First off, please don’t heed Burn All Your Records’ titular suggestion. The ecology and smell of burning vinyl aside, those things will be worth something someday (or so I keep telling my patient wife). By way of clumsy segue, vinyl is no longer the only way to experience the debut record from New York Reagan-era underground rockers the Scene Is Now, thanks to the reissue efforts of Australian label Lexicon Devil, who worked backwards in releasing 1988’s Tonight We Ride and 1986’s Total Jive, have now released TSIN’s ‘80s output. The label picked a fine time to unearth these gems, known primarily to the deepest-digging of ‘80s underground musicologists/excavators: TSIN’s brainy lyrics and kitchen-sink musicianship play like the more aggressive older brothers to present-day indie rock luminaries, ranging from Dirty Projectors to Vampire Weekend to Wilco.
More importantly, though, Burn All Your Records is a marvelous snapshot of a time and place—mid-‘80s New York—when an actual underground rock scene existed. Dick Champ, Chris Nelson, Jeff McGovern, and Philip Dray grabbed what they knew they liked—Talking Heads (“Tupi”), Captain Beefheart (“Here Are Your Songs”), even Chairman Mao (“Social Practice”)—and whipped it all together, without worrying what the Internet hive mind/blogosphere would have to say about. Hell, if there ain’t some proto-No Depression in their attack, either: Dig the harmonica-fueled, hobo-worshipping “Railroad Boy”. As the liner notes, penned by Wire writer Jon Dale and Lexicon Devil’s Dave Lang, uh, note, TSIN had polished its act by the release of ‘88’s Tonight We Ride, but the joy of discovery and look-what-we’re-getting-away-with is palpable over Burn‘s 20 tracks and 40 minutes. Thanks to Lexicon Devil, that same sense of discovery can be yours 25 years later.
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// Notes from the Road
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