Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kids of the Atomic Age on Unread Records

Christopher at Unread has been pressing singles and releasing cassettes for way longer than I've been seriously writing about singles. He has an extensive back catalog and keeps surprising me with releases from all kinds of bands... like this lathe cut from Kids of the Atomic Age, which Christopher was/is a member...I don't see him listed in the liner notes but I know he'll be joining them on a live tour soon enough, and hopefully they make it to Brooklyn.
The sleeve is silk screened art from Chris; a couple of kids coming together, drunk and singing with a messy typewriter font. It's super nostalgic...the whole thing could be from the late 90's and this was at the bottom of that pile...I guess it's timeless in that way.
This kind of one man 4-track project is always going to exist. It's not about the technology anymore, but the immediacy of capturing these really personal moments. It's a little voyeuristic, and anyone can relate to self doubt and substance abuse.
Then there's the elusive lathe cut...if there is anything more precious than a seven inch, it's the handcrafted lathe cut single. This one is not only clear but super thick, square on the edge even, and the needle can sometimes slide into the side of the groove somehow and give the whole thing an entirely different texture.
The A-Side 'Winter Nights', reminds me of the early home recorded stuff from John Davis, or Calvin Johnson, it's the late night, alone in the bedroom, barely able to lay the vocal track down. It's even Connor Oberst, so confessional and autobiographical in obscure lyric ways that I'm straining to hear, feeling a little bit bad spying on that couple out the back window, fighting in their apartment. I know their happy sometimes.
Slow tempo bassline with minimal drum machine, echo on a xylophone, with layered high earnest vocals... it's the kind of thing that takes courage, people are actually going to hear this after all...hell, you might even have to play with that macho garage punk band setting their cymbals on fire that just got off stage. It takes just as much balls to perform this sentiment.

The second track Pen Pal Antics, sounds a little more's starting a brand new day, throwing away a bad report card. The chorus of voices intermingles with the crackly imperfections and dropouts of the lathe cut, and you're sure just one more play through and it's going to disintegrate. It really adds to the whole mood of this piece. It's a fleeting document, loose diary pages blew off the windowsill and are out in the street.

The B-Side, 'There is no help for you': Bryon has that teenage quality to his voice, that Cap'n Jazz pure emotional delivery....or Sunny Day Real Estate when I wouldn't ever think that it's going to work, but then of course it does better than anything. It has to. There's no pretense to it, not trying to sound like anything else. He uses it to the best of anything on A collection of Songs recorded 1995-1997.
The instrumentation here is way off in the background, the focus is always on the vocals and the content, telling the sweetly pathetic story and from under the hiss of a handcut
single, it's the reason seven inches are still great, how it reminds me of pawing through new Sebadoh and Palace singles and then you take a chance on that green sleeve, Needle in the Hay and it doesn't leave the turntable for days.
...and I don't even want to be in this place, crying into my beer. Like two people on the subway reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and not even noticing each other. But it's too late, the kids can't help it.

Get it from Unread Records. If you're into the even more obscure cassette tape format, KOTAA and Chris have got some releases for you. If you this sounds good on 7", it has to get even better on the tiny reel to reel's.
the kids of the atomic age monkier was originally used for the collective songwriting output of a group of friends who randomly recorded sporadic nonsense in the drunken confines of one "members" parents basement. since the early 90s the name has been scrawled onto the labels of many a four track tape, but these days the "kid" has been "out there" and "doing it" with much more sincerity and gusto then the humble origins would have foretold. this new chapter finds bryon endocryn veering from the usual pop structure he has been traveling in over the past few years, as he gives forth three songs in heavy bass/keyboard mode. narry a guitar in sight...the result is honest, unwavering, and catchy as all hell. the new (old) twee? heartbreak and loss? brutal and uncompromising? you be the judge. limited to 50 hand cut lathe copies on clear vinyl, with stamped and silkscreened sleeve. this labor of love cost $10.

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