many during each song. Loren's guitar stays at a constant whisper pitch throughout the album, his minimal chords and lone notes have never been this fragile. Intertwined with Suzanne's character expressions, the guitar mixes with the muted sounds of chirping birds and the feeling of THE ENCHANTED FOREST takes hold. Reminiscent of the St. Joan-era collaborations between Suzanne and Loren, these two have never sounded so brilliant.
With their first album since 2002’s critically acclaimed This Flag Signals Goodbye, Swearing at Motorists return with a career-defining album. Last Night Becomes This Morning is frontman Dave Doughman’s indie version of “Running On Empty”. It was recorded on the road, between and while on tour in various locations - at soundchecks, in hotel rooms, rehearsal halls and on the bus (listen closely for the engine whine and the gears change). It is an album about two artists in love and how their craft keeps them apart. Last Night Becomes This Morning is a record of transition - and the confusion, discovery and understanding with which it comes. It is about a self-perpetuating myth. Where “Running On Empty” told of the battle to cope with fame & fortune, Last Night... chronicles the struggle to live life on the road in spite of lack of fame or fortune. In place of the sold out arenas its live sound comes in busking in an empty Berlin subway station - exile on Gipstraße. Dubbed the Two-Man Who by many a rock critic, Swearing at Motorists is an everyman record for the inner superman in all of us. File next to Thin Lizzy, The Replacements and Spoon. This needle-drop instant classic is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.
In the year and a half since Swearing at Motorists released NUMBER SEVEN UPTOWN in 2000, the band has played over 200 shows in North America and Europe and has developed the reputation of being one of the most energetic and charismatic American bands around today, both on stage and on record. Dubbed a veritable "two-man Who" by more than one critic, this Dayton, Ohio twosome -- fronted by singer/songwriter Dave Doughman and backed by drummer Joseph Siwinski -- brings to mind Twin/Tone-era Replacements and early Elvis Costello for their ability to translate their legendarily venomous and soulful live show to record. Coming hot on the heels of the ALONG THE INCLINED PLANE EP, THIS FLAG SIGNALS GOODBYE is one of those records that will stand the test of time. Recorded by Brian McTear in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it is vintage Motorists -- a perfect combination of compact stadium rock sing-alongs and lucid love songs that portray a character at the mercy of his own destiny. On the ol' record shelf, THIS FLAG SIGNALS GOODBYE would sit nicely next to WHISKEY BENT AND HELL BOUND, Hank Williams, Jr.'s dissertation on how the road and its many appetites can devour one's personal life. And it's Doughman's ability to make the personal so universal that makes his songs feel so right in about every context. It only takes one listen to this half-hour classic to be caught by its intensity and personality. In much the same way that contemporaries the White Stripes are proving that there's no novelty to a two-person band, the Motorists are proving that a guitar/drum duo can rock with the same immediacy as a traditional 3- to 5-piece rock band with a full rhythm section.Borne of Dayton's burgeoning independent rock scene of the early '90s, the Motorists took some initial cues from locals such as Guided By Voices and the Breeders, but over the course of an ever-expanding body of work (which includes 2 full-lengths, 2 mini-albums and several singles and EPs) have evidenced that their sound is purely Swearing at Motorists, through and through. Secretly Canadian is proud to present this next chapter in the Motorists saga, THIS FLAG SIGNALS GOODBYE.
In the year and a half since Swearing at Motorists released Number Seven Uptown in 2000, the band has played over 200 shows in North America and Europe and has developed the reputation of being one of the most energetic and charismatic American bands, both on stage and on record, around today. Dubbed a veritable ?wo-man Who?by more than one critic, this Dayton, Ohio twosome ?fronted by singer/songwriter Dave Doughman ?brings to mind Twin/Tone-era Replacements and early Elvis Costello for their ability to translate their legendarily venomous and soulful live show to record. This new five-song EP, Along the Inclined Plane, is the perfect segue into the band? next full-length album This Flag Signals Goodbye (out 6/4/02). Recorded by Brian McTear in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (except ?an? Help Ourselves?which was recorded by Doughman at the House of Hits, Dayton, Ohio), it is vintage Motorists ?a perfect combination of compact stadium rock vignettes with deeply intimate love songs, such as Steve Earle? ?? Still In Love With You? on which Doughman performs solo with just acoustic guitar and voice.
The masters of the rock miniature are back. Less than a year after their debut full-length, the critically acclaimed MORE SONGS FROM THE MELLOW STRUGGLE, the duo known as Swearing At Motorists have another album for the public to parade behind. We know it hasn't been long, but sometimes life's cycles run oblong and you find yourself with less things to kick the dog about than usual. Perhaps it was that '99 was such a fallow year record-wise for the Motorists, perhaps releasing no records in the last year of the '90s put a little pressure on Dave Doughman and Don Thrasher to return to their frenzied form (aside from MORE SONGS, 2000 has seen the release of two 7"es and a handful of compilation appearances). Or perhaps songwriter Doughman had a whole lotta lousy times to inspire him to write what are easily the best songs of his career. It's the sorta thing that makes a label salivate and gleefully quake, when an artist goes through relationship troubles. Indeed, the gambling men among you will call NUMBER SEVEN UPTOWN a sour relationship album. Yes, the carcass of the relationship that spans this record is weathered, worn, and -- by the last song -- pretty much rotted. And Doughman's emotional ambivalence on what appears to be his life crumbling before his eyes is what makes this album so sweet for all the twisted souls out there -- us included -- who love to watch another man have a lousy time. Better him than us, right? Cut from the same blue cloth as the late great Hank Williams, and landing somewhere between Richard Hell's DESTINY STREET, Neil Young's ZUMA and The Breeders' THE POD, NUMBER SEVEN UPTOWN finds Swearing At Motorists at their finest hour. Drummer Thrasher, a veteran of Guided By Voices, the New Creatures and the Hope Fools, provides the perfect steady beat that echoes hallmark drummers like Charlie Watts, Moe Tucker and Hal Blaine. Singer/guitarist Doughman, known for prowling the stage during live shows like a spastic mix of Prince and Jon Spencer, proves to be a man of all seasons, having also produced the album.
Developing from their roots in the Midwest American lo-fi scene -- a movement championed by Dayton's elder statesmen Guided By Voices -- MORE SONGS FROM THE MELLOW STRUGGLE reveals a band waking from the hazy murk of a lo-fi past ready to share their own very personal epiphany. Swearing At Motorists shares as much musically with Buffalo Springfield and MUSWELL HILLBILLY-era Kinks as with later curators of the bad vibes such as Richard Hell and Alex Chilton. But there is also that early 80's new wave canon that seems to have deeply affected Doughman in his song structuring, attitude and vocal delivery. Indeed you can hear remnants of Joe Jackson, the Cars, and what was once perhaps a vicious Elvis Costello fixation. But this album is anything but retro. Rather it is a very contemporary look at disillusionment in the modern auto age, about lacking something so integral that there is nothing left to do but drive. Yes, this is a heavy record. Not even the insane hooks and anthemic choruses can hide that this is a record about coping with the loss and abandonment of something very near and dear to you.
Noisy and experimental, Britain's Swell Maps experienced little commercial success during the course of their chaotic career, but in hindsight they stand as one of the pivotal acts of the new wave: not only was the group an acknowledged inspiration to the likes of Sonic Youth and Pavement, but their alumni - most notably brothers Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks - continued on as key players in the underground music community. Although Sudden (vocals/guitar) and Soundtracks (piano/drums) formed the first incarnation of the Swell Maps (named after the charts used by surfers to gauge wave intensities) as far back as 1972, the group did not begin to truly take shape until 1976, when the siblings enlisted bassist Jowe Head and guitarist Richard Earl. In the spirit of punk's "do-it-yourself" mentality, they formed their own label, Rather Records, and issued their debut single - the brief, jarring "Read About Seymour" - in the early weeks of 1978. Local media support soon won the group a distribution pact with Rough Trade, but they did not resurface until over a year later with the single "Dresden Style."In mid-1979, the Swell Maps released their full-length debut A Trip to Marineville, a crazy-quilt of punk energy and Krautrock-influenced clatter. After the release of the speaker-shredding single "Let's Build a Car," the group recorded one final studio LP, Jane from Occupied Europe, before breaking up. Each of the members followed their own career paths, playing solo and forming bands: Sudden formed the Jacobites, Soundtracks joined Crime and the City Solution, and Head played with the Television Personalities. - Jason AnkenyEach album has been remastered, includes liner notes and unreleased photos as well as bonus tracks not available on previous versions of these albums.
Release date: 10/19/04