Tuesday, November 3, 2015
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: SNEAKERS
Much is made of New York's punk scene of the mid-'70's, and the New Wave acts that came along as well. But while that was going on, there were other spots where magic was happening, just far under the radar. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certainly did its part.
A bunch of school friends who could barely get local gigs were determined to make a record, a ridiculous prospect. But they loved music, and had a fantastic songwriter named Chris Stamey in their midst. In fact, the whole batch of them were future auteurs. Stamey and Will Rigby would go on to form the dB's, band buddy Mitch Easter, who helped on acoustic guitar, led Let's Active, and the guy who recorded them, Don Dixon, would make his own excellent albums, plus produce R.E.M.'s early work with Easter.
Sneakers released a six-track E.P. in 1976, that shockingly sold several thousand copies, mostly mail-order to fans of this growing independent movement of punk, New Wave and power pop, Sneakers falling into the latter category. Such was the beginning of indie rock. The songs were little jewels, chord changes coming fast and furious, hit singles as played by garage bands. But it wasn't pretty. At time when big, glossy productions were the norm, this bunch had only basic equipment and little knowledge at that point. It was muddy, cruddy, and that was part of the lure for the burgeoning indie world.
This reissue combines the original six with five later recordings, to make a 30-minute album. There's s great cover of the Grass Roots' hit Let's Live For Today, which gives you a good idea of the overall idea of the band. Then four more cuts were original Sneakers numbers from the time, but never recorded until Stamey and Easter did versions in 1992. These are valuable because not only are they great songs, it gives you a much better feel for what the band would have been like if recorded well in the first place, which is very good. All involved would go on to bigger things, but this is both an important historical record, and a darn good one too.