Friday, October 15, 2021

The Mr. T Experience - Shards Vol. III LP - Sea Glass Vinyl (/300)

The Mr. T Experience - Shards Vol. III LP - Sea Glass Vinyl (/300)

Sounds Rad (2021)

This is the final volume of the Mr. T. Experience Shards project, wherein they compiled all of the weirdo non-album songs from the various singles, compilations and bonus tracks strewn across the land over the course of a few decades.  This particular volume mainly focuses on singles and B sides.  It's twelve tracks long, but for whatever reason I feel like it should be longer in my head.

I think that's primarily because even though I have a bunch of Mr T. Experience 7"s, I keep forgetting that there were a good amount of album tracks on those, not to mention about thirty seven appearances of the song "Together Tonight."  The tracks that are here are pretty great for the most part, with lots of fun cover songs and the tremendous tracks from the Alternative Is Hear To Stay single.

One of the things about these MTX singles is how difficult it was for me to track them down in a pre-internet world.  Now granted, it's not like I'm saying the internet didn't exist in 1995, but it sure didn't have the robust record hunting features that it boasts these days.  I spent a lot of time coming through record stores and trying to come up with interesting trades to other folks to obtain them.  I think in some ways that hunt makes me appreciate those 7"s a bit more than this LP.  While the songs undoubtedly sound better on the comp, there's something special about the memories forged by tracking down those singles, even if I can't really remember the specifics of any of those memories.

The Mr. T Experience - Shards Vol. III:

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

N.W.A - Straight Outta Compton - 20th Anniversary 2xLP


Ruthless / Priority (2007, 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.

You are correct, I did write about picking up a version of this record on vinyl a few months ago, but my main experience with this album was always on CD.  The regular pressing of the vinyl didn't reflect the same tracklist as the CD version and that irked me a little while listening to it.  Yes, I know I'm aggrevated by very trivial things.

This 2xLP version has the same tracklist and song order as the CD I've had for ten thousand years.  It feels more comfortable to me this way.  That tracklist takes up three sides of this double album.  The fourth side is other hip hop groups covering N.W.A songs.  You've got Snoop Doggy Dogg, Bone Thugs N Harmony, WC and Mack 10.  I haven't listened to this side.  I don't know that I'll ever listen to it.  Who could possibly care about listening to N.W.A covers when you've got the real thing right in front of you?

N.W.A - Straight Outta Compton:

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Rocket From The Crypt - Group Sounds LP - Yellow w/ Black Splatter Vinyl (/500)

Rocket From The Crypt - Group Sounds LP - Yellow w/ Black Splatter Vinyl (/500)

Vagrant (2021, Reissue)

For Vagrant Records' twenty-fifth anniversary, they are rereleasing some records from their catalog.  To say that label had an uneven output of albums is the understatement of the century, but they did give the world a few John Reis releases, so they get a pass on the rest.

In addition to being part of the Vagrant reissue campaign, this particular version of Group Sounds was released as a Newbury Comics exclusive variant, limited to five hundred copies.  I already have five other versions of this on vinyl (and two on CD), but I just can't help myself from buying Rocket records.  The urge to have a complete archive of every version of every release is something I just can't shake.  Which is why the red vinyl version of the Pure Genius 7" haunts me daily.  Someone sell that to me please.

Anyway, this version looks pretty solid.  Yellow with splatter.  I don't know that it really stands out as being anything better or worse than the other colorways out there, but when you get to the tunes themselves, there are few records in this land as great as this twenty year old masterpiece.\

Rocket From The Crypt - Group Sounds: 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Reverse - Bloody Mary and Grant Hart 7"


SP Records (2019)

This 7" was meant to be a precursor to the excellent Reverse full length album Empty Spaces.  Of course, I am now writing about it ages after the full length actually came out.  This record was in a pile of Japanese releases that Kazu kept aside for me for a period of time that was way longer than reasonable.  I am forever grateful that he helps me acquire the Japanese records I need and am even more thankful that he lets them accumulate at his place waiting for me to finally say 'ship them.'  A total class act.

On to this 7".  Reverse has been a long time favorite band of mine and the fact that they are active again (or as close to active as a band can get these days) is such cause for celebration.  The A side is "Bloody Mary and Grant Hart," which is the closing track on the Empty Spaces LP.  It's a fantastic song that I can completely understand why it was chosen as a single from the album.  It has those wonderfully rugged guitar riffs combine with the melodic, but somewhat gravely vocals I always associate with Reverse.

On the B side is a song that isn't on the album, "You're the Poison."  This one is a straight ahead rocker, blasting forth with a fast paced verse that erupts into a super catchy, singalong chorus.  Ah Reverse is one of the most under-appreciated bands out there.  Everything they put out is tremendous and the fact that the artwork on this 7" matches up to their three earlier 7"s they released in the 90s just makes me smile.

Reverse - Bloody Mary and Grant Hart 7":

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Cypress Hill - Black Sunday 2xlp


Columbia / Ruff House (2013, 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.

In the lead up to the original 1993 release of Black Sunday, my anticipation to hear the record could not have been any higher.  This was after two solid years of listening to their debut on repeat pretty constantly.  Released during the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, I could not have gotten to The Wall any faster to buy this album at the Rockaway Mall.  When I first heard it, I definitely dug it quite a bit.  

It had the same sort of soul-laced beats and wacky, screeching sound effects that made their debut so very enjoyable.  B-Real's vocals are perfect, with his nasally flow he just glides over the top of the beats and ties everything together.  Sen Dog's barking hype man backup vocals just add to the mix.  

Not too long after the record was released, it seemed like the single "Insane In The Brain" started to blow up.  People in high school that never listened to anything I liked were suddenly getting into Cypress Hill and it was a little jarring.  You have to remember in 1993 there was often a pretty big backlash to 'selling out' in hip hop and punk rock.  As a dumb high schooler I was susceptible to thoughts like this and it tempered my enthusiasm for Black Sunday as I moved on to digging for more obscure acts.

At some point, I even sold my CD copy and only kept their debut in my collection.  Rebuying this on LP gave me a chance to really listen to it again without the baggage of what was going on in music in 1993.  It is still a pretty great album, maybe not as good as the first one, but still absolutely one that should be in the collection.

Cypress Hill - Black Sunday:

Monday, October 4, 2021

Needles // Pins - Needles // Pins LP


Dirt Cult (2021)

I have written several times about the dearth of new records in 2021.  There have been so few albums that have caught my interest and for the first time ever, I'm actually concerned I'm not going to be able to put together a top ten list, let alone a top twenty.  I don't know if it's just fewer records being released or if I'm just started to slip into irrelevance.  Regardless, I've been way more interested in hunting down records from the 90s than I have been about anything coming out this year.

The new Needles // Pins records is something of a microcosm of this dilemma.  This is a band that I know and have been listening to for nearly ten years.  I have all of their LPs and have enjoyed them all.  You can include this new one in that mix as well.  This is an extremely well written and well put together album.  It has that Leatherface-esque gravelly vocal thing going on that I like so much.  You can play it right after Dear Landlord or Off With Their Heads or Dillinger Four and it fits right in.

But for some reason, I'm not as excited about this album as I think I would have been at another time.  Yes, it is a good record and it is absolutely one of the best thing I have heard this year, but it's just not grabbing me and holding my interest as much as I'd expect it to.  I don't really know why.  I can't point to anything about the record that isn't what I usually want out of a band like this, so I assume the problem might be me.  

Either it's fatigue from a seemingly never-ending pandemic or I may have just crossed that line and I'm too old to stay excited about new music.  I'm really not sure, but I feel like if this record had come out a year earlier, I would have been much more enthusiastic about it.  But again, I think it's me - not the album.  If you've dug the band in the past, this record hits all of the right spots, it's definitely worth picking up.

Needles // Pins - Needles // Pins:

Friday, October 1, 2021

Custody / Spells - Split 7" - Green Vinyl (/400)

Custody / Spells - Split 7" - Green Vinyl (/400)

Snappy Little Numbers / Brassneck / Keep It A Secret / Shield (2021)

I don't see as many split singles these days as I did in the 90s, but I'm always psyched when one comes out.  This time we've got two bands I already like, Spells and PopKid alumni Custody.

Custody never disappoints and their song "Into The Great Unknown" is no exception.  I find it difficult to write about Custody without typing the word Samiam, and while there are always some Sergie influences in most Custody songs, I do feel like the guitar work on this particular track does chart some newer ground for the band.  There's a surfy lead in the intro that breaks into a riff that reminds me a lot of the The End Will Be Kicks song "You Are All Kinds of Red Lights."  Once we hit the chorus, you get the booming, crunchy distortion that no one delivers quite like Custody, but I like the journey taken to get there,  Another great song.

Spells come in with "Confidence, Baby. Confidence!" which is a song that has a wide variety of punctuation in its title.  This one starts out by clapping and spelling out the word 'confidence' similar to the Bay City Rollers "Saturday Night" or Rocket From The Crypt's "Tiger Feet Tonight."  It then breaks into a pretty raspy vocal for the verse, the music fades here a little bit only to come roaring back in the chorus.  While I can't say this is my favorite Spells song that I've heard, it's also not so far away from the sound that I'm used to from them.  I could never say anything but good things about it, it just isn't hitting me quite as hard as some of their other songs.

Still, this is a great little record featuring two of the best current bands out there.  If you read my dumb website, chances are you probably need to pick this up.

Custody / Spells - Split 7":

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Funkdoobiest - Which Doobie U B? LP

Funkdoobiest - Which Doobie U B? LP

Music On Vinyl (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 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.

At the height of my Cypress Hill fandom I was buying pretty much anything that I could get my hands on, even if it was only peripherally attached to them.  Funkdoobiest checked that box as they were part of the DJ Muggs Soul Assassins crew.  It's why I bought the House of Pain album when that came out as well.  That said, House of Pain does not hold up, where with Funkdoobiest, I actually like them more now than I did in 1993.

So it must be acknowledged that this album is definitely an acquired taste.  The beats are excellent, full of funky bass lines and excellent percussion. The sample choices are impeccable and if you just handed this album of beats to Cypress Hill and had them rap on it instead, it would likely be considered a classic LP.  Problem is, they gave the beats to Son Doobie, a goddamn weirdo.  His flow is borderline awful and if you think EPMD over use the "I'm _____ like ______" rhyme structure, you haven't heard anything until you witness Son Doobie use this line twenty times in every single song.

His flow is stilted, nasally and the rhymes are just really bad in places, but for whatever reason there's something kind of charming about the way the entire package comes together.  You end up liking it because of how ridiculous it is.  Many people heard this record and it was green lighted all the way through a major label release.  I can't fathom how no one stepped in and said. "wait, this guy?" but alas, 1993 on Epic records.  I bought it then, and I've bought the LP now.  But as I said earlier, I appreciate this record much more now.  What it comes down to is that it's just fun.  Fun beats, dumb lyrics and a laid back vibe.  Good enough.

Funkdoobiest - Which Doobie U B?:

Monday, September 27, 2021

Superdrag - In The Valley Of Dying Stars LP


Superdrag Sound Laboratories (2021, Reissue)

Superdrag is a band that I have always liked.  Ever since the first time I heard the song "Sucked Out" from their debut album, I was a fan.  I've always liked that first album the most and I admittedly have not kept up with them over the years.  There are definitely entire Superdrag albums that I've never listened to.  But Their first three albums are the ones I'm most familiar with and I'm pleased to finally have that third release on vinyl.

Somehow, I managed to buy this record on black vinyl, even though there are a multitude of other colors available.  I remember waking up early in the morning the day the preorder went live and seeing a few colored versions, but I didn't order right away/. I got up, did my normal morning chores and by the time I got back to the site, only the black vinyl remained.  Then, later that afternoon, other colors suddenly became available.  

It's not really a big deal, Superdrag is not a band that I go crazy collecting variants for, I really just wanted a copy on vinyl so I could listen to it.   But the collector in me is annoyed that I don't have either the most limited or the coolest looking version.  I'll survive.  Musically, this sounds as good as it did when I first heard it in 2000.  It's the last Superdrag album I really listened to extensively, but it's also my least favorite of the first three.  There are other albums that they have that never were released on vinyl.  If those come out, I'll probably be tempted to pick them up.  Maybe I'm missing out on a lost gem.

Superdrag - In The Valley Of Dying Stars:

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Crump - The Song for Empty Nights CD


Imomushi (2010)

I have had three Crump 7"s for about fifteen years now.  All three of them came out on Snuffy Smiles and I dug them all.  I didn't know they put out a full length when this originally came out in 2010.  In fact, I'm not even sure when I realized that existed, but I had put it on my Discogs want list a few years ago and kept an eye out for it.  A few months ago a copy that was already located in the US dropped to a very reasonable price, so I grabbed it.

I don't exactly know how to describe this without sounding like I'm being somewhat dismissive of the record and its great songs.  So let me be very clear, I absolutely love this CD.  It is very excellent and I've listened to it a ton since it came in.  Now, if you then ask me to describe what it sounds like, I'm going to say it sounds like awesome Japanese pop punk that would be right at home on Snuffy Smiles.  

A lot of the great Japanese punk bands owe a bit of debt to the influence of Snuff and Leatherface.  The Crump are no exception to this, though I feel they're closer to the Snuff branch of things.  The vocals are great, with some killer harmonies.  The guitar work has interesting and unique riffs, without straying to far from what make pop punk fun to listen to in the first place. I feel like it has similarities with bands like Blotto or The Urchin, but has some mod leanings to it that reminds me of a band like Smalltown (yes, I know they are not from Japan).

I feel like my descriptions of this album haven't been very helpful in explaining why I like it as much as I do, but rest assured this is an excellent album.  If you are into anything put out by the likes of Snuffy Smiles, Waterslide or SP records, chances are you're going to dig The Crump as well.

The Crump - "Friday":

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Science of Sound - Kaleidoscope Phonetics 2xLP


90s Tapes (2021)

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.

90s Tapes is quickly becoming a label that I trust almost implicitly.  They are focusing on saving lost hip hop from the 90s.  Sometimes it's reissuing records that have been out of print for decades other times it's compiling 12" singles into full length compilations and then there are times where they're digging in the vaults to find something never before released.  Science of Sound kind of straddles those last two.  

The group self released a four song 12" in 1995.  Additionally there was another 12" that had those four songs plus five additional ones, though that seems to have been limited to some test pressings or promos.  Discogs isn't particularly clear on that one, but they certainly look like white labels.  This double LP from 90s Tapes takes all nine of those songs from the two 12"s and adds on six more.  It seems like this is the entire recorded output of Science of Sound.

This group was closely aligned with A Tribe Called Quest.  Tribe produced several songs on this album and Phife appears on "Who Got The Funk," which was produced by Godfather Don.  This really strong golden era stuff.  Jazzy beats, solid hooks (though I do really hate the R&B crooning in "No Diggity" but it's an isolated incident) and lyrical flows that are laid back and on point.  I really dig this album and while 1995 is a little bit past when I stopped paying attention to a lot of hip hop, had I heard this back then, I'm pretty sure I would have been on board.  If it had come out as is in 1993, I know I would have been all over it.

Science of Sound - Kaleidoscope Phonetics:

Monday, September 20, 2021

Bricheros - Live At Hensley 10" - Red Vinyl (/300)

Bricheros - Live At Hensley 10" - Red Vinyl

Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

I've written more than a few times that live records are not typically my thing.  Even for bands that I love, I rarely listen to their live albums.  The only real exceptions to this are Leatherface - Live in Oslo and Bum - Shake Town! Recorded Live.  For everyone else, the live albums tend to just be collection filler.  Now add to that the fact that I've never heard of the band Bricheros, making a live album be my first exposure to them is probably not an ideal situation, but here we go.

The first thing I'll say is that the recording quality on this thing is great, if you didn't tell me it was a live album, I don't think I would have even noticed on most of the songs.  Everything sounds tight, the vocals sound outstanding and are not buried or overblown, which are usually the main problems with live albums.

The songs themselves are pretty standard three chord garage rockers.  There's enough of a pop element to keep me interested, with solid hooks on most of the tracks.  In 2010, I probably would have been even more into it as I was dabbling in this sort of thing a bit more heavily back then.  But even today, I can recognize that this is great little band who, if nothing else, really have their shit together.  Based on what I see on Discogs, they have one other record out, a full length from 2018.  I don't know if that would be an even better introduction to the band than this live 10", but this record is still a pretty darn good first listen.

Bricheros - Live At Hensley:

Friday, September 17, 2021

Baby Silverskins - Yarping Down The Tweeds LP


Crackle (2021)

Those that know me know that my all time favorite time, place and genre of music is the wonderful UK punk scene that existed during the 90s.  It's a who's who of some of my all favorite bands and some of the best albums I have ever heard sprang from here.  And that's not even mentioning the countless Japanese bands that took (and continue to take) their inspiration from this era.

When I'm making the family tree of these bands, I always put Snuff and Leatherface at the top.  To me, they're the grandfathers of this particular scene and the various bands that sprung up around them are legion.  One of those bands was Baby Silverskins.  A band that I only know from their one song on the Best Punk Rock in England, Man CD compilation.  Their only proper release, a split 7" with Pig Pile, isn't one I ever owned, so when this LP that compiles all of their recorded output was announced, I was pretty excited to get my hands on it.

Listening to it, I know how much I would have loved it if it had been released at the time.  It can sit nicely right next to those early Snuff records, but has moments of sprinting through songs at what feels like a hundred miles an hour.  I personally prefer the songs that aren't quite so manic and the pop sensibilities shine through a little brighter.  That said, the entire record is an excellent listen and just feels right, if that makes any sense.  I'm really glad the Crackle folks brought this back and put it out on vinyl to boot.  Now, someone just needs to get the third Hooton 3 Car record, By Means of Maybe, out on vinyl.

Baby Silverskins - Yarping Down The Tweeds:

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Kurious - A Constipated Monkey 2xLP


Amalgam (2007, 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.

When I was in high school, I wrote for the school newspaper.  Surprise, I mostly wrote music reviews.  I'm not sure I'm any better at writing them now than I was back then, but I have been at this for almost thirty years now in some capacity.  Reading that sentence back, I should probably be much better at this than I am.  Oh well.  The point in bringing this up is that a lot of the hip hop albums I've been writing about on Wednesdays are albums that I first wrote about when I was in high school.

If you looked at the size, location and demographics of my high school, it would be no surprise that there wasn't much of an audience from vaguely obscure hip hop albums in 1993.  That was crystalized when I reviewed this Kurious record.  One of the things that the English teachers did was they made people write letters to the editor/newspaper staff.  Only one time was one of these letters directed at me, and it was the week I wrote my review of this album.  I wish I could remember what it said word for word, but in a nutshell it said something to the effect of "Seriously Tim, A Constipated Monkey?"  There were then a few lines about how no one had ever heard of most of the stuff I liked.

It remains amusing to me that this is my strongest memory about the Kurious record.  I was kind of disappointed with it when it was initially released.  Kurious had been shouted out on several Hieroglyphics albums by this point and Casual was a guest appearance on "What's The Real."  This is one of those instances where the intervening years have been very kind to Kurious.  I think this album holds up way better than I would have predicted back in the 90s.  It's flat out great in places, particularly with the production prowess of The Beatnuts and the SD50's.

Kurious has a laid back flow and pulls off some impressive verses, but the reason the record sounds so timeless is because of the production.  I feel like this record is somewhat forgotten to the sands of time, but I am grateful that a 2xLP version was put out in 2007.  It took me a while to hunt down a copy at a reasonable price, but it's here now and it sounds great.  Even better than I thought it did in 1993.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Saturday Night Karaoke - Millennial Kicks 7" - Pink Vinyl


Waterslide / SP / Bloated Kat / Monster Zero / Quickening (2021)

Saturday Night Karaoke are a band that has been cranking out a good amount of releases over the past few years, this 7" is their most recent and was released on quite a few labels from around the world.  So chances are if you are reading this, there's probably a label close by that you could pick this up from if you wanted it.

I've written about Saturday Night Karaoke before and I kind of stand by my prior statements that they really feel like a Mutant Pop band to me.  They've got that Ramonesy sing-song version of pop punk going on, but I do really like this particular 7" more than a lot of other bands that go down this path.  I hear elements of bands like Walker and there's definitely a kinship with The Hum Hums that I can't not hear.  

It's very easy for this style of pop punk to end up sounding kind of generic and just fade into the background, but Saturday Night Karaoke manage to avoid those traps.  They write genuinely great pop songs with great hooks, killer backing vocals and sweet, sweet melodies. 

Saturday Night Karaoke - Millennial Kicks 7":

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Animal Steel - A Surefire Way to Get Sober LP - Lemon Lime Vinyl (/300)


Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

So your band name is a pro wrestling reference and your record has come out on Snappy Little Numbers?  Well, yeah, chances are that I might be in your demographic.  Following up on a flexi single that came out a few months ago, The Animal Steel drop off a full length album and it has the same sort of style and energy that made me dig the one song on that flexi.

I can't listen to these guys and not hear some Jawbox creeping in on their guitar work.  The drumming is more straight forward and it doesn't delve into the odd time signature thing much, but there's this low rumble with jagged riffs that really make me think about the 90s.  Vocally, I think they have more in common with the RVIVR/Iron Chic set with impassioned delivery and strong melodies.

The songs are all on the longer side with several topping the four minute mark, but it's only a nine song LP so you're still in and out in under forty minutes.  But it's a fun ride for those nine songs. 2021 has been a lean year for new records, but this is one worth checking out.  Not sure I would rank it super high in comparison to years past, but this year it's a standout.

The Animal Steel - A Surefire Way to Get Sober:

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Coup - Kill My Landlord 2xLP


Wild Pitch (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.

I wasn't aware of Kill My Landlord coming out in 1993.  I blame it on the sheer number of incredible, genre defining releases that came out that year.  I don't recall seeing a Coup video on Yo! MTV Raps and I don't even remember any coverage of this first album in The Source, but we're talking nearly thirty years ago, so it's possible they were there, but I missed them.  Regardless, I'm glad that I eventually caught up to The Coup as their debut album is pretty incredible.

The beats are really tremendous, with big, clear bass lines rumbling along intricate and socially conscious lyrics.  The Coup should be mentioned in the same breath as Public Enemy and X Clan, but where The Coup takes it a bit further is in the way that attack the entire structure of capitalism, the lynch pin of the inequality they are fighting.  It's a heady, thought provoking record, but not one that is done in a preachy or condescending matter.  First and foremost, the songs are great.  That the message is clear and thought provoking is not what I would call a bonus, but something that just adds to a record I'm already predisposed to enjoy.

Again, this is so much in my wheelhouse that I don't really understand how I missed it the first time around.  I'll blame it on availability and the lack of media penetration.  While I dug as deep into hip hop as someone in rural New Jersey could in the early 90s, without access to the internet the way we have now, it was much harder to find out about everything that was out there.

The Coup - Kill My Landlord:

Friday, September 3, 2021

J Church - Quetzalcoatl LP


Allied (1993)

I've said it a few times over the years, but J Church is on of those bands that I didn't appreciate enough when they were still active.  I had a bunch of split 7"s with their songs on them, typically from buying the record due to the other band.  I had the Camels, Spilled Caronas... picture disc (which I sold or traded away at some point over the years) and I even went to go see them play at The Pipeline in Newark once.  I've said all of this before, but it's only been in recent years that I've really given J Church a real chance.  And predictably, I've tended to like just about everything.

Quetzalcoatl is the first J Church full length.  While I probably don't like it quite as much as I like Arbor Vitae, it's a really strong record packed full of big hooks and sing along choruses.  It's pop punk, but it's pop punk that's more rooted in a punk place than some of the more popular goofy stuff that had the spotlight shone on it so brightly in the mid 90s.  I feel like J Church has way more in common with early Snuff or Leatherface than they do with some of their US contemporaries like Green Day or Mr. T Experience.

But yeah, long story short is that I totally messed up and should have bought their records back then instead of waiting until nearly thirty years later.  I'm going to try to grab their full lengths and probably the singles comps at some point, but I don't think I'll ever dive into their 7"s too much.  That insane singles discography is one of the reasons I found buying their records to be somewhat intimidating back in the 90s.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Onyx - Bacdafucup LP


Def Jam / JMJ / Respect The Classics (2013, 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.

Bacdafucup is one of those CDs that I had when I was in high school that made certain family members wonder what the hell I was getting into.  Not that any of them listened to it, but just the fact that it was called what it was raised a few eyebrows.  I can't say that Onyx was one of my favorites when it came out in 1993.  I liked "Slam" from when I heard it on Yo! and I think I got the CD from BMG or Columbia House during one of those ten CDs for a penny gimmicks.  But listening to it again in the last few years, I appreciate it more now than I did then.

What makes it stand out, like so many albums of that era, is how great the beats are.  I love this era of hip hop and how the snare just cracks along with rumbling bass lines.  Lyrically, Onyx isn't anything special.  They're a group of gravely voiced MCs that stand out for sure as being unique, but the vocals can be a bit much from time to time.

Bacdafucup probably isn't one of those records I'd be prone to put on all that often, but there are moments where it is kind of the perfect album to listen to, for reasons I'm not really able to articulate.  Plus this is one of the albums i had as a kid and I am still working through my goal of picking up everything I had back then on vinyl.  One more down.

Onyx - Bacdafucup:

Monday, August 30, 2021

Custody / Bear Away - Split 7" Lathe (Clear, /30)

Custody / Bear Away - Split 7" Lathe (Clear, /30)

Brassneck / Disillusioned (2021)

I don't have many lathe cut records.  And most of the ones I have are kind of old.  There must have been some big time advances in lathe technology over the past few years as I am shocked how good this split 7" sounds.  Does it sound quite as good as a proper piece of vinyl, just barely, no it doesn't.  It's a little bit heavy on the low end and is maybe lacking in crispness ever so slightly.  But that said, my jaw was on the ground when I put this on the turntable as I couldn't believe how good it did actually sound.  We live in crazy times, folks...

Anyway, there's two bands on this record, the first of which is Custody, a long time favorite of mine and definitely in the running for being one of the best active bands going.  They've long since mastered the Samiam-esque style of melodic punk and their contribution, "Running In Circles," is just another example of said mastery.  The way the powerful vocals mesh in with the dynamic and catchy guitar work is just fantastic.  I wish these guys put out a new record every week, like Rocket From The Crypt 1995-style.

Bear Away isn't a band I was familiar with prior to getting this record, and damn if this isn't the reason I love split 7"s so much.  While they definitely have something of a similar melodic sound as Custody, Bear Away is definitely a beast unto themselves.  The drums are fast, the guitar riffs are warm and fuzzy and the vocals hit all of the right notes.  These guys are from England and when you listen to their song, I feel like they couldn't be from anywhere else.

This split is just excellent and I'm so relieved to have it in the collection.  If you can find one, grab it...but if nothing else at least the songs are up on Bandcamp to download.

Custody / Bear Away - Split 7":

Friday, August 27, 2021

Rexxx - Pure Pleasure II LP - Red Vinyl (/300)


Big Neck (2021)

I wasn't completely sure what to make of Rexxx when I first saw this album.  The artwork had me worried that it was going to be one of those messy synth-punk albums, but no fear - this is some excellent rock and roll.

I'll get straight to the point with this record, Pure Pleasure II is on a short list of the better records I've heard this year.  It's catchy, has big anthemic choruses and scratches that bubblegum power pop/punk itch better than a lot of bands do.  Rexxx could very easily sit right next to your Barreracudas albums or most of the late 2000s Douchemaster Records catalog (if you are the sort of heathen that doesn't file your records alphabetically, that is).  It's short, to the point and a ton of fun.

I don't buy as many records that sound like this as I did about a decade ago.  I'm not sure if that's because that scene dried up or because I just haven't been paying as much attention, but I would have been all over this album in like 2009, and in 2021 it actually stands out even more in comparison to most records coming out these days.

Rexxx - Pure Pleasure II

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) LP

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) LP

RCA / Loud / Wu-Tang (2021, 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 heard Wu-Tang clan was when I was watching Yo! MTV Raps in 1993.  The video for the song "Method Man" had just started playing.  I think it was the first time the group had ever been on Yo!, but if not, it was definitely the first time I saw them.  I loved that song.  Often in those days I'd buy a cassingle before committing to the full CD, but not this time.  I went right out and bought 36 Chambers.

I was phenomenally disappointed.  Probably listened to the whole CD a handful of times max, put "Method Man" on a few mix tapes and eventually just sold the CD.  I didn't get it.  Then Wu-Tang started getting more popular, became a juggernaut and I never went back and revisited.  I had pretty much given up on hip hop by that point anyway.

Fast forward to now.  I've been digging real deep in 90s hip hop.  Trying to find new relics that I've never heard while also trying to make sure I have vinyl versions of all the CDs I had as a kid.  One of the ways I look for new old hip hop is through a podcast called Take It Personal.  They're currently doing a series of specials dedicated to the year 1993.  On one of these, they played several songs from 36 Chambers and it felt like I was hearing them for the first time.

I decided to give it a whirl and pick up the LP.  I'm glad I did.  I'm not sure exactly why this didn't connect with me when it first came out.  Sure, there are still a few songs that I think are just too slow and you'll never convince me that "C.R.E.A.M." isn't an overblown mess.  But, the vast majority of the record is pretty fun.  I tend to gravitate towards the songs with more robust beats and to this day, "Method Man" is still the highlight track for me.  But, right on its tail is "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" which is a song I don't remember in any capacity.  I can't believe I didn't like it when I was sixteen.

I may be nearly thirty years late to the party, but I am glad I finally realized that 36 Chambers is a pretty good record.  I wouldn't even rank it in the top ten records of 1993, let alone declare it as one of the greatest of all time, but it's a good, fun record that will be a pleasure to bring out for a change of pace every so often.

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Extra Width LP


Matador (1994)

I'm not sure I will ever make it and replace all of my Blues Explosion CDs with vinyl, but I do want to track down some of the key pieces if nothing else.  While I have always been a disciple of Orange and never adored any Blues Explosion album quite as much as that one, I have always liked everything else.  Even the albums I would rank on the lower part of the scale still have their moments.  Extra Width, however, probably ranks higher than that for me.

I'm not sure what album is my second favorite one from Blues Explosion, but Extra Width is in the running.  While it's not as slick and catchy as Orange is, you can definitely see the building blocks that would make Orange great being put to use on this album as well.  Slinky guitar riffs, shouting random non-sequiturs and just starting to get into that vibe that would become the Blues Explosion's trademark.

The stand outs for me have always been "Aftro," "History of Lies," "Soul Typecast" and "Inside the World of the Blues Explosion."  Those would be solid standouts on any album.  The rest of the record isn't filler, but I don't think the other songs reach quite as high.  It would take Jon and company one more album to perfect their potion, but once they damn was it ever perfect.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Extra Width:

Friday, August 20, 2021

Gary Young - Hospital LP


Big Cat (1994)

I have something of a long term goal to eventually replace every CD I own with its vinyl companion.  (Well, maybe not replace as I feel like I'm probably not going to get rid of the CD version, but regardless, I want the vinyl).  In some instances this won't be possible as there is no vinyl version (I'm looking at you Alligator Gun and Him Kerosene), but where it is, let's get a record on the shelf.

This Gary Young LP is a prime example of this.  I bought the CD of this in 94 or 95 at the latest when I was still finding my way through the world of punk and indie rock.  I really liked Beck and Pavement and through that family tree my friend Joe and I discovered this Gary Young album.  I loved it.

Now, I'm not going to try to convince you that this is a good record.  It's really not.  In fact, it's actually pretty bad in a lot of places.  But what it does have going for it is that it's weird and fun and feels like it just rambled its way out of someones brain and ended up being released by a label.  That's what a lot of the 90s was, I think, particularly the lofi scene.

So in 2021, does it hold up? No, it doesn't.  But the nostalgia factor is absolutely huge for me.  I can't help but smile during "Plant Man" or "Birds In Traffic" or the insanely depressing "Warren."  The only problem I have with the vinyl version is that it's missing the two bonus tracks that came on the CD, the latter of which was a redone version of the song "Foothill Blvd" that is about a thousand times better than the one in the normal album sequence.  With those bonus tracks the entire CD is only 37 minutes long, so there's no real reason not to have included those on the vinyl (Another reason why I'll need to hang on to the CD version as well).

Even though it's unlikely I will be listening to this album all that often, I'm really glad to have it in my collection.  It was around during a key time in my musical education and frankly just deserves to be on the vinyl shelf with the other 90s gems.  Also, big thanks to my pal Scott for grabbing this album for me from a UK based seller.  I never see this for sale in America and the postage to ship a 1 off LP across the ocean sure is escalating...

Gary Young - Hospital:

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Leaders Of The New School - A Future Without A Past 2xLP


Traffic (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.

In 1991 there was no way to escape the video for "Case of the P.T.A." on Yo! MTV Raps.  It was on a lot.  That's not a complaint as I'm grateful it was on often enough that it stuck with me and made me pick up the CD.  There's lots of interesting history out there on the internet about Leaders of the New School.  Of course, they are most know as that group that Busta Rhymes started off in, but there's other anecdotes out there about them running in the same circles as Public Enemy and a battle rap for the rights to the Leaders name.  But for me, I have just always liked this album as a standalone record.

I have never been particularly interested in Busta Rhymes' solo career.  He had that guest appearance on Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario" and his career started to blow up.  There was one more Leaders album called T.I.M.E. that came out in 1993, but after that it was off to the races for Busta and off to essentially nowhere for his cohorts Dinco-D and Charlie Brown. Which is a shame as I think Dinco and Charlie bring quite a lot to the proceedings.  Are they at times overshadowed by the ridiculously charismatic Busta?  Of course, but they hold their own and if they were in any other group they would have shown quite brightly.  I could definitely do without Charlie Brown's random shriek that makes an appearance in too many songs, but when he and Dinco are just rhyming, they're great.

The production is that perfect 1991 style of innovative hip hop that I love.  Big snappy snare drum and rumbling bass.  It's also just a lot of fun.  Something that happened in the 90s that I just don't see at all today is upbeat, happy hip hop.  It doesn't always have to be doom and gloom guys.  And even though this record is somehow thirty years old now, to me it still sounds fresh and fun and brings me right back to my freshman year of high school.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Spells / Hooper - Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 Spilt 7" - Pink Vinyl (/220)

Spells / Hooper - Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 Spilt 7" - Pink Vinyl (/220)

Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

I do not claim to be an all seeing, all knowing oracle of punk rock information, but I do own a few punk rock records.  The gimmick behind this particular split 7" isn't one that I've ever heard of before.  If it is a completely original thought, kudos to all involved.  If it is just something that has only been rarely done that never crossed my path before, again - kudos.  This time for bringing out an idea that I think could use a bigger spotlight.

So, what is the gimmick you ask?  Well for starters, the two bands on this 7", Hooper and Spells, cover a song originally done by the other band.  But Tim, you say, that's been done approximately one hundred thousand times in the past.  Ah yes, but let's talk about the second contribution for each band.  Spells wrote a brand new, never before recorded song.  And they wrote it specifically to be played by Hooper.  Hooper returned the favor and wrote a brand new song for Spells.  So these aren't covers, they are brand new originals written for another band.  To me, this is a wild idea and am super into it.

The songs themselves are fun to listen to as well.  The Spells' take on the two Hooper written songs provide a blast of that usual Spells energy, but with songs that feel a little more straightforward and to the point than some of the more traditional Spells fare.  On the Hooper side or the equation (not their side of the record as each side has a song by each band) is my favorite song of the four, the Hooper version of "Forget About Virginia" from the Spells' Loose Change Vol.1 comp.  Also on board is a new song, "Salted Breeze."

I dig the concept a lot.  It helps that it is executed by two bands I already am a pretty big fan of.  As this is set up as Vol. 1, I assume that means more volumes are coming.  Let me give you the million dollar idea for Vol. 3 or 4.  The Drolls and Foxhall Stacks.  You're welcome.

Spells / Hooper - Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 Spilt 7":

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Halo Benders - The Rebels Not In LP

The Halo Benders - The Rebels Not In LP

K (2021, Reissue)

The Halo Benders are dually fronted by Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening and Doug Martsch of Built To Spill.  They put out three records in the late 90s with The Rebels Not In being the final one released in 1998.  I've had the first two on vinyl for a while, but only had the CD of their third album.  For a while now it's been a pretty expensive pick up on the second hand market, so I was pleased to see it available again on the K website.  Word has it that reissues of the first two are on their way as well.

While my favorite Halo Benders album will probably always be their debut, The Rebels Not In certainly has its share of greatness.  I often contend that The Halo Benders are the best vehicle for Calvin Johnson.  I've always been a fan of his vocals, starting with his guest appearances on Beck's One Foot In The Grave album.  I was never able to really get into Beat Happening, I think everything was just a little too jangly and cutesy for my personal taste.

Pairing Calvin with Doug's guitar work and vocals is the sweet spot for me.  Doug keeps everything messy and just loud enough to keep things moving along.  His vocals are such an amazing compliment to Calvin's, especially considering how fundamentally different they are.  But they work together seamlessly in song after song.  If you're going to buy one Halo Benders album to give them a chance, buy God Don't Make No Junk.  But if you dig that one, The Rebels Not In is right up there in terms of song quality.

The Halo Benders - The Rebels Not In

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Nice & Smooth - Ain't A Damn Thing Changed LP


Rush (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 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.

When I think about Golden Era hip hop albums that are certifiable classics, I don't usually think about the second Nice & Smooth record as I'm going through my rolodex of the greats.  But, when I am thinking about my own personal discovery of hip hop, it is part of a very pivotal moment that I still remember with bizarre clarity.  By 1991, I was watching Yo! MTV Raps a lot, I would venture every single day.  I was being bombarded with new music videos and so many were connecting with me.

I went to a record store one day.  I think it might have been a Coconuts, but I know it was a non-mall store and it was on a weekend where I was visiting my dad.  During this trip I bought three albums.  Low End Theory by Tribe Called Quest, Def Before Dishonor by Hard Corps and Ain't A Damn Thing Changed.  Despite my desire to hear more songs like the Public Enemy/Anthrax version of "Bring Tha Noize," Hard Corps was a total whiff and I bet I only listened to the whole album once or twice at most.  Low End Theory became one of the most important records I ever listened.  Somewhere in the middle was Nice & Smooth.

As a whole, it is a very good record.  The production is really solid with good beats throughout.  Greg Nice, in particular, is a tremendous rapper and I have always loved the way he extends his rhyme schemes way beyond the traditional couplet.  It's not uncommon for Greg to blast through six, eight or ten lines that all follow the same rhyming pattern.  It's a ton of fun and I'm always impressed.  Smooth B isn't at Greg's level, but he adds a nice contrast in style and that makes the songs more dynamic.  That said, I don't think I would have much interest in a Smooth B solo record, but I'd have no issue with one from Greg Nice.

For me, where this record gets bogged down is in the choruses.  They're almost universally cheesy, with a repeated line that is kind of goofy or an R&B tinged croon that seems super out of place.  It sounds like they were grasping for some type of mainstream notoriety, but these hooks just don't mesh as well with the lyrics and styles of the verses.  That said, it is still a fun listen all of these years later.  It holds up better than a lot of thirty year old records, but my opinion of it now is pretty similar to my opinion back then.  It's good, but I wish it was a bit more consistent.  It's a great change of pace listen, but not anything I would ever have on constant repeat.

Nice & Smooth - Ain't  A Damn Thing Changed:

Monday, August 9, 2021

Frank Black - Teenager of the Year 2xLP


4AD (2019, Reissue)

I like The Pixies.  I think most people that get into punk and indie rock find their way to The Pixies eventually.  My introduction was my friend Pat lending me his copy of Surfer Rosa when I was in high school.  From there, I gradually added records to my collection.  I got a greatest hits CD in college and eventually the individual full lengths.  I even liked the first of the two reunion records.  What I didn't pay much attention to was the Frank Black solo records.

Oddly enough, what got me to go check this album out was a comedian.  In the early 2000s, I came across a website called Cook'd and Bomb'd.  It was a news site and media repository dedicated to the works of Chris Morris, perhaps the comedian I have enjoyed more than any other.  Here I gained access to an archive of all of the Radio 4 music shows he did in the mid 90s.  And while the primary reason I wanted was to listen top his surreal radio bits, I also found out about a few 90s albums that I had otherwise missed.

"Headache" by Frank Black (or 'Blank Frank' as Morris quipped) was a song played during a few early episodes.  It had such and infections singalong hook that I found it lodged in my head pretty constantly.  I ended up getting the album and enjoying quite a bit of it.  While I think that it's way too long (22 songs on a rock record is massive overkill), the highs are really high.  I could listen to "Headache" every day and "(I Want to Live on an) Abstract Plain)" is just about as great as well.

I'm pretty sure this 2xLP was released for Record Store Day a couple of years ago.  I wasn't willing to stand in line or pay the flipper prices, but I was happy to find a standard version a few months ago.  Again, it's a lot to take in during one sitting, but most of what's on here is way too good to only exist in my CD rack.

Frank Black - Teenager of the Year:

Friday, August 6, 2021

Synthizer - The Light Design Vinyl Records Holder

 So this is an odd post, I guess.  I really never write about anything other than records, but Synthizer reached out to me and sent me one of these record stands to review.  Never one to turn down a free accessory for my records, I said sure, why not.  It arrived and I messed around with it for a bit.

It's a simple set up with only 5 parts.  The little acrylic piece is meant to go into whichever slot the larger piece is not in, so you have 2 options, 1 that holds about 50 records and one that holds about 25 of them.

The entire stand is held together by the notches on the wooden backing flat piece.  The 2 legs just notch into that.

For the most part, it is sturdy and well constructed.  Though, I do wish that the large acrylic piece had 2 notches so it sat more flush and stable when inserted.  It's not in imminent danger of falling out or anything but I think it would add some stability.

Once you put in the records, they are held and you can flip through them as if you are digging through bins at a record store.

Now, if you are someone like me, this is a completely impractical way to store records.  For starters, I have thousands of them and this only holds 50.  But I also have cats.  So if I leave these tempting cardboard spines unattended and out in the wild, they wouldn't survive an hour.

But, this does have a lot of potential as a 'Now Playing' stand for when I grab a handful of records to play.  The only issue for me, is that the stand was a bit too long to fit where I would need it.  Plus, I don't need space for 50 records that I'm playing now.

So, I decided DIY hack this thing.  I took the legs outside and sawed off from just before the middle notches to the end.  This gave me significantly shorter legs.

Now, I can put the larger acrylic piece in and I have a little display stand that can hold just the right amount of records if I want to go on an afternoon binge.  And it fits perfectly where I needed to put it.

All in all, I think this is a useful little gadget.  If I was shopping for one, I'd probably be looking for a shorter one like what I ended up hacking, but it's a quality piece of gear and definitely has its uses.  Long term storage for a large collection isn't one of those uses, but as a display stand, it's pretty great after some minor modification.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Knucklehedz - Stricktly Savage LP - Violet Vinyl (/250)


Smoke On / Savage (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.

One of the joys of my life right now is going as far down the early 90s hip hop rabbit hole as I can possibly go.  I've been digging as much as I can to try to find gems that I may have missed the first time around.  While I don't know that I could classify this record as a 'gem,' it is an interesting discovery.

Knucklehedz is essentially the lost member of EPMD's Hit Squad.  Redman, Das Efx and K-Solo all had their releases and Knucklehedz was supposed to be next up in 1993.  Stricktly Savage got as far as CD promos before it was ultimately shelved and not released.  They were likely a casualty of EPMD splitting up and their Hit Squad crew splintering.

I could never call this a lost classic or anything, but the production on it is great.  It has a thumping, grimy sound that reminds me quite a bit of EPMD's Business Never Personal.  It's packed with head nodders and interesting beat choices.  Lyrically, I don't think these guys can hold up to the rest of the Hit Squad crew.  Tom J and Steve Austin (no, not the wrestler) have flows that are serviceable and I wouldn't say they are bad, but they never elevate any higher than passable.  Still, the production is great to the point where I'm willing to just listen along and focus on the overall vibe.

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Obits - Die At The Zoo LP - Pink Vinyl (/300)

The Obits - Die At The Zoo LP - Pink Vinyl (/300)

Outer Battery (2021)

It feels like this is what it means to buy a new release for me this year.  Rather than a new band with a new album, I'm picking up a live album that was recorded nine years ago by a band that's no longer together.  While 2020 wasn't a high water mark for new and exciting records (with a few notable exceptions), I really feel like 2021 is a barren wasteland.  So, it looks like I'll stick to buying the tried and true for now.

Live records aren't my favorite thing at the best of times.  Sure, Leatherface and Bum had great ones, but there's a lot more misses than hits out there.   I hardly ever listen to live albums as in general, I'd prefer to just listen to the studio recording of a song in the context of the album it was released on.

It's also a real crap shoot on what the live record will even sound like.  So often they are tinny, poorly recorded documents of a sound that was so much bigger in real life.  Luckily, that isn't the case with this Obits live record.  It's recorded impeccably with everything sounding full and rich.  

The band is playing at a super high level as well, with everything sounding on point, like a band really hitting their stride.  I can't say that the song selection is exactly how I would have set it up, as I probably would have leaned more towards some of the band's faster material, but they do roll out hits like "Talking to the Dog" and "One Cross Apiece" towards the end.   

I mean, for an Obits live record, this is a pretty good.  I don't know what they could have done to make it better aside from include a few more of my personal favorite songs, but that's just me being greedy.  That said, I really can't imagine when I would listen to this.  I like having it in the collection, because I'm a broken person with a completist problem and the artwork is great.  But if I want to listen to The Obits, I'm probably just grabbing one of their other full lengths.

The Obits - Die At The Zoo:

Friday, July 30, 2021

Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers 2xLP - Red Vinyl

Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers 2xLP - Red Vinyl

Virgin/Real Gone (2021, Reissue)

I was a little bit late to the original Fountains of Wayne party.  Or I was a little early to the big one that everyone else cared about.  Regardless, I got into Fountains of Wayne sometime after Utopia Parkway came out.  Yet another band recommended to me by my buddy Alan, and once again he was right.   There were definitely a couple of years between 1999 and 2003 where it seemed that the band might be done, but then the rumblings of new music started.

By this time, I was working in the music biz and had a friend that worked at Artemis records.  He knew a guy who knew a guy that was either helping, or was on the receiving end of Fountains of Wayne shopping for a new record label.  This friend made me a copy of what was to become Welcome Interstate Managers.  I, of course, shared with Alan and we were both pretty impressed with what we heard.  Maybe not on the level of the first two records, but it was so great to have new music by these guys that I for sure got caught up in it.

Sometime in here, after I had the record, but before it actually came out, Fountains of Wayne started playing some shows.  Including one at Bowery Ballroom that we all went to.  I was so excited, but I remember all of us leaving the show kind of disappointed.  It was so long ago that I don't remember any specifics really, but my big takeaway was it felt kind of clinical.  Everything sounded perfect, but maybe a little too perfect?

Soon after the record was officially released and we watched in amazement as a guitar pop band from the fringes of major label world was suddenly everywhere with "Stacy's Mom."  A goofy and fun song that I really liked probably the first three thousand times I heard it, but at this point would be fine never hearing again.  That said, the rest of this album holds up really well and I will still contend that songs like "Mexican Wine" and "Hackensack" are as good as anything off the first two albums.

In a lot of ways, this record for me is like All The Nations Airports for Archers of Loaf.  A record that is more than half good, has a handful of stellar moments, but marks the turning point where I started to lose interest in what the band was doing.  But for three records, both Fountains and Archers were towards the top of my list of the bands I listened to the most.

Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers:

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Del The Funky Homosapien - Both Sides of the Brain 2xLP

Del The Funky Homosapien - Both Sides of the Brain 2xLP

Hiero Imperium (1999)

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've spoken at length about how much Del The Funky Homosapien means to me, particularly his 2nd album, No Need for Alarm.  Even though by late 1994 I wasn't listening to much hip hop and had mostly transitioned to indie rock and punk, I still tried to keep tabs on Del and the rest of the Hiero crew. I picked up Del's tape, Future Development in 1997 but that wasn't a real high profile release.  The next time I saw Del in a record store was when this album came out.

I picked up the CD of Both Sides of the Brain the very moment it came out.  In 1999 I was still in college and had just started my internship at the company that ended up being my first job once I graduated.  I was in New Yersey and the company was in NYC.  So, I took the bus in from Willowbrook mall to the Port Authority.  I have extremely vivid memories of sitting in Port Authority with this album in my Discman trying to absorb everything that was happening.  I look back very fondly to a lot of my times in the 90s.  Sitting on the floor of the Port Authority waiting for the bus isn't particularly high on that list of memories.

I finally picked up the vinyl version of this recently on Discogs.  It hasn't been repressed since its initial 1999 pressing, so it tends to go for a decent amount these days. Luckily I found a deal.  The cover is a little rough around the edges, but for the most part it isn't anything I'm not able to deal with.

Both Sides of the Brain never totally connected with me the way other Del records did.  I'm not sure if it was just too long or the fact that I didn't really like the album opener "Time Ids Too Expensive" all that much.  Don't get me wrong, I do like it and there are some really killer tracks on here like 'Phony Phranchise,"Jaw Gymnastics" and "Fake as Fuck."  But when it really comes down to it, I'd rather listen to some of his other records that followed like Golden Era. I also think in part, this album got overshadowed by Deltron 3030, which came out just a little bit later.  That one blew my mind.

Del The Funky Homosapien - Both Sides of the Brain:

Monday, July 26, 2021

Mononegatives - Apparatus Division LP

Mononegatives - Apparatus Division LP

Big Neck /No Front Teeth (2021)

From a quick perusal of Discogs, it looks like Mononegatives have been kicking around for a few years, based on a few self released EPs.  Apparatus Division is their first full length album and comes out as a joint release on Big Neck and No Front Teeth.  I wasn't sure what to expect from them exactly, but I do dig the artwork quite a bit and generally trust the Big Neck name, so I went in with higher hopes than I would for a random new album from a random band on a random label.

The first thing that really strikes me about this album is how much I like the guitar tone.  From the opening seconds of "Stilted Entrance" I'm all aboard with the powerful, but still tuneful and somewhat jangly chord riffage.  Combine that with the ferociously pounding drums throughout the album and you end up with a band that kind of sounds like The Blind Shake if you took away most of their distortion.

The vocals are where the bulk of the fuzz ended up.  And while they get bonus points for not just shouting indiscriminately, I do wish they were ever so slightly cleaner so I had more of a clue to what the actual lyrics are. But that minor issue aside, this is a fast, loud and fun record that where the fastness and the loudness are never threatening to take over the song.  This is the rare band where all that extra energy just makes the songs better, rather than overpower with unneeded chaos.

Mononegatives - Apparatus Division:

Friday, July 23, 2021

Super Deluxe - Famous LP

Super Deluxe - Famous LP

Tim/Kerr (1995)

In the 90s, you could find so many tremendous things in the used bins.  There was so much quality music coming out and so many labels and people taking chances on bands, it was inevitable supply would outstrip demand sometimes.  That's not a knock at the quality of any of these bands, it was just a fact of life back then.  Super Deluxe was in probably ninety percent of the used bins I sifted through back then.

I can't say I know a lot about this band.  While I've been aware of them forever, I've never really done a deep dive.  To be totally honest, I hadn't even really started giving this band their due until the last few years.  They were always just a CD kicking around that I didn't listen to.  For whatever reason, I started to play it again and it really upped my appreciation for a band that I had mostly just considered an also-ran.

They play extremely polished guitar pop songs.  Big, loud, crunchy guitars that are layered with wonderful vocal harmonies and tremendous hooks.  I'd put it right up there, maybe just a notch below, early Weezer or Fountains of Wayne.  Luckily for my wallet, most of the world seems to have forgotten about these guys, so I was able to get a sealed copy of this record for about ten bucks.  It has the cut out notch, but that doesn't bug me much.  It's worth it to hear how incredibly full it sounds spinning around on the turntable.

Super Deluxe - Famous:

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown (Expanded Edition) - 2xLP - Yellow Vinyl (/2000)

Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown (Expanded Edition) - 2xLP - Yellow Vinyl (/2000)

Music On Vinyl (2021, 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 did already have the standard version of Critical Beatdown, but when an expanded version was announced that was on colored vinyl and was limited; I just couldn't help but pick it up again.  Even though there isn't anything I didn't already have on a 12" single, I reordered this as soon as I saw it was available.  Does everyone need this version, probably not - but it has two big things going for it in my opinion.

The first is that it includes the 12" version of "Ego Trippin'" which is one of my favorite Ultramagnetic songs.  This version has the same production as the original LP version, but it's longer.  So more song for me to enjoy.  The second big reason is the inclusion of the original 12" version of "Funky." This one is very different that the LP Version and is the song that inspired me to start buying all of the Ultramagnetic MC's 12"s a year or so ago.  I haven't posted about those yet, but one of these day's you're all in for about 10 straight weeks of Ultramagnetic MC's singles...

All in, is this version worth paying double the cost of the standard version?  Honestly, probably not.  For me it's worth it as I'm such a gigantic fan of this band, but for most normal people the single disc LP is probably enough at this price point.  That said, I truly believe that anyone that likes hip hop should have some version of this record, it's way too important of a release to not celebrate.

Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown (Expanded Edition):

Monday, July 19, 2021

Herzog - Fiction Writer LP - Gold Vinyl


Exit Stencil (2021)

If you've been following the sort of records I've been writing about lately, a trend is emerging...  The vast majority of them are records from the 90s.  Be it reissues or finally tracking down an album that I only had on CD, I've spent far more time chasing down old hits than buying albums that were just being released this year.  I'm not totally sure why, but I have hypothesized before.  Is it just that there are less good records coming out this year?  Or is my old age finally catching up to me.  It's easier to blame things on the pandemic or bands for not hitting that sweet spot I'm looking for, but it's definitely possible that it's just me slipping.

Then I hear a record like Fiction Writer and absolve myself of all responsibility.  This is an amazing record and it came out this year.  Go figure.  I've been a fan of Herzog for a while and have loved the way they've built their vocal harmonies over instantly catchy, fuzzed out guitars.  A little bit early Weezer and a little bit Here's Where The Strings Come In era Superchunk.  This is their third album and might be my favorite of the bunch. 

In particular, the first half of the record is just on fire.  From the opening "Na na na na na" of title track "Fiction Writer" to the scratchy vocals of "Money," it's just hit after hit.  Not that the B side is any slouch either, but man that stretch of songs on the A side is something special.

There's not a lot of albums that have come out in 2021 that I'm all that excited about.  It's a very select club at the moment, but Fiction Writer is firmly in there with Cloud Nothings and Czarface as the records that I'm listening to the most.

Herzog - Fiction Writer:

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Spinanes - Manos - Yellow Vinyl

The Spinanes - Manos - Yellow Vinyl

Merge (2018, Reissue) 

When I first started my post-Beck journey into the world of punk and indie rock, one of the most important records I bought was a compilation called Rock Stars Kill.  It was released on Kill Rock Stars in 1994 and it was a CD I played constantly my senior year of high school.  As an aside, even though I would almost never listen to it today, I probably should pick that comp up on vinyl one of these days, just for archivist purposes.  Anyway, I discovered quite a few bands from that CD and one of them was The Spinanes.

I liked their song on that comp, "Stupid Crazy," enough that I ended up buying their CD Manos.  And man, did I end up loving that record.  From the minute the huge fuzzy guitar riff from opener "Noel, Jonah and Me" (not the absence of the oxford comma, just another reason to love The Spinanes) hits, I just fall head over heels for this album.  They make a lot of noise for a two-piece consisting of drummer Scott Plouf and singer/guitarist Rebecca Gates.

The big guitar sound is always warm and melodic, never noisy just for the sake of it, and it meshes so perfectly with Gates' incredible vocals.  I've had the CD for well over 25 years at this point, but decided I should pick up the vinyl.  I hemmed and hawed about buying this reissue for a while as I don't really like the artwork, which differs from the original.  But ultimately, It just made more sense to pick up a new copy for under twenty bucks than it would to overpay for an original with different artwork.  It sounds as good as ever, and that's the important part.

The Spinanes - Manos:

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

X Clan - Xodus LP

X Clan - Xodus LP

Polydor (1992)

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.

X Clan is a group that I've always had a special fondness for.  I first discovered them on Yo! MTV Raps when they started playing the video for "Fire & Earth."  The beats are what grabbed me first, then there was the powerful flow of Brother J, who holds down the majority of the rhyming.  He has a deep, gruff voice that comes off as authoritative, but still musically savvy. 

Then there's Professor X.  He is definitely the most polarizing part of X Clan.  The best I can do to describe him is something of a cross between Flavor Flav and Emo Phillips.  He has a bizarre, sing-songy cadence like Emo and primarily acts as a hype man during intros, outros and breakdowns.  Almost every song on this album ends with him shouting "Sissy."  Some people love his style, while others hate it.  I'm somewhere in the middle.  There are songs where he's a benefit, but there are other instances where I listen to a song and think that I probably don't need to listen to X Clan again anytime soon.  He's a bit much sometimes.

But what cannot be denied is how incredible the production is on this album.  It's serious, beat heavy, old school hip hop.  The title track "Xodus" stands out in particular.  It uses the bass line from "Call Me D-Nice" as a foundation and just keeps adding more layers to it as the song progresses.  Plus, Brother J is just on fire the entire time.

X Clan probably isn't going to be for everyone, primarily because of how outlandish Professor X sounds. But there's a lot to like about them.  This is their second LP and the one I am most familiar with, but I've been eyeing up their debut on Discogs and plan on adding that one to the collection at some point as well.