Personnel: Chris Stamey, Rob Slater (guitar); Mitch Easter (acoustic guitar); Will Rigby (drums); Chris Chamis, Robert Kirkland (percussion).
Liner Note Author: Scott Schinder.
Recording information: Osiris Studio, Atlanta, GA.
They called the Flatlanders more of a legend than a band, and the same holds true for the Sneakers, a power pop group from North Carolina that was known more than heard. That they were known is down to their co-leaders, Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter, two figures who loomed large in the American underground in the '80s as the leaders of the dB's and Let's Active, respectively (Sneakers drummer Will Rigby was also a founding member of the dB's; Easter also produced the early R.E.M. albums Murmur and Reckoning in tandem with Don Dixon, who helmed the Sneakers EP). The Sneakers had an EP and an LP to their name, but they were local independent efforts at a time when independent albums truly did not leave their locality, so they were hard to find for many, many years -- a situation that was somewhat rectified by the 1992 release Racket, which was the first reissue of this material, but in somewhat bastardized form, as it was remixed and partially re-recorded in places. Fifteen years later -- nearly as a long a span of time from their EP to their first LP -- Stamey and Easter compiled the Nonsequitur of Silence CD for Collectors' Choice, rounding up almost all of the EP, LP, and assorted cuts from Racket, plus three unreleased bonus tracks. To put it mildly, this was a big deal, the first real comp of one of the legendary forgotten bands, but Omnivore's 2015 expanded version of the EP -- weighing in at 11 tracks, including a version of the Grass Roots' "Let's Live for Today" -- is also noteworthy because it revives the nervy, independent feel of the birth of power pop. This almost feels as long ago, if not more so, than the Beatles and British Invasion that fueled the Sneakers; the group's homemade replicas of ringing '60s guitar pop hinted toward punk, new wave, jangle pop, and ultimately indie rock, but lacked all of the stylized self-absorption that followed as well. Like Big Star before them, the Sneakers were pop obsessives recording in a blissful vacuum, obsessed with the past but not living with it, so their recordings have a twitchy vitality that remains bracing and fresh years later. The Sneakers may belong to a cult, but it's an important one, acting as the bridge between Big Star and R.E.M., pointing the way to such latter-day popsters as Guided by Voices and the Elephant 6 collective, too. Nevertheless, the best way to think of the Sneakers is not in terms of history, but rather as a band that produced some brilliant power pop during its brief existence, pure pop that remains purely pleasurable all these years later and has never been better heard than it is here. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine