Friday, October 23, 2020

Bob Mould - Blue Hearts - Blue, Black & White Tri Color Vinyl

Untitled

Merge (2020)

Bob Mould has been nothing if not remarkably consistent since releasing 2012's The Silver Age. Since that time he has cranked out four more albums of good, crunchy, Sugar-style guitar rock.  I've loved all of those records, but the only one that has had real staying power with me has been The Silver Age.  I can't really explain it, but that's the one that keeps standing out.

I'm unsure where Blue Hearts will settle in when all is said and done.  I'm sure listening to it a lot right now and I do love it.  It's got the great aggressive pop sound that Mould is known for.  His loud roaring guitars, his strained vocals and lyrics full of piss and vinegar.  It's fucking great.  But, I have really liked all of his recent records and they all have fallen into a similar pattern.  I play them a lot for a couple of months, I put them into the record collection and then they just sort of hang out there.  When I'm in the mood to listen to Bob Mould, I tend to just keep going back to the Silver Age or Sugar's File Under Easy Listening.

It's nothing against those other records, but when you have an album so strong, it can dominate over the rest of your discography.  For me, ultimately time will tell how I end up ranking Blue Hearts against the others.  Maybe this will be one I keep going back to or maybe it's a record that I'll play a ton now only to have it fade gracefully into the background.  It doesn't really matter to me either way,  Bob Mould puts out great records and I'm happy to buy as many as he releases, even if they end up not being in permanent heavy rotation.

Bob Mould - Blue Hearts:
https://bobmould.bandcamp.com/album/blue-hearts

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Brand Nubian - Everything Is Everything 2xLP

Untitled

Elektra (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 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 have a complicated relationship with Everything is Everything.  I've never been one of those who thought the group was useless after Grand Puba left, but it's impossible to overstate how large he loomed over their first album.  The other thing is that Everything Is Everything is home of what is probably my favorite Brand Nubian song, "Word is Bond."  Ever since I saw the video for the first time in 1994 the rhyme "I push the Cadillac DeVille and still we real / I drive a garbage truck / and not give a" really hit me as being particularly clever.  Not just because they don't actually say "fuck" but still make you say it to yourself in your head, but I also dig the imagery of Brand Nubian driving around in a garbage truck.

The problem is that after "Word Is Bond," which is the first track on the album, the rest of Everything Is Everything just pales in comparison.  In general the rest of the production is too slow with far too much reliance on sappy R&B style beats.  Lyrically, Lord Jamar and Sadat X still have the goods, but it's a real chore to get through 2 LPs of, frankly, boring beats.

Still, "Word Is Bond" is so good that I did need to get this LP in the collection.  Combine with the groups first two albums, and that's really all I need from the Brand Nubian discography (Plus the first Grand Puba solo record).  While Puba eventually rejoined the group and they released some other records over the years, nothing ever really piqued my interest.  Like so much of the hip hop I love, 1994 seemed to be the last year that Brand Nubian was able to produce anything that really caught my ear.

Brand Nubian - Everything Is Everything (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, October 19, 2020

Fatal Figures - X Minus One LP

Untitled

Big Neck (2020)

This Fatal Figures record is one of a pack of records that Big Neck records sent over to me.  Even though this is the band's third release, I'd not heard of them before opening this record up.  What I can say for sure is that they are loud and noisy, so if you are into loud and/or noisy, this might be something up your alley.

For me, I think they go a little too dissonant to be the sort of thing I would listen to on a regular basis.  I was intrigued by the inclusion of a cover of Unwound's "Lucky Acid," but truth be told, even though Fake Train is one of my favorite Unwound albums, "Lucky Acid" wouldn't rank very high on a best song list.  The Fatal Figures version is fine, pretty similar to the original actually, but it's lacking that big thumping bass that characterizes Unwound's sound.  I don't fault Fatal Figures too much though, that's a tough act to follow.

The rest of the album moves along through sludgy, pummeling songs.  There's no hidden pop hooks on this album, it's just loud and in your face.  I probably would have been more interested if something like this when I was first discovering bands like Unwound, Karp or Fitz of Depression back in the 90s, but today it's a bit much for me.

Fatal Figures - X Minus One:

Friday, October 16, 2020

Pinhead Gunpowder - Kick Over The Traces LP - Green Vinyl

Untitled


Recess (2010)

I've been on a real kick of listening to early 90s Lookout records style pop punk lately.  I think it's in part because of the Mr. T Experience reissues that have been coming out, but I certainly haven't limited my playlist to their records.  I've been listening to a lot of Pinhead Gunpowder and while I do have all of their 7"s and the other 10" and LPs that came out in the 90s and early 2000s, I am missing a few key pieces on vinyl.

I don't have Jump Salty on vinyl.  I have all of the singles and comps on vinyl that make up that album, but I only have the CD Lookout put out of Jump Salty.  I want this on vinyl bad, but apparently there was some sort of issue when it was pressed and most of the copies were recalled.  I'll just say this, if anyone has a copy they'd be willing to sell or trade to me, please get in touch.

In order to fill the gaps a bit, I decided to pick up Kick Over The Traces.  This is essentially a Pinhead Gunpowder greatest hits album.  It has six songs from Jump Salty on it, so at least that's a start.  It's actually a really solid compilation of the band's best songs.  All eras are represented and it features tracks from Carry The Banner, Goodbye Ellston Ave, Compulsive Disclosure, Shoot The Moon and more.

I've always loved this band and I even prefer them to early Green Day when push comes to shove.  Their songs have that little extra grittiness to them that I like while still managing to cram in all of those wonderful pop hooks that drive me wild.  Plus I finally have the electric version of the song "Landlords" on an easy to play format.  It's one of my favorite Pinhead Gunpowder songs, but only has existed on a 7" previously.  When the Compulsive Disclosure CD was put out, an acoustic version of "Landlords" appeared.

Typically I'm not the biggest fan of greatest hits records.  I own very few as I would much rather listen to a band's full album concept.  But in this instance, it's kind of a placeholder until I can find my own copy of Jump Salty.  Plus, Jump Salty was just a compilation of other previously released Pinhead Gunpowder songs anyway.  This will do for now.

Pinhead Gunpowder - "Landlords":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG3oz803RZc

Pinhead Gunpowder - "Losers of the Year":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1j5UHfRQrkI

Pinhead Gunpowder - "Swan Song":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6MBvuTR-l0


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

UMC's - Unleashed LP

Untitled

Wild Pitch (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 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 had mentioned when I wrote about the first UMC's album a ways back, I didn't listen to this group during their heyday.  Years later, when I was looking for something new to listen to from that era I decided to give them a chance.  And I really dug what I heard.  What I also learned was that apparently there was some backlash against Fruits of Nature, with claims that it wasn't 'hard' enough.  I don't agree with those criticisms and I actually really enjoyed the upbeat nature of those songs.  But that backlash definitely played a part in the sound of their follow up, Unleashed.

Unleashed is much more aggressive than Fruits of Nature ever was.  There's harsher language, subject matter that is a bit more risqué and beats that are a bit grungier.  I do still like it quite a bit and it reminds me of Das EFX somewhat.  Less cartoony as far as the lyrics go and there's no 'diggety' style flow, but the way Haas G and Kool Kim trade verses back and forth and the feel of the production is reminiscent of Das EFX.

It seems that this new sound didn't do much to placate the critics of the first UMC's album, as this time the band was accused of being disingenuous and changing their sound too much to try to fit in.  I'm not sure if I prefer Unleashed or Fruits of Nature, but every criticism I read of either album seems totally off base to me.  I enjoy both quite a bit, but they are very different from each other.  I would recommend either to anyone that digs hip hop from that golden era of 1990-1994 and missed out on these guys the first time around like I did.

UMC's - Unleashed (YouTube full album playlist):

Monday, October 12, 2020

Snuff - The Wrath of Thoth 12" - 3 New Vinyl Colors

Untitled

10 Past 12 / Unless You Try (2020)

Several weeks ago I received an email from the Snuff mailing list alerting the world that they had pressed 2 more color variants of the Wrath of Thoth 12".  I will admit that I swore a little.  Having already purchased 6 different versions of the LP, I was not really up for buying more right at that moment in time.  But, as I read through the email, my concerns dissipated a bit. There was a note acknowledging that some people were buying all of the versions and it wasn't their goal to get these duplicate sales when they repressed the records.  So the deal was this, if you had all six prior versions and you took a picture of them and sent them in, they would send the two newest variants for free to the first six responders.

Very luckily, I was one of the six.  To my surprise, I actually received three new records.  I have the new splatter variant (/295) and the silver/white split color variant (/105) and these both look great.  Split color vinyl is my person favorite color way and it's always nice to add more of those to the collection.  In addition to those two that were advertised, I also received one on orange vinyl.   This orange is darker than the orange one I have from the first pressing, so I'm not really sure of the story with this one.  I'll have to dig around and see what I can sleuth out.  It may just be a transitional color, but maybe not.

As far as the music goes, I wrote more about that in my write up of the other six colors here.  The songs on here are great and it makes me eager for another Snuff full length, even though they did just put one out last year.  Snuff is an all time favorite band and I love buying their records, but I will definitely be content if the variants for this release end here.

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?) https://ditto.fm/the-wrath-of-throf

Friday, October 9, 2020

Reverse - Empty Spaces LP - Blue Vinyl


Boss Tuneage (2020)

Even just a few years ago, if you had told me that in 2020 one of the best albums of the year would have been put out by Reverse, I don't think I could have possibly believed you.  It's not that I would have any doubt that they would be capable of writing one of the best records, I would have just been in shock that it actually happened.

Back in the 90s, Reverse released three 7"s and a split 7" with Exit Condition.  These songs along with the one from the Best Punk Rock In England comp were some of my very favorite of the era.  To this day I will put the song "Stagnant" up against anything that came out of that mid 90s UK scene.  It's one of the best of the best.  We never even got a full length Reverse album back then and the band was (at least to me being in America) somewhat mysterious. They cranked of four perfect singles and then vanished.

Now, luckily there has been action from the Reverse camp in the intervening years.  I took possession of one of their demo tapes that had songs that weren't on the singles (more on that later) and their singles were compiled on to the Glance Sideways CD along with some extra tracks by SP records in Japan.  A few years later came Chasing Ghosts, with more unreleased Reverse songs.  I may be mistaken here, but my impression was always that those were older songs and wasn't a proper new full length.  That said, it was incredible and I was happy to have more music by such a great band.  They also put out a new 7" last year.  I don't have that yet as it is sitting in a pile of records put aside for me by a friend in Japan that I haven't been able to get from him yet.  Pandemic and other issues being a key driver of that...

But now, somehow, miraculously, Reverse has a full length album of new songs in the year 2020.  This has been a shitty fucked up year, but Reverse putting out a new album takes just a a fraction of the sting away.  It sounds like it could have been released the week after their last 7" in the 90s.  A perfect blend of melody and punk rock.  This is such a quintessentially sounding UK punk record and I cannot get enough of it.  That scene with Snuff, Leatherface, Broccoli, Hooton 3 Car, Mega City Four, Chopper, Skimmer, Crocodile God, Donfisher and more was my favorite time and place in all of recorded music and this record is every bit as good as anything that came out back then.

The thing about Reverse that gets my more than anything is their complete and total mastery of the chorus.  This has always been the case.  You're listening to one of their songs and the verse is good to great and then they get to the chorus and the song blows your fucking mind.  That happens over and over and over on this record.  From opener "Empty Spaces" to "Opinions" to "Fire Flies" I am never not amazed when that chorus comes blasting in.

Another cool thing is to hear a newly recorded version of a song called "Missuser." Remember that demo tape I mentioned?  This was one of the songs on it that didn't also end up on the Glance Sideways comp.  It was really cool to hear it again in the context of a full album and it fits in perfectly.

Here I go writing way more than I expected to once again, but if you can't tell, when I get really excited about a record I tend to go on and on and on.  Well, I love this record.  It is one of the best two or three albums I have heard all year and the fact that it exists just makes the world a better place in my opinion.  Thank you Reverse, please make more records.

Reverse - Empty Spaces (Only the first two songs are streaming on Bandcamp):
https://bosstuneagerecords.bandcamp.com/album/empty-spaces

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Del The Funky Homosapien - Wrong Place 12"

Untitled

Elektra (1993)

 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.

If you've been reading any of my Wednesday posts, you've definitely read mention of Del The Funky Homosapien. He & his Hieroglyphics crew are responsible for my favorite releases in the history of hip hop. I had decided that I needed to get my hands on the various golden era singles from those groups as the B sides and remixes were sorely missing from my collection on vinyl.

This is the last of my Del 12" singles.  He had released others, but my main focus was tracking down everything trough the No Need For Alarm era.  I have it in mind to gather some of the others eventually, but I'm still trying to fill some of the holes in my vinyl collection of his full length albums before I move to the singles.  Even though I have been going through these single chronologically, I still managed to save the best one for last.

I did have the cassingle version of this when I was in high school.  Specifically, I had the Maxi-Single version.  This version had two extremely important non album tracks.  One of them is the song "Undisputed Champs."  It was a non album track that was exclusive to this single and it featured Del, Pep Love and Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest.  In 1993, having Del and Q-Tip on the same track was a completely mind blowing thought as they were responsible for some of my favorite records of this era.  The song does not disappoint wither as both are in top form for their verses.  I feel like this could have been a "Scenario" level event if the song had been highlighted on an album or if it had ended up being made into a video, but instead it ends up being something of a lost classic.

As good as "Undisputed Champs" is, that wasn't even my favorite song on this single.  The Casual remix of "Wrongplace" is unbelievable.  I can't go so far as to say it's the version that should have been on the album as the original version fits into that record so flawlessly, but as a standalone track, you could make the argument that this is a superior version. It's not just the production that is different.  This version has an alternate vocal take as well.  The slow grooving bass provides a foundation for Del to essentially go a little crazier than usual.  The structure of his rapping is more out there than the album version, with emphasis on different syllables and rhymes built out differently.  I really love it.

These songs along with the non album tracks from the other singles I've written about over the past few weeks were eventually compiled onto an Elektra 'greatest hits' CD.  But that one never came out on vinyl so I knew I had to hunt down these singles and I'm psyched I have them all now (Aside from version of "Mistadobolina" that just has different artwork, but yeah I'm still looking for that one too).

Del The Funky Homosapien - "Undisputed Champs":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErPZAfz9-Rc&ab_channel=DelThaFunkeeHomosapien-Topic

Del The Funky Homosapien - "Wrong Place" (Casual Remix):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsUsLPOVtHQ&ab_channel=DelThaFunkeeHomosapien-Topic

Monday, October 5, 2020

Pinact - The Part That No One Knows LP

Untitled

Kinane (2017)

I stumbled across this band via Twitter.  Though Pinact is from Scotland, I actually saw them mentioned by one of the wonderful Japanese punk rockers that I follow.  They had mentioned this band in a tweet and I decided to do a little exploring.  I came across their Bandcamp page and after listening to the first couple of songs, I ordered the LP.

Pinact is playing gloriously fuzzy guitar pop music and the best way I can describe them is that I think they sound like a failed major label band from the mid 90s.  While it probably sounds like a backhanded compliment, I do mean it as genuine praise.  When I listen, it reminds me of bands like Pluto, Fig Dish maybe a hint of Fretblanket or Engine 88, but filtered through a Weezer sort of sensibility.  Maybe a modern day equivalent would be a band like Herzog.

There isn't a clunker on the record. The energy and tempo are upbeat and lively and the hooks are nice and catchy.  Even though the album is now a few years old, it's definitely one of the better records I've listen to this year.  I wish I had been paying more attention when this had originally come out, but I plan on making up for lost time.

Pinact - The Part That No One Knows:
https://pinactband.bandcamp.com/album/the-part-that-no-one-knows

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Mr. T Experience - ...And The Women Who Love Them LP - Silver Vinyl

Untitled

Sounds Rad (2020, Reissue)

When I wrote about the red vinyl version of the first Mr. T Experience album a few weeks ago, I said that one of the reasons I liked having it in my collection as it was a building block for a band that would become one of my all time favorites.  Everybody's Entitled to their Own Opinion was an album I tracked down after I had been listening to the band for a bit.  The most recent Mr. T Experience record that was available when I heard them for the first time was this EP, ...And The Women Who Love Them.

The first time I heard the Mr. T Experience was on the 1995 Slice of Lemon compilation.  They did a cover of the Schoolhouse Rock song "Adjectives" and that's what made me go look for more of their music.  I wonder how many people discovered them from that compilation.  I'm guessing it probably wasn't many.

I am not totally positive ATWWLT was the very first Mr. T Experience album I bought.  I picked up this one, Our Bodies Ourselves and Making Things With Light all around the same time.  They are the three MTX records I've known the longest and in a lot of ways they will always be fighting each other for the top spot of being my favorite (Along with Love As Dead, which would come out the following year in 1996).

What I can say for sure is that I just loved this EP.  "Tapin' Up My Heart" was immediately a song that jumped out at me and I went crazy for the blown out guitar fuzz lead, start/stop verse and of course the incredibly well constructed lyrics.  The rest of the CD's six other tracks were equally great tackling relationship highs and lows with a sharp wit and even sharper hooks.  Then there was the secret hidden song.

The 7" version of the release had "Tapin' Up My Heart" and "My Stupid Life" from the CD, but it also had an unlisted acoustic song which I now know is called "How'd The Date End?"  When I used to put this song on mix tapes, I titled it myself as being called "Love Connection."  In the early 2000s, Lookout put out the ...And The Women Who Love Them - Special Addition CD.  When they did, they included "How'd The Date End?" but it was a different recording that had a few extra lines.  I hated it.  I felt like it was lacking the urgency of the version from my 7" and I didn't think the extra lyrics were worth sacrificing that energy.  Oomph goes a long way with me and the original version had the Oomph I was looking for.  I got a lot angrier about stupid things twenty years ago than I do now.

With this new vinyl version, the seven songs from the CD are present along with the original version of "How'd The Date End?"  All eight songs in one place and even better yet all finally on vinyl.  To say this record sounds great is the understatement of the year.  None of these songs have ever sounded as good as they do on this record.  I can't believe the fullness of everything that is just not present on my old CD version.

Also, I think I lucked out with my copy.  I put in dibs for the record as soon as it was an option from Sounds Rad, but the people who bought the MTX Forever compilation had first dibs on the dibs.  I didn't buy that comp because I already have those songs.  I'm on board for reissues of full albums that sound better, but I didn't need a Mr. T Experience best-of that wasn't a list of the songs I actually thought were the best.  So, by the time I got to place dibs, I was number seven on the overflow list.  Sadly no spot ever opened up and I was relegated to the second pressing that wasn't on 180g vinyl.  But let me tell you, the version they sent me is pretty damn heavy.  I don't have a scale that weighs in grams, but I think that maybe they had some leftover 180g versions and I still managed to get one even though I missed out.  Regardless which version I have, it sounds incredible.

I have no idea how this write up got so long.  In summary, all that you really need to know is that this is pretty much a perfect slice of mid 90s pop punk, presented as an incredible sounding version and finally compiling all of the tracks from the recording in one place.  You would be a fool not to have this in your collection.

The Mr. T Experience - ...And The Women Who Love Them (YouTube Music full album playlistL
https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lw4lASdWJVaKOg60udq5uTkSWO4LcHg_8