Another chance to check out some recent reissues, not stuff we’ve released but stuff we would’ve loved to have released, and in some cases stuff we almost got to! For instance, and appropriate in other ways, is No Great Lost by Kevin Dunn out on the Casa Nueva label. Keven Dunn started out in the seminal Atlanta new wave band The Fans in the mid 70s. I first heard the Fans on a mixtape (not CD, tape) made for me by Jonathan Marx, the same 2 volume tape compilation where I first heard the Lines. He made me a UK volume and a US volume. (looking now, the UK volume was the George Harassment LP on one side, The Tea Set, the Table, The Jets, The Cigarettes and the Lines on the other, while the US mix included Monitor, The Twinkeyz, The Fans, Plastic Idols, who’s second single I’m still looking for, The Molls, Man Tit, Monitor, Doodooettes, Dennis Duck, Le Forte Four and Human Hands…quite the education.) Anyway…I started collecting The Fans records (all 3 of them) and Kevin’s later solo stuff. Also got in touch with a journalist who was working with Dunn who sent me CDs…a potential Fans compilation featuring some unreleased stuff and a potential Kevin Dunn compilation. Unfortunately for the latter, the tapes had been lost in a fire years ago so what I heard was transferred from vinyl. I thought it sounded good but they weren’t happy with it and I dropped the thread. A few years later they realized they had the original multi-track tapes. So instead of remastering from vinyl like lazier labels (cough), they went ahead and re-created the original mixes from the multitrack. This stuff isn’t “remixed” in the sense that they did anything different. Instead, with constant comparison to the original vinyl, they matched the mix that was originally done and ended up with something that basically has the same decisions and sound of the original vinyl releases, but better sound quality, a great job by folks at Casa Nueva and the engineers.
If you haven’t already gone back and read what I wrote about the Fans in a previous post, it’s worth noting that The Fans and Kevin Dunn were heavily influenced by the smarter side of british art rock of the Eno type and pioneered new wave in Georgia which within a few years would give birth to B-52s and Pylon, both of whom’s first releases were produced by Dunn, and of course R.E.M. and a little band you may have heard of called The Method Actors. It’s hard to describe Dunn’s music, he released much of it under the name Kevin Dunn and the Regiment of Women but it was mainly a one-man project. Thin drum machine rhythms like you’d hear in any number of early 80s pop new wave bands but absolutely killer guitar playing vacillating between the kind of GA rave-ups you’d hear from Vic Varney, Peter Buck, Randy Bewley and Ricky Wilson and more elaborate and processed leads of Robert Fripp. Some keyboards where appropriate and some of the most goddamn catchy “how is I’ve never heard this before” pop music committed to vinyl in the 80s and forgotten by too many. The timing is really good for this reissue, coming out just after the DFA‘s release of the two Pylon CDs and our own Method Actor’s CD. The CD is really a treasure of awesomeness, especially the opening song 911, which oddly enough is one of the reasons I stopped listening to my earlier version for a few years after being pretty obsessed with it for a few years around the turn of the decade. In the chorus he sings 9 11, 9 11. Living in NY during the attacks on the Word Trade Center, listening to that song suddenly had this weird resonance. It’s still my favorite song, though many others come close, including this one.
OK, I’ve got two more to mention and I’ll try to make them quick.
I have wanted to hear this one forever. I’ve been a big Soft Boys fan since High School. At some point in college people started telling me what an awesome pop album Kimberley Rew’s solo record from the early 80s The Bible of Bop was, but I simply never saw it anywhere. Now it’s finally getting a CD reissue. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a proper solo album but actually a compilation from a few sessions and releases, 1/3rd of which recorded with the Soft Boys, which strangely enough, sounds like the Soft Boys but without Robyn Hitchcock singing, 1/3rd recorded with the dBs, who were fans, and 1/3rd recorded with the Waves, who would shortly become Katrina and the Waves with whom Rew would see fame of the like The Soft Boys never would! And while the different parts sound a bit different, they’re all great, smart, punky power-pop of the highest order. This song, with Katrina on co-vocals I assume, is the first song on the CD and is as simple, catchy and awesome as rock-n-roll gets.
Kimberley Rew-The Nightmare
Gonna make this quick because my server ate my first attempt. To quote the liner notes, “I chose my favourite tracks from thirty years of post-Young Marble Giants recordings; unreleased obscurities by the Gist and highlights from solo albums of the 90s; some unheard gems from my American adventures, a couple of fin de siecle rarities and the best of current and new material. Inevitably it’s a very mixed bag but I think it gives a fair overview of my attempts never to write the same song twice.”
One thing I love about his music is the echoes of those very unique and iconic Young Marble Giants qualities that remain. The music and songwriting, experimentation and arranging has matured, but aspects of YMG’s simplicity and basic building blocks remain.
Stuart Moxham-Autumn Song