Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Posies - Amazing Disgrace 2xLP


Omnivore (2018, Reissue)

Amazing Disgrace is the third Posies vinyl reissue that was released by Omnivore as part of their Pledge Music campaign.  It was the final one to arrive (which makes sense chronologically) and is also the Geffen album of theirs that I am least familiar with.  I've never actually owned this album previously and only really know the songs that were featured on the Dream All Day best of CD that I've had for about twenty years.  I don't really have a good reason as to why I've never bought it, I also don't have their first album Failure that they rereleased on vinyl a couple of years ago.  I should pick up that one too, eventually.

What I can say is that Amazing Disgrace is an incredible album.  The songs are just as strong as anything on Frosting On The Beater, though they hit me a little differently since I don't have the twenty years of nostalgia coloring the way I feel about everything.  One of the things that the Posies to better than almost anyone are the way Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow blend vocal harmonies into their fuzzy guitar rock.  I can't think of a band that is their equal when it comes to that and all you need to do is listen to opening track "Daily Mutalation" as proof.

From there, the songs that I seem to like the most are the ones I've heard before like "Throwaway" and "Ontario."  That said, I think it might be my preexisting familiarity with these that make them stand out, because everything on this album is pretty damn great.  I'm happy to finally have this whole album and on a nicely reissued double LP to boot.  It's probably time to track down Failure next.

The Posies - "Daily Mutilation":

The Posies - "Throwaway":

The Posies - "Everybody Is A Fucking Liar":

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

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


Pledge Music (2017)

Over the next several weeks, we're going to celebrate Weird Al Wednesday as I go through each of the 15 albums in the Squeeze Box accordion box set. There are many albums in this set that were hugely influential to me as a young kid and there are no shortage of incredible songs throughout. Weird Al and The Blues Brothers are definitely the building blocks for my earliest appreciation of music.

I have very, very vivid memories of when Even Worse came out in 1988.  Weird Al was everywhere as "Fat," his send up of Michael Jackson's "Bad," was a monster hit.  People may have slept on Polka Party, but Al was back in a big way with Even Worse.  It was the one time I can remember where some other kids in school were paying attention to a Weird Al and a few people other than me even owned one of his records.  It was a short lived phenomenon in my world, but I still have pleasant memories of that brief period of time in the fifth grade.

The entire record is great.  The Weird Al originals are top notch with "Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White," "Melanie" and "Good Old Days."  The parodies are also strong as this was one of the last few Weird Al records where I either knew or liked the songs that were being taken on.  "(This Song's Just) Six Words Long" is a fantastic version of George Harrison's "Got My Mind Set On You."  I've always loved "I Think I'm A Clone Now," though these days I wish it was a parody of the Snuff version of "I Think We're Alone Now" rather than Tiffany's.  It was also a thrill to hear prevalent use of the accordion on the "La Bamba" parody "Lasagna."

This is one of only two Weird Al records that doesn't have a polka medley.  I think the inclusion of one would have made this an even strong record, but even with that omission it's still one of his best.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "(This Song's Just) Six Words Long":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Good Old Days":

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Custody / The Phoenix Foundation - Split 7"


Little Rocket (2019)

I've been anticipating this 7" for quite some time.  When Custody came to the US for The Fest, I was lucky enough to hear their song on this split live when they band played a show in New Jersey.  As soon as I heard "Tuesdays" I loved it and I let the band know how much I thought it should come out on PopKid.  While things didn't pan out for that, I'm still very excited to have this 7" in my collection, even if it's on another record label.

"Tuesdays" is a classic Custody rocker.  The way they channel a furious mix of 90s UK punk sounds and a Samiam style melody always blows me away.  This is a band that can just do no wrong right now.  Every song I hear by them I love more than the one I heard before (except for "Whatever We Decide," that one is still the best).

Phoenix Foundation is a band I've been buying records of for a really long time.  I first heard of them through a release they had on Snuffy Smile in 2004 and it's great to see them still putting out records.  Their last full length from 2017, Closer, was outstanding and is worth hunting down.  Their contribution to this split is "Secrets."  It's a great song, but it is kind of long.  We're talking six and a half minutes long and the vocals don't start until two minutes in long.  The songs itself is terrific, but can't help but feel I'd probably like it more if a bit was shaved of the intro at lease.  That's probably a fault of my attention span though and not the song itself.

Custody / The Phoenix Foundation - Split 7":

Monday, March 25, 2019

Suspended Girls - Pop Punk Is Back CD


Waterslide (2018)

I'm trying to figure out if there's an album title you could come up with that would draw my attention more than Pop Punk Is Back?  While I think the term pop punk has undergone many changes and meanings over the years, at this point I've really embraced it as a catch all term for the kind of music that I tend to like.  Will some people think of terrible bands when you say 'pop punk?'  Sure, but why let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

Suspended Girls are from Japan, like most of the great pop punk bands of the moment.  They feature some punk rock veterans who have done time in bands like Disgusteens and Nobodys and the album artwork is essentially made of of smaller images of other pop punk album covers, predominantly from the 90s.  If this doesn't give you a vague idea when Suspended Girls sound like, I'm not sure what words I could write to clue you in.

I will of course alert you that the songs are very catchy and upbeat, drawing huge inspiration from the 90s era bands that drew inspiration from the Ramones.  If anything, their sound seems more indebted to America bands than the sort of Japanese bands I was listening to in the mid 90s.  They use simple, snappy chord progressions and top them off with melodic vocals along with occasional shouts or 'ooohs' in the background.  It's a real blast from the past, even though this album just came out in 2018.

Suspended Girls - Pop Punk Is Back:

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Basement Brats - Shining Down 7”


Sneakers (1996)

I bought this 7” while in Tokyo.  I was not familiar with The Basement Brats, but I’m always happy to take a chance on a 7” that might lead me to something new that I might like.  Since these guys were also from Norway and this came out in 1996, it seemed to me that there were enough positives in favor of picking it up.

I can say without hesitation that I really like the A side “Shining Down.”  It’s got a power pop vibe to it, with slick guitar riffing and nice vocal melodies that really help to drive home the hook of the chorus.  I was pretty excited about this record after that song finished, but my opinion changed a bit when I flipped over to the two songs on the B side.

The first one, “It’s Not The Right Time,” is more of a straightforward garage rock song, with those weird lead guitar licks and the ‘oh yeah!’ kind of shouting that has never been my bag.  The second song is “Disconnected Love” and that one is closer to what I like.  In fact it sits right in the middle of the two other songs, poppier than “It’s Not The Right Time,” but garage-ier than “Shining Down.”  But there’s a guitar solo I’m not particularly keen on that drags the song down a bit.

The A side is good enough that it was worth the purchase of this 7” by itself.  I’m just not sure if it’s enough to make me take a chance on some of this band’s other records.  If they have albums full of songs like the B side of this 7”, that’s probably not something that I would listen to all that much.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Polka Party! LP - From Squeeze Box Accordion Box Set


Pledge Music (2017)

 Over the next several weeks, we're going to celebrate Weird Al Wednesday as I go through each of the 15 albums in the Squeeze Box accordion box set. There are many albums in this set that were hugely influential to me as a young kid and there are no shortage of incredible songs throughout. Weird Al and The Blues Brothers are definitely the building blocks for my earliest appreciation of music.

Polka Party! was the first 'new' Weird Al record that I remember.  This was his newest thing and it was being actively promoted unlike the others, which I had just sort of stumbled across in the Jamesway cassette section while looking for his records.  Polka Party is the album that seems to have slowed down Al's momentum and perhaps made it look like his 'one-hit wonder' time was finally up.  From what I've read and heard, this album didn't sell all that well and didn't spawn a big single.  In interviews Al has said it wasn't even a record he wanted to put out right at that point and it was pretty rushed and forced out due to record label pressure.

Now I personally don't understand any of that.  I love this album and always have.  "Living With A Hernia" is an outstanding send up of James Brown's "Living in America."  This is one of those songs that made me notice that Al was a really smart dude with the way he wove all of the different types of hernia names into the call back section towards the end of the song.  This album also has the Talking Heads pastiche "Dog Eat Dog," a song that still pops up on his live sets.  While "Addicted to Spuds" is certainly silly, I have still always enjoyed the potato puns over Robert Palmers's biggest hit.

The polka medley, which is the title track this time out, is as great as ever blending together hits of the era like "Sledgehammer," "Sussudio" and "Rock Me Amadeus."  I will say that "Toothless People" is probably the song of this era of Weird Al that I like the least.  To this day I don't think I've ever heard the original and have no desire to.

Luckily the album closes out strong with the hilarious country style original "Good Enough for Now" and Al's Phil Spector inspired "Christmas at Ground Zero."  Due to the phrase Ground Zero having a much different meaning today than it did in 1986, this one doesn't end up on a lot of Christmas playlists anymore, but it's still a great song with its crazy contrast of incredibly dark lyrics and super cheery music.

Polka Party! is probably one of the most overlooked albums in Al's discography, but if it's one you're not as familiar with, it's definitely worth giving another shot.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Living With A Hernia":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Addicted To Spuds":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Polka Party!":

Monday, March 18, 2019

Low Forms - Gaze To Bow/The Watchful Eye LP - Red Vinyl (/300)


Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

I get into stupid arguments with myself all the time about really mundane topics.  Is it OK for a band to put a picture of themselves on the cover of an album?  Is it really OK to have a singer that doesn't play an instrument?  Can a song still be good if it fades out as opposed to just ending?  Will someone burn in hell if they don't wave at me if I let them in front of me in traffic?  None of these are particularly important and never actually stop me from enjoying a record, but they're the sort of weird things that pop into my head from time to time.

Another of these is wondering how many songs are needed to call something a full length.  Is it based on the number of tracks or is it based on the running time of an album?  I tend to think that your record needs to have ten tracks to be a full length, unless it's eight or nine songs and has a few really long ones (which I don't recommend unless you are Drive Like Jehu).  This brings us to Low Forms, who have released a record with seven songs.  A few of them are in the neighborhood of five minutes, but there aren't any crazy long opuses here and the speed for the record is 45rpm, not 33.  So is this a full length or not?  And why do I care?  I can't answer those questions, but I'll just say that I'd feel better about calling it a full length if there were three more songs.

That's a lot of rambling without actually talking about this record which is split into two thematic sides.  The A side is Gaze To Bow and features two upbeat and punchy songs.  The first one "Idle Hour" is probably my favorite on the album.  The second, "De La Grave," is pretty good, but does go on a pretty long instrumental detour.  Side A ends with "Gaze To Bow."  This one is four minutes long, but it feels like it's about fifteen or so with its slow droning feel.

It had me worried about side B, The Watchful Eye.  Luckily things pick up again with "Rope Store," a song that is catchy, though has something of a country-fried feel to it.  I think it's that lead guitar twinkling.  The other songs on this side are all pretty good and mostly keep to fairly traditional rock and roll songs, appropriate to sing in the dive bar of your choosing.  All in all, this is a decent little 12".  It's nothing that blows me away, but there's also nothing bad on here aside from that "Gaze To Bow" song. That one's a little rough.

Low Forms - Gaze To Bow/The Watchful Eye:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Browntrout - Blues, Blues, Blues 7"


Dirty Snuggies (2010)

This is yet another record that I picked up record shopping in Tokyo that I haven't written about until now.  I am actually almost caught up with these finally, though I do have a new pile of records coming in from mailorder from Waterslide, so there won't be any shortage of records for me to write about any time soon.

Browntrout is a band that I discovered back in 2007 when their first CD came out on Anti-New Waves.  That was a label that I was really trying to keep track of at the time, but it was more difficult than keeping up with Snuffy Smile; who at least had a loyal, if small, US following.  I was immediately taken with Browntrout's dynamic guitar attack and did the best job I could acquiring their other records.  As it turns out, I hadn't done a great job as I discovered an entire new LP in the last couple of years.  This 7" also eluded me until stumbling across it in Tokyo.

I can happily report that this 7" is just as great as everything else I've heard by Browntrout.  Everything is fast and tight, with the guitar attack coming in at a million miles an hour, but never veering off into anything hardcore or sloppy.  Razor sharp hooks and the kind of choruses that I just go crazy for.  In particular, "My Pest Old Moon" stands out as maybe one of the band's very best songs.  I think at this point I have everything released by Browntrout aside from their very first CDEP.  Hopefully I'll be able to track that one down someday.

I couldn't find these songs online anywhere, but trust me - they're great.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Dare To Be Stupid LP - From Squeeze Box Accordion Box Set


Pledge Music (2017)

Over the next several weeks, we're going to celebrate Weird Al Wednesday as I go through each of the 15 albums in the Squeeze Box accordion box set. There are many albums in this set that were hugely influential to me as a young kid and there are no shortage of incredible songs throughout. Weird Al and The Blues Brothers are definitely the building blocks for my earliest appreciation of music.

I don't remember exactly how or when I discovered Weird Al.  While I can pinpoint a lot of the most influential things that have entered my life, I'm really hazy with Al.  I assume I must have seen him on Nickelodeon on Nick Rocks or something like that, but I genuinely have no concrete recollection.  What I do know if that Dare To Be Stupid was probably his 'current' album when I found Al, as I do remember Polka Party being the first 'new' Weird Al record that I got.

Dare To Be Stupid is a record I know so very, very well.  I wore out the cassette of it I had in my walkman and listened to it over and over.  I don't know that it's the best Weird Al record, but it certainly has some of his best songs.  You can't even really talk about Weird Al to me without a conversation about the song "Yoda" on here, a parody of "Lola."  Honestly, I don't even really know the original version of this song, yes I've heard it and I sort of know some of the words, but "Yoda" is the definitive version of the song if you ask me.  Music about Star Wars?  My young brain could barely contain itself.

Also incredible are the Devo inspired title track, The doo wop pastiche "One More Minute" and "This Is The Life" (if you haven't seen Johnny Dangerously for some weird reason, you really need to).  I can't say that "Girls Just Want To Have Lunch" is one of my favorites, but Al has also gone on record saying he didn't really want to do it, but acquiesced to record label pressure.  He also brought back a polka medley with "Hooked On Polkas."  Making the cut this time are songs like "Sharp Dressed Man," "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and "99 Luftballoons."

I just love this record.  Absolutely love it.  In many ways it's a definitive Weird Al release with iconic songs and tremendous energy. It's not my very favorite, but it's right up there.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Yoda":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Dare To Be Stupid":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "One More Minute":

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Bob Mould - Sunshine Rock LP - Yellow & Red Swirl Vinyl


Merge (2019)

Bob Mould has been on an absolute tear this past decade.  After some questionable electronic records that I got stuck promoting during my radio promotion days in the early 2000s, Mould has been on fire since 2012's Silver Age.  That record completely rekindled my love for Bob Mould records and he hasn't been this consistent since the Sugar days, if you ask me.

Sunshine Rock is another of Mould's trademark aggressive pop albums.  That said, aggressive might be a somewhat misleading description.  While the album still features loud, forward guitar along with a pounding rhythm section, the songs themselves are more upbeat than the past few Bob Mould albums.  That's not to say the energy level has dropped, in fact this is probably the punchiest and most fun to listen album of his since Silver Age.  If anything it sounds more optimistic, with the easiest comparison for me to make being that it reminds me a lot of File Under Easy Listening.

Sunshine Rock is easily one of the best records of 2019 so far, on par with his best albums.  At this point, Bob Mould has to be considered a national treasure.  Is there anyone who has been at it this long that can still consistently deliver the goods today?  Perhaps there are a few, but I can't think of anyone with the track record of Bob Mould.

Bob Mould - Sunshine Rock:

Monday, March 11, 2019

Bender! - Reputation Proof CD


Self Released (2009)

This Bender! (with an exclamation point) was from Japan and is not to be confused with Bender (no exclamation point) from Canada.  Bender! features Yu, who some may remember from recent write ups I've done on other bands he was in like Plum and 2 Sick Worry.   Yu send me this six song CDEP along with a few other releases from his Urban Sleep label.  It took me a little while to get to this one (sorry Yu!) but it's worth the wait as all six songs on this CD are tremendous.

While I definitely hear similarities to Yu's other bands, particularly in the Navel-esque vocals, the thing that jumps out the most to me is how much I'm reminded of the band New Sweet Breath when listening to this.  It's ironic, since the Canadian Bender put out records on Ringing Ear records, home to my favorite New Sweet Breath album, Demolition Theater.  Like that 1996 classic, Bender! trades is fast, jangly guitar riffs with hooky vocal melodies that just have a way of making me smile.

It doesn't look like Bender! released anything else outside of a couple of compilation appearances, but this EP is wonderful and I'm really happy to have it in the collection.  It's especially worth tracking down if you've liked the Plum or 2 Sick Worry records I've written about.

Bender! - Reputation Proof:

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Blues Brothers - The Old Landmark/Think/Shake Your Tailfeather 7"


Atlantic (1980)

There are a couple of Blues Brothers picture sleeve 7"s that still elude me, but I recently grabbed what I believe is the last non-picture sleeve 7" that I needed from Discogs the other day.  While this isn't technically a Blues Brothers 7", it's three songs from the movie, with artists backed by the Blues Brothers band and Jake & Elwood make an appearance on one of the songs.  It's also a promo only 7" that I imagine was meant for jukeboxes or something like that.

Things start up with James Brown's "The Old Landmark."  This is from the church scene where Jake sees the light and realizes it's time to get the band back together. It's a lively performance and once that does differ slightly from what ended up in the actual movie.  Next up is "Think" by Aretha Franklin.  This one is on couple other Blues Brothers 7"s, but it stands as my favorite Aretha song and is the definitive version of the song in my highly biased opinion.

On the B side is "Shake Your Tailfeather," performed by Ray Charles with a little backing vocal help from Jake & Elwood.  This was always one of my favorite scenes in the movie and I just love this damn song.  There's nothing on this single that I don't already have multiple times over, but I think it's interesting that Atlantic decided to gather three of the main guest appearance songs onto a single.  I guess "Minnie The Moocher" wouldn't fit.

Aretha Franklin - "Think":

Ray Charles - "Shake Your Tailfeather":

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"Weird Al" Yankovic - In 3-D LP - From Squeeze Box Accordion Box Set


Pledge Music (2017)

Over the next several weeks, we're going to celebrate Weird Al Wednesday as I go through each of the 15 albums in the Squeeze Box accordion box set.  There are many albums in this set that were hugely influential to me as a young kid and there are no shortage of incredible songs throughout.  Weird Al and The Blues Brothers are definitely the building blocks for my earliest appreciation of music.

Weird Al's 2nd album, In 3-D, came out in 1984 and is most remembered for being the album that has "Eat It" as its first single.  This is the song that broke weird all through to the mainstream in a big, big way and made him a staple of the early days of MTV.  While "Eat It" was never my favorite Weird Al song (which is probably in part to not being much of a fan of the original song), this album is packed full of hits.

"Midnight Star" is an incredible song documenting the tabloid era of nonsense supermarket headlines.  It was interesting to see Al at one of his shows say that he wanted this to be the lead single rather than "Eat It."  Though he admits in retrospect, that would have been a poor business decision.  "Buy Me A Condo" is a reggae pastiche that was my favorite Weird Al song for a spell in elementary school. I don't rank it quite so high anymore, but I still enjoy it immensely.

"Theme from Rocky XIII" is a send up of "Eye of the Tiger" and is probably the song that really cemented my love of people singing about food.  "Nature Trail To Hell" is a maddening journey through slasher flick troupes with a backmasking message about cheese whiz.  In 3-D also contains "Polkas on 45," the first appearance of a polka medley on a Weird Al album.  These would go on to be the highlights of many albums for me over the years.  This one is particularly fun, mashing together songs like "Smoke on the Water," "Hey Jude" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go" into an accordion fueled polka blast.

Ultimately, In 3-D is a big change from the first self titled album, but this is where Weird Al really put his flag into the ground and was noticed by many, many more people.  It's a varied, exciting album and even though it's not as rough around the edges as his debut, really set up the template for future releases.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Midnight Star":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Theme from Rocky XIII":

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Polkas on 45":

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Mike Krol - Power Chords LP - Clear Vinyl


Merge (2019)

I have had friends whose taste in music that I implicitly trust sing the praises of Mike Krol for years.  I've dipped my toe in a few times over the years and I have to admit, I've just never quite gotten it.  I think it's been the fuzz on the vocals more than anything else.  Despite that, in the run up to the release of Power Chords I once again started hearing the Krol buzz.  I decided to give it another go and what do you know, it stuck this time.

Power Chords is a big fat pop record.  It's built on incredible hooks and vocal melodies.  While I still would like it if the distortion on the vocals was toned down a bit, this time out I feel like it has a little bit more in common with The Marked Men and less tied into the sort of static I associate with Nobunny.  While the tempo of most of this album isn't as fast as the frenzy that The Marked Men are known for, Mike Krol has crafted an album that is every bit as catchy.

The ones I tend to like the most are the songs that may not be the fastest, but they are the ones with the biggest choruses.  "An Ambulance" is probably my favorite of the bunch with a singalong melody that I'm definitely guilty of muttering to myself while at work or the supermarket.  "Left For Dead" is another smash hit, with its stutter-stop opening that launches into a downstroke heavy chord progression that eventually gives way to another incredibly catchy chorus.

In a lot of ways I'm actually relieved that I like Power Chords as much as I do.  I always wondered what others saw in Mike Krol that I didn't see.  Now that I've finally made the connection, I think it might be time to re-listen to some of the other records that I passed on originally.

Mike Krol - Power Chords:

Monday, March 4, 2019

V/A - Because We Can Cassette


Motorcycle Potluck (2018)

I believe this is the very last cassette that I have that hasn't been reviewed yet.  It's certainly possible that I misplaced a some others that were sent in to be written about, but I'm pretty sure this is it.  I really made a concerted effort to finally get through them all, so I'm glad the pile is no longer sitting there, taunting me.

This final tape is a compilation sent over by Motorcycle Potluck.  It's a batch of bands from the Denver Area and beyond, though the bulk are certainly flying under the radar for the most part.  There a few bands I already know.  I recently reviewed Seagulls and their contribution is another Iron Chic meets OWTH burner.  Bud Bronson & The Good Timers have song that has a lot of 80s sounding guitar riffage, so that would fit on their LP pretty seemlessly.  Spells check in with "Run Away," a track that seems a little darker than most of their other output.  It's still pretty catchy though, particularly when the shorus kicks in.

My favorite song on this comp is by Jack's Smirking Revenge, a band I wrote about recently under the name JSR.  I guess that's what JSR stands for.  Their song "Queen Pity of the Plains" is a slice of tight pop punk a la Zoinks, with vocals that sound like a cross between The Weakerthans and American Steel. They still have that Karl Hendricks style storytelling in tow and I've just been really impressed with everything I've heard so far.

This is a $2 tape.  It's totally worth the two bucks as there are quite a few gems in the bunch.  Worth checking it out, even if you hate cassettes.

V/A - Because We Can:

Friday, March 1, 2019

Beck - 25 Years of Mellow Gold & Other 1994 Releases


Twenty-five years ago today, on March 1st, 1994, Geffen released the album Mellow Gold by Beck. There are a lot of records that I love that are quite old now and have hit milestone anniversaries. Very few are as important to the person I turned out to be as Mellow Gold is.

It’s hard to quantify how much impact the three albums that Beck released in 1994 had on me. In many ways they completely changed my life and put me on the path to become the person I am to this day. Other than the Blues Brothers, Beck is probably the most influential musician in my life. While bands like Rocket From The Crypt, Snuff and Leatherface far eclipsed Beck in how much I enjoy their records and how impactful their music is to me, the truth is that I would have never gotten to them without Beck.

In a lot of ways, I’ve always felt a little bit like a poser as I didn’t get into punk rock quite as early as some of the other folks that I would eventually befriend. Yes, I jumped into the deep end of the pool right away and I certainly learned a lot quickly, but since I started listening in 1994 and not 1991, I’ve always felt like the newcomer. At this point I’ve been into these types of bands for two and a half decades, but some of those feelings I had in 1994 still linger.

In 1994 I was seventeen years old and a junior in high school growing up in Sussex County in New Jersey. Sussex County is the north westernmost county in New Jersey and is about an hour and change from New York City. While it probably seems reasonably close to a gigantic city to people who aren’t from the area, it couldn’t be more dissimilar from the New York metropolitan area. The town I lived in was small to the point where it didn’t have its own post office, we had to share one with the neighboring town. It was mostly clusters of residential developments, lots of farms and a ton of trees. My high school was a regional school that funneled kids from 5 different towns into it. Even with all those towns, my graduating class was still only about a hundred and ten people. In New Jersey you can’t get a driver’s license until you are seventeen years old, so in the prior sixteen years, you’re essentially trapped in whatever town you happen to be living in.

I moved to Sussex County in the third grade and most kids already had their groups of friends. Being a kid who was super into the Blues Brothers and Weird Al, there wasn’t a ton of common ground right away, which was weird to me as that didn’t seem to be an issue in the town I had moved from. Regardless, over the years I was usually hanging out with a small group of close friends. Musically I never really was interested in the sort of music that others seemed to be into. Van Halen, Guns N Roses, Metallica…these were bands that I just didn’t care about. What really hit me more than anything else was hip-hop. That was the first music that I listened to that was current, starting around 1989 or so.

I was an avid watcher of Yo! MTV Raps during the so-called ‘golden age’ of hip-hop. The first groups that I remember grabbing my attention were Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy. I remember the shift when things started getting more innovative with Tribe Called Quest, Nice & Smooth, Gang Starr and groups like that. Then my mind was blown when I came across Del The Funky Homosapien and the rest of the Hieroglyphics crew. Not only was I amazed by this music, I could actually find out about it on television because Yo! MTV Raps was taking a lot of chances at the time. Hip-hop was an emerging artform so a lot of groups were given a platform to see what would hit. Way more snuck through to a giant mainstream outlet than probably could have at another time. I was very lucky, and I devoured anything I could get my hands on. Did anyone else buy that Kurious album A Constipated Monkey? Probably not. It wasn’t very good, but I just wanted to hear more.

While this was going on, the alternative explosion hit. Nirvana, Pearl Jam – those sorts of bands. They didn’t register with me at all. My friend Pat (who would later be my introduction to Karl Hendricks Trio, Archers of Loaf and Operation Ivy) gave me a tape of Nevermind my freshman year before I had ever heard it mentioned anywhere else. He suggested I listen to it as he thought it was great. I gave the tape back to him the next day and told him I didn’t get it. I had so much great music to listen to, it didn’t really matter to me what was going on in rock and roll.

Then in 1992, The Chronic came out by Dr. Dre. I was excited, having been pretty into NWA, and I remember buying that CD when they still came in long boxes. Little did I know at the time was that The Chronic essentially killed innovative mainstream hip-hop dead. Suddenly, that record was gigantic. Everyone at my high school had it and as I watched Yo! MTV Raps there was a big shift to soundalike groups. It didn’t happen overnight, but every week the playlist got more and more similar. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hate that Warren G & Nate Dogg “Regulate” song. By 1994, I was getting a little desperate for new tunes. Sure, I had Fear Itself by Casual, but there weren’t a lot of other records that were as exciting.

I vividly remember the first time I heard Mellow Gold. I was in my friend Scott’s car - A Plymouth Sundance, I believe - and he played it for me on our way to Rockaway Mall. I hadn’t heard the song “Loser” and I had never heard of Beck before that car ride. Scott wanted me to hear a song called “Soul Suckin’ Jerk” as he thought it sounded like the Beastie Boys. Since I did like the Beasties I was certainly up for it. He popped that cassette into the tape deck and my whole world changed.

Yes, “Soul Suckin’ Jerk’ did sound like the Beastie Boys to me, but as the album kept playing, I couldn’t believe the craziness that was coming out of the speakers. I had never heard anything like this. It was as if someone made an album that was purposefully difficult to listen to. Like it was a gauntlet thrown down to see who could get through it. Songs like “Truck Drivin’ Neighbors Downstairs” and “Nightmare Hippy Girl” were lyrically very funny, but they were minimal acoustic songs that were a stark contrast from the hip-hop leaning songs on the album. “Beercan” had an amazing bassline and was catchy as hell but was almost a pop song. “Sweet Sunshine” and “Steal My Body Home” were bizarre and confusing and “Mutherfuker” was an uncontrollable burst of yelling and screaming. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t this wild mix of styles.

It was weird to then realize that Beck was actually quite popular because of the song “Loser.” I only watched Yo! MTV Raps on MTV and didn’t listen to the radio, so I had no idea what else was going on in the music world. I wondered if most of the people who liked Beck had heard the whole album. Looking back on things now, I highly doubt it. I bought Mellow Gold and wanted to hear more. That’s when I figured out that Beck had other records out.

The next one I bought was Stereopathetic Soulmanure. This was the album that turned my fandom into a full-blown obsession. I could not believe how weird and random this record was. There were no hip-hop songs at all, but there were noisy punk songs like “Pink Noise” and “Thunderpeel,” Slower country songs like “Rowboat” and “Modesto,” weird tape collages and of course, “Satan Gave Me A Taco.” What an incredible song to hear. Here was a guy that was writing music and just being weird and random. It spoke to me like nothing else really had before.

The next thing I found was One Foot In The Grave. This one also took me completely by surprise. It was essentially a barebones folk album with a couple of indie rock songs mixed in. This was the album that made me realize that Beck wasn’t just a wacky dude, but he was also writing deeper serious songs. Prior to hearing it, I can’t say I would have ever thought I would listen to a record like that, but I loved it so much and to this day it’s my all-time favorite Beck record.

I essentially went insane at this point trying to find every single Beck release I could find. He became the first musician that inspired me to collect records. I’d long had the collecting bug because of toys and I remember buying a couple of Del The Funky Homosapien cassette singles so I could get the remixes, but this was the first time I ever actively was trying to search for every single record by someone.

So many important firsts in my life were because of Beck. The first time I went into NYC to go record shopping was to try to find Beck stuff at Generation Records (found some bootlegs – and I found the Western Harvest Field By Moonlinght 10” at Second Coming). The first time I went on the internet, I did so to try to look up information about Beck at a friend’s house. I eventually ran an online Beck discography from a Geocities page early on in college. The first concert I went to was Lollapalooza in 1995, to see Beck (and Pavement) and that’s where I saw Superchunk for the first time. The first time I tried to play guitar was to learn to play Beck songs. He inspired me to do so many things I wouldn’t have done previously.

The other big part of this was that Beck was a huge gateway drug for me to other music. I started looking into the names of other people who played on his records and I started looking into other bands that were on labels that Beck was putting out records on. Beck is a direct link to bands like Lync, Built To Spill, Halo Benders, Superchunk and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Those bands helped me branch out into other bands like Rocket From the Crypt (who were discovered on a Merge records compilation my friend Joe bought), Supersuckers, Snuff and Leatherface. Asking questions at record stores led me to more and more discoveries until I ultimately turned into the weird asshole that I am now, obsessed by a constant barrage of random bands that never seem to get the attention that I think they deserve.

As the years went by, Beck records got less and less interesting to me. As much as I tried to convince myself that Odelay was just as good as his ’94 releases, I never liked it as much. Mutations was a letdown as I was expecting Two Foot In The Grave. He’s had good songs on just about every album and it’s always interesting for me to hear his latest tunes, but it’s never been like it was that first year I was buying his records.

The sheer amount of songs he has, particularly from the ’94 and ’95 era, that were never commercially released is staggering. You could fill several albums with the songs I’ve heard on radio performances and concert bootlegs. A giant compilation of this material is a release that I wish would come to fruition, but Beck seems embarrassed by these songs at this stage in his career. While I won’t pretend to be the same person I was in 1994 either, I find it strange that he would turn his back on such an important chunk of his career. Not only is this a time period beloved by many but it is also the reason he ever had the spotlight shined on him in the first place. He wouldn’t have been able to have the career he has without these early songs.

Beck may be a serious and mainstream artist now, but he was never more exciting to me as he was when he was just a complete nutcase, setting his guitar on fire and singing about squeegees. He’s no longer the guy wearing a stormtrooper helmet and playing a banjo, but he was exactly what I needed in 1994, and for that I will always thank him.

Beck - "Nightmare Hippy Girl":

Beck - "Pay No Mind":

Beck - "Painted Eyelids"

Beck - "Steve Threw Up":

Beck - "Satan Gave Me a Taco":

Beck - "Totally Confused":