Monday, April 29, 2024

Moron's Morons - Go Pop! 7" - Orange Vinyl (/300)


Big Neck (2023)

There's something about the bold colors and the vaguely 60s retro aesthetic that made me pretty sure I was going to like this 7".  There's a lot that can be said about book/cover judgments, and a lot of those judgments can be wrong, but I think there's often a success rate that isn't discussed that much.  Can I tell that a record is good by looking at it?  No, but I can usually make an educated guess that's probably right more often than it's wrong.  And if it's wrong, I tend to find it's because the record is better than the cover suggests, not the other way around.

I'll say right of the bat that Poland's Moron's Morons do not have my favorite vocals in the world.  There's a bit of blown out moicrophone fuzz on them and they definitely lean towards a gararge-y snarl.  But they work in the context of the songs and the songs are quite good.  

I would never say these are straight up pop songs, but there's enough pop sensibilities to their stripped down rock and roll sound that they do hold my attention.  Maybe the hooks aren't the biggest, but there is an inherent catchiness to the guitar riffing that goes a long way with me.  If you like the poppier moments of the 90s Estrus catalog, there's probably a pretty good chance you'll be able to get down with Morno's Morons as well.

Moron's Morons - Go Pop! 7":

Friday, April 26, 2024

China Drum - XXX LP - White with Black Splatter Vinyl


Mad Butcher (2024)

I haven't really had a chance to write very much about China Drum on this site, despite them being one of my very favorite bands.  That's largely because the records I have of theirs have been in my collection for quite some time, aside from some CD singles I acquired when a buddy was purging many of his CDs a few years ago.  But the vinyl has been on my shelves for ages.

For the (sort of) thirtieth anniversary of three and a half releases, XXX captures tracks from China Drum's earliest output.  There's the Simple CD single, originally self released and then later reissued by Bitzcore.  And then we have the Great Fire 10"/CD EP and the Barrier 10"/CD EP, both originally put out on Fluffy Bunny.  As a bonus we have their cover of "Wuthering Heights" from the China Drum / Flying Medallions split 7".

These are some of the greatest China Drum songs that lead up to their first LP Goosefair.  There's an energy and a songcraft present on these songs that is really in the upper echelon of melodic punk rock.  The only thing I will say that's even remotely unflattering about this release is that when you play the three songs from the Simple EP right next to the rest of these, it's super apparent that the fidelity of those songs is kind of sub par.  Not the songs themselves, but the recording quality is noticeably worse than the rest.  But that can't be surprising when you're talking about some self released tunes from 1993.

It's really great to have all of these songs on one LP.  In addition to getting all of the Simple songs together on vinyl finally, it's a treat to be able to listen to all of these back to back and only having to flip one record once instead of flipping four records six times (I think that math checks out if you count a record switch out as a flip).  There is at lease another LP worth of songs from the singles and B sides that came out during the Goosefair era.  I would absolutely love it if there was a way to compile all of those onto a handy LP next, but those are all from their days on Mantra and I wonder if getting the rights to those are more complicated.

China Drum - XXX

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Ugly Duckling - Journey to Anywhere 2xLP


XL / 1500 (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 thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

When this album came out in that futuristic year 2000, I probably couldn't have been less interested in hip hop.  It had been years since anything came out that I liked and I had just about stopped looking by that point.  I didn't pay any attention to the indie rap boom of the late 90s, and I still think it's a little over celebrated if I'm being honest.  To me, very little released then holds up to the Golden Era classics I grew up with.

So I was very surprised when I was interning at the music promotion company and someone threw this album on.  I was immediately struck by the production and beats.  Hey, this sounds like the hip hop that I like.  The stuff from when I was a kid.  Which was only six years ago at that point, but it feels like a lifetime when you're only 23.  Ugly Duckling was maybe the first group since the Golden Era than made me sit up, take notice and think that maybe there was still hip hop out there that I could like.

In those years, I have listened to this album a ton.  In additional to the incredible, classic production throughout the album, the lyrics are just so much fun.  There's no fake posturing or overblown stories.  What you have hear are a bunch of self deprecating, hip hop heads that wanted to make an album that sounded like what they grew up on.  Maybe Pharcyde is a decent jumping off point if you want to compare their lyrics to someone else, but the production is a lot more bass heavy, upbeat and bouncier.

It took forever to find this on vinyl at a good price.  My CD copy has seen a lot of spins over the past 24 years, I'm glad it can have a break not that I can finally put this one on the turntable.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Swami and the Bed of Nails - How Are You Peeling? 7"


Swami (2024)

Following up on Monday's Shock and Awe 7", this one is the one that is being sold exclusively at Swami and the Bed of Nails shows.  I picked it up last week when I saw the band play in Philadelphia at a venue that I have never been to before, but one that was in a part of town where it seems to have car shaped statues lining their streets that don't move or offer any opportunities to park a car that you happen to be driving.  We found a spot eventually, got to see a great show and pick up this record.

Like the  Shock and Awe 7", the A side on this one, "How Are You Peeling?," is slated to be part of the upcoming Bed of Nails full length.  This song has some big, Swami style riffage to it and, to me, sounds very familiar in a Night Marchers sort of way.  If there was a third Night Marchers record, I wouldn't have a hard time seeing this song slide into that track list.

The B side on this 7" is exclusive to this release and won't be on the full length.  It's called "Honesty" and while it also gives me some Night Marchers vibes, it's a very different beast than "How Are You Peeling?"  "Honesty" feels a bit more epic, with piano being a big part of the overall song structure.  There are guitar chords that ring out and a catchy, chorus that certainly lends it self to a bit of singing along.  It kind of makes me think of the song "Panthers in Crime" a little bit, but only because it has a slightly similar feel.  It doesn't sound like that song at all and it's not as slow, tempo-wise, but there's something about it that makes me feel like the two songs are kindred spirits to an extent.

Two great songs, four if you count the other 7", that are making me very anxious to hear this new Bed of Nails record.  I'm hopeful that 2024 will feature a deluge of Swami related material as I'm also eagerly awaiting the second Plosivs record that had been discussed a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf – Circa 1990-1993 4xLP Box Set


Stones Throw Records (2014)

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

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf were a duo that was active in the early 90s.  They were briefly signed to Hollywood Basic, but left the label before anything other than a split promo tape with Lifers Group was released.  While plotting their next steps, Charizma was tragically killed in a mugging.  Eventually Peanut Butter Wolf went on to found the indie record label, Stones Throw.  It was through Stones Throw records that I first came across Charizma in the early 2000s.

When I worked in radio promo back then, I would often trade CDs with other radio promoters that worked for other companies.  One of those places I traded CDs with did the bulk of promotion for labels like Stones Throw and Def Jux.  In one of these trades in 2003 I received the Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf album Big Shots.  I didn't really know anything about its history or that it was a record recorded in the 90s, but I remember liking it enough to keep instead of selling it to the local used CD laundering store, but I also never listened to it much.  Eventually I ended up selling it as part of a purge.

It wasn't until many years later that I learned more about the history of Charizma, what had happened and when those songs were recorded that I gave them another chance.  Really paying attention to the songs and not just having it be background noise made me sit up and take notice.  At the exact moment I got back into them a few years ago, the LP had been out of print for a little bit.  I also found out that this 40 song box set had been released in 2014 and checked out some of those songs.  That's when I decided this box set was the thing to pick up.  It took a while to find a copy at a good price, but I did finally track one down.

All of the songs from the Big Shots album are also included in this box set with the one major difference being that the version of "Gatha Round" on the box set is an earlier, demo version.  Aside from that, all of those songs are on this set, so this is the one that ended up in the collection.  It's really great and I'm now realizing that I've already written quite a bit here without mentioning the music much.

These tracks are classic golden era tunes with Native Tongue-esque, east coast style production mixed in with west coast style MCing, that had way more in common with Pharcyde or Souls of Mischief than Dr. Dre or G Funk style west coast gangsta rapping.  Is every one of these 40 songs perfect?  No, there's some tracks that are obviously sketches and maybe early or unfinished versions of songs, but it's still a super enjoyable listen and there's some real gold sprinkled throughout the set.

While Big Shots is an easier and slightly more cohesive listen than trying to digest 40 songs in one shot, there's so much good stuff here that's not on the album.  Right now it seems that both that album and this box set are out of print.  For reasons I cannot really understand, both are now going for nearly the same price on Discogs or other secondary markets, mostly because the price of Big Shots has increased quite a bit lately.  If it's me, I would advise plunking down a bit more money for the version with 40 songs over the one with 15. 

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf – Circa 1990-1993:

Monday, April 15, 2024

Swami and the Bed of Nails - Shock and Awe 7"


Swami (2024)

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Swami and the Bed of Nails for the first time.  Made up of John Reis of every great band that has existed fame and other luminaries, they ripped through a set of songs from the last Swami John Reis album, new tunes from a forthcoming Swami and the Bed of Nails album, a Sultans song and a Night Marchers song for good measure,  They also were selling a tour only 7", but that's not this one.

This 7" went for sale on the Swami Records website a few weeks ago.  It sold out pretty quick and is the first official salvo from the Bed of Nails moniker.  The A side, "Shock and Awe," is billed as being from the upcoming full length.  It's a piano heavy rocker with an acoustic guitar foundation and a big, shout along chorus.  It wouldn't have been out of place on the last Swami LP, but also feels like it takes the musicianship up a notch.

The B side, "I Don't Hate Everything," is said to be exclusive to this fine 7".  It's more of straight up rocker and is built off a riff that has a lot in common with "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones.  For me, everything John touches tends to be gold.  I like some of his bands more than others, if I'm raking them, but in general I like everything.  Hell, I just preordered a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes record because hes on it and that's not something I was ever expecting to do.  Point is, Swami and the Bed of Nails is just another in a fine line of bands that I can always get down with.  They were great live, and I dig this 7" a lot too.  

I'll post a bit about the tour only 7" on Friday.

Friday, April 12, 2024

The Shirks - Talk to Action: Singles and Unreleased 2008​-​2013 LP - Blue Vinyl


Big Neck (2023)

This is one that lingered in the pile to write about longer than I would have liked it to, but until I'm able to sell this website to a conglomerate and cash out, I'm going to fall behind sometimes while trying to balance other things.  The Shirks didn't deserve to linger for so long as this is pretty fun record full of fast paced punk rock.

These songs could have easily broken the wrong way for me.  There's a fine line between playing fast and energetic and playing dumb, meathead punk.  Luckily The Shirks are on the right side of that line for me.  They remind me a lot of some of the poppier bands that Ptrash Records used to release.  

There's definitely a snotty, sneer to these songs, but they're catchy in a way that's probably in a somewhat similar wheelhouse to The Marked Men.  There aren't any choruses or hooks quite as obvious as the boys from Denton, but there's a similar vibe that I'm latching on to.

The Shirks - Talk to Action: Singles and Unreleased 2008​-​2013:

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Rakim - The 18th Letter 2xLP - Grape Vinyl


Motown (2023, Reissue)

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

I figured that the best follow up to the Eric B & Rakim box set would be to write a little bit about Rakim's recently rereleased solo debut, The 18th Letter.  This album came out in 1997, five years after Don't Sweat The Technique.  I'm not particularly well versed in why Eric B & Rakim split up or why Rakim took so long to come back with another record, but it always struck me as off that he vanished off the face of the earth when hip hop production was at its apex in 93 and 94 (at least in my opinion).

Production in 1997 wasn't anything I was particularly interest in, if I'm being honest.  By that time, the sounds that were most pleasing to my ears were no longer in style and had been replaced by flimsy beats or cheesy samples.  It's why I had moved on to other things by that time.  However, listening to The 18th Letter, I'm reminded once again that there were exceptions to this that I had unfairly ignored back then.

Now I'm not saying the production on The 18th Letter is great, it's not.  It doesn't hold a candle to any of the Eric B & Rakim albums or most records released from 88-94.  But, in comparison to what was par for the course in 1997, it's significantly better than the bulk of releases coming out at that time.  The beats are fine and the samples are OK.  There's nothing blow away, but nothing is bad either.

Lyrically, Rakim is pretty much in a steady state.  Maybe on cruise control a bit.  Every track is strong, spinning stories with fairly intricate rhyme structures.  Nothing on here sounds as groundbreaking as his early work, but he kind of already broke that ground and had established his template at that point.  All in all, this is a good record, even if the artwork might have you wondering what was going on.  It's miles better than most of what came out in the world of hip hop after 1994, but never quite reaching the heights of Rakim's classic run of albums with Eric B. 

Rakim - The 18th Letter:

Friday, April 5, 2024

the 'tone - Wide Eyes and Nonsense LP


Broken Rekids (1999)

It's a little wild that this record is finally getting into my collection in the year 2024, which for the math majors out there is a staggering 25 years after it was released.  The reasons it took so long are pretty simple.  I had all of the 7"s that make up this compilation of 'tone songs and I also have the CD version of this comp.  Problem is that I don't really listen to my 7"s all that much (this is mostly due to storage issues, so if anyone is in NJ and wants to help build a bunch of drawers for/with me, please let me know) and I also don't play my CDs all that often, to be honest.  So it seemed like I needed to finally get this on LP for maximum stereo enjoyment.

These songs are all so much fun on this record, with the band taking nods from The Jam, The Clash and The Specials in songs across the album.  It's almost all upbeat and fast paced with just a hint of ska energy bleeding in every so often.  The lyrics are great and the guitar riffs are top notch.  If you can listen to album opener "This is a High" and not smile and bob your head, you very well may just be dead inside.

It's tough to describe just how enjoyable it is to listen to this record.  I don't see how it couldn't lift your spirits while it's playing and that is a mark of a well written record to me.  Does anything on here reinvent the wheel?  Nope, and if it tried to it wouldn't be anywhere near as great as it is.

the 'tone - Wide Eyes and Nonsense:

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Eric B. & Rakim – The Remixes 1987 - 1992 2xCD - (From The Complete Collection 1986-1992 Box Set)


Geffen / 4th & Broadway / UNI / MCA (2018, Reissue)

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

For the next few Ed Lover Wednesdays, I'm going to go through each of the records in this Eric B & Rakim box set.  I only had the album Don't Sweat The Technique in my vinyl collection when I decided I needed to get the others.  When I started poking around, it just made more sense to buy this box set as opposed to the other records individually.

When I was originally looking at this box set, I was happy that it included all of the remixes and B-sides from the myriad of 12"s Eric B. & Rakim put out during their run.  But I was also annoyed that they were on CD and not vinyl like the rest of the albums.  Having listened to these CDs a few times, I'm actually fine that they are on CD.

Two main reasons for this.  One, I don't really like most of the remixes.  Some are pretty good, and the later ones are more interesting than most of the earlier ones, but in general I prefer the album versions of pretty much all of these songs.  The second reason is because these songs are all so long - six, seven, even eight minute long remixes.  It would have taken many LPs to fit all of this and I just can't see myself sitting down in front of my turntable for that length of time and flipping through the number of records it would take.  Having them of CD is fine.  I can pick out the ones I like and listen to them and they packaged them in a way that fits in nicely with the rest of the box set. 

The set as a whole is great.  The accompanying book is gigantic and full of incredible pictures from ever era of Eric B. & Rakim.  The box itself is nice and sturdy and also looks the business for sure.  My one gripe is that they did the thing where the spine of the box itself is printed in a way where you have to flip the set upside down if you want to display it on your shelf, rather than display the open side with the individual album spines.  A very minor complaint about a box set that's really just incredible.  I'd love to see some more sets like this for other hip hop luminaries.

Eric B. & Rakim – The Remixes 1987 - 1992: