Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Are We Not Men?

Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo! - Devo - 1978

There is so much I want to write about this album, found in a thrift shop in Langley Park, but I really have no idea where to start. Any ideas VVer #2?

Yea Yea YeaYeaYeayayayayaaa!!
Sorry busy with the uncontrollable singing.... wow that was corny, but so is this song!

So everyone knows Devo as that silly band wearing red plastic hats and yellow jumpsuits but did you know they were on the tail end of the first wave of American PUNK?! That puts them in the same ranks as Iggy and the Stooges, the Ramones, Velvet Underground, Television, Patti Smith, and New York Dolls! This album (Q&A) has all the hallmarks of a great punk album from this era, its fun, noisy, creative, and oddball. Songs you should check out immediately are "Uncontrollable Urge", "Jocko Homo", "Mongoloid"... David Bowie and Iggy Pop were directly responsible for DEVO getting a record deal with Warner Brothers. Nice to have famous fans.

I think its appropriate to add that the VVs recently checked out a band called the Polysics play at the Rock N' Roll Hotel in DC. The Polysics are a Japanese band that get their name from a brand of synthesizer the Korg Polysix, and are heavily influenced by DEVO. Think Devo, heavy synth, in Japanese, plus extra punk, plus LOTS of jumping around, oh, and dressed in Devo-esque jumpsuits. Pretty awesome.

The hunt for further Devo vinyl has proven rather difficult. Only their most recent super synth records are in the bin. Still, a copy of "Freedom of Choice" is probably out there somewhere, in some forgotten pile of some dusty thrift shop...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Business As Usual

Men at Work - Business As Usual - 1981

And then there was our Men At Work debut album that the cheesy 80’s loving VV sneaks into the record player at least once a week … Yeah, yeah, everyone knows “Down Under” and “Who Can it Be Now?” but do they know the insanely catchy “Be Good Johnny” or “Underground”? Not only does this album have fun Australian accents, but it also has reggae undertones and lots of synthesizers … perfect for the 80s dance-party in your household. But really, this is one of those records that you can just let play from beginning to end and not want to skip a song - which is my prerequisite to be a contender in the VV album catalog. It's also one of those rare records that Side B is far superior to Side A, at least in my opinion. Highlight to the album is that the inside sleeve gives credits to one of the band members, Russell Deppeler, on the Telephone and Calculator. Oh, music instruments of the 80s, how you never cease to entertain me....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Folk of the 80's

Men Without Hats - Folk of the 80's 1980

I know I mentioned a Devo album as the next review, but this one has been stuck in my head lately and it's a true winner. We picked this up at a record fair at the Black Cat on Valentine's Day, so romantic. I think we both were hesitant about picking this album up. This four song EP, their first ever release, has four songs, one of which (Antarctica) is on the bands full length album "Rhythm of Youth" (A great album). So why drop five bucks for three songs that could be total crap? We were likely propelled by the fact that "Rhythm of Youth" was such a good album, but really I have no idea why we bought it. The first song, "Modern(e) Dancing" is such an ear-worm that it's been locked in my head from listen one. It has goofy bleeps and bloops, an extremely catchy chorus, and some strange yelps from singer Ivan Doroschuck. The band is French Canadian, known as great yelpers... did you not know that? "Modern(e) Dancing" also features the line "with 60's hairdo's and 90's eyes", which seems incredibly futuristic for an EP put out in 1980. The other three songs; "Utter Space", "Antarctica", and "Security (Everybody Feels Better With)" are strong, memorable, and worth serious repeats.

"So where can I get one?" Turns out this is another hard to find album. Strangely, only "Antarctica" shows up on compilations and the other three songs are impossible to locate. I suppose people heard "The Safety Dance" and just assumed that anything else these guys put out was ignorable. Well,however you track this record down, it'll be worth it. At $1.25 per song in the current digital age of music, I feel we got a great deal.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Neil Young - Trans 1982

We were recommended this record by reliable source, Rob of Smash records. He was working a record fair at Comet Ping Pong and noticed me eyeballing this oddball album. I'd be told that Neil Young went on several uncelebrated musical tangents in the 80's and that his foray into electronica was the most odd. My assumption was that Neil was tired of being a country rock music darling and wanted to expand his musical horizons. Either that or he was really, really freakin' high.

Before I say any more about this album, I feel it's important to note that Neil Young has been a favorite of mine since my undergrad years. I got sucked into the image of him as "The Godfather of Grunge" that the music press of the early 90's billed him. Hey, the music was good and some of it did sound pretty grungy... those reporters must be onto something! Well, it was a little longer till I started actually listening to Neil's larger catalogue. This guy had pretty wide range and tastes. Slow folky ramblings, rocking souther style epics, and everything in-between. Still, I was warned to stay away from the early 80's stuff. Neil went weird...

Trans is a weird album. Very weird. The first song on the album is generic southern, folk rock, and cheesy too. It could easily throw anyone off the idea that Neil was experimenting sonically. Everything else on the album is pure electronic synth odd freakout pleasure. I'm pretty sure he liked to dance the robot while writing this album. On record he makes frequent use of the robotronic voice altering microphone device, the vocoder. Think "auto tune" but not shitty. So what possessed Mr. Young to go from tunes like "Needle and the Damage Done", "Old Man", "Harvest Moon", "Southern Man", "Ohio", etc. to this type of computerized strangeness? Turns out that using the vocoder around his son (who has cerebral palsey) elicited an improved response in communication. Pretty nice, eh? Finding a better way to communicate with your ailing child is a much better story than being really, really high. Ultimately, none of that matters if it sounds like hell, which it absolutely does not. It sounds amazing. It's catchy, well written and has a good deal of surprises. He even says "yippee ki yi yay" several time in full on robot talk. Pure gold. Standout tracks; "Like an Inca", "Computer Cowboy", "We R in Control"

Seems the only way you're getting this album is on an import CD or a bootleg rip. We got lucky and found the vinyl version. Love it so much that the album sleeve is framed and adorns the top of our stairwell. Beauty. Also, it should be mentioned that portions of some of the songs appear in the movie "Human Highway", that Young directed. It's a comedy that he made with New Wave band Devo... It's purported to be incredibly bad and also, it's impossible to find. Maybe we review a Devo album next...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Are We Not Blogging? We Are Vinyl Vagabonds!

Herbie Hancock - Monster - 1980

This LP is a blaring mix of disco, funk, metal, and funk (yes, I wrote funk twice). It inspired us to start blogging about our recent re-discovery of vinyl as the preferred way to enjoy new and old favorites. It also inspired some pretty ludacris dance moves and getting-on-down type behaviors in the kitchen whilst prepping what turned out to be one of the most incendiary veggie curries ever.

When we moved in together just north of Washington, DC in January we only plugged in the record player as "the" hi-fi system of the house, mostly because it was all we had. The record player was a part of one of those crummy all-in-one stereos of the 80's, a hand me down from who knows where, with a radio, dual cassette player, and of course the phono. Quickly we noticed how much warmer the sound was when spinning the small collection of records we had, and how many more sounds we were actually hearing. All of this on a relatively beat-up and dilapidated system. This revelation quickly led to the purchase of a new record player, and Audio Technica LP60, that is USB ready. The assumption we made was that we were going to want to transfer all of this music into the digital realm so that it could travel with us on our commutes. The belief that these funky and oddball records that we were starting to accumulate together would get more action on our ipods was completely wrong. As nice a technology is the portable mp3 player, it does not hold a candle to the sound that gets pumped through the record itself. CD doesn't even come close to the texture and depth of vinyl. I know this must seem pretty snobby, but it's just the plain truth.

So here is a blog about vinyl. All sorts of vinyl. Platters found at Roadhouse Records, SMASH, Value Village, Salvation Army, Joe's Record Paradise, the CD/Game Exchange, Wagging Tails Thrift, as well as a parents dusty living room cabinet. The plan from here is to highlight the fun oddball records that we are finding and rocking out to. MAYBE we'll even turn you onto music you just can't get enough of.......a few come to mind right away...(stay tuned)