Monday, August 30, 2021

Custody / Bear Away - Split 7" Lathe (Clear, /30)

Custody / Bear Away - Split 7" Lathe (Clear, /30)

Brassneck / Disillusioned (2021)

I don't have many lathe cut records.  And most of the ones I have are kind of old.  There must have been some big time advances in lathe technology over the past few years as I am shocked how good this split 7" sounds.  Does it sound quite as good as a proper piece of vinyl, just barely, no it doesn't.  It's a little bit heavy on the low end and is maybe lacking in crispness ever so slightly.  But that said, my jaw was on the ground when I put this on the turntable as I couldn't believe how good it did actually sound.  We live in crazy times, folks...

Anyway, there's two bands on this record, the first of which is Custody, a long time favorite of mine and definitely in the running for being one of the best active bands going.  They've long since mastered the Samiam-esque style of melodic punk and their contribution, "Running In Circles," is just another example of said mastery.  The way the powerful vocals mesh in with the dynamic and catchy guitar work is just fantastic.  I wish these guys put out a new record every week, like Rocket From The Crypt 1995-style.

Bear Away isn't a band I was familiar with prior to getting this record, and damn if this isn't the reason I love split 7"s so much.  While they definitely have something of a similar melodic sound as Custody, Bear Away is definitely a beast unto themselves.  The drums are fast, the guitar riffs are warm and fuzzy and the vocals hit all of the right notes.  These guys are from England and when you listen to their song, I feel like they couldn't be from anywhere else.

This split is just excellent and I'm so relieved to have it in the collection.  If you can find one, grab it...but if nothing else at least the songs are up on Bandcamp to download.

Custody / Bear Away - Split 7":

Friday, August 27, 2021

Rexxx - Pure Pleasure II LP - Red Vinyl (/300)


Big Neck (2021)

I wasn't completely sure what to make of Rexxx when I first saw this album.  The artwork had me worried that it was going to be one of those messy synth-punk albums, but no fear - this is some excellent rock and roll.

I'll get straight to the point with this record, Pure Pleasure II is on a short list of the better records I've heard this year.  It's catchy, has big anthemic choruses and scratches that bubblegum power pop/punk itch better than a lot of bands do.  Rexxx could very easily sit right next to your Barreracudas albums or most of the late 2000s Douchemaster Records catalog (if you are the sort of heathen that doesn't file your records alphabetically, that is).  It's short, to the point and a ton of fun.

I don't buy as many records that sound like this as I did about a decade ago.  I'm not sure if that's because that scene dried up or because I just haven't been paying as much attention, but I would have been all over this album in like 2009, and in 2021 it actually stands out even more in comparison to most records coming out these days.

Rexxx - Pure Pleasure II

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

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

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

RCA / Loud / Wu-Tang (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.

The first time I heard Wu-Tang clan was when I was watching Yo! MTV Raps in 1993.  The video for the song "Method Man" had just started playing.  I think it was the first time the group had ever been on Yo!, but if not, it was definitely the first time I saw them.  I loved that song.  Often in those days I'd buy a cassingle before committing to the full CD, but not this time.  I went right out and bought 36 Chambers.

I was phenomenally disappointed.  Probably listened to the whole CD a handful of times max, put "Method Man" on a few mix tapes and eventually just sold the CD.  I didn't get it.  Then Wu-Tang started getting more popular, became a juggernaut and I never went back and revisited.  I had pretty much given up on hip hop by that point anyway.

Fast forward to now.  I've been digging real deep in 90s hip hop.  Trying to find new relics that I've never heard while also trying to make sure I have vinyl versions of all the CDs I had as a kid.  One of the ways I look for new old hip hop is through a podcast called Take It Personal.  They're currently doing a series of specials dedicated to the year 1993.  On one of these, they played several songs from 36 Chambers and it felt like I was hearing them for the first time.

I decided to give it a whirl and pick up the LP.  I'm glad I did.  I'm not sure exactly why this didn't connect with me when it first came out.  Sure, there are still a few songs that I think are just too slow and you'll never convince me that "C.R.E.A.M." isn't an overblown mess.  But, the vast majority of the record is pretty fun.  I tend to gravitate towards the songs with more robust beats and to this day, "Method Man" is still the highlight track for me.  But, right on its tail is "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" which is a song I don't remember in any capacity.  I can't believe I didn't like it when I was sixteen.

I may be nearly thirty years late to the party, but I am glad I finally realized that 36 Chambers is a pretty good record.  I wouldn't even rank it in the top ten records of 1993, let alone declare it as one of the greatest of all time, but it's a good, fun record that will be a pleasure to bring out for a change of pace every so often.

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Extra Width LP


Matador (1994)

I'm not sure I will ever make it and replace all of my Blues Explosion CDs with vinyl, but I do want to track down some of the key pieces if nothing else.  While I have always been a disciple of Orange and never adored any Blues Explosion album quite as much as that one, I have always liked everything else.  Even the albums I would rank on the lower part of the scale still have their moments.  Extra Width, however, probably ranks higher than that for me.

I'm not sure what album is my second favorite one from Blues Explosion, but Extra Width is in the running.  While it's not as slick and catchy as Orange is, you can definitely see the building blocks that would make Orange great being put to use on this album as well.  Slinky guitar riffs, shouting random non-sequiturs and just starting to get into that vibe that would become the Blues Explosion's trademark.

The stand outs for me have always been "Aftro," "History of Lies," "Soul Typecast" and "Inside the World of the Blues Explosion."  Those would be solid standouts on any album.  The rest of the record isn't filler, but I don't think the other songs reach quite as high.  It would take Jon and company one more album to perfect their potion, but once they damn was it ever perfect.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Extra Width:

Friday, August 20, 2021

Gary Young - Hospital LP


Big Cat (1994)

I have something of a long term goal to eventually replace every CD I own with its vinyl companion.  (Well, maybe not replace as I feel like I'm probably not going to get rid of the CD version, but regardless, I want the vinyl).  In some instances this won't be possible as there is no vinyl version (I'm looking at you Alligator Gun and Him Kerosene), but where it is, let's get a record on the shelf.

This Gary Young LP is a prime example of this.  I bought the CD of this in 94 or 95 at the latest when I was still finding my way through the world of punk and indie rock.  I really liked Beck and Pavement and through that family tree my friend Joe and I discovered this Gary Young album.  I loved it.

Now, I'm not going to try to convince you that this is a good record.  It's really not.  In fact, it's actually pretty bad in a lot of places.  But what it does have going for it is that it's weird and fun and feels like it just rambled its way out of someones brain and ended up being released by a label.  That's what a lot of the 90s was, I think, particularly the lofi scene.

So in 2021, does it hold up? No, it doesn't.  But the nostalgia factor is absolutely huge for me.  I can't help but smile during "Plant Man" or "Birds In Traffic" or the insanely depressing "Warren."  The only problem I have with the vinyl version is that it's missing the two bonus tracks that came on the CD, the latter of which was a redone version of the song "Foothill Blvd" that is about a thousand times better than the one in the normal album sequence.  With those bonus tracks the entire CD is only 37 minutes long, so there's no real reason not to have included those on the vinyl (Another reason why I'll need to hang on to the CD version as well).

Even though it's unlikely I will be listening to this album all that often, I'm really glad to have it in my collection.  It was around during a key time in my musical education and frankly just deserves to be on the vinyl shelf with the other 90s gems.  Also, big thanks to my pal Scott for grabbing this album for me from a UK based seller.  I never see this for sale in America and the postage to ship a 1 off LP across the ocean sure is escalating...

Gary Young - Hospital:

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Leaders Of The New School - A Future Without A Past 2xLP


Traffic (2004, 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 1991 there was no way to escape the video for "Case of the P.T.A." on Yo! MTV Raps.  It was on a lot.  That's not a complaint as I'm grateful it was on often enough that it stuck with me and made me pick up the CD.  There's lots of interesting history out there on the internet about Leaders of the New School.  Of course, they are most know as that group that Busta Rhymes started off in, but there's other anecdotes out there about them running in the same circles as Public Enemy and a battle rap for the rights to the Leaders name.  But for me, I have just always liked this album as a standalone record.

I have never been particularly interested in Busta Rhymes' solo career.  He had that guest appearance on Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario" and his career started to blow up.  There was one more Leaders album called T.I.M.E. that came out in 1993, but after that it was off to the races for Busta and off to essentially nowhere for his cohorts Dinco-D and Charlie Brown. Which is a shame as I think Dinco and Charlie bring quite a lot to the proceedings.  Are they at times overshadowed by the ridiculously charismatic Busta?  Of course, but they hold their own and if they were in any other group they would have shown quite brightly.  I could definitely do without Charlie Brown's random shriek that makes an appearance in too many songs, but when he and Dinco are just rhyming, they're great.

The production is that perfect 1991 style of innovative hip hop that I love.  Big snappy snare drum and rumbling bass.  It's also just a lot of fun.  Something that happened in the 90s that I just don't see at all today is upbeat, happy hip hop.  It doesn't always have to be doom and gloom guys.  And even though this record is somehow thirty years old now, to me it still sounds fresh and fun and brings me right back to my freshman year of high school.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Spells / Hooper - Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 Spilt 7" - Pink Vinyl (/220)

Spells / Hooper - Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 Spilt 7" - Pink Vinyl (/220)

Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

I do not claim to be an all seeing, all knowing oracle of punk rock information, but I do own a few punk rock records.  The gimmick behind this particular split 7" isn't one that I've ever heard of before.  If it is a completely original thought, kudos to all involved.  If it is just something that has only been rarely done that never crossed my path before, again - kudos.  This time for bringing out an idea that I think could use a bigger spotlight.

So, what is the gimmick you ask?  Well for starters, the two bands on this 7", Hooper and Spells, cover a song originally done by the other band.  But Tim, you say, that's been done approximately one hundred thousand times in the past.  Ah yes, but let's talk about the second contribution for each band.  Spells wrote a brand new, never before recorded song.  And they wrote it specifically to be played by Hooper.  Hooper returned the favor and wrote a brand new song for Spells.  So these aren't covers, they are brand new originals written for another band.  To me, this is a wild idea and am super into it.

The songs themselves are fun to listen to as well.  The Spells' take on the two Hooper written songs provide a blast of that usual Spells energy, but with songs that feel a little more straightforward and to the point than some of the more traditional Spells fare.  On the Hooper side or the equation (not their side of the record as each side has a song by each band) is my favorite song of the four, the Hooper version of "Forget About Virginia" from the Spells' Loose Change Vol.1 comp.  Also on board is a new song, "Salted Breeze."

I dig the concept a lot.  It helps that it is executed by two bands I already am a pretty big fan of.  As this is set up as Vol. 1, I assume that means more volumes are coming.  Let me give you the million dollar idea for Vol. 3 or 4.  The Drolls and Foxhall Stacks.  You're welcome.

Spells / Hooper - Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 Spilt 7":

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Halo Benders - The Rebels Not In LP

The Halo Benders - The Rebels Not In LP

K (2021, Reissue)

The Halo Benders are dually fronted by Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening and Doug Martsch of Built To Spill.  They put out three records in the late 90s with The Rebels Not In being the final one released in 1998.  I've had the first two on vinyl for a while, but only had the CD of their third album.  For a while now it's been a pretty expensive pick up on the second hand market, so I was pleased to see it available again on the K website.  Word has it that reissues of the first two are on their way as well.

While my favorite Halo Benders album will probably always be their debut, The Rebels Not In certainly has its share of greatness.  I often contend that The Halo Benders are the best vehicle for Calvin Johnson.  I've always been a fan of his vocals, starting with his guest appearances on Beck's One Foot In The Grave album.  I was never able to really get into Beat Happening, I think everything was just a little too jangly and cutesy for my personal taste.

Pairing Calvin with Doug's guitar work and vocals is the sweet spot for me.  Doug keeps everything messy and just loud enough to keep things moving along.  His vocals are such an amazing compliment to Calvin's, especially considering how fundamentally different they are.  But they work together seamlessly in song after song.  If you're going to buy one Halo Benders album to give them a chance, buy God Don't Make No Junk.  But if you dig that one, The Rebels Not In is right up there in terms of song quality.

The Halo Benders - The Rebels Not In

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Nice & Smooth - Ain't A Damn Thing Changed LP


Rush (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.

When I think about Golden Era hip hop albums that are certifiable classics, I don't usually think about the second Nice & Smooth record as I'm going through my rolodex of the greats.  But, when I am thinking about my own personal discovery of hip hop, it is part of a very pivotal moment that I still remember with bizarre clarity.  By 1991, I was watching Yo! MTV Raps a lot, I would venture every single day.  I was being bombarded with new music videos and so many were connecting with me.

I went to a record store one day.  I think it might have been a Coconuts, but I know it was a non-mall store and it was on a weekend where I was visiting my dad.  During this trip I bought three albums.  Low End Theory by Tribe Called Quest, Def Before Dishonor by Hard Corps and Ain't A Damn Thing Changed.  Despite my desire to hear more songs like the Public Enemy/Anthrax version of "Bring Tha Noize," Hard Corps was a total whiff and I bet I only listened to the whole album once or twice at most.  Low End Theory became one of the most important records I ever listened.  Somewhere in the middle was Nice & Smooth.

As a whole, it is a very good record.  The production is really solid with good beats throughout.  Greg Nice, in particular, is a tremendous rapper and I have always loved the way he extends his rhyme schemes way beyond the traditional couplet.  It's not uncommon for Greg to blast through six, eight or ten lines that all follow the same rhyming pattern.  It's a ton of fun and I'm always impressed.  Smooth B isn't at Greg's level, but he adds a nice contrast in style and that makes the songs more dynamic.  That said, I don't think I would have much interest in a Smooth B solo record, but I'd have no issue with one from Greg Nice.

For me, where this record gets bogged down is in the choruses.  They're almost universally cheesy, with a repeated line that is kind of goofy or an R&B tinged croon that seems super out of place.  It sounds like they were grasping for some type of mainstream notoriety, but these hooks just don't mesh as well with the lyrics and styles of the verses.  That said, it is still a fun listen all of these years later.  It holds up better than a lot of thirty year old records, but my opinion of it now is pretty similar to my opinion back then.  It's good, but I wish it was a bit more consistent.  It's a great change of pace listen, but not anything I would ever have on constant repeat.

Nice & Smooth - Ain't  A Damn Thing Changed:

Monday, August 9, 2021

Frank Black - Teenager of the Year 2xLP


4AD (2019, Reissue)

I like The Pixies.  I think most people that get into punk and indie rock find their way to The Pixies eventually.  My introduction was my friend Pat lending me his copy of Surfer Rosa when I was in high school.  From there, I gradually added records to my collection.  I got a greatest hits CD in college and eventually the individual full lengths.  I even liked the first of the two reunion records.  What I didn't pay much attention to was the Frank Black solo records.

Oddly enough, what got me to go check this album out was a comedian.  In the early 2000s, I came across a website called Cook'd and Bomb'd.  It was a news site and media repository dedicated to the works of Chris Morris, perhaps the comedian I have enjoyed more than any other.  Here I gained access to an archive of all of the Radio 4 music shows he did in the mid 90s.  And while the primary reason I wanted was to listen top his surreal radio bits, I also found out about a few 90s albums that I had otherwise missed.

"Headache" by Frank Black (or 'Blank Frank' as Morris quipped) was a song played during a few early episodes.  It had such and infections singalong hook that I found it lodged in my head pretty constantly.  I ended up getting the album and enjoying quite a bit of it.  While I think that it's way too long (22 songs on a rock record is massive overkill), the highs are really high.  I could listen to "Headache" every day and "(I Want to Live on an) Abstract Plain)" is just about as great as well.

I'm pretty sure this 2xLP was released for Record Store Day a couple of years ago.  I wasn't willing to stand in line or pay the flipper prices, but I was happy to find a standard version a few months ago.  Again, it's a lot to take in during one sitting, but most of what's on here is way too good to only exist in my CD rack.

Frank Black - Teenager of the Year:

Friday, August 6, 2021

Synthizer - The Light Design Vinyl Records Holder

 So this is an odd post, I guess.  I really never write about anything other than records, but Synthizer reached out to me and sent me one of these record stands to review.  Never one to turn down a free accessory for my records, I said sure, why not.  It arrived and I messed around with it for a bit.

It's a simple set up with only 5 parts.  The little acrylic piece is meant to go into whichever slot the larger piece is not in, so you have 2 options, 1 that holds about 50 records and one that holds about 25 of them.

The entire stand is held together by the notches on the wooden backing flat piece.  The 2 legs just notch into that.

For the most part, it is sturdy and well constructed.  Though, I do wish that the large acrylic piece had 2 notches so it sat more flush and stable when inserted.  It's not in imminent danger of falling out or anything but I think it would add some stability.

Once you put in the records, they are held and you can flip through them as if you are digging through bins at a record store.

Now, if you are someone like me, this is a completely impractical way to store records.  For starters, I have thousands of them and this only holds 50.  But I also have cats.  So if I leave these tempting cardboard spines unattended and out in the wild, they wouldn't survive an hour.

But, this does have a lot of potential as a 'Now Playing' stand for when I grab a handful of records to play.  The only issue for me, is that the stand was a bit too long to fit where I would need it.  Plus, I don't need space for 50 records that I'm playing now.

So, I decided DIY hack this thing.  I took the legs outside and sawed off from just before the middle notches to the end.  This gave me significantly shorter legs.

Now, I can put the larger acrylic piece in and I have a little display stand that can hold just the right amount of records if I want to go on an afternoon binge.  And it fits perfectly where I needed to put it.

All in all, I think this is a useful little gadget.  If I was shopping for one, I'd probably be looking for a shorter one like what I ended up hacking, but it's a quality piece of gear and definitely has its uses.  Long term storage for a large collection isn't one of those uses, but as a display stand, it's pretty great after some minor modification.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Knucklehedz - Stricktly Savage LP - Violet Vinyl (/250)


Smoke On / Savage (2018, 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.

One of the joys of my life right now is going as far down the early 90s hip hop rabbit hole as I can possibly go.  I've been digging as much as I can to try to find gems that I may have missed the first time around.  While I don't know that I could classify this record as a 'gem,' it is an interesting discovery.

Knucklehedz is essentially the lost member of EPMD's Hit Squad.  Redman, Das Efx and K-Solo all had their releases and Knucklehedz was supposed to be next up in 1993.  Stricktly Savage got as far as CD promos before it was ultimately shelved and not released.  They were likely a casualty of EPMD splitting up and their Hit Squad crew splintering.

I could never call this a lost classic or anything, but the production on it is great.  It has a thumping, grimy sound that reminds me quite a bit of EPMD's Business Never Personal.  It's packed with head nodders and interesting beat choices.  Lyrically, I don't think these guys can hold up to the rest of the Hit Squad crew.  Tom J and Steve Austin (no, not the wrestler) have flows that are serviceable and I wouldn't say they are bad, but they never elevate any higher than passable.  Still, the production is great to the point where I'm willing to just listen along and focus on the overall vibe.

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Obits - Die At The Zoo LP - Pink Vinyl (/300)

The Obits - Die At The Zoo LP - Pink Vinyl (/300)

Outer Battery (2021)

It feels like this is what it means to buy a new release for me this year.  Rather than a new band with a new album, I'm picking up a live album that was recorded nine years ago by a band that's no longer together.  While 2020 wasn't a high water mark for new and exciting records (with a few notable exceptions), I really feel like 2021 is a barren wasteland.  So, it looks like I'll stick to buying the tried and true for now.

Live records aren't my favorite thing at the best of times.  Sure, Leatherface and Bum had great ones, but there's a lot more misses than hits out there.   I hardly ever listen to live albums as in general, I'd prefer to just listen to the studio recording of a song in the context of the album it was released on.

It's also a real crap shoot on what the live record will even sound like.  So often they are tinny, poorly recorded documents of a sound that was so much bigger in real life.  Luckily, that isn't the case with this Obits live record.  It's recorded impeccably with everything sounding full and rich.  

The band is playing at a super high level as well, with everything sounding on point, like a band really hitting their stride.  I can't say that the song selection is exactly how I would have set it up, as I probably would have leaned more towards some of the band's faster material, but they do roll out hits like "Talking to the Dog" and "One Cross Apiece" towards the end.   

I mean, for an Obits live record, this is a pretty good.  I don't know what they could have done to make it better aside from include a few more of my personal favorite songs, but that's just me being greedy.  That said, I really can't imagine when I would listen to this.  I like having it in the collection, because I'm a broken person with a completist problem and the artwork is great.  But if I want to listen to The Obits, I'm probably just grabbing one of their other full lengths.

The Obits - Die At The Zoo: