Thursday, August 10, 2006

Gimme indie rock!

Play it: Homestead Records
Download: "Freed Pig" / "Gimme Indie Rock" (Domino)

No, Homestead Records hasn't miraculously reappeared and digitally released it's catalogue, that will probably never happen. But enough of their catalogue has made it into reissues (Dinosaur, Sebadoh, Sonic Youth, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) and greatest hits/compilations (Daniel Johnston, Great Plains, New Radiant Storm King) that a playlist/look-back is now deserving. The label was instrumental in help launching the noise rock genre, and at the same time was infamous for mismanagement and malfeasance. Magnet Magazine recently ran a great profile / historical investigation of the label in their July/August (#72) issue.

Homestead Records began in 1983 as the vinyl-releasing arm of Barry Tenenbaum's Dutch East India Trading Co., a distribution network built-up from re-selling imported albums for profit. Early releases included LPs from Columbus, OH's Great Plains (featuring future Gibson Bros. and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartment members) and Chicago noise rockers Big Black, featuring a young Steve Albini.
My favorite retarded trick is (Tenenbaum) would make the numeral and literal amounts of the check different, so our bank couldn't cash it. It was like dealing with a small child who's trying to hide cookies under his pillow.
- Steve Albini, Big Black (Magnet #72)
Gerard Cosloy came on board in 1984 and Homestead's stable of artists became legendary as a result. During his tenur there, Homestead signed Sonic Youth, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Swans, Dinosaur, Sebadoh, Green River, Beat Happening, Squirrel Bait (future members of Slint and Gastr Del Sol,) Chills, Verlaines, Giant Sand, and controversial acts GG Allin and The Frogs.

By the late 80s, Tenenbaum had created such a terrible environment for artists and employess, everyone was leaving. Sonic Youth (1986,) and Dinosaur Jr. (1987) jumped ship to SST, Green River to Sub Pop, and finally even Cosloy left in early 1990. He went on to form Matador Records with another former Homestead employee Chris Lombardi. The label was never the same after that, and while indie rock officialy broke through in '91, thanks to Tenenbaum's tight purse strings and mass exodus of artists and employees, Homestead wasn't able to compete - a huge missed opportunity.

They continued to release some great albums most notably Sebadoh III, New Radiant Storm Kings Rival Time and Sleepyhead Communist Love Songs. Towards the end of their days, found a jazz nich (David S. Ware, Ivo Perelman) and ended w/o fanfare in 1996.

Instead of declaring bankrupcy, Tenenbaum allegedly absconded with all the Homesteaded inventory and disappeared. Repeated requests for accounting and inventory to Tenenbaum over the years have been unanswered but obviously he's been talking to someone, with the reissues coming out left and right (most notably, Dinosaur Jr's self-titled debut and Sebadoh's III in the past year.) Also, record collectors have found a plethora of Homestead releases for sale on ebay over the past eight years, from one lunapark010 (original ebay id was Of course, selling the inventory via eBay makes it nearly impossible for the artists to be compensated, which is a new take on the changing-the-numbers-on-the-checks game Tenenbaum was running early on.
I've had my ups and downs in the music business and I try not to be a grudge holder, but I would have to say Barry Tenenbaum is the one person I would say is unconscionably evil. Actually, that's giving him too much power. He's the one person I'd disparage in an interview without caveat or disclaimer.
- Peyton Pinkerton, New Radiant Storm King (Magnet #72)
That's saying a lot from Pinkerton, who also had to deal with Alan Meltzer and Grass/Wind-Up Records (NRSK's history is littered w/ bad labels.)

Separating Tenenbaum from the picture for a moment, it should be said that Homestead was a great label that put out a lot of important records that no one else would put out at the time. So the next time someone sings the praises of SST or Sub Pop, don't forget to chime in with the oft-forgotten Homestead.

Full listing of Homestead releases
Gerard Cosloy's excellent blog Can't Stop the Bleeding

A moment of inept grace brought to you by... (Sebadoh III reissue)
The Blueprint (reissues of first 3 Dinosaur Jr. Albums)
Fighting off the pricks (New Radiant Storm King The Steady Hand, and story)

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drake leLane said...

Homestead Records

1. "Gimmie Indie Rock" Sebadoh - HMS 165 - from the 7" of the same name, song became an anthem of sorts
2. "Tupelo" Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - HMS 026 - Fresh from the ashes of the band The Birthday Party
3. "Love To The Third Power" Great Plains - HMS 004 - from the LP 'Born in a Barn,' Colombus OH band
4. "Speeding Motorcycle" Daniel Johnston HMS 142 - from the double album 'Yip Jump Music,' Daniel quickly became a cult icon
5. "Stupid Idea" the Windbreakers - HMS 005 - from the LP 'Terminal'
6. "Death Valley '69 - (with Lydia Lunch)" Sonic Youth - HMS 016 - like many Homestead acts, SY jumped to SST from here
7. "Repulsion" Dinosaur Jr - HMS 015 - historic debut album from the influential band led by J Mascis (jumped to SST after this)
8. "Expose Yourself to Kids" G.G. Allin - HMS 099 - from the 7" of the same name, Allin was infamous for his self-destructive and confrontational shows
9. "I Dig You" Beat Happening - HMS 110 - from a 12" featuring Screaming Trees backing the band
10. "Swallow My Pride" Green River - HMS 031 - From the LP/CD 'Come on Down,' would go on to SubPop and splinter into Mudhoney and eventually Pearl Jam
11. "Criminal Child" Uzi - HMS 055 - from the Sleep Asylum 12"EP, singer Thalia Zedek went on to sing in Live Skull, the band Come, and solo
12. "The Freed Pig" Sebadoh - HMS 168 - Sebadoh's seminal call-out for the lo-fi movement
13. "Phonecall" New Radiant Storm King - HMS 207 - Acoustic version of song from the album 'Rival Time"

Andrew said...

Picked up a couple of Sebadoh downloads - "Gimmie Indie Rock" and "The Freed Pig." Decent.


drake leLane said...

Crimeny... I forgot to post the downloads!

But you looky looky and gots 'em anyway ;)

Adding them now (to this and previous post)