Thursday, February 28, 2019

Abolitionist - A New Militance 10" - Pink Vinyl (/250)


1859 / Different Kitchen (2019)

Abolitionist are back with a new 10" release.  Even though their last full length only came out in May of last year, they's put together a mini-album (maxi-ep?) of eight new songs.  While this is a band that has always had a certain thematic slant to their albums, this 10" is a full blown concept piece with each song almost directly connected to the one before it.

The songs focus on an uprising of women that are frankly sick of the bullshit that's been brewing in the country.  The liner notes specifically point out that the songs were written in February of 2017, right after the 2016 presidential election.  Each of the eight songs is a short powerful blast that moves the story forward, ultimately showing the autocrats being overtaken.  It's a loud and angry record, but the topics covered sure are ones that should make people pretty angry.

From a strictly musical standpoint, there are songs on other Abolitionist albums that I like better.  They're a little catchier and not quite as bleak.  But when you look at this 10" as a complete work, you could argue this is the most powerful release the band has put out so far.

Abolitionist - A New Militance:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Weird Al" Yankovic LP - From Squeeze Box Accordion Box Set


Pledge Music (2017)

Since I finished up the Otis Redding Box Set, I figured I would tackle the incredible Weird Al Squeeze Box Set.  Since this box contains a hell of a lot more records than the Otis one did, I'm going to try to go through albums weekly instead of every other week.  We'll try to get Weird Al Wednesday to be a thing over the next few months.  I'll start with his first self titled album and finish up with the exclusive rarities LP that comes with the set.

Weird Al's first, self titled album has just about always been my favorite of his.  I've read interviews with him where he states that there are songs on here that make him cringe and it's a little rough for him to listen to.  He's also said that it's kind of his punk rock album and as time went on he got better at his craft.  While I will not deny that Al has had incredible, incredible albums that came out after this and while I agree that the musicianship certainly improved over the years, there is an energy on this album that surpasses anything else he ever did in my opinion.

The thing that I love the most about this album is how ridiculously accordion heavy it is.  It's not something in the background or used for a polka medley, the accordion is front and center and is far and away the focal point of the record along with Al's lyrics.  Hearing Al bust out accordion fueled parodies of "I Love Rock N Roll" ("I Love Rocky Road"), "My Sharona" ("My Bologna") and "Another One Bites The Dust" ("Another One Rides The Bus") blew my goddamn mind as a kid trying to figure out what I wanted to listen to. Up until about 1988 or so, Weird Al and The Blues Brothers were just about the only bands that really connected with me. 

I also adore Al's originals on this album.  "Gotta Boogie" is kind of a one note pun joke, but the intro of the song and the way the instruments layer on top of each other is something I've always found inspiring.  "Happy Birthday" is a fast paced and lyrically dark song that always hit my funny bone in just the right way.  And "I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead" is perfect catharsis for a kid that was constantly restless in a remote part of NJ, who didn't quite mesh in with his classmates at the time.

I love this album.  I mean, I love pretty much all of Weird Al's albums, but this one will always be extra special to me.  It wasn't the first album of his that I heard, but it was the one that struck me as being the most brazen and exciting.  I still vividly remember that day I found the cassette in Caldor and how I thought I had found a secret that no one else knew about.  Just a phenomenal record that I found at exactly the right time.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "My Bologna":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Happy Birthday":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead":

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Drains - S/T Cassette


Drug Party (2017)

I am almost through the pile of tapes I've had building up over here.  I'm sure now that I say that, I'll end up with another batch in the mail, but I feel accomplished that I'm nearly finished with the current backlog.

The Drains are a band that I'm not familiar with and from the songs on this tape, I don't think I'm likely to become more familiar with them anytime soon.  That's not to say it's awful or unlistenable, but it's not very interesting to me.  The Drains are playing the sort of tried and true scuzzy garage punk that countless Hozac inspired bands have been trafficking over the years.

They don't do it any worse or better than the other bands that sound like this that I don't particularly like.  It's just not poppy or catchy enough for me. I like my share of garage-y bands, they have to  have at least a bit of pop punk influence in order for me to pay attention.  The Drains don't have that and as a result, my interest wains after a few songs.

The Drains - S/T:

Monday, February 25, 2019

Frankie Stubbs - Heart Is Home 7"


Sounds of Subterrania (2018)

Before I begin writing about this record specifically, I want to very quickly mention that I found out this weekend about the passing of Marc Maitland (Mates to some).  Known to me as the drummer of fantastic bands like Blocko and The No Marks.  I only knew Marc a little bit and had only ever interacted with him on the internet, but he was such a nice, genuine guy who was always so excited that someone liked his bands.  The world will miss him terribly and I hope he knew that the records he made had a big affect on some guy all the way out in New Jersey.

Mentioning this at the beginning of a Frankie Stubbs review seams appropriate.  Snuff, Chopper, Broccoli and Leatherface were my gateways into the mid 90s UK punk scene, arguably my favorite time in the history of the earth for music.  Those bands lead me to Blocko and that lead me to Marc.  Frankie Stubbs is one of the grandfathers of that scene.  Though my path to Leatherface was different than most (Snuff to Chopper to Broccoli to Leatherface), I still ended up very quickly realizing what an incredibly important and influential band they were.  They still rank in my top three bands of all time and there's not a single Frankie Stubbs related record that I don't love with all of my heart.

The 7" contains a different version of "Heart Is Home" than is found on the severely underrated Leatherface album Dog Disco.  The version on this 7" is Frankie's voice accompanied only by piano and violin.  It makes an already beautiful song that much more impactful.  I really love this version of the song and am happy to add it to the other solo Frankie Stubbs releases I've acquired over the years.  I wish he put out records more frequently, but I will take what I can get.

This 7" also has a gimmick called Vinyl Video.  Supposedly if you purchase a converter, you can play one side of this record and a video to the song is encoded into the grooves.  It's a pretty neat concept, though I personally can't fathom buying the converter necessary to view this.  It makes the record more expensive than your typical 7" and makes it so it's essentially one sided, but to be fair, the artwork is quite incredible.  Regardless of the cost, there is no way that there would ever be a Frankie Stubbs record not in my collection.  I couldn't have it any other way.

Frankie Stubbs - "Heart Is Home":

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Otis Redding - The Dock Of The Bay LP (From Definitive Studio Albums Box Set)

Atlantic (2017, Reissue)

Over the last few months, I've been writing about each of the individual albums in the Otis Redding Definitive Studio Albums box set. I thought it would be far too daunting a task to try to summarize so many great albums into one review for the entire set. Otis Redding is one of my favorites and each album deserves to be savored.

The Dock Of The Bay is the last record in this tremendous box set, although there are several other posthumous Otis Redding albums that contain songs that weren't released on the LPs in this set.  I wish that the box could have been all encompassing, but it's hard to knock the set too much considering how great the material is that was collected.

"(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" may be the most famous of all Otis Redding songs and for good reason.  It's a perfect song with a ridiculously singable melody.  It's a slower one, but it's far from downtrodden as it has a wonderful uplifting feel to it.  The rest of the album is a mix of songs that haven't been released before alongside a few that have.  I'm not sure why it was set up the way it was for its original release as there were so many other unreleased Otis songs recorded, but it's a great collection nonetheless.  I have to remember what was going on when the record first came out and not try to view it as part of this box set.

Going through all of the albums in this set was such a joy.  So many great records and so many great songs.  I have to try to dig up nice copies of the rest of the Otis full lengths that came out after his untimely death.  They haven't been treated to nice reissues yet, but hopefully the will one day.  Or hopefully I'll be able to find copies that aren't too beat up on eBay or Discogs.

Otis Redding - The Dock Of The Bay":

Otis Redding - "Don't Mess With Cupid":

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Invisible Teardrops / Tony’s Bite - Split 7”


Snuffy Smile (2018)

Every time I stumble across a new Snuffy Smile release, I’m both relieved and excited that the label is still chugging along after all these years.  They are responsible for so many records that I love and I would be really bummed out if they ever stopped completely.  That said, I can’t say that this is my favorite release that they’ve put out.

On one side of the record we have three songs from The Invisible Teardrops.  They’ve put out a few releases on Snuffy Smile at this point, but they just haven’t managed to capture my attention the way other bands have.  The first of their three songs, “Someone Wrote You a Letter,” is pretty bad.  It’s a slow, organ heavy song that just kind of sits there and never goes anywhere.  Luckily, the next one, “Run, Run, Run Away” picks up the pace quite a bit.  It’s catchy and energetic and while I still don’t love it, it’s a decent enough song.  They close out with a song called “Cool Out” which was either recorded live or is a super lo-fi recording.  It’s better than the first song on this 7”, but not as good as the second.  It’s OK, but nothing special.

On the flip side we have Tony’s Bite.  They also contribute three songs to the split.  Their first one “Black City” is pretty heavy on the garage scale with a slick riff in the verse and and some lead guitar shenanigans in the break.  “Brains Out” is more of the same with a dark repetitive guitar riff that reminds me a little bit of Gas Huffer for some reason.   Last up is “Nard Play” which like the other two is also kind of dark and built off of a finger lifting guitar riff.  Honestly I can’t say any of these songs really jumped out as anything that I could see myself listening to very often.  I will always support Snuffy Smile, but I personally prefer when they release pop punk records as opposed to garage-y stuff like this.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Eyes & Ears - Burn It To The Ground Cassette


Snappy Little Numbers (2018)

Burn It Down To The Ground is a cassette that compiles the entire recorded output of Denver based band Eyes & Ears.  While they were the first band that Snappy Little Numbers released a record by, I have to admit that I'm not particularly familiar with them.  A quick trip over to Discogs reveals that they have a few singles and a split LP to their credit and from what I gather all of those songs are present on this tape.  On top of that there are ten additional songs that are being released for the first time.

Each of the twenty-one songs on this cassette has scuzzy garage rock vibe to them, but most of them are catchy enough to keep me interested.  There are a few that I don't dig quite as much like "Explorer" that are a bit screamy, but when the band is working a hook like they do in "Howl at the Moon" it's hard not to nod your head along.

All in all, it's a totally fine cassette.  I wouldn't say it'll change your life or anything like that, but for six bucks, you could certainly do worse than Eyes & Ears.

Eyes & Ears - Burn It To The Ground:

Monday, February 18, 2019

Three Minute Movie - End of the Summer 7”


Fine Tuning (2013)

Three Minute Movie is a band that I’ve been listening to for such a long time.  I vividly remember getting their split 7” with Braid and the 3” tour CD comp they had out on Snuffy Smile at the same time.  I was so completely blown away by how great those songs were.  Over the years, Three Minute Movie put out quite a few albums and singles.  They even broke the Snuffy Smiles 2 album curse when they went ahead and released a third full length album on that label.  This is the stuff of legend for someone like me.  I’m still waiting for the third Urchin album...

This 7” is one of two that I picked up while record shopping in Tokyo.  I wasn’t aware that Three Minute Movie had anything out at the time and was excited to find them.  In fact, these were sort of precursors to another full length album that I haven’t picked up yet.  It looks like I am somehow missing two entire Three Minute Movie albums in my collection.  I always feel like I’m playing catch up with Japanese punk rock.  It’s difficult to stay on top of everything that comes out.

All three songs on this 7” are classic Three Minute Movie.  They reinforce why I’ve been listening to them for so long.  My favorite of the bunch is “All Starts On Wednesday Night.”  It’s a short fast paced rocker with a bouncy verse and singalong chorus with killer backing vocals.  The other two songs are equally catchy and fun.  I really love this band and I need to figure out how to get the other records they’ve put out that I’m missed.  I sure wish it could be as easy as just going to a local record store.  Sadly, I’m record shopping in New Jersey, not Tokyo.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

False Cathedrals - No Map Cassette


Snappy Little Numbers (2018)

This 5 song cassette EP is something sent over by the folks over at Snappy Little numbers.  I can't remember exactly when they sent it as I have a bad habit of not keeping the best track of tapes.  On the False Cathedral Bandcamp page it says this was released in 2018, so it's probably not that old.  With a name like False Cathedral and artwork featuring an animal skull, I was definitely judging the book by its cover before listening to this cassette. As I mentioned yesterday, it's something that I'm prone to do from time to time.

Frankly this looks like a metal or hardcore tape and when I started listening to opening song "Me Habria Ido Contigo" I felt pretty vindicated.  That said, a strange thing happened as I kept listening though, the feel of the songs changes dramatically with "Salt Your Fate."  That one has a much stronger pop structure with more emphasis on melody.  There's still a lot of eccessive guitar wanking (big lead guitar is just never anything I've been very interested in), but the song is better thank I expected compared to the opener.

From there we go into "The Real Criminals" and I can't tell the difference between it and "Panama" by Van Halen aside from the singer sounds a little more like the guy from Seaweed than David Lee Roth.  After that I just kind of lose interest, honestly.  There are bits that sound like Faith No More and others that seem like the sort of thing the guys in Soundgarden were probably really into.  Everything is played well and these guys obviously can handle a guitar better than most, but there's nothing here that appeals to me.  It's just too flashy and grandiose for my taste.

False Cathedrals - No Map:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Seagulls - Dear John Letter - Gray Vinyl (/100)


Debt Offensive (2018)

I write about judging a book by it's cover from time to time when I talk about a record that I’ve been sent to review.  Often I’m not exactly perfect in what I thought it would sound like, but I usually have a feeling that I won’t like something.  This Seagulls 7" is the same thing in the opposite direction.  I took one look at this and thought it seemed like the sort of thing No Idea would have put out around 2008.  I'm happy to report that I can stand by that prediction and can also validate that the two songs on this 7" can hang with anything released by No Idea around that time.

The comparison that comes to mind most easily when I listen to the A side "Dear John Letter" is Iron Chic.  There is a similarity in the way the vocals are structured with a perfectly placed anthemic chorus.  The guitars and drums create a dynamic foundation to build up the chorus with creative riffs, fills and breakdowns.

B side "Foot Meet Mouth" is a bit faster and more straightforward.  It certainly succeeds in being a powerful whirlwind of impassioned chaos, but I personally prefer the way "Dear John Letter" plays out.  It's a bit slower and has more interesting things going on.  That said, both songs are a really solid introduction to a band I hadn't heard of previously and it's worth checking out if you like your punk rock nice and loud with vocals that sound like Transformers.

Seagulls - Dear John Letter 7":

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Posies - Frosting On The Beater 2xLP - Pink Vinyl


Omnivore (2018)

When I heard that The Posies were finally going to reissue their three Geffen era albums on vinyl, I was really excited.  While I was looking forward to picking them all up, I was especially eager to finally get my hand on Frosting On The Beater.  In addition to it being my favorite Posies album and by far the album of theirs that I'm most familiar with, it's also the release that frustrated me most from a record collector standpoint.

I would consistently see the original pressing of this album on eBay and Discogs for well over one hundred dollars.  And not only were they put for sale at that price, they actually sold for that much over and over again.  As much as I love the album, I just couldn't talk myself into dropping that kind of cash as I couldn't believe that it wouldn't be reissued eventually.  Luckily my patience paid off and I finally have this tremendous album in my collection.

"Solar Sister" is my favorite Posies song and may be one of the greatest guitar pop songs ever written.  The way the vocal harmonies hold the melody during the verse always drives me crazy and when the guitars crash into the chorus, you know that this song is something special.  While it's the obvious highlight of the album, Frosting On The Beater is wall to wall hits.  "Dream All Day," "Flavor of the Month," "20 Questions" and so many others just dazzle with their catchiness.

Like the Dear 23 reissue, this one is split up on two LPs at 45rpm.  While from an audiophile standpoint I know that's going to give you the best sound quality, I still can't help but complain a little about having to get up and flip the record every three songs or so.  I would personally prefer a single LP, but this pressing sounds so amazing, it's a very small complaint and I certainly wouldn't want to sacrifice any sound quality.  These are such great songs and I'm so happy to finally have them on vinyl.

The Posies - "Solar Sister":

The Posies - "20 Questions":

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas - King & Queen LP (From Definitive Studio Albums Box Set)


Atlantic (2017, Reissue)

Over the next few months, I will be writing about each of the individual albums in the Otis Redding Definitive Studio Albums box set. It would be far too daunting a task to try to summarize so many great albums into one review for the entire set. Otis Redding is one of my favorites and each album deserves to be savored.

King & Queen is a unique entry in the Otis Redding catalog as it's a joint effort with the equally great Carla Thomas.  They have an undeniable chemistry together and in a lot of ways they bring out the very best in each other.  It's particularly interesting to watch Otis have someone to play off of.  There are times where they just trade vocals back and forth, but then there are times where they come together in a way that's every bit as dynamic as the best Sam & Dave songs.

Most people are likely familiar with the hit from this album, "Tramp."  For good reason, it's a completely killer song that rank among the best either Carla or Otis ever released.  But this album has so many other wonderful moments, the highlight for me being their take on the Eddie Floyd classic, "Knock On Wood."  That's a song that's so amazing and so engrained in the musical history of this country that many soul artists in the 60s took a stab at it. Otis & Carla's stands out as unique, turning it into a dueling vocal masterpiece.  Neither trying to outdo the other, they work in harmony to take an incredible song and somehow elevate it even higher.

It's become repetitive for me to say, but Otis Redding was such a unique artist who churned out an incredible amount of stone cold classics in a relatively short period of time.  There's a reason these songs have endured as long as they have.  I'm just happy to have a nice box set that compiles a great many of them.

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas - "Tramp":

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas - "Knock on Wood":

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Chestnut Road / Navel - Split 7" - Blue Vinyl & Cream Vinyl


Brassneck (2019)

I can't tell you how much joy it brought me to find out that this 7" was in the works.  It pairs two of my favorite bands on one 7" put out by one of the best labels going.  There is really nothing not to love about this release and it just makes me so happy that it exists,

This split marks the first appearance of Chestnut Road in quite some time.  They contribute two melodic punk stunners that would have been right at home on their last full length that I liked so much I put out on PopKid records.  "Black Corridor" is the slower of the two, but it still invokes the sort of 90s UK magic that makes that one of my favorite times in music.  It's similar to some of the slower moments of Broccoli.  The second song, "Prison," is just incredible.  This one is faster and makes me think of the best kind of Hooton 3 Car songs with rapid chord changes and supremely catchy hooks.  I've said dozens of times that Chestnut Road is one of the best bands on the planet right now, these two songs further cement that claim.

On the other side of the 7" we have Navel, an incredible Japanese band that I've been listening to for over twenty years at this point. It kind of amazes me that they somehow seem to get better every time that I hear them.  The two songs on this 7" are two of the their best yet.  "Dying" is just an incredible song, blending complex and melodic guitar parts with Tomi's trademark higher pitched, but ultra catchy vocals.  "End of the Line" is just as amazing, with a slower driving beat, but still maintaining the sort of catchiness that has always made me love this band.  Both songs are slower than the sort of rocket fast songs that made up their classic album Uneasy, but as much as I love that album, I'd have to say that these two are even better.

This is quite simply an amazing 7".  I certainly shouldn't have to convince you to buy it.  If you read my nonsense on this website, odds are you are probably inclined to like this sort of thing.  So I'm not sure what you're waiting for.  Go get it.

Chestnut Road / Navel - Split 7"

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Rad Owl - Madison Beast LP - Red Vinyl


Boss Tuneage / Waterslide (2018)

In what is rapidly becoming a recurring theme, this is another 2018 album that I wasn't able to get until after the new year had passed.  As a result, I'm beginning to feel like my end of the year list is becoming woefully inaccurate as the weeks go by.  I'll once again blame it on moving into my first house and some tightness in the wallet for the second half of the year.  No matter what the reason, the fact is that Rad Owl should have made an appearance on that list as Madison Beast is a pretty great album.

While the artwork on the album cover may lead you to think this is either some sort of foreign metal band or a lost 70s prog rock album, Madison Beast actually pays homage to the 90s sounds of bands like Big Drill Car and other Cruz or C/Z records acts.  There's a distinct 90s feel to the album with the perfect mix of chugging guitar riffs and secondary guitar leads.  These guys have chops for sure, but they use them for good and not for evil, overdrawn guitar wanking.

There are folks in this band that were in Samiam, The Stereo and PopKid alumni Marble (as long as I live, I will never tire of listening to their cover of "Holiday Road").  Rad Owl feels like a conglomeration of those past experiences.  It's good enough to hang with any of those 90s bands, but is still forward thinking enough to keep me thoroughly engaged in 2019.

Rad Owl - Madison Beast:

Monday, February 4, 2019

Slinky X - Darn Cassette


Drug Party / Wiener (2018)

I'm still doing my best to work through the pile of tapes that I have sitting here to review.  Even though I've come across a few gems lately, it's still unnecessarily daunting to have to go through these.  It sort of feels like work, which I think is partially because I never really buy tapes for myself.  They are inevitably something that I was sent for review.  Since I buy so many records, when someone sends me something on vinyl review, I just add it to the pile of fun that I'm already working through.  It's just a totally different vibe.

Anyway, back to Slinky X.  At first I couldn't tell if that was the name of the band or the album, but I'm pretty sure it's the band.  The six songs on this tape are totally fine.  Crunchy guitars, poppy song structures and decent enough vocal harmonies.  But that's really all it is, decent.  Nothing is ever catchy enough to sink in as a real earworm.  Most songs have a guitar solo that goes on forever, but is never flashy enough to make you sit up and take notice.

Everything about these tape is pretty much background music.  If you went to a bar and this was playing on the jukebox (or whatever the 2019 equivalent of how music gets played in bars these days is), I don't think you'd even notice it was there.  It's pleasant enough to not be annoying, but not interesting enough to be, well, interesting.

Slinky X - Darn: