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Month: January 2017

Vicious Beatniks: Courage, 1992-1994

Vicious Beatniks: Courage, 1992-1994

Dave Portolano: Vocals, acoustic and electric guitars
Brian Lindgren: Guitars, vocals
Joe Kowalski: Bass
Joe Anderson, Dave Diamond: Drums


Side One
1. Can You Rise (Above It All)
2. If I Had A Son
3. Joan Of Arc (Was Self-Employed)
4. We All Lie Naked

Side Two
1. 25°
2. Doubt
3. Left Behind
4. Talk To The Ocean
5. Popcorn

Gotta admit I am guessing on the release date of this tape, but I’m probably close, since “25°” and “We All Lie Naked” were released as a double-A-side single that year.

This cassette is considerably more confident, hard-hitting and punk-influenced than Sampler; “25°” is positively ferocious!

The band is no longer active, but Brian Lindgren actively maintains a Facebook page with vintage live videos and other fun stuff.

UPDATE 1/16: Brian quickly responded to my Facebook post:

“Jim Santo I believe this was a compilation cassette assembled by Dave Portolano in 1994 or later. I am on only a few of these tracks, but the ones I am on were recorded in 1992. I’m on tracks 1 & 4 on Side 1 and tracks 1 and 3 on Side 2. We actually released a 7” 33-1/3 RPM vinyl disc in 1992 that includes “25 Degrees,” “We All Lie Naked” and a track called “Bureaucratic Rape.” From that same session, “Can You Rise (Above It All)” did not make the vinyl, but the four January 1992 tracks were released on an ultra rare cassette EP. If you’re curious I could send you a copy of the vinyl and the cassette. On to your other questions – Joe Kowalski played bass on at least the tracks I mentioned, and probably the others. Joe Anderson played drums on some tracks… possibly Dave Diamond (of the Mighty Underdogs) on others. Neither Drew Schmitt nor Paul Wilson was involved with these tracks. Jim Voigt (of the Cranks) played lead guitar on “If I Had a Son.” Dave (Portolano) released several of the other tracks on a 1992 cassette titled “In Blood and Bones,” which I believe you might have reviewed under a pseudonym* for The Music Paper back in the day.”

Vicious Beatniks: Courage, 1992

* My nom de plume, Andy Glass

Jim Shelley: The Haunted Life, 1992

Jim Shelley: The Haunted Life, 1992

PERSONNEL: Jim Shelley, everything

1. Heaven
2. In My Room
3. The Girl Whose Name
4. Blue Man
5. Haunted Road Blues
6. Notes from the Underground
7. New James Shelley Blues
8. Fool for Love
9. The Haunted Life
10. Talk to Me
11. She’s the Kind of Girl

“I can do what I want to do/In my little room”

Jim was, and is, an essential artist in the cassette underground; beyond question one of the finest songwriters I encountered in my travels through the Demo Universe. Recording under his own name and, more often, as Book Of Kills, his music stirs Dylan, Lennon & Young into a rough and tumble gumbo of poetic, impassioned American Rock like you want it. Much more from this guy to come.

Mixed September 27-30, 1992, The Haunted Life cassette, Jim’s seventh release in three years, was accompanied by extensive, evocative liner notes (click the images below to enlarge). The track listing above is from his official discography, but the order does not match the liner notes. Does it matter? You can figure it out if it matters to you.


Jim Shelley: The Haunted Life, 1992, Insert front

Jim Shelley: The Haunted Life, 1992, Insert back

Jenifer Convertible: Tame, 1995

Jenifer Convertible: Tame, 1995

Lenny Zenith: Vocals, guitar
Jim Santo: Guitar, vocals
James Pertusi: Bass, vocals
Eddie Siino: Drums

1. Big Wheel
2. Maine
3. Closet/Death
4. Beg Off
5. Awakening From A Disturbing Dream

Recorded live to DAT by Al Houghton on a very hot day in the summer of 1995 at the original Dubway Studio on 8th Avenue, this EP captures JenCon in the period immediately after the departure that spring of original drummer Andy Moore. “Maine,” Andy’s not-dead-yet elegy, let me channel Jimmy Page; that’s one of my top fave recorded solos. “Big Wheel” was subsequently slowed down and rearranged for the Wharton Tiers-produced Wanna Drag? LP, which also included a new (and better?) recording of “Awakening.” The other three can only be heard here. I’m so glad we got a good recording of “Beg Off,” one of our strongest numbers at the time. I don’t know how many of these exist. Not many, I’m sure.

Steve Hammond: Nuclear Winter, 1999

Steve Hammond: Nuclear Winter, 1999

‘”I share the view that most of today’s best music is never heard or is pushed back and written off for a dime a dozen top 40, FCC and MTV sanctioned bullshit,” declares Hammond. “I hope your ear for undiscovered music will spread back to the other mediums of exposure one day after the general public realizes what kind of crap has been spoon fed to them for so long now.” As if! The follow-up to 1998’s scuzzy but wonderful The Bug That Bored Into Stevie’s Brain benefits from a drum machine (never thought I’d say that) that helped Steve clean up his sound without losing the urgency of his emotionally raw but tuneful music. As before, Steve’s guitar is the star: By turns a rusty knife cutting his own throat, a dull needle sliding into a resentful vein, a crystal trinket glimmering through a soot-stained window, the instrument in Hammond’s hands does more for the cause with six strings and a few amps of bedroom socket juice than a thousand megapixels of obscure web ramblings.’ — Demo Universe, 1999

PERSONNEL: Steve Hammond, vocals, guitars, drum machine

Side 1
1. Cankersore
2. Train From 91
3. Un-dub
4. Russian Textbook
5. Adhere
6. Kill It

Side 2
1. The Space Between (four songs, untitled)

I do not know for certain what Steve Hammond is up to these days, but there is evidence he moved from Manhattan, Kansas, to Albuquerque and now plays in a band named Leeches Of Lore. To whit, this tape came out on Flying Midget Music, and the New Mexico band, whose members include a Steve Hammond, released on Flying Midget Records. There are similarities in style, as well. If anyone can confirm this, I’d appreciate it!

Mobius Strip: Five songs, 1995

Mobius Strip: Five songs, 1995

‘Mobius Strip employ hip-hop beats, jazzy guitar, throbbing rock bass and space dinosaurs to build their mesmerizing sound. Imagine a cross between My Bloody Valentine, Roxy Music and Achtung Baby U2 and you’ll be getting there, then listen to “Bleed Electri” and hear a hybrid of orchestral Soft Machine, Art Of Noise and a sentient jellyfish. Most of this is instrumental, but Arrow and Christian open their mouths softly on “Remedy,” contributing little to the overall mood. Incredibly, the duo claim to have recorded this five-song opus “live in our garage on four track during Summer 1995.” The mind reels at what they could do in a first-rate studio.’ — Demo Universe, 1995

Arrow Kleeman & Christian (Xian) Hawkins: Guitars, Ensoniq EPS sampler, Roland drum machine

1. Infinity Nets
2. Remedy
3. Mirror
4. Bleed Electri
5. Brownian Motion

A year after this release, Kleeman and Hawkins joined the reformed Silver Apples, alongside founder Simeon and Michael Lerner (now of The Antlers). Xian Hawkins has since released five albums of solo material under the name Sybarite; Arrow Kleeman has also remained active in multiple fields, assembling a substantial catalog of music under his own name and as Lilienthal.

Note from Xian Hawkins

Sense Field: Three songs, 1990

Sense Field: Three songs, 1990

Jon Bunch: Vocals
John Stockburger: Bass
Rodney Sellars: Guitar
Chris Evenson: Guitar

1. Tripoem
2. Add The Colors
3. Today & Tomorrow

If you came of age in the ’90s, chances are you know these guys. One of the most successful bands I ever reviewed, Sense Field were right up there with the biggest emo bands of the day.

If you checked Wikipedia a few minutes ago, you would have thought Sense Field was formed in 1991; I know better, and have the evidence (and have updated Wikipedia). “Recorded at home on the 4-track,” this three-song cassette makes it clear Sense Field was “Born: January 1990.”

“Tripoem” reappeared the following year on the band’s self-released, self-titled, five-song debut EP (1991); and again (retitled “Trip Poem”) on their 1996 Revelation Records EP, Building Foundation. “Today & Tomorrow” kicked off their seminal 1994 Revelation release, Killed For Less.

As far as I am able to determine, “Add The Colors” has never appeared on any other recording. This cassette includes an insert with lyrics; likely the first time these words were published.

Sense Field: Three songs, 1990, insert

R.I.P. Jon Bunch, October 25, 1970 – January 31, 2016.

NOTE: No downloads allowed on this one, sorry.

Sense Field Cassette

John Sosnowski: Politics In Wonderland, 1992

John Sosnowski: Politics In Wonderland, 1992

PERSONNEL: John Sosnowski, everything


Side A
1. Politics In Wonderland
2. Cruz Tenebrae
3. Fleet Street
4. None But The Faithful*
5. Twisted*
6. Blue Dogs*
7. Keeping In Touch*
8. T.*
9. Chapter 11

Side B
1. Trust Me (Lame Dub Mix)
2. Dust Motes
3. Tagged & Swelling
4. Different Tribes
5. The Chase Scene*
6. Waiting Room Only
7. Go Figure*
8. Mouth*
9. User Friendly

All songs ©1992 except * ©1990

Very early, pre-Web demo from Buffalo, New York’s John Sosnowski, who would later move to Michigan, plug into the cassette underground and re-emerge as cult-fave electronic composer Broca’s Area. You’ll be hearing a lot from Broca’s Area as this Universe unwinds; in the meantime, dig these home-recorded shred-rock instrumentals; although enjoyable in and of themselves — John is an impressively skilled and inventive lead guitarist — they offer only the slightest hint of what was to come.

John Sosnowski: Politics In Wonderland, 1992

John now lives in Annandale, Virginia and continues to make music. Check out his Youtube channel.

Henry Ocansey: Two songs, 1998

Henry Ocansey: Two songs, 1998

“I’m Henry Ocansey and I’m extremely interested in making records. Thank you.” Why Ocansey feels the need to introduce himself again, after sending four tapes in less than three months is beyond me, but I’ve grown accustomed to his peculiar ways. Two Songs the latest in the series that includes One Song, Side (One) Song and 3 Songs, introduces a new tune — as always, unnamed — that I’ll call “Blazin’ Hot.” More sophisticated than previous efforts, this summery number boasts a four-chord progression, although Henry, true to form, repeats it endlessly. “Blazin’ Hot” segues abruptly into a remake of “Would You Like To Come Along With Me” from 3 Songs that benefits from the clearest vocal track Ocansey has recorded to date, as well as a slight reworking of the lyrics that requires me to retitle it, “Do You Want To Baby Come Along With Me.” Much sexier, no? — Demo Universe, 1998

OK, well, Happy New Year! I’m not quite sure what led me to hang on to this tape, but here it is. From Ghana by way of Danbury, Connecticut, Henry now resides in Miami, where he wrestles with Big Questions.