Thursday, May 20, 2010

The sound of bands breaking up...

This isn't (hopefully, thankfully) about Underworld, but...

Don't you hate being late to the party? i have an unfortunate habit, of discovering a band too late - they're on the rocks or have already broken up.

A few examples:

The Borrowers - yeah, you've probably not heard of them. But they made a little indie stir in 1996 wih t heir eponymous debut and college radio tracks "Broadway Mary" and "Jaswant's Rain". At the time, i hadn't heard anything by the band. Instead, my father took my brother and i to a free concert at South Park, outside Pittsburgh, PA, which hosted a summer concert series of both up-and-coming and somewhat established bands. And they were awesome, comprised of multi-instrumentalists (inc. mandolin, and drummers who hit the bass for effect) with a clear passion for songwriting. Sadly, they didn't get the exposure they deserved and after a sub-par self-released album, the Borrowers went on to other musical pursuits. Still, their debt "The Borrowers" on Guardian records, strikes a chord with me.

The Caulfields - Power-pop heroes, and taking their name from my fave book, (err, see pseudonym "holden"), The Caulfields had a minor hit with "Devil's Diary" in 196-ish. I discovered them by chance in a used CD store, attraced both to their name and to their second album ("L") artwork- a photo of the Atomium, the crazy sphere and stick building for the world's fair in Brussels, Belgium (a place i would eventually visit in 2006, taking plenty of photos, much to the amusement/dismay of my travelling companion). Anyway, I bought "L" (1997)first. It's just pure power pop goodness, with clever, ironic lyrics and a hard-rockin' guitar-driven chorus, but not afraid to add the odd horn section. Lead singer John Faye has been very kind to me, and has gone on to a solo career with the John Faye Power Trip and a new band, Ike, which has been high profile in the Philly-Delaware area.

The Prayer Chain - While i was in college, a grad student who was very into Christian rock gave me a bunch of old cassettes. I gave them a listen and lo and behold, i discovered a few bands that i really enjoyed, and they were honestly good, not just praise and wosrhip, but really "alternative" to the norm, with insightful lyric. Some of the tapes were by The Prayer Chain. The one that most drew me in was called "Antarctica" - it's a collection of outtakes from the band's last LP, "Mercury" (referred to in the press as "the sound of a band splitting up") and a live show from ~1995. The outtakes are really agressive and driving ("Loverboy", "Friend or Foe"), not to mention catchy, and in the case of "humb", a precursor to the noise-rock genre. hardly the praise and worship stuff i expected - it was actually very cryptic.

But the live EP was so solid and so emotional, that i dare say i got chills the first time i played it, and that was the middle of summer! Tracks like "Wrounde", "sky High" and "Shawl" emphasize a unique vocal and a 90's alt-guitar style, but with very spiritual lyrics. The band indeed broke up, but were definitely ahead of their peers.

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