Monday, February 27, 2023

Superchunk - Everything Hurts 7" - Pink Vinyl


Merge (2023)

After last years's disappointing Superchunk record, I was curious what their next release would sound like.  Turns out I didn't have to wait all that long as they've released this two song 7".  Both are from the same sessions that spawned Wild Loneliness.  The description of this 7" says they didn't fit because they were " more traditionally Superchunk-sounding than the rest of the LP."  Since I didn't like the LP much, I was hopeful for a turnaround with this 7".

The A Side, "Everything Hurts," does not sound like a traditional Superchunk song to me.  At least not in the "Precision Auto" or "Hyper Enough" sort of way.  It sounds like just another slow song that could have easily been put onto the new album.  It's not bad, there's no such thing as a bad Superchunk song really, but it doesn't have any energy.  It would probably be one of the better songs if it was included on Wild Loneliness, but it's nothing special.

Over on the B side we have "Making a Break."  I can't really say anything all that different about this one either.  If I'm being generous, I could maybe call this a mid tempo song, but it doesn't have a spark.  It's just there, hanging out, being a below average Supercunk song.  Which again, isn't a bad place to be.  I just expect something different when I want to listen to Superchunk, so these songs just don't click with me.  The goofy synth on this one doesn't help either.

Superchunk - Everything Hurts 7":

Friday, February 24, 2023

Star Wars / Return Of The Jedi = スター・ウォーズ / ジェダイの帰還 - Soundtrack LP


Walt Disney Records (2021, Reissue)

The final of the three Japanese reissues of the original Star Wars soundtracks is Return of the Jedi.  That makes sense, since it was the third movie.  There's not a ton to say about this one that I haven't said about the other two as far as sound quality goes.  It sounds great, best I've heard - but it's not like I've heard many versions of this.

What I will say is that the difference between the full score versions of the soundtracks and these reissues of the 80s versions is most noticeable with Return of the Jedi.  It's only a single LP so it contains the least amount of actual music of the three.  But, I will also say that in two very specific ways, it's actually better.  The full score CDs are scores of the special edition versions of the movies that came out in the 90s.  It's really not noticeable at all for Star Wars or Empire.  But for Jedi, it cuts two key things; The original versions of "Lapti Nek" from Jabba's palace and the Ewok's "Yub Nub" from the end of the movie. 

On this version of the soundtrack, both of those original songs are here for your listening pleasure.  The fact that they were removed from the special editions is a travesty, but alas, this many years later it's hard to care that much anymore.  Especially since I have bootleg versions of the original cuts anyway.  This is however, the one instance were I wouldn't call for a straight up vinyl issue of the full score CD.  Grab what they need from there, but keep the Ewoks and Sy Snoodles intact please.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Dred Scott - Breakin' Combs 2xLP


Vinyl Digital (2017, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Age' 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.

Breakin' Combs originally came out back in 1994, the year I always say is the last year of the Golden Age.  When it was originally released on Tuff Break records, a subsidiary of A&M, it didn't make any waves.  At least none that I was aware of.  I don't remember reading about Dred Scott in The Source and I certainly have no memory of him being on Yo! MTV Raps.  It came out in June of 94, so while I certainly was starting to get into punk and indie rock at that point, I was still paying reasonably close attention to what was going on in hip hop land.

As has been the case with many of the records I have been writing about recently, this is an album I discovered much later in life, only a few years ago really.  It was once again perusing those 'best forgotten rap albums of the 90s' type lists and Dred Scott popped up.  I listened to a couple of songs and was completely blown away.  Luckily it had been rereleased on vinyl somewhat recently, so obtaining a copy on vinyl wasn't as challenging as some of the others I've had to hunt down.  I'm so psyched I was able to discover this record and add it to the collection as it's pretty phenomenal.

The production is killer, leaning heavily on the East coast boom bap sound that's got one foot in a somewhat rugged, but is smoothed out just a bit by pulling in jazzy loops and samples.  It's not as rough as EPMD and it's not as chilled out as a Tribe Called Quest, but it's somewhere in the middle without sounding too much like either of those other groups.  I'm not sure if that's a description that helps much, but if you dig early 90s production, this one will be right in your wheelhouse.

Lyrically, Dred Scott can certainly hold his own with anyone that was dropping rhymes in 1994.  He flow is mostly straightforward and doesn't veer into ultra complicated off beat type deliveries, but he's not rapping simplistically, his rhyme structures have interesting internal rhyme schemes at times and he's doing a masterful job of weaving stories into his songs.  As another comparison that makes absolutely no sense, he reminds me a little bit of how Kool G Rap composes songs.  Now, he doesn't sound anything like Kool G Rap, there's not mafioso or super hard core stuff here, but just the way he approaches writing his rhymes strikes me as being similar in the way he's able to put out a finished product that accomplishes multiple goals.

This is definitely one of the better albums I discovered way after the fact.  I'd guess there's a better than average chance this might have fallen under your radar as it did mine.  It's definitely worth correcting that and checking out Breakin' Combs.

Dred Scott - Breakin' Combs:

Monday, February 20, 2023

Otis "O" Barthoulameu

I can't find the pictures I took of fluf at the Warped Tour in 96,
so I had to swipe this from the internet.

It goes without saying that I hate writing things like this.  I haven't done too many of them, but when an artist who has had a real, lasting impact on me has passed, I find the need to write a little something about them.  Otis Barthoulameu, or more simply known as O to most, is one of those people.

Full lengths. I was surprised to find out that I don't own
Road Rage on vinyl.  Need to fix that.  
I've written before that I've always felt like I got into the world of punk rock way later than everybody else.  Sure, I was only seventeen or eighteen years old at the time, but when I started to explore and learn, it always felt like I was years behind everyone else and was constantly trying to catch up.  I couldn't tell you the first time I heard them or how I was alerted to them, but at some point in 1995 or so I was told that if I liked Rocket From The Crypt, I should check out fluf.  And check them out I did.

Aside from hailing from San Diego and a general affection for big guitar sounds, I don't know that I ever thought fluf sounded all that much like Rocket From The Crypt.  Sure, maybe on a couple of songs here and there like "Skyrocket" there were similarities, but that didn't matter as I loved fluf for exactly what they were.  Huge, and I mean HUGE, guitar tones, smooth vocal melodies and the ability to just get loud and angry from time to time to make sure you were paying attention.  I simply adored their first two albums and their singles compilation.  

You can't see it, but my copy of the fan club 7" is numbered
#2 of 1000.
They were one of the first bands where I made a huge effort to try to track down all of their 7"s so I could have a complete collection.  Today, it's not all that difficult to pick up most of their singles on Discogs for reasonable prices, but in those pre-internet days finding Garbage Truck and the split 7" with Further was not easy.  Eventually I talked my buddy Alan into trading them to me for something that I can't remember anymore.  I also joined the fluf Value Club that was advertised on their records and got a free 7" and a membership card with an awful picture of myself on it.  Despite being a gigantic pack rat, I cannot find that membership card anywhere.  I haven't seen it in decades, but I know I never would have knowingly thrown it away.  It must be in my attic somewhere.

I also have some Olivelawn records and really enjoyed the Harshmellow 7" that recently came out, but those fluf records, and especially the first two and the singles compilation, would always be so special to me.

I bought this shirt in 95 or 96 from Vintage Vinyl.
I wore it out, thus the horrid stains.
fluf was also one of the first bands that I interviewed while writing for my college newspaper.  In the
summer of 1996, the Warped Tour came to Vernon, NJ.  Why? I have no idea and I'm not sure anyone else did either as to this day it's the most sparsely attended 'festival' show I have ever been to in my life.  I worked out something with some label to set up an interview with fluf that day.  I'm not even sure what label as their Headhunter records were a couple of years old at this point, but their MCA record, Waikiki, hadn't come out yet.

The entire band, and O in particular, were so gracious to a dumb kid that was definitely asking them really basic and bad questions.  Not that I think I ever became a great writer or anything, but whenever I come across a clipping from back then I cringe about how clueless I was.  All three signed my copy of the Garbage Truck 7" that I brought with me (for the first year or so that I started interviewing bands, I always tried to have them sign something, then one day I decided autographs were kind of stupid and stopped doing that) and I was pretty much ready to go back out into the Warped Tour and watch some bands play.

Before I left, O asked me and my friend Joe who was with me if we wanted to come to the next day's Warped Tour show down in Asbury Park.  We said sure and O put us on the following day's guest list with backstage passes.

This was the MCA press photo for fluf, they didn't
use real pictures of themselves for stuff like this.
The next day we drove down to Asbury Park and met up with fluf.  We watched them play (those two Warped Tour shows would be the only times I was ever able to see fluf play live and they were really great both times) and then hung out with them a bit.  O then said that he was going to go over to the second (or maybe even third) stage to go watch a band that he had recorded a record for play.  We went with him and sat on stage next to band playing really fast pop punk songs to about 20 kids that ventured away from the main attractions.  That band was Blink 182.  That's the only time I ever saw them play as they just never really connected with me.  But that also is something that can be said about O.  I was there to see his band, but the moment they were done playing, he immediately wanted to shift my attention to another band that he liked.

Those two days are the only days I ever interacted with O.  I will never pretend to have been his friend or that I knew him at all.  But everything I have ever heard said about him mirrors my brief interaction.  He was kind, funny and seemed to mostly want the attention on someone other than himself.  There was no reason for him to go out of his way to be so nice to a couple of kids from rural northern New Jersey, but he did.  Because that's what punk rock really is at the end of the day.  It's a big family.  And O seems to have been everyone's favorite cousin.

A few of my favorite fluf songs:

"All the Fuckers Live in Newport Beach":

Friday, February 17, 2023

Star Wars / The Empire Strikes Back = スター・ウォーズ / 帝国の逆襲 - Soundtrack 2xLP

Star Wars / The Empire Strikes Back = スター・ウォーズ / 帝国の逆襲 - Soundtrack 2xLP

Walt Disney Records (2021, Reissue)

Last week we had Star Wars, this week we have the Japanese reissue of the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack.  A lot of what I have to say about this record echos things that I wrote last week.  I still don't understand why these soundtracks are being reissued as is.  The versions where the entire score is played in order are so much better and it seems crazy to me that there's no vinyl version of any of them.

As far as the three soundtracks go, I find Empire to be the least distracting when it comes to out of order songs.  The vinyl sounds great, but like I've said, I'm no audiophile so I have no idea if it's appreciably better than any other version.

Once again, the main draw for me is the artwork, which is fantastic.  I think it's the best of the three Japanese reissues and it is far, far superior to the original US artwork, which was just the picture of Vader's helmet from the advanced poster artwork.  Again, happy to have a nice version of this on vinyl, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that just having it as something to collect drove the acquisition more than a desire to listen to it repeatedly.  Plus, I got it for Christmas, which is even better.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Guru - Jazzmatazz Voume 3: Streetsoul - 2xLP


Virgin (2000)

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

The third volume of Guru’s Jazzmatazz came out in 2000, which is way past my usual hip hop cutoff year of 1994.  It’s always been my feeling that anything that came out in 1995 or later wasn’t really worth my time.  As I’ve been digging deeper into albums thatI missed the first time around, I’ve realized that while that is true in thevast majority of instances, it’s also incorrect in quite a few cases as well.  Jazzmatazz Volume 3: Streetsoul is one of those exceptions. 

My beef with most records that came out after 94 is that the production just seemed to change so drastically.  It rarely lives up to the Golden Age beats that I love so much.  While I can’t say this record is quite as strong as Volumes 1 or 2, it’s a hell of a record to have come out in 2000.  The beats are still smooth and jazzy, not too dissimilar from the prior volumes.  Gang Starr always had a pretty unique sound and they kept that sound more consistent than most over the years.  I will be writing about their album Moment ofTruth in the upcoming weeks, as that was also one I didn’t really pay attention to the first time around.  But as far as this one goes, I really cannot complain about the production or Guru’sexcellent rhymes and delivery. 

The one thing I don’t love is the fact that more songs have R&B crooning in them than I would prefer.  I realize it’s a staple of jazz, but it’s never been something I’ve really been a fan of.  Give me a nice hook, but I don’t really need much singing in my hip hop.  That said, I am glad I was able to hunt down a copy of this LP at a decent price.  It tends to get kind of pricey, though I’m not sure there’s a huge demand for a reissue.  There is a Volume 4 that I have listened to online, but it’s not really a priority for me to pick up. The production takes a pretty steep nosedive between this record and that volume. 

Guru - Jazzmatazz Voume 3: Streetsoul:

Monday, February 13, 2023

The Mr. T Experience - Revenge is Sweet and So Are You LP - White Vinyl (/300)


Sounds Rad (2022, Reissue)

1995's Love Is Dead was a pretty important record for me.  While it wasn't my first exposure to The Mr. T Experience, it was the first new record of theirs to come out after I had gotten into them in 1994.  Love Is Dead hit me like a ton of bricks.  It had built on the sound of their more recent releases and had really set itself as THEE album of this era of MTX.  A couple of years later when Revenge is Sweet and So Are You came out, I was primed and ready for the next chapter in that greatness.

What I got was a record that has always sort of perplexed me.  I like it, as it's hard not to.  It has an very similar sound and vibe to Love Is Dead, but something about it never quite hit me the same way back in 97.  I listened to it a lot.  Examining the lyrics, trying to pick out the chord changes...but for some reason it just didn't hit me with the same sort of impact.  Was it too similar?  Was it something else?  I never figured it out back then and after a few months, the album just sort of faded into the rearview for me.

Eventually I revisited it many years later and had a much warmer reception to it than I had previously.  I still can't pinpoint exactly what happened in 1997.  The best I can come up with is a combination of the record not quite hitting whatever my bizarre expectations were based on how obsessed I had been with their prior record and maybe just being in a somewhat different place musically in 1997 than I had been in 1995.  Looking at it today, it's a fun record to listen to and I appreciate it way more now.

The Sounds Rad reissue is top notch, as they've all been.  The record sounds better now than it ever has.  Slightly less compressed sounding and capturing a bit more of the energy of the recordings that the original did.  The artwork is a lovely gatefold and you can really tell the care that went into all of the packaging.  But it's the way this thing sounds that truly makes it worth purchasing again.  These Sounds Rad pressings are absolutely the definitive versions of The Mr. T Experience catalog and I keep waiting with baited breath that Making Things With Light gets announced very, very soon.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Star Wars = スター・ウォーズ / 新たなる希望 - Soundtrack 2xLP


Walt Disney Records (2021, Reissue)

Keeping with soundtracks for a few more Fridays, today let's start talking about the somewhat recently released reissues of the Star Wars soundtracks in Japan.  First up is Star Wars, and no, I'm not going to call it anything but Star Wars. I don't think it's super necessary to talk about the specifics of John Williams score.  Chances are the melody from one of his compositions is already playing in your head while you read this.  So I'm going to focus more on the records themselves.  

This is a double LP set with the same track list and order from the original soundtrack release back in the 70s.  That's all well and good, but at this point in my life, I'm much more used to listening to the special edition soundtracks that came out in the late 90s on CD.  Those have the score in actual film order, where these soundtracks just sort of have random pieces playing at random times.  I never understood why it was originally released that way back then, and it makes even less sense to me that we can't get a proper vinyl release of that version now. The sound quality is very nice.  There's a lot of historical talk about how Japanese versions of records often sound better.  I don't know that I can really hear a discernible difference, but I'm just a dumb guy and I don't have a particularly well trained ear.  But, this does sound great.  

For me, the major draw is the artwork and obi strip.  There's something about the way those visuals just make me feel and I love the way they look.  Imported, these records are kind of overpriced.  I've seen them sell from fifty to a hundred dollars a pop.  Luckily, I got mine for Christmas.  Very happy to have them, but I would have had a difficult time pulling the trigger and buying them myself.

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.