Fat Tulips – Starfish (1994, Vinyl Japan)

The first and only album from these Nottingham, UK denizens, following an avalanche of well received singles and EPs.  Fat Tulips were your sort of quintessential co-ed twee-tet, with Sheggi’s humble, every-girl vocals and Mark D’s steady volley of hard strummed chords.  They were an indie label-only proposition, existing from 1987-94, and they seemed to fly the banner of the unheralded imprints they recorded for.  I can’t say how Starfish stacks up to their earlier offerings, because I simply haven’t heard enough of them, but the brunt of this album is above average, albeit not always shattering.  Many selections hearken back to the stylings of the then recent C86 movement, and elsewhere you might catch a glint or two of the Primitives.  Enjoy (or not), but I think you will.

01. So Unbelievable!
02. A World Away From Me
03. Ribs
04. The Sweetest Child
05. Chainsaw
06. I Promise You
07. My Secret Place
08. Double Decker Bus
09. Clumsy
10. If God Exists
11. Big Toe
12. Nothing Less Than You Deserve
13. Letting Go
14. The Death of Me
15. Never


Articles Origin: Fat Tulips – Starfish (1994, Vinyl Japan)


The Choir – Artifact: The Unreleased Album (2018, Omnivore) – A brief overview.

The pickings (both literally and figuratively) for fans of Ohio, proto-power pop legends, The Raspberries were remarkably slim after the quartet disbanded in 1975.  Sure, there were the four legendary albums to fall back on – Fresh, Raspberries, Side 3, and Starting Over, but there were next to no buds remaining on the tree.  In fact, no non-LP b-sides, outtakes, expanded reissues or the like were to be had, and most fans (even the die-hard variety) haven’t even encountered demo or alternate renditions of the bevy of the band more well known staples, such as “Let’s Go All the Way,” “I Wanna Be With You,” and “Overnight Sensation.”  The only compensation for dedicated Raspberries devotees jonesing for a few more morsels came in the guise of frontman Eric Carmens solo records, and a handful of spinoff bands like Tattoo and the often rewarding Fotomaker, involving guitarist Wally Bryson.  At best, the Raspberries would reunite in the twenty-first century, and grow a pair of live reunion albums (including the recent Pop Art, which documented a stunning 2004 performance at the House of Blues in Cleveland).  And ironically, the only way forward for ears hung up on the ‘berries is in fact…backwards? 

The core lineup of the Raspberries, Eric Carmen, Dave Smalley, Jim Bonfanti, and Bryson, didn’t materialize out of thin air when they congealed in the early-to mid seventies.  All of them, minus Carmen spent some time in the regionally successful, Mentor, OH-based The Choir – at one time or another anyway. Four singles were minted between 1966-70, including the minor classic “It’s Cold Outside,” which has been covered ubiquitously ever since.  Bearing a considerable Brit Invasion bent, the Choir didn’t exactly bear the status of innovators, but with a sharp, albeit slyly rough-around-the-edges acumen they were a poplar live draw.  Before shutting the lights off for good in 1969, a final clutch of recordings were committed to tape, much of it seeing the light of day for the first time on Artifact – The Unreleased Album.

One facet to bear in mind regarding the Choir is that they underwent about seven different lineups and permutations during their tenure, and in fact, the version of the group you’ll hear on Artifact contains only one fellow who crossed over into the Raspberries, drummer Jim Bonfanti.  This poses the question, just how much significance will this album hold to even to the most dedicated of the Rasp’s fanboys?

Well, it’s not a Raspberries album, nor does it logically predict what Eric Carmen and Co. would unfurl on those aforementioned and coveted four albums.  This leads us to judge Artifact almost wholly on it’s own merits.  There are few overarching generalities to make about this record, save for the competence and execution of it’s architects.  It’s more of a matter of what appeals to you at the moment.  The sprite “Anyway I Can” bears a distinct Left Banke lilt, and is probably the only song in the bunch that possesses any inspirational antecedents to the more renown spinoff band in question.  Shades of the fab four abound…but so do Traffic, on organ-laced cuts “If These Are Men” and “Boris’ Lament.”  I could probably have done without the long-winded instrumental “For Eric,” but elsewhere The Choir redeem themselves on the driving “David Watts,” which would have probably slotted in nicely on an early Who or Kinks affair.  In the grand scheme of things Artifact is less about lineage and considerably more about the era it emanates from, and thankfully, it’s not a record merely geared to folks who couldn’t get enough of a sugar fix from those handful of Raspberries disks.  By the way, Artifact was preceded by another posthumous Choir compendium,  Choir Practice on Sundazed in 1994, rounding up some of the band’s earlier single sides and then some.   

Artifact is available now from Omnivore, or iTunes and Amazon

Articles Origin: The Choir – Artifact: The Unreleased Album (2018, Omnivore) – A brief overview.

Swallow the Bird – s/t LP (1987, Scorpio)

Since I can’t find any background info on this rather miscellaneous quartet, this will be a short-ish write-up.  This appears to be Swallow the Bird’s lone album, issued by Scorpio Records, the label that pressed all of their LPs on red, transparent vinyl.  Swallow lead mouthpiece and axe-slinger, Wayne Radly’s vocal parlance loosely resembles that of World Party’s Karl Wallinger, and to a lesser degree Robyn Hitchcock, but the similarities sorta stop there.  In fact, the vibe is considerably more humble here, and Swallow’s quasi-narratives and bar-stool observations (Time to put money in the meter of life, per “Army of Time”) are appreciated, if not outright relished in bite-sized increments.  A rather economical quartet, these gents understood how to properly mold slightly off-center keepers like “New Shoes” and “Your Neighbor Makes Me Sick” without over or under-doing anything.  If any of you have any pertinent deets on StB, by all means chime in. 

01. My Rockin’ Horse Has Died
02. Alaskan Headquarters
03. Swallow the Bird
04. Army of Time
05. New Shoes
06. Dictionary Lover
07. Your Neighbor Makes Me Sick
08. New Suburbia
09. Migraine
10. Hourly or Salary
11. Lightning Won’t Help
12. Eastern Death Mark


Articles Origin: Swallow the Bird – s/t LP (1987, Scorpio)

Stained Veil – Livin on Leavin (1986, Smash)

How many of you kept tabs on Greek post-punk/goth bands in the ’80s?  Yeah, me either.  Stained Veil were one of those very contingents, and they were a better late than never discovery for me.  Their’s was a not-so-maudlin approach to the darkwave thing, sometimes bearing more in common with early New Model Army and The Wipers (the latter of whom they were known to cover live) than Bauhaus, Joy Division, etc…  A bit deficient in the melody department, they compensated with a textured and methodical modus operandi, that oozed a mildly sinister and subterranean mystique.  I believe the Livin on Leavin album was the only wax that was issued during their existence, and as good as this record’s piercing guitar leads and overcast demeanor was, their subsequent recordings were doubly satisfying.  To be exact, those later tracks were released posthumously a few years ago under the title of Endless Hours, and are available from iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp.  Highly recommended, even if Livin on Leavin doesn’t blow you away.

01. Change of Time
02. Reasons to be Alone
03. Dorian
04. Livin on Leavin
05. Without Them All
06. Lost
07. It’s All the Same


Articles Origin: Stained Veil – Livin on Leavin (1986, Smash)

V/A – Lost in the Haze Vol. 21

My apologies for not posting more this week.  Hopefully this will help make up for that.  I’m following up on two previous installments in the Lost in the Haze series, a hand-curated array of compilation CD-Rs, courtesy of the now defunct Not Lame Records label and distro.  For the unacquainted, Not Lame flew the power pop flag high circa the 1990s-’00s, with an emphasis on CDs sold strictly through mailorder.  The CEO would frequently incentivize purchases by tossing in a handmade and self-curated cd-r compilation of impossibly rare songs that never made their way into the digital era proper.  God knows how many volumes existed in the Lost in the Haze series alone (at least 21, obviously).  Accompanied only by a tray card track list with no other pertinent details about the music presented, these compilations were stuffed into paper cd envelopes, and would tend to accumulate in various piles in my house.  With a veritable absence of artwork they went out of sight and out of mind for years until I was able to organize them until a few years back

The focus of Lost in the Haze was centered on overlooked and arcane also-rans (with the occasional rarity from a superstar) from the ’70s to the early ’80s. Volume 21 delivers no shortage of stunners: Susan (a male fronted band), New Hearts (who I think are actually a band named the Speedies) and Tattoo who featured none other than ex-Raspberry Wally Bryson.  I wish I had more time to provide a synopsis of the ten bands making the cut here, but hopefully you’ll walk away with a discovery or two.  The tracklist is to your above left.


Articles Origin: V/A – Lost in the Haze Vol. 21