Friday, May 03, 2013

Three Hits "Pressure Dome" EP (2013 Record Store Day release)

Michael Kurtz, the co-founder and co-manager of Record Store Day, was once a member of a North Carolina indie-pop band called Three Hits, who issued two singles in 1984 and 1985, and an eight-song EP titled Fire In The House in 1989. Kurtz and his brother Danny were the quartet’s guitarists; the singer and bassist was a young woman named Sheila Valentine, who was influenced by both Blondie and rockabilly.

Being the co-manager of Record Store Day earned Kurtz the right to have a limited-edition vinyl EP of his former band’s recordings released on that day, and he was granted this wish in 2013. Limited to 1,000 copies and pressed in transparent purple vinyl, the 12-inch EP Pressure Dome contained the A- and B-sides of the 1985 single of the same name, as well as an additional track from the same Don Dixon-produced recording sessions, and two songs from Fire In The House. The EP also came with a download card that allowed the buyer to download mp3 files of those five songs, as well as two bonus tracks. In the liner notes, Kurtz reminisces about his youthful years in the band, telling a brag-worthy anecdote about sharing a bill with Alex Chilton, and being told by the Big Star alternative-icon that he liked his band. It would have been nice to report that the Pressure Dome EP turned out to be a good musical find, but it shows that the alternative pop sound of Three Hits was only mildly diverting.

The two songs from Fire In The House were given shiny production by Huw Gower, the former guitarist from the Records. The sound is like a middle ground between the Go-Go’s and 10,000 Maniacs, quirky but not arty, easy to take but not exactly mainstream. The Kurtz brothers provide offbeat guitar playing, but Gower’s glossy presentation makes it hard to notice.

The EP’s second side contains the two songs from the 1985 “Pressure Dome” single (originally issued by Hib-Tone, catalogue number HT-8501), and an additional song (“Picture Window”) from the same sessions. The band is heard to better effect on this side. Producer Don Dixon brought out some of Valentine’s rockabilly side, and her vocals are reminiscent of Debbie Harry’s without being an exact copy. The Kurtz brothers’ guitar playing is more straightforward here, doing a better job of propelling the songs along. Jim Biddell's new wave percussion gives the songs extra charm. These three songs are still nothing special, but they’re pleasant enough.

The two bonus songs available through the download card were described as “previously unissued”, although one of them was the B-side of the 1984 single “Sharp Focus”, which was also produced by Dixon. That song, “Just One Of The Guys”, is a rather awkward new wave tune about a tomboy; it sounds almost improvisational, as Valentine talk-sings around her bass lines. The other song, “Wild Volcano”, is the best track of the seven. It’s more like the Go-Go’s-meet-the-Maniacs songs from Fire In The House, but with notable energy from all of the band members, as well as lead guitar work from Mr. Gower, it’s quite an enjoyable romp. Now that song could have been a hit.


Three Hits “Pressure Dome” EP (Omnivore OVS12-63) 2013

Track Listing:

SIDE ONE

1. Cage Of Gold
2. Lori (Last Girl On The Beach)

SIDE TWO

3. Numbers
4. Pressure Dome
5. Picture Window

Download Card Bonus Tracks

6. Just One Of The Guys
7. Wild Volcano

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