Chapel Hill's Mind Sirens are captured in various stages on this compilation of early singles (recorded for vital former local label Jettison Records) and previously unreleased demos and tapes. The group, as it appears in these recordings, often succeeded where other late '80s/early '90s Southern pop bands failed by tempering the gothic, sometimes dark overtones of their songs within an otherwise bright pop framework. Sadly, they were only successful in releasing one full-length album, 1995's Decatur Cherry Smash, so this collection comes as a welcome document of the band's early years.
Alongside principal songwriter Brian Butler, the membership-in-flux for these cuts includes original drummer Bill McCormick of Evil Weiner and various bassists--Jeff Spillers, Paige Ivey, Chris Eubank and Mike Barker, respectively. The band chugs on even now, with the occasional live appearance as a four-piece.
Starting things with a bang, or maybe a jang(le), "Circle of Sleep," from WXYC's Demolisten comp, is a shot of Butler's trademark sound: beautifully distorted guitar lines and stretched out, often soulful vocals a la a young Michael Stipe, as in "It takes a while, but soon enough we all get to sleeeeeeeep." There's vivid imagery in "Into the Sea," morbid humor in "Cat," and a huge guitar sound in the anthem, "Can See This Time." There are some less-than-essential numbers here, but no real clunkers. Great non-hits like "Roller Coaster" feature Butler shredding his guitar strings, rhythm section rumbling mightily with him, and the chilling "Graveyard" haunts from beginning to end.
There is a large, knotted Mind Sirens limb dangling from the Triangle rock family tree (bonus: check out the ode to Zen Frisbee, "New Jack Song"). These recordings give you a chance to experience those seedlings as they first sprouted.