Three music releases to kick off the new year

By Tom Reardon, January 2019 Issue.

3×4: The Bangles, The Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade

Yep Roc Records’ new compilation is a must have for any fan of the Paisley Underground scene of the early 80s in Los Angeles. The title, 3×4, refers to the fact there are four bands covering one song each by the other bands. Confusing? Maybe; but the discovery is well worth the price of admission. Many music fans will be familiar with The Bangles, who are the most well-known of the four bands featured here who were part of LA’s Paisley Underground scene, which was known for it’s eclectic sound that paid tribute to bands like the Byrds, The Beatles, Velvet Underground, and any other psychedelic, flower pop bands who could actually play their instruments.

The Bangles tracks on 3×4 are strong, the best of which features them covering The Three O’Clock’s classic, “Jet Fighter” (from The Three O’Clock’s stellar Sixteen Tambourines album from 1983), but not the strongest on the record. The Dream Syndicate, who experienced a fair amount of success on the college radio charts in the 1980s and early 1990s steals the show with “Hero Takes A Fall” which is a Bangles cover. The Rain Parade and The Three O’Clock also have some great moments here, too. Highly recommend this slab o’wax (and the vinyl version is a double record with each band having their own side).

The Flesh Eaters – I Used To Be Pretty

Another Yep Roc Records release to celebrate here. Holy mackerel. This one smacks you right in the soul and doesn’t let go until you’ve succumbed to its sheer force of nature. Vocalist and band leader, Chris D (Desjardins) has a classic delivery that is reminiscent of Nick Cave, at times, and descended from fellow Los Angelino legend Jim Morrison, yet remains all his own. The lineup on this record is the same as their 1981 A Minute To Pray record so Chris D is backed by X’s John Doe and DJ Bonebrake on bass and marimba/percussion respectively, The Blaster’s Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman on guitar and drums respectively, and Steve Berlin of the Plugz and Los Lobos on saxophone. With a pedigree like this, I Used To Be Pretty is a record you simply can’t miss.

“Black Temptation,” which is a brand-new Flesh Eaters song kicks off the record in righteous fashion and the ensuing 10 tracks are quite a ride. Highlights include a trio of killer covers: “Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown” (Fleetwood Mac), “Cinderella” (The Sonics), and “She’s Like Heroin To Me” (The Gun Club). The Flesh Eaters take these songs, each classic in their own right, and completely make them their own. I Used To Be Pretty tells the world The Flesh Eaters are back after a long hiatus from recording and that we are all better off for it. (Side note for Phoenix folks: Catch The Flesh Eaters at The Crescent Ballroom on January 16, 2018).

Soft Deadlines – People Are Evil

In a music world where the word “post” can mean so many things, People Are Evil by Soft Deadlines is a post-punk, post-dance, post-emo, post-indie masterpiece. Chief songwriter Oliver Lemke and his talented band mates, Chad Cussen, Steven Duncan, and Parker Douglas make Phoenix proud, 11 songs at a time. In recent memory, it’s tough to recall a more enjoyable 30 minutes of music and this is including bands from the entire world, not just our little slice of the planet. People Are Evil will resonate nicely with fans of other local Phoenix bands like No Volcano, Snake! Snake! Snakes!!!, and Man Hands, but there are also slices of better known national and international acts in there as well. I’m looking at you, Gang of Four (who they pay homage to on “See The Dead” terrifically) and No Age.

Lemke and his chums churn out one catchy song after another between big, intricate, and noisy riffs and a furiously locked in rhythm section. The band creates beautiful space in their songs by knowing exactly how to play off each other as witnessed on songs like “Minutes To Air” and opener “The Now.” Lyrically, People Are Evil is easily one the best local records in a long time as Lemke knows his way around the cleverly turned phrase and has a continual supply of equally biting social commentary. Even though this record is readily available on all platforms, if you are a Phoenician, go see the band live and buy a copy from them. Everybody wins that way.