You And Your Sister (Remastered 25th Anniversary Edition)

The Vulgar Boatmen

Time Change Records, 2015

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Formed near the beginning of the '80s in Gainesville, Florida, The Vulgar Boatmen's initial lineup released cassettes before members John Eder and Walter Salas-Humara departed (Salas-Humara would go on to form the Silos). Soon after, Robert Ray and Dale Lawrence (Ray was teaching, and Lawrence was his student) manned the ship, and they traded tapes through the mail from Florida to Indiana to make music, built upon their shared love for Buddy Holly as well as the Sex Pistols.

In the years the followed, The Vulgar Boatmen would generate plenty of well-received pop music with violas, and they went through more than a dozen members in both states. Eventually, the band released their work on a major label, and while they had a loyal and devoted fanbase, mainstream appreciation eluded them. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

You And Your Sister, the 1989 debut album from The Vulgar Boatmen, sees the reissue treatment here, complete with three bonus tracks, a much-improved sound, and liner notes from Ann Powers (NPR). While still much rougher than most of the work released by their peers, this anniversary edition highlights the vocals and polishes the memorable rhythm section and warm melodies.

The Vulgar Boatmen was all about driving textures and memorable riffs, as exemplified by the leadoff track “Mary Jane” as well as deeper cuts like “Drive Somewhere.” With its strong acoustic work, “Decision By The Airport” is borderline country, though the bulk of this album comes off as a precursor to alternative rock, especially on songs like the introspective “Margaret Says,” the rockin' “Change The World All Around,” and the uniquely harmonic “Fallen Down.”

Of the bonus tracks, “It's A Secret” runs parallel to another former Gainesville resident, Tom Petty, while the gentle strumming and playful melodies of  “Nobody's Business” sound quite comparable to today's indie rock. The album exits on “The Kind Of Girl I Could Love,” originally done by The Monkees, and it manages to replicate a sound that actually predates the original.

While reissues like this are often meant to put a glossy coating on the past for diehard fans, in this case it will probably serve as a first time listen for most. Had social media existed when The Vulgar Boatmen was most active, there's little doubt that sharing, linking and tweeting would have made them fabulously successful. Instead, without any commercial hits, they remained obscure, despite their undeniable talent. Fans of Big Star, Yo La Tengo, The Velvet Underground, The Feelies, R.E.M., or anything falling under the college rock umbrella in the early '90s need to hear this.

Rating: A

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