THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Two decades later, his encore

Email|Print| Text size + By Linda Laban
Globe Correspondent / November 7, 2007

There's a word Bobb Trimble repeats when he's talking about music: phenomenal. Time and again, the 49-year-old singer-songwriter uses it to describe everything from his first love (the Beatles) to Kurt Cobain and even the remastered sound of his early-'80s albums, "Iron Curtain Innocence" and "Harvest of Dreams," both of which were reissued yesterday on Secretly Canadian. Trimble, who was born in Marlborough but now lives in Northborough, will celebrate the albums at River Gods tomorrow night.

"It was such an intense production," he says of the reissues, which are finally getting their due more than two decades after Trimble self-released them. "It's taking something and making it more, like, modernized. I wouldn't say slick, just really well done. It sounds just the same only better. It sounds phenomenal."

It also sounds quite remarkable. Trimble, a bit of an outsider musician whose two albums gradually built up a cult audience, had a knack for eccentric sounds and moods. He could turn out catchy pop ("One Mile From Heaven") and pomp rock ("Night at the Asylum") alongside naïve theatrical dramas ("Killed by the Hands of an Unknown Rock Starr") and psychedelic masterpieces ("Glass Menagerie Fantasies").

Trimble's music is so intriguing because it sounds like nothing of its time or his influences. The songs are laced with off-kilter found sound and experimental recording techniques and topped by Trimble's high-lonesome voice, which, though a little twee and mannered, recalls Elliott Smith's sweet fragility.

Over the years, the music struck a chord with fans of psychedelic rock, including Watertown-based musician Kris Thompson. While studying at Clark University, Thompson met Trimble at the college radio station, and the two became friends and sometime musical collaborators. A year or so ago, Thompson noticed Trimble was mentioned in a review of an album by the Impossible Shapes, which records for Secretly Canadian, an Indiana-based indie label also home to Antony and the Johnsons and Jens Lekman. Thompson contacted the label about reissuing "Iron Curtain Innocence" (1980) and "Harvest of Dreams" (1982).

"It occurred to me it was 25 years since his second album was released," says Thompson. "They are such special, unique recordings, I felt they needed proper reissue. Secretly Canadian was enthusiastic from the outset."

It's not the first time a label has picked up on Trimble's music. In 2003, Radioactive Records in Britain reissued "Harvest of Dreams" without permission, probably using a mint vinyl copy as a master.

"They just ripped it off is what they did," Trimble says point-blank. But Radioactive's reissue sparked interest in Trimble's music, eventually making original vinyl copies of his albums worth up to $1,500 on eBay: "I doubt very seriously that these albums would have come out if Radioactive hadn't done that," Trimble concedes.

Unlike that of his musical heroes, Trimble's legacy never really resounded farther than eastern Massachusetts. But then, he never had ambitions beyond that.

"Local radio stations said, 'This is good,' " Trimble says of the initial reaction to his albums. "I thought that's the best I can ask for." He never sent demos to record labels to land a record deal. "I always thought that maybe if I get caught up in the entire process, it would distract from the music. So I just kind of kept moving along."

Well, sort of. After spending thousands of dollars recording his two albums - an expensive process back in the days of vinyl - Trimble only then recorded to tape with his '80s band, Crippled Dog Band, which broke up in 1990. The last song Trimble wrote was around 1993, he estimates.

But he never stopped loving or believing in music, especially his own.

These days, Trimble isn't in the best health. He admits smoking cigarettes doesn't help. He's unemployed. His days are mostly spent smoking, drinking coffee, and listening to music. Like a teenager. "He might just be a 49-year-old teenager," says Thompson.

"I prefer low-key," Trimble admits. He's thrilled with the reissues, though. "People get to hear the music and all, and that's the good part about it. It kind of worked out."

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