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The Flying Party is Here (version 2)*

3 Oct

*Don’t look for version 1 because I didn’t write about it (yet).

The Flying Party is Here is what came in-between The Power of Suck and Under the Bushes, Under the Stars. There are a couple versions floating about, and apparently both were close enough for release that some promo tapes exist. Here’s a handy guide to help you keep this craziness straight… and the great thing about this version of the album is that an owner of an original tape copy has digitized it and made it available here.

The Flying Party is Here (version 2)
alt. titles in red, released titles in blue

  1. Fireball (Big Boring Wedding)
  2. Ex-Aviator (Why Did You Land)
  3. Unbeknown Meters (A Life in Finer Clothing)
  4. He’s the Uncle
  5. Deaf Ears
  6. The Official Ironman Rally Song
  7. Cocksoldiers (Sheetkickers)
  8. Systems Crash
  9. Post-Everlasting (Beneath a Festering Moon)
  10. June Salutes You
  11. Drag Days
  12. Bender’s Bluffing Muscles (unreleased)
  13. Delayed Reaction Brats
  14. It’s Like Soul Man
  15. The Key Losers
  16. Redmen and Their Wives
  17. Newton’s Hopeless Marriage (Take to the Sky)
  18. Don’t Stop Now
  19. Stingy Queens (The Ash Gray Proclamation)

Flying Party, much like Not in My Airforce, is a hodgepodge of studio-recorded tracks and some lo-fi home-recordings. The album hues slightly closer to the spirit of Alien Lanes than Under the Bushes does, thanks to short, punchy tunes like “Systems Crash,” “June Salutes You” and “Delayed Reaction Brats.” Power of Suck holdovers like “Redmen and Their Wives” and “Official Ironman Rally Song” supply a dose of melancholy beauty.

A big chunk of the album is made up of the songs that comprise the final six tracks of Under the Bushes. These are the songs that were released as a separate disc on the vinyl version, and unceremoniously tacked on to the end of the CD version. The story is, apparently, that Matador was so disappointed that these Flying Party tunes didn’t make the final cut on UTBUTS that they insisted on adding them to the album.

Most of the other songs ended up as b-sides or EP tracks, with only one remaining officially unreleased: the brief Tobin Sprout tune “Bender’s Bluffing Muscles.” “Beneath a Festering Moon” (which is a slowed-down version of “Pink Drink”) was released on a compilation, and “The Ash Gray Proclamation” ended up on Not in My Airforce.

Though it’s a very strong album (one of the best shit-canned albums, in my opinion), Under the Bushes still wins in terms of consistency, quality, and freshness. I imagine the leftover Power of Suck tracks seemed mighty stale at this point, especially to someone who had just written “Cut-out Witch” and “Underwater Explosions.” Though I would have shared Matador’s concern when he cut songs like “Drag Days” from the album, it’s understandable that Pollard decided to farm this batch of songs out to smaller releases and let his new stuff take center stage.

It’s interesting to consider how ill-suited Pollard was, even back then, to be beholden to a record label’s schedule of one album a year. Suddenly, GBV was a hot band, and Pollard is officially a full-time musician. As an artist, he’s constantly moving forward, pushing out new product to make room for something new. He had time to write and record a ton of songs, but couldn’t release it all in a timely fashion. Who knows what would have happened if he’d been able to self-release records at that point… maybe The Power of Suck, The Flying Party is Here, AND Under the Bushes would have all come out in some form, in the same year! But it just so happened that he had a long delay in which to endlessly tinker with the the follow-up to Alien Lanes, leaving behind a long trail of shit-canned goodness. 

Flying Party version #2 Track breakdown

Under the Bushes, Under the Stars
The Official Ironmen Rally Song
Don’t Stop Now

Under the Bushes bonus tracks
Big Boring Wedding
Drag Days
It’s Like Soul Man
Redmen and Their Wives
Take to the Sky

Plantations of Pale Pink
Systems Crash
A Life in Finer Clothing

Split with Superchunk
Delayed Reaction Brats
He’s the Uncle
Key Losers

The Official Ironmen Rally Song single
Deaf Ears
Why Did You Land?
June Salutes You

Beneath a Festering Moon

Not in My Airforce
The Ash Gray Proclamation

Bender’s Bluffing Muscles


Mustard Man & Mother Monkey (Power of Suck pt. 2)

18 Jun

The next chapter in the Power of Suck saga is this big ol’ double-LP.

According to James Greer, this is an early version of Power of Suck, “after it was already not Power of Suck but before we’d started recording – this was during the rehearsal stage in Kim [Deal]’s basement.”

This would place it at around February 1995. The great thing about this sequence is that we have a complete handwritten tracklist with lyrics!

Seen at the top of the lyrics sheet is a list of possible titles. In my opinion, the Mustard Man one suits this sequence best, because I like it the best.

Mustard Man & Mother Monkey
Titles in bold are songs carried over from the original demos. Titles in red are newly added Pollard-Sprout co-writes.

1. Pantherz
2. Imperial Racehorsing
3. Color Of My Blade
(snippet) No title/Is She Ever?
4. Redmen And Their Wives 
5. Sheetkickers
6. Beekeeper Seeks Ruth

1. Drag Days
2. Cocksoldiers And Their Postwar Stubble
3. The Winter Cows
4. Bug House
5. Key Losers
6. Big Boring Wedding

1. Pink Drink
2. Pluto The Skate
3. Are You Faster?
4. He’s The Uncle
(snippet) No title/Drag Me Down
5. Universal Nurse Finger
6. I Am Decided

1. Not Good For The Mechanism
2. The Official Ironmen Rally Song
3. Why Did You Land?
4. I Saw The Jackrabbit (formerly “Superwhore”)
5. Don’t Stop Now

Most of the new songs added here are Sprout/Pollard compositions that later ended up on either Sunfish Holy Breakfast or Tonics and Twisted Chasers. It seems reasonable to surmise that other Sunfish and Tonics recordings were made during four-track sessions with Sprout around this time. Interestingly, there are no Pollard/Sprout co-writes on Under the Bushes, Under the Stars. At this point, there are no songs on the album solely credited to Sprout.

Looking at this sequence, the first striking thing is track two. “Imperial Racehorsing” is the name of a song on Let’s Go Eat the Factory, GBV’s first album of 2012. However, the Power of Suck song by that name appears to bear no relation to the newer song. In fact, this version is noted to be an instrumental on the lyrics sheet. It’s unknown what this song was, or if it was ever released under a different name. It has been confirmed by Greer that it is not “Do the Collapse” AKA “Girl from the Sun,” an instrumental written and recorded during the Albini sessions, which this tracklist predates.

The next unusual feature is the “Drag Me Down” snippet on side C. This is probably the future Tonics track “The Stir-Crazy Pornographer,” which prominently features the phrase “drag me down” in the lyrics. The earlier “Is She Ever?” snippet on side A is also a Tonics tune. I imagine these snippets would have been quite similar to the “At Odds With Dr. Genesis” snippet attached to “Ester’s Day” on Bee Thousand.

“Pluto the Skate” makes its final appearance on a potential GBV sequence before bizarrely showing up (in original demo form, even, although augmented by additional overdubs) in 2009 on Boston Spaceship’s Zero to 99In the meantime, its signature riff was recycled into “Catfood on the Earwig,” a song briefly in the running for Under the Bushes and later considered for Isolation Drills!

Looking at the lyrics sheet, one of the most interesting things is a previously unknown section in “Why Did You Land?” Some history: In 1993, “Why Did You Land?” was a slow, beautiful tune that was considered for Bee Thousand. After being passed over for that album, the song was reconfigured for The Power of Suck. The Suck version, also passed over for the album but eventually released as a b-side, is more of a rocker, and it has a chorus not present in the early version. This PoS lyrics sheet reveals that the chorus wasn’t the only new part added to the song. At this point in time there was also a bridge that does not appear in any released version:

Explain to me the big blue sea
Or the place where certain stars collapse
The singer’s song is always too long
Like everything we taught you
To all Tarzans of rock & industry Janes
The song has been written & yes perhaps
The lucky pimps shall have the best
& let imagination rock you
Why did you land?

Owner of the original PoS demo tape, RichT, has described it as a “killer middle part with a completely different melody.” He also stated that this demo version was for Suitcase 3, although sadly it did not appear on that release. As it stands, this is still an unheard piece of The Power of Suck puzzle.

The case of “Why Did You Land?” also illustrates how, like Bee Thousand, much of The Power of Suck was comprised of bits and pieces of older songs. Not only was the original “Why Did You Land?” a Bee Thousand leftover, but the “new” chorus (“look at the photograph / nothing is real” ) was taken from an even older song: “Perhaps We Were Swinging,” a folky tune recorded in the late 80s (found on Matador’s Hardcore UFOs boxset). “Don’t Stop Now” was also a Bee Thousand leftover (as was “Postal Blowfish” and Sprout’s “It’s Like Soul Man,” although those songs are not yet a part of this album).

Some more examples: “Are You Faster?” seems to take its verse melody from a bit at the end of the Suitcase 2 version of “Dusty Bushworms.” “I Am Decided” is based on an older song known as “Whiskey on Your Breath.” “Sheetkickers” is based an an old instrumental called “Lion w/ Thorn in Paw” (heard on Briefcase 2). “Pink Drink” is taken from a Propeller-era tune called “Song of Below,” the same song that spawned “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory.” “Pantherz” borrows from an 80s composition called “Turbo Boy.”

Of course, this technique is not at all unusual for Pollard, and many of his albums are peppered with instances of “recycling.” It just seems that we have more pieces than usual for this particular album. The songs from this era are rich with connections and discoveries to make.

Mustard Man & Mother Monkey is a great listen, one of my favorite shit-canned albums out there. The four-track recordings have the warm, welcoming sound of Bee Thousand, while the Albini tunes sound like a more muscular take on the Alien Lanes style. The songs only available in demo form (“Are You Faster?,” “Pink Drink”) have a unique and pleasing quality about them as well. Although a finalized version of the album would lack these unpolished demos, they don’t sound terribly out of place of my reconstructed version.

For my version, I stick to the released versions of tracks when available. The mysterious “Imperial Racehorsing” is the only glaring hole. The Albini versions of “Pantherz” and “Bughouse,” are somewhat harder to track down, being released only on the vinyl bootleg Jellyfish Reflector. Though, I think it’s the same version of “Bughouse” on Suitcase 1, but you might want to separate it from the demo version that precedes it on the same track. “Superwhore” was only ever officially released on Briefcase 2. You can download these three hard-to-find tracks here.

Whew! OK. In the next installment of the Power of Suck tale, most of these songs get cut, and a bunch of new songs are added. And it stops being The Power of Suck.

In the meantime, make your own Mustard Man:

Sunfish Holy Breakfast – Beekeeper Seeks Ruth, The Winter Cows, Cocksoldiers
Tonics & Twisted Chasers – Is She Ever?, The Key Losers, The Stir-Crazy Pornographer, Universal Nurse Finger
Suitcase 1 – Pink Drink, Pluto the Skate, Bughouse, Pantherz (demo version)
Suitcase 2 – I Am Decided, Are You Faster?,
Motor Away single – Color of My Blade
Tigerbomb – Not Good for the Mechanism
The Official Ironman Rally Song single – Why Did You Land?
He’s the Uncle available on Amazon MP3 or on Matador’s Hardcore UFOs box.
Under the Bushes, Under the Stars – Redmen and Their Wives, Sheetkickers, Drag Days, Big Boring Wedding, Don’t Stop Now, The Official Ironman Rally Song

When I Go North (1998)

16 Feb

So here’s another alternate look at Do the Collapse. I assume this tracklist is earlier in the album’s development than Human Amusements, so I’ve built this playlist almost entirely out of demos. Lo-fi!

1. Zoo Pie
2. Underground Initiations
3. Dragons Awake!
4. Surgical Focus
5. Shrine To The Dynamic Years (Athens Time Change Riots)
6. Strumpet Eye
7. The Kissing Life
8. Powerblessings
9. Fly Into Ashes
10. James Riot
11. Trashed Aircraft
12. Things I Will Keep
13. When I Go North (aka Vibrations in the Woods)
14. An Unmarketed Product
15. Wormhole
16. Pick Seeds From My Skull
17. Picture Me Big Time
18. Teenage FBI
19. Catfood On The Earwig

As I mentioned, all the DTC songs on this list can be swapped with demo versions. Although I believe these demos were recorded at Cro Magnon studio, the bootlegged copies sound pretty rough.  The shoddy sound and lack of long songs give this set a kind of Alien Lanes feel, like a glimpse into an alternate reality where GBV decided to return to the basement after Mag Earwhig. So, although one could also swap in the album versions of most of these songs, I recommend the lo-fi route. It also helps the three Suitcase tracks blend in, since they’re from the same demo sessions.

In addition to the DTC tracks, there are four tracks from Suitcase and three from solo albums Kid Marine and Waved Out. Lastly, the album ends with “Catfood on the Earwig,” originally from Plantations of Pale Pink — Pollard mentioned around this time that they were going to record a new version of it, but that never materialized. Instead, I’ve swapped in a nice live version from the bootleg King’s Ransom.

“Zoo Pie” makes for an odd, interesting opener. The demo version lacks the distorted vocal effect of the album version, so it feels a little lighter, while still retaining the song’s essential grittiness. The awesomeness of the drums stands out a little more too. This isn’t always the case, but for me the demo sells the song a little better. A faster version of “Underground Initiations” is a nice, energetic track two, and a spirited lo-fi take of “Dragons Awake!” rounds out the opening trio. Unlike the album version, it features drums and bass throughout the entire song.

“Surgical Focus,” the album’s “Smothered in Hugs,” comes next. The demo version offers no major change, and it leads nicely into the non-album “Shrine to the Dynamic Years.” “Shrine” is an odd, angular song that matches the gritty prog tendencies of Do the Collapse with a more energetic, dynamic arrangement. Though the bludgeoning chorus dominates the song, the real highlight is the verse, which feature a nice build-up. Sludgy without being turgid, this song would have sounded GREAT given the big production of the album. It kicks “Optical Hopscotch” to the curb.

The transition from “Shrine” to “Strumpet Eye” is another good one. The demo “Strumpet Eye” opens at full-blast with a brief guitar solo — a vast improvement over the album version, which has a subdued opening verse and feels less rollicking overall. Next is another non-album gem from Suitcase, “The Kissing Life.” It’s a wonderful song with an appealing two-note riff and great vocal melody, culminating in a haunting, triumphant “la la, la LA!” One of the most “classic” sounding songs from this era — it would have fit nicely on Under the Bushes, Under the Stars — I guess it just came along at the wrong time. I doubt Ocasek’s production would have done it any favors, and though it sounds great in this sequence, it doesn’t fit the tone of the final album.

“Powerblessings” is next, the demo version possessing a particularly striking beauty, leading into another favorite of mine, “Fly Into Ashes” (from the Hold on Hope EP). Finishing off this quartet of great non-album songs is the hard-rocker with a soft melodic core “James Riot.” A powerful song hampered by a muddy recording, “James” was made for Ocasek’s production, but apparently Ocasek didn’t dig it. Another loss for Do the Collapse.

Future Boston Spaceships track “Trashed Aircraft” makes an appearance after “James.” There are two pretty similar demo versions of this to choose from, on Suitcase and Delicious Pie & Thank You for Calling.

The back half of this sequence is centered around the hit singles “Things I Will Keep” and “Teenage FBI” and scattered with some minute-long songs (“An Unmarketed Product” and the two from Waved Out). “Picture Me Big Time” is a full minute shorter in demo form, which helps keep it from dragging. “Wormhole” is another song that works better with a lighter touch, and I like the riff during the verse that echoes the vocal melody, not present in the album version.

Finally, the live version of “Catfood on the Earwig” is quite  a different beast than the noise-drenched, drumless EP version. It rocks, and the vocal isn’t buried. I can see how it’d fit well with the TVT era tunes, so it’s too bad there’s no studio version of this arrangement (that we know of).

When I Go North is a rewarding alternate history GBV album, and could even be a gateway into a better appreciation of Do the Collapse. This era has a lot of potential for making your own mix of personal favorites. Just look at all the Do the Collapse/Hold on Hope songs NOT on this sequence:

Hold On Hope
In Stitches
Optical Hopscotch
Mushroom Art
Much Better Mr. Buckles
Liquid Indian
Wrecking Now
Interest Position
Tropical Robots
A Crick Uphill
Idiot Princess
Avalanche Aminos
Do The Collapse

+ other B-Sides
Sucker of Pistol City (which is actually a classic line-up recording!)
Perfect This Time 

Incidentally, there are also a couple more DTC demos on the Hardcore UFOs boxset:
I Invented the Moonwalk (and the Pencil Sharpener), AKA Whiskey Ships
Various Vaults of Convenience

Whew! OK, so I definitely recommend tracking down the DTC demos and giving the lo-fi When I Go North a shot. They are all over Soulseek. You can also hear most of them on this Grooveshark page (maybe one can make a playlist?).

Martketed Products
Do the Collapse
Hold on Hope
The Kissing Life, Shrine to the Dynamic Years, James Riot and Trashed Aircraft on Suitcase.
Boston Spaceships version of Trashed Aircraft on Zero to 99.
Catfood on the Earwig on Plantation of Pale Pink.
Vibrations in the Woods and Picking Seeds from My Skull from Waved Out.
Powerblessings from Kid Marine.
Other DTC demos/live versions on Hardcore UFOs box. (I used this version of “Trashed Aircraft” for my mix)