Pop Philosophy

A flock of nostalgia; an early -- and bloody -- valentine.

A voice from the past, a fear of the presentYou probably won't remember Robert Seidler unless you lived in the Bay Area in the mid-'80s -- and even then, it may be tough to recall him by name. In 1984 Seidler's ridiculously melodramatic song "Christian Boy" was near impossible to escape. The new wavish tune, which featured the period's trademark cheap synths, metalish guitars, and overwrought vocals, was the top-requested number at KQAK-FM ("The Quake") and KMBY-FM. Seidler's group eventually became one of the most popular unsigned bands in the area, playing in front of 1,000 people at the Omni and opening for Billy Idol at the Stone ("He was frightening without his makeup," Seidler says). A second local hit, 1987's "I Can't Believe," led to two performances on LIVE 105's morning show, some major label interest, and shows with X, Romeo Void, and -- be still my heart -- A Flock of Seagulls. Seidler even played a New Year's Eve gig with Oingo Boingo at the Fox Warfield.

Unfortunately, Seidler's deal never came through, and by late 1987 he'd turned his attention to the movie business. After acting in a few small films and one play, however, he realized that the Hollywood scene was even less genuine than the rock world. "The majority of the people had this plastic tone that got on my nerves," he says via phone from his SOMA studio. "It was like, "Are we acting or just talking?'"

By 1992 Seidler was writing songs again and setting up a recording studio. But he didn't release anything until last year's Jennings Radio LP In Everything I Do. "Jennings Radio has been a tool for deep self-exploration and a cathartic step toward solving some of the conflicts in my dark interior," he wrote in the liner notes. While such mumbo jumbo seems in tune with past lyrics like "No more scooter rides in the cemetery," Seidler's new songs lack the kitsch kick of old. Fans would be wise to stick with Christian Boy, a renamed reissue of Seidler's Dotted Line EP, which contains both his first hit and a remix of the song by -- start beating, my heart -- Joe Satriani's producer, John Cuniberti. Seidler plans to ship the song to radio stations in the hope that all 300 people who downloaded it from Napster will be listening. Those folks looking for a walk down memory lane can witness Seidler in the flesh on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 9 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill. Tickets are $5; call 621-4433 or visit www.robertseidler.com.

You don't have to wait until February to give a valentineHard-core My Bloody Valentine fans have been waiting for a new album from the British noise-pop band for a decade. Every April 1, someone trumpets the arrival of the follow-up to 1991's Loveless, a record that spawned a million bands imitating its loud feedback and buried vocals. And every April 2, someone else goes ballistic when he realizes that he won't be treated to new material from guitarist/vocalist Kevin Shields anytime soon.

Apparently, Shields' shaky mental health and persnickety approach to recording, which cost Creation Records more than a quarter of a million dollars for Loveless, keep him limited to remix projects and a few guest spots. It's rather amazing, then, that MBV's cult continues unabated. Just last week, posters on the SF Indie Web list were arguing over which band was louder, MBV or Dinosaur Jr. Maybe the Web furor was due to the fact that local record stores just started carrying two early works of MBV, both of which were long out of print.

Streetlight Records' Market Street store, for instance, has several copies of This Is Your Bloody Valentine, the group's crapulent debut on German imprint Dossier. Blame the collector mania for the release of an album the band and most of its fans disavow -- deservingly so, since the LP's hackneyed swampabilly vibe is far removed from MBV's later work. Neophytes and fans would do far better to check out Ecstasy & Wine, a collision of two early EPs that was first put out by Lazy Records in 1989. It may be heresy to say, but I like Ecstasy & Wine's lolling guitar feedback and pretty female vocals more than the grinding noise and buried warbling to come.

What's really strange about the records' sudden appearance in stores is that the two reissuing labels have been totally dormant for years. I wondered if the releases had been bootlegged -- the Ecstasy & Wineartwork in particular looks like a bad Xerox job -- so I spoke with Cory Vielma, buyer for the Streetlight store. "They're in the computer as "in print,'" he says via phone. "Our European distributor got This Is Your directly from Dossier in Germany; I'm not sure about Ecstasy. It's strange that they would come out at the same time." Maybe the band is surreptitiously trying to boost its profile, hoping for the kind of slavish imitation that its sound caused the first time around. Watch out: Soon, we'll be knee deep in a swampabilly revival.

 
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