Friday, February 26, 2021

DZTN 1980 - Ode To A Dead Earth Cassette

Untitled

 Different Kitchen (2020)

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

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

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

DZTN 1980 - Ode To A Dead Earth:
https://dztn1980.bandcamp.com/album/ode-to-a-dead-earth-lp-2020


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Casual - Me-O-Mi-O 12"

Untitled

 Jive (1994)

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

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

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

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

Casual - "Me-O-Mi-O" 

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

Casual - "Rock On" 

Monday, February 22, 2021

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

Untitled

Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

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

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

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

Spells -  Charlie & The Shithead Take It Down A Notch, Expanded Edition 7"
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/charlie-the-shithead-take-it-down-a-notch-expanded-edition

Friday, February 19, 2021

Fan Fiction - No Frontier Cassette

Untitled

Just Because (2019)

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

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

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

Fan Fiction - No Frontier:
https://justbecauserecords.bandcamp.com/album/no-frontier

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Casual - I Didn't Mean To 12"

Untitled

Jive (1993)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 15, 2021

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

Untitled


Swami (2021)

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

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

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

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

Night Marchers - Wot's Da Use 7" (YouTube Music full 7" stream):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nPwUM1oa_tZ95qgeFr7sshn2tmRYOThQQ

Friday, February 12, 2021

Pitch & Bark - Two EPs Cassette

Untitled

Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

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

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

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

Pitch & Bark - Nowhere Near Ohio:
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/nowhere-near-ohio-reissue

Pitch & Bark - Father Hoxy:
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/father-hoxy-remastered-reissue

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Casual - That's How It Is 12"

Untitled

Jive (1993)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 8, 2021

Brain Bagz / Blood Bags - Split 12"

Untitled

Big Neck (2020)

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

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

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

Brain Bagz / Blood Bags - Split 12":

Friday, February 5, 2021

The Skitchers - Gleam Another Cube Cassette

Untitled

Poop Stick (2019)

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

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

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

The Skitchers - Gleam Another Cube:
https://poopstick.bandcamp.com/album/gleam-another-cube

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Ice-T - O.G. Original Gangster LP

Untitled

Music On Vinyl (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 1, 2021

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

Untitled

2020 (Self Released)

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

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

Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands

Friday, January 29, 2021

Lightning Cult - EP2: Ether Waves Cassette

Untitled

Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

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

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

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

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

Lightning Cult - EP2: Ether Waves
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/ep2-ether-waves



Lightning Cult - EP1: Burner
https://lightningcult.bandcamp.com/album/ep1-burner

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Del The Funky Homosapien - Golden Era 2xLP

Untitled

The Council (2011) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Del The Funky Homosapien - Golden Era:
 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Shiner - Schadenfreude LP - Black Vinyl & Gray Swirl Vinyl

Untitled

Two Black Eyes (2020)

When there's nineteen years between a band's most recent two releases, there is always cause for concern.  Will they be able to pick up somewhere close to where they left off? Is it even possible to capture that sort of lightning in a bottle a second time?  Will anyone even care?  Luckily, when it comes to the new album from Shiner, they tick off all of the boxes and answer any questions with a resounding yes.

I became aware of Shiner primarily because they are my wife's favorite band.  She played them for me and I especially gravitated towards their 2001 album, The Egg.  Coincidently, that was the last album they put our before the nineteen year gap that preceded Schadenfreude.  Listening to Schadenfreude, I think it is a great follow up to The Egg.  

While Allen Epley has stayed active over the years in his other band The Life and Times, they never spoke to me the same way Shiner did.  Though my wife thinks they are great, for me they were just never loud enough.  If there's one thing that Schadenfreude is, it's loud.  It has those huge, crunchy guitar tones and massive energy that I want out of this kind of Jawbox-flavored rock and roll.  

Now, when I say energy, I want to clarify that a bit.  Shine is not playing fast punk rock songs.  Their vibe is slower, but it still packs a mean punch.  I tend to visualize molten lava flowing down a mountain.  It's not going to fly through a town, but it's got an unstoppable inertia to it, churning and building as it wipes out everything in front of it.  It's a big sound and one that I am happy to hear again.

When Shiner started playing some reunion shows and rereleasing their earlier records, there was always hope that new tunes might come to light.  With Schadenfreude that hope became reality and fortunately Shine was also able to live up to the reputation they created for themselves twenty plus years ago.

Shiner - Schadenfreude:
https://shinerkc.bandcamp.com/album/schadenfreude

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Mr. T Experience - Alternative is Here to Stay 7" - Black w/ Red Swirl Vinyl

Untitled

Sounds Rad (2020)

In case you missed it, The Mr. T Experience and Sounds Rad have been reissuing albums over the past few years.  Rumor has it that this will continue for the foreseeable future until every album has been reissued.  This is a project that I have been following pretty closely and even though I have original pressings of most of these releases, I'm keen to see what's next.  

Something I didn't see coming was a reissue of the Alternative is Here to Stay 7".  I had figured (and hoped) that the Mr. T Experience singles would eventually be compiled onto an LP to go along with the two volumes of Shards compilations that have already been released.  I think that might still be a plan of theirs, but I guess we might see more of the individual 7"s as well. 

You'd be hard pressed to start with a better one than this.  I believe that this was the first 'new' MTX record that came out after I discovered them back in the 90s.  I likely only had a few of their records to my name at the time, but this one knocked my socks off.  Anyone with a partial pulse in 1995 could tell you how much we heard the word 'alternative' on an hourly basis.  To see it sent up as a 60s inspired pop punk ditty extolling its virtues, well that was next level funny to me.

The B side is "New Girlfriend."  One of those classic Dr. Frank relationship songs casting a wry eye at things.  It's fast, it's catchy and there's some talking about breasts.  Just the sort of thing that made me chuckle when I was eighteen years old.  And it still makes me chuckle today, to be honest, as it's not done in a mean spirited or cruel way.  It's just a fun, well written and silly song and that's more than you can say for a lot of things these days.

The CD version from back in 1995 also had a third song called "You Today" (and an 'alternative' version fo "Alternative is Here to Stay" that I honestly have zero memory of).  "You Today" isn't on either of the Shards LPs.  Surely this means they'll still have to do a singles comp, right?  Right?

The Mr. T Experience - "Alternative is Here to Stay":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHP5BgVvWmo&ab_channel=Dr.Frank

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths Of Rhythm 2xLP

Untitled

Jive (1990)

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 discovered A Tribe Called Quest in 1993 after seeing their video for "Check The Rhyme" on Yo MTV Raps.  I loved that song so much and was even more enamored with them once I had dug into the full Low End Theory album.  Shortly after that I picked up their debut, People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths of Rhythm.  I am fairly positive I grabbed it as part of one of my Columbia House/BMG Music Club scams.  While I have never liked it the album quite as much as Low End Theory, which to be fair is a tough comparison for album, this debut has its share of great moments.  

I've often felt People's Instinctive Travels was something of an overlooked part of the Tribe discography and listening to my newly acquired copy on vinyl, I'm more sure of that than ever.  The beats are just a step below what you'd hear on Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders, but again, that's a pretty high bar I'm comparing it to.  The same sort of jazzy samples and steady percussion is constant throughout the album and there's no doubt about it, you are listening to a Tribe Called Quest album.

Lyrically, Q-Tip is every bit a great as he is on any other Tribe release and Phife is right there with him.  The interplay between these two as they trade verses is something that has always been special.  They have very different styles, but they are incredible compliments to eat other and every song where they both make an appearance is something special.  I'm thrilled to have this in the vinyl collection and I really need to pick up Midnight Marauders at some point.

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths Of Rhythm (YouTube Music full album stream):
https://music.youtube.com/browse/MPREb_3eauGuTWkgP

Monday, January 18, 2021

Jiffy Marx - She's My Witch 7" - Black & Red Mixed Vinyl

Untitled

Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

Here we go again, Snappy Little Numbers picking up a band I never heard of before, putting out a record by them and dropping it in my lap to great fanfare.  Their track record includes way more hits than misses and you can absolutely chalk up Jiffy Marx in the 'hit' category.

The A side is "She's My Witch" and man of man, it sounds like it could have been an outtake from the Love As Laughter album Laughter's Fifth.  Specifically it reminds me a lot of the song "Dirty Lives" with its laid back, breezy indie rock sound.  There's a loose feel to the instrumentation and the vocals that gives it a quality of the sort of thing you'd hear hanging out with the friends that you've known your entire life.

On the B side we have "Warning Sign."  This one doesn't sound as much like Love as Laughter as the other, but it's still a strong song and is actually the poppier of the two.  I'm not sure if anyone reading this remembers those Space Wolves tapes I got a few years back, but this song makes me think about them quite a bit.  Both good songs, definitely worth giving a listen to.

Jiffy Marx - She's My Witch 7":

Friday, January 15, 2021

Guns n' Wankers - For Dancing and Listening 10" - Black Vinyl and Blue & Green Mix Vinyl

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 Fat Wreck Chords (2020, Reissue)

Randomly, out of nowhere I found an email from Fat Wreck in my 'promotions' folder on my Gmail account.  It harkened the arrival of a few 10" reissues on limited colored vinyl.  One of the items on the list was Guns n' Wankers, originally released on Fat as a 12", but now being condensed by inches and reissued.  The timestamp on the email said it was less than an hour old so I popped over to the Fat Wreck website to collect my prize.

It was sold out already.  I couldn't believe it.  I figured the NOFX reissue would fly out of the door, but I couldn't imagine the GNW 10" would have been blown out that fast.  Dejected, I grabbed a copy on black vinyl and set up an eBay alert.  It didn't take too long for one to pop up and luckily I had just traded in a holiday gift card to get an eBay gift card on one of those exchange sites, so I picked it up for $40.  I'm not as nuts as I used to be about owning every variant of a record, but there will always be a handful of bands where I'm going to get obsessive about things. Snuff and Guns n' Wankers are still on that list.

This version of the GNW songs is not as complete as the one that 10 Past 12 put out recently.  I don't even think it's really called For Dancing and Listening, but it does get referred to as that fairly often.  The three Metal songs and the two songs from the Silly 7" are not on this.  You only get the eight songs that comprised the Pop 7" and the Hardcore 7".  Now, those are the best songs of the bunch and spinning these hits at 45rpm as a 10", there's something that is just very cool about that.  The black vinyl is still up on the Fat Wreck site.  Definitely worth a pick up of these songs aren't in your collection.

Guns n' Wankers - For Dancing and Listening:
https://music.youtube.com/browse/MPREb_fB9N8mJJu5b

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Del The Funky Homosapien & Parallel Thought - Attractive Sin LP - Red Vinyl

Untitled

Parallel Thoughts Ltd. (2012)

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.

Despite the fact that Del The Funky Homosapien is my all time favorite MC, there are still albums of his that I haven't tracked down on vinyl just yet.  Attractive Sin was one of the highest on that list but the cost of obtaining a copy a few years after it went out of print kept it at arm's length for a while.

Over on Discogs it regularly sold for $50+ so I just kept searching.  Luckily, eBay ended up saving the day.  One day a copy popped up for $20.  I followed the auction all week and for whatever reason, I was the only person to place a bid.  It seems odd to me that records can be more expensive on Discogs than they are on eBay these days, but I'm just happy to have been able to get this for a reasonable cost.

As far as the music goes, Parallel Thought serves up some really interesting beats.  They are bass heavy with jazz flourishes that set the mood for Del.  As usual, Del's lyrics are borderline insane with complicated rhyme structures and diverse battle rap material.  I really feel that no one can hold a candle to Del when he's got a great beat to rhyme over and this entire is no exception.

Del The Funky Homosapien & Parallel Thought - Attractive Sin:
https://parallelthought1.bandcamp.com/album/attractive-sin

Monday, January 11, 2021

Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands LP

Untitled

Self Released (2020)

I didn't get a chance to do a proper review of this album before I ran out of time last year, but you may have noticed that the record did rank quite high on my list of the Absolute Best Records of 2020.  I figured that it would make sense to start the year off getting this one written about.

The Black Hole Understands is an album that the members of Cloud Nothings wrote and recorded under quarantine earlier in 2020.  In some ways it's a pretty dramatic departure from their last few records, but in others it's exactly the sort of thing you would expect from cloud nothings.

First off, the differences.  This record is in no way as loud and noisy as usual.  The distortion is dialed way back giving way to cleaner and at times jangly guitar sounds.  As far as the vocals go, there isn't much of the harsh howling that comes up from time to time.  These vocals are more restrained, almost delicate in the way they interact with the music.

But despite these sonic differences, the songs have the classic Cloud Nothings mastery of putting just the right hook in just the right place.  While they certainly have a weariness to them, they nevertheless have an unshakeable optimism.  Just like everyone else, the band is pushing along to get through these times, because surely they'll get better eventually, right?  

The one other comment I have is that when I ordered this record from the Cloud Nothings Bandcamp page, I had ordered the clear with black smoke colored vinyl variant.  When I got this in the mail, it was a straight black vinyl version.  I actually didn't notice this right away as I forgot there was a colored vinyl version and I've contacted the band/label through their Bandcamp page.  Hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on the colored vinyl version.

Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands:
https://cloudnothings.bandcamp.com/album/the-black-hole-understands

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Absolute Best Records of 2020

Untitled


You don't need me to tell you that 2020 sucked.  It did, we all know it and we all hope things get better in 2021.

That said, we were lucky in that there were some really great records this year, despite the insanity.  I know for a fact that I bought fewer new albums in 2020 than any prior year.  I know that there are good records that came out that I haven't heard yet.  There are even records on this list that I wasn't able to get the vinyl for yet.  On the docket for sure.

What I can say for certain is that The Suitesixteen would have been my number one record just about any year it would have come out.  I absolutely adore it and have listened to it more than anything else this year by a country mile.  That isn't to say the rest of the top 10 wasn't great, they were.  Headsparks, Custody and Reverse really brought me back to those feelings I had in the mid 90s when I was obsessing about UK punk rock and Boat checked in with an indie rock record as good as anything that's come out in the past five years or so.  

But, The Suitesixteen record is something truly special.  If you get nothing else out of this year, give that record a listen.

01 - The Suitesixteen - Mine Would Be The Sun - Self Released (Listen)
02 - Headsparks - Working Parts - Fixing A Hole (Listen)
03 - Reverse - Empty Spaces - Boss Tuneage/SP Records (Listen)
04 - Boat - Tread Lightly - Magic Marker (Listen)
05 - Custody - II - Brassneck / Waterslide / Combat Rock (Listen)
06 - Diaz Brothers - Diaz Brothers - Boss Tuneage (Listen)
07 - Dan Sartain - Western Hills - Earth Libraries (Listen)
08 - Bob Mould - Blue Hearts - Merge (Listen)
09 - Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands - Self Released (Listen)
10 - Shiner - Schadenfreude - Two Black Eyes (Listen)

11 - Broken Record - I Died Laughing - Snappy Little Numbers
12 - Ultimate Fakebook - The Preserving Machine - Sonic Ritual
13 - Snuff - The Wrath of Toth - 10 Past 12 / Unless You Try 
14 - Brother Kite - Make It Real - Self Released
15 - Quaker Wedding - In Transit - Salinas
16 - Built to Spill - Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston - Ernest Jennings
17 - Spells - Stimulants & Sedatives - Snappy Little Numbers
18 - Outtacontroller - Sure Thing - Alien Snatch
19 - Soundtrack - Music From G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero - Universal/Hasbro
20 - Dinged Up - Mucho Dolor - Snappy Little Numbers 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Joel Paterson - Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar LP

Untitled

 Ventrella (2018) 

This will be my last post for the year, at least until my annual Best Of that I typically put up on New Year's Eve.  And as usual, I'm going to close out with a new Christmas album.  I've been trying to make sure I buy at least one Christmas album on vinyl every year, to keep that collection growing.  I love Christmas music.  It gets a bad rep sometimes from the repetition of terrible songs, but if you do a deep dive, there is so much fun and rocking music to hear.

I do tend to prioritize old Christmas music, mostly recorded in the 50s and 60s.  To me, that's where the action is.  But every so often something new comes out that is actually good.  This happened in 2017 when Joel Paterson first released Hi-Fi Christmas guitar.  I was immediately taken in by his whirlwind of guitars. My very favorite Christmas album is The Ventures' Christmas Album.  While Joel is not playing surf rock, his record has a similar feel being totally instrumental with timeless Christmas melodies being arranged on guitar.

There's some jazzy tones, some rock and roll and even a couple of songs that border on that classical guitar virtuoso stuff.  Joel can play his ass off, but he never gets too bogged down in the technicalities and keeps the songs fresh and fun to listen to.  It's mostly standards with renditions of songs like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause," "Silver Bells," "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" and others of that ilk.  But for me, my favorite on here is the oft overlooked "Mele Kalikimaka."  It's a Hawaiian flavored tune, probably most famously done by Bing Crosby I guess.  But it isn't one that I typically hear around Christmas time unless it's on my Christmas playlist that I keep.  Joel's version hits all of the right notes and maintains the Polynesian flair of the song while showcasing his guitar chops.

I didn't buy it in 2017, because it was only on CD at first.  Luckily it came out on LP the next year, but I didn't actually realize it until we were in the thick of last year's Christmas and there was no way to get a copy delivered before the big day.  Luckily I was well aware this year and planned accordingly.  2020 has been brutal, but my mood brightens when I hear these songs.

Hope everyone has a great holiday and I'll be back on New Year's Eve with The Absolute Best Records of 2020.

Joel Paterson - Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar
https://joelpaterson.bandcamp.com/album/hi-fi-christmas-guitar

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Sam Jayne - 1974-2020

Normally on Wednesdays I would be celebrating Ed Lover Dance Day and write about a hip hop record that I love.  Unfortunately, I'm just not able to do that today as my mind is completely consumed by the news that Sam  Jayne was found dead in his car after being missing for a few days.  Sam's music was so incredibly important to me and even though he hadn't released anything new in a bit, his discography is one that has been present in my life for over twenty five years.

I first heard of Sam Jayne in 1994, likely at the tail end of my junior year of high school.  He made an appearance on two songs on the Beck album One Foot In The Grave.  You have to understand that in 1994, Beck was just about the most important thing in my life.  He opened up a whole world of music and sounds that I had never heard before.  Sam's backing vocals on the songs "Outcome" and "Forcefield" stood out on an album full of standouts and the picture of him in the liner notes (which I have put above) is one of those indelible images of indie rock that will always be burned into my brain.

Sam's backing vocals made me want to explore.  In this pre-internet era I was in while still in high school, I honestly cannot remember how I figured out that Sam had a band called Lync.  I have to assume I read it somewhere, but this is one of those missing pieces of the story that I just can't place.  No matter how I put the pieces together, I bought the Lync album These Are Not Fall Colors.  It's hard to really state the importance of this moment.  Lync was pretty much the first band that I discovered on my own while exploring the new-to-me world of indie rock.  Beck was my gateway, but Lync was the first step I actually took in the direction I wanted to go.

Even today, I am floored by the sounds captured in These Are Not Fall Colors.  It's a whirlwind of a record with jangly guitar chords one minute and thick fuzz the next. Angelic vocals on one song, impassioned hollering a few songs over.  It's really a quintessential indie rock record in my opinion, gathering together disparate sounds, molding them into something new and releasing it back into the world, grinning the whole time.  I don't think I knew that Sam was only two years older than me when I first heard Lync, but it isn't too surprising as he captured feelings of youth and energy that resonated with me so forcefully in that moment.

By the time I bought These Are Not Fall Colors it
was either late 94 or early 95.  Lync was broken up by then, so I never got to see them play.  Their first couple of 7"s were also pretty tough to find.  Today, you just go to Discogs and scoop up the Pigeons or Mhz 7"s with minimal hassle.  But in 1994/1995, you had to dig in stores.  Luckily for me, my buddy Alan had gotten bit by the record collecting bug a few years before I entered the scene.  He had these two 7"s and let me take them off his hands.  It was one of the early instances of hunting and collecting this type of music for my record collection.  It's also one of the earlier memories I have of my friendship with Alan.  The Lync 7"s are some of the most important records in my collection, even if their financial worth to the rest of the world doesn't match the esteem I hold them in.

Around this time, Love As Laughter entered the picture.  I first heard of them when I bought a compilation album called Periscope.  I bought a lot of compilations in these early, halcyon days as it was a good way to discover new bands, but this one was a guaranteed purchase as their was an unreleased Beck song on it.  The Love As Laughter contribution was a song called "Super Christ."  It was upbeat and lo-fi and had a wacky guitar sound that I loved.  I doubt that I knew it was the same guy from Lync the first time I heard it, but just like Lync, Love As Laughter instantly connected with me.

From here I picked up the Love As Laughter cassette Clear Sky = Blue Dye.  I love this album.  It's right up their with These Are Not Fall Colors for me and it captures this perfect energy that few home recordings of the era did.  You can hear the ideas in Sam's head as they poured out of this tape, from the perfect opener of "Cigarette Constellations" to the wacky wordplay of "Zookeeper Vows" to the childlike giddiness of "Pirate Song"  There is so, so much to love about this tape and I haven't even mentioned my favorite song, "The Spokesmodel."

Loud, fuzzy and with unintelligible lyrics, "The Spokesmodel" is one of my favorite songs of the 90s.  What really pushes it over the top are the soaring backing vocals during the chorus.  High pitched "ahhhs" that blast the song into rarefied territory.  With the pounding drums and static filled recording, it's a special, special song to me.  My love for this album also created the bane of my record collecting existence.  The first, self titled Love As Laughter tape.

That first tape is mentioned in the liner notes and in twenty five years I have never been able to find one.  It is the number one record on my want list by a considerable margin and even though I know I will probably never find one to call my own, I always hold out hope that by some miracle, I will finally be able to add it to my collection.  If you ever see one or hear of anyone that has one, please let me know.  It's so very important to me.  My quest for this record also sparked the more recent communications that I've had with Sam over the past few years, but we'll get to that in a little bit.

The next time I as able to get new music from Sam was during a fertile period in 1996 where he released the full length album The Greks Bring Gifts and no less than four new 7"s (not to mention the very excellent split 7" with Ringfinger that came out in 1995, but that one kind of blends into the Greks era for me).  The Greks Bring Gifts was the perfect followup to Clear Sky = Blue Dye.  It was a ramshackle collection of songs and noises, sounding more like a collage of ideas than a proper full length record, but man there is some brilliance in here.  I will always love the song "Uninvited Trumpets" and "High Noon" is a true highlight of these early LAL years.  The 7"s were equally wonderful and confounding with songs, noise, pop and chaos all rolled into one identity.

It was during this time where I was able to see Love As Laughter play a show finally.  They played with a band called Plastique (who had just changed their name to The Seductive) at a place called Meow Mix on Houston Street in NYC.  The show was weird.  Sam was there, he had some drum machines/noise making devices and a guitar and he proceeded to play nothing that I recognized from any of his releases.  It wasn't what I was expecting, but it was certainly memorable.  I went with my friend Joe.  Joe was close friend from high school and early college that I've lost touch with over the years after a falling out that we had that I'm not even totally sure of the reason for.

Joe wrote with me at our college newspaper and we interviewed Sam for it.  Joe took the lead on this one as he was similarly taken with Sam's work and in particular connected with the noisier weirdness whereas I tended to prefer the ones with more traditional song structures.  I am sure I have a copy of the issue with that Sam interview in my attic somewhere, but I don't remember the article at all.  All I remember is sitting with Sam outside of the club and getting crazy answers to the sort of dumb questions freshman year journalism students ask.  He was kind and weird and funny and just seemed like someone from another planet.  The kind of person I was happy to support.

I will admit that the next two Love As Laughter releases are the two I am least familiar with.  When #1 USA came out, I bought it right away, but I didn't form the same type of attachment to it.  Similarly, Destination 2000, the first release for Sub Pop didn't get lodged into my head the same way that the earlier records did.  These records are where Love As Laughter started to transition into an actual band as opposed to the solo Sam Jayne chaos I was used to.  Maybe they just moved on without me and maybe I was just interest in different things now.  Well, Love As Laughter came roaring back into the forefront of my musical life when Sea To Shining Sea was released in 2001.

From the opening "Ba da ba da baaaaaah" gang vocals of "Coast To Coast," Love As Laughter is back, even if they sound nothing like their prior records.  This is a full-fledged indie rock powerhouse.  Sam's vocals and melodies are the catchiest they've ever been and not once during the course of the record am I lamenting the loss of the bedroom fuzz.  They followed this up in 2005 with an album that is even better, Laughter's Fifth.  This is the most consistent of the full band records and in particular the middle chunk of the record ("Survivors" through "Canal Street") is essentially flawless

The last Love As Laughter full length came out in 2008 on Epic/Glacial Pace.  Holy may not have been my favorite album released under the LAL moniker, but it had its moments. Aside from some self released singles, this was the last of Love As Laughter's output.  But, I didn't make any meaningful contact with Sam until a few years later.

Sam was active on Twitter.  Posting absurdities from time to time and at some point, probably around 2014, I reached out to him.  I expressed my admiration of his music and asked him if there was any chance he had another copy of that first cassette kicking around anywhere.  He did not, but he was so kind and genuinely appreciative that someone liked his music.  He also sent me a copy of the CD Thru The Past, Brightly Vol. 1., an extremely difficult to find collection of early Love As Laughter songs.  I would continue to reach out to him over the years, gently prodding him to put those first two tapes on Bandcamp (he never did) or reminding him that the twenty fifth birthday of These Are Not Fall Colors was coming up.

At one point I bought a cassette of Love As Laughter and Lync songs off of eBay.  It was a total homemade deal, but I made MP3s of it and sent them to Sam so he could help me identify the songs.  He spent the time to make a track list for me and helped me identify which songs were on that elusive first tape.  Eventually, kind of out of nowhere, Sam reached out to me and sent me MP3s of that first LAL tape.  It was two long MP3s, one of side A and one of side B with no track listing.

It was such an amazing feeling to be able to hear these songs that had eluded me for so long.  It wasn't a replacement for being able to get my hands on the actual tape, but it was so, so kind of him to send me the songs so I could at least listen to everything.  And really, it is the music that is the most important thing, even though I do like my physical media.

We don't know the circumstances of Sam's death as I write this.  All I know is that Twitter is full of people posting about how they loved and miss him.  I did not know Sam Jayne well.  I couldn't consider myself one of his friends and I can't imagine what the people who are close to him are going through.  But Sam was a hugely important and influential figure in my life.  he's been with me since my first steps into punk and indie and kept popping back up over and over throughout the years.  I adore his bands, I adore the records of his that I have and I'm really sad that Sam is gone.  He leaves a wonderful legacy behind.

And no matter how fruitless the hunt is, I will never, ever give up my search for that first fucking Love As Laughter tape. Thank you Sam.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Zephr - Don't Worry About It LP - Gray Swirl Vinyl

Untitled

 

Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

Zephr are definitely playing the sort of punk rock that I like.  It's gruff and has a working class feel to it with melodic chord progressions and wouldn't feel at all out of place as a mid 2000s No Idea release. Not as fast as Off With Their Heads or Dear Landlord, but I feel like Zephr is playing in the same sandbox.  

There are two vocalists, one that carries about three quarters of the record and another that picks up the other quarter.  I'll have to say that I really don't dig the vocal stylings of the second vocalist. He has a strained, higher pitched delivery that sounds painful and doesn't too any favors to the melodic vibe the band has for most of the album.

That said, for the majority of the album, I'm right there - rocking along to the crunchy guitar lines and warm vocals.  It has an air of melancholy to it, much like all of 2020, but it's worth checking out. Particularly as the days get darker earlier and overcast skies are the norm.

Zephr - Don't Worry About It:
https://snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com/album/dont-worry-about-it

Friday, December 11, 2020

Sad Days Indeed - Sad Days Indeed CD

Untitled

 

Jukeboss (2006)

Last year I picked up a Sad Days Indeed record that was essentially a lost album that the band had begun recording before they split up in 2008.  I dug that one enough to hunt down their first CD that came out back in 2006.  Luckily I was able to get a nicely priced copy off of Discogs and am happy to report that this CD is just as good as Foral was.

Hailing from Finland, Sad Days Indeed nevertheless seems to take inspiration from the 90s UK melodic scene.  I can't say for certain what the guys in this band listened to, but I can't hear their songs without also hearing echoes of Hooton 3 Car, Broccoli and Leatherface.  Now, I realize that is some absurdly high comparison points and I would be lying if I were to say that Sad Days Indeed is as transcendent as any of those bands.  But I'm hopeful it gives you a touchstone on the sandbox these guys are playing in.

Listening to this record, with killer songs like "Last Supper," "Modern Surf Queens" and "Polewalk," it seems weird that this group never hit my radar back when they were active.  That said, I'm also not in Finland, so I can see how it happened.  Regardless, I'm glad I eventually found them and even though I don't rush out to buy many CDs these days, I'm happy to have both Sad Days Indeed CDs in the collection.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Hieroglyphics - 3rd Eye Vision 3xLP

Untitled

 
Hiero Imperium/Fat Beats (2019, Reissue)

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

If you do not already know about my undying love for the Hieroglyphics crew, then you obviously have not been reading anything I have been writing of Wednesdays for the past year plus.  They are my favorite collection of hip hop artists and in 1998, they came together to release their first collective LP, 3rd Eye Vision.

While I cannot say that I like it quite as much as I liked the group's individual releases that came out in the earlier part of the 90s, there are still a slew of triumphant moments over the course of this record.  If anything, it's probably a little too long and could have benefitted from being trimmed down a bit.  I picked this album up on CD right when it came out and was one of the few hip hop releases I purchased at the time.  Honestly I was disappointed in it at first, but over the years it's grown on me greatly.

I think one of the main reasons this record didn't connect with me right away is because I do not like the opening song "You Never Know."  For a Hiero song, I think it has a really weak beat and I'll never understand why it was made the album's opening salvo.  It really not until the album's fourth song "The Who" where things really start to pick up.  This one is a genuine classic with a bouncing beat and excellent lyrical interplay between the various member.

When we get to Del solo cut, "At The Helm," I'm pretty much losing my mind over things at this point.  This song is one of my absolute favorite Del songs from throughout his entire career.  The Domino produced beat is thick with a bass driven funk and Del take full advantage of this canvas displaying his unique lyrical acumen.

The album does cool down a bit from here and while it is a strong sowing overall, particularly on the lyric/vocal side of the coin, the beats are a little more mellow than I am used to from Hieroglyphics.  It's absolutely an album that needs to be in my collection.  I'm just not sure that Hiero really needed to record a triple LPs worth of material back in the day.

Hieroglyphics - "At The Helm":

Hieroglyphics - "The Who":

Monday, December 7, 2020

The Blues Brothers - Made In America LP - 40 Years Old

Untitled

Atlantic (1981)

On December 5th, 1980 the third and final Blues Brothers album was released (not counting best ofs and various compilations). This past Saturday marked 40 years since its release and I thought this was an appropriate time to write a little bit about this record.  I did purchase this LP this year, I wanted to upgrade my existing copy so I picked up one from eBay that was still sealed (this record was a Super Saver/cutout bin stalwart). It sounds so great and I'm happy to be able to replace the copy I had picked up in the early 90s.

Made In America is sort of the forgotten Blues Brothers album.  It's never been reissued.  None of the songs on it were 'hits' and it's not really ever discussed with the same sort of reverence most fans have for Briefcase Full of Blues or for the movie.  Even me, I didn't have this record as a little kid.  I had Briefcase, the soundtrack and Best of The Blues Brothers.  That best of, released in 1981, did contain one track off of Made In America, so "Going Back To Miami" is absolutely the song on here I've spent the most time with.

I probably got my first copy of this album on CD when I was a young teenager.  I liked it, but it didn't foster the same sort of emotional connection that I felt for the other albums at the time.  But over the years I developed a much deeper appreciation for this record and today I love it just about as much as the others.  

Side A is particularly great.  Starting off with "Soul Finger" as an introduction (never a real replacement for "Can't Turn You Loose," but still a good track to back Elwood's wacky intro) the album blasts through several great tracks.  "Who's Making Love" is a rousing rendition of the Johnnie Taylor classic with the horn section giving it that extra gusto to really drive things home.  Then we move on to "Do You Love Me." This is probably one of the lesser tracks on the album and I feel like the band doesn't really sink their teeth into it the way that they do with some lesser known songs.

They close out side A with something of a trilogy of songs.  First up is "Guilty." This is a slower song sung by Jake that is essentially supposed to be the "Shotgun Blues" of this record.  It lays down a story about loss, depression and drug use that is slightly marred by the audience wildly cheering the song's mention of cocaine.  I think they would have been more subdued had they known the tragic fate awaiting John Belushi just a couple of years later.  

After pleading 'guilty,' we move to the next phase of law and order with the "Perry Mason Theme." This is mostly an instrumental with a little Elwood dialog about needing to find Jake a lawyer and some unnecessary humming (?) along with the melody of the song.  It is a little goofy, but it still makes for a nice transition into "Riot In Cell Block Number Nine."  This is a real highlight of the record telling a slow moving, edgy story about a prison break.  I love the way the song builds into each chorus and the the climax provides a nice break into the B side of this album.

While not as strong as side A, side B does have its moments.  The inclusion of "Green Onions" as yet another instrumental with Elwood talking over it is completely unneeded at this point.  That makes three tracks like this on the album and while I like the "Green Onions" tune just as much as the next guy, it's just not needed on an album that already has "Soul Finger" and the "Perry Mason Theme."  "I Ain't Got You" is great with the start/stop music background over which Jake breaks down all of the things he does have, but are essentially meaningless without the person he cares about.  "From The Bottom" is lyrically sparse, but has a fun repetitious beat to it.

Lastly is album closer "Going Back To Miami." This is my favorite song on the album, though I'll never know if it is because it is legitimately the best, or if it is because it's the one song on the record I've been listening to since I was a kid due to its inclusion on the aforementioned Best Of. Regardless, it's a high octane, horn fueled blast of a song with one of the better closing breakdowns that I've every heard.

I wish that Made In America was remembered more fondly than it is.  While it is admittedly not quite on the same level as their two prior records, there's a lot to love over the course of the album.  I wish I had gotten it much younger, so I could have had the time to connect the same sort of nostalgic emotions to it as I did the others, but forty years later, it really is a hell of a record that deserves to be revisited.

The Blues Brothers - Made In America (YouTube full album playlist):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kgqI3U6KlD43sonyPiIMRniCrW9pYhOHg

Friday, December 4, 2020

Music From Transformers LP - Purple & Silver Vinyl

Untitled

Sony/Enjoy The Toons/Hasbro (2018)

I ended up being so enthralled with the GI Joe soundtrack that I immediately went about finding the Transformers soundtrack that was released a few years ago.  When it came out, I had half heartedly tried to buy a copy then, but it was released in different variants at different retailers and I wasn't able to ever find a copy in stock.  Eventually it just faded into the background.

I was able to locate a copy and an extremely reasonable price (with free shipping to boot) on eBay.  I guess at some point they did a second pressing and this version in Megatron colors of Silver and Purple was part of that press.  I really wanted to like this just as much as the G.I. Joe version, but Transformers comes up a little short.

As soon as I got the LP, I felt like this was a lower budget release.  Even though this album is a gatefold, the artwork itself seems rough and lacks the sharpness of the G.I. Joe one.  Once I started listening to it, I was a little bummed that the opening theme was the version with the vocals.  I wish an instrumental only version existed and they used it the same way they did on G.I. Joe album.  As I went through the album, I also noticed that the score for Transformers is much more low key than the G.I. Joe one.  There's a lot of slower moments and it doesn't have the same sort of upbeat energy that the Joe soundtrack has.

I am still glad I picked this up, though I probably won't listen to it quite as much.  It would be cool if more 80s cartoon soundtracks followed.  I know that I would scoop up Voltron, He Man and Thundercats right away if they were every made available.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Saafir - Boxcar Sessions 2xLP

Untitled

 Qwest (1994)

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

While I was never steeped in the lore of Saafir and hadn't listened to his records until very recently, I have been aware of him since 1994.  He made a guest appearance on the Casual record Fear Itself.  I always dug his verse, even though it was a little weird, but never really looked into him much after that.  I was completely unaware that this guest spot launched a beef that ended up as one of the more famous rap battles of all time.  I have since listened to it, and while it's clear to me that Casual is miles ahead, Saafir certainly has skill.

Saafir's debut album doesn't necessarily sound like a Hieroglyphics album, but you can definitely tell that Saafir's crew, Hobo Junction, was heading down a similar path.  There are innovative beats and samples throughout the album and when combined with Saafir's erratic, but very distinct flow, it does create moments of magic.

I could probably do with the record being a little shorter.  As a double LP it starts to feel a little bloated towards the end, but there are more than enough standout tracks to make this one worth adding to the collection.

Saafir - Boxcar Sessions (YouTube Music full album playlist):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kePE6XRKGBeMlA5YRUjvFJfAPSkQ4DF_A

Monday, November 30, 2020

Music From G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero LP

Untitled

Universal/Hasbro (2020)

I love 80s cartoons and toys.  They're just part of me as a person at this point.  Sitting at my desk now I'm surrounded by Star Wars, Voltron, He-man, Godzilla and much more.  When I saw that Hasbro was going to release the soundtrack for the G.I. Joe cartoon, I figured it might be something worth picking up.  After all, I do like collection records.  But I am also trying to cut down on the number of records I have that I don't actually play.  But, the collector won out and I picked up a copy.  

I went with the standard version as opposed to the Barnes & Noble colored vinyl exclusive. Typically, I pretty much always will go for the limited variant if I have the chance, but in this instance it would have cost almost ten dollars more than the one I was able to order from Amazon.  Plus, the standard version has better artwork.

When I put this on the turntable to listen to, I was actually shocked how much I enjoyed it.  The score of this show is pretty incredible, with rousing military themes that remind me a lot of the sort of thing you'd hear in those middle era Showa Godzilla movies.  Not necessarily the tried and true Ifukube themes, but some of the other composers that tackled his adventures in the late 60s and early 70s.  This sort of music is upbeat, bouncy and time and just feels so triumphant. The other thing that I like, though I'll concede others may not, is that the version of the opening theme on this LP is without the vocals.  I vastly prefer it this way, even though it's not specifically what I heard on my TV as a kid.

Even though I had mainly purchased this as a 'collectible,' I have a feeling I'm going to end up listening to it a lot more than I had originally planned.  Just wish it had come with a download code as well.


 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Gentlemen Rogues - Do The Resurrection 7" - Black & Clear Split Color Vinyl

Untitled

Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

Gentlemen Rogues are skipping to the front of the line when it comes to SLN releases that I haven't written about yet as I have many years of history listening to the bands of singer Danny Dunlap.  I first encountered his music when he was in Jill, an excellent mid 90s pop punk band that probably should be remembered more than they are.  Danny has bounced around in several bands since then, but Gentlemen Rogues have been his project for the past seven plus years.

While neither song is brazenly 90s pop punk that sounds like Jill, it does sound like the sort of warm, glorious power pop that a dude who used to be in a band like Jill would be making twenty five years later.  I hope that reads like a compliment, because it is.  After all, I'm the sort of listener that likes warm, glorious power pop having listened to bands like Jill twenty five years ago. The A side is "Do The Resurrection," and it hits all of the right notes for me with big, crunchy guitar chords and melodic hooks.  Danny's vocals have always had a hint of Billie Joe in them, but luckily he's using them for the forces of good as opposed to whatever it it is that Green Day is doing these days.

On the B side we have an interesting experiment.  It's a cover song medley built primarily off of the Lemonheads song "Rudderless."  Where it gets interesting is that chunks of "Destination Ursa Major" by Superdrag and "When You Sleep" by My Bloody Valentine are worked in to the song as well.  Now, I will admit that of those three, I'm significantly more familiar with the Superdrag song than the others, so when that chunk pops up it does hit me hardest.  That said, the transitions are seamless and it all feels like one song, unlike something like "With or Without U-2" which, while fun, was pretty much a mess.  If Gentlemen Rogues do this sort of thing again, I think they should work in parts of the Quimby version of "Knerd In Shining Armor."

Gentlemen Rogues - Do The Resurrection 7"
https://gentlemenrogues.bandcamp.com/album/new-do-the-resurrection-single

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Group Home - Livin' Proof 2xLP

Untitled

Get On Down (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.

Group Home is yet another one of those 'missed it by that much' groups in hip hop for me.  As this album originally came out in 1995, it was pretty much off of my radar when it was released.  By '95 I was deep into punk rock and indie rock and frankly, I didn't have the time or money to keep up with the increasingly few interesting hip hop records that were coming out. Had Livin' Proof been released in 1993 or even 1994, it would have probably hit me in a completely different way.

I heard Group Home for the first time within the past two years.  I really didn't even know they had ever released an album.  My only knowledge of them was from their affiliation with Gang Starr and being collectively shouted out on my favorite track of theirs, "Blowin' Up The Spot." When I found out that they did have an album and it had been produced by DJ Premier, I figured it was worth going after, and for the most part it was.

Like all Premier releases from this general time period, the production and beats on this record are quite excellent.  As good as Hard To Earn? Probably not quite there, but easily on the level of The Sun Rises In The East.  As a crew, Group Home hold their own reasonably well on the microphone.  There's no real stand out to me and when pressed, I can't even think of any lyrics that are particularly noteworthy, but they fill out Premier's beats evenly enough.  

Every time I listen to Livin' Proof, I always like it, but it does often feel a little bit long and there's no one that has the sort of charisma or lyrical dexterity that you'd find in Guru or Jeru. That said, it was cool to be able to find a record of this quality and be able to hear it for the first time in 2018 or 2019.  That's not something I get to experience very often.

Group Home - Livin' Proof (YouTube Music full album playlist):
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_m6kA7Z5wLu0JM0ViY95A7X3VcWEw5RFag

Monday, November 16, 2020

Swami John Reis - Ride The Wild Night 7"

Untitled

Swami (2020)

While Swami John Reis has released music under his own name in conjunction with The Blind Shake and Metz, this two song 7" marks the first release where he's not working with another established band. With John having been responsible for some of my favorite records ever released, I was interested to see how this 7" would differ from say Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes or Night Marchers.

A Side "Ride The Wild Night" is built off of a fast paced acoustic guitar riff that reminds me a little bit of the Rocket cover of "Love Is Lies."  It's not as obviously pop as that cover song is, but it has a similar feel with John & co using that riff as a foundation to layer on the electrics and blast into a chorus that I can't wait to scream at the top of my lungs once shows are a thing again.

On the B side we have "I Hate My Neighbors in the Yellow House."  It starts off with a heavy synth riff and that caused me concern for a brief moment as I am not typically interested in 80s synth sounds.  But, the synth is just the backbone that all of the the guitars and rhythms are constructed around.  It's the noisier of the two songs and I don't think it would have been too out of place on the second Night Marchers LP.

These two songs are from an upcoming full length album.  Said album was supposed have been released this year with a supporting tour, but of course 2020 must be consistently terrible.  I'm looking forward to hearing more from this and I hope the album doesn't get pushed too far into 2021.

Swami John Reis - Ride The Wild Night 7" (YouTube Music full album playlist)