Man or Astro-Man? was a late 90s surf rock band from down in Alabama who would put out more 7″ records in a year than your average punk band would have in its discography. Prolific doesn’t even really begin to describe it and when I was looking for the perfect record to share for the 7th installment of my 7″ on the 7th series, this was the clear winner. I started listening to Man or Astro-Man? when I worked at Acme Comics back in Peoria IL about 11 or so years ago. My coworker Skip had most of the CDs and we’d chuck ‘em in the stereo and play them over the store speakers. This was also at the height of coolness (for me at least) working there. We had Skip, Randy and Farmer Ted on staff, Chadwick was still stopping in when he could and Bob & Dani were still baby free. This group resulted in possibly the best company Christmas dinner I’ve ever attended. Oh, but back to the band, yeah, Man or Astro-Man? just always seemed to be around, what with Skip playing them and my friends Atomik, Robot Allison and Lins all being huge fans. This may or may not’ve contributed to me not getting super into them, as I could go most anywhere with some buddys and a copy of “Project Infinity” was sure to either be playing or on hand to be played. In fact for years the only CD of theirs I had was “Is It…”! This all changed last November. Feeling nostalgic I took my copy of “Is It…” with me to play in the car while Christmas shopping in Burbank and it just cracked my head right open. I loved it even more than I did back in the day! Absence makes the heart grow fonder or what ever, I don’t know, but I was digging them on a level that I previously hadn’t. So I did what any sensible person would do, check local record shops and online to fill out my collection with some more Man or Astro-Man action. Here’s their first release. Some of these songs were rerecorded for future albums, some were collected onto CD and some songs are only on this very record. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did, and it helps you recall days past.
the Universe’s Only Intergalactic Radioactive Breakfast Bar
You Can’t Get Good Riblets in Space
Front, Back, Insert Front, Insert Back, Interior & the Record.
This is going to be the record I post that stands out the most, if only for the musical content on it. Its not ska, its not punk, its not some precious little indie band, it is the Harwood Brothers, a rock outfit from the Peoria IL area. I really should know a lot more about this band than I do, in fact, I’ve been told I knew a lot more about them back in the day. One of the members of the Harwood Brothers is my godfather and uncle, Uncle Jim. My mom used to take me to see them when I was a mere tot and I used to dance around all the time, in fact I used to cue up this very 7″ record (more often to the b-side so I vaguely remember being told once) and dance around the living room. I have no memory of any of this. That’s all I even have to go on to try and date this record as coming out in the late 70s/early 80s. I remember when I was a little bit older seeing a band my Uncle Jim was in play at the Woodcutter and in Dunlap and Princeville at the carnival/fairs that would be put on over the Summer, but I’m pretty sure that was a different band. These two songs are more of a southern rock flavor, and I think I’m using the term right, I could be off, this is a little out of my musical knowledge zone. Enjoy them, I sure did, also thank my mother, as I stole this record from her. Oh, and I apologize for the skip near the beginning of “Hometown Girls”, try as I might I couldn’t get a clean record of it.
The MIBs (short for Men in Black) were a mid 90s ska band from Peoria IL that I grew up seeing every chance I got. This is their first recording, and I must admit, they got much better, and were awesome live. They were a very traditional ska band, and when I was younger it wasn’t really the kind of ska stuff I gravitated to, but they always brought the goods live so I was happy to toss down my $2 – $5 to see them play. My brother and I would even dress up in our plaid suits to go and see them play anywhere and well as with plenty of other regional ska bands like Roscoe P. Soultrane and the Parka Kings. Members of the MIBs went on to form the (short lived) Ruschies, who in turn eventually became Corey Dixon & the Zvooks. When they were known as Corey Dixon & the Zvooks is about the time I went from fan to friend with some of the members. Corey, J.T. and Anthony were some of the nicest guys hang out with. Enter a late night diner all alone and if you saw them they’d always invite you to sit with them to while away the time. Corey Dixon & the Zvooks played several shows along (my band) 1209towanda, were always super supportive of us and Corey once even served up some inspiration for our Christmas show. Like I said, wonderful group of guys. After several tours of Europe they shortened their name to the Zvooks and eventually broke up. Members of that band went on to form the Drastics. And thus concludes your Midwest ska history lesson! The songs here today are from their long out of print 7″. Two of the songs “Commitment” and “Ant Dance” also made it onto to the even more obscure “Perverts, Freaks & Weirdos” compilation CD.
Just for Kicks
Front, Back & the Record
Combustible Edison was a lounge revival band from Rhode Island back in the 90s. Mostly known for doing the soundtrack to 95′s cult film Four Rooms. Besides “the Misbehavers” segment it was probably the best part about the film. I always dug Combustible Edison, they were exactly what I was looking for in a lounge band and hell, they even created their own cocktail!
The Combustible Edison Cocktail
1oz Fresh lemon juice
In a shaker full of cracked ice, combine Campari and lemon juice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in a chafing dish. When warm, ignite the brandy and pour flaming stream into the cocktail glass. If the brandy is chilled and shaken rather than ignited, the drinks is known as “The Edisonian.”
While I never owned a chafing dish I did manage to heat and ignite some brandy. The first time I didn’t quite get the flaming brandy into the glass before fumbling and spilling flaming booze all over my counter. Close call! Being super careful I got the brandy in the next try and let me tell you it was tasty! Try the drink, get these 2 songs from early in their career and enjoy your evening.
Front, Back, & the Record
The Smooths were a Baltimore, MD ska band that put out 2 CDs on the SideOneDummy label. They were pretty damn good too. I got to see them at the ’98 Vans Tour and again in ’99 playing with Ham, Mad Caddies and the Toasters on the Peoria River Front Stage. You know, the one Summer where they actually let normal shows happen there that weren’t part of the Peoria Area Civic Events festivities so that it didn’t sit there unused 48 weeks out of the year? Anyway, they put on a hell of a performance both times, pretty hard to top! After they broke up I know that the lead singer went on to a hardcore band that has also since broke up. I never knew too terribly much about them, heck, I didn’t even know this 7″ existed up until I found it in an Iowa City record shop when I was killing time before seeing an Edna’s Goldfish and Step Lively show at Gabe’s Oasis. I could hardly believe my eyes. I had seriously heard nothing about this, ever. I know that the internet was still not the number one depository for every bit of information back then, but I don’t think you can find any online information on this release even now! (OK I just checked, you can find 2, fine internet, you win, but just barely.) Thankfully some bands use logos and motifs so it was easy for me to know this was the same “the Smooths” that I knew and enjoyed. When you’re into smaller bands sometimes a lot of them can end up having the same name and it’s a race to the major label or major prominence to see who gets to keep it. Back in the day I knew 2 different Fall Out Boys, neither one of them the household name band we know today. But yeah, that font, those spades, I knew I’d hit the mark. What’s more curious is that “Kiss the Carnage” is such a good song it is hard to tell why it wasn’t on either of their albums. Apart from the band, this release in and of it self has things I like to see going on. A nice big “45″ hole in the middle, and even more than that, side A is at 45 rpm while side B is at 33 1/3 rpm, that’s just neat, well to me at least!
Kiss the Carnage
Fish in My Bed
Kiss the Carnage (Scientist Remix)
Front, Back & the Record
Winterbrief was a duo from Philadelphia PA that specialized in thier very own brand of synth heavy dance pop. Winterbrief was first introduced to me by my friend Chris Bradley who had just saw them the weekend before. If I remembered right he said that “it seemed not many people liked them except for me and Tyson (Markley) and we both agreed that you’d love them.” I thought that was sad for the band, but awesome for me. Later, at practice for the short lived live version of Lost Letter Society, Chris lent me their debut CD which I officially kept once Chris went solo with the act again. This CD was later stolen by the 3rd member of the group, Tlas, so I had to go and purchase it myself. That CD was the soundtrack one night for me and Wolfie aimlessly driving about town, nursing the wounds from and then confronting his ex-fiancee. Note: he wasn’t 21 yet so no booze for us. That CD made me fall for the band, and at the time I was sure the sound they were doing (similar to my favorites bis) was going to be the future of music. I was wrong in the end, but that didn’t matter, just because the masses never caught on only means they missed out on some good music. Not me though, it lead me to find and collect everything they put out! In the end they put out 3 CDs, a 12″ record and 3 7″ records, some of which seem to be sadly going completely out of print. The A side is completely exclusive to this release, while track 1 of the B side found its way onto a Captain Beefheart tribute and the second onto their previously mentioned 12″.
Superman on Tin Foil
the Past Sure is Tense
Front, Back & the Record
Dr. Manette was a ska-punk band from Champagne-Urbana IL who later changed their name doctormanette and put out a record on Chicago’s JUMP UP! label. The first time I saw them is when this 7″ came out. It was at an all day ska show in the Summer of 1996 at a skate park in Rockford IL. It started at noon and went until 10pm. About half way through the show I started to get sleepy and almost took a nap on a skate ramp, but then these guys came on a blew me away! It turns out my friend Mike had had a few classes with one of them, before he went to talk to him after the set he asked me “Hey, you liked them right?” I responded that I did and 15min later Mike turned back up and handed me this record. I asked him how much and he said it was a gift, then later told me that they’d just gave him one because he knew them and that he didn’t have a record player. The 3rd song was on Moon Records’ “Skarmageddon 3: A New Beginning” so it may be familiar.
Weekend at Bill and Hillarys
Nothing at All
Front Cover, Back Cover, Insert & the Record