Friday, January 29, 2021

Lightning Cult - EP2: Ether Waves Cassette


Snappy Little Numbers (2019)

My pile of tapes to review is completely unorganized.  They're just a mess and I have no idea how long some of them have been sitting around.  I'm going to try my level best to get through some of them over the next few weeks as I don't have a lot of incoming vinyl to write about.  I'm going to do my best to tackle some of the lingering records and tapes that are sitting around.  The goal is at least one tape a week.

We're going to start off with this one by Lightning Cult.  On the Snappy Little Numbers Bandcamp page it says this came out in 2019.  I cannot believe this has been sitting around for over a year.  But, I suppose it is possible given the state of things.  I like this.  The band kind of has a shoegazer-y vibe to them, particularly in the vocals, but the music is upbeat enough to where it doesn't sound mopey or boring.

There are some surfy guitar tones here and there and in general the songs are catchy with a few really strong hooks on a couple of these songs.  "Pacific Hits" is my favorite of the bunch on side A, probably because it's the fastest of the bunch.  It's a good place to start if you want to check out something on the Bandcamp.

While EP2: Ether Waves is only five songs long, on the cassette's B side, they've thoughtfully provided the songs for EP1: Burner.  These songs are also really good.  They are a little more varied than the stuff from EP2, but in a good way.  I'm glad they are on this tape and are not something I have to go track down on their own.

Lightning Cult - EP2: Ether Waves

Lightning Cult - EP1: Burner

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Del The Funky Homosapien - Golden Era 2xLP


The Council (2011) 

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's probably pretty obvious that Del The Funky Homosapien is my favorite MC of all time.  I'm constantly extolling his virtues and have been doing that since I was in the eighth grade.  He was particularly influential for me in 1993 when No Need For Alarm came out while I was in high school.  As such, he has been one of the very few artists that I have kept close pretty close tabs on since the golden era of hip hop.  

That's not to say that I've been able to stay right up to date with everything he does, in fact I have another LP of his on his way to me that I was unaware of until pretty recently, despite it being released over a decade ago.  But, I was very aware of Golden Era when it came out in 2011.  But, I opted to purchase a CD version when it first came out.  The Golden Era triple CD set also included two additional albums that had previously been digital only; Automatik Statik and Funk Man.

When I decided that I needed to add the vinyl to my collection (which doesn't include those other two albums), it had gone out of print and became difficult to track down.  I've been keeping my eye out for it and I was pretty psyched to be able to pick it up for $20 off Discogs a few weeks ago.

As far as the album goes, it's one of my favorite Del full lengths, particularly over the past twenty years or so.  I typically like everything Del releases, but sometimes the beats aren't exactly what I'm looking for.  That is definitely not the case with Golden Era.  The beats are full sounding, upbeat and really harken back to the sounds of the Golden Era that Del is referencing with the album title.

In particular, "Double Barrel" may be the best Del track I've heard since "At The Helm."  It has a similar driving drum rhythm giving Del a straightforward beat to weave his lyrics through.  I've always thought Del works best in this arena.  Rich, full beats that are steady in their tempo.  That lets Del create the dynamics with his lyrical flow, coming slightly off beat here and there only to reconnect and make it make total sense a few bars later.

There's a reason I think Del's the best and a lot of that is on display during Golden Era.  While I'll always recommend No Need For Alarm as the best place to start with Del, if you're looking for something of his to sample that's a bit more recent, this is a great album to try out.

Del The Funky Homosapien - Golden Era:

Monday, January 25, 2021

Shiner - Schadenfreude LP - Black Vinyl & Gray Swirl Vinyl


Two Black Eyes (2020)

When there's nineteen years between a band's most recent two releases, there is always cause for concern.  Will they be able to pick up somewhere close to where they left off? Is it even possible to capture that sort of lightning in a bottle a second time?  Will anyone even care?  Luckily, when it comes to the new album from Shiner, they tick off all of the boxes and answer any questions with a resounding yes.

I became aware of Shiner primarily because they are my wife's favorite band.  She played them for me and I especially gravitated towards their 2001 album, The Egg.  Coincidently, that was the last album they put our before the nineteen year gap that preceded Schadenfreude.  Listening to Schadenfreude, I think it is a great follow up to The Egg.  

While Allen Epley has stayed active over the years in his other band The Life and Times, they never spoke to me the same way Shiner did.  Though my wife thinks they are great, for me they were just never loud enough.  If there's one thing that Schadenfreude is, it's loud.  It has those huge, crunchy guitar tones and massive energy that I want out of this kind of Jawbox-flavored rock and roll.  

Now, when I say energy, I want to clarify that a bit.  Shine is not playing fast punk rock songs.  Their vibe is slower, but it still packs a mean punch.  I tend to visualize molten lava flowing down a mountain.  It's not going to fly through a town, but it's got an unstoppable inertia to it, churning and building as it wipes out everything in front of it.  It's a big sound and one that I am happy to hear again.

When Shiner started playing some reunion shows and rereleasing their earlier records, there was always hope that new tunes might come to light.  With Schadenfreude that hope became reality and fortunately Shine was also able to live up to the reputation they created for themselves twenty plus years ago.

Shiner - Schadenfreude:

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Mr. T Experience - Alternative is Here to Stay 7" - Black w/ Red Swirl Vinyl


Sounds Rad (2020)

In case you missed it, The Mr. T Experience and Sounds Rad have been reissuing albums over the past few years.  Rumor has it that this will continue for the foreseeable future until every album has been reissued.  This is a project that I have been following pretty closely and even though I have original pressings of most of these releases, I'm keen to see what's next.  

Something I didn't see coming was a reissue of the Alternative is Here to Stay 7".  I had figured (and hoped) that the Mr. T Experience singles would eventually be compiled onto an LP to go along with the two volumes of Shards compilations that have already been released.  I think that might still be a plan of theirs, but I guess we might see more of the individual 7"s as well. 

You'd be hard pressed to start with a better one than this.  I believe that this was the first 'new' MTX record that came out after I discovered them back in the 90s.  I likely only had a few of their records to my name at the time, but this one knocked my socks off.  Anyone with a partial pulse in 1995 could tell you how much we heard the word 'alternative' on an hourly basis.  To see it sent up as a 60s inspired pop punk ditty extolling its virtues, well that was next level funny to me.

The B side is "New Girlfriend."  One of those classic Dr. Frank relationship songs casting a wry eye at things.  It's fast, it's catchy and there's some talking about breasts.  Just the sort of thing that made me chuckle when I was eighteen years old.  And it still makes me chuckle today, to be honest, as it's not done in a mean spirited or cruel way.  It's just a fun, well written and silly song and that's more than you can say for a lot of things these days.

The CD version from back in 1995 also had a third song called "You Today" (and an 'alternative' version fo "Alternative is Here to Stay" that I honestly have zero memory of).  "You Today" isn't on either of the Shards LPs.  Surely this means they'll still have to do a singles comp, right?  Right?

The Mr. T Experience - "Alternative is Here to Stay":

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths Of Rhythm 2xLP


Jive (1990)

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 discovered A Tribe Called Quest in 1993 after seeing their video for "Check The Rhyme" on Yo MTV Raps.  I loved that song so much and was even more enamored with them once I had dug into the full Low End Theory album.  Shortly after that I picked up their debut, People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths of Rhythm.  I am fairly positive I grabbed it as part of one of my Columbia House/BMG Music Club scams.  While I have never liked it the album quite as much as Low End Theory, which to be fair is a tough comparison for album, this debut has its share of great moments.  

I've often felt People's Instinctive Travels was something of an overlooked part of the Tribe discography and listening to my newly acquired copy on vinyl, I'm more sure of that than ever.  The beats are just a step below what you'd hear on Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders, but again, that's a pretty high bar I'm comparing it to.  The same sort of jazzy samples and steady percussion is constant throughout the album and there's no doubt about it, you are listening to a Tribe Called Quest album.

Lyrically, Q-Tip is every bit a great as he is on any other Tribe release and Phife is right there with him.  The interplay between these two as they trade verses is something that has always been special.  They have very different styles, but they are incredible compliments to eat other and every song where they both make an appearance is something special.  I'm thrilled to have this in the vinyl collection and I really need to pick up Midnight Marauders at some point.

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths Of Rhythm (YouTube Music full album stream):

Monday, January 18, 2021

Jiffy Marx - She's My Witch 7" - Black & Red Mixed Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

Here we go again, Snappy Little Numbers picking up a band I never heard of before, putting out a record by them and dropping it in my lap to great fanfare.  Their track record includes way more hits than misses and you can absolutely chalk up Jiffy Marx in the 'hit' category.

The A side is "She's My Witch" and man of man, it sounds like it could have been an outtake from the Love As Laughter album Laughter's Fifth.  Specifically it reminds me a lot of the song "Dirty Lives" with its laid back, breezy indie rock sound.  There's a loose feel to the instrumentation and the vocals that gives it a quality of the sort of thing you'd hear hanging out with the friends that you've known your entire life.

On the B side we have "Warning Sign."  This one doesn't sound as much like Love as Laughter as the other, but it's still a strong song and is actually the poppier of the two.  I'm not sure if anyone reading this remembers those Space Wolves tapes I got a few years back, but this song makes me think about them quite a bit.  Both good songs, definitely worth giving a listen to.

Jiffy Marx - She's My Witch 7":

Friday, January 15, 2021

Guns n' Wankers - For Dancing and Listening 10" - Black Vinyl and Blue & Green Mix Vinyl


 Fat Wreck Chords (2020, Reissue)

Randomly, out of nowhere I found an email from Fat Wreck in my 'promotions' folder on my Gmail account.  It harkened the arrival of a few 10" reissues on limited colored vinyl.  One of the items on the list was Guns n' Wankers, originally released on Fat as a 12", but now being condensed by inches and reissued.  The timestamp on the email said it was less than an hour old so I popped over to the Fat Wreck website to collect my prize.

It was sold out already.  I couldn't believe it.  I figured the NOFX reissue would fly out of the door, but I couldn't imagine the GNW 10" would have been blown out that fast.  Dejected, I grabbed a copy on black vinyl and set up an eBay alert.  It didn't take too long for one to pop up and luckily I had just traded in a holiday gift card to get an eBay gift card on one of those exchange sites, so I picked it up for $40.  I'm not as nuts as I used to be about owning every variant of a record, but there will always be a handful of bands where I'm going to get obsessive about things. Snuff and Guns n' Wankers are still on that list.

This version of the GNW songs is not as complete as the one that 10 Past 12 put out recently.  I don't even think it's really called For Dancing and Listening, but it does get referred to as that fairly often.  The three Metal songs and the two songs from the Silly 7" are not on this.  You only get the eight songs that comprised the Pop 7" and the Hardcore 7".  Now, those are the best songs of the bunch and spinning these hits at 45rpm as a 10", there's something that is just very cool about that.  The black vinyl is still up on the Fat Wreck site.  Definitely worth a pick up of these songs aren't in your collection.

Guns n' Wankers - For Dancing and Listening:

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Del The Funky Homosapien & Parallel Thought - Attractive Sin LP - Red Vinyl


Parallel Thoughts Ltd. (2012)

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

Despite the fact that Del The Funky Homosapien is my all time favorite MC, there are still albums of his that I haven't tracked down on vinyl just yet.  Attractive Sin was one of the highest on that list but the cost of obtaining a copy a few years after it went out of print kept it at arm's length for a while.

Over on Discogs it regularly sold for $50+ so I just kept searching.  Luckily, eBay ended up saving the day.  One day a copy popped up for $20.  I followed the auction all week and for whatever reason, I was the only person to place a bid.  It seems odd to me that records can be more expensive on Discogs than they are on eBay these days, but I'm just happy to have been able to get this for a reasonable cost.

As far as the music goes, Parallel Thought serves up some really interesting beats.  They are bass heavy with jazz flourishes that set the mood for Del.  As usual, Del's lyrics are borderline insane with complicated rhyme structures and diverse battle rap material.  I really feel that no one can hold a candle to Del when he's got a great beat to rhyme over and this entire is no exception.

Del The Funky Homosapien & Parallel Thought - Attractive Sin:

Monday, January 11, 2021

Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands LP


Self Released (2020)

I didn't get a chance to do a proper review of this album before I ran out of time last year, but you may have noticed that the record did rank quite high on my list of the Absolute Best Records of 2020.  I figured that it would make sense to start the year off getting this one written about.

The Black Hole Understands is an album that the members of Cloud Nothings wrote and recorded under quarantine earlier in 2020.  In some ways it's a pretty dramatic departure from their last few records, but in others it's exactly the sort of thing you would expect from cloud nothings.

First off, the differences.  This record is in no way as loud and noisy as usual.  The distortion is dialed way back giving way to cleaner and at times jangly guitar sounds.  As far as the vocals go, there isn't much of the harsh howling that comes up from time to time.  These vocals are more restrained, almost delicate in the way they interact with the music.

But despite these sonic differences, the songs have the classic Cloud Nothings mastery of putting just the right hook in just the right place.  While they certainly have a weariness to them, they nevertheless have an unshakeable optimism.  Just like everyone else, the band is pushing along to get through these times, because surely they'll get better eventually, right?  

The one other comment I have is that when I ordered this record from the Cloud Nothings Bandcamp page, I had ordered the clear with black smoke colored vinyl variant.  When I got this in the mail, it was a straight black vinyl version.  I actually didn't notice this right away as I forgot there was a colored vinyl version and I've contacted the band/label through their Bandcamp page.  Hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on the colored vinyl version.

Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands: