Friday, February 3, 2023

Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop (Soundtrack from the Netflix Series) 2xLP - Orange & Red Marble Vinyl


Milan (2022)

Last week I wrote about the vinyl soundtrack to the original Cowboy Bebop anime.  This week, I have the double vinyl soundtrack to the live action Netflix series that came out last year.  I know a lot of folks were griping on the Netflix version saying it was a disgrace or ruined the series because of differences from the original series.  I fell on the other side.  I thought it was great.  It wasn't better or worse in comparison, it was just different.  I found it very fun to watch, with great visuals and a story that maybe wasn't as deep in some places, but I found to be deeper in others.  Whatever, I dug it. No gatekeeping from me.

Like the anime soundtrack, the Netflix soundtrack is equally confusing and frustrating.  The CD version has tracks not on the vinyl and the vinyl version has tracks not on the CD version.  The Vinyl doesn't come with a download card, so there's no getting MP3s of this version either.  While I really like the songs that are on here and am stoked to have them on vinyl, my annoying brain can only manage to be angry that it's missing tracks on the CD version.

Whatever you feel about the show itself, there's no arguing with how great any version of the soundtrack is.  Like the anime, the Netflix soundtrack was done by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts. Jazzy, big band, psych, folk chaos as you go from track to track and it really works genre hopping the way it does.  My only complaint isn't even a complaint as much as it is confusion on my part.  The theme song "Tank!" is the first song on the second LP instead of being the first song on the first LP.  It's the opening song of every episode, why would you put it in the middle of the overall track order?  Makes no sense to me, but it doesn't make it any less of a great song.

Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop (Soundtrack from the Netflix Series) (FYI, this is the streaming/CD version, tracklist is different than what's on the vinyl):

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Legion – Theme + Echo = Krill 2xLP


Legion (2016, 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 wasn't familiar with The Legion prior to picking up this record.  I also bought it over a year ago, so I can't remember how I stumbled on them or what about it originally made me want to check it out.  Looking at the track credits, the fact that we have production and guest appearances from Showbiz & AG and Black Sheep probably played a part in it.  But the reason it's languished in my review pile for so long is because I've never really been able to figure out what to make of the album.

First off, it's really long.  Twenty tracks, almost an hour and fifteen minutes long.  Sure, there's a few sketches on here making the number of tracks go up somewhat artificially, but track count aside this record is way too long.  If they halved it, I think you'd have a much stronger record overall.  The album starts off not particularly impressive.  The first handful of tracks are slower tempo tracks with production that I don't find particularly inspiring.  The lyrics and delivery are solid, but the beats aren't there for me.

About halfway through side B, the album suddenly springs to life and they rip off eight pretty great tracks in a row.  If the album had just started with "Representado," I'd probably be singing a different tune.  I really get into the album while we're going through this stretch which lasts through the end of the C side of this double LP.  When we flip to side D, the production reverts back to the wort of slow, kind of plodding, beats that made up the first part of the record.  So yeah, not sure what to make of it.  A little less than half the record is great, I really dig listening to it.  But that greatness is bookended by production on the other half of the record that just never connects with me.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Pinhead Gunpowder - Compulsive Disclosure LP - Green/White Split Vinyl

Pinhead Gunpowder - Compulsive Disclosure LP - Green/White Split Vinyl

1234 Go! (2022, Reissue)

This is the fifth and final 12"/LP Pinhead Gunpowder reissue from 1234 Go.  Compulsive Disclosure originally came out in 2003, back when I worked in the music biz.  I actually got to promote this album to college radio when it was released as the company I worked for promoted most of the Lookout releases at the time.  The fact that this came out twenty years ago at this point is pretty insane.

I'm not sure why this ended up being the final PHG album, but it was a pretty solid way to go out.  Lots of great songs, though my favorite will always be "Landlords."  The version on the full length is acoustic, and great, but the electric version on the 8 Chords, 328 Words 7" will always be held in slightly higher esteem by me.

This reissue has all of the songs from the original Lookout CD, plus three extra tracks: "Anniversary Song," West Side Highway" and "On The Ave."  All of these were from the West Side Highway 7" that came out around the same time, but of course I bought the reissue of that as well (even though I have the original release).  1234 Go! did a pretty great job with this reissue series.  Everything sounds great and brought some wonderful records that had been out of print for way to long back into circulation.  They're all worth picking up and I'm stoked to have these in the collection.  Even though I already had the original pressings of most of them, these are improved enough to be worth the double dip.

Pinhead Gunpowder - Compulsive Disclosure:

Friday, January 27, 2023

Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop (Original Series Soundtrack) 2xLP - White Vinyl & Brown Vinyl


Milan / Sunrise (2022, Reissue)

I've been buying a lot more soundtracks lately.  You can absolutely put the blame of that on all of the incredible Godzilla and Toho releases coming out, but it's also reminded me that there are others that I need.  A big one on that list is the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack.  I first heard of Cowboy Bebop from my buddy Keith.  He let me borrow his DVD box set that also included the soundtrack on CD.  I loved the show and loved the music.  I picked up the DVDs myself, but the box set was tough to come by at that point.

Fast forward to a couple years ago and the soundtrack was finally released on vinyl.  It took me a while to commit to buy and at that point it was out of press so it took a bit longer to track one down.  It's great and has the songs from that CD I ripped from Keith many, many moons ago.  It also has a few others.  Here's the thing, in researching, I find the Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack Universe to be one of the most confusing things out there.  There's several CDs, different volumes, CDs with songs on other CDs, EPs with exclusive songs, CD box sets that have exclusive songs, but not songs from the regular soundtrack (well, it has some of those, but not all of those).  It's a confusing mess and I will not even pretend to understand it.

I'm sure there are people smarter than me that will be able to say exactly where the five bonus tracks came from.  I was able to track them down as being part of a "Best Of" CD compilation, but it seems at least three of the songs were exclusive to that Best Of, which maybe makes it not actually a best of?  And we haven't even started talking about the Netflix soundtracks yet.

Anyway, the songs on here are great and I love throwing them on and just kind of zoning out to let my imagination be somewhere else.  Not to mention that the theme song of the show "Tank!" could be the best TV show theme song in the history of the earth.  If it isn't, it's right up there.

The Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop (Original Series Soundtrack):

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head 2xLP - Red Vinyl


Vinyl Me Please (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.

Yeah, this is me doing that thing where I rebuy an album that I already have and wrote about not that long ago.  I'm mostly going to focus on this new pressing, so if you want broader thoughts about the album itself and how I feel about the songs, you can read my last write up here:

This version was part of the Vinyl Me Please club and I was drawn in by the promise that new lacquers had been made from the original masters.  While I do love vinyl, I'm not one of those crazy audiophile jerks that can pick out faint differences in pressings and claim that vinyl always sounds "better" as that's really subjective.  I prefer listening to vinyl as it feels like a more engaged experience to me, but for the most part I tend to think everything sounds pretty good if I like the music.  Despite that, I picked this up as I consider it a fairly important record to me, and I had a bunch of VMP credit.  So this didn't cost me anything out of pocket, really.

Is it better than my other pressing?  Yeah, it really is.  While the other pressing is totally fine and sounds good, this VMP version sounds enormous.  Every sound comes crashing though with tons of low end and richness.  When the Beasties recorded this, they made an aesthetic choice for everything to sound pretty blown out, so I can't call any version of this record "clear" sounding, but I can say this is the best I've ever heard the record sound, at least on my stereo.  In addition to your own ear sound preferences, the gear you play this on will make some difference I'm sure.

So, the last question, is it worth rebuying?  Honestly, I'd probably say no for most people.  If you have another vinyl version of this, you're probably fine.  As good as this sounds, and it sounds really good, I can't tell anyone that they must replace their existing copy.  However, if this is an extremely important record to you, it might be worth double dipping.  And if you don't have a copy of this on vinyl, this is one hundred percent the version that you should buy, no question about it.  If I didn't have store credit, I wouldn't have bought it and if I hadn't picked it up, I don't think my life or collection would have been any worse off.  That said, I'm really happy I do have this as it sounds amazing.

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head:

Monday, January 23, 2023

Beezewax - Oh Tahoe LP - Clear Vinyl (#22/500)


Naked Record Club (2022, Reissue)

I have a somewhat complicated relationship with the third Beezewax full length, Oh Tahoe.  It was supposed to come out on PopKid records when it was originally released, alongside of other labels handling various other non-North American locales.  But, as things often do, everything sort of went sideways and the PopKid version of the record never came out.  It came out on a few other labels in other parts of the world, all with slightly rearranged track orders for reasons I was never completely sure of.  I think the PopKid version was meant to start with "Big Bad Car" if I'm not mistaken, but that was over twenty years ago, so I might be.

This LP is the first vinyl version of the album to ever be released.  It came out as part of a record subscription called the Naked Record Club, though you can also buy it on its own.  It is a really expensive record.  I know vinyl is more expensive everywhere and yes, I'm guilty of buying into some of the fancy and expensive Vinyl Me Please releases, but in fairness, most of those tend to be double albums.  This one is a single LP and the cost of the record, plus shipping to America came out to over $65 US, which is quite a lot, really.  It's cheaper if you join the club, but at this point I personally was only looking for Beezewax.

Is it worth it?  To me, yeah it is.  The record sounds excellent on vinyl.  While I like all of Beezewax's output, those first three albums of theirs will always be something special to me.  The way they took Posies style guitar pop and filtered through their own hook machine produced many of my favorite songs of the late 90s and early 2000s.  There's so many incredible tunes on this bad boy and finally having them on vinyl was worth every penny.  

Now, I just need someone to step up to the plate and get their first album, A Dozen Summits, pressed.  Yeah, I'd pay this much for that one too.

Beezewax - Oh Tahoe:

Friday, January 20, 2023

Gentleman Jesse - Compass 7"


Third Man (2022)

I will admit to being disappointed when the last Gentleman Jesse full length, Lose Everything, came out.  While it certainly wasn't bad, I found it to be a little more down than I was really wanting out of one of his records.  His prior two albums were so bright and energetic, but comparison Lose Everything seemed kind of depressing.  The songs were will written and well executed, I just never really find myself wanting to listen to them.

That brings us to this companion 7" that was released on Third Man Records.  I bought it ages ago, but just wasn't motivated to listen to it.  It's been sitting in a pile of 7"s to review ever since I got it.  But, I figure it's time to go through it.  The A side is "Compass," which is also on the full length.  It's an OK song I guess, but not the one I would have focused on for a 7" single.  But I bought this for the two B sides.

First off is "True," a cover by a band called The Fans that I'm not familiar with.  I can't compare it to the original, but this Gentleman Jesse version is a fun, fairly upbeat jam.  It's catchy and plays well with Jesse's trademark guitar jangle.  The second is an original called "Protecting Nothing."  I probably like this song better than anything that actually made the album.  It's way faster and has more in common with the first two Gentleman Jesse records.  That's probably why it didn't make it on to the new one, thematically it feels like an outlier, but if I'm being honest I would rather have an album full of songs like this.

Gentleman Jesse - "True":

Gentleman Jesse - "Protecting Nothing":

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Del The Funky Homosapien & Kool Keith Present FNKPMPN - Subatomic LP - Clear w/ Splatter Vinyl (#147/200)


Threshold (2022)

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.

If you had told me in 1993 that Del and Kool Keith would colaborate on an LP together, I would have been one of the happiest people on the planet.  Even in 2022, I was really excited to get my hands on this.  The album is Kool Keith on production (and contributing a verse on album opener "Abominable Squad") and Del handling the vocals.  Unfotunately, I just don't like the beats all that much.

The production is exceedingly minimal, with space bleeps and bloops over percussion that doesn't have much in the way of heft or low end.  It's kind of Casio sounding and isn't bringing that forceful production that I favor in hip hop.

Del's lyrics and delivery are still pretty great.  He is my all time favorite lyricist and once again the rhymes he's bringing out are complicated, unique and very, very Del.  But the production really drags things down.  I realize that I'm old, but I just wish we could have had an album that sounded for like The Four Horsemen or Funk Your Head Up.  90s style beats with Del and Keith trading verses?  Now that's something I could really get behind.  For the most part I ended up getting this album just for collection completest purposes as I want to get all of Del's full lengths on vinyl. 

Del The Funky Homosapien & Kool Keith Present FNKPMPN - Subatomic:

Monday, January 16, 2023

Snuff - Green Glass Chippings (Live Version) 7" - Red Vinyl (/300)


10 Past 12 / Formosa Punk (2022)

I own quite a few Snuff 7"s.  This is the newest one.  I can't say that for most people it will be essential, but for the collector nerds like me, of course I have to buy it.

There are two songs included.  The A side is is a live version of what I think is probably the best song of their most recent full length, "Green Glass Chippings."  The live version isn't wildly dissimilar from the album version, other than the fact that it's a live recording.  But it is a lively, energetic take on the song and is a great example of how impressive it is (at least to me) that Duncan is able to put forth such a strong vocal performance while simultaneously playing the shit out of the drums.

On the B side we have an acoustic version of the song "EFL vs Concrete."  The original version of this song was on the Numb Nuts album that came out back in 2000.  It seems kind of absurd that was so long ago as Numb Nuts still feels like one of the newer Snuff records to me.  While I do typically like the acoustic takes of Snuff songs and would go out of my way to recommend Duncan's Honkypingpongseijinattack!! CD, I can't say that this is my favorite acoustic version I've heard.  I tend to find the double tracked vocals a little distracting, but the violin/fiddle in the background picking out some of the organ parts of the song is quite excellent.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Senseless Things - The First of Too Many 2xLP - Red Vinyl & Black Vinyl


Cherry Red (2022, Reissue) 

Three bands that I find tend to get mentioned in the same breath a lot (or at least they did back in the 90s) were Snuff, Mega City Four and Senseless Things. I’m sure a lot of that was a result of when they were active as all three were kicking around in the late 80s and early 90s indie/punk scene in the UK. I always felt that Snuff was the most obviously punk of the group. Mega City Four veered more towards the pop side of things but were still pretty rough around the edges for most of their tenure. Senseless Things struck me as being the most polished of the bunch, having punk influences but with a sound that was a little more accessible. I’ve always liked all three, but I have personally listened to Senseless Things the least.

Looking back, I think some of that was due to the production of their records. Even though they were on a bigger label (Epic), something about their records always sounded kind of old to me. A tinniness that wasn’t rough enough to come off as punk rock production, but just made things feel a little thin. It was never a big deal, they just always seemed like there were somewhere in the past even though most of their records were only a couple of years old when I first heard them.

Now we have a reissue of the band’s second album, The First of Too Many, which originally came out in 1991. This double LP reissue comes with two versions of the same record. There’s the original mix done back in ’91 and a new “30th Anniversary Mix” that takes all of the original recordings and completely overhauls the mix. There’s no re-recordings or flashy studio tricks, they just made the album sound better. 

First off, I do want to point out that I only ever had the CD of this album and the LP of the original mix included in this set sounds about ten times better than my CD did for whatever reason. But that being said, the new redone mix sounds approximately twenty times better than that. I listened to several songs back-to-back, switching from one LP to the next and there’s just a huge difference in the redone version. Everything sounds fuller, the bass is louder and the vocal harmonies are even more harmonious. Whatever secret sauce they used to spruce things up really worked out well. Honestly, I’ll probably never listen to the original mix again now that this new one is out, but I do think it’s really great that it was included for those that just want a nice sounding version of the one they’ve been listening to for over thirty years

The record itself is great. Catchy songs with excellent vocals and enough punk rock propulsion that keeps things moving. Maybe I’ll never be as into them as I am my beloved Mega City Four, but they were a hell of a band and this is a record that really should be added to your collection if it’s not already there.

Senseless Things - The First of Too Many:

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Organized Konfusion - Organized Konfusion 2xLP


Hollywood Basic (1991, Bootleg 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'm not exactly sure why I never listened to Organized Konfusion in the early 90s.  It's probably because I never saw any of their videos on Yo! MTV Raps, but it's not like that stopped me from stumbling upon other acts that weren't getting any airplay.  Even more puzzling is the fact that they were shouted out by name on Hieroglyphics tracks, which was pretty much a guaranteed way to make me go buy your records (See: Kurious).  But for whatever reason, it wasn't until many years later that I started to delve into the Organized Konfusion catalog.

I picked up this LP from Discogs about a year and a half ago.  I was able to snag it at a really good price considering what I had seen it go for.  The caveat is that this is the 2xLP version, which means it's an unofficial or bootleg release.  The positive is that said bootleggers didn't try to cram an overly long album onto one record, which is what happened with the original, official release.  In a lot of ways I prefer this double LP bootleg, though I would have preferred someone just reissue it properly.  Considering all of the old rap reissues out there, there must be something wacky going on with the rights for this to still be ignored.

As far as the music goes, this is fun golden era hip hop.  The production is solid and very good most of the time, but it's not in that top tier, upper echelon of the era.  I like it a lot, but it's not the sort of thing that gets my head nodding like a lot of the other records that came out around this time.  Lyrically, it's pretty amazing.  Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po are pretty amazing, stringing together complex rhyme structures while playing off beats of varying tempos and styles.  At the end of the day it's a really cool album that very obviously helped pave the way for the sounds of underground hip hop that would spring up towards the end of the decade.

Organized Konfusion - Organized Konfusion:

Monday, January 9, 2023

Bum - Wanna Smash Sensation LP - Blue Vinyl (/500)


Hey Suburbia / Radiation (2022, Reissue)

Wanna Smash Sensation is one of the best albums I have ever heard in my entire life.  Since the fateful day that I bought the CD from Flipside records in the 90s, I've been completely obsessed with it.  It's just a perfect punk/pop record.  This version is a new reissue from Italy on blue vinyl, with a couple of bonus tracks added on for good measure.  Sure, I've had this record in my collection forever, but it's the sort of album I will buy every possible variation of.  So here's another for the shelf.

It is really hard for me to adequately articulate what it is about this record that I love so much.  Sure, the songs are great and it's easy to say that, but I have a much harder time pinning down what it is that makes these songs so special to me.  They're catchyand that goes a long way for sure.  But I think what makes everything truly special is the balancing act the band does between the songs written by Andrew Molloy and those written by Rob Nesbitt.  It's not that they write songs that are complete opposites of each other, but it's the subtle differences in each that the band coalesces around.

Songs by Molloy are hook machines.  Perfect pop with rock and roll underpinnings.  Nesbitt's songs are a little more aggressively punk, but never sacrificing melody and sing along choruses.  A cut of the knife rather than the party anthem is how that difference has been explained and I can't think of a more perfect way describe it.

This pressing sounds great and looks just as nice.  The two bonus tracks are the same two on the Japanese version of the CD. "Lift Up Your Hood" a DMZ cover originally from the Smugglers split 7"and their version of the Misfits' "Bullet" was a B side from the "Debbiespeak" 7".  I don't know that either cover really adds anything to an album where the originals are so ridiculously great, but they are here for the listening and both are fun to check out.

If for whatever reason you don't already have this record in your collection, now is the time to get it.  I can't imagine going through the last 28 some odd years of my life without it, so if it's an omission in yours, fix that.

Bum - Wanna Smash Sensation:

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Absolute Best Records of 2022


It is, in fact, that time of the year again.  I used to love putting together my end of the year list, and in many ways I still do.  But what it seems to be turning into is a yearly reminder that I'm either getting old and falling out of touch, or that there are far fewer great records coming out than there used to be.  I'm pretty sure that it's the former and my age is finally catching up to me.  If I'm being honest, I probably spent more time listening to early 90s hip hop than I did most new records.

There are exceptions, of course.  The PLOSIVS record is pretty much the best record I have heard in the last 10 years or so.  I have been a long time supporter of John Reis and have loved pretty much every record he's ever been involved in, but even with expectations that high for his work, PLOSIVS still managed to surprise me and knock me on my ass.  I think it's perfect and I cannot wait to hear more from them. John Reis and Rob Crow are a potent combo.

It was also wonderful to see Denny from Sicko, one of my favorite songwriters, back in the saddle with The Drolls.  That's the other record I probably spent the most time with this year.  Lots of other goodies in here from long time favorites like Skimmer, Snuff, Boat, Archers of Loaf, and Built To Spill.  I also made two exceptions for the list this year.

My rule is that I never put any reissues or records that came out on PopKid on the list.  But, I had to include Dereliks and Gentlemen Rogues if I am really making a list of the best 2022 records.  Gentlemen Rogues had half of the songs on their album come out on CD a few years ago.  The other half were digital only.  Since half of them never got a physical release before and the other half was never on vinyl, I decided they needed to be on the list.  

Dereliks is a four LP set.  One of the LPs is a reissue of an old 12" that came out in 1995.  The other three LPs are either songs off of demo tapes, from an old compilation CD or songs never released before.  There's enough stuff on here that's new to some and definitely new to me, that I had to include it.  Especially considering how many times I listened to it this year.

Lots of good tunes on this list and everything is pretty much worth checking out in some capacity.  Even the Superchunk record that I was pretty down on has its moments if you can get through some of the songs that are kind of a bummer.  I have next week off from work, so I'm probably not going to fire back up with more reviews right away, but before January is out, I'll be back with more nonsense.  Merry new year.

01 - PLOSIVS - PLOSIVS - Swami (Listen)
02 - The Drolls - That Puget Sound - Snappy Little Numbers (Listen)
03 - Swami John Reis - Ride The Wild Night - Swami (Listen)
04 - DereliksBroken Cyphers: The Anthology – Self Released (Listen)
05 - Boat - No Plans to Stick the Landing - Magic Marker (Listen)
06 - Czarface - Czarmageddon - Silver Age (Listen)
07 - Quaker Wedding - Total Disarray - Salinas (Listen)
08 - Skimmer - All Fired Up - Bloated Kat / Waterslide / Council Pop (Listen)
09 - Snuff - Crepuscolo Dorato Della Bruschetta Borsetta Calzetta Cacchetta Trombetta Lambretta Giallo Ossido, Ooooooh Cosi Magnifico! - 10 Past 12 / SBÄM (Listen)
10 - Meat Wave - Malign Hex - Swami (Listen)

11 - Lawsuit Models - Unknown Ghosts -Motorcycle Potluck / Snappy Little Numbers
12 - Archers of Loaf - Reason In Decline - Merge
13 - Night Court - Nervous Birds Too - Snappy Little Numbers
14 - Gentlemen Rogues - A History of Fatalism - Snappy Little Numbers / Rocket Heart
15 - Built To Spill - When The Wind Forgets Your Name - Sub Pop
16 - Good GriefShake Your Faith - Everything Sucks / Happy Happy Birthday To Me
17 - Bear Away - A Drastic Tale of Western Living - Brassneck / Waterslide / Engineer / Sell The Heart / Shield
18 - Jacob Turnbloom - Laughter in the Forever After - Half Way Home
19 - More Kicks - Punch Drunk - Dirtnap / Stardumb
20 - Superchunk - Wild Loneliness - Merge


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Dereliks - Broken Cyphers: The Anthology 4xLP


Self Released (2022)

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.

The Dereliks are a group that I definitely never heard about back in the 90s.  That said, a quick perusal of their Discogs page pretty much tells me why.  They put out three self released EPs on cassette, one each in 1992, 1993 and 1994.  Then they capped it off by putting out an independently released 12" EP in 1995.  Needless to say, these guys weren't front and center on Yo! MTV Raps or The Source when I was using both as my prime methods of music discovery in rural New Jersey.

Had I heard them back during the golden era, I would have been pretty obsessed.  Luckily they carried enough support in the Bay Area and through collectors trying to get their hands on the lone 12" that the group curated a four LP anthology.  And it is pretty damn incredible.  The first LP is a recreation of their long out of print A Turn On The Wheel Is Worth More Than A Record Deal 12" from 1995.  The remaining three LPs are full of tracks from the early demo tapes along with others unearth for this release.

Being from the Bay Area, it is pretty easy to draw a line to Heiroglyphics. It's absolutely not a bad line to draw as a comparison, particularly when looking at the way the vocals interplay with the production.  But in general, I find Hieroglyphics a little more 'out there' production wise, where I think Dereliks have more in common with the jazzy beats of A Tribe Called Quest. Yes, I am very much saying Dereliks are kind of like Hieroglyphics meets A Tribe Called Quest.  I realize all of the baggage that creates for them as far as living up to expectations, but for me The Dereliks deliver on every one of these tracks.

Four LPs is going to be a lot to digest in one sitting for just about anyone.  It's a lot of songs.  But the thing is, it's a lot of really, really great songs.  I adore this release and if anything sometimes I'm frustrated that there isn't even more included.  Reading the tracklists from their cassette EPs shows me that there are even more songs that didn't make it on to this set.  Chopped Herring put out a 12" containing demos from 1994 and I've picked that up as well.  But I really want at least one more release that collects the last batch of songs that aren't on vinyl.

I can't recommend this set highly enough if you are into jazzy, early 90s hip hop.  It's simply wonderful and while the entry cost looks a little steep when you first see the price, it is a FOUR LP set after all and I think I got every penny's worth.

The Dereliks - Broken Cyphers: The Anthology:

Monday, December 19, 2022

Cyclo-Sonic - Everything Went Stupid LP


Big Neck (2022)

Cyclo-Sonics is a group of punk rock lifers, boasting a resume of bands that in some instances I'm not as familiar with (Choosey Mothers) and others whose reputation is far more well known (The Fluid).  I wasn't sure exactly what I was getting into as the needle was about to hit the turntable, but I came away from Everything Went Stupid pretty damn impressed.

The thing I like about this record the most is the big, fat, chunky guitar sound.  It's deep and crunchy and the riffs that pour out of this album straddle the punk and rock lines not unlike a Supersuckers or a Hellacopters.  All of the songs are pretty hooky really, and I often find myself nodding along to the driving rhythm section as the riffs soar along side.

I can't say I love the vocals.  They tread dangerously close to the glammy side of the street, but they never really cross over to where I'm put off by them.  They've kind of old school punk rock with some good natured screaming here and there, but for the most part they are carrying the songs melodies and playing off some really fun backing group vocals.  

All in all, it's a pretty strong record.  I could nit pick little things about it that I don't love, but when I just put it on and let it play, I find myself enjoying it more often than not.

Cyclo-Sonic - Everything Went Stupid:

Friday, December 16, 2022

Built To Spill - When The Wind Forgets Your Name LP


Sub Pop (2022)

When The Wind Forgets Your Name is the first proper Built To Spill record in seven years.  And they're on Sub Pop, which kind of feels like the label they should have always been on.  When the record was announced, I was pretty excited as I've been a pretty big Built To Spill fan for decades.  When they started releasing songs from it on the internet, I was seriously underwhelmed.  The vocals sounded all weird and distorted in a way that felt just wrong.  So, I didn't buy the record when it came out.  But, for the sake of completion, I did add it to my Amazon wishlist and my wife picked it for me for my birthday.

Once I put this record on the turntable, I couldn't believe how different it sounded from the crappy videos on YouTube or whatever.  I was wrong, turns out this is, in fact, a pretty good Built To Spill record.  The vocals that I was so concerned about sound totally fine.  Maybe there's a touch more reverb on them than usual, but they don't sound blown out at all like I experienced durning the online clips.  I don't know what caused such a disparity, but it's nothing you need to worry about if you were on the fence because of this.  Though, maybe I'm the only weirdo that thought there was an issue.

There's only nine songs on the album, but as is the case with most later era Built To Spill, the songs are all pretty long.  You're getting your money's worth.  In general, things are on the mellow side of the band's catalog.  Good hooks throughout, but not too many upbeat pure pop gems.  There's a part of me that's always going to wish for a record full of songs like "Joyride," even though I'm sure that ship has sailed many moons ago.

At the end of the day, it's a fun, good record.  Not the best Built To Spill album, but certainly not one I would ever call the 'worst.'  If you like the band, you'll like this.  I like Built To Spill, therefore...

Built To Spill - When The Wind Forgets Your Name:

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Hard Knocks - School of Hard Knocks LP


Wild Pitch (1992)

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.

One thing I haver to say, Wild Pitch had a hell of a roster in the early 90s.  In addition to the groups I knew about at the time, I've discovered gem after gem with their logo pasted on the sleeve.  Hard Knocks is another feather in their cap.

I don't remember ever hearing about these guys when this record came out in 1992, but man, is this record great.  Hard Knocks consists of MC Hardhead and DJ Stoneface and while coming up with names isn't the group's strong suit, politically conscious lyrics over hard hitting beats definitely is.  The production runs the gamut of laid back tracks with smooth funk samples to upbeat anthems powered by basslines lifted from the great American soul playbook.  While I prefer the faster paced tracks, I can't say there's a bad one in the bunch.

Lyrically, MC hardhead doesn't have a fiery delivery.  He sits more in that monotone delivery not too dissimilar from Guru, but not quite as smooth.  But his flow allows him the space to deliver intelligent stories that tackle poverty, racism and many other issues that unfortunately haven't changed much since 1992.  The content sounds just as fresh and relevant in 2022 as it did thirty years ago. 

I found this copy on Discogs, and while there is a big old hole punch through the sleeve, it was still sealed after all of these years.  I'll take a slightly damaged cover to get a pristine slab of vinyl every single time.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Skimmer - All Fired Up CD


Bloated Kat / Waterslide / Council Pop (2022)

It's possible that I'm going to write a few things that might sound vaguely like complaints, but I want to assure you that I mean them as compliments.  This is a great album and the only thing that I could say that might be a complaint is that I wish it had come out on vinyl in addition to CD.  But as far as the music goes, this is just what I want from a Skimmer album.

Skimmer has been around for quite a long time.  Formed from the ashes of The Sect, they were one of the corner stone bands of UK melodic punk that really captured my attention in the mid 90s.  Along with Broccoli, Chopper, Hooton 3 Car, Crocodile God and Travis Cut, Skimmer was a band whose singles I desperately sought out in a (mostly) pre internet era.  I even had to go to England eventually to round out my collections of most of these bands.

Skimmer was always the fast, melodic buzzsaw pop band.  At times I felt they were vocally similar to Mega City Four, but almost always playing twice as fast with the guitar distortion permanently locked as high as it would go.  In the intervening nearly 30 years, Skimmer reliably kept putting out records and their sound never really changed that much.  That's the thing that I worry could be construed as a criticism.  But I can't tell you how great it feels that as the years go barreling by, I can still get a new Skimmer release and I'm immediately transported back to 1997.

This isn't one of those 'the songs all sound the same' deals, but they certainly all have an interconnected feeling.  Flat out, they're just one of the best and most consistent bands to come out of my favorite scene in the history of the earth.  While many of their peers packed it in, Skimmer persevered and the fact that they are still releasing killed melodic pop punk in 2022 is nothing short of a miracle.

Skimmer - All Fired Up:

Bloated Kat (US)

Waterslide (Japan)

Council Pop (UK)

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

O.C. - Word...Life 2xLP


ReIssue / Fat Beats (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.

Word...Life originally came out in October of 1994, so it's not a complete shock that I missed it the first time around,  As I've explained in the past, 1994 was a major transitional year for me when it comes to music.  It's when punk and indie rock started to take over for me because there were fewer and fewer hip hop records that were interesting to me.  By 1995, I could hardly ever find anything of interest in hip hop.  Though I have backtracked and found a few gems, for the most part I persoanlly define 1994 as the last year of the Golden Era.

It's only within the last few years that O.C. ended up on my radar.  Backed by production on the majority of the album from Organized Konfusion and Buckwild of the Diggin' In The Crates crew, O.C. stepped up to the mic and really delivered on every song.  The production is mostly laid back with jazzy samples.  It wouldn't be what I'd call top tier Golden Era production, as it does show its age a bit by being close to 1995 and leaning into some of those sounds a bit.  Also, the hooks (or choruses, depending on what you'd prefer to call them) borderline on cheesy on a few songs.  But those two minor complaints aside, it is a pretty strong record overall.

Lyrically, O.C. is great.  He's not doing anything particularly complex or innovative, but this dude knows how to spin a narrative.  The rhymes are really tight and never feel forced just to end a couplet.  The songs have a very conversational feel to them and the stories told are compelling.  And when the lyrics combine with production on a song like "Time's Up," the results can be spectacular.  So, I wouldn't call this a stone cold classic, but it's very good overall and great at times.  Worth checking out if you missed it the first time around.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Jacob Turnbloom - Laughter in the Forever After 2xLP - Blue w/ Splatter Vinyl


Half Way Home (2022)

Jacob Turnbloom is one of my favorite artists.  Primarily because of his work in the amazing Mrs. Magician, but he has also released several solo efforts, all of which are worth your while.  Laughter in the Forever After is no exception.

I will get the two minor criticisms out of the way first.  First, I don't find this album to be as consistently great as I do Mrs. Magician records.  And I think that's because of my second issue, there are more synthy 80s sounding songs than I typically prefer.  "Ray's Occult" and "Pink Flamingos" are probably the two songs I would point to as being examples of this.  They're just a little too Stranger Things for me to really get behind.  That said, I am notorious for having very little patience for any sort of 80s or synth heavy music, so my bias is definitely going to show through here more than others might.

But when the album is at the more upbeat end of the spectrum and guitars are the primary driving force, this album soars and can hold its own with anything Jacob has released in the past.  "Balboa Park," "Hey Allison" and "Love is a Spaceship" are three of the best songs on this album and really showcase what makes Jacob Turnbloom so great.  He has a knack for hooks that aren't immediately obvious.  They're not always anthemic singalongs, but they melodies will get imprinted on your brain after a few listens.  He's also one of the better lyricists going these days, managing to tie together equal parts of frustration, optimism, joy and sarcasm in a way I'm not sure anyone else can.

All in all, it's a really good record.  Yeah, there's a few songs that don't engage me the same way as the others, but viewed as a whole there's a lot going on that I really dig.  Plus, there's the great news that Mrs. Magician is working on their third full length and I don't know if it's possible for me to be more excited about that one coming out eventually.

Jacob Turnbloom - Laughter in the Forever After:

Friday, December 2, 2022

Meat Wave - Malign Hex LP


Swami (2022)

Well, it's happened again and I'm scrambling to write about several records from this year that I haven't gotten to yet.  I like to try to get just about everything covered before I do my end of the year list, but it seems like I'm always struggling through December with too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Enter Meat Wave.

I saw Meat Wave open up for Plosivs in Philadelphia earlier this year.  Plosivs were other-worldly, just so damn great.  Meat Wave didn't really stand out to me at the show.  They were fine, even enjoyable at times, but nothing about them really clicked on a high level with me for whatever reason.  Though part of that might have been the fact that it was my first show since the pandemic had started and I'm not sure I was really in the game yet.

When the record was released via the Swami webstore (which is where the more limited black vinyl version is from, though I assume Meat Wave has or had the black version at shows as well) I picked up a copy.  Mostly because that's just what I do.  I support and buy everything that Swami puts out.  I haven't loved everything, but I've certainly discovered some incredible bands as well.  But I can't say I had super high expectations going into my first listen.

I probably set the bar too low, because this is a pretty great record.  I can't say I love the first song, "Disney."  It's kind of slow and feels like an odd album opener to me, but once we get to the second song, "Honest Living," the record takes off and soars for the entire time.  There's definitely something of a Hot Snakes vibe to some songs, particularly in the way the guitar riffs flow, so Swami fans should appreciate the album.  

For me, I think the Meat Wave has the most in common with the band Survival Knife (and by proxy to Unwound.). On a songs like "Complaint" and "Waveless" the searing guitar work overtop a positively rumbling rhythm section has such energy and potency.  Justin Trosper would be very proud of these guys.

Again, I wasn't expecting to like this album as much as do.  I was anticipating a solid record, but what I got was gut punch and a kick in the face on the way down.  Great stuff.

Meat Wave - Malign Hex:

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Guru - Jazzmatazz Volume II: The New Reality 2xLP - Orange Vinyl & Purple Vinyl


Vinyl Me Please (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 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 was a huge fan of the first Guru Jazzmatazz record.  In no small part because of how much of a Gang Starr fan I was.  Jazzmatazz Volume II came out in 1995, which is where the dark ages of hip hop starts for me.  I'm aware of so few hip hop records that came out after 1994 as I pretty much completely moved away from it.  That's mostly just due to the shifts in sounds and not being able to find what I was looking for anymore.

But, I recently decided to give this album a shot, as I never listened to it when it originally came out.  And you know what, it's pretty good.  It isn't as good as any of the Gang Starr records or the first Jazzmatazz record, but those are all pretty high bars to try to reach.  But listening to it in 2022, while not being in the thick of hip hop falling to pieces, I'm able to just listen to it as a new record.

As it turns out Volume II is a pretty solid hip hop record.  It still sounds like the golden era to me, though there's an over reliance of R&B singers providing crooned hooks.  I don't really need that as I've never been a fan of that sort of thing, but the strength of the beats make up for it.  No surprise that they're very jazzy, but they still have a pretty strong boom bap vibe, even if it's a bit lower key than most.

I missed the boat when Vinyl Me Please reissued this back in 2018, so I did have to pay collector prices for a copy, but I found a really good deal on this one and didn't really over pay too much, especially since VMP pressing tend to be pretty expensive to begin with.

Monday, November 28, 2022

The Battlebeats - You Don't Know Me 7"


Big Neck (2022)

The moment I put this record on, I immediately got the same vibe I got when I would put on a new record that came out on the sadly missed Ptrash record label.  We immediately blast off into a garage stomp, simple but effective drum beat and fuzzed out guitars riffs.  It's nothing if not instantly catchy.

I don't love the vocals.  They have that gargled with glass feeling, but lack the smoothness of say a Frankie Stubbs.  These vocals end up being very harsh and it definitely takes away from the melodic tendencies of the songs themselves.  If you just focus on the music, Battlebeats are a hook machine and every song has something catchy to latch on to.

Aside from the vocals, the only other thing that I wish I could change would be the length of the songs.  While I understand the impact of an economical blast, three of the four songs clock in under two minutes.  If you doubled the length of each, it would only make them better, I think.

The Battlebeats - You Don't Know Me:

Friday, November 11, 2022

More Kicks - Punch Drunk CD


Dirtnap / Stardumb (2022)

Your eyes do not deceive you.  This is a CD as it was sent to me to check out and write about.  So check it out I did.  I actually have the first More Kicks record that came out in 2019, but I really didn't remember it.  I listened to it back when it came out and then it just vanished into the collection and wasn't anything that had much staying power for me.  It's not that it wasn't good, looking back on what I wrote about it back then was positive and it even snuck into my top 10 records of that year.  It just didn't stick with me for whatever reason.

I feel like this new album might have a similar fate.  It's very obviously good.  Maybe bordering on great.  The hooks are there, the vocal harmonies are delightful and the general vibe is pretty much the sort of thing I enjoy listening to.  Do you like The Resonars?  This is probably better as it's more straight forward.  Do you dig The Cute Lepers?  I can't imagine you not liking this as even though the songs aren't quite as maniacally fast, they have a lot in common.  Do you appreciate the vocal stylings of Wiz from Mega City Four?  This might be the closest thing I've ever heard.

Even with all of those supremely favorable comparisons, the record is just not hitting me as hard as I feel like it should.  On paper, it's perfect.  Listening to it, there's just a little something missing that I cannot put my finger on.  Perhaps it's just me.  Maybe I need to spend more time with it.  Maybe I'm just getting old and stuck on the older bands from my youth.  Maybe some of the pressures of everyday life aren't allowing me to be in the right sort of mood to really enjoy this for what it is.  I can't say I know for sure.  It's a bit of a puzzle that I can't crack.  All I can say is that this is a really, really good power pop record.  I just don't know if I need another one of those right now.

More Kicks - Punch Drunk:

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Gang Starr - No More Mr. Nice Guy LP - Red & White Inside Out Vinyl


Vinyl Me Please (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 pop in and out of Vinyl Me Please.  Occasionally they have a neat reissue that I'm interested it, so I subscribe and then cancel.  My taste in music is way too finicky for me to be able to commit to a long term subscription, but I joined up when they announced this Gang Starr reissue.

No More Mr. Nice Guy is the first Gang Starr record and probably the one I've always been least familiar with.  I never even had the CD if you can imagine such a thing.  It's mostly because I always felt like it really didn't sound much like the Gang Starr that I know and love.  It was 1989, Guru and Premier had not yet coalesced into the monster group that put out Daily Operation in 1992, or even Step in the Arena in 1990.

The beats sound kind of old and they don't have that same DJ Premier vibe that I so adore.  Guru is not as smooth or monotone on this debut and there are a few songs where he rhymes uncharacteristically fast.  It's sometimes kind of jarring to be honest.  

Even saying all of that, this is still a really good record, particularly for the standards of what was going on in 1989.  They weren't ahead of their time just yet, but they were right on target with what most of the rap world was releasing at the time.  I listen to the record and it's just fun.  It's not mind blowing or important or super influential, but there's something to be said about a record that you can just put on, listen to and enjoy.  

No More Mr. Nice Guy has that and then some and this pressing by Vinyl Me Please is for sure the definitive version for the sound quality and the huge pile of bonus tracks.  I would really love it if VMP could get their hands on the rights to Daily Operation and give it a similarly excellent treatment.

Gang Starr - No More Mr. Nice Guy:

Monday, November 7, 2022

Superchunk - There's A Ghost 7" - Black & White Swirl Vinyl (/500)


Merge (2022)

It's difficult for me to not buy a Superchunk 7" if one is released.  Last album not very good? I'll over look it.  $15 price tag?  I understand the costs of putting out records.  B side is a cover song? It's fine, maybe the A side is really good.  That's why I have dozens of Superchunk 7"s and to be honest, part of the mission now is just to keep the collection complete.

What I can happily report is that the A side, "There's A Ghost," is pretty great.  I think I can say without any hesitation that it's probably better than any song on their most recent full length, Wild Loneliness.   It's upbeat and catchy and isn't dwelling on on somber moods at all.  This is the Superchunk I like best, the one that pulls me out of funks, not the one the piles on.

On the B side we have a Sisters of Mercy cover.  I can't say I'm familiar with the original version of "Alice," or any Sisters of Mercy song to be honest.  The Superchunk version is fine.  It's moody, just like I was complimenting "There's a Ghost" for not being.  And it has a over compressed feeling to it with a supreme lack of fuzzy guitar.  I'll probably never listen to that side again, but the A side, that's a real winner.  Give me an album full of songs like that please.

Superchunk - There's A Ghost 7":

Friday, November 4, 2022

Archers of Loaf - Reason In Decline LP - Pink Swirl Vinyl


Merge (2022)

I wasn't surprised when Archers of Loaf got back together in 2011 to do a victory lap reunion tour.  I went to the NYC show and it was excellent.  I wasn't even surprised when they started releasing new music.  What surprised me is that when I listened to their newest full length, Reason In Decline, I actually thought it was pretty solid.

This isn't just me bagging on reunion records.  It's mostly because I just intensely dislike the last Archers of Loaf record White Trash Heroes.  That record floored me in the worst possible way upon its release in 1998.  It was the sort of record that made me not super sad that Archers split up.  Because of that, expectations were pretty low for their first new album in twenty four years.

But again, it's pretty good.  It doesn't have the energy or punch of their first two records, but in general things move along at a nice pace.  There's enough anger and angst that it doesn't sound like a completely different band.  As cliche as it sounds, Reason In Decline sounds like an Archers of Loaf record made by a bunch of older dudes.  Being an older dude myself, I can absolutely get behind that.  Is this a can't miss, smash hit?  No, it's not.  But it's a lot better than you probably thought it was going to be.

Archers of Loaf - Reason In Decline:

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Kam - Neva Again LP


EastWest (1993)

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.

Until pretty recently, I had never even heard of Kam, let alone listened to any of his records.  He was a complete non-entity in the world of Yo! MTV Raps and The Source, as least as far as I can recall.  But in listening to his debut album, Neva Again, I can't quite figure out why.  I suppose his brand of gangster rap was rendered somewhat obsolete by the success of The Chronic and the almost immediate transition to g-funk as the production vibe of choice.

Neva Again is more rooted in the sound that Ice Cube and Da Lench Mob were producing in the early 90s.  I mean, in some ways that's obvious since Cube is the executive producer of the album and the production work is mostly handled by his crew.  The resulting sound is very much in line with Death Certificate and Guerillas in tha Mist.  Lower tempo, rich sounding beats with funky samples and a somewhat menacing aura.  It's kind of perfect for what it is.

Lyrically, Kam absolutely holds his own as well.  He's very much a west coast rapper and excels in storytelling and painting a compelling picture of his world.  While he's not going off the deep end with polysyllabic rhyme structures, his slow and steady vibe has just the right combination of authority and world weariness.  I'm not sure where this record was hiding all of these years, but it really feels like the last salvo of great west coast gangster rap before The Chronic changed everything (for the worse, if you ask me).

Monday, October 31, 2022

Record Store Visit: Long In The Tooth - Philadelphia, PA - 10/20/22


I don't travel as much as I'd like.  I don't think most people really do.  But whenever I do travel I really try to hit up at least one new record store in whatever city I'm in.  I recently had to go to Philadelphia for work and while it's really not so far away from where I live that I'd consider traveling, it is still a city I'm not in very often.  Luckily, the hotel I was staying at was only a few blocks away from a record store called Long In The Tooth. 

It may not look like much from the outside, but once you go in there's a lot to love about this place.  Now, full disclosure:  I didn't buy anything while I was there.  However, I'm still going to say it was a great store it is.  That might seem somewhat incongruous, but I really do feel that way.

I think the main reason is because they had so many great records that I already had.  Just because I didn't need anything there that day doesn't mean that someone else that might not have my exact collection wouldn't find something they'd be really excited to pick up.  The store is very vinyl heavy, predominantly LPs.

Their rock section is really expansive and it passed the smell test by having the recent Rocket From The Crypt represses from Vagrant in stock.  But they had plenty of other goodies.  Mostly punk and indie rock with a few other things thrown in there.  The also had the No Knife record Hit Man Dreams up on the wall.  $125 does feel a little pricey for that record, but it really is hard to find and also very great, so I give them kudos for knowing what they had.

The 7" section wasn't nearly as big as the LP area, but they had a nicely curated selection of used goods.  A lot of 90s stuff and I almost picked up the copy of the Supersuckers' Born With A Tail 7", but the cover was a bit more beat up than I would have preferred.

The last section I spent time in was their hip hop LPs.  This was another area that was surprisingly great.  Very 90s heavy, as it should be, and they did a really great job of both stocking classics that are in print and having some used gems as well.  Again, nothing that I needed, but certainly the sort of section worth digging through.  I also have the feeling that if I lived there, I could very easily have them keep an eye out for stuff for me.  It just has that kind of vibe to it.

All in all, a fun store.  I would definitely go back if I was in the area.

Friday, October 28, 2022

30 Amp Fuse - Saturday Night at the Atomic Speedway LP


Dedicated (1997)

I have had this on CD since it came out in 1997.  Whatever label Dedicated is, it was either distributed by or owned by BMG.  As you can imagine, promo CDs of this flowed like water.  A true cut out bin champion if there ever was one.  I got my copy for review when I was writing for my college newspaper.  I've always been partial to 90s major label guitar pop bands.  And while 30 Amp Fuse definitely fits into that category, there's just enough grit in the vocals that things remain kind of punk rock for most of the album.

Where the record isn't punk rock is the production.  It's super slick and glossy with the guitars sounding crunchy, but weirdly perfect.  It's one of the more unique guitar tones I've heard.  And not that it's bad, it's just oddly clinical at times.  Vocally, there's certainly a bit of a Social Distortion, greaser sort of rasp going on here.  But in general the vocals are way more melodic and singer Mike Smithers definitely knows his way around a hook.

Was picking this up on vinyl a totally mandatory purchase?  Would my collection have been incomplete without it?  No, I would have been fine only having my promo CD from '97.  But it's a fun record with some really catchy tunes.  I probably won't listen to it a ton, but I will every once in a while and I'm glad it'll be in the collection when the mood strikes.

30 Amp Fuse - Saturday Night at the Atomic Speedway:

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

House of Pain - Self Titled 2xLP - Orange Vinyl & White Vinyl


Tommy Boy (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.

While I absolutely had this album when it was first released, I wasn't sure if I was ever going to add it to the collection on vinyl.  I had this album really early when it came out in 1992, I remember the first time I had heard about it was via a promo sticker that had come with an issue of The Source that I had.  I then saw the video for Jump Around on Yo! MTV Raps and picked up the album.  This was before the song would take off into the stratosphere and turn into a perennial Jock Jam, completely inescapable.

So, I soured on House of Pain a bit and just sort of let them be forgotten.  As I started ramping up my hip hop vinyl collection, I wondered if I should give the album another chance.  So about a year ago I downloaded the MP3s and gave it a whirl for the first time in probably 25 years or so.  It's still a pretty solid album in spite of itself.

What I really mean more than anything is that this is a pretty good album in spite of Everlast.  It's the beats.  The beats on this record are just incredible.  Muggs, Lethal and Ralph string together a parade of hits.  Even "Jump Around" is completely undeniable from a production standpoint.  Everlast's lyrics are another story.  They were never great, but with thirty years of hindsight, they sound even worse to me.  Gravelly throated, Irish pride was kind of an odd thing for rap in 1992 and it sounds even weirder now.  Nothing about it is necessarily bad, but it's such an outlier for the sort of records that were coming out back then.  But I keep coming back to how good the production is.

Which, ultimately, is why I decided to pick up the album and specifically, why I decided to buy the fancy double LP version.  This one has all of the remixes, including Pete Rock's excellent version of "Jump Around."  If I'm going to add this to the collection, I'm going to add the best possible version.  That said, I didn't get the free jump rope that was supposed to come with it.  Oh well.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Karl Hendricks Trio - A Gesture of Kindness LP


Fiasco / Peas Kor (1995)

Karl Hendricks Trio was one of the early bands I got into as I started exploring the worlds of punk and indie rock my junior year of high school.  My friend Pat was the one who first introduced me to them via their first album Buick Elektra.  That remains my favorite of Karl's many records, though I'm sure a large part of that is the nostalgia and my general propensity for having the first record I hear by a band remain my favorite.

For whatever reason, A Gesture of Kindness is the Karl Hendricks Trio record I was least familiar with back in the 90s.  I'm not sure why it didn't get as much play as some of the others, though the fact that I was almost constantly listening to Buick Elektra and Some Girls Like Cigarettes probably played a factor.  That said, I recently decided that I could no longer exist having most of my Karl albums on CD, so I'm trying to pick up the missing ones on vinyl where I can.

I got a very nice deal on a copy of this in really excellent condition and I'm really happy I did.  This is such a great record.  It sounds old, in that it very much has a 90s feeling to it that you'll never hear today with it's blown out guitar sound, but it still manages to sound fresh and exciting.  There's just so much energy crammed into these songs and the quiet-loud-quiet-loud dynamic is one of those things I'll just never get sick of.  

For those not familiar with Karl Hendricks Trio, it's really not the worst place I could think of to start out.  While, as I mentioned, I like Buick Elektra more, I think A Gesture of Kindness or S0me Girls Like Cigarettes will probably yield the best results for first timers.  Give them a shot, they really were one of the great bands of the 90s.

The Karl Hendricks Trio - A Gesture of Kindness:

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Das EFX - Hold It Down 2xLP


Music On Vinyl (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 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.

When Dead Serious, the first Das EFX, album came out in 1991, I was pretty obsessed.  Great beats, cool vibe and wild lyrics that made more than a couple of pop culture references that really landed with me.  When it came out, I felt like I was one of the few people that liked their second album, Straight Up Sewaside just as much as Dead Serious when it was released in 1993.  I even remember reviewing it in my high school newspaper and proclaiming it better than the first.  I don't really feel that way anymore, as nostalgia is a real beast sometimes and the first album just evokes a different strain of memories.

I'll be honest, when Hold It Down originally came out in 1995, I never listened to it.  I had pretty much moved on from hip hop at that point and I think that year's Souls of Mischief record might have been the only hip hop record I bought.  I'm not sure if hearing this album then would have really changed my mind about anything, but after going back to it and spending some time, I can claim this is one of a very small amount of 90s post -994 hip hop albums that is actually worth a damn.

The beats are really strong for 1995, when I felt there was so much trash polluting hip hop.  They're still grimy with a strong snare crack and deep, grooving bass lines.  Lyrically Hold It Down sits inbetween the constant 'diggety' of the first record and the 'no diggety at all' of the second.  They break out their signature flow here and there, but they don't beat it into the grouond.  My only real complaint about it is how long it is.  Seventy four minutes is way too long for any album, it's nearly double the length of Dead Serious and it's certainly not twice as good.

But there's way more good than bad on here and it's definitely worth giving a listen if you missed it first time around.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Bart And The Brats - S/T LP


Big Neck (2022)

Bart and the Brats is a new venture from Bart De Vraantijk, known to some as being a member of bands like Wild Zeros and Teenage Hearts.  Though if I'm being honest, I'm not particularly familiar with his work, though I have at least heard of those two bands.  On this album, Bart is working solo, having recorded everything himself.  But don't worry, this isn't an acoustic, singer-songwriter adventure.  We've got the full complement of guitar/bass/drums at play.

This very much sounds like something that Ptrash would have put out in 2009 or so.  Fast and catchy garage guitar riffage with snarling vocals.  The simplicity of the Ramones with the energy of the Carbonas.  It's much catchier than a lot of other records of this ilk, so it's connecting with me way more than most.  I think if the vocals were a bit more melodic, I'd probably really dig it.  As is, I think it's pretty solid and something worth checking out if you dig on these type of fast and furious sounds.

Bart And The Brats - S/T:

Friday, October 14, 2022

Swami John Reis & Creepxotica - Shelter Island 7"


Swami (2022)

This is a collaborative 7" featuring the skills of Swami John Reis and Creepxotica.  It was first sold at an event at the Bali Hai restaurant and then the leftovers were sold on the Swami website.  I was not able to go to Bali Hai, being on the wrong side of the country and all, so I was glad to have been able to wrangle one from the website.

Both songs are instrumental surf tunes, though they are dramatically different from the Swami John Reis and the Blind Shake team up.  That was was louder and more aggressive.  These songs are more in line with traditional surf music ala The Ventures.

Side A is the mellower of the two with "Shelter Island" being a pleasant mid tempo number that feels like the soundtrack to a sunset on a slightly breezy day.  I don't know exactly what that means and if you want to call bullshit on it as a description, that's fine.  But that's the vibe I get from it more than anything, it conjures a vision in my head of a relaxing evening.

On the B side we have "1 Mai Tai... 2 Mai Tai... 3 Mai Tai... Floor!"  This one is a little faster and it's built around a person ordering mai tais.  As they order their first, the music starts up.  When they get the the second, things start getting a little louder and looser.  This continues until the end when the fourth mai tai hits the floor.  A neat concept.  Even though I can't say this 7" hits me as hard as the Blind Shake LP, I still really enjoy it and would really like to hear more from this partnership.

Swami John Reis & Creepxotica - "Shelter Island" (This is a live version from the show that the 7" was sold at, the one on the record is a studio version)

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Down South - Lost in Brooklyn 2xLP - White Vinyl


Big Beat (1994)

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.

While I have found a few examples of records that do buck this trend, I typically consider 1994 the last year that good hip hop records were released.  And while there are some really great records that came out this year, it's certainly a bit scattershot.  It's also the year that I really fell out of touch with hip hop as I was becoming much more interested in punk and indie rock.  As a result, I've discovered that quite a few albums from '94 flew under my radar.  Lost in Brooklyn is one of those.

Down South is from Virginia, if the world wide web is to believed and they are definitely bringing a southern style twang to golden era hip hop.  Luckily it's not in an annoying way like say Outkast or something like that.  While they do lean into so southern stereotypes when it comes to lyrical content, musically they have much more in common with a group like Alkaholiks or Beatnuts (which makes sense as Beatnuts were involved with a few tracks on this record).

While I can't say that Lost in Brooklyn is a surefire undiscovered classic, it is quite good.  I think I would have loved it if I heard it in 1994.  And if I then had almost thirty years of history with it instead only a year or two, it would probably be hitting the nostalgia vibes pretty hard.  But again, I really like this record a lot and I think it's one of the cooler discoveries that I've made digging around for albums I missed the first time around.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Ice Cube - The Predator 2xLP


Capitol/Priority (2003, 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.

It took me a while to find a reasonably priced copy of this, the third Ice Cube album.  This version came out in 2003 and is a double LP that comes with a few bonus tracks and remixes.  It's been out of print for ages, so the cost had gotten prohibitive.  Now, I did pay a decent price for this, but nowhere near the $200-$300 range I've been seeing it in lately.

I wasn't even sure I wanted this record again until recently.  I had the CD back in 1992 and enjoyed it quite a bit.  But over the years the album as a whole was overshadowed by its biggest single "It Was A good Day."  I never liked that song.  I thought it was too slow and the lyrics were kind of goofy.  So the record fell into the rearview and eventually at some point I sold the CD during one of my purges over the years.  The Predator was never in the same league as Amerikkka's Most Wanted or Death Certificate and in my brain I just sort of forgot about it.

For whatever reason, I decided to revisit it within the last eight months or so.  I was surprised by how many of the songs were instantly remembered by my brain, despite not having heard them in ions.  I have sorely overlooked this record and it holds up way better than I had expected.  I still don't like "It Was A Good Day" all that much, though I probably can tolerate it better now than I did in '92.  But the rest of the album is remarkably good.

The "We Will Rock You" drum sample in "When Will They Shoot?" kind of sets the stage for the entire record.  Hard beats with Cube's fiery lyrical delivery.  It's one of several truly great songs like "Wicked," "Now I Gotta Wet 'Cha" and "Check Yo Self."  "Check Yo Self" in particular was one I didn't remember being as great as it is.  I think part of that was due to the over saturation of its remix that basically took the lyrics and dumped it on top of the instrumental of "The Message."  That version still kind of sucks, but the LP version is great.

So, I didn't evaluate this album properly.  I thought Death Certificate was Cube's last stand, but in fact the bulk of The Predator is just about as good.  There's a few tracks that musically have a little bit more G/P-Funk than I typically prefer, but as a whole, a great listen.  I also checked out the 4th Ice Cube record Lethal Injection, to see if I wasn't giving that one the credit it deserved.  But I can assure you, I didn't overlook that one.  It's still pretty not good, so I won't be adding that one to the collection.

Ice Cube - The Predator: