Game Theory - Blaze of Glory [Reissue] (Cover Artwork)

Game Theory

Blaze of Glory [Reissue] (1982)

Omnivore Recordings

if you missed the obituaries last April, here's the recap: Scott Miller made unfairly obscure albums of tricksy power—pop, with consistently smart (even obtuse) lyrics. He excelled at grafting memorable hooks to oddball chord progressions (like Bob Pollard, but without sounding anything like GBV). There's almost nothing punk about how his music sounds, but his continual defiance of current musical fashion was pretty effin' punk. The music of his 90s band Loud Family is easy to find —— and I'd argue that the sprawling, often gorgeous, "Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things" and the frequently scathing "Interbabe Concern" are two of the decade's best albums —— but everything his 80s band Game Theory or his earlier project Alternate Learning ever did has been out of print for years, trading for beacoup bucks on eBay.

Now, in the wake of his untimely death, Omnivore Recordings is releasing expanded editions of the whole Game Theory catalogue, beginning with the barely—released—in—the—first—place DIY debut "Blaze of Glory." Frankly, it's not where I would have started —— my nightmare scenario is that people hear the earlier records without realizing they're basically juvenalia, are underwhelmed, and the reissue campaign fizzles before it gets to the really good stuff.

If you're already a fan, this is essential. I think it's safe to say that if you didn't work on it, at least some of the bonus tracks will be new to you. The liner notes are terrific, with commentary from many of Miller's bandmates and other collaborators, and plenty of pictures from the legendary "Photo Robert." The remastering is basically miraculous —— it's clear, and it breathes, and it's nothing like the previous "Distortion of Glory" digital version of this album.

If you're not already a fan, the context for this is "promising early release" —— it's not the reason Game Theory records are so sought after. But still, there are plenty of highlights. "Beach State Rocking" matches the fizziness and irreverence of very early XTC. The chorus of "Sleeping Through Heaven" bursts out with giddy, almost defiant exuberance. "The New You" is like a sketch for an epic Aimee Mann ballad along the lines of "You Could Make a Killing" or "Deathly." And the band's energy carries even some of the weaker tracks. But, really, it only gets better from here on out.