Shuffle: Obscurity Knocks!

My last column covered the creation of a playlist culled from the mass of tracks on my iPod. I painstakingly worked through the 33,000+ tracks, and in doing so there were many explosions in my synapses, connections were reknitted and memories came flooding back. This sent me off into the real depths of my memory to recall bands that I’d forgotten about and digging through crates of CDs and Vinyl in the loft to rekindle the flames, or in some cases to fully douse them.

There were some that had clung onto my consciousness, a few tracks imprinted somewhere, band names that will probably be easier to recall than what I had for lunch yesterday as I reach my doddering stage. I am thinking here of Granpa’s Ghost and Guadalcanal Diary (am I obsessed with Gs?). I can distinctly remember buying the ‘Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man’ album by Guadalcanal Diary from HMV in Coventry in 1984. They were an interesting band; one of the first that I discovered with an American slant, they can be seen as one of my gateway bands. Here’s ‘Watusi Rodeo’ from that record.

Following these trails leads to many surprises. From Good Homes were on the periphery, making a half-decent hybrid of roots rock and power pop – the title ‘Hick-pop Comin’ at Ya’ is perhaps a clue. Now I find that they are back together and making new music. ‘Maybe We Will‘ below is representative of what they were like. There are so many stories out there so many bands that had a moment and disappeared and so many who keep plugging away without any reward apart from enjoying what they do. Some of the videos on YouTube that I watched as research for this have only hundreds of views despite being around for years.

I was genuinely shocked to find that Wagon, whose ‘Beauty Angel Queen‘ was another of those early Americana albums that opened up my ears, has less than 500 views. Hopefully, this means that their music is being accessed by other means but I doubt it – they are probably just a footnote when they deserve to be much more than that. Try ‘Still Amazed‘ and be amazed that on a planet of billions in four years this has less than 150 views. I’ll be disappointed if this remains below 200.

That was a diversion – back on the road to nowhere, we have Ditch Croaker, and with a name like that, what do you expect? They were around in the mid to late 90’s. I probably read about them in Forced Exposure or Chemical Imbalance, in the days where you waited months for a zine and then weeks and months afterwards for the records you’d ordered to arrive. Croaker were more towards the indie end of the spectrum – here’s ‘Mellow Fellows‘, a gem which has 32 views currently; of course, it deserves more. (Update – showing the video on other site’s is prevented, so you’ll have to look it up for yourselves. Instead, take a look at their smash hit (732 views) ‘Library Shine‘ which is all about Frank Sinatra.)

There’s a lot of love on this site for the Paisley Underground and some love for that nebulous genre, College Rock. There was a great compilation of jangle bands put out by Captured Tracks earlier this year that quite rightly gave some love to a lot of these forgotten bands. There are still vast numbers of the overlooked, the never quite made its and the could have been huge if things had gone right. One such is The Dangtrippers (a better name might have helped) who made a couple of albums in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Listen to ‘The Reason Why‘ and you’ll hear shades of REM and some Green on Red.

I’m going to close with an anomaly and another stepping stone towards Americana. I was deeply into Hardcore in the 1980s, and Dischord records were one of my touchstones, from Minor Threat, through, Egg Hunt, Embrace up until Coriky I’ve followed the career of Ian McKay. Dischord has always been a high watermark for ethics in music, keeping the prices of gigs and records affordable. Jeff Nelson also an alumnus of Minor Threat, Teen Idles and others, and co-owner of Dischord was also in a band that diverged from the Hardcore template bringing in pop and roots influences. The band was High Back Chairs, who put out an album and an EP before disbanding. Now bear in mind that they are on Dischord: I’m not going to pretend that it is full-on Americana but the power-pop elements are clear and 112 views in 4 years suggest that this is certainly obscure. Enjoy ‘One Small Step‘.

About David Cowling 142 Articles
Punk rock, Go-Betweens, REM, Replacments, Husker Du, Minutemen, Will Oldham, Smog, Whiskeytown, Ass Ponys but probably most of all Howe Gelb, led me on this journey.
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