Monday, January 25, 2021

Shiner - Schadenfreude LP - Black Vinyl & Gray Swirl Vinyl


Two Black Eyes (2020)

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

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

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

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

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

Shiner - Schadenfreude:

Friday, January 22, 2021

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


Sounds Rad (2020)

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

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

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

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

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

The Mr. T Experience - "Alternative is Here to Stay":

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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


Jive (1990)

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

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

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

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

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths Of Rhythm (YouTube Music full album stream):

Monday, January 18, 2021

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


Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

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

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

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

Jiffy Marx - She's My Witch 7":

Friday, January 15, 2021

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


 Fat Wreck Chords (2020, Reissue)

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

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

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

Guns n' Wankers - For Dancing and Listening:

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

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


Parallel Thoughts Ltd. (2012)

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

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

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

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

Del The Funky Homosapien & Parallel Thought - Attractive Sin:

Monday, January 11, 2021

Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands LP


Self Released (2020)

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

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

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

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

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

Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands:

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Absolute Best Records of 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 18, 2020

Joel Paterson - Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar LP


 Ventrella (2018) 

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

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

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

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

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

Joel Paterson - Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Sam Jayne - 1974-2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2020

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



Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

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

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

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

Zephr - Don't Worry About It:

Friday, December 11, 2020

Sad Days Indeed - Sad Days Indeed CD



Jukeboss (2006)

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Hieroglyphics - 3rd Eye Vision 3xLP


Hiero Imperium/Fat Beats (2019, Reissue)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hieroglyphics - "At The Helm":

Hieroglyphics - "The Who":

Monday, December 7, 2020

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


Atlantic (1981)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blues Brothers - Made In America (YouTube full album playlist):

Friday, December 4, 2020

Music From Transformers LP - Purple & Silver Vinyl


Sony/Enjoy The Toons/Hasbro (2018)

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Saafir - Boxcar Sessions 2xLP


 Qwest (1994)

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

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

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

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

Saafir - Boxcar Sessions (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, November 30, 2020

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


Universal/Hasbro (2020)

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

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

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

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


Friday, November 20, 2020

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


Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

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

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

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

Gentlemen Rogues - Do The Resurrection 7"

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Group Home - Livin' Proof 2xLP


Get On Down (2017, Reissue)

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

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

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

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

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

Group Home - Livin' Proof (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, November 16, 2020

Swami John Reis - Ride The Wild Night 7"


Swami (2020)

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Blues Brothers - Everybody Needs Some Body To Love 7" (French Version)


Carrere (1992)

I managed to track down one of the very few picture sleeve Blues Brothers 7"s that wasn't already in my collection.  This one came out in France in 1992.  I'm not entirely sure why 7" of this would be released as late as the 90s, but based on the year and the artwork, it's obviously in conjunction with the 1992 Atlantic records collection album, The Definitive Collection.

I remember when that CD came out when I was in high school.  I bought it right away even though I had all of the songs on it already.  I think one of the main reasons I got it was so I could write a review of it in my high school newspaper, which I did.  I remember it vividly as one of the editors suggested using the word "amongst" in it.  I loved it and added that word to my writing toolbox immediately.

The B side on this 7" is "Gimme Some Lovin'" and like "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" it's from the Blues Brothers movie soundtrack.  There's not going to be much that this record does other than sit in my 7" collection.  But I am now one 7" away from having every Blues Brothers picture sleeve variant.  I need a version of Soul Man from the Netherlands, but once I have that it'll just be a matter of upgrading a couple of sleeves that have condition issues.

The Blues Brothers - "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love":

The Blues Brothers - "Gimme Some Lovin'": 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Gang Starr - Step In The Arena 2xLP


Virgin (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.

For me, Daily Operation and Hard To Earn are the quintessential Gang Starr records.  They are the two I had in the 90s and the ones that I have listened to far more than anything else.  Over the intervening years I have picked up more of the Gang Starr catalog.  While I haven't upgraded everything to vinyl, I did decide that it was time to add their sophomore album Step In The Arena to the collection.

While there is nothing on this record as good as the material on the two albums that followed, there is a lot to love about Step In The Arena.  This is where DJ Premier really started coming into his own, beats wise.  The production on this album is ten million miles ahead of anything on the group's debut No More Mr. Nice Guy.  

Plus, the vast, vast majority of the record is just Premier and Guru.  One of the things that drove me crazy about the Gang Starr records Moment of Truth and beyond is that they were so crammed full of unneeded guest appearances that they hardly felt like Gang Starr records.  I know that an issue with hip hop records as a whole and isn't limited to Gang Starr.  I don't mind two or three tracks with a guest verse, but when you're relying on others for more than half of your album, it just feels watered down to me.

That's not an issue issue with Step Into The Arena.  You get Guru emerging as one of hip hop's great MCs and laying the foundation for the two certified Gang Starr classics that were next in line.

Gang Starr - Step In The Arena (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, November 9, 2020

Headsparks - Working Parts CD


Fixing A Hole (2020)

I was a little late to the party and didn't realize that Andy from Gan/Donfisher had been putting out albums with his most recent band Headsparks until their third album Vs. The Metric System came out.  I then tried to make up for lost time and gather everything else they've released (though I stupidly didn't pick up a copy of their first CD when I ordered this new one from their Bandcamp page).  Anyway, Working Parts is the first album by Headsparks that I'm getting right as it is being released and I'm glad I did because I think it's their best yet.

Working Parts sounds like it could have come out in 1995.  And I mean that in the absolute best possible way.  It's not that I think the record sounds old or out of date, it's that it's a record every bit as good as some of my very favorites from the 90s.  This is UK melodic punk rock in the vein of a Hooton 3 Car or a more mature Donfisher.  And while Headsparks doesn't play quite as fast as those comparison bands, they capture the same sort of energy and write songs that are endlessly catchy and stay lodged in your head for days at a time.

It's like they cherry picked the best sounds of that scene, refined and matured them every so slightly and then unleashed them into the world as the band's best record. Not only is this a high water mark for Headsparks, but as far as 2020 releases go, this is without questions one of the top two or three records I have heard all year.  The only thing I can say that could maybe be a negative is that I just wish that there was a vinyl release available.  Working Parts is way too good of a record not to deserve the vinyl treatment as well as the most excellent Japanese CD.

Headsparks - Working Parts:

Friday, November 6, 2020

Hot Snakes - I Shall Be Free 7" - Pink Vinyl


PU (2020)

I consider myself very lucky to have found Rocket From The Crypt in the mid 90s.  It led me to the Atomjack email listserv when I was in college which led to the RFTC phorum and the Swami forum.  All three of these places are gone now, but the friends I have made in Swami land over the years have stuck around.  Be it on Twitter, that Swami group on Facebook or directly texting with friends made along the way, I am very thankful to be part of this community.  I've been to a lot of Rocket/Hot Snakes/Assorted John Reis shows over the years.  I've often heard him bantering on the stage about the people at the show being family.  I believe every word of that, I have acquired a second family along the way and they are all the fucking best.

If not for said family, I would not have been able to get my hands on this 7".  It was sold at Hot Snakes shows (Remember shows? They were like records only louder with the sound coming out of people instead of the vinyl) and that particular tour didn't make it out east.  Luckily there are kind hearted folks in this world and I was able to add this to my collection.  It was supposed to be the second of four 7"s, one for each of the four seasons (this one is spring) that would lead into the next Hot Snakes full length.  Who knows what happened to that plan with the world being as crazy as it is right now.  As I type this sentence there's one of those fire alarm/air raid sounding sirens going off in my town.  Totally fits the 2020 vibe.

The record itself is great as always.  Hot Snakes doesn't write songs I don't like and both of these fit neatly into their existing catalog while making me hungry for more.  I don't expect shows to start up again anytime soon.  Selfishly, I hope that we don't have to wait for the pandemic to clear before we get more Hot Snakes music, but I also know that it's likely a bummer to put out a record and not be able to tour it.  Chaos all around us.  Hopefully we can get through it soon.

Hot Snakes - "I Shall Be Free":

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Redman - Dare Iz A Darkside LP


Rush (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.

Following up on last week's Redman debut LP update, I also managed to acquire a copy of his sophomore album Dare Iz A Darkside.  One thing that I have noticed is that a lot of classic hip hop LPs have been rereleased over the past ten years, but most of them went back out of print pretty soon after that repress.  There have been several occasions where I had to hunt just as hard for a three year old reissue as I would for an original 90s pressing.

Dare Iz A Darkside falls into this category.  I have been hitting up all of the usual stores as well as keeping an eye on eBay and Discogs.  Funny enough, I finally found it by going several pages deep into a Google search and came across a record store in Costa Mesa that said they had the record in stock.  I wasn't confident it would actually show up, but I ordered it anyway. Figured the worst that could happen is I'd end up with a refund.  I can happily report that a few days later a brand new sealed copy of the lenticular cover version showed up.

I didn't have this record when it originally came out.  1994 was a turning point year where I started listening to more punk rock and less hip hop and I imaging this album slipped through the cracks as a result.  I only heard if for the first time years later.  While I don't connect with it quite the same way as I do with the first Redman record, there is a lot to like about this followup.  The beats are still rugged and hard hitting and Redman proved early on that he was a lyricist a step above many.  

It is a great album and it's actually the only other Redman record I've ever listened to aside from the first one. Are any of the others worth checking out? I tend to be leery of anything that came out after 1995, but maybe it's time to explore Redman's discography a bit more.

Redman - Dare Iz A Darkside (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Animal Steel - Smooth Jazz Chords Flexi 7"


 Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

I haven't seen many flexis in a really long time, but it looks like Snappy Little Numbers is bringing them back.  Hey even though there are limitations to the format, I like them better than tapes.  This flexi is by a band called The Animal Steel and I am disappointed to find out that there isn't anyone in the band named George. But the disappointment ends there.

There's only room for one song on this flexi, but it's a doozy clocking in at five and half minutes long. If I'm being honest, I think they could probably trim off a chunk of the intro and tighten things up a little but, but once the main chunk of "Smooth Jazz Chords" kicks in, there's a lot to like about it.

It's kind of an odd combination, but it works.  There's chunky, Jawbox style guitar work that's slightly dissonant, but still keeps the song catchy and moving forward. Vocally, there's more of an Iron Chic/RVIVR vibe, earnest and powerful and the backing vocals in particular play well with the dynamic guitar work.  I like it.  It's only one song, but it definitely makes me want to hear more.

The Animal Steel - Smooth Jazz Chords:

Friday, October 30, 2020

Alligator Gun - Alligator Gun Cassette


1991 (Self Released)

My love of Alligator Gun is well documented on Twitter where I call for the release of Onehundredpercentfreak on vinyl several times a year.  It's one of my top three albums that i think is just begging for a vinyl release.  I don't know anyone will ever release it, but if I win the lottery, you can bet PopKid will come knocking.

Back to reality.  This tape was the only Alligator Gun release I didn't already have (Though I am looking to upgrade my Smirk CD as the one I got a year or so ago has a corner cut off of the cover art).  I was surprised to see the tape pop up on Discogs and was even happier to see it's sub-ten dollar price tag.  It was an easy and instant buy.

Is it this sort of era defining classic as Onehundredpercentfreak?  No, of course not.  This is a super early tape released by a band that was just getting started.  It's actually great for what it is, with solid hooks and punchy guitar riffs.  In particular "Theory of Independent Feet" feels like a harbinger of what could come from this band.  But in this instance, you don't have to take my word for it.  The wonderful MKE Punk website has this tape and all of Aligator Gun's releases available to download, so go check them out!

Alligator Gun - Alligator Gun Tape:

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Redman - Whut? Thee Album LP - Red Vinyl


Rush (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 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 wrote about the original pressing of this album a few months ago here. You can see that I had issues with the quality of the record I bought on eBay and although the seller was super cool and accommodating, it still left me without a real copy of this record in my collection.  Luckily, I was able to find another at a good price.

This version is even cooler as it's on red vinyl.  Sure, I know some folks prefer the sanctity of the first pressing of a record, but for me, I'll always be most interested in the coolest looking and/or best sounding version that there is.  180g will get me every time, but barring that I'll take a colored vinyl version every time.

This one is in great condition and I can now listen to the album on vinyl whenever I want.  It's a great thing.  If you want to read about the album itself, the last time I wrote about that bunk copy pretty well covered it.  In short, it's the best Redman record and worth checking out if you're unfamiliar for any reason.

Redman - Whut? Thee Album (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Friday, October 23, 2020

Bob Mould - Blue Hearts - Blue, Black & White Tri Color Vinyl


Merge (2020)

Bob Mould has been nothing if not remarkably consistent since releasing 2012's The Silver Age. Since that time he has cranked out four more albums of good, crunchy, Sugar-style guitar rock.  I've loved all of those records, but the only one that has had real staying power with me has been The Silver Age.  I can't really explain it, but that's the one that keeps standing out.

I'm unsure where Blue Hearts will settle in when all is said and done.  I'm sure listening to it a lot right now and I do love it.  It's got the great aggressive pop sound that Mould is known for.  His loud roaring guitars, his strained vocals and lyrics full of piss and vinegar.  It's fucking great.  But, I have really liked all of his recent records and they all have fallen into a similar pattern.  I play them a lot for a couple of months, I put them into the record collection and then they just sort of hang out there.  When I'm in the mood to listen to Bob Mould, I tend to just keep going back to the Silver Age or Sugar's File Under Easy Listening.

It's nothing against those other records, but when you have an album so strong, it can dominate over the rest of your discography.  For me, ultimately time will tell how I end up ranking Blue Hearts against the others.  Maybe this will be one I keep going back to or maybe it's a record that I'll play a ton now only to have it fade gracefully into the background.  It doesn't really matter to me either way,  Bob Mould puts out great records and I'm happy to buy as many as he releases, even if they end up not being in permanent heavy rotation.

Bob Mould - Blue Hearts:

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Brand Nubian - Everything Is Everything 2xLP


Elektra (1994) 

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

I have a complicated relationship with Everything is Everything.  I've never been one of those who thought the group was useless after Grand Puba left, but it's impossible to overstate how large he loomed over their first album.  The other thing is that Everything Is Everything is home of what is probably my favorite Brand Nubian song, "Word is Bond."  Ever since I saw the video for the first time in 1994 the rhyme "I push the Cadillac DeVille and still we real / I drive a garbage truck / and not give a" really hit me as being particularly clever.  Not just because they don't actually say "fuck" but still make you say it to yourself in your head, but I also dig the imagery of Brand Nubian driving around in a garbage truck.

The problem is that after "Word Is Bond," which is the first track on the album, the rest of Everything Is Everything just pales in comparison.  In general the rest of the production is too slow with far too much reliance on sappy R&B style beats.  Lyrically, Lord Jamar and Sadat X still have the goods, but it's a real chore to get through 2 LPs of, frankly, boring beats.

Still, "Word Is Bond" is so good that I did need to get this LP in the collection.  Combine with the groups first two albums, and that's really all I need from the Brand Nubian discography (Plus the first Grand Puba solo record).  While Puba eventually rejoined the group and they released some other records over the years, nothing ever really piqued my interest.  Like so much of the hip hop I love, 1994 seemed to be the last year that Brand Nubian was able to produce anything that really caught my ear.

Brand Nubian - Everything Is Everything (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, October 19, 2020

Fatal Figures - X Minus One LP


Big Neck (2020)

This Fatal Figures record is one of a pack of records that Big Neck records sent over to me.  Even though this is the band's third release, I'd not heard of them before opening this record up.  What I can say for sure is that they are loud and noisy, so if you are into loud and/or noisy, this might be something up your alley.

For me, I think they go a little too dissonant to be the sort of thing I would listen to on a regular basis.  I was intrigued by the inclusion of a cover of Unwound's "Lucky Acid," but truth be told, even though Fake Train is one of my favorite Unwound albums, "Lucky Acid" wouldn't rank very high on a best song list.  The Fatal Figures version is fine, pretty similar to the original actually, but it's lacking that big thumping bass that characterizes Unwound's sound.  I don't fault Fatal Figures too much though, that's a tough act to follow.

The rest of the album moves along through sludgy, pummeling songs.  There's no hidden pop hooks on this album, it's just loud and in your face.  I probably would have been more interested if something like this when I was first discovering bands like Unwound, Karp or Fitz of Depression back in the 90s, but today it's a bit much for me.

Fatal Figures - X Minus One:

Friday, October 16, 2020

Pinhead Gunpowder - Kick Over The Traces LP - Green Vinyl


Recess (2010)

I've been on a real kick of listening to early 90s Lookout records style pop punk lately.  I think it's in part because of the Mr. T Experience reissues that have been coming out, but I certainly haven't limited my playlist to their records.  I've been listening to a lot of Pinhead Gunpowder and while I do have all of their 7"s and the other 10" and LPs that came out in the 90s and early 2000s, I am missing a few key pieces on vinyl.

I don't have Jump Salty on vinyl.  I have all of the singles and comps on vinyl that make up that album, but I only have the CD Lookout put out of Jump Salty.  I want this on vinyl bad, but apparently there was some sort of issue when it was pressed and most of the copies were recalled.  I'll just say this, if anyone has a copy they'd be willing to sell or trade to me, please get in touch.

In order to fill the gaps a bit, I decided to pick up Kick Over The Traces.  This is essentially a Pinhead Gunpowder greatest hits album.  It has six songs from Jump Salty on it, so at least that's a start.  It's actually a really solid compilation of the band's best songs.  All eras are represented and it features tracks from Carry The Banner, Goodbye Ellston Ave, Compulsive Disclosure, Shoot The Moon and more.

I've always loved this band and I even prefer them to early Green Day when push comes to shove.  Their songs have that little extra grittiness to them that I like while still managing to cram in all of those wonderful pop hooks that drive me wild.  Plus I finally have the electric version of the song "Landlords" on an easy to play format.  It's one of my favorite Pinhead Gunpowder songs, but only has existed on a 7" previously.  When the Compulsive Disclosure CD was put out, an acoustic version of "Landlords" appeared.

Typically I'm not the biggest fan of greatest hits records.  I own very few as I would much rather listen to a band's full album concept.  But in this instance, it's kind of a placeholder until I can find my own copy of Jump Salty.  Plus, Jump Salty was just a compilation of other previously released Pinhead Gunpowder songs anyway.  This will do for now.

Pinhead Gunpowder - "Landlords":

Pinhead Gunpowder - "Losers of the Year":

Pinhead Gunpowder - "Swan Song":

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

UMC's - Unleashed LP


Wild Pitch (1994) 

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

As I had mentioned when I wrote about the first UMC's album a ways back, I didn't listen to this group during their heyday.  Years later, when I was looking for something new to listen to from that era I decided to give them a chance.  And I really dug what I heard.  What I also learned was that apparently there was some backlash against Fruits of Nature, with claims that it wasn't 'hard' enough.  I don't agree with those criticisms and I actually really enjoyed the upbeat nature of those songs.  But that backlash definitely played a part in the sound of their follow up, Unleashed.

Unleashed is much more aggressive than Fruits of Nature ever was.  There's harsher language, subject matter that is a bit more risqué and beats that are a bit grungier.  I do still like it quite a bit and it reminds me of Das EFX somewhat.  Less cartoony as far as the lyrics go and there's no 'diggety' style flow, but the way Haas G and Kool Kim trade verses back and forth and the feel of the production is reminiscent of Das EFX.

It seems that this new sound didn't do much to placate the critics of the first UMC's album, as this time the band was accused of being disingenuous and changing their sound too much to try to fit in.  I'm not sure if I prefer Unleashed or Fruits of Nature, but every criticism I read of either album seems totally off base to me.  I enjoy both quite a bit, but they are very different from each other.  I would recommend either to anyone that digs hip hop from that golden era of 1990-1994 and missed out on these guys the first time around like I did.

UMC's - Unleashed (YouTube full album playlist):

Monday, October 12, 2020

Snuff - The Wrath of Thoth 12" - 3 New Vinyl Colors


10 Past 12 / Unless You Try (2020)

Several weeks ago I received an email from the Snuff mailing list alerting the world that they had pressed 2 more color variants of the Wrath of Thoth 12".  I will admit that I swore a little.  Having already purchased 6 different versions of the LP, I was not really up for buying more right at that moment in time.  But, as I read through the email, my concerns dissipated a bit. There was a note acknowledging that some people were buying all of the versions and it wasn't their goal to get these duplicate sales when they repressed the records.  So the deal was this, if you had all six prior versions and you took a picture of them and sent them in, they would send the two newest variants for free to the first six responders.

Very luckily, I was one of the six.  To my surprise, I actually received three new records.  I have the new splatter variant (/295) and the silver/white split color variant (/105) and these both look great.  Split color vinyl is my person favorite color way and it's always nice to add more of those to the collection.  In addition to those two that were advertised, I also received one on orange vinyl.   This orange is darker than the orange one I have from the first pressing, so I'm not really sure of the story with this one.  I'll have to dig around and see what I can sleuth out.  It may just be a transitional color, but maybe not.

As far as the music goes, I wrote more about that in my write up of the other six colors here.  The songs on here are great and it makes me eager for another Snuff full length, even though they did just put one out last year.  Snuff is an all time favorite band and I love buying their records, but I will definitely be content if the variants for this release end here.

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?)