The New Pornographers released their fifth LP, Together, this week and RS handed A.C. Newman the keys to the RS blog to share his thoughts on the album's tracks and artists who have inspired him. Check out How the New Pornographers Became Black Sabbath, The Genius of Felt and All Inspiration Begins in the Bathroom. Today's topic: the Unclaimed's "Things In The Past (Yeah Oh Yeah)" from Primodial Ooze Flavored EP:
Not only does this record come from a time when you usually had to buy records unheard, on vinyl, based on the cover or a few reviews, as far as I can tell it is still lost to those ages. I can't find it on the Internet anywhere. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places. I think the Unclaimed would love the fact that it's not on the Internet. You want to hear this record? Go out and find it! That's how they did it in the olden days.
I bought this record in Collector's RPM on Seymour Street in Vancouver, where every employee was a middle-aged male record collector. I was really into the '60s garage revival of the time (Tell Tale Hearts, Chesterfield Kings, etc.) and the Unclaimed Primodial Ooze Flavored EP looked like something that I would like. I look at it now and I still like the cover, even though it looks like a children's record, with a cartoon wizard stirring his cauldron at some magic monster party. The cover is on that thicker card stock that you only find with old records, and I'm sure that was no accident. They were one of those bands that wanted everything to sound, look, BE like it was 1966. As much as I can be annoyed by '80s retro in modern music, '60s retro in the '80s seemed like the coolest thing to me. It was the second wave of retro, after the '50s revival of the '70s, but still seemed groundbreaking to me in its anachronistic way.
Things in the Past has so many things that I love. It starts with the rumbling drums, the manic shaker that is not afraid of being the loudest thing in the mix, what sounds like the screams of someone going down the first drop of a rollercoaster, then the reverbed out funhouse chords kick in. Unlike so much of the garage revival music, this song seemed to be influenced by the Banana Splits theme as much as the Kinks or the Pretty Things. I mean that in a good way. The song lives in a place somewhere between the Seeds and the Monkees. They sounded like something else, but also like no one else. The "yeah oh yeah" chorus is perfect in its meaningful but meaningless bittersweet joy, and is even better on the double time outro when it breaks into the counter melody of "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah." When the glockenspiel kicks in on the pre-chorus and chimes on through the chorus, there is no better combo of rocking and fey in rock history. They say if you can balance the rocking and the fey, the world and everything in it is yours, and what's more, you'll be a man.
One thing you CAN find on the Internet is some grainy footage of the Unclaimed playing on a cable access show in LA. There they are in their black turtlenecks, all black Music Machine-style, singer Shelley Ganz looking like that '60s guy that you find in every city, with some go-go dancer friends, maybe girlfriends, frugging through the songs. To me, it captures the pure love of playing in a local indie band. Right at the beginning when small things look bigger. It's only cable access but there are hot girls go-go dancing, and isn't that enough?
In the song, Ganz sings about their love being "better than things in the past" while at the same time surrounded by an arrangement that obviously adores some gone halcyon day. Now I find myself watching them on YouTube, and they have literally become the thing from the past that I look back at, using the same rose-colored glasses that they used to look back at 1966, which should make them happy. There's some logic there.