Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Various Artists - Music From The Motion Picture Judgment Night - Orange Vinyl (/5000)


Music On Vinyl (2020, 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.

If there is an album that I would consider to be quintessentially high school, it would be the Judgment Night Soundtrack.  It came out in late 1993 when I was starting out my junior year.  While I wasn't listening to much in the way of rock or alternative music at the time, I was neck deep in one of the best years in hip hop history.  I had really enjoyed the Anthrax/Public Enemy version of "Bring The Noise" a couple years earlier and I remember being pretty psyched about this album, even though I have no memory of actually being aware of the movie.

In a nutshell, this album paired some interesting hip hop luminaries with some rock and roll bands.  History looks back on this album as something of a bridge between those two worlds and the start of the sort of rap-rock stuff that would take hold in mainstream music in the late 90s.  I don't really agree with that assessment.  In my eyes, this is a total fluke record.  It's better than it has any business being and none of the creatively bankrupt followups ever achieved what it did.

That's not even to say this album is a success from start to finish.  There's several songs that I think are pretty terrible.  Ice T and Slayer's cover song medley doesn't have any hip hop in it at all, making me wonder what the point of it even was.  Same thing with Fatal and Therapy?'s "Come and Die."  Even Run DMC (who essentially created this sort of thing, at least on a mainstream level) come up flat when paired with Living Colour on "Me, Myself & My Microphone."

That said, there's some great songs on here.  I'm pretty confident that the very first time I ever heard of Sonic Youth was because of the low key groove they provided for Cypress Hill on "I Love You Mary Jane."  Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. really tear it up on "Another Body Murdered." Even the weird-on-paper pairing of Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot yields impressive results.  

The pinnacle of this album and probably the main reason I bought it is for the Del The Funky Homosapien song.  He teams up with Dinosaur Jr. (Also, definitely the first time I ever heard of them), and their contribution "Missing Link" is the epitome of what could be possible when two unique artists work together to try to create something new. The music that J Mascis put together is a perfect canvas for Del's left of center flow, allowing him to meander around with his innovative rhyme structures and cadence in a way that's completely unique to the album.  The entire record is worth it just for this song.

I couldn't ever listen to this record on a super frequent basis.  It sounds really dated and as mentioned earlier, there's a few songs on here that are pretty bad.  But it does make me nostalgic for a time where music was taking chances.  I don't know that you could ever create another album like this again, so I'm glad it was able to happen when it did.

Music From The Motion Picture Judgment Night (YouTube Music full album playlist): 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Billy No Mates - S.F. Sourdough LP - Green Vinyl (/100)


10 Past 12 / Unless You Try (2021)

You may or may not know that I am a gigantic Snuff fan.  They are one of my very favorite bands in the world and I usually mention them, Leatherface and Rocket From The Crypt as the three most important bands to me.  Like John Reis from Rocket and Frankie Stubbs from Leatherface, I tend to follow Duncan Redmonds from Snuff to whatever other project he has brewing.  Guns N Wankers is probably the most famous of his other bands, but Billy No Mates is the one that has the most non-Snuff records out.

S.F. Sourdough is the fourth Billy No Mates album and this time Duncan is joined by luminaries of the US punk rock scene.  On this recording are Joey Cape from Lagwagon, Sergie Loobkoff from Samiam/Knapsack and some guy named Chicken.  He's from a band called Dead to Me that I'm not familiar with.  I have to say, I was especially intrigued by what Duncan and Sergie would do together as they both have some much great work under their belts and both have a really distinct point of view in their punk rock.  In that regard I was a little let down.

This album sounds pretty much like the other Billy No Mates albums.  That's not really a bad thing or a complaint, but I mostly hear Duncan's point of view on these songs.  I like his point of view, so that's good, but unless you told me Sergie was on this record, I would have never known.  That said, we have a bunch of nice melodic punk songs that have similarities with some of the more modern Snuff albums and some others that are more unique to what Billy No Mates has cranked out in the past.

It's a good record and it's nice to have something new that has come out in 2021 that I really dig.  Even though this is technically from 2010...

Billy No Mates - S.F. Sourdough LP:

Friday, March 26, 2021

Third Year Freshman - Demo Cassette


Self Released (Probably 1995 or 1996)

So, here we have a change.  A tape I bought on purpose.  This is a demo tape by the band Third Year Freshman from West Chester, PA.  The poppy punk scene in northern NJ that I was hanging around in when I first started college in 95/96 was a ton of fun.  But it also wasn't made up exclusively by bands from NJ.  Weston, Plow United and Third Year Freshman were a big part of that scene and would come up from PA all the time to play shows.  I'm going to paraphrase something that I heard a person say once: m"You always love your weirdest kid the most."  That was Third Year Freshman.

And they were my favorite local band in that little scene.  Fronted by Tom Martin, armed with an acoustic guitar and a bevy of crazy ass songs, it was impossible to not love them.  Mid 90s pop punk was pretty goofy as a whole, but Tom & crew always took it to the next level.  I have so many great memories seeing them play our local shows and always pulling off something crazy.  

My strongest memory was when they played at Flipside records, opening up for a Mr. T Experience in store.  Except the Mr. T Experience got lost and never showed up.  Third Year Freshman played for a while that day trying to fill time as we tried to figure out what was going on (this is 1996, so not real cell phones or GPS to speak of back then).  They made up songs about some of the people who randomly came in to shop and I remember a song about a patron in a red sweatshirt that was particularly excellent.

This tape is from my favorite era of the band, when their drummer only played a snare drum and just stood up next to the other two members of the band.  I saw them with a full on drummer a bunch too, but there was something magical about that snare only line up.  The first thing that's interesting about this tape is that it contains some songs from the band's only CD, Senior Year.  But most of the versions on this tape are completely different and feature the snare only version of the band, whereas the CD has a full drummer.  Maybe they were taking these songs for another spin once the lineup changed.  I'm extremely certain the CD with the full drummer came before they switched to the snare only line up.

It also features "Disneyland." Arguably one of my favorite songs of theirs that ended up coming out on their split 7" with Wally.  That 7" is the record that I think really captured the band at their peak (and their magnum opus "Two Days Ago I Turned Punk Rock" from the Dad, I Can't Breathe compilation).  But this tape is such a fun nostalgic listen for me and I'm pretty psyched one popped up on Discogs last year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

3rd Bass - The Cactus Al/Bum 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.

I don't think I heard 3rd Bass right when this album originally came out in 1989, but I definitely saw the "Gas Face" video before their 1991 follow up Derelicts of Dialect came out (you know, the 'Pop Goes The Weasel' one).  I bought derelicts pretty much the moment it came out and was a little surprised to see so much airplay for that single.  While I still think that is a pretty solid record, I always thought The Cactus Al/Bum was the better of the two.  Primarily because of the song "Gas Face."

I'm not positive that when I first heard it, I initially made the connection that it was built off of a sample from "Think" by Aretha Franklin (her version in Blues Brothers being a particularly influential song to me when I was growing up).  Regardless if I picked up on the source, there was no denying how that piano riff meshed in with the drum track they created to become something pretty special.  From the moment Prime Minister Pete Nice (still one of my favorite hip hop names) starts up the first verse, it's pretty apparent these guys know how to create a great record.  It was years and years and years later that I put together that the guest MC on the last verse, Zev Love X from the amazing KMD was also MF Doom.  I never dug the Doom records as much as KMD and man did he shine on this track.

The rest of the album is good, if not a little inconsistent.  There are highs like "Sons of 3rd Bass,"Brooklyn-Queens"and "Steppin to the A.M."  But, there are probably too many skits, some of which feel like they go on forever and when the beats get slower on tracks like "Monte Hall" or "Triple Stage Darkness" I don't think the back and forth flow between Pete Nice and M.C. Search is done any favors.  Still, it's a fun record all these years later and one that I think is probably overlooked when discussing the pantheon of incredible albums that came out in the late 80s hip hop scene.

3rd Bass - The Cactus Al/Bum (YouTube Music full album stream):

Monday, March 22, 2021

Dan Sartain - 1981 - 2021

I was planning on just posting the reviews that I had written last week, but had forgotten to post.  But over the weekend I read the news that Dan Sartain died.  At the time of writing this, there hasn't been a cause of death announced, so I will not do any speculation about that.

I didn't know Dan, but I met him a few times over the years when he would play shows in the NYC area.  Usually tagging along with other Swami bands.  I can't really speak knowledgeably about him as a person, but what I can say is that his music was very important to me.

I first discovered Dan like a lot of people, through his Swami debut, Vs. The Serpientes.  I was still working in the music business back then and was lucky enough to be able to have had a hand in promoting Swami releases to college radio stations.   I'm not sure what I was expecting when the Serpientes CDs showed up at our office one day, but I can assure you I was totally surprised and blown away.  What a great album.  A little punk, a little rock and roll, a little greaser and little Johnny Cash.  These were sounds that were absolutely not in vogue at that time, but here was this kid, a few years younger than me, cranking out some incredible tunes.

During this time, my wife and I had just started dating.  She was still living in Boston and I was living in Jersey City.  When Dan Sartain came through with Hot Snakes, I set her up so she could go see the show.  I know she liked the record, but that's the night I'm pretty sure she became a big Dan Sartain fan.

Fast forward to 2010, and we used his version of "Besame Mucho" from Join Dan Sartain as our first dance song at our wedding.  His music has always been very special to us and has been interwoven through our relationship.  Neither of us liked everything he did when he started experimenting with his sound after Dan Sartain Lives came out.  She didn't really like the punk leaning Too Tough To Live and I completely checked out on Century Plaza.  But, there's something about Dan where you always knew the next record could have something special on it.  He wasn't the type of artist you could just move on from.

That became very clear in the past couple of years. I absolutely adored his cowboy song cover album Western Hills.  I delighted in the bristling energy of his Vs. Sun Studios release and I was so eager to hear his next offering Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise.  I'm not sure if that album will ever come out.  I also do not know if there will end up being physical releases of Western Hills or Sun Studios.  I hope all three come out someday.

I'm struggling with this one.  It's not the same as when Sam Jayne died and I felt just intense grief.  With Dan, it feels more complicated.  I mentioned to some friends over the weekend that I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone as I couldn't figure out what was going on.  All I know for sure is that his music touched me and I wish that there would always be more on the horizon.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Illiterates - Demo Cassette


Poop Stick (2019)

Ugh, another tape from 2019.  Where did these all come from and how have they been buried for two years?  I'm still trying to get through them all, but man, I don't really like listening to tapes.  Anyway, next up is The Illiterates. They were freshman in high school when they recorded this.  The good news is that even though it took me two years to listen to this, they haven't graduated yet.  So, bonus.

Where do I start.  This sounds like a high school band.  The recording is super rudimentary and is fuzzy and blown out.  The songwriting doesn't really do anything for me and there's nothing particularly interesting going on.  You could have said a lot worse about me my freshman year.  What I will say is at least one of the guitarists is obviously very talented.  If he can figure out how to harness those powers for the forces of good, there's potential there.

I don't want to be super negative about this.  It's not something that I'd ever listen to much and since I'm about thirty years older than these guys, I'm not really their demographic anyway.  But I will say that I'm really happy and excited to see that there's still a subset of kids in school that want to play instruments and be in a band.  They could have just as easily ended up listening to shitty music and being super stoked on cryptocurrency.  I'll take kids playing bad punk rock over that any day of the week.

The Illiterates - Demo:

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Souls of Mischief - No Man's Land 2xLP


Jive (1995)

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.

Well, I'm out of Casual singles from the Fear Itself era, and while I don't have all of the Souls of Mischief singles from that time period, I figured now would be a good week to tackle the second Souls of Mischief full length, No Man's Land.  This was the follow up to 93 'Til Infinity, which was one of my all time favorite hip hop records when it came at and continues to be to this day.  

Now in 1995, I had really moved away from hip hop and was listening to much more punk and indie rock.  I was really disillusioned with the direction hip hop was moving, but in 1995 I was still game for a new release from anyone that was part of the Hieroglyphics crew.  I bought this CD right away and was extremely disappointed.  It just didn't connect with me at all and I pretty much filed it away after a few listens and moved on with my life.

It wasn't until many years later that I gave it another chance.  I liked it much better when I was a bit older.  While I still contend that the beats are not at the level of 93 'Til, they are way better than I gave them credit for in 1995.  Lyrically, the Souls are on fire and while their tone and delivery is more aggressive than on their debut, they still run circles around most multi-MC groups and pass the microphone back and forth with ease, never losing the flow of the song.

If I'm in the mood to listen to Souls of Mischief, I'm going to reach for 93 'Til Infinity nine times out of ten.  It's just one of those records that is embedded into my consciousness at this point.  But every so often I will pick up one of their other albums and I am never disappointed these days when No Man's Land is playing.  It's the true definition of an album that's a grower.  And I had to have the vinyl in my collection.

Souls of Mischief - No Man's Land:

Monday, March 8, 2021

State Drugs - Live. Laugh. Love. LP - Green Vinyl (/140)


Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

A couple of years ago I added the State Drugs album Takings and Leavings to my collection.  It was a solid record and it gave me those warm Tom Petty rootsy rock vibes.  Now we have Live. Laugh. Love., a proper full length album that was recorded to be one, as opposed to Takings' compilation approach.  While I think that this record is stronger overall and absolutely more consistently good, I'm still getting the same sort of RIYL feelings that I did on the last record.

If you've ever listened to bands like Young Leaves, Nude Beach or Unwelcome Guests, I don't think there is a reason in the world not to add State Drugs to your record collection immediately.  While they don't have the same sort of Dinosaur Jr. guitar pyrotechnics that you might find with Young Leaves or the scrappy punk production of Unwelcome Guests, what you will get is excellent song writing fueling mid tempo, hook filled rock and roll.

This is a great Sunday morning record.  That's actually when I'm writing this up.  It's a great soundtrack for a laid back day where you want to relax and be taking away by some warm, fuzzy melodies.  

State Drugs - Live. Laugh. Love.:

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Casual / Souls of Mischief / Extra Prolific - A Low Down Dirty Shame 12"


Jive (1994)

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

The last of the Casual singles from the golden era is this three-way split EP that also features fellow Hieroglyphics acts Souls of Mischief and Extra Prolific.  It features songs from the soundtrack of a movie called A Low Down Dirty Shame, which I've never seen despite it starring Keenon Ivory Waynes and me being a huge a huge fan of I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.  Maybe I need to check it out one day.

As far as this single goes, we get two versions of an exclusive Casual song called "Later On."  The LP version features a laid back, storytelling vibe with a a jazzy drum vibe, some keyboards in the hook and some atmospheric chatter in the background.  It's not my favorite Casual song from this era as I prefer Casual when he's hitting a little harder, but lyrically there's good stuff here.  The remix of this is far superior in my opinion.  It has a completely different vocal take and some new lyrics over a beat that is still slower in tempo, but hits much harder than the LP version.

Souls of Mischief contribute "Get The Girl, Grab The Money and Run." The LP version probably isn't as strong as anything on their 93 'Til Infinity album that was released the previous year, but it's still a strong offering.  Hiero was operating at a level so much higher than most at this time, even their lesser tracks can hang with the best of the era.  The Souls remix has a beat that's a bit more minimalistic than the LP version.  It's good, but in this instance I think the one the put on the album was better.

Lastly we have the Extra Prolific track "In Front of the Kids."  Nothing really to see here as this is also on the Like It Should Be full length, so nothing exclusive here.  It's not even one of the better songs on that album.  This EP should be a perfect bridge from writing about Casual singles to writing about Souls of Mischief singles, but those Souls singles are expensive and I don't have them all yet.  Hopefully one day.

Casual - "Later On":

Souls of Mischief - "Get The Girl, Grab The Money and Run":

Monday, March 1, 2021

Cloud Nothings - The Shadow I Remember - Silver w/ White Splatter Vinyl


Car Park (2021)

This is the new Cloud Nothings album.  From what I gather, it was meant to be their next full length and was recorded before the pandemic hit.  But, they then ended up recording and releasing The Black Hole Understands in quarantine.  I did like The Black Hole Understands and particularly dug the fact that it was pretty heavy on pop songs.   It was a nice change of pace, but it was missing some of the loudness which is what I typically enjoy the most from Cloud Nothings.  

The Black Hole Understands was another in a line of Cloud Nothings records that I listened to chasing  the sound of Here and Nowhere Else.  While I couldn't say that I've heard a bad Cloud Nothings record, I feel like I keep going back to that album when I'm in the mood to listen to Cloud Nothings. It's unlikely that the band will ever release a carbon copy of Here and Nowhere Else (why would they?), but I think that when I listen to The Shadow I Remember it's the record that has come closest to instilling those same feelings in me.

I definitely think it's the second best Cloud Nothings record I've heard and it does an incredible job of mixing the perfect pop hooks that Dylan Baldi is capable of writing with an aggressive, loud and punishing guitar attack.  This record doesn't sound like Sugar at all, but the way Cloud Nothings have combined melody and LOUD on this record reminds me of the sorcery that Bob Mould was able to conjure in the mid 90s.

I own a lot of Cloud Nothings records.  I like every single one of them.  But now I can add another record that can hang with Here and Nowhere Else.  This is the first great record of 2021 for me.

Cloud Nothings - The Shadow I Remember: