Thursday, August 4, 2016

Baltimore: Maryland Music Mecca

As Silver Spring reconfigures from being dubbed a record paradise a few years ago (the Record Exchange moved to an upgraded location and Joe's Record Paradise is in limbo while trying to move--both still in downtown Silver Spring), these Vinyl Vagabonds have been spending more and more time (and money) in Baltimore.  A few exceptional, shared traits of Baltimore record shops: the owners are usually there working, the shops are in convenient locations, the prices are good, and each shop covers its own niche market.  The first point deserves some explanation.  The owner's presence makes a world of difference as they know their inventory, the music, and make savvy (and sometimes cryptic) recommendations.  For owners to open and close up shop daily takes some serious commitment.  The VVers experience over the years has been that these Baltimore store owners really care about what they do.

Here are four of the Vinyl Vagabonds' favorites in no particular order:

Celebrated Summer Records
Hand-painted Thrash Cat action figure
Celebrated Summer just celebrated their ten-year anniversary and the VVers were on the scene to salute.  What makes this place so great?  Tony, the owner, just published a fantastic zine, "I've Wasted My Life," about the ten-year history of the shop, which really gets into the nitty-gritty of what makes this place so special.  He even had limited edition action figures made for the anniversary party.  Now that is classy!  There are always creative Celebrated Summer t-shirts and great store promotionals (such as a Record Store Day poster printed in collaboration with MICA using their iconic Globe Poster letterpress collection).  The store has occupied a few different locations and currently resides in Hampden next to their symbiotic neighbor, Atomic Books (buy your Vinyl Vagabonds zines there!).  Celebrated Summer specializes in new and used punk, metal, and hardcore, but also has a good selection of reggae, jazz, and rock.  Notably, it is an impeccably organized, clean, and well-curated shop.  When asked, Tony offers up his deep catalogue of music knowledge.  VVer #2 has definitely thought twice about an unknown record she wanted to buy based purely on the cover art.  Words of wisdom from the shop owner about the quality and style of music (and offering to pop it on for a spin) steered her in the right direction.  A+ store.  Super-fantastic records purchased from Celebrated Summer over the years include Misfits Collection II, Melt Banana Cactuses Come in Flocks, Bad Brains Rock for Light, and Root Radics At Channel One Kingston Jamaica, to name a few.

The True Vine
Also in Hampden, this two-room store on a side street off of "The Avenue" is loaded with used LPs, mostly in the rock, international, and experimental genres.  True Vine's small international bin is so well maintained that you can just literally close your eyes and pick up something random and it will be a new musical experience.  There is a plethora of records you've never seen, heard, or even heard of before.  This can sometimes be intimidating; a shop full of mystery records.  Thankfully co-owner Jason is often there when the VVers roll in.  He is very engaging, super chill, and he really knows about his inventory.  It's just so incredible to speak with someone who has such an encyclopedic knowledge of music from such varied genres. 

El Suprimo!
El Suprimo! boasts an organized, hole-in-the-wall basement location in Fell's Point which is stocked with used records of all stripes that features strong jazz and classic rock sections.  No new records here.  This is the type of shop that you can walk in and just ask owner Jack what he has recently priced and recommends, and buy it without regret.  When VVer #2 was in a recent jazz slump and needed something new (to her), she asked for some advice and home came some newly priced Lee Morgan and Bill Evans.  More recently Thelonious Monk Quartet Five by Monk by Five was recommended, but the VVers expressed some convictions about Monk being too mellow.  He guaranteed this one was not mellow-Monk and delivered.  This is also a place you where you immediately notice great music playing over the hi-fi that you might not have heard before.  This exact scenario happened a few years back while flipping through some records and there was this intense blues playing in the shop.  The VVers didn't recognize who it was, and upon inquiring, were introduced to the pre-pop iteration of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac.  They done learnt something that day those VVers.

The Sound Garden
The Sound Garden is a mecca for new vinyl in Fell's Point.  They always have a comprehensive selection of new releases, excellent prices, and (more recently) a respectable used vinyl section.  Compared to the other shops on this list, the Sound Garden isn't exactly a Mom and Pop shop, but it is definitely run right (their other location is just as stellar in Syracuse, NY).  As one would expect from the city where Record Store Day was conceived, they put on an unparalleled event; lots of giveaways, well organized records (and lines), and tons of vinyl special releases and backstock.  They host frequent in-store performances/signings and are a must visit for any vinyl head.  As a larger store experience, it is unparalleled for selection, customer service, and general awesomeness.  It should also be noted that they carry a wide array of movies, music of the non-vinyl variety, and all sorts of other thingers.  You'll also do pretty well if you should decide to trade in for cash or credit.  Places like this are fewer and fewer these days and it is refreshing to find yourself in a shop that really is the total package.  The amount of records that have come from the Sound Garden in the VVer's collection amasses to a list too long to enumerate.  High-five!

Looking for a music mecca?  Baltimore is where it's at.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

New Zines!

Vinyl Vagabonds #7 is now for sale!
Plush with a tactile, hand-printed cover, original artwork, and of course the music musings you would expect from the VVers.  Thirty-six pages of vinyl goodness can now be yours for a mere $7.00.  Email the VVers for it to be shipped to you or find it at these fine independent shops:

Smash! Records
2314 18th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009

Atomic Books
3620 Falls Rd., Baltimore, MD 21211

Quimby's
1854 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60622

Floating World Comics
400 NW Couch St., Portland, OR 97209

Flyer by VVer #1, so you know it's good
Wait, there's more!  The 6th annual DC Zinefest is happening July 23rd at St. Stephen's Church between Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights from 11am to 5pm.  It's a totally rad fest.  Swing on by and pick up some Vinyl Vagabonds from the VVers themselves!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Godzilla v. Mothra


The VVers have been very modest on this here blog about their love/obsession with Godzilla and his cohort monsters from Toho Studios.  Just take their word for it and spare the details.  What prompted VVer #2 to order a Godzilla record from Discogs last year?  A good guess would be for DJing a Halloween party where monster soundtracks were needed, oh, and her costume for the night: Mothra.  Regardless of the reasons (the VVers do not need to justify their record purchases!), a plush-packaged, 1978 Toho Godzilla Original Soundtrack arrived.  Behold, the iconic Godzilla-eating-a-train scene gracing the cover sleeve, foldout Godzilla poster, info sheet (all in Japanese), and record with an adorable illustrated Godzilla gracing the label, and all in pristine condition!  Holy monster party!  Pop it on the turntable and hear classic sounds from a smattering of Godzilla movies' scores (not soundtracks): Gojira, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and Terror of Mechagodzilla.  Most tracks on this collection are from monster entrance scenes or battle sequences which heavily feature monster sound effects (which are in fact AMAZING).  Only problem is that the VVers do not read Japanese (yet) and have no idea what they are listening to (again, the ENTIRE track listing is in Japanese).  Some tracks are recognizable, like the original 1954 Gojira theme and "RRRRAAAAARR" noises, but most leave you wondering what movie they are from.  Never has there been a more perfect time to try out the Google Translate app that VVer #2 never uses!  Just choose Japanese, snap a picture, and let it the app do its thing.  While the app is less than perfect, the VVers (using their extensive and in-no-way-useless-knowledge of Godzilla movies) got the gist of the track info from the hodge-podge translation.  The liner notes are plush with battle scene pictures, a nice touch, but the true kicker is the included poster... which is totally ridiculous.  For one, it is huge (actual poster size).  Upon closer examination, the VVers notice that Godzilla is holding a lady-person a la King Kong.  What is this horse shit?!  That didn't happen in the movies!  Everyone wants to know who is responsible for such a historically inaccurate depiction of Godzilla on this poster!  Regardless, the whole package is a fine purchase to ogle at and to use for backing music to a Mothra Halloween costume (and just general listing, because, you know, GODZILLA).


Who cares about the score anyways?  Well, you should, especially that of the original Gojira.  It is beautifully laden with string and horn instrumentation.  It's emotionally charged, dramatic, and spare in all of the right ways.  Akira Ifukube pretty much created Godzilla via the original entrance and theme music, which continued to be used throughout the Toho Godzilla franchise.  In addition, he went on to create original scores for many other regarded films (including the Japanese Godzilla movies made through the 1990s).  However, his most indelible contribution may be the idea to use musical instruments (not recorded animal noises) to create that iconic Godzilla "RRRRAAAAARR."  Kaiju fans everywhere are forever indebted to Ikukube's monster sounds.

In the months since Halloween, the VVers finally watched the original 1961 Mothra movie (SPOILER ALERT: Godzilla doesn't show up in this one folks -- and in no way is that a problem).  Besides the namesake giant moth monster, two of the main stars of the film are tiny magical twins who provide much of the music for this soundtrack.  The actresses are actually twin sisters, Emi and Yumi Ito, a musical duo that performed under the name The Peanuts.  Their melodic and hypnotizing voices make for some pretty catchy tunes in Mothra that the VVers had stuck in their heads for days.

A month or two passes again, and the VVers find themselves in the tiny, yet wonderful, Musique Plastique in Portland, OR.  Near closing time, VVer #1 is poking around the store and pulls out a record.  Handing it over to VVer #2, "Interested?"  Gracing the cover is Godzilla (in color) on a Deluxe Edition Godzilla record.  VVer #2 thinks to herself, "Meh, I just got a Godzilla record, how many do I need?"  The inner sleeve this time is only 98% in Japanese, save a handful of track names, so she opens it to see what is written on the vinyl.  "RRRRAAAAARRR!"  The vinyl A side is a picture disc with the B side as a painted Godzilla/King Ghidorah/Rodan scene.  Pretty sweet (is the understatement of the year).  At what is now an 85% certain purchase, a study of the tracks looks promising.  There is at least one track, "Infantians" which VVer #2 is certain comes from the original Mothra movie (Mothra lives on Infant Island and there were more than a few song/dance scenes summoning Mothra).  Well, looks like Mothra has sealed the deal and this deluxe 1985 Godzilla record made the journey home with the VVers.

The music on this one is far more "musical" than the other Godzilla record.  Side A includes quite a few "overture" type songs from the film series as well as the mecha-goofy "whhaaaa whaaa whaaa" clown music entrance to Godzilla.  This stupid trombone entrance theme was featured in later movies when the King of the Monsters transitioned from foe into friend of human kind.  Thankfully, this is followed by a surfer-esque track which temporarily erases the memory of that.  Side B features a few songs by The Peanuts from the Mothra movie.  One is the magical "Mothra" song the twins sing which starts off acoustic and is later accompanied by some taiko drums, harp, and percussion.  The somber "Infantians," as sung by The Peanuts in the movie is about the natives from Infant Island and their idol Mothra.  "Native Son" is from the elusive King Kong v. Godzilla movie which similarly to Mothra, includes natives from the island of King King's home chanting/praying to their monster. The last song "GODZILLA" is pretty horrendous and sounds like it is entering the 1980's musically.  There are synths, bad female vocals, and bad lyrics.  At one point you realize the lyrics are in English and then hear "Godzilla is our friend" or something to that effect. 

Godzilla, he spans many a generation and many a genre.  Combined, the two records cover over thirty years of Godzilla films and there isn't overlap between the two.  "RRRRAAAAARR!"

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Johnny B. Goode

You know "Johnny B. Goode": ripping guitars, punchy pianos, and that rags to riches story of the original guitar hero.  There's well over a hundred cover versions and tributes.  The VVers realized that they have lots of variations on the same song from various decades of vinyl.  Here is the round-up:

Chuck Berry - The original, written and performed by Berry in 1958, is perfect.  Quite stellar.  It was even selected to be a Voyager Golden Record, sent to space on the Voyager I launch in 1977 as a  representation of culture on planet Earth.  No more need be said.

DEVO - Q; Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO - 1978
"Come Back Jonee" is a tribute, not a cover, marrying DEVO's new-wave punk vibe to Berry's core song.  This one has impressive whistling synths, rapid fire drumming, and galloping guitars to pay homage to the original.  Differing from the original tune, the lyrics speak of a guitar guy who breaks his lady's heart and then runs off to be famous, but instead drives his Datsun into an oncoming truck.  Bravo.

The Nighthawks - Jacks and Kings Full House - 1979
Local Silver Spring-area band, the Nighthawks, provide a very respectable cover called "Little Queenie" to start off this LP.  They credit Mr. Berry in the appropriately title-switched track.  It starts with original lyrics as if singing to an onlooking female listener/dancer to basically the same tune of "Johnny," then awkwardly switches back to the Berry lyrics two-thirds through the song.  Good piano scales and horns to accompany the scintillating guitar lead make this a rockin' blues track.

Men at Work - Business as Usual -1981
"Be Good Johnny" again, not a cover, is a reference to the original and is also super 80s and super Australian.  Lyrically, this one is about a daydreaming kid who keeps getting reminded to "be good."  The chorus is catchy, but it's not enough to save this one, nor to justify it as any kind of homage to the original.  Meh.

Peter Tosh - Mama Africa - 1983
A good way to cover a song is to take the original and adapt it to the music you know and perform best, which is what Mr. Tosh does here.  Straight covers of songs are boring.  The reggae-ized version of this features some creative touches such as a bleating horns section, the echoed "Go Johnny" in a peppy female voice, and some appropriately changed lyrics "leader of a reggae band."  Exceptional guitar work from Tosh helps this track keep true to Berry's original.

Judas Priest - Ram It Down - 1988
Dear Judas Priest, why?  It has nothing on the original, yet somehow the chugging guitar of K. K. Downing and screeching Rob Halford play nice to make a good/bad, near-straight adaptation.  It's sounds like a spoof.  It also seems totally out of place on this album of halfway decent originals.

The Spiders - Big Lizard Stomp - sometime between 1966-1969
This version is extra surfy sounding and a decent straight cover.  The singing is pretty atrocious, but consider it is a live cover by a Japanese rock group and you might give them some credit for effort.  From the intensity and straight energy exuding from this recording you can tell that they are having fun covering this classic song.

Other versions of the song from artists that seem promising include: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and the Sex Pistols.  Is this a prompt to go running out to get these on vinyl?  No.  It is just a total coincidence that so many versions of "Johnny B. Goode," spanning many decades and musical styles, are in the VVers collection.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Reissues Issue ... Tissue?

Vinyl Vagabonds are not well-to-do, glutinous, gilded fatcats (not yet at least).  They scrimp and save in the effort to acquire "the good stuff," and are always looking for a deal (We are Vinyl Vagabonds: Just give us your records).  However, some records are just never ever going to enter into affordability.  Why is this?

For starters, coveted albums are often "known," meaning that other lovable record slobs aren't letting them go.  Another reason is that super sought after albums are from early parts of the artists career before big labels and even bigger pressings.  What this primarily means is that there are just not as many of those records in existence for everybody to have an original copy.  Especially for musicians working outside the studio system, you should expect that original copies are not easy to come by.  But why doesn't the record label just make more when they have a hit on their hands (aka supply and demand)?  Well, in some cases this does happen, but the law of diminishing returns applies.  This law states (does it?) that the more times things get repressed, the lower the quality will be (really?).  Possibly.  Also, in this day and age, you may very well be seeking out a record made in the time of vinyl scarcity, aka 1988 to 2004, or something like that.  Lastly, back to the rare, original record: it may very well be played out.  Those tiny grooves do have a limited number of spins you know.  Why not just go the safe route and pick up a repressing on heavy vinyl so you can spin that sucker any time you feel like it?  For affordability, sound quality, and playability--a repressing is the only answer.

Repressing vs. Reissue:  Repressing usually involves the record label realizing it's got a hit on its hands and just making more.  As this happens (usually shortly after the initial release), quality has a way of declining as attention to detail in the pressing process tends to wander.  Therefore, repressing can have a bad connotation; in the past, these were done on the cheap using low quality vinyl, poor master tapes, crummy mastering, or weak quality control.  This still happens today, mostly bigger record labels trying to squeeze a quick buck off of a back catalogue.  They might tout heavy vinyl or color or even a picture disc.  None of that means squat if the process isn't done with care.

A reissue involves some sort of upgrade to the quality, heavier vinyl, deluxe/enhanced packaging, extra music, remastered tunes, etc.  Color vinyl and picture discs count as well, but they don't necessarily improve the quality.  Sometimes this extra fluff just enhances the price.  The VVers are looking for sound and value in a nice, clean package.  Nuff Said.

A recent positive example from the VVers own collection is a reissue of The Misfits' first LP from 1982, Walk Among Us.  Take a look on Discogs or Ebay to see what an original copy will run you, $350 bones!  With something that expensive you might be afraid to even play the thing.  The reissue, purchased for around $20 at Smash Records in DC, was and is the right choice.  It's on heavy black vinyl, how heavy?  "Where's the gram scale?"  Vinyl Vagabonds get to listen to it all of the time, it looks and sounds fantastic, and so what if it isn't the original!?!  Since it is a new pressing, it sounds crisp (something a secondhand copy of the original probably wouldn't at this point) and the sleeve is perfect with all of the original artwork intact.  Most times you find something used and parts are either damaged, missing, or covered with a half torn sales sticker that mars the artwork.

In some cases, reissues are something to really get excited about.  In 2014, Blue Note began to reissue hundreds of their remastered jazz icons titles for their 75th anniversary.  Many of these records (and recordings for that matter) are pretty old; this is a perfect way to preserve milestone recordings.  Blue Note proclaims, this initiative is "dedicated to the proposition that our catalog should  be readily available at a low cost, featuring high quality pressings and authentic reproductions of Blue Note's iconic packaging."  Isn't that everything you want out of a reissue?  Bravo Blue Note.  Even independent record stores are "Blue Note Authorized Dealers" to give shoppers extra incentive to go out and support them.  The Sound Garden in Baltimore, Gerosa Records in Connecticut, Bull Moose in Maine, and Everyday Music in Portland, OR have all been the recipients of the VVers' cash for some of these records.   Of the standout purchases, Dexter Gordon Our Man in Paris, from 1963, is one of the best.  Though playing all standards, Gordon, by no accident, teamed up with the Three Bosses (Bud Powell, Pierre Michelot, and Kenny Clarke) to record this session in Paris.  Mostly high tempo, featuring stellar solos, and narrated by Gordon's impeccable tenor sax, this is an excellent recording that deserves a new audience welcomed by Blue Note's reissue series.

Even though you are buying a reissue, do not assume to buy it online.  Go to your local record store and see if they have it in stock or if they can order it for you.  Case-in-point, the VVers recently decided that they should own Rage Against the Machine's 1996 epic Evil Empire on record to crank so their neighbors give them dirty looks.  The original is barely in circulation (it was the 90s!), so the reissue is the way to go.  The Record Exchange in Silver Spring easily ordered the "Music on Vinyl" version from Germany, based on the owner's advice that their stuff is quite good.  The record swiftly showed up at the store for pick-up and the VVers don't feel guilty giving the pristine vinyl many spins!  The store gets a profit while the VVers save on shipping and get a punch on their frequent buyers card.  Quick, run to reissues!

On the flip-side, for diggers scouring shops for original vinyl, it is super satisfying when you come across an original pressing of something from your wantlist.  Hooray!  Whereas, coming across a reissue in the stacks of records lacks a certain je ne sais qua.  Do you buy it so you have it and can enjoy the music, or do you keep searching?  Scenario: VVer #2 was looking for Nina Simone's Pastel Blues from1965 while traveling to the Pacific Northwest (write-up to come soon); nary a sighting, she came across the Music on Vinyl reissue at Easy Street Records in West Seattle.  Well, shoot.  Hold out for the original, which is nowhere to be found, or splurge for the reissue (on a well respected label) to hear the hypnotic sounds of "Sinnerman" play from the turntable?  After some consultation with the store owner (who validated Music on Vinyl's reputation, and added in that he was thinking of taking that copy home with him), the reissue entered the luggage of VV.  The right decision?  Yes, the sound is crisp and the price was about half what the original would have cost.

Rule of thumb for a reissue, make sure it's on a good label!  The VVers do not encourage going out and buying any old reissue.  Seek advice from your record store clerk or the back of the sleeve for information on how the reissue came to be.  Seeing as you are reading this here blog, it is implied that you are a smart person and the VVers know that you wouldn't go out and buy a $20 reissue of Blue Oyster Cult Fire of Unknown Origin or Madonna Like a Virgin that can be found in the dollar bin of nearly every record store in the US of A.  This is just the tip of the iceberg that is the reissue discussion.  Be discerning with your reissue purchases otherwise you'll need a tissue for your nozzle!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Zine Release Party - Seventh Edition

Join the Vinyl Vagabonds to celebrate the release of their brand spankin' new zine! This intergalactic premiere features music musings, record reviews, and awe-inspiring artwork (not on the blog!). Come pick up your new copy of issue #7 and hear the VVers spin records featured in their past year's zine.

Saturday, April 2

7pm-9pm

Bump 'n Grind
1200 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
www.bumpngrind.co

Be there!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

"Build Me a Record Shelf"

How it went down:
VVer #2 attends a DC record fair.  As she is leaving, she spots a pamphlet on the table near the door.  The lushly photographed tri-fold advertising custom built, wooden record shelves priced upwards of $500.  She snagged the pamphlet and half-way jokingly, sent it to her dad with a note "Build this for me."  Exactly one year later, the dad-built shelf appeared in the House of VV.

Some background:
Dad-VVer loves building things, mainly wooden type things.  A treehouse, benches, aquatic animal carvings, wind art, yard crocodiles, you name it.  Call it a full time hobby.  Therefore, it was not an unusual request to send a random project his way.  In fact, over the years, the House of VV has quickly turned into a Dad-VVer furniture showroom; the refurbished Singer sewing table, refinished spiral-legged table with the swing-out sides, wine bottle plant potters, and the newest edition, a bench made from the recycled wood of a baby crib.  Building a shelving unit from a picture would be a very do-able challenge for Dad-VVer to take on.  And he did.  After volunteering at an estate sale, he got first dibs on several old doors and a pine ladder, the perfect wood to be up-cycled into the shelf.  According to Dad-VVer, the major difficulty in putting the project together was in the early stages.  He had to figure out how to assemble the flat door pieces and the ladder parts as simply as possible so as not to alter the look of the original parts.  After testing the design with a handful of his own records, a deep stain coat went on, and it was finished.  Total cost: under $40 minus design and man-hours, of course.

On design:
Apart from the increased capacity and sharp looks, the new shelf has a few quirks.  For one, the VVers are still trying to sort out is whether or not the design has a flaw.  When fully loaded, the LPs put considerable weight against the back ladder spoke, but more importantly, the record at the back of the row.  Will these records warp over time?  The solution at this point has been to use some stray flat wood, hidden inside some funny records sleeves (old Bangles records?) to more evenly distribute the weight and protect that back section.  Another thing the VVers noticed when determining where to put the shelf is that it cannot be wedged in the corner because it would be virtually impossible to access records in the bottom row.  For this design, side-access is crucial.  Also, as an object, it just looks more interesting when you can see the entire thing.  Which led the VVers to ask "Now where do we put this thing?!"  Even Dad-VVer has said if were he to do it again, he would probably make it smaller.  After some major rearranging, the ladder-shelf found a good home in a central spot for quality access and ogling.

More records:
Now that there is more storage space, records can start accumulating again!  Wait, maybe not a great idea to rush it.  Besides, the shelf arrived pre-loaded with a handful of cast off records from a family friend's personal collection.  The best of these include a Bob Dylan Greatest Hits, two Ali Akbar Khan recordings, and a Ravi Shankar record.  Interestingly enough, the Ravi Shankar record was previously in the House of VV but purged because of its inferior pressing.  This one plays much better and the VVers are happy to have it.  One record that didn't fit into the collection: Faster Than the Speed of Night by Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler which includes "Total Eclipse of the Heart."  Yeah, that song.  What's important to remember here is that just because you get a new shelf doesn't mean you have to go bonkers filling it.  Time will take care of that.

Storage matters:
Why spend time on this subject?  Caring for your vinyl is no small task (as opposed to throwing them in a heap next to the record player).  They are delicate and deserve your care.  To get the most out of your investment, you'll want maximum access to your collection, an effective way display these pieces of art (aka album covers), and an unobtrusive way to preserve your records from wear and tear.  As well, spacious shelving leads to better organization, which in turn allows you to quickly locate a record and get that thing spinning!

For the VVers, the new record shelf is one of a kind and made from recycled materials; a nice balance to the typical, but useful, Ikea bookshelf.  Since its inclusion, clutter has gone down and overall organization has improved exponentially.  The real question remains, will there be another shelf and how much will it take to bribe Dad-VVer to make it?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Spin on Relationships

Think that your record collection can just share space with a spouse, close family member, roommate, the neighbor's dog?  Think again!  Even if your significant other is into vinyl (if not, you have chosen poorly), getting to a healthy balance of packed shelves takes work, patience, and at times a thick skin.  You can't just assume that the other party is interested in having your super-amazing vinyl co-habitate with their substandard fare.  More to the point, the other party may not feel your super-amazing vinyl is so super-amazing and vice-versa.  It's ok not to agree on everything.  What to do?

In a significant number of musical arenas, VVer #1 and VVer #2 have melded minds on taste.  That's probably 60% of the time.  30% is "live and let live."  The other 10% is a knock down, drag out, carnage fest of warrior rage that goes something like this:
VVer #1 arrives home from work, pops on (insert great 90's alternative album here) and begins to cook dinner.  Just as he starts to hit a thrashing groove musically (as well as rocking it in the kitchen).
VVer #2 arrives home from work.  "WARRRRMMMM.  WHAT is this awful NOISE?  Aghuughhhh!"
VVer #1 "You can put something else on if you like."
VVer #2 "Aghhuuughagh!!!  Off!"

As wholesome as this back and forth must sound, the VVers are hoping to minimize bloodshed in their home and, in turn, help others out there who may be having similar dilemmas.  How to get along?  Here are a few questions to help you with those areas of avoidable misery:

  1.  When does the record come from?  If it's from an era that you grew up in, say the late 80s and not of your significant other, say the late 90s, there could be some conflict.  You may even be labeled as "living in the past."  Horrifying, right?  What can you do?  Try and show interest in the significant other's era.  Don't pigeonhole yourself by being a completest on every band from your favored era.  Be selective.  You don't need every single release from that indie label that came out between 1988 and 1991.  No, you don't.

  2.  Where did the record come from?  If it was purchased in a dusty estate sale or thrift spot, be mindful of what level of dust, scuzz, and fuzz you might be introducing to your home.  The quickest way to sour an impression on a purchase is if you disrespect the home (and more importantly the turntable) with a filthy record.  Take a few moments to inspect your purchase before it crosses the threshold.  Clean it outside if needed.  Do not force the issue.  Certain lines should not be crossed.

  3.  How much?  If you plunked down some hefty dough on a record or two, you better be able to back that up with some earnings, some solid playtime, or both.

  4.  How long?  Did you spend hours in a dumpy thrift store sifting through their Barbara Streisand albums looking for treasure?  Were you scouring the internet for rare platters?  Did you spend half your weekend driving to random and far flung yard sales hoping to find something special?  Digging for albums may be fun at times, but remember that the Pinocchio picture disc you found may be worthless compared to the time you spent in discovering it.

  5.  How many?  Any time you dedicate real estate to new arrivals you have to be very clear about your plans.  "I am going to listen to this once because I am curious and then I am going to donate this to (insert charitable thrift shop here)," or perhaps, "I am going to listen to this record all of the time and probably blog/DJ/make it my new favorite/wear it like a hat."  Stacking them up by the player and in front of the stereo, and next to the fish tank, and in front of the closet door, and in the closet, and (things can get out of hand very quickly) -- this is a losing proposition.

  6.  When are you playing it?  "When I get home it's not necessarily that the music is bad it's that I'm home and I need some peace and quiet and it BLARGH AGH CRASH RRRAAAAGHHH!!!"  This is very relevant.  Everyone has a comfort zone and if you're not paying attention to this, it doesn't matter what the record is in the slightest because you are going to lose that fight every time.  Sometimes music with too much multi-tonal activity is too much for the morning.  Sometimes jazz flute is a little too much like Christmas.  Sometimes you should just not play that record around the other person.  It's not worth the hassle and you are not going to convince your flatmate to like that album by bludgeoning it into their skull.

A smidge of advice:
  1.  Pay attention, dumbass.  Does this one really need an explanation?  If so then this entire write up isn't going to help you.  Dumbass.
  2.  Be respectful.  Timing matters.
VVer #1 "Would you like to hear record?"
VVer #2 "Yes"
VVer #1 "Is there something you would like me to play?"
VVer #2 "Play something I like."

Makes sense.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2015 Year in Review: Concert Edition

Your ever so humble VVers spent a good chunk of 2015 at some ridiculous concerts.   Many of these shows had vinyl treasures worthy of a chronological year in review write-up.  Here are the best of the best in the "Concerts of Goodness that Yielded Vinyl of Greatness" category:

APTBS and Black Clouds
The February cold brought these VVers to Metro Gallery in Baltimore to catch A Place to Bury Strangers.  The VVers own quite a few of APTBS records, but had never had a chance to see them live.  Should you get a chance, you're going to want to bring earplugs.  From the merch table was snagged a metal "trivet" sleeved 45 that can also double as a weapon.  Read more on that here.  The 45 is super-fantastic, also extremely heavy (in both the physical and auditory sense).  In addition, all instrumental act Black Clouds played a strong opening set for APTBS and VVer #1 picked up their LP, Dreamcation.  This transparent vinyl is housed in a transparent printed sleeve with a full size booklet of semi-transparent, grayscaled photographs of haze filled ruinous landscapes.  Bleakly beautiful, and impressibly see-through.  Their album is melodic, atmospheric, and just the right amount of thrashy.  But it's the sleeve and design that keeps haunting.  Hey guys, nice package!

Big Business
April at Ottobar brought VVer #2's first time being exposed to the Biz (and VVer #1's fifth).  Survey says?  Hell yes.  The band was playing in its classic two man line-up which really emphasizes how much they can make the fur fly.  Holy smokes!  Throbbing bass lines, insanity invoking drumming, and barely audible droning vocals.  "Yeowww my head."  Big Biz merch also never fails to impress.  Home came the hand-screened "quadruple single" and gold-on-black screened beer coozies that came with a free download of their new single (while not vinyl, a very nice touch).

Crocodiles
You know what really takes the cake?  Finding out one of your favorite bands is playing in a few hours in the city you are heading to in your tiny rental car.  Totally unplanned and half-way into a leisurely, twelve-hour cross-country drive, these VVers put the pedal to the metal to catch Crocodiles play a stellar set in Austin, TX at Holy Mountain.  Not only was there a new LP, Boys, to be bought (ahead of its actual release date) and signed, the VVers got an entire show of new music plus a few "classics" to jump around to, ending with "I Wanna Kill."  It was lovely and loud, and the VVers got a shout-out mid-show.  Heart.

Levitation (aka Austin Psych Fest)
Los Mundos Dios es Fuzz
Album avoided: Flaming Lips, Good Vibrations.  Hand-carved and multi punctured.  Fifty bucks... Just couldn't do it.  The VVers did come home with some stellar vinyl, inspired from Levitation (purchased in Austin record stores).  Two standouts are the Well's  six-track LP, Samsara, full of churning, bluesy heavy metal, and Los Mundos' EP, Dios es Fuzz, with crazy, Spanish-sung, psychedelic drone rock.  Read more about the entire experience here.

Melvins/Le Butcherettes
Though the VVers and friends went to this show at Ottobar on July 4th weekend to have the Melvins melt their faces, VVer #1 had inside knowledge that Mexican opening act, Le Butcherettes, should not be missed.  He had seen them open for Faith No More at Webster Hall earlier in the year.  Teri Gender Bender, the female lead of Le Butcherettes, put on quite an enamoring and hypnotizing show, so much so that VVer #2 requested that their most recent record (at the time), Cry Is for the Flies, be purchased from the merch table.  The LP is filled with guttural, poetic, power vocals, and a spoken-word track from Mr. Henry Rollins.  On repeat listens the catchiness of this album has burgeoned to the surface and is getting repeat spins.

Flowers of Evil
Yes, the VVers bought a record
directly from this dude.
Sometime in late summer our VVers somehow found out about a house show in DC featuring some of their favorite bands in different line-ups.  Local and awesome Shark Week was headlining, but the big draw was Flowers of Evil, a mysterious punk side project of Crocodiles, APTBS, Young Boys, and SISU.  What a sick basement show!  Not only did the VVers get to rub elbows (and share beers) with some of the band members, but they also got to whoop it up at a really unique performance space (basically a basement laundry room).  The VVers don't usually go in for all this hobnobbing... but could really get used to it!  At the close of the night, out came the debut Flowers of Evil record for purchasing directly from the band.  "Keep the change you bastards!"  The album is eleven songs of 45-speed snarling punk with a hint of psych.  Not only is it a great listen, but VVers are dead certain the names of those involved on the LP are all fake... Donny Desade?  Will Killingsworth (actually a real person)?  Legs McDaniel?

Dilly Dally
These Toronto indie punks played a scintillating gig at DC9 that had VVer #1 all a sorts of happy.  This band will immediately bring you back to 1990 with their raw blend of head-crunching riffage and yowling vocals.  The sloppy vibe put on by the disheveled band members says nothing about their professional chops.  Tight sound all around, especially from guitarist Liz Ball (sonic sorceress) and vocalist/guitarist Katie Monks (destruction arteest).  They heartily earned VVer #1's greenbacks (and high fives) for their debut LP, Sore.  The album captures much of that live vibe and adds to the mix haunting production, shimmering guitars, and one of the grossest album covers ever.  Bravo.

Honorable Mentions
The 2015 honorable mentions go to the bands the VVers saw live this year, but pre-ordered their vinyl instead of buying it at the show.  These include: Shark Week Beach Fuzz, Faith No More Sol Invictus, Heavy Breathing Airtight, and Puscifer Money Shot.  All great and unique concerts with vinyl to match (still waiting on that Puscifer).

Year in Review in review:  Buying vinyl is all fine and good, but buying it at a concert?  That comes with bragging rights.  Seriously, to hand money directly to the artist on the road is something special.  Odds are the band is getting a bigger cut of the merch sale.  You might get a signed album and get to chat up the band a bit.  Unique or limited edition schwag is fairly common on the road.  Overall, what's really important is being able to directly show your appreciation for the band.  To get a keepsake from a great show is icing on the turntable.  Your record comes with a memory.  How sweet.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hellraising Vinyl

By The Vinyl Apprentice

Some time ago, the Vinyl Vagabonds wrote an article about different kinds of interesting vinyl sleeves. I immediately thought of a single that a buddy of mine let me borrow once. The single was “Hooch,” a 45 by the Seattle grunge-metal rockers the Melvins, and it was a beast! Feeling in the spirit this most recent Halloween, I was summoned to “Vinyl Vagabond” it; any record this strange deserves writing about. What makes this particular one so special? To start, it is housed in an impossible to open Hellraiser "puzzle box” type multi-fold out sleeve (it's actually copyrighted as a "Hard to Open Package," so you know it's good). To get it open you actually have to bend the sleeve paper in such a way that you will feel you are going to tear it to get to the 45. Hence, once you have opened this unusual packaging, the cover automatically becomes damaged. ARRRGGH! And why ARRGH? This is a hand screened, 1,000-copy limited edition single, with the cover by none other than renowned California artist Frank Kozik. Kozik is famous for his raunchy, Day-Glo concert posters that he started making in the early 1990s. He also ran a record label for a time called Man’s Ruin Records that put out records by the Sex Pistols, Queens of the Stone Age, and many other primarily stoner metal bands. Today, Kozik is an institution in “lowbrow” art. True to his style, this particular monstrosity has devilish visuals plastered all over it. To start, the front cover has a Disney-esque Satan on it. The back cover art is creepy on a whole other level and completely different in style. It looks like a 16th century wood cut of the birth of baby Beelzebub himself. Not for the meek. Eeekkk, it is chilling to the bone. Inside the sleeve of evil, is a nasty two sided Kozik picture disc. The A side has an illustration of a cigarette smoking, mustached Diablo dad chuckling away. Side B has a green haired, red skinned, monster mommy also puffing away on a cancer stick.

But wait, there’s more to this vinyl vulgarity. Both of these tracks are from the Melvins 1993 major label debut LP, Houdini, which was partially produced by none other than, Kurt Cobain. Not only did the late Nirvana frontman produce these two songs on the 45, he also contributed with guitar work on the side B song “Sky Pup.” Now I know what you are thinking, does whatever music in those grooves live up to the collected talent involved here? I’m not sure. You see, the Melvins are one of the more experimental, noisy, punk bands. They have never created a radio hit in their lives, nor will they. It's just not in their nature. Also, while singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne’s voice is strong and interesting, it's substandard. He has zero range, he was born grotesque in this category. But wait … Kurt Cobain!?!? Surely his magic and genius would make these songs shine, and transcend the Melvins to greater heights? Wrong. Unfortunately, he was fired half way through the production of Houdini as Buzz has stated Kurt was "too out of control" with his drug problems at the time to continue producing it. If there is an ounce of Kurt on these tracks, I can’t find it.

But enough of that, let me talk about the songs themselves. The first song, “Hooch” has all the right notes to make it a classic Melvins track. It is loud and thrashy with a nice dirge-like hook and Dale Crover delivers a deep, bombastic drum beat. While the song does drone, it is a head banging, hideous tune, and I enjoy it. Side B is a different story. “Sky Pup” is a mysterious enigma. It sounds more like a song from psychedelic space rockers, the Flaming Lips than it does the Melvins. While it is kind of groovy and has a magnetic bass line, it is not very memorable. Drummer Dale sings on this track, which really sounds more like him just talking. His voice is frightful, and practically inaudible. In fact, the whole track sounds very quiet, and puts me to sleep. Snore. This song is a goofy head scratcher.

Contrary to how my review sounds, I really like the Melvins, and recommend spending your time and money getting to know them. And this single? The packaging alone is sick, and the music is decidedly weird. Pinhead would be proud. It's classic Melvins. Looking and listening to this creepy conundrum will definitely keep me up at night for years to come….

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Urgent News Bulletin: Vinyl Vagabonds DJ Set

Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have your attention.  I've just been handed an urgent and horrifying news story.  I need all of you to stop what you're doing and listen.  

Listen to the Vinyl Vagabonds play records at Bump 'n Grind in Silver Spring on
Friday, January 15th 7-9pm 

Don't act like you're not impressed.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pssst Your Butt and Bravado Are Showing...

"Animal" as painted by
VVer #1
Heavy Breathing - Airtight - 2015
(Part 2 - After the Music)

In the VVers' world, very few instances exist where seeing a band live increases appreciation of their recorded work. Washington DC's Heavy Breathing is the exceptional exception.  When Heavy Breathing perform, they bring it.  "IT" = scintillating synths, make-the-audience-feel-awkward asides, all-out drumming, bravado guitars, and a whiz-bang light show.  Each member of this three-piece band has a distinct stage personality and is responsible for the above mentioned "IT"s.  It should also be noted that the band members madly grin through their entire show; they have serious fun.  This makes perfect sense as it is impossible not to dance gleefully during a Heavy Breathing set.  Was the faith of our humble VVers rewarded that the band could capture all of said je ne sais quoi on their brand new LP Airtight?  Absolutely rewarded.  The same joyful abandon--with a hint of very naughty--is etched in every single groove, so turn it loud!  Airtight is a laser light show on wax.  Live performance and recording complement each other just right with neither doing a disservice.

"Intro" perfectly fits the bill for a starter to this LP.  Heavy Breathing starts their live shows with aforementioned narratives which often make the audience look at each other nervously and think to themselves, "Did I come to the right show?  What have I gotten myself into?"  "Intro" begins with apropos heavy breathing noises in what sounds like a time warp or black hole.  "What record did I just buy?  This is weird!"  Weird is right, and it is great!  Highlight tracks, "Gimmie Mine" and  "Drop It" are staples of Heavy Breathing's live shows.  The recorded versions have a crisp sound that allows the layered samples and instruments to come through.  The energetic, manic drumming on "Gimmie Mine" is just as pronounced in the recording, granted it is more fun live (their drummer is Animal's doppelganger: flailing arms, bobbing body, giant smile; it is wonderful to watch).  "Drop It" has more of a relaxed tempo, but both tracks are also loaded with all sorts of indescribable weirdo noises and funky-fat riffs.  It is hard to pin-down exactly what Heavy Breathing's music sounds like because they really don't sound like anyone and no one sounds like them.  This is a fantastic problem.  Psychedelic heavy metal electronica?  Psych-rock disco?  Shredding cabbage?  Oddball house goth?  World-inspired weirdo-pop?  Sure, yes.  Heavy Breathing grew from former group, the Apes, keeping some of their similar sound, but ditching live vocals for repeated, distorted samples and dance oriented jams.  These vocal samples are just as confusing to describe, as they generally sound like gibberish, but in a surrealistically pleasing way.  It more than works; it helps the listener to focus on the music being pumped out, shredded, and blasted by the band. "Easy" has lovely vampiric organ flourishes leading into and out of a propulsive booty shaker.  Slow tempo tracks are scarce except for "Touch It" and "I No Luv"; the later is playful and allows for synths to really shine through.  Airtight has numerous twists and turns that are as stupefying as they are rewarding.  Each crescendo of darkness met with a mightier triumphant riff.  Epic is the right word.


Let's take a minute to reflect on the album art again, shall we?  Front cover naked guy (aka "Steve") looks like he is passed out after a night of hedonism.  Back cover lady also passed out on the ground, but at least she managed to keep her clothes on.  Too much Heavy Breathing or just the right amount?  No one knows.  Regardless, it's just the right visual cue that these cats have a relentless sound that will party you up until you drop.  What does that even mean?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Doomed from the Cover or Psst, Your Butt is Showing

Part 1 (Before the music)

It has been a long standing policy in the House of VV to actively avoid any albums with naked butts on the cover, specifically male (the female behind TBD).  This rule was first enacted when the Yes album, Going for the One, entered the house and then just as quickly was going for the door.  It's been a long time since the VVers had this one, so remembering the music is nearly impossible, except for the consensus that it was entirely displeasing.  What is memorable is: butt cover = bad album.  Ironic in that famed album designers, Hipgnosis, designed and shot the cover for Going for the One.  This is the team that created the iconic album art for Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Houses of the Holy amongst others.  While there is a legitimate history of famous album covers that feature nudity, the VVers have just said no.

"Topless is ok, bottomless no way."

After many years adhering to this rule, the VVers are confronted with an epic quandary: they are on the verge of possessing a record with a butt cover.  That's right, a naked butt-man.  In the House of VV.  Butt.  How could this happen?  Back in March, the VVers funded an Indiegogo campaign for always awesome DC band, Heavy Breathing, to press their new LP on vinyl.  What a great thing!  The band raises money and the VVers get a record, win-win!  No one was concerned about what the album art was going to look like at the time.  The VVers were merely excited to hear a new LP of Heavy Breathing's quirky synth/psych dance/rock electronica.  But now that very album might be too cheeky from the start!  Eeeeepp!  [Full disclosure: Based on past music and live shows, the VVers are optimistic this album is going to be killer.]  The new album, Airtight, was released today on favorite local label Electric Cowbell.  Hopefully it isn't doomed like the aforementioned, unclothed butt cover.  The VVers promise to remain objective and let their ears be the final judge.  Stay tuned for the full album review and if you are in DC catch them at the Black Cat on November 19th.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

It Came from the Garbage


Weird as it may sound, the VVers, on a seemingly annual basis, come across vinyl thrown in the garbage.  Usually there are only a few records, but occasionally there is an entire box.  Recently, the VVers were walking out of a local record store and just twenty steps up the road found a massive stack of records cascading out of a garbage can.  A lot of these were very clearly beyond hope.  Quite a few were water damaged and were starting to show signs of growage.  This is where the buck stops.  Sifting through the trash heap, at least three of James Brown's most sought after records were found in this condition.  Sad as the thought of that may be, this discarded bunch contained many of the sorts of records that deserve to be put out of their musical misery.  A few exceptions?  There was one 70's "Fat Albert" animated series record, which at first glance looked ok, but upon further inspection (mind you that the inspection was going on out on the sidewalk of a busy street with VVer #1 digging in a garbage can, awkward) the vinyl was badly warped.  Initially, an "All in the Family" TV soundtrack looked sharp, but then it turned out the record itself was missing.  Fear not dear reader.  Digging a bit deeper, a few things were salvaged.  Important to note, when these records entered the House of VV they received a thorough, double cleaning, inside and out.  Here are the three that were rescued:

Aretha Franklin - You - 1975

Unfortunately, this record survived.  Side one is slightly listenable, lead off track "Mr. D.J. (5 for the D.J.)" being one of the funkier numbers.  It's also the only track she wrote on this trashed LP.  The ballad, "I'm not Strong Enough to Love You" is pretty on target.  Not really the sort of thing that makes hearts happy in the House of VV, but not too painful.  The rest are just rough.  VVer #2 was very unsympathetic to Ms. Franklin's caterwauling so much so that most of the album was accompanied by a dying cat impersonation.  It's for the best.  The most entertaining quality for this one is the photograph on the cover.  The outfit, the glasses, the blowout 'do, the pose, the campy smile... it's a special kind of train wreck.


Mr. T - Mr. T's Commandments - 1984

Tougher-than-nails 80's superstar, Mr. T, raps, does spoken word, and tells it like it is, with his back-up singers keeping the tempo up.  The album is a total cluster, geared towards young-ins.  The synths and songwriting are horrendous.  The tempo-less Mr. T's voice is like a bag of gravel being rolled around on concrete.  Think Oscar the Grouch and you're almost there.  Granted, his message to kids is full of wisdom, "Don't Talk to Strangers," "No Dope, No Drugs," and the like.  The tunes that really fail hard though are the ones about himself, "Mr. T, Mr. T (He Was Made for Love)," "The Toughest Man in the World," and "The One and Only Mr. T."  Taking corny to an entirely other level of pain--way to go T.  Somehow they figured out how to take the tough out of the toughest.  Awful.  He wrote exactly zero percent of what's on here so let's at least hope he got paid.  Those gold chains don't pay for themselves!  Again, the album cover is probably the most entertaining thing here.  Mismatched tube socks, boots held together with duct tape, gold chains, feathered earrings, and of course the mohawk.   He's a true original, sort of a disco era fashion icon of rags to riches.  It's just one of those ridiculous 80's artifacts that have to be seen (and not heard) to be believed.


James Brown - Nothing but Soul - 1968

All instrumental, a little chaotic, kind of funky.  There is a chance the VVers hold on to this one for a little while.  The Godfather of Soul takes a break from shouting about Hot Pants and Soul Power to instead focus on "his increasing technical ability as an organist," says the back cover write-up.  Also, it describes the album as a "series of instrumentals that should find their way on the turn tables of disc jockies and home recording machines of millions of his fans."  Good luck arguing with that!   Rhythms and soulful swagger are here, especially on the all too short "Buddy-E."  Not too bad, but sometimes it flows into a blurting, wince-inducing, scat-clarinet territory.  It tortures the ears.

Of the three, no big winners here.  In doing a bit of reading on the interwebs it turns out that all three albums are out of print, which is interesting, and not entirely disappointing.  Also, there is a good chance the Mr. T album is worth a little chunk of change, somewhat justifying the effort.  Sometimes garbage is just garbage, but you'll never know until you give it a spin.  Dig it!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Does Your Fish Approve?

I like records too you know.
After a spin of the first Crocodiles 45, Neon Jesus, VVer #2 popped on Santurce, the first 45 of local DC band Shark Week.  She then turned to the fish tank, directly positioned next to the record player.  There sat Bella, the bushy-nosed plecostomus (basically a little sucker-mouthed catfish), out of her normal hiding area, at the front of the tank, and enthralled with the sonics infiltrating her water waves.  The VVers have no shame in the fact that they (mostly VVer #2) often talk to their fish.  VVer #2 loudly proclaimed, "Bella!  You like the Crocodiles?!" then realized, "I know it's a scary band name for a fish, but the music is good, right?..." then remembered, "Eeep, I'm playing Shark Week for you now; also a band name you probably don't like! ... Sorry!"  Bella definitely shook her tail to signal her disapproval of all this banter.  (Ok, it's possible that part didn't happen.)

Coincidentally, Crocodiles and Shark Week are tour buddies and both have new LPs out this year which are well worth your cash money.  Just don't tell your fish what music they are listening to and they will be happy as clams!

Translated from Fish to Human by VVer #2:

Crocodiles - Boys - 2015
This one will have you water-bobbing and fin-flipping in no time, especially with opening track "Crybaby Demon."  Continuing the Crocodiles' trend towards electrifried-rock over catchy beats, Boys skews more pop than their earlier LPs.  Less of an extended backstroke and more of a cannonball.  Songs tend to stick to under five minutes and are full of sing-a-long-able vocals.  The stylistic shift works well within Crocodiles' sound, but VVer #2 yearns for the loose, grungy format of their first LP, Summer of Hate (based on the ridiculous amount of times that record is played in the house).  [blurp, blurp, blurp] Other standout tracks from Boys include "Foolin' Around" which features what sounds like a digital yo-yo (with a sweet music video) and "Kool TV" with its punchy, samba-swing beat.  "Do the Void" is an awesomely cacophonous track with nasal, high-pitched vocals from Crocodile-wife Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls.  "Blue" and "Don't Look Up" slow down the tempo to exude a tropical beat, that might be the product of recording this one in Mexico. [blurp, blurp, move it guppy, blurp]

Shark Week - Beach Fuzz - 2015
After pre-ordering Beach Fuzz, Shark Week's debut LP, (yes, fish use the inter-webs) the first listen was a bit surprising.  The A-side is what was expected sonically from the DC/Baltimore based group.  Think, retro 70s punk, with a hearty dash of soulful surf, a lavish display of confident vocals, and plenty of fluidity in tempo. [blub, it's got me swimming like crrazzyy, blup!]  Then on a flip of the record, "Honeybee" evokes a Freddie Mercury-esque performance that will make you think this is a strange album.  [blurp, ohhh algae, blurp]  Just keep listening to it repeatedly and that thought will be nullified by all the extremely catchy, fuzzy, riff-rock that ensues.  Every fish knows, strange albums actually the best, right?  The yelping in "Desire" works really well for this track as does the thunderous drumming, ominous bass, and double-time tambourine.  "Scratching Post" is a slow burn at its utmost; possibly the poetic lyrics of a relationship sinking into the abyss. [blup, or getting sucked into the filter, blurp, blup]  "Gone" is a harshly emotional song coming from the depths of the past.  [blub, blub, it's a real fin slap to the face, urp]  Somehow mid-song, you realize that the whining guitar solo evokes 80s hair metal ballads, then you laugh, because it is great.  "Play it as it Lays" is an epic seven-minute burner, full of echoing vocals, drawn-out instrumentals, extreme tempo shifts, and glistening maracas that close out the LP.  Relentless!  Floating around for a week in the shark tank and loving it!

Oh by the way, the people that feed me, clean my tank, and sometimes appear with their giant heads peering through my glass walls have seen both Crocodiles and Shark Week loads of times and say they put on a great show.  They're even talking about plans to see them on October 20th at Comet Ping Pong in DC.  Think they have a travel tank for me?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Richmond Zine Fest '15

This weekend!  Come peruse and buy Vinyl Vagabonds zines!  Limited edition back-issues #3, #4, and #5, as well as the newest issue #6 (aka the food monster issue), will be available to purchase!  Check out the VVers mini-comics as well!
http://richmondzinefest.org/



Be there
For the new zine!
It's going to be
Interspectacular
Fantabulous
It'll blow your socks off!
It's one of those things
Where Cookiezilla versus zine
Zine versus comic
Comic versus vinyl record
Be there!
Intergalactic zine battle
It's... instupituous!!