Featured artist: Boxcar (not Boxcar Willie or Boxcar Racers, just Boxcar)
Sometime in the early 90s, I was visiting my grandparents’ summer house in the mountains of New Hampshire, and we had gone down the hill to town for some provisions. In the grocery store, there was a kind of bargain bin of cassette tapes. I think they may have been $1.00 each. I dug through the bin — I have had great luck finding gold nuggets in other people’s cast-off music — and came up with two tapes which ended up being favorites of mine for many years to come. I chose them because the covers looked interesting, and for $1.00 that’s a gamble I was willing to take. The first was “Blind” by the Icicle Works; I picked it because the cover featured a guy with fish for eyes. I figured such surreal cover art couldn’t steer me too far wrong and I was not disappointed.
But the album that made me really sit up and take notice — and has been on my regular rotation ever since, repurchased several times over in CD, vinyl and finally, when the band re-emerged from limbo onto the internet, in bulk with several other hard-to-find bits in MP3 format — is “Vertigo” by Boxcar.
For years I searched for more Boxcar, but as they were an Australian group that never really gained any footing in the US, most of their work was only sparsely available on these shores. I asked friends and family who went to Australia later in life to keep an eye out for Boxcar, but by then even the land down under was short on this amazing stuff.
I had Depeche Mode and New Order and early Nine Inch Nails in my rotation as well, and I felt that Boxcar fit snugly into all of that. They felt like Australia’s answer to New Order, but far less prolific. And their producer was behind some of my favorite stuff from Severed Heads, and, as it turned out, in some way connected to Single Gun Theory as well (another amazing Australian act I was, eventually, lucky enough to see live on their first and only US tour).
Boxcar is, happily, still somewhat active if not really creating much new music. You can find them on their website as well as on Soundcloud. Digital versions of pretty much everything are available direct through them and that’s always the best way to support an artist you love.