Images from Flower Bomb Songs.
After seeing the entry about The Optic Nerve on Transparent Radiation, I realised I had to go back and listen to more than the one track I had heard by this band (from the Children of Nuggets box). I think the reason I initially dismissed them was that, with a name like that, you’d expect sometime more in the vein of The Human Expression (whose psychedelic “Optical Sound” I guess must have sprung to mind). Actually The Optic Nerve was a genuine 60s folk-rock outfit from mid-80s New York. Suddenly it made complete sense to write about them in the same post I had intended to make about The Lears.
These two bands have more than their folk-rock roots in common, and although The Lears got together later Muchler (of the previously lauded Belltowers!) and Dalcin and already been playing separately in The Shades and Green Today in the mid-80s. Both Lears and Optic Nerve disbanded before being able to commit more than a few singles to vinyl, but later both had compilations released post-humously on Get Hip. The Optic Nerve’s Lotta Nerve includes many previously unreleased demos, with a sound that is less electric and dense than The Lears, and with a heavy lean towards the harmonica-laden, P.F. Sloan end of the folk-rock spectrum. In fact, another LP’s worth of recovered material resulted in the release of Forever and a Day, also around 1994. Out of the 23 tracks in total, my favourite is “What’s Been Missing” that you can hear below.
The Lears’ The Story So Far is not a complete discography, but on the other hand includes plenty of extraordinary unreleased songs, with a rich Rickenbacker sound very reminiscent of The Byrds. We get a great cover of Love’s “Softly to Me”, and according to the booklet they’ve also recorded The Pretty Things’ “You Don’t Believe Me” and contributed to the excellent double-disc Gene Clark tribute Full Circle. Among the unreleased tracks the droning “Candle and Birds” impresses the most. Still available from Get Hip!