The Safe Distance at Vinyl District

Run by husband and wife team of Stewart Anderson and Jen Turrell, The Flagstaff, AZ-based label Emotional Response flies the flag of punkish indie pop and specializes in the tried-and-true format of the 7-inch EP, with much of the focus on the projects of the operators including Hulaboy and Boyracer. Of particular interest is “Songs” by The Safe Distance, a group featuring Anderson in tandem with Crayola of the UK band Sarandon and David Nichols of Australia’s Cannanes.

Whether it spins at 45 or 33 1/3 RPM, comes enclosed in a designed sleeve or one made of plain paper, or has a large or small hole drilled in its center, there’s nothing quite like the charge inspired by a worthwhile 7-inch. ‘twas once the dominant vessel for chart hits, countless misses and a surfeit of regional obscurities, but even after the advent of the compact disc, subscriber-based singles clubs flourished, as did a few labels specifically devoted to the short form.

The trend continues with Emotional Response, a 7-inch enterprise (though a flexi-disc does lurk in its background) co-managed by a guy who as the sole constant member of Boyracer played no small role in the ‘90s singles boom, his band releasing platters through the auspices of such esteemed imprints as Slumberland and Sarah plus his own Red Square and 555 Recordings.

While certainly connected to Anderson’s prior achievements, Emotional Response doth waft a distinct aroma, combining varying degrees of punk weightiness and humor with indie pop invention and a smart approach to the combination of physical product and technological advancement; over half the discography contains supplementary downloadable material.

Along with Turrell, Anderson’s partner in life and labeldom on bass, Boyracer’s most recent lineup flaunts the return of Sarah-period guitarist Matt Green. Thusly, Boyracer’s participation in Emotional Response’s roster isn’t a bit surprising, and for that matter, neither is the appearance of Hulaboy, Anderson’s long-running collab with Eric Stoess of Hula Hoop.

“He’s Making Violent Love to Me, Mother” is Hulaboy’s 3-song 7-inch/10-song download, its title culled from the dialogue of a film inextricably linked to the Christmas season (no, I shan’t spoil it), a gesture indicating recurring referentiality; opener “Exes and Enemies” names Facebook, “The Kid Asked” cites the records of The Jesus and Mary Chain and movies by Lars Von Trier, Michael Haneke and Mike Nichols, the raucous “Kids Under Stars” speaks of hearing Phil Ochs on the radio, and a pair of track titles allude to Mark E. Smith and Crispin Glover.

“Hey!” even opens with the titular sample-clip from said seasonal flick. Differing from this tendency however is Hulaboy’s briefest and best tune, “Napalm Heart.” “…ripping off the Postcard and Flying Nun back catalogue”: that’s a self-deprecating snippet from Emotional Response’s promo text, and while not necessarily off-target, “Napalm Heart” hits upon a catchy and sharp vibe reminiscent of a release by Stiff or maybe even Small Wonder. Altogether, ER 09 is a satisfying half hour.

ER 10 is Boyracer’s “Pete Shelley,” the 4-song 7-inch/6-song download pointing to a carryover of Hulaboy’s inclination for name-checking. But the comparison doesn’t really extend beyond the title-track, as surfacing instead is Anderson’s knack for lean and loud melodiousness; a highly fertile musician credited with 800 tunes (a quick glance at Discogs bears this out), the results here connect as the byproduct of an aggressive and un-fussed-over spontaneity.

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