Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Absolute Best Records of 2023


If I'm being honest, 2023 was a pretty bad year and I'm more than happy to usher it towards the exit.  I'm hopeful that 2024 will be a bit better.  We'll have to see I guess.  Luckily there were still some really great records that came out, helping me get through things, though I think the back half of the year is when things really picked up.

But here it is, my list of my favorite records of 2023.  Pretty Flowers dominated my listening this year, though I got that record a lot earlier in the year than many others.  Reverse and Pop Marshal picked up the 'I wish it was still the 90s in the UK' award for putting out a record that I would have been just as happy listening to 30 years ago as I am today.

I'm going to be taking a little break from things for a bit here.  I'm sure I will be back to writing again pretty soon, but I'm not entirely sure when, but I'd guess I would be back posting things again by February at the very latest.  I just need a break and have some other things to take care of.  In the mean time, take a stroll through my list and let me know if there's anything egregious that I've missed.  Always looking for more tunes to listen to.

ShopliftersSecond Nature – PopKid / Brassneck / Waterslide (Listen) 
*** Shoplifters can’t be part of my top 20 because it’s on PopKid and that just feels odd to me, but obviously I think it’s one of the best things ever as I wouldn’t have helped put it out if it wasn’t.

01 - The Pretty Flowers - A Company Sleeve – Double Helix (Listen)
02 - Reverse - Behind These Walls – Boss Tuneage (Listen)
03 - Pop MarshalRejoice - Fixing A Hole (Listen)
04 - Czarface – Czartificial Intelligence – Silver Age / Virgin (Listen)
05 - Dan SartainThe Lost Record – Bent Rail / Seasick (I wish you could listen, but it's not online)
06 - Three Minute MovieMarch Winds And April Showers Bring May Flowers - Bloated Kat / Dead Broke (Listen)
07 - Samiam - Stowaway - Pure Noise (Listen)
08 - Night Court - Humans! - Snappy Little Numbers / Debt Offensive (Listen)
09 - The Subjunctives - Let's Try This Again – Top Drawer (Listen)
10 - SpoilersThere or Thereabouts - Brassneck / Waterslide / Rad Girlfriend / SBÄM (Listen)

11 - Main SourceThe Science – P Vine
12 - Mark Murphy & The MedsMonochrome – Bloated Kat / Brassneck / Cat's Claw / Kezy P / Waterslide 
13 - HooperSwim the Races Nobody Wants – Snappy Little Numbers
14 - State Drugs Parade of Red Flags – Snappy Little Numbers
15 - Spells - Loose Change, Vol. 2 - Snappy Little Numbers / Motorcycle Potluck Records / Big Neck Records / Keep It A Secret Records / Shield Recordings
16 - Curious Things - Naif - Snappy Little Numbers / Dumb Ghost
17 - Joel PatersonThe More The Merrier – Ventrella – Nu Tone
18 - China DrumOne Moment Please – Self Released
19 - Falls - Martyr - Waterslide
20 - What Goes Up - Laws of Gravity - Brassneck / Waterslide / Rad Girlfriend


Friday, December 29, 2023

Dan Sartain – The Lost Record LP – Yellow & Black Swirl Vinyl (/1000)


Bent Rail / Seasick (2023)

Of all of the Black Friday Record Store Day releases that were announced for this year, seeing a Dan Sartain record as one was probably the most surprising.  I was able to get my hands on one through the kindness of my lovely wife, as I was not able to get out to the store myself for a myriad of annoying reasons.

This album was recorded before Dan Sartain recorded his Swami debut, Vs. The Serpientes.  It was done with the folks in Plate Six, who he had toured and collaborated with from time to time.  The result is a record that sounds like a natural step in between his Crimson Guard record and what would eventually come out on Swami.

The songs are all great, but many ar ones that you may have heard before.  "Who's Sorry Now" and "This is How they Beat You Down" were both previously released on a Bent Rail 7" back in 2005.  Different recordings of "Lonely Hearts," "Tryin' To Say" and "Autopilot" appeared on Vs. The Serpientes.  That leaves us with four new songs, one of which is about 20 seconds of noisy wailing.  The three new songs are all stellar and it's kind of crazy to me that they remained unreleased until now.  It's the traditional dark, vaguely leaning towards rockabilly sound that Dan was perfecting in that time period.

Even the songs that were on Vs. The Serpientes have a completely different light cast on them in these recordings.  They feel more bass heavy with a lower end that makes them sound a bit more ominous and engaging.  The coolest part is that this really sounds like a cohesive record, despite knowing a lot of the songs from elsewhere.  There's a definite feeling and vibe that they have and they work together making to total album stronger.

I really miss Dan Sartain and I do get depressed when I listen to some of his music at times.  But there's no denying how great his songs are and how much I still enjoy listening to them.  I'm grateful for this lost record, and I hope that one day someone will be able to release Western Hills and Vs. Sun Studio on vinyl as well.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Main Source - The Science LP + 7" - Orange Vinyl


P Vine (2023)

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 thirty 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 Main Source album Breakin' Atoms isn't one that I listened to back in the 90s, but was an album I picked up later and fell in love with.  It was the only album released by the original trio with the group's  1994 follow up Fuck What You Think missing Large Professor.  That's a pretty big missing piece, though I do think that second Main Source album is pretty good. Still, you had to wonder what the second album could have been with Large Professor.  Oh wait, that would be this album The Science.

The tracks on this album were originally meant to be part of the second Main Source album, but were ultimately shelved when Large Pro left the group.  30 years later, P Vine records in Japan got a hold of the tracks and have released them for the first time.  The songs are unsurprisingly excellent, with that perfect early 90s production style that I have always loved.  Large Professor's production skills were upper echelon back then, and the tracks on this album prove that this would have ranked with any of the heavy hitters at the time.  If you dig Breakin' Atoms, there's no way you don't dig this one as well.

The only negative for me is that this feels incomplete still, and I'd have to guess it is.  There's only nine actual songs on it, and that include two versions of "Time" and "Fakin' The Funk."  There's a lot of spoken interludes that fill out the track count, but don't really add much to the album.  Really, this feels like half an album from the early 90s, not a full one.  That's not to say that the songs on here aren't great, they are.  But selfishly I just wish there were more songs on it.

Main Source - The Science:

Monday, December 25, 2023

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas – Red Vinyl


Gold (2020, Reissue) 

Merry, merry for those that celebrate Christmas time. As mentioned Friday, more than anything, I love the music. This Ella Fitzgerald Christmas album is a long time favorite of mine, but it took a while for a vinyl version to be released that had everything on it that I needed. Primarily, one of my absolute favorite Christmas songs, “Christmas Island.” That song isn’t on most versions of this album, at least not on vinyl. 

This album originally came out in 1960 and was full of incredible versions of classic Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph,” “Sleigh Ride” and the like. But the song “Christmas Island” isn’t on it. I’m not sure where that song originally came from, and you might be surprised to hear I did a bit of research to try to find out. It was hypothesized to be a B side at some point, but I was never able to find a single that had it. It’s possible that it was on some old 60s compilation, but it sure takes a while to dig through those. 

It seems like it really came on the radar in the year 2000 when a remastered version of this on CD came out with bonus tracks. From there on out, any CD or digital version of this album had “Christmas Island” as a part of it. But the vinyl reissues tended to replicate the original vinyl track list. After many years or searching, I finally found this version that came out in 2020 in Ireland. It’s got it, so it’s the one I bought. Sure it’s something I’d only ever listen to in December, but as a whole Christmas album to listen to from top to bottom, it’s one of the very best. 

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas:

Friday, December 22, 2023

Joel Paterson – The More The Merrier LP – Red Vinyl


Ventrella / Nu Tone (2023)

Those that know me know how much I love Christmas music. Every year, once my birthday is over, I shift over and start adding some Christmas songs to my daily playlist. And as we get closer to the big day, that music takes over with the 20+ hour long mix I have on my iPod. Additionally, I’m always searching for tunes to add. Whether it be forgotten classics or something brand new.

When it comes to brand new Christmas music, I’m obnoxiously discerning. I don’t want punk Christmas or indie rock Christmas or anything like that. I need the music to have the perfect, 1960s sound that is where the vast, vast majority of my favorite Christmas songs were recorded. Most of the songs served up today don’t make the cut for me, but every so often you’ll have a JD McPherson creep up and uncork a brand new classic. Someone else I put in that category is Joel Paterson,

The More The Merrier is is his second Christmas album. It’s a guitar instrumental album that leans on clean tones, dexterous playing and a keen ear for making songs sound retro and timeless all at the same time. He tackles obvious classics like “Hear Comes Santa Clause” and “Rudolph.” But he also goes for some deeper cuts like “Christmas Island” (More on that song on Monday). This is just the perfect, laid back, but never boring Christmas album to throw on. It works just as good as background music as it does being the center of attention. It's not surf-y like The Ventures, but evokes a similar feeling.  If you’re in the mood to be jolly, this album will fit right in.

Joel Paterson – The More The Merrier:

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back 2xLP


Urban Legends (2023, 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 thirty 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 couldn’t really tell you when I first heard Public Enemy. I’m sure it would have been on Yo! MTV Raps, but I don’t really know what the first song of theirs that I heard was. What I can tell you, without question, is the first song of theirs that really hit me and made me pay attention was their collaboration with Anthrax on “Bring The Noise.” I loved that song so much I bought that stupid Anthrax B sides record just to get that song. I never listened to the rest of that tape aside from the very first time. I think I had the censored version with the bee buzzing noises where the curse words were supposed to be.

The reason I bring this up is because when I really connected with Public Enemy, the current album that they had out was Fear of a Black Planet. For reasons that I’m not totally sure about, the first record of theirs that I actually bought was It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. And I played the heck out of it, that’s for sure. Ever since I first purchased it, it’s always been my favorite Public Enemy record. There’s something about how aggressive the production is, coupled with Chuck D’s uncompromising rhymes.

I have this on vinyl via the Public Enemy vinyl box set that picked up ten years ago. However that box set, and every other pressing of this album and Fear of a Black Planet, was a single LP pressing. Vinyl Me Please did an incredible double LP version of FOABP a couple of years ago that I picked up.  And since It Take a Nation of Millions… has always been such an important record to me, I thought it was worth the double dip to get a better version of it as well.  I didn’t grab the colored vinyl version or the exceedingly overpriced quadruple LP set that includes all of the remixes. If that fancy one was only double the price, I would have considered, but for $250, that’s a pass from me.

This version that I bought is the standard black vinyl, 180g vinyl version. It really sounds great. Everything is crisp and full, The bass is low and warm, the vocals are clear and powerful. It’s a great version, it’s the best version of the record I would have to think. Is it worth rebuying? I think so, but I also think it depends on just how much you like this record. The version from the box set sounds totally fine, but this one is a notch above in my opinion.

Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back:

Monday, December 18, 2023

Lync - These Are Not Fall Colors 2xLP - 3 Versions



Suicide Squeeze (2023, Reissue)

After way too many years, Lync's flawless 1994 album, These Are Not Fall Colors has finally been reissued.  This is an album that's been out of print for far too long and I'm really happy that others have a chance to pick it up.  I've had the original pressing for a long time, but that didn't stop me from going variant hunting and picking up all of the versions available as part of the first pressing.  Even though I try really hard not to buy multiple copies of the same record these days, this is an album that's just so important to me.  I couldn't resist.

I first heard of Lync because Sam Jayne and James Bertram were both featured on the Beck album, One Foot in the Grave.  That was a monumentally influential album for me, and I used it as a jumping off point to find a lot of new music back in 1994.  Lync was one of those first bands that I got into.  From the moment I heard album opener "b," I was obsessed with this band.  The way the album channels a youthful, energetic take on Pacific Northwestern indie rock was so impactful.  It's an album that's been in constant rotation for me for nearly 30 years now and I love every second of it just as passionately now as I did back then.

Regarding the reissue, there are three main versions of the first pressing.  Blue & Yellow split color vinyl (Lync band variant), Green, Blue & Purple twist vinyl (Suicide Squeeze label variant) and Red in Orange vinyl (retail variant).  The album is split into a double LP at 45rpm, with the fourth side being a blank.  There's one bonus track, "Can't Tie Yet," though that was already available on the Remembering the Fireballs singles compilation.

While this version of the LP sounds great, the best the album has ever sounded, I'm still not really sure it needed such an expansive reissue.  I know that 45rpm is the audiophiles choice for speed and sound fidelity, but this album is something of a low-fi masterpiece.  I'm not really sure if it benefits that much from being at 45 instead of 33.  Especially since one of the album sides ends up being blank.  

My personal opinion is that this could have been a single LP at 33rpm and there would be very little difference.  It would have been a bit cheaper, taken up less vinyl and would cut out a record swap while listening.  I'm sure they had a reason for doing this way, and I won't argue with how great it sounds, I just can't help but think it could have been released a bit differently and been just as impactful.  Then again, I'm just a jerk with a website, so what do I know?

Lync - These Are Not Fall Colors:

Friday, December 15, 2023

Mark Murphy & The Meds – Monochrome LP – Gray w/ Black Swirl Vinyl


Bloated Kat / Brassneck / Cat's Claw / Kezy P / Waterslide (2023)

Mark “Guitar” Murphy and his Meds are back for their second full length, Monochrome. Anyone that reads this website knows that I am a long time fan of Mark’s work – having first discovered his band Crocodile God in the mid 90s. Crocodile God and they entire mid 90s Crackle Records scene in the UK really shaped my view of punk rock and what I was looking for out of it. There was something about it that connected to me differently than what I was hearing in America and to this day, those are the sounds I prefer the most.

Luckily, Mark is still writing songs just as catchy and immediate as what he was cranking out with Crocodile God. Monochrome is full of his fast tempo, fuzzed out guitar riffs, insanely catchy vocals and more hooks than a thing that has a lot of hooks. It’s as good as the last record, though I’ll admit it took me a few listens to come to that conclusion.

I can’t call it a criticism, because it’s not really a negative thing, but the first couple of times I listened to the record, it flew by so fast that most of the songs didn’t really hit me. This is a record that’s barely over 20 minutes long and the fast paced songs do kind of fly by if you aren’t paying attention. It took a few times of sitting down and really focusing on the record that allowed the songs to sink in more and connect. I guess what I’m saying is due to it’s brevity, it’s not really best enjoyed as background music. But if given more dedicated attention (or even better, played loud while driving) that’s when you’ll see why Mark is one of my favorite songwriters.

Mark Murphy & The Meds – Monochrome:

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Czarface – Czartificial Intelligence LP – Stole The Ball Edition - Orange Vinyl (/5000)


Silver Age / Virgin (2023)

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 thirty 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.

Czarface is definitely releasing the most consistently great hip hop records today. Yes, there are folks (like Del) that still put out records that I enjoy immensely, but you can count on Czarface to put out an album every year or two and have it be great every single time. Czartificial Intelligence is the follow up to last year’s Czarmageddon and like that album, was launched on a Record Store Day related event, in this case, Black Friday.

The Record Store Day version of this album was a run of 5000 copies, was pressed on orange vinyl and had alternate artwork. But the biggest difference between the RSD version and the regular one is the inclusion of 2 bonus tracks not on any other vinyl version of the album. Which is a cool little bonus. But in digging around a bit, it seems that the versions available on streaming sites and MP3 also include these two extra tracks. I’m not mad that these songs are accessible to more people, but in some ways it makes me think that the normal version of the vinyl is just missing two songs, since they seem to exist everywhere else.

But back to the album itself, Czarface consists of Inspectah Deck and Esoteric on the mic and 7L handling production duties. They are one of very few hip hop acts that make records that feel like the Golden Era. The production sounds modern, but still clings on to the type of beats that connected with me as a teenager. It’s loud, with big drums and tons of low end. The samples are futuristic at times, leaning into the group’s comic book influences, but still sound warm and familiar. It’s a balancing act that very few can accomplish these days.

Lyrically, the subject matter definitely leans into what some might call nerdy territory. But, it’s material that resonates with me the same way that my mind was blown the first time I heard Das EFX and all of the pop culture references in their lyrics. Lots of highlights on this album, but in particular the two tracks where Kool Keith shows up are really memorable to me (though one of them, “Live and Czarnegie Hall,” is one of the RSD exclusive tracks).

All in all, it’s another great Czarface record. I’m always grateful that I stumbled across them a few years ago and am hopeful they keep leading the charge of hip hoppers that manage to still make records that connect with me.

Czarface – Czartificial Intelligence:

Monday, December 11, 2023

State Drugs – Parade of Red Flags LP – Green Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers (2023)

State Drugs are another band that I’m not entirely positive I would have heard if not for them putting out records on Snappy Little Numbers. It’s certainly possible, but them being part of a label that I already was super into served them up to me on a silver platter. I’ve been listening to them for a few years now and was thrilled when their second proper full length, Parade of Red Flags, showed up in the mail.

Every time I write about them, I can’t help but compare them to Unwelcome Guests or Nude Beach. That’s because those are the two bands I always think of that best exemplify the strain of earnest, rootsy rock and roll that State Drugs is playing. There’s a lot of average, midwestern rock made by bands that collectively own two Tom Petty CDs. But State Drugs, Unwelcome Guests and Nude Beach are three bands that just take it a step further and manage to create songs that sound fresh and exciting, even if the influences are tried and true.

Red Flag Parade is probably the best State Drugs album to date. I really enjoyed their last one Live. Laugh. Love. And their singles comp Takings & Leavings is just crammed full of hits. However, Red Flag Parade is their most consistent record, start to finish. Every song is great and each one fits as part of a larger album feeling. I feel like I’m saying this a lot lately, as 2023 was certainly stacked towards the end as far as good albums being released, but this is one of the better albums of the year. I fully expect it to be on my end of the year list, which terrifyingly enough, I really need to get working on.

State Drugs – Parade of Red Flags:

Friday, December 8, 2023

Chinese Telephones – Outta My Hands 7” – Pink Vinyl (/100)


Bloated Kat / Dead Broke (2023) 

In many ways, I’m shocked that there’s a new Chinese Telephones 7”. They haven’t released any new music since 2008. That’s 15 years ago somehow and it messes with my brain that Chinese Telephones are one of those ‘newer’ bands that I like. While the fact that the band has been playing sporadic shows lately could have perhaps been a clue that new music was coming, I certainly never expected it. But boy, am I glad it happened.

All four songs are classic Chinese Telephones. Buzzsaw guitars playing ultra catchy chord progressions, vocal melodies and hooks falling from everywhere. There’s a reason this band was always mentioned in the same breath as The Marked Men and the intervening 15 years has done nothing to dull the potency of their songs. These are as good as anything the band has ever released.

For me, the bigger question is what does this mean next? Will there be more songs? More shows? A full length? I sure would love to have a new Chinese Telephones full length album in my collection. I’m grateful that the word got this 7”, but now I’m greedy for more. Fingers crossed that more is coming.

Chinese Telephones – Outta My Hands 7”:

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Del The Funky Homosapien – No Need For Alarm 2xLP – Orange Vinyl (/1500)


Get On Down (2023, 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 thirty 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.

On this past Thanksgiving, November 23rd, Del The Funky Homosapien’s second album, No Need For Alarm, turned 30 years old. To celebrate this momentous anniversary, Get On Down reissued this album on colored vinyl. It showed up at my house on Black Friday, so I didn’t have it in time for that week’s Ed Lover Dance Day post, so we’ll get into it this week instead.

I have written about this album before, so some of this may be a bit repetitive if you read the last write up. But to try to summarize, this is my all-time favorite hip hop album of all time. When it was released in 1993, I picked it up immediately since I really loved Del’s first album from a couple of years earlier. I am pretty sure I hadn’t even seen a video or heard any songs from the album when I bought it. I was expecting something different than what was on Del’s debut because the Souls of Mischief record had been released, so I was aware of the path Hieroglyphics were pursuing. That said, I was completely unprepared for what Del was about to unleash into the world.

Hearing No Need For Alarm for the first time blew my mind. The production was like nothing I had heard before. Even the Souls record didn’t have beats that sounded quite like this. The lyrics were so rough and ready with Del creating the sort of complicated rhyme patterns that I had never really heard before. It was almost as it he was reinventing hip hop in real time before my eyes. It became the album I judged everything else against. It reshaped how I thought about hip hop and music as a whole. And I have said this before, but I’m positive this record is the foundation for me eventually getting into punk rock, when hip hop could no longer provide me what I was looking for. It’s just a monumentally important record in my life, which is why I felt that I had to buy this 30th anniversary version.

Is it really a necessary purchase? If you have the album already, probably not. It’s not really any different from the other pressing I have, sound wise. The colored vinyl is nice and the Obi is kind of fun. It also comes with a really cool poster that I think I’ll eventually get mounted and framed. For most, if you have a copy already, that’ll do. But if for some insane reason, you don’t have this record on vinyl, you should grab it right away. They do not come much better than this.

Del The Funky Homosapien – No Need For Alarm:

Monday, December 4, 2023

Hooper – Swim the Races Nobody Wants LP


Snappy Little Numbers (2023)

In 2013, Hooper released their first album, How to Become a Ghost. I adored that record and it was one of my very favorites of that year. Five years later in 2018, the band put out their second album, No Monument. And in all honesty, I didn’t like that one quite as much. It was still a good record, but it didn’t grab me quite the same way that Hooper’s debut did. Five years on from that, Hooper is back with their third LP. Ten years on from their debut, am I still digging this band the way I once did? Yeah, I am.

Swim the Races Nobody Wants is a really strong album. Is it a return to the sounds of their first album? No, it’s still different, but for me they’ve found a sweet spot between the sound of their first two albums. There are post punk influences, particularly in how the guitar riffs are structured, but I feel that this album has a much stronger grasp of hooks and melodies that the last one. There are plenty of fist pumpers and sing along choruses again, while still showing a growth in sound from the first album that you’d really have to expect ten years later. I’m sure not the same person I was ten years ago.

Hooper was the first band on Snappy Little Numbers that I ever wrote about. They were the gateway drug that opened up an opportunity to hear so many other incredible bands over the years. The fact that they are still kicking and putting out records as good as this one is the sort of thing that needs to be celebrated. This is definitely one of the better records to come out this year and should be checked out for sure.

Hooper – Swim the Races Nobody Wants:

Monday, November 27, 2023

Three Minute Movie – March Winds And April Showers Bring May Flowers LP


Bloated Kat / Dead Broke (2023)

I have been listening to Three Minute Movie since their first 7" and 3" CD compilation appearance came out in 1999.  At that point, I was already instantly purchasing anything that Snuffy Smile released in Japan.  I was completely blown away by the three songs that came out over those two releases.  There was a late 90s emo lean for sure, but like so many of their label mates, Three Minute Movie elevated the material into being something truly special.

As the years have gone by Three Minute Movie's sound evolved.  They've still had sons that venture into emo territory, there's been dalliances with garage rock and some good old pop punk thrown in for good measure along the way.  The band's newest album, March Winds And April Showers Bring May Flowers, is an amalgamation of those sounds. 

The main thing you will hear when you listen are some tremendous, catchy songs with great harmonies and hooks all day long.  The songs are probably not quite fast enough to be considered 'pop punk' in the most literal interpretation of that word, but the pop is definitely front and center.  There are still moments that have a garage flavor to them, such as "Stay By Yourself," which really showcases their lovely, fuzzed out guitar tones.

Then there's a song like "Talking to my Heart."  This is one that reminds me of the bands earliest days.  The band has put together a song that sounds influenced by that 90s emo the band came up during, but not in a way that sounds like a retread.  It's a song that has heart (just look at the song title), but still feels like something that actually came out in 2023.  After all of these years, I'm psyched that Three Minute Movie is still putting out music, and I'm especially psyched that one of their albums has finally been released on vinyl.

Three Minute Movie – March Winds And April Showers Bring May Flowers:

Friday, November 24, 2023

Spoilers - There or Thereabouts LP - Green With Purple & Blue Splatter Vinyl

Spoilers - There or Thereabouts LP - Green With Purple & Blue Splatter Vinyl

Brassneck / Waterslide / Rad Girlfriend / SBÄM (2023)

I have a major complaint with this album.  I get it in the mail, I'm excited to hear something new by a band that I like and it's only eight songs?  How dare Spoilers write eight perfect melodic punk songs and have the temerity to stop there and not write three or four more?  I am being deprived of more great melodic punk and I won't stand for it.  Sure, sure it's very clear on every label's website that it's a mini album, but do you expect me to admit that I didn't notice that at first?  Am I supposed to cop to the fact that maybe the band didn't release this only with me in mind?  Never.

All kidding and stupidity aside, whether this release was two songs or twenty songs long, it would be in the upper echelon of albums I've heard this year.  I've liked Spoilers for a while now and have all of their other records, but this one is hitting me differently this time.  There's so many amazing hooks and melodies in this album.  In the past I'd compared them to Demma-era Snuff, but they've evolved a bit from there and while that Snuff energy is still there for sure, I'm really hearing a different kind of melody, a Crocodile God/Mark Murphy style delivery that punches me right in the face.

I really can't say enough good things about this album and I was serious when I said every song is pretty much perfect.  I very selfishly wish there were a few more songs on here, but only because I just want more once the record ends.  Hopefully Spoilers are hard at work and have more songs in the hopper ready to for a full or maxi or whatever we need to call the album type to get me more of these great songs.

Spoilers - There or Thereabouts:

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Ultramagnetic MC's - Funk Your Head Up 2xLP

Ultramagnetic MC's - Funk Your Head Up 2xLP

Music On Vinyl (2023, 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've written about this Ultramagnetic MC's album twice before.  Once back in 2012 when I found the original, single LP pressing of the album and then again back in 2021 when I purchased a bootleg, double LP version of the album.  When I wrote about that album, I said that I would instantly purchase and official, double LP reissue of this album if one were ever to come out.  Well, finally in 2023 my dreams have come true,

Music On Vinyl has released a 180g two LP version of this classic and it sounds better than it ever has.  I've twice spun the yarn about how I first picked up the CD of this album in the Heathrow airport in 1992 while on a seven hour layover as part of a school trip.  But that purchase made because I had some extra trip money in my pockets turned out to be such an eye opening moment when it came to how I viewed hip hop.

While it's definitely colored by nostalgia, Funk Your Head up has always been my favorite Ultramagnetic MC's album.  That isn't taking anything away from Critical Beatdown or The Four Horsemen.  All three arte stone cold classics that should be in anyone's Golden Era hip hop collection.  But now, for the first time in decades, it's pretty easy to finally pick up a copy of this album on vinyl.  Don't miss out, I've watched several past Music On Vinyl reissues go out of print and end up selling for way more than I'm comfortable paying.  I just hope someone completes the trifecta and does a proper reissue of The Four Horsemen next.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Reverse - Behind These Walls LP - Mustardy Brown Vinyl


Boss Tuneage (2023)

Normally, I don't post any reviews the week of Thanksgiving as I typically take off from work that week and try to relax a bit.  But, since I have missed so many posts over the last few weeks, I'm going to try to power through and get some up this week as well.  It's especially important to try to do this for me as I've gotten in a sudden deluge of new records and want to make sure I've gotten to everything so that I can put together my end of the year list.

That brings us to Reverse and their new album Behind These Walls.  If you want to talk about an album that is guaranteed a top spot on my year end list, this would be one of the first albums I'd be talking about.  Reverse was originally active in the 90s UK punk scene and they put out a string of four 7"s that completely blew my mind at the time.  They disbanded without having put out a full length and most times, that would probably be that.

Fate intervened and the band started to release their 7" tracks and other unreleased goodies on SP records from Japan in the form of two CDs.  Then a new 7" followed and that all led to the band putting out their first proper full length a few years ago, Empty Spaces.  What a record that was.  Somehow, I think Behind These Walls is even better.  If anything the songs feel even closer to the magic the band captured on those early 7"s and I haver been listening to this record non-stop since it arrived.

I feel like I may have said something like this about Reverse before, but Behind These Walls sounds ripped straight out of the 90s.  Not that it's a 90s bands with new tunes that sort of sound like the music of yore.  If you told me that the band actually recorded these songs in 1995 and they were just releasing it now, I would one hundred percent believe you.   And this is not some backhanded compliment insinuating that the songs sound old, they sound fresh and vibrant and exciting in a way that so few bands are able to put together these days.  The album has that glorious feeling that so many of my most favorite albums of the 90s had.  It's a palpable energy that is so difficult for me to describe, but it's there and I feel it in my bones when the record is spinning.

Anyone that is into the mid 90s UK punk scene really needs to give Reverse a listen.  They can stand shoulder to shoulder with groups like Broccoli and Hooton 3 Car, that next batch of bands that were following in the footsteps of Snuff, Leatherface, Senseless Things and Mega City Four.  It's so great that a record like this can exist in 2023 and I hope that the boys in Reverse keep this going for many, many more years.

Reverse - Behind These Walls:

Friday, November 17, 2023

Otis Redding - The Singles 2xLP (From Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 Box Set)


Rhino / ATCO (2023) 

My plan of reviewing every Otis Redding album in this box set over a series of consecutive Fridays and/or Mondays failed miserably. But at long last, we can get to the final, double LP of this set, The Singles. For me, this was absolutely the main even of this box set and is something I’ve been waiting for when it comes to Otis. A proper singles compilation.

To me, the comparison must be made to the Three CD set, The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Collection. This set captures every single that Otis Redding released, but there was never a vinyl equivalent. Is The Singles that equivalent now? Not exactly, but it gets us very close. I actually made an Excel spreadsheet and listed every song on the CD set. I then went through and noted when that song appeared on any of the records in the two Otis Redding vinyl box sets. My goal was to see if by having both box sets, do I have all of these songs on vinyl. Turns out, it’s pretty close.

There’s only three songs (excluding live versions) that only exist on the CD set: “Mary’s Little Lamb,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and “I’m Depending on You.” That’s not bad considering the CD set has seventy songs on it. Spreadsheet aside, The Mono Singles is an excellent collection of non-album Otis Redding tunes and includes some of my very favorite songs of his.

When you have an album that has hits on it like “Hard To Handle,” “The Happy Song” and “Can’t Turn You Loose,” that’s a pretty high bar. And those are just the highest of highs on an album crammed full of them. To me, this album is worth the purchase of the entire set and having nice shiny copies of all of his posthumous albums is a bonus. I still don’t understand why both box sets include The Dock of the Bay album as that’s just an extra, unneeded copy of you buy both sets, but being able to make two purchases and have pretty much the entire catalog of Otis Redding on vinyl is a truly wonderful thing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Digital Underground - Sons of the P LP


Tommy Boy (1991)

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

Sons of the P was the second Digital Underground full length, though it was actually the first one of theirs that I bought when it came out in 1991. Naturally, I was very aware of “The Humpty Dance” but it wasn’t something that was driving me to buy a Digital Underground album that felt a little old to me. In hindsight, that’s ludicrous as it was not even a year old, but for whatever reason I didn’t prioritize picking it up immediately. I fixed that pretty soon and grabbed the Sex Packets CD as part of a Columbia House/BMG scam within the next year. 

But, that’s not what we’re talking about right now, we’re talking about Sons of the P. Why did I pick up this album right away? It was the strength of the “No Nose Job” video. That made me buy the cassette single of that before the album came out and then I grabbed the album when that was finally released. I’m not sure why I liked “No Nose Job” as much as I did, but I did and still do. I’ve always had affinity for the less popular Humpty songs for whatever reason. I’ve always liked Digital Underground, but as a kid, I really didn’t appreciate the diversity of their albums the same way I do now. 

At the time, I wished everything was a bit more straightforward and ‘hip hop.’ The Parliament style dalliances where more distracting to me then. But now, I can understand the artistic vision of these albums as something more ambitious than a typical early 90s hip hop album. The experimentations seem more interesting now and the flow of the album has more of a narrative quality than I was aware of in my younger years. Do I still prefer the more straightforward hip hop songs? I do, but I just have a lot more respect for the whole puzzle now. 

I’d been looking for a decently priced version of this on vinyl for quite some time and when one popped up on Discogs, the time was finally there. Though, I would not have been able to grab it without some overseas assistance from my buddy Scott, from Brassneck – so many thanks for helping me finally get my hands on the vinyl version.

Digital Underground - Sons of the P:

Monday, November 13, 2023

Pop Marshal - Rejoice! CD


Fixing A Hole (2023)

Apologies for going such a long time without posting anything.  I've had some real life stuff going on that has made it a bit difficult to be on my normal schedule.  It's still ongoing so I might miss some time here and there in the next few weeks, but I am going to try to get things back to normal as much as I can.  I've got some records to get to before the end of the year, so I'm going to give it my best shot.

Today we have a CD, which isn't as common for me to pick up as vinyl, but when there's a band putting out great tunes, you go where the music is.  Plus, it's on a label in Japan where CD releases are still pretty common for punk rock bands.  The band, however, is not from Japan.  Pop Marshal formed in the wake of Headsparks calling it a day.  I've written about Headsparks before, fronted by Andy Barnard who I've known from his 90s bands of Donfisher, Ohno Express and Gan.  There's still a piece of me that hopes there's a lost Donfisher album out there somewhere that's been hidden all these years, but I digress...

Pop Marshal is very much the next logical step after the last Headsparks album.  You can't say they are all that dissimilar at their cores.  It's another album of outstanding, melodic punk rock that has the quintessential UK feel from the 90s that has always been my favorite scene in the world.  I always feel a similarity in Andy's bands with Hooton 3 Car.  There's something about the way his songs are structured and how the hooks reveal themselves that always reminds of one of my favorite all time bands.

This time out we've got ten songs and they've got fast paced pop songs like "Big Scene," "Less You Know" and "Act Normally."  These are balanced out nicely by some lower tunes that have, to me, more in common with The Last-era Leatherface like "More For Equals" and "Lie Low."  There's even a song the leans into surf sounds on "Bad Beach."  It's a diverse and easy to listen to album that's definitely one of my favorite things to come out this year.  For sure I wish this was on vinyl, but the CD has been spinning in heavy rotation ever since it came in.  Go out of your way to check this one out if you're a fan of the 90s UK scene.

Pop Marshal - Rejoice!:

Friday, October 20, 2023

Shoplifters - Second Nature LP - Orange Vinyl (/250)


PopKid / Brassneck / Rad Girlfriend / Waterslide (2023) 

It’s been four years since PopKid records has had a release.  That’s a long time and I’m sure that it is obvious that the label isn’t something we’re able to make a huge focal point of our lives at this stage.  It’s expensive to do a record label and we don’t often sell too many records through a combination of many factors.  A key one is probably that we tend to want to work with bands from other lands.  Bands that often don’t have the ability to come to America to show the locals just how good they really are.  But this is where my heart is when it comes to music. 

It’s easy to look at the unsold records I have hanging around from past releases and not be enthusiastic about adding more to the pile.  But then a band like Shoplifters comes around. Shoplifters inspire me to get back in the game.  So here we are, PKE030 – Second Nature.  This is the third Shoplifters release on PopKid, following up on the Forgiver 7” and 2019’s Secret Free World LP.  Everything that made me love and get involved with those two prior records is still here.  This is a band that has somehow found the exact strain of melodic punk rock that I want to listen to. 

If you’ve read anything I’ve written about Shoplifters before, you’ll see I’m always mentioning Bob Mould, Snuff, Big Drill Car, Leatherface and the clearest comparison to me, China Drum.  It’s like they went into a lab to try to create the exact band that would appeal directly to me.  Second Nature is such a great album, and the band has really put together an incredible group of songs.  “Hungry Lions” has that perfect chugging guitar during the verse that makes the payoff in the chorus even more triumphant.  It’s probably my favorite song on the album, but there is some stiff competition. 

The vocal melody throughout the entirety of “The Ones” is so strong and catchy, it kind of makes the entire song feel like one big chorus.  The guitar work on “Braced for Fall” reminds me so much of The Last era Leatherface, with an ethereal vocal hook.  Then there’s the piano punctuated pop of “Do What You Want” with a singalong chorus that has been stuck in my head for months now.  Every song on the album is like this for me, they're just a perfect band.

Today is the album’s official release date and the entire thing is available to listen to on Bandcamp now. Please check it out and pick up a copy if you enjoy. 

Purchase the record from our webstore here: 

Purchase a specially priced bundle Shoplifters bundle that includes the Second Nature LP, the Secret Free World LP and the Forgiver 7": 

Buy the vinyl, bundle or digital version on our Bandcamp page here (and get instant mp3s):

Monday, October 16, 2023

Otis Redding - Tell The Truth LP (From Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 Box Set)


Rhino / ATCO (2023) 

For the next few weeks, on Mondays, I'm writing about individual albums in the Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 box set. This is the second Otis Redding box set I have, but this one focuses on his posthumous albums. Otis has been a long time favorite of mine, and the opportunity to finally pick up nice copies of the albums released after he passed was one I was not going to pass up.

Tell The Truth is an album that I'm really not familiar with at all.  It's never been in my collection in any format and while I know a couple of the songs, this is like a new Otis Redding releases for me.  By the time we get to Tell The Truth, the fourth posthumous Otis Redding album, it's starting to become clear that they were digging a little deeper into the the vaults at this point.

That's not to say that this is a bad or even a lackluster record, but it is missing some of that uniformity that made the others sound like full albums.  Tell The Truth just sounds like a collection of songs, without the same type of cohesion from track to track taking you through the record.  That's not to say there aren't some incredible songs on here.  Otis had an incredible knack for composition and that man was a hit machine.  Not sure it would even be possible for him to write a bad song.

While this might not be the classic Otis record that some of his others may be, it's still a damn good record and finally having a nice sounding, pristine copy on vinyl is all I could really ask for.  We'll close up this box set review next Monday, with the double LP main event that is probably the main selling point of the whole box for me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Boogie Down Productions - Live Hardcore Worldwide 2xLP


Jive (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.

I wrote about the original pressing of this album at length a few months ago.  You can go here to see what I wrote in full: In a nutshell, while live albums are not typically something that I drawn too, this is one of the few out there that has always been special to me, particularly because it was the only way for me to hear any of the songs from Criminal Minded for a few years.  But the CD was long and in order to make is fit on vinyl, they cut songs from the tracklist as opposed to making it a double LP.

I'm not sure what prompted it exactly, but in 2004, Jive corrected this issue (mostly) and rereleased the album as a double LP, finally including every song from the CD on vinyl.  Why they did this as a white sleeve DJ copy instead of a fancier reissue, I'll never know.  But at least I finally have all of the songs on vinyl.  Plus, I do have the artwork from the original pressing that I wrote about before, so I have everything that there is, it's just split across two releases.

Would I buy it a third time if a proper double LP reissue with full artwork was released?  I'd like to be fiscally responsible and say no, I wouldn't need to pick up yet another version of this.  But I think anyone reading this knows me well enough to know what the real answer would be...

Boogie Down Productions - Live Hardcore Worldwide: 

Monday, October 9, 2023

Otis Redding - Love Man LP (From Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 Box Set)


Rhino / ATCO (2023)

For the next few weeks, on Mondays, I'm writing about individual albums in the Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 box set. This is the second Otis Redding box set I have, but this one focuses on his posthumous albums.  Otis has been a long time favorite of mine, and the opportunity to finally pick up nice copies of the albums released after he passed was one I was not going to pass up.

The third of Otis Redding's posthumous albums is Love Man.  You would think that after mining two LPs worth of unreleased material already, the vaults might start to run dry.  Especially considering that Otis' career was tragically brief.  But somehow, this album is still a revelation.

Maybe it's not quite as strong as the prior two, and maybe there isn't an epic, classic, signature song like "Dock of the Bay" (Though "Love Man" really isn't too far off, in my opinion), but the quality and consistency of the songs Otis recorded at the end of his career are so impressive.  Equally impressive is that this isn't a collection of cover songs.  Of the twelve songs on the album, only three weren't written, at least in part, by Otis himself.

As an album, this and next week's Tell The Truth are the ones that I was least familiar with coming into this box set.  But the wave of familiarity washed over me as I listened to Love Man.  There is something so timeless and perfect about Otis Redding and there really isn't ever a time where his music doesn't put a smile on my face.

Otis Redding - Love Man:

Friday, October 6, 2023

Shoplifters - Second Nature LP - Test Pressing


PopKid / Brassneck / Rad Girlfirend / Waterslide (2023)

I have mentioned a few times this year that I hadn't bought as many new records as I have in the past and that I've had a hard time finding those albums that I really connect with.  So I decided to do something about it.  PopKid Records is back for 2023 and we teamed up with friends far and wide to release the new Shoplifter album.  

We're putting up the album for preorder today (don't worry, I have them in hand and the release date is in two reeks on October 20th) and to celebrate that I'm writing a little bit about the record, though just a bit to start.

The picture you see above isn't the actual artwork, this is the alternate cover for the test pressing that the labels and bands got.  It's very cool, but the actual artwork looks even better.  I've never been a huge test pressing guy, but of course the PopKid ones are very near and dear to my heart.

The record is really wonderful.  Tight, catchy, melodic punk rock that makes me smile every time I listen to it.  I'm going to take a picture of the actual record and write a bit more about it in two weeks, but I wanted to put up a little something special in honor of the preorder kicking off today.

Please check it out and I hope you love it as much as I do.  Or at least like it enough to buy a copy.  Also, it's Bandcamp Friday, so there really isn't a better day to buy it from me if Bandcamp is your scene.

Purchase the record from the PopKid webstore here:

Purchase a specially priced bundle Shoplifters bundle that includes the Second Nature LP, the Secret Free World LP and the Forgiver 7":

Buy the digital version (and/or the vinyl) on the PopKid Bandcamp page here:

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Cypress Hill - Black Sunday 30th Anniversary 2xLP - Brown Vinyl (/1993)


Get On Down / Columbia (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 couldn't help myself and I bought this fancy version of Cypress Hill's second album from 1993, Black Sunday.  I did have a perfectly serviceable copy of this on vinyl already, but the inclusion of some extra bonus tracks and the deluxe version and all piqued my interest enough that I couldn't help but double dip.

Is it worth it? I don't really know.  Bonus track wise, maybe not.  There are three bonus tracks in total.  First is an extended version of "Insane In The Brain" that is exactly as advertised.  It's longer.  That's really it and not something I would say is super important.  Then we have "Scooby Doo," originally released as a B side on the Lick A Shot single.  It's not the most exciting song in their catalog and I wish it had drums that hit harder.  That would improve it in my eyes.  Lastly is the T-Ray remix of "Hits From The Bong."  This one is quite excellent and while not quite on the level as the original version, it is still some pretty stellar Cypress Hill-ing.

The main album sounds great, I'm not sure it's any better or worse than the other version that I have, but it gets the job done.  The artwork really is lovely as a nice gatefold with shiny metallic print job.  It definitely looks the business.  So, is it worth it?  If you don't have the album, this is absolutely the one to get.  If you have it already, it's probably not that important to pick up unless you're a sucker for fancy reissues (guilty).  I'll probably end up selling my other copy though, there's no reason to have two of these.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Otis Redding - The Immortal Otis Redding LP (From Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 Box Set)


Rhino / ATCO (2023) 

Sorry, change of plans.  I didn't really think before I started writing about these records on Friday.  I have some other things planned for a couple of Fridays in the next few weeks, so I'm going to shift Otis around and we're going to talk about each of the individual albums in the Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 box set over the next few Mondays. As I mentioned on Friday, this is the second Otis Redding box set I have, but this one focuses on his posthumous albums.

The Immortal Otis Redding came out in 1968 and features songs that he recorded just prior to his death in December of 1967. Of all of his posthumous releases, this one seems the closest to an actual planned album to me.  The songs feel purposefully sequenced together, it's just not cleaning out odds and ends.  And boy oh boy, the songs on this record.

We've got hall of fame worthy classics like "The Happy Song," "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and "Hard To Handle."  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Every song on here is great, not a single piece of filler in the bunch.  It's difficult to think about what this album could have meant to his career if he had not passed and was able to release it as the next album in his career.

I'm really happy to finally have a good, clean version of this album on vinyl.  It was definitely the co-main event of this box set for me and is quite simply a classic album that I will never tire of listening to.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Otis Redding - The Dock of the Bay LP (From Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 Box Set)


Rhino / ATCO (2023)

Over the next few Fridays I will be writing about each of the individual albums in the Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 box set. This is the second Otis Redding box set I have, but this one focuses on his posthumous albums.

We start off with a weird one, to be honest.  The first album in this box set is Dock of the Bay.  Why is that weird?  Because it’s the last album in the Definitive Studio Albums box set. Why is the same album in two different box sets?  I couldn’t tell you.

Especially since this box set is absolutely being positioned as a companion piece to the first set. The artwork is similar and they are really meant to sit side by side.  So it’s kind of odd that there’s a duplicate album between the two sets.  I guess you can say that the one in this set is in stereo, while the prior version was in mono.  But honestly, that’s not anything particularly important to me.

That said, it is a great album. I don’t really feel the need to write too much about the music as I did so here: It’s not like having this record in the box would ever dissuade me from buying it, but I can’t help think they could have made the set a bit cheaper by not including it.  Oh well.

Otis Redding - The Dock of the Bay:

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Black Sheep - Non-Fiction 2xLP


Mercury (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.

Like just about everybody in 1991, I loved the first Black Sheep album, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.   Fueled by the massive hit "The Choice Is Yours," Black Sheep were inescapable yet not overplayed.  It's a difficult thing to describe.  I definitely got sick of hearing "O.P.P." after the millionth time, but I could listen to "The Choice Is Yours" a million times a day.  Black Sheep didn't come back with a follow up until 1994 and in those three years, a lot changed in hip hop.  

In hindsight, Black Sheep probably should have tried harder to strike while the iron was hot and get something out in 1992 or early '93 at the latest.  But they waited.  Dres made a ton of guest appearances and then in DECEMBER of 1994, Non-Fiction was released.  I don't want to say it was a flop, because honestly I don't know the particulars, but there was certainly no buzz that I ever heard back then.  As I've said a million times, 1994 was the year I stared checking out following hip hop as the sounds were becoming too homogenized.  I didn't buy Non-Fiction when it came out and I honestly never thought much about it for decades.  It doesn't really seem like a lot of other folks did either.

Revisiting this album many years later, we were all wrong.  Now, I can't and won't pretend the record as a whole is as strong as the group's debut.  Nor will I say there are any songs even close to the caliber of "The Choice Is Yours."  But, it's still a really good record.  It's a bit more laid back, but the jazzy samples and thumping drums are still here.  It just further supports my feeling that this album was probably a victim of timing more than anything else.  You can't convince me that "City Lights" wouldn't have blown up on Yo! MTV raps if they played it in early 1993.  Granted, that's not one of the singles they picked for the album, but the point remains.

The vinyl has never been repressed in the nearly thirty years since it's original release.  But it's also not super difficult or pricy to find.  I waited a while trying to find a copy in the condition I wanted and was at at a price I was comfortable paying.  I'm glad to have it in the collection and it's an album I think people should give another chance to.  There's a lot to like here.

Black Sheep - Non-Fiction:

Monday, September 25, 2023

Telegenic Pleasure - Concentric Grave LP


Feral Kid / No Front Teeth (2023)

I have a small pile of records that some labels sent me to write about.  I'm going to make an effort to get through these over the next couple of weeks and clear out the record bin I keep in my office that houses the stuff I haven't written about for the site yet.  First up is Telegenic Pleasure.

I've been sitting on this one for a little bit.  It's one of those 'dude recorded it by himself during the pandemic' albums.  I've heard records made like this that are fun, and then there are others that sound like someone just going crazy.  This one is kind of in the middle.  I could never say that I like it, in a lot of ways it's the epitome of annoying solo recording that bug me.  But at the same time, there was a definite point of view being pursued.  Just because I don't like the point of view being followed, does that make it bad?  A quandary.

Anyway, there's lots of synthy drum programming, spacey noises and distorted vocals.  The songs are all pretty weird and don't follow the most standard structuring I've ever heard.  There are early Love As Laughter songs that mined similar sonic territory, but those those ones always felt more spontaneous and exciting.  These Telegenic Pleasure songs don't have that same sort of off-the-cuff flavor.  I don't know, I'm getting lost.  If you like weird, spacey, bedroom recordings, you might like this.  You might also find it annoying because there's nothing all that interesting going on.  I can only hope you don't find yourself in the position of having to write two paragraphs about it.

Telegenic Pleasure - Concentric Grave:

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Yaggfu Front – Action Packed Adventure! LP


Mercury (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.

I've mentioned more times than I can count that I have found a lot of really interesting hip hop records digging through lists on the internet.  My best friend for a while was the obligatory 'forgotten hip hop records of the 90s' type lists, of which there are no shortage of.  One of the very first groups I came across from those lists was Yaggfu Front.  But hot damn was it impossible to find a copy of this bad boy on vinyl.  I kept holding out hope that someone would reissue it, but it just never happened,

After passing on copies priced well over $200 and sometimes quite a bit more than that, I finally stumbled across a copy that was more reasonably price.  Note that I said 'more reasonably priced,' it really wasn't as reasonable as I would have liked.  I definitely overpaid for it, but I had been searching for so long I had to grab it.  Why was I willing to search for so long?  It's the production on this record, which is as strong as anything released in 1994.

Lyrically, no one in Yaggfu Front is an elite MC.  They're fine, there's nothing bad here but there's never a track that gets me thinking I'm in the presence of an amazing lyricist.  They are all mostly there to serve the beats, and they serve the beats just fine.  Or maybe it's more accurate to say the beats serve them, and truthfully pick the album up in a way that makes the record sound really great.  The beats, hooks and samples on this record are so good that the rapping on it is almost an afterthought.  Again, the rapping isn't bad at all, but the production hits that sweet spot of what I'm looking for in a hip hop record so perfectly that I'm really distracted from paying attention to much else.

I really recommend giving this record a listen.  It might not be worth hunting down a copy for everyone, but it's certainly worth finding it on youtube or whatever.  And if anyone does ever rerelease it at an affordable price, it's absolutely worth a pickup.

Yaggfu Front – Action Packed Adventure!

Friday, September 15, 2023

Bad Idea - Sonic Hellride LP - Yellow Vinyl


Self Released (2023)

Bad Idea hail from Minneapolis, a city that has produced more than its fair share of bands that I really dig.  And while the bulk of bands I have enjoyed from this fine city have skewed towards the pop punk side of the spectrum (with some detours into Big Drill Car sounding territories), Bad Idea are playing a old school/garage-y sort of punk rock that I don't typically associate with Minneapolis.  Granted, I don't live there so it's possible a thriving community of likeminded bands exist, but they aren't typically on my radar.

Most people that know my taste in punk rock will know that Bad Idea don't immediately fit the bill.  It's not as hooky as I would prefer and there certainly aren't many vocal harmonies as are on a lot of records I own, but they still resonate in a way that most bands like this do not.  A major reason is because of the quality vocals.  So many groups like this are shouting and hollering and yelling in a way that my tender ears do not appreciate.  This singer is one that can actually sing.  It's gruff, maybe in a less gravelly Lemmy sort of way, but he's carrying a tune and that goes a long way with me.

Some of the songs are straighforward in a beat you over the head sort of way, and I don't click with those quite as much.  But then there are a few that lean more towards my wheelhouse like "TV Brain" and "Act Of Violence."  I wouldn't call them pop by any means, but there's a different level of dynamics there that elevate them higher.  As far as the songs that are of the more straightforward variety, if you like your punk rock a little more old school and traditional, particularly with a tinge of garage energy, this is probably a record you should check out.  They do this style better than most.

Bad Idea - Sonic Hellride:

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The B.U.M.S. - Lyfe 'N' Tyme 2xLP + 7"


90s Tapes (2023, 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.

Lyfe 'N' Tyme originally came out in 1995, and if you are even a somewhat casual reader of my Wednesday nonsense, you know that year is the cut off for following hip hop.  1994 and earlier, I was paying very close attention to what was happening.  1995 and beyond was a total mystery to me for decades because there wasn't anything catching my interest.  As a result, I ended up missing out on quite a few really good records.  I still contend that very few albums from after '95 can hand with anything from what I consider the Golden Era of 1988-1994.  But again, there are some that have popped up as I've been digging around the last few years.

The B.U.M.S. are one of those groups that ended up on my radar looking for something new that I hadn't heard before.  I checked out their only album Lyfe 'N' Tyme and while I liked it, it wasn't one of those albums that made me think I must pay collector prices and get this record in my collection immediately.  Not rushing into that paid off in the long run as my favorite hip hop reissue label, 90s Tapes, stepped up and rereleased a great version of this album.  Double LP with a bonus 7", you really couldn't ask for a more definitive version.

As far as the music goes, I still contend that it's a good record, though it never really crosses that line to be considered top tier.  The beats are mostly laid back and rely on some jazzy samples, but they don't really have the energy of something like Tribe or Gang Starr.  There's laid back and then there's slow, Lyfe 'N' Tyme is really riding that line between the two.  Lyrically is where the album really shines, with dynamic flows and rhymes.  Being from the Bay Area, you could draw a dotted line to the Hieroglyphics folks, but The B.U.M.S. are a bit more straightforward and don't experiment quite as much.

It really is a solid record and had it come out when I was in the thick of my teenage hip hop obsession, I probably would have been playing this in my car fairly often.  Today, it's a solid record and a nice change of pace when I'm looking to listen to something I'm less familiar with.

Monday, September 11, 2023

The Subjunctives - Let's Try This Again LP - Pink Vinyl


Top Drawer (2023)

When I think about it, it seems kind of inconceivable that the last Subjunctives album came out four years ago already.  Sunshine and Rainbows still feels like a new record to me and while I'm fully aware that my sense of time has been distorted over the past few years, it's wild that I'm holding the band's new record thinking 'boy, they sure pumped out another one of these pretty quick.'  Yet the entirety of how long it takes to get through high school has happened since the last one.  Feeling old yet?

Let's Try This Again picks up where Sunshine and Rainbows left off, with Ean, Jeff and new drummer Wendell crafting poppy punk songs that lean on Bob Mould style guitar crunch as much as they do Sicko style irreverence and tight hooks.  I had mentioned when I wrote about the first Subjunctives record that this was the Ean band that was able to scratch my Sicko itch, and while there's probably a better way to phrase the sentence in a way that doesn't make it seem like I'm dealing with some sort of rash, it's still true.  This makes me feel like it's 1996 again, hanging out in the record store and just enjoying the way the music was making me feel.

Lyrically, Ean is really in top form here.  We've got songs about smart pop punk vs. dumb pop punk, career paths, Covid, fuckers and Lance from J Church/Cringer.  It's subject matter that certainly resonates with me and it's refreshing to hear an album that feels thematically targeted to someone in their 40s and 50s.  And that's not to say the kids won't be able to get down with these funky sounds.  I'm sure many in their 20s will agree that these tracks slap.  Which is a somewhat obnoxious way to say that this kind of pop punk always feels universal to me.  Even if the specific topics might skew to an older demographic, the overall feelings of battling insecurities, fears and trying to celebrate the things that help get you through each day are common themes that everyone can relate to.  

Start to finish, it's just as strong a record as Sunshine and Rainbows.  We've got short fast songs, we've got mid tempo guitar pop and we've even got a cover of the Sicko song "Believe" played even faster than the original.  To me the biggest difference between Let's Try This Again and the last record is in the vocals.  The way they are recorded is much more slick and it's dripping with massive harmonies on just about every song.  It sounds full, crisp and and impeccably recorded, though it is missing a little bit of the scrappiness that I tend to associate with Sicko and the first Subjunctives album.

2023 is a year that, for me, has really been lacking in new albums that I've connected with.  There's been a some, but I can't remember a year where I've bought fewer new records.  Luckily, The Subjunctives were aware of my plight and put out a record that reminds me that there's more to life than 90s reissues.  There's also people from the 90s still writing great music.

The Subjunctives - Let's Try This Again:

Friday, September 8, 2023

Neon Genesis Evangelion - Original Series Soundtrack 2xLP - Blue w/ Black Smoke Vinyl


Milan (2023)

I don't buy a lot of soundtracks on vinyl, but I have been picking up some of the cooler ones that get released.  If it's Godzilla or Toho related, that's probably an instant buy.  Then there are others that pop up randomly like Cowboy Bebop and Star Wars type stuff.  I don't buy all of it, but I will pick up the occasional record that I think is cool.

I don't watch much anime.  In fact, I really don't watch any.  The only exceptions are the aforementioned Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion.  I stumbled across Evangelion in college, maybe in 1997 or so?  It was recommended to me and I started buying the VHS tapes that were being released at the time.  Two episodes per tape and lots of trips to Suncoast Motion Picture Company.  I loved that show and though it was so interesting and powerfully written.  Until the last couple of episodes anyway, then it just kind of goes a little crazy and I don't really understand what's going on.

The thing I always remember about the soundtrack is "Angel Attack," a rousing piece that captures the sound of impending doom perhaps better than anything since the Imperial March.  The rest of this soundtrack is only kind of OK.  I mean, nothing is bad or anything, but when I listen to it I'm not getting that immersive experience that I tend to while listening to other soundtracks.  Maybe I'm just not as familiar with the music of Evangelion, but it's not until the closing version of "Fly Me To The Moon" that those nostalgic memories hit again.

This was out of print for a while, as best I can tell.  It recently got repressed and I was able to pick it up for pretty cheap, so I did.  I'm glad to have it, but as far as soundtracks that I'm going to listen to often, this one will end up being lower on the priority list.

Neon Genesis Evangelion - Original Series Soundtrack: