The Vulgar Boatmen – Opposite Sex (Blanco y Negro, 1995)


The Vulgar Boatmen
Opposite Sex

CD Blanco Y Negro / EastWest 0630-10941-2 (UK, 1995)

01. When We Walk
02. Wide Awake
03. Call Back Instead
04. In a Station
05. Traveling
06. Shake
07. Heartbeat
08. In a Minute
09. Opposite Sex
10. We Can Walk
11. Genie Says
12. Susan, Goodnight

The Vulgar Boatmen are an American rock band formed in Gainesville, Florida in the early 1980s by a group of students at the University of Florida, including John Eder and Walter Salas-Humara. In its original configuration the group issued several cassette-only releases, including Women and Boatmen First (1982) and All Bands on Deck (1984). As first Eder and then Salas-Humara departed, the group coalesced around Robert Ray, a film studies professor at the university, who became one of the group’s two principal songwriters and vocalists, the other being Indiana musician Dale Lawrence, a former student of Ray’s who was a veteran of the early punk band the Gizmos.
Though they lived and worked in different states, Ray and Lawrence composed songs by exchanging cassette tapes through the mail. Eventually Lawrence merged his own band, Right to Left, into the Boatmen, who since that time have existed as two distinct performing units. In their revised lineup the Boatmen are known for their straightforward but infectious pop melodies, their stark lyrics — many of which focus on women and automobile travel — and for their frequent employment of the viola, an instrument relatively uncommon in rock. At least sixteen musicians have been members of the group at one time or another. In addition to Robert Ray and his wife Helen Kirklin, who plays viola, members of the Florida (recording) branch have included Carey Crane (vocals), Jonathan Kaley-Isley (drums, organ, vocals), and Michael Derry (guitar and drums). Current or former members of the Indiana (touring) Boatmen include Dale Lawrence, Kathy Kolata (viola), Andy Richards (drums), Jake Smith (bass), and Matt Speake (guitar).
Since 1989 the Boatmen have recorded three albums, You and Your Sister (1989), Please Panic (1992), and Opposite Sex (1995), the last of which was released by Warner Bros (East/West) in the UK and Europe, but was never released in the US. In 2003 the band issued a compilation album on CD, Wide Awake. As of 2008 the Indiana branch of the Boatmen remains active under the leadership of Lawrence, though the Florida branch appears to be dormant.
In 2010, Fred Uhter released a documentary about the group, entitled Drive Somewhere: The Saga of the Vulgar Boatmen.
(Wikipedia)

In the early 1990’s, the Vulgar Boatmen garnered critical attention across the United States and Europe. The band’s first two albums – You and Your Sister (Record Collect, 1990) and Please Panic (Safehouse, 1992) had been mentioned in several year-end (and a few all-time) « best of » lists. In 1995, the band made its major label bid with European release of Opposite Sex, released by Blanco y Negro/East West, subsidiaries of Warner Bros. Despite supportive press from the UK and interested parties in the US, the album was never released in the United States. Over the subsequent years, the band disappeared – or so it seemed to many fans. What happened to the Vulgar Boatmen is probably the most commonly repeated narrative in popular music: a promising band with strong critical accolades and a growing fan base gets lost in the machinations of the music industry.
(…) Opposite Sex was released by Blanco y Negro/EastWest (both divisions of Warner Bros.) – in Europe only. Back in the U.S., the band was caught up in music industry machinations. Several of Warner Music Group’s U.S. subsidiaries – most notably Elektra and East/West – were interested in the American rights to the band. The band eventually signed to Elektra (yet another Warner subsidiary). « Elektra was supposed to issue Opposite Sex in the States, » Lawrence explains. « Seymour Stein liked the album a lot…but we were warned that Elektra was in the middle of a shake-up at the upper end — specifically that Sylvia Rhone (who hated rock ‘n’ roll) was taking over. » Elektra signed the band but never released a song. Shortly after taking control, Rhone dropped fourteen bands from Elektra, including the Vulgar Boatmen.
Since Opposite Sex was not released in the United States, fans outside the band’s usual stomping grounds began to speak of the band in the past tense. While the Boatmen never really stopped working, progress certainly slowed. « We always had trouble convening musicians, » Ray says, « who lived in so many places… But I must say that the failure of Elektra to release Opposite Sex, after having contracted to do so, made recording seem more narcissistic than even I had ever intended. » Ray believes that « you do write songs and record them ‘to please yourself,' » but when the band found themselves unable to get their music released, they turned to other outlets.
(Perfect Sound Forever)

FR L’histoire est tellement classique que vous la connaissez déjà par coeur. C’est donc l’histoire d’un groupe qui sort un premier disque salué par les critiques, qui se retrouve sur Rough Trade pour un second opus à juste titre encore plus apprécié (le merveilleux Please Panic, facilement trouvable sur la blogosphère), et qui à force finit par être remarqué par une major. Sauf que Warner ne s’est jamais donné la peine de distribuer leur troisième album sur le territoire américain. Les amateurs savent à quel point les Vulgar Boatmen sont précieux, le reste du monde s’en fout (autre histoire connue).
ENG The keyword here is: ‘precious’. The Vulgar Boatmen’s Please Panic can easilly be found on the blogosphere, not to be missed.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vulgar_Boatmen
http://www.furious.com/perfect/vulgarboatmen.html
http://www.myspace.com/vulgarboatmen

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