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Ear to the Ground: Further’s “California Bummer”

The noise-pop pioneers’ out-of-print recordings are finally getting the reissue treatment—and just in time to help guitarist Josh Schwartz’s battle with ALS.

When indie rock was born in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Los Angeles band Further didn’t make as big a splash as Pavement or Sebadoh, but any snobby record-store clerk will argue that they were almost as seminal. Founded by brothers Darren and Brent Rademaker, Further eventually branched off into bands such as country-rockers Beachwood Sparks and indie surf group the Tyde. Follow Further’s roots even further, and you’ll see that in one way or another, they reach as far as psych-pop band Lilys, Chris Robinson Brotherhood (Neal Casal played with Beachwood Sparks before joining), and Dinosaur Jr.—Beachwood’s second album, Once We Were Trees was recorded at J. Mascis’ studio, and the silver-haired Jazzmaster guru even played on a couple tracks.

So it’s only fitting that there’s a salient nod to Mascis’ frantic guitar playing in Further’s early lo-fi recordings—which have been out of print for well over two decades. But if you missed out the first time, guess what? The Rademaker brothers and U.K. label Bad Paintings are now taking pre-orders for Where Were You Then?—a compilation of Furthers’ best singles and EP tracks from 1991 to 1997.

The aptly titled “California Bummer” is the first song leaked from Where Were You Then? Reminiscent of early Sonic Youth and Smile-era Ride, the guitars here compete for center stage with hyperactive drumming and infectious vocal melodies that are catchier than a cold. Following a scratchy no-fi intro, it erupts into a scribbled tangle of string bending, shrieking distortion, and freak-scene fuzz. All of which should also serve to raise awareness of former Further and Beachwood Sparks guitarist Josh Schwartz, who is currently scheduled to receive stem-cell therapy for a brutal case of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) that has rendered him unable to play guitar or sing. If you dig “California Bummer” or just feel like getting good karma, consider helping the cause by visiting the treatment fundraising page set up by friends of his from the L.A. music community.