Lost Classics: Antipop Consortium “Arrhythmia”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: ANTIPOP CONSORTIUM
Arrhythmia // Warp, 2002

antipop370Conceived as a tape-trading indie label, New York hip-hop trio Antipop Consortium ended up with the résumé of an indie-rock band: a 2001 gig opening for Radiohead, collaborations with avant-garde musicians Arto Lindsay and Matthew Shipp and a pair of albums marketed to the college-radio crowd. But Antipop never catered to any demographic or province but its own, relying on personal taste and the chemistry of its three MCs: Beans (staccato delivery), M Sayyid (quick wordplay) and High Priest (brutish low-end). Second and final album Arrhythmia showcased the group’s often-skeletal musical design—beats made of ping-pong-ball samples, one-note keyboard lines, repetitive musical themes that echoed Sparks and Kraftwerk—and concluded a brilliant career with “Human Shield,” an album-closing statement of unity and the group’s finest moment.

Catching Up: Beans and High Priest have issued solo albums, and the latter teamed with Sayyid for a 2005 LP as Airborn Audio. But, as De La Soul pointed out, three is the magic number; Antipop reunited for live performances in 2008 and has a new album, Fluorescent Black, ready for release sometime this year.

“Human Shield”:

Lost Classics: Tobin Sprout “Moonflower Plastic (Welcome To My Wigwam)”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: TOBIN SPROUT
Moonflower Plastic (Welcome To My Wigwam) // Matador, 1997
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When Guided By Voices guitarist Tobin Sprout released solo debut Carnival Boy in 1996, it was overshadowed by Not In My Airforce, the simultaneously issued first solo outing by GBV mainman Robert Pollard. Soon after, Sprout quit the band to spend more time with his family. Though his contributions to GBV albums offered proof of his talent as a songwriter, none of them could’ve prepared fans for Moonflower Plastic, a fully realized pop album of guitar-driven rockers and piano-based ballads. Aside from a handful of guest drummers (including Spoon’s Jim Eno), Sprout recorded all of these songs by himself, a feat given the complexity of the arrangements. While not as seminal as the GBV albums he appeared on, Moonflower Plastic held its own against the records the band made following his departure.

Catching Up: Sprout has released albums as a solo artist, band frontman (Eyesinweasel), Pollard collaborator (Airport 5) and soundtrack composer (Fortunes). His most serious creative pursuit, however, has been visual art. Sprout makes his living from painting; in March, he’ll publish Elliott, a children’s book he wrote and illustrated. A new Sprout seven-inch single, Fix On The Races (credited to Bevel Web, a side-project moniker he used in the mid-’90s), is due this spring.

“All Used Up”:

Lost Classics: Swervedriver “Mezcal Head”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: SWERVEDRIVER
Mezcal Head // A&M, 1993

swervedriver355Too heavy and aggressive to fit in with its native army of blissed-out shoegazers but too polished and spacey to blend with American modern rock, Oxford, England’s Swervedriver never rose above cult status. Despite most of its albums now being out of print in the U.S., Swervedriver’s influence can be heard in any number of current post-post-shoegaze outfits that use their effects pedals to conjure the hard-edged menace of the Stooges rather than the orchestral comfort of My Bloody Valentine. After losing two members following a 1992 tour, singer/guitarist Adam Franklin could barely assemble a complete Swervedriver lineup in time for the Mezcal Head sessions. This sophomore album was a cohesive collection of churning, widescreen epics obsessed with mystery, murder and motor-driven chaos. Though “Duel” was the closest thing Swervedriver had to a hit in the States, “Last Train To Satansville” was nearer to the album’s heart, a violent noir odyssey resting somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson. Dark and often beautifully dissonant, Swervedriver’s mix of melodic space pop and mind-scrambling noise held appeal for two distinct audiences but seldom found either.

Catching Up: Beset by a flurry of label troubles with 1995 follow-up Ejector Seat Reservation (unreleased in the U.S.), Swervedriver finally called it a day following 1998’s disappointing 99th Dream. Franklin has issued a handful of records under the name Toshack Highway, collaborated with Interpol’s Sam Fogarino as Magnetic Morning and will release his second solo album, Spent Bullets, in March. Drummer Jez Hindmarsh recently published Rider, a memoir of life on the road, and he now manages and produces/records bands. Swervedriver reformed in 2008 for a tour, and Mezcal Head and 1991’s Raise were reissued earlier this year. Download live compilations of all four Swervedriver albums here.

“Duel”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/Duel.mp3

Lost Classics: Versus “Secret Swingers”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: VERSUS
Secret Swingers // Caroline, 1996

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In the mid-’90s, hundreds of eager rock bands vied for Sonic Youth’s status as the leader of the noisy rock movement. Today, most of those records sound as flimsy as back-alley designer knock-offs. New York City’s Versus saved itself from that fate by balancing Sonic Youth confidence with a complete lack of pretension and a willingness to turn playful at the right moment. On Secret Swingers, the brothers Baluyut (guitarist/vocalist Richard, guitarist James and drummer Ed) and bassist Fontaine Toups set their love of guitar-generated discord against solid pop songwriting. Toups and Baluyut traded vocal lines cheerfully, while odd guitar chords and complex time signatures clashed beneath them. Part of what made Versus so compelling was that the band never got swept away by how “cool” it was. One of the album’s most charming moments came at the end of “Lose That Dress,” when Toups ran out of breath and trailed off into laughter before managing to pick up the note again. Secret Swingers may not have been revolutionary, but like a good inside joke between friends, it stuck around.

Catching Up: Versus released two more well-received albums before going on hiatus in 2001. James Baluyut and post-Secret Swingers drummer Patrick Ramos formed +/-, Toups fronted an eponymous band, and Richard Baluyut played in Whysall Lane with ex-Jawbreaker drummer Adam Pfahler. Versus has done a handful of gigs over the past few years and plans to do more.

“Lose That Dress”:

Lost Classics: Lifter Puller “Fiestas + Fiascos”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

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:: LIFTER PULLER
Fiestas + Fiascos // Self-Starter Foundation, 2000

“Woke up in the grass with the assless chaps!” The Hold Steady may be getting all the critical acclaim these days, but Craig Finn was funnier in Lifter Puller. Devoid of the classic-rock posturing that characterizes Finn’s current band, Lifter Puller’s instrumentation sounded just like any of its indie-rock contemporaries: Put it on a bill with Pavement, Archers Of Loaf and a faceless Chicago post-rock outfit. All of which made Finn’s lyrics about druggy Minneapolis nightlife seem more like an inside joke and less like teenage nostalgia. Fiestas + Fiascos, the group’s final album, was a complete narrative involving the rise and fall of a disco called the Nice Nice, recounting the patrons’ massive nights and the girls who liked to get bombed on the bass and the Bombay gin. Needless to say, if you’re a fan of Hold Steady song characters such as Charlemagne and Holly, you’ll love Nightclub Dwight and the Eyepatch Guy.

Catching Up: After a brief stint under the glitchy laptop-rock guise of Broker Dealer, Finn formed the Hold Steady with guitarist Tad Kubler. Drummer Dan Monick is a music/fashion photographer. Bassist Steve Barone began a lip-synch comedy-rock act called the Hawaii Show and now works in advertising.

“Space Humping $19.99”:

Lost Classics: Jack Drag “Dope Box”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: JACK DRAG
Dope Box // A&M, 1998

jack-drag360Jack Drag was the solo vehicle for Boston singer/songwriter John Dragonetti, who released five full-lengths under that moniker between 1996 and 2002. It was initially conceived by Dragonetti as a one-man studio project, although by the time of third album Dope Box, he’d hired a bassist and drummer. Issued on A&M, which had recently gone on an alt-rock shopping spree (remember Orbit or Pulsars?), Dope Box was a glam-slam marvel—think Love And Rockets meets Beck’s block-rocking beats—alight with shuddering synth lines, laser guitar riffs and a dub-worthy bottom end fatter than a ghetto hooker’s booty. Critics drooled; sales were marginal; A&M flinched; and Dragonetti was soon back in indieland. A song title from 2000’s Soft Songs LP: Aviating perhaps said it best: “We Could’ve Been Big.”

Catching Up: After issuing a beat-heavy electronica EP as Junior Communist Club, Dragonetti resurfaced with wife Blake Hazard as the Submarines, whose 2006 Declare A New State! documented the lovers’ breakup and eventual reconciliation. Dragonetti has penned music for Volkswagen and Hummer commercials, and the Submarines’ “You, Me, And The Bourgeoise” was recently featured in ubiquitous ads for the iPhone G3.

“Surfin’ The Charles”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/SurfinTheCharles.mp3

Lost Classics: The Anniversary “Your Majesty”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

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:: THE ANNIVERSARY
Your Majesty // Vagrant, 2002

This Lawrence, Kan., band attracted both new-wave knocks (due to keyboard-crazy 2000 debut Designing A Nervous Breakdown) and the libelous emo label (via its affiliation with the Get-Up Kids), but it was more a case of guilt-by-association than anything else. Sophomore LP Your Majesty showed the New Pornographers to be a more appropriate touchstone. Anniversary co-leaders Josh Berwanger and Justin Roelofs swapped power-pop pith like a split-personality Carl Newman, with Adrianne Verhoeven’s sweet counterpoint playing the Neko Case part on bleeding-heart bookends “Sweet Marie” and “Follow The Sun.”

Catching Up: After the band’s 2004 demise, Berwanger went on to form the Only Children, whose 2004 debut Change Of Living found him sounding like a Ryan Adams-esque Southern rocker. Roelofs’ solo White Flight issued a self-titled LP in 2007. Verhoeven joined Azure Ray’s Orenda Fink in the group Art In Manila for a 2007 album and released an electro/dance solo album under the name Dri the same year. Last June, Vagrant issued Devil On Our Side, a two-disc set of the Anniversary’s b-sides and rarities.

“Sweet Marie”:

Lost Classics: Archers Of Loaf “Icky Mettle”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

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:: ARCHERS OF LOAF
Icky Mettle // Alias, 1993

The full-length debut by Chapel Hill, N.C.’s Archers Of Loaf revealed troubling levels of undergraduate angst and, even by 1993 standards, was considered highly derivative. But man, when the Archers hit their mark on “Web In Front” and “Plumb Line,” all sins were forgiven. Buoyed by singer/guitarist Eric Bachmann’s nascent songwriting talent, Icky Mettle straddled the line between Pavement’s brainy esoterica and Superchunk’s guitar blitzkrieg. The formula proved to be a winner, as it thrust the Archers into the national spotlight and quickly found them flipping tour-van odometers and declining a record deal from Madonna’s Maverick label. Those grueling miles took a toll, however, and over the course of three more albums and an EP, the Archers eventually emptied their tank for good.

Catching Up: Bachmann continues to make records with Crooked Fingers, which issued Forfeit/Fortune last year. Drummer Mark Price has played with Hotel Lights (led by ex-Ben Folds Five drummer Darren Jessee), while guitarist Eric Johnson has recorded under the moniker Spookie.

“Web In Front”: