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.