Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bad, Very Bad

The Crusaders - Ghetto Blaster - 1984

New Year's Eve, Woodwards Auction House in Hampden, Baltimore:  I should have been suspect when I asked the salesman how much they charged for unmarked records - in this case "The Crusaders, Ghetto Blaster".  He took one look at the album, a sideways glance at me, then a pause.  He looked me straight in my eye, smiled, and said that the record was "on the house." Why didn't I throw that record as far away as possible and run in the opposite direction at that point?  I'm not sure.  Not only did I not accept his offer for a free record, but I insisted I pay him a quarter; making this a legit purchase.  A fun, if not entirely awkward transaction.  The second I walked out of that store sensed I might have crossed a line that I should not have.  Clearly I was not thinking straight.

This thing is downright horrendous.  I recognize I'm a sucker and I probably bought it because of the name Ghetto Blaster; it sounded like it had something going for it!  Also, it looked at least 5% interesting because the cover art.  Turns out the cover is the only thing about the record that doesn't spur me to gag.  The unusual piece, The Maestro, painted by rare combination NFL player and artist, Ernie Barnes, is spare and has a dark tone in its humor.  His stylized, elongated figures can also be found on the cover to Marvin Gaye's 1976 album, Sugar Shack.  That being said, the cover art is all this slab has going for it.  The VVers couldn't even get through all of the A Side without running for the stop button.  It sounds like elevator music with a beat.  I would imagine some incredibly shitty harmonized vocals also make up this album, but I don't remember getting that far into this one, and if I did, it has completely deleted itself from my C:\ drive.  No big loss.  Experiencing some of the really bad records that exist in this world of ours makes me appreciate quality records that much more.

Two things learned from this experience:
(1) If it is free (or if you have to convince the sales person to take your money), it is probably not good and buying random crap can sometimes bite you on the behind.
(2) Vinyl records sometimes have a way of piquing curiosity towards something equally (and in this case, more) captivating than the music itself.  Due to my self inflicted mistake of purchasing this dud, I got to read up on Ernie Barnes, someone I had never heard of before, who seems pretty interesting. A great deal more interesting than this record.

My apologies to whoever the next sad owner of this record will be. Perhaps a better next chapter for it will be to melt it, and turn it into pot for a cute plant.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Clear Days

New Clear Days - The Vapors - 1980

This is the first and last album I sought out at the old location of Joe's Record Paradise in Rockville. Joe's has since moved to the heart of downtown Silver Spring and the new location is absolutely jammed with goodies (read about the VVer's hometown paradise here). It certainly takes the cake as the most complete record store in town, but to be frank, there aren't that many record stores left in DC anyways.

The Vapors lead off with the impossibly catchy single "Turning Japanese", which will likely give you a nose bleed if played too frequently. The single is slightly cheesy, and has some dinky instrumentation. Put simply, it's dumb, pop fun. The remainder of the album on the other hand is mostly solid, fast paced, and easily tops the lead song. Strong influences from The Jam, The Stooges, The Clash, 60's pop, and a little ska can be heard as well (how dare I make comparisons to such stellar bands as these?). Each side has a great closing track: "Letters from Hiro" and "Bunkers" respectively. These are both downbeat pop rockers that have plenty of thumping rhythm, but none of the same peppy mood as "Japanese." These guys frankly seem depressed at the state of world (hey, it was 1980, things were looking pretty bleak. I mean, the hair styles alone made it seem like the world was going to end at any moment). "I've got no idea where we go from here, maybe that's why we're living in bunkers". The only dud on here is "Waiting for the Weekend" which is catchy, but not in a way that makes you want the weekend.

Every song on this disc has its charms. "Somehow" is an odd apology to a lover song. "Don't leave me now, I'll make it up to you somehow." It's tight and effective. Several side-B tracks have a Ramones style chug-a-lug, made even more complete with sing a long set to a drum track. The Vapors never really bring out the big guns though. They never wail or squeal vocally or on guitar. The heaviest thing they have going for them is lyrics and the aforementioned rhythm section. Pop all the way.

Album art work is strong here. The cover depicting a news weather man pointing at a blue screened weather map of the UK. Several of the typical storm clouds and suns have been replaced by a mushroom cloud and a nuclear fallout symbol. Pretty dark stuff. It perfectly matches the gallows humor and punkish pop of this 80's LP. Less effective is the back cover where you get to see the band members end of the world hair styles. AAAAGGGGGGHHHHH!!!

Old Stand Bys

Records that get frequent play time and are dependable for a good listen at a moment's notice.  Here is just a handful that we could write a whole lot about, but wouldn't it be a lot better if you just listened to them?

T. Rex - The Slider
The Doors - self titled
Run D.M.C. - self titled
Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction
Talking Heads - Speaking in Tongues
Black Sabbath - Paranoid
Duke Ellington - Daybreak Express
CCR - Willy and the Poor Boys

Find these records.  You will be happy.  Then you can write a review, because we're too lazy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wood Glue?

Cleaning your Records with Wood Glue:
(1) Go to your local hardware store.
(2) Do not make eye contact with salesman.
(3) Buy large quantities of wood glue; do not discriminate between brands.
(4) Pay cash. Crisp bills only.
(5) Do not use coupons.
(6) Shove old ladies aside on your way out of store.
(7) Run directly home.
(8) Unplug phone and microwave.
Now you are set.

What? You want real instructions? Ok then, be that way:
(1) Choose record that seems it spent part of its life in a dust storm.  Things that wood glue can help with are pops and clicks that are deep within the vortex of your record grooves.
(2) Put on turntable.
(3) Set the turntable to spin, but do not apply needle.
(4) Apply wood glue.  Start from the center grooves making certain not to get any on the paper label. Work outwards using generous amount of glue. Do not get hypnotized by swirling white and black lines.
(5) Use a side of card stock paper, cardboard, or crappy album cover that you never want to see again, to smooth out glue to totally cover record.
(6) Power down your turntable and place record somewhere to dry for a few hours. Make sure to keep the record level while it dries.  Under a ceiling fan has worked well for us.
(7) Determine if glue is dry.  Clear glue = dry, white glue = wet.  Fear the white glue.
(8) When glue is totally dry begin peeling up an edge of the glue - this can be tricky at first, but you'll get it.  Once you get it going keep peeling.  Try to peal the whole thing in one go; practice on an orange and try to get the entire rind of as one piece (ok, that wasn't a real instruction).
(9) Make sure record is clean from any remaining glue.  You might need to use a cloth to remove any thin or cracked glue fragments.
(10) PLAY!

Thanks to Joe's Record Paradise for posting this mesmerizing video of a demo of how it's done, including a before and after listen to the glued record.  These VVers were convinced.  At least we could try it on a 15 cent record to start with, in case of impending doom.  Doom, however, has not ensued.  So far, we have experimented on only three records with mixed results, none of doom however, and all records remain playable.

First trial: Fat Boys debut album.  This thing was full of crackles and pops and some skippage.  The result was definitely a more clean sound with only very minor white noise; skippage remained, but that was expected.  "Human Beat Box" was unharmed and vastly improved.

Trial two: Queen II.  As discussed in our blog for this album, found here; when played at high volumes, the sound just got fuzzed out.  Maybe it could be from years of junk in the grooves (most likely not, but worth a try). Maybe some wood glue could help?  It sounds a bit crisper now, but still doesn't hold up well on high volume.  Could just be a poor fidelity slab.  In this case the VVers are on the lookout for a nice remastered edition.

Ravi Shankar Improvisations has absolutely no sheen to it and no scratches.  Give it a spin and it is full of hisses and pops.  Wood glue result: nothing.  Seems as if dull vinyl = poor quality vinyl.  Sadness.  Perhaps this  one was made from recycled tires?

So we are batting .500 with the wood glue.  I mean really, we have only tried three records; a pretty measly sample group.  It did give positive results to the one album we knew it could fix - Fat Boys.  Happy birthday.

It's fun to play with glue.  Try it and see for yourself.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Spinnerette 2009

You know that newish band Sleigh Bells that everyone is so damn excited about? The rah rah electro-propulsive metal sound? Well, Spinnerette crushes that with way more attention to craft. Several tracks on this explosive debut LP have very similar "rah rah rah" cheerleader chants backing up growling vocals and coupled with propulsive buzzsaw riffs. The big difference is that Spinnerette is far from being a one trick pony. Along with the aforementioned dose of the rah rahs (Ghetto Love, Sex Bomb, Baptized by Fire), you also get soulful death marches (Driving Song), noodly stoner chants (Impaler, Distorting a Code), and end of the world doom metal (Cupid, Prescription for Mankind, A Spectral Suspension). Way more ponies. Very catchy death dance metal ponies.

It all started when the VVers met a bartender who appeared utterly disinterested in just about everything whilst in Richmond last year.  She was playing this album during her day shift at Sticky Rice. I recognized the vocalist's raspy wails swimming in a skuzz of distorted techno skronk as Brody's and inquired with a "hwaaah?" Our aloof bartender transformed to chatty, surly, excited, and a little jaded at the world all at once. Needless to say, that experience stuck with the VVers and I ended up mail ordering this hot pink disc through the newly minted "The Record Exchange" (f/k/a CD Game Exchange) in the SS hood.

Brody Dalle, formerly of punk/alt rock band, The Distillers, unleashes a slew of gnarly vocal growls and haunting moans on this album. Those who know this band might expect something a little less popish, but frankly, Spinnerette is a much more accomplished and melodic effort than any Distiller's record; and they still cram in plenty of ear crushing vocals, chalk board scraping chords, and morbid metal to please this fan. The new sonic forays might be attributed to the input of collaborator Alain Johaness, working in Cali (instead of Distiller's home base Australia), the influence of recent hubby (and Queens of the Stone Age frontman) Josh Homme, and a host of other things. Likely the combination of growing up a tad and breaking free of a major label had a good deal to do with the powerful and more mature new musical direction. Hell, she's got a great voice and she doesn't need to waste her talent screaming away all day.

You'll be listening to this and not be the least bit surprised when you're dancing and rocking out at the same time. Most tracks are jammed with steady thumping rythym for the shaking of booties.  Think it's all fun and games? Noooo. Dalle has that rare combination of croon and snarl in her vocal chords. It soothes and the next second rends. It's a real bastard.

Spinnerette's soundscape is permeated with odd blorps and beeps that sound like they've been fed through the doom machine a few times. Imagine it's a warm and sunny day just before the world ends and you're listening to a Devo song that's been covered by Joan Jett, and then remixed by Satan. Hooray!