Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Knucklehedz - Stricktly Savage LP - Violet Vinyl (/250)

Untitled

Smoke On / Savage (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.

One of the joys of my life right now is going as far down the early 90s hip hop rabbit hole as I can possibly go.  I've been digging as much as I can to try to find gems that I may have missed the first time around.  While I don't know that I could classify this record as a 'gem,' it is an interesting discovery.

Knucklehedz is essentially the lost member of EPMD's Hit Squad.  Redman, Das Efx and K-Solo all had their releases and Knucklehedz was supposed to be next up in 1993.  Stricktly Savage got as far as CD promos before it was ultimately shelved and not released.  They were likely a casualty of EPMD splitting up and their Hit Squad crew splintering.

I could never call this a lost classic or anything, but the production on it is great.  It has a thumping, grimy sound that reminds me quite a bit of EPMD's Business Never Personal.  It's packed with head nodders and interesting beat choices.  Lyrically, I don't think these guys can hold up to the rest of the Hit Squad crew.  Tom J and Steve Austin (no, not the wrestler) have flows that are serviceable and I wouldn't say they are bad, but they never elevate any higher than passable.  Still, the production is great to the point where I'm willing to just listen along and focus on the overall vibe.

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Obits - Die At The Zoo LP - Pink Vinyl (/300)

The Obits - Die At The Zoo LP - Pink Vinyl (/300)

Outer Battery (2021)

It feels like this is what it means to buy a new release for me this year.  Rather than a new band with a new album, I'm picking up a live album that was recorded nine years ago by a band that's no longer together.  While 2020 wasn't a high water mark for new and exciting records (with a few notable exceptions), I really feel like 2021 is a barren wasteland.  So, it looks like I'll stick to buying the tried and true for now.

Live records aren't my favorite thing at the best of times.  Sure, Leatherface and Bum had great ones, but there's a lot more misses than hits out there.   I hardly ever listen to live albums as in general, I'd prefer to just listen to the studio recording of a song in the context of the album it was released on.

It's also a real crap shoot on what the live record will even sound like.  So often they are tinny, poorly recorded documents of a sound that was so much bigger in real life.  Luckily, that isn't the case with this Obits live record.  It's recorded impeccably with everything sounding full and rich.  

The band is playing at a super high level as well, with everything sounding on point, like a band really hitting their stride.  I can't say that the song selection is exactly how I would have set it up, as I probably would have leaned more towards some of the band's faster material, but they do roll out hits like "Talking to the Dog" and "One Cross Apiece" towards the end.   

I mean, for an Obits live record, this is a pretty good.  I don't know what they could have done to make it better aside from include a few more of my personal favorite songs, but that's just me being greedy.  That said, I really can't imagine when I would listen to this.  I like having it in the collection, because I'm a broken person with a completist problem and the artwork is great.  But if I want to listen to The Obits, I'm probably just grabbing one of their other full lengths.


The Obits - Die At The Zoo:
https://obits.bandcamp.com/album/die-at-the-zoo

Friday, July 30, 2021

Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers 2xLP - Red Vinyl

Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers 2xLP - Red Vinyl

Virgin/Real Gone (2021, Reissue)

I was a little bit late to the original Fountains of Wayne party.  Or I was a little early to the big one that everyone else cared about.  Regardless, I got into Fountains of Wayne sometime after Utopia Parkway came out.  Yet another band recommended to me by my buddy Alan, and once again he was right.   There were definitely a couple of years between 1999 and 2003 where it seemed that the band might be done, but then the rumblings of new music started.

By this time, I was working in the music biz and had a friend that worked at Artemis records.  He knew a guy who knew a guy that was either helping, or was on the receiving end of Fountains of Wayne shopping for a new record label.  This friend made me a copy of what was to become Welcome Interstate Managers.  I, of course, shared with Alan and we were both pretty impressed with what we heard.  Maybe not on the level of the first two records, but it was so great to have new music by these guys that I for sure got caught up in it.

Sometime in here, after I had the record, but before it actually came out, Fountains of Wayne started playing some shows.  Including one at Bowery Ballroom that we all went to.  I was so excited, but I remember all of us leaving the show kind of disappointed.  It was so long ago that I don't remember any specifics really, but my big takeaway was it felt kind of clinical.  Everything sounded perfect, but maybe a little too perfect?

Soon after the record was officially released and we watched in amazement as a guitar pop band from the fringes of major label world was suddenly everywhere with "Stacy's Mom."  A goofy and fun song that I really liked probably the first three thousand times I heard it, but at this point would be fine never hearing again.  That said, the rest of this album holds up really well and I will still contend that songs like "Mexican Wine" and "Hackensack" are as good as anything off the first two albums.

In a lot of ways, this record for me is like All The Nations Airports for Archers of Loaf.  A record that is more than half good, has a handful of stellar moments, but marks the turning point where I started to lose interest in what the band was doing.  But for three records, both Fountains and Archers were towards the top of my list of the bands I listened to the most.

Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mFiF_BMg6hcHiuE7zCqMA8pczu9DKVVwU

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Del The Funky Homosapien - Both Sides of the Brain 2xLP

Del The Funky Homosapien - Both Sides of the Brain 2xLP

Hiero Imperium (1999)

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

I've spoken at length about how much Del The Funky Homosapien means to me, particularly his 2nd album, No Need for Alarm.  Even though by late 1994 I wasn't listening to much hip hop and had mostly transitioned to indie rock and punk, I still tried to keep tabs on Del and the rest of the Hiero crew. I picked up Del's tape, Future Development in 1997 but that wasn't a real high profile release.  The next time I saw Del in a record store was when this album came out.

I picked up the CD of Both Sides of the Brain the very moment it came out.  In 1999 I was still in college and had just started my internship at the company that ended up being my first job once I graduated.  I was in New Yersey and the company was in NYC.  So, I took the bus in from Willowbrook mall to the Port Authority.  I have extremely vivid memories of sitting in Port Authority with this album in my Discman trying to absorb everything that was happening.  I look back very fondly to a lot of my times in the 90s.  Sitting on the floor of the Port Authority waiting for the bus isn't particularly high on that list of memories.

I finally picked up the vinyl version of this recently on Discogs.  It hasn't been repressed since its initial 1999 pressing, so it tends to go for a decent amount these days. Luckily I found a deal.  The cover is a little rough around the edges, but for the most part it isn't anything I'm not able to deal with.

Both Sides of the Brain never totally connected with me the way other Del records did.  I'm not sure if it was just too long or the fact that I didn't really like the album opener "Time Ids Too Expensive" all that much.  Don't get me wrong, I do like it and there are some really killer tracks on here like 'Phony Phranchise,"Jaw Gymnastics" and "Fake as Fuck."  But when it really comes down to it, I'd rather listen to some of his other records that followed like Golden Era. I also think in part, this album got overshadowed by Deltron 3030, which came out just a little bit later.  That one blew my mind.

Del The Funky Homosapien - Both Sides of the Brain:
https://delthefunkyhomosapien.bandcamp.com/album/both-sides-of-the-brain

Monday, July 26, 2021

Mononegatives - Apparatus Division LP

Mononegatives - Apparatus Division LP

Big Neck /No Front Teeth (2021)

From a quick perusal of Discogs, it looks like Mononegatives have been kicking around for a few years, based on a few self released EPs.  Apparatus Division is their first full length album and comes out as a joint release on Big Neck and No Front Teeth.  I wasn't sure what to expect from them exactly, but I do dig the artwork quite a bit and generally trust the Big Neck name, so I went in with higher hopes than I would for a random new album from a random band on a random label.

The first thing that really strikes me about this album is how much I like the guitar tone.  From the opening seconds of "Stilted Entrance" I'm all aboard with the powerful, but still tuneful and somewhat jangly chord riffage.  Combine that with the ferociously pounding drums throughout the album and you end up with a band that kind of sounds like The Blind Shake if you took away most of their distortion.

The vocals are where the bulk of the fuzz ended up.  And while they get bonus points for not just shouting indiscriminately, I do wish they were ever so slightly cleaner so I had more of a clue to what the actual lyrics are. But that minor issue aside, this is a fast, loud and fun record that where the fastness and the loudness are never threatening to take over the song.  This is the rare band where all that extra energy just makes the songs better, rather than overpower with unneeded chaos.

Mononegatives - Apparatus Division:
https://bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com/album/apparatus-division

Friday, July 23, 2021

Super Deluxe - Famous LP

Super Deluxe - Famous LP

Tim/Kerr (1995)

In the 90s, you could find so many tremendous things in the used bins.  There was so much quality music coming out and so many labels and people taking chances on bands, it was inevitable supply would outstrip demand sometimes.  That's not a knock at the quality of any of these bands, it was just a fact of life back then.  Super Deluxe was in probably ninety percent of the used bins I sifted through back then.

I can't say I know a lot about this band.  While I've been aware of them forever, I've never really done a deep dive.  To be totally honest, I hadn't even really started giving this band their due until the last few years.  They were always just a CD kicking around that I didn't listen to.  For whatever reason, I started to play it again and it really upped my appreciation for a band that I had mostly just considered an also-ran.

They play extremely polished guitar pop songs.  Big, loud, crunchy guitars that are layered with wonderful vocal harmonies and tremendous hooks.  I'd put it right up there, maybe just a notch below, early Weezer or Fountains of Wayne.  Luckily for my wallet, most of the world seems to have forgotten about these guys, so I was able to get a sealed copy of this record for about ten bucks.  It has the cut out notch, but that doesn't bug me much.  It's worth it to hear how incredibly full it sounds spinning around on the turntable.

Super Deluxe - Famous:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lcsrOtJRiE32yo7enAtuiQF76p3Bu6YSo

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown (Expanded Edition) - 2xLP - Yellow Vinyl (/2000)

Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown (Expanded Edition) - 2xLP - Yellow Vinyl (/2000)

Music On Vinyl (2021, 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 did already have the standard version of Critical Beatdown, but when an expanded version was announced that was on colored vinyl and was limited; I just couldn't help but pick it up again.  Even though there isn't anything I didn't already have on a 12" single, I reordered this as soon as I saw it was available.  Does everyone need this version, probably not - but it has two big things going for it in my opinion.

The first is that it includes the 12" version of "Ego Trippin'" which is one of my favorite Ultramagnetic songs.  This version has the same production as the original LP version, but it's longer.  So more song for me to enjoy.  The second big reason is the inclusion of the original 12" version of "Funky." This one is very different that the LP Version and is the song that inspired me to start buying all of the Ultramagnetic MC's 12"s a year or so ago.  I haven't posted about those yet, but one of these day's you're all in for about 10 straight weeks of Ultramagnetic MC's singles...

All in, is this version worth paying double the cost of the standard version?  Honestly, probably not.  For me it's worth it as I'm such a gigantic fan of this band, but for most normal people the single disc LP is probably enough at this price point.  That said, I truly believe that anyone that likes hip hop should have some version of this record, it's way too important of a release to not celebrate.

Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown (Expanded Edition):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lfBRLGFJ_cbnUSxBQdkHzkxWQdo-NKZZw

Monday, July 19, 2021

Herzog - Fiction Writer LP - Gold Vinyl

Untitled

Exit Stencil (2021)

If you've been following the sort of records I've been writing about lately, a trend is emerging...  The vast majority of them are records from the 90s.  Be it reissues or finally tracking down an album that I only had on CD, I've spent far more time chasing down old hits than buying albums that were just being released this year.  I'm not totally sure why, but I have hypothesized before.  Is it just that there are less good records coming out this year?  Or is my old age finally catching up to me.  It's easier to blame things on the pandemic or bands for not hitting that sweet spot I'm looking for, but it's definitely possible that it's just me slipping.

Then I hear a record like Fiction Writer and absolve myself of all responsibility.  This is an amazing record and it came out this year.  Go figure.  I've been a fan of Herzog for a while and have loved the way they've built their vocal harmonies over instantly catchy, fuzzed out guitars.  A little bit early Weezer and a little bit Here's Where The Strings Come In era Superchunk.  This is their third album and might be my favorite of the bunch. 

In particular, the first half of the record is just on fire.  From the opening "Na na na na na" of title track "Fiction Writer" to the scratchy vocals of "Money," it's just hit after hit.  Not that the B side is any slouch either, but man that stretch of songs on the A side is something special.

There's not a lot of albums that have come out in 2021 that I'm all that excited about.  It's a very select club at the moment, but Fiction Writer is firmly in there with Cloud Nothings and Czarface as the records that I'm listening to the most.

Herzog - Fiction Writer:
https://herzog-cleveland.bandcamp.com/album/fiction-writer


Friday, July 16, 2021

The Spinanes - Manos - Yellow Vinyl

The Spinanes - Manos - Yellow Vinyl

Merge (2018, Reissue) 

When I first started my post-Beck journey into the world of punk and indie rock, one of the most important records I bought was a compilation called Rock Stars Kill.  It was released on Kill Rock Stars in 1994 and it was a CD I played constantly my senior year of high school.  As an aside, even though I would almost never listen to it today, I probably should pick that comp up on vinyl one of these days, just for archivist purposes.  Anyway, I discovered quite a few bands from that CD and one of them was The Spinanes.

I liked their song on that comp, "Stupid Crazy," enough that I ended up buying their CD Manos.  And man, did I end up loving that record.  From the minute the huge fuzzy guitar riff from opener "Noel, Jonah and Me" (not the absence of the oxford comma, just another reason to love The Spinanes) hits, I just fall head over heels for this album.  They make a lot of noise for a two-piece consisting of drummer Scott Plouf and singer/guitarist Rebecca Gates.

The big guitar sound is always warm and melodic, never noisy just for the sake of it, and it meshes so perfectly with Gates' incredible vocals.  I've had the CD for well over 25 years at this point, but decided I should pick up the vinyl.  I hemmed and hawed about buying this reissue for a while as I don't really like the artwork, which differs from the original.  But ultimately, It just made more sense to pick up a new copy for under twenty bucks than it would to overpay for an original with different artwork.  It sounds as good as ever, and that's the important part.

The Spinanes - Manos:
https://thespinanes.bandcamp.com/album/manos

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

X Clan - Xodus LP

X Clan - Xodus LP

Polydor (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.

X Clan is a group that I've always had a special fondness for.  I first discovered them on Yo! MTV Raps when they started playing the video for "Fire & Earth."  The beats are what grabbed me first, then there was the powerful flow of Brother J, who holds down the majority of the rhyming.  He has a deep, gruff voice that comes off as authoritative, but still musically savvy. 

Then there's Professor X.  He is definitely the most polarizing part of X Clan.  The best I can do to describe him is something of a cross between Flavor Flav and Emo Phillips.  He has a bizarre, sing-songy cadence like Emo and primarily acts as a hype man during intros, outros and breakdowns.  Almost every song on this album ends with him shouting "Sissy."  Some people love his style, while others hate it.  I'm somewhere in the middle.  There are songs where he's a benefit, but there are other instances where I listen to a song and think that I probably don't need to listen to X Clan again anytime soon.  He's a bit much sometimes.

But what cannot be denied is how incredible the production is on this album.  It's serious, beat heavy, old school hip hop.  The title track "Xodus" stands out in particular.  It uses the bass line from "Call Me D-Nice" as a foundation and just keeps adding more layers to it as the song progresses.  Plus, Brother J is just on fire the entire time.

X Clan probably isn't going to be for everyone, primarily because of how outlandish Professor X sounds. But there's a lot to like about them.  This is their second LP and the one I am most familiar with, but I've been eyeing up their debut on Discogs and plan on adding that one to the collection at some point as well.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Pizzicato Five - Happy End Of The World 2xLP

Untitled

Matador (1997)

In 1997 I was in college writing music reviews for my college news paper.  I was lucky to have decent relationships with a bunch of labels and publicists and Matador was a label that pretty much sent me everything they released.  One of those records was Happy End Of The World by Pizzicato Five.  I don't know what it was about this record that caught my ear.  It was so very different from anything I was listening to at the time, but from the very first moment I heard it I was onboard.

I think what keeps me coming back to it are the lush soundscapes of the album.  The production is upbeat and full of warm inviting sounds.  The vocals are somewhat secondary to me, but when they are present they just make everything seem bright and sunny.  I've always been particularly obsessed with the song "It's a Beautiful Day."  With its fast percussion and chant along spelling of the band's name in the intro, it's a song that always makes me smile.

I've had that promo CD I got at the newspaper in my collection since the day I got it, but decided that I also wanted to be able to listen to this on vinyl.  While patrolling Discogs I came across someone in Europe selling a copy that was still sealed.  While the price tag I ultimately paid was somewhat high, about a third of it was postage, so I still don't think it was a terrible deal.  Plus it sounds so amazing spinning on my turntable.  I'm glad to have a copy and I'm not even sure why it took me so many years to finally procure one.

Pizzicato Five - Happy End Of The World:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09Ie6pM6ZJk&ab_

Friday, July 2, 2021

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange LP (Matador Pressing)

Untitled

Matador (1994)

I've posted a few times about my goal of finding a pristine copy of Orange, as it is one of my very favorite albums of all time.  It's been a tough road, but I think I'm finally content with this version.  It isn't perfect, but it's pretty darn close.

This was actually a sealed dead stock copy that I bought from Japan, I got to be the first person to open and play the record after releasing it from its shrink-wrapped tomb for the first time in twenty-seven years.  Unfortunately the record had moved around inside the sleeve over the years and there was some minot scuffing, but for all but one song, it plays about as good as I could possibly imagine.  No crackles, no pops and rich, full sound.

The only exception to this is that there is a particularly deep scuff int he middle of "Flavor."  It doesn't affect the play too much, but you can hear the slight repetition of static as the needle plows through that section.  It's not a deal breaker, and I probably wouldn't notice it as much if I had not been listening to it so intently.  For now, I'm calling this quest over.  If I ever stumble across another reasonably priced sealed copy, I might take another chance, but for me this copy is finally good enough.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange:
https://shoverecords.bandcamp.com/album/orange

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

EPMD - Strictly Business 2xLP

Untitled

Priority (2017, 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.

The first four EPMD records are stone cold classics and in my opinion are pretty mandatory records to have in any respectable hip hop collection.  I'm on record many times stating that my favorite of the bunch is their fourth, Business Never Personal, but each of them has something unique to offer.  For their debut, Strictly Business, from 1988 the most revelatory piece is how full and forward thinking their production was.

This was back when sampling was still the wild west and at times it feels like EPMD managed to cram their entire record collection into the beats on this album.  Of any hip hop record that came out in 1988 or earlier, I think you could make a really strong case for Strictly Business having the best beats.  Maybe you give the edge to It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, but EPMD is neck and neck on the production side.

For me, where this album falls short is the actual rapping.  While Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith would very quickly grow into incredible MCs with a dynamic back and forth style, on their first outing they sound pretty subdued.  The rhymes themselves are strong, but the delivery is so lackadaisical they almost sound bored at times.  Now, this was the early days and the album itself is so forward thinking that I definitely don't detract for the vocals too much, but that's the main reason this is probably my least favorite of the four key EPMD records.

Things improved dramatically on the next record Unfinished Business and by the time they hit with Business as Usual, it was pretty clear that they were among the very best of the golden era.

EPMD - Strictly Business:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kmU0aLupGiFv8JiTXv_2cZEbdi-0b8wno

Monday, June 28, 2021

Quaker Wedding - Russian Hills - Lathe 7"

Untitled

Not Tapes Not Bombs Tapes Lathes (2021)

Quaker Wedding popped on my radar last years with their excellent full length In Transit.  They're back with a two song, lathe cut 7" and as much as I liked that LP, these songs may be even better.

My major complaint about A side "Russian Hill" is that it's way too short.  It's such a good song, I'm betting it to continue for another two or three minutes.  Hell, I'd be fine if it was one of those songs that just flat out repeated the verse just to pad the run time a little longer.  It's an upper mid-tempo rocker that feels like Jawbreaker somewhere in between 24 Hour and Dear You.

B side "Running List" slows things down a little bit, but still brings forward an energy that feels like it could explode at any moment.  The vocals are full and impassioned without drifting into cornball territory and the chugging guitar chords set the perfect tone.

I really, really dig this 7" and I hope that there's more Quaker Wedding material being worked on.  They are quickly becoming one of my favorite new bands.

Quaker Wedding - Russian Hills - Lathe 7":
https://quakerwedding.bandcamp.com/album/russian-hill

Friday, June 25, 2021

Kara's Flowers - The Fourth World LP - Blue Vinyl

Untitled

Music On Vinyl (2020)

In 1997 I was writing reviews for my college newspaper and was spending an inordinate amount of time hanging out at Flipside Records in Pompton Lakes, NJ.  In addition to all of the great punk and indie records that were coming out at in the mid 90s, it was also the pinnacle of the failed major label band.  There were so many great bands that put out an album or two on a major label, sold essentially nothing and then ended up as cutouts or promo CDs hanging out in the used bins of record stores across the country.

Kara's Flowers were one of these bands.  Now, I am pretty sure that Reprise sent a copy of this record to me to review at my paper, but it is just as likely that I bought my CD as a promo for two dollars from the Flipside used bin.  I was (and still am) taken by the fuzzy pop brilliance of album opener "Soap Disco."  The rest of the album cools off a bit after that, but is a consistently good listen from start to finish (though "Oliver" comes pretty close to the high point of "Soap Disco").  I can't say that I consider The Fourth World an essential listen, but it's a CD I've been carrying around for almost twenty five years and when I found out they finally put out a vinyl version all these years later, I just couldn't resist.

Now, the weird part of all of this is that several of the guys in this band went on to be in Maroon 5.  I can't say I know much of anything about them other than giving them a quick listen about a hundred years ago when I heard the were 'ex-members of Kara's Flowers.'  I thought the new version was pretty bad and moved on with my life.  They are famous now, and I think it's funny that they're embarrassed by their record from 1997, but I thought it was fun back then and it's still a good listen now.  There's no accounting for taste.

Kara's Flowers - The Fourth World:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_k-RtTvF7pbbc4uU-pcUOFUtlYIWHQU0B8

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde 2xLP - Blue and Yellow Vinyl

Untitled

Delicious Vinyl / Craft (2017, 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.

This Pharcyde album is one that probably took longer to add to the collection than it should have.  I'm not sure why I waited so long, but of course once I did decide it was time to buy it had gone out of print again and took some effort to track down at a reasonable price.  Luckily I did and was even able to get the cool version on colored vinyl.  But I'm quickly learning that as these old school hip hop records get reissued, they go back out of print just as quickly.

Anyway, I've have this CD forever and before that I had the "Passin' Me By" cassette single.  That's the song that caught my attention on Yo! MTV Raps and made me a fan of the group.  Though the album came out in 1992, "Passin' Me By" wasn't a single until 1993.  And even though they predated Souls of Mischief by a bit, I always tie this song and the Souls' track "93 til Infinity" together.  They just exemplified the sort of laid back, effortless rap that was a big contrast to some of the more hard hitting albums I was listening to at the time.  To this day, I'll put "Passin' Me By" up against almost any golden era track.  It's unbelievably great and has aged like fine wine.

I never felt the album as a whole could ever quite live up to the expectations of that one track, but it is still pretty great.  Lots of innovative beats and interesting rhyming.  There's some skits that I don't care for, which is a common theme with a lot of hip hop albums of the era.  The album also has a few questionable turns of phrase here and there when it's looked at with 2021 eyes, but again - nothing that is unusual for a lot of albums from this era.

As far as I can tell, there just isn't any hip hop coming out these days that sounds like this.  If I'm wrong, please educate me.  I would love to hear more albums that have that upbeat crack of the snare drum in the beat and rhyming that's pushing the limits without becoming so off beat that it's unlistenable.  The Pharcyde did a tremendous job of making an album that's flat out fun to listen to.  And then "Passin' Me By" comes on and elevates everything to that next level.

The Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde:

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Christmas Bride - Dark Romance Of A Midnight Wanderer Cassette

Untitled

Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

I eagerly await packages from Snappy Little Numbers.  In addition to the pretty consistent quality of their releases, my favorite thing is how some records just come out of left field and are not the sort of thing I would have discovered if they were not coming out on a label I trust.

Case in point is The Christmas Bride.  This is an album that doesn't fit neatly into any preconceived classification.  The record is all kind of over the place, though it is bound together by pretty strong hooks in every song.  Maybe in parts it has a pop punk vibe, but the guitar playing is out of this world with crazy riffage and leads that would really be more at home on a heavy metal world than how they're being used Dark Romance Of A Midnight Wanderer.  

The other thing that I can't get out of my head is how I keep thinking a lot of these songs wouldn't be out of place as a non-parody song on a Weird Al record.  Not that they're overly silly or humorous, but there's this energy and dynamic feeling about them that remind me of the sort of pastiches that Al has been perfecting over the last forty years.

Man, this has been kind of a shitty description of the album.  Sort of pop punk, sort of Weird Al with heavy metal lead guitar?  That sounds terrible, but this tape is not.  It's a fun and interesting listen with songs written by an extremely talented guitar player and bristling with energy.  That's the intangible quality that's so hard to capture but always makes me go back to an album again and again.

The Christmas Bride - Dark Romance Of A Midnight Wanderer Cassette:
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/dark-romance-of-a-midnight-wanderer

Friday, June 18, 2021

Pollen - Peach Tree LP

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 President Gator (2021, Reissue)

I have to be honest, I'm shocked beyond words that there is demand for a vinyl pressing of this album.  I'm happy there is, and obviously I bought a copy, but if you were asking me about 90s records I thought would be reissued, I don't think I would have ever mentioned Pollen.

For me, Pollen was another one of those late 90s bands kind of major label bands that probably spent a lot of time in cut out bins.  They were on Wind Up who was distributed by BMG so the promos flowed plentifully.  I got my CD copy when I was writing for my college newspaper.  The band had released two earlier records on Grass, but that was the first time I had personally heard of them.  The record is good and just listening to the vinyl the other day, I was kind of surprised just how well it held up.

You have the big crunchy guitar sound that I love, catchy choruses and slightly gravelly vocals.  The Stevenson/Egerton production credits were always pushed, but I never thought Pollen sounded too much like All or Descendents. For me, they were more melodic and were never playing super fast, trying to race to the finish of the song.  

As much as I think the record holds up ("Almond-Coated" in particular is just such a killer song) I still laugh at the chorus of "Tiny Shoes" every time I hear it.  It's a good song, but the lyrics in the chorus repeating "Tiny shoes for tiny feet" always struck me as being beyond goofy.  I also remember to record label promo item of wind-up walking shoes that was given out, but I don't think I ever actually owned one of those.

Anyway, minor lyrical criticism aside, I do still enjoy this album and I think it's one that probably under the radar for a lot of folks.  It's worth a listen if you didn't check it out in 1997.  And for the one thousandth time, someone please put out Onehundredpercentfreak by Alligator Gun on vinyl.  You can't possibly convince me there's more of a demand for Pollen reissues than there is for AG.

Pollen - "Almond Coated":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ohSZ1RGsZw&ab

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Road to Riches LP - Yellow w/ Purple & Blue Splatter Vinyl (/300)

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Omerta (2017, 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.

Road to Riches originally came out in 1989, but I never heard it for whatever reason.  I was well aware of Kool G Rap's reputation of being one of the best lyricists in hip hop, but I don't recall seeing many, if any, Kool G Rap and DJ Polo videos on Yo! MTV Raps.  Most of what I knew about them was from what I read in the source.  At some point over the years, I listened to their third album, Live and Let Die, but I don't really remember thinking it was anything special, so i didn't dig any deeper.

While I was listening to an episode of the Take It Personal podcast (which I recommend if you want to hear some old school 90s style mixes) they played this amazing song with an excellent piano sample.  They didn't identify it at the time, but I went back to try to figure out what it was.  It was the opening track to this album and I love it.

So, next step was to track down a copy of Road to Riches.  I ultimately got it from Discogs at an OK price, but with the shipping it certainly wasn't cheap.  I'm not sure why so much of the good hip hop reissues are on labels based out of Europe.  But, once it arrived I found out it wasn't just the title track from this record that was worthwhile.  Pretty much everything was great with it feeling pretty ahead of its time for 1989.  I'm probably going to give their 2nd album a try to see if I like it as much as their debut, but if nothing else Road to Riches is pretty much a stone cold classic that I really wish I had heard back when it came out.

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Road to Riches:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lD5gt1WPQqrd-Iv7DP9-zdnMuFPCok9-Q

Monday, June 14, 2021

Autogramm - No Rules LP - Clear with Blue & Green Splatter Vinyl

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Nevado (2021)

I wrote about a 7" that these guys put out a few years ago and even though I used the word 'synth' while describing them, I still actually liked it.  Probably because the easiest touchstone for me to reference was The Cars, a band I have enjoyed since I was a child.  Now I have a full album of Autogramm songs to listen to and the question is; can they hold my interest for a full album as opposed to a single?  For the most part, the answer is yes. 

I say for the most part because when the band is playing faster tempo songs, I tend to get into them and really dig what the band is doing.  The opening title track has the energy of a new wave blast with some keyboard work that reminds me of Adventures of Jet.  "Bad Day" is a power pop blast with a great hook. Songs like "Jody Is a Cop" and "Shut Up" have punchy drumming and a frenetic energy that would make Zebrassiers proud.

When things mellow out a little bit on a song like "Mantra" or "Future Primate," it all gets just a little to 80s for me.  I don't want to say they're mall-rock necessarily, but you get the feeling that the hip kids in Fast Times at Ridgemont High would have these songs playing in their cars.   Whatever stupid 80s reference you want to make, the bulk of the music from that decade isn't something I look back towards with much nostalgia.  When Autogramm is rocking, I dig it.  When the sort-of-ballads start, I kind of check out a bit.

Autogramm - No Rules:
https://autogramm.bandcamp.com/album/no-rules-2

Friday, June 11, 2021

Pavement - Shady Lane 7" - Lathe Cut (/25)

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Fellaheen (1997)

Pavement is one of my very favorite bands and they are among the most influential that I've listened to over the years.  I discovered them early in my initial toe-dipping into punk rock and indie rock in the mid 90s and they have remained a favorite ever since.  It's their first three (four if you count the Drag City Westing compilation) albums that hit with me the most.  Brighten The Corners is still good, but I just never connected with it quite the same way as the others.  Shady Lane is a song from that album.

In Australia, several Pavement records were released on a label called Fellaheen.  For the most part their versions seem to just be the Matador version with a different logo on them, but they did a few weird things.  When the band released the Pacific Trim EP, Fellaheen didn't release a standard 7".  They did a lathe cut version that was limited to only 100 copies.  I was very lucky to have acquired one of those many, many years ago.  Aside from the copy I have, I've never seen another for sale.

When it was time to do the Shady Lane single, Fellaheen decided to do another lathe cut, but this time they only did 25 copies.  How the hell was I supposed to get one of these?  I don't have every single Pavement variant in the world, but I do have all of their 7"s.  If there's different artwork, I consider it a different version and need it in the collection.  This was the only hole I had that wasn't a vinyl color or a record label logo variant.

Well, amazingly one popped up on Discogs a few months ago.  It was about $100 shipped and even though that's more money than I should be spending on a one sided 7" right now, I knew I would never have another chance to get my hands on this.  Thank goodness for credit cards.  Getting it here was a little adventurous as the seller initially gave me an incorrect tracking number and I was terrified to see it delivered to a California address a week or so ago.  Luckily it was just a clerical error and my Pavement 7" arrived safe and sound this week.

I'll probably never play it.  There's really no reason to.  Let's be honest, there's really no reason to even own it.  But something in me is broken and I find the uncontrollable need to hunt down these weird trinkets so my collection feels more complete.  Can't really explain it.

Pavement - "Shady Lane":
https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=ixncbflEqes&list=RDAMVMixncbflEqes

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Ultramagnetic MC's - The Four Horsemen 2xLP

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Wild Pitch (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.

A few weeks ago I wrote about picking up a bootleg version of the second Ultramagnetic MCs album, Funk Your Head Up.  It was spaced out on two LPs and sounded much better than the old single LP version I've been dragging around for a while.  That motivated me to start looking for a newer version of the Four Horsemen LP.  I had this already, but my copy was a little bit worn and didn't sound so hot.  I had bought it off eBay or Discogs or something like that quite a while ago, but the condition just wasn't up to par.

So, I stumbled across this copy on eBay that was still sealed.  The cover art was a little beat up (and unfortunately the art on my other copy is a cut out, so it's only marginally better), but having two pristine slabs of vinyl was something I just couldn't pass up.  And man-oh-man does it sound wonderful.

It's hard to rank those first three Ultramagnetic albums.  They're all so different and have elements about them that are superior compared to the others.  I probably will always like Funk Your Head Up more, because I heard it first, but Four Horsemen is definitely a more consistent album start to finish. This is an album where these guys are just embracing their weirdness, making no play at all for crossover appeal and just throwing down off kilter rhymes over tremendous beats. 

In my opinion you really need to own all three of the first Ultramagnetic MCs albums.  They're all perfect in their own way and it's kind of a crime that the second two have been out of print for about a thousand years now.  A new, fancy version of Critical Beatdown just came out (Yeah, I'll be writing about that one pretty soon).  Hopefully that will spark demand for equally fancy reissues of their other golden era classics.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Stools - Live At Outer Limits 12-28-19 LP - White Vinyl

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Big Neck (2021)

The Stools aren't a band name I was personally familiar with when I popped open the package from Big Neck Records that contained this LP.  On top of that, it was a live album, which I'm typically not really a fan of to begin with (Aside from the notable exceptions of Bum - Shake Town! and Leatherface - Live In Oslo).  I wasn't sure this album was the ideal way to introduce me to a new band, but you know what...this might be the best way to hear The Stools for the first time.

What I really like about this record is the blistering energy it is able to capture.  The band just sounds like they are on fire plowing from one blues influenced punk stomper to the next.  It reminds me a little bit of the first Black-Eyed Snakes album, at least in the way that the pounding drums keep things pushing along.  That coupled with the fuzzed out, soulful guitar riffs makes for a magic combination.

I can't say that the vocals are my favorite thing in the world and since it's a live album I can't be sure if it's just a recording issue or if the band's vocals typically sound this way.  Lots of distorted shouting for sure, but it doesn't over power the huge rocking band behind them.  

The Stools - Live At Outer Limits 12-28-19:
https://bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-outer-limits

Friday, June 4, 2021

Radioactivity - Erased 7"

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Wild Honey (2019)

My love for The Marked Men is well documented and in particular I've been such a huge fan of Jeff Burke's songwriting for many, many years.  When he started up the band Radioactivity, I dove right in.  I thought i had been keeping up on all of their releases, but apparently this 7" snuck out in 2019.  Luckily I noticed it in a Green Noise email blast and grabbed a copy.

It's a familiar one-two punch.  The A side "Erased" is fast and hooky with the hyper drumming and chord progressions that feel familiar, but always take a slightly unexpected turn. Things calm down a little on B side "Fear," but Burke has an uncanny ability with vocal melodies and I dig this song every bit as much as the A side.

Again, I don't know exactly how I missed this 7" for two years.  I don't know if it's a lack of paying attention or a lack of reliable places to get information about these types of releases.  I'm pretty sure I'm subscribed to the Wild Honey email list, but this one still slipped past me.  I'll blame old age.

Radioactivity - Erased 7"
https://radioactivitytx.bandcamp.com/album/erased


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Czarface & MF Doom - Super What? LP

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Silver Age (2021)

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.

Most Wednesdays I write up something about an album from around 1988 - 1994, what I consider to be the best time for hip hop.  Lately I've been finding the occasional record that was released as late as say 1995 that I hear for the first time or rediscover.  Those are momentous occasions.  But today we go even crazier.  This album came out this year.   And I like it.  Will wonders never cease.

Czarface and MF Doom have collaborated on an album before, but Super What? is my first time dipping my toe into that pool.  I've never listened to Czarface before as I knew Inspectah Deck from Wu Tang was involved and I've never been a Wu Tang fan to be honest.  As far as MF Doom goes, I love his work with KMD from the 90s, but his other work is more hit and miss for me.  I'm not sure what made me go take a listen to this new release, but I'm glad I did.

My biggest beef with modern hip hop is that I find the beats to be weak and uninspired.  I can't really get down with minimalism in hip hop as I need the big bass lines and boom bap snare cracks to connect.  Super What? has the sort of production work that I really can get behind weaving in classic 90s vibes that Czarface (mostly) and MF Doom (here and there) lay down colorful verses and interesting rhyming patterns.  You're going to get my attention if you drop a lyric about pro wrestler Orange Cassidy.  It's a short album, maybe even too short.  But the quality that they maintain from start to finish is quite astounding.

Not only is this the best new hip hop album I've heard in years and years, I'm impressed enough that I plan on seeking out some other Czarface albums to see if this was a one off anomaly, or if there's finally new hip hop I can pay attention to.

Czarface & MF Doom - Super What?:

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange LP - Orange Cover Edition

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Crypt (1994)

My search for a really excellent listenable version of Orange continues.  I have the original Matador picture disc, which sounds OK but is limited by the lack of fidelity inherent in picture discs.  I also have the semi-recent reissue on Shove, but that one is all crackly and weird for whatever reason.  So I've been searching Discogs trying to find a nice copy of an older pressing.  In the interest of trying to keep things interesting, I zeroed in on this version with different artwork.

I've got to say, as much as I like the usual shiny silver art, I really dig the simple line art on an orange background.   It might be my favorite of the two.  Unfortunately this record is just as full of crackle and surface noise as the recent reissue.  It's not bad or unlistenable.  For its age, it's actually in really nice condition.  But one thing about this record is that there are a lot of pauses and moments of silence where the pops and cracks really stand out in ways that they wouldn't on other albums.

Maybe I'm fighting a losing battle, trying to find the perfect specimen.  But I love this album so much and am so annoyed that I never picked up a good copy over the past twenty seven years.  I'll keep looking and hopefully something will pan out eventually.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange (YouTube Music full album playlist): https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mYhqeq9YyjZFO1hIfdKwtRdRxyY6EK5-s

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

3rd Bass - Derelicts of Dialect 2xLP

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Def Jam / Columbia (1991)

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

Derelicts of Dialect came out during the summer of 1991, the summer between 8th grade and my freshman year of high school.  I first became really and truly interest in hip hop when I was in 7th grade and Mama Said Knock You Out came out.  I loved that song and credit it immensely with pushing me towards finding more hip hop that I liked.  Even though I never ended up being that big of an LL Cool J fan, that one song is responsible for shifting the way I looked at music immeasurably.

Back to the summer of 1991.  I was aware of 3rd Bass from "Gas Face" being played on Yo! MTV Raps, though I didn't pick up The Cactus Al/Bum until after I had gotten Derelicts.  "Pop Goes The Weasel" was the first single from this new album and it got a lot of play on Yo! and eventually was in regular rotation on MTV.  This was a long time ago and I may have the timing wrong, but I'm pretty sure that summer was when MTV was playing blocks of videos all the same genre.  I remember sitting through trash waiting for more rap videos and 3rd Bass being a frequent part of them.  That prompted me to buy the CD.

I don't know why, but I have an unusually clear memory of buying this CD when I was a kid.  We went to this record store that was in a strip mall up where I grew up in Sussex County, NJ.  It wasn't a cool or hip shop, it was just an independently owned record store that pretty much sold the same stuff you'd get at Sam Goody.  It wasn't there long and I think this was the only thing I ever bought there.  Anyway, I remember picking up the long box CD from a rack and being excited they were actually carrying it.  Why is that memory so vivid? No clue. Nothing interesting happened, but that's when I bought this as a kid.

On to the vinyl. Derelicts of Dialect hasn't been reissued on LP since 1991, so I had to hunt down an older copy.  I picked this one up on Discogs at a reasonable price and am psyched to have it in my collection.  I think it holds up really well, though like a lot of albums of that era, it's probably a little too long and would benefit from a shorter, tighter tracklist.  That happened a ton on early 90s hip hop albums with everyone testing the capacity of CDs.  

In particular the title track, "Pop Goes The Weasel,"No Static At All" and "Ace In The Hole" are jstill really great.  Thirty years later and I'm here nodding my head along with the bass.  Crazy.  Also crazy is how young the 3rd Bass guys look in all of the pictures and videos.  When I was in 8th grade, they seemed like grown up rappers.  Seeing them now, I realize they were kids too.  Wild times.

3rd Bass - Derelicts of Dialect:

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Hamiltones - Dracula Invitational 1791 LP - Red Vinyl

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Big Neck / Swimming Faith (2021)

It's really cool to finally see a full length album from The Hamiltones.  I've been a fan since they dropped a demo tape in my lap quite a few years ago and to see them upgraded to full length vinyl on record labels with some notoriety is a wonderful thing.  Add in the fact that the artwork is great and the music is stellar and you've got an entry for one of the best records I've heard this year.

To me, The Hamiltones have always been a weird (in a good way) amalgamation of The Ventures and The Hex Dispensers.  Yeah, they are playing surf music.  But what The Hamiltones are doing is taking that initial spark, running it through a horror movie filter and turning into a sound that['s much darker and ominous, but retains that surfy vibe that keeps the record bouncing along.  This is not dour music, this is something dangerous could be lurking around the next corner - so keep your eyes open.

There's also a kinship here with the Swami John Reis and The Blind Shake album from a few years ago.  Dracula Invitational has less fuzz and distortion than Modern Surf Classics, but there's still that deep, heavy vibe that I just absolutely love.  Listening to this album is such a good time and I hope it helps get The Hamiltones the attention that I think they've been deserving for quite some time.

The Hamiltones - Dracula Invitational 1791:
https://bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com/album/dracula-invitational-1791

Friday, May 21, 2021

Boys Life - Departures And Landfalls LP

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Topshelf (2015, Reissue)

I'm not sure when the first time I heard the word emo was, but it definitely had a different connotation than it does today, or even that it ended up having in the mid 90s.  When I first heard it the bands being talked about were the early DC bands like Rites of Spring.  Then in the mid 90s, it started being used to describe the midwestern scene that was popping up that included Promise Ring, Get Up Kids and bands like that.  But to me, if we're going to misuse that word, the band that is the quintessential mid 90s version of that word (and is actually a good band) is Boys Life.

I first heard Boys Life when Headhunter/Cargo send me a CD copy of Departures and Landfalls when I was the music editor at my college newspaper in 1996.  I had reviewed and interviewed fluf and ended up on their promo list, for which I was grateful.  I remember looking at the album cover and thinking how nice and tranquil it seemed.  I'm not positive I knew what to expect, but ever since that first moment I put the CD in, I've had a fondness for this band that I never had for the others that were in the same camp, like Braid.

The guitar work on this record is wild.  It's jangly and noisy at the same time while veering crazily from quiet to chaotic.  The band is painting soundscapes along the way, but never losing track of the fact that they are playing songs and a little structure is a nice thing to have as the wander from idea to idea.  Departures And Landfalls was never a record I would listen to a lot.  I know it well after all of these years, but it's not a record that lends itself to mixtapes or casual listens.  But sometimes, the mood is just perfect for this album and when that mood strikes, I'm glad to finally have it on LP.

Boys Life - Departures And Landfalls:
https://boyslife1.bandcamp.com/album/departures-and-landfalls-remaster

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Styles of Beyond - 2000 Fold 2xLP

Untitled

Ideal / Mammoth / Bilawn (1999) 

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 I dig through all of these incredible old school hip hop albums, two things are happening.  The first is I am listening to a lot more hip hop and have rekindled a deep passion for it that I haven't felt since I was a teenager.  That directly leads to the second thing.  I am actively digging around for groups I missed the first time around and am trying to find more records that fit into the late 80s early 90s mold of hip hop that I'm most passionate about.

This record by Styles of Beyond is from 1999, way outside the time frame that I typically associate with the sort of hip hop I love.  Yes, there are outliers like Mr. Lif, Jurassic 5 and Edan, but in general if if came out after 1994, it's usually not something I'm interested in.  Styles of Beyond are another group you can add to that outlier list.  This is a record full of beats and rhymes steeped in the early 90s that I love so very much.  They're not as much of an obvious throwback as Jurassic 5.  If anything, they sound more like a group that got stuck in 1993 and just so happened to take six years for the record to get released.

Even though they are from the west coast and have obvious influences from that scene, they do remind me a little bit of Black Moon, though with somewhat cleaner production and beats.  I had never heard of these guys until I came across some sort of 'most overlooked hip hop records of the 90s' type list.  In digging around since getting this record, I've found out that they might be more known than I though, having released some additional records and appearing on a Transformers movie soundtrack?  I need to look into some of their other records, but I can wholeheartedly recommend 2000 Fold if you're into the sort of hip hop I typically write about on Wednesdays.

Styles of Beyond - 2000 Fold (YouTube Music full album playlist):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nbmx2-XLy6eGWkYDjK_B6zWxNs05yeORY

Monday, May 17, 2021

Red Devil Ryders - Pour Me Another One LP

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Just Because (2021)

The first thought I had when I opened up the package that contained this record was that it looked like one of the old Flying Burrito Brothers LPs from my dad's record collection.  While I wouldn't ever go so far to compare Red Devil Ryders to the Brothers Burrito, the art did give me a hint that there would be a countrified leaning to the proceedings.  It's not overt or wandering into an alt-country NPR snoozefest, but it colors the direction of the album.  And I mean that in a good way.

With the muddy guitar tone and the rollicking nature of the riffs, I'm reminded a lot of W.H. Walker and their incredible Suds! album.  There's also times where the melodies really come to the forefront and in those moments I think that a tour with Red Devil Ryders and The Goodnight Loving would make a lot of sense.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that this sort of country lean has roots in old fashioned outlaw country and would be better placed next to your Slim Cessna records than it would next to any Jay Farrar LPs.

I do tend to like this the best when the tunes are fast.  "Elvins' Piano," "Smoked Blunt Blues" and "Wings on Monday" are the standouts to me, but the entire record is really consistent and weaves a good story from start to finish.  This one is an early stand out for me in what has been a somewhat lackluster year for new records so far.  Check it out.

Red Devil Ryders - Pour Me Another One:
https://justbecauserecords.bandcamp.com/album/pour-me-another-one

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton LP

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Priority / Ruthless / UMe (2013, Reissue)

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

I'm not entirely positive that the version I have is the 2013 reissue.  There have been others since that one came out, though the barcode and matrix etchings match.  Not that it really matters to me, but I know some folks care about those types of specifics.  It's my best guess anyway.

I really like Straight Outta Compton.  It's a classic at this point and in particular really shows just how incredible Ice Cube was when he first started out.  Every time he picks up the mic, it's magic.  Though, if I'm being honest, I'm actually more familiar with the N.W.A. follow up, Efil4zaggin.  That's the one I had when I was in high school.  I didn't pick up Straight Outta Compton until later and I didn't add the vinyl to my collection until pretty recently.

I'm pretty sure the first time I heard N.W.A. was the song "Express Yourself."  I had that one because a version of it was on a Yo! MTV Raps compilation CD I had (Along with a really long, excellent version of BDP's "My Philosophy").  But when the video for "Always Into Something" came out, that's what inspired me to finally buy an N.W.A. album.  Completely backwards to most people, I know, but I've always fallen into bands the wrong way.

Anyway, this record still sounds important and dangerous.  Like many hip hop albums from the late 80s and early 90s there are aspects that do not age well.  But as a time capsule of 1988, this was pretty darn innovative and influential.  Though some of that influence would later on end up what drove me away from hip hop (See: The Chronic & the ten million soundalikes it spawned).

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton (YouTube Music full album playlist):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_n7tQZHCeKZKGghMCNVcHQp51maARM_9xY

Monday, May 10, 2021

Pinhead Gunpowder - Trundle & Spring 7" - White & Black Split Color Vinyl

Untitled

1234 Go! (2021)

If pressed, I really can't give a good reason why I bought this Pinhead Gunpowder 7" reissue.  I have the original pressing of this from the 90s and all four songs are also on the Jump Salty LP.  I think I was mostly suckered in by the split colored vinyl.  It is my favorite colorway when there is a limited version.  Pinhead Gunpowder is also one of those bands where I am a bit more prone to grabbing a variant, though there are two additional versions of this reissue that I didn't buy.

Honestly, there's no really good reason other than it looks cool, they're a band that I really like and I still have that collector bug that sneaks up on me, even when I'm trying to be good.  Plus it's only a 7" and wasn't that much money.

If you don't have these songs, you should really buy Jump Salty.  If you're a weirdo like me and need multiple versions of the same songs, go to town.  It's what I did.

Pinhead Gunpowder - Trundle & Spring 7":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXDg71H9IDs&ab_channel=sweetbabyjaysus

Friday, May 7, 2021

Rocket Bureau - Middle Angst LP

Untitled

Overdue Miracle (2021)

Kyle from Rocket Bureau reached out to me and asked me if I wanted him to send me a copy of this record to write about.  I think this is a better approach than when a random band that obviously hasn't ever read my website sends me something that I'm destined to hate. This way, I can let them know if it's worth them sending out a copy to me.

As soon as the lightning fast opener "Disconnected" fired off, the first thing I thought was 'holy shit, this dude sounds just like the singer from Travis Cut.'  By the time I was thirty seconds in to the second song "Not You" I was already writing Kyle back to let him know that I'd really like to get a copy to write about on this here dumb website.

Middle Angst is a strong guitar pop record.  That initial pop punk rock blast of "Disconnected" is something of a red herring as the rest of the album settles into a uptempo groove.  Lots of big choruses and fuzzy guitars.  There are times, like on "Bummer," where Rocket Bureau veers a little bit towards a rootsy, Tom Petty direction, but for the most part, think Fountains of Wayne style pop hooks with a dude that sounds like Chris from Travis Cut singing away.

This is the sort of record I could see flying under the radar for a lot of people.  I sure would have missed out on it if Kyle hadn't reached out.  But It's one going out of your way to give a listen to.  If you like the sort of nonsense I typically write about, this one might be up your alley as well.

Rocket Bureau - Middle Angst:
https://rocketbureau.bandcamp.com/album/middle-angst-2

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

K-Solo - Times Up LP

Untitled

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):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lm6e5DyQ90je8ZY8CxpslGqo1vPTvSka4


Monday, May 3, 2021

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange LP

Untitled

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):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mYhqeq9YyjZFO1hIfdKwtRdRxyY6EK5-s


Friday, April 30, 2021

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

Untitled

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):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_k26W9-71l-MDKs_byf94KcPaXiTGGABGQ

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders LP

Untitled

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):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kOrQZYtL5Bzd2S7IyP2nY3MDXd5Hc8c2E

 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Come Closer - Pretty Garbage LP

Untitled

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:
https://comeclosermusic.bandcamp.com/album/pretty-garbage

Friday, April 23, 2021

The Beekeepers - Song Demos 3 - 3.5" Floppy Disc

Untitled

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:
https://the-beekeepers.bandcamp.com/album/song-demos-3

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Jeru The Damaja- Wrath of the Math 2xLP

Untitled

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):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nOh5RUXlMgV8Nv6NFtBhTAZ3vraHfO-oU

Monday, April 19, 2021

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

Untitled

 

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: https://thirtysomethingrecords.bigcartel.com/product/starmarket-sunday-s-worst-enemy-lp-pre-order

https://popkid.bandcamp.com/album/starmarket-sundays-worst-enemy