The Cutout Bin

A collection of discarded or otherwise forgotten music.

-My fileserver is free, and you get what you pay for... so try rightclicking the mp3s and selecting "save link target as". You may have to do it more than once.

-Please see post #1 "Begin the begin" (3/24/06) for the raison d'etre for this blog. If you object to your music being posted here, email me and I will remove it.

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Repo Man's got all night, every night...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Kevin Salem

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Score one for serendipity. In 1994, I was trolling Schoolkids Records in Raleigh and came across Kevin Salem's debut solo disc "Soma City". I remembered that Salem had been in Dumptruck, a band I quite liked, so I bought it. After getting home, I discovered my error- Dumptruck had been founded by the songwriting duo of Seth Tiven and Kirk Swan. Swan left after two albums and was replaced by Kevin Salem, who did not write or sing on the one Dumptruck record on which he appeared. I'd mistaken Salem for Swan, but it turned out all for the best.

Salem is a brilliant songwriter who fronts a solidly rocking band on his first two albums- "Soma" and 1996's "Glimmer". I've always felt the epitome of studio technology was reached circa 1975, and producer Niko Bolas (the guy who did Neil Young's "Living With War") dials in a warm '70s analog grit on those two albums that suits the songs to a T. The kick drum sound alone in "Run Run Run" absolutely slays me. "Glimmer" is a little rawer than "Soma", but they both exhibit the same world-weary vocals and rough-and-tumble playing that manages to recall '70s Dylan, Stones and Neil Young while still tipping a hat to the post-punk world with high octane aggression. Salem's band deserves credit for being able to groove, even on the fast stuff- by knowing when to stay a little behind the beat and play it loose without missing a note. It's not easy, but they make it sound like it is. "Glimmer" is another CD I always bring in to the recording studio to measure my own engineering work.

Salem's relationship with his label disintegrated immediately after "Glimmer"'s release, and the band split up as well. It took him five years to issue a followup, and 2001's "Ecstatic" is very different from the first two. Salem's writing is as sharp as ever, but he integrates contemporary influences in ways that don't always work (looping and computer manipulation pop up throughout, "It's Only Life" contains the wildly incongruous contribution of a rapper). By anyone else's standards "Ecstatic" would be a great album, but for an artist of Salem's caliber it's a bit of a letdown. To his credit though, the loss of Bolas (who still mixed three tracks) and his crack band from the first two albums isn't the obstacle one might imagine.

Kevin Salem is also a producer with a lengthy resume, a pursuit he seems to have been pursuing more seriously since he hasn't released any music of his own since "Ecstatic". I hope we haven't heard the last of him.

Run Run Run.mp3
from "Glimmer", 1996

from "Soma City", 1994

From "Ectatic", 2001

UPDATE: As of 12/06 Salem has a new (to me, anyway) website, which claims he's planning a 2007 release, as well as re-releasing his three previous albums. Something to look forward to in the new year!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Cavedogs

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Mark Rivers- Drums
Todd Spahr- Guitar, Vocals
Brian Stevens- Bass, Vocals

Hometown- Boston, MA

I first heard The Cavedogs on MTV's "120 Minutes" in 1990. For those of you fortunate enough to have been spared the agony of "120 Minutes", allow me to explain- back in the days when MTV played things called "music videos", they had a show on Sunday nights from 10 to midnight that featured "alternative" music. This was in the pre-Nirvana era, when hair metal still ruled mainstream music. "120 Minutes" was hosted by an insufferable british wanker named Dave Kendall who really, really liked Manchester rave music like Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets. Still, every week a couple of cool videos managed to sneak in, like the Pixies brilliant "Veloria" (which aired exactly once), Shane's "Ride Ride Ride", and whatever the current Replacements video was (which in retrospect were all pretty bad, but hey, it was still the Replacements).

Every sunday, my friends and I took over the TV room in somebody's dorm and hung out drinking beer and making fun of Dave and all the ridiculously stupid videos he played (like REM's "Losing My Religion"- I have rarely laughed as hard as I did when I first saw that one). It was like live-action "Mystery Science Theater 3000", we even wrote him hate mail. Still, for all the Depeche Mode and Live videos we sat through, I did get hipped to some cool music- like The Cavedogs. By the time the video for "Tayter Country" was over, I knew I had to check this band out.

The Cavedogs follow one of my favorite sonic templates- bracing guitar rock infused with classic pop hooks. I borrowed a copy of their first album "Joyrides For Shut-Ins" from the campus radio station, but beyond the two singles ("Tayter" and "Leave Me Alone") it didn't do much for me at the time, so I didn't pick it up (I've since re-acquainted myself with "Joyrides" and discovered it's much better than I thought). Two years later, the followup "Soul Martini" came out. I decided to give it a spin and immediately fell in love. "Soul Martini" is a classic power pop album, taking a distinct cue from the late period Beatles. This is often hazardous ground, as most bands that think they have a "Sgt. Pepper" in them, don't (anybody ever heard the Jayhawks' "Smile" disaster?). The Cavedogs did. The kitchen-sink production never steps on the songs or weighs them down- it's a smörgåsbord of loudly rocking baroque pop. As a musician and recording engineer, I use "Soul Martini" as a yardstick for my own work- one I've never come close to reaching. If you ever come across this CD in the used bin, pick it up- you won't be disappointed.

Sadly, the album only garnered mixed reviews and after a halfhearted promotional push from their record company, the debt-ridden Cavedogs put themselves out of their misery in 1992. All three Cavedogs have continued to make music, which you can read about here-
The Cavedogs

Brian Stevens' wry take on his career-
Brian Stevens Bio

Tayter Country.mp3
From "Joyrides For Shut-Ins", 1990.

You re Put Away (Folderol).mp3
From "Soul Martini", 1992

Part Of This.mp3
From the "Rock Takes A Holiday" promo EP, 1992