domingo, 4 de diciembre de 2016

My Bloody Valentine

Like The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, and The Jesus and Mary Chain before them, My Bloody Valentine redefined what noise meant within the context of pop songwriting. Led by guitarist Kevin Shields, the group released several EPs in the mid-'80s before recording the era-defining 'Isn't Anything' in 1988, a record that merged lilting, ethereal melodies of the Cocteau Twins with crushingly loud, shimmering distortion. Though My Bloody Valentine rejected rock & roll conventions, they didn't subscribe to the precious tendencies of anti-rock art-pop bands. Instead, they rode crashing waves of white noise to unpredictable conclusions, particularly since their noise wasn't paralyzing like the typical avant-garde noise rock band: it was translucent, glimmering, and beautiful. Shields was a perfectionist, especially when it came to recording, as much of My Bloody Valentine's sound was conceived within the studio itself. Nevertheless, the band was known as a formidable live act, even though they rarely moved, or even looked at the audience, while they were on-stage. Their notorious lack of movement was branded "shoegazing" by the British music press, and soon there were legions of other shoegazers -Ride, Lush, The Boo Radleys, Chapterhouse, Slowdive- that, along with the rolling dance-influenced Madchester scene, dominated British indie rock of the late '80s and early '90s. As shoegazing reached its peak in 1991, My Bloody Valentine released 'Loveless', which broke new sonic ground and was hailed as a masterpiece. Though the band was poised for a popular breakthrough, it disappeared into the studio and didn't emerge over the next five years, leaving behind a legacy that proved profoundly influential in the direction of '90s alternative rock. 

Born in Queens, New York, Kevin Shields' family moved to Dublin, Ireland, when he was six years old. In his teens, he became obsessed with pop music, eventually playing in Complex with his childhood friend Colm O'Ciosoig. In 1984, Shields and O'Ciosoig formed My Bloody Valentine with vocalist Dave Conway and keyboardist Tina, taking their name from a slasher horror film. The group relocated to Berlin, where they released The Birthday Party-influenced EP 'This Is Your Bloody Valentine' on the Tycoon label in 1985 to little notice. The following year, the band moved to London, where they added bassist Debbie Googe. By the summer, they had signed to Fever and had released the EP 'Geek!', which again was ignored. Later that year, the group moved to Kaleidoscope Sound, releasing 'The New Record by My Bloody Valentine' EP, which illustrated a Jesus & Mary Chain influence. The following year, the band moved to The Primitives' Lazy Records, releasing 'Sunny Sundae Smile' early in the year. That EP was the first My Bloody Valentine record to mesh airy melodies with grinding guitars, but the two EPs that followed in 1987 -'Strawberry Wine' and 'Ecstasy'- were more focused and acclaimed. Conway left the band by the end of the year and was replaced by vocalist/guitarist Bilinda Butcher, whose breathy vocals fit the group's evolving sound more appropriately. 

My Bloody Valentine's new sound coalesced with the group's first full-fledged album, 1988's 'Isn't Anything'. Released on Creation Records, 'Isn't Anything' was greeted with enthusiastic reviews in the U.K. music press and the band's following increased dramatically by the end of the year; in fact, their reputation had become large enough to attract the attention of Sire/Warner Bros. in the U.S., who became the group's American label. Two other EPs, 'Feed Me With Your Kiss' and 'You Made Me Realise', were also quite popular, and by the beginning of 1989, bands that based their sound on My Bloody Valentine's droning swirl began to appear. The group retreated to the studio in 1989 to record its follow-up, which meant that only one EP, 'Glider', was released during that year. By the spring of 1990, it was becoming clear that the follow-up to 'Isn't Anything' wouldn't be appearing anytime soon, and reports about Shields' growing perfectionism began to circulate in the U.K. weekly music press. Soon, it became apparent that the band's lengthy recording sessions were crippling Creation Records, but the group's audience was still passionate despite the inactivity: the 'Tremolo' EP was released at the end of 1990 to considerable acclaim, and managed to climb into the U.K. Top 40. 

When My Bloody Valentine's second album, 'Loveless', finally appeared in late 1991, it was greeted with uniformly excellent reviews and it became a hit within the U.K., reaching number 24 on the charts. In America, the group made significant inroads, particularly by supporting Dinosaur Jr. Despite the band's acclaim and growing audience, 'Loveless' didn't sell in numbers to recoup its reported 500,000 dollar recording cost and Creation dropped the band from their label roster; Creation wouldn't fully recover until 1994, when they signed Oasis. My Bloody Valentine signed with Island and entered the studio at the end of 1992 to record a new album. In 1993, the group contributed a James Bond cover to a charity compilation. 

And then...nothing happened. 

Shields built a home studio with his Island advance and reportedly completed two separate albums, but scrapped them both. Often, the studio ran into technological problems. Between 1993 and 1997, both Googe and O'Ciosoig left the band, leaving only Shields and Butcher; after driving a cab for about a year, Googe formed Snowpony in 1996. There were signs that My Bloody Valentine were emerging from hiding in 1996, when the group contributed to the Wire tribute album "Whore" and Shields played on Experimental Audio Research's "Beyond the Pale". In the late 2000s, the band re-formed to play several shows, including a five-night residency at London's Roundhouse venue in June 2008; that summer and autumn, they played the European festival circuit as well as major cities in North America, including the All Tomorrow's Parties festival they curated in Monticello, New York, that September. In 2009 they embarked on a smaller round of dates, with dates in the Netherlands as well as the All Tomorrow's Parties "Nightmare Before Christmas" festival that December. Late in 2012, Shields announced that My Bloody Valentine had completed a new album, but no firm release date was mentioned. The album, 'mbv', arrived in February 2013. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

sábado, 3 de diciembre de 2016

The dB's

Playing sharp, tuneful songs with a hint of psychedelia and some challenging melodic angles, The dB's were the band that bridged the gap between classic '70s power pop (defined by bands such as Big Star, Badfinger, and The Scruffs) and the jangly new wave of smart pop, personified by R.E.M. And while The dB's spent the bunk of their career living and working on the East Coast, they were the among the first and most important representatives of the Southern branch of the new wave; most of the group's members hailed from North Carolina, bringing a Southern warmth to music that sometimes sounded cold and spare in the hands of others. 

The dB's story begins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which in the early '70s was home to a pair of aspiring rock musicians, Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, both of whom played guitar, sang, and wrote songs. Friends since grade school, Stamey and Holsapple shared a fondness for both classic pop and hard rock; teaming with similarly talented Winston-Salem native Mitch Easter, they formed a band called Rittenhouse Square, who released a homemade album in 1972 but broke up shortly afterwards. In 1975, Stamey and Easter formed a new band with local drummer Will Rigby called The Sneakers, while Holsapple launched a combo called The H-Bombs. The Sneakers played a prescient brand of upbeat power pop and released a well-reviewed EP in 1976, but the band broke up in 1977 when Stamey left North Carolina to attend college in New York City. While in New York, Stamey crossed paths with fellow Southern exile Alex Chilton, and soon landed a gig playing bass with the former Big Star frontman. Stamey wasted no time immersing himself in the lively New York music scene, and opted to form a band of his own. Stamey invited Will Rigby and another North Carolina musician, Gene Holder, to come to New York and play some shows with them, and all three were happy enough with the results that Rigby and Holder settled in New York. Their new band, Chris Stamey & the dB's (with dB's standing both for "drums and bass" and the unit of measure for audio volume) became a going concern, with Stamey recording a single with the group in 1978, which he released through his own Car Records label. When Stamey learned that The H-Bombs had broken up and Holsapple was having trouble finding sympathetic musical collaborators after moving to Memphis, he invited Holsapple to come to New York and The dB's became a quartet, with Holsapple playing both guitar and organ. 

The dB's set up a rehearsal space in the loft that was home to the music magazine New York Rocker, and the group was soon cutting demos on a four-track tape machine, including a tongue-in-cheek jingle for the magazine. Before long, The dB's were playing regularly on the New York club circuit and doing short tours through the East Coast and Midwest, and Holsapple began contributing more material to the group. In 1980, the independent Shake Records label released the first proper dB's single, "Black and White" b/w "Soul Kiss," and the group began work on an album. The dB's were unable to score an American record deal, but an independent label in the U.K., Albion Records, offered them a contract, and their debut album, 'Stands for deciBels', was released in early 1981. The dB's flew to England to play some shows in support, including a showcase of New York and Hoboken-based groups (including The Fleshtones, The Bongos, The Raybeats, and Bush Tetras) that was recorded for a live sampler LP released by Stiff Records under the title "Start Swimming". While in the U.K., The dB's also backed former Soft Boys guitarist Kimberley Rew for a recording session; the results appeared on Rew's album "The Bible of Bop". 

After returning to New York, The dB's began writing and demoing material for their second album, 'Repercussion', which was issued in early 1982. However, a few months later, Stamey quit the group to launch a solo career. Through much of 1982, Holsapple played solo shows and Holder dabbled in production, but in 1983, the group finally landed an American record deal, with the Warner Bros.-distributed Bearsville Records. The dB's recorded 'Like This' as a trio, with Holder doubling on guitar and bass and Holsapple taking lead vocals; the album was released in the fall of 1984, and the band was invited to tour with R.E.M., with new bassist Rick Wagner restoring the group to a four-piece. Despite good reviews and promising radio airplay, The dB's hit a snag when Bearsville's distribution agreement with Warner Bros. ended and WB stopped working the album. Undaunted, The dB's set out on a tour in 1985 with Chris Stamey's new group and Let's Active, fronted by Stamey and Holsapple's former bandmate Mitch Easter. The tour also introduced fans to The dB's' new bassist, Jeff Beninato, who came aboard after Wagner was let go. The group briefly reunited with Stamey to record the song "Christmas Time," which became the title track of a seasonal compilation Stamey released in 1986, while Holder began dividing his time between The dB's and another band, The Wygals. In early 1986, Albert Grossman, the owner of Bearsville Records, died unexpectedly, and when it was discovered he had not drawn up a will, The dB's (like the other bands on the label) found themselves stranded as Bearsville went out of business and lawyers debated who owned their contracts. It wasn't until the spring of 1987 that The dB's became free agents; during their downtime, they had secretly negotiated a deal with IRS Records, so they immediately signed with IRS and went into the studio to cut their fourth album, 'The Sound of Music'. 'The Sound of Music' was The dB's most polished and commercially oriented album, but during the recording, Holder announced he would leave the band once the album was completed to devote more time to The Wygals. When The dB's hit the road in support of the album in September 1987, Harold Kelt was playing guitar and keyboards with them. The tour included a string of dates with R.E.M., who were enjoying a commercial breakthrough with the album "Document", but R.E.M.'s new, larger audience didn't react warmly to The dB's, and The dB's felt Kelt was a poor fit for the band. Eric Peterson, who as fate would have it was a former member of The Wygals, joined The dB's for a further round of touring in 1988, including dates in Europe with Alex Chilton, and the band began cutting demos for a fifth album. However, in October 1988, Rigby announced he was leaving the band after becoming a new father, and Holsapple decided it was time to retire The dB's. The 1988 demos were belatedly released in 1994 on the album 'Paris Avenue', while a set of earlier four-track recordings were compiled in the album 'Ride the Wild TomTom'. 

After the end of The dB's, Peter Holsapple worked as a sideman with R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish, as well as forming the roots rock band The Continental Drifters with his then-wife Susan Cowsill. Gene Holder continued to perform with The Wygals and worked steadily in the studio, producing material for Yo La Tengo, The Individuals, and Luna. Will Rigby cut a pair of idiosyncratic solo albums and drummed with Steve Earle, Matthew Sweet, Laura Cantrell, and Tommy Womack. Chris Stamey pursued his solo career while establishing himself as a producer and engineer of note. And in 1991, Stamey and Holsapple teamed up for a duo album, "Mavericks", which featured a guest appearance from Gene Holder. Stamey and Holsapple recorded another duo album in 2009, "Here and Now", which featured Holder and Rigby on one cut, "Santa Monica." In 2005, the Stamey/Holsapple/Holder/Rigby lineup of The dB's reunited to play live shows in Chicago and Hoboken, and after playing occasional concerts since, the group began work on a new album. A new single, "Picture Sleeve" b/w "Write Back," was released for Record Store Day in 2011, and in the summer of 2012, the long-awaited reunion album 'Falling Off the Sky' was released by Bar-None Records. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2016

The Cravats

From the Midlands town of Redditch, Worcestershire, England, The Cravats’ weird brand of rock was first heard on the classic ‘Gordon’, a co-release with Small Wonder Records and their own label in October 1978. After joining Small Wonder, the band, comprising Shend (b. Chris Harz; vocals, bass), Robin Dallaway (guitar, vocals), Dave Bennett (drums) and Richard London (saxophone), put out a series of entertaining singles, starting with the EP 'Burning Bridges' in 1979. It was over a year before ‘Precinct’ appeared in 1980, alongside what proved to be their only album, 'The Cravats In Toytown'. After releasing ‘You’re Driving Me’ and ‘Off The Beach’ in 1981, the band moved to Glass Records for ‘Terminus’ in 1982, but it was to prove a one-off single. Only the superb ‘Rub Me Out’, on the Crass label, made any headway in the UK Independent chart. A retrospective EP, 'The Cravats Sing Terminus And Other Hits', surfaced before the band laid low. A solitary EP, 'In The Land Of The Giants', on the Reflex label some three years later, was all the band could offer before mutating into The Very Things. Pursuing an acting career, Shend later made various minor television appearances, in particular in the BBC Television soap opera "EastEnders". [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

miércoles, 30 de noviembre de 2016

The Bluebells

During their brief time together in the early '80s, The Bluebells (songwriter Robert "Bobby Bluebell" Hodgens [born on June 6, 1959] [guitar], Kenneth McClusky [born on February 8, 1962] [vocals/harmonica], Dave McCluskey [born on January 13, 1964] [drums], Russell Irvin [guitar] [replaced by Craig Gannon (born on July 30, 1966)], and Lawrence Donegan [bass] [replaced by Neil Baldwin]) made a small amount of music -several singles, most of which showed up on one EP- but that is not proportional to the quality of their music. Like fellow Scots Aztec Camera, The Bluebells crafted impeccable, jangly guitar pop, only with better melodies and stronger hooks. Two of their singles ("I'm Falling" and "Young at Heart") hovered around the lower reaches of the U.K. Top Ten in 1984, but they soon broke up, leaving a small, but impressive, body of work. David McCluskey and his brother, Ken, formed a folk duo. Robert Hodgens formed Up. Craig Gannon briefly filled in for bassist Andy Rourke in The Smiths on tour, then stayed as a second live guitarist; he joined Adult Net after being fired from The Smiths in 1986. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

martes, 29 de noviembre de 2016

Spacemen 3

Spacemen 3 were psychedelic in the loosest sense of the word; their guitar explorations were colorfully mind-altering, but not in the sense of the acid rock of the '60s. Instead, the band developed its own minimalistic psychedelia, relying on heavily distorted guitars to clash and produce their own harmonic overtones; frequently, they would lead up to walls of distortion with overamplified acoustic guitars and synths. Often the band would jam on one chord or play a series of songs, all in the same tempo and key. Though this approach was challenging, often bordering on the avant-garde, Spacemen 3 nevertheless gained a dedicated cult following. After releasing several albums in the late '80s, the band fell apart after in 1991. 

In 1982, Sonic Boom (guitar, organ, vocals; born Pete Kember on November 19, 1965) and Jason Pierce (guitar, organ, vocals; also born November 19, 1965) formed Spacemen 3 in Rugby, Warwickshire, England. Sonic Boom and Pierce added a rhythm section comprised of Pete Baines and Rosco, and spent the next four years rehearsing and jamming. In 1986, the group released its debut album, 'Sound of Confusion', on Glass Records. At first the band sounded a bit like a punked-up garage rock band, but their music quickly evolved into their signature trance-like neo-psychedelia. Spacemen 3's second album, 1987's 'The Perfect Prescription', was the first to capture the group's distinctive style. 

Following 1989's 'Playing With Fire', Baines and Rosco left the group to form their own band, The Darkside. They were replaced by Will Carruthers and Jon Mattock. Despite the addition of new blood to its lineup, the band was beginning to fray because of in-fighting between Sonic Boom and Pierce, as well as the former's increasing drug dependency. The new lineup struggled through a final album, 1991's 'Recurring', which featured Boom's songs on side one and Pierce's on side two. By the time of the release of 'Recurring', Pierce was performing with Carruthers and Mattock in a new band called Spiritualized. Shortly after the release of 'Recurring', Spacemen 3 split, and Spiritualized became Pierce's full-time band, eventually earning a cult following of its own. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC