Friday, July 30, 2021

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

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

Virgin/Real Gone (2021, Reissue)

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

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

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

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

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

Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers:

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

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

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

Hiero Imperium (1999)

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

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

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

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

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

Del The Funky Homosapien - Both Sides of the Brain:

Monday, July 26, 2021

Mononegatives - Apparatus Division LP

Mononegatives - Apparatus Division LP

Big Neck /No Front Teeth (2021)

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

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

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

Mononegatives - Apparatus Division:

Friday, July 23, 2021

Super Deluxe - Famous LP

Super Deluxe - Famous LP

Tim/Kerr (1995)

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

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

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

Super Deluxe - Famous:

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

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

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

Music On Vinyl (2021, Reissue)

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 19, 2021

Herzog - Fiction Writer LP - Gold Vinyl


Exit Stencil (2021)

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

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

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

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

Herzog - Fiction Writer:

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Spinanes - Manos - Yellow Vinyl

The Spinanes - Manos - Yellow Vinyl

Merge (2018, Reissue) 

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

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

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

The Spinanes - Manos:

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

X Clan - Xodus LP

X Clan - Xodus LP

Polydor (1992)

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 12, 2021

Pizzicato Five - Happy End Of The World 2xLP


Matador (1997)

In 1997 I was in college writing music reviews for my college news paper.  I was lucky to have decent relationships with a bunch of labels and publicists and Matador was a label that pretty much sent me everything they released.  One of those records was Happy End Of The World by Pizzicato Five.  I don't know what it was about this record that caught my ear.  It was so very different from anything I was listening to at the time, but from the very first moment I heard it I was onboard.

I think what keeps me coming back to it are the lush soundscapes of the album.  The production is upbeat and full of warm inviting sounds.  The vocals are somewhat secondary to me, but when they are present they just make everything seem bright and sunny.  I've always been particularly obsessed with the song "It's a Beautiful Day."  With its fast percussion and chant along spelling of the band's name in the intro, it's a song that always makes me smile.

I've had that promo CD I got at the newspaper in my collection since the day I got it, but decided that I also wanted to be able to listen to this on vinyl.  While patrolling Discogs I came across someone in Europe selling a copy that was still sealed.  While the price tag I ultimately paid was somewhat high, about a third of it was postage, so I still don't think it was a terrible deal.  Plus it sounds so amazing spinning on my turntable.  I'm glad to have a copy and I'm not even sure why it took me so many years to finally procure one.

Pizzicato Five - Happy End Of The World:

Friday, July 2, 2021

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange LP (Matador Pressing)


Matador (1994)

I've posted a few times about my goal of finding a pristine copy of Orange, as it is one of my very favorite albums of all time.  It's been a tough road, but I think I'm finally content with this version.  It isn't perfect, but it's pretty darn close.

This was actually a sealed dead stock copy that I bought from Japan, I got to be the first person to open and play the record after releasing it from its shrink-wrapped tomb for the first time in twenty-seven years.  Unfortunately the record had moved around inside the sleeve over the years and there was some minot scuffing, but for all but one song, it plays about as good as I could possibly imagine.  No crackles, no pops and rich, full sound.

The only exception to this is that there is a particularly deep scuff int he middle of "Flavor."  It doesn't affect the play too much, but you can hear the slight repetition of static as the needle plows through that section.  It's not a deal breaker, and I probably wouldn't notice it as much if I had not been listening to it so intently.  For now, I'm calling this quest over.  If I ever stumble across another reasonably priced sealed copy, I might take another chance, but for me this copy is finally good enough.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange: