Friday, February 25, 2005

 

Nevermind Sleater-Kinney, here's The Woods!!!

My guest host Sleeve will be taking over again next week. Last we talked, he was planning on doing a feature on the cassette underground from back in the days, as well as posting about some underrated west coast bands. I had planned to lead up to this with a bit on my own cassette culture hero, Linda Smith.

But (and this is part of the reason I want to post on that topic in the first place) I, like many other people, no longer have a cassette player, and I've been having trouble borrowing one. (Much of Linda Smith's music has come out on CD, but not all of it.) I'm still working on this, but it looks like the bulk of my Linda Smith feature is going to follow Sleeve's posts instead.

Very briefly, Linda Smith was possibly the first woman to write, sing, play, record, release, and actually get any real attention for her music with little to no outside assistance. Call her a female version of Emitt Rhodes, if you will, though she didn't get help from a record label for a long time. If you're the type to read liner notes of obscure albums, you may have noticed that she sang back-up vocals for Crash (that pre-Ultra Vivid Scene band that I go on about from time to time).

Around the same time as that, she was in a band called The Woods, along with a few other people who some of you may know. Brian Bendlin would end up collaborating with Robin Crutchfield (ex-DNA keyboard player) on some of his Dark Day recordings, and Steven Cheslik-De Meyer later helped create the cross-dressin' country-western band Y'all (that's probably not the best way to describe them, but it's the briefest).

So, in the mid 80's The Woods were kind of playing around, doing the things that young bands do, and Linda Smith bought a 4-track to record demos. This eventually turned into using the 4-track to record some pretty fantastic self-released cassette-only albums that are probably more obscure these days than they should be. There's a bit about her at Allmusic and she's done an appearance on WFMU, which I mention to emphasize that she's not just some random person who once recorded a tape of her songs.

But, back to The Woods. As far as I know, they only released one single. I have this nagging feeling that I have a tape of them somewhere, though I can't remember if it was live or studio or what, and now I can't find it. I'll have to check on that at some point. The single came out in 1985, and that's a close-up of it up above. Side a is credited to Steven Cheslik-De Meyer and side b to Linda Smith.

The a-side is kinda interesting. I know that The Woods were in touch with Calvin Johnson with the thought of being on his K label, and I know that there's kind of a long story about why The Woods never ended up on K, but I'm not going to get into it (though don't worry...you're not missing any juicy Calvin gossip).

Anyway, I have no idea when Beat Happening wrote the oft-covered Indian Summer (released in 1988) so I'm not going to jump to any conclusions, but give a listen to Love Me Again This Summer (released in 1985) and tell me what you think. We're talking possible influence here, btw, not plagiarism or anything exciting like that.

The b-side, Miracles Tonight, is written and mostly sung by Linda, and it's in her early style, which often sounds (to me) not far from the Paisley Underground. I know from her list of favorite albums that she knows her Game Theory (note also the appearance of Swans on that list!). Kind of mid-to-lo-fi pop-psych with one of those cool repeating bass lines that I tend to love. It kicks off on a strangely folkie note, so don't get freaked out by the song's opening. It's not all like that.

This is one of those bands/records that's so obscure that I'm not sure how many of you will be interested, but it does make for a nice transition to next week.

Take it away, Sleeve...



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