Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Paisley Underground Series, #14: Game Theory- Real Nighttime (1985) MP3 & FLAC

"Send me home counting the chances I've had. I could fill up three digits, 
but that's not what it means to be sad."

While The Paisley Underground is commonly characterized as a bastion of neo-psychedelia (the moniker unfortunately promotes this), as a movement, it was actually diverse enough to include everything from cow-punk to Power-Pop. Another myth about The Paisley Underground is that it was primarily an L.A.-based phenomenon; in reality, many of the core bands in the movement had migrated south, in one form or another, from Davis, CA., which was home to its own vibrant music scene that functioned as something of a precursor to the more famous Paisley scene. Bands such as The Dream Syndicate, True West, Thin White Rope and Scott Miller's Game Theory all got their start, at least to some degree, in the Davis scene. Game Theory, whose sound was predicated more on seventies-style Power-Pop than the psychedelia embraced by many of their contemporaries, formed in Sacramento in 1982 and quickly found themselves playing the same clubs as the bands that would later foment the Paisley scene in L.A. By 1984, they had built up enough of a reputation to attract preeminent Jangle-Pop producer Mitch Easter (who had produced R.E.M.'s brilliant debut Murmur) to man the production booth for their first professionally recorded LP, Real Nighttime. While Miller and co. were clearly in thrall to Big Star and sixties-era Brit-Rock, on Real Nighttime, their brand of Power-Pop is anything but derivative, as it incorporates elements of New Wave such as keyboard textures, smart, often irreverent, lyrics and no lack of odd structural twists and turns. For example, on "24," what at first sounds like a straightforward piece of R.E.M.-style Jangle-Pop quickly turns in to a quirky hybrid of jangly guitars, cascading keyboards, and Miller's sweet lead vocals that occasionally sound Chilton-esque in their upper-register earnestness. Speaking of Alex Chilton, perhaps the album's true highlight is Game Theory's cover of "You Can't Have Me" from Big Star's 3rd. This has never been one of my favorite Big Star songs, but in the hands of Miller and co., it sounds both more developed and more raw. Brief though it is, it ranks with Kendra Smith's version of "Holocaust" from the Rainy Day album as among the best Big Star covers I've heard. Game Theory were one of the more melodically gifted bands of The Paisley Underground, and though they largely avoided overt neo-pyche elements in their sound, their unconventional approach to the Big Star Power-Pop template makes them yet another worthy Paisley (re)discovery.

Real Nighttime
 1. Here Comes Everybody  (0:08)
 2. 24  (2:54)
 3. Waltz the Halls Always  (2:40)
 4. I Mean It This Time  (3:14)
 5. Friend of the Family  (6:22)
 6. If and When It Falls Apart  (3:48)
 7. Curse of the Frontierland  (3:33)
 8. Rayon Drive  (1:53)
 9. She'll Be a Verb  (3:37)
10. Real Nighttime  (3:51)
11. You Can't Have Me  (2:20)
12. I Turned Her Away  (2:59)
-Bonus Tracks-
13. Any Other Hand  (3:04)
14. I Want to Hold Your Hand  (2:15)
15. Couldn't I Just Tell You  (2:56)


  1. I've been on the lookout for this for years. I used to buy and sell records in Cen Cal and I never came across any Game Theory. In truth, I've never heard them. I loved the first Hex album that Donnette Thayer was on. It's one of my all time favorites. I'm a bit surprised to hear that Game Theory is more akin to R.E.M. than to Hex. I always figured them to be in the 4AD/Projekt crowd.

    I got the amp back up again. I bought another one and the sight of a replacement scared the dead one back to life. No kidding. I've got some catching up to do here. Your recent posts have been amazing. Chris Bell is another one I've been on the lookout for. Game Theory and Chris Bell in one day...It's almost too much to hope for but it's true. Thanks.

  2. Scott Miller is one of the many unsung and unknown heroes of rock Both of his bands, Game Theory and The Loud Family, made some of the most spectacular music of the 80s and 90s. Of all of Game Theory's recording's, Lolita Nation (from 1987) remains my favorite. Thanks for sharing Real Nightime. Kurt

  3. Another artist and band I missed while I was too busy focusing on The Clash. Thanks for posting and for a really well written review/history. Nice amp story Ol' Foggy! I've seen the same thing happen so it's true, they know.

  4. During the time the paisley underground was in full swing, a friend likened them to Rain Parade and told me I should check them out. I never got around to it then (I was collecting hoards of 60's comps and post-punk bands at the time). I recently listened to a lossy rip of a "best of". I liked what I heard but I couldn't get the Rain Parade connection (other than the fact they both sing in English), so I'm going to give a serious try this time. Thanks for this continuing series, voixautre.

    BTW, I know you've got lots of material in store, but have you thought of putting any Swedish bands in the mix like The Nomads, The Watermelon Men or Wayward Souls?

  5. Ol' Foggy, these Game Theory albums are exceedingly rare and expensive. I plan to post them all in FLAC as the series progresses. In terms of sound, they are definitely in the power-pop vein, and they do it well. I'm glad you liked the Chris Bell post; that one was a special one for me

  6. Kurt, my pleasure. I plan to post the others as well as some Loud Family later in the series

  7. cudawaver, I'm with you; I don't see the Rain Parade connection, but they are definitely worth checking out. I will post more Game Theory soon. The Swedish bands sound interesting; I may post a few of those. Sometimes I wish I had named the series something else, something more general such as the "neo-psyche series." But the Paisley stuff was my original inspiration for starting the blog

  8. This is why I LOVE this site. I've never heard of these guys... so many lost gems out there to discover. Voxautre you are awesome.

  9. Anon. thank you. I have plenty more lost gems coming. Stay with me!

  10. Just when I think "enough already" along comes someone like Donnette Thayer and people like you and there I go again, following those bread crumbs...

    Never mind what the labels and mega-corp networks are pushing - not relevant - this is a GREAT era for music.

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