Game Theory: Across The Barrier of Sound (March 20, 2020)
The final recordings from the last Game Theory line-up featuring Michael Quercio (The Three O'Clock).
For the past several years, Omnivore has painstakingly reissued each and every one of their original albums with the addition of a slew of unreleased bonus tracks. Their final album, 1988's Two Steps From The Middle Ages, was reissued in June 2017. That appeared to be the final chapter of their story, or was it?
Hardcore Game Theory fans still talk about the band's final line-up that toured the West Coast, but never released an album. Circa 1989–90, the band was rejuvenated with leader Scott Miller being joined by the legendary Michael Quercio from The Three O'Clock (who had recently broken up). Other interesting line-up changes included longtime Game Theory drummer Gil Ray moving over to guitar and keyboards, while Scott Miller's former Alternate Learning bandmate (the original template of Game Theory) Jozef Becker, formerly of True West and Thin White Rope, joined as the drummer. Jozef is the brother of Game Theory's original keyboardist, Nan Becker.
Across The Barrier Of Sound: PostScript is the album that might have been at the time. There's a blend of home and studio and live recordings. Songs that many fans haven't heard unless they were lucky enough to catch a live show at the time—and some songs which reappeared in significantly different form on the debut album from Scott Miller and Jozef Becker's post-Game Theory band The Loud Family, Plants And Birds And Rocks And Things. Miller uniquely blended classic pop songwriting with groundbreaking art-rock influences, which is reflected in home recordings of Brian Eno's "Needle In The Camel's Eye" and The Nazz's "Forget All About It."
There's a feast of Scott Miller-penned delights on the 14-song vinyl LP, and the CD includes an additional 10 unissued bonus tracks with Game Theory originals and songs originally recorded by artists such as Big Star and The Three O'Clock. Journey Across The Barrier Of Sound and enjoy this PostScript to a great band's career, but also as a wonderful album in its own right.
To know Gil Ray was to love Gil Ray. He was warm, kind, and also hysterically funny—a real Southern gentleman. And, of course, he lent his incredible drumming skills to the Loud Family, Game Theory (which he joined in 1985), and several other bands, including Rain Parade, the Happy Eggs and Fade to Black. He also released a solo CD in 2006, I Am Atomic Man! Gil passed away on January 24, 2017 after a long struggle with cancer, which he documented on his blog, pobuck.blogspot.com.
Scott Warren Miller
I wish it weren't true, but as much as it pains me to write these words, Scott passed away on April 15, 2013. He was a wonderful, loyal friend as well as a brilliant musician, and I will miss him for the rest of my life.
Scott had been planning to start recording a new Game Theory album, Supercalifragile, this summer, and was looking forward to getting back into the studio and reuniting with some of his former collaborators.
If listening to Scott's own music is too painful for you right now, as it is for me, I can tell you that he absolutely loved David Bowie's new album, The Next Day. He found Bowie's late-career resurgence to be hugely inspirational. I'm sure that if there had been a 2013 chapter of Music: What Happened?, one of the songs from that album would have been right at the top.
(Photo at right by Robert Toren)
—Sue Trowbridge, LoudFamily.com webmaster, 1995-present
A scholarship fund has been established for Scott's daughters. Please click here if you would like to donate to it: Scott Miller Family Memorial Fund
Now Available: The Third Edition!
Featuring the brand new 2011 chapter!
If you already purchased the first edition, click here to download a PDF version of the 2010 chapter, and click here to download a PDF version of the 2011 chapter. Order the book from 125 Records.
Scott Miller has released more than a dozen albums with his bands Game Theory and the Loud Family, and his music has been described as "a cross between Alex Chilton, James Joyce, and the Electric Prunes" (Stereo Review) and "smart, funny, and instantly memorable" (Rolling Stone). In Music: What Happened?, Miller writes about each of the past 55 years in popular music—1957-2011—via countdown song lists, blending the perspectives of a serious musician, a thoughtful critic, and an all-devouring music fan. Miller not only tells you why he loves particular songs, but also what was going on in the musical world in which they competed to be heard.
The book is based on the series created for this web site, but Scott re-examined and rewrote much of the text; in addition, it's all been edited and fact-checked (though we still anticipate the odd error might sneak through, and if you find one, you're welcome to send in a correction—we'll fix it in the next printing). The book also contains bonus chapters (2007-2011) that did not appear online, as well as a foreword and an interview with Scott by his longtime friend and fan Bob Lloyd.
Acclaim for Music: What Happened?
Four stars from Rolling Stone Magazine! "Scott Miller was the cerebral indie-pop auteur behind the band Game Theory, whose classic 1987 album Lolita Nation is a head-spinning classic. But he puts a lifetime of musical smarts into this book. The premise is simple: Miller breaks down songs from every year since 1957, more than 1,000 in all. But his insights are dazzling. It's rare to see anybody say something new about Dark Side of the Moon, which he blames for crummy-sounding records that followed: 'The managed jazz influence... and sequencer bloops had nations erroneously reasoning, "Who needs big, fat-sounding anything?"' When he digs into details that make a song work, he'll make you want to hear 'Hey, Jude' right now—and make you feel like you're hearing it for the first time."
—Rob Sheffield in the April 14, 2011, issue of Rolling Stone
"Miller's writing demonstrates a level of skill, intelligence, sensitivity, and wit that I'm nearly jealous of, he pulls it off so well... Music: What Happened? is an inspiration to dig that much deeper into my own collection with relish and to seek out some new favorites with a fresh perspective."
—Jon Kanis, Ugly Things Magazine
"Not only does Miller totally acquit himself as a rock critic, he's produced one of the most interesting compendiums of music journalism since Robert Christgau's Rock Music of the ‘70s... Miller has a great writing style—very alive, specific and entertaining."
—Jordan Oakes, Stlmag.com
"You're thinking: it's not every day that someone writes about music on the internet, especially to pick favorite pop music; we can all thank Scott for finally troweling that wide cultural gap. But really—this is a new and lively style of music writing that you just keep wanting to read more of."
"In capsule reviews of half-forgotten pop records, Scott Miller manages actual humor (a first in music criticism) and major insights that may change the way you think about, for example, 1967. Almost a new art form."
"The way he describes the songs he loves—some very indie, some anything but—is tremendously suggestive. If only he or some acolyte could spin a
worldview around those observations we might really have something to
—Robert Christgau, Dean of American Rock Critics
"Scott Miller's the wizard behind some of pop's most beguiling melodies (and he's no slouch in the lyrics department, either). Who better to be your guide on a curated tour of the rock era's top recordings, a genre-hopping jaunt through the big hits and lost gems, each placed in its own contextual niche by the thoughtful, funny, enthused Miller. Skim it to see what he says about your fave raves, or delve deeper to discover the unknown sonic pleasures that await you. A must for the dedicated music fiend."
—Kim Cooper, Scram Magazine editrix and author of Neutral Milk Hotel's 'In The Aeroplane Over The Sea' (33 1/3 Series)
"Whether they admit it or not, all great songwriters tend to keep an eye on the competition. So it should come as little surprise—especially to anyone familiar with the often-intertextual brilliance of the music he's made with Game Theory and The Loud Family—that Scott Miller's book about other people's songs overflows with the same insight and linguistic firepower that animates his own compositions. Music: What Happened? is his custom-built canon—more than a thousand songs; 20 favorites for each year from 1957 to 2009—and it distills a lifetime of obsessing about music into an endlessly quotable and re-readable listener's guide. There are bite-sized epiphanies on every page—about lyrics, about sound, about how music finds its way into our lives, about what we do after it arrives. It's an exhilarating read, highly recommended to music geeks (and wannabe music geeks) of all ages."
—Andy Zax, music producer and former "Beat the Geeks" co-star