Monday, March 4, 2024

Nightfreak - Nightfreak LP - Green Vinyl


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:

Friday, March 1, 2024

Die Communications - Die Communications LP


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):

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique 2xLP


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


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:

Friday, February 23, 2024

Custody - Get Stoked Lathe Cut 7" - Clear


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":

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Gang Starr - Daily Operation 2xLP - Red Vinyl


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)


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":

Friday, February 16, 2024

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


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:

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Artifacts - That's Them 2xLP


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


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


Friday, December 29, 2023

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


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


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:

Monday, December 25, 2023

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


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:

Friday, December 22, 2023

Joel Paterson – The More The Merrier LP – Red Vinyl


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:

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

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


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:

Monday, December 18, 2023

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



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:

Friday, December 15, 2023

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


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:

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

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


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:

Monday, December 11, 2023

State Drugs – Parade of Red Flags LP – Green Vinyl


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:

Friday, December 8, 2023

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


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”:

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Del The Funky Homosapien – No Need For Alarm 2xLP – Orange Vinyl (/1500)


Get On Down (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.

On this past Thanksgiving, November 23rd, Del The Funky Homosapien’s second album, No Need For Alarm, turned 30 years old. To celebrate this momentous anniversary, Get On Down reissued this album on colored vinyl. It showed up at my house on Black Friday, so I didn’t have it in time for that week’s Ed Lover Dance Day post, so we’ll get into it this week instead.

I have written about this album before, so some of this may be a bit repetitive if you read the last write up. But to try to summarize, this is my all-time favorite hip hop album of all time. When it was released in 1993, I picked it up immediately since I really loved Del’s first album from a couple of years earlier. I am pretty sure I hadn’t even seen a video or heard any songs from the album when I bought it. I was expecting something different than what was on Del’s debut because the Souls of Mischief record had been released, so I was aware of the path Hieroglyphics were pursuing. That said, I was completely unprepared for what Del was about to unleash into the world.

Hearing No Need For Alarm for the first time blew my mind. The production was like nothing I had heard before. Even the Souls record didn’t have beats that sounded quite like this. The lyrics were so rough and ready with Del creating the sort of complicated rhyme patterns that I had never really heard before. It was almost as it he was reinventing hip hop in real time before my eyes. It became the album I judged everything else against. It reshaped how I thought about hip hop and music as a whole. And I have said this before, but I’m positive this record is the foundation for me eventually getting into punk rock, when hip hop could no longer provide me what I was looking for. It’s just a monumentally important record in my life, which is why I felt that I had to buy this 30th anniversary version.

Is it really a necessary purchase? If you have the album already, probably not. It’s not really any different from the other pressing I have, sound wise. The colored vinyl is nice and the Obi is kind of fun. It also comes with a really cool poster that I think I’ll eventually get mounted and framed. For most, if you have a copy already, that’ll do. But if for some insane reason, you don’t have this record on vinyl, you should grab it right away. They do not come much better than this.

Del The Funky Homosapien – No Need For Alarm:

Monday, December 4, 2023

Hooper – Swim the Races Nobody Wants LP


Snappy Little Numbers (2023)

In 2013, Hooper released their first album, How to Become a Ghost. I adored that record and it was one of my very favorites of that year. Five years later in 2018, the band put out their second album, No Monument. And in all honesty, I didn’t like that one quite as much. It was still a good record, but it didn’t grab me quite the same way that Hooper’s debut did. Five years on from that, Hooper is back with their third LP. Ten years on from their debut, am I still digging this band the way I once did? Yeah, I am.

Swim the Races Nobody Wants is a really strong album. Is it a return to the sounds of their first album? No, it’s still different, but for me they’ve found a sweet spot between the sound of their first two albums. There are post punk influences, particularly in how the guitar riffs are structured, but I feel that this album has a much stronger grasp of hooks and melodies that the last one. There are plenty of fist pumpers and sing along choruses again, while still showing a growth in sound from the first album that you’d really have to expect ten years later. I’m sure not the same person I was ten years ago.

Hooper was the first band on Snappy Little Numbers that I ever wrote about. They were the gateway drug that opened up an opportunity to hear so many other incredible bands over the years. The fact that they are still kicking and putting out records as good as this one is the sort of thing that needs to be celebrated. This is definitely one of the better records to come out this year and should be checked out for sure.

Hooper – Swim the Races Nobody Wants:

Monday, November 27, 2023

Three Minute Movie – March Winds And April Showers Bring May Flowers LP


Bloated Kat / Dead Broke (2023)

I have been listening to Three Minute Movie since their first 7" and 3" CD compilation appearance came out in 1999.  At that point, I was already instantly purchasing anything that Snuffy Smile released in Japan.  I was completely blown away by the three songs that came out over those two releases.  There was a late 90s emo lean for sure, but like so many of their label mates, Three Minute Movie elevated the material into being something truly special.

As the years have gone by Three Minute Movie's sound evolved.  They've still had sons that venture into emo territory, there's been dalliances with garage rock and some good old pop punk thrown in for good measure along the way.  The band's newest album, March Winds And April Showers Bring May Flowers, is an amalgamation of those sounds. 

The main thing you will hear when you listen are some tremendous, catchy songs with great harmonies and hooks all day long.  The songs are probably not quite fast enough to be considered 'pop punk' in the most literal interpretation of that word, but the pop is definitely front and center.  There are still moments that have a garage flavor to them, such as "Stay By Yourself," which really showcases their lovely, fuzzed out guitar tones.

Then there's a song like "Talking to my Heart."  This is one that reminds me of the bands earliest days.  The band has put together a song that sounds influenced by that 90s emo the band came up during, but not in a way that sounds like a retread.  It's a song that has heart (just look at the song title), but still feels like something that actually came out in 2023.  After all of these years, I'm psyched that Three Minute Movie is still putting out music, and I'm especially psyched that one of their albums has finally been released on vinyl.

Three Minute Movie – March Winds And April Showers Bring May Flowers:

Friday, November 24, 2023

Spoilers - There or Thereabouts LP - Green With Purple & Blue Splatter Vinyl

Spoilers - There or Thereabouts LP - Green With Purple & Blue Splatter Vinyl

Brassneck / Waterslide / Rad Girlfriend / SBÄM (2023)

I have a major complaint with this album.  I get it in the mail, I'm excited to hear something new by a band that I like and it's only eight songs?  How dare Spoilers write eight perfect melodic punk songs and have the temerity to stop there and not write three or four more?  I am being deprived of more great melodic punk and I won't stand for it.  Sure, sure it's very clear on every label's website that it's a mini album, but do you expect me to admit that I didn't notice that at first?  Am I supposed to cop to the fact that maybe the band didn't release this only with me in mind?  Never.

All kidding and stupidity aside, whether this release was two songs or twenty songs long, it would be in the upper echelon of albums I've heard this year.  I've liked Spoilers for a while now and have all of their other records, but this one is hitting me differently this time.  There's so many amazing hooks and melodies in this album.  In the past I'd compared them to Demma-era Snuff, but they've evolved a bit from there and while that Snuff energy is still there for sure, I'm really hearing a different kind of melody, a Crocodile God/Mark Murphy style delivery that punches me right in the face.

I really can't say enough good things about this album and I was serious when I said every song is pretty much perfect.  I very selfishly wish there were a few more songs on here, but only because I just want more once the record ends.  Hopefully Spoilers are hard at work and have more songs in the hopper ready to for a full or maxi or whatever we need to call the album type to get me more of these great songs.

Spoilers - There or Thereabouts:

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Ultramagnetic MC's - Funk Your Head Up 2xLP

Ultramagnetic MC's - Funk Your Head Up 2xLP

Music On Vinyl (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 twenty-five 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've written about this Ultramagnetic MC's album twice before.  Once back in 2012 when I found the original, single LP pressing of the album and then again back in 2021 when I purchased a bootleg, double LP version of the album.  When I wrote about that album, I said that I would instantly purchase and official, double LP reissue of this album if one were ever to come out.  Well, finally in 2023 my dreams have come true,

Music On Vinyl has released a 180g two LP version of this classic and it sounds better than it ever has.  I've twice spun the yarn about how I first picked up the CD of this album in the Heathrow airport in 1992 while on a seven hour layover as part of a school trip.  But that purchase made because I had some extra trip money in my pockets turned out to be such an eye opening moment when it came to how I viewed hip hop.

While it's definitely colored by nostalgia, Funk Your Head up has always been my favorite Ultramagnetic MC's album.  That isn't taking anything away from Critical Beatdown or The Four Horsemen.  All three arte stone cold classics that should be in anyone's Golden Era hip hop collection.  But now, for the first time in decades, it's pretty easy to finally pick up a copy of this album on vinyl.  Don't miss out, I've watched several past Music On Vinyl reissues go out of print and end up selling for way more than I'm comfortable paying.  I just hope someone completes the trifecta and does a proper reissue of The Four Horsemen next.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Reverse - Behind These Walls LP - Mustardy Brown Vinyl


Boss Tuneage (2023)

Normally, I don't post any reviews the week of Thanksgiving as I typically take off from work that week and try to relax a bit.  But, since I have missed so many posts over the last few weeks, I'm going to try to power through and get some up this week as well.  It's especially important to try to do this for me as I've gotten in a sudden deluge of new records and want to make sure I've gotten to everything so that I can put together my end of the year list.

That brings us to Reverse and their new album Behind These Walls.  If you want to talk about an album that is guaranteed a top spot on my year end list, this would be one of the first albums I'd be talking about.  Reverse was originally active in the 90s UK punk scene and they put out a string of four 7"s that completely blew my mind at the time.  They disbanded without having put out a full length and most times, that would probably be that.

Fate intervened and the band started to release their 7" tracks and other unreleased goodies on SP records from Japan in the form of two CDs.  Then a new 7" followed and that all led to the band putting out their first proper full length a few years ago, Empty Spaces.  What a record that was.  Somehow, I think Behind These Walls is even better.  If anything the songs feel even closer to the magic the band captured on those early 7"s and I haver been listening to this record non-stop since it arrived.

I feel like I may have said something like this about Reverse before, but Behind These Walls sounds ripped straight out of the 90s.  Not that it's a 90s bands with new tunes that sort of sound like the music of yore.  If you told me that the band actually recorded these songs in 1995 and they were just releasing it now, I would one hundred percent believe you.   And this is not some backhanded compliment insinuating that the songs sound old, they sound fresh and vibrant and exciting in a way that so few bands are able to put together these days.  The album has that glorious feeling that so many of my most favorite albums of the 90s had.  It's a palpable energy that is so difficult for me to describe, but it's there and I feel it in my bones when the record is spinning.

Anyone that is into the mid 90s UK punk scene really needs to give Reverse a listen.  They can stand shoulder to shoulder with groups like Broccoli and Hooton 3 Car, that next batch of bands that were following in the footsteps of Snuff, Leatherface, Senseless Things and Mega City Four.  It's so great that a record like this can exist in 2023 and I hope that the boys in Reverse keep this going for many, many more years.

Reverse - Behind These Walls:

Friday, November 17, 2023

Otis Redding - The Singles 2xLP (From Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 Box Set)


Rhino / ATCO (2023) 

My plan of reviewing every Otis Redding album in this box set over a series of consecutive Fridays and/or Mondays failed miserably. But at long last, we can get to the final, double LP of this set, The Singles. For me, this was absolutely the main even of this box set and is something I’ve been waiting for when it comes to Otis. A proper singles compilation.

To me, the comparison must be made to the Three CD set, The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Collection. This set captures every single that Otis Redding released, but there was never a vinyl equivalent. Is The Singles that equivalent now? Not exactly, but it gets us very close. I actually made an Excel spreadsheet and listed every song on the CD set. I then went through and noted when that song appeared on any of the records in the two Otis Redding vinyl box sets. My goal was to see if by having both box sets, do I have all of these songs on vinyl. Turns out, it’s pretty close.

There’s only three songs (excluding live versions) that only exist on the CD set: “Mary’s Little Lamb,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and “I’m Depending on You.” That’s not bad considering the CD set has seventy songs on it. Spreadsheet aside, The Mono Singles is an excellent collection of non-album Otis Redding tunes and includes some of my very favorite songs of his.

When you have an album that has hits on it like “Hard To Handle,” “The Happy Song” and “Can’t Turn You Loose,” that’s a pretty high bar. And those are just the highest of highs on an album crammed full of them. To me, this album is worth the purchase of the entire set and having nice shiny copies of all of his posthumous albums is a bonus. I still don’t understand why both box sets include The Dock of the Bay album as that’s just an extra, unneeded copy of you buy both sets, but being able to make two purchases and have pretty much the entire catalog of Otis Redding on vinyl is a truly wonderful thing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Digital Underground - Sons of the P LP


Tommy Boy (1991)

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 twenty-five 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. 

Sons of the P was the second Digital Underground full length, though it was actually the first one of theirs that I bought when it came out in 1991. Naturally, I was very aware of “The Humpty Dance” but it wasn’t something that was driving me to buy a Digital Underground album that felt a little old to me. In hindsight, that’s ludicrous as it was not even a year old, but for whatever reason I didn’t prioritize picking it up immediately. I fixed that pretty soon and grabbed the Sex Packets CD as part of a Columbia House/BMG scam within the next year. 

But, that’s not what we’re talking about right now, we’re talking about Sons of the P. Why did I pick up this album right away? It was the strength of the “No Nose Job” video. That made me buy the cassette single of that before the album came out and then I grabbed the album when that was finally released. I’m not sure why I liked “No Nose Job” as much as I did, but I did and still do. I’ve always had affinity for the less popular Humpty songs for whatever reason. I’ve always liked Digital Underground, but as a kid, I really didn’t appreciate the diversity of their albums the same way I do now. 

At the time, I wished everything was a bit more straightforward and ‘hip hop.’ The Parliament style dalliances where more distracting to me then. But now, I can understand the artistic vision of these albums as something more ambitious than a typical early 90s hip hop album. The experimentations seem more interesting now and the flow of the album has more of a narrative quality than I was aware of in my younger years. Do I still prefer the more straightforward hip hop songs? I do, but I just have a lot more respect for the whole puzzle now. 

I’d been looking for a decently priced version of this on vinyl for quite some time and when one popped up on Discogs, the time was finally there. Though, I would not have been able to grab it without some overseas assistance from my buddy Scott, from Brassneck – so many thanks for helping me finally get my hands on the vinyl version.

Digital Underground - Sons of the P:

Monday, November 13, 2023

Pop Marshal - Rejoice! CD


Fixing A Hole (2023)

Apologies for going such a long time without posting anything.  I've had some real life stuff going on that has made it a bit difficult to be on my normal schedule.  It's still ongoing so I might miss some time here and there in the next few weeks, but I am going to try to get things back to normal as much as I can.  I've got some records to get to before the end of the year, so I'm going to give it my best shot.

Today we have a CD, which isn't as common for me to pick up as vinyl, but when there's a band putting out great tunes, you go where the music is.  Plus, it's on a label in Japan where CD releases are still pretty common for punk rock bands.  The band, however, is not from Japan.  Pop Marshal formed in the wake of Headsparks calling it a day.  I've written about Headsparks before, fronted by Andy Barnard who I've known from his 90s bands of Donfisher, Ohno Express and Gan.  There's still a piece of me that hopes there's a lost Donfisher album out there somewhere that's been hidden all these years, but I digress...

Pop Marshal is very much the next logical step after the last Headsparks album.  You can't say they are all that dissimilar at their cores.  It's another album of outstanding, melodic punk rock that has the quintessential UK feel from the 90s that has always been my favorite scene in the world.  I always feel a similarity in Andy's bands with Hooton 3 Car.  There's something about the way his songs are structured and how the hooks reveal themselves that always reminds of one of my favorite all time bands.

This time out we've got ten songs and they've got fast paced pop songs like "Big Scene," "Less You Know" and "Act Normally."  These are balanced out nicely by some lower tunes that have, to me, more in common with The Last-era Leatherface like "More For Equals" and "Lie Low."  There's even a song the leans into surf sounds on "Bad Beach."  It's a diverse and easy to listen to album that's definitely one of my favorite things to come out this year.  For sure I wish this was on vinyl, but the CD has been spinning in heavy rotation ever since it came in.  Go out of your way to check this one out if you're a fan of the 90s UK scene.

Pop Marshal - Rejoice!:

Friday, October 20, 2023

Shoplifters - Second Nature LP - Orange Vinyl (/250)


PopKid / Brassneck / Rad Girlfriend / Waterslide (2023) 

It’s been four years since PopKid records has had a release.  That’s a long time and I’m sure that it is obvious that the label isn’t something we’re able to make a huge focal point of our lives at this stage.  It’s expensive to do a record label and we don’t often sell too many records through a combination of many factors.  A key one is probably that we tend to want to work with bands from other lands.  Bands that often don’t have the ability to come to America to show the locals just how good they really are.  But this is where my heart is when it comes to music. 

It’s easy to look at the unsold records I have hanging around from past releases and not be enthusiastic about adding more to the pile.  But then a band like Shoplifters comes around. Shoplifters inspire me to get back in the game.  So here we are, PKE030 – Second Nature.  This is the third Shoplifters release on PopKid, following up on the Forgiver 7” and 2019’s Secret Free World LP.  Everything that made me love and get involved with those two prior records is still here.  This is a band that has somehow found the exact strain of melodic punk rock that I want to listen to. 

If you’ve read anything I’ve written about Shoplifters before, you’ll see I’m always mentioning Bob Mould, Snuff, Big Drill Car, Leatherface and the clearest comparison to me, China Drum.  It’s like they went into a lab to try to create the exact band that would appeal directly to me.  Second Nature is such a great album, and the band has really put together an incredible group of songs.  “Hungry Lions” has that perfect chugging guitar during the verse that makes the payoff in the chorus even more triumphant.  It’s probably my favorite song on the album, but there is some stiff competition. 

The vocal melody throughout the entirety of “The Ones” is so strong and catchy, it kind of makes the entire song feel like one big chorus.  The guitar work on “Braced for Fall” reminds me so much of The Last era Leatherface, with an ethereal vocal hook.  Then there’s the piano punctuated pop of “Do What You Want” with a singalong chorus that has been stuck in my head for months now.  Every song on the album is like this for me, they're just a perfect band.

Today is the album’s official release date and the entire thing is available to listen to on Bandcamp now. Please check it out and pick up a copy if you enjoy. 

Purchase the record from our webstore here: 

Purchase a specially priced bundle Shoplifters bundle that includes the Second Nature LP, the Secret Free World LP and the Forgiver 7": 

Buy the vinyl, bundle or digital version on our Bandcamp page here (and get instant mp3s):

Monday, October 16, 2023

Otis Redding - Tell The Truth LP (From Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 Box Set)


Rhino / ATCO (2023) 

For the next few weeks, on Mondays, I'm writing about individual albums in the Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 box set. This is the second Otis Redding box set I have, but this one focuses on his posthumous albums. Otis has been a long time favorite of mine, and the opportunity to finally pick up nice copies of the albums released after he passed was one I was not going to pass up.

Tell The Truth is an album that I'm really not familiar with at all.  It's never been in my collection in any format and while I know a couple of the songs, this is like a new Otis Redding releases for me.  By the time we get to Tell The Truth, the fourth posthumous Otis Redding album, it's starting to become clear that they were digging a little deeper into the the vaults at this point.

That's not to say that this is a bad or even a lackluster record, but it is missing some of that uniformity that made the others sound like full albums.  Tell The Truth just sounds like a collection of songs, without the same type of cohesion from track to track taking you through the record.  That's not to say there aren't some incredible songs on here.  Otis had an incredible knack for composition and that man was a hit machine.  Not sure it would even be possible for him to write a bad song.

While this might not be the classic Otis record that some of his others may be, it's still a damn good record and finally having a nice sounding, pristine copy on vinyl is all I could really ask for.  We'll close up this box set review next Monday, with the double LP main event that is probably the main selling point of the whole box for me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Boogie Down Productions - Live Hardcore Worldwide 2xLP


Jive (2004, 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 twenty-five 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 wrote about the original pressing of this album at length a few months ago.  You can go here to see what I wrote in full: In a nutshell, while live albums are not typically something that I drawn too, this is one of the few out there that has always been special to me, particularly because it was the only way for me to hear any of the songs from Criminal Minded for a few years.  But the CD was long and in order to make is fit on vinyl, they cut songs from the tracklist as opposed to making it a double LP.

I'm not sure what prompted it exactly, but in 2004, Jive corrected this issue (mostly) and rereleased the album as a double LP, finally including every song from the CD on vinyl.  Why they did this as a white sleeve DJ copy instead of a fancier reissue, I'll never know.  But at least I finally have all of the songs on vinyl.  Plus, I do have the artwork from the original pressing that I wrote about before, so I have everything that there is, it's just split across two releases.

Would I buy it a third time if a proper double LP reissue with full artwork was released?  I'd like to be fiscally responsible and say no, I wouldn't need to pick up yet another version of this.  But I think anyone reading this knows me well enough to know what the real answer would be...

Boogie Down Productions - Live Hardcore Worldwide: 

Monday, October 9, 2023

Otis Redding - Love Man LP (From Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 Box Set)


Rhino / ATCO (2023)

For the next few weeks, on Mondays, I'm writing about individual albums in the Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 box set. This is the second Otis Redding box set I have, but this one focuses on his posthumous albums.  Otis has been a long time favorite of mine, and the opportunity to finally pick up nice copies of the albums released after he passed was one I was not going to pass up.

The third of Otis Redding's posthumous albums is Love Man.  You would think that after mining two LPs worth of unreleased material already, the vaults might start to run dry.  Especially considering that Otis' career was tragically brief.  But somehow, this album is still a revelation.

Maybe it's not quite as strong as the prior two, and maybe there isn't an epic, classic, signature song like "Dock of the Bay" (Though "Love Man" really isn't too far off, in my opinion), but the quality and consistency of the songs Otis recorded at the end of his career are so impressive.  Equally impressive is that this isn't a collection of cover songs.  Of the twelve songs on the album, only three weren't written, at least in part, by Otis himself.

As an album, this and next week's Tell The Truth are the ones that I was least familiar with coming into this box set.  But the wave of familiarity washed over me as I listened to Love Man.  There is something so timeless and perfect about Otis Redding and there really isn't ever a time where his music doesn't put a smile on my face.

Otis Redding - Love Man:

Friday, October 6, 2023

Shoplifters - Second Nature LP - Test Pressing


PopKid / Brassneck / Rad Girlfirend / Waterslide (2023)

I have mentioned a few times this year that I hadn't bought as many new records as I have in the past and that I've had a hard time finding those albums that I really connect with.  So I decided to do something about it.  PopKid Records is back for 2023 and we teamed up with friends far and wide to release the new Shoplifter album.  

We're putting up the album for preorder today (don't worry, I have them in hand and the release date is in two reeks on October 20th) and to celebrate that I'm writing a little bit about the record, though just a bit to start.

The picture you see above isn't the actual artwork, this is the alternate cover for the test pressing that the labels and bands got.  It's very cool, but the actual artwork looks even better.  I've never been a huge test pressing guy, but of course the PopKid ones are very near and dear to my heart.

The record is really wonderful.  Tight, catchy, melodic punk rock that makes me smile every time I listen to it.  I'm going to take a picture of the actual record and write a bit more about it in two weeks, but I wanted to put up a little something special in honor of the preorder kicking off today.

Please check it out and I hope you love it as much as I do.  Or at least like it enough to buy a copy.  Also, it's Bandcamp Friday, so there really isn't a better day to buy it from me if Bandcamp is your scene.

Purchase the record from the PopKid webstore here:

Purchase a specially priced bundle Shoplifters bundle that includes the Second Nature LP, the Secret Free World LP and the Forgiver 7":

Buy the digital version (and/or the vinyl) on the PopKid Bandcamp page here:

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Cypress Hill - Black Sunday 30th Anniversary 2xLP - Brown Vinyl (/1993)


Get On Down / Columbia (2022, 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 twenty-five 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 help myself and I bought this fancy version of Cypress Hill's second album from 1993, Black Sunday.  I did have a perfectly serviceable copy of this on vinyl already, but the inclusion of some extra bonus tracks and the deluxe version and all piqued my interest enough that I couldn't help but double dip.

Is it worth it? I don't really know.  Bonus track wise, maybe not.  There are three bonus tracks in total.  First is an extended version of "Insane In The Brain" that is exactly as advertised.  It's longer.  That's really it and not something I would say is super important.  Then we have "Scooby Doo," originally released as a B side on the Lick A Shot single.  It's not the most exciting song in their catalog and I wish it had drums that hit harder.  That would improve it in my eyes.  Lastly is the T-Ray remix of "Hits From The Bong."  This one is quite excellent and while not quite on the level as the original version, it is still some pretty stellar Cypress Hill-ing.

The main album sounds great, I'm not sure it's any better or worse than the other version that I have, but it gets the job done.  The artwork really is lovely as a nice gatefold with shiny metallic print job.  It definitely looks the business.  So, is it worth it?  If you don't have the album, this is absolutely the one to get.  If you have it already, it's probably not that important to pick up unless you're a sucker for fancy reissues (guilty).  I'll probably end up selling my other copy though, there's no reason to have two of these.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Otis Redding - The Immortal Otis Redding LP (From Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 Box Set)


Rhino / ATCO (2023) 

Sorry, change of plans.  I didn't really think before I started writing about these records on Friday.  I have some other things planned for a couple of Fridays in the next few weeks, so I'm going to shift Otis around and we're going to talk about each of the individual albums in the Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 box set over the next few Mondays. As I mentioned on Friday, this is the second Otis Redding box set I have, but this one focuses on his posthumous albums.

The Immortal Otis Redding came out in 1968 and features songs that he recorded just prior to his death in December of 1967. Of all of his posthumous releases, this one seems the closest to an actual planned album to me.  The songs feel purposefully sequenced together, it's just not cleaning out odds and ends.  And boy oh boy, the songs on this record.

We've got hall of fame worthy classics like "The Happy Song," "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and "Hard To Handle."  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Every song on here is great, not a single piece of filler in the bunch.  It's difficult to think about what this album could have meant to his career if he had not passed and was able to release it as the next album in his career.

I'm really happy to finally have a good, clean version of this album on vinyl.  It was definitely the co-main event of this box set for me and is quite simply a classic album that I will never tire of listening to.