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):