Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Absolute Best Records of 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 18, 2020

Joel Paterson - Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar LP


 Ventrella (2018) 

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

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

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

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

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

Joel Paterson - Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Sam Jayne - 1974-2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2020

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



Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

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

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

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

Zephr - Don't Worry About It:

Friday, December 11, 2020

Sad Days Indeed - Sad Days Indeed CD



Jukeboss (2006)

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Hieroglyphics - 3rd Eye Vision 3xLP


Hiero Imperium/Fat Beats (2019, Reissue)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hieroglyphics - "At The Helm":

Hieroglyphics - "The Who":

Monday, December 7, 2020

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


Atlantic (1981)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 4, 2020

Music From Transformers LP - Purple & Silver Vinyl


Sony/Enjoy The Toons/Hasbro (2018)

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Saafir - Boxcar Sessions 2xLP


 Qwest (1994)

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 30, 2020

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


Universal/Hasbro (2020)

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

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

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

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


Friday, November 20, 2020

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


Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

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

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

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

Gentlemen Rogues - Do The Resurrection 7"

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Group Home - Livin' Proof 2xLP


Get On Down (2017, Reissue)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2020

Swami John Reis - Ride The Wild Night 7"


Swami (2020)

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2020

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


Carrere (1992)

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

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

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

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

The Blues Brothers - "Gimme Some Lovin'": 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Gang Starr - Step In The Arena 2xLP


Virgin (2019, Reissue)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 9, 2020

Headsparks - Working Parts CD


Fixing A Hole (2020)

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

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

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

Headsparks - Working Parts:

Friday, November 6, 2020

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


PU (2020)

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

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

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

Hot Snakes - "I Shall Be Free":

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Redman - Dare Iz A Darkside LP


Rush (2015, Reissue) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Animal Steel - Smooth Jazz Chords Flexi 7"


 Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

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

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

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

The Animal Steel - Smooth Jazz Chords:

Friday, October 30, 2020

Alligator Gun - Alligator Gun Cassette


1991 (Self Released)

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

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

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

Alligator Gun - Alligator Gun Tape:

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Redman - Whut? Thee Album LP - Red Vinyl


Rush (2014, Reissue)

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 23, 2020

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


Merge (2020)

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

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

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

Bob Mould - Blue Hearts:

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Brand Nubian - Everything Is Everything 2xLP


Elektra (1994) 

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 19, 2020

Fatal Figures - X Minus One LP


Big Neck (2020)

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

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

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

Fatal Figures - X Minus One:

Friday, October 16, 2020

Pinhead Gunpowder - Kick Over The Traces LP - Green Vinyl


Recess (2010)

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

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

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

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

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

Pinhead Gunpowder - "Landlords":

Pinhead Gunpowder - "Losers of the Year":

Pinhead Gunpowder - "Swan Song":

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

UMC's - Unleashed LP


Wild Pitch (1994) 

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2020

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


10 Past 12 / Unless You Try (2020)

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

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

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

Snuff - The Wrath Of Thoth (This is a link to one of those link tree things that take you to a bunch of places you can stream the record, but really you should just go buy the vinyl, shouldn't you?)

Friday, October 9, 2020

Reverse - Empty Spaces LP - Blue Vinyl

Boss Tuneage (2020)

Even just a few years ago, if you had told me that in 2020 one of the best albums of the year would have been put out by Reverse, I don't think I could have possibly believed you.  It's not that I would have any doubt that they would be capable of writing one of the best records, I would have just been in shock that it actually happened.

Back in the 90s, Reverse released three 7"s and a split 7" with Exit Condition.  These songs along with the one from the Best Punk Rock In England comp were some of my very favorite of the era.  To this day I will put the song "Stagnant" up against anything that came out of that mid 90s UK scene.  It's one of the best of the best.  We never even got a full length Reverse album back then and the band was (at least to me being in America) somewhat mysterious. They cranked of four perfect singles and then vanished.

Now, luckily there has been action from the Reverse camp in the intervening years.  I took possession of one of their demo tapes that had songs that weren't on the singles (more on that later) and their singles were compiled on to the Glance Sideways CD along with some extra tracks by SP records in Japan.  A few years later came Chasing Ghosts, with more unreleased Reverse songs.  I may be mistaken here, but my impression was always that those were older songs and wasn't a proper new full length.  That said, it was incredible and I was happy to have more music by such a great band.  They also put out a new 7" last year.  I don't have that yet as it is sitting in a pile of records put aside for me by a friend in Japan that I haven't been able to get from him yet.  Pandemic and other issues being a key driver of that...

But now, somehow, miraculously, Reverse has a full length album of new songs in the year 2020.  This has been a shitty fucked up year, but Reverse putting out a new album takes just a a fraction of the sting away.  It sounds like it could have been released the week after their last 7" in the 90s.  A perfect blend of melody and punk rock.  This is such a quintessentially sounding UK punk record and I cannot get enough of it.  That scene with Snuff, Leatherface, Broccoli, Hooton 3 Car, Mega City Four, Chopper, Skimmer, Crocodile God, Donfisher and more was my favorite time and place in all of recorded music and this record is every bit as good as anything that came out back then.

The thing about Reverse that gets my more than anything is their complete and total mastery of the chorus.  This has always been the case.  You're listening to one of their songs and the verse is good to great and then they get to the chorus and the song blows your fucking mind.  That happens over and over and over on this record.  From opener "Empty Spaces" to "Opinions" to "Fire Flies" I am never not amazed when that chorus comes blasting in.

Another cool thing is to hear a newly recorded version of a song called "Missuser." Remember that demo tape I mentioned?  This was one of the songs on it that didn't also end up on the Glance Sideways comp.  It was really cool to hear it again in the context of a full album and it fits in perfectly.

Here I go writing way more than I expected to once again, but if you can't tell, when I get really excited about a record I tend to go on and on and on.  Well, I love this record.  It is one of the best two or three albums I have heard all year and the fact that it exists just makes the world a better place in my opinion.  Thank you Reverse, please make more records.

Reverse - Empty Spaces (Only the first two songs are streaming on Bandcamp):

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Del The Funky Homosapien - Wrong Place 12"


Elektra (1993)

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

If you've been reading any of my Wednesday posts, you've definitely read mention of Del The Funky Homosapien. He & his Hieroglyphics crew are responsible for my favorite releases in the history of hip hop. I had decided that I needed to get my hands on the various golden era singles from those groups as the B sides and remixes were sorely missing from my collection on vinyl.

This is the last of my Del 12" singles.  He had released others, but my main focus was tracking down everything trough the No Need For Alarm era.  I have it in mind to gather some of the others eventually, but I'm still trying to fill some of the holes in my vinyl collection of his full length albums before I move to the singles.  Even though I have been going through these single chronologically, I still managed to save the best one for last.

I did have the cassingle version of this when I was in high school.  Specifically, I had the Maxi-Single version.  This version had two extremely important non album tracks.  One of them is the song "Undisputed Champs."  It was a non album track that was exclusive to this single and it featured Del, Pep Love and Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest.  In 1993, having Del and Q-Tip on the same track was a completely mind blowing thought as they were responsible for some of my favorite records of this era.  The song does not disappoint wither as both are in top form for their verses.  I feel like this could have been a "Scenario" level event if the song had been highlighted on an album or if it had ended up being made into a video, but instead it ends up being something of a lost classic.

As good as "Undisputed Champs" is, that wasn't even my favorite song on this single.  The Casual remix of "Wrongplace" is unbelievable.  I can't go so far as to say it's the version that should have been on the album as the original version fits into that record so flawlessly, but as a standalone track, you could make the argument that this is a superior version. It's not just the production that is different.  This version has an alternate vocal take as well.  The slow grooving bass provides a foundation for Del to essentially go a little crazier than usual.  The structure of his rapping is more out there than the album version, with emphasis on different syllables and rhymes built out differently.  I really love it.

These songs along with the non album tracks from the other singles I've written about over the past few weeks were eventually compiled onto an Elektra 'greatest hits' CD.  But that one never came out on vinyl so I knew I had to hunt down these singles and I'm psyched I have them all now (Aside from version of "Mistadobolina" that just has different artwork, but yeah I'm still looking for that one too).

Del The Funky Homosapien - "Undisputed Champs":

Del The Funky Homosapien - "Wrong Place" (Casual Remix):

Monday, October 5, 2020

Pinact - The Part That No One Knows LP


Kinane (2017)

I stumbled across this band via Twitter.  Though Pinact is from Scotland, I actually saw them mentioned by one of the wonderful Japanese punk rockers that I follow.  They had mentioned this band in a tweet and I decided to do a little exploring.  I came across their Bandcamp page and after listening to the first couple of songs, I ordered the LP.

Pinact is playing gloriously fuzzy guitar pop music and the best way I can describe them is that I think they sound like a failed major label band from the mid 90s.  While it probably sounds like a backhanded compliment, I do mean it as genuine praise.  When I listen, it reminds me of bands like Pluto, Fig Dish maybe a hint of Fretblanket or Engine 88, but filtered through a Weezer sort of sensibility.  Maybe a modern day equivalent would be a band like Herzog.

There isn't a clunker on the record. The energy and tempo are upbeat and lively and the hooks are nice and catchy.  Even though the album is now a few years old, it's definitely one of the better records I've listen to this year.  I wish I had been paying more attention when this had originally come out, but I plan on making up for lost time.

Pinact - The Part That No One Knows:

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Mr. T Experience - ...And The Women Who Love Them LP - Silver Vinyl


Sounds Rad (2020, Reissue)

When I wrote about the red vinyl version of the first Mr. T Experience album a few weeks ago, I said that one of the reasons I liked having it in my collection as it was a building block for a band that would become one of my all time favorites.  Everybody's Entitled to their Own Opinion was an album I tracked down after I had been listening to the band for a bit.  The most recent Mr. T Experience record that was available when I heard them for the first time was this EP, ...And The Women Who Love Them.

The first time I heard the Mr. T Experience was on the 1995 Slice of Lemon compilation.  They did a cover of the Schoolhouse Rock song "Adjectives" and that's what made me go look for more of their music.  I wonder how many people discovered them from that compilation.  I'm guessing it probably wasn't many.

I am not totally positive ATWWLT was the very first Mr. T Experience album I bought.  I picked up this one, Our Bodies Ourselves and Making Things With Light all around the same time.  They are the three MTX records I've known the longest and in a lot of ways they will always be fighting each other for the top spot of being my favorite (Along with Love As Dead, which would come out the following year in 1996).

What I can say for sure is that I just loved this EP.  "Tapin' Up My Heart" was immediately a song that jumped out at me and I went crazy for the blown out guitar fuzz lead, start/stop verse and of course the incredibly well constructed lyrics.  The rest of the CD's six other tracks were equally great tackling relationship highs and lows with a sharp wit and even sharper hooks.  Then there was the secret hidden song.

The 7" version of the release had "Tapin' Up My Heart" and "My Stupid Life" from the CD, but it also had an unlisted acoustic song which I now know is called "How'd The Date End?"  When I used to put this song on mix tapes, I titled it myself as being called "Love Connection."  In the early 2000s, Lookout put out the ...And The Women Who Love Them - Special Addition CD.  When they did, they included "How'd The Date End?" but it was a different recording that had a few extra lines.  I hated it.  I felt like it was lacking the urgency of the version from my 7" and I didn't think the extra lyrics were worth sacrificing that energy.  Oomph goes a long way with me and the original version had the Oomph I was looking for.  I got a lot angrier about stupid things twenty years ago than I do now.

With this new vinyl version, the seven songs from the CD are present along with the original version of "How'd The Date End?"  All eight songs in one place and even better yet all finally on vinyl.  To say this record sounds great is the understatement of the year.  None of these songs have ever sounded as good as they do on this record.  I can't believe the fullness of everything that is just not present on my old CD version.

Also, I think I lucked out with my copy.  I put in dibs for the record as soon as it was an option from Sounds Rad, but the people who bought the MTX Forever compilation had first dibs on the dibs.  I didn't buy that comp because I already have those songs.  I'm on board for reissues of full albums that sound better, but I didn't need a Mr. T Experience best-of that wasn't a list of the songs I actually thought were the best.  So, by the time I got to place dibs, I was number seven on the overflow list.  Sadly no spot ever opened up and I was relegated to the second pressing that wasn't on 180g vinyl.  But let me tell you, the version they sent me is pretty damn heavy.  I don't have a scale that weighs in grams, but I think that maybe they had some leftover 180g versions and I still managed to get one even though I missed out.  Regardless which version I have, it sounds incredible.

I have no idea how this write up got so long.  In summary, all that you really need to know is that this is pretty much a perfect slice of mid 90s pop punk, presented as an incredible sounding version and finally compiling all of the tracks from the recording in one place.  You would be a fool not to have this in your collection.

The Mr. T Experience - ...And The Women Who Love Them (YouTube Music full album playlistL