Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Organized Konfusion - Stress (The Extinction Agenda) 2xLP


Hollywood Basic (1994, Bootleg Reissue)

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

Like my copy of Organized Konfusion's self titled debut, the version of their second album that I have is a bootleg.  For whatever reason, no one has been able to give either album a proper reissue, but I'm happy to say that this double LP bootleg version sounds great, so it's good enough for me.

I had mentioned last time that I never listened to Organized Konfusion back in the 90s.  I should have as they were shouted out by several of my favorites at the time, but I never heard anything by them and never ended up buying either of their records.  My first exposure to them came much later as I tried to hunt down some hip hop albums that I hadn't heard back in the 90s.  

Stress is probably a stronger album overall that the first Organized Konfusion release.  The beats are pretty solid, mostly relying on jazzy samples and drum loops.  The production tends to be somewhat low key in nature with the tempos being on the slow side most of the time.  But the songs as a whole don't sound slow as Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po lay down dizzying raps with complicated cadences and internal rhyming structures.  It's almost as if the slower production gave them more space to cram in more lyrics on top of lyrics on top of more lyrics.  It's a nonstop display of technical mastery and Stress is an album that really deserves to have a proper reissue so it doesn't have to exist on the fringes as a bootleg purchase.

Organized Konfusion - Stress (The Extinction Agenda):

Monday, February 6, 2023

Discomfort Creature - S/T LP - Orange Vinyl


Snappy Little Numbers  Bearded Punk / Monster Zero (2022)

Discomfort Creature is a new project spearheaded by Chris Fogel, who was a part of the early 2000s band The Gamits.  Having spent time on the Vinyl Collective message board during this time period, they came up a lot due to their affiliation with Suburban Home records.  I own exactly one Gamits record, their split 7" with The Murderburgers that was part of an All In Vinyl subscription series.  But I have no memory of it whatsoever.

Because of that, I was pretty much coming into Discomfort Creature with a limited set of expectations or preconceived notions.  I'm not really expecting it to sound like anything specific and there's nothing for them to live up to because of my unfamiliarity with prior works.  The good news is, that it's a pretty fun record.  The band that I really keep hearing echos of for some reason is Armchair Martian.  I'm not exactly sure why as vocally, Chris has more of a Billy Joe style than a Jon Snodgrass one, but there's an air about the songs that puts me in a similar place as I was when I heard Armchair Martian for the first time, even though Discomfort Creature plays things a little faster for the most part.

There isn't a bad song in the bunch with the bulk of the proceedings being fast paced affairs with just the slightest bit of twang creeping into their predominantly pop punk stylings.  This came in a little late to be in the running for my best of 2022 list, but I definitely would have had to make a place for them if I had a bit more time to spend with this record.

Discomfort Creature - S/T:

Friday, February 3, 2023

Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop (Soundtrack from the Netflix Series) 2xLP - Orange & Red Marble Vinyl


Milan (2022)

Last week I wrote about the vinyl soundtrack to the original Cowboy Bebop anime.  This week, I have the double vinyl soundtrack to the live action Netflix series that came out last year.  I know a lot of folks were griping on the Netflix version saying it was a disgrace or ruined the series because of differences from the original series.  I fell on the other side.  I thought it was great.  It wasn't better or worse in comparison, it was just different.  I found it very fun to watch, with great visuals and a story that maybe wasn't as deep in some places, but I found to be deeper in others.  Whatever, I dug it. No gatekeeping from me.

Like the anime soundtrack, the Netflix soundtrack is equally confusing and frustrating.  The CD version has tracks not on the vinyl and the vinyl version has tracks not on the CD version.  The Vinyl doesn't come with a download card, so there's no getting MP3s of this version either.  While I really like the songs that are on here and am stoked to have them on vinyl, my annoying brain can only manage to be angry that it's missing tracks on the CD version.

Whatever you feel about the show itself, there's no arguing with how great any version of the soundtrack is.  Like the anime, the Netflix soundtrack was done by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts. Jazzy, big band, psych, folk chaos as you go from track to track and it really works genre hopping the way it does.  My only complaint isn't even a complaint as much as it is confusion on my part.  The theme song "Tank!" is the first song on the second LP instead of being the first song on the first LP.  It's the opening song of every episode, why would you put it in the middle of the overall track order?  Makes no sense to me, but it doesn't make it any less of a great song.

Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop (Soundtrack from the Netflix Series) (FYI, this is the streaming/CD version, tracklist is different than what's on the vinyl):

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Legion – Theme + Echo = Krill 2xLP


Legion (2016, 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 wasn't familiar with The Legion prior to picking up this record.  I also bought it over a year ago, so I can't remember how I stumbled on them or what about it originally made me want to check it out.  Looking at the track credits, the fact that we have production and guest appearances from Showbiz & AG and Black Sheep probably played a part in it.  But the reason it's languished in my review pile for so long is because I've never really been able to figure out what to make of the album.

First off, it's really long.  Twenty tracks, almost an hour and fifteen minutes long.  Sure, there's a few sketches on here making the number of tracks go up somewhat artificially, but track count aside this record is way too long.  If they halved it, I think you'd have a much stronger record overall.  The album starts off not particularly impressive.  The first handful of tracks are slower tempo tracks with production that I don't find particularly inspiring.  The lyrics and delivery are solid, but the beats aren't there for me.

About halfway through side B, the album suddenly springs to life and they rip off eight pretty great tracks in a row.  If the album had just started with "Representado," I'd probably be singing a different tune.  I really get into the album while we're going through this stretch which lasts through the end of the C side of this double LP.  When we flip to side D, the production reverts back to the wort of slow, kind of plodding, beats that made up the first part of the record.  So yeah, not sure what to make of it.  A little less than half the record is great, I really dig listening to it.  But that greatness is bookended by production on the other half of the record that just never connects with me.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Pinhead Gunpowder - Compulsive Disclosure LP - Green/White Split Vinyl

Pinhead Gunpowder - Compulsive Disclosure LP - Green/White Split Vinyl

1234 Go! (2022, Reissue)

This is the fifth and final 12"/LP Pinhead Gunpowder reissue from 1234 Go.  Compulsive Disclosure originally came out in 2003, back when I worked in the music biz.  I actually got to promote this album to college radio when it was released as the company I worked for promoted most of the Lookout releases at the time.  The fact that this came out twenty years ago at this point is pretty insane.

I'm not sure why this ended up being the final PHG album, but it was a pretty solid way to go out.  Lots of great songs, though my favorite will always be "Landlords."  The version on the full length is acoustic, and great, but the electric version on the 8 Chords, 328 Words 7" will always be held in slightly higher esteem by me.

This reissue has all of the songs from the original Lookout CD, plus three extra tracks: "Anniversary Song," West Side Highway" and "On The Ave."  All of these were from the West Side Highway 7" that came out around the same time, but of course I bought the reissue of that as well (even though I have the original release).  1234 Go! did a pretty great job with this reissue series.  Everything sounds great and brought some wonderful records that had been out of print for way to long back into circulation.  They're all worth picking up and I'm stoked to have these in the collection.  Even though I already had the original pressings of most of them, these are improved enough to be worth the double dip.

Pinhead Gunpowder - Compulsive Disclosure:

Friday, January 27, 2023

Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop (Original Series Soundtrack) 2xLP - White Vinyl & Brown Vinyl


Milan / Sunrise (2022, Reissue)

I've been buying a lot more soundtracks lately.  You can absolutely put the blame of that on all of the incredible Godzilla and Toho releases coming out, but it's also reminded me that there are others that I need.  A big one on that list is the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack.  I first heard of Cowboy Bebop from my buddy Keith.  He let me borrow his DVD box set that also included the soundtrack on CD.  I loved the show and loved the music.  I picked up the DVDs myself, but the box set was tough to come by at that point.

Fast forward to a couple years ago and the soundtrack was finally released on vinyl.  It took me a while to commit to buy and at that point it was out of press so it took a bit longer to track one down.  It's great and has the songs from that CD I ripped from Keith many, many moons ago.  It also has a few others.  Here's the thing, in researching, I find the Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack Universe to be one of the most confusing things out there.  There's several CDs, different volumes, CDs with songs on other CDs, EPs with exclusive songs, CD box sets that have exclusive songs, but not songs from the regular soundtrack (well, it has some of those, but not all of those).  It's a confusing mess and I will not even pretend to understand it.

I'm sure there are people smarter than me that will be able to say exactly where the five bonus tracks came from.  I was able to track them down as being part of a "Best Of" CD compilation, but it seems at least three of the songs were exclusive to that Best Of, which maybe makes it not actually a best of?  And we haven't even started talking about the Netflix soundtracks yet.

Anyway, the songs on here are great and I love throwing them on and just kind of zoning out to let my imagination be somewhere else.  Not to mention that the theme song of the show "Tank!" could be the best TV show theme song in the history of the earth.  If it isn't, it's right up there.

The Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop (Original Series Soundtrack):

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head 2xLP - Red 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.

Yeah, this is me doing that thing where I rebuy an album that I already have and wrote about not that long ago.  I'm mostly going to focus on this new pressing, so if you want broader thoughts about the album itself and how I feel about the songs, you can read my last write up here:

This version was part of the Vinyl Me Please club and I was drawn in by the promise that new lacquers had been made from the original masters.  While I do love vinyl, I'm not one of those crazy audiophile jerks that can pick out faint differences in pressings and claim that vinyl always sounds "better" as that's really subjective.  I prefer listening to vinyl as it feels like a more engaged experience to me, but for the most part I tend to think everything sounds pretty good if I like the music.  Despite that, I picked this up as I consider it a fairly important record to me, and I had a bunch of VMP credit.  So this didn't cost me anything out of pocket, really.

Is it better than my other pressing?  Yeah, it really is.  While the other pressing is totally fine and sounds good, this VMP version sounds enormous.  Every sound comes crashing though with tons of low end and richness.  When the Beasties recorded this, they made an aesthetic choice for everything to sound pretty blown out, so I can't call any version of this record "clear" sounding, but I can say this is the best I've ever heard the record sound, at least on my stereo.  In addition to your own ear sound preferences, the gear you play this on will make some difference I'm sure.

So, the last question, is it worth rebuying?  Honestly, I'd probably say no for most people.  If you have another vinyl version of this, you're probably fine.  As good as this sounds, and it sounds really good, I can't tell anyone that they must replace their existing copy.  However, if this is an extremely important record to you, it might be worth double dipping.  And if you don't have a copy of this on vinyl, this is one hundred percent the version that you should buy, no question about it.  If I didn't have store credit, I wouldn't have bought it and if I hadn't picked it up, I don't think my life or collection would have been any worse off.  That said, I'm really happy I do have this as it sounds amazing.

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head:

Monday, January 23, 2023

Beezewax - Oh Tahoe LP - Clear Vinyl (#22/500)


Naked Record Club (2022, Reissue)

I have a somewhat complicated relationship with the third Beezewax full length, Oh Tahoe.  It was supposed to come out on PopKid records when it was originally released, alongside of other labels handling various other non-North American locales.  But, as things often do, everything sort of went sideways and the PopKid version of the record never came out.  It came out on a few other labels in other parts of the world, all with slightly rearranged track orders for reasons I was never completely sure of.  I think the PopKid version was meant to start with "Big Bad Car" if I'm not mistaken, but that was over twenty years ago, so I might be.

This LP is the first vinyl version of the album to ever be released.  It came out as part of a record subscription called the Naked Record Club, though you can also buy it on its own.  It is a really expensive record.  I know vinyl is more expensive everywhere and yes, I'm guilty of buying into some of the fancy and expensive Vinyl Me Please releases, but in fairness, most of those tend to be double albums.  This one is a single LP and the cost of the record, plus shipping to America came out to over $65 US, which is quite a lot, really.  It's cheaper if you join the club, but at this point I personally was only looking for Beezewax.

Is it worth it?  To me, yeah it is.  The record sounds excellent on vinyl.  While I like all of Beezewax's output, those first three albums of theirs will always be something special to me.  The way they took Posies style guitar pop and filtered through their own hook machine produced many of my favorite songs of the late 90s and early 2000s.  There's so many incredible tunes on this bad boy and finally having them on vinyl was worth every penny.  

Now, I just need someone to step up to the plate and get their first album, A Dozen Summits, pressed.  Yeah, I'd pay this much for that one too.

Beezewax - Oh Tahoe:

Friday, January 20, 2023

Gentleman Jesse - Compass 7"


Third Man (2022)

I will admit to being disappointed when the last Gentleman Jesse full length, Lose Everything, came out.  While it certainly wasn't bad, I found it to be a little more down than I was really wanting out of one of his records.  His prior two albums were so bright and energetic, but comparison Lose Everything seemed kind of depressing.  The songs were will written and well executed, I just never really find myself wanting to listen to them.

That brings us to this companion 7" that was released on Third Man Records.  I bought it ages ago, but just wasn't motivated to listen to it.  It's been sitting in a pile of 7"s to review ever since I got it.  But, I figure it's time to go through it.  The A side is "Compass," which is also on the full length.  It's an OK song I guess, but not the one I would have focused on for a 7" single.  But I bought this for the two B sides.

First off is "True," a cover by a band called The Fans that I'm not familiar with.  I can't compare it to the original, but this Gentleman Jesse version is a fun, fairly upbeat jam.  It's catchy and plays well with Jesse's trademark guitar jangle.  The second is an original called "Protecting Nothing."  I probably like this song better than anything that actually made the album.  It's way faster and has more in common with the first two Gentleman Jesse records.  That's probably why it didn't make it on to the new one, thematically it feels like an outlier, but if I'm being honest I would rather have an album full of songs like this.

Gentleman Jesse - "True":

Gentleman Jesse - "Protecting Nothing":

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Del The Funky Homosapien & Kool Keith Present FNKPMPN - Subatomic LP - Clear w/ Splatter Vinyl (#147/200)


Threshold (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.

If you had told me in 1993 that Del and Kool Keith would colaborate on an LP together, I would have been one of the happiest people on the planet.  Even in 2022, I was really excited to get my hands on this.  The album is Kool Keith on production (and contributing a verse on album opener "Abominable Squad") and Del handling the vocals.  Unfotunately, I just don't like the beats all that much.

The production is exceedingly minimal, with space bleeps and bloops over percussion that doesn't have much in the way of heft or low end.  It's kind of Casio sounding and isn't bringing that forceful production that I favor in hip hop.

Del's lyrics and delivery are still pretty great.  He is my all time favorite lyricist and once again the rhymes he's bringing out are complicated, unique and very, very Del.  But the production really drags things down.  I realize that I'm old, but I just wish we could have had an album that sounded for like The Four Horsemen or Funk Your Head Up.  90s style beats with Del and Keith trading verses?  Now that's something I could really get behind.  For the most part I ended up getting this album just for collection completest purposes as I want to get all of Del's full lengths on vinyl. 

Del The Funky Homosapien & Kool Keith Present FNKPMPN - Subatomic:

Monday, January 16, 2023

Snuff - Green Glass Chippings (Live Version) 7" - Red Vinyl (/300)


10 Past 12 / Formosa Punk (2022)

I own quite a few Snuff 7"s.  This is the newest one.  I can't say that for most people it will be essential, but for the collector nerds like me, of course I have to buy it.

There are two songs included.  The A side is is a live version of what I think is probably the best song of their most recent full length, "Green Glass Chippings."  The live version isn't wildly dissimilar from the album version, other than the fact that it's a live recording.  But it is a lively, energetic take on the song and is a great example of how impressive it is (at least to me) that Duncan is able to put forth such a strong vocal performance while simultaneously playing the shit out of the drums.

On the B side we have an acoustic version of the song "EFL vs Concrete."  The original version of this song was on the Numb Nuts album that came out back in 2000.  It seems kind of absurd that was so long ago as Numb Nuts still feels like one of the newer Snuff records to me.  While I do typically like the acoustic takes of Snuff songs and would go out of my way to recommend Duncan's Honkypingpongseijinattack!! CD, I can't say that this is my favorite acoustic version I've heard.  I tend to find the double tracked vocals a little distracting, but the violin/fiddle in the background picking out some of the organ parts of the song is quite excellent.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Senseless Things - The First of Too Many 2xLP - Red Vinyl & Black Vinyl


Cherry Red (2022, Reissue) 

Three bands that I find tend to get mentioned in the same breath a lot (or at least they did back in the 90s) were Snuff, Mega City Four and Senseless Things. I’m sure a lot of that was a result of when they were active as all three were kicking around in the late 80s and early 90s indie/punk scene in the UK. I always felt that Snuff was the most obviously punk of the group. Mega City Four veered more towards the pop side of things but were still pretty rough around the edges for most of their tenure. Senseless Things struck me as being the most polished of the bunch, having punk influences but with a sound that was a little more accessible. I’ve always liked all three, but I have personally listened to Senseless Things the least.

Looking back, I think some of that was due to the production of their records. Even though they were on a bigger label (Epic), something about their records always sounded kind of old to me. A tinniness that wasn’t rough enough to come off as punk rock production, but just made things feel a little thin. It was never a big deal, they just always seemed like there were somewhere in the past even though most of their records were only a couple of years old when I first heard them.

Now we have a reissue of the band’s second album, The First of Too Many, which originally came out in 1991. This double LP reissue comes with two versions of the same record. There’s the original mix done back in ’91 and a new “30th Anniversary Mix” that takes all of the original recordings and completely overhauls the mix. There’s no re-recordings or flashy studio tricks, they just made the album sound better. 

First off, I do want to point out that I only ever had the CD of this album and the LP of the original mix included in this set sounds about ten times better than my CD did for whatever reason. But that being said, the new redone mix sounds approximately twenty times better than that. I listened to several songs back-to-back, switching from one LP to the next and there’s just a huge difference in the redone version. Everything sounds fuller, the bass is louder and the vocal harmonies are even more harmonious. Whatever secret sauce they used to spruce things up really worked out well. Honestly, I’ll probably never listen to the original mix again now that this new one is out, but I do think it’s really great that it was included for those that just want a nice sounding version of the one they’ve been listening to for over thirty years

The record itself is great. Catchy songs with excellent vocals and enough punk rock propulsion that keeps things moving. Maybe I’ll never be as into them as I am my beloved Mega City Four, but they were a hell of a band and this is a record that really should be added to your collection if it’s not already there.

Senseless Things - The First of Too Many:

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Organized Konfusion - Organized Konfusion 2xLP


Hollywood Basic (1991, Bootleg 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'm not exactly sure why I never listened to Organized Konfusion in the early 90s.  It's probably because I never saw any of their videos on Yo! MTV Raps, but it's not like that stopped me from stumbling upon other acts that weren't getting any airplay.  Even more puzzling is the fact that they were shouted out by name on Hieroglyphics tracks, which was pretty much a guaranteed way to make me go buy your records (See: Kurious).  But for whatever reason, it wasn't until many years later that I started to delve into the Organized Konfusion catalog.

I picked up this LP from Discogs about a year and a half ago.  I was able to snag it at a really good price considering what I had seen it go for.  The caveat is that this is the 2xLP version, which means it's an unofficial or bootleg release.  The positive is that said bootleggers didn't try to cram an overly long album onto one record, which is what happened with the original, official release.  In a lot of ways I prefer this double LP bootleg, though I would have preferred someone just reissue it properly.  Considering all of the old rap reissues out there, there must be something wacky going on with the rights for this to still be ignored.

As far as the music goes, this is fun golden era hip hop.  The production is solid and very good most of the time, but it's not in that top tier, upper echelon of the era.  I like it a lot, but it's not the sort of thing that gets my head nodding like a lot of the other records that came out around this time.  Lyrically, it's pretty amazing.  Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po are pretty amazing, stringing together complex rhyme structures while playing off beats of varying tempos and styles.  At the end of the day it's a really cool album that very obviously helped pave the way for the sounds of underground hip hop that would spring up towards the end of the decade.

Organized Konfusion - Organized Konfusion:

Monday, January 9, 2023

Bum - Wanna Smash Sensation LP - Blue Vinyl (/500)


Hey Suburbia / Radiation (2022, Reissue)

Wanna Smash Sensation is one of the best albums I have ever heard in my entire life.  Since the fateful day that I bought the CD from Flipside records in the 90s, I've been completely obsessed with it.  It's just a perfect punk/pop record.  This version is a new reissue from Italy on blue vinyl, with a couple of bonus tracks added on for good measure.  Sure, I've had this record in my collection forever, but it's the sort of album I will buy every possible variation of.  So here's another for the shelf.

It is really hard for me to adequately articulate what it is about this record that I love so much.  Sure, the songs are great and it's easy to say that, but I have a much harder time pinning down what it is that makes these songs so special to me.  They're catchyand that goes a long way for sure.  But I think what makes everything truly special is the balancing act the band does between the songs written by Andrew Molloy and those written by Rob Nesbitt.  It's not that they write songs that are complete opposites of each other, but it's the subtle differences in each that the band coalesces around.

Songs by Molloy are hook machines.  Perfect pop with rock and roll underpinnings.  Nesbitt's songs are a little more aggressively punk, but never sacrificing melody and sing along choruses.  A cut of the knife rather than the party anthem is how that difference has been explained and I can't think of a more perfect way describe it.

This pressing sounds great and looks just as nice.  The two bonus tracks are the same two on the Japanese version of the CD. "Lift Up Your Hood" a DMZ cover originally from the Smugglers split 7"and their version of the Misfits' "Bullet" was a B side from the "Debbiespeak" 7".  I don't know that either cover really adds anything to an album where the originals are so ridiculously great, but they are here for the listening and both are fun to check out.

If for whatever reason you don't already have this record in your collection, now is the time to get it.  I can't imagine going through the last 28 some odd years of my life without it, so if it's an omission in yours, fix that.

Bum - Wanna Smash Sensation: