Friday, May 28, 2021

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange LP - Orange Cover Edition


Crypt (1994)

My search for a really excellent listenable version of Orange continues.  I have the original Matador picture disc, which sounds OK but is limited by the lack of fidelity inherent in picture discs.  I also have the semi-recent reissue on Shove, but that one is all crackly and weird for whatever reason.  So I've been searching Discogs trying to find a nice copy of an older pressing.  In the interest of trying to keep things interesting, I zeroed in on this version with different artwork.

I've got to say, as much as I like the usual shiny silver art, I really dig the simple line art on an orange background.   It might be my favorite of the two.  Unfortunately this record is just as full of crackle and surface noise as the recent reissue.  It's not bad or unlistenable.  For its age, it's actually in really nice condition.  But one thing about this record is that there are a lot of pauses and moments of silence where the pops and cracks really stand out in ways that they wouldn't on other albums.

Maybe I'm fighting a losing battle, trying to find the perfect specimen.  But I love this album so much and am so annoyed that I never picked up a good copy over the past twenty seven years.  I'll keep looking and hopefully something will pan out eventually.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

3rd Bass - Derelicts of Dialect 2xLP


Def Jam / Columbia (1991)

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

Derelicts of Dialect came out during the summer of 1991, the summer between 8th grade and my freshman year of high school.  I first became really and truly interest in hip hop when I was in 7th grade and Mama Said Knock You Out came out.  I loved that song and credit it immensely with pushing me towards finding more hip hop that I liked.  Even though I never ended up being that big of an LL Cool J fan, that one song is responsible for shifting the way I looked at music immeasurably.

Back to the summer of 1991.  I was aware of 3rd Bass from "Gas Face" being played on Yo! MTV Raps, though I didn't pick up The Cactus Al/Bum until after I had gotten Derelicts.  "Pop Goes The Weasel" was the first single from this new album and it got a lot of play on Yo! and eventually was in regular rotation on MTV.  This was a long time ago and I may have the timing wrong, but I'm pretty sure that summer was when MTV was playing blocks of videos all the same genre.  I remember sitting through trash waiting for more rap videos and 3rd Bass being a frequent part of them.  That prompted me to buy the CD.

I don't know why, but I have an unusually clear memory of buying this CD when I was a kid.  We went to this record store that was in a strip mall up where I grew up in Sussex County, NJ.  It wasn't a cool or hip shop, it was just an independently owned record store that pretty much sold the same stuff you'd get at Sam Goody.  It wasn't there long and I think this was the only thing I ever bought there.  Anyway, I remember picking up the long box CD from a rack and being excited they were actually carrying it.  Why is that memory so vivid? No clue. Nothing interesting happened, but that's when I bought this as a kid.

On to the vinyl. Derelicts of Dialect hasn't been reissued on LP since 1991, so I had to hunt down an older copy.  I picked this one up on Discogs at a reasonable price and am psyched to have it in my collection.  I think it holds up really well, though like a lot of albums of that era, it's probably a little too long and would benefit from a shorter, tighter tracklist.  That happened a ton on early 90s hip hop albums with everyone testing the capacity of CDs.  

In particular the title track, "Pop Goes The Weasel,"No Static At All" and "Ace In The Hole" are jstill really great.  Thirty years later and I'm here nodding my head along with the bass.  Crazy.  Also crazy is how young the 3rd Bass guys look in all of the pictures and videos.  When I was in 8th grade, they seemed like grown up rappers.  Seeing them now, I realize they were kids too.  Wild times.

3rd Bass - Derelicts of Dialect:

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Hamiltones - Dracula Invitational 1791 LP - Red Vinyl


Big Neck / Swimming Faith (2021)

It's really cool to finally see a full length album from The Hamiltones.  I've been a fan since they dropped a demo tape in my lap quite a few years ago and to see them upgraded to full length vinyl on record labels with some notoriety is a wonderful thing.  Add in the fact that the artwork is great and the music is stellar and you've got an entry for one of the best records I've heard this year.

To me, The Hamiltones have always been a weird (in a good way) amalgamation of The Ventures and The Hex Dispensers.  Yeah, they are playing surf music.  But what The Hamiltones are doing is taking that initial spark, running it through a horror movie filter and turning into a sound that['s much darker and ominous, but retains that surfy vibe that keeps the record bouncing along.  This is not dour music, this is something dangerous could be lurking around the next corner - so keep your eyes open.

There's also a kinship here with the Swami John Reis and The Blind Shake album from a few years ago.  Dracula Invitational has less fuzz and distortion than Modern Surf Classics, but there's still that deep, heavy vibe that I just absolutely love.  Listening to this album is such a good time and I hope it helps get The Hamiltones the attention that I think they've been deserving for quite some time.

The Hamiltones - Dracula Invitational 1791:

Friday, May 21, 2021

Boys Life - Departures And Landfalls LP


Topshelf (2015, Reissue)

I'm not sure when the first time I heard the word emo was, but it definitely had a different connotation than it does today, or even that it ended up having in the mid 90s.  When I first heard it the bands being talked about were the early DC bands like Rites of Spring.  Then in the mid 90s, it started being used to describe the midwestern scene that was popping up that included Promise Ring, Get Up Kids and bands like that.  But to me, if we're going to misuse that word, the band that is the quintessential mid 90s version of that word (and is actually a good band) is Boys Life.

I first heard Boys Life when Headhunter/Cargo send me a CD copy of Departures and Landfalls when I was the music editor at my college newspaper in 1996.  I had reviewed and interviewed fluf and ended up on their promo list, for which I was grateful.  I remember looking at the album cover and thinking how nice and tranquil it seemed.  I'm not positive I knew what to expect, but ever since that first moment I put the CD in, I've had a fondness for this band that I never had for the others that were in the same camp, like Braid.

The guitar work on this record is wild.  It's jangly and noisy at the same time while veering crazily from quiet to chaotic.  The band is painting soundscapes along the way, but never losing track of the fact that they are playing songs and a little structure is a nice thing to have as the wander from idea to idea.  Departures And Landfalls was never a record I would listen to a lot.  I know it well after all of these years, but it's not a record that lends itself to mixtapes or casual listens.  But sometimes, the mood is just perfect for this album and when that mood strikes, I'm glad to finally have it on LP.

Boys Life - Departures And Landfalls:

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Styles of Beyond - 2000 Fold 2xLP


Ideal / Mammoth / Bilawn (1999) 

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

As I dig through all of these incredible old school hip hop albums, two things are happening.  The first is I am listening to a lot more hip hop and have rekindled a deep passion for it that I haven't felt since I was a teenager.  That directly leads to the second thing.  I am actively digging around for groups I missed the first time around and am trying to find more records that fit into the late 80s early 90s mold of hip hop that I'm most passionate about.

This record by Styles of Beyond is from 1999, way outside the time frame that I typically associate with the sort of hip hop I love.  Yes, there are outliers like Mr. Lif, Jurassic 5 and Edan, but in general if if came out after 1994, it's usually not something I'm interested in.  Styles of Beyond are another group you can add to that outlier list.  This is a record full of beats and rhymes steeped in the early 90s that I love so very much.  They're not as much of an obvious throwback as Jurassic 5.  If anything, they sound more like a group that got stuck in 1993 and just so happened to take six years for the record to get released.

Even though they are from the west coast and have obvious influences from that scene, they do remind me a little bit of Black Moon, though with somewhat cleaner production and beats.  I had never heard of these guys until I came across some sort of 'most overlooked hip hop records of the 90s' type list.  In digging around since getting this record, I've found out that they might be more known than I though, having released some additional records and appearing on a Transformers movie soundtrack?  I need to look into some of their other records, but I can wholeheartedly recommend 2000 Fold if you're into the sort of hip hop I typically write about on Wednesdays.

Styles of Beyond - 2000 Fold (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, May 17, 2021

Red Devil Ryders - Pour Me Another One LP


Just Because (2021)

The first thought I had when I opened up the package that contained this record was that it looked like one of the old Flying Burrito Brothers LPs from my dad's record collection.  While I wouldn't ever go so far to compare Red Devil Ryders to the Brothers Burrito, the art did give me a hint that there would be a countrified leaning to the proceedings.  It's not overt or wandering into an alt-country NPR snoozefest, but it colors the direction of the album.  And I mean that in a good way.

With the muddy guitar tone and the rollicking nature of the riffs, I'm reminded a lot of W.H. Walker and their incredible Suds! album.  There's also times where the melodies really come to the forefront and in those moments I think that a tour with Red Devil Ryders and The Goodnight Loving would make a lot of sense.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that this sort of country lean has roots in old fashioned outlaw country and would be better placed next to your Slim Cessna records than it would next to any Jay Farrar LPs.

I do tend to like this the best when the tunes are fast.  "Elvins' Piano," "Smoked Blunt Blues" and "Wings on Monday" are the standouts to me, but the entire record is really consistent and weaves a good story from start to finish.  This one is an early stand out for me in what has been a somewhat lackluster year for new records so far.  Check it out.

Red Devil Ryders - Pour Me Another One:

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton LP


Priority / Ruthless / UMe (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.

I'm not entirely positive that the version I have is the 2013 reissue.  There have been others since that one came out, though the barcode and matrix etchings match.  Not that it really matters to me, but I know some folks care about those types of specifics.  It's my best guess anyway.

I really like Straight Outta Compton.  It's a classic at this point and in particular really shows just how incredible Ice Cube was when he first started out.  Every time he picks up the mic, it's magic.  Though, if I'm being honest, I'm actually more familiar with the N.W.A. follow up, Efil4zaggin.  That's the one I had when I was in high school.  I didn't pick up Straight Outta Compton until later and I didn't add the vinyl to my collection until pretty recently.

I'm pretty sure the first time I heard N.W.A. was the song "Express Yourself."  I had that one because a version of it was on a Yo! MTV Raps compilation CD I had (Along with a really long, excellent version of BDP's "My Philosophy").  But when the video for "Always Into Something" came out, that's what inspired me to finally buy an N.W.A. album.  Completely backwards to most people, I know, but I've always fallen into bands the wrong way.

Anyway, this record still sounds important and dangerous.  Like many hip hop albums from the late 80s and early 90s there are aspects that do not age well.  But as a time capsule of 1988, this was pretty darn innovative and influential.  Though some of that influence would later on end up what drove me away from hip hop (See: The Chronic & the ten million soundalikes it spawned).

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, May 10, 2021

Pinhead Gunpowder - Trundle & Spring 7" - White & Black Split Color Vinyl


1234 Go! (2021)

If pressed, I really can't give a good reason why I bought this Pinhead Gunpowder 7" reissue.  I have the original pressing of this from the 90s and all four songs are also on the Jump Salty LP.  I think I was mostly suckered in by the split colored vinyl.  It is my favorite colorway when there is a limited version.  Pinhead Gunpowder is also one of those bands where I am a bit more prone to grabbing a variant, though there are two additional versions of this reissue that I didn't buy.

Honestly, there's no really good reason other than it looks cool, they're a band that I really like and I still have that collector bug that sneaks up on me, even when I'm trying to be good.  Plus it's only a 7" and wasn't that much money.

If you don't have these songs, you should really buy Jump Salty.  If you're a weirdo like me and need multiple versions of the same songs, go to town.  It's what I did.

Pinhead Gunpowder - Trundle & Spring 7":

Friday, May 7, 2021

Rocket Bureau - Middle Angst LP


Overdue Miracle (2021)

Kyle from Rocket Bureau reached out to me and asked me if I wanted him to send me a copy of this record to write about.  I think this is a better approach than when a random band that obviously hasn't ever read my website sends me something that I'm destined to hate. This way, I can let them know if it's worth them sending out a copy to me.

As soon as the lightning fast opener "Disconnected" fired off, the first thing I thought was 'holy shit, this dude sounds just like the singer from Travis Cut.'  By the time I was thirty seconds in to the second song "Not You" I was already writing Kyle back to let him know that I'd really like to get a copy to write about on this here dumb website.

Middle Angst is a strong guitar pop record.  That initial pop punk rock blast of "Disconnected" is something of a red herring as the rest of the album settles into a uptempo groove.  Lots of big choruses and fuzzy guitars.  There are times, like on "Bummer," where Rocket Bureau veers a little bit towards a rootsy, Tom Petty direction, but for the most part, think Fountains of Wayne style pop hooks with a dude that sounds like Chris from Travis Cut singing away.

This is the sort of record I could see flying under the radar for a lot of people.  I sure would have missed out on it if Kyle hadn't reached out.  But It's one going out of your way to give a listen to.  If you like the sort of nonsense I typically write about, this one might be up your alley as well.

Rocket Bureau - Middle Angst:

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

K-Solo - Times Up LP


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.

After I heard the fourth EPMD album, Business Never Personal, I became a huge fan of theirs and their Hit Squad crew.  This was mostly cemented by the fact that I already liked Das Efx and how incredibly amazing the "Headbanger" posse cut on this album was.  That song was the first time I heard Redman and was also the my introduction to K-Solo.  I had picked up Times Up when it came out in 1992.  I liked it, but compared to the EPMD, Das Efx and Redman albums that came out in 1991 and 1992, K-Solo was a distant fourth place for me.  As a result, I didn't really listen to the record all that much, to be honest.

This became another example of the record growing on me more and more over time.  When you drop an album smack dab into the middle of a golden era of music, where some of the best hip hop albums in the history of the earth are coming out, you're going to get lost in the shuffle.  But if you start listening to that album again a few years (or decades) later, you might start to realize you overlooked something pretty great.

That's what happened with K-Solo.  Going through this album you have some killer beats courtesy of Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith from EPMD, along with a cut from Pete Rock.  But the bulk of the album is held down by Sam "Sneed" Anderson, who would go on to work with Dr. Dre on Death Row releases.  I can't say I'm a fan of that sort of thing, but he sure understood the Hit Squad sound of the early 90s.  Mixing grimy funk beats with atmospheric flourishes, he laid out an impressive canvas for K-Solo to work with on his rhymes.

And solo performs admirably on this record.  It's easy to be overshadowed by EPMD or Das Efx or Redman.  You are talking about some of the most charismatic MCs to ever touch a microphone.  K-Solo is not at that level, but he solidly occupies a space right underneath.  His flow is straightforward, but fierce, tackling stories and rapid firing out rhyme structures.  The K-Solo debut album Tell The World My Name is also pretty rad, but I prefer Times Up of the two and was pretty psyched when Music On Vinyl rereleased it last year.

K-Solo - Times Up (YouTube Music full album playlist):

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange LP


Shove (2011, Reissue)

Orange is a really important record to me.  When I started listening to Beck in 1994, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was one of the first bands I found that had some sort of relationship with him.  I picked up Orange and was just blown away and completely in love with the album.  I know every second of this record by heart and I just love the music.  The vinyl version that I've had was the one Matador put out in 1994 that was a picture disc that was silver sparkled.  It was and is very cool looking, but picture discs don't sound that great and I decided I needed to pick up a normal copy on vinyl that I could just play.  I think I picked the wrong one.

I am not sure what is up with this pressing on Shove, but it's pretty bad.  I ordered one from Amazon, played it once and they returned it, thinking I got a bum record.  I replaced it with another copy and this one sounds just as bad.  The pressing is so noisy, with loud crackling and surface noise throughout.  I've given it a deep clean and played it on multiple record players but any way you slice it, it still sounds bad.  If it hadn't happened on two different copies, I'd probably just dismiss it as bad luck, but I'm pretty convinced that something is wrong with this pressing.

So, now I am hunting around on Discogs to try to find another version of this that I can pick up.  Orange is such a full sounding, warm record with lots of pauses and sections of silence in the middle of songs.  You really need a top notch pressing to enjoy it and this one just isn't it.  But the music, well that's just out of this world.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange (YouTube Music full album playlist):