By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
Tribute CDs can be dodgy affairs. For every stellar album that features artists interpreting old songs in new ways (e.g., If I Were a Carpenter, a mid-1990s Carpenters tribute disc that features Sonic Youth's stalker-creepy cover of "Superstar"), there's a compilation like last year's Killer Queen, which tarnishes Freddie Mercury's legacy by butchering too many of his band's hits.
Thankfully, the new Still Unravished: A Tribute to the June Brides falls into the former, ear-pleasing category. But who are the June Brides, you may ask? Well, they're a U.K. obscurity from the mid-1980s who lasted all of eighteen months, yet managed to captivate the minds of, among others, author Dave Eggers, Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch and Emmet, self-proclaimed deputy junior vice-president of Ireland's yesboyicecream label, which released Unravished.
"Lyrically, Phil Wilson is up there with any songwriter you want to mention," Emmet says in an e-mail. "If there is a better chronicler of urban alienation, I have yet to hear them. Musically, they managed to juxtapose fairly sombre themes with some of the most uplifting, anthemic pop you're likely to hear.
"I suppose their naiveté is part of their charm too no bravado, no aggression, no fancy uniforms, no gimmicks just guys with guitars, a trumpet (it's ALL about the trumpet), a viola and great songs."
These songs emerge in various forms on Unravished including acoustic twee-pop, synth burbles, riotous early-'80s U.K. postpunk and a characteristically anthemic Manic Street Preachers number. Of note to locals is an appearance by Bunnygrunt, which contributes a shambling, rave-up noise burst called "We Belong."
Bunnygrunt guitarist-vocalist Matt Harnish knew of the June Brides from a 25-cent cassette of Peel Sessions he picked up years ago at a Camelot Music store that was liquidating its tape selection. And so when Emmet e-mailed a few U.S. labels he particularly liked (including Bunnygrunt's Athens, Georgia, label Happy Happy Birthday to Me), looking for artists interested in contributing songs, Harnish jumped at the chance.
"To this day I've only heard three or four June Brides songs," Harnish says. "The song I really liked from the cassette wasn't claimed yet. We tend to like the fat rockers, that was one of the fat rockers on that [tape]."
Emmet recalls Harnish's enthusiasm and adds that he specifically wanted Bunnygrunt to cover "We Belong."
"I knew from his response that he understood what the tribute was about, and I wanted them on it," Emmet writes. "To be honest, I had high expectations of what they would do with the song and I was still floored when it arrived!"
A few copies of the CD will be available at Vintage Vinyl (6610 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-721-4096) as well as via special order from the store. You can also check out www.yesboyicecream.com.
In other Bunnygrunt news, the band recently embarked on a short East Coast tour for the first time since 1998, hitting places such as Boston, Baltimore, Connecticut and North Carolina.
"I don't know what to expect, really, as far as people remembering us," Harnish said before leaving town. "A friend of mine in Boston said one of the flyers said: ‘Bunygrunt yes! See Bunnygrunt!'"
Owing to drummer-vocalist Karen Ried's school commitments, the touring lineup was altered slightly, with Sex Robots guitarist-vocalist Mario Viele on bass and SkareKrauRadio's Jason Paul playing drums. That trio will appear at the band's free homecoming gig on Monday, April 17, at CBGB (3163 South Grand Boulevard; no phone).
Fans hoping for more new Bunnygrunt tunes will have to wait a little longer. While Harnish says they have "a couple things recorded," no release date is imminent. These upcoming nuggets seem well worth the wait, though: a split 45 with Denver cuddle-poppers the Maybellines, and one with seminal U.K.-turned-U.S. rockers Boyracer; an appearance on a Happy Happy Birthday to Me label sampler; and a tune on the next Maplehood Rekkids Will Rock for Food comp.
Think that Femme Fatality is the only electro game in town? Think again: Casey from electro-poppers Polarized Mind reports that his band has inked a deal with the San Francisco-based indie label Rizatek, home to Aier Sauft (a robotic techno-electro-new-wave group he and A to Z recommends highly). Additionally, the Ground Floor (215 East Main Street, Belleville, Illinois; 618-277-1026) will be holding a monthly electro showcase starting on Friday, May 19. The first installment will feature locals Polarized Mind, the Electrozoids and Super Fun Yeah Yeah Rocketship along with out-of-towners Girls Rise with Heat, A Vague Sound and Jonah Nemec. A to Z for one is super-psyched, as it's about time St. Louisans embrace their inner Kraftwerk.
Need relief from those dreaded taxes? Catch A to Z DJing at Lemmons (5800 Gravois Avenue; 314-481-4812) this Saturday, April 15, starting at 9 p.m. We'll be playing the best power-pop, Britpop, synthpop, indie-pop and post-punk-pop culled, as always, from our old-school ten-gig iPod.