Friday, December 31, 2021

The Absolute Best Records of 2021


Wasn't 2021 supposed to be better than 2020?  I mean, it might have been a little bit, but in general it was another year of chaos and uncertainty.  There were good moments to be sure and I'm very lucky to share my home with my wonderful wife and pets, but outside of the four walls of our house it just felt like another year of madness.

For records, it was also a really weak year.  That is not to take away from any of the bands on this list.  If their record wasn't good or great, they wouldn't be on here.  But, the amount of new records that I bought this year was a paltry number compared to years past.  It just felt like so little was actually being released.  Be it supply chain stuff, record pressing delays, bands not being able to practice or tour - it just felt like another year where very little was happening.

Luckily there were some bright spots.  Though it was released under sad circumstances, the posthumous Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise is a truly wonderful album from Dan Sartain.  I would have adored it any year.  Same can be said of the excellent Mark Murphy & The Meds, Cloud Nothings, Herzog and Friends of Cesar Romero albums.

I was also listening to a ton of hip hop this year and to have two albums come out this year that made my top ten (Czarface & MF Doom was a legit new record for 2021, though Soul Party was technically recorded in 1995, even though it was never released until now) was pretty incredible.

I'm grateful for the small sparks of joy that I was able to hang on to in 2021.  Family, records, toys, t shirts or whatever made things a bit easier to get through the day.  When I wrote up my 2020 list, I was hopeful that the new year would be better.  I hope the same thing this year. Will 2022 be the year we shake loose the pandemic and it's assorted insanity?  Based on how stupid people seem to be, I have my doubts.  But once again, I do hope for the best.

01 - Dan Sartain - Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise - One Little Independent (Listen)
02 - Mark Murphy and the Meds - On The Brink - Brassneck / Bloated Kat / All In / Horn & Hoof / Kezy P (Listen)
03 - Czarface & MF Doom - Super What? - Silver Age (Listen)
04 - Cloud Nothings - The Shadow I Remember  - Car Park (Listen)
05 - Herzog - Fiction Writer - Exit Stencil (Listen)
06 - Gentleman Jesse - Lose Everything - Beach Impediment (Listen)
07 - Soul Party - Da Bacyard - De Rap Winkel / Fat Flava (Listen)
08 - Friends Of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors - Snappy Little Numbers (Listen)
09 - Needles // Pins - Needles // Pins - Dirt Cult (Listen)
10 - The Hamiltones - Dracula Invitational 1791 - Big Neck / Swimming Faith (Listen)

11 - Night Marchers - Live at Bar Pink - Swami 
12 - Billy No Mates - S.F. Sourdough - 10 Past 12 / Unless You Try
13 - State Drugs - Live. Laugh. Love. - Snappy Little Numbers
14 - The Obits - Die At The Zoo - Outer Battery 
15 - Rocket Bureau - Middle Angst - Overdue Miracle
16 - Come Closer - Pretty Garbage - Pirates Press 
17 - Eleventwelfth - Everything After - Waterslide
18 - RexxxPure Pleasure II LP - Big Neck
19 - Red Devil Ryders - Pour Me Another One - Just Because
20 - Mononegatives - Apparatus Division - Big Neck / No Front Teeth


Monday, December 27, 2021

New Year's Break

 I'm going to take a few days and relax.  I'll have my Absolute Best of 2021 up on New Year's Eve, but aside from that, I'll be watching wrestling and playing Nintendo until the second week of January.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Tha Anthom 'N Mike B - Neva Sellin' Out LP


Chopped Herring (2020)

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.

It seems inconceivable to me that this record came out in 2020 and wasn't an unearthing of a lost gem from the 90s.  My descent into the madness of digging for old hip hop records I missed out on in the 90s lead me to the Chopped Herring record label.  They've been doing a bunch of really interesting reissues.  Most tend to be 12" EPs, but there are full lengths kicking around as well.  While perusing their website one day, the artwork for Neva Sellin' Out caught my eye and I clicked on the link to check out some samples.  I dug what I heard and ordered the record.

This record is probably the best hip hop release I've heard in forever.  While I do really like the Czarface records I've discovered recently, there is something uniquely special about Tha Anthom 'N Mike B.  They have a wonderful, jazzy take on hip hip the feels like something that could have come out the same week as Low End Theory.  Stunning bass lines mix with expertly picked samples in the hook.  Combine that with a picture perfect lyrical flow and you've got something truly special in your hands.

Not only is this a wonderful throwback that feels so fresh right now, I would take the Pepsi challenge and put this up against anything from the 89-94 era.  Are there records from that time that are better? Sure, there are unadulterated classics that came out back then, but Neva Sellin' Out would not be out of place put up next to any of them.  It's that good.  This is one of the records I have listened to more than anything else this year.  I only wish I had heard about it last year so I could have included it on my best of list for 2020.  I also wish I had been paying attention so that I could have snagged the colored vinyl pressing of this, but alas...  If you're in the market for some stellar new hip hop, look no further.

Tha Anthom 'N Mike B - Neva Sellin' Out:

Monday, December 20, 2021

Dan Sartain - Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise LP - White Vinyl


One Little Independent (2021)

It's very difficult to write about this Dan Sartain record without delving into the extremely unfortunate fact that he's no longer with us.  In fact, a very brief back and forth about the title of this record is the very last time I interacted with Dan.  I can't remember where it happened and I can't seem to find it now.  When he was recording or had just finished recording the album, he posed a question about what the title should be and gave a few options, one of them was Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise.

In case you are unaware, it's a G.I. Joe reference.  There's a G.I. Joe miniseries called Arise, Serpentor, Arise. I of course voted for this title, but mentioned that when Serpentor came into G.I Joe is when I pretty much checked out of watching the cartoon.  Dan responded with something to the effect of "Serpentor Sucks."  He's not wrong.  Serpentor may suck, but Dan Sartain records are pretty amazing.  For the rest of this write up, I will try to only talk about the record itself.  It's too sad to go too much further into everything else, but one thing I can say if this has to be the last record, it's nice that it is as great as it is.

You could say this is a return to form in some respects to Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise.  It's definitely a return to the song styles and structures that were most evident from his self released albums through Dan Sartain Lives.  There's not much in the way of synth like his last release, Century Plaza, though there are some electronics and the use of drum machine is there for sure.  Mostly these are just great rock and roll songs with Dan's traditional swagger and passion.

It's dark in places, like on "You Can't Go Home No More" and "Kisses In The Morning."  It's optimistic in others like "Daddy's Coming Home." And it also just gets a little surreal (which is common on a lot of Dan's records) when he starts singing about "Personal Injury Law" or the infectiously fun "Foreman Grill."  That Dan could write such an amazingly catchy song extolling the virtues of cooking on a George Foreman Grill is a testament to the genius of his songwriting.  Is it silly? Of course, but that never stops it from being an engaging listen.

It's such a great record.  If you've liked Dan's other works, there's no way you won't like this one, at least when it comes to the music.  It's emotionally tough to listen to at times and there's some lyrical content that makes you wonder if there's a deeper, more connected meaning when you take real life into account.  But ultimately, looking at this record in a vacuum and listening to it just as a collection of songs, you're not going to find many any finer than Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise.

Dan Sartain - Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise:

Friday, December 17, 2021

12/17/11 - 12/17/21 - Ten Years of I Buy Way Too Many Records Dot Com

Please forgive the carpet wrinkle, having cats that like to claw is a challenge

It seems somewhat inconceivable to me that I put this website up ten years ago.  It's even weirder to me that I was taking pictures of my record purchases on Flickr for about a year before I moved everything here.  I know that I didn't think about what this would look like ten years later as I just didn't have any sort of long term idea.  In the heat of the moment in 2011, I just wanted to find a better place to put my year end list that year.

When I look back over these past ten years, it is kind of amusing to me.  Ultimately, this site is exactly what it was in 2011.  I've done one minor design update in that time and have just continually pumped out pictures and write ups.  More people read now than they did back then, but my circle of influence is still pretty minuscule and I'm usually preaching to a choir of likeminded individuals that are already interested in this sort of music.

Sharing music has always been important to me.  In high school I wrote reviews for my school newspaper.  I did the same in college and then transitioned to having a radio show and ultimately being the music director of my college station.  My first job was doing radio promotion in the music industry and when I left that job in 2007, I just still wanted to be involved.

I imagine there's probably a handful of people out there that remember when I started doing an internet radio show which morphed into a podcast called Ludicrous Speed.  On the old Pop Punk Message Board, some dude was starting up an internet radio station called Punk and Beans radio.  Perhaps one of the most poorly named endeavors in the history of the internet, but it was 2009 and I missed doing my radio show when I was in college ten years earlier.

I downloaded a few programs and put together episodes.  The internet station fizzled out extremely fast and I shifted it towards being a podcast.  It was fun, but honestly it was a giant pain in the ass putting those episodes together.  I also have no real interest in hearing myself speak or try to be any sort of on air personality, I just wanted to play songs so others could hear them.  It was probably pretty boring, but there were slightly fewer podcasts then than there are now.

Eventually I just wanted to document my collection so a few friends could follow along.  Even when I put this website up, I never really meant for it to become a review site.  It was just supposed to be pictures of records and a sentence or two.  But as I picked up records that I love, I ended up having more and more to say about them.  It very quickly morphed into whatever the hell it is now.

I've met a lot of cool people through this site.  About four record labels send me records on a regular basis to write about and I am exceedingly grateful for that.  But what's always been the coolest for me is when someone tells me that they had never heard of a band I wrote about and ended up buying their record.  That's just the best.

I've contemplated not doing this site anymore many times.  There are days where I just have no interest in writing.  Sometimes I go for months at a time without getting a cool new release that I'm excited about and in 2020 and 2021 that was a real problem.  Even though I don't think hardly anyone cares about them, the Wednesday old school hip hop reviews are probably one of the main things that made me keep this site going consistently since the pandemic started.

I don't know exactly how much longer I'll do this.  I'm not stopping today or tomorrow or anything like that.  I still have a pretty big pile of records that I haven't written about yet, although most are older albums or reissues of older albums.  There will undoubtedly be a time where I just say enough is enough, but I guess I'm not there quite yet.

In a couple of weeks I'll be putting up my annual Absolute Best Record Of list.  This year was really difficult.  Luckily a late flurry of albums came out and gave me enough records to actually put a list together.  I'm really hopeful that 2022 lets us return to the days of more new releases, pop punk bands playing shows and a general return to normalcy.  I don't necessarily think that's going to happen, but it is what I hope for.

Ultimately what I really want to do more than anything else is say thank you to anyone and everyone that has ever read this site, messaged me about a record or sent me something to check out.  I can't fathom doing this for ten more years, but I also couldn't have imagined doing so in 2011 either.  I've probably got a bit more in me though, so buckle up and get ready for three reviews of average quality writing a week.  At least until the last week of December.  I always take a break then and this year will be no different.

Thanks to all. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head 2xLP

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head 2xLP

Capitol / Grand Royal (2009, 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 1992 my interest in Yo! MTV Raps and hip hop in general was at a fever pitch. Around this time the video for the Beastie Boys song "Pass The Mic" started being played. Prior to seeing this video, the only real experience I had with the Beasties was a bunch of people in my grammar school really liking License To Ill and me being pretty uninterested in what felt like a bunch of meathead crap, even back then when I was a little kid. Paul's Boutique flew completely under my radar and I didn't even know it existed back then. 

 To be confronted by a band that I had pretty much written off as mainstream nonsense putting out a song that was really infectious wasn't something I was expecting. I didn't totally trust it, so I bought the cassette single of "Pass The Mic" rather than committing to the whole album. It wasn't until the second single, "So What'cha Want" came out that I decided to pick up the full album. How could I not? To This day "So What'cha Want" is my favorite Beasties song and it hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I saw the video for it. I finally picked up Check Your Head and gave it a listen. To say I was kind of confused would be an understatement. 

I had no idea that the Beastie Boys had ever done anything but wrap. To have an album in front of me where they were rapping, playing instrumentals, delving into funk and even some punk rock was completely unexpected. I didn't know what to make of it and if I'm being honest, at times I still don't. I love all of the hip hop songs on this record. All of them, they're essentially flawless. A lot of the other stuff is hit and miss for me and because of that, the album feels a little too long and bloated at times. I get that the eclectic nature of this record is what drew in a lot of people and while I completely respect their musicianship and vision, it doesn't all connect with me. It never really did. 

 But the highs on this record are so ridiculously high that you just can't call this record anything but a success. I've been listening to it for nearly thirty years and it always still manages to surprise me. You could list off hit after hit sliding down the track list on this bad boy and everything has aged really well. Not having this on vinyl was a pretty big hole in my collection and for whatever reason this record seems to go in and out of print with surprising regularity. It popped up as being in stock one day and into the collection it went.

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head:

Monday, December 13, 2021

Bashford - Greener Grasses - Sea Blue Vinyl (/250)


Big Neck (2021)

Just got a pile of records in the mail from Big Neck.  Two LPs and EIGHT cassettes.  It'll definitely take me a bit to get through all of these.  I decided to start off with one of the LPs and dug into the band Bashford for the first time.

I wasn't really sure what to expect going into it.  It felt like it could be a hardcore record, but the artwork also had a strong 90s indie rock vibe to it.  It actually lands in pretty much the perfect middle ground place.  This very much feels like a relic from the early 90s Pacific Northwest scene.  I hear some Karp, some godheadSilo and maybe just a tiny touch of Unwound.

There's a subtle catchiness to the songs on this album.  Don't get me wrong, the prominent vibe is heavy guitars and howling vocals, but there's something about the riffs and song structures that wrap themselves around hooks that aren't super obvious.  This album is probably an acquired taste and might not appeal to everyone, but if you bounced around genres thirty years ago, you would have definitely come across a band similar to Bashford.  And because of that, I can appreciate a record like this coming out in 2021.

Bashford - Greener Grasses:


Friday, December 10, 2021

Gentleman Jesse - Lose Everything LP - Jade Vinyl (/200)


Beach Impediment (2021)

Here comes another late contender for best records of the year lists.  Gentleman Jesse hasn't had a new album since 20212's classic, Leaving Atlanta.  In the nearly ten years since that record came out, I've been hoping against hope that there would be a follow up and it's finally here. 

Lose Everything is a very good record.  Though it's sonically a different animal from his prior two albums.  While it is still rooted in power pop, there's more than a touch of melancholy to these proceedings.  Flat out, several of the songs are something of a bummer, even though said bummer is presented with excellent melodies and nice, jangly guitar.  But there's a few songs where the production and the mood bring things down a bit, like the one-two punch of "Million Sorrows" and "God Is Blind."

That's not to say Jesse isn't still capable of cranking out some upbeat earworms. The second half of this album is particularly strong with "Hunger," "Come Along" and the title track, "Lose Everything" being as good or better than anything Jesse has previously concocted.  

It's not like it isn't easy to understand why folks are down these days.  From pandemic anxiety to little things like watching democracy erode, there's a lot going on that sucks pretty hard right now.  Lose Everything is kind of perfect in that regard.  It's a reflection of 2021 through a Gentleman Jesse album.  While I personally like his first album's upbeat vibe a bit better, it's not like I don't understand the value of an album like this.  It's definitely a grower as I find more to like about it each time I listen.

Gentleman Jesse - Lose Everything:

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Soul Party - Da Bacyard LP

Soul Party - Da Bacyard LP

De Rap Winkel / Fat Flava (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.

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I took an informal poll about what truly qualifies as a 2021 release.  That was prompted by this Soul Party album.  Da Bacyard was originally recorded in 1992, but it was never released.  I don't really know the story behind why it didn't come out, but it didn't see the light of day until 2021 with a CD and now a vinyl reissue.  The unanimous consensus from those that responded to me is that if this record never came out in any way before, it's absolutely a 2021 release and eligible for top album of the year lists. 

That's a great thing because this is definitely one of the better albums I've heard this year.  Yes, it is one hundred percent rooted in 1992 and the golden era of hip hop and I'm sure that's why it appeals to me so much.  But that doesn't change the fact that I've been listening to it constantly since I got my hands on it.  The production is strong East Coast style hip hop.  Boom bap influenced with cracking snare drum and jazz and funk fueled bass lines.

Lyrically, both MCs (Boogie and Double A) can hold their own with most anything that came out in 1992.  Are they elite level? No, they're not, but they fit into the production perfectly and keep the songs flowing.  When you're talking about the sort of quality that was coming out in 92, being middle of the pack is nothing to be ashamed of as the bar was so damn high back then.  Pretty much every song hits.  The only one that stands out to me as being slightly less than is "You Big Raggamiffin."  It dips its toe a little too deep into reggae-land for me, but it's not what I would call bad,  It just stands out from the other tracks and not really in a super positive way.

This is kind of a pricey import.  For whatever reason, the only labels reissue old hip hop seem to be based overseas.  That said, Da Bacyard is absolutely worth hunting down if you're looking for some old school hip hop.  Even though this is definitely a 2021 release.

Soul Party - Da Bacyard:

Monday, December 6, 2021

Mark Murphy and the Meds - On The Brink LP - White w/ Splatter Vinyl


Bloated Kat / Brassneck / All In / Horn & Hoof / Kezy P (2021)

OK, it looks like everyone waited until the end of the year to start putting out the great records.  I'm sure the labels will say "blah blah blah, vinyl turnaround times," but we all know what really is happening.  This is without a doubt a coordinated effort to make my December more complicated when I'm trying to get my end of the year list together.  Making me scramble to get these albums written up before it's time to post my list.  I'm on to you all...

Mark Murphy and the Meds is fronted by Mark "Guitar" Murphy (I'm going to keep hammering this nickname until someone else starts picking up on it) of Crocodile God/No Marks fame.  It's no secret that he's long been one of my favorite songwriters and most everything he touches turns to gold for my ears.  On The Brink is no exception.

Like with his other bands, he and the Meds have crafted a joyous slice of UK pop punk perfection.  The hooks are all over every song on the album, with buzzsaw guitar melodies galore.  To me, it really doesn't sound too dissimilar from Crocodile God, but that's not a slight.  If anything, I consider that a tremendous selling point.

Now, I do have to say one critical thing and it's just that I don't really dig the artwork too much with the wacky monsters and what not.  But questionable artwork would never stop me from loving a band.  Don't you know how many Snuff albums I have?  This record is just flat out great.  A late contender for one of the very best of the year.

Mark Murphy and the Meds - On The Brink:

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out LP

LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out LP

Def Jam (2014, 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.

There are a handful of records in every person's life that just completely upend what they thought they knew and the sort of sounds they are interested in.  It's not always the coolest or most glamorous albums that do this.  And there are times where the album that launched the change doesn't even end up holding up over time.  That's the very definition of Mama Said Knock You Out for me.  

This record came out in September of my eighth grade year in 1990.  I was certainly aware of hip hop prior to then, but I wasn't emotionally invested in anything until I saw the video for "Mama Said Knock You Out."  It was such a transformative moment that it's likely the reason I even started watching Yo! MTV Raps in an attempt to see the video more often.  It's such an incredibly great song and I really still love it just as much now as I did when I was thirteen.

That song led me to buying the entire album.  It's an uneven experience at the best of times and I thought that in 1990 as well.  In addition to the flawless title track, there's a few other memorable moments like "Eat Em Up L Chill," "Murdergram" and "To Da Break Of Dawn."  There's also a bunch of terrible songs like "Mr. Goodbar," "Around The Way Girl" and the laughably bad "Milky Cereal." Basically any time LL tries to be the romance emporium, he falls flat on his face.

But this is a pretty important record to me, historically speaking.   It seemed silly not to have it on vinyl if for no other reason than to listen to that insane title track over and over again while thinking about the musical direction it pushed me in when I was thirteen.

LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out:

Monday, November 29, 2021

Friends Of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors CD

Friends Of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors CD

Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

I am thrilled to see a new Friends of Cesar Romero album, and I'm even more excited that it's a CD and not a cassette or digital only release.  While I always prefer vinyl, there's nothing bad about the CD format and it's always bewildered me that folks have been putting out so many cassettes over the years when it's probably pretty similar in cost to run off some CDs.  But anyway...

I've really enjoyed everything I've heard by Friends of Cesar Romero over the years and War Party Favors is no exception.  Once again, a complete mastery of the pop song is on deisplay during each of the album's twelve songs.  There's a charming, fuzzy lo-fi feel to these songs that reminds me a little bit of bands like Boyracer or Silver Scooter.  However, Friends of Cesar Romero don't really wade into the overly emotion side of the pool the same way those bands do.  

I could also find some sonic comparisons to The Mean Jeans, but that too isn't really perfect.   War Party Favors is a fun, upbeat album with hooks all over the place.  But the vocals on a FOCR release are significantly better and the lyrics aren't goofy like Mean Jeans.  War Party Favors is definitely on the shortlist of the best records that I've heard this year.  I do wish this had also come out on vinyl, but I'm just content to have a physical release.

Friends Of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors:

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Future Sound - The Whole Shabang Vol. 1 LP

The Future Sound - The Whole Shabang Vol. 1 LP

Eastwest (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.

When you talk about forgotten classics, I'm not sure you can find too many that tick the 'forgotten' box more than The Future Sound.  Until the past year or so, I had never even heard of them, despite their only album coming out on Eastwest (home of Das Efx) in 1992, the height of the golden era.  It was only while diving into some 'overlooked records of the 90s' type lists did I see someone make mention of The Future sound.

I listened to the record online and was immediately drawn to the opening track (well, the first real song after the intro) "This Is A Game."  The horn riff that this track is built on is so great and the production sort of has a similar vibe as Lords of the Underground's "Funky Child."  But the song is a bit more laid back, but at the same time more upbeat than that LOTUG.  The Future Sound is not coming at you aggressively.  They're a group that's making music that's more concerned about being fun than it is about fitting into any sort of specific sub-genre of hip hop.

The entire record is great, with killer beats and solid rhymes.  It reminds of groups like UMCs, De La Soul (though not as hippified) or maybe Freestyle Fellowship (but with less complicated rhyme schemes).  Regardless of how I'm stretching to provide a point of reference comparison, this is a killer record.  I'm so glad I managed to stumble across it.  If I'm going to point to the best records I've found while doing deep dives into the forgotten recesses of the golden era, this is easily a top three find.  Sadly, this was the groups only album, so we never got The Whole Shabang Vol. 2.

The Future Sound - The Whole Shabang Vol. 1:

Monday, November 22, 2021

Spells - Fangirl Flexi & Zine


Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

This is a neat little thing.  A paper zine.  Talk about a throwback to the 90s.  While I know they are kicking around still and I've been a frequent subscriber to Razorcake, you certainly don't see them as often as you once did.  At least not unless it's a poorly written blog (ahem...).  This zine is primarily focused on different aspects of the band Spells.  As this is issue number one of this zine, I assume the goal is to have each issue focus on a specific band. Either that of Spells just hit the motherload when it comes to zine coverage.

There's an interview in here, some history, a discography and some assorted wackiness along the way.  It isn't a serious piece of journalism, but it is a fun read and really, really feels like something I would have picked up at the record store twenty-five years ago.

Additionally, this zine comes with a one song Spells flexi.  The song is also the name of the zine, "Fangirl."  It's a really catchy, fun song that in some ways feels like it's a TV show theme song.  I would have absolutely watched the Fangirl show on TGIF after Perfect Strangers was over.  This is a fun little package.  It warms my heart to see people still putting time and effort into things that I once held so dear, but have now fallen by the wayside for most of the world. Viva the 90s.

Spells - "Fangirl":

Friday, November 19, 2021

Nails of Hawaiian - Jazz CD

Nails of Hawaiian - Jazz CD

Snuffy Smile (1996)

There aren't many Snuff Smile records that I don't have.  At this point it's mostly a handful of super early CDs and a couple of the more recent 7"s that I just haven't gotten yet.  Snuffy Smile is easily one of the most influential labels I've ever listened to and in a lot of ways it probably was the most influential.  I'm not sure why I've had such a hard time tracking down this Nails of Hawaiian CD over the years.  I've known about them for what feels like forever and I have their split 7" with J Church along with a few compilations that they appear on, but this CD always eluded me.

Lucky for me, I have a great friend like Kazu.  He managed to find a copy for me in Japan and sent it over in a recent package.  I've had MP3s of this thing for a long time, so it's not like I'm hearing this for the first time, but finally having the CD in hand and realizing the cover art is just one panel of a four panel fold out picture - that's just a wild experience.

The music is fantastic.  It has the perfect mid 90s Snuffy Smile sound.  Hooks like a pop punk band, interludes like a post punk band and more than a few instances that remind my of San Diego bands like Tanner.  The vocals are impassioned, but never too screamy to where they lose the melody.  It's just a great album and one that I'm thrilled to finally have in the collection.  Just a few more Snuffy Smile CDs to go... 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Fu-Schnickens - F.U. - Don't Take It Personal LP

Fu-Schnickens - F.U. - Don't Take It Personal 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.

I had a hell of a time tracking this record down at a reasonable price.  It did come out a few years ago and I just wasn't paying as much attention.  By the time I decided it was time to addd this one to the collection, it was out of print and commanding high prices on Discogs.  Eventually I found a seller in Japan that was selling it at a good price and listed it as being brand new and mint.

When I got the record, it was complete trash.  Every single song had insane static and surface noise to the point where it actually overpowered the music.  I alerted the seller and he was a complete dick about it.  Wouldn't a returtn and just kept arguing with me that it was new and sealed, so it's not his responsibility.  Problem is that it wasn't sealed, it was in a resealable sleeve.  Anyway, I had to force the issue with PayPal, send it back to Japan and about 3 months later I finally got my money back.  Giant pain, but I found another one a few weeks later and this one is perfect.

Fu-Schnickens is one of those hip hop artists that really could have only in the early 90s.  They are a fun upbeat crew and dipped their toe into kung fu references a year before Wu-Tang Clan burst onto the scene.  Of the 3 MCs in this crew, Chip Fu was the one that always took the headlines with his micro machine man rapid fire delivery.  It tends to completely overshadow the other two, even though you can definitely make the argument that their contributions have aged much better that Chip's.

It's really the beats that keep this record sounding good nearly thirty years later.  It's just that perfect golden era production with rich, full beats that are total head nodders.  Aside from one truly awful song that closes out side A in "Heavenly Father," the other nine are a really good time and while they were never one of my favorite groups as a kid, I've always thought this record was a solid listen.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Night Marchers - Live at Bar Pink - Pink Vinyl

Night Marchers - Live at Bar Pink - Pink Vinyl

Swami (2021)

Every time I write about a live album (which, admittedly isn't very often) I always add in the disclaimer that I really don't like live albums.  I'm not sure what it is exactly about them, but I never really have the urge to listen to them.  There are, of course, some exceptions.  But in general, I buy them, file them next to the other records by the same artist and there they stay for all eternity.  I don't think this Night Marchers LP will suffer that fate.

In the pantheon of great live albums like Leatherface's Live in Oslo and Bum's Shake Town Live, you can now add Live at Bar Pink.  I'm not sure exactly why this particular record is hitting me harder than live albums traditionally do.  Maybe it's the fact that I haven't been to a show in over two years.  Maybe I'm just predisposed to love anything the Swami releases.  Or maybe it's because they managed to capture a hell of a set.

Most of my Night Marchers favorites are represented.  "Branded," "All Hits," "Scene Report" and other fantastic selections from the two full lengths the band put out are all here.  There's not as much banter as you'd expect from a Swami show and there are places where it sounds like there may have been cuts made to excise some of that from the album.  The songs, however, sound unbelievably great and really show what a potent live band they were.  That's not really a surprise since all of the Swami bands are known for their killer live shows, but something special was captured on this night.

Of all of the bands that Swami/Speedo/Slasher John Reis has been in, I really think that Night Marchers is the band that has been most overlooked.  They cranked out some pretty flawless songs.  Even if the band doesn't play again, they've left a heck of a legacy behind.  Live at Bar Pink just gives me one more way to listen to these great songs.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Pinhead Gunpowder - Carry The Banner LP - Black & White Split Vinyl

Pinhead Gunpowder - Carry The Banner LP - Black & White Split Vinyl

1-2-3-4 Go! (2021, Reissue)

Another day, another 90s reissue to write about.  I've said it before, but I feel like those are the only kind of records that I've been buying this year.  But it's hard to complain too much when you have a band as good as Pinhead Gunpowder.

Unlike with Jump Salty, I didn't really need to buy this particular LP.  I've had the 10" version put out by Too Many records since the 90s.  But, the Jump Salty reissue sounded so good, I figured I'd just collect all of these new versions that 1-2-3-4 Go is putting out.  I'm glad I did as this one sounds massive.  The bass is full and warm.  The guitars are crunchy, but with the crackling fuzz that still reminds you it's punk rock. I'm also a sucker for split color vinyl.

While I do think Jump Salty is my overall favorite of the PHG releases, this one is probably a very close second.  I think it's aged really well and I am still as into these songs as I was when I first heard them. 

Pinhead Gunpowder - Carry The Banner:

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Digital Underground - Sex Packets 2xLP - Blue Vinyl

Digital Underground - Sex Packets 2xLP - Blue Vinyl

Tommy Boy (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.

Like everyone my approximate age, there was no escaping "The Humpty Dance" in 1990.  It was such a huge hit and was omnipresent on MTV back then.  It also has one of the great beats in the history of hip hop. With it's deep, sliding bass line, you couldn't ask for a better canvas for the absurd lyrics that came next.  Now I can't say that the rest of the record ever hits a high that high again, but it's a strong record and is more than just a home for their one hit single.

The record is an odd, sort of concept album about sex packets that you can buy like drugs.  It's kind of a far out idea for a hip hop record, particularly in 1990.  Not every song is tied to that narrative, but in particular the second half of the album leans pretty heavy into that story.  Some things hit and some things miss.  But it's extremely innovated and never boring.  

The songs tend to be kind of long.  And while that's certainly not uncommon for hip hop, eight of the albums ten real songs (excluding skits) are over five minutes with five of them breaking six minutes.  It's a bit much at times and I sometime feel like if they trimmed some of those down a bit this could have been a slightly tighter album.  But, at the end of the day this is a pretty classic release that took hip hop into uncharted territory when it first came out.  Digital Underground had a bunch of albums out after this and I'm admittedly not as familiar with them as I am with this one.  I might need to revist those at some point.

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Cardigans - First Band on the Moon LP


Universal/Stolkholm (2019, Reissue)

Last week I wrote about the Cardigans' record Life, which I kind of bought by mistake as I forgot that "Lovefool" wasn't on it.  It's a great record and defintiely worthy of a spot in the collection, but I did have to immediately fix my mistake and grab a copy of First Band on the Moon on vinyl as well.

This is the record with "Lovefool" and hot damn do I love that song.  I've had the 7" of it for decades, having picked it up in the UK when I was there on a trip in 1997 buying way too many records (no dot com back then).  It';s still the highlight of the album to me.  Granted there are some other great songs like "Never Recover" and "Been It," but as a whole I actually think Life is a much better record as a whole.  

The thing about this record that holds it back a bit is that the songs are a little slower for the most part. It's always good, but for me it only ventures into great when they pick up the tempo a bit.  Life feels like a record that's just a bit more fun overall, but this is the record with the hit.  I guess I just have to have them both.

The Cardigans - First Band on the Moon:

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Farewell Bend - In Passing LP - Neon Orange / Neon Green Half and Half (/100)


Spartan (2021, Reissue)

I feel like all I've been doing this year is buying reissues of old albums.  It's been dire for new releases in 2021, but I guess I can take solace in the fact that I've certainly not bought less records than I usually do.  This one isn't even a record I had originally planned on buying.  My buddy Scott hipped me to The Farewell Bend, who are a band that I'm not even positive I had ever heard the name of before, for whatever reason.  Even more curious is that it's a band fronted by Brandon Butler and also featuring John Rejba, who were both in Boys Life.  

I am very familiar with Boys Life, particularly their excellent Departures and Landfalls album, so I was surprised that this wasn't on my radar back when it originally came out.  I'm definitely making up for lost time since I picked up this LP.  While there are some touchstones that are similar to what you'd hear in Boys Life, in general The Farewell Bend rocks a lot harder.  Their songs are catchier and a bit more traditional in structure, but I would never say they really dive too deep into pop territory.

What you have here is a record that mixes up a little punk rock, some of those midwestern emo vibes, a dash of indie rock and a little bit of that Jawbox/DeSoto flair to churn out an album that I really dig.  In fact, I think that I'm actually in a much better place to appreciate this record now than I would have been in 1998.  I've listened to so much more music now than I had then and I think my tastes, while still probably annoying narrow to some, are much broader than they were back then.  This is a great record and one I'm stoked that Scott gave me the heads up on.

The Farewell Bend - In Passing:

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) 2xLP - Gold Vinyl


Vinyl Me Please (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 know that I just wrote about this record a couple of months ago and it's probably weird to have re-bought a new version already, especially considering that Wu-Tang has not traditionally been one of my favorites.  But I have gotten way more into them the last few months, in part from listening to the record more and also from watching the Hulu series about their formation.  While I watch the show with a healthy bit of skepticism and assume most of it is bullshit, it's hugely entertaining and and interesting snapshot of early 90s music industry chaos.  They also play the songs from this album nonstop and they get stuck in my head pretty easily.

I read a review of this pressing, which is this first time the album has been stretched across a double LP instead of being crammed onto one.  The review was very complimentary towards how good this version actually sounded and it was really the definitive pressing.  So, I bought it again.  Might as well lock it down now before it goes out of print and gets more expensive.  I've watched that happen to more than a few hip hop reissues over the last couple of years and I've learned that it's important to buy them right away at retail price if it's something you want in the collection.

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

Monday, November 1, 2021

The Cardigans - Life LP

The Cardigans - Life LP

Stockholm (2019, Reissue)

The Cardigans were one of those bands in the 90s that I liked, but for whatever reason it felt like doing so was some sort of secret I had to keep.  Not that I kept it particularly well and I've never really been the type to be embarrassed by whatever weird music I was into, but there was this feeling that punk points were at risk for being into The Cardigans.

In particular, I adored their hit, "Lovefool."  Which is how this LP ended up in my collection.  I few months ago word that NJ's best record store, Vintage Vinyl, was closing down.  I headed down that weekend to pay my respects and hopefully buy a T shirt.  No dice on the shirt, but I spent one last afternoon digging around their bins.  I was determined to buy something during my last visit, and that's when I came across this album.  The artwork is kind of iconic and it immediately struck a nostalgic chord with me, so I picked it up.  My brain thought that "Lovefool" was the big single on this record.  Oops. I remembered that wrong.

Turns out, this is the record that came out before the First Band on the Moon album and I don't think I've ever heard it before.  I just saw the artwork so many times in the 90s that my brain filled in gaps that weren't correct.  But hey, turns out, this record is really nice as well.  They play kind of a kitschy, 60s inspired rock/pop hybrid.  It's got this retro house party vibe and boy oh boy, can they write hooks.  While I can't imagine it's the sort of record that I'd be listening to regularly, it's a wonderfully relaxing change of pace and is a pretty perfect Sunday morning record.

The Cardigans - Life:

Friday, October 29, 2021

Booker T & The MG's - The Complete Stax Singles - Vol. 2 (1968 - 1974) 2xLP - Red Vinyl


Real Gone Music (2021)

This is, of course, the companion piece to Vol. 1, which came out back in 2019.  With the release of this double LP, all of the Stax singles that were released by Booker T & The MG's have now been compiled and packaged in a way that is convenient to own and a joy to listen to.  I really wish they'd do something like this for Otis Redding.  He has a surprising number of amazing songs that didn't appear on any full lengths.

Back to The MG's, while I'm not typically a huge fan of instrumental bands, there's always just been something about these guys that enthralls me.  I'm sure it can be traced to my love of The Blues Brothers and the Stax soul sound in general, but I have no problem getting lost in these songs even without the presence of a singer guiding the way.

There's so many hits here.  "Soul Limbo," "Melting Pot" and "Time Is Tight" stand out as my favorites.  I can't really say which volume of this compilation set is better as both have so many wonderful songs.  I feel like you really can't have one without the other.  And I'm happy to have both.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Hard 2 Obtain - Ism & Blues 3xLP - Orange Vinyl (/300)

Hard 2 Obtain - Ism & Blues 3xLP - Orange Vinyl (/300)

90s Tapes (2019)

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.

Hard 2 Obtain have a silly name.  It reminds me of N2Deep with their terrible "Back To The Hotel" song, but even if the name wouldn't be my first choice, this album is unbelievably great.  Ism & Blues originally came out on Atlantic records in 1994.  I have no memory of ever reading about them in The Source or seeing them on Yo! MTV Raps, so I didn't hear them when this first came out.

I stumbled across them when I was listening to the Kurious record.  One of the songs was really resonating with me and I saw that the production was done by the SD50s.  A production team that was also involved with some of the Hieroglyphics records that I love so much.  I decided to do a little bit of research to see what other groups they had worked with that maybe I had missed out on.  Hard 2 Obtain came up as not only a group they had worked with, they had essentially done the production for their entire album.

That's the strongest point of this record, the beats are just excellent.  Bouncing bass lines, upbeat drum beats.  It's such a quintessentially 1990s sound and something I wish was still prevalent in the world of hip hop.  As far as the vocals go, there are two MCs; Taste and DL.  I'm not sure which one is which throughout the course of the record but they have a solid flow and one of them sounds quite a bit like Grand Puba.  In fact the whole album does have something of a Brand Nubian feel to it and I can't think of too many groups that I would rather be compared to.

This album was rereleased in 2019 by the label 90s Tapes.  This is a label that I've gotten really into the past year or so and hunting for this record is what made me start looking at their other releases.  They did an incredible job with this album, expanding it to a triple LP and tacking on instrumentals and other tracks not on the original release.  Sadly this rerelease, like the original, is long out of print and I did have to pay collector prices to get my hands on a copy, but it's really worth every penny and might be one of the best albums from the golden era that sadly seems to have been mostly forgotten about.  I sure wish that I could have heard it in 1994.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Superchunk - Indoor Living LP


Merge (2014, Reissue)

While I have had all of my favorite Superchunk full lengths on vinyl for quite some time, there are a few records that I don't like quite as much as some of the others and haven't picked them up.  One is Here's to Shutting Up, which has been out of print and expensive until a repress that came out this year.  The other is Indoor Living, which is probably my least favorite album by Superchunk.

Now, when I say this is my least favorite Superchunk record, it's kind of like saying Let It Be is my least favorite Beatles album/. When you're comparing a record to some of the ,ost perfect records ever released, something has to be your least favorite, but it's not to say that this record is bad or un-good.  I just don't like it as much as the others. 

I think the main reason why I don't like this one as much is because it's a pretty mellow affair, all things considered.  Especially considering that it was the next album released after the explosive Here's Where The Strings Come In, I think it was bound to be something of a letdown as I was hoping for more of the same.  But the songs are well written and well played, I just think I'd like them more if there was a bit more oomph.  This was the first of a trifecta of slower Superchunk albums.  I think that Come Pick Me Up pulled off this style the best of the bunch, but for me, I like my Superchunk loud, fast and full of that distorted guitar that I love so much.

Superchunk - Indoor Living:

Friday, October 22, 2021

Piggies - ...And Now CD

Piggies - ...And Now CD

Waterslide (2021)

I really needed to listen to something like this.  Piggies hail from Japan and have been kicking around for over twenty years.  They haven't released a ton of records during that time period, but here we are in 2021 and they have a five song EP on Waterslide records.  It's such a blast of fresh air and is one of the best things I've heard all year.

Piggies are playing a very pop forward strain of punk rock.  It's not quite as straightforward pop as something on Mutant Pop and it doesn't lean into hardcore at all the way you'd expect from the golden era of Snuffy Smile releases, but it's somewhere in the middle.  The co-ed vocals are incredible, with sugary sweet harmonies and backing vocals on every single song.  The hooks are gigantic with probably the catchiest choruses that I've heard all year.

The real selling point for me on this EP is just how much fun it is.  There's a lot of bleakness in the world these days and it's pretty easy to get wrapped up in dour feelings and angry music.  That's not Piggies. They are here to make you remember the good times and how much fun you can have with some guitars, drums and a pile of great, great tunes.  I only wish it were a full length instead of an EP.

Piggies - ...And Now:

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Czarface - Czarface 2xLP


Brick (2013)

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.

While buying and rebuying all of these golden era hip hop classics over the last couple of years, I've been desperate to find modern hip hop that has a similar feel.  Though I have found a few labels issuing unreleased 90s gems, finding modern acts putting out records I like has been a much harder quest.  Luckily I stumbled across Czarface earlier this year with their excellent Super What album earlier this year.  That made me start digging through their back catalog.

I've bought the entire Czarface full length discography at this point, but let's start with their debut from 2013.  Czarface is Esoteric and 7L along with Inspectah Deck from Wu Tang Clan.  Considering how I never really appreciated Wu Tang until very recently, it's no surprise that I wasn't paying attention when Czarface started up.  But this is pretty much the sort of hip hop I want to listen to.  The crack of the snare and the thump of the kick drum drives the production forward, it doesn't sound old, but certainly has that late 80s/early 90s boom bap vibe.  And that's what I want.

Lyrically Esoteric and Deck have flows that really compliment each other.  The subject matter tends to be comics, sci fi and a smattering of pro wrestling references sprinkled throughout.  And though I can't say I am a huge comics fan (it is one of the only nerdy things I never got into as a kid), the references still land with me and the record is just an upbeat, good time.  Maybe there are other records like this that I've missed over the years.  I hope there are and I hope I can find them as I've been really digging Czarface the last few months.

Czarface - Czarface:

Monday, October 18, 2021

Rocket From The Crypt - Live From Camp X-Ray LP - Orange with Black & Yellow Splatter (/500)


Vagrant (2021, Reissue)

This is the companion post to last week's Group Sounds review.  As part of the Vagrant Records twenty fifth birthday thing, they've been rereleasing records from their past.  As they had two Rocket records, it was probably inevitable that they'd be rereleased again.  This time out though they were exclusives sold through Newbury Comics.  

This was the last Rocket From The Crypt full length to be released and the fact that it is eighteen years old is a little crazy.  I keep hoping and hoping that we'll get another one someday, but so far there isn't anything in sight, I'll just have to keep on hoping I suppose.

This vinyl variant looks great with the album artwork, but it's also super similar to the 2013 reissue they did for that year's Record Store Day.  I'm fine always buying whatever variants are released to keep the archive up to date, but I wish they had done a version that was a little bit more unique.  While this is certainly the best looking version and is an improvement to the 2013 one, it is pretty much the same and I'm not sure why they didn't make it stand out just a bit more.

Then again, most people probably aren't idiots like me that own six versions of this same record...

Rocket From The Crypt - Live From Camp X-Ray:

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: