Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Basement Brats - Shining Down 7”


Sneakers (1996)

I bought this 7” while in Tokyo.  I was not familiar with The Basement Brats, but I’m always happy to take a chance on a 7” that might lead me to something new that I might like.  Since these guys were also from Norway and this came out in 1996, it seemed to me that there were enough positives in favor of picking it up.

I can say without hesitation that I really like the A side “Shining Down.”  It’s got a power pop vibe to it, with slick guitar riffing and nice vocal melodies that really help to drive home the hook of the chorus.  I was pretty excited about this record after that song finished, but my opinion changed a bit when I flipped over to the two songs on the B side.

The first one, “It’s Not The Right Time,” is more of a straightforward garage rock song, with those weird lead guitar licks and the ‘oh yeah!’ kind of shouting that has never been my bag.  The second song is “Disconnected Love” and that one is closer to what I like.  In fact it sits right in the middle of the two other songs, poppier than “It’s Not The Right Time,” but garage-ier than “Shining Down.”  But there’s a guitar solo I’m not particularly keen on that drags the song down a bit.

The A side is good enough that it was worth the purchase of this 7” by itself.  I’m just not sure if it’s enough to make me take a chance on some of this band’s other records.  If they have albums full of songs like the B side of this 7”, that’s probably not something that I would listen to all that much.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Polka Party! LP - From Squeeze Box Accordion Box Set


Pledge Music (2017)

 Over the next several weeks, we're going to celebrate Weird Al Wednesday as I go through each of the 15 albums in the Squeeze Box accordion box set. There are many albums in this set that were hugely influential to me as a young kid and there are no shortage of incredible songs throughout. Weird Al and The Blues Brothers are definitely the building blocks for my earliest appreciation of music.

Polka Party! was the first 'new' Weird Al record that I remember.  This was his newest thing and it was being actively promoted unlike the others, which I had just sort of stumbled across in the Jamesway cassette section while looking for his records.  Polka Party is the album that seems to have slowed down Al's momentum and perhaps made it look like his 'one-hit wonder' time was finally up.  From what I've read and heard, this album didn't sell all that well and didn't spawn a big single.  In interviews Al has said it wasn't even a record he wanted to put out right at that point and it was pretty rushed and forced out due to record label pressure.

Now I personally don't understand any of that.  I love this album and always have.  "Living With A Hernia" is an outstanding send up of James Brown's "Living in America."  This is one of those songs that made me notice that Al was a really smart dude with the way he wove all of the different types of hernia names into the call back section towards the end of the song.  This album also has the Talking Heads pastiche "Dog Eat Dog," a song that still pops up on his live sets.  While "Addicted to Spuds" is certainly silly, I have still always enjoyed the potato puns over Robert Palmers's biggest hit.

The polka medley, which is the title track this time out, is as great as ever blending together hits of the era like "Sledgehammer," "Sussudio" and "Rock Me Amadeus."  I will say that "Toothless People" is probably the song of this era of Weird Al that I like the least.  To this day I don't think I've ever heard the original and have no desire to.

Luckily the album closes out strong with the hilarious country style original "Good Enough for Now" and Al's Phil Spector inspired "Christmas at Ground Zero."  Due to the phrase Ground Zero having a much different meaning today than it did in 1986, this one doesn't end up on a lot of Christmas playlists anymore, but it's still a great song with its crazy contrast of incredibly dark lyrics and super cheery music.

Polka Party! is probably one of the most overlooked albums in Al's discography, but if it's one you're not as familiar with, it's definitely worth giving another shot.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Living With A Hernia":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Addicted To Spuds":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Polka Party!":

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Something - Still Plaing... CD


Dish and Plate (2017)

I have no idea where I got this CD from.  I assume it must have come in one of the Waterslide packages that Kazu sent me, but it's been sitting in a pile of stuff in my room.  I don't have any artwork for it, just this disc.  Recently, I realized I hadn't ever played it and popped it into the CD player.  Wouldn't you know it, it's actually a pretty great album that's been hiding out in my room for about a year now.

This ten song album is full on melodic punk rock from Japan, with the hooks in all of the right places and singalong choruses.  This album is on the poppier side of the Japanese punk spectrum and I think they have more in common with bands like Hateman than they do with I Excuse.  The standout tracks for me are "Lost One's Face" and "Something."  Normally, I'm not into bands that have songs that are named after the band's name, but both of these songs are fast, dynamic rockers with killers hooks.

I'm really impressed with this CD.  It's great and has totally taken my by surprise.  I would really like to get ahold of the artwork that goes with the CD, so if anyone happens to have a sleeve with no CD in it, please let me know, it's probably mine.

Something - "Something":

Monday, March 18, 2019

Low Forms - Gaze To Bow/The Watchful Eye LP - Red Vinyl (/300)


Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

I get into stupid arguments with myself all the time about really mundane topics.  Is it OK for a band to put a picture of themselves on the cover of an album?  Is it really OK to have a singer that doesn't play an instrument?  Can a song still be good if it fades out as opposed to just ending?  Will someone burn in hell if they don't wave at me if I let them in front of me in traffic?  None of these are particularly important and never actually stop me from enjoying a record, but they're the sort of weird things that pop into my head from time to time.

Another of these is wondering how many songs are needed to call something a full length.  Is it based on the number of tracks or is it based on the running time of an album?  I tend to think that your record needs to have ten tracks to be a full length, unless it's eight or nine songs and has a few really long ones (which I don't recommend unless you are Drive Like Jehu).  This brings us to Low Forms, who have released a record with seven songs.  A few of them are in the neighborhood of five minutes, but there aren't any crazy long opuses here and the speed for the record is 45rpm, not 33.  So is this a full length or not?  And why do I care?  I can't answer those questions, but I'll just say that I'd feel better about calling it a full length if there were three more songs.

That's a lot of rambling without actually talking about this record which is split into two thematic sides.  The A side is Gaze To Bow and features two upbeat and punchy songs.  The first one "Idle Hour" is probably my favorite on the album.  The second, "De La Grave," is pretty good, but does go on a pretty long instrumental detour.  Side A ends with "Gaze To Bow."  This one is four minutes long, but it feels like it's about fifteen or so with its slow droning feel.

It had me worried about side B, The Watchful Eye.  Luckily things pick up again with "Rope Store," a song that is catchy, though has something of a country-fried feel to it.  I think it's that lead guitar twinkling.  The other songs on this side are all pretty good and mostly keep to fairly traditional rock and roll songs, appropriate to sing in the dive bar of your choosing.  All in all, this is a decent little 12".  It's nothing that blows me away, but there's also nothing bad on here aside from that "Gaze To Bow" song. That one's a little rough.

Low Forms - Gaze To Bow/The Watchful Eye:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Browntrout - Blues, Blues, Blues 7"


Dirty Snuggies (2010)

This is yet another record that I picked up record shopping in Tokyo that I haven't written about until now.  I am actually almost caught up with these finally, though I do have a new pile of records coming in from mailorder from Waterslide, so there won't be any shortage of records for me to write about any time soon.

Browntrout is a band that I discovered back in 2007 when their first CD came out on Anti-New Waves.  That was a label that I was really trying to keep track of at the time, but it was more difficult than keeping up with Snuffy Smile; who at least had a loyal, if small, US following.  I was immediately taken with Browntrout's dynamic guitar attack and did the best job I could acquiring their other records.  As it turns out, I hadn't done a great job as I discovered an entire new LP in the last couple of years.  This 7" also eluded me until stumbling across it in Tokyo.

I can happily report that this 7" is just as great as everything else I've heard by Browntrout.  Everything is fast and tight, with the guitar attack coming in at a million miles an hour, but never veering off into anything hardcore or sloppy.  Razor sharp hooks and the kind of choruses that I just go crazy for.  In particular, "My Pest Old Moon" stands out as maybe one of the band's very best songs.  I think at this point I have everything released by Browntrout aside from their very first CDEP.  Hopefully I'll be able to track that one down someday.

I couldn't find these songs online anywhere, but trust me - they're great.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Dare To Be Stupid LP - From Squeeze Box Accordion Box Set


Pledge Music (2017)

Over the next several weeks, we're going to celebrate Weird Al Wednesday as I go through each of the 15 albums in the Squeeze Box accordion box set. There are many albums in this set that were hugely influential to me as a young kid and there are no shortage of incredible songs throughout. Weird Al and The Blues Brothers are definitely the building blocks for my earliest appreciation of music.

I don't remember exactly how or when I discovered Weird Al.  While I can pinpoint a lot of the most influential things that have entered my life, I'm really hazy with Al.  I assume I must have seen him on Nickelodeon on Nick Rocks or something like that, but I genuinely have no concrete recollection.  What I do know if that Dare To Be Stupid was probably his 'current' album when I found Al, as I do remember Polka Party being the first 'new' Weird Al record that I got.

Dare To Be Stupid is a record I know so very, very well.  I wore out the cassette of it I had in my walkman and listened to it over and over.  I don't know that it's the best Weird Al record, but it certainly has some of his best songs.  You can't even really talk about Weird Al to me without a conversation about the song "Yoda" on here, a parody of "Lola."  Honestly, I don't even really know the original version of this song, yes I've heard it and I sort of know some of the words, but "Yoda" is the definitive version of the song if you ask me.  Music about Star Wars?  My young brain could barely contain itself.

Also incredible are the Devo inspired title track, The doo wop pastiche "One More Minute" and "This Is The Life" (if you haven't seen Johnny Dangerously for some weird reason, you really need to).  I can't say that "Girls Just Want To Have Lunch" is one of my favorites, but Al has also gone on record saying he didn't really want to do it, but acquiesced to record label pressure.  He also brought back a polka medley with "Hooked On Polkas."  Making the cut this time are songs like "Sharp Dressed Man," "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and "99 Luftballoons."

I just love this record.  Absolutely love it.  In many ways it's a definitive Weird Al release with iconic songs and tremendous energy. It's not my very favorite, but it's right up there.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Yoda":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Dare To Be Stupid":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "One More Minute":

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Bob Mould - Sunshine Rock LP - Yellow & Red Swirl Vinyl


Merge (2019)

Bob Mould has been on an absolute tear this past decade.  After some questionable electronic records that I got stuck promoting during my radio promotion days in the early 2000s, Mould has been on fire since 2012's Silver Age.  That record completely rekindled my love for Bob Mould records and he hasn't been this consistent since the Sugar days, if you ask me.

Sunshine Rock is another of Mould's trademark aggressive pop albums.  That said, aggressive might be a somewhat misleading description.  While the album still features loud, forward guitar along with a pounding rhythm section, the songs themselves are more upbeat than the past few Bob Mould albums.  That's not to say the energy level has dropped, in fact this is probably the punchiest and most fun to listen album of his since Silver Age.  If anything it sounds more optimistic, with the easiest comparison for me to make being that it reminds me a lot of File Under Easy Listening.

Sunshine Rock is easily one of the best records of 2019 so far, on par with his best albums.  At this point, Bob Mould has to be considered a national treasure.  Is there anyone who has been at it this long that can still consistently deliver the goods today?  Perhaps there are a few, but I can't think of anyone with the track record of Bob Mould.

Bob Mould - Sunshine Rock:

Monday, March 11, 2019

Bender! - Reputation Proof CD


Self Released (2009)

This Bender! (with an exclamation point) was from Japan and is not to be confused with Bender (no exclamation point) from Canada.  Bender! features Yu, who some may remember from recent write ups I've done on other bands he was in like Plum and 2 Sick Worry.   Yu send me this six song CDEP along with a few other releases from his Urban Sleep label.  It took me a little while to get to this one (sorry Yu!) but it's worth the wait as all six songs on this CD are tremendous.

While I definitely hear similarities to Yu's other bands, particularly in the Navel-esque vocals, the thing that jumps out the most to me is how much I'm reminded of the band New Sweet Breath when listening to this.  It's ironic, since the Canadian Bender put out records on Ringing Ear records, home to my favorite New Sweet Breath album, Demolition Theater.  Like that 1996 classic, Bender! trades is fast, jangly guitar riffs with hooky vocal melodies that just have a way of making me smile.

It doesn't look like Bender! released anything else outside of a couple of compilation appearances, but this EP is wonderful and I'm really happy to have it in the collection.  It's especially worth tracking down if you've liked the Plum or 2 Sick Worry records I've written about.

Bender! - Reputation Proof:

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Blues Brothers - The Old Landmark/Think/Shake Your Tailfeather 7"


Atlantic (1980)

There are a couple of Blues Brothers picture sleeve 7"s that still elude me, but I recently grabbed what I believe is the last non-picture sleeve 7" that I needed from Discogs the other day.  While this isn't technically a Blues Brothers 7", it's three songs from the movie, with artists backed by the Blues Brothers band and Jake & Elwood make an appearance on one of the songs.  It's also a promo only 7" that I imagine was meant for jukeboxes or something like that.

Things start up with James Brown's "The Old Landmark."  This is from the church scene where Jake sees the light and realizes it's time to get the band back together. It's a lively performance and once that does differ slightly from what ended up in the actual movie.  Next up is "Think" by Aretha Franklin.  This one is on couple other Blues Brothers 7"s, but it stands as my favorite Aretha song and is the definitive version of the song in my highly biased opinion.

On the B side is "Shake Your Tailfeather," performed by Ray Charles with a little backing vocal help from Jake & Elwood.  This was always one of my favorite scenes in the movie and I just love this damn song.  There's nothing on this single that I don't already have multiple times over, but I think it's interesting that Atlantic decided to gather three of the main guest appearance songs onto a single.  I guess "Minnie The Moocher" wouldn't fit.

Aretha Franklin - "Think":

Ray Charles - "Shake Your Tailfeather":

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"Weird Al" Yankovic - In 3-D LP - From Squeeze Box Accordion Box Set


Pledge Music (2017)

Over the next several weeks, we're going to celebrate Weird Al Wednesday as I go through each of the 15 albums in the Squeeze Box accordion box set.  There are many albums in this set that were hugely influential to me as a young kid and there are no shortage of incredible songs throughout.  Weird Al and The Blues Brothers are definitely the building blocks for my earliest appreciation of music.

Weird Al's 2nd album, In 3-D, came out in 1984 and is most remembered for being the album that has "Eat It" as its first single.  This is the song that broke weird all through to the mainstream in a big, big way and made him a staple of the early days of MTV.  While "Eat It" was never my favorite Weird Al song (which is probably in part to not being much of a fan of the original song), this album is packed full of hits.

"Midnight Star" is an incredible song documenting the tabloid era of nonsense supermarket headlines.  It was interesting to see Al at one of his shows say that he wanted this to be the lead single rather than "Eat It."  Though he admits in retrospect, that would have been a poor business decision.  "Buy Me A Condo" is a reggae pastiche that was my favorite Weird Al song for a spell in elementary school. I don't rank it quite so high anymore, but I still enjoy it immensely.

"Theme from Rocky XIII" is a send up of "Eye of the Tiger" and is probably the song that really cemented my love of people singing about food.  "Nature Trail To Hell" is a maddening journey through slasher flick troupes with a backmasking message about cheese whiz.  In 3-D also contains "Polkas on 45," the first appearance of a polka medley on a Weird Al album.  These would go on to be the highlights of many albums for me over the years.  This one is particularly fun, mashing together songs like "Smoke on the Water," "Hey Jude" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go" into an accordion fueled polka blast.

Ultimately, In 3-D is a big change from the first self titled album, but this is where Weird Al really put his flag into the ground and was noticed by many, many more people.  It's a varied, exciting album and even though it's not as rough around the edges as his debut, really set up the template for future releases.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Midnight Star":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Theme from Rocky XIII":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Polkas on 45":

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Mike Krol - Power Chords LP - Clear Vinyl


Merge (2019)

I have had friends whose taste in music that I implicitly trust sing the praises of Mike Krol for years.  I've dipped my toe in a few times over the years and I have to admit, I've just never quite gotten it.  I think it's been the fuzz on the vocals more than anything else.  Despite that, in the run up to the release of Power Chords I once again started hearing the Krol buzz.  I decided to give it another go and what do you know, it stuck this time.

Power Chords is a big fat pop record.  It's built on incredible hooks and vocal melodies.  While I still would like it if the distortion on the vocals was toned down a bit, this time out I feel like it has a little bit more in common with The Marked Men and less tied into the sort of static I associate with Nobunny.  While the tempo of most of this album isn't as fast as the frenzy that The Marked Men are known for, Mike Krol has crafted an album that is every bit as catchy.

The ones I tend to like the most are the songs that may not be the fastest, but they are the ones with the biggest choruses.  "An Ambulance" is probably my favorite of the bunch with a singalong melody that I'm definitely guilty of muttering to myself while at work or the supermarket.  "Left For Dead" is another smash hit, with its stutter-stop opening that launches into a downstroke heavy chord progression that eventually gives way to another incredibly catchy chorus.

In a lot of ways I'm actually relieved that I like Power Chords as much as I do.  I always wondered what others saw in Mike Krol that I didn't see.  Now that I've finally made the connection, I think it might be time to re-listen to some of the other records that I passed on originally.

Mike Krol - Power Chords:

Monday, March 4, 2019

V/A - Because We Can Cassette


Motorcycle Potluck (2018)

I believe this is the very last cassette that I have that hasn't been reviewed yet.  It's certainly possible that I misplaced a some others that were sent in to be written about, but I'm pretty sure this is it.  I really made a concerted effort to finally get through them all, so I'm glad the pile is no longer sitting there, taunting me.

This final tape is a compilation sent over by Motorcycle Potluck.  It's a batch of bands from the Denver Area and beyond, though the bulk are certainly flying under the radar for the most part.  There a few bands I already know.  I recently reviewed Seagulls and their contribution is another Iron Chic meets OWTH burner.  Bud Bronson & The Good Timers have song that has a lot of 80s sounding guitar riffage, so that would fit on their LP pretty seemlessly.  Spells check in with "Run Away," a track that seems a little darker than most of their other output.  It's still pretty catchy though, particularly when the shorus kicks in.

My favorite song on this comp is by Jack's Smirking Revenge, a band I wrote about recently under the name JSR.  I guess that's what JSR stands for.  Their song "Queen Pity of the Plains" is a slice of tight pop punk a la Zoinks, with vocals that sound like a cross between The Weakerthans and American Steel. They still have that Karl Hendricks style storytelling in tow and I've just been really impressed with everything I've heard so far.

This is a $2 tape.  It's totally worth the two bucks as there are quite a few gems in the bunch.  Worth checking it out, even if you hate cassettes.

V/A - Because We Can:

Friday, March 1, 2019

Beck - 25 Years of Mellow Gold & Other 1994 Releases


Twenty-five years ago today, on March 1st, 1994, Geffen released the album Mellow Gold by Beck. There are a lot of records that I love that are quite old now and have hit milestone anniversaries. Very few are as important to the person I turned out to be as Mellow Gold is.

It’s hard to quantify how much impact the three albums that Beck released in 1994 had on me. In many ways they completely changed my life and put me on the path to become the person I am to this day. Other than the Blues Brothers, Beck is probably the most influential musician in my life. While bands like Rocket From The Crypt, Snuff and Leatherface far eclipsed Beck in how much I enjoy their records and how impactful their music is to me, the truth is that I would have never gotten to them without Beck.

In a lot of ways, I’ve always felt a little bit like a poser as I didn’t get into punk rock quite as early as some of the other folks that I would eventually befriend. Yes, I jumped into the deep end of the pool right away and I certainly learned a lot quickly, but since I started listening in 1994 and not 1991, I’ve always felt like the newcomer. At this point I’ve been into these types of bands for two and a half decades, but some of those feelings I had in 1994 still linger.

In 1994 I was seventeen years old and a junior in high school growing up in Sussex County in New Jersey. Sussex County is the north westernmost county in New Jersey and is about an hour and change from New York City. While it probably seems reasonably close to a gigantic city to people who aren’t from the area, it couldn’t be more dissimilar from the New York metropolitan area. The town I lived in was small to the point where it didn’t have its own post office, we had to share one with the neighboring town. It was mostly clusters of residential developments, lots of farms and a ton of trees. My high school was a regional school that funneled kids from 5 different towns into it. Even with all those towns, my graduating class was still only about a hundred and ten people. In New Jersey you can’t get a driver’s license until you are seventeen years old, so in the prior sixteen years, you’re essentially trapped in whatever town you happen to be living in.

I moved to Sussex County in the third grade and most kids already had their groups of friends. Being a kid who was super into the Blues Brothers and Weird Al, there wasn’t a ton of common ground right away, which was weird to me as that didn’t seem to be an issue in the town I had moved from. Regardless, over the years I was usually hanging out with a small group of close friends. Musically I never really was interested in the sort of music that others seemed to be into. Van Halen, Guns N Roses, Metallica…these were bands that I just didn’t care about. What really hit me more than anything else was hip-hop. That was the first music that I listened to that was current, starting around 1989 or so.

I was an avid watcher of Yo! MTV Raps during the so-called ‘golden age’ of hip-hop. The first groups that I remember grabbing my attention were Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy. I remember the shift when things started getting more innovative with Tribe Called Quest, Nice & Smooth, Gang Starr and groups like that. Then my mind was blown when I came across Del The Funky Homosapien and the rest of the Hieroglyphics crew. Not only was I amazed by this music, I could actually find out about it on television because Yo! MTV Raps was taking a lot of chances at the time. Hip-hop was an emerging artform so a lot of groups were given a platform to see what would hit. Way more snuck through to a giant mainstream outlet than probably could have at another time. I was very lucky, and I devoured anything I could get my hands on. Did anyone else buy that Kurious album A Constipated Monkey? Probably not. It wasn’t very good, but I just wanted to hear more.

While this was going on, the alternative explosion hit. Nirvana, Pearl Jam – those sorts of bands. They didn’t register with me at all. My friend Pat (who would later be my introduction to Karl Hendricks Trio, Archers of Loaf and Operation Ivy) gave me a tape of Nevermind my freshman year before I had ever heard it mentioned anywhere else. He suggested I listen to it as he thought it was great. I gave the tape back to him the next day and told him I didn’t get it. I had so much great music to listen to, it didn’t really matter to me what was going on in rock and roll.

Then in 1992, The Chronic came out by Dr. Dre. I was excited, having been pretty into NWA, and I remember buying that CD when they still came in long boxes. Little did I know at the time was that The Chronic essentially killed innovative mainstream hip-hop dead. Suddenly, that record was gigantic. Everyone at my high school had it and as I watched Yo! MTV Raps there was a big shift to soundalike groups. It didn’t happen overnight, but every week the playlist got more and more similar. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hate that Warren G & Nate Dogg “Regulate” song. By 1994, I was getting a little desperate for new tunes. Sure, I had Fear Itself by Casual, but there weren’t a lot of other records that were as exciting.

I vividly remember the first time I heard Mellow Gold. I was in my friend Scott’s car - A Plymouth Sundance, I believe - and he played it for me on our way to Rockaway Mall. I hadn’t heard the song “Loser” and I had never heard of Beck before that car ride. Scott wanted me to hear a song called “Soul Suckin’ Jerk” as he thought it sounded like the Beastie Boys. Since I did like the Beasties I was certainly up for it. He popped that cassette into the tape deck and my whole world changed.

Yes, “Soul Suckin’ Jerk’ did sound like the Beastie Boys to me, but as the album kept playing, I couldn’t believe the craziness that was coming out of the speakers. I had never heard anything like this. It was as if someone made an album that was purposefully difficult to listen to. Like it was a gauntlet thrown down to see who could get through it. Songs like “Truck Drivin’ Neighbors Downstairs” and “Nightmare Hippy Girl” were lyrically very funny, but they were minimal acoustic songs that were a stark contrast from the hip-hop leaning songs on the album. “Beercan” had an amazing bassline and was catchy as hell but was almost a pop song. “Sweet Sunshine” and “Steal My Body Home” were bizarre and confusing and “Mutherfuker” was an uncontrollable burst of yelling and screaming. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t this wild mix of styles.

It was weird to then realize that Beck was actually quite popular because of the song “Loser.” I only watched Yo! MTV Raps on MTV and didn’t listen to the radio, so I had no idea what else was going on in the music world. I wondered if most of the people who liked Beck had heard the whole album. Looking back on things now, I highly doubt it. I bought Mellow Gold and wanted to hear more. That’s when I figured out that Beck had other records out.

The next one I bought was Stereopathetic Soulmanure. This was the album that turned my fandom into a full-blown obsession. I could not believe how weird and random this record was. There were no hip-hop songs at all, but there were noisy punk songs like “Pink Noise” and “Thunderpeel,” Slower country songs like “Rowboat” and “Modesto,” weird tape collages and of course, “Satan Gave Me A Taco.” What an incredible song to hear. Here was a guy that was writing music and just being weird and random. It spoke to me like nothing else really had before.

The next thing I found was One Foot In The Grave. This one also took me completely by surprise. It was essentially a barebones folk album with a couple of indie rock songs mixed in. This was the album that made me realize that Beck wasn’t just a wacky dude, but he was also writing deeper serious songs. Prior to hearing it, I can’t say I would have ever thought I would listen to a record like that, but I loved it so much and to this day it’s my all-time favorite Beck record.

I essentially went insane at this point trying to find every single Beck release I could find. He became the first musician that inspired me to collect records. I’d long had the collecting bug because of toys and I remember buying a couple of Del The Funky Homosapien cassette singles so I could get the remixes, but this was the first time I ever actively was trying to search for every single record by someone.

So many important firsts in my life were because of Beck. The first time I went into NYC to go record shopping was to try to find Beck stuff at Generation Records (found some bootlegs – and I found the Western Harvest Field By Moonlinght 10” at Second Coming). The first time I went on the internet, I did so to try to look up information about Beck at a friend’s house. I eventually ran an online Beck discography from a Geocities page early on in college. The first concert I went to was Lollapalooza in 1995, to see Beck (and Pavement) and that’s where I saw Superchunk for the first time. The first time I tried to play guitar was to learn to play Beck songs. He inspired me to do so many things I wouldn’t have done previously.

The other big part of this was that Beck was a huge gateway drug for me to other music. I started looking into the names of other people who played on his records and I started looking into other bands that were on labels that Beck was putting out records on. Beck is a direct link to bands like Lync, Built To Spill, Halo Benders, Superchunk and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Those bands helped me branch out into other bands like Rocket From the Crypt (who were discovered on a Merge records compilation my friend Joe bought), Supersuckers, Snuff and Leatherface. Asking questions at record stores led me to more and more discoveries until I ultimately turned into the weird asshole that I am now, obsessed by a constant barrage of random bands that never seem to get the attention that I think they deserve.

As the years went by, Beck records got less and less interesting to me. As much as I tried to convince myself that Odelay was just as good as his ’94 releases, I never liked it as much. Mutations was a letdown as I was expecting Two Foot In The Grave. He’s had good songs on just about every album and it’s always interesting for me to hear his latest tunes, but it’s never been like it was that first year I was buying his records.

The sheer amount of songs he has, particularly from the ’94 and ’95 era, that were never commercially released is staggering. You could fill several albums with the songs I’ve heard on radio performances and concert bootlegs. A giant compilation of this material is a release that I wish would come to fruition, but Beck seems embarrassed by these songs at this stage in his career. While I won’t pretend to be the same person I was in 1994 either, I find it strange that he would turn his back on such an important chunk of his career. Not only is this a time period beloved by many but it is also the reason he ever had the spotlight shined on him in the first place. He wouldn’t have been able to have the career he has without these early songs.

Beck may be a serious and mainstream artist now, but he was never more exciting to me as he was when he was just a complete nutcase, setting his guitar on fire and singing about squeegees. He’s no longer the guy wearing a stormtrooper helmet and playing a banjo, but he was exactly what I needed in 1994, and for that I will always thank him.

Beck - "Nightmare Hippy Girl":

Beck - "Pay No Mind":

Beck - "Painted Eyelids"

Beck - "Steve Threw Up":

Beck - "Satan Gave Me a Taco":

Beck - "Totally Confused":

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Abolitionist - A New Militance 10" - Pink Vinyl (/250)


1859 / Different Kitchen (2019)

Abolitionist are back with a new 10" release.  Even though their last full length only came out in May of last year, they's put together a mini-album (maxi-ep?) of eight new songs.  While this is a band that has always had a certain thematic slant to their albums, this 10" is a full blown concept piece with each song almost directly connected to the one before it.

The songs focus on an uprising of women that are frankly sick of the bullshit that's been brewing in the country.  The liner notes specifically point out that the songs were written in February of 2017, right after the 2016 presidential election.  Each of the eight songs is a short powerful blast that moves the story forward, ultimately showing the autocrats being overtaken.  It's a loud and angry record, but the topics covered sure are ones that should make people pretty angry.

From a strictly musical standpoint, there are songs on other Abolitionist albums that I like better.  They're a little catchier and not quite as bleak.  But when you look at this 10" as a complete work, you could argue this is the most powerful release the band has put out so far.

Abolitionist - A New Militance:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Weird Al" Yankovic LP - From Squeeze Box Accordion Box Set


Pledge Music (2017)

Since I finished up the Otis Redding Box Set, I figured I would tackle the incredible Weird Al Squeeze Box Set.  Since this box contains a hell of a lot more records than the Otis one did, I'm going to try to go through albums weekly instead of every other week.  We'll try to get Weird Al Wednesday to be a thing over the next few months.  I'll start with his first self titled album and finish up with the exclusive rarities LP that comes with the set.

Weird Al's first, self titled album has just about always been my favorite of his.  I've read interviews with him where he states that there are songs on here that make him cringe and it's a little rough for him to listen to.  He's also said that it's kind of his punk rock album and as time went on he got better at his craft.  While I will not deny that Al has had incredible, incredible albums that came out after this and while I agree that the musicianship certainly improved over the years, there is an energy on this album that surpasses anything else he ever did in my opinion.

The thing that I love the most about this album is how ridiculously accordion heavy it is.  It's not something in the background or used for a polka medley, the accordion is front and center and is far and away the focal point of the record along with Al's lyrics.  Hearing Al bust out accordion fueled parodies of "I Love Rock N Roll" ("I Love Rocky Road"), "My Sharona" ("My Bologna") and "Another One Bites The Dust" ("Another One Rides The Bus") blew my goddamn mind as a kid trying to figure out what I wanted to listen to. Up until about 1988 or so, Weird Al and The Blues Brothers were just about the only bands that really connected with me. 

I also adore Al's originals on this album.  "Gotta Boogie" is kind of a one note pun joke, but the intro of the song and the way the instruments layer on top of each other is something I've always found inspiring.  "Happy Birthday" is a fast paced and lyrically dark song that always hit my funny bone in just the right way.  And "I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead" is perfect catharsis for a kid that was constantly restless in a remote part of NJ, who didn't quite mesh in with his classmates at the time.

I love this album.  I mean, I love pretty much all of Weird Al's albums, but this one will always be extra special to me.  It wasn't the first album of his that I heard, but it was the one that struck me as being the most brazen and exciting.  I still vividly remember that day I found the cassette in Caldor and how I thought I had found a secret that no one else knew about.  Just a phenomenal record that I found at exactly the right time.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "My Bologna":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Happy Birthday":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead":

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Drains - S/T Cassette


Drug Party (2017)

I am almost through the pile of tapes I've had building up over here.  I'm sure now that I say that, I'll end up with another batch in the mail, but I feel accomplished that I'm nearly finished with the current backlog.

The Drains are a band that I'm not familiar with and from the songs on this tape, I don't think I'm likely to become more familiar with them anytime soon.  That's not to say it's awful or unlistenable, but it's not very interesting to me.  The Drains are playing the sort of tried and true scuzzy garage punk that countless Hozac inspired bands have been trafficking over the years.

They don't do it any worse or better than the other bands that sound like this that I don't particularly like.  It's just not poppy or catchy enough for me. I like my share of garage-y bands, they have to  have at least a bit of pop punk influence in order for me to pay attention.  The Drains don't have that and as a result, my interest wains after a few songs.

The Drains - S/T:

Monday, February 25, 2019

Frankie Stubbs - Heart Is Home 7"


Sounds of Subterrania (2018)

Before I begin writing about this record specifically, I want to very quickly mention that I found out this weekend about the passing of Marc Maitland (Mates to some).  Known to me as the drummer of fantastic bands like Blocko and The No Marks.  I only knew Marc a little bit and had only ever interacted with him on the internet, but he was such a nice, genuine guy who was always so excited that someone liked his bands.  The world will miss him terribly and I hope he knew that the records he made had a big affect on some guy all the way out in New Jersey.

Mentioning this at the beginning of a Frankie Stubbs review seams appropriate.  Snuff, Chopper, Broccoli and Leatherface were my gateways into the mid 90s UK punk scene, arguably my favorite time in the history of the earth for music.  Those bands lead me to Blocko and that lead me to Marc.  Frankie Stubbs is one of the grandfathers of that scene.  Though my path to Leatherface was different than most (Snuff to Chopper to Broccoli to Leatherface), I still ended up very quickly realizing what an incredibly important and influential band they were.  They still rank in my top three bands of all time and there's not a single Frankie Stubbs related record that I don't love with all of my heart.

The 7" contains a different version of "Heart Is Home" than is found on the severely underrated Leatherface album Dog Disco.  The version on this 7" is Frankie's voice accompanied only by piano and violin.  It makes an already beautiful song that much more impactful.  I really love this version of the song and am happy to add it to the other solo Frankie Stubbs releases I've acquired over the years.  I wish he put out records more frequently, but I will take what I can get.

This 7" also has a gimmick called Vinyl Video.  Supposedly if you purchase a converter, you can play one side of this record and a video to the song is encoded into the grooves.  It's a pretty neat concept, though I personally can't fathom buying the converter necessary to view this.  It makes the record more expensive than your typical 7" and makes it so it's essentially one sided, but to be fair, the artwork is quite incredible.  Regardless of the cost, there is no way that there would ever be a Frankie Stubbs record not in my collection.  I couldn't have it any other way.

Frankie Stubbs - "Heart Is Home":

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Otis Redding - The Dock Of The Bay LP (From Definitive Studio Albums Box Set)

Atlantic (2017, Reissue)

Over the last few months, I've been writing about each of the individual albums in the Otis Redding Definitive Studio Albums box set. I thought it would be far too daunting a task to try to summarize so many great albums into one review for the entire set. Otis Redding is one of my favorites and each album deserves to be savored.

The Dock Of The Bay is the last record in this tremendous box set, although there are several other posthumous Otis Redding albums that contain songs that weren't released on the LPs in this set.  I wish that the box could have been all encompassing, but it's hard to knock the set too much considering how great the material is that was collected.

"(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" may be the most famous of all Otis Redding songs and for good reason.  It's a perfect song with a ridiculously singable melody.  It's a slower one, but it's far from downtrodden as it has a wonderful uplifting feel to it.  The rest of the album is a mix of songs that haven't been released before alongside a few that have.  I'm not sure why it was set up the way it was for its original release as there were so many other unreleased Otis songs recorded, but it's a great collection nonetheless.  I have to remember what was going on when the record first came out and not try to view it as part of this box set.

Going through all of the albums in this set was such a joy.  So many great records and so many great songs.  I have to try to dig up nice copies of the rest of the Otis full lengths that came out after his untimely death.  They haven't been treated to nice reissues yet, but hopefully the will one day.  Or hopefully I'll be able to find copies that aren't too beat up on eBay or Discogs.

Otis Redding - The Dock Of The Bay":

Otis Redding - "Don't Mess With Cupid":

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Invisible Teardrops / Tony’s Bite - Split 7”


Snuffy Smile (2018)

Every time I stumble across a new Snuffy Smile release, I’m both relieved and excited that the label is still chugging along after all these years.  They are responsible for so many records that I love and I would be really bummed out if they ever stopped completely.  That said, I can’t say that this is my favorite release that they’ve put out.

On one side of the record we have three songs from The Invisible Teardrops.  They’ve put out a few releases on Snuffy Smile at this point, but they just haven’t managed to capture my attention the way other bands have.  The first of their three songs, “Someone Wrote You a Letter,” is pretty bad.  It’s a slow, organ heavy song that just kind of sits there and never goes anywhere.  Luckily, the next one, “Run, Run, Run Away” picks up the pace quite a bit.  It’s catchy and energetic and while I still don’t love it, it’s a decent enough song.  They close out with a song called “Cool Out” which was either recorded live or is a super lo-fi recording.  It’s better than the first song on this 7”, but not as good as the second.  It’s OK, but nothing special.

On the flip side we have Tony’s Bite.  They also contribute three songs to the split.  Their first one “Black City” is pretty heavy on the garage scale with a slick riff in the verse and and some lead guitar shenanigans in the break.  “Brains Out” is more of the same with a dark repetitive guitar riff that reminds me a little bit of Gas Huffer for some reason.   Last up is “Nard Play” which like the other two is also kind of dark and built off of a finger lifting guitar riff.  Honestly I can’t say any of these songs really jumped out as anything that I could see myself listening to very often.  I will always support Snuffy Smile, but I personally prefer when they release pop punk records as opposed to garage-y stuff like this.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Eyes & Ears - Burn It To The Ground Cassette


Snappy Little Numbers (2018)

Burn It Down To The Ground is a cassette that compiles the entire recorded output of Denver based band Eyes & Ears.  While they were the first band that Snappy Little Numbers released a record by, I have to admit that I'm not particularly familiar with them.  A quick trip over to Discogs reveals that they have a few singles and a split LP to their credit and from what I gather all of those songs are present on this tape.  On top of that there are ten additional songs that are being released for the first time.

Each of the twenty-one songs on this cassette has scuzzy garage rock vibe to them, but most of them are catchy enough to keep me interested.  There are a few that I don't dig quite as much like "Explorer" that are a bit screamy, but when the band is working a hook like they do in "Howl at the Moon" it's hard not to nod your head along.

All in all, it's a totally fine cassette.  I wouldn't say it'll change your life or anything like that, but for six bucks, you could certainly do worse than Eyes & Ears.

Eyes & Ears - Burn It To The Ground:

Monday, February 18, 2019

Three Minute Movie - End of the Summer 7”


Fine Tuning (2013)

Three Minute Movie is a band that I’ve been listening to for such a long time.  I vividly remember getting their split 7” with Braid and the 3” tour CD comp they had out on Snuffy Smile at the same time.  I was so completely blown away by how great those songs were.  Over the years, Three Minute Movie put out quite a few albums and singles.  They even broke the Snuffy Smiles 2 album curse when they went ahead and released a third full length album on that label.  This is the stuff of legend for someone like me.  I’m still waiting for the third Urchin album...

This 7” is one of two that I picked up while record shopping in Tokyo.  I wasn’t aware that Three Minute Movie had anything out at the time and was excited to find them.  In fact, these were sort of precursors to another full length album that I haven’t picked up yet.  It looks like I am somehow missing two entire Three Minute Movie albums in my collection.  I always feel like I’m playing catch up with Japanese punk rock.  It’s difficult to stay on top of everything that comes out.

All three songs on this 7” are classic Three Minute Movie.  They reinforce why I’ve been listening to them for so long.  My favorite of the bunch is “All Starts On Wednesday Night.”  It’s a short fast paced rocker with a bouncy verse and singalong chorus with killer backing vocals.  The other two songs are equally catchy and fun.  I really love this band and I need to figure out how to get the other records they’ve put out that I’m missed.  I sure wish it could be as easy as just going to a local record store.  Sadly, I’m record shopping in New Jersey, not Tokyo.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

False Cathedrals - No Map Cassette


Snappy Little Numbers (2018)

This 5 song cassette EP is something sent over by the folks over at Snappy Little numbers.  I can't remember exactly when they sent it as I have a bad habit of not keeping the best track of tapes.  On the False Cathedral Bandcamp page it says this was released in 2018, so it's probably not that old.  With a name like False Cathedral and artwork featuring an animal skull, I was definitely judging the book by its cover before listening to this cassette. As I mentioned yesterday, it's something that I'm prone to do from time to time.

Frankly this looks like a metal or hardcore tape and when I started listening to opening song "Me Habria Ido Contigo" I felt pretty vindicated.  That said, a strange thing happened as I kept listening though, the feel of the songs changes dramatically with "Salt Your Fate."  That one has a much stronger pop structure with more emphasis on melody.  There's still a lot of eccessive guitar wanking (big lead guitar is just never anything I've been very interested in), but the song is better thank I expected compared to the opener.

From there we go into "The Real Criminals" and I can't tell the difference between it and "Panama" by Van Halen aside from the singer sounds a little more like the guy from Seaweed than David Lee Roth.  After that I just kind of lose interest, honestly.  There are bits that sound like Faith No More and others that seem like the sort of thing the guys in Soundgarden were probably really into.  Everything is played well and these guys obviously can handle a guitar better than most, but there's nothing here that appeals to me.  It's just too flashy and grandiose for my taste.

False Cathedrals - No Map:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Seagulls - Dear John Letter - Gray Vinyl (/100)


Debt Offensive (2018)

I write about judging a book by it's cover from time to time when I talk about a record that I’ve been sent to review.  Often I’m not exactly perfect in what I thought it would sound like, but I usually have a feeling that I won’t like something.  This Seagulls 7" is the same thing in the opposite direction.  I took one look at this and thought it seemed like the sort of thing No Idea would have put out around 2008.  I'm happy to report that I can stand by that prediction and can also validate that the two songs on this 7" can hang with anything released by No Idea around that time.

The comparison that comes to mind most easily when I listen to the A side "Dear John Letter" is Iron Chic.  There is a similarity in the way the vocals are structured with a perfectly placed anthemic chorus.  The guitars and drums create a dynamic foundation to build up the chorus with creative riffs, fills and breakdowns.

B side "Foot Meet Mouth" is a bit faster and more straightforward.  It certainly succeeds in being a powerful whirlwind of impassioned chaos, but I personally prefer the way "Dear John Letter" plays out.  It's a bit slower and has more interesting things going on.  That said, both songs are a really solid introduction to a band I hadn't heard of previously and it's worth checking out if you like your punk rock nice and loud with vocals that sound like Transformers.

Seagulls - Dear John Letter 7":

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Posies - Frosting On The Beater 2xLP - Pink Vinyl


Omnivore (2018)

When I heard that The Posies were finally going to reissue their three Geffen era albums on vinyl, I was really excited.  While I was looking forward to picking them all up, I was especially eager to finally get my hand on Frosting On The Beater.  In addition to it being my favorite Posies album and by far the album of theirs that I'm most familiar with, it's also the release that frustrated me most from a record collector standpoint.

I would consistently see the original pressing of this album on eBay and Discogs for well over one hundred dollars.  And not only were they put for sale at that price, they actually sold for that much over and over again.  As much as I love the album, I just couldn't talk myself into dropping that kind of cash as I couldn't believe that it wouldn't be reissued eventually.  Luckily my patience paid off and I finally have this tremendous album in my collection.

"Solar Sister" is my favorite Posies song and may be one of the greatest guitar pop songs ever written.  The way the vocal harmonies hold the melody during the verse always drives me crazy and when the guitars crash into the chorus, you know that this song is something special.  While it's the obvious highlight of the album, Frosting On The Beater is wall to wall hits.  "Dream All Day," "Flavor of the Month," "20 Questions" and so many others just dazzle with their catchiness.

Like the Dear 23 reissue, this one is split up on two LPs at 45rpm.  While from an audiophile standpoint I know that's going to give you the best sound quality, I still can't help but complain a little about having to get up and flip the record every three songs or so.  I would personally prefer a single LP, but this pressing sounds so amazing, it's a very small complaint and I certainly wouldn't want to sacrifice any sound quality.  These are such great songs and I'm so happy to finally have them on vinyl.

The Posies - "Solar Sister":

The Posies - "20 Questions":

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas - King & Queen LP (From Definitive Studio Albums Box Set)


Atlantic (2017, Reissue)

Over the next few months, I will be writing about each of the individual albums in the Otis Redding Definitive Studio Albums box set. It would be far too daunting a task to try to summarize so many great albums into one review for the entire set. Otis Redding is one of my favorites and each album deserves to be savored.

King & Queen is a unique entry in the Otis Redding catalog as it's a joint effort with the equally great Carla Thomas.  They have an undeniable chemistry together and in a lot of ways they bring out the very best in each other.  It's particularly interesting to watch Otis have someone to play off of.  There are times where they just trade vocals back and forth, but then there are times where they come together in a way that's every bit as dynamic as the best Sam & Dave songs.

Most people are likely familiar with the hit from this album, "Tramp."  For good reason, it's a completely killer song that rank among the best either Carla or Otis ever released.  But this album has so many other wonderful moments, the highlight for me being their take on the Eddie Floyd classic, "Knock On Wood."  That's a song that's so amazing and so engrained in the musical history of this country that many soul artists in the 60s took a stab at it. Otis & Carla's stands out as unique, turning it into a dueling vocal masterpiece.  Neither trying to outdo the other, they work in harmony to take an incredible song and somehow elevate it even higher.

It's become repetitive for me to say, but Otis Redding was such a unique artist who churned out an incredible amount of stone cold classics in a relatively short period of time.  There's a reason these songs have endured as long as they have.  I'm just happy to have a nice box set that compiles a great many of them.

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas - "Tramp":

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas - "Knock on Wood":

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Chestnut Road / Navel - Split 7" - Blue Vinyl & Cream Vinyl


Brassneck (2019)

I can't tell you how much joy it brought me to find out that this 7" was in the works.  It pairs two of my favorite bands on one 7" put out by one of the best labels going.  There is really nothing not to love about this release and it just makes me so happy that it exists,

This split marks the first appearance of Chestnut Road in quite some time.  They contribute two melodic punk stunners that would have been right at home on their last full length that I liked so much I put out on PopKid records.  "Black Corridor" is the slower of the two, but it still invokes the sort of 90s UK magic that makes that one of my favorite times in music.  It's similar to some of the slower moments of Broccoli.  The second song, "Prison," is just incredible.  This one is faster and makes me think of the best kind of Hooton 3 Car songs with rapid chord changes and supremely catchy hooks.  I've said dozens of times that Chestnut Road is one of the best bands on the planet right now, these two songs further cement that claim.

On the other side of the 7" we have Navel, an incredible Japanese band that I've been listening to for over twenty years at this point. It kind of amazes me that they somehow seem to get better every time that I hear them.  The two songs on this 7" are two of the their best yet.  "Dying" is just an incredible song, blending complex and melodic guitar parts with Tomi's trademark higher pitched, but ultra catchy vocals.  "End of the Line" is just as amazing, with a slower driving beat, but still maintaining the sort of catchiness that has always made me love this band.  Both songs are slower than the sort of rocket fast songs that made up their classic album Uneasy, but as much as I love that album, I'd have to say that these two are even better.

This is quite simply an amazing 7".  I certainly shouldn't have to convince you to buy it.  If you read my nonsense on this website, odds are you are probably inclined to like this sort of thing.  So I'm not sure what you're waiting for.  Go get it.

Chestnut Road / Navel - Split 7"

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Rad Owl - Madison Beast LP - Red Vinyl


Boss Tuneage / Waterslide (2018)

In what is rapidly becoming a recurring theme, this is another 2018 album that I wasn't able to get until after the new year had passed.  As a result, I'm beginning to feel like my end of the year list is becoming woefully inaccurate as the weeks go by.  I'll once again blame it on moving into my first house and some tightness in the wallet for the second half of the year.  No matter what the reason, the fact is that Rad Owl should have made an appearance on that list as Madison Beast is a pretty great album.

While the artwork on the album cover may lead you to think this is either some sort of foreign metal band or a lost 70s prog rock album, Madison Beast actually pays homage to the 90s sounds of bands like Big Drill Car and other Cruz or C/Z records acts.  There's a distinct 90s feel to the album with the perfect mix of chugging guitar riffs and secondary guitar leads.  These guys have chops for sure, but they use them for good and not for evil, overdrawn guitar wanking.

There are folks in this band that were in Samiam, The Stereo and PopKid alumni Marble (as long as I live, I will never tire of listening to their cover of "Holiday Road").  Rad Owl feels like a conglomeration of those past experiences.  It's good enough to hang with any of those 90s bands, but is still forward thinking enough to keep me thoroughly engaged in 2019.

Rad Owl - Madison Beast:

Monday, February 4, 2019

Slinky X - Darn Cassette


Drug Party / Wiener (2018)

I'm still doing my best to work through the pile of tapes that I have sitting here to review.  Even though I've come across a few gems lately, it's still unnecessarily daunting to have to go through these.  It sort of feels like work, which I think is partially because I never really buy tapes for myself.  They are inevitably something that I was sent for review.  Since I buy so many records, when someone sends me something on vinyl review, I just add it to the pile of fun that I'm already working through.  It's just a totally different vibe.

Anyway, back to Slinky X.  At first I couldn't tell if that was the name of the band or the album, but I'm pretty sure it's the band.  The six songs on this tape are totally fine.  Crunchy guitars, poppy song structures and decent enough vocal harmonies.  But that's really all it is, decent.  Nothing is ever catchy enough to sink in as a real earworm.  Most songs have a guitar solo that goes on forever, but is never flashy enough to make you sit up and take notice.

Everything about these tape is pretty much background music.  If you went to a bar and this was playing on the jukebox (or whatever the 2019 equivalent of how music gets played in bars these days is), I don't think you'd even notice it was there.  It's pleasant enough to not be annoying, but not interesting enough to be, well, interesting.

Slinky X - Darn:

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Starmarket - S/T LP - White Vinyl (/300)


Assembly Line (2018, Reissue)

When the news came out several months ago that Starmarket was getting back together to play some shows focusing on the early material in their catalog, I was pretty upset that I wasn't in Sweden or Japan.  Those first two Starmarket full lengths are among my favorite records of all time.  We were even lucky enough to release the US version of the band's second album, Sunday's Worst Enemy on PopKid.  Their first self titled release hadn't been released on vinyl when it came out back in 1995, but the fine folks at Assembly Line records have issued in on wax in conjunction with the band's reunion.

I still remember how completely blown away I was when I first heard this album.  My buddy Alan played a few songs for me at the Flipside record store in NJ.  When that machine gun guitar intro blasts out of the speakers in the opening track "Your Style," it still gives me chills almost twenty-five years later.  The entire album is full of dynamic pop-core guitar that would make Bob Mould proud.  Starmarket managed to harness so much energy into these songs.  Even on the slower ones like "Parking Lot" and "Cozy and Warm" there's a palpable electricity that so few bands are able to achieve.

This vinyl version sounds great.  Every high hat is crystal clear and every bass line rumbles along with the sort of warmth that envelops the room.  I really couldn't be more excited to finally add a vinyl version of this album to the collection.  It's probably been one of the biggest omissions up to this point (still waiting for Onehundredpercentfreak by Alligator Gun though).

I'm hopeful that a vinyl version of the Starmarket EP Calendar gets released (along with some extra B sides of the era would be nice).  I also really hope that Sunday's Worst Enemy gets a proper vinyl treatment.  While Dolores records put out a vinyl version of that album when it came out in 1997, it's a picture disc that frankly doesn't really sound that great.  A better vinyl release would be a very welcome addition.

Starmarket - "Your Style":

Starmarket - "Unwanted":

Starmarket - "Cozy and Warm":

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

JSR - ...It Roars Cassette


Motorcycle Potluck (2018)

The moment that the fist song on this tape, "I'm Not Gonna Lie, It's Been A Weird Year," starts off, the only thing I can think of is how much it sounds like The Karl Hendricks Trio.  Specifically my favorite Kark Hendricks song, "Dead Flowers."  Now the ending bit of the JSR song is a bit more frantic than how Karl chose to crescendo his opus, but there's a humanity and storytelling aspect of the song that makes me think they are kindred spirits.

The rest of the album is full of punchy rock songs with heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics.  Let me make that description crystal clear, the lyrics have a personal, almost poetic feel to them, much like Karl Hendricks.  I am not referring to some bullshit over emotional midwestern band desperately trying to get signed to Polyvinyl.

I had no expectations going into this tape.  If anything I was holding the fact that it was released on cassette against it.  But after listening to it a few times, I can say I'm pretty shocked by JSR.  I don't think they have a really easy modern comparison, but I believe that had they been around in 1994 or so, a lot of folks would have really taken notice.  I would absolutely buy this album again on vinyl if it ever were to be released and I recommend checking these guys out.  This is a sleeper release, it deserves your attention.

JSR - ...It Roars:

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Spoilers - Roundabouts LP - Cornetto Vinyl (/150)


Brassneck / Boss Tuneage / Little Rocket / SBAM / Waterslide (2018)

I took way too long to buy this record.  I knew it was going to be good based on prior EPs I had by Spoilers, but the full length came out at a time where I was a bit strapped for cash due to moving into my first home.  The extra shipping was something that I felt I needed to push back for a bit.  Once I was able to add a few more records to the package, I finally had Brassneck send this album over and after listening to it over the past few weeks, I'm even more annoyed that I waited so long.  This absolutely should have been in my top albums of the year list, probably quite high too,

To me, Spoilers sound like if Snuff was fronted by Mark from Crocodile God.  The vocals are melodic and of a higher pitch, but that is combined with an organ drenched punk rock sound that would have been right at home on Demmamussabebonk.  Much like later era Snuff, I tend to prefer the mid tempo songs on Roundabouts the most like "The Same Again," "Skimming Stones" and "Collision Course."  The latter of which has a vocal melody that reminds me of the Cat Stevens song "Father and Son."  Though let's be serious, I don't really know the Cat Stevens version of the song very well, I'm much more familiar with the cover by Horace Goes Skiing.

I don't love the really fast songs as much.  The ones with that galloping NOFX style drum beat sort of just blow by in a haze.  But, I feel the same way about most Snuff songs like that as well, and they are one of my favorite bands of all time.  Roundabouts is a killer record and Spoilers are very quickly becoming one of my current favorite UK bands.  To top it all off, they're about to play some shows opening up for Guns N Wankers.  I mentioned this on Twitter once, but I'll repeat it here, if anyone wants to give me a plane ticket to the UK for those shows, I'll be your best friend.

Spoilers - Roundabouts:

Monday, January 28, 2019

Raise Mind - Farewell 7"


Anti-New Waves (2002)

This Raisemind 7" is another record that I grabbed while I was record shopping in Tokyo a couple of years ago.  I was especially excited to stumble across this 7" as I've had Raisemind's full length album since it came out back in the early 2000s.  I didn't know that the band had released anything else, but I came across this 7" along with a CD EP while in Japan.  According to Discogs, there is also a split CD that I don't have.  Hopefully I can track that down at some point to complete the collection.

This 7" is great, just like everything else I have by Raise Mind.  They play the sort of fast, melodic punk rock that would be right at home on Snuffy Smiles in the late 90s.  That's some of my favorite kind of music in the world.  Raise Mind are right up there with some of the other bands of the era like Just One Day or 8Roof.

Two of the four songs on this 7" also appeared on the album Back Number.  Of the other two, "Half A Wake, Half A Die" looks like it was also on that aforementioned split CD that I don't have, but the opening track "Farewell" seems to be exclusive to this 7" as far as I can tell.  Even if all of the songs had appeared elsewhere, I still would have bought this to have them on vinyl.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Otis Redding - Complete And Unbelievable...The Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul LP (From Definitive Studio Albums Box Set)


Atlantic (2017)

Over the next few months, I will be writing about each of the individual albums in the Otis Redding Definitive Studio Albums box set. It would be far too daunting a task to try to summarize so many great albums into one review for the entire set. Otis Redding is one of my favorites and each album deserves to be savored.

One thing you can say about Otis Redding is that he didn't shy away from long album titles.  Complete And Unbelievable...The Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul is the longest album title and yet another where the word soul is featured.  In my opinion Otis absolutely earned the right to use the world soul wherever he wants.  In many ways he's the king of soul to me and this album is another that cements his status as one of the greatest of all time.

The album starts off with one of his best, "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)."  The earnest way that Otis delivers the lyrics couple with the accents of the horn section simply create magic.  This is one of my very favorite Otis songs and it's just the start of a pretty incredible album.  Whether he's working with a slower song like "Tennessee Waltz" or something more upbeat like "Love Have Mercy" or putting his own signature stamp on The Beatles' "Day Tripper" pretty much everything on this record is simply great.  Even in a discography as strong as Otis Redding's, Dictionary of Soul stands out as something special.

Otis Redding - "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)":

Otis Redding - "Day Tripper":

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Not Wonk / The Full Teenz - Split 7"


Second Royal (2015)

I picked up this split 7" after really enjoying the two Not Wonk LPs that I had.  While I wasn't familiar with The Full Teenz, one of my favorite things to do is to buy a split 7" only knowing one of the two bands.  It's lead to so many great discoveries over the years and I was hopeful this would be another.

Not Wonk's side includes the song "On This Avenue."  I already had that song on their second LP This Ordinary, but I'm not really all that great at remembering song names, so I didn't realize it until I played this 7" for the first time.  Still, it is a really great song with a slower, Senseless Things meets 90s Brit pop style chorus.  The other song they contribute is a cover of a Full Teenz song called "水彩画." I'm not familiar with the original, but the Not Wonk version is on the slow side and I can't say I like it quite as much as the song that they wrote.

The Full Teenz side of this split is a lot of fun.  The songs are upbeat and catchy, with a treble heavy reverb on the guitar tone. They remind me of another Japanese band called Popcatcher that I have a bunch of CD EPs from that I picked up in the late 90s.  The Full Teenz was a nice surprise and I actually liked their side of this 7" better than the Not Wonk side.  I'm going to have to see if they have any other records that I'm able to get my hands on.

Not Wonk - "On This Avenue":

The Full Teenz - "swim! swim!":

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Treepeople - Actual Re-Enactment LP - Orange Vinyl (/250)


Gravy Lane (2018. Reissue)

After the bang-up job Gravy Lane did on the Stuntman LP they rereleased a little while back, I was extremely excited to hear that they were going to put out this Treepeople album on vinyl.  Actual Re-Enactment originally came out on C/Z records in 1994, but was only out on CD and cassette.  This left a gigantic hole in the Treepeople vinyl discography and thankfully that omission has finally been rectified.

Actual Re-Enactment is a post-Doug Martsch Treepeople album, but in my eyes it's just as dynamic and listenable as anything that came out while he was still a member.  Actual Re-Enactment still has heaps of the dynamic guitar interplay that I always felt was the most distinguishing trait that the band brought to the table.  It's a unique balancing act between noisy chaos and catchy riffs and this is a balance few bands ever pulled off as successfully as Treepeople.

Just take a listen to "Slept Through Mind."  It's my favorite song on the album, mostly for the way the band perfectly places sludgy guitar drone right smack in the middle of an otherwise chill pop song.  On paper it shouldn't work as well as it does, but leave it to Treepeople to not only make it work, but make it a highlight of the album.  The vinyl version Gravy Lane released has been remastered for vinyl and the album pops even more brightly than the CD I've been carrying around for the past few decades.  I'm quite thankful to the label for helping me finally add this record to my collection.

Treepeople - "Slept Through Mine":

Treepeople - "Boot Straps":

Monday, January 21, 2019

Friends Of Cesar Romero - Trashionista Cassette


Snappy Little Numbers (2018)

I will be totally honest.  Friends Of Cesar Romero confuse the shit out of me.  I have a couple of 7"s by them and now I have this cassette, but if you look at their Bandcamp page, they have about nine thousand albums available for download, almost none of which seem to have any sort of physical release.  I don't understand why my shelf isn't packed with records by this band, who are simply outstanding.

Trashionista is another perplexing release.  Not only is it cassette only, it's a full length album packaged up like a cassingle.  Why isn't this a full length vinyl LP?  It's a fantastic record and I'm embarrassed I didn't put this on my top albums of the year.  It fell through the cracks in a pile of cassettes I misplaced as a result of moving that I just dug up.

Trashionista is packed full incredibly catchy punk rock that straddles garage rock, pop punk and something you might have heard bubbling up from the underground in the late 70s.  If the Marked Men's songs were written by The Knack, maybe it would sound a bit like this.  Maybe not, but whatever Friends Of Cesar Romero are up to, I hope they continue to crank out hits like this.  I also hope more of these hits end up on vinyl.  This album especially would really shine I think.

Friends Of Cesar Romero - Trashionista:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Posies - Dear 23 2xLP


Omnivore (2018, Reissue)

Dear 23 is the first of three Posies reissues that were sold via Pledge Music.  While it seems that you can still buy it essentially anywhere, I did throw down my cash at the very beginning for the reissue of this album, Frosting On The Beater and Amazing Disgrace.  So far only the first two have been released so we'll start with Dear 23 today.

Dear 23 isn't the Posies album I'm most familiar with.  I got interested in the band a little later than many and it was really Frosting On The Beater that I played on repeat over and over.  I did backtrack and picked up the CD of Dear 23, but I just never listened to it quite as much as the others.  Having a really nice vinyl reissue is just the kick in the ass that I needed to pay more attention to this album.  I'm glad I did as there are so many incredible songs.  The first half of the album in particular is pretty crazy with songs like "My Big Mouth," "Golden Blunders" and "Any Other Way."

The reissue sounds incredible and they've done that thing where the album is split over two LPs and is at 45rpm instead of 33 1/3.  I know there are audiophile and sound reasons to do this, and I certainly would never say to do anything to impede the sound quality of an album, but part of me does just wish it was a standard single LP.  It might just be a laziness issue as you have to get up to flip the record to accommodate four sides more often than you would for a single LP.  Then there's also the fact that 45rpm on my record player is being a little wonky lately and everything seems to be playing just a hair slow.  But really, my turntable servicing needs aren't the fault of the folks who put this record out and I'm glad they did their best to make it sound as great as it possibly could.

The Posies - "My Big Mouth":

The Posies - "Any Other Way":

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

V/A - All Temptation 7"


Coconut's House (1996)

This four band compilation 7" is another record that I picked up record shopping in Tokyo two years ago.  Since Husking Bee was one of the bands on it, there was no way I wasn't going to buy it, though I wasn't familiar with the other three bands.

First up on side A was Crickets with their song "Sad Rubbish."  They reminded me a bit of the UK band Exit Condition and also a little bit of the band Reverse.  Their song has a strong melody and a catchy chorus with a pretty cool tempo change.  It looks like they put out a few other releases back in the 90s, so I may have to look into them a bit more.  Next up is Scrap Yard Dogs.  They're a little bit faster and a gruffer than Crickets, but have a similar knack for putting together a catchy song.  While I'm not sure I'm as inspired to go try to find more of their record as I am with Crickets, it's still pretty good.

On the B side we have "Listen To This Song" by Scape Goat.  Scape Goat is a band name that I'm pretty sure I've heard before and I wouldn't be surprised to find out I own some other Japanese compilation that they are on.  That said, this is my least favorite song on the 7", built around that galloping NOFX style drum beat that is never my favorite thing to hear on a pop punk song.

Last up is Husking Bee and their song "Only Way."  This song is also on their first album Grip, which I highly, highly recommend if you haven't heard before.  Husking Bee has been a longtime favorite of mine, ever since an old friend named Tetsu put them on a tape of Japanese bands he made for me back in the 90s.  He was such a big part of helping me discover a lot of non-Snuffy Smiles bands and it makes me sad that I lost touch with him.  I often wonder if he still listens to punk rock as one of the last emails I remember getting from him was him telling me he was mostly listening to techno, but It's probably been twenty years since I last heard from him.

V/A - All Temptation 7":

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Unlikely Friends - Crooked Numbers CD

Swoon (2018)

I had mentioned how much I enjoyed this Unlikely Friends album when I posted my year end list of my favorite records of 2018.  I hadn't written about this album prior to making the list as I hadn't yet purchased the CD.  I kept holding out hope that eventually it would receive a vinyl release.  Unfortunately that never came to pass, so I grabbed the CD version.  All that did was make me wish there was a vinyl release even more.

I love Unlikely Friends.  As I was a pretty big fan of the band Boat, I eagerly follow D. Crane (or Dee Krain - whatever his name actually is) when the first Unlikely Friends album Solid Gold Cowboys came out (also only on CD...).  As great as Solid Gold Cowboys was, Crooked Numbers raises the game even higher.  It's simply a tremendous album of indie rock with a powerful 90s feel to it.  You could easily name check Pavement, Built To Spill, Superchunk, Guided By Voices and many others and while that would put you in a decent frame of reference, none of them truly describe what Unlikely Friends sounds like.

The way the guitars intertwine with the vocal melodies and the incredible lyrical imagery is something very unique to Unlikely Friends.  They are releasing some of my favorite music, I just wish someone would release this incredible music on vinyl.  This is an album that deserves it and Unlikely Friends are band that deserves to be significantly more famous.  Definitely check this one out.  Heck, I'm even considering buying a 2nd copy as the cardboard sleeve of my CD split apart in shipping.

Unlikely Friends - Crooked Numbers: