do you know the secret trousers?
CITY PAGES, minneapolis
"Still Crazy After All This Year"
The brightest revelations, as usual, come from the darkest corners--and less established backers. Do You Know the Secret Trousers? arrives via indie labels Stick It to the Man Records and Mod Holland, standing as a stern rebuke to cynics who claim that lo-fi post-whatever has--along with literature, rock 'n' roll, and the ability to shock with hairdos--gone gently into Screamin' Jay's good night. The album is also proof that bad music polished to shine at one of our more expensive studios is no match for okay-to-great music rendered with terrible production.
The potent garage snarl of Thee Kiss N Tells is so vintage you feel every second past the first two minutes and 47 seconds. But Wendy Darst and hubby Howlin' Andy rip so hard into their fricatives that garage-punk suddenly seems not just a good idea but the only idea--an antidote for these dreary days of math rock and emo-ting. The rest is nearly as fun: Jesse Peterson's Sonic Youthful brooding; unheard gems from the Pins and Terry Eason; and an odd-song-out by Lori Wray, a gifted singer-songwriter who stops the noise train long enough to show that she has internalized Carole King's delicate way around potentially pretentious jazz changes.
THE BROKEN FACE, sweden
Even though I am technically in charge of this ’zine I still have deadlines to follow. Otherwise we’d end up with one issue per year including 200 pages of reviews, because we simply don’t know how to stop. That being said, you understand this one being written in the “just one more” mode so characteristic around deadline time. Well, I am not going to torture you with any more “how to make a ‘zine facts”, rather focus on the music.
“Do You Know the Secret Trousers” is a Minneapolis sampler that aims high, trying to cover a lot of ground and does it fairly well, thank you. The Pins main man, Rich Barlow, stands partly beyond this release with his own Stick It to the Man Records label (together with Mod Holland) but the Pins also contributes with three well-executed mid-tempo Kiwi-rock tasting delights. Other highlights are the fragile 60’s flavored psych pop gem from the Autumn Leaves’ and the dark droning guitar pop from Jesse Petersen. But there are also some up-right garage-y things here which might very well not be the strongest pieces on the record but nicely points out that there are quite a few things going on in Minneapolis. Lori Wray performs a classic pop/folk song with strong and powerful vocals perfectly accompanying the soft handling of the guitar. The closer from Eason is another fine thing with distinctive but quiet guitars desperately fighting to persuade song-smith Eason that there indeed should be some squealing guitars in this well-crafted low-tempo rocker. Despite certain tendencies in that direction they never succeed which gives the whole thing a very nice restrained on the edge vibe.
Highly recommended but as with quite a few other compilations out there it includes some ups and downs but that really only makes you appreciate the good tracks more.
PTOLEMAIC TERRASCOPE, melksham england
Do You Know the Secret Trousers? is the usual grab bag of Byrdsy pop (The Autumn Leaves) and garage (Thee Kiss n Tells). It occasionally leaps out of the box though, Flim Flam Man's freakish "Hate My Name" for one, with its Hammer horror organ and screaming. Jesse Petersen's "Concentration" is genuinely trance-like and transporting in places, reminding me of New Fast Automatic Daffodils' "Your Dreams My Nightmares." However, Eason's sub pub-rock backing and monotone drawl is more body numbing than an out of body experience. As I said, a grab bag, but a mixed one.
STAR TRIBUNE, minneapolis
As far as compilation albums go, ''Do You Know the Secret Trousers?'' rises to the top as one of the year's better releases. Uncovering the Twin Cities psych-rock, pop and garage-rock underground, the album's highlights include the Autumn Leaves' gorgeous pop balladry, Lori Wray's engaging folk-pop, Thee Kiss N Tells' bristly and raw rock and scads of other choice cuts by the likes of the Chimes, Eason, the Pins and Work of Saws.
-Vickie Gilmer Casey
CITY PAGES, minneapolis
The musicians on the local compilation CD Do You Know the Secret Trousers seem like real music fans--not always a given. Lori Wray tells of times when only "brooding to Nick Drake crooning" will do, while Guy Low sings about "cannons booming like the Stooges playing a Stooges tune." But Trousers' 18 tracks are not merely exercises in flipping through the stacks--the bands are using their influences to some intriguing ends. The Pins' three cuts are a shiny new alloy of the best bits of the Bats and early Brian Eno. Eason's numbers show a quirky, super-lo-fi Brit sound that didn't entirely surface on a recent opening set for the Bevis Frond. And "The Light Brigade of Fireflies" finds the Autumn Leaves shedding their earlier Church-worship for a sound lightly sun-dappled by the Beach Boys.
This is a collection of Minneapolis.-local bands that roamed the sprawling cityscape circa 1999. Many of these bands played together, judging by the collage of gig fliers on the jacket, and for the most part they all adhere to a lo-fi early rock sensibility. It's kind of encouraging, when one contemplates the course of mankind's progress, to realize that regardless of what becomes popular or what gets hyped up to make the most money,
there are still people out there who can make sincere, what they do, and maybe they'll fold in a couple years, but knowing that the too-smooth, fabricated tapestry of evolution can still get worsted-up and produce earnest tunage born of boundryless, timeless human condition is enough incentive to keep checking out the local bands and see what's hiding in a bowling alley or who's being shoved into an opening slot at 7th Street Entry. Here are some of the features of this CD:
* The Pins sound like freeze-dried indie-rock from the late-'80s. Earnest, off-key vocals and piano accent behind simplistic bass and strumming guitar that's too easy to love. These guys are a bag of salvaged clothes from Ragstock and going back to the dorm to put on some Happy Mondays and open up letters wrapped in envelopes made from magazine pages. Through the course of their three tracks, "Summer Leaves," "Box of Medals," and "Tonight," the listener is treated to a full palette of emotion. Haunting, droning chords and singing of such longing, lyrics that tell a compelling yet almost intrusively personal story, this track sounds like the Suburbs and Japan collaborating for a mope-rock composition. The lyrics keep from getting too flaky and losing the audience, or maybe the music keeps them believable. Music to explore late-teen romance by for po-mo chicks and nerds who suddenly find themselves fashionable as the subculture wends its incomprehensible path through the lives of poor college students! Beautiful back-up vocals descent like dying leaves at midnight and the music taps its magical fingertips tenderly upon your forehead.
* Thee Kiss n Tells: "Day In, Day Out" - Screechy, frenetic guitars and drums banging over chopped stock car footage, and the cutest little minx yowling and gasping over it all. Kinda like early Cramps but more polished and less hokey - these guys are just naturally this rockabilly and retro. Seeing these guys live would feel like spotting $10 on the sidewalk in a crowded street. "Take a Look Around" - Was there supposed to be this much distort? The levels keep cutting out; if that's a byproduct of impromptu recording that's forgivable. Otherwise the effect is wasted and just gets in the way of trying to enjoy what could be a jazzy, pounding little number. Alternately threatening and cavalier, the lead singer only lapses into conventional hack punk verbal patterns for filler but for the most part rollicks along with the beat of the song. This is a song that sticks in your head and you make up your own lyrics for 'cos you couldn't remember or understand them in the first place. But it's fun. "It's You" - This is a painful, accusatory love song of damnation and degeneration. These songs are always enjoyable 'cos you get to poke around in someone else's murk and maybe pretend it's your own, 'cos you wanna be a badass like these guys.
* The punkish-surf-rockabilly outfit known as Flim Flam Man merits three tracks on Secret Trousers. "Hate My Name": eerie organ dancing around heavily distorted guitar, with raunchy, barking vocals blaring from the sides. With its roots in Negativland or early Violent Femmes, "Hot Water" is music to scream and jump and kick your friends by. "The Nasty Remains" is jagged, confrontational post-punk balladry that dares you not to like it. Screechy, charmed-with-our-clever-young-selves vocals like Ziggy Stardust revel in your love-hate relationship with the style.
* Eason flips a dark coin, silently wheeling up into the cool late-evening air: "Shut Up, Thank You" is a clever, subtle, relentless stream of consciousness over fuzzy bass and electric guitar. You keep listening to this guy going on and waiting for him to fuck up, waiting for him to flub up some words or flounder for the next phrase, but he just keeps staggering along down his lyrical path like an inexorable ghost who's hip to a rhythm and pattern you haven't yet discerned. The emo-rock jam session "Gray Nothing" features crafty lyrical content accentuated with knowledgeable vocal delivery. If it were any more energetic it would be definite feel-bad music, but this eponymous number lofts and bobs slowly around a nebulous haze. Early Pink Floyd, maybe, but less fruity and more relevant to the 20-something resentful working stiff.
*Work of Saws is a hard pill to take. There's only so much one can stumble and plod through before one has crossed the Point of No Return and lost the right to and say "I meant to do that." "Life in the Lung" tries to be spooky and driven, and it sounds like it's just trying. It doesn't do anything, it just tries a whole lot. "My Special Robot" is pensive, psychodramatic chord progression telling an insane little story like a sci-fi Ishmael, and you have to decide if you're buzzed enough to stand hearing it. Sometimes experimentation breaks new ground and sets new precedents, and sometimes it just grates and irritates the soul and should be scrapped for parts.
* Jesse Peterson, "Concentration" - This guy knew what he wanted to accomplish and he knew how to get other people to do it. What we have here is a well-sculpted artwork drawing deep on a harsh cigarette and picking its way down a dirt path. He has his Doors influence but he also has his own ideas. Peterson subjects you to swelling, spacey acid rock that unfurls to engulf the listener; pearls of evocative, archetypical lyrics that provoke the listener to thought or the abandonment thereof as you let someone else's concrete ideas inundate your thoughtmeats.
* Lori Wray, "The Nervous Light of Sunday" - Free jazz? Elemental earth rock? Velveteen, plaintive cries from highrise downtown to the god of night and coffee? Wray's voice is milky smooth and warm, and the band agrees to switch through musical genres like a Rubik's Cube in mid-stride. You listen to her and you stare in disbelief, wondering why greatness hasn't stolen her away, being grateful it hasn't, sensing you're on the edge of something tremendous. She takes such chances with chord progression, and they all pay off in spades. The lyrics are unpretentious yet clever and impactful.
-The Dread Reverend
FIRST AVENUE, IN HOUSE MAGAZINE, minneapolis
The Secret Trousers Society assembles out of sheer force of will a super-groovy local semi-underground music collective. This indie, bacon-frying, low-fi, proto-psychedelic, punkification has arrived and needs to be heard. All for one and one for all. Saucerful of Trousers. They're all out of bubblegum. Stick It To The Man.
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