Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf – Circa 1990-1993 4xLP Box Set

Untitled

Stones Throw Records (2014)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf were a duo that was active in the early 90s.  They were briefly signed to Hollywood Basic, but left the label before anything other than a split promo tape with Lifers Group was released.  While plotting their next steps, Charizma was tragically killed in a mugging.  Eventually Peanut Butter Wolf went on to found the indie record label, Stones Throw.  It was through Stones Throw records that I first came across Charizma in the early 2000s.

When I worked in radio promo back then, I would often trade CDs with other radio promoters that worked for other companies.  One of those places I traded CDs with did the bulk of promotion for labels like Stones Throw and Def Jux.  In one of these trades in 2003 I received the Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf album Big Shots.  I didn't really know anything about its history or that it was a record recorded in the 90s, but I remember liking it enough to keep instead of selling it to the local used CD laundering store, but I also never listened to it much.  Eventually I ended up selling it as part of a purge.

It wasn't until many years later that I learned more about the history of Charizma, what had happened and when those songs were recorded that I gave them another chance.  Really paying attention to the songs and not just having it be background noise made me sit up and take notice.  At the exact moment I got back into them a few years ago, the LP had been out of print for a little bit.  I also found out that this 40 song box set had been released in 2014 and checked out some of those songs.  That's when I decided this box set was the thing to pick up.  It took a while to find a copy at a good price, but I did finally track one down.

All of the songs from the Big Shots album are also included in this box set with the one major difference being that the version of "Gatha Round" on the box set is an earlier, demo version.  Aside from that, all of those songs are on this set, so this is the one that ended up in the collection.  It's really great and I'm now realizing that I've already written quite a bit here without mentioning the music much.

These tracks are classic golden era tunes with Native Tongue-esque, east coast style production mixed in with west coast style MCing, that had way more in common with Pharcyde or Souls of Mischief than Dr. Dre or G Funk style west coast gangsta rapping.  Is every one of these 40 songs perfect?  No, there's some tracks that are obviously sketches and maybe early or unfinished versions of songs, but it's still a super enjoyable listen and there's some real gold sprinkled throughout the set.

While Big Shots is an easier and slightly more cohesive listen than trying to digest 40 songs in one shot, there's so much good stuff here that's not on the album.  Right now it seems that both that album and this box set are out of print.  For reasons I cannot really understand, both are now going for nearly the same price on Discogs or other secondary markets, mostly because the price of Big Shots has increased quite a bit lately.  If it's me, I would advise plunking down a bit more money for the version with 40 songs over the one with 15. 

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf – Circa 1990-1993:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lS2addeyawlsrKzTVPhnqDpxNPfEhyzgQ

Monday, April 15, 2024

Swami and the Bed of Nails - Shock and Awe 7"

Untitled

Swami (2024)

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Swami and the Bed of Nails for the first time.  Made up of John Reis of every great band that has existed fame and other luminaries, they ripped through a set of songs from the last Swami John Reis album, new tunes from a forthcoming Swami and the Bed of Nails album, a Sultans song and a Night Marchers song for good measure,  They also were selling a tour only 7", but that's not this one.

This 7" went for sale on the Swami Records website a few weeks ago.  It sold out pretty quick and is the first official salvo from the Bed of Nails moniker.  The A side, "Shock and Awe," is billed as being from the upcoming full length.  It's a piano heavy rocker with an acoustic guitar foundation and a big, shout along chorus.  It wouldn't have been out of place on the last Swami LP, but also feels like it takes the musicianship up a notch.

The B side, "I Don't Hate Everything," is said to be exclusive to this fine 7".  It's more of straight up rocker and is built off a riff that has a lot in common with "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones.  For me, everything John touches tends to be gold.  I like some of his bands more than others, if I'm raking them, but in general I like everything.  Hell, I just preordered a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes record because hes on it and that's not something I was ever expecting to do.  Point is, Swami and the Bed of Nails is just another in a fine line of bands that I can always get down with.  They were great live, and I dig this 7" a lot too.  

I'll post a bit about the tour only 7" on Friday.

Friday, April 12, 2024

The Shirks - Talk to Action: Singles and Unreleased 2008​-​2013 LP - Blue Vinyl

Untitled

Big Neck (2023)

This is one that lingered in the pile to write about longer than I would have liked it to, but until I'm able to sell this website to a conglomerate and cash out, I'm going to fall behind sometimes while trying to balance other things.  The Shirks didn't deserve to linger for so long as this is pretty fun record full of fast paced punk rock.

These songs could have easily broken the wrong way for me.  There's a fine line between playing fast and energetic and playing dumb, meathead punk.  Luckily The Shirks are on the right side of that line for me.  They remind me a lot of some of the poppier bands that Ptrash Records used to release.  

There's definitely a snotty, sneer to these songs, but they're catchy in a way that's probably in a somewhat similar wheelhouse to The Marked Men.  There aren't any choruses or hooks quite as obvious as the boys from Denton, but there's a similar vibe that I'm latching on to.

The Shirks - Talk to Action: Singles and Unreleased 2008​-​2013:
https://bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com/album/the-shirks-talk-to-action-singles-and-unreleased-2008-2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Rakim - The 18th Letter 2xLP - Grape Vinyl

Untitled

Motown (2023, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

I figured that the best follow up to the Eric B & Rakim box set would be to write a little bit about Rakim's recently rereleased solo debut, The 18th Letter.  This album came out in 1997, five years after Don't Sweat The Technique.  I'm not particularly well versed in why Eric B & Rakim split up or why Rakim took so long to come back with another record, but it always struck me as off that he vanished off the face of the earth when hip hop production was at its apex in 93 and 94 (at least in my opinion).

Production in 1997 wasn't anything I was particularly interest in, if I'm being honest.  By that time, the sounds that were most pleasing to my ears were no longer in style and had been replaced by flimsy beats or cheesy samples.  It's why I had moved on to other things by that time.  However, listening to The 18th Letter, I'm reminded once again that there were exceptions to this that I had unfairly ignored back then.

Now I'm not saying the production on The 18th Letter is great, it's not.  It doesn't hold a candle to any of the Eric B & Rakim albums or most records released from 88-94.  But, in comparison to what was par for the course in 1997, it's significantly better than the bulk of releases coming out at that time.  The beats are fine and the samples are OK.  There's nothing blow away, but nothing is bad either.

Lyrically, Rakim is pretty much in a steady state.  Maybe on cruise control a bit.  Every track is strong, spinning stories with fairly intricate rhyme structures.  Nothing on here sounds as groundbreaking as his early work, but he kind of already broke that ground and had established his template at that point.  All in all, this is a good record, even if the artwork might have you wondering what was going on.  It's miles better than most of what came out in the world of hip hop after 1994, but never quite reaching the heights of Rakim's classic run of albums with Eric B. 

Rakim - The 18th Letter:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nqpTMYEXjOL1KCZN6UTEI35oKtoeOd_ss

Friday, April 5, 2024

the 'tone - Wide Eyes and Nonsense LP

Untitled

Broken Rekids (1999)

It's a little wild that this record is finally getting into my collection in the year 2024, which for the math majors out there is a staggering 25 years after it was released.  The reasons it took so long are pretty simple.  I had all of the 7"s that make up this compilation of 'tone songs and I also have the CD version of this comp.  Problem is that I don't really listen to my 7"s all that much (this is mostly due to storage issues, so if anyone is in NJ and wants to help build a bunch of drawers for/with me, please let me know) and I also don't play my CDs all that often, to be honest.  So it seemed like I needed to finally get this on LP for maximum stereo enjoyment.

These songs are all so much fun on this record, with the band taking nods from The Jam, The Clash and The Specials in songs across the album.  It's almost all upbeat and fast paced with just a hint of ska energy bleeding in every so often.  The lyrics are great and the guitar riffs are top notch.  If you can listen to album opener "This is a High" and not smile and bob your head, you very well may just be dead inside.

It's tough to describe just how enjoyable it is to listen to this record.  I don't see how it couldn't lift your spirits while it's playing and that is a mark of a well written record to me.  Does anything on here reinvent the wheel?  Nope, and if it tried to it wouldn't be anywhere near as great as it is.

the 'tone - Wide Eyes and Nonsense:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mnDNIZRiw6d1DJMznrYUNH2EJOvEVIvvQ


Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Eric B. & Rakim – The Remixes 1987 - 1992 2xCD - (From The Complete Collection 1986-1992 Box Set)

Untitled

Geffen / 4th & Broadway / UNI / MCA (2018, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

For the next few Ed Lover Wednesdays, I'm going to go through each of the records in this Eric B & Rakim box set.  I only had the album Don't Sweat The Technique in my vinyl collection when I decided I needed to get the others.  When I started poking around, it just made more sense to buy this box set as opposed to the other records individually.

When I was originally looking at this box set, I was happy that it included all of the remixes and B-sides from the myriad of 12"s Eric B. & Rakim put out during their run.  But I was also annoyed that they were on CD and not vinyl like the rest of the albums.  Having listened to these CDs a few times, I'm actually fine that they are on CD.

Two main reasons for this.  One, I don't really like most of the remixes.  Some are pretty good, and the later ones are more interesting than most of the earlier ones, but in general I prefer the album versions of pretty much all of these songs.  The second reason is because these songs are all so long - six, seven, even eight minute long remixes.  It would have taken many LPs to fit all of this and I just can't see myself sitting down in front of my turntable for that length of time and flipping through the number of records it would take.  Having them of CD is fine.  I can pick out the ones I like and listen to them and they packaged them in a way that fits in nicely with the rest of the box set. 

The set as a whole is great.  The accompanying book is gigantic and full of incredible pictures from ever era of Eric B. & Rakim.  The box itself is nice and sturdy and also looks the business for sure.  My one gripe is that they did the thing where the spine of the box itself is printed in a way where you have to flip the set upside down if you want to display it on your shelf, rather than display the open side with the individual album spines.  A very minor complaint about a box set that's really just incredible.  I'd love to see some more sets like this for other hip hop luminaries.

Eric B. & Rakim – The Remixes 1987 - 1992:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nyWbr502gnRK5OjcsSdrWw8NbnUWM4io4

Friday, March 29, 2024

The Pretty Flowers - Police Me Flexi

Untitled

Self Released (2024)

You may have noticed that The Pretty Flowers put out my favorite record of last year.  If you did notice that, I'm sure you're not surprised at all that I immediately got my hands on the band's new flexi 7" the moment it was made available.  While I'm generally not a huge fan of flexis or lathe cuts due to their fragility and lower fidelity vs. a traditional 7" record, I will always still collect and support them when it's a band I dig.  I understand the costs of putting out vinyl and am totally fine with other ways to get music out there.  Especially when it's not on cassette!

There's just the one song on this flexi, "Police Me."  Unsurprisingly it's a fantastic song and could have easily been a part of either Pretty Flowers album.  It's got that vague Built To Spill sort of pop sound, but with warmer, crunchier guitars and less ostentatious guitar soloing.  It's a quick song that maybe wraps up a little faster than I would have liked, but if my major complaint is that I wish there was more of the song I'm listening to, you get the idea that this one's a keeper.

The flexi itself sounds pretty good for what it is.  Not as good as a vinyl 7", but we've come a long way with flexi technology since the McDonald's Menu Song one came out.  When's someone going to cover that song?

The Pretty Flowers - "Police Me":
https://theprettyflowers.bandcamp.com/track/police-me

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Eric B. & Rakim – Don't Sweat The Technique 2xLP - (From The Complete Collection 1986-1992 Box Set)

Untitled

Geffen / 4th & Broadway / UNI / MCA (2018, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

For the next few Ed Lover Wednesdays, I'm going to go through each of the records in this Eric B & Rakim box set.  I only had the album Don't Sweat The Technique in my vinyl collection when I decided I needed to get the others.  When I started poking around, it just made more sense to buy this box set as opposed to the other records individually.

Don't Sweat The Technique is the Eric B. & Rakim record I have always been the most familiar with as it's the one that came out in my hip hop heyday.  It's also the only one I had on vinyl prior to picking up this box set, so it's a bit of a double dip as I've already written about it before on this site.  But I'm happy to talk a bit more about it again.  I've mentioned before that "Know The Ledge" from the Juice soundtrack was my first introduction to Eric B. & Rakim.  To this day that's still my favorite song.  It was also the song that taught me to not buy hip hop soundtracks as those songs ALWAYS ended up on the next full length album of whatever group or rapper contributed it.

Weirdly, the opening track, "What's On Your Mind?," is pretty awful.  The production is sappy and smooth in an R&B influenced way that feels like a reach towards crossing over.  It first showed up on the House Party II soundtrack, and it really could have stayed there in my opinion.  But after that rare misstep, the rest of the album is flawless.

The production holds up so well and is on par with any golden era release that came out in 1992.  For me, it's the one that sounds current and modern, or at least whatever was current and modern in 1992, a year that I was just devouring any hip hop I could get my hands on.  Every song is incredible and Rakim once again showed why he was just next level in that era.  This was the last Eric B. & Rakim record and the last time we'd hear from Rakim for five years, but it was a hell of a way to go out.

Eric B. & Rakim – Don't Sweat The Technique:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_l-GjbNZ7R2ORynPapp800gTpmXuLxTl98

Monday, March 25, 2024

The Foreign Correspondents - Lovin' You Ain't Easy 7" - Brown Vinyl

Untitled

Outer Battery (2024)

The Foreign Correspondents are a group made up of various indie rock luminaries.  We've got Ted Leo from Chisel and /Pharmacists, Brendan Canty from Fugazi, Michael Hampton from Fake Names and Sohrab Habibion from The Obits.  They got together to cover a couple of songs from Michel Pagliaro, an artist that I'm not familiar with, but was primarily active during the 70s.  They released this 7" with four different covers on four different colors of vinyl and in another time of my life I would have absolutely bought all four.  These days, I'm trying to be better about that sort of thing, so I just picked out the one I liked best.

I have no real context for the original versions of these songs and how the two covers on this 7" compare, but I can tell you that I really like both songs.  Ted Leo takes vocals on both of them and we start off with the A side, "Lovin' You Ain't Easy."This song has a decidedly Pharmacists feel to it, with shimmering, jangly guitar work, upbeat bass lines and a catchy chorus with singalong backing vocals.

On the B side we have "We're Dancin' 'Til It Blows Over."  This one has a bit more of a glammy feel to it, with fuzzy, 70s style guitar riffs.  I can't say I like it quite as much as the A side, but it's still a solid song and it takes advantage of Ted's vocal range.  It's definitely a fun 7" overall and I think my lack of familiarity with the source material actually makes it more enjoyable for me.  For me, it's just two news songs put together by artists with a real track record for putting out good stuff.

The Foreign Correspondents - Lovin' You Ain't Easy:
https://theforeigncorrespondentsdc.bandcamp.com/album/lovin-you-aint-easy

Friday, March 22, 2024

Overwhelming Colorfast - Two Words 2xLP - Purple Vinyl & Green Vinyl

Untitled

Beihai Park (2024, Reissue)

While it's still not quite at the level I would like it to be at, the fact that we're starting to see a lot of 90s era CD only releases finally coming out on vinyl is one of the best trends of the last few years.  There are still so many I would like to see that aren't out yet, but when something as wonderful as this Overwhelming Colorfast album gets released, it gives me hope that other favorites may be in the future as well.

Two Words was the second Overwhelming Colorfast album and it originally came out in 1994 on Relativity records (also home to the mighty Alligator Gun).  Even though the first, self titled Overwhelming Colorfast album was truly great, they stepped things up big time on Two Words.  The production is gigantic, with huge, warm guitar sounds and perfectly mixed vocals.  It also pulls off the incredible trick of sounding slick, without losing the energy and 'rough-around-the-edges' feel that I love so much from albums of that era.  You can still feel the punk energy, but in a way where you can hear everything that's going on with a clarity that you might not get on other albums.

Additionally, this LP contains the four songs from the promo only Bender EP that haven't been released previously.  I remember trying to find a copy of that elusive CD and it was Davey Tiltwheel that ended up giving me his copy for my collection in the late 90s.  These songs fit in perfectly with the ones from Two Words and having everything in a double LP package is the best.

I could not be happier with this stellar release from Beihai Park, who are really stepping up and helping to get vinyl versions of some incredible albums into the world.  I've already preordered their Tanner reissue they've got going right now and can only hope that the third, and my favorite, Overwhelming Colorfast album, Moonlight & Castenets, ends up on their release schedule one of these days.

Overwhelming Colorfast - Two Words
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nMRJwy7MgTL4A3P0b64qHavGAVbTY8stc

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Eric B. & Rakim – Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em 2xLP - (From The Complete Collection 1986-1992 Box Set)

Untitled

Geffen / 4th & Broadway / UNI / MCA (2018, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

For the next few Ed Lover Wednesdays, I'm going to go through each of the records in this Eric B & Rakim box set.  I only had the album Don't Sweat The Technique in my vinyl collection when I decided I needed to get the others.  When I started poking around, it just made more sense to buy this box set as opposed to the other records individually.

Eric B. & Rakim's third album, Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em, came out in 1990, two years after Follow The Leader.  A lot changed in hip hop over those tho years, but I feel like we were still probably a year away from a real explosion of innovation that was lurking around the corner in 1991.  As such, this album's production does feel a little bit dated with today's ears, but when you compare it to other records that came out in 1990 or earlier, it's pretty cream of the crop stuff.

It's a big leap forward from Follow The Leader, which in itself was a gargantuan step up from Paid In Full on the production side of things.  The bass is fuller, the beats are more complex and it's enjoyable the same way a lot of the early Boogie Down Production records are.  For someone my age, it's stuff that happened slightly before my time, but the impact of records like this cannot be understated.

Lyrically, Rakim once again just uncorks insane rhyme after insane rhyme.  He had so few peers during this early run and it's really understandable why he is so revered for what he brought to the table on all of these albums.  He's a natural story teller that is just as comfortable weaving complex narratives as he is just battling.  Again, I would like have more nostalgia for Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em had I had it in the early 90s, but there is no denying just how great this record is.

Eric B. & Rakim – Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lbyoTa-vRaviQtMPp7DMyZ8G_8EYCST9E

Monday, March 18, 2024

The Hamiltones - In Space LP (& Moon People 7")

Untitled

Big Neck / Swimming Faith (2024)

I have been lucky enough to have been listening to The Hamiltones since their first tape release on More Power Tapes back in 2015.  Since then, they've graced my turntable with some new tunes every few years and 2024 is the year for their new full length, In Space.

In Space is another twist on The Hamiltones brand of sci fi surf music.  You can certainly draw a pretty straight line from Man or Astro-man to these guys and the soundscapes created by The Hamiltones evoke the same sort of drive-in movie vibes.  In Space is a film soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist, but listening to this, I kind of wish it did.  You can really feel the authenticity of those 50s and 60s sounds, but always pepped up and never sounding dated.  Along with Swami John Reis & The Blind Shakes, the Hamiltones records have been the surf tunes that I tend to play the most often.

Included with this LP is a bonus 7" by the Moon People.  It comes in a sealed envelope and is shrouded in mystery.  Who could have created these tunes.  My guess would be some entities that have a similar musical experience as The Hamiltones, but access to lots of synth-y gear.  I can't say for sure there's no guitar on the 7", but the vibe of the 7" fits in well with the soundtrack theme of the overall LP.  The Packaging and stories for a Hamiltones album has been top notch in the past and In Space is no exception.  A great band that I always get excited to hear more from.

The Hamiltones - In Space:
https://bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com/album/in-space

Friday, March 15, 2024

Superchunk - Everybody Dies 7"

Untitled

Merge (2024)

If there's one thing I'm going to do, it's buy a new Superchunk 7" when it is released.  I have a whole pile of them and I have no intention of stopping that collection as long as the band keeps putting them out.  I will continue to do that despite the bands uneven output the last few years, which this 7" is another example of.

The A side is a new original song called "Everybody Dies."  It's certainly louder than most of the songs from Superchunk's last full length, and that's a good thing.  It's built off of a noisy guitar riff in the verse, which blasts off into the traditional super-catchy, Superchunk chorus.  It's a great song and if it's any indication of what the next Superchunk full length might sound like, sign me up for that.

The B-side is "In a Blender," a cover of an Alastair Galbraith that I'm not familiar with.  When the music starts up, it's upbeat with crunchy guitars and I'm pretty into it.  But when Mac starts singing, the song goes off the rails for me.  I'm not sure if it's just an odd vocal melody that he's dealing with or what, but it just sounds so odd and I'll probably not listen to it again.  But hey, the A-side is great, so that's worth it to me.

Superchunk - Everybody Dies:
https://superchunk.bandcamp.com/album/everybody-dies

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Eric B. & Rakim – Follow The Leader 2xLP - (From The Complete Collection 1986-1992 Box Set)

Untitled

Geffen / 4th & Broadway / UNI / MCA (2018, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

For the next few Ed Lover Wednesdays, I'm going to go through each of the records in this Eric B & Rakim box set.  I only had the album Don't Sweat The Technique in my vinyl collection when I decided I needed to get the others.  When I started poking around, it just made more sense to buy this box set as opposed to the other records individually.

Eric B & Rakim's second album, Follow The Leader, came out in 1988.  That's only a year after their debut, but from the very second the opening title track starts up, it's obvious that the production has taken a gigantic leap forward (the horns that creep in throughout the song are just incredible).  Not only that, but the lyrical dexterity that Rakim was revolutionizing hip hop with just a year earlier sounds almost quaint in comparison to the way he's tearing things up on this album.

I hadn't heard too many of these songs when I first got into hip hop.  My introduction to Eric B & Rakim was from the Juice soundtrack in 1991 and at the time, I didn't have the sort of budget to be able to backtrack as much as I would have liked (though I do wonder why I didn't try to get some of their albums when I was scamming CDs from Columbia House and BMG).  It wasn't until my early 20s that I was able to go back and start filling the gaps, and while I love these records now, I think they'd be even more embedded in my brain if I was able to have heard them in '91 or '92.

Can't do anything about that though, I'm just glad I got to them eventually and that they were all put out as part of a lovely vinyl box set.

Eric B. & Rakim – Follow The Leader:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nlDB_Zf5_48EBzNNLQVx5HWMpJchIpZAo


Monday, March 11, 2024

Rocket From The Crypt - Rocket Queen EP 7" - Pink Cover

Untitled

Speedo's Classics (1995, Bootleg)

I have vivid memories buying my first copy of the Rocket Queen EP back in 1995.  I picked it up along with several other Rocket releases at Flipside records in NJ.  Even though this is a bootleg, I've always loved this release.  It gave me the chance to hear three new-to-me Rocket songs at a time when trying to track down the original, Japanese version of All Systems Go was challenging, to say the least.

Three of the four songs were on the Japanese ASG CD: 10 Forward, Ball Of Fire (Or "Ballot Fire" as it's listed here) and "Call It A Complex."  The fourth song is a live version of the Misfits song "I Turned Into a Martian."  These are very much Rocket From The Crypt songs of their era, which is an era of theirs that I truly love.  Brash, loud and lots of distortion, with a melody just creeping in under the surface.

You may be wondering, if I bought this in 1995, why am I writing about it now?  Well, my friends, that's because it's even complicated to collect Rocket From The Crypt bootlegs.  This 7" was released with two completely different covers and then this Tank Girl cover was released in Multiple colors.  I just finally tacked down this pink version to go along side my white, yellow, blue, dark orange and light orange cover versions.  There's even still another white colored cover that has blue text instead of black texy that I'm still looking for.  The quest never ends.

Rocket From The Crypt - "Ball Of Fire":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yHPGq3CEAA&ab_channel=RocketfromtheCrypt-Topic

Rocket From The Crypt - "10 Forward":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qdg9gBWGFQ&ab_channel=RocketfromtheCrypt-Topic

Friday, March 8, 2024

Fastbacks – Zücker LP - Mint Vinyl (/500)

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Sub Pop (2021, Reissue)

Another album that it's taken me forever to spend any time to write about is this reissue of Zücker, the first Sub Pop release from Fastbacks.  I absolutely missed the boat of Fastbacks during the 90s.  I was aware of them, for sure, but I never picked up any of their records.  Even in the years following that it took decades before I finally got it, mostly thanks to seeing a sort-of incarnation of them play at the Seattle Pop Punk Festival in 2018.

I said then that I'd start adding their records to my collection, and while I have not done so with the speed that I would have liked, it's still an intention.  A few years ago, a reissue of Zücker popped up and that sure seemed like a good time to get this one in the collection.  I can't claim to be an expert on any of the Fastbacks records, but so far their high water mark for me is their album Answer The Phone, Dummy.  Comparing Zücker to that, it's pretty darn close to being just as great.

As someone who can certainly get behind a band with poppy songs and big guitars, I am still kind of amazed I didn't hear more Fastbacks songs over the year.  They hit that sweet spot of being energetic and fast, while still maintaining the sort of sugary sweet vocal melodies that really tie things together for me.  Plus, the guitar riffing is next level, never settling for simple three chord progressions.  There's a complexity at play here that tricks you into thinking it's easy, while not realizing just how many changes a lot of these songs really have.  It's such a rewarding listen, especially as you go back multiple times.  And writing about it today is reminding me once again that I really need to grab some more of their records.

Fastbacks – Zücker:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_l6b3ZewGR_0Dfsl9tG_cO8RJORK7b0Q3Q

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full 2xLP - (From The Complete Collection 1986-1992 Box Set)

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Geffen / 4th & Broadway / UNI / MCA (2018, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

I am trying very hard to tackle some of the records that have been in my 'to write about' pile for an extended period of time.  There's a lot of them, some of which have been hanging around for a few years.  One of those that's been here for a while (a little under two years) is the Eric B & Rakim Box Set.  So, for the next few Ed Lover Wednesdays, I'm going to go through each of the records in this set.  I only had the album Don't Sweat The Technique in my vinyl collection when I decided I needed to get the others.  When I started poking around, it just made more sense to buy this box set as opposed to the other records individually.

Paid In Full is a tremendously important record in the history of Hip Hop.  Rakim (and I would also put KRS-One along side of him) really changed the way lyricists in hip hop were viewed and upped the bar on what was expected of an MC.  There's a reason that many refer to Rakim as The God MC as he is ground zero for the style that took over the golden era of hip hop.

That influential style is on display throughout Paid In Full.  It's crazy to think about this record coming out in 1987 and flipping an entire genre on its head.  I was only ten in 1987 and was not listening to hip hop to see this change, but I felt the repercussions a few years later as I started getting interested.  Lyrically, the record is still pretty incredible all of these years later, but the production does sound a bit dated.

It took a minute for the production on Eric B & Rakim albums to catch up to the lyrics.  While it's a great record, I tend to find that I listen to it the least amongst their catalog.  If I want to listen to Rakim, I really want to hear him over a production style that's a bit more advanced.  They got there, and the production on Paid In Full helped move people in the right direction, but listening to it with today's ears, if feels more from another era than some of their other albums.  But still, you cannot argue it's importance in the pantheon of classic hip hop albums.

Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full:
https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=o-Uk-i85LbM

Monday, March 4, 2024

Nightfreak - Nightfreak LP - Green Vinyl

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Big Neck (2024)

Woof, this is an intense record.  Admittedly, Big Neck Records releases can be hit or miss for me.  There are some that I love, and others that are just not in my wheelhouse.  Those not in said wheelhouse tend to be records with this sort of vibe.  Loud, fast and aggressive with raw-throat vocals.

There's definitely a little bit of a metal vibe that shows itself in the guitar riffs, but predominantly I would say this reminds me of 80s hardcore, but with showier guitar work.  There's a whole lot of shouting going on and I can't help but think the singer probably meeds some Robitussin after shows and recording to get things back to normal again.  There's no denying the bands conviction to these songs, but at times that conviction sounds kind of painful.

Judging the record for what it is, the band is very good at this sound (even if it's not a sound I gravitate towards).  They are tight as hell, obviously stellar musicians and the recording quality really helps the songs stand out from other bands venturing down this path.  If you are into more hardcore leaning albums, this is one to check out.  But for me, it's just a bit much.

Nightfreak - Nightfreak:
https://bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com/album/nightfreak

Friday, March 1, 2024

Die Communications - Die Communications LP

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Fixing-A-Hole (2021)

I am beyond embarrassed about how long I have had this record in my pile of things to write about.  I can't explain why it took me until now, years after getting it, to finally post something about this incredible record.  I'll mostly just chalk it up to being an idiot and hope that writing a little something about it now might bring some attention to a record that is deserving of so much praise.

There are so many great Japanese punk bands out there, but most of them have albums released on CD primarily.  7"s happen here and there, but full length LPs are definitely the exception, not the rule.  So let me roll out the red carpet for Die Communications, who have a nine song LP on vinyl, courtesy of one of the best record labels on the planet, Fixing-A-Hole.  The songs on here are made of of two previous CD releases.  Six of the songs were originally on The World Is Beautiful Complex EP and the remaining three were on the band's split CD with another favorite of mine, Headsparks.  Having all of these songs on an LP, that's just heaven.

Musically, Die Communications, is playing an aggressive strain of poppy punk rock.  While the songs are dynamic and bursting at the seams with energy, they always have a strong hook and an inherent catchiness that sugarcoats the band's whirlwind of guitar pyrotechnics.  I think of bands like Manifesto Jukebox and Minority Blues Band as the most direct comparisons, but it would be a crime to not mention the Stubbs/Hammond-esque guitar leads that rip through every single one of Die Communications' songs.  There's also vague hints of an angrier Hooton 3 Car that keep coming to my mind when I listen to this.

I truly cannot say enough wonderful things about this album.  If you are a fan of the sort of melodic, but powerful punk rock of the mid to late 90s, or anything that ever came out on Snuffy Smile, you should do whatever you can to get this record into your collection immediately.  It's an absolute beast of an album and I can only hope we hear more from Die Communications.  And if they put out another record, I promise not to bury it in a pile of other records for several years.

Die Communications - The World Is Beautiful Complex EP (6 of the songs are from this):
https://zenmashikarametohgarashi.bandcamp.com/album/the-world-is-beautiful-complex

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique 2xLP

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Capitol / UMe (2019, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

It's 2024 and I'm writing about Paul's Boutique.  Granted, I did buy this double LP version close to two years ago at this point, but that doesn't really explain why such a classic album took over 30 years to get in my collection.  When I went looking for this double LP version to finally buy, I had a really difficult time finding it.  Eventually one popped up on Amazon.  When it arrived, the top left corner was dinged in pretty bad.  When I contacted Amazon to exchange it, they didn't have anymore, so they ended up just refunding me for the record and they let me keep it.  So yeah. normally a corner crease like that would bug me quite a bit, but on a free record?  That's much easier to stomach.

Back to why I didn't have this in my collection until a few years ago.  If I'm being honest, it's because I didn't really pay it much mind for a really long time.  When it was originally released in 1989, I had no idea it even had come out.  Zero visibility at all in my world.  I'm I'm not sure I would have cared at the time.  License To Ill was a record I found incredibly annoying as a kid.  I thought the videos I had seen were dumb and I really didn't like the other kids that were listening to it.  It wasn't until 1992 that the Beasties came back onto my radar when videos from Check Your Head started getting played on Yo! MTV raps.  

I loved "Pass The Mic" and bought the cassette single.  I picked up the whole album after seeing the Video for "So What'cha Want."  I didn't really think of going backwards at the time and was happy with Check Your Head and Ill Communication when that came out.  It wasn't really until college that I started to hear the lore of the 'forgotten' Beastie Boys record that was very loved for being so ahead of its time.  It still took a while for me to hear anything on it and even then it was piecemeal.  What I heard was good, but it didn't wow me like their 90s work.

I ended up with the CD in my collection when I was working in the music industry in the early 2000s.  I got it along with a bunch of other Capitol records back catalog from a friend that worked there.  But I really didn't listen to it, I just filed it away in the CD rack and it just sort of hung out there for many, many years.

It was my wife that really opened me up to the album and listening to the whole thing, as an album instead of a handful of songs,  That made me finally appreciate what an incredible record this is.  I think it's meant to be listened to as an album.  Chopping it up for singles, videos or mixtapes does a serious disservice to the overall piece of music that they created.  So yes, I grabbed the 30th Anniversary double LP version and it gets to sit right alongside of Check Your Head and Ill Communication on my record shelf.  For me, that's the Beasties trifecta.  And while Paul's Boutique is very different from the other two, it's every bit as good as they are.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Bear Away - A Drastic Tale of Western Living LP - Yellow Vinyl

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Brassneck / Engineer / Sell The Heart / Shield (2022)

This is a record that has been inexplicably sitting in my 'to do' pile for way too long (I have one that's been there for even longer that I desperately need to get to very soon).  I first heard of Bear Away via their split lathe 7" with Custody and was instantly charmed with their take on melodic punk rock.  When it was time for a full length, they ended up on the always stellar Brassneck records, so of course it was a no brainer to pick this up.  

At it's core, it's awesome punk from the UK with one foot in that 90s, influenced sound that I love so much and the other channeling Iron Chic, RVIVR style US influences.  There's lots of heart-on-your-sleeve emotion, but never in a way that feels cheesy or like bad emo.  It's much mopre authentic and comes from a real place of passion for the music being created.

I often say that passion, enthusiasm and energy goes a long way with me when it comes to bands.  If you can make me believe that you believe in what you're doing, I'm halfway hooked already.  Bear Away has that in spades.  I never doubt how into being in this band they are, it comes across on each of the songs on this album.  I feel bad that I'm writing about it so long after the fact, but hopefully this will put it in front of some folks that may have had it fly under their radar.  It's a great album and one that deserves more attention.

Bear Away - A Drastic Tale of Western Living:
https://brassneckrecords.bandcamp.com/album/a-drastic-tale-of-western-living

Friday, February 23, 2024

Custody - Get Stoked Lathe Cut 7" - Clear

IMG_6642

Say-10 (2023)

Hey, it's my favorite band from Finland, Custody.  Talk about a band that can just do no wrong, in my opinion, they are easily one of the best and most consistent bands that are currently active.  While they are gearing up for their third LP, we have two new songs courtesy of a new, Lathe Cut 7" on Say-10 records.

If you are unfamiliar with Custody, I'm not sure how you are even reading my dumb website.  But in any case, they are a perfect, melodic punk rock band that wears their Samiam and Leatherface influences on their sleeve.  The channel a furious dual-guitar attack, with impassioned vocals and a seemingly never-ending supply of hooks.  If it's not clear, I love these guys and the two new songs on this record are every bit as good as their prior output.

The record itself is a lathe cut, double sided on clear plastic (I guess?).  It doesn't sound as good as a traditional vinyl record.  It's a little flat and not as full sounding.  My copy is kind of all over the place with certain parts of songs sounding fine and other parts being a little blown out.  But in general it does a serviceable job delivering the music and it looks really nice.  I would have preferred a proper 7", but I certainly understand the financial constraints of that particular format these days.  I'm just happy to have some new tunes by one of the best bands going.

Custody - Get Stoked Lathe Cut 7":
https://custody.bandcamp.com/album/get-stoked

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Gang Starr - Daily Operation 2xLP - Red Vinyl

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Urban Legends / Virgin / UMe (2023, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Gang Starr is one of my favorite hip hop groups and the one-two punch of Daily Operation and Hard To Earn is a hell of a two album run.  One of the best, I think.  Daily Operation has always been my favorite Gang Starr record.  I've said this before, buit although the highs on Hard To Earn are higher, Daily Operation is the more consistent album start to finish.

I've had a single LP pressing of the album for a few years, and that one wasn't cheap.  It sounded good enough, but the rest of the Gang Star catalog had been reissued over the years and all sounded better.  Not sure what took them so long to get to Daily Operation, but I finally have a nice, double LP version.

It's easily the best this album has ever sounded in my house.  It's got a warm, lived in feeling that hits all of those nostalgic notes of when I first discovered it in 1992.  Daily Operation is a top, top tier record and if you don't have it in your collection due to its difficulty to find in recent years, now's the time to grab the best version that I've heard of it.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Gentleman Jesse - Where Time Stands Still 7" - Blue Vinyl (/100)

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Drunk Dial (2024)

It seems very odd to me that the last Gentleman Jesse full length is already more that two years old.  And I know I have mentioned this before, but as I get older, my perception of time is completely whacked out.  But regardless, it's been a minute since we last heard from Jesse and I was happy to see that he was taking part in the Drunk Dial 7" series.

Gentleman Jesse's entry into this club is a two song 7", the first 100 of which were pressed on sky blue vinyl.  Those went pretty quick, but I was able to snag one before they sold out.  The black vinyl version is still out there though.  

I was kind of disappointed in the last Gentleman Jesse release.  The songs all felt slow to me and in a lot of instances, kind of downer at times.  They were well written, well performed songs, but they didn't capture that upbeat, poppy Jesse energy that I had been used to from his prior releases.  This 7" is pretty similar to me.  The A side, "Where Time Stands Still," is an original and while it is a bit more uptempo than a lot of the songs on his last album, there is still a strain of melancholy here that I'm still getting used to.

On the B side is a cover song called "Return of the Mack" which is a mid 90s R&B song that I had not ever heard of prior to Jesse's cover.  This one is definitely on the slower side of things and honestly, it doesn't really do a whole lot for me.  Maybe it's more clever if you know the original, but for an uncultured heathen like me, it just sounds like a slow song where there isn't a lot going on that connects with me.  Still, Gentleman Jesse has built up more than enough goodwill with me over the years that will make me keep buying his records.  I'm just the type that likes the faster, poppier side of his catalog a bit more.

Gentleman Jesse - Where Time Stands Still 7":
https://drunkdialrecords.bandcamp.com/album/drunk-dial-12-gentleman-jesse

Friday, February 16, 2024

Gentlemen Rogues - Surface Noise LP - Blue Vinyl (#10/275)

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Shifting Sounds / Double Helix (2024)

I wrote about Gentlemen Rogues for the first time on this website in 2013.   That's how long I've been waiting for these fellows to crank out a full length album (I could go even further and say I've been waiting since 1995 if you include one of Danny's earlier bands, Jill).  Every time Gentlemen Rogues release something, I whine about wanting a full length.  They came close in 2022 by cramming two EPs onto a a 12" record with a full length running time.  That was nice, but it's still not the same to me as a proper full album.  Maybe I'm just old at this point, but I still feel that a full album is the best way to consume music.

Surface Noise finally delivers on the on the promise of all of the singles and EPs that the band has put out over the last ten years.  Gentlemen Rogues have never disappointed me with one of their releases, and that hasn't changed with Surface Noise.  It's an album full of punchy pop songs, threading the needle of being power pop, while still maintaining the buzzsaw guitar crunch and energy of a 90s pop punk band.  Add in the non-stop hooks and singalong choruses that are sure to become firmly lodged into your cranium and I don't really know what else I can say to sell you on these guys.

If you're of a certain age, there was a time in the 90s where it felt like every day you'd discover a new band putting their spin on catchy punk songs.  There was a never ending source of bands that could scratch that itch.  In 2024, that well does not runneth over as it once did. It's getting harder and harder to find new records that really connect with me the way the older ones did.  But every so often, like a beacon of shining light, some group will put out an album as good as Surface Noise and my faith in rock and roll is restored. 

Here we are in the second week of February and I can tell you for a fact, there's no way this album doesn't end up in the upper echelon of my year end album list.  And if it someone doesn't, then we're in for a hell of a 2024 when it comes to new albums coming out.

Gentlemen Rogues  - Surface Noise:
https://gentlemenrogues.bandcamp.com/album/surface-noise-lp

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Artifacts - That's Them 2xLP

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Big Beat / Atlantic (1997)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

I missed the boat of Artifacts back in the 90s.  Their first album, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, came out in October of 1994.  That's a time were I was definitely starting to put more focus and energy into punk and indie rock than hip hop, so it's not entirely surprising it flew under my radar.  But I found it later on in life and adored that album by some of New Jersey's finest.

Their second album, That's Them, didn't come out until 1997.  That is typically far past the expiration date for a hip hop album being released that still appeals to me.  At least, that used to be my stance; that the Golden Era ended in 1994.  I still feel that is true, but I have learned over the years that there we some sneaky records released after 1994 that still hit the way I want a hip hop record to hit.  Chalk up That's Them as one of these exceptions.

While I can't say I love it the same way I love their debut, there is still a lot to like about what Tame One and El Da Sensei put together for their sophomore effort.  Lyrically, I would never be worried about these two, but the typical production of a 1997 record is suspect at best.  I'm happy to report that the vast majority of the album still retains a similar vibe to what Artifacts captured on their debut.  We've got hard hitting kick and snare, rolling bass lines and a warm, full sounding array of beats that feels right.  There's a few trappings of later 90s era sounds popping up here and there, but those are sounds mostly utilized in the burgeoning indie scene of that time.  There's no jiggy, puffy nonsense here.

Smoke On records put out a fancy reissue of this in 2018 with a few bonus tracks.  I really wish that was the version I was able to track down, but the prices on that guy make it just out of reach for me.  Luckily I was able to find an affordable copy of the original pressing from 1997 in wonderful condition.  It'll have to hold me until there's another repress or the costs come down on that version with the extra tracks.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Absolute Best Records of 2023

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If I'm being honest, 2023 was a pretty bad year and I'm more than happy to usher it towards the exit.  I'm hopeful that 2024 will be a bit better.  We'll have to see I guess.  Luckily there were still some really great records that came out, helping me get through things, though I think the back half of the year is when things really picked up.

But here it is, my list of my favorite records of 2023.  Pretty Flowers dominated my listening this year, though I got that record a lot earlier in the year than many others.  Reverse and Pop Marshal picked up the 'I wish it was still the 90s in the UK' award for putting out a record that I would have been just as happy listening to 30 years ago as I am today.

I'm going to be taking a little break from things for a bit here.  I'm sure I will be back to writing again pretty soon, but I'm not entirely sure when, but I'd guess I would be back posting things again by February at the very latest.  I just need a break and have some other things to take care of.  In the mean time, take a stroll through my list and let me know if there's anything egregious that I've missed.  Always looking for more tunes to listen to.

ShopliftersSecond Nature – PopKid / Brassneck / Waterslide (Listen) 
*** Shoplifters can’t be part of my top 20 because it’s on PopKid and that just feels odd to me, but obviously I think it’s one of the best things ever as I wouldn’t have helped put it out if it wasn’t.

01 - The Pretty Flowers - A Company Sleeve – Double Helix (Listen)
02 - Reverse - Behind These Walls – Boss Tuneage (Listen)
03 - Pop MarshalRejoice - Fixing A Hole (Listen)
04 - Czarface – Czartificial Intelligence – Silver Age / Virgin (Listen)
05 - Dan SartainThe Lost Record – Bent Rail / Seasick (I wish you could listen, but it's not online)
06 - Three Minute MovieMarch Winds And April Showers Bring May Flowers - Bloated Kat / Dead Broke (Listen)
07 - Samiam - Stowaway - Pure Noise (Listen)
08 - Night Court - Humans! - Snappy Little Numbers / Debt Offensive (Listen)
09 - The Subjunctives - Let's Try This Again – Top Drawer (Listen)
10 - SpoilersThere or Thereabouts - Brassneck / Waterslide / Rad Girlfriend / SBÄM (Listen)

11 - Main SourceThe Science – P Vine
12 - Mark Murphy & The MedsMonochrome – Bloated Kat / Brassneck / Cat's Claw / Kezy P / Waterslide 
13 - HooperSwim the Races Nobody Wants – Snappy Little Numbers
14 - State Drugs Parade of Red Flags – Snappy Little Numbers
15 - Spells - Loose Change, Vol. 2 - Snappy Little Numbers / Motorcycle Potluck Records / Big Neck Records / Keep It A Secret Records / Shield Recordings
16 - Curious Things - Naif - Snappy Little Numbers / Dumb Ghost
17 - Joel PatersonThe More The Merrier – Ventrella – Nu Tone
18 - China DrumOne Moment Please – Self Released
19 - Falls - Martyr - Waterslide
20 - What Goes Up - Laws of Gravity - Brassneck / Waterslide / Rad Girlfriend

Previously:
2022

Friday, December 29, 2023

Dan Sartain – The Lost Record LP – Yellow & Black Swirl Vinyl (/1000)

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Bent Rail / Seasick (2023)

Of all of the Black Friday Record Store Day releases that were announced for this year, seeing a Dan Sartain record as one was probably the most surprising.  I was able to get my hands on one through the kindness of my lovely wife, as I was not able to get out to the store myself for a myriad of annoying reasons.

This album was recorded before Dan Sartain recorded his Swami debut, Vs. The Serpientes.  It was done with the folks in Plate Six, who he had toured and collaborated with from time to time.  The result is a record that sounds like a natural step in between his Crimson Guard record and what would eventually come out on Swami.

The songs are all great, but many ar ones that you may have heard before.  "Who's Sorry Now" and "This is How they Beat You Down" were both previously released on a Bent Rail 7" back in 2005.  Different recordings of "Lonely Hearts," "Tryin' To Say" and "Autopilot" appeared on Vs. The Serpientes.  That leaves us with four new songs, one of which is about 20 seconds of noisy wailing.  The three new songs are all stellar and it's kind of crazy to me that they remained unreleased until now.  It's the traditional dark, vaguely leaning towards rockabilly sound that Dan was perfecting in that time period.

Even the songs that were on Vs. The Serpientes have a completely different light cast on them in these recordings.  They feel more bass heavy with a lower end that makes them sound a bit more ominous and engaging.  The coolest part is that this really sounds like a cohesive record, despite knowing a lot of the songs from elsewhere.  There's a definite feeling and vibe that they have and they work together making to total album stronger.

I really miss Dan Sartain and I do get depressed when I listen to some of his music at times.  But there's no denying how great his songs are and how much I still enjoy listening to them.  I'm grateful for this lost record, and I hope that one day someone will be able to release Western Hills and Vs. Sun Studio on vinyl as well.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Main Source - The Science LP + 7" - Orange Vinyl

Untitled

P Vine (2023)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years. 

The Main Source album Breakin' Atoms isn't one that I listened to back in the 90s, but was an album I picked up later and fell in love with.  It was the only album released by the original trio with the group's  1994 follow up Fuck What You Think missing Large Professor.  That's a pretty big missing piece, though I do think that second Main Source album is pretty good. Still, you had to wonder what the second album could have been with Large Professor.  Oh wait, that would be this album The Science.

The tracks on this album were originally meant to be part of the second Main Source album, but were ultimately shelved when Large Pro left the group.  30 years later, P Vine records in Japan got a hold of the tracks and have released them for the first time.  The songs are unsurprisingly excellent, with that perfect early 90s production style that I have always loved.  Large Professor's production skills were upper echelon back then, and the tracks on this album prove that this would have ranked with any of the heavy hitters at the time.  If you dig Breakin' Atoms, there's no way you don't dig this one as well.

The only negative for me is that this feels incomplete still, and I'd have to guess it is.  There's only nine actual songs on it, and that include two versions of "Time" and "Fakin' The Funk."  There's a lot of spoken interludes that fill out the track count, but don't really add much to the album.  Really, this feels like half an album from the early 90s, not a full one.  That's not to say that the songs on here aren't great, they are.  But selfishly I just wish there were more songs on it.

Main Source - The Science:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_m_u1Fl3jaNuxVRx5H5uo5g_dMQNm_rlnY


Monday, December 25, 2023

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas – Red Vinyl

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Gold (2020, Reissue) 

Merry, merry for those that celebrate Christmas time. As mentioned Friday, more than anything, I love the music. This Ella Fitzgerald Christmas album is a long time favorite of mine, but it took a while for a vinyl version to be released that had everything on it that I needed. Primarily, one of my absolute favorite Christmas songs, “Christmas Island.” That song isn’t on most versions of this album, at least not on vinyl. 

This album originally came out in 1960 and was full of incredible versions of classic Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph,” “Sleigh Ride” and the like. But the song “Christmas Island” isn’t on it. I’m not sure where that song originally came from, and you might be surprised to hear I did a bit of research to try to find out. It was hypothesized to be a B side at some point, but I was never able to find a single that had it. It’s possible that it was on some old 60s compilation, but it sure takes a while to dig through those. 

It seems like it really came on the radar in the year 2000 when a remastered version of this on CD came out with bonus tracks. From there on out, any CD or digital version of this album had “Christmas Island” as a part of it. But the vinyl reissues tended to replicate the original vinyl track list. After many years or searching, I finally found this version that came out in 2020 in Ireland. It’s got it, so it’s the one I bought. Sure it’s something I’d only ever listen to in December, but as a whole Christmas album to listen to from top to bottom, it’s one of the very best. 

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lGhD5Dp_7nBszDSDnmUjiMrcmel3EW3kw

Friday, December 22, 2023

Joel Paterson – The More The Merrier LP – Red Vinyl

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Ventrella / Nu Tone (2023)

Those that know me know how much I love Christmas music. Every year, once my birthday is over, I shift over and start adding some Christmas songs to my daily playlist. And as we get closer to the big day, that music takes over with the 20+ hour long mix I have on my iPod. Additionally, I’m always searching for tunes to add. Whether it be forgotten classics or something brand new.

When it comes to brand new Christmas music, I’m obnoxiously discerning. I don’t want punk Christmas or indie rock Christmas or anything like that. I need the music to have the perfect, 1960s sound that is where the vast, vast majority of my favorite Christmas songs were recorded. Most of the songs served up today don’t make the cut for me, but every so often you’ll have a JD McPherson creep up and uncork a brand new classic. Someone else I put in that category is Joel Paterson,

The More The Merrier is is his second Christmas album. It’s a guitar instrumental album that leans on clean tones, dexterous playing and a keen ear for making songs sound retro and timeless all at the same time. He tackles obvious classics like “Hear Comes Santa Clause” and “Rudolph.” But he also goes for some deeper cuts like “Christmas Island” (More on that song on Monday). This is just the perfect, laid back, but never boring Christmas album to throw on. It works just as good as background music as it does being the center of attention. It's not surf-y like The Ventures, but evokes a similar feeling.  If you’re in the mood to be jolly, this album will fit right in.

Joel Paterson – The More The Merrier:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nMZw_u2Fji6fLEiux46e3NMWSm1j8YjNU

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back 2xLP

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Urban Legends (2023, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

I couldn’t really tell you when I first heard Public Enemy. I’m sure it would have been on Yo! MTV Raps, but I don’t really know what the first song of theirs that I heard was. What I can tell you, without question, is the first song of theirs that really hit me and made me pay attention was their collaboration with Anthrax on “Bring The Noise.” I loved that song so much I bought that stupid Anthrax B sides record just to get that song. I never listened to the rest of that tape aside from the very first time. I think I had the censored version with the bee buzzing noises where the curse words were supposed to be.

The reason I bring this up is because when I really connected with Public Enemy, the current album that they had out was Fear of a Black Planet. For reasons that I’m not totally sure about, the first record of theirs that I actually bought was It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. And I played the heck out of it, that’s for sure. Ever since I first purchased it, it’s always been my favorite Public Enemy record. There’s something about how aggressive the production is, coupled with Chuck D’s uncompromising rhymes.

I have this on vinyl via the Public Enemy vinyl box set that picked up ten years ago. However that box set, and every other pressing of this album and Fear of a Black Planet, was a single LP pressing. Vinyl Me Please did an incredible double LP version of FOABP a couple of years ago that I picked up.  And since It Take a Nation of Millions… has always been such an important record to me, I thought it was worth the double dip to get a better version of it as well.  I didn’t grab the colored vinyl version or the exceedingly overpriced quadruple LP set that includes all of the remixes. If that fancy one was only double the price, I would have considered, but for $250, that’s a pass from me.

This version that I bought is the standard black vinyl, 180g vinyl version. It really sounds great. Everything is crisp and full, The bass is low and warm, the vocals are clear and powerful. It’s a great version, it’s the best version of the record I would have to think. Is it worth rebuying? I think so, but I also think it depends on just how much you like this record. The version from the box set sounds totally fine, but this one is a notch above in my opinion.

Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_k9uKVBHagD5M0qWs47QN6_kg-rUzmrlss

Monday, December 18, 2023

Lync - These Are Not Fall Colors 2xLP - 3 Versions

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Suicide Squeeze (2023, Reissue)

After way too many years, Lync's flawless 1994 album, These Are Not Fall Colors has finally been reissued.  This is an album that's been out of print for far too long and I'm really happy that others have a chance to pick it up.  I've had the original pressing for a long time, but that didn't stop me from going variant hunting and picking up all of the versions available as part of the first pressing.  Even though I try really hard not to buy multiple copies of the same record these days, this is an album that's just so important to me.  I couldn't resist.

I first heard of Lync because Sam Jayne and James Bertram were both featured on the Beck album, One Foot in the Grave.  That was a monumentally influential album for me, and I used it as a jumping off point to find a lot of new music back in 1994.  Lync was one of those first bands that I got into.  From the moment I heard album opener "b," I was obsessed with this band.  The way the album channels a youthful, energetic take on Pacific Northwestern indie rock was so impactful.  It's an album that's been in constant rotation for me for nearly 30 years now and I love every second of it just as passionately now as I did back then.

Regarding the reissue, there are three main versions of the first pressing.  Blue & Yellow split color vinyl (Lync band variant), Green, Blue & Purple twist vinyl (Suicide Squeeze label variant) and Red in Orange vinyl (retail variant).  The album is split into a double LP at 45rpm, with the fourth side being a blank.  There's one bonus track, "Can't Tie Yet," though that was already available on the Remembering the Fireballs singles compilation.

While this version of the LP sounds great, the best the album has ever sounded, I'm still not really sure it needed such an expansive reissue.  I know that 45rpm is the audiophiles choice for speed and sound fidelity, but this album is something of a low-fi masterpiece.  I'm not really sure if it benefits that much from being at 45 instead of 33.  Especially since one of the album sides ends up being blank.  

My personal opinion is that this could have been a single LP at 33rpm and there would be very little difference.  It would have been a bit cheaper, taken up less vinyl and would cut out a record swap while listening.  I'm sure they had a reason for doing this way, and I won't argue with how great it sounds, I just can't help but think it could have been released a bit differently and been just as impactful.  Then again, I'm just a jerk with a website, so what do I know?

Lync - These Are Not Fall Colors:
https://lync1994.bandcamp.com/album/these-are-not-fall-colors-2

Friday, December 15, 2023

Mark Murphy & The Meds – Monochrome LP – Gray w/ Black Swirl Vinyl

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Bloated Kat / Brassneck / Cat's Claw / Kezy P / Waterslide (2023)

Mark “Guitar” Murphy and his Meds are back for their second full length, Monochrome. Anyone that reads this website knows that I am a long time fan of Mark’s work – having first discovered his band Crocodile God in the mid 90s. Crocodile God and they entire mid 90s Crackle Records scene in the UK really shaped my view of punk rock and what I was looking for out of it. There was something about it that connected to me differently than what I was hearing in America and to this day, those are the sounds I prefer the most.

Luckily, Mark is still writing songs just as catchy and immediate as what he was cranking out with Crocodile God. Monochrome is full of his fast tempo, fuzzed out guitar riffs, insanely catchy vocals and more hooks than a thing that has a lot of hooks. It’s as good as the last record, though I’ll admit it took me a few listens to come to that conclusion.

I can’t call it a criticism, because it’s not really a negative thing, but the first couple of times I listened to the record, it flew by so fast that most of the songs didn’t really hit me. This is a record that’s barely over 20 minutes long and the fast paced songs do kind of fly by if you aren’t paying attention. It took a few times of sitting down and really focusing on the record that allowed the songs to sink in more and connect. I guess what I’m saying is due to it’s brevity, it’s not really best enjoyed as background music. But if given more dedicated attention (or even better, played loud while driving) that’s when you’ll see why Mark is one of my favorite songwriters.

Mark Murphy & The Meds – Monochrome:
https://bloatedkatrecords.bandcamp.com/album/monochrome

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Czarface – Czartificial Intelligence LP – Stole The Ball Edition - Orange Vinyl (/5000)

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Silver Age / Virgin (2023)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Czarface is definitely releasing the most consistently great hip hop records today. Yes, there are folks (like Del) that still put out records that I enjoy immensely, but you can count on Czarface to put out an album every year or two and have it be great every single time. Czartificial Intelligence is the follow up to last year’s Czarmageddon and like that album, was launched on a Record Store Day related event, in this case, Black Friday.

The Record Store Day version of this album was a run of 5000 copies, was pressed on orange vinyl and had alternate artwork. But the biggest difference between the RSD version and the regular one is the inclusion of 2 bonus tracks not on any other vinyl version of the album. Which is a cool little bonus. But in digging around a bit, it seems that the versions available on streaming sites and MP3 also include these two extra tracks. I’m not mad that these songs are accessible to more people, but in some ways it makes me think that the normal version of the vinyl is just missing two songs, since they seem to exist everywhere else.

But back to the album itself, Czarface consists of Inspectah Deck and Esoteric on the mic and 7L handling production duties. They are one of very few hip hop acts that make records that feel like the Golden Era. The production sounds modern, but still clings on to the type of beats that connected with me as a teenager. It’s loud, with big drums and tons of low end. The samples are futuristic at times, leaning into the group’s comic book influences, but still sound warm and familiar. It’s a balancing act that very few can accomplish these days.

Lyrically, the subject matter definitely leans into what some might call nerdy territory. But, it’s material that resonates with me the same way that my mind was blown the first time I heard Das EFX and all of the pop culture references in their lyrics. Lots of highlights on this album, but in particular the two tracks where Kool Keith shows up are really memorable to me (though one of them, “Live and Czarnegie Hall,” is one of the RSD exclusive tracks).

All in all, it’s another great Czarface record. I’m always grateful that I stumbled across them a few years ago and am hopeful they keep leading the charge of hip hoppers that manage to still make records that connect with me.

Czarface – Czartificial Intelligence:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kkSIJwPflww9utIqH0RSVFf885zuqKVuw

Monday, December 11, 2023

State Drugs – Parade of Red Flags LP – Green Vinyl

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Snappy Little Numbers (2023)

State Drugs are another band that I’m not entirely positive I would have heard if not for them putting out records on Snappy Little Numbers. It’s certainly possible, but them being part of a label that I already was super into served them up to me on a silver platter. I’ve been listening to them for a few years now and was thrilled when their second proper full length, Parade of Red Flags, showed up in the mail.

Every time I write about them, I can’t help but compare them to Unwelcome Guests or Nude Beach. That’s because those are the two bands I always think of that best exemplify the strain of earnest, rootsy rock and roll that State Drugs is playing. There’s a lot of average, midwestern rock made by bands that collectively own two Tom Petty CDs. But State Drugs, Unwelcome Guests and Nude Beach are three bands that just take it a step further and manage to create songs that sound fresh and exciting, even if the influences are tried and true.

Red Flag Parade is probably the best State Drugs album to date. I really enjoyed their last one Live. Laugh. Love. And their singles comp Takings & Leavings is just crammed full of hits. However, Red Flag Parade is their most consistent record, start to finish. Every song is great and each one fits as part of a larger album feeling. I feel like I’m saying this a lot lately, as 2023 was certainly stacked towards the end as far as good albums being released, but this is one of the better albums of the year. I fully expect it to be on my end of the year list, which terrifyingly enough, I really need to get working on.

State Drugs – Parade of Red Flags:
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/parade-of-red-flags

Friday, December 8, 2023

Chinese Telephones – Outta My Hands 7” – Pink Vinyl (/100)

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Bloated Kat / Dead Broke (2023) 

In many ways, I’m shocked that there’s a new Chinese Telephones 7”. They haven’t released any new music since 2008. That’s 15 years ago somehow and it messes with my brain that Chinese Telephones are one of those ‘newer’ bands that I like. While the fact that the band has been playing sporadic shows lately could have perhaps been a clue that new music was coming, I certainly never expected it. But boy, am I glad it happened.

All four songs are classic Chinese Telephones. Buzzsaw guitars playing ultra catchy chord progressions, vocal melodies and hooks falling from everywhere. There’s a reason this band was always mentioned in the same breath as The Marked Men and the intervening 15 years has done nothing to dull the potency of their songs. These are as good as anything the band has ever released.

For me, the bigger question is what does this mean next? Will there be more songs? More shows? A full length? I sure would love to have a new Chinese Telephones full length album in my collection. I’m grateful that the word got this 7”, but now I’m greedy for more. Fingers crossed that more is coming.

Chinese Telephones – Outta My Hands 7”:
https://bloatedkatrecords.bandcamp.com/album/outta-my-hands