Fire Town – live and demos

Oh, to be a footnote in musical.  Madison, WI’s Fire Town are sadly relegated to that stature, as whenever they’re name-dropped it’s surely in the context of their famous drummer, Butch Vig.   As most of us are painfully aware, Vig went onto preform in the far more commercially viable Garbage, and an equally viable production career, commandeering multi-platinum albums by Nirvana and the Pumpkins.  Yet, Fire Town (and like-minded precursors Spooner, whom Vig also had the same funtion in) were responsible for two very strong albums bustling with primo songs that warranted attention purely on their own merits.  Problem was, F/T were a very straightforward sounding proposition, specializing in vaguely edgy, but to most ears, pedestrian AOR.  God knows there was plenty of that filling up the airwaves in the late ’80s, and despite sheer consistency and indelible hooks, they just weren’t moving the needle, or for that matter records.

 A couple of the most flattering comparisons I can suggest are also some of the most accurate, namely their neighbors to the north Northern Pikes and the Grapes of Wrath.  Good company to be in, so long as you’ve got the right A&R guy priming the airwaves and press for you.  Their debut, In the Heart of Heart Country, landed on the local imprint Boat Records in 1986, and was scooped up by Atlantic Records a year later.  The move didn’t garner them much more in the way of notoriety, nor did FT’s sophomore salvo, The Good Life, arriving in ’89 which saw the band fanning out from trio to quartet.  Heart Country was the (slightly) hipper sounding of the pair, with Doug Erikson’s wielding jangly guitar leads a plenty.  The Good Life, rarely strayed from this formula, but was nonetheless tinted with a faint Americana bent.  The songs presented here, both live and studio, surround The Good Life-era.  Many songs from this management curated promo tape carried over to the record, but we’re treated to a healthy amount of outtakes as well.  Established customers will delight in these dozen and a half songs, and if you newbies fancy what you hear, you’ll be happy to know that reissues of both Fire Town records are still attainable. 

01. I Could Be the One
02. Baby I’m Not Home
03. Standing in the Light
04. Shadows Fall
05. Train Song
06. Trouble in Mind

07. Sleeping
08. Love Survives
09. Out of the Blue
10. Everything Falls Apart
11. Turn to You
12. Street of Dreams
13. I Could Be the One
14. Baby I’m Not Home
15. She Reminds Me of You
16. Street of Dreams (2)
17. I Don’t Want to Lose You
18. Miles Away

Articles Origin: Fire Town – live and demos

Capstan Shafts – Environ Maiden (2007, Rainbow Quartz)

Guided by Voices inspired dozens of slavish imitators, pale and otherwise.  I like to think Capstan Shaft’s Dean Well’s is one of the more genuine and well intentioned proteges of that ever growing cadre.  Environ Maiden is just one representative example of over a dozen digital compendiums of Well’s handiwork, primarily spanning 2004-11.  The man in question skews heavily to GBV’s lo-fi aesthetic, circa Bee Thousand…albeit dispensing not as much charm, but he comes close on “Oil From Greenland” and “Elected Head of Her Anarchist Group.”  Wells possesses a timbre closer to Tobin Sprout than Robert Pollard, with the songwriting acumen of the latter.

The average song length clocks in at a good, oh let’s say, 90 seconds or thereabouts.  With 29 tracks in this particular playlist, many get lost in the shuffle, but there’s enough keepers to compel repeat listens, and further exploration of Capstan’s deep trove.  Full track list is to your right.

Articles Origin: Capstan Shafts – Environ Maiden (2007, Rainbow Quartz)

American Vandals – History Skid (1988)

With a name like the American Vandals they have to be punk…right?   Hailing from the suburbs of Rochester, NY (a proposition alone that’s cause for concern), this quartet was hardly in that league, but not thoroughly removed from it.  Louis Rossi’s keyboard toys should qualify his band as new romantic propagators, but guess again.  This pack of DIY mavens were in fact very much themselves, and in many instances that’s not entirely flattering.  Thomas Peter isn’t the most compelling mouthpiece, though his off-pitch stride befits the Vandals tight but amateurish aptitude.  On the other hand, Doug Harradine’s geetar roar is an asset, and would be even more so if he pitched us a solo now and then.  “Causalties” is mildly satisfying once you get acclimated, “Ultraviolet” exudes a vague Paisley pop sheen, while “Queen Anne” is embarrassingly goofy fodder they should’ve flogged themselves for.  Typically, the Vandals collective (and often meager) strengths finally come to full meld on History Skid’s concluding “The Ugly Noise,” a sharp, melodic salvo that’s indicative of some genuine potential.  It doesn’t appear this album generated enough buzz to warrant a follow-up, or so one is led to believe. 

01. Casualties
02. Do You Remember
03. Lovedogs
04. Queene Anne
05. Ultraviolet
06. Sir Thomas Moores Cafe
07. Days of Wine and Roses
08. The Ugly Noise

Articles Origin: American Vandals – History Skid (1988)

Lions and Dogs – demos (198?)

It all started like this.  In the late ’90s I became a slightly belated super-fan of a 1992 album, Topeka Oratorio, put out by a couple of Midwestern-ers who incorporated themselves as The LeatherwoodsTopeka was sadly a one-album-wonder, chock full of power pop melodies, and humble yet smart daily observations on romance and the like.  Paul Westerberg guested on a few songs (under the assumed moniker of Pablo Louseorama), and coincidentally or not, Topeka Oratorio‘s overarching, lived-in tact resembled that of All Shook Down era-Replacements.  The record’s architects were Todd Newman and Tim O’Reagan, the latter of whom had a hand in The Jayhawks. Devastatingly good stuff, and I was desperate to hear more.

Thing is, there would be no more, save for something miraculous like a reunion (low potential at that I suppose).  Around the time I discovered The Leatherwoods, the net was still in it’s relative infancy, but low and behold my  trusty AltaVista search engine pointed me to an article on the duo, wherein I learned of a predecessor to the ‘woods, Lions and Dogs.  I’d direct you to the piece if it was still available.  Lions and Dogs was partially the handiwork of Todd Newman, their principal frontman.  Sometimes operating as a quartet, at others a trio, Lions and Dogs were not unlike the Leatherwoods – an earnest, low-profile collective who had an inkling of what was gestating due northeast in Minneapolis, but also possessed an ear for the rockier hues of Americana.   There would be no formal L&D releases, but the song “Be My Something” was comped on two occasions.  I’m presenting it here with about sixteen more demos and select live cuts, including prototypes for a few tunes that would be hammered out in Todd’s subsequent outfit, the Leatherwoods (i.e. “Tell Me Another” “Jamboree,” and “Don’t Back Down on Me”).  Among several inspired originals, there’s a very sweet live take of Josie Cotton’s “No Pictures of Dad” and a heartfelt interpretation of Big Star’s “What’s Goin’ Ahn.”  I don’t have the running order for any of these songs, but in the folder is a Word doc with song-by-song liner notes.  You can read about one of Lions and Dog’s relatives, Psychic Archie here, and check out two of Todd Newman’s solo endeavors over yonder.

Be My Something
Chippewa Love Stomp
C’mon Bess Armstrong
Dear Anyone
Don’t Back Down on Me
God Loves the Beach Boys
Kill Myself for Christmas
New Year
No Pictures of Dad (live)
On the Waterfront
Stupid Enough
Tell Me Another
To Win Her Back
Top of My Head
What’s Goin’ Ahn
Winner Runs Alone (live)
Wish I Had

Articles Origin: Lions and Dogs – demos (198?)


Thanks for your requests.  My apologies in taking so long to attend to them.  

IconsAre in the Dark
milf – feasting on fried afterthoughts parts 1 and 2
ZimmermenRivers of Corn
Alda ReserveLove Goes On
V/AWater Music
Sloths/t LP
Fools FaceTell America 
Yazoo BeachThe Solace and the Blaze
FunlandSweetness ep
Radio Alarm ClocksWake Me When It’s Over 
The KineticsHey La La Lee 7″
SaturnheadIntroducing Arizona’s Thin Mistake
Carl RuskBlue Period
Truck Stop LoveHow I Spent…
flufSongs 6 ep
Ben KwellerBromeo & Freak Out
Ben Grimretro 
Benderdemo tape
The FansMystery Date
The PrimevalsSound Hole
Love Camp 7 – s/t ep
SammyBabe Come Down 7″ & Chili Lite 7″ 
PollenBluette, Crescent, Peach tree
In OneAscension & Fade
V. CardBright 7″ & Pool Shark ep

Articles Origin: Re-ups