Posts Tagged ‘Michael Quercio’

Game Theory_Across The Barrier Of Sound

The totemic California art-popsters Game Theory, band have a new collection “Across The Barrier Of Sound: Postscript” this compilation tracks the Game Theory of 1990 and 1991: a period when mainstay Gil Ray had joined Game Theory as their drummer and backing vocalist in 1985 At this time Ray was also playing guitar and keyboards in the band. These became Game Theory’s final, under-the-radar years and, until now, have not been the subject of an official release.

Gil Ray’s passing in January 2017 means that just half of this latter-day, four-piece Game Theory is still with us. Bandleader and founder Scott Miller took his own life in 2013. The other members were recently arrived drummer Jozef Becker and bassist Michael Quercio. Becker is best known from his then-recent spell with Thin White Rope. Earlier still, he played with Miller in Alternate Learning.

Quercio, the fourth member of the Across The Barrier Of Sound line-up, joined in 1989 when his band The Three O’Clock fell apart after their patchy 1988 album Vermillion album which was issued by Prince’s Paisley Park label (Prince wrote a track for the album). Miller and Quercio had co-written “The Girl With The Guitar”, which was on the 1985 Three O’Clock album Arrive Without Travelling. Game Theory also recorded the song. In essence, the reconfigured Game Theory of 1990 and 1991 was a form of family affair.

It came together as Miller took stock after the assured 1988 album Two Steps From The Middle Ages and around the time of the early 1990 Game Theory compilation Tinker To Evers to Chance. The collection included a few new tracks made with Becker and Quercio but then without Ray. At this point, Miller was seemingly pondering his band in a retrospective light. All the flux and shape-shifting means that the 24 tracks on Across The Barrier Of Sound: Postscript are as per the last word of the title: an add-on to what’s known. Especially so, as nothing was intended for release. It is not an unissued album.

Four of Across The Barrier Of Sound’s tracks – “Inverness”, “Idiot Son”, “My Free Ride”, and “Take me Down (to Halloo)” – are finished studio recordings. “Treat it Like my Own” was first heard on a fan club cassette (different versions of two other songs from that cassette are collected). Otherwise, the sources are home demos (mostly solo) and a couple of live tracks. This is a window into what was going on in Game Theory’s world, rather than a Game Theory release as such.

Revealingly, the sense of this as a period of flux is reinforced by Miller’s post-Game Theory band The Loud Family subsequently recording much of what’s made it onto Across The Barrier Of Sound. “Go Back To Sleep Little Susie (Aerodeliria)”, “Idiot Son”, “Inverness”, “Jimmy Still Comes Around”, “Slit my Wrists” “Some Grand Vision” and “Take me Down (Too Halloo)” are familiar in their later forms. Lyrics may have changed. Odd parts of melodies and song structures differ too. But the blur between Game Theory and The Loud Family is clear.

As an album was not the goal, everything comes across as transitional. Indeed, it is hard to see how a band with Miller as its leader could have – in the long term – accommodated Quercio, another strong, idiosyncratic singer and songwriter. A single band with both had to have had a finite shelf life.

However, some of what’s collected ranks with the best of Game Theory and The Loud Family. In contrast, despite a home-recorded version of The Three O’Clock’s “A Day in Erotica”, little nods towards Quercio’s recent past.

Of the studio-proper tracks, “My Free Ride” is brilliant: classic Scott Miller with a beautiful melody and exquisite singing. The version of “Take me Down (to Halloo)” feels tentative though – doubtless due to the familiarity of the later Loud Family version. “Inverness”, again cut later by The Loud Family, also suffers due to the same reflexive comparison. “Idiot Son”, instead, is more angular, spikier than when it was tackled by The Loud Family. A home demo of “Jimmy Still Comes Around” is a wild ride, suggesting Miller had a jagged identity in mind for the end-days Game Theory. A lovely, poised solo recording of “Some Grand Vision” could have stood on its own if buffed up with a full arrangement.

Obviously, Across The Barrier Of Sound: Postscript is not an entry point into this important band. For that, head to Real Nighttime (1985) , The Big Shot Chronicles (1986), Lolita Nation (1987) and Two Steps from the Middle Ages (1988), all of which capture the Game Theory Scott Miller in excelsis; as a pop auteur on the Todd Rundgren level.

And also, despite the songs included, Across The Barrier Of Sound: Postscript is not a lost prequel for The Loud Family. Instead, what’s compiled is a vital snapshot of transition. As to where this short-lived Game Theory could have gone if Miller and Quercio had stuck with it? No one will ever know.

Game Theory 03_Across The Barrier Of Sound_ Robert Toren

On this day (May 26th) in 1982: Los Angeles psych/garage rock revival band The Salvation Army released their self-titled, debut album on influential indie label, Frontier Records; (Since Reissued on Burger Records) after the charitable organization objected, they changed their name to The Three O’Clock and became one of the leading lights of the city’s burgeoning ‘Paisley Underground’ neo-psych scene…

In March 1981, South Bay, CA, teenager Michael Quercio formed the Salvation Army a punky, psych-influenced garage band that took most of its stylistic and musical cues from Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets anthology. Before the year was out, the Salvation Army had a single out on the Minutemen’s New Alliance label, a new guitarist (Greggory Louis Gutierrez), and a batch of new songs to demo.

After this demo was played on Rodney Bingenheimer’s massively influential Rodney on the ROQ radio show, signed the Salvation Army to Frontier Records and released the trio’s self-titled debut in May 1982.

The philanthropic organization took umbrage over the name and the Salvation Army politely changed their name to the meaningless but suitably psychedelic the Three O’Clock The band replaced drummer Troy Howell with ex-Quick drummer Danny Benair added keyboardist Michael Mariano, and transformed themselves into the leading lights of the paisley underground, a phrase invented apparently by Quercio that’s dogged him ever since. Fancher Records reissued the Salvation Army album under the clever name Befour Three O’Clock after the group misguidedly left Frontier for IRS, and in 1992, collected the full album, that pivotal five-song demo, and all four songs recorded during the sessions for the New Alliance single for a comprehensive collection of every Salvation Army studio recording.

As such, “Happen Happened” (named for the trippy A-side of that single, which appears in two versions) is a priceless document of the early days of the L.A. psych-pop revival scene. Fans of the Three O’Clock’s much glossier music might be surprised by the punky speed and noisy guitars, but the simple two- and three-chord songs are bracing and surprisingly melodic, and flashes of Quercio’s skewed lyrical bent are already visible in songs like “While We Were in Your Room Talking to Your Wall.” Six songs are repeated, though there are only notable differences in a couple of cases and invariably the album versions are superior to the demos. Regardless, this is both a definitive historical collection and a great piece of early-’80s post-new wave punk-pop.

a.k.a. The Three O’clock, power pop / paisley underground
from Los Angeles, California… 1992 “Happen Happened” CD Reissue of 1982 “Salvation Army” Album, plus 9 bonus tracks [Frontier Records, 01866 34639 2]