True West: Hollywood Holiday (1983)

True West were part of the crop of early/mid-80s Paisley Underground bands (though based in Sacramento rather than L.A.), blending post-punk guitar jangle with revivalist 60s psychedelia.  On their debut EP, True West brought a dark vibe to their psyche/garage band sound, more on the Dream Syndicate side of the equation than, say, Rain Parade or the Bangles.  The original EP (or mini-LP, as it was quickly re-released with a few additional tunes) had an obvious ringer in a bang-up cover of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd track "Lucifer Sam," which sounds superb; it's faithful to the original, but with some added menace from the screeching guitars.  

But the originals are solid as well.  Opener "Steps To The Door" is the obvious killer tune, revisiting the "Lucifer Sam" vibe but with some dark, heavily-reverbed punch -- it reminds me of garage band classic "Medication" (originally by the Sonics, later by the Vipers), a grinding, droning riff as a launch-pad to some wicked jams.  Fans of Spiritualized can look back to this track as something of a fore-runner.  "It's About Time" is lighter, more jangly, seemingly borrowing its dueling-guitar vamp from Television's "Venus" (maybe not surprisingly, as Tom Verlaine had produced some early recordings for the band).

The original album got a later deluxe treatment on CD (Hollywood Holiday Revisited), combined with the band's first proper full-length, 1984's Drifters.  And that album is arguably even better, the band moving in a more (college) radio-friendly direction with an added dose or R.E.M.-influenced jangle and pulling back on the moody psychedelia.  ("Shot You Down" and "Hold On" could well be Reckoning outtakes recorded while Stipe took a sick day.)  "At Night They Speak" is particularly lovely, but Drifters is overall one of the more unfairly overlooked albums of the era.  Plus, the CD appends those Verlaine-produced demos, and they're pretty great (ok, very Television-like, which is perfectly fine with me).  It's a pretty great package.

Here's a nicely animated audio rip of "Lucifer Sam":
Here's a live take on "Steps To The Door":
And, from Drifters, an audio rip of "At Night They Speak":