Category Archives: LOST CLASSICS

Lost & Found: Farmer Dave Scher

farmerdavedave320As an addendum to our recent list of Lost Classics (a series of posts highlighting some of the best underrecognized and forgotten indie-rock albums released since MAGNET began publishing in 1993), we’ll continue to play catch-up with the artists we featured. Because you just never know when you’ll stumble across the former drummer for Velocity Girl.

When we attempted to update you on the further misadventures of Beachwood Sparks since the band’s last album (2001’s Once We Were Trees), it broke our imaginary copy of The Trouser Press Guide To ’00s Indie Rock. There were too many side projects and offshoot bands to keep track of. So we didn’t see this coming: Keyboardist/pedal steel guitarist Farmer Dave Scher just finished a tour supporting Jenny Lewis and will release solo debut Flash Forward To The Good Times (Kemado) on August 18. We’ve heard this album, and it is the stoned sum total of the beards worn by Carl Wilson, Willie Nelson, Devendra Banhart and Marvin Gaye. The fun never stops with tracks such as country/dub (you read that correctly) hoedown “Finnz Hammock,” which contains the following spoken-word mid-song exchange between Scher and an unnamed guest vocalist playing the part of Nikola Tesla:

Scher: Hey Mr. Tesla, what is that?
Tesla: This is my latest invention, the Spirit Machine.
Scher: What happens if I touch this—
Tesla: Don’t touch that… [sound of alarm clock ringing]
Scher: Here we go!

Then it quotes a line from “Iko Iko.” Unbelievably awesome.

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Lost & Found: Anti-Pop Consortium

antipop09As an addendum to our recent list of Lost Classics (a series of posts highlighting some of the best underrecognized and forgotten indie-rock albums released since MAGNET began publishing in 1993), we’ll continue to play catch-up with the artists we featured. Because you just never know when you’ll stumble across the former drummer for Velocity Girl.

Today’s update concerns Anti-Pop Consortium, Radiohead’s favorite hip-hop group circa Kid A. Though we mentioned the reunion and impending release of new album Fluorescent Black in our Lost Classics entry, it’s now been officially confirmed and given a release date: October 13 on Big Dada. Because MAGNET loves you and wants you to be happy—even if part of that happiness was once due to the zeitgeist of intelligent hip hop paired with glitchy electronica circa your Autechre phase, but we digress—here’s a free download of a track from the album.

“Capricorn One” (download):

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Lost & Found: Dean Fertita, Eric Matthews

deadweather5401As an addendum to our recent list of Lost Classics (a series of posts highlighting some of the best underrecognized and forgotten indie-rock albums released since MAGNET began publishing in 1993), we’ll continue to play catch-up with the artists we featured. Because you just never know when you’ll stumble across the former drummer for Velocity Girl.

We mentioned the solo career of Cardinal‘s Eric Matthews but only recently discovered his work in Seinking Ships, his atmospheric pop group with Cleveland musician Christopher Seink and Lush’s Miki Berenyi. Seinking Ships has a self-titled EP out now and is planning a full-length release later this year.

The Waxwings‘ Dean Fertita may have exhibited non-rock behavior in his Detroit jangle-pop band, but he’s now stalking some really well-lit stages and sporting a scruffy-looking beard. He plays keyboard in Queens Of The Stone Age and is the guitarist for the Dead Weather (pictured), the group that features Jack White and the Kills’ Alison Mosshart. Fertita also has a solo album, Hello Fire (featuring members of the Queens and the Raconteurs), ready for release this year.

Seinking Ships’ “Mission To Mars” (download):

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Lost Classics: The Psychedelphia Story

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

azusa66

You should hear the collective groan around the MAGNET office whenever the idea of writing a scene-report article is discussed; most bands pay more attention to their MySpace page than their hometown. But geography is a powerful thing, and we have been guilty of chasing its musical meaning, sometimes with success (the Chicago post-rock family tree we published in 1996), sometimes with failure (Texas psych/rock or Norwegian pop scenes, anyone?). But one of the most genuine groundswells was in our own backyard in the late ’90s.

Sounds From Psychedelphia, a 10-band compilation issued in 1999, is the main artifact of that era of Philly sound. On it, you can hear Lenola taking a My Bloody Valentine-like, effects-bent riff and stretch it like taffy; witness the Asteroid #4 delve into neo-Pink Floyd bliss; take in the shimmering guitar-pop heroics of the Photon Band; and hear Aspera Ad Astra imagine what Brian Jones’ own personal orchestra would’ve sounded like. While shape-shifting noise merchants Bardo Pond and jangle-pop outfit Mazarin aren’t present on Psychedelphia (the former was signed to Matador at the time, and the latter debuted afterward), both bands filled in pieces of the local puzzle.

But, predictably, you had to be there. Live, the Asteroid #4 employed a fog machine and a kaleidoscopic light show, while Bardo Pond would stage sit-down performances at art museums and Lenola (which actually hailed from nearby locales in southern New Jersey) cooked up its own visual schemes. “At one show, we wore suits that were covered in Christmas lights and handed out light-refraction glasses to the crowd,” remembers Lenola singer/guitarist Jay Laughlin. “We were plugged into extension cords at our feet. It looked awesome, but (drummer) Sean (Byrne) was getting shocked while we played, so that was a one-off thing.”

Beneath all that onstage window-dressing, Philly’s psych/rock scene was steadfastly DIY, with nearly every band forming its own label to release its albums. There was Lounge (Asteroid #4’s imprint, which issued the Psychedelphia comp), Tappersize (Lenola), File 13 (Aspera Ad Astra) and Colorful Clouds For Acoustics (Azusa Plane). “The DIY thing was out of necessity, really,” says Laughlin. “We sent the albums to every label we knew of and never got a bite.”

No widespread national attention was forthcoming, and Lenola called it a day in 2002; the band’s members now play in Like A Fox and the Twin Atlas. Aspera also disbanded, with members joining Rollerskate Skinny’s Ken Griffin in Favourite Sons. The Asteroid #4 is still around, but 2006 saw an endpoint for Mazarin (a cease-and-desist order was issued by a Long Island bar band of the same name) and a tragic epilogue (the suicide of the Azusa Plane’s Jason DiEmilio; pictured above).

:: THE AZUSA PLANE
America Is Dreaming Of Universal String Theory // Colorful Clouds For Acoustics, 1998

Effectively the solo guise of Jason DiEmilio, the Azusa Plane represented the experimental outer limits of Philadelphia’s otherwise rock- and pop-leaning psych scene. America Is Dreaming was a two-disc symphony of guitar-and-amplifier manipulations, a melodic beehive of sound that never submitted to drone. What John Fahey did for guitar strings (harnessing a miasma of notes and harmonics with godlike grace), DiEmilio did for feedback.

“Strings 2″:

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Lost Classics: The Dead C “The Operation Of The Sonne”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: THE DEAD C
The Operation Of The Sonne // Siltbreeze, 1994

deadcPity the music fans who discovered noise rock this millennium via Wolf Eyes or a Spin magazine article, as they missed the era when the genre had heart. New Zealand’s Dead C matched ultra-sloppy, Velvet Underground-influenced pop with mournful, buzzing drone rock. The remarkable thing about The Operation Of The Sonne was that it had no dynamic restrictions—until Robbie Yeats’ minimal, marching-band drums kicked in at various points on each of the album’s three tracks. When Operation came out, a joyful-yet-confused “huh?” spread across the indie-rock world. Nothing out there was this disorienting and organically pleasurable at the same time.

Catching Up: Singer/guitarist Michael Morley teaches at an art college in Dunedin, while guitarist Bruce Russell ran the Xpressway and Corpus Hermeticum labels. The latest Dead C album, Secret Earth, came out last year.

“Mordant Heaven”:

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Lost Classics: Grant Hart “Good News For Modern Man”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

hart:: GRANT HART
Good News For Modern Man // Pachyderm, 1999

Despite all the post-Hüsker Dü success Bob Mould had solo and with Sugar, it could be argued that he wasn’t even the influential Minneapolis trio’s most valuable player. Drummer Grant Hart was responsible for writing and singing a large chunk of Hüsker Dü’s best songs, including “Never Talking To You Again,” “Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely,” “Green Eyes,” “Pink Turns To Blue” and “Sorry Somehow.” This often goes overlooked, mostly because of his erratic recording career since the Hüskers’ 1987 demise, a break-up spurred by Hart’s heroin use. After a great EP (1988’s 2541), a negligible album (1989’s Intolerance) and two inconsistent efforts with Nova Mob (1991’s Last Days Of Pompeii and 1994’s Nova Mob), Hart released Good News For Modern Man. The 11-track set was everything Hüsker Dü fans had always wanted from him: an album full of classic melodies that owed as much to ’60s girl groups and catchy Britpop as it did to punk rock and power pop. But Good News For Modern Man sold poorly, and the Pachyderm label was out of business less than a year after its release.

Catching Up:
When not working as a visual artist, Hart has been recording material for a new album, portions of it with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. He is doing an East Coast tour in May and June.

“Remains To Be Seen”:

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Lost Classics: Bobsled Records

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

waxwings365Like restaurants and dot-coms, record labels fail at an alarming rate. So it isn’t exactly newsworthy that Bobsled Records lasted only five years. What’s notable is that the Aurora, Ill., indie burned so brightly and left a vapor trail of mini-myths. At the center of it all was Bob Salerno, a former tennis pro. One of the great characters in the indie-label world, the mutton-chopped, Motown-loving Salerno founded Bobsled with friend and financial backer Jeff Slay (the label name is a play on “Bob” and “Slay/Sleigh”).

Initially operating from his basement, Salerno attracted bands by releasing music on 180-gram, colored vinyl. Scottish outfit Adventures In Stereo (featuring Primal Scream’s Jim Beattie) was the label’s inaugural signing in 1997, notably followed by Chicago’s orchestral-pop Chamber Strings, French/German disco-punk duo Stereo Total and power-pop vets Velvet Crush. A true believer in his roster’s hit-making potential, Salerno poured money into radio promotion, retail campaigns and label-sponsored tours.

“There didn’t seem to be any middle ground with Bob,” says one former associate who wishes to remain anonymous. “He was shooting straight for the top. He always talked about the possibility of his releases going platinum. Not even gold.”

By 2002, however, Salerno’s zealous drive became a fatal flaw: Following a show by flagship Bobsled band the Waxwings (pictured), he penned a scathing letter to the Detroit retro-rockers that was later posted on the Internet. Salerno criticized the group’s lack of preparation and singer/guitarist Dean Fertita’s failure to exude a rock-star persona: “Mick Jagger wouldn’t be hangin’ out in the club before HIS RECORD RELEASE show!” he wrote. “Bush leagues!!! Dean, you’re just fuckin’ hangin’ out by the fuckin’ entrance before the show, AND SOMETIMES ALONE! PATHETIC!!! A REAL rock ‘n’ roll band would have been backstage getting psyched up for the greatest show of their entire lives!!!”

“The band stopped trying,” says Salerno, who changed his name to Björn Forsell and ran the Giant Pecker label. “[Bobsled’s] philosophy was equal effort—which they gave on their first record, but then they lost perspective on the second. We guaranteed them—and all our artists—around $10,000 to $12,000 per record, and we ended up spending roughly $200,000 on each at the end. So when they stopped trying and copped the attitude that it was all owed to them, I got pissed. And rightfully so, I still believe.”

Bobsled never produced a hit album, and the label folded after the release of the Waxwings’ second album, 2002’s Shadows Of The Waxwings.

:: THE WAXWINGS
Low To The Ground // Bobsled, 2000

The Waxwings apparently didn’t get the central-casting memo that required all Detroit bands to be immersed in the garage legacy of the Stooges and the MC5. The Byrds-via-R.E.M. jangle of the Waxwings’ debut was a refreshing change of pace from the carbon-monoxide-marinated angst of their Motor City peers.

“Keeping The Sparks”:

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Lost Classics: Swell “41”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: SWELL
41
// American/Psycho-Specific, 1993

swell350Swell may be the strangest act to land a major-label deal in grunge’s wake. (And that includes Daniel Johnston.) What’s commercial radio supposed to do with deadpan, minor-key vocals set atop acoustic guitar and room-next-door drums? But on Swell’s second big-label effort, the San Francisco psych/rock outfit found the ultimate meeting of desert-dive twinkle and drug-induced moodiness. It might sound almost lazily laid-back at first, but 41 delivered 13 spooky, insinuating beauties that refused to be dismissed.

Catching Up:
The major-label deal ended shortly after 41, and subsequent efforts delivered diminishing returns. Sole constant member David Freel had been quiet following 2003’s Whenever You’re Ready, but Swell has since released 2007’s South Of The Rain And Show and this year’s Be My Weapon.

“Is That Important”:

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Lost Classics: Arcwelder “Pull”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

archwelderc:: ARCWELDER
Pull // Touch And Go, 1993

“Sing a little pop song/Then everybody loves you,” sang Arcwelder on “Remember To Forget,” one of the many instant classics on Pull. If only it were that easy. Coming out of Minneapolis’ fertile ’80s scene, Arcwelder seemed like the logical successor to hometown heroes Hüsker Dü. Like the Hüskers, Arcwelder was a punk-leaning, pop-loving power trio whose vocal duties were shared by its guitarist and drummer and whose bassist had a moustache. But Arcwelder never really rose above cult status despite releasing six albums of catchy, noisy rock ’n’ roll. Pull, the band’s third LP and Touch And Go debut, was the best of the bunch, a 45-minute masterpiece that still holds its own against almost anything from indie rock’s glory years. So what if Arcwelder never achieved commercial success? Like the band sang at the beginning of Pull, “When it’s all done/This is just a song.”

Catching Up: Though the trio rarely plays live and has no plans for another proper record (an Internet-only release has been discussed), Arcwelder still practices once a week.

“Remember To Forget”:

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Lost Classics: Butterglory “Are You Building A Temple In Heaven?”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

butterglory450b:: BUTTERGLORY
Are You Building A Temple In Heaven? // Merge, 1996

It was a short run, but one worth remembering. From 1994 to 1997, Butterglory released three albums of laconic guitar pop that acted like passing seasons in the Lawrence, Kan., band’s brief career. Transformed from a precocious duo into a seasoned threesome with the addition of bassist Stephen Naron, drummer/singer Debby Vander Wall and singer/guitarist Matt Suggs made the autumnal Are You Building A Temple In Heaven? sound like the swan song from a fictional supergroup led by Georgia Hubley and Stephen Malkmus. Of course, making droll, flat-voiced slacker rock in the mid-’90s was a bit like dabbling in Cubism in turn-of-the-century Montmartre, which helps to explain why Butterglory was typecast as a Braque to Pavement’s Picasso.

Catching Up: After Suggs and Vander Wall split romantically and Butterglory folded, Suggs recorded two less-slanted-yet-still-enchanted solo albums, 2000’s Golden Days Before They End and 2003’s Amigo Row. He now fronts prog/pop outfit White Whale.

“She’s Got The Akshun!”:

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