Tag Archives: The Vapors

Under The Radar: Crumb

CRUMB: Seconds, Minutes, Hours…

This one dates back about thirteen years, back when TransAction Magazine was landing my brain nuggets in all sorts of cool clubs in London, Paris and Tokyo as well as Manhattan. It gave me a nice forum to write a gattling-gun column of odds and ends, things that wouldn’t fit into the tight print requirements of the glossy magazines that were so prevalent then.

So all the CDs that were too commercial, too obscure or assigned to others were directed there. The Editor was happy to get the volume, the bands and labels were happy for the coverage, and I was happy to have my byline in the Eastern hemisphere. Ah, simpler times

Crumb’s album came out on Red Ant Records, the label that I thought would re-launch Cheap Trick’s career until they imploded and killed whatever momentum either band had. Here’s my 1998 review from TransAction

TransAction Magazine

About half a great record – the first three tracks sound like someone found The Vapors in a time capsule and defrosted them, and they landed mid-riff! Wow! “Tonight“, Overboard” and “Exhibit A” all have great vocals, power-buzz guitars and that Big Drum Sound I love so much.

Then there’s “Do You Remember?”, the acoustic ballad with strings, proving that the Goo Goo Dolls didn’t patent the genre. (Matter of fact, if this was on the radio, it would sell a million just like the Goos do.)

But after literally launching me into orbit, the second half leaves me lost in space, free-floating away from my capsule, air sucked out of my lungs.

Okay, okay, maybe that’s a little overboard, but energy aside it all starts to sound the same (with the exception of “Cressida“, which smokes!). Lets just say that lovers of muscle pop should gobble this up regardless, while others will see Crumb as a band with EP ideas and a CD budget. So if you can accept skipping over the mundane to savor the charms, go for it.

Listen at Amazon (and get it for a penny).

Hey! My label's dead!

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New Album! The Wigs

Play loud and often.

Play loud and often.

Back in the caveman days (pre-Internet), a band had to break out the old-fashioned way. Play. Play a lot. Play well. Build a fanbase, build some momentum, attract some attention, swim against a tidal wave of opposition and – if you didn’t succumb to the temptations of ego, drugs and alcohol – maybe you’d be lucky enough to make it to the next rung. After all, if the local radio station would get behind you, maybe the next town’s key jock would want to make certain he got on board before it was too late, and then if you could find a similar band in the next town, maybe you could trade gigs and start to expand.

Although just about every pop fan swore up and down that we were sitting on rock’s greatest secret at the time (mine was The Flashcubes), we now see that there were dozens of really, really good bands that could have stood toe-to-toe with most of the ones the labels were grabbing and trying to shove down our throats. But without the MySpaces and Facebooks (let alone the ability to mass produce your record on the cheap and/or on demand) some bands couldn’t get off the ground financially, while others are still sitting on a basement full of unsold vinyl to this day. And even if you did get that single out, now MTV was the hot item, and oh yeah…your DJ doesn’t make his own playlist anymore.

Which is just my roundabout way of saying that I wish I had known about The Wigs back in the day, but I’m thankful that they decided to remaster these tracks and reissue them. Because File Under: Pop Vocal is an amazing record – in either time period. The music is clean, crisp and rocking, running the gamut from Merseybeat and early Beatles (“180 Degrees”, “What I Got”, “Tell It All”) to post-punk (“You Say Ono”) along with the skinny-tie pop of their era. Given the chance – and according to the bio they were snakebit in that area – this record would have probably eclipsed bands like The Vapors, The Jags, and others and at least gotten into territory where The Romantics and The Beat were dwelling. Unfortunately they were not to be, and like The Wonders, it was one and done. (“A very common tale”, says Mr. White.)

So what made them the shoulda-coulda of their time in Milwaukee? You mean besides great songs and musicianship much more adept than many of their pop peers? Well, The Wigs combined the pop smarts and vocal harmonies of The Rubinoos with a harder rocking edge; a formula that works best on my favorite tracks, “Susie’s Got A Problem” and “Tijuana”. They had a killer leadoff track in “I Can See It Now” (complete with requisite jukebox quarter-drop sound byte) propelled by Bobby Tews‘ drums, an inventive cover (“Mony Mony”) and a prom grinder of a slow song (“Popular Girl”) that really showed off the vocal harmony between Marty Ross and Jim Cushinery. This reissue of the original album also includes a couple of tracks that didn’t make the cut the first time, although this sequence of tracks sounds perfect to me.

File Under Pop Vocal is a no-brainer must-have for any fan of the genre; a solid fourteen-track effort that would rank with the best of 2009 if it were a new release. Hard to believe this was recorded twenty-seven years ago, but it’s like finding money in your pants pocket. Lots of money.

The Wigs on MySpace.

The Wigs at CD Baby: check out some clips.

Yes, Marty Ross was in the New Monkees.

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