The single is not dead. It’s just shifted sideways. These days it’s a taster or a teaser to a new LP, rather than a serious stab at the big-time.
Long gone are the days when The Temptations, Slade, or REM could issue a song and watch the dollars roll in.
Never heard of Lonely Stretch? It’s their first release, I don’t think they’ve played any gigs yet (spare me that tedious bullshit about how "ya gotta’ play a bazillion gigs and go into thousands of dollars worth of debt before you’re considered to have paid yer dues") and they’re all Adelaide, kinda, with a knowing series of drives to and from Melbourne under their belt.
Never heard of Lyres? Consider this review an education. The rest of you with the remotest interest in the band or the seven-inch vinyl format should just scroll to the end and hit the Buy It link.
In the beginning, there was DMZ, a ‘60s-influenced Boston “punk” band of the late ‘70s who signed to the Bomp and then Sire labels..,and promptly fell off the edge of the earth.
They can find live recordings but a studio EP and a solitary eponymous album were their only recorded output during their brief lifespan (the latter spoilt by over-production - thanks Flo and Eddie!) DMZ were especially notable for two things: Recording a killer cover of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and spawning Monoman, aka Jeff Connolly.
Connolly was the organist-vocalist for DMZ and a more ornery, irascible devotee of ‘60s rock and roll Nuggetism you’d be unlikely to uncover. His online outbursts on the old Bomp mailing list were the stuff of capslock legend. Within days of DMZ dissolving, he’d assembled a new band, Lyres. Other DMZ members would go on to play with The Cars and Ya Lo Tengo. Lyres have colaborated with the likes of the late Stiv Bators and Wally Tax (from Holland's wonderful Outsiders.)
Monoman (so called because of his predilection for the audio format) has a vocal not a million miles away from that of Roky Erickson. He’s been the one constant in countless line-ups of Lyres, some of which have contained DMZ members. Lyres live on today.
“Lucky 7” assembles 16 Lyres tracks over seven, 7” singles and is the last word in the garage rock revival scene (a term Connolly hates) of the 1980s. Most of the songs appeared on Ace of Hearts Records, the band’s Boston home. They’re compiled on an accompanying CD which is part of the box set, not a standalone at this stage. This review is being written from that.
Lyres - never “The Lyres” or the more heinous sin of “Thee Lyres” - made (and continue to make) wired, melodic, energetic, hooky, organ-propelled rock and roll. It’s peerless in its simplicity, soulfulness and freshness.
Its epitome is the first Lyres album, “On Fire” (1984), and especially the first side, where tremolo-edged gems like “Help You Ann” and “Don’t Give It Up Now” blow away anything else in the ballpark. It’s the peak but all the subsequent releases are worth your time of day.
A box set of singles is the ultimate vehicle for Lyres songs. All the greatest pre-download bands should be summed by their 7” singles. This set includes the band’s first recording, taken from an acetate of “How Do You Know?” And “It’s All Right”, put down a fortnight into their existence. These are rough recordings and largely of historical interest (the definitive “How Do You Know?” Is on disc two.) The other singles span the pre and post “On Fire” output.
You might know “She Pay The Rent” from the Nomads’ rather different cover. Great song either way you cut, it but Lyres’ version wins hands-down on economy. “We Sell Soul” brings up the rear on the final single and it’s a magnificent cover of a brooding song by Roky Erickson’s pre-Elevators band The Spades.
How often can you hold up a box set and say there isn’t a dud in the tracklist?
So why is a free downloadable single such a significant item?
Because it’s not just a cheaper snapshot into an artist’s work. It can be an Instagram into an imaginary, lush and extraordinary world. The single worships the song itself, transforms it from one more song in a sequence (as with a CD or LP) and one more song in a set, and draws the song into greater, more concentrated focus.
Which means, when you hear something labelled a single, if it’s an old single, like from before the 1990s, you really do have to imagine the new owner playing the song over and over.
Melbourne-via-Perth power-poppers The Golden Rail have released this as a taster to their forthcoming album. With a cv that includes playing with Header, The Rainyard, The Jangle Band, DM3, The Palisades, and Showbag, you could suspect it’s going to be good - and it is.
“Oh My!” Is lilting jangle-pop with with a sweet chorus reminiscent of a Robert Forster song. Written by the band’s creative core of Jeff Baker and Ian Freeman, it sounds like it dropped right out of the sky during paisley pop’s mid-‘80s heyday...right after the Go Betweens had seeded the clouds.
The advice doesn’t come often around here but when it does, it’s always free. So here’s a dose: If you see a record with The Dahlmanns’ name on it and you’re into powerpop, buy it. The same goes for Andy Shernoff (but you probably knew that already). This one has both so how can you go wrong?
The Dahlmanns are wife-and-husband, Line Dahlman and Andre Dahlmann, plus a bunch of other Norwegian Dahlmanns, currently Otto, Jan Erik, Magnus, and Pål. Shernoff is the songwriting genius behind The Dictators (R.I.P.) and his own solo work. Andy wrote both songs and duets with Line on the A side.
Punk turned Americana country bluesman Peter Blast occupies a musical space vacated by Nikki Sudden and contested by a string of similar-minded outriders. This two-song CD single gives a glimpse of why the others are mostly pretenders.
He might look like his late friend Johnny Thunders’ Chicago cousin and Blast shares his plaintive vocal stylings, but the soulful music he makes is all his own. “Population Zero” is sparse, country blues dressed in a skeletal arrangement and spooky lap slide. Herein lies the Nikki Sudden comparison.