Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Metal or Not Metal?

This one is probably "Not Metal".

Universal Language

My brother's job recently took him to Cape Town, South Africa. While there, he was nice enough to explore some music shops for me and even brought some treats home. Of the records he scored, Universal Men by Juluka is my favorite. The music is clean and poppy, and blends afrobeat with folk and European/American rock of the mid-late 70's. The actual style that Juluka play is derived from a few South African genres. One of those interesting influential styles is known as Maskanda. Maskanda was originally a type of music played on inexpensive but practical instruments and was initially only one long song containing a changing, growing story from start to finish. Modern music that is influenced by Maskanda follows the more contemporary, "twelve songs per album" formula.

The most interesting thing about this record is its story. Juluka existed for many years before this debut LP release. South Africa was in the dead heat of apartheid and interracial music groups were unheard of. Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu were so determined to play together that they played in secret underground venues, the same way an American speakeasy would operate during prohibition. Despite countless physical attacks and verbal assaults by disapproving South Africans, the two trekked on in the name of music. To me that's a true punk rock story that should not go untold.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Suburban Lawns - "Janitor" [1981]

Check out these early 80's post-punkers fronted by Su Tissue. The faces she makes are just about as weird as the sounds that come out of her mouth. Props to my roommate's friend Dani who linked this video to him.
The story goes:
"She asked me what I did for a living. I said 'I'm a janitor' and she thought I said 'Oh my genitals.' Frank [guitarist] overheard this and wrote the song".

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Toronto - Waterloo - Niagara - Syracuse

My friends Matt, Sarah, and I headed to Toronto at the break of dawn this past Friday. The drive was easy, the border patrol was cool, and Canada was really amazing. My brother lives at the Lawrence station stop off of the Toronto subway, and a few of our days were spent just hopping into various parts of Toronto for food, records, and various entertainment. We hit a total of four record stores in the immediate Toronto area. One of these stores was called Kops Records. The store's prices were a bit high, but we soon recognized that this trend would continue throughout all the stores we would visit. Kops carried a large variety of soul, funk, and reggae 45s as well as a bunch of new punk and indie LPs. There was a section of "five for twenty dollars" records as well. This is where I spent most of my time. A few of the more notable records I took home were a 12" by a Canadian dark/synthwave band "Vital Sines", and an LP by "Dead Man's Shadow", an early 80's Canadian KBD-style punk group. The store carried a ton of 45s that were all indexed by artist's name and spanned the entire back wall of the store. I spent a few minutes going through the 45s and didn't find anything especially impressive.

We also hit up a strip off of the west side of Toronto. There were three stores in a row there. One of the stores was closed, but we were able to get in and check out the other two shops. The first place was run by a middle aged man with pretty terrible taste in music. The entire store (of, say 15,000 used records) was inventoried. The conditions of the records were pretty disappointing, and the selection was more of a selection I would expect from a one to three dollar bin at a store in the states. The owner insisted that I check out the crate of new arrivals he had behind the counter. He then attempted to push some medicore U.S psych rock on me. That's when I broke the news that I was from New Jersey and not exactly up here trying to buy things I can find, or already have back home. He gave me his card at that point and I told him I'd shoot him an e-mail if I needed anything.

The next store was incredibly similar. Another older man sitting alone in a giant room of mediocre records. The only difference was that if you dug in this spot you'd actually find something. The prices were mostly higher than I prefer to pay at a store, but again the selection (once you dug) was decent. Buried in the sea of common rock titles were new wave and punk records, some bootlegs, and a pretty decent selection of 12"s were situated on the floor as well. Another funny thing about this place was that the records were in absolute alphabetical order. They weren't just filed under letter cards, but rather each record was individually organized alphabetically. The owner yelled at me or Matt about putting them back exactly how we found them, to which we both ignored. My pet peeve is being in a record store that has low quality records and standards and having the owner tell me how to handle them. I was close to responding "I take better care of my records than you do", but I just decided to ignore him, finish up there and leave.

We found a music magazine on the subway, and as my brother was scanning the upcoming concerts I saw an ad that read "SHONEN KNIFE - JAPAN RAMONES". Not only did I not know that these ladies were still playing, but I was shocked to see that they would be at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern the next night. We rolled up to the show when they were a few songs into their set and had a really great time.
Between their matching outfits, obsession with flying devil horns between each song, and their ability to rock as hard as they did twenty years ago, I was very entertained. They are coming back to NY (Brooklyn) in November so catch them if you can.

The next day my brother drove us a little over an hour (easily 100 KMs +!) to the town he lived in before he moved to Toronto. The place was Waterloo, and it was super nice as well. He somehow found out about a place called Orange Monkey - an upstairs record store off of a side street that carried mostly rock, new wave, and punk. The place was pretty awesome for a tight little record store. It was another one of those "too many file cards" shops though, and I am more of a fan of discovering records than being told exactly where each one was. I also didn't like that the vinyl was taped closed in a bag with the condition description on the outside of the bag. I asked the owner if I could open a record that I wanted to see if "his VG grading was similar to my VG". He seemed fairly unamused but went for it and I was surprised to find that he had heavily under graded his records. The record was more of a VG+ to EX if anything. Of the few records that I snagged, The Cure's Let's Go To Bed Canadian pressing (with a little maple leaf on back and weird variation to front cover) was the neatest thing. It was cheap, and now fits nicely between my stack of other versions of that record that I currently have.

We spent some time doing other things like visiting my brother's girlfriend and friends and even hit a skate park. We ate well, checked out the Kitchener Oktoberfest (2nd largest to the German original) and had a blast. On the way home from Toronto we hit the city of Niagara and viewed the falls from the Canadian side. That was pretty neat as well.

On the way back down we stopped in to a couple stores in Syracuse, NY. The first one was a hip hop shop that did not carry vinyl. After a few minutes of kick'n it with the owner, we made for Syracuse's The Sound Garden music store. We had all been to the Baltimore Sound Garden shop so we knew what to expect. Although it upsets me that they don't carry used vinyl, I must say that their new vinyl selection is pretty smart. We spent some time there and then headed straight home to hear our finds and relax. Thanks Greg for the great time!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ladyhawke "My Delirium" [2008]

The first few seconds of this video starts off a bit predictably. Then, without warning, the video's art jumps into "a-ha" mode. This is the type of band that I would prejudge and never give a chance, but I happened to catch this video again late last night and it stuck in my head all day today. The hooks are perfect, the single-note chilling guitars in the choruses work really, really well, and although I feel that the opening verse is the weakest point of the entire song, I consider the song a success. I am also really feeling the animation of her hair blowing. Very cool.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Philly, Allentown, and NJ

Here are a few really great records that I picked up on some recent local visits to Pennsylvania and back home.

Richard Bone "Digital Days" b/w "Alien Girl" Rumble Records RUM-01

This is some really amazing 1981 minimal synth. It's the first release on Brooklyn NY's Rumble Records. It's incredibly listenable and ranks with the quality of the better minimal synth bands of the early 80's - not the endless list of bad bands from the early eighties that only had a keyboard or two and very few ideas.

Heroes of Cranberry Farm "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" b/w "???" Lancelot #201

Here is a pretty interesting score. It's a white label advance copy (and labeled as such) of a pop psych band doing the familiar burner that The Shirelle's popularized in 1960. This fantastic version was actually written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and covered by a ton of bands over the years (The Prophets, Bryan Ferry, and The French Kicks, to name a few). The B side is pretty good as well but track title was not listed.

Terry Hughes "Time To Turn" b/w "So Glad" 1982 Rubber Ball Records

My Aunt found this one for me. It came with a note from the bass player asking her out on a date. I guess it didn't work out because he's not my uncle. The record is really incredible and reminds me of So Alone era Johnny Thunders. I can't seem to find any other information on this record.

Willie Loco Alexander "Gin" b/w "Close Enough" 1980 Varulven Records

Willie "Loco" Alexander was most notable for playing in The Velvet Underground during the Doug Yule era. Alexander picked up on keyboards where Sterling Morrison left off on guitar in 1970. The record is a cross between glam and minimal synth with Alexander being credited for "vocals" only. Very amazing record, especially the A Side "Gin".

The Faint - So Sexual [Live 08.08.08]

The Faint were one of the most important bands in the late nineties emo explosion/hip indietronic transition that is still going strong to this day. November 1999 marked the arrival of their third studio effort, Blank Wave Arcade -an album that would shock and rock a lot of people, musicians and fans alike. Partially because it was a very different Faint record than it's mid-west emo/indie predecessor, and partially because no one was really experimenting in this fashion surrounding the time of its release. Countless numbers of aspiring indie and electronic bands today are influenced by this milestone in underground alternative music since it was one of the first times these specific genres converged.

This song, "So Sexual" depicts the struggles of aging female dancers. To me it will always mark the start of the current behaviors of all the hip girls found in all of our hip cities.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Urban Trash

I had no choice but to grab this ridiculous thing. The record is actually a split with Global Holocaust on a mid-nineties Canadian grind label. The Urban Trash side is pretty good. It's more grindcore than thrash as opposed to the GH side which is thrashier than it is grindy. The apocalypse-themed sample placed between GH's "Mother Earth" and "Dying Nature" is also quite entertaining.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wavves - Wavvves

I am torn between really liking this record and really hating it. Here are my reasons:


1) Nostalgic 80's skateboarding imagery on front cover and very cool and very skilled pen and ink graphic on back cover.
2) The fact that a San Diego kid in his early 20's is pumping this out is quite impressive.
3) The song structures are very simple and catchy.
4) The entire package he calls "Wavves" is drenched in talent.


1) The insert and label artwork is a super trendy/hip "look I can't draw but that's the point" played out, sick of it, style.
2) I love low-fi bedroom recordings as much as the next music creep, but some things get too low-fi, too abrasive. I wish I could hear these songs a little more polished up (with a hint of that hip "anti-popular, sounds like I dug this forty year old record out of the trash and attempted to play it despite the scratches and filth that have accumulated on it over the past four decades" thing).
3) I wish there was more of the distorted intro sequencer work and more clarity to the record overall.

Check it
So Bored MP3

Friday, October 2, 2009

Liquid Liquid - Cavern [1983]

The only music video commissioned by 99 Records, "Cavern" was originally released on their 1983 Optimo 12". It was covered the same year by Melle Mel and deceitfully credited as a Grandmaster & Melle Mel production and released on Sugarhill Records. Grandmaster Flash had actually already left the Gang by the time this was recorded, and had nothing to do with the production of the record whatsoever. Liquid Liquid's original version chanted "slip in and out of phenomenon" and the lifted vocal melody was rewritten as the more widely recognizable lyric: "something like a phenomenon". The song was originally set to be written about the cocaine-addicted lifestyles that many led at the time, but was changed by Sugar Hill Records to promote an anti-drug message. "White Lines (Don't Do It)" by Grandmaster & Melle Mel even included lyrics that told of the story of stainless steel car company DMC's CEO John DeLorean's bust involving the smuggling of large quantities of cocaine through the gas tanks of his cars. The lyric hinted at the group's discontent with DeLorean's release on bail after being busted with a couple dozen kilos of coke. Here is Liquid Liquid's original.

1977 NYC

This happened. Wish I could have made it out.