Thursday, April 20, 2017

Dulac - Must Be You 7"

Untitled

Access X Denied (2013)

A few years ago, Dulac put out a fantastic record called The First of the Last Chords.  It was a hit and I've been waiting to hear more from them.  Oddly enough it ended up being an older 7" of theirs that I didn't know existed that recently came across my radar.  Released in 2013, this four song 7" appears to be the vinyl version of the band's first cassette release.

If nothing it's a reminder of what a fierce and energetic band this is.  Channelling bands like Red Dons or early Estranged, they have the fast and melodic downstroke wizardry down pat.  But you really need to mix that with the pop sensibilities of a band like Statues to have a clearer picture of what Dulac brings to the table.  Each of the 4 songs on this 7" are just perfect; they've fast, loud and catchy - just how I want my music to sound.

A day or two after I bought this record, I stumbled across another newer Dulac 7" that had been released.  That one has been ordered and is on its way to me as well.  Look for that soon and hopefully the band is working up on a follow up full length.  I know I will buy it immediately.

Dulac - Must Be You 7":

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Clearance - Are You Aware 7"

Untitled

Tall Pat (2016)

The elephant in the room about Clearance is that it's virtually impossible to write about them without at least making a passing reference to Pavement.  I'm sure there will come a day (if it hasn't already come) that the guys in Clearance will get pretty sick of that comparison. For now it's still an apt reference point, especially for those that may not have yet heard of this wonderful band.

What really makes Clearance stand out is the breezy way they cruise through their songs while still projecting a laid back intensity that lets you know they're not just going through the motions.  The churning guitars in A-side "Are You Aware" propel the song forward.  It lurches into a screechy and jagged guitar solo before jumping right back on track, only to be derailed by a sleepy, but absolutely perfect, mellowed outro.

On the B-side "Owner/Operator" the vibe is a more laid back as the vocals glide over jangly chord progressions.  Things come to a head with the hooky chorus full of noodling guitar dynamics and a super catchy melody.  The download that comes with this 7" gives two additional bonus tracks.  Both are nice, but neither are on the 7".  It's good to have more songs from these guys, but I do hope they end up on wax at some point.

Clearance - Are You Aware 7":

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

J Church - Arbor Vitae LP

Untitled

Rugger Bugger (1995)

Where to begin with J Church?  I guess I'll start by saying I was never really all that impressed with them way back when.  I had Camels, Spilled Coronas and the Sound of Mariachi Bands and I thought it was OK.  I went to see them play a show at the Pipeline in Newark, NJ and thought they were pretty good.  Over the years I've accumulated about a dozen J Church split 7"s, all bought for the band on the other side of the record.  It's not that I didn't like them, but nothing ever struck me as special and there seemed to be a lot of filler.

Let's not even start on how completely freaking intimidating their discography is.  I don't know if it would ever be possible to track it all down, so I was content just letting them exist in the background.  Then enter my buddy Alan who wanted to learn and play a J Church cover in the pseudo band we mess around with every so often.  He sent me the song "Racked."  Hot damn what a great song and it totally opened my eyes to the possibility that I've been overlooking these guys.

I picked up Arbor Vitae as it's the album with "Racked" on it.  The fact that the vinyl version came out on Rugger Bugger, an all time favorite label, just made it easier to pick up when I was digging around on on Discogs. I can't stress what a great song this is.  Chugging palm mutes in the right places, big catchy chorus and even some harmonics in the very brief guitar solo.  It's just a blast of sugary 1990's pop punk and I love it.  It's the clear highlight on the album, but everything on the record is really strong, especially the A side with "Cigarettes Kill," "Drinking Down" and "Your Shirt" really standing out as killer songs.  

This album is certainly not the sort of thing that would make me try to hunt down the entire J Church catalog.  I know that's a silly idea with my prior experiences with the band, but Arbor Vitae has opened my eyes and I'm certainly up for checking out some more of their albums if anyone out there has recommendations.

J Church - "Racked":

J Church - "Drinking Down":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw8zB3WzA5E

J Church - "Cigarettes Kill":

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Odd Numbers - Thrift Shoppin' 7"

Untitled

Sessions (1999)

I am getting closer to wrapping up the pile of Odd Numbers 7"s I recently picked up.  This is a later era one that came out of Sessions records.  Like many of their 7"s, you can also find these two songs on a full album as well, this time the songs are also on The Trials And Tribulations Of The Odd Numbers.  That's a record of theirs I'l admittedly not familiar with.  I don't own it and honestly, I didn't even know it was out there.  It'll have to be a pick up at some point.

That being said, for the first time I've been writing about The Odd Numbers both songs on this 7" are new to me.  "Thrift Shoppin'" is a pretty standard fast paced Odd Numbers songs.  Building over a bass line that rises and falls, it has a bit of a bouncy break before the hooky chorus kicks in.  A strong song for sure, even if the 'oohs' in the chorus sound a little silly.  

B-side "Dee Major Tom" is a bit choppier, though still retains the mod vibe that really is the hallmark of The Odd Numbers.  The song isn't much shorter than "Thrift Shoppin'" but for some reason it feels like it blows by so quickly.  I can't say that either of these really rank with my all-time favorite Odd Numbers songs, but both are respectable entries into their catalog.

The Odd Numbers - "Thrift Shoppin'":

The Odd Numbers - "Dee Major Tom":

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hero Dishonest - Liha Ja Teräs LP

Untitled

Peterwalkee (2016)

Over the past few months, I've received a few records to review.  Not too many, but a handful that I haven't really spent much time with as my record collection is still swelling from the influx of all the great Japanese records I bought in Tokyo.  Those, plus some excess older 90's things I picked up from one of my buddies and I've just had a lot on my plate.  I'm going to make a conscious effort to try to get caught up and this Hero Dishonest LP is my first attempt.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot to say about this record.  It's one of those head scratchers that make me wonder why it was sent to me.  It's loud, fast, screaming hardcore from Finland.  Is it good hardcore or bad hardcore?  I don't know that I'm really qualified to say as I just don't like this sort of punk rock.  You have your punk, I have mine.

I'm pretty sure the lyrics are in Finnish, though they could be Swedish or even English and I still don't think I'd have any idea what the band was talking about.  Whatever it is, they sure seem upset about something.  I don't know.  Take a listen if you like this sort of thing, but it just gives me a headache.

Hero Dishonest - Liha Ja Teräs:
https://herodishonest.bandcamp.com/album/liha-ja-ter-s

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ruby - Deadlock 7"

Untitled

Rockstar (2017)

I was pretty excited to stumble across this Ruby 7" (along with a one-sided 12" that I'll be writing about soon enough).  Ruby is fronted by Andi, who was also in favorites of mine like Blank Pages and Idle Hands.  I was bummed when each of those previous bands split up, so it was good to see a new project come forward.  The best part?  Ruby essentially sounds the same as Blank Pages, who pretty much sounded the same as Idle Hands as well.

I realize that's a sloppy comparison, particularly as one of the songs has a completely different singer and there are a lot more backing vocals and harmonies than either of Andi's previous bands.  The truth is I love all three as they bring the sort of fast paced, jangly guitar sort of power pop that I go crazy for.  Imaging the hooks and downstroke madness of the Marked Men, but peel away the guitar distortion and you've sort of got Ruby.

I did have to order this and the 12" from overseas, so the cost is a bit higher when you factor in postage, but this is definitely one of the better 7"s I've heard this years.  It's worth picking up and I hope that I'll be hearing more from Ruby very soon.

Ruby - Deadlock 7":

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Egotrunk - Letter CDEP

Untitled

Nodevans (2005)

I've said before that I was very lucky to have Kazu from Waterslide records as a guide while record shopping in Tokyo.  For starters, he was invaluable helping to find some of the stores that were off the beaten path.  But where he really became indispensable was in the stores themselves, helping find things and recommending a slew of albums I would never have bought otherwise.  Egotrunk was one of his selections.

I'd never heard of the band prior to Kazu handing me this CD, but I was taken by the artwork right away.  The CD comes in a small envelope and the art itself is printed on a piece of transparent paper, the kind your teacher would have used on an overhead projector in the eighth grade in 1991.  It's a striking little package that really grabs your eye.  But once you've opened the envelope, it's the music that grabs your attention.

Starting things off is a slower instrumental intro song.  It's weaves and drifts through gently played guitar and reminds me quite a bit of Boys Life.  Once the rest of the songs kick in, the volume goes up.  There's still a bit of a 90's emo vibe to things, again with Boys Life being a good comparison, but that mixes with loud stuttering guitar riffs and catchy vocal melodies.  Nothing about this is the sort of mopey complaining a lot of people think of when you typically drop the "E" word.  This is much more akin to the sort of punchy songs you'd expect from Eversor or Rusty James.

Perusing the internet, it looks like Egotrunk have at least one more CDEP as well as a split that I'm going to have to track down.  If those songs are as good as these, it'll be worth the hunt.


Monday, April 10, 2017

The Odd Numbers - Easy Life 7"

Untitled

Detour (1995)

I've still got a few more Odd Numbers 7"s to get through, so there's several more Mondays dedicated to their records coming up.  Today we have The Easy Life, a 7" of theirs from 1995.  I bought this one on Discogs along with a handful of other records a couple of weeks ago, mostly looking to fill holes in my collection.

The two songs on this 7" also make appearances on the Odd Numbers album A Guide To Modern Living.  When it came out, I was kind of disappointed in that album.  I didn't like it nearly as much as I liked Jazz Cigarettes so I honestly didn't listen to it all that often.  In fact, I didn't even end up keeping the CD of it as I must have sold it off during one of the purges of my CD collection.  Listening to it again, as I've gotten older, I actually like it a lot more than I did back then. 

The versions of the songs on this 7" are different than the album version.  Both seem a little muddier with a bit more fuzz and distortion on the guitars.  In particular, "The Easy Life" is a toe tapper and I find myself bobbing my head along to it as I listen.  But the version on the album is much cleaner and catchier.  "Clubbin'" is a little longwinded and meandering for me.  It's not really the Odd Numbers' best work if I'm being honest.  Still I wanted to lock down all of the Odd Numbers 7"s, so this was one that needed to be added to the pile.

The Odd Numbers - "The Easy Life":

The Odd Numbers - "Clubbin'":

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Crocodile God - Two Days 12"

Untitled

Big Fella (1994)

You may remember several months ago I reviewed the 7" version of this single.  That was a really big deal to me as it had been at the very, very top of my wants list for nearly twenty years.  I always put more emphasis on finding the 7" version of this release, but I knew that in time, I'd need to hunt down the 12" version as well.

I first heard of Crocodile God from the Best Punk Rock In England, Man compilation compiled by Sean from Rugger Bugger and released on Snuffy Smile records.  That is also where I first heard of this release as in the liner notes Sean had mentioned the pressing plant did the second pressing of the 7" as a 12" by mistake.  At least I assume it was supposed to just be a repressing of the 7", though maybe Mark "Guitar" Murphy can chime in with the rest of the story. Regardless, a variant was born and while it has been an interesting hunt over the years, it's pretty satisfying to finally have both in the collection.

My opinion of the songs remains the same as the 7" review.  Not as fully realized as their next few 7"s, but solid songs that are on the buzzsaw side of UK punky pop.  I also still think the "Oi oi's" are kind of funny in "Kamarrah."  But more than anything, I'm just thrilled to own this piece of my punk rock history.  Croc God has a new split 7" out as well.  That is currently making its way across the ocean to me, so you'll be hearing more from them soon enough.

Crocodile God - "Kamarrah":


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shipyards - Night of Fire CD

Untitled

Waterslide (2013)

Night of Fire is another album I picked up while in Japan.  before the trip I had been listening to the first Shipyards album About Lights quite a bit.  If you read the review I did of that album, you'll know that I absolutely loved it.  While in Japan, I really wanted to make sure I grabbed whatever else of theirs I could find and the first off that list was their debut full length Night of Fire.

In many ways Night of Fire is a pretty obvious precursor to About Lights as the two records have a pretty similar sound.  Shipyards is crafting the same sort of super energetic punk rock that made me fall in love with other Japanese punkers like Snatcher or International Jet Set.  The strained vocals convey a sense of urgency while the guitar interplay keeps everything sounding fresh and exciting.  But of course the real key for me is how catchy these songs are and how I immediately start tapping my foot whenever I put this album on.

I really wish I had been able to see Shipyards play when I was in Japan.  Their songs contain the sort of infectious energy and sing along choruses that I know would be an absolute blast to see in person.  It wasn't to be during my trip in December.  I guess that's just another reason why I need to go back to Japan some day.  In the meantime, I'll just keep listening to both Shipyards albums on repeat.

Shipyards - Night of Fire:

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Odd Numbers - From Cradle To Grave 7" - Green Vinyl

Untitled

Eight One Nine (1992)

Another Monday, another Odd Numbers record.  This time up we have thew band's second 7".  As with a great many of Odd Numbers singles, all four of these songs are also on other releases.  Every song from this 7" is on the Retrofitted For Today album and the title track "From Cradle To Grave" is also on Jazz Cigarettes.  

We've got four classic Odd Numbers tracks on this one though. All four are upbeat mod rockers with great melody in the vocals and the sort of bouncy energy that sounds like late era Chisel or peak The Jam.

I do love this band and while I'm excited to add so many new singles to the collection, I do wish there were more songs that weren't already on other albums.  Still, they are great songs.

Odd Numbers - "From Cradle To Grave":

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Raise Mind - Sixpack For The Story Of Wasted Life CDEP

Untitled

Anti-New Waves (2006)

Raise Mind is a Japanese band that I was familiar with long before ever going to Japan.  I've had their Back Number CD since it came out, though I was not aware they had any other releases out.  I probably should have been paying more attention to places like Discogs, but it all worked out in the end as I picked up this six song EP while in Tokyo.

To me, Raise Mind always fell right in the middle of bands like Dillinger Four and Cradle to Grave.  They're not quite as fast and crazy as Cradle to Grave, but they're not as poppy as Dillinger Four.  Instead, Raise Mind hits the sweet spot right in the middle.  Gruff but melodic. Punk but catchy. Fast but not crazy.  Really, it's a pretty perfect balance.

Just take the song "Step Outside."  It's relatively straightforward and mid tempo, but it's practically perfect.  Palm muted guitar riffs take you through the chorus twice before paying things off with a big, hooky chorus.  I wish I could fid the song online somewhere, but you'll have to trust me on this one, top notch.

The funny thing is, after consulting Discogs, I'm also missing another split CD and a 7" from Raise Mind.  Looks like I need to go back to Tokyo for some more record shopping. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Out - Swim Buddies LP

Untitled

Comedy Minus One (2017)

We're nearly through March and I think that today is the day where I will come out and say that 2017 isn't starting out all that strong as far as new releases go.  It's been really, really quite for these first three months with only a few good records in my humble opinion.  What's even more frustrating is I don't really see all that much on the immediate horizon.  Sure, I absolutely have a few preorders for things I'm excited about, but I feel like it's far fewer than I normally would have.

Anyway, what this is bringing me to is that Out is one of the few brights spots in an otherwise lackluster beginning of the year.  Containing three quarters of the wonderful band Minutes, Out is somewhat following in their footsteps with an album full of 90's sounding indie rock.  You've got your crunchy, powerful songs that are reminiscent of Archers of Loaf.  There's a few that go for a more wonky pop sound like Pavement and a few noisy ones that remind me of bands like Polvo.

All those comparisons mentioned, Out mostly feels like the next logical step in what Minutes probably would have done on another record.  Aside from one song called "Dance, Like" that I really don't like for whatever reason, this is a very strong album that scratches that indie rock itch I have every so often.

Out - Swim Buddies:
https://outkzoo.bandcamp.com/album/swim-buddies

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pinback - Some Offcell Voices LP - Green/Blue Splatter Vinyl

Untitled

Temporary Residence (2017)

This LP is the first vinyl pressing for two older Pinback CDEPs.  Some Voices was originally released on Absolutely Kosher back in 2000 while Offcell was put out in 2003 by the same label.  Stuck next to each other on wax, this ends up being a surprisingly cohesive album.

I will say this about the songs on this LP, if you've never really been into Pinback before, there likely isn't going to be anything on here that's going to change your opinion about the band.  Luckily, I happen to adore this band and to me, Pinback never disappoint.  While I do have all of Pinback's full length, I never went out and tracked down all of their various EPs, so a lot of these are brand new songs to my ears.  As you might expect, they are full of the type of soaring vocals and staccato guitar plucking that I just love.

If nothing else, it's a nice little slab of vinyl to keep me satiated until the next Pinback full length.  I haven't heard too much about one of those; but I am hopeful it'll arrive sooner than later.

Pinback - Some Offcell Voices:

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Odd Numbers - Something New 7"

Untitled

Eight One Nine (1991)

I decided that for the next few Mondays, I'll post something about the Odd Numbers 7"s I've picked up recently.  I'm in the process of filling out their discography in My collection, so seems like an OK idea to me.

As with all of their songs, the three on this Odd Numbers 7" certainly veer into mod/The Jam territory.  "Something New" is a mid tempo entry to their catalog that was also on their albums Jazz Cigarettes and Retrofitted for Today.  A lot of Odd Numbers songs do double and triple duty appearing on singles and albums.  "Sometimes Girl" is a faster paced song and is just as catchy as anything they ever released.  It also appears on the Retrofitted for Today album.

The only song that is exclusive to this record is "Between the Two of Us.  A short, poppy and stripped down blast, it actually reminds me quite a bit of the sort of thing Ted Leo would end up doing a few years later when he was playing on his own.

The Odd Numbers - Something New 7":

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Weezer / Wavves - Split 7" - Blue Vinyl (/1000)

Untitled

Ghost Ramp (2016)

I've long documented my love of the split 7", both as a way to discover new bands and as a way to pair like minded folks for a quick little burst of music.  I can't say that my favorite split 7" gimmick is when the two bands cover each other's songs.  Though I don't really mind it when each band contributes one original and then the cover songs.  The Weezer / Wavves split 7" is not like that.

On the Wavves side, you only get a less than two minute long cover of the Weezer song "You Gave Your Love To Me Softly."  Now, as far as Weezer songs go, that's a pretty great one, but Wavves doesn't really do anything to make it their own.  Sure there is a little bit of surfy echo during the "La la la" part of the bridge, but other than that it's a pretty paint by the numbers cover song.  It's good, but just not particularly interesting.

The Weezer contribution is one original song called "Fake Smiles and Nervous Laughter."  Compared to a lot of the band's post-Pinkerton output, it's a pretty solid song.  It's a low key, mid tempo rocker that doesn't really build to anything in particular, but kind of doubles down on the melodies they've worked into the verse.  It would have fit nicely on their more recent album Everything Will be Alright in the End.  It's certainly better than anything I heard on that new White Album of theirs.  Still, I can't really recommend this as an essential pick up.  It's really meant for completists, either Wavves or Weezer collectors.  For casual fans, it's an easy pass.

Weezer - "Fake Smiles and Nervous Laughter":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epGLkx147nI

Wavves - "You Gave Your Love To Me Softly":

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ron Ron Clou - Good Melodies LP

Untitled

K.O.G.A. (2004)

When I went to Japan, I didn't really put together a proper wants list.  In hindsight, I probably should have.  I wasn't really prepared to be as overwhelmed by so much great, new music as I was.  Even though I had built the trip up in my head for decades, it still over delivered once I was there.  That being said, the one thing that I knew I wanted to pick up were the Ron Ron Clou full lengths.  I wasn't able to find their first two, but Kazu from Waterslide pulled Good Melodies out of an LP bin at Record Shop Base for me.  

I actually didn't even know this Ron Ron Clou record existed.  It came out in 2004 and is an album of nothing but cover songs.  As a whole, they're actually pretty fun.  Sure some of the super obvious ones like "Mr. Roboto" and "Like a Virgin" are pretty cheesy, but I will say that Ron Ron Clou does a pretty great version of Ash's "Kung Fu." (Sadly, I can't find this on YouTube or anywhere else online)

This certainly doesn't take the place of the two actual Ron Ron Clou full lengths, but it's a nice addition to the collection and I was very excited to have at least found one of their albums while in Japan.  Last week I actually found a US seller on Discogs that had the other two Ron Ron Clou records for sale at a pretty good price.  I bought them and they're actually in the mail heading my way now, so expect those reviews in the upcoming weeks.  

Ron Ron Clou - "Sports & Wine":

Ron Ron Clou - "Teenage Kicks":

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Plum - Secret Night Charm CD

Untitled

Spring Leaf (2014)

One of the best nights I've ever had in my life was at the Waterslide/PopKid show at a club called What's Up in Uguisudani.  I met many wonderful people and saw four very excellent bands play.  One of the bands was called 2 Sick Worry.  They were quite great, but they don't have any records out yet.  However the singer from 2 Sick Worry gave me this Plum CD as it was the band he had been in previously.  No surprise, this is great too.

Immediately I'm drawn to make comparisons to Navel because of the excellent, high pitch vocals.  Nice and melodic, in the liner notes they are listed as 'chirps' and I can see where that would come in as a description.  Musically, they stray away from Navel's more traditional pop punk sound and have more in common with bands like The Scaries or Delay.  Jangly, treble heavy guitars belting out big hooks.

When I was in Tokyo I really felt like I was interacting with the music scene that I should have been in all along.  Even though I've been listening to a lot of Japanese bands over the past twenty years or so, there was another new one every time I turned around.  I didn't see Plum play and I didn't see this record at any of the record stores I went to, but out of the kindness of someone's heart it was given to me, just because it was thought that I might like it.  That's the kind of scene I want to be part of.  Secret Night Charm is a killer record and I can't wait to hear from 2 Sick Worry.  As good as Plum were, 2 Sick Worry was even better when I saw them play.

Plum - Secret Night Charm (only three of the CDs thirteen songs are up on Bandcamp):

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Odd Numbers - So Many Girls 7" - Green Vinyl

Untitled

Eight One Nine (1993)

My buddy Alan has been downsizing his record collection over the past ten years or so.  During his most recent cull, I went through his records to make sure there wasn't anything I needed.  Well, naturally there was, after all, I always need more records.  The things I was most excited to pull were Treepeople, Jolt and Odd Numbers 7"s.

This Odd Numbers 7" is actually the one I've been wanting to add to the collection the most.  "So Many Girls" has long been my favorite Odd Numbers song, ever since I heard it so many years ago on their Jazz Cigarettes album.  It's bouncy guitar chord progressions (knowingly similar to "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love") combined with the catchy mod influenced vocal melody has stood the test of time for me.  I love it just as much today as I did the first time I heard it. 

The other three songs may not be as good as "So Many Girls," but really how could they be?  Still, the two of the three are pretty fantastic.  "Autumn Leaves" with its punchy lead guitar riff is also a long time favorite of mine.  "Do You Know What Love Is" is a definite earworm with its downstroke heavy chorus and simple, but memorable vocals.  The only song on here that I don't totally love is the closer "Long Live Love."  Not that there's anything inherently bad about it, but with its jaunty somewhat island vibe to it, I don't think it's as strong as the other three.  

Regardless, it's a hell of a little 7" and one I'm thrilled to have in the collection finally.  I grabbed two other Odd Numbers 7"s from Alan and also bought a few on Discogs to round out the collection, so you have not seen the last of these guys.

The Odd Numbers - "So Many Girls":

The Odd Numbers - "Autumn Leaves":

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Not Wonk - Laughing Nerds And A Wallflower LP

Untitled

KiliKiliVilla (2015)

This is one of a handful of LPs that I bought in Japan.  While I always want to buy vinyl, the fact of the matter is that most of the Japanese albums that I wanted to pick up were only released on CD.  Hey, it beats cassettes, but it still is most rewarding to be able to find something on vinyl.  

I picked up Not Wonk based on a description in the Waterslide records distro.  In it, Not Wonk is compared to Senseless Things and Mega City Four.  These are very apt comparisons and after spending some time with this record myself, I echo those feelings.  The way that the vocals melodies build around the light guitar work in the verse of "Chill Out," only to come bashing through full force in the chorus is very reminiscent of the early 90's UK sound.  Throughout the album Not Wonk shows the same sort of mastery of their sound, always knowing when things need to be a bit quieter, but also knowing when it's time to get things loud and fuzzy.

In particular, the vocals on this album are very strong.  They mesh so well with this type of music and really make Not Wonk stand out.  I dug this record so much, I ended up mailordering the band's follow up (also on wax, thankfully), so I'll be reviewing that one in a few weeks as well.  If it's half as good as Laughing Nerds And A Wallflower, it'll be a hell of a record.

Not Wonk - "Laughing Nerds And A Wallflower":

Not Wonk - "Little Magic":

Not Wonk - "Chill Out" (This is a live version, but it's all I could find. Great song.):

Monday, March 13, 2017

V/A - Ultimate Slow Beats CD

Untitled

Snuffy Smile (1996)

I'm very lucky that I've been able to gather a complete Snuffy Smile 7" collection over my years of buying records.  I've said it many times, but they have essentially been my favorite record label in the world for close to 20 years now.  When I went to Japan, one of my goals was to try to fill some holes in my Snuffy Smile CD collection.  I didn't find many of the missing albums, but I did find a couple. One of which is this fine compilation.

I've actually had a different version of this comp for quite a long time.  It was released in America on Broken Rekids under the name Peace And Love.  That never deterred me from seeking out the original version.  Ultimate Slow Beats has some of my very favorite bands from the first wave of Japanese punk rock that I started listening to.

You've got some of the more well known bands like Blew, Lovemen and Navel, all of which are among the best of the best bands you'll ever listen to.  However, there are also some songs from equally great, but not quite as well known bands like Snatcher, International Jet Set and Just One Day (pre-The Urchin).  Let's not forget about Cigaretteman, one of my all time favorites who dish up arguably my favorite song of theirs, "Sister."

These bands are just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many interesting sounds to hear across this compilation.  While this Snuffy Smile version is a bit tougher to track down, if you're not as nutty about things as I am, you can hunt down the US version much easier.  In fact, there's one on Discogs right now for five bucks.  Probably the best five dollars you'll spend today.

Cigaretteman - "Sister":

Navel - "Chaos Mind":

International Jetset - "Today":

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Notches - Change My Mind 7" - Gray Vinyl (/50)

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Dead Broke / Cat Dead Details Later (2017)

I've reviewed a couple of other Notches records previously.  Since I dug those, it was a no brainer to pick up the new 7" when Dead Broke announced it was coming out.  I've always enjoyed the band, but even I wasn't prepared for how great this 7" is.  

Notches have always hung their hat on the sort of 90's sounding melodic punk rock that I enjoy so much.  On Change My Mind, they've really emphasized the melodic part of the equation.  The songs are all so catchy with gigantic choruses.  Think of Rumspringer meets Fig Dish (maybe?) or any of your favorite East Bay rockers mixed with one of those 90's used bin champions like Super Deluxe or Treble Charger.

No matter how you want to make your comparison, what is undeniable is how great the songs are on this 7".  Notches are a band truly coming into their own and now I'm eagerly awaiting their next set of songs.

Notches - Change My Mind 7":

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

V/A - The Pro-Wrestling LP

Untitled

Invitation (1983)

This album here was a total surprise.  It was given to me as a gift at the Waterslide/PopKid show at What's Up in Uguisudani.  Everyone that night was so amazing, but this LP turned out to be one of the coolest and wackiest things I got while in Japan.

What's on this record you ask?  Why it's an album filled with pro wrestling entrance music from Japan.  You have a mix of Japanese stars like Antonio Inoki, Riki Choshu and Jumbo Tsuruta as well as some of the top foreign stars of the era such as Hulk Hogan, Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody.  The songs are all so much fun and so cheesy in their own perfect way.  "Sunrise," the Stan Hansen theme starts off with a country flair as you'd expect, but then takes a sharp and dramatic turn into disco.  It's hard to imagine Hulk Hogan not coming out to "Real American," but "Theme from Galactica" is an interesting, spage-age substitute.

However, the best of the best belongs to Bruiser Brody.  The version of "Immigrant Song" he comes out to, with all vocals replaced by a particularly gnarly horn section is simply one of the craziest things you'll hear.  Go on, click the YouTube link below.  You'll thank me.

Bruiser Brody Theme:

Stan Hansen Theme:

Hulk Hogan Theme: 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sleep Like A Log - Shadows/Lights CD

Untitled

Fixing A Hole (2012)

Coming across this Sleep Like A Log CD in Japan was another one of those great finds that I didn't even realize I was looking for.  I had a split 7" of theirs with another of my favorite bands, Rumspringer, but I was unaware that they had released a full album in Japan.  Shadows/Lights builds on the promise of that first 7" and really delivers a killer album.

Sleep Like A Log is in some ways the quintessential Japanese melodic punk rock band.  They sound like they would just fit right in on a Snuffy Smiles 7".  They remind me a lot of Snatcher, an older Snuffy Smile band that put out a really amazing record fifteen some odd years ago. I also hear similarities with bands like Minority Blues Band and even Lovemen to a lesser extent.

Musically they can crank out a fast and loud song with the sort of big chunky riffs that I go crazy for and then segue into a much slower, more melodic song that somehow doesn't lose any energy.  The vocals are raspy, just how I like them and top to bottom it's just a great record.  I picked up a lot of records while in Japan, but this has been one of my favorites so far.  I'm not able to find any of their songs online, but rest assured, this is good stuff.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Record Store Visit: Record Shop Base - Tokyo, Japan - 12/29/16

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Sadly, this is the last of the Tokyo record stores that I visited on my trip to Japan.  No matter how much I write about each one, it's impossible to accurately describe how great these stores were and how much it meant to me to finally go record shopping in Japan.  It was something that I had been wanting to do as long as I can remember.  Again, I must thank Kazu from Waterslide records.  Not only did he take me around to all of these stores, he also dug with me and helped me find quite a few things I was looking for.  It would have been easy to get overwhelmed if it wasn't for his assistance.  Cheers friend!

Record Shop Base was a killer store.   It just felt right.  Kind of small, packed to the rafters with tons
of records and a pretty heavy emphasis on the punk rock side of the spectrum.  Though they stocked more than just punk rock.  They had a solid used section and in particular some great 7"s to dig through.  The thing that stood out most to me here was that this was the store that I finally was able to find a Ron Ron Clou record at.  Sure, it was their covers album, but I was so thrilled to finally find one of their albums after coming up empty at the rest of the stores.

In addition to Ron Ron Clou, I also picked up a bunch of 7"s and some CDs as well.  That's the one thing that I really took away from record shopping in Japan: CDs.  I bought more CDs on this one day than I had probably bought in the previous 5 years.  It's just different there, CDs never went away and I would say that most of the Japanese punk rock I was looking for just never was released on LP.  Still at least it wasn't a bunch of cassettes!

I had such an amazing time in Tokyo, from start to finish it was simply the trip of a lifetime.  Every day we did something amazing, but that day we did nothing but record shopping will always stand out.  Everyone should get the chance to do that.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Capitalist Kids / Hospital Job - Split 7" - Beige Vinyl

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Rad Girlfriend / It's Alive (2016)

This record is quite the throwback.  It's like the glory days of the 90's when two pop punk heavyweights would share a split 7" bringing joy to the world.  It was also a good way to discover new bands back then.  Maybe you didn't know Goober Patrol until you picked up that split with Mr. T Experience.  Perhaps you'd never heard Lovemen until you bought that split 7" with Hooton 3 Car.  The split 7" can be a gateway to many wonderful new things.

On this one we have two bands I've been following since the get go.  First up is Hospital Job.   They've always been walking a fine line between Fig Dish and Blink 182.  There are times that they threaten to bleed over to a side of punk rock that's a little cheesy, but they always manage to keep the hooks full and their melodies tight.  The two new songs on this split are their tried and true formula of mid tempo, catchy rockers.  Two more songs worthy of their catalog.

Capitalist Kids are more of the throwback to the sort of Mr. T Experience style of mid 90's punk rock.  The songs are straightforward with killer choruses.  They're also usually know for intertwining some politics into their songs, but the ones on this split don't address that topic so much.  Still, how can you go wrong with a song about how you'll always be second place in your girl's life to Morrissey.  Fun, witty stuff as always from these guys.

Capitalist Kids / Hospital Job - Split 7"

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Midway Still - Go Team No Hope CD

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Waterslide / Bitter and Twisted (2016)

While in Japan, I certainly bought a lot of records by Japanese bands, though I did pick up a few things here and there by bands from elsewhere.  One of those was the latest record by Midway Still.  I am so glad I grabbed this as it is easily the best album they've released since reforming a few years ago and you could make the argument that it holds up against any of their hits from the 90's as well.

The album starts off with the terse and tough guitar blast of "Wicked World." It's moments like this that remind you of how uniquely positioned the bans was when they were around originally.  They're not quite as melodic or moody as Senseless Things, they're not quite as catchy as Snuff and they're not as blistering punk rock as Leatherface.  However, Midway Still kind of straddles a midway point (ahem) between all of these great bands.  They take pieces from each and create their own sound that really is the exact kind of punk rock I want to listen to.

Just take a listen to the one-two punch of "Hey Summer" and "What's The Price."  Talk about back to back hits, these two songs are among the best Midway Still has ever released with hooks and catchy choruses that just beg to be shouted along to.  Go Team No Hope is another fantastic record from Midway Still and it's a great starting point if you've never heard them before.  Then go buy Dial Square.

Midway Still - Go Team No Hope:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound LP - Green Vinyl

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Carpark (2017)

I have been eagerly anticipating this new Cloud Nothings record for quite some time.  Their last, 2015's Here and Nowhere Else, completely took me by surprise and ended up my most played album of that year by a pretty significant margin.  It was without hesitation that I preordered Life Without Sound the day it came out.  Though I apparently hesitated long enough to have missed the green vinyl version for sale on its own.  I ended up having to buy a bundle with a T-shirt.  Unfortunately, the T-shirt was white. I hate white band shirts.  Then to add insult to injury, the label restocked the colored vinyl version on its own the next day.  At least the album is great.

Life Without Sound is definitely a change for Cloud Nothings.  As a whole it's a little bit mellower, lacking some of the really passionate shouting moments of Here and Nowhere Else.  But the songwriting and hooks are every bit as strong.  As soon as you hit the second track, "Things Are Right With You" you're drawn in to the vocal melody and the always building guitar riffs.  It's one of the best songs on the album and can hold its own against anything Cloud Nothings have released.

The entirety of the album is just packed with great songs.  There are moments that remind me a bit of Idlewild, but we're talking about a thousand times better than the very best Idlewild song that was ever written.  Still as a touchstone for a comparison, you could do worst.  The thing I'll say most about this album is that for me it was a grower.  It didn't blast me out of my chair like Here and Nowhere Else. Life Without Sound gradually took hold of me with each listen and once it clicked, I was all in.

Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound:

Monday, February 27, 2017

Record Store Visit: Disk Union Shimokitazawa - Tokyo, Japan - 12/29/16

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As the light started to fade, we hit up the last Disk Union we were to visit on out trip to Tokyo.  This one was located in Shimokitazawa.  It was an interesting neighborhood, though we were told that a lot of the construction going on for the upcoming Tokyo olympics was threatening to change the area a bit.  Still, it was a really cool part of town to walk around in for a while.

This Disk Union was another that had a broad range of musical genres represented.  It was only one
story, but it had a larger footprint than some of the other stores we had went to.  As with most stores in Tokyo, a substantial portion of the store was dedicated to CDs, but there was some solid vinyl representation as well.  They had lots of 7"s (Including stocking of a pretty killer record by this band called Custody), once again broken up by genre for easy digging.

They also had an interesting selection of LPs.  In particular, I was drawn to a section that was 90's rock and alternative.  It was interesting parsing through old Beck 12"s and seeing records by bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden.  Not because I had any interest in buying them, but it was just kind of funny to see those sort of records displayed so prominently.

I don't really remember what specific records I bought here, but I did buy a few.  I bought at least one record in every single record shop we went to (Except from the heavy metal store we went in by mistake).  Our Tokyo record store quest was starting to wrap up, but we had one more store to hit and I'll write about that one next week.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Not Wonk - DisOrdinary 7"

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KiliKiliVilla (2016)

Not Wonk is yet another band that I hadn't even heard of prior to my trip to Japan, but boy am I glad I know them now.  Even though they share a word with the band Wonk Unit, Not Wonk is a completely different type of sound.  I'm immediately drawn back to the early 90's in the UK, as Not Wonk remind me of the very best parts of bands like Senseless Things. If you wanted to pop by Canada to name drop The Doughboys as well, I think you could make that argument although Not Wonk certainly favors the sort of atmospheric guitar wail that Senseless things were more know for.

The opening song on this 7" is "This Ordinary."  It just rips along with swirling guitar and pounding drums.  The vocals soar above it all and it really is such a thick slice of 1991 that I almost can't believe it was released in 2016.  Things slow down on "Don't Get Me Wrong."  I don't like it quite as much as "This Ordinary," but it's still a nice song with good melodies and backing harmonies.  

Rounding out this 7" is "DisOrdinary."  It's an alternate version of "This Ordinary" that decreases the tempo and adds even more effects to the guitars.  I don't like it as much as the first version, but it's an interesting alternate take.  I also picked up an LP by Not Wonk while in Japan that I like even better than this 7" and I'll be writing more about that in the coming weeks.

Not Wonk - "This Ordinary":

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Links - Einmal Ist Keinmal CD

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Blue Blue Blue (2003)

This CD is another one of those finds in Japan that I didn't even know I was looking for.  I've had a Links split 7" with a band called Ben Grim for a very long time.  I didn't even know they put out a full length, yet here it is in all of its glory.  This came out back in 2003, so I can't believe it took me so long to find it.

The links are playing super melodic pop punk.  There are lots of octave accents in the songs, chugging palm mutes and dynamic drumming in the breakdowns.  It sounds like the sort of bands you would have heard in the late 90's.  Kind of a bridge between the bouncy pop punk of Sicko or Zoinks and the sort of thing the Get Up Kids were doing on their first EP.  Though it's way catchier and upbeat than any of those Get Up Kids songs.

Unfortunately I can't find anything from this album online to link to.  I did find the version of the song "Not Perfect" that came out on the Ben Grim split, but it is a slightly different version than the one that appears on this album.  Still, even without the ability to listen to anything now, I absolutely recommend picking this up if you ever happen to come across it.  It's one of my favorite things I picked up in Japan.

The Links - "Not Perfect" (Split 7" Version):

Monday, February 20, 2017

Record Store Visit: Disk Union Shibuya - Tokyo, Japan - 12/29/16


Another day, another Disk Union.  Let me tell you how utterly incredible this Japanese record store chain is.  We went to so many of them while in Japan and they each had a feeling all their own.  I would be spending my life in these stores if I lived in Japan.  Maybe it's best I don't live there. I'd end up poor, but I would have a hell of a record collection.

The Shibuya location isn't quite as big and awe inspiring as its Shinjuku neighbor, but it is still a pretty gigantic shop.  Many floors and each floor broken up into genre specific shopping.  Although here, two floors are dedicated to used records. I wish we had the time to have spent some of it digging through there a bit, but on this day our objective was the fifth floor, specializing in heavy metal and (you guessed it) punk rock.

This was a great store and I'm guessing the two floors of used records seeped into the punk shop as well.  There were no shortage of used records up there, especially in terms of 7"s.  Also, like the Shinjuku shop, the sub genres of punk rock were split up in super specific sub genres, making it easier to dive into whole chunks of the store at one time.  It's probably no surprised I was digging in the 'Melodic Pop Punk' section for quite some time.

I don't remember the specific records I picked up here, but I do remember that I probably bought more CDs at this store than some of the others.  I also remember seeing some crazy 7"s for super cheap, ones that I already had but were way more difficult for me to find ten years ago.  Simply put, it was another incredible record store in Tokyo.  In case you haven't figured it out, Tokyo has a lot of them.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wonk Unit - Mr. Splashy LP - Green Vinyl (/100)

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TNS (2016)

My first experience with Wonk Unit was from their album put out by Drunken Sailor records called Feel The Wonkness.  That one was a compilation of some songs that had been released on other albums originally, but it provided a good starting point for someone not familiar with the band.  I had been hearing of Wonk Unit for a while, but it was that album that really made me a fan.  I decided then to keep better track of them and buy more of their records.

I did a piss poor job of that task as Mr. Splashy came out last year and I didn't have any idea it was out until I stumbled across it in Red Girlfriend's distro while buying another 7" late last year.  So, I missed out on listening to this album last year and didn't include it on my top records list for 2016.  If I had my shit together, there is no way Mr. Splashy wouldn't have been ranked quite high.  The saving grace is that at least I was able to buy the green vinyl version of the album, which if the internet is to be believed was limited to one hundred copies and is the tour version of the record.  So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

It's kind of difficult to describe the madness that is Wonk Unit.  At their core they're a punk band from the UK, with obvious influence from bands like Snuff and China Drum.  However, if you go in expecting Wonk Unit to really sound like either of those bands you're in for a shock.  There are also elements of the story telling side of bands like The Weakerthans.  Some acoustics here, some string arrangements there and a little comedy throughout.  It's the combination of these sounds that gives Wonk Unit a truly unique voice.

Mr. Splashy is a great, diverse album.  It grows on you each time you listen to it, revealing new layers of mad genius.  Their back catalog is still a little intimidating to dive into, but considering how much I've liked everything I've heard thus far, I think it's time to take the plunge.

Wonk Unit - Mr. Splashy:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Short Story - Ignore The Way There Is CD

Untitled

I Hate Smoke (2011)

One of the many things that I liked about record shopping in Japan was finding albums I didn't know existed.  I knew of the band Short Story, specifically from the Tribute To Chopper compilation that came out a few years ago, but I didn't know that they had any other records out.  For whatever reason, they just weren't on my radar.  Once I was in Tokyo, I was able to buy their full length from a few years ago.

It's funny that I first heard of this band from a tribute to Chopper, because they definitely have some similar attributes.  They play fast, loud and catchy punk rock with lots of backing vocals that go "whoa" and "ohhh."  Vocally, they remind me more of the higher pitch style of bands like Navel or Skimmer.  All in all, a pretty strong combination.

Short Story is at their best when they slow down the breakneck speed of their drummer and get a little closer to mid tempo songs.  They do tend to go a little overboard with the thousand mile an hour galloping drum beat on a few songs, so when it breaks down to something a little bouncier, everything stands out more and the hooks have time to really sink in.  Minor speed criticisms aside, this is a fun record that showcases another side of the Japanese melodic punk scene that I love so much.

Short Story - "It's Too Late":

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Yellow Dogs - The Sheik Of Araby 7" - White Vinyl

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Tinstar (2000)

Since I wrote about one of the two Yellow Dogs 7"s I picked up in Japan last week, I figured I'd knock out the other one today.  Just to recap, I picked up both of the Yellow Dogs 7"s because I thought the artwork looked cool.  I wasn't familiar with the band and for whatever reason, during my tear through the record store, I didn't realize that all of the songs on both 7"s were covers of older songs from the 60's. Looking at the art, I had figured this to be a fun power pop/mod something or other.

My opinion of this Yellow Dogs 7" is pretty much the same as my thoughts on their prior one.  The songs are all good and fun to listen to, but I just can't picture any reason that would make me listen to them that often.  "Sheik Of Araby" is a fun upbeat cover with really nice jangly guitar.  "Three Cool Cats" has an easy going swing to it and "Boys" has some really nice call and response backing vocals, but none of the three songs really are that engaging.  They're nice background music, but nothing special.

I haven't bought many records based solely on the artwork in quite some time.  It was fun digging around record stores in Japan and taking some chances, but the chance I took on the Yellow Dogs didn't pay off quite how I was expecting.

The Yellow Dogs - "The Sheik Of Araby":

The Yellow Dogs - "Three Cool Cats":

Monday, February 13, 2017

Record Store Visit: Warehouse / Nat Records - Tokyo, Japan - 12/29/16

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After going through the Disk Union punk store in Shinjuku, it was only a short walk (after a brief stop at the giant Godzilla statue) to Warehouse & Nat records.  Now, I can't say that I completely understand how there are two record shops in one store and to be honest, I wasn't really paying a ton of attention to that when I was in there.  But essentially, Nat records specializes in noisy rock and roll and Warehouse seems to focus on used stuff.  Exactly where one store ends and the other begins isn't something that I took a picture of, I guess.

No matter which store is which, Warehouse/Nat was a great place to dig.  Lots of 7"s, lots of punk rock and a good amount of interesting older records to peruse (you should see the Ventures 7" section at this place).

I bought a lot of 7"s while shopping here.  I don't think I picked up any CDs and unfortunately I don't really remember if I bought any LPs, but I would think I grabbed at least one.  As the trip gets further and further in the rearview, I'm having a more difficult time remembering exactly what records I bought in each store.

Warehouse/Nat is definitely a shop worth hitting up if you're in Tokyo.  It doesn't have quite as much foot traffic as the Disk Union stores, but they have a lot of hidden gems here.  If you are into some serious digging, you could probably spend quite a long time pouring over their stock.




Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Yellow Dogs - Ooh! My Soul 7" - Pink Vinyl

Untitled

Tinstar (2000)

One of the things I really tried to do while I was record shopping in Tokyo was to try to behave like I did when I went to record stores in America as a younger man.  What that means in the context of this review is that I picked up a handful of records simply because they looked cool or looked like the sort of thing I would enjoy.  I bought two 7"s based on fonts alone.  One of the bands I decided to check out on a whim was The Yellow Dogs.

The sleeve of this 7" and another one of theirs that I picked up just sort of grabbed my attention.  It looked like a fun, power-poppy mod band and that seemed like the sort of thing I'd like to check out.  What I didn't realize at the time was that all of the songs on both 7"s were covers.  The Yellow Dogs absolutely seize a kind of ramped up 60's throwback vibe, though a large portion of that is because they are playing actual songs from that era.

The best song is also the lead off track, "Ooh! My Soul."  It's a Little Richard cover that's sped up and played with a ton of energy and enthusiasm.  It's a fun, though short listen.  Next up is another rocker, "Lonesome Tears In My Eye."  I'll admit I'm not quite as familiar with the original version of this song, but once again The Yellow Dogs deliver a pretty killer version of it.  Last up is "Money (That's What I Want)."  Truthfully, I've never really liked any version of this song over the years and The Yellow Dogs can't really save it either.  The vocals drop to a weird growl and the song just kind of plods along.

This isn't really the victory I was hoping for when I just started grabbing some 7"s based on artwork.  It's not bad at all and the first two songs are pretty good, all things considered.  I just can't imagine it's the sort of thing I would end up listening to very often.

The Yellow Dogs - "Ooh! My Soul":

The Yellow Dogs - "Lonesome Tears Over You":

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Middle - 尖音 CD

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Impulse (2015)

I had such a good time while I was in Japan, but I also learned quite a bit as well.  Kazu from Waterslide set up a PopKid/Waterslide show at a club in Uguisudani called What's Up.  When I arrived, I found out that the club was run by Bun, who was in one of my very favorite old school Snuffy Smile bands Lovemen.  On top of that, I then found out that he was currently in a band I hadn't heard about before called Middle.  Then, as if that night could have been any better than it already was, Bun gave me a copy of the Middle CD.  

I've been listening to this album ever since I got back from Japan.  At first glance, it might not seem like the sort of thing that's right up my alley, but the more I listen to it the more I love it.  When you really examine it, it's almost a perfect record for me.  It combines the catchiness and melodies of 1990's punk rock (Lovemen would be a good example, for obvious reasons) with the screeching and powerful guitar antics of Hot Snakes or some of the shorter Drive Like Jehu songs.

According to internet translators, 尖音 means acoustic.  That title ends up being pretty amusing as throughout the CD's seven songs in twenty four minutes, the guitar assault is loud, blistering and nonstop.  However, the thing that really gets me is how the vocal melodies creep in keeping things catchy enough for a pop kid like me.  I was only able to find one song online from this album.  It's called "リセット" and is one of the less melodic songs on this CD.  But this is absolutely an album worth getting, especially if you like your guitars loud and a little chaotic.

Middle - "リセット":

Monday, February 6, 2017

Record Store Visit: Disk Union Shinjuku - Tokyo, Japan - 12/29/16

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On the second full day we were in Tokyo, December 29th, Kazu from Waterslide records took my wife and I around for a whirlwind tour of record stores.  This is the day things really picked up as far as buying records went.  Our first stop of the day was the Disk Union in Shinjuku.  This is the best record store I have ever gone to in my entire life.

The store is seven stories and each story focuses on specific genres of music. World music? Head up to the fourth floor.  Looking for some J-Pop? It's down to the basement for you.  But for me, it was up to the seventh floor as that was dedicated to punk rock.  I really could not believe what I was walking into.  This store was just crammed full of records and CDs, all by bands that I love.  The genres were broken down in such specificity that became a little comical to see the sub-sub-sub genres of Psychobilly that had its own section.  But any store that had a special place to browse melodic pop punk is a store that I want to go to just about every day.

The other thing that I loved about the Shinjuku Disk Union was the sheer amount of 7"s they had.  It seemed like they were everywhere.  A section for new 7"s, a section for used 7"s, random 7"s stacked up on shelves that you didn't even notice the first time you walked by.  It was just crazy.  This is also the only store I have ever been in that has its own dedication portion of the used section dedicated to Snuffy Smile 7"s.  That was madness.  Flipping through that part of the used bin, I couldn't believe the 7"s that were just sitting around that had previously taken me decades to find.  Just as incredible as the records I did buy was the amount of records I already had that I couldn't believe I was seeing just sitting in a store.

I bought a ton of records at this Disk Union.  I can't even remember all of the ones that came from this store, but I got a lot of pretty great punk rock and I was completely shocked at how inexpensive it ended up being.  I spent less than a hundred bucks here, but walked out with a stack of 7"s over two inches thick and at least a dozen CDs and a couple of LPs.  More than anyplace I've ever been, excluding Flipside Records in Pompton Lakes NJ during the 90's, this store just felt like home.  I keep telling people that the thing I like most about Japan is the way they seem to really encourage people to find that thing they're passionate about and immerse themselves in it.  It felt like this Disk Union was built specifically with me in mind.  I just loved it there.

The crazy part is that we had such a busy day of record shopping planned, that I never even went into any of the other floors.  Sure, I can't imagine there was a hidden gem waiting for my on the progressive rock floor, but I bet there may have been some other interesting things lying around.  Just another reason to go back someday.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Flatliners - Nerves 7" - Blue Vinyl

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Dine Alone (2016)

The Flatliners have been around for quite a few years, though it wasn't until somewhat recently that I began paying attention to them.  It just so happened that I got to see them open up for Rocket From The Crypt one night in Chicago and right away I became a fan.  Looking back, I still think it was something of an odd pairing, but The Flatliners were just so good live that I had to start looking into their records.

This two song 7" is one of the first handful of genuinely new releases the band has put out since converting me to a fan.  I'm still not as familiar with their back catalog as a lot of people, but from the little I know about it, this feels like a departure.  "Hang My Head" starts with the sort of impassioned growl that I'm used to from the band, but the song kind of gives way to more subdued side.  The bouncy guitars and start/stop guitar riff in the verse is a toe tapper and gives way to a really nice chorus, but it still feels different from what I'm used to.

On the B side there's "Mud."  This one is very much a lower key, mid tempo song that is missing some of the balls to the wall energy that I'm used to.  Neither song is bad, if fact I'd argue that both are actually pretty good, but they're a bit different than what I was expecting.  I'm curious to see what The Flatliners' next album holds.  Is this 7" an indication of where the band is going or is it a pit stop getting some different ideas out before getting fast and loud again?  

The Flatliners - Nerves 7":

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Husking Bee - Four Color Problem LP

Untitled

Ini (2000)

Although I ended up buying the American version of Husking Bee's Put On Fresh Paint LP, I was able to find the Japanese version of their follow-up Four Color Problem.  It's especially gratifying as the artwork on the American version of this album is just awful.  This Japanese version looks so much better.  Again, I hope to add the Japanese version of Put On Fresh Paint to the collection someday (As well as their first album Grip - so if you ever see either, let me know!).

Four Color Problem is the last Husking Bee record that I really liked.  It was the first album to bring on second guitarist Kazuya Hirabayashi, but his vocal contributions are mostly limited to some background singing here and there.  By the time Husking Bee's next album came out, Kazuya was the lead vocalist on about half the songs and my interest in the band plummeted.

But at least on Four Color Problem, things are pretty good.  It kicks off with one of the best songs on the album, "#4."  It's an octave heavy rocker with impassioned vocals and a stellar chorus.  The album is filled with Husking Bee's trademark bouncy, popped up punk sound.  There's always a little more pop than punk and this band has always been one that can avoid the trappings of some of the cheesier moments of the genre.  I'll never really understand what happened to Husking Bee after this record.  They essentially became a completely different band.  But from Grip to Four Color Problem, they were pretty damn great.

Husking Bee "#4":
(Something funny, whoever uploaded this to YouTube used the American artwork, the artwork is of a promo CD from the radio Station WPSC, which was the college station I was music director when this album came out.  Someone must have stolen the stations copy at some point...)

Husking Bee - "Sketch":