Let Us Now Praise Personal Cult Faves
[Wednesday Week sleeve]
Dig that psychedelic paisley look.

The music section of my Web site began life in 1996 as this page—a tribute to the Undertones, a favorite band of my youth. I don't listen to them much anymore, but I'm leaving this page here as a tribute to their recorded legacy.

In 1994, the indie label Rykodisc reissued all four original Undertones albums on CD, along with a greatest hits collection. More recently, the original CDs were re-remastered and re-released by Sanctuary Records.

When I first started this page, I could find only one other significant mention of the Undertones on the Web, other than the Rykodisc promo pages. That was a page of band pics on All Mod Cons, a site devoted to British punk and ska from the late 70s and early 80s with, as one would expect from the name, a heavy emphasis on the Jam. Alas, All Mod Cons seems to have either moved or vanished entirely.

Since then, of course, the band has reformed (with a new singer replacing Feargal Sharkey) to play numerous gigs in Ireland and the U.K., and now has an official Web site at www.theundertones.com. They've even managed to record a new CD of original material without permanently tarnishing their legacy.


The Undertones figure prominently in my own personal history as an online consumer, in that the first CD I ever bought online was a U.K.-import CD single of "Never Never," Feargal Sharkey's 1983 collaboration with Vince Clarke's Assembly. It has four tracks—the original single of "Never Never" b/w "Stop/Start" plus a longer remix of each song.

At the time of that first purchase, I thought that the instant gratification factor of buying in-store, along with the practical consideration of shipping charges, would keep me from buying that many CDs on the Web. However, that was before all the insane discounting by online music merchants in 1999. Those were heady times. :) Now that the virtual dust has settled, I'm back to buying most of my music at local stores.

One reason why I stayed in Berkeley so long: those local stores included the legendary Amoeba Music and Rasputin Music.


One last Undertones tangent: in 1996, a 'tones tribute compilation called Here Comes the Summer appeared on Mint Records, a small label based in Vancouver, B.C. Through the tribute I was exposed to cub, a Vancouver-based all-girl trio which quickly became my favorite band in existence—until they broke up in 1997. (It figures.)

cub guitarist Robynn Iwata went on to join I Am Spoonbender, changing her name to "Cup" and taking up the synthesizer. Lead singer/bassist Lisa Marr and drummer Lisa G moved to Los Angeles to form Buck. Later, Lisa Marr went on to found The Lisa Marr Experiment. She also formed one-third of the indie supergroup, the Beards.

My take on the cub/Lisa Marr discography:

  • Betti-Cola (cub, 1993): Cute, if rudimentary.
  • Come Out, Come Out (cub, 1994): Songwriter Lisa Marr gender-bends like crazy, the entire band grows up musically, and the result is the defining moment of "Cuddlecore." Not to be missed.
  • Box of Hair (cub, 1996): Less cuddle, more core, cub's last hurrah is something of a letdown after the heights of their second album, but still has its moments. Stylistically, it's their most wide-ranging effort, ranging from pure pop ("Magic 8 Ball," "Broadway and Main") to driving rockers ("Freaky", "One Last Kiss") to an early manifestation of Lisa Marr's country leanings ("Riverside").
  • Mauler: A Collection of Oddities (cub, 1997): Some of the rarities and alternate takes compiled here are obvious filler, but there are several keepers as well. Instant classic: "Secret Nothing," from Ear of the Dragon, an obscure compilation of Asian American bands, circa 1995.
  • Buck (Buck, 1998): I'm still not sure why I never warmed up to this album. It's angrier and more abrasive than cub, but I can admire angry-and-abrasive if it's done well. Hmmmm.
  • The Lisa Marr Experiment (The Lisa Marr Experiment, 2000): In which our heroine recovers some of her youthful playfulness by going country. Who would have thought?
  • Funtown (The Beards, 2002): If cub hadn't broken up—and Robynn had locked herself in a warehouse for four years to work on her instrumental chops—their fourth album might well have sounded like this. Confident, tuneful and fun.
  • American Jitters (The Lisa Marr Experiment, 2003): The band is impressive in its confidence and versatility, covering bases from alt-country to countrypolitan to power pop. Lisa's writing is solid, although she doesn't come up with any all-time classics; the real surprise is the quality of Mike Flanagan's songs.

I haven't really listened to anything by I Am Spoonbender. If I do, gentle reader, I will surely make note of it here.

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