New vinyl pressing! The Mutants – Curse Of The Easily Amused.
It’s hard to let go of a good thing. More than four decades after the Mutants first appeared on the San Francisco underground music scene, four of the original members are still playing shows together under that name in 2022. After all, mutants are known to mutate, and that’s what this colorful, energetic musical collective has been doing off and on since 1977.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, the sessions for their lone album, 1982’s Fun Terminal, continue to bring forth lost nuggets. In punk and new wave lore, Fun Terminal is considered a troubled project. Prior to the album’s appearance, the Mutants had released only one 7-inch single — 1980s’ The Mutants EP — and the band also had songs featured on two local compilations. Both the EP and one of the compilations were issued by 415 Records, the legendary Bay Area indie that made the jump from the new wave trenches to the majors when they signed a deal with Columbia Records in 1981. Many scenesters felt that the Mutants should have begun album sessions for 415 immediately after the EP, but that didn’t happen.
New vinyl pressing! Welcome to the world’s first (and only) post-punk-industrial-trance-psychedelic-surf album! The fact that it took so many adjectives to describe Tragic Figures lets you know just how unique of an album it is. Sure, there are echoes of other artists, like krautrock legends Can, post-punkers Public Image Limited (Savage Republic opened for PiL on their 1982 West Coast dates), avant-garde guitar players like Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham, scrap metal industrialists Einstürzende Neubauten, and Bay Area sludgecore nihilists Flipper—but really, this unlikely product of (mostly) UCLA undergrads sounds like no other record before or since.
For its 40th anniversary edition, Real Gone Music worked with Bruce Licher to preserve and expand on the magical, talismanic quality of the initial release. The original album has been remastered from the original tapes by Mike Milchner at Sonic Vision, while both the CD and LP editions both boast an extra disc of largely unreleased rehearsal recordings taped in the bowels of UCLA parking garages, where the band used to practice to take advantage of the extended reverb afforded by all the concrete surfaces (imagine being an unwitting undergrad happening upon this unearthly din coming out of nowhere)! Richie Unterberger’s liner notes feature interviews with band members Licher, Philip Drucker, and Jeff Long, and the LP comes with the original cover graphics expanded into a gatefold jacket pressed in heavyweight “chipboard” paper stock. Clear your calendar and set aside a couple of hours to listen to Tragic Figures…you won’t end up where you started.
New Vinyl Pressing: Sam Hall’s new album as Ghost Orchard, Rainbow Music, is a collage of patience and meditation. It’s filled with nuances as quietly imperceptible as the seasons, or the profound movement of time, where one day looking back you realize your whole spirit has shifted. Where 2019’s critically revered Bunny was a love letter to a romantic relationship, Rainbow Music documents the culmination of Hall’s first personal experience with loss in several forms. At the end of 2020, his longterm childhood pet passed away, and with it the last continuing threads of familiarity between being a kid and adulthood. Still based in the Grand Rapids, Michigan town he’d grown up in, the static ease of familiar living seemed to be coming apart at the seams, as friends moved on to bigger cities, relationships shapeshifted and in a short period of time, another kitten he’d adopted passed away prematurely, leaving Hall to question the trajectory in which he himself was headed.
Like “songs in the key of life,” the title ‘rainbow music’ refers to the myriad of colors and qualities within Hall that are refracted throughout. It’s a symbolization of hope and the aftermath, the flickering light at the end of the tunnel (or “when a rainbow shows up after a big storm”). “Wish I could have fun anymore,” Hall ruminates on “dancing”, as well as confessing he “wish he made more upbeat bangers.” But reality packs more of a punch, and this collection of songs sees him finally be at peace with the current state of affairs. Relatable to anyone who has contemplated what it means to settle down, or even just catch your breath in an era where anguish is commonplace, the release of ‘rainbow music’ is a happy ending in its own right, a marker of survival that remains close to the bone.
Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Alpenglow is the Minnesota-based sextet’s tenth album. The album, named after the optical phenomenon that takes places when the sun casts a reddish glow across the mountains at dawn and dusk, opens with the wistful beauty of “It’s So Hard To Hold On”. The narrator contemplates the passing of time and how imperative it is to savor it while you have it.
10 of the 11 tracks on Alpenglow were written by lead singer Dave Simonett, whose introspective and literate songwriting is the foundation of the unwavering connection the group’s music has with its fervent and ever-growing audience. “On The Highway” expresses a longing to wander but struggles with the value in maintaining roots. “Central Hillside Blues” addresses nostalgia and loss while “Quitting Is Rough” deals with having inner strength to not lose sight of what is real, with its beautiful and inspiring refrain “climb out, climb out, climb out” The Tweedy-penned “A Lifetime To Find” features a simple back-and-forth dialogue with Death, which ends as one might expect.
Coming soon in October from Cincinnati-based Happy Families — Sorry Eric is propelled by blue collar midwestern modernity, Eric turns it all to gold. Beautiful NZ influenced indie rock that’s too lame to be cool.
This is the first official reissue of these recordings since their initial release as singles. Available now from Lion Productions.
There were no deluxe studios for the musicians who recorded the devastating tracks contained herein. Nothing so grand. Most of these tracks were recorded live, with traditional instruments finding a place alongside any keyboards or guitars that could be found. And yet, it was the experiments of Khmer rock musicians which transformed the nightlife of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh—and which many years later continue to seduce listeners around the world with their groovy sound. The music is wild and anarchic, rhythmic and undulating, or sweet and lyrical, but always moving and with that deep soulfulness, regardless of actual musical genre or style, that is the hallmark of the best and most important music. The lyrics often tell stories of angst, death, betrayal and sorrow. But there is a very real, deep, inescapable tragedy in these grooves as well.
Alas, in 1975 came an entirely different type of transformation: the rise to power in Cambodia of the fanatical, anti-Western, Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot. Within roughly four years, implementing their “concept of Year Zero,” Pot and his regime were responsible for the deaths of an estimated two million Cambodians (roughly 21% of the nation’s population), many in the notorious “killing fields.” Even the most famous and beloved Khmer musicians could not escape. Sinn Sisamouth, the “King of Khmer music”; Ros Sereysothea, the “Golden Voice of the Royal Capital”; and Pan Ron — all featured on this collection of songs written by the majestic Sinn Sisamouth — met their deaths at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Jon Swain, who was the Sunday Times war correspondent in South Vietnam and Cambodia at the time, said: “Educated people, musicians, people with glasses… a lot were taken to the killing fields… so the great singers disappeared.”
To us, the richness and deep soulfulness of Cambodian music is akin perhaps to what was excavated from Ethiopia and embraced worldwide over the years thanks to the “Ethiopiques” series — this despite the geographical and cultural distance between the two very different nations. It really is one world, not three.