Friday, August 14, 2020

that dog. - Totally Crushed Out LP


Third Man (2020, Reissue)

In 1994 and 1995 I was beyond obsessed with Beck.  I was losing my mind trying to hunt down every record, single, compilation appearance or guest appearance I could get my hands on.  This was a crucial time where the record collecting bug really dug its claws into me.  This was also a time where I was exploring and learning a great deal about other indie rock bands, particularly those from the Pacific Northwest and those that had some ties, no matter how loose, to Beck.  A band whose ties weren't loose at all was that dog.

that dog. (it always looks weird writing the stylized version of their name in a sentence) appeared on several Beck songs during this era.  These songs also happened to be some of my very favorites such as "Totally Konfused" and "Steve Threw Up."  When Totally Crushed out came out in 1995, I won't go so far as to say I bought it immediately, but I definitely picked up pretty soon after it was released.

This is an album that I've loved for quite some time.  I love the way the crunchy guitar plays with Petra Haden's violin. I love the way the vocal harmonies built off of each other to crescendo in the choruses.  I love the sugary pop melodies and the simple stories built upon the emotions and ache that comes with being young and having an unreturned crush.  There's so much about this record that is perfect, and all of it holds up amazingly well twenty five years later.

On top of the great songs and nostalgic emotions that they stir, Third Man has done an incredible job with the reissue.  As far as the artwork and packaging go, the standard version that you can buy isn't anything particularly special.  But when you put this on the turntable, hot damn the speakers just come alive.  They've done an incredible job with this one and I can definitely say that Totally Crushed Out has never sounded better than it does on this reissue.

that dog. - Totally Crushed Out (YouTube Music playlist):

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Erick Sermon - No Pressure LP


Def Jam (1993)

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

I've said on more than a few occasions that Business Never Personal by EPMD is one of my absolute favorite hip hop records.  I really think it was the peak of EPMD and the fact that they acrimoniously split up after that album is a real bummer and one of the bigger 'what ifs' that I can think of.  I can only imagine what they would have come up with for their next album.  Though, I guess we can see pieces of that with the respective Erick Sermon and Parish Smith solo records.

No Pressure was Erick Sermon's foray into single life in 1993. I'm not sure how exactly, but I completely missed this album in 1993.  I never heard a second of it and it wasn't until much later that I listened to it for the first time.  I've tried out some other Erick Sermon solo records, but this is the only one that ever stuck with me.  It's pretty much the only one that feels rugged and has production that sounds like EPMD.  I feel like the R&B influences were far too prevalent by the time he got to his sophomore release Double Or Nothing, but No Pressure still hits pretty hard.

Parish Smith is definitely missed on this album.  E holds his own on the mic and is pretty masterful when it comes to production, but asking him to essentially carry the entire record is probably too much.  The back and forth that was such a huge part of EPMD is obviously not part of No Pressure, and its absence is really noticeable.  But if you take this album at face value and don't try to compare it to EPMD (which is quite difficult), it's a solid early 90s hip hop record.  It might not hit the highs of Erick's work with EPMD, but it is miles better than Parish Smith's PMD solo record that came out the following year.

Erick Sermon - No Pressure (YouTube music album link):

Monday, August 10, 2020

Dinged Up - Mucho Dolor LP - Red Vinyl (/300)


Snappy Little Numbers / Wallride (2020)

One thing I will say about Snappy Little Numbers as a label is that they put out a lot of records and boy do they have a knack for picking up on bands I have never heard of before.  From what I've read, Dinged Up has been kicking around for quite a while and Mucho Dolor is their second album that was originally released in 2016.  That release was only digital, so the album is seeing vinyl for the very first time.

When I first put on the record, I was put off by the vocals.  They do have something of a muppet quality to them and it comes off sort of affected.  All I will say is that you need to give it a couple of songs.  It quickly becomes normal and actually meshes wonderfully with the bouncy guitar riffs and the upbeat nature of the music.

I find it very difficult to throw out other bands to compare Dinged Up to.  If you're looking for a quick and dirty RIYL, I'm going to let you down big time with this review. What I can say is that the entire record is relentless catchy, no matter what sub genres Dinged Up venture to from song to song. I love the tone of the guitar and I'll be damned that by the end of the record, the vocals I initially thought were too quirky and a detriment become one of the album's biggest assets.  This is a weird one, but I really dig it.

Dinged Up - Mucho Dolor:

Monday, August 3, 2020

Mammals - The Hours 7"


Lamont (2018)

This is the last Mammals 7" I have and it's the second one they released.  Having really enjoyed the other two, it was not the least bit surprising that I enjoy this one just as much.  It's been a bummer the last few months.  Trapped in our house for months, no end to the world's stupidity in sight.  A lot of times it just feels like everything is burning down around us.  While it's not an antidote to the troubles of the day, there is something to be said about the healing power of music. Mammals have tapped into an upbeat vibe that just makes me feel better, even if it only lasts the duration of the 7".

Both songs on this record are as good as the other four I've heard.  They've got a bouncy Odd Numbers feel to them mixed in with just the right amount of sunny 60s harmonies and Rickenbacker jangle.  (Full disclosure, I have no idea if they actually play Rickenbackers, but they've really captured the chime that you'd hear on a Byrds or early Tom Petty album).

Mammals are three for three with excellent 7"s.  The only thing that I don't like about them is there's only three of them.  While I love the 7" format and certainly can get down with a barrage of excellent singles, when it comes to Mammals I'm always left wanting more.  I hope these guys keep it up and put out many more of these great tunes.  Maybe a full length one day?  I'd certainly be into that.

Mammals - The Hours 7":

Friday, July 31, 2020

Snuff - The Wrath of Thoth 12" EP - Six Different Colors of Vinyl


10 Past 12 / Unless You Try (2020)

I don't know what's wrong with me.  I don't know why I need six copies of this 12".  But I do.  The first pressing of this EP occurred pretty much right as the pandemic was getting underway and my record buying income was reduced to essential nil.  I watched as the orange and green vinyl pressings of these albums sold out without me having bought them.  I scraped together enough cash to at least get the version that Unless You Try was selling, but I felt sad and incomplete.

Then, it was repressed on three more colors of vinyl.  So, I sold a 1980s Rat guitar pedal on eBay.  This gave me the money to pounce on the Snuff website when they miraculously found a few more of the sold out first pressing copies.  So I picked up four copies in total from them and the last one I needed on blue vinyl from Dead Broke.  This was too complicated for me, but I just can't help how much I love Snuff and have for decades.

The songs on here are quite good too.  Every Snuff record has at least a handful of transcendently incredible songs and this one is no exception.  Opener "Drink Freely From The Chalice of Lunacy" is not only in the running for best Snuff songs of the past fifteen years or so, it's also a pretty good description of the year 2020 as a whole.  Yes, have some.  All of the songs on this EP are fun and provide an excellent follow up to the last Snuff full length, There's A Lot Of It About.  I like the idea of more frequent Snuff releases, but next time I would prefer maybe two versions instead of six.

Snuff - The Wrath Of Thoth (This is a link to one of those link tree things that take you to a bunch of places you can stream the record, but really you should just go buy the vinyl, shouldn't you?)

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Casual & J Rawls - Respect Game or Expect Flames LP


Nature Sounds (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.

As I've mentioned several times, Fear Itself by Casual is my second favorite hip hop album of all time. I still listen to it constantly and feel that it really holds up as a true classic of the genre.  Casual's other work has been a bit more hit and miss for me over the years.  While as an MC, Casual is beyond consistent and incredible, but the beats on his album haven't always been as reliably great.  There have been standouts over the years, in particular Truck Driver jumps out as one of the very best, but there have been other albums that fell flatter for me.

Respect Game or Expect Flames immediately jumps up on the list of my all time favorite Casual albums.  While this came out all the way back in 2012, I heard it for the first time within the last year or so.  J Rawls has created a perfect musical canvas for Casual to display his lyrical prowess.  While it doesn't sound like the quintessential 90s Hiero sound, the beats on this album are rooted in boom bap tradition, but work in innovative and jazzy measures.

Two cuts featuring other Hierglyphics members really stand out.  Del The Funky Homosapien checks in on the title track "Respect Game or Expect Flames" with typically excellent results.  The other is "Hier-o-dot" with it's uptempo bass line and guitar riff hooks.  I always feel these faster songs are where the Hiero crew truly excels and with drop ins from Souls of Mischief it's a real standout on the record.Modern hip hop isn't always the most exciting thing to me, but it's nice to know that 90s stalwarts are still out and about, creating and keeping old people like me interested. Even if it takes us eight years to show up to the party.

Casual - "Respect Game of Expect Flames":

Monday, July 27, 2020

Songs For Snakes - Airspeed Is Everything 7"


Timid Crusher (2020)

It's been two years sing we last heard from Songs For Snakes and their Crystal Vapour Figure LP.  They're back with a two song 7" and it's as potent and excellent as anything else the band has released.  While it may be impossible to listen to Songs For Snakes without conjuring images of Jawbreaker or Playground in your head, they consistently crank out catchy and powerful working class punk tunes.

A side "Airspeed Is Everything" is one of the longer songs in the Songs For Snakes arsenal, and while some of that is due to a lengthy intro there's never a wasted moment once the meat of the song kicks in.  The Bivouac-ian verse pushes the song forward into a brief, but dynamic chorus where the guitars soar.  Also, I should point out that the bass really stands out on this song as being the glue that holds everything together.  It's a great song.

On the B side we have "Let Them Eat Hate."  This one starts off with the tried and true muddled movie quote (I assume it's from a movie or something like that) over guitar feedback until the song kicks off in earnest.  As good as "Airspeed Is Everything" is, this is actually my favorite of the two songs on this 7".  The guitar work is outstanding, creating interesting textures without crossing the line into guitar solo wankery.  It's a concise, straightforward punk song, but has that extra little something that makes it stand out from the pack.

It's another excellent release from Songs For Snakes and it just makes me repeat something I say nearly every time I write about one of their records.  I don't understand how they aren't a bit more well known than they are.  Especially with old punks like me.  If you're reading this, you should fix that and pick up some or all of their records.

Songs For Snakes - Airspeed Is Everything 7":

Friday, July 24, 2020

Frankie Stubbs - Blood Orange Moon 7" (Red, Orange, Yellow and Black Vinyl)


Rad Girlfriend / Little Rocket (2020)

There are few songwriters in this world that have had as much impact on me as Frankie Stubbs.  Between Leatherface, Pope, Jesse and his sporadic solo work, he has compiled one of the most impressive discographies that I've had the pleasure of hearing.  This 7" is just Frankie and an acoustic guitar, much like his 1995 Unhinged 7" on Rugger Bugger or his 10" on Sounds of Subterranean that came out in 2000.

I really have been trying to cut down on buying multiple copies of the same record.  But, there are a handful of bands that I'll always be a little variant crazy about.  Seeing four different colors of a Frankie Stubbs 7" was just to much for me to ignore.  Despite my record buying budget being infinitesimal right now, I ponied up and bought all four.  I did something similarly stupid with a new Snuff EP.  There are some bands that I just can't help myself with.

On this 7" are three new Stubbs composition as well as an acoustic version of the Leatherface song "Shipyards" from The Last.  "Shipyards" is a perfect Leatherface song to get the acoustic treatment.  Its melancholy is only emphasized by stripping it down to the very basics.  The other three songs are just the sort of perfect songs you'd expect Frankie Stubbs to be writing.  And while they completely work as solo acoustic songs, they all have the sort of layered chord structures and changes that you know they would be fierce rippers if Frankie plugged in and was backed by a tight rhythm section.

It's been way too long since we heard new music from Frankie Stubbs.  I can only hope that this is the first of many new releases in the upcoming years.  Whether he's by himself or playing with others, the man is a treasure and the world is a better place with his songs.  And if he feels like plugging in, I know that I sure would enjoy it if he put Jesse back together.

Frankie Stubbs - Blood Orange Moon 7":

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Ice Cube - Death Certificate LP - Lenticular Cover


Priority (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.

For me, Death Certificate is the final piece of the Ice Cube trifecta.  Combine this with Amerikkka's Most Wanted and Kill at Will and you have three pretty stellar releases.  While I did buy The Predator when it came out and definitely enjoyed aspects of it, I'd have to say that Death Certificate is really the last of the Ice Cube releases that I thought was truly great.

A large part of why I this record ranks so highly for me is the one-two punch of "My Summer Vacation" and "Steady Mobbin'" on side one.  "My Summer Vacation" spins the tale of LA based drug dealers moving out to St. Louis and setting up shop.  The story is expertly set up with the twists and turns over one of my favorite laid back beats with tight drums and a slinky bass riff.  That gives way to my favorite Ice Cube track, "Steady Mobbin.'"

"Steady Mobbin'" is more upbeat built on P-Funk samples and a looped beeping sound effect. The video for this was frequently spun on Yo MTV Raps and was how this song became permanently lodged in my head.  These are just two highlights, though there are plenty of others.  Not everything is flawless and lyrically there are definitely elements that were questionable at best in 1991 and have aged even worse.  Still, there's something about these early Cube releases that have a fierce energy that elevates them to a higher level than many of the paint by numbers gangsta era releases of the mid 90s.

Ice Cube - Death Certificate (YouTube full album playlist - This is a 25th anniversary version with a few unnecessary extra songs stuck onto the beginning of the album)

Monday, July 20, 2020

Falls - Egg Hunt CDEP


Too Smell (2018)

I'm a little delayed on writing about a few CDs that I mail ordered from Japan quite a while ago at this point.  I'm desperate to do another order, but that's not really viable at the moment.  Luckily I still have some to write about, but I do feel guilty that it took me so long to get to this Falls EP.

For those of you with steel trap memories, you may recall that Falls was one of the excellent bands to play the Waterslide/PopKid show when I went to Japan in 2017.  They made an instant fan of me that night and each release of theirs that I pick up only reinforces that feeling.  Whenever I hear them it always makes me think of those late 90s days where emo was becoming a thing in the US, but it hadn't quite become a dirty word just yet.

The bands that always come to mind when I listen to Falls are Silver Scooter, early Three Minute Movie (Especially those 2 killer songs on their Braid split and my favorite song of theirs, "Fish Don't Think, They Swim," on that 3" compilation CD) and lastly the quieter moments of the band Boys Life.  The 4 main songs on this EP are as strong as anything that I've heard by Falls so far.  If you have either of their other EPs that I wrote about and you liked them, there's no way you won't dig this one just as much.

Falls - Egg Hunt:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Artifacts - Between a Rock and a Hard Place 2xLP


Art of Facts (2018, Reissue)

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

Artifacts were not a group I was aware of when Between a Rock and a Hard Place was originally released in 1994.  As 1994 was a big transitional year for me when it comes to music and what I was listening to, it's not surprising to me that I missed out on this, despite the group hailing from New Jersey.  I'm going to think that if this record had been released in 1993, I would have been on top of things.  But as it turned out, I didn't hear this album for the first time until many years after it came out.

That's a shame because this is an album that is exactly the sort of hip hop I was listening to back then.  The soulful funk beats produced by T-Ray, Buckwild of the Diggin' In The Crates crew and even by Redman on one track provide the perfect template for Tame One and El Da Sensei. To me, the beats straddle the ground somewhere in between EPMD and Black Sheep.

As lyricists, both Tame One and El Da Sensei can hold their own with some of the best of their time.  Their flows both tend to be more straightforward than some of the more out there folks of the golden era, but at the same time they are definitely a step ahead of of the paint by numbers MCs that were starting to be more common by the time 1994 had rolled around.  Artifacts put out a followup album in 1997 that I've actually never listened to.  It's really one I need to check out, but for whatever reason it's always been on the back burner.

Artifacts - Between a Rock and a Hard Place (YouTube full album playlist):

Monday, July 13, 2020

DZTN 1980 - Outside The City Cassette (/50)


Self Released (2020)

As DZTN 1980 is the new project from Dustin Herron from Abolitionist, I know how DZTN is likely supposed to be pronounced.  But that doesn't stop my brain from calling it "Datsun 1980" every time I look at this cassette.

DZTN 1980 is essentially just Dustin and his electric guitars.  Those guitars are layered with a ton of swirling effects that create something of a dreamlike vibe to each composition.  What's missing is bass and drums.  Had the guitar been acoustic rather than electric, this would have been quickly slotted as singer songwriter by most, but the fuzzy noise keeps this different from your run of the mill bedroom troubadour.

That said, I think I would like this a lot more if it was more of a full band type of situation.  The songs are structured in a way that just beg for loud crashing drum fills to jump in and assist with the transitions.  Without them, the songs feel more like incomplete sketches than they do finished songs.  There's something to this tape that I dig, but I don't think that it's the sort of thing I could see myself listening to very much as is.

DZTN 1980 - Outside The City:

Friday, July 10, 2020

Archers of Loaf - Talking Over Talk 7"


Merge (2020)

Archers of Loaf are one of my favorite bands ever.  I still feel like their output up through Vee Vee is essentially flawless.  They had some bumps in the road after that and by the time they had put out White Trash Heroes, they weren't really ticking the boxes that I was looking for anymore.  I did get to see them play on their last ever tour in 1998 and when they went away into the night, it sort of just felt like the right time for them to do that.

As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder and when the band played some reunion shows in 2011, I was all in and was so impressed by their performance in New York that year.  It probably didn't hurt that ninety percent of the songs they were playing were from Vee Vee and earlier.  Fast forward to 2020 and Archers announce that they are putting out new music, starting with a 7" for Record Store Day.  This will be accompanied by a tour.  Which was cancelled. And then the 7" was delayed because Record Store Day was cancelled.  Pandemic. Sucks.

Well, that RSD 7" is still coming out as part of a "RSD Drop" in August, but I'll be damned if anyone has actually explained what that means.  I'll bide my time and see what happens, but I imagine I'll end up having to buy that one on eBay.  All that rambling aside, what that means is that this Archers of Loaf 7", which was actually supposed to be their second release, turns out to be their first new record in over twenty years.

It's good.  It's not great.  It doesn't have the bursting energy of Icky Mettle or the noise-pop hooks of Vee Vee.  It's more subdued, though not as much as the White Trash Heroes era.  When it comes right down to it, both are good, solid songs.  What I'm missing is the dynamics.  The punchy guitar interplay and the feeling that the band was about to go off the rails at any second.  These songs are more straightforward and structured.  That's not to say they aren't good, I just like Archers best when they are a little more ramshackle and a bit angrier.

Archers of Loaf - Talking Over Talk 7":

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030 2xLP


Deltron Partners (2011, 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.

By 1995 I wasn't really paying much attention to hip hop any longer.  I was neck deep in indie rock and punk at that point.  I was just so disillusioned with hip hop and found that innovation and passion that I was looking for in a different place.  The one exception is that I did try to pay attention to and keep up with Del the Funky Homosapien and the rest of the Hieroglyphics crew.  I picked up their cassette only releases on Hiero Imperium and I was really excited to grab the Del album Both Sides of the Brain when it came out.

The problem with these records were that even though they were pretty good, they weren't as strong as their golden era counterparts that came out in '93 and '94.  I would eventually come to appreciate them more and more as the years went by, but in that exact moment I was a little underwhelmed, even though they were miles better than any other hip hop coming out at the time.  That all changed when the Deltron 3030 album came out in 2000.

Del was back in his truest, most excellent form.  The album is crammed full of hyper complicated rhyme structures and rhythms.  He bends and twists his lyrics to spin stories of a dystopian cyberpunk future one moment and then switches to full on battle rap mode in the next.  Dan the Automator handled the beats for this and has crafted a textured world that slowly burns from one song to the next.  It's not just that his beats are the perfect compliment to Del's flow, it's that he's so completely nailed the vibe of otherworldliness that the album really feels like something truly different and special.

Even though this album is twenty years old at this point, to me it still sounds way ahead of its time.  No one has ever come close to its uniqueness and I rank this right behind No Need for Alarm as being one of Del's best ever performances.

Deltron 3030 - Deltraon 3030:

Monday, July 6, 2020

Night Slaves - Three and a Half LP - White Vinyl (/300)


Swimming Faith (2020)

I don't know that Night Slaves is really the best band name I have ever heard, but we'll put that to the side for right now.  This album was sent to me by the folks at Swimming Faith records.  When I opened up the package I was taken in by its colorful artwork, though less so by the description of the music that promised "a forgotten fever dream album dedicated to proto-punk/psych-garage."

There are a handful of descriptors in music that almost immediately signal to me that it's not going to be something that I like.  "Synth-punk" is the main one, but a close second is juxtaposing the word "psych" with just about any other genre.  And in that way, Night Slaves do not disappoint.  They have crafted a record that is absolutely not geared for me.

Yes, there are definitely traces of psych in this one rolled up into somewhat weaker garage sort of sounds that harkens back to the 60s to an extent.  But it's not done in a way that conveys much in the way of emotion or enthusiasm to me.  Most of the songs just kind of sit there.  You know you're in bad shape when the most memorable song on the album, "Absolute," is only memorable because it rips off the keyboards from ? and the Mysterians' "99 Tears."  Looking at this record in a vacuum, I suppose it's a perfectly serviceable psych-garage fever dream.  The problem for me is that's not the sort of dream I'm looking for in an album.

Night Slaves - Three and a Half

Friday, July 3, 2020

Fifteen - Extra Medium Kickball Star (17) LP - Screened Cover (/300)


Dead Broke/Rebel Alliance (2017, Reissue (sort of))

IT never ceases to amaze me how I completely missed Fifteen the first time around.  And this is despite the fact that I've always loved Crimpshrine.  I guess it's just one of those weird cosmic anomalies, but I have enjoyed discovering their records over the last few years.

Extra Medium Kickball Star (17) was originally released in '95 and is the fourth Fifteen full length.  It was originally released on Rebel Alliance records and that ties into this version on Dead Broke.  It seems there were 300 leftover copies of the vinyl that were never sold.  Dead Broke scooped these up, made some fancy new screened artwork and unleashed them back into a very grateful world.  So this isn't really a reissue, but the artwork is new and that makes it a different version from the original pressing.

As far as the album itself goes, I love it.  It has the same rugged charm and big hooks of a Crimpshrine record and I think this is every bit as good as the Choice Of A New Generation LP that was reissued a couple of years ago.  I definitely need to track down the remaining Fifteen records that I don't have.  I think Buzz is next on my list and it looks like that one was reissued a couple of years ago and is still in print...

Fifteen - Extra Medium Kickball Star (17) (Youtube full album playlist):

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Das EFX - Straight Up Sewaside LP - Brown Vinyl (/1000)


Music On Vinyl (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.

I went pretty crazy for the first Das EFX album, Dead Serious, when it came out.  It was a huge favorite, one that I absolutely played to death in 1991.  By the time Das EFX was ready to unleash their follow up in 1993, their unique "diggedy" style had been co-opted and beaten into the ground by other, lesser artists.  Even Casual took aim at this on his Fear Itself album with the line "Enough of these motherfuckers biting Das EFX."

It's pretty clear that Das EFX took this rampant copycatting pretty seriously as they dropped that style completely for Straight Up Sewaside.  The result is a record that is still strong.  They delve into their usual pop culture references and  hit with sludgy beats and upbeat vocal interplay. But for whatever reason, it doesn't feel as playful or as fun as Dead Serious.  That's not even necessarily a bad thing, there's just a different vibe to this album.

When it came out in 1993, I loved it.  In many ways I thought it was an even stronger record than Dead Serious and I remember writing something like that in a review I wrote for my High School newspaper (yes, I've been writing this sort of thing for a long time and no, I can't explain why I'm not better at it than I am).  But as the years have gone by, I'm always drawn back to Dead Serious and don't listen to Straight Up Sewaside anywhere close to the same amount.  Ultimately, it's a strong record, but doesn't tug on my nostalgia the same way their debut record did.

Das EFX - Straight Up Sewaside (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, June 29, 2020

Don Chicharrón - Valle 7" - Brown/Green Translucent Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers / Don Cheech Discos (2020)

First off, I should immediately point out that all proceeds from this fine little 7" benefit Casa de Paz & Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition.  These are organizations dedicated to helping struggling immigrant and that is a cause I can definitely get behind. Especially considering how completely batshit insane things are in this country right now.

Now onto Don Chicharrón.  A side "Valle" is an upbeat instrumental propelled by punch and rhythmic drums.  On top of that is blast of surfy guitar riffing that mixes in perfectly with the salsa-esque beat that drives the song forward.  It's the kind of song that feels cinematic in nature and I can easily imagine it providing the soundtrack to key scene in a movie.  Definitely one where tension is building.

On the B side is "En La Gruta Del Rey De La Montaña."  Another instrumental, this is a cover of a piece of music hat is sometimes also called "In the Hall of the Mountain King" or "I Dovregubbens hall."  You may not know those by name, I sure didn't and had to look them up.  But I assure you that you will know the melody of this piece.  If for no other reason than it's been utilized as cartoon soundtrack music since the beginning of time.  Chicharrón's version ups the frantic nature of this song and once again blasts in some effect laden surfy guitar work.  It's a ton of fun and was a welcome surprise once I hit that side of the record.

Don Chicharrón - Valle 7":

Friday, June 26, 2020

Built to Spill - Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston LP - Clear w/ Yellow & Blue Splatter (/500)


Ernest Jennings (2020)

I love Built to Spill and have for twenty five years or so.  Sure, I tend to favor their records from the 90s, but I've never heard a Built to Spill record that I haven't liked.  They are all just varying degrees of excellent and I tend to rank There's Nothing Wrong With Love and Keep It Like a Secret as the most excellent of the bunch.

However, when we get to their latest, an album of Daniel Johnston cover songs, it's difficult for me to get very excited.  To be blunt, while there's absolutely nothing bad about the album, it's kind of boring.  I'm not sure if that's because of Daniel Johnston's songs or if the execution is simply not very inspiring.  No matter the cause, you just kind of cruise through this light and airy record which has a habit of fading into background noise when you're listening to it.

I am admittedly not particularly familiar with Daniel Johnston's output, so I'm not going to compare these BTS covers to his originals.  All I can do is judge the album in front of me on its own merits and I just keep coming back to the fact that it isn't very exciting.  They just come across as paint by numbers jangle pop songs.  And while I like them, I can't fathom a time where I would look at my Built to Spill records and decide that this is the one I'm going to listen to when all of the others are significantly more interesting.

Built to Spill - Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston:

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Boogie Down Productions - Edutainment LP


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.

Edutainment was the most recent Boogie Down Productions full length album that was out when I first started listening to them.  It's never been the album that I tend to go to the most.  I like most of the others better, but I think because of that it always sounds fresh and exciting every time I put it on.

I was never the biggest fan of the album's main single, "Love's Gonna Get'cha," and I think that might be the reason I wasn't as drawn to the album as a whole when I was younger.  But today, when I put on the album and spin through classics like "Blackman in Effect," "Ya Know The Rules" or "The Racist" you get that incredible mix of killer beats with intelligent and well composed lyrics that dominates just about every BDP album.

So maybe this is the least successful of the 5 BDP albums for me, but when you are comparing it to some of the most incredible and well regarded albums in the history of hip hop, you may come up a little short here and there.  That's not to say that Edutainment isn't a classic in its own right, it's just probably not the album I would direct a new fan to first.

Boogie Down Productions - Edutainment (Youtube full album steam):

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Blues Brothers Movie & Soundtrack - 40 Years Old


This past Saturday, June 20th, marked 40 years since the release of my favorite movie of all time, The Blues Brothers.  As best as I can tell, it's also the 40th anniversary of the release of its accompanying soundtrack.  I figured that it would be interesting to take a picture of the 2 versions of the soundtrack that I have along with the various singles that I've collected over the past few years.  Even I was a little surprised of just how many there were when I took this picture.  I have already shared this picture on Twitter and Instagram and the like, but I wanted to take a moment to write a little bit more about it here.

I've had the soundtrack since I was a little kid and absolutely played it to death.  Songs like "She Caught the Caty," "Sweet Home Chicago" and Gimme Some Lovin'" have always been perennial favorites of mine.  Couple that with Aretha Franklin's tremendous rendition of "Think" and Ray Charles' "Shake a Tailfeather" and you've got the makings of something pretty special.

The only things that ever bothered me about this soundtrack are the things that aren't there.  The Blues Brothers' version of "Stand By Your Man" and John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom Boom Boom" are super obvious omissions as is some of the non-Blues Brothers songs played in the background during the movie.  I think that a few contributions from Elmore James and Louis Jordan would only enhance the overall experience of the album.

But the thing that has always bugged me the most is that the version fo "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" is different than what is played in the movie.  The unnecessary addition of backing vocals to the album version has always been a pet peeve of mine.  But despite these grumbles and the wish that this could be a double LP of music, I will always cherish this album along with the movie.  They are both hugely important to me and I have a hard time imagining how my life would have turned out without them.

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Midnight Vein - Till It Explodes 7"


Swimming Faith (2020)

First off, kudos on the artwork.  The see through artwork combined with the yellow insert brushed with wildflower seeds is quite the interesting set up.  This 7" immediately jumped out at me when it came in the mail and enticed me to give it a spin right away.

As far as the music, I quite liked the a side "Till It Explodes."  It's a soft and somewhat dreamy song, but reminded me a little bit of The Beta Band in the way the song just builds up, adding layers of instrumentation as if move forward. Also the vocal melody makes me want to compare this to that And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead song "Source Tags and Code" (The song called that, not the entire album).  Maybe not my typical cup of tea, but I definitely like this.

B side "Run From The Light" doesn't grab me the same way.  It's way too long and doesn't lean on poppier melodies the same way the A side does.  This one's a bit more experimental with effects on the vocals and a repetitive beat structure.  I actually know a lot of people from my college radio days that would love this side of the record, but I'm more interested to see if the band has any more tunes like "Till It Explodes."

The Midnight Vein - Till It Explodes 7"

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

King Geedorah - Take Me To Your Leader 2xLP - Red Vinyl


Big Dada (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 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 thought that this album would be an appropriate follow up to last weeks KMD record.  King Geedorah came out originally in 2003 and was after the former Zev Love X had reemerged as MF Doom.  King Geedorah was another alter ego, this time building an album focused on imagery and sounds from 1960's Toho monster movies.  I'm not above admitting that the only reason I really went out of my way to listen to this in 2003 was because of the Godzilla references.

Luckily, my allegiance to kaiju was rewarded as Take Me To Your Leader ranks up amongst my very favorite 'newer' hop hop releases.  Yes, I realize calling a seventeen year old record 'new' is a bit of a stretch, but as I've mentioned, pretty much any hip hop record that catches my interest after 1994 feels like a newer record to me.  The beats are very innovated and mix in kitschy sound effects with lush strings and beats.  In some ways it reminds me of another favorite, Beauty and the Beat by Edan in the way the beats are constructed.  But Take Me To Your Leader has the advantage of dialog from Xilien Controller.

I don't like everything the MF Doom churns out.  I've heard plenty that doesn't catch my ear for one reason or another. For me, King Geedorah ranks just under KMD if I'm ranking these related projects.  It's a totally different animal than KMD, but succeeds due to its excellent premise and flawless execution.  I'd sure like a follow up release at some point.

King Geedorah - Take Me To Your Leader (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, June 15, 2020

Facility Men - It's Fun To Disappear LP


Big Neck (2019)

This is another album that's been sitting around far too long waiting for me to give it a spin.  As I've mentioned, the current situation of the world and the lack of spare cash I have to spend on records is having the slightly positive benefit of helping me clear out the backlog.  This album came out in mid 2019, but I don't think I've been sitting on it for a whole year.  Either that or I've completely lost rack of time.

I've actually heard Facility Men before.  Back in 2016, I wrote about their demo tape that came out on More Power tapes.  I had written then that I was a little disappointed as the music was good, but I wasn't that into the vocals.  For their debut full length on Big Neck, the vocals are massively improved.  This time out I'm reminded a bit of The Estranged in how the vocals mix with the angular, almost Unwound-esque guitar attack.

Facility Men have shown so much growth since their tape from a few years ago.  My lukewarm reaction to that cassette is one of the things that kept me putting this LP on the back burner. Well, that was pretty dumb.  There's a lot to like about It's Fun To Disappear and it makes me eager to see where the band goes next.

Facility Men - It's Fun To Disappear:

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

KMD - Mr. Hood 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 twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

The first time I had heard of KMD was when Zev Love X made a guest appearance on the 3rd Bass song Gas Face.  I can't say that the first KMD full length, Mr. Hood, was on may radar as soon as it came out, but in the intervening years, I've become a really huge fan of this album.  Zev Love X made a far bigger splash in the hip hop community when he disappeared and reemerged as MF Doom, but for me, the KMD albums records are the cream of his crop.

The thing that I like best about Mr. Hood is the storytelling aspect as the songs are strung together with dialogue between KMD and the fictional Mr. Hood, which is primarily strung together using samples from some woefully out of date children's storytelling records and some English language instructional records.  While skits on hop hop records are not always my favorite, these serve a greater narrative purpose than the randomly tossed in comedy skit.

The beats on this record are bouncy and upbeat, a perfect slice of golden era hip hop production.  Combine that in with stellar rhymes and the aforementioned narrative and you've got yourself a real classic.  It is criminally under appreciated despite the relative success and notoriety that MF Doom has achieved.  KMD had one other album called Black Bastards that was pulled by Elektra prior to release.  It floated around bootleg circles for years until finally getting a proper reissue.  That one is still on my list of vinyl to pick up once finances allow for the purchase of more records.

KMD - Mr. Hood (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, June 8, 2020

BOAT - Tread Lightly LP - Pink Vinyl


Magic Marker (2020)

It was really nice to get the new BOAT album in the middle of all of the pandemic lockdown stuff.  It was a brief respite from the never ending stream of bad news and felt like a small piece of normalcy had returned.  It's been a while since the last Boat (I'm not going to capitalize BOAT every single time) record and while they never said they had broken up, I wasn't sure we'd see another one.  Especially as members were involved in other projects over the past few years.

Luckily they did put out another album, and it's a stellar one to boot.  Tread Lightly fits perfectly into their catalog showcasing their ability to write 90s sounding indie rock songs that beg you to ignore the alphabet and put their albums on your record shelf right next to Pavement.  Right in the midst of  their casual sounding guitar riffs and song structures, they also sneak in lyrical genius.  I for one really appreciate songs about getting old and the life that follows.

It's weird watching myself and other people my age get older without having done a lot of growing up and it's nice to have that sort of thing articulated by people who are a lot smarter than I am.  What it boils down to is this album speaks to me.  I'm so happy that there is a band that not only can capture the sounds of one of my favorite eras of music, but can also use those vibes to put into words some of the oddness I feel as a forty three year old who still worries about missing out on action figure preorders.  And no, that specific topic is not one covered on this album.  Maybe next time.

Boat - Tread Lightly:

Friday, June 5, 2020

Mammals - This Sound 7"


Lamont (2017)

When Mammals sent over their most recent 7", Look Around You, they were kind enough to toss in their first two singles as well.  This Sound is the first of the two and is another example of some really great, straightforward jangle guitar pop songwriting.

A side "This Sound" certainly has a 60s vibe to it with its repetitive guitar riff and thunderous kick drum.  There's no reinvention of the wheel going on here, but that isn't to insinuate that Mammals are trapped in a decade from over half a century ago.  For me, what it does is showcase the fact that songs don't need to have overly complicate structures or other pyrotechnics to stand out.  There's something compelling about a back to the basics simple and catchy song.

But then things pick up even more with the B side "No Easy Way."  And while I oddly hear similarities to a few songs from the 2003 Sean Na Na album My Majesty (a sorely overlooked pop gem, by the way), it's impossible not to get caught up in the song's punchy verses and big hook of a chorus.  Of the two songs, it's my favorite.  I'll write something up about the last 7" I have of there's in the upcoming weeks.

Mammals - This Sound 7"

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Ice Cube - Amerikkkas Most Wanted LP


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 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 seemed like a somewhat appropriate record with all of the insane bullshit going on right now, though maybe it isn't and I'm being completely tone deaf.  Apologies if that's the case.  I'm not going to pretend that I have anything enlightening or profoundly deep to say, but I can say that it's a really depressing time to be in America right now.  One of the things that really jumps out at me about this record is that it came out in 1990, which is thirty years ago.  How things haven't gotten better is a real downer.

Ice Cube's debut is one of the more celebrated debuts in the history of hip hop.  Even if he never put out another record after the equally excellent Death Certificate, that album and this one would have been plenty to cement Cube's legacy.  Lyrically, not everything has aged well, though you could say that about plenty of albums from the 80s and 90s, but when Ice Cube gets political and tells stories about day to day living, he paints a hell of a picture.

The beats were primarily done by the Bomb Squad, mostly known for their work with Public Enemy.  They captured the perfect blend of hard hitting east coast beats to complement Ice Cube's west coast delivery.  It bridged a gap and you could argue that it was one of the only albums of the era that couldn't easily be pinned down to the geographic region of the artist.

I'm not entirely sure what version of this LP I bought.  Per Discogs, the catalog number, barcode and all that matches the original 1990 pressing, but it's in way too good condition to actually be that old.  There must have been a repress at some point that wasn't tied into the Respect The Classics series and I assume this is one of those, but I'm not entirely positive.

Ice Cube - Amerikka's Most Wanted LP (YouTube full album playlist):

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":