Wednesday, March 30, 2005 at 10:57 PM

Swig / 'She's Not There'

Ever find something in a drawer or the pocket of an old coat that you forgot even existed? I don't mean something that you'd misplaced and forgot you owned. Much more extreme than that, I'm talking about something that you just didn't remember anyone owned, much less you.

The other night, googling Greyhouse -- a band who, incidentally, there is nothing about on the web -- I came across this playlist from the Pat Duncan Show at WFMU. I heard one song from a live set Greyhouse did on the show in 1991 that I used to have on a third or fourth generation cassette copy, but have long since lost. In other words, something I'd misplaced and forgot I owned.

A few tracks after Greyhouse was a song by a band called Swig called 'She's Not There'. My heart just about stopped. In about 1994 or 1995, the bass player/guitarist in the band I was in (we switched off) turned me on to Swig with a tape he picked up at one of the band's shows. If memory serves, Swig played the Punk Rock Prom in North Jersey in 1994. I wasn't there, but friends of mine swore that Swig was the best thing since sliced bread. Other than knowing that they were from North Carolina -- and I could even be wrong about that -- and knowing that I loved what I heard, I knew nothing about Swig. I really wish I could tell you more about this band now, but I'm still at a loss.

Back to present day. Listening to the stream of the Pat Duncan Show, I nearly laughed water right out of my nose when he introduced the next song as Swiz, instead of Swig. Apparently, he hadn't listened to the Junior Samples Compilation the track was on before playing it, because I don't think it would be too easy to confuse the D.C. hardcore of Swiz with the Chapel Hill indie pop punk of Swig. Somewhere between the broadcast and the posting of the setlist, the error was recognized and appropriate credit was given.

But I've got to say I'm pretty damn happy the mistake was made. Hearing Swig a decade later was sort of like finding a $500 bill in a coat pocket. I'm pretty sure they don't really make $500 bills, but that's the point. An unexpected surprise of the best, most unexpectedly surprising kind.

She's Not There
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Thursday, March 24, 2005 at 9:41 PM

Garden Variety / 'New Guitar Parts'

To give you all an idea of how much I loved Garden Variety as a naive teenager, when my second band (of four, proper) played a show in the summer of 1996, I wore a Garden Variety t-shirt and played a guitar emblazoned with a huge, homemade Garden Variety sticker. And we tried our damnedest (unsurprisingly) to sound like them as well. The very friendly folks from Dahlia Seed, who co-headlined the show and had earlier released a split 7" with GV, apparently took to referring to us as 'Garden Variety, Jr.'

I took it -- get this -- as a compliment. What the hell was wrong with me? Other than the fact that I just loved Garden Variety that much, I don't really know. What can I say? I was a silly kid.

As I grew up a bit, I realized that the Garden Variety, Jr. tag was really more a term of derision (albeit friendly derision... I think). I was never really as embarrassed as I think I might have been though, had we been referred to as 'Green Day, Jr.' or 'Sick of it All, Jr.' Even if we weren't that great at it, I'm still pretty proud that we threw in our lot with bands that went for a bit more than the cheap pop punk or shout-along hardcore that dominated the scene at the time.

And when I survey the 'emo' scene that grew up in the wake of bands like Garden Variety in the later nineties, I can't help but be impressed with the fact that their two full-length albums stand out as gems of the genre, such as it is. And in the years since, watching Roman break even more new ground by helping to bridge the now-smashed gap between punk and disco with Radio 4, I've been pretty proud to say 'I knew 'em when...'. Or at least 'I adored 'em when'.

This track, 'New Guitar Parts' made appearances on two releases that I know of. I got this from the 1996 Anti-Matter compilation CD put together by Norm Arenas of the outstanding Anti-Matter zine. While that disc is out of print, it seems that the other release this is on -- a split 7" with Jejune -- is not. So I urge you to pick it up if you're still vinyly inclined.

New Guitar Parts
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More info: Epitonic.com - Garden Variety
Gern Blandsten Records - Garden Variety

Thursday, March 17, 2005 at 10:09 AM

Engine 88 / 'Manclub'

Toby wrote a very nice introduction for this site at The Scowl, which I deeply appreciate. Now allow me to throw overboard his description of Dead Vinyl. (Don't thank me, T... that's the kind of good guy I am.) While I will be relying heavily on the music I loved as a confused teenager growing up in North Jersey, I've decided not to focus solely on North Jersey bands.

That said, Engine 88 is a band I saw the fall of '96 or the spring of '97 at Maxwell's in Hoboken. (That counts for something, right?) I dragged my friend Jamie all the way down from the Bronx to go with me, because no one else would. I'd picked up a promo of their first record, Clean Your Room at Flipside Records, probably on a recommendation from Alan, and absolutely fell in love. It fit perfectly in my collection of quirky indie punk, equal parts Bay Area, San Diego, Chicago, and D.C.

Alas, Engine 88 never really seemed to find their niche. The singer, Tom Barnes had been in the band Sordid Humor with Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows, which Caroline played up heavily in the promo materials, but probably lost them a lot of indie cred in the process. Basically, I don't think people knew what to make of them. A columnist from their hometown San Francisco Chronicle apparently wrote that the band "suffered from gross underexposure." I'd say that's about right.

Anyway, getting back to the Maxwell's show, it was about half full, but a great show none-the-less. Three things about the show still stick out in my mind. I had a good fifteen minute conversation with the guitarist, Damon Wood, who couldn't have been nicer. The band closed with an amazing cover of Jawbreaker's "Condition Oakland", which is one of my all time favorite songs. (Hot damn, I wish I had a bootleg of that show...) And they played the cover in homage to probably the most famous attendee in the room, Blake Schwarzenbach. Now, you've got to remember, this was right after the Jawbreaker break-up and all the buzz in my peer group was 'what's next for Blake'. There were some rumors about Blake moving back to New York, but nobody knew anything. Such were the days before Pitchfork news and the Buddyhead gossip board. So there was Blake, quiet in the back and friendly, but keeping largely to himself.

Sadly, for every Jawbreaker, there were a million Engine 88s. The little bands that couldn't. Everything going for them, but nothing going their way. Superstars of the bargain bins. Well, I still love them, anyway.

The song 'Manclub' is from their second album Snowman, but also appeared in a slightly different version on a split 7" with American Sensei. That version, in all of it's 96kbps glory, can be found at the awesome site for the preservation of music i love.

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More info: Engine88.net

Monday, March 14, 2005 at 10:12 PM

Dahlia Seed / 'Milk'

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Dead Vinyl. This blog is going to be dedicated to preserving the memory of some of my favorite music that is no longer readily available.

To kick things off, it's the Dahlia Seed half of their split 7" with Greyhouse, released by Troubleman Unlimited in 1993.

I was talking with a friend tonight about the early-to-mid-nineties punk/indie/hardcore scene(s) in both North Jersey, where I hail from, and the Jersey Shore, where he grew up. The North Jersey scene, probably due to its proximity to NYC, was much more progressive musically than the Shore, which leaned heavily towards sXe hardcore. In North Jersey, it was pretty common to see bands like Chisel or Hellbender play VFW shows. Indie bands were pretty well accepted at a time that no one would have thought of calling them 'emo', even when booked in between pop punk bands.

It came up in conversation that another mutual friend from that time, a guy named Tim who booked a lot of the North Jersey-style 'artsy' bands in the Shore region, passed away two years ago. Until very recently, neither of us had any idea. It's one thing to hear that an old friend got married or had a kid or joined the military or moved to Europe. It's another thing entirely to know that someone you so clearly identify with a certain place and time is no longer alive. I guess you really can't go home again.

So this one's for Tim, where ever he is...

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From: DahliaSeed.com