Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016, meh


Come and check out the VVers while they say good riddance to 2016 at everyone's favorite coffee shop/record store/hang spot, Bump 'n Grind.  Kick back for a coffee or a pregame beverage before the night gets rowdy.
VVer #1 spinning futuristic sounds 3-4 and VVer #2 spinning all lady 45s 4-5.

B n' G will be celebrating their 2nd anniversary 8am - 1am.  10% off everything; DJs all day and $5 beer/wine; champagne toast at midnight.

Music and Art, Living Together in Harmony

Seen at Artomatic 2016 in Potomac, Maryland.  A classy little gallery set up with a suitcase turntable and box of beat-up records to listen to (in this case, a crackly Meters single) while you admire some sharp stencil artwork.  The artist write-up in the gallery space was simple.  To paraphrase: these records look like hell, but play fine; enjoy them before they get turned into art.

This VVer had a genuinely good time at the show, particularly the artist's concept of giving the viewer some quality time with rescued vinyl that he will eventually transform.  Way to vagabond Greg Benge; quality work.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Download Card Conundrum

The Download Card: You love it and you hate it!  Well, which one is it?

You buy a new record, rip off the shrink wrap, pull out the record sleeve, and one of three things might happen: (1) a little card comes floating out onto the floor, inconspicuously never to be seen again, you don't even care because you are so focused on your new vinyl; (2) a little card comes floating out onto the floor, you pick it up, you are happy, you return to be focused on your new vinyl; or (3) you shake the record sleeve in disappointment looking for that little flimsy slip of paper, but alas there is none.  In the last scenario, you panic.  Wait, maybe it fell out when you took out the record?  Where is it!?!   In actuality, most new vinyl will advertise this special bonus with a sticker on the front.  Some artists (for example, Puscifer) never include them.  Is this a problem?  A statement?  Are they just lazy?  Where is that little f^%@ing card!?!  Have the VVers spent too much time thinking about this?  Clearly.

Room for Debate: Why include the download card?

Portability.   The "free download" included with many newly pressed records is a nice gesture, a little extra incentive that appeals to those that want their music to travel with them.  Once you've got your greasy little mitts on those little ones and zeros (00101101011101001111) you can get more familiar with them anywhere and on any device!  The sound is often wildly different based on the media, but whatever, right?  The VVers have found that digital versions tend to sound faster compared to the vinyl version; it's also possible the VVers need a new turntable.  More importantly, why shell out for music on vinyl if you are going to spend most of your time listening to those digitized and compressed tunes on lackluster earbuds that sound awful?  This is a surefire way to make you forget how good the music is.  Isn't this the main point to your vinyl devotion?  Good acoustics and nice plush cover art.  You aren't seeing that from a download card or on the screen of your mini device.  Music in the car does have its merits...  Music on the go has its merits...  But is this really why you bought the vinyl?  With the advent of smart phones, streaming music, and cloud-based systems, music is everywhere at all times.  You bought the vinyl because you care about something more.  Nice job.

Familiarity.  If you listen to an album so much digitally because you love the music, you may forget to listen to it on record, so what is the point of having the record?  This happens to VVer #2 often.  She will listen to those albums she loves that are in the vinyl collection that also have a download: Jack White Blunderbuss, Crocodiles Crimes of Passion, The Faint Doom Abuse.  The VVers are glad that they reside on an iPod to jam out to when on the train/bus/walking, but sometimes feel it takes away from how much time is spent appreciating the vinyl itself.  It is actually a treat to listen to these records on vinyl, they really do sound different.  Not having a download card will force you to listen to the album on vinyl.  Not the worst thing.  Not at all.

Source Material.  If the album was recorded digitally anyway, ok, include the download.  But then ask yourself why you are buying the vinyl in the first place?  There better be some damn good art work, plush packaging, or snazzy colored wax.  A download card included with an analog recorded record makes less sense.  Unless you are getting access to high fidelity versions of the digital, you're basically getting garbage.  Record labels give you low bit versions of digital on purpose so there remains more than just a lingering incentive to get the physical media.  Shop wisely.

Lasting Value.  When re-selling vinyl online, on Discogs for example, people want the download card that came with the album.  This is silly in the VVers' view for three reasons: (1) it's damn hard to keep track of those cards and they are often lost or recycled years after the record is bought; (2) the download codes often times expire either after a period of time or after a certain amount of downloads; and (3) are you paying for the vinyl or the digital?  The download card itself is usually a scrap of paper with not much going on.  There are some exceptions that are slightly artful, and even occasionally a bit exciting.  Still... more than the vinyl itself?  Never.

Example.  The VVers are big The Faint fans.  They recently went to see them and danse at 9:30 Club.  Spectacular.  The Faint has a new(ish) album just released, CAPSULE: 1999-2015, which is essentially a greatest hits, plus one new track and a bonus 45 of two additional new songs.  Why not buy it?  Score! VVer #2 found a little download card floating out and took the initiative to download it; ever since, it has been on constant repeat on the iPod getting to and from work.  Songs are oh so addictive and must be listened to again and again.  What is nice is that some songs were familiar, but VVer #2 has developed a newfound appreciation for them.  This sparked an interest in listening to the older vinyl from whence the songs came.  For example, "Paranoiattack," "I Disappear," and "Southern Belles in London Sing" are constantly stuck in her head, and all happen to be from the album Wet From Birth, which the VVers have on their record shelf, but are not entirely familiar with.  Upon revisiting, not only are these particular songs great, but the rest of the album has a newfound fantastic-ness.  Wet From Birth still has The Faint's electronic sounds, but also strings and orchestra instruments throughout.  What should be taken from this?  Sometimes digital is good for a re-invigorated interest in all of that other vinyl sitting on the shelf.

Words of Wisdom: If the digital version is so important for you to have, just buy it digitally.

For the VVers, there is no conundrum.  The vinyl is what they want and if there is also a download, that's ok.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Bad Brains for Breakfast? Better ask Bella!

Another in a long-running series in which the Vinyl Vagabonds attempt to determine what record to play based on the opinion of a pet, house plant, or inanimate object.

As we all know, breakfast record selection can be tricky.   The Vinyl Vagabonds sympathize with you.  While VVer #1 typically goes with any old platter, VVer #2 has far less tolerance in the wee hours of the morning.  This aural sensitivity may very well be the product of the actions of the prior night.  Out late?  One cocktail too many?  Too energized to sleep?  Insomnia?  Up early and ready to conquer the day?  Ok, the last one rarely occurs.

This is how the VVers have come to trust Bella, their fish (a Bushy Nose Plecostomus), for her record selecting acumen.  She serves as a neutral party, blessed with stellar musical taste (and impeccable taste buds).  On a recent morning while sprinkling flakes in for the guppies, VVer #2 almost certainly heard Bella bubbling over the gurgling filter, "blurp blurp, Bad, blurp, Brains."  What, what, huh?  Bella wants to hear Bad Brains Rock for Light over breakfast?!  The VVers usually don't take requests... but... why the heck not?  Ok!

Luckily, the fishy-face knows a thing or two!  She knows that VVer #2 does enjoy crazy, loud punk with her hand-ground coffee.  Slow down for a second though, aren't intense vocals in the morning a bit rough?  What helps is that those vocals are screamed so you can barely decipher them; that's a different story.  Bella also knows that this particular Bad Brains album has a few calmer reggae tracks to balance the start of the day.  Nice choice fishy!  Now if the VVers could just train you to help flip the record...

Rock for Light is Bad Brains second full-length album.  The Washington D.C. band has a fairly tumultuous reputation for highs and lows but this album came at a time (1983) of experimentation and transition that worked very much in their favor.  Each and every hardcore, proto-metal, and reggae track on Rock for Light seems totally unencumbered by thoughts of what the outside world might care for.  Bella knows this and makes sure the VVers are aware it's her fave.  She loves the soulful flow of "I + I Survive" just as much as she gets her flippers flipping for the frenetic "Banned in D.C."  Who could blame her?  Tracks blend seamlessly from genre to genre in total sonic precision.  The LP was produced by Ric Ocasek of pop act The Cars, lending it a crispness that is often lacking from low budget punk recordings.  Bad Brains are masters of the mixed genre.  No band handles punk and reggae so equally well--The Clash, of course, being a close second.  When the first calm track, the (comparatively) lengthy "Rally Around Jah Throne" morphs effortlessly into the riotous "Right Brigade," which features three distinct tempo sections, you start to get an idea of what these guys are capable of.  Starting off with a riff that would easily be the envy of any grunge band, going into full-on shit-kicking punk, and ending with earworming guitar solos.  All showered with the growls, yowls, and belted yelps of H.R. totally losing his mind.  Beautiful.

This album has enough churning guitars to pulp your juice, tempo-shifting drums to get you chugging your coffee, and multiple personality vocals from H.R. to jam your toast.  It's "got that attitude" to get you amped up for your day.  Every good fish knows it.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Four Randos and a Red Broom

How is it that VVer #1 always stumbles across randomly discarded records (aka vinyl vagabonds) in the street?  Seems that someone has eyes like a hawk for these...
The Strays:
A free, pristine, four-record set begging to be brought home was sitting in front of Som Records (honestly, that place always has a weird box of free stuff out front).  The set in question is Dance Du Balai No 1-4 by Jo Privat et son orchestre musette and pressed by Les Industries Musicales et Electriques Pathe Marconi in Paris, France.  At first glance there was a level of fear; why would someone just discard a pristine set of something so lush with warm colors, smiling wedding guests, and some guy holding a red broom?  This VVer had to know more.  He spent time studying the more unusual aspects of the covers (the red broom on in every photo for instance) and began to imagine what these records might sound like.  Into the bag and homeward bound.

The Plan:
On the journey home an idea started to percolate... why listen to them at all?  VVers don't typically go in for orchestral wedding music ya' know.  Why even do any research?  Why not just try to Sherlock Holmes this jam and figure out as much as possible to guess what they will sound like?  Sounds like a good enough MacGuffin to get writing!

The Research:
Each cover prominently features a semi-burly man in a dress shirt, blue slacks, striped socks, and sandals (Jo?) playing a blue-marbled accordion with gold trimmings.  On accompaniment is always his buddy with the skinny mustache (Steve?) playing a rustic looking acoustic guitar.  Both look very happy, focused, and possibly a bit inebriated.  Even though the records are all French productions, the well-dressed wedding attendees all look slightly Greek, maybe Polish or Italian?  Except for the bride (a blonde), everyone has dark hair.  There is something old-world, rustic/country about the pictures.  The front cover upper section features an illustration (Ekta Jean Mainbourg?) of a dapper gentleman with a bowler cap dancing with ... you guessed it, a giant, red broom.  The color photos are soft and saturated all at once.  They look a bit like hand-colored black and white, but it's probably just cheap printing of the era from whence they came.  Regardless of the fact that these are old records... no year is printed on the sleeve or the vinyl.  The VVers guess 1963 based on fashion choices (conservative but hip), decor (bamboo curtains), hair styles (greased and up), and lettering on the sleeves (quirky but clean).  Fascinatingly, each cover features the same wedding couple in four totally different scenes.  Did these covers get shot at four different fake weddings?  That's a lot of fake wine to drink!  The couple looks to be in pure bliss as they bask in each other's joy.

What the music sounds like is tough to guess even though there is a great deal of evidence to soak up.  Described as a potpourri of one-steps, valses (waltzes?), rumbas, tangos, marches, and even a few polkas--it's just about impossible to figure.

 "Special Danse" (see picture) music has never been so intriguing!!!  The back of each record advertises others from the set, with the exception being No. 1 which also has an ad for Jo Privat's album "Petanque a Nogent" which is sort of like French bowling/bocci (the VVers have cousins in France so therefore know about Petanque... and in the picture Jo and his buddies are all are pointing at balls).  What's really awkward is that the balls are all around Jo's accordion, which is clearly a staged and awkward photo.  Balls.  The VVers refuse to show this picture here.

Looks like each album sold for twelve or twenty-six francs at ye'olde Samartaine BG (see picture again!) which sounds like a pretty good deal.  All four LPs are marked Series Pilote with a corner image of an aquatic ship steering wheel logo, implying a nautical motif.  Are these anthems of the Mediterranean French Navy!?!  What about that red broom?  Are there satanic witches?

So about that broom.  In each case the person holding the magical red broom is pictured looking intently at a dancing couple (in two cases it's the bride and groom, in one it's another attractive couple, and in the last, the guy is admiring his glass of scotch or possibly he is about to drink a candle) and appears to be waiting for his chance to cut in.  Is this the old-world equivalent of the swap scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark?  "Here man, hold this magic broom for a second while I hold your wife/bridesmaid/drink."

Some Fun Songs (Probably):
One Step "Avec les pompiers" which sounds like evacuate the pampers
Valse "Les Nuits" which is a song squirrels would like
Valse "Le grande frise" which is about a big salad
One Step "Ma Femme est morte" which sounds a bit dark for a wedding song
Rumba "Quizas, quizas, quizas" which is a nice little ditty about anxiety for pop quizzes
March "March du bonheur" ... don't ask
Polka "Joyeuse tourterelle" a swell tune about a happy, dancing tortoise

Perhaps the VVers are ready to listen...

Friday, August 26, 2016

Get to the Chopper(!)

Recently rediscovered in the Vinyl Vagabonds cache of 45s, this little gem should see the light of day more often!  "Get to the Chopper" is a pink 7" within a no frills black and white xerox cover.  Where did this pink slab o'vinyl come from and why is it staying in the House of VV?  Many moons ago, while in the oasis of fun that is Northampton, MA, VVer #2 picked it up and couldn't put it down.  For a few bucks at tiny basement store, Turn It Up!, VVer #2 was excited to own a record that would inspire her to say in her best AHRNOLD impersonation "Get to the Record Playah!" "Do it! DO IT NOWWW!!!"

Apparently the music on it wasn't bad either since it has remained in the collection for so long.  Upon re-listen it's immediately a household fave.  The music could be described as grind noise, doom-esqe, or experimental.  A grungy churn starts things off, but things get really weird from there.  Guitars echo in a siren-like alarm, distortion ensues, then the screaming.  What can only be discerned as "Oh my God!" "Oh my God!" see-sawing back and forth, only lasts long enough for you to look around and make sure ears aren't bleeding.  Hang on tight for tempo shifts aplenty and more incoherent screaming.  Then the finale, pure thrash hardcore and noise leading into echo and dissonance with a little bit of that familiar blaring siren.  This is the sort of song you play for your Grandma if you want to see her hair catch on fire.  The only disappointment to the 45 is that the B-side is the exact same track (maybe?).

A nice kicker is the four little xerox inserts that came in this package.  We learn that the band is from PA and that the first pressing of this 45 (from 2005 with a run of 150 copies) was on black vinyl with a Predator screen-printed on the B-side in different colors.  Sounds awesome, the VVers want to run into a copy of that!  A quote: "The beauty of the DIY community is that any one of you reading this insert now could have done this yourselves.  Start a band, put out a record, write a zine, set up a show; all of those things are available to every one of you if you just put forth the effort."  There are even several emails and web links for getting advice on how to do such a thing.  Bravo say these VVers.  Bravo.

P.S.  There's even a shout out to BURGERTIME as being the greatest video game ever.  OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD!

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 LPs.  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 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 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

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 the app do its thing.  While the translation is less than perfect, the VVers (using their extensive and in-no-way-useless knowledge of Godzilla movies) were able to get the gist of the track info.  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.  The emotionally charged score is beautifully laden with string and horn instrumentation making it 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 much of 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 humankind.  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 Kong'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 horn 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 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 recording by a Japanese rock group and you might give them some credit for effort.  Judging by the intensity exuding from this cut, you can tell that they are having fun covering this classic song.

Other artist's versions that could be promising include: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and the Sex Pistols.  Is this a prompt to run 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 artist's 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.

Alternatively, 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 milestone records (and recordings for that matter) are pretty old; this is a perfect way to preserve them.  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 quoi.  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 1965 album, Pastel Blues, while traveling to the Pacific Northwest.  Nary a sighting until 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 also 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.

This is just the tip of the iceberg that is the reissue discussion. The VVers do not encourage going out and buying any old reissue. Here are a few rules of thumb: Make sure it’s on a good label! Beware of bootlegs! 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. 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


Bump 'n Grind
1200 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

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 based solely on 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 whether or not the design has a flaw.  When fully loaded, the combined LPs put considerable weight against the back ladder spoke, but more importantly, the record at the back of the row.  Will this back-of-the-stack record 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 LP.  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 shelf.  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, a copy of the Ravi Shankar record was previously in the House of VV but purged because of its inferior pressing.  This version 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.  (It didn't take long!)

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).

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.