An indie rock subversive who has been known to perform in dresses almost as much as his ex-wife Courtney Love, Falling James (Moreland) has led the Leaving Trains with a revolving lineup since the group formed in 1980. Originally in a Los Angeles punk band named the Mongrels during 1978-1979, Falling James formed the Downers in 1980 (with David Roback, later of Mazzy Star, and John Hoffs, the brother of the Bangles sisters) and then the Leaving Trains later that year, with guitarist Manfred Hofer, bassist Tom Hofer, keyboard player Sylvia Juncosa, and drummer Hillary Laddin. The band gigged around the area during the next three years, but included only the Hofer brothers by the time Leaving Trains debuted on vinyl with 1984's Well Down Blue Highway, on Bemisbrain/Enigma Records.
In contrast to Falling James' earlier material, the first album practiced a kind of restraint in short supply on the West Coast punk scene (restrained only in comparison, of course). After the group's first LP for SST, Kill Tunes, however, the Hofers were replaced with musicians of more energetic means, guitarist Mike Barnett and bassist Eric Stringer. Over the course of 1987's Fuck, the following year's Transportational D. Vices, and 1991's Sleeping Underwater Survivors, Falling James concentrated on the most vigorous, self-loathing material available to him, amplified considerably by a new guitarist even more in-tune with noise, Bobby Belltower (formerly of the Nymphs). After both bassist and drummer left the band in 1991, Falling James formed a new band, the Power of Sky, with bassist Whitey Sims.
The Power of Sky proved short-lived as well, and later that year, James returned to Leaving Trains with Sims, Belltower, and new drummer Lenny Montoya. The confusion stalled recording until 1993, when The Lump in My Forehead appeared on SST, with Sims taking vocals on several cuts. Predictably, that version of the band also disintegrated, replaced by bassist/producer Chaz Ramirez and drummer Dennis Carlin, who began recording 1994's The Big Jinx. In the span of about a year, Ramirez was killed in a warehouse accident, James finished the LP, played in a side band named Sluts for Hire, was kicked out of the group, and formed a new Leaving Trains, with keyboard player Melanie Vammen, bassist Jimmy Green, and drummer Allen Clark. Following 1997's Smoke Follows Beauty, the eighth album by the group, SST released the compilation Favorite Mood Swings. ~ John Bush