Game Theory’s Lolita Nation – The Best Album You Never Heard

The music is so good tonight let’s just get right into it.

Game Theory
Not Beacuse You Can
We Love You Carol And Alison
The Waist And The Knees
Mammoth Gardens
I would say that approximately 20%-30% of my record purchases are random, meaning I know next to nothing about them when I decide to buy them. Why do I buy them? Maybe they have exceptionally awesome art; a great cover tune; or I recognize someone in the linear notes (like when I bought that Lisa Dalbello album because Mick Ronson produced it). It’s a habit that has given me a lot of clunkers, but for every 10 piles of forgettable wax, there’s at least one amazing discovery that made all the failures more than worth it. The Urgh! soundtrack (which I totally have to revisit here soon); that previously mentioned Lisa Dalbello album; that crazy Fireballet album – all of them were albums I wouldn’t have bought if I stuck solely to the safe stuff, artists I recognize or genres I’m comfortable with.

This weekend I made such a random purchase when I picked up Lolita Nation, a 1987 album by the now-defunct California band Game Theory. I bought it only because I recognized Mitch Easter as the producer, and it featured a guest appearance by someone from Paisley Park records, Prince’s label. That’s all I knew about the record when I dropped the needle on side one.

When I lifted the needle at the end of side four, my mind was freaking blown.

Since that first listen I’ve replayed the album about 10 times. I love it more each time I hear it. I love everything about it. I love Scott Miller’s vocals; I love the odd combination of art-rock and jangle-pop; I love the complexity of the lyrics. I LOVE IT ALL. If I had to make a list of my top 10 albums of the 80s right now, it would probably be on it. (For the record, I’m never going to even try to make that list.) It’s like some dream combination of early REM, mid-80s Sonic Youth, Big STar, and every album every power-pop band has ever wanted to make but failed. It’s perfect.

How the hell does something this amazing get lost in the shuffle?! I could see it not catching on like wildfire in 1987. That was the year that Bon Jovi ruled the airwaves after all, but how come it hasn’t caught on since then?

Well, it’s probably because it’s never been re-issued in any format since its original release in 1987. Enigma Records, the band’s label at the time, went belly up a few years after the album’s release, and none of Game Theory’s back catalog, Lolita Nation included, has seen the light of day since. A lot of blogs have tackled the topic, and Game Theory drummer Gil Ray even wrote something about the album’s (lack of) availability.

His sentiments are shared by me: Lolita Nation should be re-released, not because a reissue would make someone a lot of money, but because it would make a very small group of people very happy. I own the album on vinyl now, and was given a lossless CD rip by someone, but I would gladly buy a new copy of the album just to show my support. This album is so magnificent that I have no problem buying it multiple times over out of principle alone.

I think people should buy this album – but they can’t, and that’s a situation that has left me with quite the moral dilemma. Usually when I have a record that is out-of-print I have no problems posting it in it’s entirety here. But with Lolita Nation…I just can’t do that. I can’t allow myself to contribute to any lack of sales the album might suffer from me posting the record for free. So instead, I’m just putting up a few highlights, my favorite tracks from the record. Sorry to be such a tease about it, but I just can’t morally justify posting this one in its entirety, I hope you understand. I also hope you download the tracks I have posted, because they’re audio perfection personified.

Enjoy them, and expect something completely different for my next post.

Seriously, you have no idea.

15 Responses to “Game Theory’s Lolita Nation – The Best Album You Never Heard”

  1. Jeremy says:

    We’re in complete agreement. I purchased an Enigma Records sampler (The Enigma Variations) in 1986 or -87, and have been hooked on Game Theory ever since. I’m sure you’ve already done some digging regarding Scott Miller’s subsequent output, which is well worth tracking down. Thanks for giving them some recognition.

  2. Hilfy says:

    Another gem of an album that was lost – Go! by The Pop. Not sure why it never made it to CD, but I was glad when USB turntables came out so I could digitize it for my own use. Same goes for Heaven 17’s “Let’s all Make a Bomb” which had a different version in an American release. That was the version I heard first and I always liked it better than the one that is current circulation on their commercial releases.

  3. CleanSteve says:

    Yep – their best, in my estimation, but lots of great stuff to explore. My route into Game Theory was (I think) via Hex – Steve Kilbey of The Church & Donette Thayer of Game Theory. Also worth checking out but very different stuff. I had a nice exchange of emails with Thayer a few years ago about the UC Davis scene with early incarnations of Game Theory overlapping with Dream Syndicate & other bands. Great find – I had to look at my own copy to see that it was really from 1987.

  4. Ulalume says:

    I love Lolita Nation and have always wanted it to be released electronically because I’m too lazy to digitize my vinyl version. But moreso because it really should be available to all! We played the hell out of it on college radio. There is a lot of good music from the 80s that has never seen the light of digitization, and that is such a shame.

  5. Candice says:

    Yes! needs a re-release

  6. SpearmintCandy says:

    With Scott Miller’s death this week, his website is offering Lolita Nation, Big Shot Chronicles, 2 Steps and more as free downloads: Lolita Nation was my ’80s soundtrack, but I only had it on a beat-up cassette. So grateful for the downloads!

  7. Lost Turntable says:

    Too much traffic killed the links. I’m talking with them to host the tracks and I’ll get back to everyone soon.

    Upate: Added Lolita Nation here. Hopefully I’ll have the rest soon.

  8. […] himself. The result was Lolita Nation, an unbelievably strange and wonderful album that also became legendarily unobtainable. (Amazon will sell […]

  9. Fud King says:

    I had the cassette of Lolita Nation and in rarely left my walkman. That was when R.E.M. and The Replacements, along with XTC, were the my idea of musical perfection. I really wish I’d gotten Lolita on LP, as the tape has long since disintegrated. Someone please rerelease this album soon!

  10. Zenón says:

    Any chance to download Lolita Nation and the Big Shot Chronicles? Nowhere to be found in the websites mentioned here…

  11. Zenón says:

    Goes without saying that I would buy the albums were they available. So I really look forward to a re-release…

  12. Patrick says:

    I acquired an excellent vinyl Lolita Nation last year. love it too. Thanks for the write-up.

  13. Kevin says:

    I pulled this record out tonight, gave it a good cleaning as it has been 20+ years and what a great record(s.) Sad to hear about Scott Miller’s, this late, too.

    Rare, great record from cover to cover!

  14. […] in his songs. Brill Bruiser’s closing track “You Tell Me Where” could be dropped easily onto Lolita Nation or Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things and no one would be the wiser, and that, Mr Newman and Ms […]

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