The Breakfast Club stuck in a VCR at the cabin or Yukon Blonde – On Blonde

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Shooting for the sound of Joy Division and hitting the Psychedelic Furs instead means only one thing to a fan of Yukon Blonde; the sound was overhauled in a total ‘WTF’ way. Confusion can be forgiven when a leap from R.E.M. mixed with Teenage Fanclub becomes an analog synth driven kaleidoscope of the 80’s New Wave movement. The opening track “Confusion” may not have been written as a message to fans, but the coincidence certainly matches the sound I’m hearing.

That said – I’m digging it!

Gone are guitar fronted loose ‘extenda jams’ that were present in Yukon Blonde’s eponymous 2010 debut and in is the more atmospheric layered production of a far more evolved unit. The change shouldn’t be entirely shocking as synth-pop has always been an element of the Yukon Blonde sound. “Make U Mine” with its playful flirt has a slight Prince feel and single “Saturday Night” lays out that “Safety Dance” vibe that has weird haircuts and pastel clothing running for the dance floor.

The whole Yukon Blonde experience is built around fun and On Blonde is no different from Tiger Talk in terms of lyrical themes. Still, to have so completely transformed from one record to the next makes one wonder if they had The Breakfast Club stuck in a VCR at some old woodsy locale. You know, a few friends, some odd flavoured cider and that guy who says every line a step out of cue until you all start yelling.

Good Times…

For vinyl lovers, go to the Kings Road site where they are offering On Blonde in a pretty cool looking gatefold cover with orange/black splatter wax. Only 300 are available so move quickly.

Holding history in my hand – The Posies: “I Am The Cosmos”

Back in ’93 I was handed a copy of Big Star’s – Columbia: Live at the University of Missouri. It was my entrance into the world of Big Star. Previous to this I had heard the odd track on my campus radio station as well as seeing numerous references as influences by many of my favorite artists, but I had yet to hear a whole album. One song caught me right away.

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Perhaps the greatest song the rock masses never heard is Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos.” Even for those lucky enough to have heard Big Star back in the 70’s, “Cosmos” was a single that saw only limited release in Memphis in 1978 and certainly never attained (like Big Star itself) national attention. Bell himself would be killed in a car accident later the same year.

Still, like a few other legendary acts (The Velvet Underground, Flying Burrito Brothers) it seems that those that did listen became musicians themselves. By the early 90’s, power-pop was becoming ‘a thing’ and Big Star started showing up as influences for a plethora of alt-rock acts. So as “alternative-mania” was in full 1992 swing Fantasy Records released Big Star’s #1 Record and Radio City as a single CD, and Rycodisc released Third/Sister Lovers. In was at this point that the Posies covered “I Am The Cosmos” and “Feel.” Around the same time Rycodisc also released a compilation of Chris Bell solo material entitled I Am The Cosmos.

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Now, what makes this single of the Posies an important part of music history is what happened the following year. Two students at the University of Missouri asked Alex Chilton if he would be interested in performing some Big Star songs for a concert. With Chilton in Jody Stephens (drums, vocals) also agreed but Andy Hummell refused(bass), which left a hole to be filled on bass, and second guitar for this to be pulled off. Names got tossed out like Mike Mills (REM), Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub and Paul Westerberg, but nothing really stuck until Ardent Records (where Big Star had recorded) founder John Fry pulled a translucent blue single he had tacked to the wall down and gave it another listen.

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That single led to the Posies being asked to fill in for Andy Hummell and the late Chris Bell. Not only was the concert a huge success, but it was also released as the live album already mentioned. Suddenly there was “new” music to be talked about with the old material, and word was getting out. A new generation were looking for Big Star records and finding them… something that didn’t happen when the band was originally together.

Of course this is total conjecture, but that single in combination with the re-release of Big Star’s three studio records, led us to todays Big Star revival. All three records have been re-released on audiophile vinyl with a great special edition of Third/Sisters Lovers being put out by Omnivore Records. Had Chilton not passed away in 2010 it is likely Big Star would have done an extensive tour.

“Cosmos” itself has been covered live by Big Star, the Posies, Beck, Wilco, This Mortal Coil and The Jayhawks to name but a very few. If only I could get my hands on that original single.

Of course that is one Chris Bell song. As for Alex Chilton and Big Star… well, it’ll take a few more posts to cover that.