Sunday, October 25, 2009

hats off: The Connells - Darker Days

Your humble blogger just upgraded to Windows 7 and while there's loads to recommend it over the Vista nightmare, it still takes some getting used to. I have to say the new taskbar and its OS X-style iconification is pretty cool but I'm still confusing myself over which apps that I've pinned are actually open or not. Anyhow....

Raleigh, North Carolina's Connells were a band apparently designed by a bunch of college radio analysts. Jangly dueling 12-string Rickenbackers, check. Morrissey-style crooning, check. Indie label, check. R.E.M.-style songwriting, check. That all being said, the band - while they did devolve into pseudo-Hootie alternacrap with their more recent post-1993 records - did at one point seem set to challenge the Smiths and R.E.M. for most favored status on college radio station playlists.

Their debut LP, 1985's Darker Days, is perhaps the most derivative of all - though some argue that they shared the same influences as the Smiths/R.E.M., hence a similar sound. But singer Doug MacMillan has admitted to a Morrissey/Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen) fixation around this time, which would account for his strange vocal stylings on this LP that he'd soon abandon for a more gentle, less affected style.

The songwriting on Darker Days is top-notch though - and it's also very hard to find these days. So I'm presenting it here, slightly modified from the original release. It has some would-be-classics-in-an-alternate-universe such as the title track, "Hats Off" and the New Order-meets-R.E.M. vibe of "Dial It".

The band self-released it Stateside on their own label Black Park Records, and around the same time released it in the UK as well, on Demon Records. The tracklistings were different, and each release had a track the other didn't. I'm particularly fond of the UK tracklisting, however - it flows better and is a better introduction to the band. So what I did is re-create the UK tracklisting, and added on (as the final track) the track that was NOT released on the UK variant initially. (The later US release on TVT followed the original Black Park tracklisting.)

So enjoy!

originally released in 1985

UK cover:

US cover:

01 Darker Days
02 Much Easier
03 1934
04 Brighter Worlds
05 In My Head
06 Hats Off
07 Holding Pattern
08 Seven
09 Unspoken Words
10 Dial It

Track 05 from the UK vinyl on Demon

If you wish to hear the original US tracklisting, you would have it so:

Side 1: Hats Off / Holding Pattern / Seven / Unspoken Words
Side 2: Darker Days / Much Easier / 1934 / Brighter Worlds / Dial It

One zip file for your aural pleasure!

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