Bands that hit the mainstream and become household names or even just a band that has a hit single are just the tip of the iceberg.
The relationship that we have with music comes in many forms, but one form that’s not often thought about is how challenging it is to find information “in the information age” about incredible artists who went under the radar in their time.
Thank goodness for fans and industry taste makers who get reissues and anniversaries across the line because as of the November 6, Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records re-released Love Tractor‘s 1982 debut and self-titled instrumental record.
For the info dump, if you’ve never heard of Love Tractor, they hail from Athens, Georgia and came up with the likes of R.E.M. (opening for them plenty of times) and the B52‘s and funnily enough sharing drummer, Bill Berry, before he’d go on to be a permanent member with the former.
To the unfortunate and inexplicable way things pan out, the band disappeared into the abyss, appearing in the shadows of their contemporaries and probably even more obscure than the obscure themselves Pylon, however thanks to HHBTM we might finally see a little extra attention with this reissue and further reach thanks to the world wide web.
Formed by guitarists Mark Cline, Mike Richmond and bass player Armistead Wellford, Love Tractor set a mood instantly with their post-punk jangle-pop grooves and I hate to say it but Cline and Richmond‘s fretboard interplay harks back to the partnership of Television‘s Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd’s angular precision playing.
The biggest difference here is adding to the rawness of Love Tractor‘s sound – it’s completely naked with no vocals to hide behind, so what do you do? They get frisky with their influences and add some woodwind to the mix and it’s a remarkable touch. If Television and Talking Heads had a mute baby it would be Love Tractor. The record was remixed and remastered by David Barbe (Drive-By Truckers) and Billy Berry himself. Barbe interestingly is indie rock royalty himself forever immortalising himself as a member of Bob Mould‘s band, Sugar.
The album kicks off in style with Buy Me a Million Dollars – a minimalist excursion into the heavenly realms of post-punk bliss which draws certain parallels to that of Joy Division. Whilst Cline and Richmond work hard on ebb and flowing, it’s Wellford‘s rhythmic jaunty bass lines that string this whole project together.
Without vocals, what keeps this record so engaging is the band’s playfulness between each track, whether changing speeds or quick draw plectrum picking – it creates patterns and funks that you simply lose yourself to, with each composition is more complex than meets the ear (if you will).
There are plenty of comparisons that can be made in the duration, however the band do a good job of blending and compartmentalising several influences safely into their own approach and it’s commendable. For me it’s about the midway point of the record with Cowboy Songs that is the highlight of the record. Not only does it dine out on The Byrds ’60s jangle trademarks but adds some killer clarinet sounds to the mix – it’s a purely uplifting experience.
There’s a jangle here (especially a similar kind of sound that Johnny Marr would be later crowned king of) that you would hear a year later on R.E.M.’s debut, Murmur, which makes me think that Athens was a phenomenal place to be in the early ’80s and this album is helping me make the trip.
The band would go on to release five or so records in their first incarnation, slowly adding vocals along the way. So what else do you do with a reissue? You pick a song from the record create a video to coincide the release.