Friday, July 3, 2020

Fifteen - Extra Medium Kickball Star (17) LP - Screened Cover (/300)


Dead Broke/Rebel Alliance (2017, Reissue (sort of))

IT never ceases to amaze me how I completely missed Fifteen the first time around.  And this is despite the fact that I've always loved Crimpshrine.  I guess it's just one of those weird cosmic anomalies, but I have enjoyed discovering their records over the last few years.

Extra Medium Kickball Star (17) was originally released in '95 and is the fourth Fifteen full length.  It was originally released on Rebel Alliance records and that ties into this version on Dead Broke.  It seems there were 300 leftover copies of the vinyl that were never sold.  Dead Broke scooped these up, made some fancy new screened artwork and unleashed them back into a very grateful world.  So this isn't really a reissue, but the artwork is new and that makes it a different version from the original pressing.

As far as the album itself goes, I love it.  It has the same rugged charm and big hooks of a Crimpshrine record and I think this is every bit as good as the Choice Of A New Generation LP that was reissued a couple of years ago.  I definitely need to track down the remaining Fifteen records that I don't have.  I think Buzz is next on my list and it looks like that one was reissued a couple of years ago and is still in print...

Fifteen - Extra Medium Kickball Star (17) (Youtube full album playlist):

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Das EFX - Straight Up Sewaside LP - Brown Vinyl (/1000)


Music On Vinyl (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.

I went pretty crazy for the first Das EFX album, Dead Serious, when it came out.  It was a huge favorite, one that I absolutely played to death in 1991.  By the time Das EFX was ready to unleash their follow up in 1993, their unique "diggedy" style had been co-opted and beaten into the ground by other, lesser artists.  Even Casual took aim at this on his Fear Itself album with the line "Enough of these motherfuckers biting Das EFX."

It's pretty clear that Das EFX took this rampant copycatting pretty seriously as they dropped that style completely for Straight Up Sewaside.  The result is a record that is still strong.  They delve into their usual pop culture references and  hit with sludgy beats and upbeat vocal interplay. But for whatever reason, it doesn't feel as playful or as fun as Dead Serious.  That's not even necessarily a bad thing, there's just a different vibe to this album.

When it came out in 1993, I loved it.  In many ways I thought it was an even stronger record than Dead Serious and I remember writing something like that in a review I wrote for my High School newspaper (yes, I've been writing this sort of thing for a long time and no, I can't explain why I'm not better at it than I am).  But as the years have gone by, I'm always drawn back to Dead Serious and don't listen to Straight Up Sewaside anywhere close to the same amount.  Ultimately, it's a strong record, but doesn't tug on my nostalgia the same way their debut record did.

Das EFX - Straight Up Sewaside (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, June 29, 2020

Don Chicharrón - Valle 7" - Brown/Green Translucent Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers / Don Cheech Discos (2020)

First off, I should immediately point out that all proceeds from this fine little 7" benefit Casa de Paz & Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition.  These are organizations dedicated to helping struggling immigrant and that is a cause I can definitely get behind. Especially considering how completely batshit insane things are in this country right now.

Now onto Don Chicharrón.  A side "Valle" is an upbeat instrumental propelled by punch and rhythmic drums.  On top of that is blast of surfy guitar riffing that mixes in perfectly with the salsa-esque beat that drives the song forward.  It's the kind of song that feels cinematic in nature and I can easily imagine it providing the soundtrack to key scene in a movie.  Definitely one where tension is building.

On the B side is "En La Gruta Del Rey De La Montaña."  Another instrumental, this is a cover of a piece of music hat is sometimes also called "In the Hall of the Mountain King" or "I Dovregubbens hall."  You may not know those by name, I sure didn't and had to look them up.  But I assure you that you will know the melody of this piece.  If for no other reason than it's been utilized as cartoon soundtrack music since the beginning of time.  Chicharrón's version ups the frantic nature of this song and once again blasts in some effect laden surfy guitar work.  It's a ton of fun and was a welcome surprise once I hit that side of the record.

Don Chicharrón - Valle 7":

Friday, June 26, 2020

Built to Spill - Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston LP - Clear w/ Yellow & Blue Splatter (/500)


Ernest Jennings (2020)

I love Built to Spill and have for twenty five years or so.  Sure, I tend to favor their records from the 90s, but I've never heard a Built to Spill record that I haven't liked.  They are all just varying degrees of excellent and I tend to rank There's Nothing Wrong With Love and Keep It Like a Secret as the most excellent of the bunch.

However, when we get to their latest, an album of Daniel Johnston cover songs, it's difficult for me to get very excited.  To be blunt, while there's absolutely nothing bad about the album, it's kind of boring.  I'm not sure if that's because of Daniel Johnston's songs or if the execution is simply not very inspiring.  No matter the cause, you just kind of cruise through this light and airy record which has a habit of fading into background noise when you're listening to it.

I am admittedly not particularly familiar with Daniel Johnston's output, so I'm not going to compare these BTS covers to his originals.  All I can do is judge the album in front of me on its own merits and I just keep coming back to the fact that it isn't very exciting.  They just come across as paint by numbers jangle pop songs.  And while I like them, I can't fathom a time where I would look at my Built to Spill records and decide that this is the one I'm going to listen to when all of the others are significantly more interesting.

Built to Spill - Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston:

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Boogie Down Productions - Edutainment LP


Jive (1990)

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.

Edutainment was the most recent Boogie Down Productions full length album that was out when I first started listening to them.  It's never been the album that I tend to go to the most.  I like most of the others better, but I think because of that it always sounds fresh and exciting every time I put it on.

I was never the biggest fan of the album's main single, "Love's Gonna Get'cha," and I think that might be the reason I wasn't as drawn to the album as a whole when I was younger.  But today, when I put on the album and spin through classics like "Blackman in Effect," "Ya Know The Rules" or "The Racist" you get that incredible mix of killer beats with intelligent and well composed lyrics that dominates just about every BDP album.

So maybe this is the least successful of the 5 BDP albums for me, but when you are comparing it to some of the most incredible and well regarded albums in the history of hip hop, you may come up a little short here and there.  That's not to say that Edutainment isn't a classic in its own right, it's just probably not the album I would direct a new fan to first.

Boogie Down Productions - Edutainment (Youtube full album steam):

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Blues Brothers Movie & Soundtrack - 40 Years Old


This past Saturday, June 20th, marked 40 years since the release of my favorite movie of all time, The Blues Brothers.  As best as I can tell, it's also the 40th anniversary of the release of its accompanying soundtrack.  I figured that it would be interesting to take a picture of the 2 versions of the soundtrack that I have along with the various singles that I've collected over the past few years.  Even I was a little surprised of just how many there were when I took this picture.  I have already shared this picture on Twitter and Instagram and the like, but I wanted to take a moment to write a little bit more about it here.

I've had the soundtrack since I was a little kid and absolutely played it to death.  Songs like "She Caught the Caty," "Sweet Home Chicago" and Gimme Some Lovin'" have always been perennial favorites of mine.  Couple that with Aretha Franklin's tremendous rendition of "Think" and Ray Charles' "Shake a Tailfeather" and you've got the makings of something pretty special.

The only things that ever bothered me about this soundtrack are the things that aren't there.  The Blues Brothers' version of "Stand By Your Man" and John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom Boom Boom" are super obvious omissions as is some of the non-Blues Brothers songs played in the background during the movie.  I think that a few contributions from Elmore James and Louis Jordan would only enhance the overall experience of the album.

But the thing that has always bugged me the most is that the version fo "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" is different than what is played in the movie.  The unnecessary addition of backing vocals to the album version has always been a pet peeve of mine.  But despite these grumbles and the wish that this could be a double LP of music, I will always cherish this album along with the movie.  They are both hugely important to me and I have a hard time imagining how my life would have turned out without them.

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Midnight Vein - Till It Explodes 7"


Swimming Faith (2020)

First off, kudos on the artwork.  The see through artwork combined with the yellow insert brushed with wildflower seeds is quite the interesting set up.  This 7" immediately jumped out at me when it came in the mail and enticed me to give it a spin right away.

As far as the music, I quite liked the a side "Till It Explodes."  It's a soft and somewhat dreamy song, but reminded me a little bit of The Beta Band in the way the song just builds up, adding layers of instrumentation as if move forward. Also the vocal melody makes me want to compare this to that And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead song "Source Tags and Code" (The song called that, not the entire album).  Maybe not my typical cup of tea, but I definitely like this.

B side "Run From The Light" doesn't grab me the same way.  It's way too long and doesn't lean on poppier melodies the same way the A side does.  This one's a bit more experimental with effects on the vocals and a repetitive beat structure.  I actually know a lot of people from my college radio days that would love this side of the record, but I'm more interested to see if the band has any more tunes like "Till It Explodes."

The Midnight Vein - Till It Explodes 7"

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

King Geedorah - Take Me To Your Leader 2xLP - Red Vinyl


Big Dada (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 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 thought that this album would be an appropriate follow up to last weeks KMD record.  King Geedorah came out originally in 2003 and was after the former Zev Love X had reemerged as MF Doom.  King Geedorah was another alter ego, this time building an album focused on imagery and sounds from 1960's Toho monster movies.  I'm not above admitting that the only reason I really went out of my way to listen to this in 2003 was because of the Godzilla references.

Luckily, my allegiance to kaiju was rewarded as Take Me To Your Leader ranks up amongst my very favorite 'newer' hop hop releases.  Yes, I realize calling a seventeen year old record 'new' is a bit of a stretch, but as I've mentioned, pretty much any hip hop record that catches my interest after 1994 feels like a newer record to me.  The beats are very innovated and mix in kitschy sound effects with lush strings and beats.  In some ways it reminds me of another favorite, Beauty and the Beat by Edan in the way the beats are constructed.  But Take Me To Your Leader has the advantage of dialog from Xilien Controller.

I don't like everything the MF Doom churns out.  I've heard plenty that doesn't catch my ear for one reason or another. For me, King Geedorah ranks just under KMD if I'm ranking these related projects.  It's a totally different animal than KMD, but succeeds due to its excellent premise and flawless execution.  I'd sure like a follow up release at some point.

King Geedorah - Take Me To Your Leader (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, June 15, 2020

Facility Men - It's Fun To Disappear LP


Big Neck (2019)

This is another album that's been sitting around far too long waiting for me to give it a spin.  As I've mentioned, the current situation of the world and the lack of spare cash I have to spend on records is having the slightly positive benefit of helping me clear out the backlog.  This album came out in mid 2019, but I don't think I've been sitting on it for a whole year.  Either that or I've completely lost rack of time.

I've actually heard Facility Men before.  Back in 2016, I wrote about their demo tape that came out on More Power tapes.  I had written then that I was a little disappointed as the music was good, but I wasn't that into the vocals.  For their debut full length on Big Neck, the vocals are massively improved.  This time out I'm reminded a bit of The Estranged in how the vocals mix with the angular, almost Unwound-esque guitar attack.

Facility Men have shown so much growth since their tape from a few years ago.  My lukewarm reaction to that cassette is one of the things that kept me putting this LP on the back burner. Well, that was pretty dumb.  There's a lot to like about It's Fun To Disappear and it makes me eager to see where the band goes next.

Facility Men - It's Fun To Disappear:

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

KMD - Mr. Hood 2xLP


Traffic/Elektra (2004, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 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.

The first time I had heard of KMD was when Zev Love X made a guest appearance on the 3rd Bass song Gas Face.  I can't say that the first KMD full length, Mr. Hood, was on may radar as soon as it came out, but in the intervening years, I've become a really huge fan of this album.  Zev Love X made a far bigger splash in the hip hop community when he disappeared and reemerged as MF Doom, but for me, the KMD albums records are the cream of his crop.

The thing that I like best about Mr. Hood is the storytelling aspect as the songs are strung together with dialogue between KMD and the fictional Mr. Hood, which is primarily strung together using samples from some woefully out of date children's storytelling records and some English language instructional records.  While skits on hop hop records are not always my favorite, these serve a greater narrative purpose than the randomly tossed in comedy skit.

The beats on this record are bouncy and upbeat, a perfect slice of golden era hip hop production.  Combine that in with stellar rhymes and the aforementioned narrative and you've got yourself a real classic.  It is criminally under appreciated despite the relative success and notoriety that MF Doom has achieved.  KMD had one other album called Black Bastards that was pulled by Elektra prior to release.  It floated around bootleg circles for years until finally getting a proper reissue.  That one is still on my list of vinyl to pick up once finances allow for the purchase of more records.

KMD - Mr. Hood (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, June 8, 2020

BOAT - Tread Lightly LP - Pink Vinyl


Magic Marker (2020)

It was really nice to get the new BOAT album in the middle of all of the pandemic lockdown stuff.  It was a brief respite from the never ending stream of bad news and felt like a small piece of normalcy had returned.  It's been a while since the last Boat (I'm not going to capitalize BOAT every single time) record and while they never said they had broken up, I wasn't sure we'd see another one.  Especially as members were involved in other projects over the past few years.

Luckily they did put out another album, and it's a stellar one to boot.  Tread Lightly fits perfectly into their catalog showcasing their ability to write 90s sounding indie rock songs that beg you to ignore the alphabet and put their albums on your record shelf right next to Pavement.  Right in the midst of  their casual sounding guitar riffs and song structures, they also sneak in lyrical genius.  I for one really appreciate songs about getting old and the life that follows.

It's weird watching myself and other people my age get older without having done a lot of growing up and it's nice to have that sort of thing articulated by people who are a lot smarter than I am.  What it boils down to is this album speaks to me.  I'm so happy that there is a band that not only can capture the sounds of one of my favorite eras of music, but can also use those vibes to put into words some of the oddness I feel as a forty three year old who still worries about missing out on action figure preorders.  And no, that specific topic is not one covered on this album.  Maybe next time.

Boat - Tread Lightly:

Friday, June 5, 2020

Mammals - This Sound 7"


Lamont (2017)

When Mammals sent over their most recent 7", Look Around You, they were kind enough to toss in their first two singles as well.  This Sound is the first of the two and is another example of some really great, straightforward jangle guitar pop songwriting.

A side "This Sound" certainly has a 60s vibe to it with its repetitive guitar riff and thunderous kick drum.  There's no reinvention of the wheel going on here, but that isn't to insinuate that Mammals are trapped in a decade from over half a century ago.  For me, what it does is showcase the fact that songs don't need to have overly complicate structures or other pyrotechnics to stand out.  There's something compelling about a back to the basics simple and catchy song.

But then things pick up even more with the B side "No Easy Way."  And while I oddly hear similarities to a few songs from the 2003 Sean Na Na album My Majesty (a sorely overlooked pop gem, by the way), it's impossible not to get caught up in the song's punchy verses and big hook of a chorus.  Of the two songs, it's my favorite.  I'll write something up about the last 7" I have of there's in the upcoming weeks.

Mammals - This Sound 7"

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Ice Cube - Amerikkkas Most Wanted LP


Priority (1990)

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.

This seemed like a somewhat appropriate record with all of the insane bullshit going on right now, though maybe it isn't and I'm being completely tone deaf.  Apologies if that's the case.  I'm not going to pretend that I have anything enlightening or profoundly deep to say, but I can say that it's a really depressing time to be in America right now.  One of the things that really jumps out at me about this record is that it came out in 1990, which is thirty years ago.  How things haven't gotten better is a real downer.

Ice Cube's debut is one of the more celebrated debuts in the history of hip hop.  Even if he never put out another record after the equally excellent Death Certificate, that album and this one would have been plenty to cement Cube's legacy.  Lyrically, not everything has aged well, though you could say that about plenty of albums from the 80s and 90s, but when Ice Cube gets political and tells stories about day to day living, he paints a hell of a picture.

The beats were primarily done by the Bomb Squad, mostly known for their work with Public Enemy.  They captured the perfect blend of hard hitting east coast beats to complement Ice Cube's west coast delivery.  It bridged a gap and you could argue that it was one of the only albums of the era that couldn't easily be pinned down to the geographic region of the artist.

I'm not entirely sure what version of this LP I bought.  Per Discogs, the catalog number, barcode and all that matches the original 1990 pressing, but it's in way too good condition to actually be that old.  There must have been a repress at some point that wasn't tied into the Respect The Classics series and I assume this is one of those, but I'm not entirely positive.

Ice Cube - Amerikka's Most Wanted LP (YouTube full album playlist):

Friday, May 22, 2020

Ultimate Fakebook - The Preserving Machine LP


Sonic Ritual (2020)

I'm not sure exactly what was behind Ultimate Fakebook putting out their first new full length record in eighteen years, but here we are.  Considering how long it's been since they had new material and also keeping in mind that I really didn't enjoy their 2002 record Open Up and Say Awesome all that much, I honestly wasn't chomping at the bit to order this.  I feel guilty saying this since they are PopKid records alumni, but it's the truth.

I sort of was taking a wait and see approach to find out if I actually liked the songs before committing to the vinyl.  This was before the pandemic curtailed my record buying budget, but I still didn't want to pony up for a record that I would only listen to once or twice.  Then I was outfoxed on Twitter.  As the preorder sold more and more copies, the band started alerting the world that only a few copies remained and started counting them down.  The fear of missing out got to me and I actually bought the very last copy from the Bandcamp site.

Luckily, I do like the record.  Though this surely sounds like a backhanded compliment, The Preserving Machine is way better than it has any business being.  It has the punch and melody of the songs from their best album This Will be Laughing Week on tracks like "After Hours and Melin's," Manhattan KS," "Hey Gemini" and "My Music Industry."  Now, when the band get's overtly slow with their tempo (I'm looking at you "Juliet's Fools"), I can't say that I'm as on board as I am for the faster songs.  Luckily, there's plenty of rockers on the album and no matter what was behind the band deciding to record new material, I'm glad they did and that I picked up a copy.  Real drums forever, indeed.

Ultimate Fakebook - The Preserving Machine:

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

EPMD - Business As Usual LP


Def Jam (2000, 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, EMPD's 1992 album, Business Never Personal, will always stand out as one of the best hip hop albums of all time.  It's always been my favorite by EPMD and was also the first record that I had ever owned of theirs.  As the years went by, I did eventually grab all of their first four records and am in the process of replacing CDs with the vinyl.

I grabbed this album off of Discogs a couple of months ago and while the condition isn't spotless, I did get it for a good price.  I'll probably need to upgrade it at some point. Perhaps as we get close to its thirtieth anniversary we'll get a reissue.  But for now, I'm happy to sit back and absorb the rhymes of Erick Sermon and Parish Smith.

Business as Usual features incredible production, maybe not quite as rough and ready as what's featured on Business Never Personal, but the beats still hit hard.  It's one of those albums that has a head nodding rhythm and Erick and Parish make the most of the atmosphere, handing the mic back and forth and putting down some of their trademark self aggrandizing lyrics.  Add in some guest spots from a young Redman and a not quite past-his-prime LL Cool J and you've got a pretty solid 1990s hip hop album.  Maybe not the cornerstone of a collection, but an album that deserves more accolades than I think it typically receives.

EPMD - Business As Usual (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, May 18, 2020

A House Safe For Tigers - Space Between LP


Headless Actor (2019)

I sat on this record longer than I probably should have.  That's probably going to be a recurring theme over the next few weeks or months.  I'm not really buying much in the way of new records and I'm finally getting around to some records that were sent to me to review.  Having listened to, and not been particularly impressed with A House Safe For Tigers' 2015 LP, I wasn't in a real rush to tackle this newest one.

Described as chamber pop, this sort of sleepy time and lush music isn't really the type of thing I get particularly excited about.  It's pleasant enough and the band has crafted some nice melodies and atmospheres, but nothing about it grabs me.  It's quintessential background music. The sort of thing that if it was playing in a waiting room, you wouldn't even know that it's there.

I'm sure there's an audience A House For Tigers.  Back when I did radio promotion, we worked all sorts of records like this from bands on Polyvinyl and Tiger Style. Mature emo is the vibe I get from these records.  If you're into that scene, A House Safe For Tigers will fit in to your collection nicely.

A House Safe For Tigers - Space Between:

Friday, May 15, 2020

Spit Kink - Yes To Everything 7"


Feral Kid (2020)

This record is actually a lathe cut 7" of the band's cassette demo.  I'll take any kind of vinyl over a cassette, so kudos to the label for that one.  That said, this isn't a record for me.

It's a bunch of drum machine style beats with some bass, a few electronic flourishes and distorted, spoken word style vocals.  It's honestly kind of annoying.  I'm not exactly sure who listens to this sort of thing.  I try to be open minded when I get a record sent to me to write about, but there are moments where all I can really do is shrug my shoulders and move on to the next one.

I'm at a loss for words, other than it kind of reminds me of what that band in the High Fidelity movie sounds like.  You know, the Kinky Wizards.  Also of note, every song starts with a gong blast. Why? I don't know. Best I can do is tell you to go to the Bandcamp link and give it a whirl.  Maybe you'll see something that I don't.

Spit Kink - Yes To Everything:

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Jurassic 5 - Quality Control 2xLP


Get On Down (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.

Jurassic 5 is an interesting group to me.  I will always associate them as something separate from the Golden Era of hip hop, though at this point, that seems a little weird since this album is somehow twenty years old now.  My first exposure to Jurassic 5 was seeing them the 1999 CMJ Music Marathon when I attended as the music director of my college radio station.  That was the year that a hurricane hit the NYC area and flooded roads made coming back to NJ a real disaster.  I remember a little bit about the show, but it was mostly an Interscope schmooze-fest.   I do remember liking J5 enough that they left an impression, something that was difficult for most hip hop acts to do with me in 1999.

Quality Control was released in mid 2000 and when it came out I was so shocked to hear a record that sounded so much like the early 90s hip hop albums I adored so much.  I definitely didn't remember Jurassic 5 being this good the one time I saw them play, but on Quality Control, they blew away all of my expectations and essentially created the first hip hop album that I listened to by a group that didn't already have a record come out before 1994.

The way the group linked up interesting beats with mic trading lyrics and combined that with some group harmonizing was something that I hadn't really heard before.  But it was this kind of innovation that epitomized the early 90s and I saw J5 as a bit of a mix between Tribe Called Quest, Souls of Mischief and BDP.  Twenty years later, Quality Control still stands tall as a pretty incredible album, though it is the only J5 record that I tend to listen to.  I have their first EP and second full length on CD, but they're not as good.  Ultimately it seems like Quality Control was that lightning-in-a-bottle moment where everything came together and Jurassic 5 was able to unleash a classic.

Jurassic 5 - Quality Control (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, May 11, 2020

Dead Ex - Tokyo Beautiful Mess CD


DEX (2018)

Dead Ex is one of the many wonderful bands that Kazu from Waterslide has recommended to me.  While they actually have more of an American sound to them than most of the Japanese bands I tend to listen to, they still manage to inject an energy into their songs that sets them apart from other bands that are dabbling in this genre.

If I'm going to make an easy comparison, it's going to be that Dead Ex are traveling a path similar to Iron Chic or RVIVR.  Most songs are extremely melodic with powerful anthemic vocals and a good amount of "whoa's" and other gang style backing vocals. But then Dead Ex changes things up and breaks out an acoustic guitar and throws down a rootsy style song that sounds like what I imagine the Gaslight Anthem could sound like if they were actually good.

While this isn't one of those bands that I think everyone in the world should immediately seek out and buy, for those that tend to favor the type of punk rock that bands like Iron Chic are peddling, this EP will fit into your collection quite nice.

Dead Ex "Just One Time Anthem":

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Extra Prolific - Like It Should Be LP


Jive (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 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

This Extra Prolific LP is kind of the forgotten Hieroglyphics release.  It came out to little fanfare in 1994 and from rumors, innuendo and gossip that I've read on the internet, they were dropped from the label almost immediately.  I've even read that an undescribed incident happened at the album's release party and the label severed times right there.  I don't know if any of this is true, but Like It Should be hit with little noise back in 94.

I had first heard of Extra Prolific as part of The Source's Unsigned Hype column.  They did a feature on Snupe, the main MC behind Extra Prolific.  That column's review left an impression and I was eager to find out more.  It took a while to hear about Snupe again (about a year and a half, which is an eternity in high school years), but by October of 94 I was already starting to become disillusioned with a lot of hip hop records.  I was deep into listening to Beck and other left of center indie rock by the time this record came out.  If I remember correctly, I even think my younger brother may have picked up the CD before I did.

Regardless of who bought it when, I sure didn't listen to it much back then.  In the intervening years I've tried a few times to relisten to see if it was a lost gem.  In all honesty, it's really not.  Like It Should be is a perfectly serviceable mid 90s hip hop record, but it seldom rises to the level of of most of the more well known albums of the era.  And it can't touch any of the other Hieroglyphics releases that came out at the same time.

Like It Should Be has its moments. "Brown Sugar" and "Is It Right?" have killer looped jazzy beats that really could have been on another Hiero release at the time.  But the vast majority of the songs are unnecessarily slow and don't showcase particularly creative beat making.  On top of that, Snupe is probably the most paint by numbers MC of anyone that was ever part of the Hiero crew.  He's not bad at all, but he doesn't have the dexterity or the complex wordplay of his stable mates.  Unlike the other 93-94 Hieroglyphics albums that raised the bar on what hip hop could sound like, this album just kind of sits there.

I liked it enough to grab the vinyl for my collection (which is practically available for free on Discogs), but it's just not something I expect to listen to all that often.  Snupe parted ways with Hiero before the release of 1997s Third Eye Vision.  Again, the rumors have it that his verses were physically removed from existing songs.  Unsure of what happened there, but I don't think many people noticed that he left.  Most probably weren't aware he was there to begin with.

Extra Prolific - Like It Should Be (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, May 4, 2020

Custody - II LP - Orange Vinyl (/300)


Brassneck / Waterslide / Combat Rock / Shield (2020)

Ah Custody, proud member of the PopKid family.  When I sit down and listen to this record I can't help but be a little sad that it's not a PopKid release.  These gentlemen from Finland are everything I'd want in a band on our dumb little label.  I'm very happy that we were able to help put out a 7" of theirs a few years ago, but I wish that we had pockets that were deep enough to be part of everything they put out.  Such a great band.

On to II.  This is their second full length album and I can say without hesitation it is every bit as good, if not better, than everything I've heard by them so far.  Custody is a band incapable of writing a dud song.  Everything they do has this amazing energy, from the rushing guitar riffs to the pounding drums to the soaring vocals.  The band that I always hear the most when listening to Custody is prime Clumsy-era Samiam.  But Custody takes those sounds and blends them with the influences of the very best of UK melodic hardcore with Leatherface inspired leads and Snuff style melodies.

Add in a vocalist with a true mastery of his instrument, melding the sort of power you'd hear in Iron Chic without resorting to any unseemly yelling or screaming. Gah! These guys are just too great.  Custody is one of the absolute best current bands going these days.  As I've said several times, their music is pretty much perfect when it comes to the sort of thing I want to listen to.  All I can do is hope that Custody stays together for a long, long time and puts out album after incredible album.  Maybe even another on PopKid someday...

In a conflict of interest moment, I do have a very small amount of copies of this record in the PopKid Distro.  There are very few of these in America, so if you want to avoid the costs of international postage, I recommend grabbing one quick.  I also have copies of their killer split 7" with Phoenix Foundation and of course their PopKid 7" - home of the BEST song they've ever written!  Grab what you need:

PopKid Distro:
Custody II LP - HERE
Custody/Phoenix Foundation split 7" - HERE
Custody PopKid 7" - HERE

Custody - II:

Friday, May 1, 2020

Various Artists - A Rigid Digits Production - A Tribute To Stiff Little Fingers


Snuffy Smile (1996)

These days. there aren't all that many Snuffy Smile records that I don't have in my collection.  I'm all caught up on 7"s, but there are still a handful of CDs that have eluded me.  While they were never as high a priority as the 7"s, I really do want to get my hands on all of them in order to truly call my collection complete.  This compilation is one of the few I was still hunting.

This is a three inch CD with four bands each covering a Stiff Little Fingers song.  Registrators, who were never one of my favorite bands to release a record on Snuffy Smile, give a spirited rendition of "Wasted Life."  Sprocket Wheel tackle "Wait and See" in an interesting manner that bounces around genres mixing their trademark pop punk sound with a little bit of doo wop backing vocals and frequent tempo changes.

Nails of Hawaiian turn in the highlight of this release for me, a bouncy version of "At The Edge" with excellent guitar riffage and breakdowns.  Finally there's a band I'm really not as familiar with, Sawpit.  If their version of "Rough Trade" was an indication of the rest of their releases, I'd probably want to hear more.  That said, a quick browse through some YouTube video shows me that they typically deal in a more screamy version of hardcore which is probably why this and an appearance on the Ultimate Slow Beats compilation were their only Snuffy Smile releases.

These 4 cover songs don't make up the most compelling Snuffy Smile CD ever released.  They're fun songs, but not the sort of thing that would warrant repeated listens.  That said, from a collector position, it was very important for me to add this to my pile of Snuffy Smile releases.  Hopefully I'll be able to track down the last few.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Gang Starr - Hard to Earn 2xLP 180g Vinyl


Respect the Classics/Virgin (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 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.

For two albums, Gang Starr could arguably be designated as the greatest hip hop group of all time.  Daily Operation and this album, Hard Two Earn, comprise one of the hardest one-two punches in rap history.  While I think that Daily Operation is ever so slightly a stronger overall record, Hard To Earn has higher highs and is home to most of my very favorite Gang Starr songs.  One of those songs is the first I heard from the album, "Dwyck."  Dwyck was released as a video and single way before the full album did and I remember being kind of confused as I couldn't figure out where it came from.

I grew up in a rural town in northwestern New Jersey.  We couldn't get TV or radio over the air because we were way too far away from the local affiliates broadcasting out of New York City.  We had to have cable in order to get TV.  What I did was I spliced off the cable from my 9" television in my room and fed it into my stereo.  For reasons I can't totally explain, this allowed me to get all of the NY radio stations.  This is how I would listen to the Kool DJ Red Alert Show on KISS FM. During one of Red's shows, I managed to tape "Dwyck" off of the radio and for the longest time, that was the only version I had.  Even today, when I listen to the album version, my brain starts to hear the mixing and segue into the next song that was present on my tape.

"Dwyck" is but one of many incredible tracks on Hard to Earn.  "Mass Appeal," "Tonz o Gunz," "Speak Ya Clout" or "Now You're Mine" would probably be the best tracks on just about any hip hop album of the era, but on Hard To Earn, they're all fighting each other just to be the second best song on the album.  The best?  Well for me that has to go to "Blowin' Up the Spot." Over arguably the greatest beat of DJ Premier's career, Guru just blasts through word bending lyrics building rhyme on top of rhyme in a structure that probably doesn't make sense on paper, but in the song itself is essentially a masterpiece of self aggrandizing bravado.

1994 was the year that I started to fall out of love with hip hop as I was getting more interested in indie rock and punk rock.  But between this album and Casual's 1994 classic Fear Itself, the year definitely had two all time greats to help close out my participation in the golden era of hip hop.

Gang Starr - Hard to Earn (Youtube full album playlist):

Monday, April 27, 2020

Seth Anderson - We Could Be LP - White Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

I am immediately leery of an album done by a single human being rather than a band.  The stench of singer/songwriter nonsense from the late 90s and early 2000s still lingers with me and I've never been the biggest fan of that sort of thing.  There are exceptions of course and I'm not going to disregard an album simply because of how the artist is named on the cover, but I go in with more trepidation than I would if it was just the name of a band.

That brings us to Seth Anderson.  Going through this album is interesting.  While the songs are mostly backed by a full band, he does hit on some rootsy singer-songwriter tropes that I'm not typically super into.  There's a bit of a Tom Petty thing going on sometimes, and I can certainly get behind that.  Then there's a song like "Don't Stop" that sounds like a really slow Snow Patrol song.
Other times there's more of a Springsteen/Gaslight Anthem sort of vibe that I can't say works all of the time.

As you get older, you're supposed to mellow out and appreciate the slower and quieter things in life.  For me, that doesn't seem to be the case.  I still want punchy pop punk hooks and big fuzzy guitars.  There are times when I can get behind a mellower album, but with Seth Anderson, there's just not enough new and interesting sounds or ideas to keep me particularly engaged.  It's well done for what it is, it's just not the sort of thing I want to listen to.

Seth Anderson - We Could Be:

Friday, April 24, 2020

OUTOFSTYle - 追分e.p. CD


No, She Rode (2018)

OUTOFSTYle is a band that has been releasing records since 2004 and yet I somehow have only heard of them pretty recently.  This 6 song EP is the first release of theirs that I've gotten, but after playing these songs on repeat for a while, I really want to get my hands on the rest of their catalog.

This is everything that I love about Japanese pop punk. The songs are fast and rough around the edges, satisfying my punk rock needs.  But they are also melodic and catchy, showcasing great mastery of crafting a lasting hook that keeps me coming back over and over again.  They remind me of some of the glory days of Snuffy Smile.  Sort of like Blew, but a little gruffer, though not as gruff as say Sprocket Wheel.  I think they're somewhere int he middle of those two bands if I had to try to place them somewhere.

I love all six songs on this EP and once again, I am bowled over by a Japanese band playing the exact kind of punk rock that I want to listen to.  I've not been able to get a new pack of records from Japan in a while.  I really hope that things turnaround in the world and I can start buying some records again.  While I know in the grand scheme of things record shopping is not as important as some other things in life, but songs like these bring that spark of joy that only music can provide.  I have plenty of records to listen to, but there's something special about that next great discovery.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Brand Nubian - In God We Trust 2xLP


Traffic/Elektra (2004, Reissue)

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

In God We Trust was the second Brand Nubian record and their first after the departure of Grand Puba.  Despite losing their best lyricist, Brand Nubian was able to to pump out two pretty strong records during a very competitive and innovative era of hip hop.  It speaks volumes about the talent of Lord Jamar and Sadat X.  They really stepped up to the plate when the spotlight was shone directly on them.

The main single from this album was "Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down" and it was a staple on Yo MTV Raps in '92 and had some different verbiage in the final verse than the album version has.  Putting aside some ill advised slurs, it is a song with a solid beat and strong vocal interplay between the two MCs.  It's the song that made me buy the album in the first place and I still have nostalgic feelings towards it despite some problematic verbiage that hasn't aged well.

The rest of the album is strong when it's upbeat.  Even though this is the shortest of their first three albums, it still feels like it goes a little too long and probably could have benefited from a slightly shorter track list.  I know I would be fine with cutting a few of the interludes.  After All For One, this is the second strongest Brand Nubian release as a whole album.  Even though my favorite Brand Nubian song is from their third album, that's the one where things started to move in directions I wasn't into as much.

Brand Nubian - In God We Trust (Full album playlist):

Monday, April 20, 2020

Sista Brytet / Popterror Split 7"


Luftslott (2015)

I had picked up this split 7" a while ago, back when I ordered a couple of other Sista Brytet releases.  Popterror is the band that came with this split 7" as a bonus when I bought it for the Sista Brytet songs.  That's one of the things I love about split 7"s, the opportunity to hear a new band while already supporting one you already like/. It's usually a win-win.

I can't say I was familiar with Popterror prior to listening to their side of this record.  They're pretty fun and their song "Dyrt Att Vara Fattig" is catchy with horns in the background and a pretty poppy vocal melody.  The way the horns interact with the rest of the music has a RFTC quality to them, but this isn't a band that sounds much like Rocket aside from that.  I like the song, but I can't say that I'd be too inspired to hunt down more by the band.

Systa Brytet was the main reason I picked this up.  On this release they have guitar riffage that reminds me of Idle Hands quite a bit and they also have the same knack for big catchy choruses.  While these aren't my favorite songs by the band that I've heard so far, both are upbeat, energetic and have the intangible energy that all good punk rock has.

Popterror - "Dyrt Att Vara Fattig":

Sista Brytet - "Huvudvark" & "Lat Det Brinna":

Friday, April 17, 2020

Rocket From The Crypt - Rocket Queen 7" (Blue Cover)


Speedo's Classics (1995 - Bootleg)

In my never ending quest to track down every single variant of every single Rocket From The Crypt release, I do have to contend with a handful of bootlegs.  The most well known of which is probably this four song Rocket Queen 7".  This reared its head in 1995 claiming to be limited to five hundred copies only.  I will never believe that to be true, there must be a ton more of these out there as I've seen this thing floating around with a decent level of frequency over the past twenty-five years.

When this was released, they printed them up on a bunch of different colored sleeves.  Over the years I've been picking up these different colors when I see them for reasonable prices.  I'm not willing to pay a ton of money for them, but I do want to catch them all at some point.  Recently the blue covered variant popped up on eBay and I grabbed it for pretty cheap.  This may actually end up being the last record I buy for the foreseeable future.  I have a few preorders that were already paid for, but the world has changed a lot and my budget for record buying has had to be diverted elsewhere.

As far as this 7" goes, it contains three songs culled from the Japanese version of the All Systems Go compilation CD and a live Misfits cover.  I've always liked the three main songs and I had my first copy of this 7" (pink cover) before I had tracked down the Japanese CD, so this was my first exposure to them.

"Ballot Fire" (an incorrectly named "Ball of Fire") has always been a favorite and is very much in line with a lot of the 92-93 era Rocket single releases of the time.  "10 Forward" was also a hit for completely different reasons, showcasing Rocket's louder and crazier side.  "Call it a Complex" is a slower, droning song with vocal effects and again is very much a song of that era.  The live Misfits cover never did much for me and still doesn't to be honest.  It's a neat thing to exist, but was never anything I listened to all the much.

Once Scream Dracula Scream came out, Rocket didn't really delve into these types of noisy interludes as often.  There's something magical to me about these songs which is surely in no small part because this is the time period I first became a fan, prior to the release of SDS.

Rocket From The Crypt - "Ball of Fire":

Rocket From The Crypt - "10 Forward":

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Boogie Down Productions - Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop LP


Get On Down/Jive (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.

When I discovered Boogie Down Productions, it was primarily based on the song "My Philosophy" appearing on a Yo MTV Raps compilation combined with videos being played on the daily Yo TV show.  I have strong memories of playing By All Means Necessary non-stop and I have equally vivid recollections of their fifth full length Sex and Violence being released as the 'new' BDP album.  The time in between those events are a little fuzzy.

I'm not sure exactly when I added my original CD of Ghetto Music to my collection, but I'm fairly positive that it was part of one of the Columbia House or BMG Music scams I would take part of in late elementary school/early high school.  I used to sign up for the ten CDs for a penny gimmicks.  Then, they would send you a monthly mailer that said 'unless you opt out, we'll be sending you then new Heavy D CD at full price as part of your subscription thing.'  What I would do is not reply to that  mailer and get sent the Heavy D CD.  The next step would be to write 'Return to Sender, I didn't order this' on the box and stick it back in the mail.  It usually only took a couple of those before I received a notice that my account was suspended.  Then I'd start all over again.

As for this album itself, like all BDP albums, I love it unconditionally.  While I probably don't listen to it as often as some of their other albums, there are many incredible tracks.  "The Style You Haven't Done Yet," "You Must Learn" and "Jack of Spades" (as featured in the excellent I'm Gonna Git You Sucka) are among my very favorite BDP songs.  This fairly recent reissue sounds and looks great.  I'm not ever going to make the move from hip hop CD to vinyl without adding every Boogie Down Production album to the pile.  They're way too great and far too important to skip.

Boogie Down Productions - Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop (Youtube full album playlist)

Monday, April 13, 2020

David Quinton - Overlook Road LP


Secret Mission (2019)

Secret Mission is a label that I always look forward to receiving a package from.  I'm not exactly sure how my website ended up on their radar, but I'm glad it did and am grateful to get a handful of records from them every so often.  They tend to mine jewels from sectors of music I have very little familiarity with.  When they put out a record by a Japanese band, it's always one I've never heard of, despite my passionate interest in Japanese punk rock.  The other scene that they tend to release a lot from is from 80s power pop musicians that I'm not familiar with.

This David Quinton record is a prime example of the latter of these groups.  While the bio references his work with Stiv Bators, David Quinton is a name that I'm uncertain I've heard before.  In listening to Overlook Road, it surprises me that he isn't significantly more well know.  This is an album filled with ultra catchy power pop.  In some instances it reminds me of The Cars and certainly has that jangly, punch guitar sound that I would associate with middle-era Ocasek productions.

What is consistent song after song are the stellar vocal melodies that weave through this album.  They are instantly hummable and play nicely with the aforementioned guitar jangle.  Even though the cover artwork might make you think of the older brother from Mr. Belvedere, this is a great listen and certainly one that would appeal to folks that are super into 80's power pop.  I'm just a sometimes visitor to that scene and even I can get down with this album.

David Quinton - Overlook Road"

Friday, April 10, 2020

Spells - Stimulants & Sedatives LP - Purple Vinyl (/200)


Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

I find it impossible to believe that it's been nearly four years since the first Spells full length came out.  That's an album that really jumped out as something special at the time of its release and, to me, it's only gotten better as I've listened to it over the years.  There's been a bunch of singles and songs making their way to the masses in the interim, but it's nice to finally have a brand new full album from this band.

The record is broken up into two sides, Stimulants on side A and Sedatives on side B.  The Stimulants side is fast with loud catchy songs and the sort of RFTC era Rocket From The Crypt style singalong backing vocals that I love.  "Nose Dive" and "Down Every Road" stand out as my favorites of the bunch.  They're catchy and just brimming with energy.  When this band is on, they're really on.

The Sedatives side doesn't really sound all that different from the Stimulants side to be totally honest.  Yes, in general the songs are a little slower, but it's not like the band has decided to break out power ballads or anything weird like that.  I'm also just a very shallow and unobservant man, so there may be a very striking artistic statement going on that I'm too dumb to see.  All I care about is that this side of the album still showcases a band cranking out great songs, with the sort of vibe that makes you want to go to one of their shows, grab the stranger next to you around the shoulders and just jump up and down screaming along to the lyrics all night long.

Spells - Stimulants & Sedatives:

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Ice Cube - Kill At Will 12"


Priority (1990)

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 can't be positive, but I think the first time I ever heard Ice Cube was from one of the videos released from this EP.  If it wasn't from that, it was probably his guest appearance on the Public Enemy song "Burn Hollywood Burn."  The song from this EP that I remember super vividly from the Yo MTV Raps era was "Jackin' For Beats."

The fist thing that caught my ears was that the song starts off using the same music as the D-Nice song "Call Me D-Nice."  It then moves through beats of other songs of the era including sections that include Public Enemy, Digital Underground and others.  It wasn't a concept that made a ton of sense to me as a kid, but it made for a hell of a song and I really liked it even if I didn't totally understand what Cube was up to.  It holds up extremely well all of these years later and it really makes me think that D-Nice probably doesn't get as much credit as he deserves for his first album.

The rest of this EP is a mixed bag.  There's some interesting remixes of a couple of tracks from Ice Cube's debut album. There's a track of nothing but shout outs and a thirty second skit.  The next most famous song from this LP is "Dead Homiez."  It's a serious track, that is slower than a lot of what Cube was doing at the time.  It's not one that I ever really gravitated to.  Lyrically it's pretty powerful, but the delivery is so laid back that I think it loses some impact.  The other standout to me on this album is "The Product."  It's fast and Ice Cube is fierce on the mic.

To me, the best era of Ice Cube is Amerikka's Most Wanted, this EP and Death Certificate. There's a few good moments after that, but his first three releases are pretty untouchable.  The Kill At Will EP is definitely part of that really important era and I still would probably say "Jackin' for Beats" is my favorite Ice Cube song (at worst, it's a very close second to "Steady Mobbin").

Ice Cube - Kill At Will (Youtube full EP playlist):

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: