Monday, May 31, 2010

Mal Thursday's Victory Lap

Mal Thursday's Victory Lap by Vincent Bator

Once upon a time in the early ‘90s, the western Mass. indie music scene was a vibrant, buzzing place to be. Rumors floated through the air (and in the “industry” thanks to a Billboard article in 1992) constantly that the next big scene after Seattle was Northampton.

To a degree, that hype was well-founded: Bands like Sebadoh, New Radiant Storm King, and Scud Mountain Boys were attracting the attention of the music business. All of those bands (or their collective members) were widely hailed by the critics and hugely influential on a new crop of artists.

But there was a great local music scene prior to those halcyon days, and one individual who both participated in it, and then later promoted it, is returning to Massachusetts to get his due.

In 1984, a Hampshire College student on the seven-year plan, formed a garage-rock band heavily steeped in the music of The Seeds, The Sonics, DMZ, Lyres, and Roky Erickson, that decades later would be influential on a whole new generation of like-minded musicians. The band was The Malarians, and that guy was the snappily-monikered Mal Thursday. In 1986, the group released its seminal recording In the Cool Room (Chunk Records) and the rest as they say, is history.

While not a huge record in its time, In the Cool Room (remixed and remastered in 2009) defines an era, a genre, and ultimately The Malarians. The band recorded a CMJ charting EP, Know, in 1988, and recorded an unreleased LP, Malarians for Mothers and Daughters a/k/a Heavy Hits during that time. In 1989, after a series of line-up defections, the latest incarnation of the band recorded a live LP, Finished in This Town. And a year later, the band was indeed done.

The Malarians/Courtesy of Chunk Archives

Life After The Malarians

Mal went on to form Mal Thursday and the Cheetahs in the ‘90s, working in the same vein as The Malarians.

What really cemented Thursday’s stature in the local scene was the label that he ran, Chunk Records, and the Bay State Hotel where he booked bands from 1992-1995.

Chunk Records released more than two dozen records (mostly 45s and compilations on vinyl), many of them by local bands such as Zeke Fiddler, Steve Westfield, Tizzy, Queer, and The Veronica Cartwrights. The complete story of the label is lovingly re-created by Thursday at his blog.

Thursday was partly responsible for growing a music scene in Northampton while booking the Bay State Hotel with local and national indie music groups. The Bay State Hotel had a comfy “living room” atmosphere that was both intimate and conducive to experiencing up-and-coming bands or bands that were breaking. For all that’s exciting about Northampton’s current music scene, nothing compares to those times.

Mal Thursday Returns

On June 3rd, Mal Thursday & The Cheetahs return to the Bay State (or the Sierra Grille if you prefer), and The Malarians as well on June 10th. A sort of victory lap, The Cheetahs and The Malarians will also play a date each in Boston, while the Malarians play Worcester and Amherst (part of Hampshire College’s 40th anniversary).

Never one to be inactive, Thursday, now a family man living in Austin, TX, has been busy with numerous musical projects, most recently overseeing the re-releases of both of his old bands’ recording output, hosting a show on GaragePunk Podcast Network and writing a film column.

In a recent e-mail exchange with Northampton Media, Thursday (real name: J.M. Dobies) talks retrospectively about his career, the Bay State Hotel, and why he’s touring again.

NM: How did a kid from Massena, NY, of all backwater ‘burgs, turn out like you?

MT: Growing up in Massena was sort of like growing up in Canada, in that it was 10 miles from the border, and an hour from Montreal. We got to enjoy the cultural benefits of Canadian television and radio. My parents were pretty cosmopolitan, my father being the young doctor who moved to the North Country because of the area’s Eisenhower-era boom economy with the St. Lawrence Seaway and the aluminum industry.

I always read a lot. I loved rock ‘n’ roll. I went to boarding school in 1977, where I first dabbled in music, and tried to sing with a band. In the Fall of 1980, I went to Hampshire College which was where I really got into music, much to the detriment of my studies (although I did eventually graduate seven years later)...


Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Malarians' 'Know' and 'Finished In This Town' Now Available at CD Baby

The Malarians' 1988 Know EP and the 1989 live recording Finished In This Town have been reissued in a deluxe digital and CD release at CD Baby. The mp3 album is available for download now ($4.95 for the five EP tracks, or $9.99 for all 20 tracks), with the CD due to be released on June 8th, just in time for the band's 2010 reunion tour of Route 9.


Following up the recent digital reissue of Massachusetts' garage kings The Malarians' 1986 LP In The Cool Room, here are 1988's blistering five-track vinyl EP Know and the equally feverish 1989 live recording Finished In This Town in a deluxe CD and digital package.

The Malarians' most successful release, Know features the band's classic line-up: Mal Thursday, Johnny Tomorrow, Bob Medley, Slater Awn, and Lime Ricky. The record went top 20 on the CMJ charts and sold out of its original pressing in weeks.

With only Thursday and Awn remaining, the Malarians made an attempt at replicating the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams" LP by recording the new line-up, featuring Mike Sewell of the Lonely Moans, Steve Healey of Wingtip Sloat, and Peter "Spec" McHugh, at their second-ever gig with a mobile truck at Springfield's Zone Art Center. Finished In This Town was given an abortive release in 1990, when the band broke up prior to the pressing of the CD. Only the Cassette was issued, in very limited quantities.

Together at last, The Malarians' Know/Finished In This Town 20th Anniversary Limited Edition CD from Chunk Archives.
Know produced by Sean Slade and Jim Fitting

Finished In This Town produced by Sean Slade and Mal Thursday

And don't forget to pay a call on The Malarians SwagShack at Cafe Press:

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Mal Thursday Show #26: Songs the Lyres Taught Us, Vol. 4

The Mal Thursday Show #26: Songs the Lyres Taught Us, Vol. 4

In honor of Lyres' upcoming appearances in Boston (Friday June 4 with Mal Thursday and the Cheetahs and the Coffin Lids) and Worcester (Friday June 11 with the Malarians and the Immolators), Mal presents Volume Four of "Songs the Lyres Taught Us." More great records from Jeff Conolly's secret stash, from such stellar artists as the Standells, the Stonemen, and the Seeds.

Presented in Living Monophonic Sound.



LYRES: Feeling No Pain
THE STANDELLS: Zebra in the Kitchen
DON & THE GOODTIMES: Little Sally Tease
THE SONICS: Dirty Robber/The Witch
THE BEAU BRUMMELS: Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby
LYRES: Seven (Live Cavestomp ’97)
THE OUTSIDERS: What’s Wrong With You
WALLY TAX: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
THE JAY JAYS: Today I’m Gay
LYRES: Give Your Love to Me
PETE BEST COMBO: I’ll Try Anyway
THE TROPICS: Tired of Waiting
THE BOOTS: But You’ll Never Do It Babe
THE STOICS: Enough of What I Need
THE SPADES: We Sell Soul
13th FLOOR ELEVATORS: You’re Gonna Miss Me (Take 6)
THE SEEDS: Just Let Go
LYRES: What a Girl Can’t Do


Monday, May 17, 2010

The Malarians' 'In The Cool Room,' 'Know,' and More Now Available as Digital Downloads

Originally released on Chunk Records in the 1980s, the recordings of my old band The Malarians (the American Garage Band, not the Spanish ska band) are now available as digital downloads at Amazon and several other services, and coming soon to iTunes. The remixed, remastered, and reanimated version of In The Cool Room, our lovable first LP from 1986, is available now at, on the Chunk Archives label.

The 20-track 2-for-1 Know/Finished In This Town CD combines the Malarians' most successful release, 1988's bombastic, blistering five-track statement of purpose Know with the equally feverish 1989 live recording Finshed In This Town. Available June 1st.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Interview with Kim Morgan

The image conjured up by the term "film writer" is generally that of a pale, bespectacled, balding, middle-aged guy in a rumpled suit. Kim Morgan is not your typical film writer: blonde, beautiful, funny and effervescent, with a ferocious intelligence, she is also an authority on Film Noir and "Pre-Code" cinema.

To paraphrase the late, great Lux Interior of the Cramps, "She got good taste."

In addition to writing movie columns for L.A. Weekly, The Huffington Post, the MSN Movies blog, and her own Sunset Gun, Morgan has been working the festival circuit, most recently presenting and moderating screenings of Barfly with director Barbet Schroeder and Synedoche, New York with writer/director Charlie Kauffman at Ebertfest in Chicago.

This Sunday May 2nd, Morgan will introduce the Alamo Cinema Club's presentation of 1931's Night Nurse, directed by William Wellman, and starring Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Blondell, and Clark Gable, and preside over the Q&A with the Alamo's Lars Nilsen.

Kim sat down with the Austin Classic Movies Examiner to discuss 'Night Nurse,' Pre-Code Cinema, and the great Barbara Stanwyck.

The period between the dawn of the talkies and the enforcement of the production code produced a lot of great films, many of which were much grittier, racier, and more realistic than the ones that followed. What do you find most compelling about pre-code cinema?

So much. There’s a fascinating mixture of gritty realism and beauty, thoughtful explication of society, particularly regarding the depression, and then, flat out exploitation (but good exploitation, and there is good exploitation). There’s unique faces, young actors revealing the charisma that will make them enormous movie stars in the near future. There’s cinematic invention -- the talkies produced so many challenges for filmmakers and some of them, Wellman included, created some staggeringly beautiful moments (look at those gorgeous faces in his silent film Wings, look at that innovative, moving opening shot of the hospital in Night Nurse). These movies are old, but they feel new to me. They move. They’re fast. They’re funny and smart and usually beautifully crafted. And they’re still relevant today

What makes Night Nurse such a great example of pre-code filmmaking?

Night Nurse is about breaking rules. Pre-code is, essentially, about breaking rules. There’s so much discussion of ethics vs. humanity in Night Nurse that is especially interesting and again, remains timeless. And then all of the “salacious” elements. From Stanwyck and Blondell constantly dressing and undressing, Gable slugging and drugging women, starving children for money, the bootlegger as hero. And that ending! The ending is one of the greatest pre-code endings – ever. I don’t want to give it away here.


The Alamo Cinema Club presents
Night Nurse, presented by film writer Kim Morgan, Sunday May 2nd at 7 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, 320 East Sixth Street in downtown Austin.