There were bands at our college radio station that everyone was practically mandated to know. I’m not referring to the titans of the college radio charts at the time–R.E.M., The Cure, The Replacements, bands like that–as much as those otherwise obscure acts that were represented on our station playlists like they were among the most vaunted figures in the college rock canon. Usually this developed because one person discovered a band and started pushing it on other DJs like the opportunity to charge for future necessary doses was a given. Often, it was an attitude that the band had that captured our attention first and foremost. I don’t remember our station membership being collectively swayed by lush sonic soundscapes or even killer hooks. But if a band had a sarcastic swagger, a snarky cynicism and an offbeat sense of humor, we tended to fall hard.
And if they were from our home state…well, there was no question they’d be elevated to full-on hero status.
Milwaukee’s Couch Flambeau was a big deal at 90FM by the time I got there. I’d never heard of them, but the elders of the station were sure to pull copies of their releases out of the C Stacks and put them in my hands. “This is a band you need to know,” was the message. “This is us.” Their music was built on bouncy, punky fire, with the anger and aggression that increasingly defined the punk scene replaced by a sort of sardonic resignation. It was the sort of band you wanted to have a beer with.
It was also the sort of band that I long assumed was lost forever, only to be found in used record store around America’s Dairyland. Their last album, Ghostride, was released in 1989 and, much as I loved them, it didn’t seem likely that any labels were clamoring to assemble lavish reissues. But then again, the guys in the band had their own label in the first place. Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. It was called to my attention by a good friend with an amazing capacity for finding the weird and wonderful on the Internet that there is indeed a fun-packed Couch Flambeau compilation available for purchase, happily at a site that implies a great deal of the revenue will go directly to the band.
As wondrous as the collection is–and the heaping helping of tracks from Ghostride guarantees it wins my heart–devotees of Couch Flambeau invariably can point to some heartbreaking omission. In fact, I believe when I first perused the website housing the compilation that one of the very first pleas in the comments section highlighted the absence of the song “Models.” This was the title cut of an EP the band released in 1987. It’s everything I want a Couch Flambeau song to be: brash, smart, funny and peppered with unexpected musical shifts and nifty little oddities like the faulty falsetto of the unemployed model (“Maybe I can get on the Letterman show”).
Hearing this song is undeniably nostalgic for me, but unlike some other music that stirs those sorts of feelings this does more than take me back to a specific place in time. I also come to freshly appreciate the pure fun of the song. I’m not solely recapturing joy of the past; I’m enjoying it for what it is in the here and now. The music world needs more bands like Couch Flambeau.
(Disclaimer: As noted above, there are easy ways to plop dollars into the hands of the band members and I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. The song “Models,” however, still seems to exist only on old vinyl which is unavailable for purchase except at hipper used outlets. Thankfully I found someone willing to share their copy with Web-connected strangers and I’ve credited that generous soul with a link sneakily hidden above. So I’ve shared this one song, but will gladly remove it if contacted by someone with due authority to make such a request.)