Back in the olden days, when things were different, and I was (a lot) younger, college radio really meant something.
When I say that I mean that before there was such a thing as “alternative” – we old folks used to call it punk and new wave, aside from a couple of anomalous commercial FM stations that dabbled in the underground (and there were a few) folks like us had to huddle around the wireless, tuned in to stations like WPRB in Princeton and WRSU at Rutgers to hear what was bubbling up from underneath the mainstream.
All kinds of labels and bands, some punk, some pop, were stepping outside of the established framework and recording and pressing their own records, and college radio stations were – outside of buying the records from the band or ordering via fanzines and the like – the only way to hear them.
One of the really big numbers for me, which was in relatively heavy rotation on WPRB was the song ‘Six’ by the Neats.
While I hadn’t really gotten a handle on the new psychedelic and garage bands as a scene per se, those were the sounds I gravitated to on the radio.
Much of the new wave and power pop looked back to the 60s, but the darker side of that decade, i.e. bands that tuned in to the Velvet Underground is something I was only just picking up on.
The Neats, hailing from Boston, MA mixed those sounds with a helping of garage grit and lots of folk rock jangle.
‘Six’ was their first recording, issued on a split EP on the Propeller label with the groups Wild Stares, People In Stores and CCCPTV.
The song opens with throbbing bass and swirling psychedelic organ, before being (mostly) swallowed by waves of rhythm guitar.
The cryptic lyrics are delivered in a deadpan style and despite the lack of retro genre signifiers, the sound is definitely old school au go go.
Truth be told, the Neats never descended into the retro-scene, letting their sound speak for itself.
The two records they recorded for Boston’s Ace of Hearts label, the EP ‘Monkey’s Head In the Corner of the Room’ (1982) and the LP ‘The Neats’ (1983) are both remarkable lost classics. As far as I can tell neither has been reissued.
Oddly, after the Neats left Ace of Hearts for Coyote, they changed their sound significantly (and abrubtly). I had seen them open for REM in 1984 and they sounded like their earlier stuff. I saw them again a year later (opening for the Chesterfield Kings, I think) and the jangle was gone, replaced largely by a bluesy wail.
That all said, I still take these records out and listen to them today, 30 years hence, and dig them as much as I did the first time around.
I hope you dig them too.
See you next week.