Two Southern California bands--Anaheim's Exude and Los Angeles' the Conversation--are among the 10 best unsigned bands in America.
Who says so?
Try Elvis Costello, Mark Knopfler, T-Bone Burnett and Mitchell Froom.
They were the judges in an unsigned-bands competition by Musician magazine that resulted in the submission of nearly 2,000 tapes. The Musician staff narrowed the list to 20 and then passed those tapes on to the judges for a final verdict (which will be published in the August issue of Musician). A third local band--the L.A.-based country rockers Tin Star--made the final 20, but not the final 10.
Exude, a wacky outfit known for its 1984 novelty hit "Boys Just Want to Have Sex" (yes, a spoof of Cyndi Lauper's distaff hit), and the more mainstream pop-rock Conversation will each have their winning track featured on a promotional-only CD to be released to radio stations and press by Warner Bros. Records later this summer.
According to Musician executive editor Bill Flanagan, the Conversation's song "Wishing Well" (not the Terence Trent D'Arby song) drew particularly favorable comments from Knopfler and Costello for its romantic lyrics.
Exude, whose "Billy" garnered high marks from everyone, was described by Flanagan as "sounding like a club band who have thrown in everything but the kitchen sink. It's so over the top in every direction."
Commented Exude singer Frank Rogala after hearing the results: "This is one thing that says maybe it was OK to drop out of college to start a band. Maybe Dad will forgive me now."
POLE SITTER: Ex-True West singer/guitarist Russ Tolman still co-owns Down There Records, but the company won't be releasing his own new album. The LP, titled "Down in Earthquake Town" and due in August, will be coming out on the Passport's larger PVC label. Meanwhile, Tolman and his band, the Totem Polemen, will be performing around town in preparation for a national tour.
As for Down There, Tolman said the small independent label (which last year released his "Totem Poles and Glory Holes" album) still exists and plans to release a compilation of unreleased tracks from "every band that's ever been on Down There"--including Divine Weeks, Doctor's Children and Green on Red--in the fall. "We were thinking of calling it '39,999,999 Behind Thriller,' " he joked.
Meanwhile, "Ghost Stories," the latest album from Tolman's Down There partner Steve Wynn's Dream Syndicate, won't be on the label either. It will be released, also in August, by Enigma.
POTENT QUOTABLES: "It's meant to be somewhat an assault, but a beautiful assault." That's Chip Kinman's assessment of the approach of his and brother Tony's Blackbird, which has just released its debut album, "Howl," on the independent Iloki label.
The title is a pretty good description of the duo's sound, which pits melodic pop tunes against heavily echoed guitar and drum machine tracks for an effect not unlike England's Jesus and Mary Chain.
To those troubled by the Kinmans' break from both their punk (the late '70s Dils) and country-flavored and hard rock (the mid-'80s Rank and File) past, Chip said to look at the attitude of the music, not the genre.
"We're back to 'do it yourself,' " said Chip. "I think that (attitude) doesn't occur to a lot of people, because get-signed-mania has gripped Los Angeles and isn't letting go. What's the deal? (Rock 'n' roll) is a revolution, not a career."
ALL TOGETHER NOW: Band Together, an organization founded last summer to present rock, folk and other styles of local artists in public parks, is gearing up for a second summer of concerts. Last year the group presented two concerts, one in Sierra Madre (benefiting a summer youth sports program), the other at Hoover Park near USC (benefiting that park's youth center).
But, according to founder Harvey Cohen (of the group Harvey & the Lifers), Band Together is having trouble finding corporate sponsors and city agencies willing to help support its efforts.
"The whole thing started because Devin Thomas (of the band Night School) and I remembered that when we were growing up in the San Gabriel Valley there was a lot of live music in the parks," Cohen said. "But in the last 10 years, with punk and heavy metal, cities got scared of it. What was needed was an organization that would be responsible and bring music back to the parks."
NEWS 'N' NOTES: The Holy Sisters of the Gaga Dada are featured in "Once Upon Her Time," a TV program about women in the '80s airing on the Lifetime Cablevision Network July 2, July 23 and Aug. 4. . . .Hirth Martinez, an L.A. singer/songwriter who released two highly regarded Warner Brothers albums in the mid-'70s (one of which was produced by Robbie Robertson), is returning to the solo performing circuit after a two-year layoff to concentrate on painting, writing (prose, poetry and songs) and playing guitar behind other artists. He'll be at Comeback Inn on Thursday and Be Bop Records on July 9. . . .Jeff Dahl, whose former band Powertrip is considered by some the very first speed metal outfit, is releasing his solo debut, "i kill me," on PVC next month. He'll preview the record with shows at Raji's on Thursday and at the Anticlub on July 9. On a sad note, Dahl's ex-Powertrip bandmate, drummer John Bliss, died of a heart attack in Los Angeles recently. He was 32.