Akron Stiff Records Compilation
Over the years, Akron has produced the occasional musical success story. Devo’s quirky, tongue-in-cheek lampooning of the American Dream has solidified its place in pop culture. After relocating to London in the early ‘70s, Chrissie Hynde formed the Pretenders, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. More recently, the Black Keys have released seven studio albums (eight if you count 2009’s hip-hop collaboration Blakroc) since 2002, all of which have received widespread praise from both fans and critics.
But, as it goes in the music business, for every band that makes it, there are many more that do not. The same rules apply here in Akron.
Tin Huey, Before Obscurity: The Bushflow Tapes
(Smog Veil Records, 2009)
Tin Huey had a brief taste of success in 1979. However, their Warner Bros. debut, Contents Dislodged During Shipment, sold poorly and the band was paid a little over $45,000 by the label never to record for them again. This compilation, released late last year, collects early live cuts, studio rarities and even the first-ever performance of The Waitresses (who, at the time, were Tin Huey and Patty Donahue) and captures what their debut couldn’t quite: the band at their maniacal weirdest.
Trouble Books, The United Colors of Trouble Books
(Bark & Hiss, 2008)
Trouble Book’s third full-length album continues the band’s experimentation with balancing quiet, softly-sung melodies with cacophonous, effects-laden noise. “For All Our Dead Friends” starts off as a cello-and-vocals, post-apocalyptic love song (“For in the rubble we’ll start our new life/just each other, the roaches and oatmeal cream pies”) before turning into a 3 ½ – minute wall of feedback. Perfect for both lovers and lovers scorned, the album sees the band’s ever-evolving yet always-familiar sound explore new heights while staying firmly rooted in their DIY approach.
The Akron Compilation
(Stiff Records, 1979)
The Akron music scene of the late ‘70s not only caused a stir here in the United States, but also across the Atlantic where many in the British music industry saw Akron as the US equivalent to Liverpool. The label that championed the “Akron sound” the most was London’s Stiff Records, which in 1978 released Devo’s Be Stiff EP and 16-year-old Akron native Rachel Sweet’s Fool Around along with this wonderful compilation the following year. Containing tracks from Tin Huey, the Waitresses, Rachel Sweet, Bizarros, Chi-Pig, Rubber City Rebels and others, the album is a must-have for any fan of the Akron music scene.
(Chi-Pig Records, 2004)
A forerunner to the more successful female-fronted bands of the early and mid-80s like the Go-Go’s and the Bangles, Chi-Pig has never quite gotten the credit it deserves. Their lone album not only went unnoticed for 25 years, it went unreleased. In 2004, however, the band decided the time was finally right and released Miami. Chi-Pig still plays on occasion so, if you can, I’d recommend checking them out.
Beast, Power Animal
Beast was a supergroup comprised of members of Goodbye Ohio, Good Morning Valentine and Houseguest. Almost immediately following its debut performance on Halloween 2005, Beast became an instant favorite in the Highland Square and Akron metal scenes. After nearly two years of anticipation, the band recorded its sole EP: five songs of loud, aggressive, synthy prog-rock that satisfies both metalheads and hipsters alike.
Talons,’ Rustic Bullshit
(Bark & Hiss, 2007)
Recorded mostly in 2005 at the Diamond Shiners House and Mike Tolan’s parents’ house in New Philadelphia, Tolan describes his third Talons’ release as “a sad, short album about getting dumped, drinking, eating junk food, etc.” Included is the haunting post-breakup ballad “F*ck Everything”, a song that has been covered by Kent’s Six Parts Seven (of which Tolan is an occasional member).
Hell’s Information, Rad Battle
Equal parts stoner rock and feedback-drenched punk, Hell’s Information’s Rad Battle shifts between the building intensity of tracks such as the drony “Song Four” and the short, thunderous bombast of tracks like “Song Six”. After a hiatus, the band has recently returned with new member Steve Clements (Houseguest, Beast, Drummer) on keys and, hopefully, will have some new material for us soon.
Goodbye Ohio, With Love
Recorded in the band’s living room in March 2005, the debut EP from Highland Square’s three-piece Goodbye Ohio blends the simplicity and DIY-aesthetic of punk rock with lo-fi recording and frontman/guitarist Scott Hartlaub’s exploration of varied guitar sounds to create a sound unique to the band. Seventeen minutes of how punk rock should sound.
Unit 5, Scared of the Dark
(Clone Records, 1981)
Another band the likes of Belinda Carlisle and Susanna Hoffs should tip their cap to is the Tracey Thomas-fronted Unit 5. Originally released in 1981 on Bizarros’ frontman Nick Nicholis’ Clone Records, the album’s 12 tracks of catchy, Blondie-esque pop is definitely worth 40 minutes of your time.
Bizarros, Bizarros LP
(Mercury Records, 1979)
Along with Devo, Tin Huey and the Rubber City Rebels, the Bizarros was supposed to bring the music of the late ‘70s Akron music scene to the world. However, like all the others (with the exception of Devo), this did not happen. They did, however, have the opportunity to record and release their debut album for Mercury Records in 1979. Nick Nicholis’ trademark snide vocals and music that falls somewhere between the Velvet Underground and (Bizarros’ contemporary) Pere Ubu are clearly represented on the album’s 11 tracks.