Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Kurious - A Constipated Monkey 2xLP

Untitled

Amalgam (2007, Reissue)

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

When I was in high school, I wrote for the school newspaper.  Surprise, I mostly wrote music reviews.  I'm not sure I'm any better at writing them now than I was back then, but I have been at this for almost thirty years now in some capacity.  Reading that sentence back, I should probably be much better at this than I am.  Oh well.  The point in bringing this up is that a lot of the hip hop albums I've been writing about on Wednesdays are albums that I first wrote about when I was in high school.

If you looked at the size, location and demographics of my high school, it would be no surprise that there wasn't much of an audience from vaguely obscure hip hop albums in 1993.  That was crystalized when I reviewed this Kurious record.  One of the things that the English teachers did was they made people write letters to the editor/newspaper staff.  Only one time was one of these letters directed at me, and it was the week I wrote my review of this album.  I wish I could remember what it said word for word, but in a nutshell it said something to the effect of "Seriously Tim, A Constipated Monkey?"  There were then a few lines about how no one had ever heard of most of the stuff I liked.

It remains amusing to me that this is my strongest memory about the Kurious record.  I was kind of disappointed with it when it was initially released.  Kurious had been shouted out on several Hieroglyphics albums by this point and Casual was a guest appearance on "What's The Real."  This is one of those instances where the intervening years have been very kind to Kurious.  I think this album holds up way better than I would have predicted back in the 90s.  It's flat out great in places, particularly with the production prowess of The Beatnuts and the SD50's.

Kurious has a laid back flow and pulls off some impressive verses, but the reason the record sounds so timeless is because of the production.  I feel like this record is somewhat forgotten to the sands of time, but I am grateful that a 2xLP version was put out in 2007.  It took me a while to hunt down a copy at a reasonable price, but it's here now and it sounds great.  Even better than I thought it did in 1993.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Saturday Night Karaoke - Millennial Kicks 7" - Pink Vinyl

Untitled

Waterslide / SP / Bloated Kat / Monster Zero / Quickening (2021)

Saturday Night Karaoke are a band that has been cranking out a good amount of releases over the past few years, this 7" is their most recent and was released on quite a few labels from around the world.  So chances are if you are reading this, there's probably a label close by that you could pick this up from if you wanted it.

I've written about Saturday Night Karaoke before and I kind of stand by my prior statements that they really feel like a Mutant Pop band to me.  They've got that Ramonesy sing-song version of pop punk going on, but I do really like this particular 7" more than a lot of other bands that go down this path.  I hear elements of bands like Walker and there's definitely a kinship with The Hum Hums that I can't not hear.  

It's very easy for this style of pop punk to end up sounding kind of generic and just fade into the background, but Saturday Night Karaoke manage to avoid those traps.  They write genuinely great pop songs with great hooks, killer backing vocals and sweet, sweet melodies. 

Saturday Night Karaoke - Millennial Kicks 7":
https://saturdaynightkaraoke.bandcamp.com/album/millennial-kicks


Friday, September 10, 2021

The Animal Steel - A Surefire Way to Get Sober LP - Lemon Lime Vinyl (/300)

Untitled

Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

So your band name is a pro wrestling reference and your record has come out on Snappy Little Numbers?  Well, yeah, chances are that I might be in your demographic.  Following up on a flexi single that came out a few months ago, The Animal Steel drop off a full length album and it has the same sort of style and energy that made me dig the one song on that flexi.

I can't listen to these guys and not hear some Jawbox creeping in on their guitar work.  The drumming is more straight forward and it doesn't delve into the odd time signature thing much, but there's this low rumble with jagged riffs that really make me think about the 90s.  Vocally, I think they have more in common with the RVIVR/Iron Chic set with impassioned delivery and strong melodies.

The songs are all on the longer side with several topping the four minute mark, but it's only a nine song LP so you're still in and out in under forty minutes.  But it's a fun ride for those nine songs. 2021 has been a lean year for new records, but this is one worth checking out.  Not sure I would rank it super high in comparison to years past, but this year it's a standout.

The Animal Steel - A Surefire Way to Get Sober:
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/a-surefire-way-to-get-sober

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Coup - Kill My Landlord 2xLP

Untitled

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.

I wasn't aware of Kill My Landlord coming out in 1993.  I blame it on the sheer number of incredible, genre defining releases that came out that year.  I don't recall seeing a Coup video on Yo! MTV Raps and I don't even remember any coverage of this first album in The Source, but we're talking nearly thirty years ago, so it's possible they were there, but I missed them.  Regardless, I'm glad that I eventually caught up to The Coup as their debut album is pretty incredible.

The beats are really tremendous, with big, clear bass lines rumbling along intricate and socially conscious lyrics.  The Coup should be mentioned in the same breath as Public Enemy and X Clan, but where The Coup takes it a bit further is in the way that attack the entire structure of capitalism, the lynch pin of the inequality they are fighting.  It's a heady, thought provoking record, but not one that is done in a preachy or condescending matter.  First and foremost, the songs are great.  That the message is clear and thought provoking is not what I would call a bonus, but something that just adds to a record I'm already predisposed to enjoy.

Again, this is so much in my wheelhouse that I don't really understand how I missed it the first time around.  I'll blame it on availability and the lack of media penetration.  While I dug as deep into hip hop as someone in rural New Jersey could in the early 90s, without access to the internet the way we have now, it was much harder to find out about everything that was out there.

The Coup - Kill My Landlord:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kCv4OntS3uGDdThofKzttyOXzebBLoGxM

Friday, September 3, 2021

J Church - Quetzalcoatl LP

Untitled

Allied (1993)

I've said it a few times over the years, but J Church is on of those bands that I didn't appreciate enough when they were still active.  I had a bunch of split 7"s with their songs on them, typically from buying the record due to the other band.  I had the Camels, Spilled Caronas... picture disc (which I sold or traded away at some point over the years) and I even went to go see them play at The Pipeline in Newark once.  I've said all of this before, but it's only been in recent years that I've really given J Church a real chance.  And predictably, I've tended to like just about everything.

Quetzalcoatl is the first J Church full length.  While I probably don't like it quite as much as I like Arbor Vitae, it's a really strong record packed full of big hooks and sing along choruses.  It's pop punk, but it's pop punk that's more rooted in a punk place than some of the more popular goofy stuff that had the spotlight shone on it so brightly in the mid 90s.  I feel like J Church has way more in common with early Snuff or Leatherface than they do with some of their US contemporaries like Green Day or Mr. T Experience.

But yeah, long story short is that I totally messed up and should have bought their records back then instead of waiting until nearly thirty years later.  I'm going to try to grab their full lengths and probably the singles comps at some point, but I don't think I'll ever dive into their 7"s too much.  That insane singles discography is one of the reasons I found buying their records to be somewhat intimidating back in the 90s.


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Onyx - Bacdafucup LP

Untitled

Def Jam / JMJ / Respect The Classics (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.

Bacdafucup is one of those CDs that I had when I was in high school that made certain family members wonder what the hell I was getting into.  Not that any of them listened to it, but just the fact that it was called what it was raised a few eyebrows.  I can't say that Onyx was one of my favorites when it came out in 1993.  I liked "Slam" from when I heard it on Yo! and I think I got the CD from BMG or Columbia House during one of those ten CDs for a penny gimmicks.  But listening to it again in the last few years, I appreciate it more now than I did then.

What makes it stand out, like so many albums of that era, is how great the beats are.  I love this era of hip hop and how the snare just cracks along with rumbling bass lines.  Lyrically, Onyx isn't anything special.  They're a group of gravely voiced MCs that stand out for sure as being unique, but the vocals can be a bit much from time to time.

Bacdafucup probably isn't one of those records I'd be prone to put on all that often, but there are moments where it is kind of the perfect album to listen to, for reasons I'm not really able to articulate.  Plus this is one of the albums i had as a kid and I am still working through my goal of picking up everything I had back then on vinyl.  One more down.

Onyx - Bacdafucup:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_m2P0AWCX11B6gQwzcRAKAR9lx3YKNYuRA

Monday, August 30, 2021

Custody / Bear Away - Split 7" Lathe (Clear, /30)

Custody / Bear Away - Split 7" Lathe (Clear, /30)

Brassneck / Disillusioned (2021)

I don't have many lathe cut records.  And most of the ones I have are kind of old.  There must have been some big time advances in lathe technology over the past few years as I am shocked how good this split 7" sounds.  Does it sound quite as good as a proper piece of vinyl, just barely, no it doesn't.  It's a little bit heavy on the low end and is maybe lacking in crispness ever so slightly.  But that said, my jaw was on the ground when I put this on the turntable as I couldn't believe how good it did actually sound.  We live in crazy times, folks...

Anyway, there's two bands on this record, the first of which is Custody, a long time favorite of mine and definitely in the running for being one of the best active bands going.  They've long since mastered the Samiam-esque style of melodic punk and their contribution, "Running In Circles," is just another example of said mastery.  The way the powerful vocals mesh in with the dynamic and catchy guitar work is just fantastic.  I wish these guys put out a new record every week, like Rocket From The Crypt 1995-style.

Bear Away isn't a band I was familiar with prior to getting this record, and damn if this isn't the reason I love split 7"s so much.  While they definitely have something of a similar melodic sound as Custody, Bear Away is definitely a beast unto themselves.  The drums are fast, the guitar riffs are warm and fuzzy and the vocals hit all of the right notes.  These guys are from England and when you listen to their song, I feel like they couldn't be from anywhere else.

This split is just excellent and I'm so relieved to have it in the collection.  If you can find one, grab it...but if nothing else at least the songs are up on Bandcamp to download.

Custody / Bear Away - Split 7":
https://brassneckrecords.bandcamp.com/album/split-11

Friday, August 27, 2021

Rexxx - Pure Pleasure II LP - Red Vinyl (/300)

Untitled

Big Neck (2021)

I wasn't completely sure what to make of Rexxx when I first saw this album.  The artwork had me worried that it was going to be one of those messy synth-punk albums, but no fear - this is some excellent rock and roll.

I'll get straight to the point with this record, Pure Pleasure II is on a short list of the better records I've heard this year.  It's catchy, has big anthemic choruses and scratches that bubblegum power pop/punk itch better than a lot of bands do.  Rexxx could very easily sit right next to your Barreracudas albums or most of the late 2000s Douchemaster Records catalog (if you are the sort of heathen that doesn't file your records alphabetically, that is).  It's short, to the point and a ton of fun.

I don't buy as many records that sound like this as I did about a decade ago.  I'm not sure if that's because that scene dried up or because I just haven't been paying as much attention, but I would have been all over this album in like 2009, and in 2021 it actually stands out even more in comparison to most records coming out these days.

Rexxx - Pure Pleasure II
https://bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com/album/pure-pleasure-ii

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) LP

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) LP

RCA / Loud / Wu-Tang (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.

The first time I heard Wu-Tang clan was when I was watching Yo! MTV Raps in 1993.  The video for the song "Method Man" had just started playing.  I think it was the first time the group had ever been on Yo!, but if not, it was definitely the first time I saw them.  I loved that song.  Often in those days I'd buy a cassingle before committing to the full CD, but not this time.  I went right out and bought 36 Chambers.

I was phenomenally disappointed.  Probably listened to the whole CD a handful of times max, put "Method Man" on a few mix tapes and eventually just sold the CD.  I didn't get it.  Then Wu-Tang started getting more popular, became a juggernaut and I never went back and revisited.  I had pretty much given up on hip hop by that point anyway.

Fast forward to now.  I've been digging real deep in 90s hip hop.  Trying to find new relics that I've never heard while also trying to make sure I have vinyl versions of all the CDs I had as a kid.  One of the ways I look for new old hip hop is through a podcast called Take It Personal.  They're currently doing a series of specials dedicated to the year 1993.  On one of these, they played several songs from 36 Chambers and it felt like I was hearing them for the first time.

I decided to give it a whirl and pick up the LP.  I'm glad I did.  I'm not sure exactly why this didn't connect with me when it first came out.  Sure, there are still a few songs that I think are just too slow and you'll never convince me that "C.R.E.A.M." isn't an overblown mess.  But, the vast majority of the record is pretty fun.  I tend to gravitate towards the songs with more robust beats and to this day, "Method Man" is still the highlight track for me.  But, right on its tail is "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" which is a song I don't remember in any capacity.  I can't believe I didn't like it when I was sixteen.

I may be nearly thirty years late to the party, but I am glad I finally realized that 36 Chambers is a pretty good record.  I wouldn't even rank it in the top ten records of 1993, let alone declare it as one of the greatest of all time, but it's a good, fun record that will be a pleasure to bring out for a change of pace every so often.

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Extra Width LP

Untitled

Matador (1994)

I'm not sure I will ever make it and replace all of my Blues Explosion CDs with vinyl, but I do want to track down some of the key pieces if nothing else.  While I have always been a disciple of Orange and never adored any Blues Explosion album quite as much as that one, I have always liked everything else.  Even the albums I would rank on the lower part of the scale still have their moments.  Extra Width, however, probably ranks higher than that for me.

I'm not sure what album is my second favorite one from Blues Explosion, but Extra Width is in the running.  While it's not as slick and catchy as Orange is, you can definitely see the building blocks that would make Orange great being put to use on this album as well.  Slinky guitar riffs, shouting random non-sequiturs and just starting to get into that vibe that would become the Blues Explosion's trademark.

The stand outs for me have always been "Aftro," "History of Lies," "Soul Typecast" and "Inside the World of the Blues Explosion."  Those would be solid standouts on any album.  The rest of the record isn't filler, but I don't think the other songs reach quite as high.  It would take Jon and company one more album to perfect their potion, but once they did...hot damn was it ever perfect.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Extra Width:
https://shoverecords.bandcamp.com/album/extra-width

Friday, August 20, 2021

Gary Young - Hospital LP

Untitled

Big Cat (1994)

I have something of a long term goal to eventually replace every CD I own with its vinyl companion.  (Well, maybe not replace as I feel like I'm probably not going to get rid of the CD version, but regardless, I want the vinyl).  In some instances this won't be possible as there is no vinyl version (I'm looking at you Alligator Gun and Him Kerosene), but where it is, let's get a record on the shelf.

This Gary Young LP is a prime example of this.  I bought the CD of this in 94 or 95 at the latest when I was still finding my way through the world of punk and indie rock.  I really liked Beck and Pavement and through that family tree my friend Joe and I discovered this Gary Young album.  I loved it.

Now, I'm not going to try to convince you that this is a good record.  It's really not.  In fact, it's actually pretty bad in a lot of places.  But what it does have going for it is that it's weird and fun and feels like it just rambled its way out of someones brain and ended up being released by a label.  That's what a lot of the 90s was, I think, particularly the lofi scene.

So in 2021, does it hold up? No, it doesn't.  But the nostalgia factor is absolutely huge for me.  I can't help but smile during "Plant Man" or "Birds In Traffic" or the insanely depressing "Warren."  The only problem I have with the vinyl version is that it's missing the two bonus tracks that came on the CD, the latter of which was a redone version of the song "Foothill Blvd" that is about a thousand times better than the one in the normal album sequence.  With those bonus tracks the entire CD is only 37 minutes long, so there's no real reason not to have included those on the vinyl (Another reason why I'll need to hang on to the CD version as well).

Even though it's unlikely I will be listening to this album all that often, I'm really glad to have it in my collection.  It was around during a key time in my musical education and frankly just deserves to be on the vinyl shelf with the other 90s gems.  Also, big thanks to my pal Scott for grabbing this album for me from a UK based seller.  I never see this for sale in America and the postage to ship a 1 off LP across the ocean sure is escalating...

Gary Young - Hospital:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_m3p87S_RdbYXMLGLCXM4beRnZSu0i6KDQ

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Leaders Of The New School - A Future Without A Past 2xLP

Untitled

Traffic (2004, Reissue)

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

In 1991 there was no way to escape the video for "Case of the P.T.A." on Yo! MTV Raps.  It was on a lot.  That's not a complaint as I'm grateful it was on often enough that it stuck with me and made me pick up the CD.  There's lots of interesting history out there on the internet about Leaders of the New School.  Of course, they are most know as that group that Busta Rhymes started off in, but there's other anecdotes out there about them running in the same circles as Public Enemy and a battle rap for the rights to the Leaders name.  But for me, I have just always liked this album as a standalone record.

I have never been particularly interested in Busta Rhymes' solo career.  He had that guest appearance on Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario" and his career started to blow up.  There was one more Leaders album called T.I.M.E. that came out in 1993, but after that it was off to the races for Busta and off to essentially nowhere for his cohorts Dinco-D and Charlie Brown. Which is a shame as I think Dinco and Charlie bring quite a lot to the proceedings.  Are they at times overshadowed by the ridiculously charismatic Busta?  Of course, but they hold their own and if they were in any other group they would have shown quite brightly.  I could definitely do without Charlie Brown's random shriek that makes an appearance in too many songs, but when he and Dinco are just rhyming, they're great.

The production is that perfect 1991 style of innovative hip hop that I love.  Big snappy snare drum and rumbling bass.  It's also just a lot of fun.  Something that happened in the 90s that I just don't see at all today is upbeat, happy hip hop.  It doesn't always have to be doom and gloom guys.  And even though this record is somehow thirty years old now, to me it still sounds fresh and fun and brings me right back to my freshman year of high school.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Spells / Hooper - Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 Spilt 7" - Pink Vinyl (/220)

Spells / Hooper - Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 Spilt 7" - Pink Vinyl (/220)

Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

I do not claim to be an all seeing, all knowing oracle of punk rock information, but I do own a few punk rock records.  The gimmick behind this particular split 7" isn't one that I've ever heard of before.  If it is a completely original thought, kudos to all involved.  If it is just something that has only been rarely done that never crossed my path before, again - kudos.  This time for bringing out an idea that I think could use a bigger spotlight.

So, what is the gimmick you ask?  Well for starters, the two bands on this 7", Hooper and Spells, cover a song originally done by the other band.  But Tim, you say, that's been done approximately one hundred thousand times in the past.  Ah yes, but let's talk about the second contribution for each band.  Spells wrote a brand new, never before recorded song.  And they wrote it specifically to be played by Hooper.  Hooper returned the favor and wrote a brand new song for Spells.  So these aren't covers, they are brand new originals written for another band.  To me, this is a wild idea and am super into it.

The songs themselves are fun to listen to as well.  The Spells' take on the two Hooper written songs provide a blast of that usual Spells energy, but with songs that feel a little more straightforward and to the point than some of the more traditional Spells fare.  On the Hooper side or the equation (not their side of the record as each side has a song by each band) is my favorite song of the four, the Hooper version of "Forget About Virginia" from the Spells' Loose Change Vol.1 comp.  Also on board is a new song, "Salted Breeze."

I dig the concept a lot.  It helps that it is executed by two bands I already am a pretty big fan of.  As this is set up as Vol. 1, I assume that means more volumes are coming.  Let me give you the million dollar idea for Vol. 3 or 4.  The Drolls and Foxhall Stacks.  You're welcome.

Spells / Hooper - Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 Spilt 7":
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/rock-n-roll-swap-meet-day-1

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Halo Benders - The Rebels Not In LP

The Halo Benders - The Rebels Not In LP

K (2021, Reissue)

The Halo Benders are dually fronted by Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening and Doug Martsch of Built To Spill.  They put out three records in the late 90s with The Rebels Not In being the final one released in 1998.  I've had the first two on vinyl for a while, but only had the CD of their third album.  For a while now it's been a pretty expensive pick up on the second hand market, so I was pleased to see it available again on the K website.  Word has it that reissues of the first two are on their way as well.

While my favorite Halo Benders album will probably always be their debut, The Rebels Not In certainly has its share of greatness.  I often contend that The Halo Benders are the best vehicle for Calvin Johnson.  I've always been a fan of his vocals, starting with his guest appearances on Beck's One Foot In The Grave album.  I was never able to really get into Beat Happening, I think everything was just a little too jangly and cutesy for my personal taste.

Pairing Calvin with Doug's guitar work and vocals is the sweet spot for me.  Doug keeps everything messy and just loud enough to keep things moving along.  His vocals are such an amazing compliment to Calvin's, especially considering how fundamentally different they are.  But they work together seamlessly in song after song.  If you're going to buy one Halo Benders album to give them a chance, buy God Don't Make No Junk.  But if you dig that one, The Rebels Not In is right up there in terms of song quality.

The Halo Benders - The Rebels Not In
https://thehalobenders.bandcamp.com/album/the-rebels-not-in-klp081

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Nice & Smooth - Ain't A Damn Thing Changed LP

Untitled

Rush (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.

When I think about Golden Era hip hop albums that are certifiable classics, I don't usually think about the second Nice & Smooth record as I'm going through my rolodex of the greats.  But, when I am thinking about my own personal discovery of hip hop, it is part of a very pivotal moment that I still remember with bizarre clarity.  By 1991, I was watching Yo! MTV Raps a lot, I would venture every single day.  I was being bombarded with new music videos and so many were connecting with me.

I went to a record store one day.  I think it might have been a Coconuts, but I know it was a non-mall store and it was on a weekend where I was visiting my dad.  During this trip I bought three albums.  Low End Theory by Tribe Called Quest, Def Before Dishonor by Hard Corps and Ain't A Damn Thing Changed.  Despite my desire to hear more songs like the Public Enemy/Anthrax version of "Bring Tha Noize," Hard Corps was a total whiff and I bet I only listened to the whole album once or twice at most.  Low End Theory became one of the most important records I ever listened.  Somewhere in the middle was Nice & Smooth.

As a whole, it is a very good record.  The production is really solid with good beats throughout.  Greg Nice, in particular, is a tremendous rapper and I have always loved the way he extends his rhyme schemes way beyond the traditional couplet.  It's not uncommon for Greg to blast through six, eight or ten lines that all follow the same rhyming pattern.  It's a ton of fun and I'm always impressed.  Smooth B isn't at Greg's level, but he adds a nice contrast in style and that makes the songs more dynamic.  That said, I don't think I would have much interest in a Smooth B solo record, but I'd have no issue with one from Greg Nice.

For me, where this record gets bogged down is in the choruses.  They're almost universally cheesy, with a repeated line that is kind of goofy or an R&B tinged croon that seems super out of place.  It sounds like they were grasping for some type of mainstream notoriety, but these hooks just don't mesh as well with the lyrics and styles of the verses.  That said, it is still a fun listen all of these years later.  It holds up better than a lot of thirty year old records, but my opinion of it now is pretty similar to my opinion back then.  It's good, but I wish it was a bit more consistent.  It's a great change of pace listen, but not anything I would ever have on constant repeat.

Nice & Smooth - Ain't  A Damn Thing Changed:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mCcXgUtGA5d7ZzyMRVAyV70amNdvKDauc

Monday, August 9, 2021

Frank Black - Teenager of the Year 2xLP

Untitled

4AD (2019, Reissue)

I like The Pixies.  I think most people that get into punk and indie rock find their way to The Pixies eventually.  My introduction was my friend Pat lending me his copy of Surfer Rosa when I was in high school.  From there, I gradually added records to my collection.  I got a greatest hits CD in college and eventually the individual full lengths.  I even liked the first of the two reunion records.  What I didn't pay much attention to was the Frank Black solo records.

Oddly enough, what got me to go check this album out was a comedian.  In the early 2000s, I came across a website called Cook'd and Bomb'd.  It was a news site and media repository dedicated to the works of Chris Morris, perhaps the comedian I have enjoyed more than any other.  Here I gained access to an archive of all of the Radio 4 music shows he did in the mid 90s.  And while the primary reason I wanted was to listen top his surreal radio bits, I also found out about a few 90s albums that I had otherwise missed.

"Headache" by Frank Black (or 'Blank Frank' as Morris quipped) was a song played during a few early episodes.  It had such and infections singalong hook that I found it lodged in my head pretty constantly.  I ended up getting the album and enjoying quite a bit of it.  While I think that it's way too long (22 songs on a rock record is massive overkill), the highs are really high.  I could listen to "Headache" every day and "(I Want to Live on an) Abstract Plain)" is just about as great as well.

I'm pretty sure this 2xLP was released for Record Store Day a couple of years ago.  I wasn't willing to stand in line or pay the flipper prices, but I was happy to find a standard version a few months ago.  Again, it's a lot to take in during one sitting, but most of what's on here is way too good to only exist in my CD rack.

Frank Black - Teenager of the Year:
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kqKQSKRsxqSg5lazfD-AqT-mAEZwkRjO0

Friday, August 6, 2021

Synthizer - The Light Design Vinyl Records Holder


 So this is an odd post, I guess.  I really never write about anything other than records, but Synthizer reached out to me and sent me one of these record stands to review.  Never one to turn down a free accessory for my records, I said sure, why not.  It arrived and I messed around with it for a bit.

It's a simple set up with only 5 parts.  The little acrylic piece is meant to go into whichever slot the larger piece is not in, so you have 2 options, 1 that holds about 50 records and one that holds about 25 of them.

The entire stand is held together by the notches on the wooden backing flat piece.  The 2 legs just notch into that.


 
For the most part, it is sturdy and well constructed.  Though, I do wish that the large acrylic piece had 2 notches so it sat more flush and stable when inserted.  It's not in imminent danger of falling out or anything but I think it would add some stability.

Once you put in the records, they are held and you can flip through them as if you are digging through bins at a record store.




Now, if you are someone like me, this is a completely impractical way to store records.  For starters, I have thousands of them and this only holds 50.  But I also have cats.  So if I leave these tempting cardboard spines unattended and out in the wild, they wouldn't survive an hour.

But, this does have a lot of potential as a 'Now Playing' stand for when I grab a handful of records to play.  The only issue for me, is that the stand was a bit too long to fit where I would need it.  Plus, I don't need space for 50 records that I'm playing now.

So, I decided DIY hack this thing.  I took the legs outside and sawed off from just before the middle notches to the end.  This gave me significantly shorter legs.


Now, I can put the larger acrylic piece in and I have a little display stand that can hold just the right amount of records if I want to go on an afternoon binge.  And it fits perfectly where I needed to put it.

 
All in all, I think this is a useful little gadget.  If I was shopping for one, I'd probably be looking for a shorter one like what I ended up hacking, but it's a quality piece of gear and definitely has its uses.  Long term storage for a large collection isn't one of those uses, but as a display stand, it's pretty great after some minor modification.

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

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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

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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.