Monday, May 03, 2004

In and out of print

I'm featuring three female bands from the late 70's-early 80's today. They have one thing in common: in each case, almost everything they recorded is collected on one CD comp. Convenient, but history has shown that these collections tend to sell out, then skyrocket in price. As it stands, one of these is out of print and selling for $100 or more when you can find it, one has been in print for a while but who knows what'll happen if it ever goes out of print, and one was recently reissued (bringing its price down from the $200 range that it had reached). I'm in a rush today, so this'll be brief, but you can easily find a lot of info about all three on the internet.

The Dolly Mixture
Former band of Debsey Wykes, who's currently in a group that I like a lot called Birdie (they have formal and sonic connections with St. Etienne and the High Llamas). The Dolly Mixture released several singles during their career, but never quite pulled it together. Luckily, before they broke up, they self-released a huge batch of their demos as Demonstration Tapes, an album that you could be forgiven for passing over if you had seen it in a record store: it was housed in a plain white sleeve with information scrawled on it, and looked like it might contain test pressings by some girls who play at your local tea shop (or a copy of the Beatles' White Album that had been defaced by a teenage owner). In the mid-90's a CD version was available for a short period, but that's gone. Rumor has it that the Kill Rock Stars label may do yet another reissue, but nothing's firm yet as far as I know. Meanwhile, it's a classic album that still hasn't reached enough of an audience, with a great combination of influences that include 60's girl groups and the more melodic sounds of the punk scene that the Dolly's followed. It sounds like it was an enormous influence on Linda Smith, but since she's even more obscure I'm not sure that that helps. Rather than talk too much about it, I'm posting my three favorite songs (oddly, they're sequenced consecutively on the album) which should get the idea across. Here's Shonay Shonay (IMHO their best song) which is deceptively complex although its building blocks are a number of girl-group tropes. Here's their best known song How Come You're Such a Hit With the Boys, Jane? which (if I'm remembering correctly) was about a member of the second band to be discussed today. And here's Side Street Walker, from which you could probably deduce about 90% of a certain strain of slightly twee indie-pop that was popular in the 90's. My advice, to be honest, is go download it p2p while we wait for another reissue. It's a pretty fab album, and I'm convinced that it'll return someday.

The Marine Girls
Best known because one of them went on to be in Everything But the Girl (as opposed to the one who went on to be in Grab Grab the Haddock, which should be a lesson to you when you're choosing your band's name). Likely a major influence on Beat Happening, and by extension just about every subsequent group that arms itself with a just-barely-competent gentle amateurism. If you don't know the Marine Girls material directly, you might still have heard them via Unrest's cover of their song Love To Know. The Marine Girls CD compilation is called Lazy Ways/Beach Party (a great title because it really conveys what the collection sounds like) and it's widely available via spinArt.

If you (like me) are a fan of Kaito UK and haven't heard this, you're missing a major influence (whether Kaito know it's an influence is another story). Let's call the band Liliput here for simplicity's sake (they had to change their name thanks to some no-good facial tissue manufacturers). In some ways, they were a Swiss equivalent of The Raincoats (aka that weird band that Kurt Cobain loved so much) and their career progressed in a similar fashion: early songs completely redefine the parameters of post-punk, while later stuff suffers (IMHO, of course) from over-production and relative normality. Not to say that I don't like some of their later output, but I suspect that it's disc one that you'll be putting on mix tapes. And the song I've always used is Split, which is one of those songs-that-don't-sound-like-anything-else. It's basically a playground chant of some sort, gone deliriously berserk. For a while the CD that compiles all of Liliput's tracks was out-of-print and selling for ridiculous prices (and I must confess that I made a bundle as a result, having been lucky enough to get when the getting was good). It's now available via Kill Rock Stars, and if you're interested enough to still be reading this, odds are you'll want to get a copy. Here's an interview with someone who was a member, and the Kill Rock Stars site has links to lots of other info.

Just to throw in a random odd-and-end, here's Momus' collaborator Kahimi Karie, who could have given Claudine Longet a run for her money in a breathy-vocals competition, doing a cover of a late Dolly Mixture song (it's not on the Demonstration Tapes, and it doesn't sound much like the material from that album) called Dilly Dally Dolly. Someone please point out to Sofia Coppola that Kahimi, who is Japanese, pronounces the title phrase correctry.

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