At age 16, Robert Steven Moore got a four-track reel-to-reel tape deck, started creating music in his parents’ suburban Tennessee basement…and eventually became R. Stevie Moore, “the great-grandfather of DIY lo-fi home recording,” releasing literally hundreds of albums, many on cassette tape. Schizomusica readers may remember his 2017 collaboration with Jason Falkner of Jellyfish, Make It Be (his, what, like 478th release), but otherwise nowadays the man pretty much keeps the good ol’ low profile.
Back between 1984 and 1989, as French record label New Rose was issuing four of his albums on vinyl and the name R. Stevie Moore was rising to brief notoriety there (his cover of “Chantilly Lace” was a minor French hit), five scruffy young DIY lo-fi guys were trawling the grimy streets, dive bars, and cheap rehearsal studios of New York City, peddling a stew of songs – both originals and covers – that was equal parts 60s Stones, 70s trash-rock, and 80s post-punk. Under the moniker the Alter Boys (not to be confused with an Ohio band by the same name who surfaced around 2005), they self-released a single, signed to short-lived label Big Time Records and put out an album, churned out a handful of demo tapes, broke up, reunited in the early 90s long enough to make an indie CD, then vanished into the black hole of rock ‘n’ roll.
Lo and behold, now it’s 2019, and both these acts are more or less “back”: R. Stevie Moore with Afterlife, a polished collaboration with Irwin Chusid, Ariel Pink, Lane Steinberg, and (once again) Jason Falkner of some formerly not-so-polished tunes, and the Alter Boys with Get Lost, a limited-edition, vinyl-only compilation of unreleased demos plus that first 3-song single.
Afterlife opens in fine guitar-pop fashion with “Irony,” a song originally from 1977, and continues with “Pop Music,” a ’74 composition appearing in its current state in 2011…and a gorgeous exercise in, uh, pop music, that at times sounds like George Harrison sitting in on Chicago’s “Just You ’n’ Me.” The sunny “Come My Way,” with its Kinks-meet-The-Association vibe, also originated in the early 70s. R. Stevie’s omnipresent humor rears its bearded head on “National Debate” (“You’re a rotten so and so,” he chants to…someone in 2010 – that’s when he wrote it apparently, well before the current state of the onion, I mean union). The XTC-ish “Another Day Slips Away,” one of the gems on Make It Be, is included here, in its older, weirder form. And Moore does more than just “channel” Brian Wilson on “Here Comes Summer Again” – he appears to have extracted some basic elements from Pet Sounds and assembled them into his own creation. The Beatles’ “Blackbird” is the inspiration for the delicate guitar backbone on “You Don’t Have to Worry About My Love,” and the album goes out on a Zappa-as-folkie note with “Back In Time.” Afterlife is out on Bar/None Records February 22.
Meanwhile, Get Lost by the Alter Boys is available now! Here! It’s a super-limited run of 200 copies so I would not procrastinate. The album kicks off with “Piles,” the A-side of the band’s first single from 1986 and a perfect example of what might’ve happened if the Buzzcocks and the Velvet Underground were the same band. Garageland instrumental “Slum Surf” follows, then get dancin’ to “Love You,” get dancin’ faster to “Lady Speedstick” (do they still make that?), get Tom Verlaine’ed to “Can’t Change,” and get downright funky to “Beautiful World” (a different recording from the Andy Shernoff-produced one on Soul Desire, their 1987 Big Time release). And cuz this is a vinyl record, you gotta flip it over to hear the rest…like the obscure cover of an already obscure Velvets song, “Guess I’m Falling in Love”; the catchy, pre-“jangle”-rock of “Whatever Happened to You,” “Can’t Die For You,” and “40 Miles”; the other two tracks from the single, “Gimmie What I Want” and “Buk’s Song”; and the closer, the Turtles-esque “No More Anymore.” Featuring John Carruthers (lead vocals), JZ Barrell (guitar and vocals), Ed Bradin (guitar and vocals), Mark Scholl (bass), and Roger Rawlings (drums and vocals). So grab a slice…but first grab this slice of Ed-Koch-era, still-sleazy NYC before they’re all gone!
R. Stevie Moore photos courtesy issueprojectroom.org/Nancy Wegard/N.Y. Times, discogs.com
Alter Boys photos courtesy Tom Wear, John Carruthers, JZ Barrell