In our MKE Music Rewind series, we revisit notable Milwaukee music that was released before Milwaukee Record became a thing in April 2014.
There comes a point in everyone’s life when certain math becomes…troubling. You know the math: “There are just as many years between now and the release of Talking Heads’ Remain In Light as there are between the release of Talking Heads’ Remain In Light and the German occupation of Belgium during World War II.” Or, “I want to be a famous film director but, oh god, I’m already 13 years older than Steven Spielberg was when he directed Jaws.” Or, “Tom Cruise is eight years older than Wilford Brimley was when he filmed Cocoon.” (Shout-out to the Brimley/Cocoon Line.)
Which brings us to Trolley. The power/mod/psych-pop foursome—headed up by Paul J. Wall and Terry Hackbarth—has been a Milwaukee mainstay since 1995. That’s a full [checks math] 25 years. Considering the group’s Beatles-esque vibe emanates most strongly from 1965 or so, it’ll be only five more years until there are just as many years between then and…well, you get the idea.
Consider also one of Trolley’s earliest songs, “Born In ’77.” The track comes from the group’s debut EP Put A Gun To You, recorded in 1996 at Madison’s famed Smart Studios. “Born In ’77” is more indebted to punk and The Replacements than psychedelia and The Zombies, but it’s the first song that springs to mind when I think of Trolley. Maybe it’s because I distinctly remember hearing it when I was living in the UWM dorms, smoking cigarettes (!) in my dorm suite’s smoking lounge (!!) Maybe it’s because, like the song’s object of fascination, Annie, I was born in ’77. (“Seven years after me,” sings Wall.) Or maybe it’s because it’s a terrific song, a rollicking, head-bopping barnburner that does everything it needs to do in under two minutes.
As the saying goes: That’s it. That’s the tweet. Trolley is a great band. “Born In ’77” is a great song. And that’s just the tip of the Trolley iceberg. The band released an excellent full-length in 2016 (Caught In The Darkness) and recently released a recording of an old song (“Two Tickets To The Moon”) with its “classic” lineup (Wall, Hackbarth, Don Kurth, and Mike Perotto). There are other records and singles. There are videos of old shows. There’s plenty of troubling math, sure, but it’s easy to forget that math when the music is this good.