Fresh-faced power-poppers raised on Cheap Trick, the Raspberries, Kiss and new wave in Potsdam, New York, the four Gigolo Aunts (the name, borrowed from a Syd Barrett song, was chosen by singer/guitarist Dave Gibbs’ father) relocated to Boston, made a sprightly but wimpy and amateurish debut album (different from the rare Spanish release Tales From the Vinegar Side) and then faded back into the New England club scene. Gibbs resurfaced as Velvet Crush’s second guitarist in the early ’90s, but returned full-time to his own group as its career began heating up abroad.
The smart and surging ’92 British EP (a four-songer built around “Bloom” and “Cope,” previously self-released as a domestic single) displays a much tougher and more confident pop-rock sound than the first LP. While the ebulliently catchy hooks and stirring harmony vocals hark back shamelessly to the ’60s, Phil Hurley’s guitar tempests and Paul Brouwer’s hyperactive drumming give the songs stylistic currency. The Gun EP added another essential number (the sardonic title track) to the slowly expanding canon and furthered the sense (in Britain, at least) that the Aunts were an American answer to Teenage Fanclub. It didn’t hurt that the bands shared a UK label, or that the group had made “Serious Drugs,” a song by the BMX Bandits, a live staple.
The transatlantic release hopscotch continued when California’s Alias label remixed “Bloom,” adding two B-sides from the Gun EP, one from Gigolo Aunts, a dreamy studio recording of “Serious Drugs” and the instrumental “Little Carl” to create Full-On Bloom, something of a premature greatest hits. But even that evidently wasn’t enough use for the lead song, which appears yet again (along with “Cope” and “Gun”) on Flippin’ Out. Compared to the smoothly produced fizz that charges the exemplary Byrdsy “Where I Find My Heaven” (another fine original) — and such fair new tunes as “Lullaby,” “Mrs. Washington” and “Pin Cushion” — the two-year-old tracks sound weakly underproduced and more than a wee bit tired.
Adding to the discographical overlap, “Where I Find My Heaven” — which was included on the Dumb and Dumber movie soundtrack — was then used, along with two lesser Flippin’ Out songs and “Serious Drugs,” as the title track of a British EP.
A revised lineup sounds reinvigorated on Minor Chords and Major Themes, a rich-sounding collection that is not as downcast as the title would imply. True, the fragile “You’d Better Get Yourself Together, Baby,” “Everything Is Wrong” (co-written by Jane Wiedlin), “The Big Lie” and “Simple Thing” (which are grouped together in the sequence) are mildly-to-majorly dispirited, but “Everyone Can Fly” and “C’mon C’mon” marry an optimistic, encouraging outlook to equally uplifting music. Rocked up extra-hard, “Super Ultra Wicked Mega Love” is presented as a joke, but the desire for happiness is still the same. Gibbs is in fine voice throughout, and gets strong harmony support from drummer Fred Eltringham, bassist Steve Hurley and guitarist Jon Skibic. Guests on the disc include Adam Schlesinger, Adam Duritz and ex-Aunt Phil Hurley.