Monday, April 6, 2020

Engine 88 - Clean Your Room LP - Red Vinyl


Caroline (1995)

Engine 88 is one of those weird bands that always seemed to be percolating under the radar, yet they were always on a label with pretty solid distribution.  What I remember most about them in the 1990s NY/NJ record store scene was that their albums were always very reliably in the used CD box at whatever store you were perusing.  That's not a knock on them either.  Some of my very favorite bands of that era were kings of the used CD box (I often wonder if anyone ever bought a Fig Dish CD that didn't have a punched out bar code).

Even though the band never really achieved big time notoriety or enduring memories as one of those great smaller bands that folks reminisce about,  they put out a body of work that holds up well listening again all of these years later.  Clean Your Room was the only one of their full length albums to get the vinyl treatment and as it wasn't in my collection, I was pleased to see one pop up on Discogs not too long ago.

Musically, they are a guitar focused rock band, like a lot of bands in the 90s were.  They know their way around a hook and have that big, crunchy guitar sound that I like so much.  When Engine 88 leans towards the poppier punk side of the spectrum, they're up there with the best of them.  When they get a little more out their and dig into some of the noisier and off center songs, I can't say the results thrill me quite as much.  That said, within the context of a complete album, it's nice that the band changes things up and isn't just cranking out the same song over and over.  This is an album worth seeking out if it didn't come across your turntable or CD player twenty five years ago.

Engine 88 - Clean Your Room (Youtube full album playlist):

Friday, April 3, 2020

G-Whiz - Eat At Ed's LP


Tim Kerr (1992)

I never heard G-Whiz back in the 90s.  They were pretty much wrapped up when I was really discovering what I loved about punk rock and they're one of the bands that I didn't go back to at the time.  Hearing them when I got a bit older, I've always appreciated the music, but never really felt that they stood out during a crowded field of bands that were churning out some pretty incredible music.

The only reason this record even ended up in my collection is because it was given to my by my buddy John before he moved out to California.  I've spent some more time with it since then but I still always come to the same conclusion; this is a good record, but it's not really a great one.  There's nothing bad to say about it and every one of the songs has a solid hook and is well constructed.  But there's never that moment where the band transcends and is really creating something unique that stands out.

They very much follow the path of Cruz records denizens with Big Drill Car being the most obvious comparison.  But for me, if I want to listen to a band that kind of sounds like Big Drill Car, I'll probably just listen to Big Drill Car most of the time.  I may be selling G-Whiz a little short with this type of comparison, it is after all a fun record and if you are into bands like Pollen or All, I can't imagine that you're going to dislike it.  For me, it's just one of those albums that I think is pretty good, but will inevitably languish in my record collection.  Maybe if I heard it in 1992, it would have had more of a chance to get its claws in me.

G-Whiz - "Boomerz":

G-Whiz - "Hegdes":

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - Mecca And The Soul Brother 2xLP - Clear Vinyl


Elektra / Get On Down (2016, 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 was so completely on board with this record when it came out in 1992.  The single "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" was on non stop repeat on Yo MTV Raps.  With its jazzy horn hook, laid back groove and dynamite lyrical flow, it was one of those songs that resonated with the underground while still bubbling up to infect some mainstream outlets.  It's a great song, but you have to understand how much it got played back then.  It was played a lot.  To the point that it actually started to get a little annoying.  Even nearly 30 years later, while I appreciate it as a great song, I don't really need to hear it that much.  I had my share in 92 and 93.

But the good news is that the rest of this album is every bit as strong as its most famous single, with the added bonus of not having been played into the ground.  Right from the opener "Return of the Mecca," you know the sort of journey you'll be on throughout the album.  Jazzy, soulful beats that don't necessarily sound like Tribe Called Quest, but live in the same general area.  Mid tempo without sounding sleepy and forceful without sounding comically aggressive.

Another track I want to highlight is "It's Like That."  It stands out as being a little different with the scratchy washboard percussion mixed in with the bass and horn loop, but still fits in perfectly with the rest of the album.  C.L. really showcases a faster delivery here, laying down a flawless flow that makes you wonder why he isn't a bit more lauded as one of the great MCs of the era.  Listening to Mecca and the Soul Brother in 2020 doesn't feel like a throwback to me.  This doesn't sound like old music.  While this sort of hip hop isn't what is popular these days, to me it sounds as fresh and innovative as ever.  Though that just might be me getting old...

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - Mecca and the Soul Brother (Youtube full album stream):

Monday, March 30, 2020

Merger - S/T 12"


Impetus (2019)

I will be honest, I don't remember when I got this record.  It was sent to me for the purposes of reviewing on this site sometime last year, but it sort of vanished into the 'to do' pile.  I have not been able to buy many new records this year, and with the way things are deteriorating in the real world each day, it seems unlikely that I'll be buying many more in the short term.  The upside to that is that it gives me time to weed through the records that have been sitting around.  I guess if you want to send me a record to review, this is probably the best time to do that, just drop me an email first as the address on this site isn't going to be the best place to get a hold of me over the next month or so.

Back to Merger.  This is a six song 12" EP, which is my least favorite way to consume new music that isn't a cassette.  I'm always going to prefer a full length LP or a 7" for shorter endeavors.  That aside, the music itself is interesting.  While I can't really say that I like it or would be prone to listening to it very often, it's not bad.  There's a fuzzy chaos to it that I find endearing and there's solid energy behind the vocals.  The drummer is also particularly adept at keeping time amongst the various mood changes that take place during each song.

In my formative years when I was trying to find my way in punk rock, I ended up listening to a lot of Pacific Northwest bands like Karp, Unwound and Some Velvet Sidewalk.  I think that if I had heard this Merger LP back then, I'd probably have a different take on it than I do now.  This isn't for me, but there are likely folks out there that prefer the noisier side of the world that will be able to get down with this.

Merger - S/T 12":

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Best of Godzilla 1984-1995 - Original Film Soundtracks 2xLP


Crescendo (2019)

This double album is the companion piece to The Best of Godzilla 1954-1975 album that I wrote about a few weeks ago.  Like that album, this release covering the Heisei era of Godzilla music has been released on vinyl for the first time.  While I didn't get the colored vinyl version of either, it's pretty exciting to have both on vinyl.

The Heisei era of Godzilla films were an odd bunch in the pre-internet days of my high school years, they were the sort of thing I would only be able to keep track of by purchasing the newest issue of the G-Fan fanzine from the comic shop in Rockaway mall.  They were virtually impossible to see and none of the movies aside from The Return of Godzilla (Godzilla 1985) received a stateside home video release until years later.  Though I do remember that the first time Godzilla 1985 was shown on TV, it was something of a big deal, complete with Dr. Pepper commercials that vaguely tied into the movie.

Bootlegs where the main way of keeping up with everything and I cherished the copy I had of the 1993 version of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, which is still my favorite of this era of Godzilla movies.  While the composers varied from movie to movie, it's the soundtracks done by the maestro of Godzilla, Akira Ifukube that are my favorite.  I imagine that's due to a lot of the baked in nostalgia I have as he wove in many of the classic Showa series themes that I had been listening to for my entire life.

If you were only going to buy one compilation of Godzilla music, I would recommend the first volume that covers those Showa soundtracks, but if you are looking for the Heisei era music, this is as good a starting place as any.  I hope that more of the complete Godzilla soundtracks receive releases on vinyl.  Though my wallet hopes they are spaced out from each other.

Godzilla Main Theme (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah):

Main Theme (The Return of Godzilla):

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Showbiz & A.G. - Runaway Slave LP


Island / UMe (2018, 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.

When this Showbiz & A.G. album came out back in 1992, I never heard it.  I'm not sure if it didn't get enough support from Yo MTV Raps or if I just zoned out for some reason.  I certainly knew the name Showbiz & A.G. from shoutouts on other albums and in the thank you notes of all of the liner notes I used to pour through looking for new groups to listen to.  For whatever reason, these guys slipped through the cracks and it was only very recently that I listened to them first time.

What I can say conclusively is that I would have absolutely loved Showbiz & A.G. in 1992.  In 2020, I think they're pretty great as well.  They have a really welcoming familiar vibe to their music.  It fits in with the sort of hip hop that I like to listen to, but still manages to stay very unique.  If there's an act I think would be a solid comparison, it would be to Black Sheep, and that's not just because Dres from Black Sheep guests on "Bounce Ta This.".  While Showbiz & A.G. don't have a smash hit on their hands like "The Choice Is Yours," the album as a whole is more consistent and there are more highs.

While I typically have been using Wednesdays as an opportunity to write about records I've been listening to twenty five plus years, I've also been checking out some other records from the era that I may have missed the first time around.  Runaway Slave is one of the best of these that I've heard and if anyone else didn't catch these guys the first time around, this is definitely an album worth revisiting.

Showbiz & A.G. - Runaway Slave (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, March 23, 2020

World's Fair - We Can't Be Magic LP - Black w/ Orange Swirl Vinyl


Rok Lok (2019)

Back in 2015 I took a chance on a band that got an Archers of Loaf comparison in a review that I read.  While that comparison never really made a ton of sense to me, I did end up enjoying that first World's Fair record quite a bit.  After their debut release, they went kind of quiet and to be honest, I just assumed they had broken up or something like that.

Imagine my surprise to discover their sophomore LP, We Can't Be Magic.  It does remind me a lot of their first album (which it probably should, as they are the same band after all), but what I see more on this album is a propensity to indulge in a few more Yuck/Built To Spill sort of epic guitar solo leads.  While I am on record as not being a huge fan of extended guitar wanking, it is done tastefully throughout the course of the record as it tends to add depth to the songs, rather than overshadow them.

There is an unmistakeable 90s vibe to this record and for that I can only applaud the band.  If you are looking for a little slab of indie rock that will evoke your memories of twenty five years ago, giving this World's Fair album a spin would likely be a good idea.

World's Fair - We Can't Be Magic:

Friday, March 20, 2020

Iron Chic / Toys That Kill - Split 12"


Dead Broke / Recess (2019)

While I have mentioned in the past that split 12"s are not my preferred medium to enjoy music, it is hard to complain about that too much when presented with a release like this.  Would I rather have a new full length by each band? Probably.  But would I have preferred this to be a split 7" with less songs? No, I don't think that I would, despite the fact that in general I think the split 7" is a far superior way to have two bands share a release.  In this specific instance, I wouldn't want to cut any of the songs from either band.

Iron Chic has become so woven into the fabric of my record collection that I typically use them as a reference point when trying to describe other bands.  The way they combine their hook filled driving music with anthemic vocals is such an incredible talent.  The other thing that is equally impressive is how consistently great their songs tend to be.  There's very seldom any dip in quality.  They're a goddamn hit machine.  The four songs they contribute to this split are as strong as anything else in their catalog.  In particular, "Kid Icarus" stands out to me as the best of the bunch.  It's so catchy that the entire song feels like a bunch of choruses put together instead of wasting time with something pesky like verses.

Toys The Kill are one of those bands that I always tend to like when I hear them, though they're not one that I typically buy every single release of that I see.  I'm not sure why that is though, as they tend to be one of the more creative and interesting bands in the corner of punk rock that I tend to gravitate towards.  Their contributions to this split are no exception as there are songs that are quite varied in style and tempo.  You'll have the caveman stomp rhythm of a song like "The Cut Up Boy" that transitions right into a song like "Where Have All The Kids Gone," which is structured much more like a straight up pop song.  No matter what they attempt, they always seem to pull it off and that's a unique talent that very few bands can lay claim to.

Iron Chic / Toys That Kill - Split 7"

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Kool Moe Dee - Funke Funke Wisdom LP


Jive (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.

I only ever had one Kool Moe Dee record when I was younger and it was Funke Funke Wisdom.  As with so many albums of that era, I picked it up based on a video that was played pretty frequently on Yo MTV Rap.  That song was "Death Blow," an LL Cool J diss track that was pretty much a direct response to LL's "Mama Said Knock You Out."  "Death Blow" plays off of the same sort of boxing motif and while the song wasn't ever as popular as "Mama Said," it's arguably just as strong and is my favorite Kool Moe Dee track by a country mile.

That's not to say that there aren't other tracks worthwhile on the album.  Kool Moe Dee has a gruff and rugged delivery with strong rhyme structure with one foot in an old school vibe and the other in the creative peak of the golden era.  The beats are mostly hard hitting with funk samples and DJ scratching in the breaks, but it's really the lyrical flow of Kool Moe Dee that is the main draw of Funke Funke Wisdom. That said, even the wordplay of Kool Moe Dee can't salvage a handful of the slower songs that do drag down the album in places.  The lest said about the smooth jazz of "How Kool Can One Blackman Be" the better.

What's interesting to me is that Kool Moe Dee apparently thinks this is his worst album and in many ways it began his fall from hip hop grace.  Perhaps it's because it is the album of his that I'm most familiar with, but I would disagree with Dee's assessment. I had to pick this up on vinyl and I actually found a copy on eBay that was still sealed.  If that was because some others don't like the album as much as I do, so be it.

Kool Moe Dee - Funke Funke Wisdom (full album playlist)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Fire Heads / Sex Scenes - Split LP


Big Neck (2019)

While the split 7" is one of my favorite vessels for hearing new bands, I've been less enthused by split LPs over the years.  I feel like I would probably prefer both bands put out full albums rather than go for the half measure.  Plus there's always the confusion of where the record sits in the record collection.  I tend to file it with the records of the band that I like the best, but I'd just rather not have to deal with it.  Split 7"s don't bug me the same way, for whatever reason.

I have heard Fire Heads before and actually reviewed another one of there records that Big Neck had sent me a few years ago.  While I didn't love them, there were a handful of poppy songs that kept me interested.  Their side of this split LP starts off with some really fast guitar riffage and some vocal cord shredding.  Things don't stray too far from that for the remaining five songs that they've contributed.  I liked the last LP that I had heard better.  The songs on this split are a bit much for me.

On the Sex Scenes side of this LP, we've got some old fashioned, stomping caveman punk rock.  The drums pound, the singer yells and the songs are all short.  One this I can say is that minimal guitar chords were killed during the making of their side.  This sort of punk rock has never been my thing.  There's just not enough melody to keep my interest, though I know plenty of folks that would probably love this.

Fire Heads / Sex Scenes - Split LP:

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Lords of the Underground - Here Come The Lords 2xLP


Music On Vinyl / Universal (2018)

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 actually didn't think that Lords of the Underground were the sort of band that would warrant a Music On Vinyl reissue of their albums.  I just sort of thought they were one of those great groups from the early 90s that were destined to be forgotten.  Not necessarily for any justifiable reason, it's just that the sands of time don't always treat everyone kindly.  I'm very happy to be wrong and the ability to pick up a slick, high quality version of this album on wax is great news.

Like just about all 90s golden era hip hop, I discovered Lords of the Underground from Yo MTV Raps.  Specifically the song "Funky Child."  While I don't remember seeing it played frequently, I saw it enough times that the main horn riff sample (from James Brown's "My Thang") was lodged in my head pretty quickly.  It's still my favorite Lords song all of these years later, but they were not a one hit wonder, the entire album is really strong, particularly when looking back on it with twenty five plus years of hindsight.

This is a group that did a tremendous job on the production of their songs.  The beats are always full sounding and hard hitting.  When combined with the fast paced lyrical flow, it creates songs that are head nodders, but are also really fun.  The lyrics are dynamic and it really sounds like the band had a good time making this record.  I have to say that I am not as familiar with the band's second album, Keepers of the Funk, but I think I should probably give that one another chance as Here Come the Lords holds up really well.

Lords of the Underground - Here Come the Lords (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, March 9, 2020

Mammals - Look Around You 7"


Lamont (2020)

Mammals were kind enough to send me this 7" as they found my website through The Pretty Flowers.  Now, considering how much I love The Pretty Flowers, there was no way I wasn't going to immediately throw this 7" on the turntable.  Luckily the music lived up to the hype I created for this band in my head.

The first comparison that comes to mind is due to the way the jangly guitars come bouncing out of the speakers.  I can't not hear The Yolks when this record is spinning.  But there is a major difference when it comes to the vocals.  Where The Yolks employ a fuzzed out garage-y croon, Mammals are more focused on a clean delivery with some tasteful harmonies thrown in during the chorus.  In fact, the vocals do remind me a bit of The Pretty Flowers in the way that the melodies interact with the chord progressions.  However the styles of music are quite different and where The Pretty Flowers can veer into Built To Spill style indie rock, Mammals keep things a bit more streamlined.

I really dig this 7" a lot and am glad that the band thought to send it to me.  They have two other 7"s out as well and while their bandcamp page says they like 7"s and '"Small, digestible chunks of music," I certainly wouldn't mind hearing these guys take on a full LP.

Mammals - Look Around You 7":

Friday, March 6, 2020

Armchair Martian - S/T Demo Tape


Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

I vividly remember Armchair Martian popping up in 1996.  I bought their first 7" at Flipside in Pompton Lakes NJ.  I really dug it and that's good news for this cassette as all three songs from that 7" are also on this reissue of Armchair Martian's first demo tape.  Of the other two songs, one of them appeared on the first AM full length and I believe the last one, "Dumb," is exclusive to this tape.

Armchair Martian were always a solid band.  They lean towards the melodic side of pop punk and like Brown Lobster Tank from earlier in the week, they have a lot in common with the Cruz style sound that was a fun thing back in the 90s.  You can hear some of the Big Drill Car sound, particularly in the guitar tone and big chunky riffs that make up the backbone of these songs.  These songs do hold up really well, though it probably helps matters that three of them are ones I've been pretty familiar with for quite some time.

It's a neat thing to have this cassette reissued and it's a cool thing to add to the collection.  But if Snappy Little Numbers really wants to blow some minds, let's get a vinyl reissue of the first Armchair Martian LP.  That's something my collection could really use.

Armchair Martian - S/T Demo Tape:

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Del The Funky Homosapien - Future Development 2xLP


Hiero Imperium (2002, 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.

As I have mentioned in the past, Del The Funky Homosapien is my all time favorite hip hop artist.  His second album, No Need For Alarm, was a seminal record for me and is definitely the sort of album I'd post a picture of on Facebook if someone asked me to play one of those games where I have to list the albums most influential to me.  After that album, Del was dropped from Elektra and retreated to the underground.  He reappeared in 1998 and put out Future Development on cassette as one of the first releases of the newly launched Hiero Imperium record label.

I mail ordered that album when I was in college along with the second Casual album, Meanwhile.  I never thought that Future Development quite lived up to No Need For Alarm as a whole, but there are some truly incredible tracks on this record and honestly, I like it more now than I did when that tape was initially playing in my car stereo.  I heard an interview with longtime Hieroglyphics producer Domino who said that the final Future Development record was not exactly how it was originally envisioned.  Specifically he had mentioned that the Del track "At The Helm," one of the highest highs of the first Hieroglyphics group album, was one of the songs originally planned for this third full length.

But again, there are hits on here.  Opening track "Lyric Licking" is incredible, with its pumping, low bass line and Del's unique lyrical delivery.  If the rest of the record had production like this, Del would have had another stone cold classic on his hands.  Where I think the album loses me a little is that the beats on the bulk of the album are a little softer than what I had been anticipating.  The hard hitting drums and unique samples were shelved in favor of a sound that can really only be described as mellower.  Lyrically, Del is swinging for the fences every time, and connecting way more than he misses, but it's the beats that leave me wanting more.

However, as I mentioned earlier, the more I've listened to this record over the years, the more I've grown to appreciate the things that make it different.  That, plus the fact that it could be considered the album that launched the modern independent rap scene, makes it a pretty important release in the history of hip hop.

Del The Funky Homosapien - Future Development:

Monday, March 2, 2020

Brown Lobster Tank - Tooth Smoke LP


Dr. Strange (1995)

When my buddy John moved to California, he gave me a handful of LPs that he still had floating around.  Why he kept the few he had, I'll never know, but one of them was this Brown Lobster Tank LP.  I listened to these guys back in the 90s and even held on to one of their 7"s after they changed their band name to just be The Tank.  But I probably hadn't heard this band in twenty three years, best case scenario.

Well, truthfully I like this more than I did back in the 90s.  The competition was much tougher back then and for a band that was heading down the Cruz/Big Drill Car path, why would you get all that excited when actual Big Drill Car was still playing?  In 2020, Tooth Smoke is a refreshing throwback since there aren't really many bands that sound much like this any more.  It's a sound that really isn't en vogue right now, but one that I will always have a soft spot for.

If you have a CD collection with bands like Pollen, Crumb or to a lesser extent All, it's probably worth giving Brown Lobster Tank a listen.  They are definitely in that wheel house and I'm sure these guys flew under the radar for a lot of folks back when there were a lot more bands to choose from in the mid 90s.

Brown Lobster Tank - Tooth Smoke (Full album playlist):

Friday, February 28, 2020

New Japan Pro-Wrestling - The Piano Collection CD


Yamaha (2019)

To those that know me or follow me on Twitter, the fact that I am fairly obsessed with New Japan Pro-Wrestling is not a surprise.  I have been watching it for years and years and they have been a part of some great times in my life.  When this CD was announced towards the end of last year, I pretty much shrugged it off and thought it was a funny idea.  But after I stumbled across the songs and gave them a listen, I knew I had to own this.

This album contains entrance music from New Japan wrestlers, but played on a piano, classical music style.  It really hit me when I listened to this of just how lodged into my brain some of these songs were.  It also hit me that the writing of and musicianship behind these songs was at a much higher level than I originally thought.  When broken down to a single piano, you can really see the complexity of the way lead parts interplay with rumbling low end and chord changes.

Most of the main wrestlers from New Japan have their entrance music represented here.  Pretty much of them work well, with the standouts being the themes of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito and Minoru Suziki's classic, "Kaze Ni Nare."  I told my wife that if this CD had been out when we got married, I would have had to try to get Suzuki's theme into our ceremony.  She disagreed with that statement.  I guess we'll never know.

The one instance where I don't think the piano captures the theme as strongly as some of the others is for the entrance music of Kazuchika Okada.  For some reason the piano version just doesn't quite hit the same highs as the regular version of the music.  Something got lost in translation for this one, but for the other eleven songs, it's pretty impressive what the piano player was able to pull off.

Unfortunately, I can't find any of these songs streaming online.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Da Lench Mob - Guerillas In Tha Mist - Orange w/ Green Splatter Vinyl


Get On Down / EastWest (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 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.

In 1993, my aunt asked me what I wanted for a holiday.  I assume birthday or Christmas, but I can't remember which as they are both in December and that was a long damn time ago.  I told her that I wanted this album by Da Lench Mob.  Instead, she got me a CD by a band called Lynch Mob that had a bunch of dudes with long glam rock hair on the cover.  I remember having the feign some sort of enthusiasm while opening it and then having to explain what I had actually wanted.  In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have asked anyone to buy my this album.  The grownups were bound to not understand what I was after.

While I definitely saw the video for Guerillas In Tha Mist on Yo MTV Raps, what actually drew me to the group the most was that Del The Funky Homosapien had been part of Lench Mob when they were a crew with Ice Cube.  In 92/93, I had no internet so I didn't really know if Del was on this album at all or not, so the only way to find out for sure was to get it.  Unfortunately Del isn't a part of this, but the record is still a really fun listen, especially when it goes into extreme points of over the top ridiculousness.

Anyone who has seen the video for the title track knows what I'm talking about.  Ice Cube and Da Lench Mob standing around in the woods with Predator style heat signature visual effects.  They're rapping about King Kong and Godzilla and Tarzan.  Then there's this part where Ice Cube loses his mind and starts going on about "With a boom ping, ping/listen to the ill shit that I bring, bring." It's all kind of insane, but it works and is helped by how great the underlying beat and production is.  Shorty can also hold his own on the mic and leads the lion's share of this album.

All of the songs are solid, but I would never say this is an all time classic, must have album.  It's really good and I think it holds up pretty well all things considered.  There are important issues tackled in the lyrics on quite a few songs, but it is so over the top and weird at times that it's hard to take in the messages with all of off center imagery and general strangeness that takes place.  That said, it is still entertaining to listen to and I was pretty psyched when the reissue came out last year.

Da Lench Mob - "Guerillas In Tha Mist":

Da Lench Mob - "Freedom Got An A.K."

Monday, February 24, 2020

Polvo - S/T LP - Green Vinyl


Merge (2019, Reissue)

Now that it is completed and has wrapped up, I feel pretty confident in saying that the Merge Born Under A Good Sign 30th anniversary subscription thingy was not an effective way to spend my money.  When I originally signed up for it, I mainly did so assuming there would be an exclusive Superchunk release.  And while that did happen, I was pretty disappointed that the exclusivity was only the color of vinyl it was pressed on.  Not to mention it was an acoustic reinterpretation of the album Foolish that, while interesting, is not something I expect to listen to all that much.  The rest of the subscription's offerings ranged from 'pretty ok' to 'this is kind of terrible.'

That brings us to Polvo, a band who at no time have I really understood.  With apologies to my buddy Scott, I have never been able to figure out what Polvo brings to the table that I can't get a better version of from other indie rock bands of the 90s.  Their claim to fame seems to be the way they bring in noisy passages and noodle-y guitar solos to their songs.  Archers of Loaf do that much better on their first two albums, plus they hit with significantly stronger hooks and vocal melodies.  The times that Polvo did actually stand out to me, it was usually in a bad way.  I did a radio show in college with a guy named Todd.  He loved him some Polvo and I tended to only notice them when he played something terrible of theirs.

All that said, the songs on this LP (which is an LP reissue of songs from some of their early 7"s) is probably the best of Polvo that I've heard.  I suppose this was before the band got a little too nutty and these songs tend to be a bit more straightforward in a low-rent Archers sort of way.  Nothing really stands out to me as great, but these are average indie rock songs that aren't offensive or anything.  The green vinyl is exclusive to the subscription, but but the album is floating around out there on black vinyl for sale online and in stores.  Me? I've already sold this green version on Discogs.

Polvo - S/T

Friday, February 21, 2020

Alpha Hopper - S/T LP - Coke Bottle Clear Vinyl


Radical Empathy / One Percent Press / Swimming Faith (2019)

I wanted to like this album more than I actually do.  One Percent Press has put out some really cool records over the years and I'm always grateful that they take the time to send some to me to check out every now and again.  I also really like the colorful artwork and palm trees on the front cover.  Not too mention the little note that was packaged in with the album made reference to all of the Weird Al reviews I did last year.  It was a charming little package and I went in with positive expectations.

Unfortunately, the tunes are a little too out there for me.  It's an arty style of punk rock with dissonant chords and vocals that veer a bit too much into yelling for my personal taste.  There are elements of the song construction that are positives, such as the Unwound style riffage, but there's also a few unnecessary sound effects/synths that spoil the party for me on a few tracks.

One of the things I have liked about bands like Unwound was their ability to go from quite whispers to uncontrolled roars in a surprising, but totally effective way.  Alpha Hopper seems to be stuck on loud throughout the record and it's missing some of the dynamics I look for when venturing out of my pop punk bubble.  In particular, the vocals just seem to sound the same to me on every song, regardless of what the music is doing.  As a whole, it's not a bad record, but it's somewhat one dimensional and it just isn't my cup of tea.

Alpha Hopper - S/T:

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

EMPD - Unfinished Business 2xLP


Priority / UMe (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 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.

1992's Business Never Personal is my EPMD record.  It's the first one I heard and is one of my favorite hip hop records of all time.  When it came out while I was in high school, I was pretty obsessed with it.  But EPMD broke up shortly thereafter and I didn't really explore their back catalog at the time.  It wasn't until the early 2000s that I decided to backtrack a little bit and try out some of the others.

While many point to their debut, Strictly Business as a classic, in my mind it was on Unfinished Business where I see EPMD first stand out as something really special.  The production is light years ahead of their debut and both Erick Sermon and Parish Smith are significantly more comfortable on the microphone.  Their flows hit a little harder and you can feel a growing energy that wasn't as present on the laid back delivery of Strictly Business.

EPMD is one of those groups that I think just got better and better as they progressed (at least until their first break up, their reunion albums after that have never really hit me the same as the first four).  Their third album, Business As Usual, is even better than this one (I'm still looking for a nice copy of that record on vinyl as it isn't one that's been reissued in the last few years) and their fourth album is my favorite of the bunch.  Still, all of them are worth checking out as they are integral building blocks of the golden era of hip hop.

EMPD - Unfinished Business (Full album YouTube playlist):

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Suitesixteen - Mine Would Be The Sun - 2xLP


Self Released (2020)

The Suitesixteen is a project that Rob Nesbitt has been working on for quite some time.  You may know Rob from his work in Bum, one of my all time favorite bands.  They have a little slice of perfection called Wanna Smash Sensation and I highly recommend you check that album out if you haven't heard it before.

I have heard Rob talking about this record for years in interviews and social media posts.  You can feel the passion he has for it and see the work he has poured into it.  Mine Would Be The Sun is very much his magnum opus.  To be honest, I was worried about how the album would actually turn out.  The way that Rob has spoke of it over the years, you could tell it was super important to him and he was in deep.

My concern was that it would lose the energy and fun that made Bum such an enjoyable listen.  Often when an artist really dives into a project like this they can very easily fall into traps of self indulgence and over thinking things.  I was worried this might turn into another example of someone with an upbeat band take things in completely the opposite direction and write a bunch of sad sack songs.  How many times have you seen a solo record turn out shit because the artist was trying to make it more important than what they did with their band?

I can happily report that Rob avoided all of these pitfalls and has released an absolute classic of an album.  It retains all of the spark that made Bum work, but still manages to further his songwriting and storytelling abilities.  This is a record about the sort of love, heartache and loss that you experience when you are young.  Those emotions hit so much differently when you are in your teens or early twenties and you find yourself feeling, saying and doing things that sometimes don't make sense when you look back through more experienced eyes.

Rob has documented those triumphs and follies throughout the course of this album's sixteen songs.  In some ways it may be the most perfect embodiment of youthful longing that I've ever heard.  It resonates with feelings I had when I was nineteen that I look back on wondering what I was doing.  But at the same time, they're experiences I wouldn't change as they were part of the journey that got me to the present day.

The best part about this album is while Rob is telling these stories, the music rules.  This isn't an album full of somber, melancholy songs.  These are songs that sound like they could be on a Bum record in 2020.  The vast majority are uptempo with the sort of driving rhythm section and punky chord progressions that were so prevalent in the 90s.  At the same time, there's more of a power pop vibe than Bum typically presented.  The vocal harmonies are Electric Light Orchestra level glorious and bring the hooks and choruses to new heights.

Plus there is the simply insane artwork.  Triple gatefold.  52 page booklet.  Double LP.  Lyrics.  The whole shebang.  It's one of the most insane packaging set ups you'll find.  Though I will say, I wish the band name and album title were on the spine as I think it's the thickest non boxset spine I've ever seen in my life.  That minor issue aside, this is such an amazing package for an amazing album.  It's set the bar extremely high for 2020 and I'm unsure how another record is going to beat it for album of the year.

The Suitesixteen - Mine Would Be The Sun:

Friday, February 14, 2020

Gino And The Goons - Off The Rails LP


Big Neck (2019)

Whenever I see a band name that is _____ and the _____, I usually assume there's going to be some garage rock going on.  Gino And The Goods doesn't disappoint my judging of this book by its cover.  We've got ten tracks of stomping, outcast written rock and roll from these folks from Tampa.

For me personally, if you're a band dipping a toe into the garage sound pool, I like it best when you've still got the other foot firmly planted in power pop or pop punk.  My brain needs those hooks.  Gino And The Goons are ankle deep in a garage swamp, though they do cast a spare glance to some pop hooks every so often.  It kind of reminds me of a looser version of some of the songs on the first Sultans record.  Off The Rails has some similar style riffs, but everything is played with a bit more recklessness and some Marked Men-esque vocal fuzz.

I actually like this more than I thought I would the first time I listened to it.  There's the sort of energy that I like, there's enough catchy choruses to keep me engaged and they never take the slop too far and actually go off the rails.  It's a fun listen when you're looking for something brash and in your face, though it's not the sort of album that I would probably go to super frequently.

Gino And The Goons - Off The Rails:

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Cypress Hill - S/T LP - Red Vinyl


Get On Down / Sony /Ruffhouse / Columbia ‎(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 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.

The first dozen or so times I heard the song "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung when I was a kid, I absolutely hated it.  I would cringe when it came on and wanted nothing to do with it.  For whatever reason, that song was omnipresent in 1986 and I just couldn't avoid it.  But a funny thing happened, I started to enjoy it.  I'm not exactly sure how it happened or why I had a change of heart, but I asked my dad to buy me the 7" of it.  I played it to death.  To this day it's my favorite song of the genre of music people are talking about when they say 80s music.

How does Wang Chung play into a Cypress Hill review?  For me, Cypress Hill was a very similar thing.  The first song I heard from their self titled debut was "The Phuncky Feel One" and I saw the video for it quite a bit on Yo MTV Raps.  I really did not like that song and was pretty annoyed that Yo was wasting their very valuable time with this video.  Eventually it went away, but soon after that the video for "How I Could Just Kill A Man" showed up.  Much to my surprise, I was taken in by that song.  While B Real's nasally vocal delivery annoyed me in "The Phuncky Feel One," here it was a real positive and meshed wwell with the more upbeat production.

I ended up buying the album and just played it so, so many times.  It became one of my absolute favorites and to this day I still get a fuzzy nostalgic feeling when I listen to it. I never really liked any of the other Cypress Hill albums as much as this one.  Black Sunday had some good songs on it, but "Insane In The Membrane" kind of got played into the ground back then.  But, this first album is a little slab of perfection and was a key album to pick up as I replace my hip hop CDs with vinyl.

Cypress Hill - S/T (YouTube Playlist):

Monday, February 10, 2020

Doo Rag - Barber Shop Cassette


Self Released (1995)

Doo Rag is one of those bands that I have just loved ever since the moment I first heard them.  The two times I saw them live rank as some of the more memorable shows I have ever seen and I adore  their records, particularly their second album, What We Do.  I've been on the lookout for this cassette for quite some time.  It was self released and sold at shows in 1995, the year before their second full length album was released.

Of the six songs on this tape, five of them would end up on What We Do, but on this cassette every one of them is a different version than the one that would end up on the full length.  We get early takes on some of my favorites like "Kick Walkin," "Mop Down" and "Rectifier."  There's also one song that is only available on this tape, "Barn Pornstar."  That one is more midtempo with a vibe somewhat similar to their song "Crooked," but not as blown out and wild sounding.  "Barn Pornstar" is strong and I'm not sure why it never ended up on anything else.

While Bob Log III has definitely put out some fun releases over the years since Doo Rag disbanded, I've always thought that there was a special magic when he was still playing with Thermos Malling in Doo Rag.  That's the 90s reunion that I want to see.  Someone make it happen.

Doo Rag - Barbershop:

Friday, February 7, 2020

The Wannadies - Yeah LP - Pink Vinyl


Music On Vinyl (2019, Reissue)

I've recently written about the Wannadies albums Be A Girl and Bagsy Me.  I had picked up reissues of each, even though I already had the original pressings of both.  The reason I ended up buying them was actually because I was also purchasing this Wannadies album Yeah.  This is one that I didn't have on vinyl in any capacity and it was a glaring hole in the collection.  I was even fortunate enough to get the limited pink vinyl version.

While I do like pretty much every Wannadies album, I consider Yeah to be the last of the big three releases of theirs.  It's not as good as Be A Girl or Bagsy Me, I think in party because it's a bit more adventurous than the band typically was.  More risks are taken and there's a lot of extra 'stuff' in many of the songs.  But even with the extracurricular electronic noises, you can't change the fact that few bands on this planet could write hooks as catchy as The Wannadies.

The songs I like the best on Yeah tend to be the most straightforward.  "No Holiday," "Idiot Boy," "Ball" and "Big Fan" stand up to anything in the bands catalog.  In particular, "Big Fan" has one of my favorite choruses that The Wannadies ever put to tape.  While Yeah isn't quite as consistently great as some of the band's other records, the highs are really high and it's always a fun listen.  The band's last album, Before & After, wasn't part of this reissue campaign, but that's OK as I already have the vinyl version of that.  I would be interested in someone reissuing the first two Wannadies albums.  While I don't ever listen to either of them as much as the others, for completist purposes, I'd like to be able to add both to the rest of the collection.

The Wannadies - "Big Fan":

The Wannadies - "Idiot Boy"

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Eric B & Rakim - Don't Sweat The Technique 2xLP


UMG/Geffen (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 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.

Eric B & Rakim are one of those revered hip hop artists from the early 90s.  I remember from reading The Source at the time that Rakim was always lauded as one of the top 2 or 3 MCs on the planet back in those days.  My first exposure to them was the title track from the Juice soundtrack "Juice (Know The Ledge)."  After buying said soundtrack I was primed and ready for the song "Don't Sweat The Technique" to be released as a single.  That's the one that prompted me to buy the full album on CD in 1992.

While maybe a slightly unpopular opinion, it has always been my favorite Eric B & Rakim release.  Others sing the praises of Paid In Full and how ahead of the curve it was and others will die on the hill of saying Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em is the best.  But for me, Don't Sweat The Technique is where the beats and production finally caught up to Rakim's lyrics.

Sure the record isn't perfect and in fact starts off with my least favorite song "What's On Your Mind."  It's kind of a slow, sappy track that doesn't showcase Rakim or the group's production chops all that well.  It sounds like a grab at some sort of crossover that never panned out.  But once you get past that, the album is hit after hit.  "Pass The Hand Grenade" and "Casualties of War" are a one-two shot of fierce beats and imagery and are some of the real standouts.  But just as strong are "The Punisher" and "Kick Along."

Though, to this day, my very favorites are "Know The Ledge" and the title track "Don't Sweat The Technique."  All these years later it's striking how perfect these two songs are.  It's kind of funny how they are buried at the back end of the album and it makes me wonder if the fact they had both been out before the album itself led to their placement.  Sequencing aside, this is such a great album.  Eventually I will likely need to add some of the other Eric B & Rakim albums to the vinyl collection, but it was important to me to make sure I added this one first.  It will always be my favorite of theirs.

Eric B & Rakim - Don't Sweat The Technique (Full album playlist):

Monday, February 3, 2020

Hot Snakes - Checkmate 7" - Blue Vinyl


P U (2019)

Oh those Joh Reis bands.  Always putting out records to sell at shows that are difficulty to acquire.  While I am all about a tour only release, it always seems to feel like it is in conjunction with a tour that's not stopping by me.  That just might be me complaining, but I've bought far fewer myself than those that had to be bought for me. 

This 7" was released as part of a UK tour and I was lucky that a friend of mine was willing to pick up a copy.  However, once they got home, Hot Snakes actually sold a handful of these on their website.  That's the first time one of these tour releases was made available online.  I hope that's a trend that continues, or that they make these exclusive releases more available for the East Coast tours.

The two songs on the 7" show once again why Hot Snakes are one of the best bands on the planet.  "Checkmate" is a middle tempo track that reminds me a little bit of "Hair and DNA" as far as the way that the chorus hits.  The verse is a bit more dynamic in the way that the guitars interplay.  "Not In Time" is built off of straight ahead guitar downstroke riffige, maybe a little similar to a song like "Why Does It Hurt?"  Both songs are stellar, just like pretty much everything else in the Hot Snakes catalog.

It makes me wonder if this is leading up towards another album.  Jericho Sirens came out in 2018, so 2020 sounds like a good year for the next record.  I am hopeful that I'll get a new Rocket From The Crypt record at some point, but I'm certainly not going to complain if we get another Hot Snakes release this year.

Hot Snakes - "Checkmate":

Friday, January 31, 2020

Supersuckers - La Mano Cornuda LP


Sub Pop (1994)

Supersuckers are one of those early rock and roll bands that caught my attention in the 90s as I was figuring out the sort of things that I liked most.  They tended to go hand in hand with Rocket From The Crypt in those early days and it was my high school friend Joe that first picked up one of their albums.  Even though the Supersuckers have released about ten thousand records at this point, the only ones that I really like are the first three.  This is likely because they have some strong nostalgia built into them, but also because I think that is when they were at their peak as far as writing songs that appealed to my taste.

I have always thought that La Mano Cornuda was the best Supersuckers album and it starts off with "Creepy Jackalope Eye," my favorite song of theirs.  The building guitar riff and the punchy chorus are a perfect combination and it's a song I always drum along to on the steering wheel of my car when played.  The entire album is pretty strong, with the Supersuckers laying down their version of rock and roll that pulls from garage and punk elements without veering too far from straight up rock.

With all of that said, I don't know if I would like any of their albums if I heard them for the first time today.  They were all something of a time and place sort of thing and my affection for them is very much tied to hearing them for the first time over twenty-five years ago.  Regardless of when, how or why I like them, I so still think their first three albums are a lot of fun.  They've been hard to add to the collection at a reasonable price on vinyl.  I've got the most important one locked in, now I need to get my hands on the other two.

Supersuckers - "Creepy Jackalope Eye":

Supersuckers - "On The Couch":

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Jeru The Damaja - The Sun Rises In The East 2xLP


FFRR / Payday (2009, 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.

The Sun Rises In The East is one of those 1994 hip hop albums that came out as I was starting to lose interest in hip hop as a whole.  The lure of Beck and other new-to-me rock and rollers had the lion's share of my attention by the time that year had come to a close.  But albums like Fear Itself by Casual and Jeru The Damaja's debut definitely caught my ear.

I know that "Come Clean" was released as the first single, but I don't remember hearing that at the time.  "D. Original" was the first song that I heard and it totally captivated me with its beat based on a loop of what sounded like a piano falling over.  The entire album is full of beats like that.  Dark. Perhaps deceptively simple, but DJ Premier lays down an incredible foundation for Jeru to unleash his gritty, unapologetic flow.

I didn't really give this album as much attention as it probably warranted in 1994.  As mentioned before, that was a big transitional year for my taste in music.  As far as hip hop went, I was neck deep in Hieroglyphics albums.  Not to mention Gang Starr's Hard To Earn also came out that year so I had a pretty damn strong album from the DJ Premier side of things as well.  As the years have gone by, I've revisited my Jeru CD quite a bit and have much more of an appreciation for how strong it is.  Adding the vinyl to the collection was a no brainer.

Jeru The Damaja - The Sun Rises In The East (Full Album Playlist):

Monday, January 27, 2020

Cheap Perfume - Burn It Down LP - Blue Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

I wasn't familiar with Cheap Perfume prior to getting this record in the mail from Snappy Little Numbers.  As a label they've got a hell of a track record, so I'm always excited to check out one of their new releases.  When it comes to Cheap Perfume, it's a bit of a mixed bag for me.  There are elements I enjoy and parts that I'm not as into.

Lyrically, I can say that this is a band that puts a ton of thought and emphasis on the message they are conveying.  They deal with sexism, racism, violence, fascism and a myriad of other topics that many bands would shy away from.  They tackle these matters with ferocity and vigor.  The lyrical structures are done extremely well, nothing feels shoehorned in just to make the rhyme scheme work.  There's a narrative to their songs that are really impressive.

Musically, this isn't a band that's really my cup of tea for the bulk of the record.  There's kind of a Pretty Girls Make Graves energy to the songs, though most of them don't have the same sort of hooks.  The big exception for me is "Fauxminism."  This is by far the catchiest song on the record and the vocal melody has the sort of memorable melody that my brain tends to gravitate towards.

A lot of the other songs are more aggressive and sometimes it feels like the dual vocals are fighting rather than complimenting each other.  For the style the band is playing, they do a hell of a job.  It's just not the sort of thing I tend to listen to as much.

Cheap Perfume - Burn It Down:

Friday, January 24, 2020

Singing Lungs - Mutter Cassette


Count Your Lucky Stars (2019)

Whenever I get a cassette, it usually breaks down into one of three situations.  The first is that I already know and like the band, so I had no choice but to buy the cassette since there was no CD or vinyl release.  The second one is that one of those tape labels from Buffalo sent me another weirdo tape from some local band that has way too much yelling in it.  The final scenario is what I've experienced with Singing Lungs.  It showed up in the mail one day, isn't from upstate New York and actually has pretty solid artwork.  I was definitely more intrigued than usual.

That intrigue paid off with a pretty solid listen.  Singing Lungs are playing a relatively poppy strain of punk rock with crunchy Armchair Martian style guitars and earnest vocals that venture into a rootsy territory from time to time.  While I wouldn't classify them as the sort of band that's going to instantly catapult into your favorites list, all five songs are genuinely good and worth a listen.

The band also sent a full CD that I haven't listened to yet.  I figured I'd tackle the tape first at is was newer.  But this EP has left a good impression and I'm excited to check out some more tunes by these guys.

Singing Lungs - Mutter:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Grand Puba – Reel To Reel 2xLP


Elektra (1992)

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.

As I had mentioned when I wrote about the first Brand Nubian album One For All, I don’t remember exactly when I discovered them. I’m pretty sure the first song I heard was the title track from that debut album, but in thinking about things a bit more, it’s actually possible that the first thing I ever heard was the Grand Puba solo debut. I am positive that I was aware that Grand Puba came from Brand Nubian when I first saw the video for "360° (What Goes Around)." I also remember how much I loved that damn song.

"360° (What Goes Around)" immediately made me hunt down the Grand Puba CD and it quickly became a favorite. A lot of the hip hop records from the early 90s are over long with a decent amount of filler. I always thought the records that had shorter track listings always seemed to be better. At fourteen tracks (fifteen on the CD as it also included an extra track featuring Puba’s contribution to the Brand New Heavies album) Reel to Reel is long enough to let Puba spread his wings and tackle a bunch of beats, but it also is short enough where the album isn’t full of unnecessary skits and filler tracks. Aside from a couple of slower beats used on tracks towards the end of the record, it's pretty strong throughout.

Production wise, I love this almost as much as the first Brand Nubian record. The beat are simple, but full sounding with innovative sampling and a vibe that just feels like a party. Lyrically, Puba didn’t often delve deep into complex topics, he tends to come off like he’s freestyling with words that sound really nice together but aren’t delivering a super specific narrative. That said, few match his easy flow and line delivery. I’ve never been someone quite so concerned with the actual lyrics as much as how they sound within the song. Grand Puba kind of mastered that, economical lyrics and beats that somehow come together to equal far more than the sum of their separate parts.

Grand Puba - "360° (What Goes Around)":

Grand Puba - "That's How We Move It":

Friday, January 17, 2020

Sweet Knives - I Don't Wanna Die 2x7"


Big Neck (2019)

I wrote about a Sweet Knives LP a few years ago that I thought was pretty good.  I'll admit to not having listened to it a ton during the interim, but it makes an appearance on a work playlist every so often.  This new double 7" is the first bit of new music from them since that full length and I like it even more than that last record.

These songs feel much poppier to me than the last.  Where before they had a darker vibe, with flourishes of synth, now they've turned those forces towards a catchiness not previously explored.  There is still a lot of downstroking and fuzzy guitar tones, but the synth has been moved to more of a supporting role.  As I'm not a huge fan of synth on the best of days, this is a positive transition for me.  The synthy riffs are still there, but now they are working more in tandem with the vocal melodies.

All four songs are pretty great.  If the band continues to move in this direction, I'll be quite excited to see what they come up with next.

Sweet Knives - I Don't Wanna Die 2x7"

Monday, January 13, 2020

Holy Shit! - Not My Tempo 7"


Snuffy Smiles / Vinyl Smash (2019)

Going into this, I already know that I don't really like Holy Shit.  I have a handful of their split 7"s on Snuffy Smiles and pretty much the only reason I bought this one is because it's a co-release between Vinyl Smash and Snuffy Smiles.  To keep the Snuffy Smiles 7" collection complete, it's a necessary purchase.

Holy Shit play really fast and the singer yells a lot.  It sounds like an older hardcore record, but one that might have been a Berkeley based sound.  There's a little bit of catchiness to their songs and I can tolerate them more than a lot of hardcore bands, but this just isn't for me.  This is a 7" that is truly not my tempo.

I will say that the last couple of years from Snuffy Smiles have been underwhelming.  They haven't put out many records and the ones they have aren't as focused on Japanese bands as I would like.  Still, I have quite a history collecting records from this label, so I'm likely to keep buying them year after year, no matter what band is actually on the record.

Holy Shit! - Not My Tempo 7":

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Wannadies - Bagsy Me LP - Turquoise Vinyl


Music On Vinyl (2019, Reissue)

Music On Vinyl has been reissuing some pretty classic albums from the 90s lately.  In 2019 they did the three best Wannadies albums on colored vinyl.  While I didn't get the colored version of Be A Girl, I was able to get Bagsy Me on turquoise vinyl.

I go back and forth on which of the Wannadies records is my favorite.  Be A Girl has a number of incredible songs, some of my favorites like "Might Be Stars" and "New World Record."  Bagsy Me more than keeps up with hits like "Because," "Someone Somewhere" and "Shorty."  Honestly, they are both pretty perfect and even though I had the original pressings of both, I like these both enough to have reissued 180 gram vinyl versions.

And this version sounds wonderful.  Everything sounds full and clear as day.  The guitars are warm and fuzzy and the vocals cut through the noise with catchy melodies.  I'll never totally understand how they didn't catch on more in America.  Other than "You and Me Song" being on that movie soundtrack and having some notoriety, you never hear of many people extolling the virtues of the Wannadies.  Well, that should stop.  They are an amazing band and I'd put their three album stretch of Be A Girl to Bagsy Me to Yeah up against just about any band's three albums.  They're that great.

Maybe we'll get a 90s nostalgia reunion one of these days.  Though I doubt they'd come to America, I would absolutely be front row for that if it ever happened.

The Wannadies - "Because" (The very beginning is cut off of this on YouTube):

The Wannadies - "Shorty":

The Wannadies - "Hit"

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Casual - Meanwhile... LP


Dope Folks (2016, 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.

Fear Itself by Casual is one of the greatest hip hop records of all time.  Gun to my head and forced to rank my favorites, I'd probably put it at number two on my all time list.  I've listened to that album so many times over the years and it was a real staple of my junior/senior year of high school in 1994.  I didn't hear from Casual again until I was in college.  In 1997 the Hieroglyphics crew had all been dropped from their respective labels and regrouped on the internet to start self releasing their music.  I bought two cassettes from their website; Del The Funky Homosapien's Future Development and Casual's Meanwhile...

Honestly, both felt like a little bit of a let down at the time.  I had moved on from most hip hop by 1997 and even though I was really excited to finally have new music by two of my favorites, it was pretty obvious to me that hip hop's golden era was over.  Over the years I've come to appreciate these records more than I originally did.  Even though Meanwhile doesn't hit the same highs as Fear Itself, it is still a really strong record showcasing Casual's pretty unmatched battle rap prowess.

In 2016 Dope Folks freed this album from tape only purgatory and finally remastered and rereleased it on vinyl.  I was unaware that this had happened at the time and as a result missed out on the red vinyl version.  Still, I'm happy to finally have this album on vinyl and the remastering really helps out the production as it previously had sounded a little thin to me.  The bass is now fuller and the vocals a little crisper than they had been on the original version.

I hadn't listened to this album in a while before picking up this vinyl version.  I'm really glad it was reissued as I'm listening to it again with a bit more context and more of an open mind than I had in '97.  It's a good record, probably the third best one Casual put out (I also really love an early 2000's record of his called Truck Driver).  I'd still like to add the red vinyl version to the collection if I can find one at a decent price, so we'll see if one turns up.

Casual - Meanwhile:

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Best of Godzilla 1954-1975 - Original Film Soundtracks 2xLP


Crescendo (2019)

I love Godzilla movies.  I have since I was a little kid watching them on Saturday and Sunday afternoons on either channel 5, 9 or 11.  Back in the 80s, it was pretty easy to stumble across a Godzilla movie on a weekend afternoon as they played them all the time.  I also ended up with a pretty sizable VHS collection so my brother and I could rewatch them whenever we wanted. While Godzilla didn't really seem to stick in my brother's consciousness, I became a life long fan hunting down bootlegs of the Japanese versions and buying figures, shirts and all sorts of other silly things.  It's only really been over the last fifteen years or so that you could buy legal versions of the Japanese cuts of these movies stateside.

Then there is the music.  I've always loved the soundtracks to the Godzilla movies.  These were impossible to come by when I was a kid.  I remember freaking out as a teenager finding a Godzilla CD in the import section of a Tower records.  It was the first time I was ever able to listen to the music on command.  I also drooled over the Perfect Collection CD box sets that came out in the early 2000s, but they were just way too expensive for me, despite containing nearly every musical note ever played in every single Godzilla movie.  Honestly, I'd still really like to get those if I could ever find them at a decent price.

This double LP is a nice compromise in the meantime.  It compiles music from the Showa series of Godzilla films that ran from 1954 to 1975.  There's at least one suite of music from every Showa Godzilla movie except for Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Godzilla vs the Sea Monster).  Though we do get "Mothra's Song" from the standalone Mothra movie, so it's an OK trade.  Also interspersed throughout the record are various monster sound effects.  These are neat to hear, but kind of disrupt the flow of the music a bit.  They also scare the shit out of my cat.  I could have passed on them in order to have a more cohesive album.

That minor complaint aside, this is a fun collection fo Godzilla tunes that I'm excited to have on vinyl.  While I wish that someone would release all of the individual soundtracks on vinyl (and a couple have come out), I know that is something that is likely never going to happen.  At least this record gives me a taste of the good life.

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Absolute Best Records of the Decade - 2010-2019


After seeing so many other folks list theirs, I thought it would be interesting to try to put together a list of my favorite albums from the past decade.  I discovered some surprising things as I went through everything.

To start, I made a rule that only 1 album per band could be on the list.  Otherwise that darn Steve Adamyk Band would have taken up too many spots.  They are hands down the band of the decade.  Six absolutely killer albums in ten years.  No one else came close to that.  Plus their debut album is my second favorite album of the last ten years.

The most interesting thing that I noticed was that the bulk of the records that mean the most to me weren't the albums that I thought were the number one record of their particular year.  As time went on certain records grew on me more and others faded away a bit.

The other thing that jumped out at me was how great of 2010 was.  There are six records from 2010 in my top twenty of the entire decade.  Taking up almost a third of the entire list seems pretty crazy to me, though in fairness, they did have the longest amount of time for me to become attached to them.  It's hard for a 2019 record to be one of the best of the entire decade, as I've only had a few months to listen to them, though Foxhall Stacks and Shoplifters were on the shortlist as I was whittling down to a top 20.

What isn't crazy to me at all is the fact that the first Mrs. Magician record was my absolute favorite of the past ten years.  When making this list, there was never even a question of that.  It is such a perfect record from start to finish.  I truly believe that it is one of the greatest albums in the history of the earth.

01 - Mrs. Magician - Strange Heaven - Swami
02 - Steve Adamyk Band - Steve Adamyk Band - Ptrash
03 - Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens - Sub Pop
04 - Year Zero - Year One - Ptrash
05 - Dead Mechanical - Addict Rhythms - Toxic Pop
06 - Title Tracks - In Blank - Windian
07 - Leatherface - The Stormy Petrel - Big Ugly Fish/No Idea
08 - The Night Marchers - Allez Allez - Swami
09 - Sonic Avenues - Television Youth - Dirtnap
10 - The Pretty Flowers - Why Trains Crash - Dirt Cult

11 - Boat - Dress Like Your Idols - Magic Marker
12 - Dan Sartain - Dan Sartain Lives - One Little Indian
13 - Bob Mould - Silver Age - Merge
14 - Cloud Nothings - Here And Nowhere Else - Carpark
15 - Superchunk - Majesty Shredding - Merge
16 - Tenement - Napalm Dream -Mandible
17 - The No Marks - Light Of One - Brassneck
18 - Dirtbombs - Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey - In The Red
19 - Chestnut Road - Chestnut Road - Brassneck
20 - Gentleman Jesse - Leaving Atlanta - Douchemaster