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Alternatif et Indé - Released March 20, 2020 | Omnivore Recordings

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Alternatif et Indé - Released March 13, 2015 | Omnivore Recordings

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Released in 1985, Real Nighttime wasn't Game Theory's first album -- they'd self-released the home-recorded Blaze of Glory in 1982, and a pair of EPs had been fashioned into the 1984 LP Dead Center -- but it was the first record that truly fulfilled Scott Miller's ideas and ambitions for his music. With Real Nighttime, Miller and his bandmates had a bigger budget to work with, as well as a talented and sympatico producer, Mitch Easter, who tightened up the music and helped Miller work out the angles of his sweet-and-noisy smart pop. While Easter's studiocraft helped Game Theory improve their game, Real Nighttime more importantly contained the best and most cohesive set of songs Miller had written to date, and this loose song cycle following a young man's journey from romantic bliss ("24") to soul-crushing disappointment ("I Turned Her Away") plays like the indie pop answer to Pet Sounds. Like that album, Real Nighttime gave Game Theory a great canvas for experimentation; the ominous clouds of slide guitar on their cover of Alex Chilton's "You Can't Have Me," the caffeinated guitars and drums of "Friend of the Family," and the interplay of fuzztone and Farfisa on "Rayon Drive" showed Game Theory were learning new ways to color their surroundings, especially as the more aggressive numbers turned around quieter pieces like "If and When It Falls Apart" and "I Mean It This Time." And while Miller was clearly the leader of this band, the outstanding percussion work from Dave Gill, the evocative keyboards from Nan Becker, and the solid, propulsive bass of Fred Juhos played an invaluable role in making these songs work. Game Theory made good records right out of the starting gate, but Real Nighttime was where they proved they could make truly great ones, and it's not just one of the band's finest works, it's a watershed work in '80s paisley underground pop. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released September 23, 2016 | Omnivore Recordings

Booklet
Scott Miller broke in a new Game Theory lineup on their third album, 1986's The Big Shot Chronicles (a revolving-door cast of musicians was something he would get used to over the next decade or so). If the album lacks the narrative cohesion of the group's previous full-length effort, 1985's Real Nighttime, it's obvious from the album's first cut (the joyous and explosive "Here It Is Tomorrow") that the addition of Shelley LaFreniere on keyboards, Suzi Ziegler on bass, and Gil Ray on drums made Game Theory a stronger band in every respect. While Game Theory's attempts to rock out on Real Nighttime sometimes sounded a bit tentative, The Big Shot Chronicles reveals a band that's equally adept at flexing their muscles ("I've Tried Subtlety" and "Make Any Vows") or easing into a song's subtleties ("Regenisraen" and "Like a Girl Jesus"). Real Nighttime had a more ambitious concept in its tales of the perils of young adulthood, but The Big Shot Chronicles was meant to document a great band with a stack of top-notch tunes at the ready, and on that level it's even more exciting and engaging than Game Theory's breakthrough effort. As a songwriter, Scott Miller continued to grow ("Erica's Word" and "Don't Look Too Closely" are both smart-pop Heaven on Earth), and though he was fond of referring to his voice as a "miserable whine," he sure knew how to make it communicate. Finally, Mitch Easter's production guides the record through moody neo-psychedelia and uptempo hard pop with an equally sure hand; the record sounds just as good as the band plays. A superb set from one of the best (and most underappreciated) bands of the '80s, The Big Shot Chronicle may not have been their best album -- that honor would go to the wildly ambitious double set Lolita Nation -- but as a set of songs and performances, it's practically unbeatable. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternatif et Indé - Released February 5, 2016 | Omnivore Recordings

Booklet
Game Theory leader Scott Miller never made a secret of his fondness for Big Star, and while Real Nighttime favored the lush but direct sound of #1 Record, and The Big Shot Chronicles suggested the harder-edged tone of Radio City, Lolita Nation plays like Game Theory's variation on the themes of Big Star's masterfully damaged swan song, Third/Sister Lovers. Certainly Game Theory's most ambitious album, Lolita Nation was a two-LP set that combined some of Miller's most user-friendly power pop squared off against dark, moody ruminations on betrayal, failed love, and mortality, all of it punctuated with bursts of avant-garde noise and unclassifiable studio doodling, and finally thrown into a sonic Cuisinart through Miller's aggressive use of aural montage. Game Theory's most challenging work, Lolita Nation is a bit disorienting on first listen, though it finds the band playing at the very top of its form on demanding material. New guitarist Donnette Thayer made an impressive debut, and drummer Gil Ray and keyboardist Shelley LaFreniere delivered outstanding performances. There are more than a few flat-out brilliant tracks, such as "Chardonnay," "The Waist and the Knees," and "The Real Sheila," alongside such head-scratchers as "Turn Me on Dead Man," "Watch Who You're Calling Space Garbage Meteor Mouth," and the 22nd track (which stubbornly defies titling). Lolita Nation was the point where the many ideas and approaches Miller had experimented with on Game Theory's earlier albums finally came together in a (pardon the expression) blaze of glory, and if the album is a bit much to absorb on first listen, few rock albums of the '80s reward repeated listening more than this one. Miller was one of the few rock musicians who often (and fittingly) cited James Joyce as an influence, and Lolita Nation is his Ulysses, a dense, profoundly idiosyncratic masterpiece. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternatif et Indé - Released January 1, 1988 | Omnivore Recordings

Booklet
Arriving in 1987, Lolita Nation was Game Theory's masterpiece, a strikingly ambitious and accomplished exercise in power pop at its smartest. But it was also a purposely difficult double album, and it did little to boost the group's somewhat precarious career status. For Game Theory's fifth LP, group leader and songwriter Scott Miller set out to make something more user-friendly, and 1988's 2 Steps from the Middle Ages reflected a more streamlined approach, stripping away some of the more baroque elements from the tunes, abandoning the aural montage that had become a major part of the group's approach, and delivering a relatively concise 13-song set. There was also a bit more gloss in Mitch Easter's production than in his previous work with the band, and tunes like "Wyoming," "In a Delorean," "Rolling with the Moody Girls," and "What the Whole World Wants" sound like they could have found a comfortable spot on college radio, if not mainstream FM outlets. However, 2 Steps manages to play like a compromise in the best sense of the world -- it's a far easier album for a beginner to slip into than Lolita Nation or Real Nighttime, but it still boasts plenty of superb songs from Miller, and the band carries this material with impressive strength, especially Gil Ray's drumming and Shelley LaFreniere's keyboards. And on the second half of the album, Miller lets his dour, literate personality shine bright on "Don't Entertain Me Twice," "Throwing the Election," and "Initiations Week," which rank with his best songs. 2 Steps from the Middle Ages proved to be Game Theory's final album, and it's hard not to wish they'd allowed their grand finale to flaunt the group's eccentricities. But think of it as their answer to the Velvet Underground's Loaded, a superb example of a challenging band playing nice without throwing away the smarts and ideas that made them worthwhile. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternatif et Indé - Released November 21, 2014 | Omnivore Recordings

Booklet
After making their debut in 1982 with the self-produced and released album Blaze of Glory, Game Theory clearly wanted to aim for a more polished and professional sound on their next releases; for the 1983 EP Pointed Accounts of People You Know, leader Scott Miller took the band into a real studio (admittedly a modest one), and the 1984 EP Distortion found them working with an outside producer for the first time, Michael Quercio of paisley underground psychedelic heroes the Three O'Clock. The French indie label Lolita Records, then enamored of the paisley underground scene, licensed the two EPs and fashioned them into an album, Dead Center, making it the curious follow-up to Blaze of Glory, flown in from across the ocean to the group's homeland. While Dead Center doesn't cohere as an album as well as one might hope, the individual tracks shows that Game Theory were growing past the home-brewed sound of Blaze of Glory, and "Penny, Things Won't," "Metal and Glass Exact," and "Life in July" are smarter and better executed than nearly anything on BoG, while Quercio's production was a great complement to songs like "The Red Baron," "Nine Lives to Rigel Five," and "Shark Pretty" (the latter featuring a guitar solo from David Bowie sideman Earl Slick). And while Miller was clearly the leader of this band, bassist Fred Juhos, keyboardist Nan Becker, and drummer Dave Gill were more than capable accompanists who gave these songs the flavors they needed. One could certainly hear Game Theory's talent and potential on Blaze of Glory, but the material that formed Dead Center represented a major step forward for Miller and his group, and this music suggested they were maturing into the great smart pop band that would emerge on 1985's Real Nighttime. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternatif et Indé - Released August 29, 2014 | Omnivore Recordings

Booklet
Game Theory were only a few months old when they began recording their debut album, 1982's Blaze of Glory, in a makeshift studio in the home of singer, guitarist, songwriter, and all-around idea man Scott Miller. Blaze of Glory is in many respects the work of a band taking baby steps, but it's also a very ambitious work that represents Miller's desire to move on from his juvenilia with his previous band, Alternate Learning, and this LP sounds like a rough draft for what Miller would achieve on albums like Real Nighttime and The Big Shot Chronicles. Considering it was recorded in a semi-pro home studio, the production on Blaze of Glory is assertive, and the first flashes of Miller's infatuation with audio montage and fragmented songwriting can be found here, though they're used very sparingly, and while it's clear the group was trying to emulate certain specific studio techniques of the day, the low-budget processing on the drums and the very dated synth patches doubtless have a lot to do with why Miller became reluctant to let fans hear this material in its original form (he re-recorded "Bad Year at UCLA" and "Sleeping Through Heaven" for the 1990 Game Theory collection Tinker to Evers to Chance, and most tracks from this album were remixed and/or given fresh overdubs for the 1993 collection Distortion of Glory). The grander attempts at a big sound on "The Girls are Ready to Go" and "Stupid Heart" work only so well (and are a reminder of how much producer Mitch Easter brought to the later Game Theory albums), but more modest performances like "Mary Magdalene" and "It Gives Me Chills" are very effective indeed, and tunes like "Sleeping Through Heaven," "Something to Show," and "All I Want Is Everything" make it obvious that Miller was already a superb songwriter with a unique take on smart pop. Game Theory would grow by leaps and bounds by the time they released their next full-length album, 1985's Real Nighttime, but Blaze of Glory shows that Miller's creative vision was very much in place in 1982, even if he was still working out the mechanics of putting it on tape. ~ Mark Deming
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House - Released February 11, 2015 | AudioBite Klub

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Alternatif et Indé - Released January 24, 2020 | Omnivore Recordings

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