Tag Archives: prickly

All the unreleased Prickly songs I have

I’ve written here before about one of my favorite bands, Prickly, who played jaunty, noisy, insistent pop songs for about three glorious years of the middle 90s in Greater Boston.  Prickly only put out one proper album, Velleity, but had lots of songs that weren’t on it — I had some of these songs on their cassette demo, 14 Songs, and over the years acquired others from the band members themselves.  I posted sendspace links to these but these have long since expired, and every once in a while someone sends me e-mail asking if they can have the copies.

So thanks to Google Drive I think I can now share these in a more permanent way:

All the unreleased Prickly songs I have.

Here you will find:  14 Songs, which has terrible sound quality (I digitized it myself from a 15-year-old cassette) but some songs unavailable elsewhere; three radio sets, two from WMBR and one from WRIU (between-song banter included!) and two studio demos.  I didn’t include Velleity, but the songs on there are all here, in multiple versions.  I did include one released song, “All the Little Raisins,” from a compilation called Dreamboat on the now-defunct Cassiel Records, which I bought from a guy in the Netherlands and have otherwise never seen; so I feel safe in considering this song no longer a commercial product.  Also, a three-song EP from Cassiel, Winded.

Note:  I have gotten permission to post this stuff from the three out of four members of Prickly I was able to track down, and from Tim Alborn, who originally put out their records on Harriet.

I think this is pretty much the closest thing to a Prickly box set you’re ever gonna get, so enjoy, fellow old-time indie-pop fans!

If there actually were a box set of unreleased Prickly rarities, you’d pretty much have to take the title from the lyrics of their single “Breakfast of Champions” and call it Holed Up In The Can.

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Prickly live on WMBR, 1995 and 1997

Matthew White, formerly of Prickly, now of Chores, sent me these files long ago and I never got around to posting them — two live-in-studio performances by Prickly on WMBR.  The shows cover the majority of their catalogue, with drastically better sound quality than the ancient demo tape I posted previously.  Plus, between-song banter!

Prickly Live on WMBR May 1995

Prickly Live on WMBR Jan 1997

Update:  Above links are long dead but I’ve now put this stuff and more on Google Drive.

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Prickly: 14 songs

Update:  The download link in this post is dead, but you can now get 14 Songs from my Google Drive.

I’ve blogged before about the great Boston indie rock group Prickly, who released a handful of contributions to various compilations and one album on Harriet Records (the very tall and thoughtful impresario behind which is now a dean, and maybe always was..)  I like the description from this site:

Prickly is a soft-spoken intricate little union between four people who have never visited my kitchen but seem welcome any time.

photoOne of the guys from Prickly worked at The Million-Year Picnic in Harvard Square and would give a copy of Prickly’s cassette-only demo, 14 Songs, to anyone who asked.  I got one.  On the front there’s a drawing of an angry gnome-like man with a hat, highlighted with yellow marker.

I recently learned how to use Audacity to transfer cassette tapes to .mp3.  Which means I can now present to you  — with the permission of singer Collin Oberndorf, the only member of Prickly I was able to track down — what I believe to be the only digital copy of 14 Songs in existence.  Download it here. The sound quality isn’t great, but I think it’s as good as I can get out of this 15-year-old cassette.  And the music, a kind of quietly roaring superimposition of soprano harmonies, NZ guitar, and ambient noise, still sounds great to me.  That description doesn’t make it sound very twee, but it is. Here is the always on-point Glenn McDonald on one of the best tracks, “Fashion Sense of Famous Monsters of Filmland”:

I think I’ve got everything Prickly did now, three singles, one CD EP and a few stray compilation tracks. This 1995 disk is actually the earliest single, as best I can tell self-released. The prize, in my opinion, is the title track, a hauntingly compassionate Frankenstein slow-dance (to go with Too Much Joy’s rousing “Pride of Frankenstein”, perhaps), intertwining traces of the Velvet Underground, Buffalo Tom and Salem 66. “Phonebill” and “Spotty Dog” are faster, but less dramatic, the contrast between the band’s swirling drive and Collin Oberndorf’s weightless voice less unnerving. 45, black. Strange cartoon art.

My favorite song here is “The Lonely Passion of Joey Heatherton.”  You can hear a clean recording of the song as covered by Shumai here: but I much prefer Prickly’s version, with no keyboards, just a lot of strumming and a young woman singing at the top of her range — in a way that sounds more like asserting — “I can’t dance at your thousand dollar wedding….”


  • Phonebill
  • The Lonely Passion of Joey Heatherton
  • Hedgeclipping Song
  • Stunt Double
  • Good Bison Bad Bison
  • Pigeons
  • Fool
  • Fashion Sense of Famous Monsters of Filmland
  • Spotty Dog
  • Sposeta Be A Funeral
  • Gordon’s Gone
  • Flatland
  • The Intriguing One-Finger Melody
  • Wire
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New Zealand rock named after group-theoretic entities

Douglas‘s label Dark Beloved Cloud put out a great record by the Magick Heads called Transvection. You and I think a transvection is a unipotent element of the symplectic group, but it turns out it also means — well, let Douglas explain it:

DBC222 The Magick Heads’ Transvection CD

“Transvection” is the act of riding through the air on a stick or a broom, and The Magick Heads’ glorious ride spanned almost a decade. Natives of Dunedin, New Zealand, driven by the songwriting prowess of Robert Scott (of the Bats and the Clean) and the throbbingly gorgeous singing of Jane Sinnott, they released two exquisite albums on Flying Nun and a couple of EPs. Before they called it a day, they assembled this collection of levitational performances from their entire career: studio recordings, live tracks, radio sessions and 4-track demos–13 never-heard songs and three radically different versions of Magick Heads classics. Delicious he sang/she sang harmonies, the savory friction of acoustic guitars against electrics, backing by members of the 3Ds–it’s all here, and it’s all exquisite. $10 ppd.

The record is just as great as Douglas says. It reminds me a little of an amazing old Boston band, Prickly; Collin Oberndorf’s clear, high, hollow-sounding vocals cut through the haphazardly layered guitar on that record much as Sinnott’s does here. Here’s the Magick Heads, “Standing on the Edge,” courtesy of Flowering Toilet:

“Standing on the Edge,” the Magick Heads

I have “The Lonely Passion of Joey Heatherton,” Prickly’s finest song, only on cassette — but Shumai, featuring some of the same personnel, does an almost-as-good version:

“The Lonely Passion of Joey Heatherton,” Shumai

Back to New Zealand: if I could post my own .mp3s on the blog, I’d put up Prickly’s great cover of “Death and the Maiden,” by NZ’s Verlaines. And the Magick Heads, via Robert Scott, are related to the Clean, whose song “Odditty” is the greatest pop monument New Zealand ever produced. Tom would probably accord that honor to “Not Given Lightly”:

At the very least, this song is tied with “Stand” and “Chinese Bones” for best use of the open E (and is the uncontested champion in the “not played by Peter Buck” division)

More group theory: the Pin group is not just a double cover of the orthogonal group, but an early NZ post-punk outfit. The Pin Group was that rare thing, a band that sounds a lot like Joy Division without being second-rate parody. Here’s their 1981 single “Ambivalence,” (via The Walrus):

“Ambivalence,” The Pin Group

I have this single in my collection only because it’s part of The Greatest Mix Ever Made, which is to say the 13-disc, 411-song box set “1981”, consisting entirely of songs released in that year. It’s one of my prize posessions, and I am eternally in awe of and debt to its compiler, the musical encyclopedist known as Soundslike. Who it turns out makes his own music, and it’s kind of great! Surprisingly easy-going and gentle, given the vast amount of aggressive post-punk he’s brought into my life. Here’s a standout track:


If you liked that, his albums are all available for free download here.

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