neatsNeats – 1981-84 The Ace of Hearts Years. This cd compilation collects everything or at least almost everything the band recorded from 1981 through 1984. That includes “Six,” a 7″ released by Propeller Records in 1981, “The Monkey’s Head in the Corner of the Room” ep put out on Ace of Hearts Records in 1982, the self-titled lp also released by Ace of Hearts in 1983, and some additional recordings done at Radiobeat Studios in 1984.

The 1981-84 period is important, as far as the Neats are concerned, for a couple of related reasons.

One reason is that the Neats released a two more albums in the late 1980s that were quite different in style to the recordings featured here. Nothing really against those later releases, but in my opinion the work featured here is by far the band’s best. Thanks to the DIY Mass Ave Boston Scene (1975-83) collection, it’s always been easy to hear how great “Six” is, but when you load up this cd and on comes track 1, “Red and Grey,” you immediately remember why that “Monkey’s Head” record tied for 4th place in the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop listings for the best eps of 1982.

Another reason is that by hearing all of these songs together on one cd, you can really see how the band helped bridge the gap between late-1970s/early-1980s new wave, “Six” being the best example of that type of thing, and early-to-mid-1980s jangling-guitar indie rock a la “Red and Grey.” As again those Village Voice poll results make clear, the Neats were part of the same stylistic milieu that gave us REM, the Feelies, and the Dream Syndicate. Note, in particular, that “Chronic Town” places just two small notches above “Monkey’s Head,” and remember that, though again I have nothing against their later work, “Chronic Town” still stands as the best thing that REM ever did (and if you don’t remember that then go put it on and see for yourself).

The point is that the Neats were right up there, and more than anything else this cd drives home that, as awesome as singles like “Six” and “Caraboo” were and still are, that ep from 1982 and the lp that followed were chock full of consistently great stuff.

Fans of Boston rock will always be indebted to the Neats for the wonderful songs and the memories that go along with them. And, once again, we’re indebted to Rick Harte of Ace of Hearts records, for bringing it to us the first time and bringing it back to us again today.

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Last Friday, February 20, Rick Harte of the legendary Ace of Hearts record label visited the WZBC studios to talk with James, host of friday-morning “Kick out the James.” The topics of conversation ranged from Rick’s earliest recordings of the Neighborhoods, Mission of Burma, and many other Boston greats to his most recent work with the London-based Heat From a Dead Star. If you missed this fantastic interview, or caught it live but to want listen again, you can find an audio-archived version at James’ radio interview page.

And, speaking of the Neighborhoods, check this one out …