Wednesday, June 28, 2023

De La Soul – Buhloone Mindstate LP


Chrysalis / AOI (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.

Buhloone Mindstate is the third De La Soul album, and of the first three it's been the one I've spent the least amount of time with over the years.  As these albums have been reissued, I've been picking them up as it's the first time in a while that they have been affordable.  Though I have never been the biggest De La fan in the world, I really wanted to give the albums a fair chance.  And the only way I can really give them the attention they deserve is a dedicated vinyl listen, not just playing in the background.

I can say that as a full album, Buhloone Mindstate is probably my favorite of the first three.  That's not the same thing as saying it has my favorite songs of all three, but as far as a start to finish listed, Buhloone Mindstate is on top.  Why?  Honestly, it's mostly because it isn't crammed full of stupid skits.  There are a couple short interludes, but it's not like the first two albums where the flow of the record is constantly interrupted by unfunny bits of tomfoolery.

That's not the only reason it's such a good listen, they definitely bring the tunes and beats on Buhloone Mindstate.  "Patti Dooke," "Ego Trippin' (Part Two)" and "Breakadawn" as as strong as any songs in their catalog.  By the time we get to 1993 in the history of hip hop, there are some pretty insane all-timer type albums being released.  I can't say that I would personally rank Buhloone Mindstate in my list, but I also don't have thirty years of history with it like I do with so many others.  But even if I don't consider this album to be quite on that level, there's no denying it's a great album and one that I unfairly ignored for way too long.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Toeheads - A Cruel Winner's World LP


Big Neck (2022)

Toeheads aren't a band I was familiar with prior to listening to this album, but it looks like they've had a bunch of singles and tapes and the like released over the past few years.  This is their first proper full length LP on Big Neck.

I can't say that I love this album, and it's really down to the vocals more than anything else.  They have that echo-y, howlin' from a cave thing that is kind of prevalent in some garage rocking bands.  I'm not saying I need smooth, clean vocals - Frankie Stubbs is one of my all time favorite singers, after all - but sometimes when vocals are this blown out, I feel like it takes away from the overall package.

Musically, I think this record is pretty fun.  The guitars are loud and cutting, the rhythm section has a stomping propulsion and the energy level is right where it needs to be. You can tell this is a band that is into what they are doing as it really shines through.  But for my personal taste, the vocals are just a little too rough around the edges and it takes me out of the album a bit.  

Toeheads - A Cruel Winner's World:

Friday, June 16, 2023

Night Court - Humans! LP


Snappy Little Numbers / Debt Offensive (2023)

Night Court released a double cassette salvo in December of 2021 and May of 2022.  These were really fun albums and as usual, my biggest lament was over the fact that they had not been released on vinyl.  Well, Night Court is back with their new album and this time, we've got wax.

Much like their last two releases, Humans! is full of tight, economical pop songs.  I've compared the band to So Cow every time I've written about them, and I'll do it again now.  The way they construct their low-medium fi songs is similar to my ears, even though the vocals are much different.  I've always struggled to find a good touch point for the vocals, but listening to this album really crystallized everything for me.  I can't listen to Night Court and not hear a little bit of Ween in there now.

Night Court is not as goofy or silly as Ween is, but if you've spent any time with Ween's catalog, you are well aware of their pop chops.  There's a similar spirit here and in the vocals I can definitely feel a kinship as far as inflection or delivery.  There's probably a little bit of Mike Krol in there two, from the garage-y side of the equation. 

No matter how you want to try to identify their influences, there's no denying that Night Court has a winner with Humans!  It's a fun, fuzzy pop record and that's before we even get to the album closing Abba cover.  Despite the exclamation point in the title making my sentence structures look ridiculous while writing about it, Humans! is a record worth going out of your way to check out.

Night Court - Humans!:

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Positive K - The Skills Dat Pay Da Bills LP


Island (1992) 

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

Like everyone on the planet, I could not escape the song "I Got A Man" when it came out in 1992.  It started bubbling on Yo! MTV Raps and then just became an omnipresent track, played in malls and anywhere else current music was played publicly.  And while I will always admit to have liked that song (despite not knowing what it meant to "Get Raggamuffin") I was never inspired to pick up the full album or try to find out more about Positive K.  In my head, he was a Young MC type pop rapper and I just moved on as the song faded from the Yo1 playlist.

Since then, I have learned two things about Positive K.  The first is that he also did the female character's raps on "I Got a Man" by pitch shifting his voice during the recording process.  I literally had no idea that was him playing both sides of the conversation.  The second thing that I discovered was that Positive K was not a one hit wonder pop rapper.  He was quite respected in the hip hop community and his only full length album is pretty great top to bottom.

I'm a sucker for the hip hop production on the late 80s and early 90s and The Skills Dat Pay Da Bills delivers exactly what I'm looking for.  Boom bap drums and funky basslines make up the foundation of the album.  Once you add in K's rapid fire lyrical delivery, it's impossible for me to not love this.  My biggest regret is having ignored the album for such a long time.  I should have bought it in 1992 and if I had I'm pretty sure every lyric would be lodged in my head like so many others of that era.

Positive K never released another album after this one.  I'm not sure why as this one was obviously a hit.  He has a bunch of singles, but as far as a full length, this is it.  But it's a hell of a record and one that shouldn't be overlooked.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Various Artists - Big, Big Wave LP - Mixed Color Vinyl


Feral Kid (2022)

This is a compilation album.  I feel that comps are really a thing of the past at this point.  I never really see them anymore, but were it not for comp albums there are so many bands that I never would have discovered otherwise.  This particular album focuses on a pretty specific scene, a burgeoning one in Hattiesburg, MS.

Most of the bands on here get two songs, but not all of them.  The songs represent many genres and for whatever reason, most are very short with over half of them clocking in at under two minutes.  Now there's definitely stuff on here that's not for me.  The breakneck screaming of Fumes isn't the sort of thing I would listen to on most occasions.  Same with the sludgy, stoner rock of Stellatone (they're one of the bands that only got one song on this) and the Stranger Things synth of Control Room.

That said, there are a few bands on here that I thought were pretty solid.  Pleather is a band that I have a 7" by, and their Baby Shakes-ish guitar pop is enjoyable.  The Squirms put forth a serviceable rock and roller called "Stiles."  It's not amazing or anything, but it's totally fine.  My favorites on the album are the two entries of Ded Jewels.  Both are fuzzed out guitar tunes that have a slight debt of influence to the sort of early rock of the late 50s and early 60s.

Is this the sort of compilation that I bought in the 90s, the kind that instantly alters my taste in music?  No, it's not.  But there are some decent songs in here and it definitely changed my opinion of what could be happening in towns like Hattiesburg.

Various - Big Big Wave:

Friday, June 9, 2023

CC Voltage - Berliner Pilsner 7"


Snap! (2023)

This two song 7" from CC Voltage was concocted in part as an entry into a beer-based songwriting contest.  Seriously.  The A-side "Berliner Pilsner" was originally written to enter a contest sponsored by the beer of the same name.  And it someways it shows.  It's a saccharine-sweet, catchy pop tune, with all of the hallmarks of an advertising jingle.  Now, that's not to say it doesn't stand on its own as a fun song, but you can certainly hear how it leans into the fun cheese.  

the B Side, "Bummer Party" doesn't seem to have any brand affiliations, but still keeps the catchy choruses coming.  It's not quite as poppy and slick as "Berliner," but it has a sing along atmosphere, though perhaps a bit tougher and ever so slightly darker.  It's got an older school scum-rock vibe to it, being a little glammier than a straight up garage blast.

All in, a solid little 7".  I'd be curious to hear what did win that beer contest, because I can't imagine it was more fun than this.  Maybe it's time for CC Voltage to ply their wares to other beverages.  I see a ton of Twisted Tea commercials during wrestling that could use some new music.

CC Voltage - Berliner Pilsner:

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

A.D.O.R. – The Concrete (25th Anniversary Edition) 2xLP (/300)


Hip-Hop Enterprise (2019, Reissue)

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

I can't actually remember how I stumbled across A.D.O.R..  I think it was digging through Discogs trying to find more albums that Pete Rock had worked on.  This album was originally released in 1994 by Atlantic records, though it seems like it only came out in Germany.  Digging around on Wikipedia and the like it seems that The Concrete was scheduled to be released by Atlantic, but was shelved and A.D.O.R. was dropped.  That would probably explain me never having heard of it, but it's still a little confusing how.why it got released in Germany.  Anyway...

Hip-Hop Enterprise, a record label out of Belgium, released the full album on vinyl in 2019, to celebrate the album's twenty-fifth anniversary.  It's nice to be able to get a copy of the record, but it's kind of uneven.  When I first checked it out to see if it was something I felt like picking up, I came pretty close to bailing on it as the first four tracks (the first being a short intro thing) are all pretty mediocre.  The beats are kind of uninspired and the rapping is really not up to the standards of the era.

Things don't really click until we hit the fifth song, "Day 2 Day."  While the rapping doesn't improve dramatically, A.D.O.R. is helped out big time by an absolutely killer beat cooked up by Willy Gunz.  The smooth "Oooooohh" vocal sample packed together with a great drum beat makes this the first can't miss track for me.  Then we have "Let It All Hang Out."  This is the Pete Rock produced track that hits as hard as anything on the first CL Smooth record.  Pete was pretty unstoppable back then and he really elevates A.D.O.R.'s game with this one.

The rest of the album has it's ups and downs.  Nothing on the record is flat out bad, but there are definitely songs that aren't going to impress anyone.  Why the album is so front-loaded with average songs is a mystery to me, but if you are patient and have time to go along for the ride, The Concrete has moments worth investing some time in.

A.D.O.R. – The Concrete:

Monday, June 5, 2023

Curious Things - Naif LP


Snappy Little Numbers / Dumb Ghost (2023)

I liked the artwork on this one right away.  It reminded me of digging through 7"s in the 'indie rock' sections of record stores in mid 90s New York City.  Yes, I do recognize that this is an LP and not a 7", but the style of art takes me back to a very specific place in time.  Further complicating things, Curious Things are not from NYC, they're from Denver and they're not really playing indie rock, but rather a pop punk influence strain of power pop.  

Two of the folks in this band and are in Lawsuit Models (Were in? Unsure of Lawsuit Models are past tense now), so that made me pretty confident I would like this as that's a band I have been super into whenever I hear something new by then.  And I think most fans of Lawsuit Models would dig Curious Things.  They don't sound alike, but they come from a similar place with a reverence for hooks and catchy tunes.

Curious Things remind me a little bit of Odd Numbers, but maybe without the mod sensibilities.  The guitar tones are warm and jangly at the same time and pretty much every song is anchored by stellar vocal harmonies.  It's such a bright record and you can almost feel the sunshine beaming off of it.  It's one of the best albums I have heard so far this year and if pop is your bag, this is an album to get in on right away.

Curious Things - Naif:

Friday, June 2, 2023

Steve Adamyk Band - Live Cassette


Big Neck (2023)

While I acknowledge that it has been four years since 2019's Paradise, this stretch of time since the last Steve Adamyk Band album came out feels like an eternity.  Granted, there are some real world events that probably adds to that feeling, but I'l not used to waiting quite so long to hear something new from Steve & co.

For now, I'll settle for this live tape that Big Neck has released.  Now, I'm on record as to not really loving tape only releases, but if you're going to do it, a live album really feels like the way to go.  In a lot of ways it brings me back to my days in the mid 90s trading live bootleg tapes on the internet (so help you if you don't use Maxell XL II as your blank).

This was recorded in various spots, with the biggest chunks being five songs recorded in Philadelphia and another five from Brooklyn.  Then we have a few from Toronta, Japan and WFMU in New Jersey for good measure.  The songs are mostly focused from the band's first three albums and include some of my personal favorite heavy hitters like "Better Off," "Forever Won't Wait" and "Speed It Up."  The recording quality of each song is really solid and really captures the live energy the band has.  This is a really fun release, even though live albums are not usually my thing.  It's worth checking out.

Steve Adamyk Band - Live: