Tag Archives: Young Fresh Fellows

Young Fresh Fellows • Toxic Youth (Back to the Egg) [LP, CD]

Record Store Day “Drop 3” is the last of the RSD 2020 triad that make up what would have been last April’s normal single-day event. One of the two records I am/was hoping to get is YOUNG FRESH FELLOWS’ Toxic Youth (or as it is also known, Back to the Egg). Recorded three years ago but only now seeing the light of day, it’s a great addition to the Fellows’ discography.

To start with, Toxic/Back is both a first and a last. It is, indeed, the first YFF record in eight years. Just as important, Youth/Egg is the last album recorded at Seattle’s legendary Egg Studio, the nest in which many Fellows releases were laid (or is that hatched?). The story is that in 2017 Conrad Uno, Egg’s patriarch (or is that rooster?), had decided to retire and close the studio, word got back to the Freshies, and they  booked one last weekend there before Egg went the way of the dodo bird. Since they’d gone in with just three songs and came out with seventeen, you’d be tempted to call it a success. Yet it took another three years for those results to show up on wax… was it delayed because of subpar quality? Band member Scott McCaughey’s stroke in late 2017??  Who knows??? One thing we do know: Once it finally got a release date – the original Record Store Day, April 2020 – Toxic Youth got delayed again thanks to that pesky coronavirus pandemic. Well, it’s finally out this Saturday (knock on wood) and it’s an honor to get to share my own opinions about it just slightly ahead of time.

As Mott The Hoople once said, rock ’n’ roll is a loser’s game, and it’s a game the Young Fresh Fellows have been winning (or is that losing?) for (gag! I feel old!) nearly 40 years. GULP. Regardless of, or despite their relative obscurity, from their very first outing back in the early ’80s, Seattle’s Fab Four have been creating kooky, clever cult rock for the masses – it’s just that the masses never got the memo. Too bad! Those of us who did get it, we got it. Whether it was with “Rock ’N’ Roll Pest Control,” “My Friend Ringo,” “Taco Wagon” or any number of other hooky, cheeky tunes, the Fellows could always be counted on for a great time.

Young Fresh Fellows say “Vote!”

Times changed throughout the Eighties and Nineties and though they didn’t exactly stay young they pretty much stayed fresh on their handful of sporadic releases. And that was okay with the fans. But when the YFF guys took on other projects (playing with their original groups [Fastbacks, for instance], playing with big name rock bands [R.E.M., for instance]), we lamented what we thought might be the end. So today we have Toxic Youth – I don’t really know what the title means – and I can tell you it’s a killer record! Opening with “November” and heading into quintessential Fellows stuff like “Never Had It Bad,” “Gear Summer 2013” with its ’60s organ, “Alien Overlords” and drummer Tad’s “Black Boots,” this release was worth the waits. THEN there’s Side 2 and that’s where Back to the Egg really fries! “She’s By Request” has this wobbly, eerie lead vocal from Scott, telling the story of of a late night TV encounter with some actress that I can’t figure out. I really like this one and figured it was gonna be my favorite on this toxic green vinyl record until I got to the grand finale, “Bleed Out.” OMG. This is like the YFFs detailing their own career and demise, explaining “I’m married to this life / Gave my body and soul / When I take the final knife I will bleed out rock and roll.” Yes, I honestly believe that Scott, Tad, Jim and Kurt will and DO bleed rock ’n’ roll.

If Toxic Youth/Back to the Egg were the final Young Fresh Fellows album you could truthfully say – based on this album alone, let alone Topsy Turvy or Totally Lost or Gleich Jetzt – they played a loser’s game and won. Cleaned up. Mopped the floor with almost every other band there ever was. – Marsh Gooch

5/5 (YepRoc YEP-2722X, 2020)

P.S. – It may be a bit late in coming, but having known Conrad Uno of Egg Studio and Popllama Products fame for 30-something years – and having worked for and recorded with him at Egg myself – I’d like to thank you, Uno, for your contribution to the Seattle music scene and the rock ’n’ roll world at large. “What a humble guy.” Cheers! And say hi to Emily.

 

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Young Fresh Fellows • A Tribute to Music [CD]

[Review originally published 1/26/2010 on my old blog, Skratchdisc]

This 1997 release on Rock ’N’ Roll, Inc. out of Spain completely slipped by me. Now, let me just say that YOUNG FRESH FELLOWS are probably the best band ever out of Seattle (sorry, Sonics were from Tacoma), and I’ve followed them since their inception. Why, I can remember many drunken gigs at the Rainbow (in Seattle), the Hollywood Underground (where I got asked onstage to sing “Give It to the Soft Boys” with them), and just about every good dive (oxymoron!) in town. A Tribute to Music is one of those foreign releases the Fellows have always been fond of: put out an entirely great CD on some tiny-ass label and let the hardcore fans have fun trying to find a copy. Well, I got mine used for $5.99 at Easy Street Records in West Seattle today, and I’m here to say I’m quite enjoying this 12 song, 29:39 disc.

Right off the bat there’s a real kooky intro—sorry, an “Invocation”—and then a super annoying “Louie Louie”-style tune with Scott McCaughey sounding quite demonic. Very next thing, they launch into a cover of Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know,” which was a hit for Tracey Ullman. Soon you get “Ivar’s Theme” about our local fishmonger/marketing genius Ivar Haglund, and it just keeps rockin’ all the way to the end. I gotta hand it to Scott, Jim, Kurt and Tad for their ability to keep it real for so dang long. How I missed this one when it came out, I have no idea. But I’m glad I got it now. If only Jim Sangster would come by and get that Ampeg amp grill I snagged for him… — Marsh Gooch
4/5 (Rock ’N’ Roll, Inc. R&RINC 013, Spain)

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The Kinks • The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition) [Box Set]

There have been many 30, 40 and 50th year anniversary reissues in the last decade, despite physical media being given its theoretical death sentence some time ago. The record companies, though, realize that the kids may go for downloads and streaming but us older fans must have something to hold onto. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is 50 years old now and THE KINKS’ “record label” has regaled us with an over-the-top box that can barely be held with two hands, and it’s worth whatever backache you may incur upon its arrival.

You wanna talk about a sleeper of an album? Village Green Preservation Society (from here on out VGPS) died a quick death when it was released in late 1968 (January ’69 here in the US). Maybe it was The Beatles’ heralded White Album that kept people from realizing VGPS’s greatness, maybe it was that The Kinks hadn’t exactly been hot on the charts at the moment. Hell: Maybe it was all the turmoil in the world. After all, ’68 wasn’t exactly the most peaceful year of the decade. And maybe it’s that Ray Davies’s “rock opera” (before Tommy even!) was of such a pastoral, low-key nature that the pop press and record label PR types had no idea how to whip up a frenzy around its release. Or maybe it was just an album that – like The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle – needed time to incubate in the zeitgeist before it could be truly appreciated. Whatever the reason, VGPS gets more and more of the spotlight every year, and deservedly so.

I first learned about this great lost Kinks album in the early ’90s thanks to two local bands who were already tuned in. The Young Fresh Fellows covered VGPS’s “Picture Book” and Flop did “Big Sky,” both excellent covers by great Seattle groups. (If you don’t already know the Fellows or Flop, stop right now and look ’em up. I’ll wait…) Being the intrepid music fan I am, I found a copy of VGPS (not easy back then, actually) and was instantly transformed into not just a kasual Kinks fan, but a full-fledged one. What wasn’t to like about it? Those two songs, “Do You Remember Walter?” “Last of the Steam Powered Trains,” “Animal Farm,” “People Take Pictures of Each Other”… Every track a good one, full of Ray Davies’ unique viewpoint on life in his England home, and every track soaked in the band’s first great incarnation’s particular, spectacular arrangements. In hindsight, twenty five years after I discovered it, the only thing that is a possible negative is the slightly shoddy recording quality of the record. Though that ding definitely stands out on this new edition, it’s of little consequence because the album itself is so damn good. It’s not as gimmicky as Sgt. Pepper, not all over the place like The Who Sell Out (both albums that I absolutely adore), and not as lofty. And that’s the point! Davies wasn’t going for lofty — he was going for little. As in, small-screen vignettes about the people and places that then populated his life. I wonder how Ray feels now about that vanished Britain.

This big deal VGPS box obliviates the album’s quaintness, what with three LPs, three 7″ singles, five CDs, a nice book full of photos of era memorabilia, and a packet of reprints of posters, sheet music and more. (Initial orders through The Kinks web site got you a fourth 45!) And yet, if any great album deserves such a gala presentation, this one does. I can tell you, being the huge Beatles fan I am, that I was looking forward to this even more than the White Album box that comes out later this week.

The lowdown goes like this. Vinyl-wise, you get two LPs of the original UK mono and stereo mixes (in their then Davies-sanctioned 15 track configuration), an LP with the 12 track version sent to Europe and Down Under without Ray’s permission (some months before the 15 track iteration), and three 7″ singles from the era in replica sleeves. (The one that, errrr, reprises the US Reprise 45 is kinda lame – they don’t use the record company logo or fonts or anything, so it looks like someone forgot to include the actual artwork!) As for CDs, the first two are of the mono and stereo mixes (15 track version) along with period singles*, single mixes, B-sides, etc.; a disc of sessions recordings (early versions, work versions and demos, including a killer instrumental called “Mick Avory’s Underpants”!); a disc called Village Green at the BBC (guess); and a final CD of demos, sessions and live versions. Then there’s all the replicated memorabilia. And a big ol’ (picture) book. It all comes in a nice, substantial box that I only very slightly damaged trying to open. (I’ll get over that in time. Maybe.) All of it is good – if not great –and there’s more than enough here for dozens of listenings over the rest of your life.

After all this, all I can say is: God Save the Village Green Preservation Society; Long Live The Kinks!

* Here’s where I add that one of the singles here, “Days,” is included in numerous versions and never outstays its welcome. That’s because it might just be the most poignant, perfect song of all time. Listen to the words and the arrangement and tell me there’s not someone who was once in your life (a mom, a brother, for instance) who fulfills the role of the person in this song who is longed for, memorized, cherished. This paragraph – “Days” – is for Nel Blurton and Dana Gooch, my mom and my brother. Thank you for the days.

5.5/5 (BMG BMGAA09BOX, 2018)

 

 

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Young Fresh Fellows • Topsy Turvy [LP, CD]

yff-topsyturvy-frontThirty years ago – holy crap, 30 years ago! – I was attending the University of Washington in Seattle and spending most of my time at the college radio station, KCMU. I had discovered the station the summer before I started at the U-Dub; it was an 18-watt FM radio station that had recently switched to being an entirely student-run concern, and they played songs by English bands like XTC and the Psychedelic Furs. KCMU (“Riding the New Wave”) also played a lot of local bands, from those that actually put out records (Blackouts, Fastbacks) to bands that recorded their songs in the station’s production room and transferred their tunes to “carts” so the DJs could play them (The Beefeaters’ “Caffeine”) – if you’re wondering where KEXP’s Audioasis show got its start, wonder no further.

The Young Fresh Fellows were a Seattle band made up of transplants from the Midwest. Their first album was a spunky thing called The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest, and by 1985 they’d accumulated quite a following, so much so that when their sophomore LP, Topsy Turvy, came out, they actually got written about in Rolling Stone. Topsy Turvy was a plucky effort that upped the ante on the band’s power poppy songs and the pryff-topsyturvy-rearoduction by Seattle stalwart Conrad Uno showcased the songs in a way that was miles beyond Fabulous Sounds. The Fellows toured a lot – hell, they just played a lot – and they built themselves a following that got them signed to Frontier Records out of Los Angeles. Soon there were lineup changes, Frontier inked a distribution deal with a maj0r label, the Fellows really took off, and then… I don’t know, did they implode? Did Scott McCaughey (“mc coy”), Jim Sangster, Tad Hutchison and Kurt Bloch (who was also in the Fastbacks and replaced Chuck Carroll in the YFFs) run out of steam? Did grunge kill Seattle’s power pop scene? What happened to The Cowboys? The Heats? The Moberlys? Well, I’ll leave you to Clark Humphrey’s book Loser or Pete Blecha’s Sonic Boom to figure that out. All I know is, the Young Fresh Fellows were one of the most fun outings you could have in the early ’80s in Seattle.

I put on Topsy Turvy today and realized that three decades had passed since that exciting white vinyl album was released. I loved then, as I do now, how the Fellows showed the world what a great town Seattle was with their songs and crazy antics. How much about going to a Fellows gig do I remember? Let’s see: Scott’s Les Paul goldtop with the words “bag o’ poop” on the front. Tad’s cymbal stand that was actually a super tall bike pole with a wok on top – he’d time his hits on the wok to when the thing swung first away from and then back at him, ducking just in time to miss getting clocked on his yff_pressphotocabeza. Or Jim’s short scale Danelectro bass and the way he just hopped up and down, clearly having a fantastic time playing it. Or Chuck’s crazy ties and his amazing solos. Or the time they played at the Rainbow and I was so drunk I took 5 or 6 pint glasses that I had emptied into myself and tucked them into the sleeve of my jacket so I could have some free beer glasses in my college pad. Or me joining them onstage at the Hollywood Underground after I refused to stop shouting for “Give It to The Soft Boys” until they finally surrendered as long as I would sing it. Of course I would!

Did I mention that, besides having great songs like “Where Is Groovy Town?”, “Hang Out Right” and “The New John Agar,” Topsy Turvy had their cover of the Sonics’ “You’ve Got Your Head On Backwards”? The mix of power pop, hoaky country western, cute folkie ditties and kooky klassics like “Trek to Stupidity” was what made Topsy Turvy so terrific. And it’s what makes it continue to thrill thirty freakin’ years later.
4.5/5 (Popllama Products [LP], ESD [CD])

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