Monday, November 29, 2021

Friends Of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors CD

Friends Of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors CD

Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

I am thrilled to see a new Friends of Cesar Romero album, and I'm even more excited that it's a CD and not a cassette or digital only release.  While I always prefer vinyl, there's nothing bad about the CD format and it's always bewildered me that folks have been putting out so many cassettes over the years when it's probably pretty similar in cost to run off some CDs.  But anyway...

I've really enjoyed everything I've heard by Friends of Cesar Romero over the years and War Party Favors is no exception.  Once again, a complete mastery of the pop song is on deisplay during each of the album's twelve songs.  There's a charming, fuzzy lo-fi feel to these songs that reminds me a little bit of bands like Boyracer or Silver Scooter.  However, Friends of Cesar Romero don't really wade into the overly emotion side of the pool the same way those bands do.  

I could also find some sonic comparisons to The Mean Jeans, but that too isn't really perfect.   War Party Favors is a fun, upbeat album with hooks all over the place.  But the vocals on a FOCR release are significantly better and the lyrics aren't goofy like Mean Jeans.  War Party Favors is definitely on the shortlist of the best records that I've heard this year.  I do wish this had also come out on vinyl, but I'm just content to have a physical release.

Friends Of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors:

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Future Sound - The Whole Shabang Vol. 1 LP

The Future Sound - The Whole Shabang Vol. 1 LP

Eastwest (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.

When you talk about forgotten classics, I'm not sure you can find too many that tick the 'forgotten' box more than The Future Sound.  Until the past year or so, I had never even heard of them, despite their only album coming out on Eastwest (home of Das Efx) in 1992, the height of the golden era.  It was only while diving into some 'overlooked records of the 90s' type lists did I see someone make mention of The Future sound.

I listened to the record online and was immediately drawn to the opening track (well, the first real song after the intro) "This Is A Game."  The horn riff that this track is built on is so great and the production sort of has a similar vibe as Lords of the Underground's "Funky Child."  But the song is a bit more laid back, but at the same time more upbeat than that LOTUG.  The Future Sound is not coming at you aggressively.  They're a group that's making music that's more concerned about being fun than it is about fitting into any sort of specific sub-genre of hip hop.

The entire record is great, with killer beats and solid rhymes.  It reminds of groups like UMCs, De La Soul (though not as hippified) or maybe Freestyle Fellowship (but with less complicated rhyme schemes).  Regardless of how I'm stretching to provide a point of reference comparison, this is a killer record.  I'm so glad I managed to stumble across it.  If I'm going to point to the best records I've found while doing deep dives into the forgotten recesses of the golden era, this is easily a top three find.  Sadly, this was the groups only album, so we never got The Whole Shabang Vol. 2.

The Future Sound - The Whole Shabang Vol. 1:

Monday, November 22, 2021

Spells - Fangirl Flexi & Zine


Snappy Little Numbers (2021)

This is a neat little thing.  A paper zine.  Talk about a throwback to the 90s.  While I know they are kicking around still and I've been a frequent subscriber to Razorcake, you certainly don't see them as often as you once did.  At least not unless it's a poorly written blog (ahem...).  This zine is primarily focused on different aspects of the band Spells.  As this is issue number one of this zine, I assume the goal is to have each issue focus on a specific band. Either that of Spells just hit the motherload when it comes to zine coverage.

There's an interview in here, some history, a discography and some assorted wackiness along the way.  It isn't a serious piece of journalism, but it is a fun read and really, really feels like something I would have picked up at the record store twenty-five years ago.

Additionally, this zine comes with a one song Spells flexi.  The song is also the name of the zine, "Fangirl."  It's a really catchy, fun song that in some ways feels like it's a TV show theme song.  I would have absolutely watched the Fangirl show on TGIF after Perfect Strangers was over.  This is a fun little package.  It warms my heart to see people still putting time and effort into things that I once held so dear, but have now fallen by the wayside for most of the world. Viva the 90s.

Spells - "Fangirl":

Friday, November 19, 2021

Nails of Hawaiian - Jazz CD

Nails of Hawaiian - Jazz CD

Snuffy Smile (1996)

There aren't many Snuff Smile records that I don't have.  At this point it's mostly a handful of super early CDs and a couple of the more recent 7"s that I just haven't gotten yet.  Snuffy Smile is easily one of the most influential labels I've ever listened to and in a lot of ways it probably was the most influential.  I'm not sure why I've had such a hard time tracking down this Nails of Hawaiian CD over the years.  I've known about them for what feels like forever and I have their split 7" with J Church along with a few compilations that they appear on, but this CD always eluded me.

Lucky for me, I have a great friend like Kazu.  He managed to find a copy for me in Japan and sent it over in a recent package.  I've had MP3s of this thing for a long time, so it's not like I'm hearing this for the first time, but finally having the CD in hand and realizing the cover art is just one panel of a four panel fold out picture - that's just a wild experience.

The music is fantastic.  It has the perfect mid 90s Snuffy Smile sound.  Hooks like a pop punk band, interludes like a post punk band and more than a few instances that remind my of San Diego bands like Tanner.  The vocals are impassioned, but never too screamy to where they lose the melody.  It's just a great album and one that I'm thrilled to finally have in the collection.  Just a few more Snuffy Smile CDs to go... 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Fu-Schnickens - F.U. - Don't Take It Personal LP

Fu-Schnickens - F.U. - Don't Take It Personal LP

Music On Vinyl (2017, 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 had a hell of a time tracking this record down at a reasonable price.  It did come out a few years ago and I just wasn't paying as much attention.  By the time I decided it was time to addd this one to the collection, it was out of print and commanding high prices on Discogs.  Eventually I found a seller in Japan that was selling it at a good price and listed it as being brand new and mint.

When I got the record, it was complete trash.  Every single song had insane static and surface noise to the point where it actually overpowered the music.  I alerted the seller and he was a complete dick about it.  Wouldn't a returtn and just kept arguing with me that it was new and sealed, so it's not his responsibility.  Problem is that it wasn't sealed, it was in a resealable sleeve.  Anyway, I had to force the issue with PayPal, send it back to Japan and about 3 months later I finally got my money back.  Giant pain, but I found another one a few weeks later and this one is perfect.

Fu-Schnickens is one of those hip hop artists that really could have only in the early 90s.  They are a fun upbeat crew and dipped their toe into kung fu references a year before Wu-Tang Clan burst onto the scene.  Of the 3 MCs in this crew, Chip Fu was the one that always took the headlines with his micro machine man rapid fire delivery.  It tends to completely overshadow the other two, even though you can definitely make the argument that their contributions have aged much better that Chip's.

It's really the beats that keep this record sounding good nearly thirty years later.  It's just that perfect golden era production with rich, full beats that are total head nodders.  Aside from one truly awful song that closes out side A in "Heavenly Father," the other nine are a really good time and while they were never one of my favorite groups as a kid, I've always thought this record was a solid listen.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Night Marchers - Live at Bar Pink - Pink Vinyl

Night Marchers - Live at Bar Pink - Pink Vinyl

Swami (2021)

Every time I write about a live album (which, admittedly isn't very often) I always add in the disclaimer that I really don't like live albums.  I'm not sure what it is exactly about them, but I never really have the urge to listen to them.  There are, of course, some exceptions.  But in general, I buy them, file them next to the other records by the same artist and there they stay for all eternity.  I don't think this Night Marchers LP will suffer that fate.

In the pantheon of great live albums like Leatherface's Live in Oslo and Bum's Shake Town Live, you can now add Live at Bar Pink.  I'm not sure exactly why this particular record is hitting me harder than live albums traditionally do.  Maybe it's the fact that I haven't been to a show in over two years.  Maybe I'm just predisposed to love anything the Swami releases.  Or maybe it's because they managed to capture a hell of a set.

Most of my Night Marchers favorites are represented.  "Branded," "All Hits," "Scene Report" and other fantastic selections from the two full lengths the band put out are all here.  There's not as much banter as you'd expect from a Swami show and there are places where it sounds like there may have been cuts made to excise some of that from the album.  The songs, however, sound unbelievably great and really show what a potent live band they were.  That's not really a surprise since all of the Swami bands are known for their killer live shows, but something special was captured on this night.

Of all of the bands that Swami/Speedo/Slasher John Reis has been in, I really think that Night Marchers is the band that has been most overlooked.  They cranked out some pretty flawless songs.  Even if the band doesn't play again, they've left a heck of a legacy behind.  Live at Bar Pink just gives me one more way to listen to these great songs.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Pinhead Gunpowder - Carry The Banner LP - Black & White Split Vinyl

Pinhead Gunpowder - Carry The Banner LP - Black & White Split Vinyl

1-2-3-4 Go! (2021, Reissue)

Another day, another 90s reissue to write about.  I've said it before, but I feel like those are the only kind of records that I've been buying this year.  But it's hard to complain too much when you have a band as good as Pinhead Gunpowder.

Unlike with Jump Salty, I didn't really need to buy this particular LP.  I've had the 10" version put out by Too Many records since the 90s.  But, the Jump Salty reissue sounded so good, I figured I'd just collect all of these new versions that 1-2-3-4 Go is putting out.  I'm glad I did as this one sounds massive.  The bass is full and warm.  The guitars are crunchy, but with the crackling fuzz that still reminds you it's punk rock. I'm also a sucker for split color vinyl.

While I do think Jump Salty is my overall favorite of the PHG releases, this one is probably a very close second.  I think it's aged really well and I am still as into these songs as I was when I first heard them. 

Pinhead Gunpowder - Carry The Banner:

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Digital Underground - Sex Packets 2xLP - Blue Vinyl

Digital Underground - Sex Packets 2xLP - Blue Vinyl

Tommy Boy (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.

Like everyone my approximate age, there was no escaping "The Humpty Dance" in 1990.  It was such a huge hit and was omnipresent on MTV back then.  It also has one of the great beats in the history of hip hop. With it's deep, sliding bass line, you couldn't ask for a better canvas for the absurd lyrics that came next.  Now I can't say that the rest of the record ever hits a high that high again, but it's a strong record and is more than just a home for their one hit single.

The record is an odd, sort of concept album about sex packets that you can buy like drugs.  It's kind of a far out idea for a hip hop record, particularly in 1990.  Not every song is tied to that narrative, but in particular the second half of the album leans pretty heavy into that story.  Some things hit and some things miss.  But it's extremely innovated and never boring.  

The songs tend to be kind of long.  And while that's certainly not uncommon for hip hop, eight of the albums ten real songs (excluding skits) are over five minutes with five of them breaking six minutes.  It's a bit much at times and I sometime feel like if they trimmed some of those down a bit this could have been a slightly tighter album.  But, at the end of the day this is a pretty classic release that took hip hop into uncharted territory when it first came out.  Digital Underground had a bunch of albums out after this and I'm admittedly not as familiar with them as I am with this one.  I might need to revist those at some point.

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Cardigans - First Band on the Moon LP


Universal/Stolkholm (2019, Reissue)

Last week I wrote about the Cardigans' record Life, which I kind of bought by mistake as I forgot that "Lovefool" wasn't on it.  It's a great record and defintiely worthy of a spot in the collection, but I did have to immediately fix my mistake and grab a copy of First Band on the Moon on vinyl as well.

This is the record with "Lovefool" and hot damn do I love that song.  I've had the 7" of it for decades, having picked it up in the UK when I was there on a trip in 1997 buying way too many records (no dot com back then).  It';s still the highlight of the album to me.  Granted there are some other great songs like "Never Recover" and "Been It," but as a whole I actually think Life is a much better record as a whole.  

The thing about this record that holds it back a bit is that the songs are a little slower for the most part. It's always good, but for me it only ventures into great when they pick up the tempo a bit.  Life feels like a record that's just a bit more fun overall, but this is the record with the hit.  I guess I just have to have them both.

The Cardigans - First Band on the Moon:

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Farewell Bend - In Passing LP - Neon Orange / Neon Green Half and Half (/100)


Spartan (2021, Reissue)

I feel like all I've been doing this year is buying reissues of old albums.  It's been dire for new releases in 2021, but I guess I can take solace in the fact that I've certainly not bought less records than I usually do.  This one isn't even a record I had originally planned on buying.  My buddy Scott hipped me to The Farewell Bend, who are a band that I'm not even positive I had ever heard the name of before, for whatever reason.  Even more curious is that it's a band fronted by Brandon Butler and also featuring John Rejba, who were both in Boys Life.  

I am very familiar with Boys Life, particularly their excellent Departures and Landfalls album, so I was surprised that this wasn't on my radar back when it originally came out.  I'm definitely making up for lost time since I picked up this LP.  While there are some touchstones that are similar to what you'd hear in Boys Life, in general The Farewell Bend rocks a lot harder.  Their songs are catchier and a bit more traditional in structure, but I would never say they really dive too deep into pop territory.

What you have here is a record that mixes up a little punk rock, some of those midwestern emo vibes, a dash of indie rock and a little bit of that Jawbox/DeSoto flair to churn out an album that I really dig.  In fact, I think that I'm actually in a much better place to appreciate this record now than I would have been in 1998.  I've listened to so much more music now than I had then and I think my tastes, while still probably annoying narrow to some, are much broader than they were back then.  This is a great record and one I'm stoked that Scott gave me the heads up on.

The Farewell Bend - In Passing:

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) 2xLP - Gold Vinyl


Vinyl Me Please (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 know that I just wrote about this record a couple of months ago and it's probably weird to have re-bought a new version already, especially considering that Wu-Tang has not traditionally been one of my favorites.  But I have gotten way more into them the last few months, in part from listening to the record more and also from watching the Hulu series about their formation.  While I watch the show with a healthy bit of skepticism and assume most of it is bullshit, it's hugely entertaining and and interesting snapshot of early 90s music industry chaos.  They also play the songs from this album nonstop and they get stuck in my head pretty easily.

I read a review of this pressing, which is this first time the album has been stretched across a double LP instead of being crammed onto one.  The review was very complimentary towards how good this version actually sounded and it was really the definitive pressing.  So, I bought it again.  Might as well lock it down now before it goes out of print and gets more expensive.  I've watched that happen to more than a few hip hop reissues over the last couple of years and I've learned that it's important to buy them right away at retail price if it's something you want in the collection.

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

Monday, November 1, 2021

The Cardigans - Life LP

The Cardigans - Life LP

Stockholm (2019, Reissue)

The Cardigans were one of those bands in the 90s that I liked, but for whatever reason it felt like doing so was some sort of secret I had to keep.  Not that I kept it particularly well and I've never really been the type to be embarrassed by whatever weird music I was into, but there was this feeling that punk points were at risk for being into The Cardigans.

In particular, I adored their hit, "Lovefool."  Which is how this LP ended up in my collection.  I few months ago word that NJ's best record store, Vintage Vinyl, was closing down.  I headed down that weekend to pay my respects and hopefully buy a T shirt.  No dice on the shirt, but I spent one last afternoon digging around their bins.  I was determined to buy something during my last visit, and that's when I came across this album.  The artwork is kind of iconic and it immediately struck a nostalgic chord with me, so I picked it up.  My brain thought that "Lovefool" was the big single on this record.  Oops. I remembered that wrong.

Turns out, this is the record that came out before the First Band on the Moon album and I don't think I've ever heard it before.  I just saw the artwork so many times in the 90s that my brain filled in gaps that weren't correct.  But hey, turns out, this record is really nice as well.  They play kind of a kitschy, 60s inspired rock/pop hybrid.  It's got this retro house party vibe and boy oh boy, can they write hooks.  While I can't imagine it's the sort of record that I'd be listening to regularly, it's a wonderfully relaxing change of pace and is a pretty perfect Sunday morning record.

The Cardigans - Life: