Monday, July 31, 2023

Pharma - See? 7"


Big Neck (2023)

I feel like the 7" is a dying art form.  The cost of getting one pressed these days is so high and the resulting price that you need to sell it for to not lose money seems a bit crazy to me.  I'm not saying that labels are over charging for them in general (though some probably are for sure), but it's just how much they cost now.  As someone that's been buying 7"s since my dad let me buy the "Walk Like An Egyptian" one at Sam Goody as a kid, it's kind of crazy to see $15 7"s becoming the norm.

Now, Big Neck isn't charging $15 for theirs, so kudos to them for that.  And kudos to them for releasing a 7" at all.  So many bands and labels have given up on them completely.  In some ways, Pharma is the perfect band for a 7".  It's five songs long and all but one are under two minutes long.  A throwback to punk rock 7"s of yore.

That said, there were a lot of punk rock 7"s back in the days of yore that I didn't buy because they were kind of like this.  There's lots of yelling over distorted guitar, at times frantically placed and kind of sludgy at others.  It's just not the kind of punk that ever really connected with me, though I have to give the band credit for their ability to make the vocals sound truly otherworldly and insane.  There's a chaotic energy captured that really is above and beyond a lot of bands playing this sort of thing.  Unfortunately, this sort of thing isn't really my speed.

Pharma - See?:

Friday, July 28, 2023

Knapsack - This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now LP - Blue & Yellow Pinwheel Vinyl - From The Complete Discography Box Set (/300)


Spartan (2023, Reissue) 

I recently got my hands on the vinyl box set of all three Knapsack albums. Rather than try to write one really long review that encompasses all of the albums, I figured I would break this into multiple parts like I have with other box sets I've written about. For the next three Friday's we'll visit each of Knapsack's albums. Even though I have the original pressings of each album, the box set was just too cool to pass up. For the final week we'll focus on the third Knapsack album, This Conversation is Ending Starting Right Now as well as the box set as a whole.

This Conversation is Ending Starting Right Now came out right when I was starting out at my college radio station.  When I started college, the campus station was playing a top 40 format and was really seen as a training ground for DJs.  But in my fourth year, that teacher split and a new guy came in and decided to change the format to a more traditional college radio station.  I went over there immediately and became a DJ.  

No one at the station had any real connections and didn't know how to get music sent to them, I had a lot of contacts from my time writing at the college newspaper, so I used them to get records and became the music director of the station in fairly short order.  One of the first people I reached out to was my contact at Alias and one of the first new records he sent was This Conversation is Ending Starting Right Now.  He also hooked me up with a ton of back catalog to help jumpstart a library that didn't exist, so I was grateful for that as well.  Unfortunately, I don't remember the guy's name, but he was a good dude.

I had my copy before Alias sent one to the station, but I'll always link that record to my time there as it was so pivotal.  Having already been a Knapsack fan, I was really excited that a new album war coming out and was expecting it to be good.  I was not expecting to think it was even better than Day Three of my New Life.  But, I thought it was and still think it is.  

Both are insanely stellar records, but something about how well the songs are structured on This Conversation is Ending Starting Right Now takes it over the top.  I hesitate to call the songwriting mature, as there is still a nice amount of that angsty energy that is so important to Knapsack working, but there's definitely growth.  The songs are more complicated, but are never overwrought.  The hooks and choruses shine even brighter than before and for me this is the quintessential Knapsack album, with Day Three a very, very close second.

Now for the box set.  I'm not going to spend multiple paragraphs singing its praises, but hot damn is it beautiful.  The outer box is high quality and has a nice, hefty feel.  The records themselves have good weight and sound great, though I do question some of the colors that were pickled.  I think some of the individual releases had vinyl colors that played better with the album art, the box set ones tend to feel a little wacky to me.  This particular album has a good color to match the art work, but the first two really don't.  And none of them match each other in any sort of cohesive way, so it feels kind of jumbled and disjointed.

It also comes with a large, awesome book that has an oral history of the band with input from all of the key players.  There's even a listing of every show they ever played.  They only did about a dozen more shows after the time I saw them in NYC with Archers of Loaf in 98, until the reunion shows kicked off.

It's an incredible set.  I really couldn't be happier with it aside from the vinyl color weirdness.  It is sold out a few times over at this point as they ended up making more boxes with other versions of the vinyl from other pressings.  Some of those look better than the exclusive version, but I ordered my set right away, so there were no choices to make when I was buying.  At the end of the day, I'm just happy it sounds great and the box and book look awesome.  I wish more sets like this could be made for other bands that I love.

Knapsack - This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now:

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

De La Soul - Stakes Is High 2xLP


Chrysalis / AOI Records (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.

Of the De La Soul records I have written about thus far, Stakes Is High is the one that I really knew nothing about.  While I'm familiar with the phrase 'stakes is high' as part of the vernacular, I never had listened to this record prior to purchasing this reissue.  I wasn't even sure I was going to buy it as it came out in 1996, which is typically a few years removed from any hip hop I've historically cared about.  I've gotten more open minded about hip hop that came out after 1994 in recent years, but I'm still often trepidatious about release post-Golden Era.

Now that I've spent a little time with Stakes Is High, I could make the argument that it's the best De La Soul record.  It doesn't necessarily have the best songs, the highs aren't as high, but as a consistent record, it's pretty aces.  A big help is the fact that it's not bogged down with a bunch of crummy skits, you can actually listen to this as a record without getting interrupted by nonsense that ceases to be even remotely funny after about the third listen.  

On Stakes Is High De La just brings great beats and great rhymes.  No Gimmick.  This was the first album they recorded without Prince Paul helping out with production, but that doesn't hurt the beats at all.  Even though this is a '96 release, the feel is absolutely of the era I always gravitate towards.  I was pretty sure I was only going to buy the first three De La Soul reissues, but I took a chance on this, their fourth, and I'm really glad I did.  Does that mean I should give their next record, Art Official Intelligence a try?  I'm not sure, but I'm considering it.

De La Soul - Stakes Is High:

Monday, July 24, 2023

Chinese Junk - Fly Spray LP - Clear Vinyl


Big Neck (2023)

I wanted Chinese Junk to sound like Chinese Telephones, but that's an unfair expectation to put on a band only based on their name.  Funny enough, they do have some sonic similarities, but the tunefulness of the songs is a separating point between the two bands.

Chinese Junk are playing fast, Ramones-style, downstroke heavy punk rock.  Musically, it's catchy in a similar way to Johnny & co., but it's very much a rougher, lower fidelity version.  All but one of the albums fourteen tracks clock in at under two minutes and that one outlier only breaks the two minute mark by four seconds.  It's maybe a bit trashier than is my usual cup of tea, but there are endearing qualities about a band that just sets up and blasts through a dozen of so songs at warp speed.

The vocals are where things are a little dicier for me, and it's the same observation that I've made a thousand times.  The recording quality of the vocals is just a bit too rough and distorted for me.  Now, I don't like over-produced, slick vocals, but I don't prefer them to be blown out to this extent.  The Marked Men are about as distorted as I can take before they've gone overboard, Chinese Junk is a bit past that.  That said, I really think the record is pretty strong for this style of band.  If the vocals were reigned in a bit more, I could probably get behind it.

Chinese Junk - Fly Spray:

Friday, July 21, 2023

Knapsack - Day Three of My New Life LP - Orange Vinyl - From The Complete Discography Box Set (/300)


Spartan (2023, Reissue) 

I recently got my hands on the vinyl box set of all three Knapsack albums. Rather than try to write one really long review that encompasses all of the albums, I figured I would break this into multiple parts like I have with other box sets I've written about. For the next three Friday's we'll visit each of Knapsack's albums. Even though I have the original pressings of each album, the box set was just too cool to pass up. This week, we're on the second Knapsack album, Day Three of My New Life.

Day Three of My New Life was the first Knapsack record I picked up.  It made an immediate impact on me in 1997 with its angsty, impassioned vocals over those thick, crunchy guitars.  I listened to the album on repeat and even picked up a T shirt with the album art on it from a store, as I didn't see them play when they toured this album.  I traded the shirt away for a 7" and that shirt is way harder to find now than the record is.

Of all the albums in this box set, this is the one I'm most excited about.  It's not because it's my favorite of the bunch, but because the pressing I've always had is the double 10" version that Alias put out.  While it is unique and neat looking, it's always been a pain to actually play, having to flip or change the record three times to get through the whole thing.  Now, I can finally listen to it as a normal LP along with the bonus track "Drop Kick," which was originally on Knapsack split 7" with Stuntman.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Terminator X & The Godfathers Of Threatt – Super Bad 2xLP


Rush / P.R.O. (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 had the first Terminator X album back in the 90s and was quite the fan of it.  While not every song was incredible, it was a solid listen all the way through and the highs were pretty high.  The follow up to that album wasn't released until 1994, and honestly I had no idea it even existed.  1994 was definitely a year where my taste in music was starting to change, as hip hop was also changing.  I guess I wasn't paying as much attention as I thought as this one just slipped by me until I discovered it a few years ago.

It's never been rereleased, so it took me a minute to find a copy in good condition that was also at an affordable price.  That second part was very important because while this is a solid record, it is absolutely not good enough to pay collector prices for.  The highlight of the album is the production.  Terminator and Chuck D crafted a record full of interesting samples and beats and there's a consistency there that I wish carried over to the vocals.

There are moments of lyrical excellence.  Chuck D, Ice Cube, Ice T and MC Lyte all contribute to "Sticka," a fiery anti-censorship screed over a laid back beat.  There are also a lot of appearances by those considered old school at the time like Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Cold Crush Brothers and Fantastic Five.  These appearances are kind of uneven and for me, only Whodini's run on "It All Comes Down To Money" really sounds like something from 1994.  And even that song is almost ruined by the nonstop repetition of the sung hook.

All in, it's a fun record and one I'll definitely listen to on occasion.  But if you only have room for one Terminator X record in your collection, go with Jeep Beats.

Terminator X & The Godfathers Of Threatt – Super Bad:

Monday, July 17, 2023

The Mr. T Experience - Road to Ruin LP - Yellow Vinyl (/300)



Sounds Rad (2023, Reissue)

I'm a much bigger fan of The Mr. T Experience than I am of the Ramones.  I know the Ramones' hits and they range from 'fine' to 'pretty great,' but they aren't a band that I ever connected with and I think part of that is just because of my age.  They were an older band and I was more focused on what was going on around me during my formative years than I was about what was going on in the past.  And on top of that, they weren't old enough for my parents to care about them, so I didn't hear them growing up like I did The Beatles, Electric Light Orchestra, Tom Petty and that sort of thing.  The Ramones were just in that sweet spot where they were somewhat invisible to me.

The Mr. T Experience, on the other hand, was front and center in my life, particularly in 1998 when I was twenty-one and the original version of this album was released.  Clearview Records was doing a gimmick where they were having bands cover entire Ramones albums and when Road To Ruin was up, The Mr. T Experience stepped to the plate.  I have the original version of this from when it first came out.  It had a felt cover and was on split color vinyl.  I remember being psyched that I had gotten my hands on the limited, fancy-pants version, though I don't actually remember listening to it very much.

Now that I have this newly re-released and revitalized version, I'm still not sure it's going to be an album that I revisit with a ton of frequency.  It is better than I remember it being and I think a lot of that is because of how they spruced up the way everything sounds.  It's much fuller where it needs to be and brighter in the other spots.  MTX does a perfectly serviceable job on these songs, though I can't pretend to be super familiar with several of the originals.  "I Wanna Be Sedated" is still a lot of fun, no matter what band is playing it.

It's a little perplexing to me why this album was prioritized so high on the list in the Sounds Rad reissue series.  It certainly should be reissued, of course, but if you were to ask me, there are other albums I would have put in line before it.  Regardless, it's important to own and I'm happy to still be getting the 'dibs' versions of these albums.  I am eagerly awaiting the earlier Mr. T Experience albums, in particular, and am hopeful that Making Things With Light is coming very soon.

The Mr. T Experience - Road to Ruin:

Friday, July 14, 2023

Knapsack - Silver Sweepstakes LP - Clear w/ Multicolor Splatter - From The Complete Discography Box Set (/300)


Spartan (2023, Reissue)

I recently got my hands on the vinyl box set of all three Knapsack albums.  Rather than try to write one really long review that encompasses all of the albums, I figured I would break this into multiple parts like I have with other box sets I've written about.  For the next three Friday's we'll visit each of Knapsack's albums.  Even though I have the original pressings of each album, the box set was just too cool to pass up.  This week, we're starting with their debut, Silver Sweepstakes.

While this was the first Knapsack record that was released back in 1995, it was not the first album of theirs that I heard.  I started off with their second album, Day Three of My New Life.  I had to backtrack and get this album.  It was also the last album of theirs that I picked up on vinyl, having only added it to the collection about ten years ago or so.  I did have the CD for ages, having picked it up in the late 90s.

Of the three, it is the Knapsack album that I listen to the least.  That's not to say it's 'the worst' record or bad in any way, it's just that the band improved so mightily over their next two albums that they kind of left this one in the dust.  All of the necessary components for Knapsack fun are here.  The crunch guitar riffs, impassioned vocals and general feelings of angst are all exactly what I want from a Knapsack album, but the band managed to pull them off even better on the next two releases.

The reissue that is part of this is an exclusive colorway that only came with the first 300 copies of the box set.  When they sold out, the label did through together a little over a hundred more with some vinyl variants that were also available separately.  It sounds great and they have also added the song "Don't Mind," originally the B side of the Trainwrecker 7".  I'll write a bit more about the box itself when we get to the last album, but know that the box is pretty crazy with a big old book full of Knapsack information.  A very nice set and really makes rebuying these albums again worth it.

Knapsack - Silver Sweepstakes:


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Chubb Rock – I Gotta Get Mine Yo! LP


Select (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.

Chubb Rock was a name I was very familiar with in the early 90s, but I never had any of his records.  I'm not exactly sure why, but I don't remember seeing him too much on Yo! MTV Raps.  I'm pretty sure most of my memories of him came from reading the source.  This album, 1992's I Gotta Get Mine Yo, is the one I remember seeing, but this was Chubb Rock's fourth album by that point.  Over the last few years, Chubb Rock was one of those rappers that I took another look at, having missed their heyday.  And I was recently able to pick up a sealed copy of this album for a very nice price on Discogs.

As a whole, it's a really strong record.  When the Chubbster has a strong boom bap beat, he's as good as anyone from the '92 era.  And the majority of the album provides him that opportunity.  Where the album falters for me is when Chubb goes against that formula.  Be it the slow jams with R&B background crooning like "The Hatred" or "My Brother," or when there's a little bit of reggae flavor added on tracks like "The Funky" or "I'm Too Much."  That's only four of sixteen tracks on the LP though, so you're still getting twelve great cuts.  

After a pretty prolific career in the late 80s and early 90s, Chubb Rock pretty much vanished after this album for the remainder of the golden era.  I'd be curious to hear what he could have come up with as hip hop was really starting to peak in '93 and '94, but it wasn't to me.  He has another album that he put out in 1998, but I haven't listened to that.  Right now, my focus is on finding an affordable copy of his 1991 album, The One.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Navel - Rainfall Flexi 7"


Hello From The Gutter (2022)

Navel is a band that I have been listening to for quite some time.  There were part of the initial wave of Japanese punk rock that I got into via split 7"s on the Snuffy Smile label.  I originally bought these splits for the likes of Broccoli, Chopper, Skimmer and Hooton 3 Car, but I walked away being fans of bands like International Jet Set, Blew, Lovemen and Navel.  Navel initially appeared on split 7"s with Travis Cut and Skimmer/. Eventually they started releasing some full length albums and I've been chasing their records ever since.

This 7", so the liner notes on a couple of websites say, was originally going to be part of a 7" released in 2000 on an American label.  I'm pretty sure I know what label that is, as I think they were going to try to put out a Chester Copperpot 7" as well, but I'll not name them right now.  It's coming out all of these years later as a flexi that was originally sold at a show they played, with the leftovers making their way out into the world.  I got my copy from Servo from Bloated Kat records, so many cheers to him for helping me out.

Both of the songs did end up on Navel full lengths, though these are early versions and different recordings.  "Rainfall" is the first track and also was on their album Heartache.  It's a midtempo song, perfectly capturing Navel's ability to write a catchy song, even when drifting into territory that some might say feels a little melancholy.  It's not too dissimilar from the album version, though to me the backing vocal harmonies are a little more pronounced on the 7".  

The second song is a quick, hardcore blast called "Bystander."  It ended up as the closing track on Navel's second album, Depend.  Super fast, shouty punk rock has never really been my thing, but it never bothers me when a pop punk band throws something like this on one of their albums.  Snuff does it all the time.  Mostly, for me, this album is another great Navel 7" for my collection.  I dig the artwork and am happy to add it to the pile of great records this amazing band as released.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Spells - Loose Change, Vol. 2 - Red w/ Black Smoke Vinyl (/300)


Snappy Little Numbers / Motorcycle Potluck Records / Big Neck Records / Keep It A Secret Records / Shield Recordings (2023)

It's been about ten years since I first discovered Spells when I picked up one of their 7"s on a lark while buying an LP by Hooper.  In those intervening years, Spells have unleashed a torrent of releases.  A couple of full lengths, yeah - but their bread and butter, to me, feels like singles and one offs.  Loose Change, Vol.2 compiles eighteen songs that had previously been available on singles, splits, comps and some that were digital only.  That's a lot of songs, and I'd like to point out that this is the second volume of Loose Change.  Vol. 1 just came out in 2018.

For a band as prolific as Spells, there's sort of a little trepidation.  Is a band releasing this much material just recording every idea, noise and fart that they can think of?  Which is why it is always so surprising to me how high the quality of all of their songs are.  Everything on this LP is really great.  There a a few really short songs, but there are no throwaways on this edition of Loose Change.

I always compare Spells to having a similar vibe to Rocket From The Crypt.  That's not to say they sound alike, because they don't most of the time.  But, they are a band that exudes that same sort of infectious energy and every time the next song fires up, it's a party.  I'm always psyched when a new Spells record is released, and even though I've heard some of these songs before, having everything put on a single LP just makes my life so much easier.  It's a blast to be able to throw this LP on, sit back and join the Spells party.  And yes, I see that Zoinks! sticker on the cover.

Spells - Loose Change, Vol. 2:

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Freestyle Fellowship - Innercity Griots 2xLP


Be With (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 wrote about the reissue of the first Freestyle Fellowship album a few months ago and while I liked it, I wasn't blown away.  Some of that certainly stems from it not being a record that I heard in context when it actually came out.  I think I can probably say something similar about their follow-up, 1993's Innercity Griots.

Right off the bat, I can say that I think this album is a little be stronger in the production department.  The beats feel fuller with a lot more low end.  I'm not sure that it means the album is better than the group's debut, but it definitely lands in that golden era 1993 style sweet spot for me.  It's the lyrics that might be something of a step backwards for me.

I had mentioned on their debut that sometimes it sounded like the lyrics were complex just for the sake of complexity.  That's the case here a bit as well, but I'd take it a step further and say that a lot of the lyrics and rhyme structures seem weird just for the sake of being weird.  The flows go offbeat, the internal rhyme schemes layer on top of each other and the vocal deliveries can just be kind of odd at times.  

It probably sounds like I don't like the record, but that's not true.  It is good, but when I listen to it I tend to feel like it could have been even better if they just calmed down with the wacky a little bit.  As Del famously said, "If he go off beat and it's on purpose/he gotta come back on beat or the effort is worthless."

Monday, July 3, 2023

Rick Froberg - 1968 - 2023

I'm sure it goes without saying, but trying to write about someone whose art has affected you is very difficult at times.  When that person passes and you want to sum up what they meant to you in a few paragraphs, that task is even more daunting.  Within the past few years I've tried to let the world know what artists like Sam Jayne from Lync and O from fluf have meant to me.  I'm not sure I was successful, but it was important to me to try.  With the news this weekend that the world has lost Rick Froberg, I'm really struggling with how to explain just how important his music and art have been in my life.  Needless to say, he has had an outsized impact on me.

My initial introduction to Rick was the first Drive Like Jehu album.  No, I wasn't ahead of the curve and a fan of the band from their earliest beginnings or anything like that.  I just happened to buy their debut album first.  I was a pretty huge fan of Rocket From The Crypt and by 1995 or so I was really starting to dig in and hunt for anything of theirs I could find.  I had heard that John Reis was also in another band called Drive Like Jehu, but he didn't sing in it.  As this was the mid 90s, there really wasn't an easy way for me to check out this band to see if I would like it.  You kind of just had to commit to buying something.

What I ended up doing was something of a scheme to try to minimize my financial risk.  There was a record store in Montclair, NJ called Let It Rock.  It may not have been the best store in the area, but it was another one to check out.  They did the old 90s gimmick of opening all of the CD cases, leaving the cases on display and putting the CDs themselves behind the counter, to help deter theft.  They had the first Drive Like Jehu CD there.  My friend Joe had a birthday coming up and my master plan was to buy the Jehu CD and listen to it since the CD was already unsealed.  If I didn't like it, I could just give it to Joe and no harm, no foul since Joe knew that's how Let It Rock rolled.

I listened to that CD and I did enjoy it.  It didn't change my life at that exact moment or anything, but I definitely liked it. I don't actually remember if I ended up keeping that exact CD or if I gave that one to Joe and bought my own copy anyway.  I think I kept the one from Let It Rock, but some of these memories are lost to the sands of time.  Regardless, I did become a Drive Like Jehu fan in that moment.  Fast forward a few weeks or months later and I saw the second Drive Like Jehu album at my usual record store, Flipside in Pompton Lakes.  I picked it up having enjoyed the first one.

I was absolutely, completely unprepared for Yank Crime.  The opening, rolling bass line of "Here Comes the Rome Plows" started and the moment that the chaotic ferocity of the rest of the band kicked in, I knew something in my life had changed.  I had never heard anything like this before.  The jagged, screeching guitar riffs swirled around a propulsive and driving rhythm section.  And then there was that voice.  Rick sounded like he was trying to claw his way out of some type of confinement using only his voice.  As if the sheer power of his vocals could knock down any door or wall impeding him.  I liked what I heard from Rick on Jehu's self titled album, but this was a revelation.

What hit me more than anything else was how the intensity of his vocals varied based on the needs of the song.  He showed a surprising amount of vulnerability and in the next breath eviscerated what stood before him.  Combine that with the absolutely magical connection he had with John and it's no wonder that to this day Yank Crime is one of my favorite all time albums.  Top five of forever, desert island whatever.  No matter the gimmick you want to use to categorize it, Yank Crime is as important to me as just about any other record I can think of.

We're in 1995.  Jehu was essentially done at that point, so the years went by with no new music and no shows that I could see.  They were a band frozen in amber, one that I just barely missed but had such a monumental influence on how I felt about music.  This brings us to the year 2000 and the rise of Hot Snakes.

I don't remember the first time I heard about Hot Snakes, but there's pretty much no way that it wasn't on the old Rocket From The Crypt message board.  That thing was where I've met so many people that are important to me to this very day.  At the time, it was the number one news source for Rocket related information.  When word got out that John and Rick were making music again, it is hard to explain just how excited I was to hear it.  When Automatic Midnight was released, my jaw hit the floor.

This wasn't Drive Like Jehu, this was something different.  Tighter, with more economical songs.  Hooks and passion and everything you want rolled up into one perfect, Wipers influenced band.  Yes, you could hear echoes of Jehu.  You could also hear bits of Rocket and Pitchfork, there was something special happening with this band, the sum of its parts reflecting all of the member's past triumphs.  It was magic again.

I saw Hot Snakes twice on their very first set of East Coast tour dates in 2000, which I think were among the first handful of shows they ever played.  I saw them at Maxwell's in Hoboken and also at Mercury Lounge the next night in NYC.  I don't remember how I got in to the Mercury Lounge show as myself and my friend Justin were left standing outside of a sold out show in December.  Justin was trying to convince me to try to use my Rocket tattoo as some sort of leverage to get us into the show, but that wasn't something I was comfortable doing, nor is there any reason it would have worked anyway.  I think ultimately we ended up being able to buy tickets from someone with extras on the sidewalk.  I'm just glad we were able to get in.

Those shows were amazing, they played the entire first album and one extra song, which I think remained unreleased, though I don't actually remember what that extra song was anymore.  The biggest part of the experience was that I finally got to see Rick in person.  When the band was playing, he was as I imagined, commanding the performance and just being the center of the maelstrom whipping around him.  He didn't have the natural banter or innate on-stage charisma that John has, but he had a presence and a gravitas that let you know he was the anchor and emotional center of what the band was presenting to the world.

I saw Hot Snakes countless times whenever they played the East Coast.  At least twenty times and I have so many memories from the various shows.  I remember when they played Bowery Ballroom and broke out the Drive Like Jehu song "Luau."  I was so blown away that I broke my watch jumping around like a maniac.  

It was Hot Snakes being a group that I first connected with John on a level other than just being a dude at all of the shows.  I worked at a radio promotion company called AAM and got in touch with John through a contact I had at Vagrant records.  When the second Hot Snakes record, Suicide Invoice, came out, I knew I had to help out and I ended up being able to.  We worked something out and I got to send out copies of the album to college radio stations all across the country.  This was the first Swami release we got to be involved with and it opened the door to help out with every single record until I eventually left the music industry in 2007.

That meant I got to promote Yank Crime to college radio when it was rereleased in 2002.  Talk about a dream come true.  It's funny looking back on it now.  Yank Crime felt like a record from another generation, even though it was only eight years old at that point.  Compare that to how long ago those first few Hot Snakes records came out in relation to 2023 and it sure feels like time warps the older you get.

I don't have too many personal stories about interacting with Rick.  I've always known John better.  But I have two that stand out during my time at AAM.  The first is that he designed a logo for us that we used as part of a CMJ party we had.  Someone in my office wanted a design with a wolf it and I got in touch with Rick to ask if he could make us something that said AAM and had a wolf on it. He did.  I don't even really know why as he didn't charge us anything.  

He came up with a boy scouts inspired logo that we used for flyers, put on pins and even had a couple of sweatshirts made up with it on.  My sweatshirt is up in my attic somewhere, so that's why I'm not putting in a picture of it now.  I also cannot find the actual files of the logo and was only able to find a really pixelated version using the Internet Wayback machine.  But I do have these two pins that we had made using the wolf logo.

The other story I have about Rick from my AAM days was at the Knitting Factory in 2004.  Audit In Progress had just come out and we had sent it out to radio.  I came to the show early with a bunch of album artwork posters.  The goal was to have the band sign them and personalize some for some of the college radio stations that were being particularly supportive.  This sort of promo work isn't really fun, but it means a lot to the college kids that make college radio work.  

John was writing lots of funny messages to stations, Mario and Gar were also getting in on it a bit, but Rick was different.  I'm not going to say he was annoyed or bothered by the process, in fact he was very nice and generous with his time, but when he was signing stuff he was doing so in the most exaggerated and funny way I've ever seen.  You couldn't possibly ever tell it was his signature, just making the broadest, wildest pen strokes.  The resulting signed items were absolutely unique and I'm really happy I hung on to one, even though it's been in a poster tube for almost twenty years now.

Hot Snakes would eventually called it a day (for now) and stopped playing in 2005.  A few years later, Rick resurfaced with Obits.  Obits had a lot of the styles and sounds that I expected from Rick, but filtered through a band that was not as loud and aggressive as Hot Snakes or Jehu.  These songs were a little more open, they were textural and dynamic.  It was interesting hearing Rick without John, but the ending result was three more albums (four if you count the singles comp) full of classic Froberg brilliance.  I saw Obits several times during their run.  

The shows that jump out the most to me are both shows they played with Night Marchers (John's band at the time).  The first was at Santos Party House in December of 2008.  I had never been to that venue before and have never been since, but that was one of the louder shows I have ever been to.  Both bands just killed it.  The other show was a secret show in Brooklyn somewhere at this tiny little bar whose name I do not remember.  It was the night after Night Marchers played Siren Fest in 2010.  Carlos from The PeeChees gave me the heads up that it was happening and it was a wonderful, intimate show surrounded by friends.

Hot Snakes came back in the early 2010s playing sporadic shows at festivals and some familiar haunts on mini tours.  It was great seeing them again, but I wasn't at all prepared for the mother of all reunions when Drive Like Jehu started to play again.  It began with a show at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in San Diego.  I just couldn't get out there from a money standpoint and was heartbroken to miss it.  I did watch it live on the organ's web stream and have vivid memories of sitting in my apartment at the time, hugely inspired and hugely bummed out all at the same time.

Luckily additional shows followed and I made my way out to Chicago for a one-two punch of the band playing at Riot Fest and also a club show the night before.  That club show in 2015 at the Bottom Lounge is one of the greatest shows I have ever been to.  Surrounded by Swami friends from over the years, it was a night over 20 years in the making.  

They played amazing and I left the show just floored.  Rick was unbelievable, just moving the crowd with his guitar work and unbelievable vocals.  The Riot Fest performance the next day was equally great, but lost a little something in the festival atmosphere versus the far superior club experience.  

The only other time I got to see Drive Like Jehu was the next year at Irving Plaza in NYC.  I don't know why I didn't go to the Brooklyn show on that same tour, I assume because it was in Brooklyn, which can be a giant pain in the ass to get to from NJ.  I can't say this particular show was as otherworldly as the others.  Rick didn't seem to be in good voice that night and the show suffered a bit as a result.  I mostly bring it up as it was such a bizarre outlier.  I've seen Rick play dozens of times, and this is the only time ever that something was off.  But even with that, it was an incredible experience and was the only time I got to see Jehu with my wife, so it is a night I will always treasure,

I was able to see Rick was with Hot Snakes in Jersey City in 2019.  They were coming off of their incredible 2018 album, Jericho Sirens.  An album that seems impossible to have been made fourteen years after their previous record as it sounded every bit as vital and ferocious as the three that came before.  As usual, the show was amazing and you could just feel what a special band they were.  In particular it was very evident what a special connection Rick had with John.

That Jersey City show was the last time I would see Hot Snakes and Rick.  I certainly had no idea that would be the case at the time.  Hot Snakes didn't play any shows after early 2020 that I'm aware of.  It's hard not to feel like everyone was robbed of more time with a great band.  A few weeks ago, Rick had posted online that the next Hot Snakes album was nearly done.  I don't know if we'll hear it, I don't know how much of it was completed.  I know that I hope to hear it someday, but if I do, it seems inconceivable to me that I'll never hear those songs live.  Or any of the Hot Snakes songs live. Or Jehu.

It is completely unbelievable to me that I won't see Rick again, standing on his side of the stage.  Generally inconspicuous and good natured.  Just a guy standing there.  Until the music started.  Then he became a force of nature that moved me in a way that few musicians have ever moved me.  Nothing I have already mentioned even touches on his incredible work as an artist.  I could say so much about the imagery he used on album art, T shirts, zine ads and proper gallery style artwork.  His visuals cut through the bullshit and showed the same type of raw emotion that his music and lyrics did.  But it also showcased his sense of humor and ability to engage in commerce while poking fun at it.  

I didn't know Rick personally to the point where I can comment on him too much as a person.  Though everything I have ever heard or read about him makes it seem like he was a really grounded guy with a wry sense of humor.  That shows in his art.

Rick Froberg is one of the most important musicians that has existed in my life.  Despite blathering on for far too many paragraphs, I don't feel like I've really explained just how important he has been to me.  I can rattle off and describe experiences I had over the years, but I can't really describe how his music has made me feel.  It is cathartic and hopeful, messy and meticulous, beautiful and ugly.  But more than anything, to me it has been inspiring.  I am so grateful I have had his music and art in my life for nearly thirty years.  It is so tragic that he isn't with us any longer, but the world he created will be with me forever.