Monday, March 31, 2014

The Botherations - S/T 12" - Blue/Yellow Split Color Vinyl

The Botherations - S/T 12"

Self Released (2013)

The Botherations is another in a line of bands/labels that thought enough of this website to send over a record for me to check out and write about.  The best part about it is that this 12" easily ranks up there with the Space Wolf cassette as one of the best things I've ever been sent.

Though only 5 songs long, this EP packs such a huge punch.  From the very second the first guitar hits, you almost feel like the guy sitting in the chair in that old Maxell advertisement.  This is a band playing loud and that's something I can usually get behind.  The guitar work is so full and raucous, it reminds me a bit of bands like Manifesto Jukebox or I Excuse, who in turn get their inspiration from Leatherface.  While I wouldn't say that The Botherations specifically sound like Leatherface, I can certainly find their influence.  

Vocally the singer is gruff, deep voiced and has a slight sheen of Marked Men static obscuring the message.  This is a band that could easily come off as too shouty or angry for me, but they manage to keep just enough melody in the vocals to keep things from going too hardcore.  There's just the right balance between hooks and urgency and I really hope I get to hear more from this band in the future.

The Botherations - S/T 12":

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Ballantynes - Liquor Store Gun Store Pawn Shop Church 12"

The Ballantynes - Liquor Store Gun Store Pawn Shop Church 12"

La-Ti-Da (2013)

I have been following The Ballantynes for a little bit now and have eagerly grabbed all of their 7"s released prior to this newest EP.  I have to say, every time they put out something new I'm pretty blown away.  This 12" has six new songs of the garage tinged, 60's soul revival music that they've been churning out over the past few years.

The band has male/female fronted vocals switching from song to song, so you get equal parts Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin love from this band.  Or if you're looking for a modern day equivalent you could say they go back and forth between a more garage sounding Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and a more soul leaning Royal Headache. The production is incredible, the organ blasts adds so much to each track, but what really drives this EP home is the outstanding backing vocals that punctuate the songs.  They add so much authenticity and energy to the proceedings.  The Ballantynes wouldn't be anywhere near the force they are without them.

I can't recommend this band highly enough.  The is the Ballantynes 4th outstanding release over all.  Three 7"s and a 12" EP.  Though you can string them all together for a full length long experience, I say it's time for the band to crank out that LP I've been clamoring for.  I mean, surely the fact that I want to listen to it is more than enough reason to release one, right? 

The Ballantynes - Liquor Store Gun Store Pawn Shop Church 12"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Steve Gunn - Wildwood 7" - Blue Vinyl


Matador (2014)

I really wish the Matador Single Going Home Alone series was ending with a bang, but honestly these last few records just aren't doing anything for me.  Yesterday's Sleaford Mods 7" was just plain awful, but at least it elicited a little emotion in me.  This Steve Gunn 7" is flat out boring.

A-Side "Wildwood" is a mid tempo, acoustic guitar driven song.  It starts off with vaguely traditional sounding folk song lead guitar that's repeated over and over during the intro.  Then the verse pretty much settles right on top of that riff.  There's nothing all that interesting or exciting happening over the next few minutes.  Just a hypnotic drone over and over.

Amazingly the B-side "Worn Threads" leaves even less of an impact.  It's is several minutes of slow, light acoustic meandering.  I'm certainly not discounting this because it's predominantly acoustic, I enjoy lots of folks that have no need to plug in.  But to me it just seems like Steve Gunn is not able to harness any passion into these recordings and the end result is I just don't care.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sleaford Mods - Routine Dean 7" - Red Vinyl

Sleaford Mods - Routine Dean 7" - Red Vinyl

Matador (2014)

I finally received the last three 7"s from the 2013 Matador Singles Going Home Alone series recently.  Though the series had some delays over the past year, I think it all worked out in the end.  I will say that the quality of records was all over the place.  There were a few great records, some average records and a couple of real stinkers.  Sleaford Mods can absolutely be filed under "stinker."

Over a never changing, minimalist riff, The singer from Sleaford Mods just shouts and rants and complains throughout the course of the A-Side "Routine Dean." There's no rhyming, there's no melody.  It's not singing, but it's definitely not rapping.  It just sounds like some guy from the UK rambling incoherently on the side of the road; the kind of guy you would cross the street to avoid walking past.  

I guess the B-side is a little better.  At least there's a bit of rhyming in the lyrics for "Pubic Hair LTD."  But if you think a song called "Pubic Hair LTD" is likely pretty stupid, you would be absolutely right.  It's just more pointless rambling,  I know I'm getting older, but I just don't understand records like this.

Sleaford Mods - Routine Dean:

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Men - Tomorrow's Hits - Red Vinyl

Sacred Bones (2014)

I find there to be something fascinating about The Men. The way they soldier on and change up their sound from record to record despite the pained cries of protest from the fans of their earlier releases is really remarkable. Whenever a new record by The Men comes out, I always see threads on vinyl collecting message boards about how "the new album totally sucks, man." It seams like The Men just don't care. And more power to them.

Tomorrow's Hits really elevates their game. While I still like the energy of their 2012 release Open Your Heart a bit more than the Springsteen style classic rock stylings of Tomorrow's Hits, I think it's worlds better than their last album New Moon. I found New Moon kind of disappointing, enough so that I didn't preorder the wacky, fancy version of the new record. Though I'm still OK with the fact that I don't have the expensive variant, I ended up liking Tomorrow's Hits way more than I expected.

The band is finding new ways to build their songs off of somewhat simple guitar riffs. It starts with a riff, that riff is repeated, but then the band layers dynamic rhythm, lead guitar background noodling, lead guitar solos, horns, catchy vocals, the list goes on. The songs come off seeming just crammed full of layers, but the original riff that everything is built on anchors the song so that all the other components don't steer the song into something absurd. In particular "Dark Waltz," Another Night" and "Pearly Gates" really exemplify this.

Despite the Men constantly reinventing themselves, they've managed to become a band I can count on. Even though New Moon wasn't my favorite record of theirs, they've come back and proven that they can take their music in new directions and still put out a great record.

The Men - "Pearly Gates":

Friday, March 21, 2014

Missing Monuments - S/T LP - Gold Vinyl (/200)

Dirtnap (2014)

Though it is self titled, this is actually the 2nd Missing Monuments full length album, the first having come out on Douchemaster back in 2011 (Does anyone know what happened to that label? Are they gone forever?). While I did enjoy that first record, this second one is such gigantic leap forward in quality it's pretty amazing. While the first had quite a few great songs, this one is just wall to wall hits.

Missing Monuments have always had something of a gritty southern flair to them, but they've managed to tie it in with their power pop in a way that creates a distinct sound that separates them from the pack, but manages not to take away from the poppy hooks and great melodies. There's probably a few more guitar solos than I typically like, but it's not like the record is full of endless indulgent wanking. The solos are there, but they are short, sweet and punchy.

"Answer The Call" is just a stellar album opener and really sets the stage for what's to come. The non-Louie fronted "Another Girl" packs a hell of a pop punch. And it's hard not to love a song like "Super Hero" that manages to work the line "You've got queso on your face-o" into the chorus. All in all, this is just a great album. It's by far the best Missing Monuments release to date and proves once again that if there's a label you can trust, it's Dirtnap.

Missing Monuments - S/T:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Corduroy - Overhauls 7"

Corduroy - Overhauls 7" by Tim PopKid
Corduroy - Overhauls 7", a photo by Tim PopKid on Flickr.

Insignificant (1994)

It's funny, I thought I had all of the Corduroy singles. In fact, I thought I had this one, but not only was I missing the Overhauls 7", there's 2 other 7"s I don't have that I'm going to have to pick up. See kids, I didn't have the internet back then and it used to be tougher to keep track of all of the records bands released. I'm old.

And this 7" sounds old, but in the best possible way. It's wonderful 90's rock. Corduroy have a dash of the Bay Area punk rock sound, but they lean a bit more towards raspy vocal 'alternative rock' than some of their peers. The A-side "Overhauls" has big fuzzy guitar riffs, a gigantic punchy chorus and stomp-on-the-floor overdriven guitar solos/breakdown.

The B-side "GE" takes it down a notch with borderline sludgy bass and palm muted guitar. The muffled, distorted vocals are just audible during the verse that lead into the chorus. I think it's the chorus anyway, it's mostly just a loud chaotic blast of noise with a few random shouts here and there that is sandwiched between the verses. It reminds me of a noisier version of some of the weirder Pavement songs.

I love these old 90's 7" bands. Corduroy, Jolt...the bands that never ended up doing a full length. Well, I won't let them be forgotten, even if I forgot to get 2 of their other 7"s. Discogs, don't fail me now...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sanhose - Parada 7"

Sanhose - Parada 7" by Tim PopKid
Sanhose - Parada 7", a photo by Tim PopKid on Flickr.

Snuffy Smiles (2013)

The greatest record label in the world still lives. 20+ years later and they manage to blow me away once again with a new band. Well, a new to me band anyway as it looks like Sanhose put out a full length in 2012 that I must immediately hunt down.

Like the greatest Snuffy Smiles releases, Sanhose is fast, catchy, loud guitar rock. They have just the slightest garage influence as far as production goes, but in general they are much more in line with some of the mid 90's records that Snuffy Smiles released. If you think of bands like Blew or Cigaretteman (minus the female vocals) you're probably on the right track.

All four songs are equally amazing. This 7" is a total throwback to the golden age of Japanese pop punk bands, complete with the rad 90's lead guitar in the breaks. It is just such a fun 7" to listen to and I will absolutely be picking up their full length CD as soon as possible.

Sanhose - Parada (All I could find online is this 1 minute commercial type thing):

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Brokedowns / Wide Angles - Split 7"

Cassette Deck (2012)

As 2014 has been pretty slow with new releases so far, I've been able to tackle a lot of the backlog that's been building up over the last few months. This 7" goes all the way back to my September trip to Chicago.

The Brokedowns are kind of your run of the mill gritty vocal punk band. Nothing really all that special, but certainly better than a lot of bands as well. Their first song is loud, fast, angry and short. There's not much time for it to really develop into anything. The 2nd & 3rd songs are called "Beast Resources IV" and "Beast Resources V." As the names would lead you to suspect, they are kind of linked together. They are both significantly more dynamic than the first song, though there still is quite a bit of shouting going on in the chorus of "IV." "Beast Resources V" is probably the best song on their side of this 7", in large part because The Brokedowns slow things down a bit.

Wide Angles are one of the better bands I've heard over the last few years. Their other 7"s and especially their full length, Smile More, are just essential. The songs on this split are just as good as anything else they released during their short time together. Significantly more melodic than The Brokedowns, Wide Angles really understand how to craft an energetic, serious punk rock song. With this seriousness, the still manage to cram tons of hooks into their songs. A great band that I truly wish hadn't decided to split up.

Wide Angles - "Painted In":

Monday, March 17, 2014

Toys That Kill - Jukebox Records 7" (/300)

Jukebox (2013)

Jukebox Records set up a singles series last year, limited to 300 copies for each record. It's another example of the time honored tradition of subscribing and then you get some records every once in a while. I do love me a good singles club, but based on the bands that were going to participate, I couldn't justify pulling the trigger. Lucky for me, the one record that I did want to make sure I got a copy of ended up for sale by itself on the Recess Records website.

This Toys That Kill 7" is solid, but unremarkable. It has one original (which was already released on their last album) and 3 cover songs. 2 of the cover songs are by the band Warsaw, an early incarnation of Joy Division (I had to look that up, I am not well versed on Joy Division at all) the 3rd cover is an Adam Ant tune.

All 3 covers are OK, when filtered through the Toys That Kill lens they do fit in with the band's catalog someone, but they just can't shake the stigma of really, truly just sounding like extra songs earmarked for B-sides. It's a good enough record to add to the collection, and I like the idea of jukebox singles, but there's nothing on here that's essential.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Samiam - Whatever's Got You Down LP - Clouds In The Sky Vinyl

No Idea (2013, Reissue)

As loyal readers of this website probably know, I've been on a quest to reclaim some older bands from the 90's that for one reason or another just didn't click with me back then. Seaweed and Jawbox have been the most impactful of these bands, but right on their heels is Samiam. As stated in another Samiam review I wrote, I am going through their discography completely out of order, so I'm getting snapshots of the band at different stages of their career.

Whatever's Got You Down originally came out in 2006, apparently to some mixed opinions. I will have to say, I'm not familiar with that initial release of the album, but it seems that many people have very strong feelings about the production of the record and it's effect on the songs. Well, No Idea jumped into the fray and re-released the record with a completely redone mix. Again, I can't compare it to the original, but I think this record sounds great.

The guitars are full and crunchy, the vocals are clear and the songs all have a great energy to them. There's definitely some aspects of later Samiam records that do remind me an awful lot of Knapsack. Maybe not in the vocals so much, but certainly in the way some of the song structures are set up. Probably not surprising as guitarist Sergie Loobkoff has done time in both bands. Still, this is a very strong album and if the production really was that bad on the original release, it's definitely worth checking out this reissue as everything sounds peachy to me.

I really wish I had been keeping up with Samiam all these years. It's fun having a band that has such a lage amount of records to go out and get all at once, but it can be a bit overwhelming. Thus far it's only been their debut self titled release that hasn't really clicked with me. Every other Samiam record I've heard has been great. And I still have more to go.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Blues Brothers - Briefcase Full of Blues LP - 2014 Reissue

Friday Music (2014, Reissue)

Briefcase Full Of Blues by The Blues Brothers is arguably the most important record that was ever released in the history of the Earth. Well, in my world anyway. I was probably only 3 years old when I got a copy of this record for the first time in 1979 or 1980. It was my first favorite record, my first favorite band and The Blues Brothers was my first and only favorite movie. I've been living with this album for over 30 years, so when I read that a fancy reissue was on the way, I immediately pre-ordered it, despite a pretty hefty price tag.

I have little to say about the music on the record, some of my favorite songs I've ever heard. It's simply a timeless classic. If you don't have this record, it's an essential addition to any collection. What I want to talk more about is the quality of the actual reissue pressing.

If you go to Amazon right now, this reissue will set you back $30. Thirty dollars! When it was first announced I figured they had to be doing an expanded version of the record, a 2 LP set with unreleased songs or something. Nope, it's the same single LP record it's always been, so no new music. As far as the sound, it sounds great. It's probably the best this record has ever sounded. The music is clear, the vocals are crisp and even the crowd noise sounds better. I don't know that I would call it a revelatory experience or anything, while it sounds great it certainly didn't change how I already felt about the record.

The pressing is 180 gram vinyl, they've remastered everything from the original tapes, the artwork looks like it was cleaned up a bit. It's a good presentation, but I do think Friday Music completely dropped the ball by not using the old red, white & green Atlantic records label on the actual record. That label is so iconic and so much a part of this record that it's jarring to me to not see it on the turntable. Odd choice when so much was done to keep this faithful to the original pressing.

I guess at the end of the day I'll say this. If you don't have this record, you should add it to your collection. It's not going to sound any better than it does on this pressing. But, I think $30 is way too much for a single LP and you can probably find a good condition original pressing for a third of the price of this. I guess ultimately you'll have to decide how important a brand new record is to you vs. a used one.

The Blues Brothers - Briefcase Full Of Blues:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Off With Their Heads / Morning Glory - Split 7" - Black Vinyl (/200)

Fat Wreck (2013)

I don't like all of the records Fat Wreck puts out, but over the years they've ended up with quite a few bands on their roster that I enjoy. Considering the mad scramble on their site that usually occurs when their limited colored vinyl variants go on sale, I've been pretty lucky over the years and I've been able to grab most of the records I wanted. For this split 7", it was actually the black vinyl version that was the most rare at only 200 copies, so of course that's the version I had to buy.

I do have a lot of Off With Their Heads 7"s. Seriously, I have a ton of these. I wouldn't call the songs on their side of this split essential, but they're pretty good. The first is a redone version of a song off their album Home called "Always Alone," though on this 7" it's called "Alone Again." It's kind of an acoustic take on the original, but not totally acoustic. It's good, but I like the original better. Their 2nd song is a Morning Glory cover; "Care Of Me." Not being familiar with the original I can't compare and contrast, but it's another OK song. Not bad, but nothing that really stands out.

The Morning Glory side of the record is a cover of the OWTH song "Nationality Anthem." This is pretty terrible. Their take on it turns it into something that sounds like one of those old late 80's early 90's skate punk bands. It just sounds weird to me.

It's a cool 7" that they were able to sell when they were on tour together. It's a record I need to keep my Off With Their Heads collection complete. However, It isn't something I see myself listening to particularly often.

Off With Their Heads - Care Of Me:

Morning Glory - Nationality Anthem:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Coho Lips - Less of Everything 7" - Red Vinyl

Matador (2014)

Matador records is still finishing up their 2013 singles series and after this Coho Lips 7" I believe there are only 2 more coming. I'm curious to see how those last singles shake out as this series is one that I've found inconsistent at the best of times.

I'm going to be very upfront about this 7". I do not have much to say about it because I don't think I have a strong enough knowledge base about this sort of thing. Oh don't get me wrong, I heard plenty of records like this when I worked in music doing radio promotion, but I always just tuned it out and couldn't tell you the difference between any of the bands putting out this kind of record.

Coho Lips are playing a slow, ambient kind of electronica with off time "drum" noises and atmospheric sound effects. The wispy vocals have almost no impact and are content to just meander through the song with the rest of the other noises that don't seem to have much direction. I have an appreciation for an awful lot of music, but this is the sort of thing that my brain just cannot process. Call me dumb, I just need more structure in my songs.

Coho Lips - Less of Everything:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Heavy Times - No Plans 7" - Gold Vinyl, Alt Cover (/200)

HoZac (2010)

So this is a weird one. I was reorganizing my 7"s the other day and while I was filing recent purchases into the main vault I found this 7". I bought this way back in 2010 but never reviewed it on this site. Best I can tell, I'm not even sure I ever listened to it. A very odd situation for sure, but I'll rectify that today.

Those familiar with Chicago's Heavy Times are probably aware of their stomp rocking squall. They're a band that funnels a tremendous amount of energy into their songs. Well, that wall of sound is not representative on the 2 songs from this 7" at all. I'm not saying that as a criticism or a compliment, this 7" is just a different beast altogether, but I like it.

The A-side "No Plans" is an economic, simple song. Just a voice and a guitar. There's is the slightest touch of reverb on the vocals and that's combined with a repeating, gently plucked, descending guitar riff. It's very basic and stripped down, but it's a great song, The B-side is a bit more robust with a full compliment of backing instruments. Again, it's much more subdued than anything on either of the two Heavy Times full lengths and shows a calmer band, but one that can still put together a hell of a tune.

I have no clue how this 7" got lost in my collection, but I'm lucky that it came back to the surface. Would have been a shame to miss it completely.

Heavy Times - "No Plans"

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Varsity Drag / Chestnut Road - Split 7"

Sick Scene / Boss Tuneage / Note To Self / Waterslide / Le Syndrone de Galilee (2013)

That's a whole lot of labels to be involved releasing one 7" record, but it's something I've seen more and more lately. I assume part of it is to defray the rising cost of putting out a record, but in some instances it has to be because of the amazing music contained on the record. I'll say this, someone needs to let me know what I have to do to get the PopKid logo on the back of the next Chestnut Road album, because they are quickly becoming one of my current favorite bands.

But let's start out with the other band on this split, Varsity Drag. I wasn't familiar with them and honestly I would have bought this 7" no matter who was the other band on here with Chestnut Road. Varsity Drag is fronted by Ben Deily, who was in The Lemonheads for their first few albums. There are 2 originals and a cover. The originals are both pretty good. Musically, they're upbeat and catchy with climbing guitar riffs and big hooks. Vocally, I don't think they're quite as strong, but these 2 originals are good enough to make me want to seek out more from the band. The 3rd song is a cover of a band called The Dark Matter. I don't know the original, but this cover is pretty terrible. 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Chestnut Road can do little wrong as they continue to put their Broccoli/Hooton 3 Car inspired stamp on everything they've released. They also have 2 originals and a cover. The 2 originals are on par with any of the classics from their full length last year. They're such a dynamic band, cramming so much depth and excitement into their songs. Even the cover song, appropriately an song from The Lemonheads catalog, is certainly not phoned in. Chestnut Road really make it their own and it could easily be mistaken for one of their own.

I don't care if their next record has to be co-released by 100 labels, please keep filling this world with more Chestnut Road releases.

Varsity Drag Side:

Chestnut Road Side:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Adam Widener - Vesuvio Nights LP

Speakertree (2013)

When someone trusts my opinion in music enough to send me a full length LP to review, it's a pretty nice feeling. When that LP is actually good, it's even better. Vesuvio Nights is Adam Widener's debut full length and it's full of the foot-tapping power pop he's been putting out on his recent 7"s.

The other band that immediately comes to mind when listening to Adam Widener is the Italian band Love Boat. I see big similarities in their vocals with their high pitched, slightly distorted up and down delivery. but while Love Boat is more know for straight ahead fast paced pop, Widener shows a bit more range and diversity.

Admittedly, some of the diversity doesn't hit as strongly for me. There's a couple oddly timed, stuttering song with stop/start guitar riffs like "Telephone Traps" and "Crystal Caskets" that are not quite as successful as some of the other songs on the album. But when Widener aims for the pop hit, that's where the real successes of this album are. Particularly strong are "Pools Of Light," "Average People In An Average World" and "Gentle Swarm."

In total Vesuvio Nights is a strong collection of songs for Adam Widener and a great debut album. Every release I've heard of his has gotten progressively better. If this trend continues, there's some great songs on the horizon.

Adam Widener - Vesuvio Nights LP:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Beck - Morning Phase LP

Beck - Morning Phase LP by Tim PopKid
Beck - Morning Phase LP, a photo by Tim PopKid on Flickr.

Capitol (2014)

This may be a somewhat long and meandering review, so I do apologize for that right off the bat. For a quick synopsis; I really like this record and while I think some may interpret the criticisms I have for it as dislike, it's only because I probably judge Beck a bit more harshly than I should. His early records were so impactful on me as a younger man that I still hold him to an impossibly high standard.

This past Saturday, March 1st 2014 marked 20 years to the day that Beck's DGC debut Mellow Gold was released. I was a junior in high school and that record just hit me like a ton of bricks. Here was a guy that was on a major label and putting out a record that was so off the wall it couldn't have been any other time but the 90's. That run of records Beck put out in 1994 (Mellow Gold, Stereopathetic Soul Manure and One Foot In The Grave) put me in a totally different space musically than I had ever been in before.

He single-handedly blew open the entire Pacific Northwest scene for me as Beck was directly responsible for me getting into Lync, Built To Spill, Beat Happening, Unwound, Karp, godheadSilo and many, many more. He never caputured that lightning in a bottle again for me. I was even a bit disappointed in Odelay, but I've kept coming back album after album; year after year.

Beck has changed a lot in 20 years and I guess I just haven't changed as much as he has. What I loved most about those early Beck records is the relaxed attitude of the recording. Hell, he coughs in the middle of the song "Outcome" on One Foot In The Grave. Since then, Beck has become a meticulous studio musician. Often times, I think, to his detrement. In my opinion he has a bad habit of overproducing.

Morning Phase (yes I'm finally getting to the new album) suffers from this over production. The songs on this record are great. Flat out great. Well written, serious songs. But, I think they lose a lot of their impact as Beck crams too much atmospheric ambiance, multitracked vocals and other unneeded sound effects into ever square inch of each song. If the production was stripped down, if the songs were given a bit more room to breathe, Morning Phase would be a complete different, but equally revelatory album.

Don't get me wrong, In general I prefer somber, serious Beck to kind of rapper Beck, but I just miss the spontaneity of his 90's work. I just believed in it more. But again, like its spiritual brother Sea Change, Morning Phase is a truly great album. While Beck has grown up a lot more than I have, it is comforting that 20 years later he's still here for me. He's still putting out records and I'm still buying them. But would it kill him to just sit in front of a microphone with an acoustic guitar and hit the record button once in a while?