Last week's Vinyl Cave featured the first part of a roundup of vinyl singles, mostly of the local/regional variety. I haven't tracked down everything that's emerged locally, though. For example, Those Poor Bastards issued several 7-inches over the last year, but all have sold out quickly. There has also been a slew of singles by Milwaukee's Plexi 3 which I've just been catching up on. I'm sure there's quite a few more which haven't crossed my path at all. So, if you know a band -- or are in one! -- that has a record out, please let me know about it. This week's roundup ranges a bit further afield from Madison than last time.
The Goodnight Loving: "Nothing Conquers Us"/"Scary Bad" (Dirtnap Records, 2009) and Arcabaleno EP (Wild Honey Records, 2010)
Considering the Goodnight Loving's previously speedy release pace, it took awhile after their last album for this pair of records by the Milwaukee combo to emerge on either side of the turn of the year. The most recent is also one of the fancier releases by a Wisconsin band to appear in recent memory: a 12-inch, five-song EP with a silk-screened design on the flip side, packaged in a clear sleeve. The disc was created by Italian label Wild Honey, which also previously released an alternate LP version of the group's 2008 self-titled album and an LP reissue of Beach Patrol's most recent full-length.
The EP's tracks were recorded during Goodnight Loving's 2009 European tour by a member of the Mojomatics, and feature the group's patented mix of heart, twang and garage sass -- along with some psychedelic influences creeping in on lead-off track "4 & 3." That tour and the recordings included the group's five-piece lineup. The bouncy "Nothing Conquers Us" single represents the current lineup, with Ryan Adams moving behind the drums. There's also a relatively random video for both sides of the single. The band is out on tour all summer and will release its first Dirtnap LP, The Goodnight Loving Supper Club, on July 20. Singles buyers who can utilize a digital version will be glad to know that the Dirtnap single comes with a download code.
Wheels on Fire: "Bad Lie"/"Come on Judy" (Trouble in Mind, 2009)
and I'm Turning Into You EP (Big Legal Mess, 2008)
Athens, Ohio's Wheels on Fire plays straightforward rock 'n roll -- catchy and crisp enough for power pop fans, crunchy and just snotty enough for the garage kids. Their set last year at the Frequency was one my 2009 show highlights, and they'll be back in town playing at the High Noon Saloon on Monday, June 7. "We're really looking forward to the Madison show," notes guitarist/singer Michael Chaney. "We get to play with our buds The Hussy again and we've got a bunch of new songs that no one's heard yet."
If you can't catch them live, the best place to hear their current sans-bass player lineup is on the A-side of the new Trouble in Mind single, which adds a bit more '60s jangle to their sound. This single also includes a code for a digital download. The flip sounds a bit more like their 2008 EP, which was mostly drawn from the band's initial recordings as a five-piece and sounds like an unholy alliance between The Reigning Sound and Elvis Costello. Chaney says more music is on the way. "We've got a 7-inch coming out soon on Kind Turkey out of Madison that has four new songs that we just recorded last month," he explains. "And we also have a new LP titled Liar, Liar that will be released this fall on a German label called Alien Snatch! Records. We're really excited about both these records, I think we're really doing our best stuff now."
Eric and the Happy Thoughts EP (BubbleDumb Records)
Indiana guitarist/singer Eric LaGrange has been involved in three entertaining bands that have released 7-inches over the past several years, and I'll untangle the threads of as much of his discography as I know about. There's two things that connect all the records released by the bands LaGrange has been in: flat-out catchy songs and DIY production values. First up is his currently active band, Eric and the Happy Thoughts. This single, the debut 7-inch from Eric and the Happy Thoughts, is acceptably mid-fi sonically, with the needle on the catchiness meter predictably buried. The band has also had a couple cassette releases, including a split single with The Midwest Beat, and a full-length will be out soon on HoZac.
The Romance Novels: "Another Summer"/"Quarter to Four" (Pizza Party Records, 2007), "Peggy Sue"/"Bikini Beach" (HoZac, 2007), and "Hoosier Hits" single (Milk 'n Herpes Records, 2008)
An earlier band featuring LaGrange, The Romance Novels records are mostly pretty far toward the lo-fi end of the sonic spectrum, to a trebley degree that is likely to irritate listeners used to studio recordings. For others, though, the DIY sound of these records will fit well with the songs' basic bubblegummy garage pop esthetic. The HoZac and Pizza Party discs feature original songs, while the Milk 'n Herpes single includes covers by The Gizmos and The McCoys. These records have been only occasionally available since their original release; of the three, the Pizza Party disc has been recently re-pressed and can be found various places online.
The Cave Weddings: "Bring Your Love"/"Let's Drive" (HoZac, 2009) and "Last Time"/"Never Never Know" (Bachelor, 2010)
Another trio including LaGrange, another set of lo-fi pop gems. But this group is more power pop than bubblegum, and the hooks and song structures are from the mind of guitarist/singer Erin Dorbin. Dorbin also wrote the lyrics for the songs she sings, and LaGrange contributes lyrics when he sings. The Cave Weddings were based on the East Coast in Albany/Troy, N.Y., though everyone originally hails from the Midwest -- including former Madison drummer Nathan Meltz, with whom I had the pleasure of being a member of The Super Eights. While living in Madison, Meltz also was a member of Violet United, The Nervous System and Ric-Rac Attack, among other groups.
The HoZac single was their first, out last summer around the time the band played a show here in Madison. The Bachelor single released a few months back is a posthumous document of The Cave Weddings, as Dorbin and La Grange have since returned to the Midwest. The Bachelor single features some bass and backup vocal assistance from members of The Midwest Beat and sleeve art by drummer Christopher Capelle.
LaGrange completists will want to search for a CD EP released before the first single, and "Last Time" also appeared on a split cassette single with The Midwest Beat. There's also a track on a 7-inch comp. And for more on The Cave Weddings, there's an excellent interview with Dorbin on the Kind Turkey blog.
The World Is Lousy With Ideas Vol. 3 EP (Almost Ready Records, 2008)
A four-band compilation, this apparently came with two different covers -- an image of the relatively tasteless penis-besotted sleeve on the copy I found is nowhere to be seen on the label's website. Who knows, maybe the copy I found is a bootleg! I bought this due to the inclusion of tracks by The Romance Novels and Nobunny (the absolutely priceless "Hippy Witch"), but the songs by The Suspicions and Wax Museums are also cool lo-fi pop. The sleeve's photocopied and the sound quality's dodgy, but it's a pretty great DIY disc all around. I'd definitely pick up others in the series, but most are out of print. It appears this label has since gotten a bit more high profile, with recent releases including tracks by Thee Oh Sees, Vivian Girls, Pink Noise, Tyvek and other buzzed-about bands.
New Kids on the Block EP (Randy Records, 2009)
Another four-artist compilation, which includes the Eric and the Happy Thoughts track "Bad Days." The other track on the "pop" side is a '60s-esque love song by Bradford Trojan. The flip side is enjoyably punky; "Outerbelt" by Day Creeper sounds sort of like something from the Replacements first album, but with extra added organ. This disc gets added points for the goofy old yearbook photos adorning the sleeve, a concept that works well in photocopied B&W.
I'd Buy That For a Dollar 2 EP (UFO Dictator Records, 2009)
Hey, guess what -- another four-band compilation, this one featuring "Just Like a Fool," one of the hookiest songs by The Cave Weddings. Their side finishes with a surprisingly simpatico track by Memphis' Useless Eaters. Even better, the flip side features yet another classic blast of aggression by Milwaukee's Gut Reactions, along with Chicago's Wanton Looks. With a snazzy Ben Lyon-illustrated sleeve and an insert including info about the bands, this is a really well done EP.
Gut Reactions: Bored EP (Bachelor Records, 2009)
The Gut Reactions' sound has gradually sharpened over the years, and is refined to the hardness of diamond with their EP on Austria's Bachelor label. The band is tight and loud -- including current members of The Zygoteens and Midwest Beat -- and topped by the demented shrieks of Lee Olson. Unfortunately, there will be no more chances to see the band live, as they played a retirement show in mid-May. Fortunately, they've left behind a slew of good singles and finally a full-length, of which a few cassettes and CDRs were available at the show. It doesn't match the intensity of seeing the band live in a basement or dive, but fans will always have those beer-soaked memories.
The Sugar Stems: "Beat Beat Beat"/"Crybaby" (Bachelor Records, 2009)
The somewhat improbable Milwaukee-Austria connection continues with the debut 7-inch from The Sugar Stems, a completely different proposition than the garage-thrash of Gut Reactions. The Sugar Stems are straight up pop-rock, and their 45 sounds like something that would have been heard on the radio circa-1981, after The Knack made the Top 40 safe for power pop. There's a definite tinge of girl group as well, despite the fact that the harmonies are provided by lead guitar player Drew Fredrichsen of The Jetty Boys and the much-missed Leg Hounds. This one actually came out about a year ago, but the Bachelor singles can be a bit tough to find aside from getting them from the band. I finally broke down and bought one online rather than have them totally disappear by the next time The Sugar Stems make it to town.
Drugs Dragons: "(I'm in a) Braingrave"/"Predator Weapons" (no label, 2010)
Wrapping things up, here's a new self released single (but with distribution via Dusty Medical) by a Milwaukee band that is something of a follow up to Night Terrors. After the preceding singles this is a good reminder that not all independent bands are playing jangly pop music right now. Drugs Dragons left me cold on first listen, but the more I hear it the more entertaining it gets. "Braingrave" sounds sorta like The Mummies recorded without distortion, but while on LSD or in a very strange mood. The other song (both are on one side) sounds like someone dropped AC/DC down a well and they all landed on their heads. As described on the handmade sleeve: "Guaranteed to gum-up the inside of any discerning record collector's pants."