Every local scene has bands that seem to define a certain time and space, getting to the cusp of national exposure before returning to local favor. In Boston that list runs the gamut from the Neighborhoods to the more recently departed Sheila Divine. But in the college town of Champaign, Ill., during the early '80s, the band of the moment was the Vertebrats. Their punchy garage rock was a day too late for the "Nuggets" collections and countless dollars short of cashing in on '80s new wave, but "A Thousand Day Dream" captures the band in its ragged glory. The career retrospective progresses from early demos, with the stomping and swinging "Big Yellow Bus" standing out, to various studio recordings. Many of the seminal sounds of the time period are captured. "Left in the Dark" serves as a precursor to the heart-on-its-sleeve, knees-in-the-gutter melodicism that the Replacements eventually mastered. And the jangling guitars of "Teen Scene" recall the sounds R.E.M. was making around the time of their its debut EP, "Chronic Town." The album is soaked in British influences as well, but ultimately it is a decidedly American snapshot of a band that the mainstream let get away.
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