Pressing Concerns: The Bug Club, Miniaturized, Samuel S.C., Lack of Knowledge

Happy April! Today’s Pressing Concerns covers a pretty wide range: we look at the recent output of The Bug Club (vinyl reissues of their two most recent studio records, plus a surprise-released live album), the debut LP from Miniaturized, the reunion album from Samuel S.C., and a reissue of Lack of Knowledge‘s debut record.

If you’re looking for more new music, you can visit the site directory to see what else we’ve written about lately. If you’d like to support Rosy Overdrive, you can share this (or another) post, or donate here.

The Bug Club – Pure Particles & Green Dream in F# (Vinyl Reissues) / Mr Anyway’s Holey Spirits Perform! One Foot in Bethlehem 

Release date: April 14th / March 24th
Record label: We Are Busy Bodies/Bingo
Genre: Power pop, twee
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Tracks: Sitting on the Rings of Saturn / A Love Song / One Foot in Bethlehem

The Bug Club are a Welsh trio who’ve been steadily amassing a following since the release of their debut single on Bingo Records at the beginning of the decade. The group (guitarist/vocalist Sam Willmett, bassist/vocalist Tilly Harris, and drummer Dan Matthew) released the “mini-LP” Pure Particles in 2021, and their proper full-length debut Green Dream in #F followed last year (and made Rosy Overdrive’s Favorite Records of 2022 Year-End List). With initial U.K. pressings sold out and no North American-based release, The Bug Club signed with Canadian label We Are Busy Bodies to release these two records on the other side of the pond for the first time, as well as to put out Mr Anyway’s Holey Spirits Perform! One Foot in Bethlehem, a surprise-released live record comprised of fourteen brand-new songs. It’s a good time to revisit a couple fine collections of sharp power pop with personality.

The Bug Club’s bio mentions Jonathan Richman, and The Modern Lovers are a good a starting point comparison-wise as anything. They’re quite twee in their songwriting, marrying winning pop melodies to tunes about vegetable gardens, Saturn and Jupiter, and art. Nevertheless, there’s a power pop/garage rock edge to the group’s music that gives these songs a bit of an extra punch. Pure Particles I’d never heard in full before, and it’s a treat to find that the core Bug Club sound was largely in place by this record. If it’s slightly “simpler” than where they’d go on their next album, that’s hardly a complaint–album highlights include the runaway rock and roll of the excitedly profane “A Love Song” and (of course) “My Baby Loves Rock & Roll Music”.

From their first record, the effortlessly groovy pop rock of “Vegetable Garden” and the (slightly) tamer hooks of “If My Mother Think I’m Happy” are the ones that set the blueprint for Green Dream in F# to follow. The Bug Club’s first full-length still sounds as fresh and overstuffed as it did when I heard it last year–the early garage-power-pop-rock rippers (“Only in Love”, “Little Coy Space Boy”, “Love Is a Painting”) haven’t lost their brightness, and just as importantly, the more varied but no less potent styles of guitar pop offered on the record’s B-side (the big-finish of “Going Down”, the slightly unruly retroism of “Sitting on the Rings of Saturn”, the ever-so-light “Love Letters from Jupiter”) still remain intriguing.

Green Dream in F# is a step forward from their already-solid debut in its ability to captivate completely across fourteen songs and thirty minutes–and then there is the curveball that is Mr Anyway’s Holey Spirits Perform! One Foot in Bethlehem. Recorded by the band’s alter ego, Mr Anyway’s Holey Spirits, over the course of a United Kingdom tour in January and February, the album is an off-the-cuff adventure that allows the band to introduce some more classic pop songs into their canon (“One Foot in Bethlehem”, “It’s Not Mine”, “I Don’t Know How to Rock and Roll with Emily”), as well as serving as a fairly blistering sample of The Bug Club’s live prowess–the six-minute sprint of “Suck It”, the smoking “Clapping in Time”, and the closing duo of “I’m Not Going to Heaven” and “I Don’t Want to Go to Hell” all feel like they’d be remarkable to witness in person. Where to next, Bug Club? (Bandcamp link)

Miniaturized – Miniaturized

Release date: March 31st
Record label: Manchester
Genre: Alt-rock
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: The Most

The members of San Diego’s Miniaturized have a pretty strong pedigree, with several of them having contributed to the city’s most well-known bands–drummer/percussionists Maria Rubalcala and Chris Prescott have played with Rocket from the Crypt and Hot Snakes (for the former) and Pinback and No Knife (the latter), bassist Brian Desjean was also in No Knife, and their self-titled debut was produced by none other than Mitch Easter. Miniaturized’s bandleader, singer/songwriter/guitarist Timothy Joseph, is less familiar to me, but he’s been playing music in San Diego for a few decades, enough to pull together this supporting cast for what was initially supposed to be a one-off tribute show to one of Joseph’s biggest idols, Tom Petty. Petty’s heartland rock, the 80s college rock associated with Easter, and Hot Snakes’ garage rock all figure into the sound of Miniaturized, a nearly-hourlong collection of disparate alt-rock anthems.

Miniaturized starts off relatively unassumingly with the dreamy, low-key college rock of “Riots” and “Blue Glass”, but there’s a tough full-band undercurrent to these songs that starts to peak out in the mid-tempo march of the title track, and then fully roars to life in the power pop/alt-rock of “The Suitor” and “The Most”. Songs like “Life Underground” find Miniaturized layering up, building up a relatively barebones structure into blurry, swirling, psychedelic rock and roll. Joseph and the band offer up a couple slow-starting power ballads with “Cave In” and “Peligroso”, with the former in particular mimicking the cavalcade implied by its title to be a highlight of the record. Perhaps invigorated by his new backing band, Joseph tries on several different skins for his songwriting over fourteen tracks–it’s a lot to take in with one spin, but it’s worth continuing to listen actively until the end of Miniaturized, as the final trio of songs (particularly the Ted Leo-esque “Perfect Angles”) is a fine a run as anything else on the album. (Bandcamp link)

Samuel S.C. – High Places

Release date: February 17th
Record label: ORG
Genre: 90s indie rock, indie punk, emo
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Syracuse in Winter

You’d be forgiven for missing it during the holiday season, but towards the end of last year I wrote about 94-95, a compilation of recordings from 90s emo-punk band Samuel. The reissuing of their discography on vinyl was accompanied by the announcement of a band reunion and a brand new Samuel (now known as Samuel S.C., paying tribute to their original hometown of State College, Pennsylvania) full-length, High Places. The album is a mix of “reimagined” 90s Samuel songs and new songs written by the reunited quartet over the past couple years (I’d guess that the songs featuring a co-writing credit from former guitarist Josh Deutsch are the older ones). Long gap aside, High Places succeeds in both hanging together as a whole and in capturing the energy of an active, engaged group. High Places is unmistakably the work of a “90s band”–the decade’s roaring indie punk, Dischord Records jaggedness, and emo all figure into the record’s sound–but it takes a reinvigorated group of musicians to pull it off. 

When I highlighted opening track “All Up in It” last month, I compared the album as a whole to Majesty Shredding, and I stand by that in terms of career trajectory as much as sound. The first two songs on High Places are classic underdog punk anthems, before “Unfortunate” and “Syracuse and Winter” slow things down enough to allow the band’s emo side (and lead singer Vanessa Downing’s vocals) to shine. Downing’s voice is front-and-center throughout the entire record, and it remains one of Samuel S.C.’s strongest weapons (particularly when it combines with backing vocalist James Marinelli in “Syracuse in Winter” and “In Sleep”). The catchiness of High Places’ eight songs really stands out with repeat listens–one playthrough, the casual college pop rock of “Endless Golden” will stick out, another time it’ll be the intricate sprint of “The Front”. By the time Downing and Marinelli stop singing against each other and combine forces for the chorus of “In Sleep”, it’s apparent that High Places isn’t just “good for a reunion album”–this is a solid emo record, no qualifiers necessary.  (Bandcamp link)

Lack of Knowledge – The Uninvited (Reissue)

Release date: March 23rd
Record label: Floating Mill/No Plan
Genre: Post-punk, anarcho-punk
Formats: Cassette, vinyl, digital
Pull Track: The Uninvited

London’s Lack of Knowledge are a piece of anarcho-punk history. Active from 1978 to 1986, the group got signed to Crass Records (and later their sublabel, Corpus Christi) as teenagers and put out a full-length and several EPs during their eight years. Their first release was a 7” record put out by the band independently, “The Uninvited” backed with “Ritual”, and the strength of it was enough to get the attention of Crass. Originally released in 1982, these songs have resurfaced forty years later thanks to the help of Pittsburgh archival label Floating Mill (The Antelopes, The Stick Figures, Self Improvement), who are releasing the two tracks plus one outtake on cassette for the first time ever (a corresponding vinyl reissue from Germany’s No Plan Records appears to have sold out quite quickly).

From the opening and title track to The Uninvited, it becomes apparent that Lack of Knowledge weren’t strict practitioners of breakneck-paced, unhinged anarchist punk rock–they start things off with fairly restrained-sounding, bass-driven, vintage post-punk. While it’s certainly a less “polished” version of the sound put forward by the biggest names in the genre, it’s certainly no less potent for it. “Ritual” and the previously-unreleased “The Men” both follow in a similar vein of dark but tuneful garage rock-sounding post-punk, although they differentiate themselves solidly–the faster-paced “Ritual” has a bit of Fall-esque punchiness to it, and “The Men” takes a skeleton that loosely sounds like punk and hollows it out to make something cavernous. All three of these songs sound fresh and worth uncovering some four decades after their humble beginnings. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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