Aug 222012

The Philadelphia Phillies are having a “turn back the clock” 1990s nostalgia night tonight, specifically turning the clock back to 1991, the last year the Phils wore the burgandy pinstripe uniforms that graced their excellent late-’70s/early-’80s team. The team was in the middle of one of the franchise’s typical decade-long runs of sub-mediocrity. The legendary Sil Campusano was touted as a potential “answer” to the void in centerfield. By 1991, fans couldn’t wait to see Campusano and the burgandy pinstripes go.

As part of tonight’s ’90s Nostalgia Night the Campusano-esque Space Hog will perform, probably playing its one minor hit, the one with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra lift, at least 2 times, maybe even 3. I used to wonder if Penguin Cafe Orchestra got a cut of that song’s royalties.

What are your especially nerdy musical associations with the early 1990s?

Jun 142012

You know David Pajo, or you know of him.

I can barely think of a more Zelig-like character in contemporary rock, swiftly changing identities as he works his way through so much of what we listen to.

[audio:|titles=Slint: Good Morning Captain]

Pajo played multiple instruments in various hardcore outfits in his native Louisville, rising to prominence as a founder of the dynamic Slint. He is a restless musician, consistently in the habit of packing his guitar case, and making stops with the likes of Tortoise, Stereolab, Will Oldham, Royal Trux, The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Interpol, Mogwai (aka the Scottish Slint Fan Club), and in the ill-advised Zwan.

[audio:|titles=Papa M: Wedding Song No. 3] [audio:|titles=Papa M: Krusty]

He is no less chameleonic with his solo peregrinations, recording under the monikers Pajo, Evila, Dead Child, Aerial M, Papa M, and simply M. Depends on the day of the week, and his music can range from lonely corn-cob pipe musings to Math-rock instrumentals to whispered Eliot Smith-style vocals to living-room black metal to acoustic Misfits covers that make you do a double-take with the liner notes.

[audio:|titles=Evila: Hex I] [audio:|titles=Pajo: Attitude]

I admire and enjoy the guts in Pajo’s music, and that it is somewhat unclassifiable. There’s a certain kind of hard to pin down nomadic Americana to his sounds. Regardless of the setting he’s playing in, it’s music that has a vibrant force, speaking from an emotional and experiential basis.

Do you hear it?

Here’s Dave Pajo with Tortoise.

Apr 142012

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

Who knows where the time goes? In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In Mr. Moderator experiences an unexpected attack of early ’90s nostalgia. Join him, won’t you, on this journey through a palette-cleansing decade that may not have set the stage for much but wasn’t bad while it lasted.

[audio:|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 75]

[Note: You can add Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your iTunes by clicking here. The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player.]

Apr 132012

My family and I were having lunch in a hipster diner in Philadelphia the other day when the radio station or playlist switched from fun ’60s songs like The Zombies‘ “Time of the Season” to early ’90s hits, from half-remembered Britpop bands to that Janet Jackson video shot in sepia tone, when she’s super-buff and frolicking in the sand with an equally buff model-type of guy. Remember that song?

The music made me unexpectedly nostalgic for the early ’90s, a palette-cleansing decade of sorts, following the most culturally offensive decade of my life to date, the ’80s. I mainly got to enjoy the early ’90s during the year my wife and I lived in Budapest, Hungary, from October 1993 to October 1994. Living over there by ourselves, watching Ray CokesMTV’s Most Wanted on EuroMTV, without our network of like-minded culturally snobbish friends to insulate us, I could appreciate artists like Blur; Suede; Darryl-Ann; some heavyset, black, super-corny English “hippie” guy…and those mainstream videos from back home with drop-the-cat moments by the likes of Janet Jackson and Madonna. I even learned to love a song by The Cure, a remix no less with some Sid and Marty Krofft-style “undersea” video. I can never remember the name of that song. Some day, when I do, I’ll purchase it and add it to my iPod.

It was during that year abroad that Townsman andyr sent me cassettes with Matthew Sweet‘s Girlfriend, Crowded House‘s Together Alone, and Martin Newell‘s Greatest Living Englishman. It was inspiring to hear albums with that ’60s-based vibe. Even the cheesiest of those Britpop bands, like Jesus Jones, had a groovy ’60s vibe beneath the surface. Then there was “Groove Is in the Heart.” Now THAT was a song (and video) that made the early ’90s worth living.

Curly hair came back into fashion, and all-cotton fibers. Grunge bands were kind of like ’70s burnouts of my youth. Elaine on Seinfeld was cute and funky the way women had not been during long stretches of mainstream ’80s living. The early ’90s held mild promise. Beck came along and seemed poised to take it to the next level, maybe even put our culture over the top to my long-awaited Peace Warrior era. But it was not to be. Maybe Bill Clinton getting busted for his Monica Lewinsky affair did us in. Now we seem to be living through the most prudish stretch since the 1950s. Or maybe we’re too far onto our own little social astral planes.

Where were you in the early ’90s? What was your musical world?

Jun 032011

Will Your Mystery Date Be a Dream or a Dud?

So our ’90s-era Mystery Date was California-born and -based singer-guitarist Barbara Manning, who’s released records as a solo artist and a member of various bands, including SF Seals (ie, the “local baseball team” ladymisskirroyale referred to) and the World of Pooh. These songs are from a collaboration called Barbara Manning Sings With the Original Artists she did Stuart Moxham of Young Marble Giants (who accompanies her on the first track, “When I Dream”) and Jon Langford of The Mekons (on the second Mystery Date track, “Gold Brick”), among others. You probably know the varying sounds of The Mekons. Young Marble Giants is one of those bands that you may have heard of but never actually heard. Here’s a Young Marble Giants track that showcases Moxham’s guitar style:

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Jun 022011

All this talk about ’90s bands got me digging into some of the deeper cuts from that era. Here are two songs from an artist who I would classify as being most active in the ’90s. She is performing with two guitarists who were in groups that gained prominence in the ’80s.

[audio:|titles=Mystery Date 060211a] [audio:|titles=Mystery Date 060211b]

Now, I’m not very good at remembering the complete roster of names from a band’s history—I may recall the names of separate memebers but rarely more than one or two members. So today’s Mystery Date reflects a nexus of musical discovery for me: I knew the names of the vocalists of these two ’80s bands, but not the names of the other musicians. I had been listening to one of the guitarists’ ’80s band a few days before, and when I randomly picked this Mystery Date’s disc to listen to I made the sonic connection. The guitarist’s name hadn’t really meant anything to me but it was the distinctive sound that he creates that drew me to check the names on these two separate records and realize  that it was the same person. He was the sonic bullseye! Working backwards, I realized that I was also familiar with the production sound of track number two and worked out the connection between our Mystery Date and the second ’80s band.

Who is our ’90s artist? Who are the two guitarists?

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