Friday, July 31, 2020

Snuff - The Wrath of Thoth 12" EP - Six Different Colors of Vinyl


10 Past 12 / Unless You Try (2020)

I don't know what's wrong with me.  I don't know why I need six copies of this 12".  But I do.  The first pressing of this EP occurred pretty much right as the pandemic was getting underway and my record buying income was reduced to essential nil.  I watched as the orange and green vinyl pressings of these albums sold out without me having bought them.  I scraped together enough cash to at least get the version that Unless You Try was selling, but I felt sad and incomplete.

Then, it was repressed on three more colors of vinyl.  So, I sold a 1980s Rat guitar pedal on eBay.  This gave me the money to pounce on the Snuff website when they miraculously found a few more of the sold out first pressing copies.  So I picked up four copies in total from them and the last one I needed on blue vinyl from Dead Broke.  This was too complicated for me, but I just can't help how much I love Snuff and have for decades.

The songs on here are quite good too.  Every Snuff record has at least a handful of transcendently incredible songs and this one is no exception.  Opener "Drink Freely From The Chalice of Lunacy" is not only in the running for best Snuff songs of the past fifteen years or so, it's also a pretty good description of the year 2020 as a whole.  Yes, have some.  All of the songs on this EP are fun and provide an excellent follow up to the last Snuff full length, There's A Lot Of It About.  I like the idea of more frequent Snuff releases, but next time I would prefer maybe two versions instead of six.

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Casual & J Rawls - Respect Game or Expect Flames LP


Nature Sounds (2012)

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

As I've mentioned several times, Fear Itself by Casual is my second favorite hip hop album of all time. I still listen to it constantly and feel that it really holds up as a true classic of the genre.  Casual's other work has been a bit more hit and miss for me over the years.  While as an MC, Casual is beyond consistent and incredible, but the beats on his album haven't always been as reliably great.  There have been standouts over the years, in particular Truck Driver jumps out as one of the very best, but there have been other albums that fell flatter for me.

Respect Game or Expect Flames immediately jumps up on the list of my all time favorite Casual albums.  While this came out all the way back in 2012, I heard it for the first time within the last year or so.  J Rawls has created a perfect musical canvas for Casual to display his lyrical prowess.  While it doesn't sound like the quintessential 90s Hiero sound, the beats on this album are rooted in boom bap tradition, but work in innovative and jazzy measures.

Two cuts featuring other Hierglyphics members really stand out.  Del The Funky Homosapien checks in on the title track "Respect Game or Expect Flames" with typically excellent results.  The other is "Hier-o-dot" with it's uptempo bass line and guitar riff hooks.  I always feel these faster songs are where the Hiero crew truly excels and with drop ins from Souls of Mischief it's a real standout on the record.Modern hip hop isn't always the most exciting thing to me, but it's nice to know that 90s stalwarts are still out and about, creating and keeping old people like me interested. Even if it takes us eight years to show up to the party.

Casual - "Respect Game of Expect Flames":

Monday, July 27, 2020

Songs For Snakes - Airspeed Is Everything 7"


Timid Crusher (2020)

It's been two years sing we last heard from Songs For Snakes and their Crystal Vapour Figure LP.  They're back with a two song 7" and it's as potent and excellent as anything else the band has released.  While it may be impossible to listen to Songs For Snakes without conjuring images of Jawbreaker or Playground in your head, they consistently crank out catchy and powerful working class punk tunes.

A side "Airspeed Is Everything" is one of the longer songs in the Songs For Snakes arsenal, and while some of that is due to a lengthy intro there's never a wasted moment once the meat of the song kicks in.  The Bivouac-ian verse pushes the song forward into a brief, but dynamic chorus where the guitars soar.  Also, I should point out that the bass really stands out on this song as being the glue that holds everything together.  It's a great song.

On the B side we have "Let Them Eat Hate."  This one starts off with the tried and true muddled movie quote (I assume it's from a movie or something like that) over guitar feedback until the song kicks off in earnest.  As good as "Airspeed Is Everything" is, this is actually my favorite of the two songs on this 7".  The guitar work is outstanding, creating interesting textures without crossing the line into guitar solo wankery.  It's a concise, straightforward punk song, but has that extra little something that makes it stand out from the pack.

It's another excellent release from Songs For Snakes and it just makes me repeat something I say nearly every time I write about one of their records.  I don't understand how they aren't a bit more well known than they are.  Especially with old punks like me.  If you're reading this, you should fix that and pick up some or all of their records.

Songs For Snakes - Airspeed Is Everything 7":

Friday, July 24, 2020

Frankie Stubbs - Blood Orange Moon 7" (Red, Orange, Yellow and Black Vinyl)


Rad Girlfriend / Little Rocket (2020)

There are few songwriters in this world that have had as much impact on me as Frankie Stubbs.  Between Leatherface, Pope, Jesse and his sporadic solo work, he has compiled one of the most impressive discographies that I've had the pleasure of hearing.  This 7" is just Frankie and an acoustic guitar, much like his 1995 Unhinged 7" on Rugger Bugger or his 10" on Sounds of Subterranean that came out in 2000.

I really have been trying to cut down on buying multiple copies of the same record.  But, there are a handful of bands that I'll always be a little variant crazy about.  Seeing four different colors of a Frankie Stubbs 7" was just to much for me to ignore.  Despite my record buying budget being infinitesimal right now, I ponied up and bought all four.  I did something similarly stupid with a new Snuff EP.  There are some bands that I just can't help myself with.

On this 7" are three new Stubbs composition as well as an acoustic version of the Leatherface song "Shipyards" from The Last.  "Shipyards" is a perfect Leatherface song to get the acoustic treatment.  Its melancholy is only emphasized by stripping it down to the very basics.  The other three songs are just the sort of perfect songs you'd expect Frankie Stubbs to be writing.  And while they completely work as solo acoustic songs, they all have the sort of layered chord structures and changes that you know they would be fierce rippers if Frankie plugged in and was backed by a tight rhythm section.

It's been way too long since we heard new music from Frankie Stubbs.  I can only hope that this is the first of many new releases in the upcoming years.  Whether he's by himself or playing with others, the man is a treasure and the world is a better place with his songs.  And if he feels like plugging in, I know that I sure would enjoy it if he put Jesse back together.

Frankie Stubbs - Blood Orange Moon 7":

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Ice Cube - Death Certificate LP - Lenticular Cover


Priority (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.

For me, Death Certificate is the final piece of the Ice Cube trifecta.  Combine this with Amerikkka's Most Wanted and Kill at Will and you have three pretty stellar releases.  While I did buy The Predator when it came out and definitely enjoyed aspects of it, I'd have to say that Death Certificate is really the last of the Ice Cube releases that I thought was truly great.

A large part of why I this record ranks so highly for me is the one-two punch of "My Summer Vacation" and "Steady Mobbin'" on side one.  "My Summer Vacation" spins the tale of LA based drug dealers moving out to St. Louis and setting up shop.  The story is expertly set up with the twists and turns over one of my favorite laid back beats with tight drums and a slinky bass riff.  That gives way to my favorite Ice Cube track, "Steady Mobbin.'"

"Steady Mobbin'" is more upbeat built on P-Funk samples and a looped beeping sound effect. The video for this was frequently spun on Yo MTV Raps and was how this song became permanently lodged in my head.  These are just two highlights, though there are plenty of others.  Not everything is flawless and lyrically there are definitely elements that were questionable at best in 1991 and have aged even worse.  Still, there's something about these early Cube releases that have a fierce energy that elevates them to a higher level than many of the paint by numbers gangsta era releases of the mid 90s.

Ice Cube - Death Certificate (YouTube full album playlist - This is a 25th anniversary version with a few unnecessary extra songs stuck onto the beginning of the album)

Monday, July 20, 2020

Falls - Egg Hunt CDEP


Too Smell (2018)

I'm a little delayed on writing about a few CDs that I mail ordered from Japan quite a while ago at this point.  I'm desperate to do another order, but that's not really viable at the moment.  Luckily I still have some to write about, but I do feel guilty that it took me so long to get to this Falls EP.

For those of you with steel trap memories, you may recall that Falls was one of the excellent bands to play the Waterslide/PopKid show when I went to Japan in 2017.  They made an instant fan of me that night and each release of theirs that I pick up only reinforces that feeling.  Whenever I hear them it always makes me think of those late 90s days where emo was becoming a thing in the US, but it hadn't quite become a dirty word just yet.

The bands that always come to mind when I listen to Falls are Silver Scooter, early Three Minute Movie (Especially those 2 killer songs on their Braid split and my favorite song of theirs, "Fish Don't Think, They Swim," on that 3" compilation CD) and lastly the quieter moments of the band Boys Life.  The 4 main songs on this EP are as strong as anything that I've heard by Falls so far.  If you have either of their other EPs that I wrote about and you liked them, there's no way you won't dig this one just as much.

Falls - Egg Hunt:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Artifacts - Between a Rock and a Hard Place 2xLP


Art of Facts (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 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.

Artifacts were not a group I was aware of when Between a Rock and a Hard Place was originally released in 1994.  As 1994 was a big transitional year for me when it comes to music and what I was listening to, it's not surprising to me that I missed out on this, despite the group hailing from New Jersey.  I'm going to think that if this record had been released in 1993, I would have been on top of things.  But as it turned out, I didn't hear this album for the first time until many years after it came out.

That's a shame because this is an album that is exactly the sort of hip hop I was listening to back then.  The soulful funk beats produced by T-Ray, Buckwild of the Diggin' In The Crates crew and even by Redman on one track provide the perfect template for Tame One and El Da Sensei. To me, the beats straddle the ground somewhere in between EPMD and Black Sheep.

As lyricists, both Tame One and El Da Sensei can hold their own with some of the best of their time.  Their flows both tend to be more straightforward than some of the more out there folks of the golden era, but at the same time they are definitely a step ahead of of the paint by numbers MCs that were starting to be more common by the time 1994 had rolled around.  Artifacts put out a followup album in 1997 that I've actually never listened to.  It's really one I need to check out, but for whatever reason it's always been on the back burner.

Artifacts - Between a Rock and a Hard Place (YouTube full album playlist):

Monday, July 13, 2020

DZTN 1980 - Outside The City Cassette (/50)


Self Released (2020)

As DZTN 1980 is the new project from Dustin Herron from Abolitionist, I know how DZTN is likely supposed to be pronounced.  But that doesn't stop my brain from calling it "Datsun 1980" every time I look at this cassette.

DZTN 1980 is essentially just Dustin and his electric guitars.  Those guitars are layered with a ton of swirling effects that create something of a dreamlike vibe to each composition.  What's missing is bass and drums.  Had the guitar been acoustic rather than electric, this would have been quickly slotted as singer songwriter by most, but the fuzzy noise keeps this different from your run of the mill bedroom troubadour.

That said, I think I would like this a lot more if it was more of a full band type of situation.  The songs are structured in a way that just beg for loud crashing drum fills to jump in and assist with the transitions.  Without them, the songs feel more like incomplete sketches than they do finished songs.  There's something to this tape that I dig, but I don't think that it's the sort of thing I could see myself listening to very much as is.

DZTN 1980 - Outside The City:

Friday, July 10, 2020

Archers of Loaf - Talking Over Talk 7"


Merge (2020)

Archers of Loaf are one of my favorite bands ever.  I still feel like their output up through Vee Vee is essentially flawless.  They had some bumps in the road after that and by the time they had put out White Trash Heroes, they weren't really ticking the boxes that I was looking for anymore.  I did get to see them play on their last ever tour in 1998 and when they went away into the night, it sort of just felt like the right time for them to do that.

As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder and when the band played some reunion shows in 2011, I was all in and was so impressed by their performance in New York that year.  It probably didn't hurt that ninety percent of the songs they were playing were from Vee Vee and earlier.  Fast forward to 2020 and Archers announce that they are putting out new music, starting with a 7" for Record Store Day.  This will be accompanied by a tour.  Which was cancelled. And then the 7" was delayed because Record Store Day was cancelled.  Pandemic. Sucks.

Well, that RSD 7" is still coming out as part of a "RSD Drop" in August, but I'll be damned if anyone has actually explained what that means.  I'll bide my time and see what happens, but I imagine I'll end up having to buy that one on eBay.  All that rambling aside, what that means is that this Archers of Loaf 7", which was actually supposed to be their second release, turns out to be their first new record in over twenty years.

It's good.  It's not great.  It doesn't have the bursting energy of Icky Mettle or the noise-pop hooks of Vee Vee.  It's more subdued, though not as much as the White Trash Heroes era.  When it comes right down to it, both are good, solid songs.  What I'm missing is the dynamics.  The punchy guitar interplay and the feeling that the band was about to go off the rails at any second.  These songs are more straightforward and structured.  That's not to say they aren't good, I just like Archers best when they are a little more ramshackle and a bit angrier.

Archers of Loaf - Talking Over Talk 7":

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030 2xLP


Deltron Partners (2011, 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.

By 1995 I wasn't really paying much attention to hip hop any longer.  I was neck deep in indie rock and punk at that point.  I was just so disillusioned with hip hop and found that innovation and passion that I was looking for in a different place.  The one exception is that I did try to pay attention to and keep up with Del the Funky Homosapien and the rest of the Hieroglyphics crew.  I picked up their cassette only releases on Hiero Imperium and I was really excited to grab the Del album Both Sides of the Brain when it came out.

The problem with these records were that even though they were pretty good, they weren't as strong as their golden era counterparts that came out in '93 and '94.  I would eventually come to appreciate them more and more as the years went by, but in that exact moment I was a little underwhelmed, even though they were miles better than any other hip hop coming out at the time.  That all changed when the Deltron 3030 album came out in 2000.

Del was back in his truest, most excellent form.  The album is crammed full of hyper complicated rhyme structures and rhythms.  He bends and twists his lyrics to spin stories of a dystopian cyberpunk future one moment and then switches to full on battle rap mode in the next.  Dan the Automator handled the beats for this and has crafted a textured world that slowly burns from one song to the next.  It's not just that his beats are the perfect compliment to Del's flow, it's that he's so completely nailed the vibe of otherworldliness that the album really feels like something truly different and special.

Even though this album is twenty years old at this point, to me it still sounds way ahead of its time.  No one has ever come close to its uniqueness and I rank this right behind No Need for Alarm as being one of Del's best ever performances.

Deltron 3030 - Deltraon 3030:

Monday, July 6, 2020

Night Slaves - Three and a Half LP - White Vinyl (/300)


Swimming Faith (2020)

I don't know that Night Slaves is really the best band name I have ever heard, but we'll put that to the side for right now.  This album was sent to me by the folks at Swimming Faith records.  When I opened up the package I was taken in by its colorful artwork, though less so by the description of the music that promised "a forgotten fever dream album dedicated to proto-punk/psych-garage."

There are a handful of descriptors in music that almost immediately signal to me that it's not going to be something that I like.  "Synth-punk" is the main one, but a close second is juxtaposing the word "psych" with just about any other genre.  And in that way, Night Slaves do not disappoint.  They have crafted a record that is absolutely not geared for me.

Yes, there are definitely traces of psych in this one rolled up into somewhat weaker garage sort of sounds that harkens back to the 60s to an extent.  But it's not done in a way that conveys much in the way of emotion or enthusiasm to me.  Most of the songs just kind of sit there.  You know you're in bad shape when the most memorable song on the album, "Absolute," is only memorable because it rips off the keyboards from ? and the Mysterians' "99 Tears."  Looking at this record in a vacuum, I suppose it's a perfectly serviceable psych-garage fever dream.  The problem for me is that's not the sort of dream I'm looking for in an album.

Night Slaves - Three and a Half

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):