Friday, May 22, 2020

Ultimate Fakebook - The Preserving Machine LP


Sonic Ritual (2020)

I'm not sure exactly what was behind Ultimate Fakebook putting out their first new full length record in eighteen years, but here we are.  Considering how long it's been since they had new material and also keeping in mind that I really didn't enjoy their 2002 record Open Up and Say Awesome all that much, I honestly wasn't chomping at the bit to order this.  I feel guilty saying this since they are PopKid records alumni, but it's the truth.

I sort of was taking a wait and see approach to find out if I actually liked the songs before committing to the vinyl.  This was before the pandemic curtailed my record buying budget, but I still didn't want to pony up for a record that I would only listen to once or twice.  Then I was outfoxed on Twitter.  As the preorder sold more and more copies, the band started alerting the world that only a few copies remained and started counting them down.  The fear of missing out got to me and I actually bought the very last copy from the Bandcamp site.

Luckily, I do like the record.  Though this surely sounds like a backhanded compliment, The Preserving Machine is way better than it has any business being.  It has the punch and melody of the songs from their best album This Will be Laughing Week on tracks like "After Hours and Melin's," Manhattan KS," "Hey Gemini" and "My Music Industry."  Now, when the band get's overtly slow with their tempo (I'm looking at you "Juliet's Fools"), I can't say that I'm as on board as I am for the faster songs.  Luckily, there's plenty of rockers on the album and no matter what was behind the band deciding to record new material, I'm glad they did and that I picked up a copy.  Real drums forever, indeed.

Ultimate Fakebook - The Preserving Machine:

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

EPMD - Business As Usual LP


Def Jam (2000, 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.

For me, EMPD's 1992 album, Business Never Personal, will always stand out as one of the best hip hop albums of all time.  It's always been my favorite by EPMD and was also the first record that I had ever owned of theirs.  As the years went by, I did eventually grab all of their first four records and am in the process of replacing CDs with the vinyl.

I grabbed this album off of Discogs a couple of months ago and while the condition isn't spotless, I did get it for a good price.  I'll probably need to upgrade it at some point. Perhaps as we get close to its thirtieth anniversary we'll get a reissue.  But for now, I'm happy to sit back and absorb the rhymes of Erick Sermon and Parish Smith.

Business as Usual features incredible production, maybe not quite as rough and ready as what's featured on Business Never Personal, but the beats still hit hard.  It's one of those albums that has a head nodding rhythm and Erick and Parish make the most of the atmosphere, handing the mic back and forth and putting down some of their trademark self aggrandizing lyrics.  Add in some guest spots from a young Redman and a not quite past-his-prime LL Cool J and you've got a pretty solid 1990s hip hop album.  Maybe not the cornerstone of a collection, but an album that deserves more accolades than I think it typically receives.

EPMD - Business As Usual (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, May 18, 2020

A House Safe For Tigers - Space Between LP


Headless Actor (2019)

I sat on this record longer than I probably should have.  That's probably going to be a recurring theme over the next few weeks or months.  I'm not really buying much in the way of new records and I'm finally getting around to some records that were sent to me to review.  Having listened to, and not been particularly impressed with A House Safe For Tigers' 2015 LP, I wasn't in a real rush to tackle this newest one.

Described as chamber pop, this sort of sleepy time and lush music isn't really the type of thing I get particularly excited about.  It's pleasant enough and the band has crafted some nice melodies and atmospheres, but nothing about it grabs me.  It's quintessential background music. The sort of thing that if it was playing in a waiting room, you wouldn't even know that it's there.

I'm sure there's an audience A House For Tigers.  Back when I did radio promotion, we worked all sorts of records like this from bands on Polyvinyl and Tiger Style. Mature emo is the vibe I get from these records.  If you're into that scene, A House Safe For Tigers will fit in to your collection nicely.

A House Safe For Tigers - Space Between:

Friday, May 15, 2020

Spit Kink - Yes To Everything 7"


Feral Kid (2020)

This record is actually a lathe cut 7" of the band's cassette demo.  I'll take any kind of vinyl over a cassette, so kudos to the label for that one.  That said, this isn't a record for me.

It's a bunch of drum machine style beats with some bass, a few electronic flourishes and distorted, spoken word style vocals.  It's honestly kind of annoying.  I'm not exactly sure who listens to this sort of thing.  I try to be open minded when I get a record sent to me to write about, but there are moments where all I can really do is shrug my shoulders and move on to the next one.

I'm at a loss for words, other than it kind of reminds me of what that band in the High Fidelity movie sounds like.  You know, the Kinky Wizards.  Also of note, every song starts with a gong blast. Why? I don't know. Best I can do is tell you to go to the Bandcamp link and give it a whirl.  Maybe you'll see something that I don't.

Spit Kink - Yes To Everything:

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Jurassic 5 - Quality Control 2xLP


Get On Down (2015, Reissue)

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

Jurassic 5 is an interesting group to me.  I will always associate them as something separate from the Golden Era of hip hop, though at this point, that seems a little weird since this album is somehow twenty years old now.  My first exposure to Jurassic 5 was seeing them the 1999 CMJ Music Marathon when I attended as the music director of my college radio station.  That was the year that a hurricane hit the NYC area and flooded roads made coming back to NJ a real disaster.  I remember a little bit about the show, but it was mostly an Interscope schmooze-fest.   I do remember liking J5 enough that they left an impression, something that was difficult for most hip hop acts to do with me in 1999.

Quality Control was released in mid 2000 and when it came out I was so shocked to hear a record that sounded so much like the early 90s hip hop albums I adored so much.  I definitely didn't remember Jurassic 5 being this good the one time I saw them play, but on Quality Control, they blew away all of my expectations and essentially created the first hip hop album that I listened to by a group that didn't already have a record come out before 1994.

The way the group linked up interesting beats with mic trading lyrics and combined that with some group harmonizing was something that I hadn't really heard before.  But it was this kind of innovation that epitomized the early 90s and I saw J5 as a bit of a mix between Tribe Called Quest, Souls of Mischief and BDP.  Twenty years later, Quality Control still stands tall as a pretty incredible album, though it is the only J5 record that I tend to listen to.  I have their first EP and second full length on CD, but they're not as good.  Ultimately it seems like Quality Control was that lightning-in-a-bottle moment where everything came together and Jurassic 5 was able to unleash a classic.

Jurassic 5 - Quality Control (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, May 11, 2020

Dead Ex - Tokyo Beautiful Mess CD


DEX (2018)

Dead Ex is one of the many wonderful bands that Kazu from Waterslide has recommended to me.  While they actually have more of an American sound to them than most of the Japanese bands I tend to listen to, they still manage to inject an energy into their songs that sets them apart from other bands that are dabbling in this genre.

If I'm going to make an easy comparison, it's going to be that Dead Ex are traveling a path similar to Iron Chic or RVIVR.  Most songs are extremely melodic with powerful anthemic vocals and a good amount of "whoa's" and other gang style backing vocals. But then Dead Ex changes things up and breaks out an acoustic guitar and throws down a rootsy style song that sounds like what I imagine the Gaslight Anthem could sound like if they were actually good.

While this isn't one of those bands that I think everyone in the world should immediately seek out and buy, for those that tend to favor the type of punk rock that bands like Iron Chic are peddling, this EP will fit into your collection quite nice.

Dead Ex "Just One Time Anthem":

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Extra Prolific - Like It Should Be LP


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 25+ 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 Extra Prolific LP is kind of the forgotten Hieroglyphics release.  It came out to little fanfare in 1994 and from rumors, innuendo and gossip that I've read on the internet, they were dropped from the label almost immediately.  I've even read that an undescribed incident happened at the album's release party and the label severed times right there.  I don't know if any of this is true, but Like It Should be hit with little noise back in 94.

I had first heard of Extra Prolific as part of The Source's Unsigned Hype column.  They did a feature on Snupe, the main MC behind Extra Prolific.  That column's review left an impression and I was eager to find out more.  It took a while to hear about Snupe again (about a year and a half, which is an eternity in high school years), but by October of 94 I was already starting to become disillusioned with a lot of hip hop records.  I was deep into listening to Beck and other left of center indie rock by the time this record came out.  If I remember correctly, I even think my younger brother may have picked up the CD before I did.

Regardless of who bought it when, I sure didn't listen to it much back then.  In the intervening years I've tried a few times to relisten to see if it was a lost gem.  In all honesty, it's really not.  Like It Should be is a perfectly serviceable mid 90s hip hop record, but it seldom rises to the level of of most of the more well known albums of the era.  And it can't touch any of the other Hieroglyphics releases that came out at the same time.

Like It Should Be has its moments. "Brown Sugar" and "Is It Right?" have killer looped jazzy beats that really could have been on another Hiero release at the time.  But the vast majority of the songs are unnecessarily slow and don't showcase particularly creative beat making.  On top of that, Snupe is probably the most paint by numbers MC of anyone that was ever part of the Hiero crew.  He's not bad at all, but he doesn't have the dexterity or the complex wordplay of his stable mates.  Unlike the other 93-94 Hieroglyphics albums that raised the bar on what hip hop could sound like, this album just kind of sits there.

I liked it enough to grab the vinyl for my collection (which is practically available for free on Discogs), but it's just not something I expect to listen to all that often.  Snupe parted ways with Hiero before the release of 1997s Third Eye Vision.  Again, the rumors have it that his verses were physically removed from existing songs.  Unsure of what happened there, but I don't think many people noticed that he left.  Most probably weren't aware he was there to begin with.

Extra Prolific - Like It Should Be (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, May 4, 2020

Custody - II LP - Orange Vinyl (/300)


Brassneck / Waterslide / Combat Rock / Shield (2020)

Ah Custody, proud member of the PopKid family.  When I sit down and listen to this record I can't help but be a little sad that it's not a PopKid release.  These gentlemen from Finland are everything I'd want in a band on our dumb little label.  I'm very happy that we were able to help put out a 7" of theirs a few years ago, but I wish that we had pockets that were deep enough to be part of everything they put out.  Such a great band.

On to II.  This is their second full length album and I can say without hesitation it is every bit as good, if not better, than everything I've heard by them so far.  Custody is a band incapable of writing a dud song.  Everything they do has this amazing energy, from the rushing guitar riffs to the pounding drums to the soaring vocals.  The band that I always hear the most when listening to Custody is prime Clumsy-era Samiam.  But Custody takes those sounds and blends them with the influences of the very best of UK melodic hardcore with Leatherface inspired leads and Snuff style melodies.

Add in a vocalist with a true mastery of his instrument, melding the sort of power you'd hear in Iron Chic without resorting to any unseemly yelling or screaming. Gah! These guys are just too great.  Custody is one of the absolute best current bands going these days.  As I've said several times, their music is pretty much perfect when it comes to the sort of thing I want to listen to.  All I can do is hope that Custody stays together for a long, long time and puts out album after incredible album.  Maybe even another on PopKid someday...

In a conflict of interest moment, I do have a very small amount of copies of this record in the PopKid Distro.  There are very few of these in America, so if you want to avoid the costs of international postage, I recommend grabbing one quick.  I also have copies of their killer split 7" with Phoenix Foundation and of course their PopKid 7" - home of the BEST song they've ever written!  Grab what you need:

PopKid Distro:
Custody II LP - HERE
Custody/Phoenix Foundation split 7" - HERE
Custody PopKid 7" - HERE

Custody - II:

Friday, May 1, 2020

Various Artists - A Rigid Digits Production - A Tribute To Stiff Little Fingers


Snuffy Smile (1996)

These days. there aren't all that many Snuffy Smile records that I don't have in my collection.  I'm all caught up on 7"s, but there are still a handful of CDs that have eluded me.  While they were never as high a priority as the 7"s, I really do want to get my hands on all of them in order to truly call my collection complete.  This compilation is one of the few I was still hunting.

This is a three inch CD with four bands each covering a Stiff Little Fingers song.  Registrators, who were never one of my favorite bands to release a record on Snuffy Smile, give a spirited rendition of "Wasted Life."  Sprocket Wheel tackle "Wait and See" in an interesting manner that bounces around genres mixing their trademark pop punk sound with a little bit of doo wop backing vocals and frequent tempo changes.

Nails of Hawaiian turn in the highlight of this release for me, a bouncy version of "At The Edge" with excellent guitar riffage and breakdowns.  Finally there's a band I'm really not as familiar with, Sawpit.  If their version of "Rough Trade" was an indication of the rest of their releases, I'd probably want to hear more.  That said, a quick browse through some YouTube video shows me that they typically deal in a more screamy version of hardcore which is probably why this and an appearance on the Ultimate Slow Beats compilation were their only Snuffy Smile releases.

These 4 cover songs don't make up the most compelling Snuffy Smile CD ever released.  They're fun songs, but not the sort of thing that would warrant repeated listens.  That said, from a collector position, it was very important for me to add this to my pile of Snuffy Smile releases.  Hopefully I'll be able to track down the last few.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Gang Starr - Hard to Earn 2xLP 180g Vinyl


Respect the Classics/Virgin (2014, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ 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.

For two albums, Gang Starr could arguably be designated as the greatest hip hop group of all time.  Daily Operation and this album, Hard Two Earn, comprise one of the hardest one-two punches in rap history.  While I think that Daily Operation is ever so slightly a stronger overall record, Hard To Earn has higher highs and is home to most of my very favorite Gang Starr songs.  One of those songs is the first I heard from the album, "Dwyck."  Dwyck was released as a video and single way before the full album did and I remember being kind of confused as I couldn't figure out where it came from.

I grew up in a rural town in northwestern New Jersey.  We couldn't get TV or radio over the air because we were way too far away from the local affiliates broadcasting out of New York City.  We had to have cable in order to get TV.  What I did was I spliced off the cable from my 9" television in my room and fed it into my stereo.  For reasons I can't totally explain, this allowed me to get all of the NY radio stations.  This is how I would listen to the Kool DJ Red Alert Show on KISS FM. During one of Red's shows, I managed to tape "Dwyck" off of the radio and for the longest time, that was the only version I had.  Even today, when I listen to the album version, my brain starts to hear the mixing and segue into the next song that was present on my tape.

"Dwyck" is but one of many incredible tracks on Hard to Earn.  "Mass Appeal," "Tonz o Gunz," "Speak Ya Clout" or "Now You're Mine" would probably be the best tracks on just about any hip hop album of the era, but on Hard To Earn, they're all fighting each other just to be the second best song on the album.  The best?  Well for me that has to go to "Blowin' Up the Spot." Over arguably the greatest beat of DJ Premier's career, Guru just blasts through word bending lyrics building rhyme on top of rhyme in a structure that probably doesn't make sense on paper, but in the song itself is essentially a masterpiece of self aggrandizing bravado.

1994 was the year that I started to fall out of love with hip hop as I was getting more interested in indie rock and punk rock.  But between this album and Casual's 1994 classic Fear Itself, the year definitely had two all time greats to help close out my participation in the golden era of hip hop.

Gang Starr - Hard to Earn (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, April 27, 2020

Seth Anderson - We Could Be LP - White Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

I am immediately leery of an album done by a single human being rather than a band.  The stench of singer/songwriter nonsense from the late 90s and early 2000s still lingers with me and I've never been the biggest fan of that sort of thing.  There are exceptions of course and I'm not going to disregard an album simply because of how the artist is named on the cover, but I go in with more trepidation than I would if it was just the name of a band.

That brings us to Seth Anderson.  Going through this album is interesting.  While the songs are mostly backed by a full band, he does hit on some rootsy singer-songwriter tropes that I'm not typically super into.  There's a bit of a Tom Petty thing going on sometimes, and I can certainly get behind that.  Then there's a song like "Don't Stop" that sounds like a really slow Snow Patrol song.
Other times there's more of a Springsteen/Gaslight Anthem sort of vibe that I can't say works all of the time.

As you get older, you're supposed to mellow out and appreciate the slower and quieter things in life.  For me, that doesn't seem to be the case.  I still want punchy pop punk hooks and big fuzzy guitars.  There are times when I can get behind a mellower album, but with Seth Anderson, there's just not enough new and interesting sounds or ideas to keep me particularly engaged.  It's well done for what it is, it's just not the sort of thing I want to listen to.

Seth Anderson - We Could Be:

Friday, April 24, 2020

OUTOFSTYle - 追分e.p. CD


No, She Rode (2018)

OUTOFSTYle is a band that has been releasing records since 2004 and yet I somehow have only heard of them pretty recently.  This 6 song EP is the first release of theirs that I've gotten, but after playing these songs on repeat for a while, I really want to get my hands on the rest of their catalog.

This is everything that I love about Japanese pop punk. The songs are fast and rough around the edges, satisfying my punk rock needs.  But they are also melodic and catchy, showcasing great mastery of crafting a lasting hook that keeps me coming back over and over again.  They remind me of some of the glory days of Snuffy Smile.  Sort of like Blew, but a little gruffer, though not as gruff as say Sprocket Wheel.  I think they're somewhere int he middle of those two bands if I had to try to place them somewhere.

I love all six songs on this EP and once again, I am bowled over by a Japanese band playing the exact kind of punk rock that I want to listen to.  I've not been able to get a new pack of records from Japan in a while.  I really hope that things turnaround in the world and I can start buying some records again.  While I know in the grand scheme of things record shopping is not as important as some other things in life, but songs like these bring that spark of joy that only music can provide.  I have plenty of records to listen to, but there's something special about that next great discovery.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Brand Nubian - In God We Trust 2xLP


Traffic/Elektra (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 25+ 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 God We Trust was the second Brand Nubian record and their first after the departure of Grand Puba.  Despite losing their best lyricist, Brand Nubian was able to to pump out two pretty strong records during a very competitive and innovative era of hip hop.  It speaks volumes about the talent of Lord Jamar and Sadat X.  They really stepped up to the plate when the spotlight was shone directly on them.

The main single from this album was "Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down" and it was a staple on Yo MTV Raps in '92 and had some different verbiage in the final verse than the album version has.  Putting aside some ill advised slurs, it is a song with a solid beat and strong vocal interplay between the two MCs.  It's the song that made me buy the album in the first place and I still have nostalgic feelings towards it despite some problematic verbiage that hasn't aged well.

The rest of the album is strong when it's upbeat.  Even though this is the shortest of their first three albums, it still feels like it goes a little too long and probably could have benefited from a slightly shorter track list.  I know I would be fine with cutting a few of the interludes.  After All For One, this is the second strongest Brand Nubian release as a whole album.  Even though my favorite Brand Nubian song is from their third album, that's the one where things started to move in directions I wasn't into as much.

Brand Nubian - In God We Trust (Full album playlist):

Monday, April 20, 2020

Sista Brytet / Popterror Split 7"


Luftslott (2015)

I had picked up this split 7" a while ago, back when I ordered a couple of other Sista Brytet releases.  Popterror is the band that came with this split 7" as a bonus when I bought it for the Sista Brytet songs.  That's one of the things I love about split 7"s, the opportunity to hear a new band while already supporting one you already like/. It's usually a win-win.

I can't say I was familiar with Popterror prior to listening to their side of this record.  They're pretty fun and their song "Dyrt Att Vara Fattig" is catchy with horns in the background and a pretty poppy vocal melody.  The way the horns interact with the rest of the music has a RFTC quality to them, but this isn't a band that sounds much like Rocket aside from that.  I like the song, but I can't say that I'd be too inspired to hunt down more by the band.

Systa Brytet was the main reason I picked this up.  On this release they have guitar riffage that reminds me of Idle Hands quite a bit and they also have the same knack for big catchy choruses.  While these aren't my favorite songs by the band that I've heard so far, both are upbeat, energetic and have the intangible energy that all good punk rock has.

Popterror - "Dyrt Att Vara Fattig":

Sista Brytet - "Huvudvark" & "Lat Det Brinna":

Friday, April 17, 2020

Rocket From The Crypt - Rocket Queen 7" (Blue Cover)


Speedo's Classics (1995 - Bootleg)

In my never ending quest to track down every single variant of every single Rocket From The Crypt release, I do have to contend with a handful of bootlegs.  The most well known of which is probably this four song Rocket Queen 7".  This reared its head in 1995 claiming to be limited to five hundred copies only.  I will never believe that to be true, there must be a ton more of these out there as I've seen this thing floating around with a decent level of frequency over the past twenty-five years.

When this was released, they printed them up on a bunch of different colored sleeves.  Over the years I've been picking up these different colors when I see them for reasonable prices.  I'm not willing to pay a ton of money for them, but I do want to catch them all at some point.  Recently the blue covered variant popped up on eBay and I grabbed it for pretty cheap.  This may actually end up being the last record I buy for the foreseeable future.  I have a few preorders that were already paid for, but the world has changed a lot and my budget for record buying has had to be diverted elsewhere.

As far as this 7" goes, it contains three songs culled from the Japanese version of the All Systems Go compilation CD and a live Misfits cover.  I've always liked the three main songs and I had my first copy of this 7" (pink cover) before I had tracked down the Japanese CD, so this was my first exposure to them.

"Ballot Fire" (an incorrectly named "Ball of Fire") has always been a favorite and is very much in line with a lot of the 92-93 era Rocket single releases of the time.  "10 Forward" was also a hit for completely different reasons, showcasing Rocket's louder and crazier side.  "Call it a Complex" is a slower, droning song with vocal effects and again is very much a song of that era.  The live Misfits cover never did much for me and still doesn't to be honest.  It's a neat thing to exist, but was never anything I listened to all the much.

Once Scream Dracula Scream came out, Rocket didn't really delve into these types of noisy interludes as often.  There's something magical to me about these songs which is surely in no small part because this is the time period I first became a fan, prior to the release of SDS.

Rocket From The Crypt - "Ball of Fire":

Rocket From The Crypt - "10 Forward":

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Boogie Down Productions - Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop LP


Get On Down/Jive (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 25+ 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 discovered Boogie Down Productions, it was primarily based on the song "My Philosophy" appearing on a Yo MTV Raps compilation combined with videos being played on the daily Yo TV show.  I have strong memories of playing By All Means Necessary non-stop and I have equally vivid recollections of their fifth full length Sex and Violence being released as the 'new' BDP album.  The time in between those events are a little fuzzy.

I'm not sure exactly when I added my original CD of Ghetto Music to my collection, but I'm fairly positive that it was part of one of the Columbia House or BMG Music scams I would take part of in late elementary school/early high school.  I used to sign up for the ten CDs for a penny gimmicks.  Then, they would send you a monthly mailer that said 'unless you opt out, we'll be sending you then new Heavy D CD at full price as part of your subscription thing.'  What I would do is not reply to that  mailer and get sent the Heavy D CD.  The next step would be to write 'Return to Sender, I didn't order this' on the box and stick it back in the mail.  It usually only took a couple of those before I received a notice that my account was suspended.  Then I'd start all over again.

As for this album itself, like all BDP albums, I love it unconditionally.  While I probably don't listen to it as often as some of their other albums, there are many incredible tracks.  "The Style You Haven't Done Yet," "You Must Learn" and "Jack of Spades" (as featured in the excellent I'm Gonna Git You Sucka) are among my very favorite BDP songs.  This fairly recent reissue sounds and looks great.  I'm not ever going to make the move from hip hop CD to vinyl without adding every Boogie Down Production album to the pile.  They're way too great and far too important to skip.

Boogie Down Productions - Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop (Youtube full album playlist)

Monday, April 13, 2020

David Quinton - Overlook Road LP


Secret Mission (2019)

Secret Mission is a label that I always look forward to receiving a package from.  I'm not exactly sure how my website ended up on their radar, but I'm glad it did and am grateful to get a handful of records from them every so often.  They tend to mine jewels from sectors of music I have very little familiarity with.  When they put out a record by a Japanese band, it's always one I've never heard of, despite my passionate interest in Japanese punk rock.  The other scene that they tend to release a lot from is from 80s power pop musicians that I'm not familiar with.

This David Quinton record is a prime example of the latter of these groups.  While the bio references his work with Stiv Bators, David Quinton is a name that I'm uncertain I've heard before.  In listening to Overlook Road, it surprises me that he isn't significantly more well know.  This is an album filled with ultra catchy power pop.  In some instances it reminds me of The Cars and certainly has that jangly, punch guitar sound that I would associate with middle-era Ocasek productions.

What is consistent song after song are the stellar vocal melodies that weave through this album.  They are instantly hummable and play nicely with the aforementioned guitar jangle.  Even though the cover artwork might make you think of the older brother from Mr. Belvedere, this is a great listen and certainly one that would appeal to folks that are super into 80's power pop.  I'm just a sometimes visitor to that scene and even I can get down with this album.

David Quinton - Overlook Road"

Friday, April 10, 2020

Spells - Stimulants & Sedatives LP - Purple Vinyl (/200)


Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

I find it impossible to believe that it's been nearly four years since the first Spells full length came out.  That's an album that really jumped out as something special at the time of its release and, to me, it's only gotten better as I've listened to it over the years.  There's been a bunch of singles and songs making their way to the masses in the interim, but it's nice to finally have a brand new full album from this band.

The record is broken up into two sides, Stimulants on side A and Sedatives on side B.  The Stimulants side is fast with loud catchy songs and the sort of RFTC era Rocket From The Crypt style singalong backing vocals that I love.  "Nose Dive" and "Down Every Road" stand out as my favorites of the bunch.  They're catchy and just brimming with energy.  When this band is on, they're really on.

The Sedatives side doesn't really sound all that different from the Stimulants side to be totally honest.  Yes, in general the songs are a little slower, but it's not like the band has decided to break out power ballads or anything weird like that.  I'm also just a very shallow and unobservant man, so there may be a very striking artistic statement going on that I'm too dumb to see.  All I care about is that this side of the album still showcases a band cranking out great songs, with the sort of vibe that makes you want to go to one of their shows, grab the stranger next to you around the shoulders and just jump up and down screaming along to the lyrics all night long.

Spells - Stimulants & Sedatives:

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Ice Cube - Kill At Will 12"


Priority (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 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

I can't be positive, but I think the first time I ever heard Ice Cube was from one of the videos released from this EP.  If it wasn't from that, it was probably his guest appearance on the Public Enemy song "Burn Hollywood Burn."  The song from this EP that I remember super vividly from the Yo MTV Raps era was "Jackin' For Beats."

The fist thing that caught my ears was that the song starts off using the same music as the D-Nice song "Call Me D-Nice."  It then moves through beats of other songs of the era including sections that include Public Enemy, Digital Underground and others.  It wasn't a concept that made a ton of sense to me as a kid, but it made for a hell of a song and I really liked it even if I didn't totally understand what Cube was up to.  It holds up extremely well all of these years later and it really makes me think that D-Nice probably doesn't get as much credit as he deserves for his first album.

The rest of this EP is a mixed bag.  There's some interesting remixes of a couple of tracks from Ice Cube's debut album. There's a track of nothing but shout outs and a thirty second skit.  The next most famous song from this LP is "Dead Homiez."  It's a serious track, that is slower than a lot of what Cube was doing at the time.  It's not one that I ever really gravitated to.  Lyrically it's pretty powerful, but the delivery is so laid back that I think it loses some impact.  The other standout to me on this album is "The Product."  It's fast and Ice Cube is fierce on the mic.

To me, the best era of Ice Cube is Amerikka's Most Wanted, this EP and Death Certificate. There's a few good moments after that, but his first three releases are pretty untouchable.  The Kill At Will EP is definitely part of that really important era and I still would probably say "Jackin' for Beats" is my favorite Ice Cube song (at worst, it's a very close second to "Steady Mobbin").

Ice Cube - Kill At Will (Youtube full EP playlist):

Monday, April 6, 2020

Engine 88 - Clean Your Room LP - Red Vinyl


Caroline (1995)

Engine 88 is one of those weird bands that always seemed to be percolating under the radar, yet they were always on a label with pretty solid distribution.  What I remember most about them in the 1990s NY/NJ record store scene was that their albums were always very reliably in the used CD box at whatever store you were perusing.  That's not a knock on them either.  Some of my very favorite bands of that era were kings of the used CD box (I often wonder if anyone ever bought a Fig Dish CD that didn't have a punched out bar code).

Even though the band never really achieved big time notoriety or enduring memories as one of those great smaller bands that folks reminisce about,  they put out a body of work that holds up well listening again all of these years later.  Clean Your Room was the only one of their full length albums to get the vinyl treatment and as it wasn't in my collection, I was pleased to see one pop up on Discogs not too long ago.

Musically, they are a guitar focused rock band, like a lot of bands in the 90s were.  They know their way around a hook and have that big, crunchy guitar sound that I like so much.  When Engine 88 leans towards the poppier punk side of the spectrum, they're up there with the best of them.  When they get a little more out their and dig into some of the noisier and off center songs, I can't say the results thrill me quite as much.  That said, within the context of a complete album, it's nice that the band changes things up and isn't just cranking out the same song over and over.  This is an album worth seeking out if it didn't come across your turntable or CD player twenty five years ago.

Engine 88 - Clean Your Room (Youtube full album playlist):

Friday, April 3, 2020

G-Whiz - Eat At Ed's LP


Tim Kerr (1992)

I never heard G-Whiz back in the 90s.  They were pretty much wrapped up when I was really discovering what I loved about punk rock and they're one of the bands that I didn't go back to at the time.  Hearing them when I got a bit older, I've always appreciated the music, but never really felt that they stood out during a crowded field of bands that were churning out some pretty incredible music.

The only reason this record even ended up in my collection is because it was given to my by my buddy John before he moved out to California.  I've spent some more time with it since then but I still always come to the same conclusion; this is a good record, but it's not really a great one.  There's nothing bad to say about it and every one of the songs has a solid hook and is well constructed.  But there's never that moment where the band transcends and is really creating something unique that stands out.

They very much follow the path of Cruz records denizens with Big Drill Car being the most obvious comparison.  But for me, if I want to listen to a band that kind of sounds like Big Drill Car, I'll probably just listen to Big Drill Car most of the time.  I may be selling G-Whiz a little short with this type of comparison, it is after all a fun record and if you are into bands like Pollen or All, I can't imagine that you're going to dislike it.  For me, it's just one of those albums that I think is pretty good, but will inevitably languish in my record collection.  Maybe if I heard it in 1992, it would have had more of a chance to get its claws in me.

G-Whiz - "Boomerz":

G-Whiz - "Hegdes":

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - Mecca And The Soul Brother 2xLP - Clear Vinyl


Elektra / Get On Down (2016, 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 25+ 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 was so completely on board with this record when it came out in 1992.  The single "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" was on non stop repeat on Yo MTV Raps.  With its jazzy horn hook, laid back groove and dynamite lyrical flow, it was one of those songs that resonated with the underground while still bubbling up to infect some mainstream outlets.  It's a great song, but you have to understand how much it got played back then.  It was played a lot.  To the point that it actually started to get a little annoying.  Even nearly 30 years later, while I appreciate it as a great song, I don't really need to hear it that much.  I had my share in 92 and 93.

But the good news is that the rest of this album is every bit as strong as its most famous single, with the added bonus of not having been played into the ground.  Right from the opener "Return of the Mecca," you know the sort of journey you'll be on throughout the album.  Jazzy, soulful beats that don't necessarily sound like Tribe Called Quest, but live in the same general area.  Mid tempo without sounding sleepy and forceful without sounding comically aggressive.

Another track I want to highlight is "It's Like That."  It stands out as being a little different with the scratchy washboard percussion mixed in with the bass and horn loop, but still fits in perfectly with the rest of the album.  C.L. really showcases a faster delivery here, laying down a flawless flow that makes you wonder why he isn't a bit more lauded as one of the great MCs of the era.  Listening to Mecca and the Soul Brother in 2020 doesn't feel like a throwback to me.  This doesn't sound like old music.  While this sort of hip hop isn't what is popular these days, to me it sounds as fresh and innovative as ever.  Though that just might be me getting old...

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - Mecca and the Soul Brother (Youtube full album stream):

Monday, March 30, 2020

Merger - S/T 12"


Impetus (2019)

I will be honest, I don't remember when I got this record.  It was sent to me for the purposes of reviewing on this site sometime last year, but it sort of vanished into the 'to do' pile.  I have not been able to buy many new records this year, and with the way things are deteriorating in the real world each day, it seems unlikely that I'll be buying many more in the short term.  The upside to that is that it gives me time to weed through the records that have been sitting around.  I guess if you want to send me a record to review, this is probably the best time to do that, just drop me an email first as the address on this site isn't going to be the best place to get a hold of me over the next month or so.

Back to Merger.  This is a six song 12" EP, which is my least favorite way to consume new music that isn't a cassette.  I'm always going to prefer a full length LP or a 7" for shorter endeavors.  That aside, the music itself is interesting.  While I can't really say that I like it or would be prone to listening to it very often, it's not bad.  There's a fuzzy chaos to it that I find endearing and there's solid energy behind the vocals.  The drummer is also particularly adept at keeping time amongst the various mood changes that take place during each song.

In my formative years when I was trying to find my way in punk rock, I ended up listening to a lot of Pacific Northwest bands like Karp, Unwound and Some Velvet Sidewalk.  I think that if I had heard this Merger LP back then, I'd probably have a different take on it than I do now.  This isn't for me, but there are likely folks out there that prefer the noisier side of the world that will be able to get down with this.

Merger - S/T 12":

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Best of Godzilla 1984-1995 - Original Film Soundtracks 2xLP


Crescendo (2019)

This double album is the companion piece to The Best of Godzilla 1954-1975 album that I wrote about a few weeks ago.  Like that album, this release covering the Heisei era of Godzilla music has been released on vinyl for the first time.  While I didn't get the colored vinyl version of either, it's pretty exciting to have both on vinyl.

The Heisei era of Godzilla films were an odd bunch in the pre-internet days of my high school years, they were the sort of thing I would only be able to keep track of by purchasing the newest issue of the G-Fan fanzine from the comic shop in Rockaway mall.  They were virtually impossible to see and none of the movies aside from The Return of Godzilla (Godzilla 1985) received a stateside home video release until years later.  Though I do remember that the first time Godzilla 1985 was shown on TV, it was something of a big deal, complete with Dr. Pepper commercials that vaguely tied into the movie.

Bootlegs where the main way of keeping up with everything and I cherished the copy I had of the 1993 version of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, which is still my favorite of this era of Godzilla movies.  While the composers varied from movie to movie, it's the soundtracks done by the maestro of Godzilla, Akira Ifukube that are my favorite.  I imagine that's due to a lot of the baked in nostalgia I have as he wove in many of the classic Showa series themes that I had been listening to for my entire life.

If you were only going to buy one compilation of Godzilla music, I would recommend the first volume that covers those Showa soundtracks, but if you are looking for the Heisei era music, this is as good a starting place as any.  I hope that more of the complete Godzilla soundtracks receive releases on vinyl.  Though my wallet hopes they are spaced out from each other.

Godzilla Main Theme (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah):

Main Theme (The Return of Godzilla):

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Showbiz & A.G. - Runaway Slave LP


Island / UMe (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 25+ 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 this Showbiz & A.G. album came out back in 1992, I never heard it.  I'm not sure if it didn't get enough support from Yo MTV Raps or if I just zoned out for some reason.  I certainly knew the name Showbiz & A.G. from shoutouts on other albums and in the thank you notes of all of the liner notes I used to pour through looking for new groups to listen to.  For whatever reason, these guys slipped through the cracks and it was only very recently that I listened to them first time.

What I can say conclusively is that I would have absolutely loved Showbiz & A.G. in 1992.  In 2020, I think they're pretty great as well.  They have a really welcoming familiar vibe to their music.  It fits in with the sort of hip hop that I like to listen to, but still manages to stay very unique.  If there's an act I think would be a solid comparison, it would be to Black Sheep, and that's not just because Dres from Black Sheep guests on "Bounce Ta This.".  While Showbiz & A.G. don't have a smash hit on their hands like "The Choice Is Yours," the album as a whole is more consistent and there are more highs.

While I typically have been using Wednesdays as an opportunity to write about records I've been listening to twenty five plus years, I've also been checking out some other records from the era that I may have missed the first time around.  Runaway Slave is one of the best of these that I've heard and if anyone else didn't catch these guys the first time around, this is definitely an album worth revisiting.

Showbiz & A.G. - Runaway Slave (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, March 23, 2020

World's Fair - We Can't Be Magic LP - Black w/ Orange Swirl Vinyl


Rok Lok (2019)

Back in 2015 I took a chance on a band that got an Archers of Loaf comparison in a review that I read.  While that comparison never really made a ton of sense to me, I did end up enjoying that first World's Fair record quite a bit.  After their debut release, they went kind of quiet and to be honest, I just assumed they had broken up or something like that.

Imagine my surprise to discover their sophomore LP, We Can't Be Magic.  It does remind me a lot of their first album (which it probably should, as they are the same band after all), but what I see more on this album is a propensity to indulge in a few more Yuck/Built To Spill sort of epic guitar solo leads.  While I am on record as not being a huge fan of extended guitar wanking, it is done tastefully throughout the course of the record as it tends to add depth to the songs, rather than overshadow them.

There is an unmistakeable 90s vibe to this record and for that I can only applaud the band.  If you are looking for a little slab of indie rock that will evoke your memories of twenty five years ago, giving this World's Fair album a spin would likely be a good idea.

World's Fair - We Can't Be Magic:

Friday, March 20, 2020

Iron Chic / Toys That Kill - Split 12"


Dead Broke / Recess (2019)

While I have mentioned in the past that split 12"s are not my preferred medium to enjoy music, it is hard to complain about that too much when presented with a release like this.  Would I rather have a new full length by each band? Probably.  But would I have preferred this to be a split 7" with less songs? No, I don't think that I would, despite the fact that in general I think the split 7" is a far superior way to have two bands share a release.  In this specific instance, I wouldn't want to cut any of the songs from either band.

Iron Chic has become so woven into the fabric of my record collection that I typically use them as a reference point when trying to describe other bands.  The way they combine their hook filled driving music with anthemic vocals is such an incredible talent.  The other thing that is equally impressive is how consistently great their songs tend to be.  There's very seldom any dip in quality.  They're a goddamn hit machine.  The four songs they contribute to this split are as strong as anything else in their catalog.  In particular, "Kid Icarus" stands out to me as the best of the bunch.  It's so catchy that the entire song feels like a bunch of choruses put together instead of wasting time with something pesky like verses.

Toys The Kill are one of those bands that I always tend to like when I hear them, though they're not one that I typically buy every single release of that I see.  I'm not sure why that is though, as they tend to be one of the more creative and interesting bands in the corner of punk rock that I tend to gravitate towards.  Their contributions to this split are no exception as there are songs that are quite varied in style and tempo.  You'll have the caveman stomp rhythm of a song like "The Cut Up Boy" that transitions right into a song like "Where Have All The Kids Gone," which is structured much more like a straight up pop song.  No matter what they attempt, they always seem to pull it off and that's a unique talent that very few bands can lay claim to.

Iron Chic / Toys That Kill - Split 7"

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Kool Moe Dee - Funke Funke Wisdom LP


Jive (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 25+ 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 only ever had one Kool Moe Dee record when I was younger and it was Funke Funke Wisdom.  As with so many albums of that era, I picked it up based on a video that was played pretty frequently on Yo MTV Rap.  That song was "Death Blow," an LL Cool J diss track that was pretty much a direct response to LL's "Mama Said Knock You Out."  "Death Blow" plays off of the same sort of boxing motif and while the song wasn't ever as popular as "Mama Said," it's arguably just as strong and is my favorite Kool Moe Dee track by a country mile.

That's not to say that there aren't other tracks worthwhile on the album.  Kool Moe Dee has a gruff and rugged delivery with strong rhyme structure with one foot in an old school vibe and the other in the creative peak of the golden era.  The beats are mostly hard hitting with funk samples and DJ scratching in the breaks, but it's really the lyrical flow of Kool Moe Dee that is the main draw of Funke Funke Wisdom. That said, even the wordplay of Kool Moe Dee can't salvage a handful of the slower songs that do drag down the album in places.  The lest said about the smooth jazz of "How Kool Can One Blackman Be" the better.

What's interesting to me is that Kool Moe Dee apparently thinks this is his worst album and in many ways it began his fall from hip hop grace.  Perhaps it's because it is the album of his that I'm most familiar with, but I would disagree with Dee's assessment. I had to pick this up on vinyl and I actually found a copy on eBay that was still sealed.  If that was because some others don't like the album as much as I do, so be it.

Kool Moe Dee - Funke Funke Wisdom (full album playlist)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Fire Heads / Sex Scenes - Split LP


Big Neck (2019)

While the split 7" is one of my favorite vessels for hearing new bands, I've been less enthused by split LPs over the years.  I feel like I would probably prefer both bands put out full albums rather than go for the half measure.  Plus there's always the confusion of where the record sits in the record collection.  I tend to file it with the records of the band that I like the best, but I'd just rather not have to deal with it.  Split 7"s don't bug me the same way, for whatever reason.

I have heard Fire Heads before and actually reviewed another one of there records that Big Neck had sent me a few years ago.  While I didn't love them, there were a handful of poppy songs that kept me interested.  Their side of this split LP starts off with some really fast guitar riffage and some vocal cord shredding.  Things don't stray too far from that for the remaining five songs that they've contributed.  I liked the last LP that I had heard better.  The songs on this split are a bit much for me.

On the Sex Scenes side of this LP, we've got some old fashioned, stomping caveman punk rock.  The drums pound, the singer yells and the songs are all short.  One this I can say is that minimal guitar chords were killed during the making of their side.  This sort of punk rock has never been my thing.  There's just not enough melody to keep my interest, though I know plenty of folks that would probably love this.

Fire Heads / Sex Scenes - Split LP:

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Lords of the Underground - Here Come The Lords 2xLP


Music On Vinyl / Universal (2018)

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 25+ 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 actually didn't think that Lords of the Underground were the sort of band that would warrant a Music On Vinyl reissue of their albums.  I just sort of thought they were one of those great groups from the early 90s that were destined to be forgotten.  Not necessarily for any justifiable reason, it's just that the sands of time don't always treat everyone kindly.  I'm very happy to be wrong and the ability to pick up a slick, high quality version of this album on wax is great news.

Like just about all 90s golden era hip hop, I discovered Lords of the Underground from Yo MTV Raps.  Specifically the song "Funky Child."  While I don't remember seeing it played frequently, I saw it enough times that the main horn riff sample (from James Brown's "My Thang") was lodged in my head pretty quickly.  It's still my favorite Lords song all of these years later, but they were not a one hit wonder, the entire album is really strong, particularly when looking back on it with twenty five plus years of hindsight.

This is a group that did a tremendous job on the production of their songs.  The beats are always full sounding and hard hitting.  When combined with the fast paced lyrical flow, it creates songs that are head nodders, but are also really fun.  The lyrics are dynamic and it really sounds like the band had a good time making this record.  I have to say that I am not as familiar with the band's second album, Keepers of the Funk, but I think I should probably give that one another chance as Here Come the Lords holds up really well.

Lords of the Underground - Here Come the Lords (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, March 9, 2020

Mammals - Look Around You 7"


Lamont (2020)

Mammals were kind enough to send me this 7" as they found my website through The Pretty Flowers.  Now, considering how much I love The Pretty Flowers, there was no way I wasn't going to immediately throw this 7" on the turntable.  Luckily the music lived up to the hype I created for this band in my head.

The first comparison that comes to mind is due to the way the jangly guitars come bouncing out of the speakers.  I can't not hear The Yolks when this record is spinning.  But there is a major difference when it comes to the vocals.  Where The Yolks employ a fuzzed out garage-y croon, Mammals are more focused on a clean delivery with some tasteful harmonies thrown in during the chorus.  In fact, the vocals do remind me a bit of The Pretty Flowers in the way that the melodies interact with the chord progressions.  However the styles of music are quite different and where The Pretty Flowers can veer into Built To Spill style indie rock, Mammals keep things a bit more streamlined.

I really dig this 7" a lot and am glad that the band thought to send it to me.  They have two other 7"s out as well and while their bandcamp page says they like 7"s and '"Small, digestible chunks of music," I certainly wouldn't mind hearing these guys take on a full LP.

Mammals - Look Around You 7":

Friday, March 6, 2020

Armchair Martian - S/T Demo Tape


Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

I vividly remember Armchair Martian popping up in 1996.  I bought their first 7" at Flipside in Pompton Lakes NJ.  I really dug it and that's good news for this cassette as all three songs from that 7" are also on this reissue of Armchair Martian's first demo tape.  Of the other two songs, one of them appeared on the first AM full length and I believe the last one, "Dumb," is exclusive to this tape.

Armchair Martian were always a solid band.  They lean towards the melodic side of pop punk and like Brown Lobster Tank from earlier in the week, they have a lot in common with the Cruz style sound that was a fun thing back in the 90s.  You can hear some of the Big Drill Car sound, particularly in the guitar tone and big chunky riffs that make up the backbone of these songs.  These songs do hold up really well, though it probably helps matters that three of them are ones I've been pretty familiar with for quite some time.

It's a neat thing to have this cassette reissued and it's a cool thing to add to the collection.  But if Snappy Little Numbers really wants to blow some minds, let's get a vinyl reissue of the first Armchair Martian LP.  That's something my collection could really use.

Armchair Martian - S/T Demo Tape:

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Del The Funky Homosapien - Future Development 2xLP


Hiero Imperium (2002, 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 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

As I have mentioned in the past, Del The Funky Homosapien is my all time favorite hip hop artist.  His second album, No Need For Alarm, was a seminal record for me and is definitely the sort of album I'd post a picture of on Facebook if someone asked me to play one of those games where I have to list the albums most influential to me.  After that album, Del was dropped from Elektra and retreated to the underground.  He reappeared in 1998 and put out Future Development on cassette as one of the first releases of the newly launched Hiero Imperium record label.

I mail ordered that album when I was in college along with the second Casual album, Meanwhile.  I never thought that Future Development quite lived up to No Need For Alarm as a whole, but there are some truly incredible tracks on this record and honestly, I like it more now than I did when that tape was initially playing in my car stereo.  I heard an interview with longtime Hieroglyphics producer Domino who said that the final Future Development record was not exactly how it was originally envisioned.  Specifically he had mentioned that the Del track "At The Helm," one of the highest highs of the first Hieroglyphics group album, was one of the songs originally planned for this third full length.

But again, there are hits on here.  Opening track "Lyric Licking" is incredible, with its pumping, low bass line and Del's unique lyrical delivery.  If the rest of the record had production like this, Del would have had another stone cold classic on his hands.  Where I think the album loses me a little is that the beats on the bulk of the album are a little softer than what I had been anticipating.  The hard hitting drums and unique samples were shelved in favor of a sound that can really only be described as mellower.  Lyrically, Del is swinging for the fences every time, and connecting way more than he misses, but it's the beats that leave me wanting more.

However, as I mentioned earlier, the more I've listened to this record over the years, the more I've grown to appreciate the things that make it different.  That, plus the fact that it could be considered the album that launched the modern independent rap scene, makes it a pretty important release in the history of hip hop.

Del The Funky Homosapien - Future Development:

Monday, March 2, 2020

Brown Lobster Tank - Tooth Smoke LP


Dr. Strange (1995)

When my buddy John moved to California, he gave me a handful of LPs that he still had floating around.  Why he kept the few he had, I'll never know, but one of them was this Brown Lobster Tank LP.  I listened to these guys back in the 90s and even held on to one of their 7"s after they changed their band name to just be The Tank.  But I probably hadn't heard this band in twenty three years, best case scenario.

Well, truthfully I like this more than I did back in the 90s.  The competition was much tougher back then and for a band that was heading down the Cruz/Big Drill Car path, why would you get all that excited when actual Big Drill Car was still playing?  In 2020, Tooth Smoke is a refreshing throwback since there aren't really many bands that sound much like this any more.  It's a sound that really isn't en vogue right now, but one that I will always have a soft spot for.

If you have a CD collection with bands like Pollen, Crumb or to a lesser extent All, it's probably worth giving Brown Lobster Tank a listen.  They are definitely in that wheel house and I'm sure these guys flew under the radar for a lot of folks back when there were a lot more bands to choose from in the mid 90s.

Brown Lobster Tank - Tooth Smoke (Full album playlist):

Friday, February 28, 2020

New Japan Pro-Wrestling - The Piano Collection CD


Yamaha (2019)

To those that know me or follow me on Twitter, the fact that I am fairly obsessed with New Japan Pro-Wrestling is not a surprise.  I have been watching it for years and years and they have been a part of some great times in my life.  When this CD was announced towards the end of last year, I pretty much shrugged it off and thought it was a funny idea.  But after I stumbled across the songs and gave them a listen, I knew I had to own this.

This album contains entrance music from New Japan wrestlers, but played on a piano, classical music style.  It really hit me when I listened to this of just how lodged into my brain some of these songs were.  It also hit me that the writing of and musicianship behind these songs was at a much higher level than I originally thought.  When broken down to a single piano, you can really see the complexity of the way lead parts interplay with rumbling low end and chord changes.

Most of the main wrestlers from New Japan have their entrance music represented here.  Pretty much of them work well, with the standouts being the themes of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito and Minoru Suziki's classic, "Kaze Ni Nare."  I told my wife that if this CD had been out when we got married, I would have had to try to get Suzuki's theme into our ceremony.  She disagreed with that statement.  I guess we'll never know.

The one instance where I don't think the piano captures the theme as strongly as some of the others is for the entrance music of Kazuchika Okada.  For some reason the piano version just doesn't quite hit the same highs as the regular version of the music.  Something got lost in translation for this one, but for the other eleven songs, it's pretty impressive what the piano player was able to pull off.

Unfortunately, I can't find any of these songs streaming online.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Da Lench Mob - Guerillas In Tha Mist - Orange w/ Green Splatter Vinyl


Get On Down / EastWest (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 25+ 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 1993, my aunt asked me what I wanted for a holiday.  I assume birthday or Christmas, but I can't remember which as they are both in December and that was a long damn time ago.  I told her that I wanted this album by Da Lench Mob.  Instead, she got me a CD by a band called Lynch Mob that had a bunch of dudes with long glam rock hair on the cover.  I remember having the feign some sort of enthusiasm while opening it and then having to explain what I had actually wanted.  In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have asked anyone to buy my this album.  The grownups were bound to not understand what I was after.

While I definitely saw the video for Guerillas In Tha Mist on Yo MTV Raps, what actually drew me to the group the most was that Del The Funky Homosapien had been part of Lench Mob when they were a crew with Ice Cube.  In 92/93, I had no internet so I didn't really know if Del was on this album at all or not, so the only way to find out for sure was to get it.  Unfortunately Del isn't a part of this, but the record is still a really fun listen, especially when it goes into extreme points of over the top ridiculousness.

Anyone who has seen the video for the title track knows what I'm talking about.  Ice Cube and Da Lench Mob standing around in the woods with Predator style heat signature visual effects.  They're rapping about King Kong and Godzilla and Tarzan.  Then there's this part where Ice Cube loses his mind and starts going on about "With a boom ping, ping/listen to the ill shit that I bring, bring." It's all kind of insane, but it works and is helped by how great the underlying beat and production is.  Shorty can also hold his own on the mic and leads the lion's share of this album.

All of the songs are solid, but I would never say this is an all time classic, must have album.  It's really good and I think it holds up pretty well all things considered.  There are important issues tackled in the lyrics on quite a few songs, but it is so over the top and weird at times that it's hard to take in the messages with all of off center imagery and general strangeness that takes place.  That said, it is still entertaining to listen to and I was pretty psyched when the reissue came out last year.

Da Lench Mob - "Guerillas In Tha Mist":

Da Lench Mob - "Freedom Got An A.K."

Monday, February 24, 2020

Polvo - S/T LP - Green Vinyl


Merge (2019, Reissue)

Now that it is completed and has wrapped up, I feel pretty confident in saying that the Merge Born Under A Good Sign 30th anniversary subscription thingy was not an effective way to spend my money.  When I originally signed up for it, I mainly did so assuming there would be an exclusive Superchunk release.  And while that did happen, I was pretty disappointed that the exclusivity was only the color of vinyl it was pressed on.  Not to mention it was an acoustic reinterpretation of the album Foolish that, while interesting, is not something I expect to listen to all that much.  The rest of the subscription's offerings ranged from 'pretty ok' to 'this is kind of terrible.'

That brings us to Polvo, a band who at no time have I really understood.  With apologies to my buddy Scott, I have never been able to figure out what Polvo brings to the table that I can't get a better version of from other indie rock bands of the 90s.  Their claim to fame seems to be the way they bring in noisy passages and noodle-y guitar solos to their songs.  Archers of Loaf do that much better on their first two albums, plus they hit with significantly stronger hooks and vocal melodies.  The times that Polvo did actually stand out to me, it was usually in a bad way.  I did a radio show in college with a guy named Todd.  He loved him some Polvo and I tended to only notice them when he played something terrible of theirs.

All that said, the songs on this LP (which is an LP reissue of songs from some of their early 7"s) is probably the best of Polvo that I've heard.  I suppose this was before the band got a little too nutty and these songs tend to be a bit more straightforward in a low-rent Archers sort of way.  Nothing really stands out to me as great, but these are average indie rock songs that aren't offensive or anything.  The green vinyl is exclusive to the subscription, but but the album is floating around out there on black vinyl for sale online and in stores.  Me? I've already sold this green version on Discogs.

Polvo - S/T

Friday, February 21, 2020

Alpha Hopper - S/T LP - Coke Bottle Clear Vinyl


Radical Empathy / One Percent Press / Swimming Faith (2019)

I wanted to like this album more than I actually do.  One Percent Press has put out some really cool records over the years and I'm always grateful that they take the time to send some to me to check out every now and again.  I also really like the colorful artwork and palm trees on the front cover.  Not too mention the little note that was packaged in with the album made reference to all of the Weird Al reviews I did last year.  It was a charming little package and I went in with positive expectations.

Unfortunately, the tunes are a little too out there for me.  It's an arty style of punk rock with dissonant chords and vocals that veer a bit too much into yelling for my personal taste.  There are elements of the song construction that are positives, such as the Unwound style riffage, but there's also a few unnecessary sound effects/synths that spoil the party for me on a few tracks.

One of the things I have liked about bands like Unwound was their ability to go from quite whispers to uncontrolled roars in a surprising, but totally effective way.  Alpha Hopper seems to be stuck on loud throughout the record and it's missing some of the dynamics I look for when venturing out of my pop punk bubble.  In particular, the vocals just seem to sound the same to me on every song, regardless of what the music is doing.  As a whole, it's not a bad record, but it's somewhat one dimensional and it just isn't my cup of tea.

Alpha Hopper - S/T:

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

EMPD - Unfinished Business 2xLP


Priority / UMe (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 25+ 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.

1992's Business Never Personal is my EPMD record.  It's the first one I heard and is one of my favorite hip hop records of all time.  When it came out while I was in high school, I was pretty obsessed with it.  But EPMD broke up shortly thereafter and I didn't really explore their back catalog at the time.  It wasn't until the early 2000s that I decided to backtrack a little bit and try out some of the others.

While many point to their debut, Strictly Business as a classic, in my mind it was on Unfinished Business where I see EPMD first stand out as something really special.  The production is light years ahead of their debut and both Erick Sermon and Parish Smith are significantly more comfortable on the microphone.  Their flows hit a little harder and you can feel a growing energy that wasn't as present on the laid back delivery of Strictly Business.

EPMD is one of those groups that I think just got better and better as they progressed (at least until their first break up, their reunion albums after that have never really hit me the same as the first four).  Their third album, Business As Usual, is even better than this one (I'm still looking for a nice copy of that record on vinyl as it isn't one that's been reissued in the last few years) and their fourth album is my favorite of the bunch.  Still, all of them are worth checking out as they are integral building blocks of the golden era of hip hop.

EMPD - Unfinished Business (Full album YouTube playlist):

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Suitesixteen - Mine Would Be The Sun - 2xLP


Self Released (2020)

The Suitesixteen is a project that Rob Nesbitt has been working on for quite some time.  You may know Rob from his work in Bum, one of my all time favorite bands.  They have a little slice of perfection called Wanna Smash Sensation and I highly recommend you check that album out if you haven't heard it before.

I have heard Rob talking about this record for years in interviews and social media posts.  You can feel the passion he has for it and see the work he has poured into it.  Mine Would Be The Sun is very much his magnum opus.  To be honest, I was worried about how the album would actually turn out.  The way that Rob has spoke of it over the years, you could tell it was super important to him and he was in deep.

My concern was that it would lose the energy and fun that made Bum such an enjoyable listen.  Often when an artist really dives into a project like this they can very easily fall into traps of self indulgence and over thinking things.  I was worried this might turn into another example of someone with an upbeat band take things in completely the opposite direction and write a bunch of sad sack songs.  How many times have you seen a solo record turn out shit because the artist was trying to make it more important than what they did with their band?

I can happily report that Rob avoided all of these pitfalls and has released an absolute classic of an album.  It retains all of the spark that made Bum work, but still manages to further his songwriting and storytelling abilities.  This is a record about the sort of love, heartache and loss that you experience when you are young.  Those emotions hit so much differently when you are in your teens or early twenties and you find yourself feeling, saying and doing things that sometimes don't make sense when you look back through more experienced eyes.

Rob has documented those triumphs and follies throughout the course of this album's sixteen songs.  In some ways it may be the most perfect embodiment of youthful longing that I've ever heard.  It resonates with feelings I had when I was nineteen that I look back on wondering what I was doing.  But at the same time, they're experiences I wouldn't change as they were part of the journey that got me to the present day.

The best part about this album is while Rob is telling these stories, the music rules.  This isn't an album full of somber, melancholy songs.  These are songs that sound like they could be on a Bum record in 2020.  The vast majority are uptempo with the sort of driving rhythm section and punky chord progressions that were so prevalent in the 90s.  At the same time, there's more of a power pop vibe than Bum typically presented.  The vocal harmonies are Electric Light Orchestra level glorious and bring the hooks and choruses to new heights.

Plus there is the simply insane artwork.  Triple gatefold.  52 page booklet.  Double LP.  Lyrics.  The whole shebang.  It's one of the most insane packaging set ups you'll find.  Though I will say, I wish the band name and album title were on the spine as I think it's the thickest non boxset spine I've ever seen in my life.  That minor issue aside, this is such an amazing package for an amazing album.  It's set the bar extremely high for 2020 and I'm unsure how another record is going to beat it for album of the year.

The Suitesixteen - Mine Would Be The Sun: