Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What's in the Bin?

One of the sheer joys of being in an indie record store is browsing the bins. Just starting somewhere, flipping through things, pulling out items that catch your eye, giving a few of them a test spin. So in the first of a hypothetical series, I've decided to browse the "New Arrivals" bins here at Twist & Shout, pick out a few things, and give them a listen. The nature of used record stores being what it is, I can't promise these items will still be in the bin by the time you get here. But hey, browse the bin anyway. You might find something else of worth.

CD - The Wedding Present - Singles 1995/97
The Wedding Present was one of those bands I heard about a lot more than I actually heard. I vaguely recall the song "My Favourite Dress", but then everything else moves into that haze in my brain entitled "all those other 90s bands I never got into". So I thought this might be a good pick to catch me up to speed.

It isn't. Despite having twenty tracks, there are actually only three A-sides present, which are joined by B-sides, acoustic renditions, and live versions. The first A-side "Sucker" sounds nothing like I thought Wedding Present would - rough, indie, rocking. Cool, but the following A-sides "2 3 Go" and "Montreal" have stronger hooks and were better listens for me. Then there's all this other stuff. The live version of "My Favourite Dress" is good, but I don't know if it'd be necessary to hear a grungy guitar version of the theme from Cheers more than once or twice. Although I can't say I'm now well-versed in the artistry of the Wedding Present, the picture is significantly clearer now.

45 - Bent Fabric - "Alley Cat"/Rose Garden - "Next Plane to London"
This 7" single is one of those "oldies series" 45s that most labels put out years after the songs actually became a hit. Two popular hits were placed on opposite sides of a single, and thus doubled the chance that someone would come along and buy the single out of the 45 bin. Most of the time, two songs by the same artist would be put on both sides, but from time to time, two one-hit wonders would end up sharing space on a single. When that happened, often, you'd end up with two artists with nothing in common but the label that put them out. And that pretty much sums up this 45 in a nutshell.

The two songs are from opposite sides of the Beatles invasion. Bent Fabric - believe it or not, that's really the guy's name - plays the now-familiar piano instrumental that was actually really tame even back in 1962. I find the song pleasantly cozy in that guilty-pleasure sort of way. My mother used to take me on errands with the radio station on the "easy listening" station, and I'm sure I was subjected to this tune a few times. Still, it's hard to believe this song picked up the very first Grammy award for "Best Rock & Roll Recording". (No, the Grammies haven't gone downhill - they actually started at the bottom of the hill.) As for the other side, the lyrics have the female lead singer going to Hollywood to become a star, not making it, and now heading back home to the UK to meet back up with her guy - "the more important part/than any record on the chart/I'm on the next plane to London". Strange how much the lyrics prefigure "Midnight Train to Georgia", right down to the similar title. But rather than being a soulful number, it's a sunshine-y pop number, falling somewhere between the Byrds, the Cowsills, and the Mamas & the Papas. It didn't bring back any memories for me - it came out before I was born, so that's no surprise - but it was very pleasant, late 60s listen.

45 - Dave York & the Beachcombers - "Beach Party/I Wanna Go Surfin'"
"Rare surf!" scrawled our Vinyl Viceroy Ben on the sleeve of this bizarre gem, and he ain't kidding. I've never heard of Dave York, either of these rather pedestrianly titled numbers, or the record label that put this out (P-K-M). But it's a really fun listen. The A-side starts with a very unconvincing "beach sound" which actually sounds more like someone finishing up the dishes. But then a manic drummer starts in with the beat, and a bunch of crazed teenagers let loose with a screamed/squealed "Let's go to a beach party!". And suddenly the song is airborne. The song mainly features a laundry list of things at a beach party - "footballs, volleyballs/ice cubes and innertubes/there's a beach party going on". Dave York may not be much of a singer, but the "crazy man crazy" beat and the wild saxophone makes up for anything lost on that front.

The B-side "I Wanna Go Surfin'" ends up being an unintentional hoot. Songwriter D Kinzie apparently never went surfing (I'm not even convinced he ever went to the beach, truth told), and so his lyrics end up being a rote sort of listing of surfing terms and phrases - "I want to grab my board". If that wasn't enough, Dave York delivers these lines in a really stiff, fake-gruff voice that sounds like a just-over-the-hill pop singer trying to convince "the kids" that he's still hip. Still, as a one-two punch, the two songs provide a lot of listening pleasure - just of two different kinds.

- Mondo Gecko

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