Game Theory, the San Francisco based band led by Scott Miller, was one of the most influential pop bands of the 1980’s. They are one of those ‘greatest bands you never heard of’ types. They existed in several line-ups led by Miller over a decade, seemingly breaking up and reforming constantly. After their final breakup, Miller continued with his new band, The Loud Family, releasing a number of amazing records, almost all produced by Let’s Active’s Mitch Easter. Miller died in 2013, leaving a brilliant power pop legacy in the recordings of both bands.
The wonderful people at Omnivore Records (who re-released the first three Posies LP’s) have painstakingly reissued all of Game Theory’s output. They’ve done a superb job. This Across The Barrier Of Sound: Postscript features the very end of the band, from 1989 to 1990. This version was Miller on guitar and Vocal, Michael Quercio (from The Three O’Clock) on bass and vocals, Gil Ray on guitar and keys, and Jozef Becker (True West, Thin White Rope) on drums. This lineup of Game Theory did not last long, they only toured the west coast, and only made a handful of studio recordings.
Postscript, on CD, has twenty four tracks, mostly demos, some live, and some studio recordings. Many of the tracks are versions of songs that would appear on the first Loud Family record, the superb Plants And Birds And Rocks And Things. This is at best, a transitional collection of recordings. It’s not a proper, curated album, just a bunch of demos and works in progress. That being said, I’d listen to Scott Miller demos all day long. His skewered-pop sensibility is second to none. One reviewer mentioned that Game Theory wasn’t College Rock, it was more like ‘Post Grad Rock.’ Intelligent, challenging and beautifully crafted.
Highlights of this collection include a tasty version of The Beatles’ ‘All My Loving,’ an early version of ‘Aerodeleria’ called ‘Go Back To Sleep Little Susie,’ ‘Take Me Down (To Hallo),’ and ‘The Second Grade Applauds.’ The last four songs all reappear on The Loud Family record, some with different lyrics. There are two versions of his anthem ‘Inverness,’ with lyrics like:
At night I know
That there's someplace I can go
When there's no placing waking light
And I'll dream clichés
That I've dreamed a thousand ways
I'm not above clichés tonight
The playground viewed from blessed height
I bet you've never actually seen a person die of loneliness
All in good time
There’s a great cover of Brian Eno’s ‘Needles In The Camel’s Eye,’ and a live version of The Monkees ‘The Door Into Summer,’ which Quercio introduces as a song from Naked Eyes. He also covers Big Star’s ‘Back Of A Car,’ and there is a Quercio lead vocal on the Three O’Clock’s ‘A Day In Erotica.’ The highlight for me is Miller’s demo of ‘Slit My Wrists,’ especially prescient from someone who took his own life:
The more alone I felt the more the celebration grew
All the way down Van Ness Avenue
But I no longer take so lightly walking down that street
With nothing left between it and my feet
But what I need is not cut cost
What I need is a life where I've won
All the times that I've lost
What I need is not ways to go on
What I need is to slit my wrists and be gone
Slit My Wrists