Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Absolute Best Records of 2022


It is, in fact, that time of the year again.  I used to love putting together my end of the year list, and in many ways I still do.  But what it seems to be turning into is a yearly reminder that I'm either getting old and falling out of touch, or that there are far fewer great records coming out than there used to be.  I'm pretty sure that it's the former and my age is finally catching up to me.  If I'm being honest, I probably spent more time listening to early 90s hip hop than I did most new records.

There are exceptions, of course.  The PLOSIVS record is pretty much the best record I have heard in the last 10 years or so.  I have been a long time supporter of John Reis and have loved pretty much every record he's ever been involved in, but even with expectations that high for his work, PLOSIVS still managed to surprise me and knock me on my ass.  I think it's perfect and I cannot wait to hear more from them. John Reis and Rob Crow are a potent combo.

It was also wonderful to see Denny from Sicko, one of my favorite songwriters, back in the saddle with The Drolls.  That's the other record I probably spent the most time with this year.  Lots of other goodies in here from long time favorites like Skimmer, Snuff, Boat, Archers of Loaf, and Built To Spill.  I also made two exceptions for the list this year.

My rule is that I never put any reissues or records that came out on PopKid on the list.  But, I had to include Dereliks and Gentlemen Rogues if I am really making a list of the best 2022 records.  Gentlemen Rogues had half of the songs on their album come out on CD a few years ago.  The other half were digital only.  Since half of them never got a physical release before and the other half was never on vinyl, I decided they needed to be on the list.  

Dereliks is a four LP set.  One of the LPs is a reissue of an old 12" that came out in 1995.  The other three LPs are either songs off of demo tapes, from an old compilation CD or songs never released before.  There's enough stuff on here that's new to some and definitely new to me, that I had to include it.  Especially considering how many times I listened to it this year.

Lots of good tunes on this list and everything is pretty much worth checking out in some capacity.  Even the Superchunk record that I was pretty down on has its moments if you can get through some of the songs that are kind of a bummer.  I have next week off from work, so I'm probably not going to fire back up with more reviews right away, but before January is out, I'll be back with more nonsense.  Merry new year.

01 - PLOSIVS - PLOSIVS - Swami (Listen)
02 - The Drolls - That Puget Sound - Snappy Little Numbers (Listen)
03 - Swami John Reis - Ride The Wild Night - Swami (Listen)
04 - DereliksBroken Cyphers: The Anthology – Self Released (Listen)
05 - Boat - No Plans to Stick the Landing - Magic Marker (Listen)
06 - Czarface - Czarmageddon - Silver Age (Listen)
07 - Quaker Wedding - Total Disarray - Salinas (Listen)
08 - Skimmer - All Fired Up - Bloated Kat / Waterslide / Council Pop (Listen)
09 - Snuff - Crepuscolo Dorato Della Bruschetta Borsetta Calzetta Cacchetta Trombetta Lambretta Giallo Ossido, Ooooooh Cosi Magnifico! - 10 Past 12 / SBÄM (Listen)
10 - Meat Wave - Malign Hex - Swami (Listen)

11 - Lawsuit Models - Unknown Ghosts -Motorcycle Potluck / Snappy Little Numbers
12 - Archers of Loaf - Reason In Decline - Merge
13 - Night Court - Nervous Birds Too - Snappy Little Numbers
14 - Gentlemen Rogues - A History of Fatalism - Snappy Little Numbers / Rocket Heart
15 - Built To Spill - When The Wind Forgets Your Name - Sub Pop
16 - Good GriefShake Your Faith - Everything Sucks / Happy Happy Birthday To Me
17 - Bear Away - A Drastic Tale of Western Living - Brassneck / Waterslide / Engineer / Sell The Heart / Shield
18 - Jacob Turnbloom - Laughter in the Forever After - Half Way Home
19 - More Kicks - Punch Drunk - Dirtnap / Stardumb
20 - Superchunk - Wild Loneliness - Merge


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Dereliks - Broken Cyphers: The Anthology 4xLP


Self Released (2022)

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 Dereliks are a group that I definitely never heard about back in the 90s.  That said, a quick perusal of their Discogs page pretty much tells me why.  They put out three self released EPs on cassette, one each in 1992, 1993 and 1994.  Then they capped it off by putting out an independently released 12" EP in 1995.  Needless to say, these guys weren't front and center on Yo! MTV Raps or The Source when I was using both as my prime methods of music discovery in rural New Jersey.

Had I heard them back during the golden era, I would have been pretty obsessed.  Luckily they carried enough support in the Bay Area and through collectors trying to get their hands on the lone 12" that the group curated a four LP anthology.  And it is pretty damn incredible.  The first LP is a recreation of their long out of print A Turn On The Wheel Is Worth More Than A Record Deal 12" from 1995.  The remaining three LPs are full of tracks from the early demo tapes along with others unearth for this release.

Being from the Bay Area, it is pretty easy to draw a line to Heiroglyphics. It's absolutely not a bad line to draw as a comparison, particularly when looking at the way the vocals interplay with the production.  But in general, I find Hieroglyphics a little more 'out there' production wise, where I think Dereliks have more in common with the jazzy beats of A Tribe Called Quest. Yes, I am very much saying Dereliks are kind of like Hieroglyphics meets A Tribe Called Quest.  I realize all of the baggage that creates for them as far as living up to expectations, but for me The Dereliks deliver on every one of these tracks.

Four LPs is going to be a lot to digest in one sitting for just about anyone.  It's a lot of songs.  But the thing is, it's a lot of really, really great songs.  I adore this release and if anything sometimes I'm frustrated that there isn't even more included.  Reading the tracklists from their cassette EPs shows me that there are even more songs that didn't make it on to this set.  Chopped Herring put out a 12" containing demos from 1994 and I've picked that up as well.  But I really want at least one more release that collects the last batch of songs that aren't on vinyl.

I can't recommend this set highly enough if you are into jazzy, early 90s hip hop.  It's simply wonderful and while the entry cost looks a little steep when you first see the price, it is a FOUR LP set after all and I think I got every penny's worth.

The Dereliks - Broken Cyphers: The Anthology:

Monday, December 19, 2022

Cyclo-Sonic - Everything Went Stupid LP


Big Neck (2022)

Cyclo-Sonics is a group of punk rock lifers, boasting a resume of bands that in some instances I'm not as familiar with (Choosey Mothers) and others whose reputation is far more well known (The Fluid).  I wasn't sure exactly what I was getting into as the needle was about to hit the turntable, but I came away from Everything Went Stupid pretty damn impressed.

The thing I like about this record the most is the big, fat, chunky guitar sound.  It's deep and crunchy and the riffs that pour out of this album straddle the punk and rock lines not unlike a Supersuckers or a Hellacopters.  All of the songs are pretty hooky really, and I often find myself nodding along to the driving rhythm section as the riffs soar along side.

I can't say I love the vocals.  They tread dangerously close to the glammy side of the street, but they never really cross over to where I'm put off by them.  They've kind of old school punk rock with some good natured screaming here and there, but for the most part they are carrying the songs melodies and playing off some really fun backing group vocals.  

All in all, it's a pretty strong record.  I could nit pick little things about it that I don't love, but when I just put it on and let it play, I find myself enjoying it more often than not.

Cyclo-Sonic - Everything Went Stupid:

Friday, December 16, 2022

Built To Spill - When The Wind Forgets Your Name LP


Sub Pop (2022)

When The Wind Forgets Your Name is the first proper Built To Spill record in seven years.  And they're on Sub Pop, which kind of feels like the label they should have always been on.  When the record was announced, I was pretty excited as I've been a pretty big Built To Spill fan for decades.  When they started releasing songs from it on the internet, I was seriously underwhelmed.  The vocals sounded all weird and distorted in a way that felt just wrong.  So, I didn't buy the record when it came out.  But, for the sake of completion, I did add it to my Amazon wishlist and my wife picked it for me for my birthday.

Once I put this record on the turntable, I couldn't believe how different it sounded from the crappy videos on YouTube or whatever.  I was wrong, turns out this is, in fact, a pretty good Built To Spill record.  The vocals that I was so concerned about sound totally fine.  Maybe there's a touch more reverb on them than usual, but they don't sound blown out at all like I experienced durning the online clips.  I don't know what caused such a disparity, but it's nothing you need to worry about if you were on the fence because of this.  Though, maybe I'm the only weirdo that thought there was an issue.

There's only nine songs on the album, but as is the case with most later era Built To Spill, the songs are all pretty long.  You're getting your money's worth.  In general, things are on the mellow side of the band's catalog.  Good hooks throughout, but not too many upbeat pure pop gems.  There's a part of me that's always going to wish for a record full of songs like "Joyride," even though I'm sure that ship has sailed many moons ago.

At the end of the day, it's a fun, good record.  Not the best Built To Spill album, but certainly not one I would ever call the 'worst.'  If you like the band, you'll like this.  I like Built To Spill, therefore...

Built To Spill - When The Wind Forgets Your Name:

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Hard Knocks - School of Hard Knocks LP


Wild Pitch (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.

One thing I haver to say, Wild Pitch had a hell of a roster in the early 90s.  In addition to the groups I knew about at the time, I've discovered gem after gem with their logo pasted on the sleeve.  Hard Knocks is another feather in their cap.

I don't remember ever hearing about these guys when this record came out in 1992, but man, is this record great.  Hard Knocks consists of MC Hardhead and DJ Stoneface and while coming up with names isn't the group's strong suit, politically conscious lyrics over hard hitting beats definitely is.  The production runs the gamut of laid back tracks with smooth funk samples to upbeat anthems powered by basslines lifted from the great American soul playbook.  While I prefer the faster paced tracks, I can't say there's a bad one in the bunch.

Lyrically, MC hardhead doesn't have a fiery delivery.  He sits more in that monotone delivery not too dissimilar from Guru, but not quite as smooth.  But his flow allows him the space to deliver intelligent stories that tackle poverty, racism and many other issues that unfortunately haven't changed much since 1992.  The content sounds just as fresh and relevant in 2022 as it did thirty years ago. 

I found this copy on Discogs, and while there is a big old hole punch through the sleeve, it was still sealed after all of these years.  I'll take a slightly damaged cover to get a pristine slab of vinyl every single time.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Skimmer - All Fired Up CD


Bloated Kat / Waterslide / Council Pop (2022)

It's possible that I'm going to write a few things that might sound vaguely like complaints, but I want to assure you that I mean them as compliments.  This is a great album and the only thing that I could say that might be a complaint is that I wish it had come out on vinyl in addition to CD.  But as far as the music goes, this is just what I want from a Skimmer album.

Skimmer has been around for quite a long time.  Formed from the ashes of The Sect, they were one of the corner stone bands of UK melodic punk that really captured my attention in the mid 90s.  Along with Broccoli, Chopper, Hooton 3 Car, Crocodile God and Travis Cut, Skimmer was a band whose singles I desperately sought out in a (mostly) pre internet era.  I even had to go to England eventually to round out my collections of most of these bands.

Skimmer was always the fast, melodic buzzsaw pop band.  At times I felt they were vocally similar to Mega City Four, but almost always playing twice as fast with the guitar distortion permanently locked as high as it would go.  In the intervening nearly 30 years, Skimmer reliably kept putting out records and their sound never really changed that much.  That's the thing that I worry could be construed as a criticism.  But I can't tell you how great it feels that as the years go barreling by, I can still get a new Skimmer release and I'm immediately transported back to 1997.

This isn't one of those 'the songs all sound the same' deals, but they certainly all have an interconnected feeling.  Flat out, they're just one of the best and most consistent bands to come out of my favorite scene in the history of the earth.  While many of their peers packed it in, Skimmer persevered and the fact that they are still releasing killed melodic pop punk in 2022 is nothing short of a miracle.

Skimmer - All Fired Up:

Bloated Kat (US)

Waterslide (Japan)

Council Pop (UK)

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

O.C. - Word...Life 2xLP


ReIssue / Fat Beats (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.

Word...Life originally came out in October of 1994, so it's not a complete shock that I missed it the first time around,  As I've explained in the past, 1994 was a major transitional year for me when it comes to music.  It's when punk and indie rock started to take over for me because there were fewer and fewer hip hop records that were interesting to me.  By 1995, I could hardly ever find anything of interest in hip hop.  Though I have backtracked and found a few gems, for the most part I persoanlly define 1994 as the last year of the Golden Era.

It's only within the last few years that O.C. ended up on my radar.  Backed by production on the majority of the album from Organized Konfusion and Buckwild of the Diggin' In The Crates crew, O.C. stepped up to the mic and really delivered on every song.  The production is mostly laid back with jazzy samples.  It wouldn't be what I'd call top tier Golden Era production, as it does show its age a bit by being close to 1995 and leaning into some of those sounds a bit.  Also, the hooks (or choruses, depending on what you'd prefer to call them) borderline on cheesy on a few songs.  But those two minor complaints aside, it is a pretty strong record overall.

Lyrically, O.C. is great.  He's not doing anything particularly complex or innovative, but this dude knows how to spin a narrative.  The rhymes are really tight and never feel forced just to end a couplet.  The songs have a very conversational feel to them and the stories told are compelling.  And when the lyrics combine with production on a song like "Time's Up," the results can be spectacular.  So, I wouldn't call this a stone cold classic, but it's very good overall and great at times.  Worth checking out if you missed it the first time around.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Jacob Turnbloom - Laughter in the Forever After 2xLP - Blue w/ Splatter Vinyl


Half Way Home (2022)

Jacob Turnbloom is one of my favorite artists.  Primarily because of his work in the amazing Mrs. Magician, but he has also released several solo efforts, all of which are worth your while.  Laughter in the Forever After is no exception.

I will get the two minor criticisms out of the way first.  First, I don't find this album to be as consistently great as I do Mrs. Magician records.  And I think that's because of my second issue, there are more synthy 80s sounding songs than I typically prefer.  "Ray's Occult" and "Pink Flamingos" are probably the two songs I would point to as being examples of this.  They're just a little too Stranger Things for me to really get behind.  That said, I am notorious for having very little patience for any sort of 80s or synth heavy music, so my bias is definitely going to show through here more than others might.

But when the album is at the more upbeat end of the spectrum and guitars are the primary driving force, this album soars and can hold its own with anything Jacob has released in the past.  "Balboa Park," "Hey Allison" and "Love is a Spaceship" are three of the best songs on this album and really showcase what makes Jacob Turnbloom so great.  He has a knack for hooks that aren't immediately obvious.  They're not always anthemic singalongs, but they melodies will get imprinted on your brain after a few listens.  He's also one of the better lyricists going these days, managing to tie together equal parts of frustration, optimism, joy and sarcasm in a way I'm not sure anyone else can.

All in all, it's a really good record.  Yeah, there's a few songs that don't engage me the same way as the others, but viewed as a whole there's a lot going on that I really dig.  Plus, there's the great news that Mrs. Magician is working on their third full length and I don't know if it's possible for me to be more excited about that one coming out eventually.

Jacob Turnbloom - Laughter in the Forever After:

Friday, December 2, 2022

Meat Wave - Malign Hex LP


Swami (2022)

Well, it's happened again and I'm scrambling to write about several records from this year that I haven't gotten to yet.  I like to try to get just about everything covered before I do my end of the year list, but it seems like I'm always struggling through December with too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Enter Meat Wave.

I saw Meat Wave open up for Plosivs in Philadelphia earlier this year.  Plosivs were other-worldly, just so damn great.  Meat Wave didn't really stand out to me at the show.  They were fine, even enjoyable at times, but nothing about them really clicked on a high level with me for whatever reason.  Though part of that might have been the fact that it was my first show since the pandemic had started and I'm not sure I was really in the game yet.

When the record was released via the Swami webstore (which is where the more limited black vinyl version is from, though I assume Meat Wave has or had the black version at shows as well) I picked up a copy.  Mostly because that's just what I do.  I support and buy everything that Swami puts out.  I haven't loved everything, but I've certainly discovered some incredible bands as well.  But I can't say I had super high expectations going into my first listen.

I probably set the bar too low, because this is a pretty great record.  I can't say I love the first song, "Disney."  It's kind of slow and feels like an odd album opener to me, but once we get to the second song, "Honest Living," the record takes off and soars for the entire time.  There's definitely something of a Hot Snakes vibe to some songs, particularly in the way the guitar riffs flow, so Swami fans should appreciate the album.  

For me, I think the Meat Wave has the most in common with the band Survival Knife (and by proxy to Unwound.). On a songs like "Complaint" and "Waveless" the searing guitar work overtop a positively rumbling rhythm section has such energy and potency.  Justin Trosper would be very proud of these guys.

Again, I wasn't expecting to like this album as much as do.  I was anticipating a solid record, but what I got was gut punch and a kick in the face on the way down.  Great stuff.

Meat Wave - Malign Hex:

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Guru - Jazzmatazz Volume II: The New Reality 2xLP - Orange Vinyl & Purple Vinyl


Vinyl Me Please (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.

I was a huge fan of the first Guru Jazzmatazz record.  In no small part because of how much of a Gang Starr fan I was.  Jazzmatazz Volume II came out in 1995, which is where the dark ages of hip hop starts for me.  I'm aware of so few hip hop records that came out after 1994 as I pretty much completely moved away from it.  That's mostly just due to the shifts in sounds and not being able to find what I was looking for anymore.

But, I recently decided to give this album a shot, as I never listened to it when it originally came out.  And you know what, it's pretty good.  It isn't as good as any of the Gang Starr records or the first Jazzmatazz record, but those are all pretty high bars to try to reach.  But listening to it in 2022, while not being in the thick of hip hop falling to pieces, I'm able to just listen to it as a new record.

As it turns out Volume II is a pretty solid hip hop record.  It still sounds like the golden era to me, though there's an over reliance of R&B singers providing crooned hooks.  I don't really need that as I've never been a fan of that sort of thing, but the strength of the beats make up for it.  No surprise that they're very jazzy, but they still have a pretty strong boom bap vibe, even if it's a bit lower key than most.

I missed the boat when Vinyl Me Please reissued this back in 2018, so I did have to pay collector prices for a copy, but I found a really good deal on this one and didn't really over pay too much, especially since VMP pressing tend to be pretty expensive to begin with.

Monday, November 28, 2022

The Battlebeats - You Don't Know Me 7"


Big Neck (2022)

The moment I put this record on, I immediately got the same vibe I got when I would put on a new record that came out on the sadly missed Ptrash record label.  We immediately blast off into a garage stomp, simple but effective drum beat and fuzzed out guitars riffs.  It's nothing if not instantly catchy.

I don't love the vocals.  They have that gargled with glass feeling, but lack the smoothness of say a Frankie Stubbs.  These vocals end up being very harsh and it definitely takes away from the melodic tendencies of the songs themselves.  If you just focus on the music, Battlebeats are a hook machine and every song has something catchy to latch on to.

Aside from the vocals, the only other thing that I wish I could change would be the length of the songs.  While I understand the impact of an economical blast, three of the four songs clock in under two minutes.  If you doubled the length of each, it would only make them better, I think.

The Battlebeats - You Don't Know Me:

Friday, November 11, 2022

More Kicks - Punch Drunk CD


Dirtnap / Stardumb (2022)

Your eyes do not deceive you.  This is a CD as it was sent to me to check out and write about.  So check it out I did.  I actually have the first More Kicks record that came out in 2019, but I really didn't remember it.  I listened to it back when it came out and then it just vanished into the collection and wasn't anything that had much staying power for me.  It's not that it wasn't good, looking back on what I wrote about it back then was positive and it even snuck into my top 10 records of that year.  It just didn't stick with me for whatever reason.

I feel like this new album might have a similar fate.  It's very obviously good.  Maybe bordering on great.  The hooks are there, the vocal harmonies are delightful and the general vibe is pretty much the sort of thing I enjoy listening to.  Do you like The Resonars?  This is probably better as it's more straight forward.  Do you dig The Cute Lepers?  I can't imagine you not liking this as even though the songs aren't quite as maniacally fast, they have a lot in common.  Do you appreciate the vocal stylings of Wiz from Mega City Four?  This might be the closest thing I've ever heard.

Even with all of those supremely favorable comparisons, the record is just not hitting me as hard as I feel like it should.  On paper, it's perfect.  Listening to it, there's just a little something missing that I cannot put my finger on.  Perhaps it's just me.  Maybe I need to spend more time with it.  Maybe I'm just getting old and stuck on the older bands from my youth.  Maybe some of the pressures of everyday life aren't allowing me to be in the right sort of mood to really enjoy this for what it is.  I can't say I know for sure.  It's a bit of a puzzle that I can't crack.  All I can say is that this is a really, really good power pop record.  I just don't know if I need another one of those right now.

More Kicks - Punch Drunk:

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Gang Starr - No More Mr. Nice Guy LP - Red & White Inside Out Vinyl


Vinyl Me Please (2022, 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 pop in and out of Vinyl Me Please.  Occasionally they have a neat reissue that I'm interested it, so I subscribe and then cancel.  My taste in music is way too finicky for me to be able to commit to a long term subscription, but I joined up when they announced this Gang Starr reissue.

No More Mr. Nice Guy is the first Gang Starr record and probably the one I've always been least familiar with.  I never even had the CD if you can imagine such a thing.  It's mostly because I always felt like it really didn't sound much like the Gang Starr that I know and love.  It was 1989, Guru and Premier had not yet coalesced into the monster group that put out Daily Operation in 1992, or even Step in the Arena in 1990.

The beats sound kind of old and they don't have that same DJ Premier vibe that I so adore.  Guru is not as smooth or monotone on this debut and there are a few songs where he rhymes uncharacteristically fast.  It's sometimes kind of jarring to be honest.  

Even saying all of that, this is still a really good record, particularly for the standards of what was going on in 1989.  They weren't ahead of their time just yet, but they were right on target with what most of the rap world was releasing at the time.  I listen to the record and it's just fun.  It's not mind blowing or important or super influential, but there's something to be said about a record that you can just put on, listen to and enjoy.  

No More Mr. Nice Guy has that and then some and this pressing by Vinyl Me Please is for sure the definitive version for the sound quality and the huge pile of bonus tracks.  I would really love it if VMP could get their hands on the rights to Daily Operation and give it a similarly excellent treatment.

Gang Starr - No More Mr. Nice Guy:

Monday, November 7, 2022

Superchunk - There's A Ghost 7" - Black & White Swirl Vinyl (/500)


Merge (2022)

It's difficult for me to not buy a Superchunk 7" if one is released.  Last album not very good? I'll over look it.  $15 price tag?  I understand the costs of putting out records.  B side is a cover song? It's fine, maybe the A side is really good.  That's why I have dozens of Superchunk 7"s and to be honest, part of the mission now is just to keep the collection complete.

What I can happily report is that the A side, "There's A Ghost," is pretty great.  I think I can say without any hesitation that it's probably better than any song on their most recent full length, Wild Loneliness.   It's upbeat and catchy and isn't dwelling on on somber moods at all.  This is the Superchunk I like best, the one that pulls me out of funks, not the one the piles on.

On the B side we have a Sisters of Mercy cover.  I can't say I'm familiar with the original version of "Alice," or any Sisters of Mercy song to be honest.  The Superchunk version is fine.  It's moody, just like I was complimenting "There's a Ghost" for not being.  And it has a over compressed feeling to it with a supreme lack of fuzzy guitar.  I'll probably never listen to that side again, but the A side, that's a real winner.  Give me an album full of songs like that please.

Superchunk - There's A Ghost 7":

Friday, November 4, 2022

Archers of Loaf - Reason In Decline LP - Pink Swirl Vinyl


Merge (2022)

I wasn't surprised when Archers of Loaf got back together in 2011 to do a victory lap reunion tour.  I went to the NYC show and it was excellent.  I wasn't even surprised when they started releasing new music.  What surprised me is that when I listened to their newest full length, Reason In Decline, I actually thought it was pretty solid.

This isn't just me bagging on reunion records.  It's mostly because I just intensely dislike the last Archers of Loaf record White Trash Heroes.  That record floored me in the worst possible way upon its release in 1998.  It was the sort of record that made me not super sad that Archers split up.  Because of that, expectations were pretty low for their first new album in twenty four years.

But again, it's pretty good.  It doesn't have the energy or punch of their first two records, but in general things move along at a nice pace.  There's enough anger and angst that it doesn't sound like a completely different band.  As cliche as it sounds, Reason In Decline sounds like an Archers of Loaf record made by a bunch of older dudes.  Being an older dude myself, I can absolutely get behind that.  Is this a can't miss, smash hit?  No, it's not.  But it's a lot better than you probably thought it was going to be.

Archers of Loaf - Reason In Decline:

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Kam - Neva Again LP


EastWest (1993)

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.

Until pretty recently, I had never even heard of Kam, let alone listened to any of his records.  He was a complete non-entity in the world of Yo! MTV Raps and The Source, as least as far as I can recall.  But in listening to his debut album, Neva Again, I can't quite figure out why.  I suppose his brand of gangster rap was rendered somewhat obsolete by the success of The Chronic and the almost immediate transition to g-funk as the production vibe of choice.

Neva Again is more rooted in the sound that Ice Cube and Da Lench Mob were producing in the early 90s.  I mean, in some ways that's obvious since Cube is the executive producer of the album and the production work is mostly handled by his crew.  The resulting sound is very much in line with Death Certificate and Guerillas in tha Mist.  Lower tempo, rich sounding beats with funky samples and a somewhat menacing aura.  It's kind of perfect for what it is.

Lyrically, Kam absolutely holds his own as well.  He's very much a west coast rapper and excels in storytelling and painting a compelling picture of his world.  While he's not going off the deep end with polysyllabic rhyme structures, his slow and steady vibe has just the right combination of authority and world weariness.  I'm not sure where this record was hiding all of these years, but it really feels like the last salvo of great west coast gangster rap before The Chronic changed everything (for the worse, if you ask me).

Monday, October 31, 2022

Record Store Visit: Long In The Tooth - Philadelphia, PA - 10/20/22


I don't travel as much as I'd like.  I don't think most people really do.  But whenever I do travel I really try to hit up at least one new record store in whatever city I'm in.  I recently had to go to Philadelphia for work and while it's really not so far away from where I live that I'd consider traveling, it is still a city I'm not in very often.  Luckily, the hotel I was staying at was only a few blocks away from a record store called Long In The Tooth. 

It may not look like much from the outside, but once you go in there's a lot to love about this place.  Now, full disclosure:  I didn't buy anything while I was there.  However, I'm still going to say it was a great store it is.  That might seem somewhat incongruous, but I really do feel that way.

I think the main reason is because they had so many great records that I already had.  Just because I didn't need anything there that day doesn't mean that someone else that might not have my exact collection wouldn't find something they'd be really excited to pick up.  The store is very vinyl heavy, predominantly LPs.

Their rock section is really expansive and it passed the smell test by having the recent Rocket From The Crypt represses from Vagrant in stock.  But they had plenty of other goodies.  Mostly punk and indie rock with a few other things thrown in there.  The also had the No Knife record Hit Man Dreams up on the wall.  $125 does feel a little pricey for that record, but it really is hard to find and also very great, so I give them kudos for knowing what they had.

The 7" section wasn't nearly as big as the LP area, but they had a nicely curated selection of used goods.  A lot of 90s stuff and I almost picked up the copy of the Supersuckers' Born With A Tail 7", but the cover was a bit more beat up than I would have preferred.

The last section I spent time in was their hip hop LPs.  This was another area that was surprisingly great.  Very 90s heavy, as it should be, and they did a really great job of both stocking classics that are in print and having some used gems as well.  Again, nothing that I needed, but certainly the sort of section worth digging through.  I also have the feeling that if I lived there, I could very easily have them keep an eye out for stuff for me.  It just has that kind of vibe to it.

All in all, a fun store.  I would definitely go back if I was in the area.

Friday, October 28, 2022

30 Amp Fuse - Saturday Night at the Atomic Speedway LP


Dedicated (1997)

I have had this on CD since it came out in 1997.  Whatever label Dedicated is, it was either distributed by or owned by BMG.  As you can imagine, promo CDs of this flowed like water.  A true cut out bin champion if there ever was one.  I got my copy for review when I was writing for my college newspaper.  I've always been partial to 90s major label guitar pop bands.  And while 30 Amp Fuse definitely fits into that category, there's just enough grit in the vocals that things remain kind of punk rock for most of the album.

Where the record isn't punk rock is the production.  It's super slick and glossy with the guitars sounding crunchy, but weirdly perfect.  It's one of the more unique guitar tones I've heard.  And not that it's bad, it's just oddly clinical at times.  Vocally, there's certainly a bit of a Social Distortion, greaser sort of rasp going on here.  But in general the vocals are way more melodic and singer Mike Smithers definitely knows his way around a hook.

Was picking this up on vinyl a totally mandatory purchase?  Would my collection have been incomplete without it?  No, I would have been fine only having my promo CD from '97.  But it's a fun record with some really catchy tunes.  I probably won't listen to it a ton, but I will every once in a while and I'm glad it'll be in the collection when the mood strikes.

30 Amp Fuse - Saturday Night at the Atomic Speedway:

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

House of Pain - Self Titled 2xLP - Orange Vinyl & White Vinyl


Tommy Boy (2022, 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.

While I absolutely had this album when it was first released, I wasn't sure if I was ever going to add it to the collection on vinyl.  I had this album really early when it came out in 1992, I remember the first time I had heard about it was via a promo sticker that had come with an issue of The Source that I had.  I then saw the video for Jump Around on Yo! MTV Raps and picked up the album.  This was before the song would take off into the stratosphere and turn into a perennial Jock Jam, completely inescapable.

So, I soured on House of Pain a bit and just sort of let them be forgotten.  As I started ramping up my hip hop vinyl collection, I wondered if I should give the album another chance.  So about a year ago I downloaded the MP3s and gave it a whirl for the first time in probably 25 years or so.  It's still a pretty solid album in spite of itself.

What I really mean more than anything is that this is a pretty good album in spite of Everlast.  It's the beats.  The beats on this record are just incredible.  Muggs, Lethal and Ralph string together a parade of hits.  Even "Jump Around" is completely undeniable from a production standpoint.  Everlast's lyrics are another story.  They were never great, but with thirty years of hindsight, they sound even worse to me.  Gravelly throated, Irish pride was kind of an odd thing for rap in 1992 and it sounds even weirder now.  Nothing about it is necessarily bad, but it's such an outlier for the sort of records that were coming out back then.  But I keep coming back to how good the production is.

Which, ultimately, is why I decided to pick up the album and specifically, why I decided to buy the fancy double LP version.  This one has all of the remixes, including Pete Rock's excellent version of "Jump Around."  If I'm going to add this to the collection, I'm going to add the best possible version.  That said, I didn't get the free jump rope that was supposed to come with it.  Oh well.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Karl Hendricks Trio - A Gesture of Kindness LP


Fiasco / Peas Kor (1995)

Karl Hendricks Trio was one of the early bands I got into as I started exploring the worlds of punk and indie rock my junior year of high school.  My friend Pat was the one who first introduced me to them via their first album Buick Elektra.  That remains my favorite of Karl's many records, though I'm sure a large part of that is the nostalgia and my general propensity for having the first record I hear by a band remain my favorite.

For whatever reason, A Gesture of Kindness is the Karl Hendricks Trio record I was least familiar with back in the 90s.  I'm not sure why it didn't get as much play as some of the others, though the fact that I was almost constantly listening to Buick Elektra and Some Girls Like Cigarettes probably played a factor.  That said, I recently decided that I could no longer exist having most of my Karl albums on CD, so I'm trying to pick up the missing ones on vinyl where I can.

I got a very nice deal on a copy of this in really excellent condition and I'm really happy I did.  This is such a great record.  It sounds old, in that it very much has a 90s feeling to it that you'll never hear today with it's blown out guitar sound, but it still manages to sound fresh and exciting.  There's just so much energy crammed into these songs and the quiet-loud-quiet-loud dynamic is one of those things I'll just never get sick of.  

For those not familiar with Karl Hendricks Trio, it's really not the worst place I could think of to start out.  While, as I mentioned, I like Buick Elektra more, I think A Gesture of Kindness or S0me Girls Like Cigarettes will probably yield the best results for first timers.  Give them a shot, they really were one of the great bands of the 90s.

The Karl Hendricks Trio - A Gesture of Kindness:

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Das EFX - Hold It Down 2xLP


Music On Vinyl (2019, 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.

When Dead Serious, the first Das EFX, album came out in 1991, I was pretty obsessed.  Great beats, cool vibe and wild lyrics that made more than a couple of pop culture references that really landed with me.  When it came out, I felt like I was one of the few people that liked their second album, Straight Up Sewaside just as much as Dead Serious when it was released in 1993.  I even remember reviewing it in my high school newspaper and proclaiming it better than the first.  I don't really feel that way anymore, as nostalgia is a real beast sometimes and the first album just evokes a different strain of memories.

I'll be honest, when Hold It Down originally came out in 1995, I never listened to it.  I had pretty much moved on from hip hop at that point and I think that year's Souls of Mischief record might have been the only hip hop record I bought.  I'm not sure if hearing this album then would have really changed my mind about anything, but after going back to it and spending some time, I can claim this is one of a very small amount of 90s post -994 hip hop albums that is actually worth a damn.

The beats are really strong for 1995, when I felt there was so much trash polluting hip hop.  They're still grimy with a strong snare crack and deep, grooving bass lines.  Lyrically Hold It Down sits inbetween the constant 'diggety' of the first record and the 'no diggety at all' of the second.  They break out their signature flow here and there, but they don't beat it into the grouond.  My only real complaint about it is how long it is.  Seventy four minutes is way too long for any album, it's nearly double the length of Dead Serious and it's certainly not twice as good.

But there's way more good than bad on here and it's definitely worth giving a listen if you missed it first time around.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Bart And The Brats - S/T LP


Big Neck (2022)

Bart and the Brats is a new venture from Bart De Vraantijk, known to some as being a member of bands like Wild Zeros and Teenage Hearts.  Though if I'm being honest, I'm not particularly familiar with his work, though I have at least heard of those two bands.  On this album, Bart is working solo, having recorded everything himself.  But don't worry, this isn't an acoustic, singer-songwriter adventure.  We've got the full complement of guitar/bass/drums at play.

This very much sounds like something that Ptrash would have put out in 2009 or so.  Fast and catchy garage guitar riffage with snarling vocals.  The simplicity of the Ramones with the energy of the Carbonas.  It's much catchier than a lot of other records of this ilk, so it's connecting with me way more than most.  I think if the vocals were a bit more melodic, I'd probably really dig it.  As is, I think it's pretty solid and something worth checking out if you dig on these type of fast and furious sounds.

Bart And The Brats - S/T:

Friday, October 14, 2022

Swami John Reis & Creepxotica - Shelter Island 7"


Swami (2022)

This is a collaborative 7" featuring the skills of Swami John Reis and Creepxotica.  It was first sold at an event at the Bali Hai restaurant and then the leftovers were sold on the Swami website.  I was not able to go to Bali Hai, being on the wrong side of the country and all, so I was glad to have been able to wrangle one from the website.

Both songs are instrumental surf tunes, though they are dramatically different from the Swami John Reis and the Blind Shake team up.  That was was louder and more aggressive.  These songs are more in line with traditional surf music ala The Ventures.

Side A is the mellower of the two with "Shelter Island" being a pleasant mid tempo number that feels like the soundtrack to a sunset on a slightly breezy day.  I don't know exactly what that means and if you want to call bullshit on it as a description, that's fine.  But that's the vibe I get from it more than anything, it conjures a vision in my head of a relaxing evening.

On the B side we have "1 Mai Tai... 2 Mai Tai... 3 Mai Tai... Floor!"  This one is a little faster and it's built around a person ordering mai tais.  As they order their first, the music starts up.  When they get the the second, things start getting a little louder and looser.  This continues until the end when the fourth mai tai hits the floor.  A neat concept.  Even though I can't say this 7" hits me as hard as the Blind Shake LP, I still really enjoy it and would really like to hear more from this partnership.

Swami John Reis & Creepxotica - "Shelter Island" (This is a live version from the show that the 7" was sold at, the one on the record is a studio version)

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Down South - Lost in Brooklyn 2xLP - White Vinyl


Big Beat (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.

While I have found a few examples of records that do buck this trend, I typically consider 1994 the last year that good hip hop records were released.  And while there are some really great records that came out this year, it's certainly a bit scattershot.  It's also the year that I really fell out of touch with hip hop as I was becoming much more interested in punk and indie rock.  As a result, I've discovered that quite a few albums from '94 flew under my radar.  Lost in Brooklyn is one of those.

Down South is from Virginia, if the world wide web is to believed and they are definitely bringing a southern style twang to golden era hip hop.  Luckily it's not in an annoying way like say Outkast or something like that.  While they do lean into so southern stereotypes when it comes to lyrical content, musically they have much more in common with a group like Alkaholiks or Beatnuts (which makes sense as Beatnuts were involved with a few tracks on this record).

While I can't say that Lost in Brooklyn is a surefire undiscovered classic, it is quite good.  I think I would have loved it if I heard it in 1994.  And if I then had almost thirty years of history with it instead only a year or two, it would probably be hitting the nostalgia vibes pretty hard.  But again, I really like this record a lot and I think it's one of the cooler discoveries that I've made digging around for albums I missed the first time around.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Ice Cube - The Predator 2xLP


Capitol/Priority (2003, 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.

It took me a while to find a reasonably priced copy of this, the third Ice Cube album.  This version came out in 2003 and is a double LP that comes with a few bonus tracks and remixes.  It's been out of print for ages, so the cost had gotten prohibitive.  Now, I did pay a decent price for this, but nowhere near the $200-$300 range I've been seeing it in lately.

I wasn't even sure I wanted this record again until recently.  I had the CD back in 1992 and enjoyed it quite a bit.  But over the years the album as a whole was overshadowed by its biggest single "It Was A good Day."  I never liked that song.  I thought it was too slow and the lyrics were kind of goofy.  So the record fell into the rearview and eventually at some point I sold the CD during one of my purges over the years.  The Predator was never in the same league as Amerikkka's Most Wanted or Death Certificate and in my brain I just sort of forgot about it.

For whatever reason, I decided to revisit it within the last eight months or so.  I was surprised by how many of the songs were instantly remembered by my brain, despite not having heard them in ions.  I have sorely overlooked this record and it holds up way better than I had expected.  I still don't like "It Was A Good Day" all that much, though I probably can tolerate it better now than I did in '92.  But the rest of the album is remarkably good.

The "We Will Rock You" drum sample in "When Will They Shoot?" kind of sets the stage for the entire record.  Hard beats with Cube's fiery lyrical delivery.  It's one of several truly great songs like "Wicked," "Now I Gotta Wet 'Cha" and "Check Yo Self."  "Check Yo Self" in particular was one I didn't remember being as great as it is.  I think part of that was due to the over saturation of its remix that basically took the lyrics and dumped it on top of the instrumental of "The Message."  That version still kind of sucks, but the LP version is great.

So, I didn't evaluate this album properly.  I thought Death Certificate was Cube's last stand, but in fact the bulk of The Predator is just about as good.  There's a few tracks that musically have a little bit more G/P-Funk than I typically prefer, but as a whole, a great listen.  I also checked out the 4th Ice Cube record Lethal Injection, to see if I wasn't giving that one the credit it deserved.  But I can assure you, I didn't overlook that one.  It's still pretty not good, so I won't be adding that one to the collection.

Ice Cube - The Predator:

Monday, October 3, 2022

The Missed - Activation LP


Just Because (2022)

I was pleasantly surprised when this LP by The Missed came in.  They had put out a really good 7" back in 2019, but I hadn't really heard anything since then.  Enter Activation, their eight song album.  Now, I could easily argue semantics about whether or not an eight song, twenty-five-ish minute release is really a full length.  I've always been of the mindset that ten songs is kind of the minimum, unless you've got a few pretty long songs in the chamber.  But that's not really my decision to make.  They say it's a full length, so who am I to argue.

Like their 7", the thing that really jumps out at me on this album is how perfect the guitar tone in.  It's warm and crunchy.  Distorted without being too noisy.  The way it meshes in the the low rumble of the bass and the excellent drumming really helps make these songs sound great.  The vocals are a bit more subdued for the bulk of the album, but they do what they are supposed to.  They carry along complimentary melodies and hit just the right level of urgency when the song calls for it.

If anything, the only complaint I really have is that the album goes by way too quick.  I almost wish they hadn't released those four songs on that 2019 7" and saved them for this album.  But there's nothing stopping me from listening to them back to back, I suppose.

The Missed - Activation:

Friday, September 30, 2022

Beck - Live at KAOS Olympia Community Radio LP


DOL (2016)

This is a vinyl bootleg of a Beck radio show bootleg that's been floating around for a really long time.  It documents an on air performance from 1994 at KAOS, a radio station in Olympia, WA.  It focuses on songs from the One Foot In The Grave era, but leans harder into some of the more lighthearted ones of that time.  Mostly ones that ended up on the cutting room floor for that record (but many were eventually released on the 2xLP special edition version of One Foot In The Grave that came out in 2009).

What has always amused me about this particular recording is that it starts right in the middle of the song "Mattress."  It's amazing to me that nearly thirty years later, a complete version of this session hasn't surfaced and we're still listening to one that's missing half a song (at least, who knows what happened before he played "Mattress").  The session is a blast with rough versions of future classics like "Painted Eyelids" and "Totally Confused."  But it's some of the really odd ones like "Johnny Depp," "Beck Will Die" and "Your Love Is Weird" that really make it special for me.

This LP sounds pretty good for the most part.  It's not outrageously high quality, but it gets the job done.  But what's really confusing to me is that it leaves off the last song from the session, "New Age Blowjob" (an early version of "Bogusflow").  I have no idea why it's not on here, there's only three songs on the B side, so there was definitely room.  It's an omission I find annoying, but I am happy to at least have something on vinyl.

I wish there were more of these sort of LPs, bootlegs or not.  In particular the first three Beck sessions at KCRW are so much fun and having nice LPs of those to replace the bootleg tapes and MP3s I've had for a thousand years would be quite excellent.

Beck - Live at KAOS Olympia Community Radio:

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Naughty By Nature - 19 Naughty III LP


Tommy Boy / Big Life (1993)

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.

Naughty By Nature is typically remembered for "O.P.P." and, at times, "Hip Hop Hooray" to most people.There's probably a slight whiff of one hit wonder about them, but that's probably not fair to a group that has three pretty great albums if you look at them objectively.  It's easy to think about the "O.P.P." video being played incessantly everywhere in 1991, but it's also easy to forget what a great song that was.  The beat is top shelf and Trech's lyrics, while a bit goofy, are on point.

Trech probably has one of the more underrated flows in golden era hip hop, and that's likely because of how ubiquitous the Naughty By Nature hits were.  When 19 Naughty II came out, the airwaves were once again saturated with one of the groups songs.  This time it was "Hip Hop Hooray."  Like "O.P.P." this was a song that's not particularly serious or impactful.  Again, it's kind of goofy and this time the beat isn't on the same level as "O.P.P." was.  But the rest of the album is pretty great.

Full of hard hitting beats with complex lyrical stylings, I certainly didn't give this album the credit it deserved when it first came out.  I had it back in 1993, but never ended up listening to it as much as some of the other albums that came out around there.  But going back to it now, it's pretty obvious how talented this crew was.  I'm really surprised this album hasn't ever been reissued on vinyl, but luckily I was able to track down a copy in beautiful condition at a very reasonable price.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Pinhead Gunpowder - Shoot The Moon 12" - Blue & White Split Vinyl


1-2-3-4 Go! (2022, Reissue)

This Pinhead Gunpowder reissue is another that I already had the original pressing of.  There's really no reason as to why I needed to pick up another version, mine's essentially immaculate.  But the lure of a reissued version on colored vinyl that's part of an overarching reissue campaign was something I just couldn't pass up.

This EP originally came out in 1999, when I was the music director of my college radio station.  I was really excited to have a new Pinhead Gunpowder release to put out for everyone to play.  The only complaint I had then is that it was just so damn short.  Seven songs in twelve minutes with only one breaking the two minute mark.  

This reissue helps that out a little bit by including two bonus tracks that were previously on the Recess version of Compulsive Disclosure.  I'm not sure why they were added here instead of kept there, but since the 1-2-3-4 Go! version of Compulsive Disclosure isn't out yet, I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet 2xLP - Blue Vinyl & Brown 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.

As much as I try to avoid it, I do end up getting sucked into buying fancy reissues of records I already have from time to time.  While I bought the Public Enemy vinyl box set many years ago, which has a perfectly serviceable copy of Fear of a Black Planet in it, I could not resist the pull of this version from Vinyl Me Please.

All prior versions of this LP were single disc affairs.  This is the first time this landmark record has been given room to breathe and there really is a difference.  I am not one of those crazy audiophile guys who pretends I can hear whether or not there was ever any digital process on a vinyl record.  But what I can tell you is that this version seems louder, has a fuller sound (particularly when it comes to bass and low end) and really is the best version of this record I've heard.  The packaging is pretty nice too, with a cool booklet along with the gatefold sleeve.

The record itself is just about flawless.  Even though my favorite Public Enemy record has always been It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, I will never downplay how utterly incredible Fear of a Black Planet is as well.  It's really one of those records that just about anyone with even a passing interest in hip hop should own.  And this is probably the best version out there to pick up if you need it.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Your Pest Band - Reflecting Board 12"


Dead Broke (2022)

I have a lot of records by Your Pest Band.  They've been putting out tunes since 2008 and the vast majority were on my favorite all time record label, Snuffy Smile.  Though these days Snuffy Smile isn't anywhere near as active as they used to be, and I've not been as enamored with their more recent offerings.  This Your Pest Band 12" was released on Dead Broke without any seeming involvement from Snuffy Smile, which seems a little odd.  It's not the first time a label has put out one of their records without it being a co-release, but it's certainly not a regular occurrence.

As the years have gone by, I've enjoyed Your Pest Band's evolution.  From more traditional Snuffy Smile punk rock, to garage leaning speed to the current iteration which has something of a psych/classic rock vibe.  Do I like this sort of thing as much as I like their earliest releases?  No, I don't.  I'm always going to be somewhat trapped in wanting to here some good old fashioned pop punk.  But that's not to say that Your Pest Band isn't still cranking out some great tunes, because they are.

This 12" has seven new songs.  There's a few mid tempo numbers like "Blind Lane" and "Strange Rings," the latter of which has some downright Petty-esque guitar riffs going on.  But I tend to gravitate towards the faster songs.  In particular, "Every Arithmetic" strikes a real chord with me as it has loud, crunchy guitars and a driving drum beat.  It also has less guitar and vocal reverb than anything else on here.  It's a fantastic song that's worth the price of admission on its own.  But the other songs are fun as well, they're just pretty different to what the band started out doing fourteen years ago.  Which makes sense, when you think about just how long ago that really was.

Your Pest Band - Reflecting Board:

Friday, September 16, 2022

Rocket From The Crypt - Gold 7" - Gold Vinyl (/100)


Drunken Fish (2022, Reissue)

This is sort of a reissue.  But sort of not.  The way it's been described is 100 more of these are being released as a 30th anniversary release, using some leftover sleeves and stickers.  Maybe vinyl too? Or maybe the pressed a few more records for this?  I'm not really sure to be honest.   

This was never my favorite Rocket From The Crypt release, at least from the music side of things.  It's a cover of an MC5 song that certainly isn't the first song I'd think of if covering them was on the day's agenda.  Rocket's version turns it into an even more ramshackle scene, Saxophone aping the bass line of the original.  A supremely chaotic noise jam that devolves into Speedo screaming "power" for a minute into that vocal apparatus that they used to great effect distorting vocals in the early 90s.

Pressing wise, there are two major differences between this release and the original.  First is that the back cover, which says "EDITION OF 500" has had the "500" crossed out and "100" was written next to it in ink.  Next, the inner sleeve isn't white, it's that sort of brown/yellow color of a mailing envelope.  No beads like some of the first pressing of this record had.  I'm not opening mine, there's really no reason as I have other, open copies.  So the record that you see is in the first picture is actually one of my first pressings.  The second picture is the back of this new pressing.

Rocket From The Crypt - "Gold":

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Guru - Jazzmatazz Volume 1 LP


Music On Vinyl (2022, 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.

When this album originally came out in 1993, I was a huge Gang Starr fan.  I was quite obsessed with Gang Starr's third album that had come out the prior year, Daily Operation.  When I saw the video for the the song "Loungin," I immediately tracked down a copy of the album.

At the time I remember liking it, but being a little disappointed when comparing it to Daily Operation.  From a production standpoint, this album has more in common with something like Tribe Called Quest than it does Gang Starr, but that's fine, I love Tribe.  Where the record lost me back then (and now a bit to, if I'm being honest), where the really long stretches in a lot of songs where Guru isn't rapping and the preponderance of R&B style singing in the choruses of more than a few songs.

I have been hunting for a copy of this for a while.  Music On Vinyl reissued it in 2018, but I must have just missed the boat as I could only find it for really high collector's prices for the past few years.  But luck finally changed and MOV reissued it again this year, allowing me to pick up a copy at a more reasonable price.

Listening to it now, I have an even greater appreciation for what Guru was trying to do.  He's definitely pushing the jazz envelop further than most groups of that era.  That said, the complaints I have from when I was sixteen are mostly the same ones I have now.  Too much singing and too many horn solos.  When it's Guru rhyming over jazzy beats, I love it.  When it meanders, I tend to be less interested.  He did three volumes of these Jazzmatazz records.  I've never heard the other two and I think it's time to correct that.

Monday, September 12, 2022

State Drugs / Zephr - Split 7" - Muddy Green Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers (2022)

This is a split 7" containing one song each by State Drugs and Zephr, two bands that have also released full length albums on Snappy Little Numbers.  I was pretty excited when this showed up in the mail as I was a fan of each band's prior albums and I've long said how the split 7" has historically been one of my favorite formats.  Though it's certainly not as common an occurrence as it was back in the 90s.

State Drugs has a rootsy, Tom Petty, Nude Beach sort of vibe, but with vocals that really cling more to a melancholy feeling than the more upbeat nature of a Petty.  "Mr. Untitled" is built on a dark guitar and bass sound that is very heavy on low end.  That's then peppered with bright lead guitar riffs.  Once the vocals come in, things can feel a little dour to be honest, but the backing vocals help make the song veer into more uplifting territory.

Zephr feels like they have really slowed things down since the last time I heard them.  Whereas on their last album I thought they would fit in good with the early 2000s No Idea crowd, this time they've dialed things back considerably.  "Landline" doesn't strike me as the quintessential contribution to a split 7".  To me, it feels more like a deep album cut that you write to give an album a more dynamic feeling and to let the listener catch their breath in between a couple of rockers.  It's a good song, but hearing it by itself with no other songs for context makes me wonder if the band is in the midst of a major sound chance from their last album.  Time will tell I guess.

State Drugs / Zephr - Split 7":

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Da King & I - Contemporary Jeep Music LP


Rowdy (1993)

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.

Da King & I is another one of those long forgotten hip hop acts of the early 90s that I discovered digging through internet lists of forgotten hip hop acts of the 90s.  The descriptions I read had sounded right up my alley, so I hunted down a copy of their only album, Contemporary Jeep Music.  I've discovered a lot of great albums this way and while I won't say this is the one I like best, I do think that this is an album that would have probably been one of my favorites if I had actually gotten to hear it in 1993.

I never remember seeing Da King & I on Yo! MTV Raps and I also don't recall seeing them in The Source, but I imagine they probably got written about at some point and I just don't remember a random article from a magazine that I last saw thirty years ago.  (as an aside, if you want to have your mind blown, go look and see how much 1992 and 1993 issues of The Source sell for on eBay.  I had wanted to track down some of those old ones I had, but the cost of entry is quite prohibitive)  I can only assume this album didn't sell all that well at the time and they were relegated to the dustbin of hip hop history.  But I am really glad I dug around and discovered them.

The beats are pure, uncut 1993 goodness.  Jazzy loops, keyboards in the breaks, cracking snare drum punctuating hard bass drum beats. Production-wise, it's about as good as you're going to find and it holds up with most albums of the era.  Izzy Ice handles the vocals and does a pretty admirable job living up to the high bar the beats set for him.  His lyrics may not dazzle you the way some of the MCs that dabble in more complicated rhyme structures, but all of his rhymes are serviceable and his cadence meshes pretty perfectly with the music.

To me, this is really one of the great forgotten gems of 1993 hip hop.  It's an incredible record that's just begging for a fancy reissue on 90s Tapes or something like that.  Really happy I stumbled across this one.

Da King & I - Contemporary Jeep Music:

Friday, September 2, 2022

Drive Like Jehu - Bullet Train to Vegas 7" - White & Black Swirl Vinyl (/300)


Merge (2022, Reissue)

This is a colored vinyl reissue of a 1992 Drive Like Jehu 7" that came out on Merge records.  The bands only 7" and one of far too few overall releases by such an important band.  I got into Drive Like Jehu because of how much I loved Rocket From The Crypt.  I started out by picking up the band's first CD at Let It Rock records in Montclair, NJ.  One of only a few times I went to that store as I just always felt that Flipside in Pompton Lakes was the better shop in the area.

While I really did like the first Jehu album, it's when I picked up Yank Crime that my mind was completely blown out of the back of my skull.  What a record.  I am pretty sure that I found the original copy of this 7" at a defunct record store that was called Adult Crash.  It wasn't around for a super long time, but it was a good store that had a real indie rock lean to it.  Great 7" section.

The songs on this record are excellent.  Not quite as long as most of the ones on Yank Crime, but also a little more forward thinking than the ones on the debut.  In some ways it's kind of the sweet spot in the middle, but in other ways I'll always like the insane ambition of Yank Crime the best.  The colored vinyl looks nice and I'm just always going to pick up new variants of Rocket and Rocket adjacent bands when I see them.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Beatnuts - The Beatnuts 2xLP - Red Vinyl (/500)


Traffic / Relativity / Sony (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.

The Beatnuts were another one of those Golden Era groups that I knew by name back then, but never had any records by.  I likely saw their name mostly on production credits for other records and probably from time to time reading The Source.  But 1994 was a transitional year for me musically, so there are definitely some hip hop records that slipped through the cracks as I was starting to dig into punk and indie rock.

I picked up this record quite a while ago actually, maybe two years at this point but I just hadn't gotten around to writing about it.  The main strength of this album is how great the beats are front to back.  An expertly produced hip hip record, I can't complain about a single beat on here.  Jazzy without being too slow, upbeat without being too poppy or corny and expertly picked samples give the album a warm, lived in sound.  It's unique and interesting, but the vibe is instantly familiar.

Lyrically, these guys can hold their own as well.  They're not upper echelon MCs, but they are good and the beats play to the strength of the rapping.  But when someone elite like Grand Puba shows up on "Are You Ready" it's obvious they're just a notch below.  That's not really a bad thing or even a criticism.  This record just came out on the tail end of an era filled with some of the best to ever do it, to be pretty close to that elite level is a real accomplishment considering the others that were putting out records at the time.

In 2022, it still sounds innovative and fun.  I would highly recommend it if it flew under your radar back in '94.

The Beatnuts - The Beatnuts:

Monday, August 29, 2022

Thirty Cassettes From Tetryon Tapes


I didn't post anything last week.  Part of it was I was tired and had a particularly rough week.  But part of it was also the fact that I wanted to get through a shit ton of tapes piling up over here.  Ugh, tapes.  I'm not always opposed.  Snappy Little Numbers and Big Neck have sent me some pretty rad tapes over the years.  But then there are times when you have too many tapes.  

This fellow from Buffalo has been sending me tapes for years via various labels.  A few good ones, and then some average and bad ones.  But it's just too many.  Recently he sent me a giant box full of tapes that I haven't wanted to listen to.  I'm blowing through all THIRTY of them in short, MMR style reviews.  I didn't like the vast majority of them, but there were a couple that were OK and one that was genuinely very good.  But my dude from Buffalo, do not send me any more tapes.  I'm not doing something like this again.

Utah Jazz - In Retrograde - Tetryon Tapes (2020)
This is loud, snotty garage rock.  Lots of yelling, not much singing.  The drummer is pretty solid and some of the guitar work is interesting, but the vocals just kill it for me.  They have at least two singers that I can identify and both yell a lot.  Not my scene.

Futuro - Os Segredos Do Espaço e Tempo - Tetryon Tapes (2020)
As far as the music goes, I don't mind this at all.  This band is from São Paulo, Brazil and they have gone after a kind of melodic punk that reminds me a little bit of The Estranged.  They've got good riffs, great drumming and the recording quality is strong, aside from the vocals.  Lots of weird echo that I don't think adds to things and in a comment likely to repeat itself a lot today, more yelling than I like.  I might just not be very punk rock.

Richard Hamilton - My Perfect World  - Tetryon Tapes (2020)
Hey, singing!  This is pretty nice in a Cars sort of way with some 50s pop thrown in for good measure.  The vocals are a little bit Warm Soda, with a hushed, almost whispered delivery at times, but these are really solid pop songs for the most part.  Pretty decent.

Ciggie & The Darts - Liquor, Leather, Denim & Darts - Tetryon Tapes (2020)
More garage rock style tunes.  The songs are solid and even kind of catchy at times.  There are parts that remind me of Supersuckers aside from the vocals, which are pretty bad.  I don't know why, but I can only picture them coming out of an animated anthropomorphic cartoon animal that's the comic relief part of a crew helping to fight crime or solve mysteries or something like that.

Cage Kicker -  Parasitic Future - Tetryon Tapes (2020)
OK, this is hardcore.  Very fast, very loud, completely unintelligible screamed vocals.  I have never liked this sort of thing and can't tell the difference between good hardcore and bad hardcore.

Erik Nervous - Bugs​!​! - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
This one is all over the place.  There's some hardcore, some garage, some synth-pop and some Ween style weirdness.  I give Erik Nervous credit for being able to genre hop and pull off each of them pretty well, but I can't say I liked listening to any of it all that much.  It's weird, but I'm not sure it's weird in an interesting way or weird in a what the hell is going on sort of way.

Baby Tyler - Vol. 2 - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
More yelling.  This time over muted, robotic sounding guitars that have some sort of weird effects or compression on them.  I can't tell of the drums are drum machines or real drums.  They don't sound precise enough to be a drum machine, but the tone (do drums have tone? I don't know what to call it) sounds all metallic and odd.  I don't like this.

Flea Collar - A Hole is A Hole - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
This sounds like a high school hardcore band who can't quite play fast enough to really get the hardcore sound they want so they're kind of more like a sleaze punk band.  Sounds like it was recorded on a boom box.  Next.

Evinspragg - Precognitive Dreams - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
This is another one of those one person band sort of things.  Eric Mayer is credited with guitar, bass, drums, synth, vocals, engineering and photography.  I'm not sure which of those things is really his forte, but the songs are mainly weird synth driven things that are probably trying to sound a little bit like Devo or something kind of like that, but they're much darker and no fun at all.

Lotus Cookie Recipe - Cook Book - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
This whole tape only has three songs and is three minutes long. They are an instrumental band playing a sort of sludgy metal sort of thing maybe?  The guitars sound like the second half of the Beck song "Asskizz Powergrudge (Payback! '94)."  I don't know how to write about something so short with so little going on.  This seems like too little music to warrant the plastic needed for a tape release.

Danny's Favorites - There Still Punk - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
This one is pretty fun. It's got a bit of a power pop vibe to it (though kind of rough around the edges), there's a little surf influence and most importantly there's hooks!  Actual catchy choruses.  I don't love this, but it's a breath of fresh air after the last few tapes.  I would even go so far as to say maybe give this one a quick listen if you're checking out the Richard Hamilton record.

Spike Pit - 2 Heavy Metal 4 Punk - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
Judge this book by its cover.

The Shine - The Shine - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
OK, this one is flat out great.  If these guys put out another tape, I'm totally fine with it being sent to me.  This is 50s/60s style guitar pop.  Lots of energy, great hooks, solid vocal harmonies.  If the recording was a little bit better, I would think anyone that likes bands like The Resonars would be totally into this.  Legitimately a very fun tape.

Richard Hamilton - Kiss Touch 2000 - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
I'm writing about these in chronological orders starting with the oldest tape on the Tetryon Bandcamp page.  So that's why this one isn't next to the first Richard Hamilton tape.  Kind of more of the same.  Totally fine solo/band sort of stuff.  Still has that Cars vibe a bit, though in general maybe a little more mellow.  It's totally fine.

Richard Hamilton - Memory Palace - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
OK, this is probably too much Richard Hamilton for me at this point.  Had I heard them a little more spaced out, maybe it wouldn't seem like overkill, but at this point I'm ready to move on.  This one feels a little more lo-fi than the others for whatever reason.  More like 90s four-track tape label stuff.  Again, not bad, but I don't need three tapes by this guy.

Thee Hearses -  EP II - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
This is weird robot synth.  It's fast and not boring, so that's good.  There's also a sci fi vibe that is interesting, but it ultimately ends up feeling like some band in an 80s movie that ends up getting eaten by a monster later in the film.

Woodstock '99 -  Woodstock '99 - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
I'm not sure what I expected from a band called Woodstock '99 where the tape cover is a picture of Fred Durst skateboarding.  But I definitely didn't expect to like it.  Run of the mill hardcore here.  Recording quality is better than most, but as I've said many times, I don't know how to judge hardcore.  Maybe this is great, maybe it's terrible.  My brain can't process it as anything other than noise.  I would say it makes me feel old, but I felt the same way in the 90s.

Found Drowned - Not Bad! - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
This is instrumental surf music.  Much like I just said about hardcore, I can't really tell if something is good surf music or bad surf music (unless someone is super obviously ultra-talented or particularly bad).  But unlike hardcore, I pretty much always like surf music.  It's easy to listen to, great for background music and essentially never makes me angry.  This is a discography tape, so there's really a bit too much on here to digest in one listen, even if the songs are all quite short, but in pieces it's a fun listen.

Spit Kink - Get It - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
My brain keeps reading the band name as Spin Kick instead of Spit Kink.  I think Spin Kick is a better name.  This is some electroclash stuff like I would have been annoyed by in the early 2000s.  It's noisy and full of synth and repetitive drum beats with fuzzed out robot vocals.  Not for me.

Space Danish & The Sewer Diamonds - Six Dungeons - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
I have no idea what this is supposed to be.  It's really slow, electronic, synth stuff that at times feels like a low budget sci fi soundtrack and at others a soundtrack for an 80s video game that was rejected for being too creepy.  There are vocals, but I don't know what they are saying.  They're more like spoken word, but have an odd gruffness to them.  Baffled by this one.

Werewolf Jones -  Terminal Velocity - Tetryon Tapes (2021)
I've actually written about this band before as Big Neck sent me a live tape of theirs a few months ago.  I didn't love it then and I don't love this one now.  It's that same thing where the vocals just don't have enough melody to them for me.  The guitar riffs are dark and sludgy and this feels slower than their previous cassette that I wrote about.  It's mostly one of those things where it's just not my cup of tea.

C​-​Krit - C​-​Krit - Tetryon Tapes (2022)
On the Bandcamp page it says "C-Krit is ???"  I couldn't agree more.  Lots of feedback.  Fast songs. Screaming vocals.  The sort of band that would start playing at a VFW hall and then you have the sudden urge to go find a soda machine or run to the car or take up smoking or whatever you can think of to go to another room for a bit.

No Fix - Neon Dreamz - Tetryon Tapes (2022)
The tape cover made me think it was going to be hardcore, but it's actually more in the garage rock world.  The vocals are a little snottier than I personally prefer, but the band is tight, the songs are constructed well and it's really not bad at all.

Touchhole - Touchhole demo - Tetryon Tapes (2022)
This is more experimental and noisy.  It's mostly drums and distorted vocals.  I'm sure there are people out there that dig this style, but it's not the sort of thing that really makes any sense to me.

Spooky Visions - Spooky Visions - Tetryon Tapes (2022)
I like the artwork on this a lot, so I was hopeful it would be spooky surf music or something like that.  This is more like Stranger Things sounding synth with electronically altered vocals speaking some sort of weird robot poetry.  Synth is a dirty word for me, so I'm probably not the real demographic for this.  Other's milage may vary.

Eyes and Flys -  Manic AM - Tetryon Tapes (2022)
High energy guitar riffage with totally blown out vocals.  More on the garage spectrum than anything else I can really compare it to.  They're playing fast and energetic without bleeding into hardcore, so I'll never knock that.  But it's the vocals that just don't do it for me.  Too much echo/feedback on them to really hear what's going on.

Nervous Tick and The Zipper Lips - Something's Gotta Bleed - Kafadan Kontak (2020)
I almost stopped after that last tape as it was the last one on the Tetryon Bandcamp page, but I decided to try to finish things up and tackle the rest of the tapes as well.  I've gone this far.  This one is fine I guess?  It's not overly yell-y or synthy.  The guitars have a nice sort of churning propulsion to them, but it's just not really the sort of thing I'm interested in.  I'm just the type that needs more of a hook.

Nervous Tick and The Zipper Lips & Ricky Hell - The Covid Collaborations: vol. II - Self Released (2020)
I was sent three of these Covid Collaborations tapes.  Volumes II, III & IV.  Not Volume I for some reason, but that's OK.  To quote the Bandcamp page so I don't have to find a way to rewrite this three times: "Each volume will feature Nervous Tick and The Zipper Lips and another recording artist. Both parties will record an original song, a cover of a song by the other party, as well as a song musically to have the other party finish with vocals and whatever else is needed."  So that's what we're getting into here.  The Nervous Tick songs sound like the stuff on their other tape.  It's solid musically, but not something that really appeals to me.  Ricky Hell is more synth that I don't find particularly exciting, but it's also not really bad.  The combo songs where they are singing over each others music is an interesting concept and the one with Ricky singing over the Nervous Tick music is probably the best song on here.

Nervous Tick and The Zipper Lips & Obsoletism - The Covid Collaborations: vol. III - Self Released (2021)
Here's volume II, this time with Obsoletism.  The Nervous Tick songs are more interesting to me this time out as they are a little catchier, but the vocals are still tough for me.  If they were a little smoother, I'd probably be more into it.  The Obsoletism songs are nice and catchy.  A little garage-y and little power poppy.  The vocals have something of a snarl to them, but it's not off putting the way some snotty punk singers come off.  For the combo songs the best one again is the one with the Nervous Ticks music and the Obsoletism singing.

Nervous Tick and The Zipper Lips & Eyes and Flys - The Covid Collaborations: vol. IV - Self Released (2022)
This is probably the least interesting of these Covid Collaborations.  I'm kind of at a loss on what to say at this point.  The Nervous Tick songs are pretty much the same as the others I've heard, but "Dulce Fulnente" decides to add in this excruciating high pitched noise during what I think is the chorus.  Pretty rough.  Since I didn't like the vocals on the Eyes and Flys tape, I wasn't surprised I didn't really like them on this collab tape either.  Again, this is just not my scene.