Author Archives: Joseph Neff

Graded on a Curve:
Will Stewart,
Slow Life

Birmingham, AL’s Will Stewart is a busy guy. Along with playing in The Blips and Willie the Giant, he is half of Timber with Janet Elizabeth Simpson; he also played on Simpson’s pretty terrific 2021 album Safe Distance. But Stewart is also a solo artist, with his third album Slow Life freshly released on vinyl by Cornelius Chapel. The sound can be described as Southern rootsy but with ample injections of melodic rock with a collegiate inflection and even some honky-tonk laced folk. Altogether, the ten songs deliver a ride that’s solid and fun and available now.

While he’d self-released a few EPs dating back to 2013, Will Stewart debuted proper in 2018 with County Seat, which was issued on LP/CD/DL by Cornelius Chapel. Said label also released Stewart’s digital-only 2020 mini-album Way Gone, along with Safe Distance by Simpson, who contributes vocals to Slow Life.

Opener “Bad Memory” is a catchy bit of bar rocking with unstrained vocals and some short sharp bursts of glistening slide guitar throughout. Tidy at less than three minutes, it’s the sort of tune that could lead a listener to guess that Stewart is a disciple of Tom Petty. What I appreciate is that Stewart’s not an rank imitator, so that the influence of ol’ Tom is pure speculation.

He additionally has versatility of style in his favor, as “Nothing’s Right” is a folky strummer with a country-tinge. A similarity to Dylan is undeniable, but it sounds like he could’ve picked it up from Townes Van Zandt or something. But with “New World Daydream” the melodic rock impulse is reasserted, and with a steady current of the anthemic coinciding with the roots, which could just as easily be tagged as heartland as Southern.

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Graded on a Curve:
Frank Kimbrough,
2003–2006

In December of 2020, the pianist Frank Kimbrough passed away far too soon. Noted for his extended role in the Grammy-winning orchestra of Maria Schneider, Kimbrough was also an extensive collaborator in smaller groups, including three discs as part of the Herbie Nichols Project. Additionally, he led his own quartet, and fitting for a pianist, exceled in the trio configuration, which is what’s heard on Palmetto Records’ 2003-2006: Volume One: Lullabluebye / Volume Two: Play in two distinct lineups, one with bassist Ben Allison and drummer Matt Wilson and the other with bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Paul Motion. The 2CD is out Aug 12, with a 4LP set scheduled for December.

Frank Kimbrough’s influences are unimpeachable. Alongside the perpetually undersung Herbie Nichols, there is Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk (Kimbrough’s exquisite 6CD set Monk’s Dreams: The Complete Compositions Of Thelonious Sphere Monk, was released by Sunnyside in 2018), Paul Bley, and Andrew Hill, with the last two distinguished as mentors for Kimbrough (who was born in 1956).

Listening to 2003-2006, the nature of this relationship with Bley and especially Hill comes into sharp focus, as the pianist’s playing is at once cerebral and highly accessible, and right off the bat in the melodically grooving opening title track of Lullabluebye, a set recorded at Maggie’s Farm, the studio of Palmetto founder Matt Balitsaris, in April of 2003 and first released the following year; it and Play, which was also recorded at Balitsaris’ Pennsylvania-based studio just a smidge over two years later (and issued in 2006), will be making their vinyl debut in December.

“Lullabluebye” is one of eight varied Kimbrough originals on the first set, alongside the meditative “Ghost Dance” (inspired by the music of Annette Peacock), the jauntily catchy “Fu Bu” (a bit of a dis to the US prez of the time), with Allison and Wilson killing it throughout,  and my pick for the Lullabluebye’s standout piece, the wildly energetic “Whirl,” a tour de force blending thorny structure and freeform execution; it was often this trio’s set closer. But for the album’s finale, “Eventualities” begins with Kimbrough in solo mode, the playing contemplative as the emerging trio action is beautifully intense.

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Graded on a Curve:
Klaus Schulze,
La Vie Electronique Volume 1.0

Remembering Klaus Schulze, born on this day in 1947.Ed.

Klaus Schulze has released a certifiable ass-ton of music, and only the most severely dedicated have collected it all. For those wishing to own his earliest solo recordings on vinyl, the long wait is over, as the One Way Static label has issued his work from 1968-1970 on the 2LP set La Vie Electronique Volume 1.0. Fully embracing experimentation in a home environment, Schulze’s boldly celestial and drone friendly excursions infuse early electronic, proto-ambient exploration with edge and heft. Today it’s easy to pigeonhole, but at the time it was breaking new ground, or it would’ve been, had it promptly come out; the good news is that it holds up well, and two more volumes are on deck.

This isn’t the debut for the material on offer here, but it is the most concise assemblage of solo Schulze at his earliest. Initially, this stuff was sprinkled non-chronologically by Klaus D. Mueller, who contributes useful notes for this set, into 1995’s 10CD Historic Edition box set, which in 2000 was dropped into the 50CD (that’s right, 50) Ultimate Edition savings-drainer (which also included the 10CD Silver Edition, the 25CD Jubilee Edition and five additional discs).

The maximal method was obviously geared to the diligent fan, but after the Ultimate Edition fell out of print, the notion of following chronology and breaking the music into more digestible sets prevailed; this resulted in the 16 volume La Vie Electronique CD series, which spanned from 2009 to 2015; La Vie Electronique Vol. 1.0 offers the contents of the first 3CD volume’s opening disc across two LPs.

Klaus Schulze wasn’t completely a solo operator. His first group Psy Free, described by Schulze in Mueller’s notes as playing avant-garde/ free rock, never recorded, but he then moved on to Tangerine Dream, and after playing drums on their swell first album, 1970’s Electronic Meditation, just as quickly quit. From there, he formed Ash Ra Tempel with bassist Hartmut Enke and guitarist Manuel Göttsching; helping to shape a terrific self-titled ’71 debut, he made another exit.

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Graded on a Curve: Imaginational Anthem Vol. XI : Chrome Universal – A Survey of Modern Pedal Steel

Individually deep and collectively cohesive, Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem series stands securely amongst the very finest surveys of instrumental guitar ever assembled. Vol. XI is the latest installment, curated by Luke Schneider and informatively titled Chrome Universal – A Survey of Modern Pedal Steel; it features nine pieces from nine different purveyors of steel guitar artistry, with the contents varied yet focused. Another way to put it is to say the instruments used are recognizably pedal steel, and yet the playing eludes expectations. The collection is out August 5 on cassette, compact disc, and digital. Vinyl is coming at a date as yet unspecified.

In his liner essay for this set, the guitarist William Tyler expands upon a youthful state of mind that is very relatable. Specifically, he writes of his fascination with musical instruments as a child, and simultaneously, his difficulty in connecting to the sound of the pedal steel. As a music obsessed kid with a similar blockage of appreciation, I know of exactly what he speaks.

This really comes down to, as Tyler elaborates, a sense of fatigue through immersion. He grew up in Nashville, where country music has long been the dominant sound. In my case, I heard little music not tagged as country until shortly before my teen years, and after soaking up The Beatles, The Stones, Hendrix, Led Zep, and Sabbath, country music, where the pedal steel was a staple if not a constant, just couldn’t match up.

Keep in mind that for me, this was well before the emergence of Alt-country and after the major names in the Outlaw Country movement had settled into a mainstream they were never really that disconnected from. But of course, times change, along with maturity and reevaluations, though what Chrome Universal is proposing is not a reassessment of country music, but a consideration of the genre-eclipsing possibilities of pedal steel.

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Graded on a Curve: Whimsical, Melt

Melt is the latest album, indeed the fourth full-length effort, from Whimsical, the Dyer, Indiana-based shoegaze-dream pop three piece that hit the scene around the turn of the millennium, released a record, then took a long break that ended roughly five years back. Rather than pushing style boundaries outward and forward, across nine tracks, Whimsical maintains a sturdy balance of genre rudiments and inspired, energetic execution. However, there are a few pleasant surprises. Co-released by Shelflife Records in the USA and Through Love Records in Europe, the vinyl, CD and digital is out now.

Whimsical formed in the late 1990s and released their debut record Setting Suns are Semi-Circles on CD in 2000 via Seraph Productions, Ltd. While working on a follow-up, the band ceased operating as an active entity, but then roared back to life to finish that album, Sleep to Dream, which came out on LP/ CD/ DL in 2017 through the Saint Marie label.

After completing that set, Whimsical kept at it and self-released another multi-format full-length, Bright Smiles & Broken Hearts, in 2019. Interestingly, Sleep to Dream was completed by a five-piece configuration, featuring three members from the debut, that slimmed down for the third record to a core trio, with some assistance on guitar.

And now on Melt, Whimsical has tightened to a duo of Neil Burkdool, who handles the music and production, and Krissy Vanderwoude, who sings and brings the lyrics. Both were in the band for Setting Suns are Semi-Circles, so this truncation to a dual role registers as a continuation with focus and purpose, particularly as opener “Rewind” adds electronic rhythms (an facet that figured on their debut).

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Graded on a Curve: Tomato Flower, “Construction” EP

In February of 2022, Baltimore outfit Tomato Flower released their debut EP, the digital-only 6-song effort “Gold Arc,” and now here’s its follow-up, the “Construction” EP, which delivers another sharp half-dozen available August 5 from the Ramp Local label on cassette in an edition of 500 copies and on compact disc in an edition of 1,000. Even better: the songs from “Gold Arc” are added to both. It all arrives ahead of tour dates in support of Animal Collective from mid-August into early September.

With “Gold Arc,” Tomato Flower provided an introduction that was inviting yet not so easy to pigeonhole. On tracks like “Red Machine” and “World to Come” they could sound like a moderately scaled back Stereolab in pop mode, a similarity deepened by the vocals of Austyn Wohlers, who also plays guitar, synth, and on the new EP’s “Aparecida,” flute. But there were also elements reminiscent of post-rock along with structural complexities that could bring math-rock (i.e., prog) to mind.

Jamison Murphy handles the other guitar plus vocals on both Tomato Flower EPs, and on five of the tracks on the new set, he takes care of bass duties, while Mike Alfieri is the drummer; on one “Construction” track, “Fancy,” Alfieri plays bass. Ruby Mars has since joined the band as bassist, which will obviously help with those upcoming live performances and should strengthen an already powerful sound on further recordings (as work on their debut full-length is currently underway).

Furthermore, the potency of Tomato Flower’s approach stems in part from an atmosphere of songs built and honed by individuals together in a room (the title of the new EP is fitting), though clearly, no assumptions should be made regarding how the tracks on either EP came to fruition. Notably, the recording process for both began in 2019 but carried on into 2021; it’s fitting that the two EPs are now combined on one physical release.

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Graded on a Curve:
Glenn Jones,
Vade Mecum

With his latest album, the unfettered brilliance of guitarist-banjoist Glenn Jones perseveres unabated. Long established as one of the prime extenders of the American Primitive guitar style, Jones is a nimble-fingered rememberer, but he is also a builder. Never one to retreat into the comfort zones of nostalgia, his playing is as progressive as it is invested in history. And further testifying to his consistency is the allegiance of his label; Vade Mecum, available now on translucent red vinyl, compact disc, and digital is once again released by Thrill Jockey of Chicago.

Spanning back almost a decade now, I’ve reviewed every full-length record Glenn Jones has made since My Garden State, his second for Thrill Jockey, came out in 2013; and as his solo LPs go, he’s only been on one other label, Strange Attractors Audio House, that Washington State-based enterprise the issuer of his first three loner efforts after they put out a string of records by Jones’ experimental rock band of the 1990s, Cul de Sac.

I mention my dedication to Jones’ efforts not as a brag, but rather, to set up the observation that many will no doubt have, and that admittedly entered my own mind when contemplating a review of Vade Mecum; that is, specifically, the possibility of running dry of new things to say about the work of a solo instrumentalist, and one with such a clear disinterest in any pretense to “originality.”

Much has been made of Jones’ relationship with John Fahey, which extended beyond influence to friendship and then to collaboration, as Cul de Sac cut a record with Fahey, The Epiphany of Glenn Jones, in 1997 (that one came out on Thirsty Ear). Interestingly, Fahey’s creative trajectory began in what many unfamiliar with the American Primitive guitar movement would simply assess as a folk-blues place and ended up in the midst of the ’90s avant-underground, which is where Jones came to prominence before intersecting with Fahey and then going solo in distinctly American Primitive mode.

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Graded on a Curve: Tintern Abbey,
Beeside: The Anthology

Formed in London in late 1966, Tintern Abbey are deservedly legendary, having released a solitary single on the Deram label a year after forming, and then only a smattering of post-breakup cuts…until now. Beeside: The Anthology is Real Gone Music’s 2LP distillation of the 2CD Complete Collection that was issued last year by Grapefruit Records, and for vinyl-loving aficionados of Brit-psych, the wax (purple, don’tcha know) rates as an essential purchase, in large part due to a surprising level of consistency combined with sharper than usual stylistic focus. But the goodness is not infinitely available; in fact, there is only 1,500 copies, purchasable on August 5.

It’s safe to assume that most folks who weren’t haunting English record shops in 1967 got hip to Tintern Abbey through “Vacuum Cleaner,” the B-side to “Beeside” (together they comprise that sole 45), as included on Rhino’s stupendously swank Nuggets II (Original Artyfacts From the British Empire and Beyond 1964-1969), a 4CD set released in 2001.

But in fact, by the release of Nuggets II, Tintern Abbey had already landed on a half-dozen comps, kicking off in 1980 with Chocolate Soup for Diabetics, the inaugural entry in a series that was (largely) devoted to UK psych and freakbeat (i.e. the garage rock of the UK), with both “Vacuum Cleaner” and “Beeside” featured on that humdinger of a first volume.

Further reinforcing the quality of Tintern Abbey’s single is that both sides turned up on See For Miles Records’ The British Psychedelic Trip 1966-1969, and on two Bam-Caruso Records collections, Staircase to Nowhere and the sixth volume of the Rubble series (essentially the freakbeat equivalent to the Pebbles US garage comps).

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Graded on a Curve: Jeremy Cunningham / Dustin Laurenzi / Paul Bryan, A Better Ghost

Cohorts and collaborators Jeremy Cunningham and Dustin Laurenzi have been strengthening the foundation of contemporary Chicago jazz for roughly a decade. On A Better Ghost, out July 29 on bullion-colored vinyl and digital through Northern Spy, they’ve honed a set of nine compositions alongside Los Angelino Paul Bryan, who co-produced Cunningham’s 2019 LP The Weather Up There. Laurenzi contributes tenor sax, OP-1 synthesizer and electronics, Bryan brings bass and synth, and Cunningham handles the drums and percussion. The pieces resonate with emotion and are often surprising as they eclipse boundaries.

Of the individuals who’ve shaped this album, Paul Bryan has the most extensive discography. In addition to playing bass on a slew of records, he has a long list of production credits, winning a Grammy in 2017 for Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness, in addition to working as an engineer, arranger, and session-touring musician.

Bryan also plays on guitarist Jeff Parker’s albums The New Breed (2016) and Suite for Max Brown (2020), as Parker is heard on and helped produce Bryan’s very nifty Cri$el Gems (2020). This solidifies the Chicago connection, as Parker is a stalwart Windy City guy perhaps best known for his work as a member of Tortoise, though germane to this review is his playing on and co-production of Cunningham’s The Weather Up There.

Said album also features Laurenzi and saxophonist Josh Johnson, the latter bringing a little alto to A Better Ghost; rounding out the contributors are Will Miller on trumpet, Katie Ernst on vocals, and Joe Bellerose on drums. The seed of this new record is improvisations and experiments that were recorded over the telephone, then sharpened and expanded following Bryan’s emergence into the scheme.

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Graded on a Curve:
Plus 1 Atlanta: Concert Ephemera From a Storied Metropolis 1962–2003

Following a hefty volume focused on the Athens, GA music scene, Chunklet Industries’ latest tome Plus 1 Atlanta: Concert Ephemera From a Storied Metropolis 1962-2003 is a 214-page oversized paperback loaded with scans of show flyers. Spanning the years of the title, the majority of the inclusions were created to promote local attractions, though out-of-towners are also featured, often with Atlanta-based openers. Along with a handful of essays, amongst them a foreword by David Cross, an intro by publisher Henry H. Owings, an afterword by Bill Kelliher of Mastodon, plus pieces by Kelly Hogan and Jared Swilley of the Black Lips, the contents offer a vivid portrait of Atlanta’s musical history.

Published last year by Owings and Chunklet, and with its second printing currently available, Plus 1 Athens: Show Flyers From a Legendary Scene 1967-2002 is a wonderful resource for music lovers, and in particular those who have engaged with the documented locale from a distance, perhaps thinking of the town, or better said, as reinforced in the book’s title, the Athens scene, as being dominated by Southern new wave and college radio jangle (e.g. B-52’s, Pylon, Love Tractor, and of course, R.E.M.).

Plus 1 Atlanta does something very similar for a much larger city. Obviously, it’s a given that a municipality of Atlanta’s size will have a sturdy musical infrastructure. But unlike Athens, or Austin, or New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, or Chicago, and more recently, Seattle, Chapel Hill, or Portland, OR, music is unlikely to be the first (or even the second or third) thing to come to mind when thoughts turn to Atlanta. It’s no shock that much of musical interest transpired in Atlanta over the decades; rather, Plus 1 Atlanta reinforces the notion that every city is a music city whether this fact is well-known or not.

Unsurprisingly, the Athens and Atlanta books feature some overlap, and notably Owings himself, who lived in Athens for a stretch prior to moving to Atlanta, where he’s spent over half his life. As a firsthand witness, he brings a unified approach to both projects, and additionally he contrasts the two, with Atlanta portrayed as a place that, if being far short of cutthroat, fostered a sense of competition (maybe desperation is a better word) that found bands tearing down or covering up the flyers of other bands.

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Graded on a Curve:
Color Green,
Color Green

Color Green is the Los Angeles-based duo of Noah Kohll and Corey Madden. Both are multi-instrumentalists, but guitar is the primary axe of the pair. On their self-titled full-length debut, co-released by the fine folks at ORG Music and the Aquarium Drunkard web magazine, they welcome a fair amount of assistance in fleshing out a bold and bright psychedelic rock sound. It’s an expansively jam-affiliated situation but with a firm handle on songwriting. Cosmic? Oh, yes indeed. The album, clearly designed to deepen unperturbed vibes, is out July 22 on vinyl, compact disc, and digital.

In the runup to this album, Color Green issued a pair of digital singles and before that, last year, a 4-song EP, with cassette tape the physical format chosen, tinted translucent green in a micro edition of 50, with the whole bunch sold exclusively through Instagram. And so, with this eponymous affair, the duo’s profile will surely be rising, particularly amongst folks into current sounds impacted by the Grateful Dead.

Now, if you’re thinking I might be overstating the Dead influence, please understand that in the thank you list on that earlier (also self-titled) EP, Kohll and Madden tip the hat to Jerry Garcia, specifically for his spiritual guidance. But it’s also necessary to point out that Color Green aren’t indulging in imitation as tribute. Instead, like Rose City Band, Garcia Peoples, Woods, Elkhorn, Wet Tuna and a few others, they are adapting and extending the innovations of the Dead (and other psychedelic acts in their orbit) in a contemporary underground context.

Opener “Warbling Sky” is perfect for a humid, sunny Sunday morning: it’s country-tinged, slow moving, spacious and soaring, at least until an uptick in the tempo and intensity arrive late in the track, with the grooving guitars insinuating some non-retrograde Southern Rock stuff. But there’s a touch of Garcia and Weir in there too, and that’s just fine.

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Graded on a Curve:
Cheri Knight,
American Rituals

Permeated with arts college experimentalism from a sadly bygone era, American Rituals throws a deserving spotlight onto the early work of Cheri Knight, a little-known composer of enduring worthiness who took part in the Pacific Northwest’s fertile subterranean scene of the early 1980s. There are ties to eventual higher profile goings on from the same region, but these connections ultimately take a back seat to the sharpness and freshness of Knight’s achievements. RVNG Intl. subsidiary Freedom to Spend collects seven of them onto vinyl that’s available now; purchasing the digital gets you a bonus track.

Roughly a decade after the period of creativity captured on American Rituals, Cheri Knight released a pair of solo records as a singer-songwriter. The second of them, The Northeast Kingdom, was issued in 1998 on Steve Earle’s E-Squared label. Earle also contributed to the record instrumentally, alongside backing vocalist Emmylou Harris.

Those two solo efforts and her prior activity as the bassist-vocalist in Blood Oranges, an early alt-country band from the Boston area with two early ’90s discs on the East Side Digital label, are pretty far afield stylistically from the works that Knight brought to fruition while attending Evergreen State College. But the scoop is that Knight grew up in Western Massachusetts and alternated coasts for a while. First, she studied philosophy and music at Whitman College in Washington, next built a stone house in New Hampshire over the course of a year, and then settled in for a stretch at Evergreen.

Thereafter, Knight clearly migrated back east and then shifted into a more traditional gear. There are connective aspects, however. The building of that stone house, for starters. Also, a press photo accompanying American Rituals of Knight posing with the skull of either a cow or a horse. And on that note: RVNG Intl/ Freedom to Spend states that a portion of the proceeds from American Rituals will benefit Draft Gratitude, a draft horse rescue in Winchester, New Hampshire dedicated to saving the lives of senior working horses.

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Graded on a Curve:
Earl’s Closet: The Lost Archive of Earl McGrath 1970 to 1980

Across the 1970s, Earl McGrath was a jet-setter with major connections in the music, film and art worlds. Along with first heading Atlantic subsidiary Clean Records and then Rolling Stones Records, the guy played a role in the formative activities of some of the decade’s major acts, including Hall and Oates, Terry Allen, and Jim Carroll. This is just part of the story told by Light in the Attic’s new 2LP/ CD/ digital release Earl’s Closet: The Lost Archive of Earl McGrath 1970 to 1980. Illuminating McGrath’s incredible journey with a solid liner essay by author Joe Hagan, the set mingles county-rock, folk-rock, ’70s soul, soft rock, and even a dab of punk rock, with every cut previously unreleased. It’s out July 15.

There’s little doubt; once one marries an Italian countess, the anxiety of maintaining a modicum of success in one’s endeavors lessens considerably. In doing one’s thing, the pressure is off. Earl McGrath did get hitched to a countess, namely Camilla Pecci-Blunt McGrath. And so, his track record as a music industry professional, which was a smidge less than stellar, presented no hindrance as he navigated something of a charmed life.

A big reason for McGrath’s good fortune was simply due to people legitimately liking him. In a decade known for excess, he was a reliable life of the party, and yet, he seemed to always keep his composure. But he also had a good ear, both for what was happening at the time and for where music was headed later in the decade.

His aptitude for where the ’70s were going is well established through two very enjoyable pre-stardom tracks by Daryl Hall and John Oates, “Baby Come Closer” and “Dry in the Sun” (the latter reminding me just a bit of The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year”) and two cuts from eventual cult country singer-songwriter Terry Allen, “Gonna California” (a different pre-McGrath version of this tune was dished in ’69 on an ultra-rare 45) and “Cocaine Cowboy” (heard much later on Allen’s Smokin’ the Dummy release) with both cuts revealing a similarity to Peter Stampfel.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Mutants,
Curse of the Easily Amused

The Mutants emerged from the fertile late 1970s-early 1980s Bay Area punk scene, a band often spoken of favorably but frankly a bit underrated due to frustrated momentum, as their debut LP wasn’t finished until 1982, and with its contents a smidge slicker than the power punch of their live shows, for which they were highly regarded. But with Liberation Hall’s Curse of the Easily Amused, old school punk collectors have a reason to cheer, as the set offers a substantial batch of wholly worthwhile previously unreleased material. The vinyl is scheduled to arrive November 4 of 2022, but the CD and digital are available on July 15.

The Mutants were formed in 1977, with four members having met while attending the California College of Arts and Crafts; that’d be guitarist John Gullak, drummer David Carothers, and vocalists Sue White and Sally Webster. Fritz Fox, who attended the San Francisco Art Institute, also joined on vocals. Along with later additions Brendan Earley on guitar and Paul Fleming on bass, this is the core of the band heard on Curse of the Easily Amused.

Along with the aged and knowledgeable punk mavens still walking amongst us, those who’ve scoped out Bill Kopp’s book Disturbing the Peace: 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave (a pretty snazzy tome published by HoZac Books earlier in 2022) will be hip to The Mutants having released a 3-song EP in 1980, plus one track, “Baby’s No Good,” on the contemporaneous compilation 415 Records (which offered a sampling of the output from the label founded by Howie Klein and Chris Knab).

These four cuts cohere into a quite the splendid gush of din and holler nicely emphasizing the band’s art school background, a sum that gets even better when The Mutants’ two live tracks, “Tribute to Russ Meyer” and “Monster of Love,” both from Optional Music’s 1980 comp Can You Hear Me? Music From the Deaf Club, are added to the equation. Those captured performances and the EP for 415 (but not “Baby’s No Good”) are amongst the bonus material on White Noise Records’ 2002 reissue of The Mutants’ Fun Terminal, the LP originally released in ’82 by the Mutiny Shadow International label.

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Graded on a Curve: Grassy Sound,
The Sound of Grassy Sound

Ace guitarist Nick Millevoi has played in manifold situations, amongst them the Philly/NYC-based Desertion Trio, an outfit accurately described as “Crazy Horse meets Coltrane.” But for his new project Grassy Sound, Millevoi shifts gears into a blend of Exotica and surf rock in partnership with Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s keyboardist Ron Stabinsky, as Meat Puppets drummer Derrick Bostrum guests on three tracks. Fellow Meat Pups Cris and Curt Kirkwood even show up to sing on one of The Sound of Grassy Sound’s selections, which are otherwise sans vocals. This warm and friendly debut is out now on vinyl and digital through Destiny Records of Austin, TX.

The stylistic line between Desertion Trio and Grassy Sound isn’t as pronounced as the intro above might suggest. In fact, Stabinsky contributed to Twilight Time, Desertion Trio’s sophomore LP from 2019, a covers-only affair released on wax by Milan, Italy’s Long Song Records that included a Les Baxter-penned tune (“Busy Port”) and a couple of numbers with Joe Meek connections (“Taboo” and “I Hear a New World”), plus choices recorded by The Platters (the title cut), Santo & Johnny (“Sleepwalk”), and Gene Pitney (“Town Without Pity”).

Cuneiform Records, the estimable Silver Spring, MD-based label, released Desertion Trio’s third album Numbers Maker in 2021, a decidedly less retro pop-inclined affair (though “Taboo” does return in a fresh version surrounded by four originals by Millevoi). Numbers Maker found Jason Nazary replacing Kevin Shea on drums as bassist Johnny Deblase stuck around, and it was Desertion Trio’s first as a unadorned three-piece (along with Stabinsky’s input, Twilight Time featured vocals from Tara Middleton, while 2018 debut Midtown Tilt included organ by Jaime Saft and percussion by Ashley Tini).

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