Wednesday, May 5, 2021

K-Solo - Times Up LP


Music On Vinyl (2020, 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.

After I heard the fourth EPMD album, Business Never Personal, I became a huge fan of theirs and their Hit Squad crew.  This was mostly cemented by the fact that I already liked Das Efx and how incredibly amazing the "Headbanger" posse cut on this album was.  That song was the first time I heard Redman and was also the my introduction to K-Solo.  I had picked up Times Up when it came out in 1992.  I liked it, but compared to the EPMD, Das Efx and Redman albums that came out in 1991 and 1992, K-Solo was a distant fourth place for me.  As a result, I didn't really listen to the record all that much, to be honest.

This became another example of the record growing on me more and more over time.  When you drop an album smack dab into the middle of a golden era of music, where some of the best hip hop albums in the history of the earth are coming out, you're going to get lost in the shuffle.  But if you start listening to that album again a few years (or decades) later, you might start to realize you overlooked something pretty great.

That's what happened with K-Solo.  Going through this album you have some killer beats courtesy of Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith from EPMD, along with a cut from Pete Rock.  But the bulk of the album is held down by Sam "Sneed" Anderson, who would go on to work with Dr. Dre on Death Row releases.  I can't say I'm a fan of that sort of thing, but he sure understood the Hit Squad sound of the early 90s.  Mixing grimy funk beats with atmospheric flourishes, he laid out an impressive canvas for K-Solo to work with on his rhymes.

And solo performs admirably on this record.  It's easy to be overshadowed by EPMD or Das Efx or Redman.  You are talking about some of the most charismatic MCs to ever touch a microphone.  K-Solo is not at that level, but he solidly occupies a space right underneath.  His flow is straightforward, but fierce, tackling stories and rapid firing out rhyme structures.  The K-Solo debut album Tell The World My Name is also pretty rad, but I prefer Times Up of the two and was pretty psyched when Music On Vinyl rereleased it last year.

K-Solo - Times Up (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange LP


Shove (2011, Reissue)

Orange is a really important record to me.  When I started listening to Beck in 1994, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was one of the first bands I found that had some sort of relationship with him.  I picked up Orange and was just blown away and completely in love with the album.  I know every second of this record by heart and I just love the music.  The vinyl version that I've had was the one Matador put out in 1994 that was a picture disc that was silver sparkled.  It was and is very cool looking, but picture discs don't sound that great and I decided I needed to pick up a normal copy on vinyl that I could just play.  I think I picked the wrong one.

I am not sure what is up with this pressing on Shove, but it's pretty bad.  I ordered one from Amazon, played it once and they returned it, thinking I got a bum record.  I replaced it with another copy and this one sounds just as bad.  The pressing is so noisy, with loud crackling and surface noise throughout.  I've given it a deep clean and played it on multiple record players but any way you slice it, it still sounds bad.  If it hadn't happened on two different copies, I'd probably just dismiss it as bad luck, but I'm pretty convinced that something is wrong with this pressing.

So, now I am hunting around on Discogs to try to find another version of this that I can pick up.  Orange is such a full sounding, warm record with lots of pauses and sections of silence in the middle of songs.  You really need a top notch pressing to enjoy it and this one just isn't it.  But the music, well that's just out of this world.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Friday, April 30, 2021

Pinhead Gunpowder - Jump Salty LP - Yellow w/ Red Splatter Vinyl


1234 Go! (2021)

I could not possibly happier about vinyl reissues of the Pinhead Gunpowder catalog and specifically Jump Salty.  I love Pinhead Gunpowder, I've actually always liked them more than Green Day for whatever reason.  I've had the Jump Salty CD for twenty five-ish years and also had the two seven inches and three of the four compilations that make up the album.  That was the rationale I used when Recess started putting out the Pinhead Gunpowder records on vinyl in 2010.  'I already have the 7"s.'  So I didn't buy them.

I don't know exactly what happened after that, but those reissues vanished.  I don't know if they were pulled or what, I've read all sorts of interesting theories, but whatever happened, they just vanished from the face of the earth.  In that time frame I realized that I would really like to be able to sit in front of my record player and listen to Jump Salty without having to pull out five different records.  So I started looking around to no avail.

Luckily, the preorder for these new 1234 Go reissues were announced before I did anything too stupid and paid way too much for a copy.  Now I have a fresh clean album on a pretty nice looking piece of vinyl to boot.  The record sounds really good for what it is.  These songs were recorded a hundred years ago and they don't have the sort of bass heavy fullness that became easier to capture just a few years later. But that's not a slight on this pressing, that's just a reality of the master recordings.  

I think this LP, cut as 45rpm, is the best these sounds have ever sounded.  It was a joy to plop this down on the turntable and crank the volume.  I really like all of the Pinhead Gunpowder records.  Each has a handful of songs you could argue are the best of the best.  But when push comes to shove, Jump Salty is probably my favorite.  I will likely buy the rest of these reissues (despite having the originals of several), but Jump Salty was the one I was most excited to finally get my hands on.

Pinhead Gunpowder - Jump Salty (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders LP


Jive (2015, 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.

Buying Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest was a watershed moment in my hip hop education.  I loved the "Check The Rhime" video that ran on Yo! MTV Raps and just absorbed the CD the moment I picked it up.  Watching "Scenario" start to blow up a few months later was a little weird, but it was such a great song that it made all the sense in the world to me that it would start to leave to Yo! bubble.  By the time Midnight Marauders was ready in 1993, I was all in and so ready for some new Tribe music.  I was kind of disappointed when I finally listened to it.

I don't know what about this album didn't click with me in 1993.  Maybe I was too invested in Low End Theory?  Perhaps there were a lot of other eclectic hip hop acts to choose from?  I don't really know, but even though I didn't dislike it, I just didn't listen to it that much.  It took a while for me to finally revisit Midnight Marauders and as I listened to it, I couldn't figure out why I neglected it in high school.  It's probably not quite as good as Low End Theory, but it's really, really great.

The beats are innovative and are fresh sounding to my ears even in 2021.  The flow of the album from one song to the next is perfect and I could even argue that Phife shines brighter on this record than he did on Low End.  As I fill out my Golden Era vinyl collection, it was a no brainer that I need the three key Tribe Called Quest albums.  Sure, this is the third of the three to get picked up, but I fully expect to listen to it just as much as the other two.

A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders (YouTube Music full album playlist):


Monday, April 26, 2021

Come Closer - Pretty Garbage LP


Pirates Press (2021)

I'm in dire need for new music in 2021.  There's been so little that has caught my eye and I'm sure you see it in my weekly write ups, it is quickly turning into 90s reissue land over hear.  Luckily a few key selling points about Come Closer caught my eye.  Primary songwriter has done time in Tiltwheel and Dan Padilla.  Also featuring Davey from Tiltwheel and Chris Prescott from No Knife.  Sounds like Superchunk.  Well, sign me up for a little slice of that.

In listening to Pretty Garbage, what jumps out to me the most is that it doesn't sound anything like Tiltwheel or Dan Padilla.  This isn't a rough around the edges, indebted to Leatherface sort of sound.  As advertised, there's a healthy dose of Superchunk inspired poppy indie rock.  And while Come Pick Me Up era Superchunk is a pretty solid starting point as far as a reference goes, I actually think Come Closer's sound is more akin to the sort of thing that Marvelous Mark was doing or the most recent Audacity album.

There's a real knack to this type of songwriting that not everyone can pull off.  If you're not really loud, it can come across that you're lacking energy.  But if you're playing too fast, you're just another pop punk band.  Come Closer straddles that divide perfectly, providing tuneful pop songs and fuzzy guitar without losing that sense of 'oomph' that keeps things moving and makes it the type of record you're likely to revisit. 

If you want to distill this album into one song, check out the song that ends side one, "Never Say Goodnight."  It has everything I'm looking for in a pop song. Interesting guitar riffs, crunchy chords, excellent vocal melody; I mean seriously it's everything you could want out of this type of music.  This is definitely worth taking a moment to check out.

Come Closer - Pretty Garbage:

Friday, April 23, 2021

The Beekeepers - Song Demos 3 - 3.5" Floppy Disc


Self Released (2019)

This is a new one.  Three songs on a 3.5" floppy disc.  Or at least that's what it says is on here, I have no way to actually check that.  There could be a deadly virus or a gif of a porcupine eating a taco.  What I'm saying here is I haven't had a computer with a 3.5" drive in probably fifteen years so I just have to take The Beekeepers' word for it.

Luckily the songs are readily available on their bandcamp page and as a free download to boot.  I reviewed one of the band's demo tapes a few years ago and enjoyed it.  I'm happy to say I like the three songs on this release as well.  There's a lofi pop thing going on here.  The vocals and melodies remind me of White Wires, though you need to replace the surf vibe with some upbeat jangly guitar if you wanted to see where The Beekeepers were at.

This came out back in 2019, like so many of the tapes that have been lying around here.  Based on the Bandcamp page it seems like this was the last batch of songs released.  I hope they do some more as I have enjoyed what I've heard so far.  Maybe there will be a sudden run on 3.5" floppies now that I've finally wrote about this.  Maybe not.

The Beekeepers  - Song Demos 3:

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Jeru The Damaja- Wrath of the Math 2xLP


FFRR/Payday (Reissue, Originally released in 1996)

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 can't figure out exactly when this repress of Wrath of the Math came out, but I'm very glad it exists and is easily obtainable at the moment.  There have been a lot of records, particularly old hip hop releases that have been reissued in the past few years, but then went out of print and are commanding high costs on the secondary market. Not that I should be buying a ton of records right now anyway since my hot water heater shit the bed and have put out about five grand in plumbing bills over the last couple of weeks.  But, I do wish it was easier to get a few records that would have been easy even a year or two ago.

I never heard this album until very recently.  I had Jeru's first CD in high school, but by the time 1996 came around, I was pretty convinced there was nothing useful happening in hip hop anymore.  I still sort of stand by that statement, but I have discovered a few outliers that buck that trend.  Wrath of the Math is every bit as good as The Sun Rises in the East.  DJ Premier holds down the production again and it's a total throwback to a few years earlier.  This probably sounded really bizarre in 1996 when the hip hop world had moved on to copycat G funk nonsense, but it sure has aged better than that stuff.

I wish I had heard this record when it came out.  I think it would have given me pause on my dismissal of hip hop as being a thing I only liked in the past tense.  I'm not sure that I would have found many more records as good as this one, but at least I would have been able to listen to it all this time rather than giving it a first chance a couple months ago.

Jeru The Damage - Wrath of the Math (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, April 19, 2021

Starmarket - Sunday's Worst Enemy LP - Silver (/150), Clear (/150) & White/Orange/Green Marble (/150) Vinyl



Thirty Something (2021, Reissue)

If I'm doing one of those deals where I have to pick desert island discs or rank my all time favorite record, there is absolutely no way that Sunday's Worst Enemy would not be on whatever list I made.  It is easily one of the ten best albums I have ever listened to in my life and I feel just as strongly about it today as I did the first time I heard it back in 1997.  If you were able to find it, if you looked at the December year-in-review issue of my college newspaper, I put Sunday's Worst Enemy as my number one record of that year. My love for this album has not changed one bit since then.

Within seconds of the opening song "Repetition," I lose my goddamn mind when that pick slide hits and the band breaks into the first verse.  What follows is a cavalcade of gigantic guitars, passionate vocals and pounding drums.  There's a definite Sugar/Bob Mould influence, but as much as I love everything that Bob puts out, to me these Starmarket songs perfect the sound he's most associated with. We even ended up putting out this record on PopKid in America, though we had to trade the epic "You Can't Come" for the equally great, but very different "Your Style" from their first album.  We proably should have done vinyl, but we didn't.

When this album originally came out on Dolores records out of Sweden, they did do a vinyl version.  That said, it was only available as a picture disc.  Pretty much the worst way to listen to a record on vinyl.  I've had a copy of that since it came out, and though I wouldn't ever say it sounded bad necessarily, it is lacking in dynamics a bit.  That's a crime as this is one of the most dynamic records I've ever heard in my live. 

These reissues sound excellent.  And though I am trying to cut down on the number of variants I buy for any single record, I just couldn't help but get all of them for this album.  It's too important of a record to me.  I am so happy to have a version of this album that sounds great and can play at will.  If this one isn't in your collection, you should go grab a copy before they are gone, import shipping costs be damned.

Starmarket - Sunday's Worst Enemy
(I can't find the regular version of this on the Thirty Something or Starmarket Bandcamp pages, so here's a link to the PopKid one.  It doesn't have "You Can't Come" or some of the other bonus tracks that the new LP has.):

You can buy the LPs from, Thirty Something here:

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Human Pigs - Poop Stick Around Cassette


Poop Stick (2019)

What's the theme for Fridays? Two year old tapes that I've never listened to.  This is actually the last tape left in my pile, though I do have one more oddball thing that's been sitting around that I'll be writing about next week.  The band with the coveted honor of being the very last tape I wanted to listen to is The Human Pigs.

They achieved this honor by having the first song on the tape be one called "My Dad Should Have Pulled His Dick Out."  That was more than enough to kick this one to the back of the pile.  But, now that I've finally listened to it, I can say that the whole thing isn't as bad as I would have thought going into it.

Don't get me wrong, it's not good and across the board the lyrics are just awful.  But there's more musical competency on display here than I would have expected and vocals aside, it's probably the easiest Poop Stick release for me to get through start to finish.  There's an element of catchiness to the songs and there isn't a constant barrage of screaming and wild drums.  There's something of a 70s punk vibe to it, particularly in the way the guitar rhythms are constructed.

Not that snotty 70s style punk is really my bag either, but can tolerate it way more than hardcore.  At least there are song structures here, which is more than I can say about a lot of bands.  If these guys stick with it and maybe change up their subject matter in an attempt to be slightly less 'shocking,' they could be on to something in a few years.

The Human Pigs - Poop Stick Around:

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Masta Ace Incorporated - Slaughtahouse 2xLP


Craft (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'm pretty sure the very first time I heard Masta Ace was on the Brand New Heavies' Heavy Rhyme Experience album.  I really liked his track, but didn't persue anything else of his until he started to show up on Yo MTV Raps.  At some point in 1993 they started playing the video for "Jeep Ass N***h."  I loved the rolling bass line that I felt had some similarities with Tribe Called Quest style production, but combined it with a much harder hitting lyrical style.  I bought the cassette single of that with also included the song "Saturday Night Live."  Those two songs led me to picking up the whole album.  His appearance on the  further solidified my need to get it.

For whatever reason, I didn't listen to it much back then.  The two songs from the single always shone the brightest to me and the album as a whole just kind of got lost in the deluge of unbelievably great hip hop records that came out in 1993. It was much later that I revisited the album and really started to appreciate what a great album it is from start to finish.  

In particular, the production is just so good with killer beats on almost every track.  I've listened intently to the album that came out before Slaughtahouse (1990's Atake A Look Around, which is quite good) and to the record that came out right after (1995's Sittin' On Chrome, which I do not like at all), but neither can hold a candle to Slaughtahouse.  Masta Ace also turns the best lyrical performance of his career, hitting it out of the park every single time he picks up the microphone.

I really think this is a forgotten classic of the era.  I'm really happy that someone released it not too long ago though I am somewhat surprised by that.  I'm hopeful that with hindsight more might give this album a chance.  1993 had so many incredible hip hop records, this is one of them that deserves another listen.

Masta Ace Incorporated - Slaughtahouse (YouTube Music full album playlist)

Monday, April 12, 2021

Prospector - Twist & Shout 7"


Pop Ball (1998)

Digging around, I found a small stash of 7"s that I picked up during my 2017 trip to Tokyo that I never wrote about for some reason.  I'm going to try to catch up on those and I'm starting off with this record by Prospector.  They're a band that I wasn't really familiar with prior to getting this 7", but I know they had a song on that Dave Parasite Japan comp that came out a million years ago.  Best I can tell, this is their only standalone record.  Which is a shame, because I really like these guys a lot.

When the 7" starts off with "Passin' Through," you immediately know you're in for a treat.  The way the band has blended in lead riffs with their power chords and corralled the energy into an infections pop punk/rock and roll hybrid.  It sort of makes me think about the kind of stuff that Mutant Pop was trying to do with the bulk of their bands, but almost none of them were able to pull it off at this level.

Vocally, I think the sound is somewhat similar to the Navel/Plum end of the spectrum, with a little Hum Hums like harmony thrown in for good measure.  Like I mentioned early, it's too bad this is the bands only record as I'd really like to hear more from them.    

Friday, April 9, 2021

Science Man - Demo Cassette


More Power Tapes (2018)

OK, as I clean up the tape backlog, I cannot fathom how I have one from 2018 still hanging around.  Seriously, this is almost three years old?  I sure feel like a scumbag for never listening to it until now.  Not that I probably would have had much to say about it three years ago that differs from what I think about it now.

It's all right for the most part.  The production is pretty solid and it sounds better than your typical demo tape that has a skull on the cover.  The guitars are kind of sludgy on purpose and the vocals have a harsh edge to them that kind of vary back and forth between growling, changing and yelling.  There's something about the song "Science Monster" that feels like it could have been a noise B side to a Beck Mellow Gold era release, but not one of the ones I'd listen to all that much.

The band appears to have gone on to put out two full length records and a 7" since this tape came out.  Maybe it'll be a collector's item someday.  I don't know that I would have expected them to go on to great things based on this tape, but it's not anywhere near as bad as some of the others I've listened to over the years.

Science Man - Demo:

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Ultramagnetic MC's - Funk Your Head Up 2xLP


Bootleg (Originally released in 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.

Ultramagnetic MC's are a pretty special band to me.  I know they are lauded by those in the know these days, but when I stumbled across them in the early 90s, they certainly weren't a household name.  I am reasonably sure I saw the video for "Poppa Large" on MTV sometime during 1992.  It wasn't a staple of the show, but I find it impossible to believe I didn't see it once or twice.  That's likely what led me to pick up my first copy of this on CD, which I did at a CD store in Heathrow airport in London.

1992 was my sophomore year in high school and I got a job at McDonalds so that I could save up and go on my school's Spanish class trip to Spain.  I was in debt for a long time after that trip and I had good times there for sure, but it's funny to me that the most memorable part of that trip thirty years later is that I bought this Ultramagnetic MC's album while on a seven hour layover at Heathrow.  I also had the single best glass of orange juice I ever had in my life that day. Whether it was remembering the "Poppa Large" video or just because I had a little extra spending money in my pocket, Funk Your Head Up came along the rest of that trip with me.

Now, is this album a crushing classic from start to finish?  No, it's not.  There are a handful of songs that either are really slow, have a weird R&B vibe to them or seem to be trying to claw at a mainstream acceptance that would never be the band's destiny.  I think the album would be stronger if you removed "I Like Your Style," "Porno Star" and "Bust The Facts."  That said, my life would be so much worse if I had never heard the rest of this album.  "Poppa Large" (any of the 3 versions between this album and the 12" single), "MC Champion," "Funk Radio," "Pluckin' Cards" and "You Ain't Real" are top notch, all time hip hop classics.

I've had a single LP version of this for quite a few years, but this is a long album and it kind of sounded like crap.  It's too much music for 1 piece of vinyl.  This 2xLP bootleg version showed up on eBay and I snagged it.  It doesn't have cover art, so I've put in the cover from my other copy in the picture.  Lack of art aside, it sounds so much better than the single LP version.  Maybe it was pressed straight from the CD version, who knows - but the bass is deep and full of energy and I'm just thrilled to have a really solid sounding version of this album in my collection, bootleg or not.  It's not like I wouldn't instantly buy a remastered 2xLP official reissue of this.  Hell, I'd still buy one even having this bootleg.  Someone get on that.

Ultramagnetic MC's - Funk Your Head Up (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, April 5, 2021

Supersuckers - The Sacrilicious Sounds of the Supersuckers LP


Sub Pop (1995)

For me, the key Supersuckers albums are the first three and while La Mano Cornuda has always been my favorite, The Sacrilicious Sounds of the Supersuckers has been a very close number two.  Sacrilicious hit my freshman year of college.  It had a big rock and roll sound with just enough pop hooks to satiate my newly forming interest in pop punk.  The band had a similar group of fans as Rocket From The Crypt at the time and I'm pretty sure that's how my good friend at the time Joe and I stumbled across them.

Supersuckers were also one of the first bands he and I interviewed for our college paper at the time and I have odd memories of that Maxwell's basement interview.  I remember coming out of thinking the dudes in the band weren't particularly nice, but I have no recollection of anything they actually did that would make me think that.  Bizarre for sure.  I also remember sitting on the speaker that was at the right hand side of the stage during the show, back when they had one speaker on the ground and the 2nd speaker hanging from the ceiling.  I don't think that set up lasted much longer after that at Maxwell's.

All these years laters, I think the album holds up well.  "Born With A Tail" is still a smash hit and is probably one of the best two or three songs the band ever wrote.  The mid album trifecta of "Marie"/"The Thing About That"/"Ozzy" still smokes pretty hard.  This isn't the sort of album I can listen to every day and  I'm not even sure I would like it if you played it for me for the first time today, but it has those early college memories baked into it and twenty six years later, it's sometimes nice to revisit those feelings. 

It took forever for me to add this one to my collection and it ultimately involved me trading my copy of the first Carbonas record on red vinyl to obtain this copy, which was still sealed.  It wasn't a one for one trade, but it did take a deep dig into the archive and relinquishing a fairly rare record.  I justified the trade for three reasons.  One, I got some cash on top of the deal. Two, I still have the record release version of that Carbonas record, which is the rarest variant of the three. And three, I don't even like that specific Carbonas record.  Everything they did after that one was way better.  

All in all it ended up being a good trade, but I'm surprised I had to make it at all.  It strikes me as being very unusual that the Sub Pop Supersuckers records have never been reissued.  I wonder why. I still need to hunt down a copy of The Smoke Of Hell eventually.  Hopefully it doesn't require another collection sacrifice.

Supersuckers - The Sacrilicious Sounds of the Supersuckers (YouTube Music full album playlist)

Friday, April 2, 2021

CaveXrage - I Believe In CaveXrage Cassette


Poop Stick (2019)

Another 2 year old tape.  The good news is that I'm finally almost all caught up on my pile of tapes and will be able to move on to new things soon, but it's been appalling to me how many of these have been sitting around for so long.  This is another Poop Sick records release, which I think means these are probably high school kids.  As such, I applaud them for being out there, picking up instruments and making some rock and roll racket.  That said, this hurts my ears.

I guess this is hardcore?  It's a lot of really fast drums with fast chord changes accompanied by a bunch of yelling.  The songs are super short and there are mercifully only five of them, so the whole thing is over in less than six minutes.  I'm not really sure I could take more than that.  I've never been one who likes hardcore as the lack of melody and song structure has always driven me crazy.  I don't really know if this band is any better or worse than others that I've heard.  While this is the lamest, old person statement ever; it mostly all just sounds the same to me.

Again, props to the kids out there playing rock music as oppose to whatever else it is that high school kids do these days.  I'm hopeful they will stay interested, grow and contribute great things to the music scene in years to come. 

CaveXrage - I Believe In CaveXrage:

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Various Artists - Music From The Motion Picture Judgment Night - Orange Vinyl (/5000)


Music On Vinyl (2020, 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.

If there is an album that I would consider to be quintessentially high school, it would be the Judgment Night Soundtrack.  It came out in late 1993 when I was starting out my junior year.  While I wasn't listening to much in the way of rock or alternative music at the time, I was neck deep in one of the best years in hip hop history.  I had really enjoyed the Anthrax/Public Enemy version of "Bring The Noise" a couple years earlier and I remember being pretty psyched about this album, even though I have no memory of actually being aware of the movie.

In a nutshell, this album paired some interesting hip hop luminaries with some rock and roll bands.  History looks back on this album as something of a bridge between those two worlds and the start of the sort of rap-rock stuff that would take hold in mainstream music in the late 90s.  I don't really agree with that assessment.  In my eyes, this is a total fluke record.  It's better than it has any business being and none of the creatively bankrupt followups ever achieved what it did.

That's not even to say this album is a success from start to finish.  There's several songs that I think are pretty terrible.  Ice T and Slayer's cover song medley doesn't have any hip hop in it at all, making me wonder what the point of it even was.  Same thing with Fatal and Therapy?'s "Come and Die."  Even Run DMC (who essentially created this sort of thing, at least on a mainstream level) come up flat when paired with Living Colour on "Me, Myself & My Microphone."

That said, there's some great songs on here.  I'm pretty confident that the very first time I ever heard of Sonic Youth was because of the low key groove they provided for Cypress Hill on "I Love You Mary Jane."  Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. really tear it up on "Another Body Murdered." Even the weird-on-paper pairing of Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot yields impressive results.  

The pinnacle of this album and probably the main reason I bought it is for the Del The Funky Homosapien song.  He teams up with Dinosaur Jr. (Also, definitely the first time I ever heard of them), and their contribution "Missing Link" is the epitome of what could be possible when two unique artists work together to try to create something new. The music that J Mascis put together is a perfect canvas for Del's left of center flow, allowing him to meander around with his innovative rhyme structures and cadence in a way that's completely unique to the album.  The entire record is worth it just for this song.

I couldn't ever listen to this record on a super frequent basis.  It sounds really dated and as mentioned earlier, there's a few songs on here that are pretty bad.  But it does make me nostalgic for a time where music was taking chances.  I don't know that you could ever create another album like this again, so I'm glad it was able to happen when it did.

Music From The Motion Picture Judgment Night (YouTube Music full album playlist): 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Billy No Mates - S.F. Sourdough LP - Green Vinyl (/100)


10 Past 12 / Unless You Try (2021)

You may or may not know that I am a gigantic Snuff fan.  They are one of my very favorite bands in the world and I usually mention them, Leatherface and Rocket From The Crypt as the three most important bands to me.  Like John Reis from Rocket and Frankie Stubbs from Leatherface, I tend to follow Duncan Redmonds from Snuff to whatever other project he has brewing.  Guns N Wankers is probably the most famous of his other bands, but Billy No Mates is the one that has the most non-Snuff records out.

S.F. Sourdough is the fourth Billy No Mates album and this time Duncan is joined by luminaries of the US punk rock scene.  On this recording are Joey Cape from Lagwagon, Sergie Loobkoff from Samiam/Knapsack and some guy named Chicken.  He's from a band called Dead to Me that I'm not familiar with.  I have to say, I was especially intrigued by what Duncan and Sergie would do together as they both have some much great work under their belts and both have a really distinct point of view in their punk rock.  In that regard I was a little let down.

This album sounds pretty much like the other Billy No Mates albums.  That's not really a bad thing or a complaint, but I mostly hear Duncan's point of view on these songs.  I like his point of view, so that's good, but unless you told me Sergie was on this record, I would have never known.  That said, we have a bunch of nice melodic punk songs that have similarities with some of the more modern Snuff albums and some others that are more unique to what Billy No Mates has cranked out in the past.

It's a good record and it's nice to have something new that has come out in 2021 that I really dig.  Even though this is technically from 2010...

Billy No Mates - S.F. Sourdough LP:

Friday, March 26, 2021

Third Year Freshman - Demo Cassette


Self Released (Probably 1995 or 1996)

So, here we have a change.  A tape I bought on purpose.  This is a demo tape by the band Third Year Freshman from West Chester, PA.  The poppy punk scene in northern NJ that I was hanging around in when I first started college in 95/96 was a ton of fun.  But it also wasn't made up exclusively by bands from NJ.  Weston, Plow United and Third Year Freshman were a big part of that scene and would come up from PA all the time to play shows.  I'm going to paraphrase something that I heard a person say once: m"You always love your weirdest kid the most."  That was Third Year Freshman.

And they were my favorite local band in that little scene.  Fronted by Tom Martin, armed with an acoustic guitar and a bevy of crazy ass songs, it was impossible to not love them.  Mid 90s pop punk was pretty goofy as a whole, but Tom & crew always took it to the next level.  I have so many great memories seeing them play our local shows and always pulling off something crazy.  

My strongest memory was when they played at Flipside records, opening up for a Mr. T Experience in store.  Except the Mr. T Experience got lost and never showed up.  Third Year Freshman played for a while that day trying to fill time as we tried to figure out what was going on (this is 1996, so not real cell phones or GPS to speak of back then).  They made up songs about some of the people who randomly came in to shop and I remember a song about a patron in a red sweatshirt that was particularly excellent.

This tape is from my favorite era of the band, when their drummer only played a snare drum and just stood up next to the other two members of the band.  I saw them with a full on drummer a bunch too, but there was something magical about that snare only line up.  The first thing that's interesting about this tape is that it contains some songs from the band's only CD, Senior Year.  But most of the versions on this tape are completely different and feature the snare only version of the band, whereas the CD has a full drummer.  Maybe they were taking these songs for another spin once the lineup changed.  I'm extremely certain the CD with the full drummer came before they switched to the snare only line up.

It also features "Disneyland." Arguably one of my favorite songs of theirs that ended up coming out on their split 7" with Wally.  That 7" is the record that I think really captured the band at their peak (and their magnum opus "Two Days Ago I Turned Punk Rock" from the Dad, I Can't Breathe compilation).  But this tape is such a fun nostalgic listen for me and I'm pretty psyched one popped up on Discogs last year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

3rd Bass - The Cactus Al/Bum LP


Def Jam (2014, 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 don't think I heard 3rd Bass right when this album originally came out in 1989, but I definitely saw the "Gas Face" video before their 1991 follow up Derelicts of Dialect came out (you know, the 'Pop Goes The Weasel' one).  I bought derelicts pretty much the moment it came out and was a little surprised to see so much airplay for that single.  While I still think that is a pretty solid record, I always thought The Cactus Al/Bum was the better of the two.  Primarily because of the song "Gas Face."

I'm not positive that when I first heard it, I initially made the connection that it was built off of a sample from "Think" by Aretha Franklin (her version in Blues Brothers being a particularly influential song to me when I was growing up).  Regardless if I picked up on the source, there was no denying how that piano riff meshed in with the drum track they created to become something pretty special.  From the moment Prime Minister Pete Nice (still one of my favorite hip hop names) starts up the first verse, it's pretty apparent these guys know how to create a great record.  It was years and years and years later that I put together that the guest MC on the last verse, Zev Love X from the amazing KMD was also MF Doom.  I never dug the Doom records as much as KMD and man did he shine on this track.

The rest of the album is good, if not a little inconsistent.  There are highs like "Sons of 3rd Bass,"Brooklyn-Queens"and "Steppin to the A.M."  But, there are probably too many skits, some of which feel like they go on forever and when the beats get slower on tracks like "Monte Hall" or "Triple Stage Darkness" I don't think the back and forth flow between Pete Nice and M.C. Search is done any favors.  Still, it's a fun record all these years later and one that I think is probably overlooked when discussing the pantheon of incredible albums that came out in the late 80s hip hop scene.

3rd Bass - The Cactus Al/Bum (YouTube Music full album stream):

Monday, March 22, 2021

Dan Sartain - 1981 - 2021

I was planning on just posting the reviews that I had written last week, but had forgotten to post.  But over the weekend I read the news that Dan Sartain died.  At the time of writing this, there hasn't been a cause of death announced, so I will not do any speculation about that.

I didn't know Dan, but I met him a few times over the years when he would play shows in the NYC area.  Usually tagging along with other Swami bands.  I can't really speak knowledgeably about him as a person, but what I can say is that his music was very important to me.

I first discovered Dan like a lot of people, through his Swami debut, Vs. The Serpientes.  I was still working in the music business back then and was lucky enough to be able to have had a hand in promoting Swami releases to college radio stations.   I'm not sure what I was expecting when the Serpientes CDs showed up at our office one day, but I can assure you I was totally surprised and blown away.  What a great album.  A little punk, a little rock and roll, a little greaser and little Johnny Cash.  These were sounds that were absolutely not in vogue at that time, but here was this kid, a few years younger than me, cranking out some incredible tunes.

During this time, my wife and I had just started dating.  She was still living in Boston and I was living in Jersey City.  When Dan Sartain came through with Hot Snakes, I set her up so she could go see the show.  I know she liked the record, but that's the night I'm pretty sure she became a big Dan Sartain fan.

Fast forward to 2010, and we used his version of "Besame Mucho" from Join Dan Sartain as our first dance song at our wedding.  His music has always been very special to us and has been interwoven through our relationship.  Neither of us liked everything he did when he started experimenting with his sound after Dan Sartain Lives came out.  She didn't really like the punk leaning Too Tough To Live and I completely checked out on Century Plaza.  But, there's something about Dan where you always knew the next record could have something special on it.  He wasn't the type of artist you could just move on from.

That became very clear in the past couple of years. I absolutely adored his cowboy song cover album Western Hills.  I delighted in the bristling energy of his Vs. Sun Studios release and I was so eager to hear his next offering Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise.  I'm not sure if that album will ever come out.  I also do not know if there will end up being physical releases of Western Hills or Sun Studios.  I hope all three come out someday.

I'm struggling with this one.  It's not the same as when Sam Jayne died and I felt just intense grief.  With Dan, it feels more complicated.  I mentioned to some friends over the weekend that I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone as I couldn't figure out what was going on.  All I know for sure is that his music touched me and I wish that there would always be more on the horizon.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Illiterates - Demo Cassette


Poop Stick (2019)

Ugh, another tape from 2019.  Where did these all come from and how have they been buried for two years?  I'm still trying to get through them all, but man, I don't really like listening to tapes.  Anyway, next up is The Illiterates. They were freshman in high school when they recorded this.  The good news is that even though it took me two years to listen to this, they haven't graduated yet.  So, bonus.

Where do I start.  This sounds like a high school band.  The recording is super rudimentary and is fuzzy and blown out.  The songwriting doesn't really do anything for me and there's nothing particularly interesting going on.  You could have said a lot worse about me my freshman year.  What I will say is at least one of the guitarists is obviously very talented.  If he can figure out how to harness those powers for the forces of good, there's potential there.

I don't want to be super negative about this.  It's not something that I'd ever listen to much and since I'm about thirty years older than these guys, I'm not really their demographic anyway.  But I will say that I'm really happy and excited to see that there's still a subset of kids in school that want to play instruments and be in a band.  They could have just as easily ended up listening to shitty music and being super stoked on cryptocurrency.  I'll take kids playing bad punk rock over that any day of the week.

The Illiterates - Demo:

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Souls of Mischief - No Man's Land 2xLP


Jive (1995)

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.

Well, I'm out of Casual singles from the Fear Itself era, and while I don't have all of the Souls of Mischief singles from that time period, I figured now would be a good week to tackle the second Souls of Mischief full length, No Man's Land.  This was the follow up to 93 'Til Infinity, which was one of my all time favorite hip hop records when it came at and continues to be to this day.  

Now in 1995, I had really moved away from hip hop and was listening to much more punk and indie rock.  I was really disillusioned with the direction hip hop was moving, but in 1995 I was still game for a new release from anyone that was part of the Hieroglyphics crew.  I bought this CD right away and was extremely disappointed.  It just didn't connect with me at all and I pretty much filed it away after a few listens and moved on with my life.

It wasn't until many years later that I gave it another chance.  I liked it much better when I was a bit older.  While I still contend that the beats are not at the level of 93 'Til, they are way better than I gave them credit for in 1995.  Lyrically, the Souls are on fire and while their tone and delivery is more aggressive than on their debut, they still run circles around most multi-MC groups and pass the microphone back and forth with ease, never losing the flow of the song.

If I'm in the mood to listen to Souls of Mischief, I'm going to reach for 93 'Til Infinity nine times out of ten.  It's just one of those records that is embedded into my consciousness at this point.  But every so often I will pick up one of their other albums and I am never disappointed these days when No Man's Land is playing.  It's the true definition of an album that's a grower.  And I had to have the vinyl in my collection.

Souls of Mischief - No Man's Land:

Monday, March 8, 2021

State Drugs - Live. Laugh. Love. LP - Green Vinyl (/140)


Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

A couple of years ago I added the State Drugs album Takings and Leavings to my collection.  It was a solid record and it gave me those warm Tom Petty rootsy rock vibes.  Now we have Live. Laugh. Love., a proper full length album that was recorded to be one, as opposed to Takings' compilation approach.  While I think that this record is stronger overall and absolutely more consistently good, I'm still getting the same sort of RIYL feelings that I did on the last record.

If you've ever listened to bands like Young Leaves, Nude Beach or Unwelcome Guests, I don't think there is a reason in the world not to add State Drugs to your record collection immediately.  While they don't have the same sort of Dinosaur Jr. guitar pyrotechnics that you might find with Young Leaves or the scrappy punk production of Unwelcome Guests, what you will get is excellent song writing fueling mid tempo, hook filled rock and roll.

This is a great Sunday morning record.  That's actually when I'm writing this up.  It's a great soundtrack for a laid back day where you want to relax and be taking away by some warm, fuzzy melodies.  

State Drugs - Live. Laugh. Love.:

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Casual / Souls of Mischief / Extra Prolific - A Low Down Dirty Shame 12"


Jive (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.

The last of the Casual singles from the golden era is this three-way split EP that also features fellow Hieroglyphics acts Souls of Mischief and Extra Prolific.  It features songs from the soundtrack of a movie called A Low Down Dirty Shame, which I've never seen despite it starring Keenon Ivory Waynes and me being a huge a huge fan of I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.  Maybe I need to check it out one day.

As far as this single goes, we get two versions of an exclusive Casual song called "Later On."  The LP version features a laid back, storytelling vibe with a a jazzy drum vibe, some keyboards in the hook and some atmospheric chatter in the background.  It's not my favorite Casual song from this era as I prefer Casual when he's hitting a little harder, but lyrically there's good stuff here.  The remix of this is far superior in my opinion.  It has a completely different vocal take and some new lyrics over a beat that is still slower in tempo, but hits much harder than the LP version.

Souls of Mischief contribute "Get The Girl, Grab The Money and Run." The LP version probably isn't as strong as anything on their 93 'Til Infinity album that was released the previous year, but it's still a strong offering.  Hiero was operating at a level so much higher than most at this time, even their lesser tracks can hang with the best of the era.  The Souls remix has a beat that's a bit more minimalistic than the LP version.  It's good, but in this instance I think the one the put on the album was better.

Lastly we have the Extra Prolific track "In Front of the Kids."  Nothing really to see here as this is also on the Like It Should Be full length, so nothing exclusive here.  It's not even one of the better songs on that album.  This EP should be a perfect bridge from writing about Casual singles to writing about Souls of Mischief singles, but those Souls singles are expensive and I don't have them all yet.  Hopefully one day.

Casual - "Later On":

Souls of Mischief - "Get The Girl, Grab The Money and Run":

Monday, March 1, 2021

Cloud Nothings - The Shadow I Remember - Silver w/ White Splatter Vinyl


Car Park (2021)

This is the new Cloud Nothings album.  From what I gather, it was meant to be their next full length and was recorded before the pandemic hit.  But, they then ended up recording and releasing The Black Hole Understands in quarantine.  I did like The Black Hole Understands and particularly dug the fact that it was pretty heavy on pop songs.   It was a nice change of pace, but it was missing some of the loudness which is what I typically enjoy the most from Cloud Nothings.  

The Black Hole Understands was another in a line of Cloud Nothings records that I listened to chasing  the sound of Here and Nowhere Else.  While I couldn't say that I've heard a bad Cloud Nothings record, I feel like I keep going back to that album when I'm in the mood to listen to Cloud Nothings. It's unlikely that the band will ever release a carbon copy of Here and Nowhere Else (why would they?), but I think that when I listen to The Shadow I Remember it's the record that has come closest to instilling those same feelings in me.

I definitely think it's the second best Cloud Nothings record I've heard and it does an incredible job of mixing the perfect pop hooks that Dylan Baldi is capable of writing with an aggressive, loud and punishing guitar attack.  This record doesn't sound like Sugar at all, but the way Cloud Nothings have combined melody and LOUD on this record reminds me of the sorcery that Bob Mould was able to conjure in the mid 90s.

I own a lot of Cloud Nothings records.  I like every single one of them.  But now I can add another record that can hang with Here and Nowhere Else.  This is the first great record of 2021 for me.

Cloud Nothings - The Shadow I Remember:

Friday, February 26, 2021

DZTN 1980 - Ode To A Dead Earth Cassette


 Different Kitchen (2020)

This is the 2nd DZTN 1980 cassette that I've been sent.  While there were moments on the first one that I liked, I was begging for some drums and bass to take the songs to the next level. On Ode To A Dead Earth, we've got drums. And bass.  And it really adds a lot to the overall sound of the proceedings, even though I don't think I could ever say I really like it or would want to listen to it all that much.

Me, I like my rock and roll a little more straightforward and my hooks a bit more obvious.  DZTN 1980 has crammed this tape full of swirling guitars, biting vocals drenched in echo and a dreamlike vibe that is punctuated by vocal yelps straight out of a nightmare.  I'm sure there are plenty of people that would be into this sort of thing and I do think the addition of drumming makes it feel more like a band.  But this just isn't my scene.

I can't even come up with a really great comparison.  It sort of reminds me of a lot of that early 2000s slow, dissonant indie rock that had some notoriety, but an attempt to tie this to a specific band from that era is pretty fruitless.  I didn't like that stuff back then, so it's doubtful I'd make any sort of comparison that makes any real sense to fans of this sort of thing.

DZTN 1980 - Ode To A Dead Earth:

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Casual - Me-O-Mi-O 12"


 Jive (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.

This was Casual's third single from Fear Itself, but if I was in charge of the release I would have had "Me-O-Mi-O" the lead single.  I think that of all of the incredible songs on the full length, this is the one that would have the most opportunity for mass appeal in 1994.  The rumbling bass along with killer lyrics and an easily digestible sing along hook should have been a smash hit.  Why it wasn't I'll never know, but it's a true highlight on an album that is packed with high points.

We've got a bunch of extra tracks on the 12" version.  We have "Me-O-Mi-O (It'd A Me Thang)," which isn't a remix at all, but a new track with different production and different lyrics.  Aside from sort of referencing the original's hook in its own hook, I'm not sure why the two are connected at all.  The beat is a little sparser and more dark than you'd think for a Hiero cut from this era, but as usual, Casual is on point and turns in some great verses.

There's also an exclusive song called "Rock On" that features Pep Love.  This one is built off a jazzy brass loop with some great scratching and laid back performances from Cas and Pep.  It's a little on the slow side, but really everything these guys touched during this era was pretty flawless.  Lastly, we have the Disseshowedo remix of "That's How It Is."  Since that song is already on the That's How It Is 12", I'm not really sure why it makes another appearance here.

Casual - "Me-O-Mi-O" 

Casual - "Me-O-Mi-O (It's A Me Thang)" 

Casual - "Rock On" 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Spells - Charlie & The Shithead Take It Down A Notch, Expanded Edition 7"


Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

Hey it's Spells!  I have had nice things to say about pretty much all of their records over the years.  My praise for this one will be no different, even though the content is not quite what you would expect from the Spells folks.  This 7" contains eight (that's right, they crammed EIGHT songs onto this 7") Spells songs, however these are done acoustically so you only get some strumming and hollering.

Without listening to this, if you asked me what I thought of the idea, my gut instinct would be that Spells aren't exactly the first band I would think of to do this.  I didn't think the songs would translate as well acoustically, but low and behold, I was very wrong. These songs have just the right amount of energy and oomph to them, highlighting the poppier aspects of the song while avoiding the typical pitfalls of singer-songwriter nonsense.

These songs remind me most of the acoustic version of "Landlords" that Pinhead Gunpowder did.  You know what you're suppose to get from a Pinhead Gunpowder song and even though the acoustic version is unexpected, it absolutely works because the song is there.  It works regardless of the performance type.  That's what I think about these songs, they really showcase the quality of the songs themselves.  They still shine even without the loud drums and fuzz and the general party vibe I associate with Spells.  These are fun, color me surprised and impressed.

Spells -  Charlie & The Shithead Take It Down A Notch, Expanded Edition 7"

Friday, February 19, 2021

Fan Fiction - No Frontier Cassette


Just Because (2019)

How do I have so many tapes from 2019 sitting around?  I guess running out of new records to write about isn't completely a bad thing as it's forcing me to dig around through the unlistened to piles, but I kind of can't believe I have stuff this old that I never played.

I kind of wish I got to this earlier.  While I could never say that anything on this tape is out of this world awesome, it has a handful of pretty solid songs on it.  There's definitely a 90s slacker rock vibe to it, but in more of a midwestern crunchy way than a Pavement-y indie rock sound.  For some reason I keep thinking about Armchair Martian (who are not really midwestern, I know) but with about half of the energy and a little more sloppy twang to them.

I'm not really sure what to make of it.  I like it in parts, but it starts to feel a little repetitive as you move through the tape.  I wish they were a little more energetic and punk rock in parts, but it's pretty enjoyable for the most part.  A band with potential I think.

Fan Fiction - No Frontier:

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Casual - I Didn't Mean To 12"


Jive (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.

As much as I love the Casual album Fear Itself (and I do love it so very much), "I Didn't Mean To" was never one of my favorite songs on it.  It's a really good song, but considering how much of the album is next-level great, it doesn't stand out to me quite as much.  It's particularly weird to me that it was chosen as the second single off of the album with a video and the 12" treatment.

The highlight of the album version of the song is its excellent, slinky beat.  Lyrically, I'm not as into the ladies man vibe, though the storytelling is a unique taker on the subject.  I just enjoy Casual the most when he's unleashing battle raps and self aggrandizing lyrics.  That's where he really shines.

The 12" also comes with a remix of the main track.  It uses the same vocal take, but has a beat that's a little punchier and has a nice baseline.  I don't like it as much as the album version, but it's a fun listen.  In addition to instrumentals of the LP version and the remix, we also have one exclusive track, "That's How It Is Part II."  I'm not sure why it's considered part two, as the beat is new and really it's a brand new song featuring a verse by A-Plus of Souls of Mischief.  It's an awesome track and it is kind of a shame it's relegated to B side status and has been somewhat forgotten as it is as strong as anything on Fear Itself.

Casual - "I Didn't Mean To (Album Version)":

Casual - "I Didn't Mean To (Remix)":

Casual - "That's How It Is Part II":

Monday, February 15, 2021

Night Marchers - Wot's Da Use 7" (/530)


Swami (2021)

Hey it's 2021 and there are two new Night Marchers songs to listen to.  These were both recorded during the Allez Allez session and more than anything, it makes me wonder what else might be lurking in the dark recesses of the Swami archives.  These are both great songs and further cements my opinion that Night Marchers are easily the most overlooked and under-appreciated band that Swami John has been a part of.

A side "Wot's Da Use?" is a a slower tempo song with a beat that reminds me a little bit of "Big In Germany."  It has a scratchy production vibe with a straightforward verse/chorus set up.  What really elevates this song for me are the over the top "Na na na na na na nahs" that punctuate the chorus.  It's gratuitously poppy and catchy but is done in a way that just makes me happy that they are there.

On the B side we have "Dosed."  This one is faster and has main guitar riff that harkens back to the straightforward blasts of some of Reis' work in The Sultans.  But when the chorus hits, it's unmistakably the Night Marchers with the guitar jangle that leads into a pounding punch of guitar and killer backing vocals.  

In a perfect world, I would have Swami John juggling all of his bands, alternating releases every month between Rocket, Hot Snakes, Jehu, Sultans, Night Marchers and his upcoming solo work.  There's no reason for any of these bands to play 'side project' to any of the others.  They're all great and I want more music from all of them.

Night Marchers - Wot's Da Use 7" (YouTube Music full 7" stream):

Friday, February 12, 2021

Pitch & Bark - Two EPs Cassette


Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

Each side of this tape is an EP by Pitch & Bark.  The A side Nowhere Near Ohio was originally released in 2012 and the B side Father Hoxy came out back in 2011, though it has been remastered for this tape.  I can't say I was familiar with this band prior to receiving this tape from SLN HQ, but I do like what I hear in places.

At its core, this is a tape that embraces the off-time rhythms of late 90s post punk and mixes it with the attitudinal indifference of a shoegaze heavyweight.  Even when the music starts to build up its intensity, the vocals are almost always delivered in a steady, almost monotone way.  The most vocal intensity on the whole tape is during the song "Throat" on the B side, but but even that is pretty restrained when compared to the pantheon of rock and roll singing.  This description probably sounds like a knock, but keeping the vocals mostly subdued is actually a very effective way to put more focus on the instrumentation swelling around it.

I can kind of hear some Malkmus in the vocals, but musically this makes me think a little bit more about bands like Karate or Sweep The Leg Johnny, even though Pitch & Bark are much more restrained.  It's an interesting mix and one that probably shouldn't work if you look at it on paper (or if you're reading this crappy attempt at explaining it), but it does click for the most part and sounds a lot better than I'm probably describing it.  Go have a listen.

Pitch & Bark - Nowhere Near Ohio:

Pitch & Bark - Father Hoxy:

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Casual - That's How It Is 12"


Jive (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.

Fear Itself by Casual is my second favorite hip hop album of all time, only No Need For Alarm by Del has had more spins throughout my life.  Much like I did with Del, I decided that it was time to gather up all of the accompanying Casual singles of that era.  I'm starting off with "That's How It Is," this first single from Fear Itself.

I did always think it was a little odd that this was the first song picked as a single.  Not that it isn't great, because it is, but it seemed a little too intense for a new listener.  Over a deliberate, rumbling bass line, Casual unleashes punishing battle raps with intricate rhyme schemes and bars for days.  It's one of the things Casual is best at, but I can't help but wonder if a song like "Me-O-Mi-O" or "Lose In The End" wouldn't have been just a little more digestible to the average Yo MTV Raps fan.

This single has several extra tracks, but most aren't particularly exciting.  There's the instrumental and an a capella version of "That's How It Is" as well as an appearance by another track from Fear Itself, "Thoughts Of The Thoughtful."  Again, another great track, but it is also on the full LP.  The only real exclusive is the Disseshowedo Mix remix of "That's How It Is."  It's more than a remix as there's a completely different vocal take as well with some new rhyme schemes and a completely different cadence.  It's really great and the beat is pretty incredible.  It's almost like a new song and I'm definitely into it.

Casual - "That's How It Is (LP Version)":

Casual - "That's How It Is (Disseshowedo Mix)":

Monday, February 8, 2021

Brain Bagz / Blood Bags - Split 12"


Big Neck (2020)

This is another album that got lost in the shuffle, so I'm getting to it way later than I would have expected.  This is a split 12" by two bands that have Bags(z) as part of their name.  The artwork is done in a clever way so that it looks like either band could be the first one, you have to flip the cover over entirely as the artwork is upside down.  This means the sleeve opening is always to the right of the artwork, regardless of what side you are looking at.  The only thing they should have done to make this even better is they should have written the spin information in both directions as well.  So I'm taking my cues from the spine and am listing Brain Bagz first.

Brain Bagz sound like a chaotic mess.  I don't even necessarily mean that in a bad way, but their songs are full of echo, fuzz and are generally pretty noisy, bordering on psychedelic at times.  I feel like they probably could have a home on a label like Trouble In Mind, although their sound is much more in-your-face than anything TIM put out.  I don't love it, but I don't hate it either.  If you dig some psych, this might be more up your alley.

Blood Bags have an aggressive, punishing sound.  It feels like everyone in the band is just pounding on their instruments, leaving all songs with a primitive, thumping feel.  I like some of the riffs they brandish during their 6 song romp.  I don't really care for the vocals as they are pretty unpolished.  I get that they do fit with the overall atheistic that the band has going, but I think if there was a little less shouting and a little more singing, I'd probably like this more than I do.

Brain Bagz / Blood Bags - Split 12":

Friday, February 5, 2021

The Skitchers - Gleam Another Cube Cassette


Poop Stick (2019)

As I mentioned last week, I'm trying to organize and get through this pile of tapes that I need to write about.  This one from The Skitchers seems to have been here sing 2019, which I find crazy, but then again so was last week's tape.  And I'm usually so organized.

I like the bright orange artwork and Gleam Another Cube is a pretty funny name for an EP, but there's nothing about the music that I find all that interesting.  These are short, fast skate punk songs.  Gravel-throated singer, on top of simple guitar riffs and straightforward drum tempos.  Is it good skate punk or bad skate punk? Honestly, I don't know as it's not really my bag.  It sounds amateurish, but to some that's a selling point I think.

When I'm writing about these kind of bands I run out of things to say pretty quickly.  They sound like a high school band that I wouldn't want to go see play.  I cannot imagine every listening to this tape again.  But skate punk or high school band aficionados might find something in it that I don't, so have at it if that's the sort of thing you're into. 

The Skitchers - Gleam Another Cube:

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Ice-T - O.G. Original Gangster LP


Music On Vinyl (2019)

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 have had mixed feelings about Ice-T's discography.  I find it uneven at best and not my cup of tea at all at worst.  His dalliances into metal and acting are commendable as far as diversifying his portfolio, but to be honest, they aren't anything I've ever had much interest in.  The outlier to all of these statements is O.G. Original Gangster.

This record is just outstanding.  I think I had it on cassette as a high schooler, but honestly I can't remember.  Most of the hip hop albums I had were on CD, so it's possible I'm misremembering that.  Whichever version I had, CD or cassette, it had a lot more songs on it than the LP does.  Seriously, there's eight less songs on the vinyl version.  It's not even as if a bunch of bonus tracks at the end are lopped off as the missing songs are dispersed throughout the CD tracklist. 

That said, the strongest material is absolutely on the LP.  Of the eight missing tracks, I only really miss "Mic Contract."  The rest, I don't actually mind that they are gone.  My only beef with this album that I've had over the years is that I thought it was way too long.  By cutting out eight songs, it's a much more manageable listen and a tighter album as a result.  If it was me, I would have just left the metal song "Body Count" off the vinyl and put in "Mic Contract" instead. Or, I would have swapped it out and removed a few of the skits.

The vinyl version has the stronger tracks and contains all of my favorite Ice-T songs like "Lifestyles of the Rich & Infamous," "Escape from the Killing Fields," "O.G. Original Gangster" and the best of the bunch; "New Jack Hustler."  "New Jack Hustler" is the song that got me interested in Ice-T to begin with and I remember that video in heavy rotation on Yo MTV Raps.  This might be the only Ice-T record that I like, but to be truthful, I haven't heard a thing on any of his other records in probably thirty years.  Given how well this one stands up, I should probably give one of the others a try.

Ice-T - O.G. Original Gangster (YouTube Music full album playlist - CD VERSION):

Monday, February 1, 2021

Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands LP - Black & White Galaxy Vinyl


2020 (Self Released)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the black vinyl version of this record here, I had mentioned that I ordered the colored vinyl, but for some reason received the black vinyl instead.  I ended up reaching out to Cloud Nothings via their Bandcamp page about it.  They alerted me that some of the colored and black vinyl had been mixed up and they would send me a new copy.  Plus they paid the postage to return the black vinyl copy.  Good folks over there.

So, you probably can't really tell the difference in the picture.  It's definitely more of a black galaxy than a white galaxy, I suppose.  But even though it's not really a showstopper as far as colored vinyl goes, it is a good record and I'm happy to have the more limited version now.

Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands

Friday, January 29, 2021

Lightning Cult - EP2: Ether Waves Cassette


Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

My pile of tapes to review is completely unorganized.  They're just a mess and I have no idea how long some of them have been sitting around.  I'm going to try my level best to get through some of them over the next few weeks as I don't have a lot of incoming vinyl to write about.  I'm going to do my best to tackle some of the lingering records and tapes that are sitting around.  The goal is at least one tape a week.

We're going to start off with this one by Lightning Cult.  On the Snappy Little Numbers Bandcamp page it says this came out in 2019.  I cannot believe this has been sitting around for over a year.  But, I suppose it is possible given the state of things.  I like this.  The band kind of has a shoegazer-y vibe to them, particularly in the vocals, but the music is upbeat enough to where it doesn't sound mopey or boring.

There are some surfy guitar tones here and there and in general the songs are catchy with a few really strong hooks on a couple of these songs.  "Pacific Hits" is my favorite of the bunch on side A, probably because it's the fastest of the bunch.  It's a good place to start if you want to check out something on the Bandcamp.

While EP2: Ether Waves is only five songs long, on the cassette's B side, they've thoughtfully provided the songs for EP1: Burner.  These songs are also really good.  They are a little more varied than the stuff from EP2, but in a good way.  I'm glad they are on this tape and are not something I have to go track down on their own.

Lightning Cult - EP2: Ether Waves

Lightning Cult - EP1: Burner

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Del The Funky Homosapien - Golden Era 2xLP


The Council (2011) 

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's probably pretty obvious that Del The Funky Homosapien is my favorite MC of all time.  I'm constantly extolling his virtues and have been doing that since I was in the eighth grade.  He was particularly influential for me in 1993 when No Need For Alarm came out while I was in high school.  As such, he has been one of the very few artists that I have kept close pretty close tabs on since the golden era of hip hop.  

That's not to say that I've been able to stay right up to date with everything he does, in fact I have another LP of his on his way to me that I was unaware of until pretty recently, despite it being released over a decade ago.  But, I was very aware of Golden Era when it came out in 2011.  But, I opted to purchase a CD version when it first came out.  The Golden Era triple CD set also included two additional albums that had previously been digital only; Automatik Statik and Funk Man.

When I decided that I needed to add the vinyl to my collection (which doesn't include those other two albums), it had gone out of print and became difficult to track down.  I've been keeping my eye out for it and I was pretty psyched to be able to pick it up for $20 off Discogs a few weeks ago.

As far as the album goes, it's one of my favorite Del full lengths, particularly over the past twenty years or so.  I typically like everything Del releases, but sometimes the beats aren't exactly what I'm looking for.  That is definitely not the case with Golden Era.  The beats are full sounding, upbeat and really harken back to the sounds of the Golden Era that Del is referencing with the album title.

In particular, "Double Barrel" may be the best Del track I've heard since "At The Helm."  It has a similar driving drum rhythm giving Del a straightforward beat to weave his lyrics through.  I've always thought Del works best in this arena.  Rich, full beats that are steady in their tempo.  That lets Del create the dynamics with his lyrical flow, coming slightly off beat here and there only to reconnect and make it make total sense a few bars later.

There's a reason I think Del's the best and a lot of that is on display during Golden Era.  While I'll always recommend No Need For Alarm as the best place to start with Del, if you're looking for something of his to sample that's a bit more recent, this is a great album to try out.

Del The Funky Homosapien - Golden Era: