Garage D’Or Records – 11 Album Mega-Review

I recently received a package of eleven CDs from Garage D’Or Records, including many releases from three decades as prime documenters of the Minneapolis music scene. Since there hasn’t been much else for me to review lately, here’s a rundown of all eleven albums:

The Suicide Commandos – The Commandos Commit Suicide Dance Concert

This is a recording of the last Suicide Commandos concert, which happened at Jay’s Longhorn in Minneapolis on 11/24/78. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, you should probably investigate their lone studio album (Make A Record) first, a fiery platter of Midwest rock and roll released on Mercury’s punk subsidiary Blank Records in 1977. But, if you have that album, and you need more Suicide Commandos in your life, this live album is a corker. The Commandos (they dropped the “Suicide” from their name by this point) split time between originals and well-selected covers over the course of 32 songs (selected from 50 played that night!), attacking each with the kind of live-wire energy you expect, but also a level of musical precision that most “punk” bands couldn’t match.

The Suburbs – High Fidelity Boys: Live 1979

Another 32 track live album recorded at Jay’s Longhorn, this time documenting Minneapolis five-some The Suburbs over the course of several concerts throughout 1979. I have to admit this is my first exposure to the band, who were popular locally for about a decade from 1977-1987, but never could break through nationally. It’s not a good first exposure either. While I imagine these shows were fun for those who attended, the recordings are lo-fi, and the band’s defining characteristics are bad vocals and sloppy playing. Skip it.

L7-3 – Men of Distinction

L7-3 were Chris Osgood and Dave Ahl’s post-Suicide Commandos outfit, with local engineer Steve Fjelstad handling the bass. Men Of Distinction collects their recorded output for the first time, featuring 18 tracks from 1980-81 that sat on Fjelstad’s shelf until 2009. Much like The Suicide Commandos, the playing is tight and energetic, but with a meatier bottom end than the Commandos, likely a bi-product of having bassist also do the engineering. This album should feel be a revelation of New Wave and Punk Rock crossing paths, but I can’t quite jive with Osgood’s goofy Devo-aping vocals.

Barefoot & Pregnant

A 1982 compilation meant to document the burgeoning Minneapolis rock scene of the time. While the album is well known in some circles for featuring rare early recordings of The Replacements, Husker Du and Loud Fast Rules (who would become Soul Asylum), don’t go forking over your money just yet. These songs were all donated from really crappy cassette recordings, so it’s not a great representation of any of the bands. In fact, on The Replacements’ contribution (a live cover of Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades”), you can almost hear the song beneath the tape hiss if you try really hard. While the comp is commendable as a document of the different elements that made up the local scene (everything from Mecht Mensch’s thrashy hardcore blur to Lou Santacroce’s solo country/blues) the sound quality is consistently awful.


Similar in concept to the aforementioned Barefoot & Pregnant, the Kitten compilation significantly ups the shitty sound quality quotient significantly with songs from two nights of live shows recorded at local punk dive Goofy’s Upper Deck. If Husker Du sound sloppy and out of tune on their three songs, then what chance do garden variety HC thrashers Todlachen, Ground Zero and Willful Neglect stand? Loud Fast Rules, moonlighting under the moniker Proud Crass Fools, deliver the set’s only highlight with their album-opening take on CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising”.

Man Sized Action – Five Story Garage

Although Man Sized Action were part of the Minneapolis scene dating back to 1980, 1984’s Five Story Garage was just their second album. The album’s eight songs sound great and are performed with the kind of verve you want to hear from a band spawned during the hardcore zeitgeist. Perhaps you could make an argument for Man Sized Action as an alternate version of Mission of Burma or Husker Du (whose Bob Mould recorded their first album in 1983), or even a next generation take on Wire. That’s an interesting proposition; however, they’re a decidedly second tier talent, displaying very little grasp of songwriting or band dynamics. Everything sounds pretty similar from song to song, which is a real shame. Eight bonus tracks from a 1986 live show give a glimpse into what a third Man Sized Action album might have sounded like had the band stayed together. To me it just sounds like more of the same.

Baby Grant Johnson – A Lonesome Road and All Over Your Town

Two albums, dating from 1997 and 2000 respectively, in the early folk-blues style. A mix of covers and originals, Johnson’s voice doesn’t have the natural grit and grime needed to successfully pull this kind of music off. He actually sounds a bit like Paul Westerberg, which is great for fronting The Replacements, but wrong for acoustic covers of Bukka White, Sleepy John Estes and the like.

The Blood Shot – Wake Up and Die Right and Straight Up

Early hard rock and heavy metal rule the day on these two albums, dating from 2003 and 2004. Normally that kind of thing hits my musical sweet spot, but The Blood Shot are at best clumsy practitioners, and at worst complete amateurs. Andrew Kereakos sings like any random guy in his twenties, the production stinks, and their cover of Pentagram’s “Forever My Queen” found on Straight Up is as horrible as the original is amazing.

Mazhar ve Fuat – Türküz Türkü Çagiririz! (Shadok’s Music)

I always jump at the opportunity to review late-60s and early-70s Anatolian rock reissues. The combination of hard-edged psychedelia and Turkish folk motifs, best exemplified in albums from Baris Manco, Erkin Koray and Cem Karaca, usually makes for a fun listen. However, this 1973 album is one of the weakest I’ve heard. The band’s two principle members (Aziz Fuat Guner and Mazhar Alanson) first met as teens in 1966, bonding over The Beatles. Seven years later they recorded their sole album, and by that time their tastes had moved on to folk rock with mild remnants of psychedelia. That’s all good and well but their execution leaves a lot to be desired. The duo’s biggest flaw is the their vocals, which are largely devoid of emotion or personality. In fact, two songs with lead vocals from an unnamed female guest singer (good luck getting info from the clumsy liner notes) are the album’s best. But singing isn’t the only shortcoming – the duo also fall victim to stale songwriting and boring musicianship. The worst offender is also the album’s only English language song, “Upside Down”, which combines generic hippie-dippy folk-rock and terribly dated protest lyrics about how “we gotta turn the whole damn thing upside down”. Oddly enough, the album has provided beats for Action Bronson and Oh No tracks. So there’s that.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Musique De Film Imagine (A Recordings)

Paying homage to the great European film directors of the ’50s and ’60s through a largely instrumental soundtrack to a film that doesn’t actually exist? That’s a pretty far-fetched premise for most bands, but The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s music has often required (and rewarded) a certain open mindedness and suspension of disbelief from listeners, so it’s no surprise that they’re tackling such a lofty concept. I’ll warn you now: don’t pick up Musique De Film Imagine because you’re expecting it to sound like any of the other albums in the BJM discography, because you’ll be disappointed. Pick it up if you like the band, but also like soundtrack music. This means that you don’t get to hear Anton’s voice on the album, or anyone else in the band’s voice for that matter. “Philadelphie Story” and “Le Sacre du Printemps” are the only songs to feature vocals, but both are sung in French by non-band members SoKo and Asia Argento, respectively (yes, Asia Argento the film actress). Elsewhere, just like a “real” soundtrack, there are several incidental pieces and full band instrumental explorations that develop repeating themes and motifs over the album’s forty minutes. While I probably won’t be listening to Musique de Film Imagine as frequently as other BJM releases from the past 20 years, it still works well as a cohesive piece of film music, reminding me of Air’s soundtrack to The Virgin Suicides or perhaps some of Tindersticks’ soundtracks for Claire Denis’ films.

Dengue Fever – Deepest Lake (Tuk Tuk Records)

If you’ve been following Dengue Fever’s music for the past decade, then chances are good you know exactly what to expect from Deepest Lake. The band’s fifth full-length gives listeners ten additional slices of their trademark mix of surf pop, garage rock and psychedelia, with Chhom Nimol’s distinctive Khmer-language vocals still their defining feature. You won’t find any major shake-ups or curveballs on Deepest Lake’s grooves outside of the song “No Sudden Moves” which delivers minor surprises in the form of a brief rap section and some ’60s-styled horns that have me thinking the band would make good touring partners with Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings. Besides that, the album is business as usual for the band, albeit with a sharper production than anything else in their discography. Although that’s not enough to make Deepest Lake a vital album that will be the cornerstone of music collections for decades to come, it’s good fun and that’s enough for me to recommend it.

Disappears – Irreal (Kranky Records)

If you’re keeping stats on Disappears you’ll know that Irreal is the Chicago band’s fifth full-length album since 2010, and their second consecutive release which sheds the rock influences like The Stooges, shoegaze and Spacemen 3 which were so prominent on their first three albums. As someone who writes music reviews, Irreal presents me with a pretty large problem, because I can’t draw any conclusions on if it’s any good or not. It’s certainly an impressive record, and I can’t think of another album in recent memory that captures the sound of modern life quite as well as Irreal does. The songs are discomforting and largely detached from human emotion or warmth, which is probably a good description of what life in 2015 feels like for many people. Brian Case’s vocals rarely ever venture beyond sinister spoken statements, drummer Noah Leger is practically allergic to standard time signatures, and the guitars are usually a series of slow-drip clangs and scrapes. It’s a hard album to place into the continuum of music history, but if I had to draw connections to other bands I’d say the Disappears are mining similar territory to Miles Davis’ electric band from the ’70s, but only if they were thrust into the art-damaged world of early-80s No Wave acts like Sonic Youth and The Swans. Now here’s the rub: While Irreal is an impressively constructed album, it’s so “post-human” that it’s almost impossible to get any enjoyment out of it. Its probably not an album the band meant to be enjoyed either, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. So, at the end of the day, I don’t know how to define the album. Is it a great work of art? Is it unlistenable? Is it an achievement? Or is it something you would only listen to for self-punishment? Is it all of these things? I don’t really know. Maybe its inability to be easily defined and understood is the album’s real accomplishment.

Soccer Mom – Soccer Mom (100M Records)

Soccer Mom’s debut album is also their last, as the band announced they were calling it a day in September 2014. It’s one of those albums that sounds really intriguing off the bat, but further listens reveal limitations that ultimately kill that initial burst of enthusiasm. Sonically, the Boston foursome stay firmly within the confines of the alt-rock sound of 1988-91; specifically Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. That’s a great set of influences but after a few listens you realize that Soccer Mom’s only admirable attribute is their ability to sound a lot like those bands. Sticking so close to your influences can make a band seem unimportant, but it doesn’t mean they’re automatically unappealing to listen to. Soccer Mom score some points as tight musicians, but all they had to do was find a unique angle or have a definable personality, and I’d be gushing over them. Lord knows we could use some strong guitar-driven rock bands these days. Without a shred of originality, I’m content to forego Soccer Mom and simply give Daydream Nation, Bug and Isn’t Anything another spin.

Acid Baby Jesus – Selected Recordings (Slovenly Recordings)

I don’t know who your favorite Greek psychedelic band is, but mine is the mighty Acid Baby Jesus. Selected Recordings is their second full length album, and it’s a pretty goddamn wild trip. Where a lot of modern psychedelic bands are content to simply work within the genre’s preconceived boundaries, these guys seem legitimately weird, which makes a huge difference. Their first album had a garage rock vibe that reminded me of Ty Segall, but Selected Recordings is almost uniformly dedicated to drugged up drone-rock damage. Songs like “Diogenes”, “Night of Pan” and “Ayahuasca Blues” have me thinking of The Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” but with a modern production and Spacemen 3-like dedication to achieving some kind of noisy nirvana meant to replicate (or enhance) the drug experience. “Who’s First” represents a sonic outlier, sounding like an obscure single from the early days of California punk. Oh, and the lyrics have something to do with a gay cop looking to give someone oral sex. You certainly won’t hear that on the next Foxygen album! Two songs later, “Troublemaker” blasts your brain with a Sabbath-y heaviness that’s always welcome. Selected Recordings has cool sounds and cool songs, so check it out.