Monday, November 18, 2019

Flashlights - Shadows and Lights LP


Secret Mission (2019)

Over the last couple of years, Secret Mission records has been giving me a real education.  I have often felt that I was reasonably tied in to Japanese punk rock.  At least more so than your average bear here in America.  Yet with release after release, Secret Mission drops a band I have never heard of into my lap.  Flashlights are another great one to add to the list.  This album originally came out in 2016 on Stay Free records in Japan.  That is a label that I know as the band Three Minute Movie put out a couple of records on Stay Free.  But it makes it all the more perplexing that I haven't heard of Flashlights before popping this on the turntable.

Anyway, this is fast and jangly power pop at its very best.  Sonically, I think they are somewhat similar to Ron Ron Clou, though probably leaning a little poppier and less of that punky energy that Ron Ron Clou harnesses so well.  That said, the pop that Flashlights churn out is pretty perfect.  Wonderful harmonies wrap themselves around the band's hooks and really elevate the proceedings.

Top to bottom, Shadows and Lights is a fun listen.  Perfect for a sunny weekend morning while you are kicking around the house, not really wanting to do much other than take in the tunes and relax.

Flashlights - Shadows and Lights:

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Wannadies - Be A Girl LP


Music On Vinyl (2019, Reissue)

I adore The Wannadies.  As far as pure pop guitar bands, I'd be hard pressed to think of a band that does it better than they do.  I've had the CD of Be A Girl since the 90s and I also had the import first pressing of the vinyl that I picked up in maybe 2009 or so?  But, recently Music On Vinyl reissued the three Best Wannadies records on 180 gram colored vinyl.  Due to an Amazon snafu, I didn't get the colored vinyl version of Be A Girl.  But the price was nice and this pressing of the record sounds outstanding, so I decided to keep it anyway instead of looking for and paying collector prices for the colored version.  Though I make no promises I won't buy that as well someday.

Be A Girl starts off with their biggest hit, "You and Me Song."  This was a legitimate hit song, featured in some Romeo & Juliet movie I never saw and actually getting radio play in America.  Bizarrely enough, they played this song at the McDonalds in Pennsylvania that I went to a couple of weeks ago making my pilgrimage for a McRib.  As great as that song is (and it's great), it is just a small sample of the incredible songwriting throughout this album.

"Might Be Stars" is probably my favorite song on the record with its forward pushing beat, huge fuzzy guitars and chorus harmonies.  There isn't a bad song on this album.  You could throw a dart at the tracklisting and you're always going to hit a stellar song.  The craziest part is that this isn't even my favorite Wannadies record.  This is definitely a band to revisit if you've never given a whole record of theirs a close listen.  The hooks are undeniable.

The Wannadies - "Might Be Stars":

The Wannadies - "How Does It Feel":

The Wannadies - "You And Me Song":

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The UMC's - Fruits Of Nature LP


Wild Pitch (1991)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

This album stands out from some of the others that I have written about over the past few weeks.  I didn't have any UMC's records back in the 90s.  I heard them for the first time in the last few years.  Like I've done with many rock and roll bands, I have spend some time going backwards and checking out records and groups that either I never heard during their heyday or that I just didn't like for one reason or another.  In the case of The UMC's, I'm not sure I ever listened to them in the 90s.  I think a lot of that was because of their name.  As I was already a fan of Ultramagnetic MCs, I didn't like that The UMC's name was so similar.  I get that this is a dumb reason, but I was a teenager at the time.

Unfortunately, I was missing out on some excellent records for twenty plus years.  On Fruits of Nature, UMC's are hitting that exact style that I loved back then.  Catchy beats that lean on jazz and soul samples, uptempo rhythms and lyrical flows that are a little left of center.  Whenever a hip hop act of the 90s was taking chances, that's when I tended to jump up and take notice.  Why it took me so many years to finally notice UMC's is something I can't quite explain or rationalize.

I will say this, Fruits of Nature will slide into your record collection very neatly next to your Souls Of Mischief, Tribe Called Quest and Pharcyde records.  If you are into that sort of laid back style, this is an album you need to add to your piles.  I've also picked up the second UMCs record, Unleashed.  It's different from Fruits of Nature, but is also excellent in its own way.  I'll write a bit about that one in the next few months.

The UMC's - "Blue Cheese":

The UMC's - "Swing It To The Area":

Monday, November 11, 2019

Adult Magic - Adult Magic LP


Dead Broke / Specialist Subject (2019)

There are a handful of bands that are sure fire hits for me if you drop their names in a RIYL list.  The most obvious one is Leatherface.  You mention the Sunderland boys and it's a guarantee that I'll give that band a chance.  Also very high on the list are two that were used to describe Adult Magic; Superchunk and Sugar.  As soon as I saw that those two were referenced, I knew I had to add Adult Magic to the collection.

Now I certainly can see touchstones of those two bands.  Adult Magic employs a thick and crunchy guitar tone that is so very much like Bob Mould and other guitar heroes from the 90s.  And the way they are able to wrap their vocal melodies around around the guitar riffage certainly brings to mind moments of Superchunk.  Acknowledging those two bands, Adult Magic isn't a copy of either.  They are forging their own way at times bringing in other influences and sounds.  Sometimes I hear a nod to mellower bands like Silver Scooter, while at other times things get a little punchier not unlike the very best of The Weakerthans.

I'll be honest, that's a lot of comparisons for one paragraph, but ultimately what you need to know is the Adult Magic are creating some really excellent, 90s influenced guitar pop songs.  They've got the hooks where you want them and the melodies where you need them.  Their debut is definitely worth checking out, especially if you dig on the sounds of twenty five years ago as much as I do.

Adult Magic - Adult Magic:

Friday, November 8, 2019

Somerset Thrower - Godspeed LP - Gray w/ Splatter Vinyl (/100)


Dead Broke (2018)

So I am definitely late to the party with Somerset Thrower.  This record came out last year, but for whatever reason, I never bought it.  Honestly, I think I probably just forgot about it as 2019 started up it faded in the rear view a bit.  Luckily when perusing the Dead Broke website, I was reminded that I never got this album last year and rectified that oversight.  I'm glad that I did as Godspeed is a strong record with a huge 90s sound that would have made me crazy in 1995 or so.

Somerset Thrower has a way of mixing melodic guitar rock with earnest, scratchy vocals that is something to behold.  I hear some elements of Seaweed when I listen to Godspeed, but I think that Somerset Thrower is taking that sound and dragging it a little more towards a Sunny Day Real Estate vibe.  Though I'll be totally honest, I like this album a lot more than most of the Sunny Day Real Estate I've heard in my life (they're one of those bands that just never clicked for me, despite multiple attempts and relistening to them to try to figure out what I'm missing).

Just about every song on the record is pretty great.  The only one that's not really doing it for me is "Eject."  It's a bit slower than the others and clocking in at six and a half minutes, by about the four minute mark, I'm ready to get back to some catchier songs.  Luckily, the very next song is "Jellyfish Scene," which is probably my favorite on the album.  It has a driving rhythm section, with punchy guitar riffs layered on, forming a foundation for a vocal melody that simultaneously reminds me of Fluf, Knapsack and The Posies somehow.

If, like me, you missed out on this record last year, it is worthwhile to backtrack and check this album out.  If you like the rock and roll sounds of the 90s, there are few bands delivering those sounds as well as Somerset Thrower does.

Somerset Thrower - Godspeed:

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Brand Nubian - One For All 2xLP


Traffic/Elektra (2004, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop.  In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life.  During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music.  As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

I don't exactly remember when or where I heard of Brand Nubian for the first time.  Like so many other artists of the era, I can't fathom it not being from Yo MTV Raps, though it's possible that the legend of the five mic review in The Source was one of the first times I was made aware of them.  I distinctly remember being drawn to singles from each of the groups albums that were released between '90 and '94, but I'm not sure which one I heard first.  I figure it was probably the title track from the first Brand Nubian record One For All, but there is a chance that I originally picked up this CD after the group's second album In God We Trust.

All these years later, I can say with certainty that One For All is my favorite Brand Nubian release.  Although Lord Jamar and Sadat X held down the fort admirably on their next two records, the group was never as potent as they were when Grand Puba was part of the act.  His laid back, nasally flow is a perfect mix with the funk and R&B fueled beats.  However he was never better than when he was able to play off of Jamar and Sadat.  The three MCs together have a chemistry that is undeniable.

Considering that this record came out in 1990, the production feels ahead of its time.  This is one of those albums that really changed the game when it came out and it holds up unbelievably well all of these years later.  The next two Brand Nubian records were really strong and I love Grand Puba's debut solo album, but when everyone was still together on One For All, that's when the magic really happened.

Brand Nubian - "One For All":

Brand Nubian - "Concerto In X Minor":

Brand Nubian - "Drop The Bomb":

Monday, November 4, 2019

Guns n' Wankers - The Complete Recordings LP - Yellow Vinyl (/200)


One Wank/Unless You Try (2019)

I finally picked up the yellow vinyl variant of the Guns n' Wankers compilation LP.  I don't go as wild variant hunting as I did ten or fifteen years ago, but there are still a few bands where I feel that I really need to make sure I have everything.  Snuff and Guns n' Wankers are bands that still fit in that category.  As of now, I am comlpete.  Until Duncan & Co. press it again anyway.

I don't really have much to add to this write u regarding the music that I didn't say when I talked about the other versions of this LP that I bought.  But to quickly summarize, this LP contains some of my very favorite songs of all time.  I highly suggest picking up a copy.

Guns n' Wankers - "Raise Your Glass":

Guns n' Wankers - "Blah Blah Blah":

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Giant Dog - Neon Bible LP - Purple Vinyl


Merge (2019)

This record was part of the Merge Records Born Under A Good Sign subscription series.  I've now received everything from the subscription, though I haven't written about everything just yet.  I'm not sure how I feel about it overall, but there have certainly been highs and lows.  Going into things I would have thought that a full album from A Giant Dog would be one of the records I'd be most excited to receive, as I've really enjoyed everything I've heard from them previously.  But, these aren't A Giant Dog songs, they've instead covered the Arcade Fire's album, Neon Bible, in its entirety.

I don't like Arcade Fire.  I don't have any of their records, but I had promoted some during my stint in the music biz in the early 2000s.  Whatever it is that they're selling, I was never buying.  Now that's not to say that their songs, when run through the A Giant Dog filter, couldn't end up being pretty good, but the end result is an album that's uneven at best.  When A Giant Dog takes on a rocker, like album opener "Black Mirror" or other louder songs such as "The Well and the Lighthouse" and "(Antiochrist Television Blues)," it's a huge success.  This is a band that knows how to push the pedal to the floor and blast out some high energy and catch rock.

That said, the majority of this record is mired in slower songs and a bit more keyboard/synth than I typically like.  I think it's probably due to the source material.  I don't like Arcade Fire, so unless the songs really sound like ones from another A Giant Dog album, it's just not for me.  There's a few standouts worth your time, but the record as a whole isn't something I see myself listening to very much.

A Giant Dog - Neon Bible: