Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Record of the Week: Sonic Graffiti

Sonic Graffiti

REAL TIME RECORD REVIEW! I will only write about this record in the time it takes to listen to it.

First song “Broke My Brain” is barely long enough to pay homage to Ty Segall’s Goner-era classics. This is just good motoring punk-and-roll. Love the second song title “Fuck the Police Fuck the Jesus Freaks” and the track pumps with joie de vivre and a slightly detectable punk attitude.

I was hipped to this record by solidly reputable Keith Glass at the Nashville record show last Sunday. Dude’s Australian, lives in Mobile and is of a certain presence where you just LISTEN to what he has to say. He had Sonic Graffiti on his display wall for $20, colored vinyl, limited to 100 copies. I found a copy of Gabriel and the Angels “Chumba” in his 7” box and ultimately passed on it because I was pretty sure I already had it. Walked away, made the rounds.

“Mutiny on the Ant Hill” is more in the realm of solid Seventies psych six-minutes strangulation with verse-like punctuation of Sixties frat styling. Noodle-y guitar scribbles for an extended breakdown manage not to kill the vibe.

The record show was a unique trip as I’d brought my four-year-old daughter along. First time. I really, sincerely struggled with the idea of bringing her…what’s the purpose of a child at these things? Would she just run amok and flip boxes of priceless breakable 78s? Would she even understand what a record show is? She had NO business being there.

“Let’s Die Again” introduces acoustic guitar and a monotonous distant piano. A welcome change of pace at the perfect spot in the running order.

“I’m the Slut” is a memorable title to a forgettable song.

“I Wanna Love Love But Love Don’t Love Me” is a jam. Hendrix-styled held notes and wheedle-wheedle-wee guitar sounds. Warm tone on the guitar. Dig.

But then I realized, my parents took me to ALL KINDS OF THINGS I had no business attending. Shit, most summer Friday nights from the ages of 7 to 10 I spent running around my dad’s softball games, only to be dragged to the BAR afterwards. Begging for quarters for video games (if we were lucky) or more likely the jukebox. Kids in a dank midwest softball bar? Not ideal. Kids at a record show? Acceptable.

Side B begins with “Witch in My Heart” and some shapes thrown in the spirit of Jack White initially felt pastiche, but by the end of the song it felt like guitarist Drew had come into his own.

“Broken Window” is inoffensive and maybe that makes it ultimately offensive?

So Violet behaved herself. I was originally just going to have her walk around with me (like an idiot) but mom suggested I put her in the stroller and lock her down. Brilliant idea. At the earliest sign of impatience I just handed her my cell phone. I’m not proud of it, but such is the price you pay for the ability to dig. She randomly called some family, Swank, watched some YouTube and responded to text messages with stickers (which I’ve never used on my own) giving off the impression I’m more hip to technology than I legitimately am.

“Party Song For My Funeral” is the next song. Equally inoffensive?

“Ghost Steppin” feels changed in a welcome way. The world has not enough fuzz bass solos, so the one placed here is doing God’s work, tempered with melodic, downtempo interstitials. Me likes.

My wife gave me shit for the fact that Violet doesn’t have her own record player yet. I felt assured that she wasn’t ready, but Malissa kept pushing me. Said she needed a record collection too. Damn. Found a $1 copy of “Tequila” by the Champs, which was not only my favorite song when I was five years old, but Violet has also come to love from exposure via “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and occasional one-on-one performances by Uncle Jack. Scooped it up and once I find the copy of “How Much is That Doggy in the Window?” I bought for her three years ago, we’ll have the beginnings of her very own stack of wax.

“Good Time in Misery” feels rote standard blue progression, but I can deal.

Penultimate song is “Nematode Grenade” begins with the lyrics “I was an alien but now I am a slave” and I have no idea what that means. I feel like the drums are buried a bit and that’s probably my only legit complaint about the mixing here, everything else is accurately and interestingly presented. I can also look past the fact that the guy is playing a Jack White Airline model, but I imagine some other folks may not be so forgiving.

After one guy stopped me as “didn’t you run the white stripes email list?” and another guy recognized me from Dust and Grooves, I spent a bit of time at the Goner Records table discussing the intricacies in pricing Elvis Sun 45’s (and bemoaning the fact I could not remember which two of those singles I did not have), we made our way back to Keith, who ultimately seemed surprised I was buying this LP. Said they’d played a few in-stores at his shop and they were, by far, the best band to do so. From Florida (they are forgiven) personal recommendations are still the preferred way to discover something to love.

“Shadow is My Only Friend” coasts along with atmospheric effects and is an apropos album closer. Ending on a fadeout? Ballsy move. I bet these guys are WAY better live and that’s no slight on the recordings, I just feel like a small, sweaty room probably conveys these tracks better than vinyl grooves ever could.  I am ultimately sincerely impressed with this Sonic Graffiti album. Curious as to why the cover I have is completely different from the one depicted on their Bandcamp, but will ultimately track down whatever other vinyl they have available. I suggest you do the same.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Record of the Week: Counterfeit Jack White!

Jack White
Live at Third Man 2 x 12” and Blunderbuss demos 7”

So the drive home for the holidays was a dream. I flew the girls and mother-in-law up to Detroit and packed the family Flex with sundry goods and a smattering of Christmas presents which would all get wrapped at the last possible moment before their opening. So that left me, paternity leave winding down, with a solitary drive from Nashville to suburban Detroit. This was my last stand.

There were drive through A&W cheese curds. A stop in Cave City where I bought switchblades, stiletto/lighter combos, brass knuckles and a $16 crossbow from a kind man who had no legs. Arby’s.

But the highlight for me would be hitting Shake It Records in Cincinnati. I hadn’t been since Dirtbombs tour ’08 and some time to just decompress flipping through those stacks would be a perfect halfway point celebration.

Man, Shake It Records is soooooo perfect. I love the place hardcore. Exactly what a record store should be.

So I stock up…the 7” dollar bin is beautiful, a copy of Cope’s Compendium, Manson Family LP, a used Komeda LP, and other assorted slickness all happily fill my bag. A cursory look through the White Stripes/Jack White section turns up a copy of the 2xLP live at Third Man Vault #14 release. Priced $45. “Not bad for a used copy,” I think to myself.

But something feels off.

There’s no lenticular cover.

“Oh, but we actually printed underneath the lenticular” I remind myself. (also…yeah, we printed underneath the lenticular. Surprise!)

“But wait a minute…we didn’t just print the photo” I internally monologue (and yeah…totally different image underneath the lenticular. Surprise!)

The entire thing is a super-high-gloss that I don’t recall us ever using on any release. As the person who was probably most involved in the total sum of the parts of this package, my brain is really confused and taxed at this point, unable to really figure out what the fuck is going on.

Thankfully packaged in a resealable plastic sleeve, I open the baby up to examine more closely.

I peek into one of the jacket pockets and see a TMR 7” company sleeve with the Blunderbuss Demos single tucked inside.

“Well who would go through the trouble of all THAT versus just making the 2xLP?” my brain rages on.
Finally, the only true indicator I can ever trust or believe in…the run-out groove etching.

The dead wax of the LPs…nothing. And shitty center labels on top of it. The single says…MADE IN UK!

Then and only then did it finally hit me…WE’VE BEEN PIRATED!

This just wasn’t a run-of-the-mill bootleg, where someone takes an unauthorized recording, radio session, singles compilation, puts their own artwork together and presses it up in the “fan club” intention. No…someone went through extreme pains to try and match everything on an authorized, legal release and pass it off as legitimate. This is pirating. This is counterfeiting…the kinda shit that organized crime partakes in with Louis Vuitton bags.

The initial feeling is incensed. That quickly subsides and I feel…flattered. In some weird way, I feel like this is a sign that we’ve made it. That the Vault has really established itself. A wry smile crosses my face. I’m happy about the existence of this, but not happy about it being sold and potentially fooling folks.

So I bring it up to the counter, ask for the big wigs, explain the deal to them and they’re legitimately intrigued. I’ve heard plenty of stories of artists outright TAKING releases of this nature out of record stores. I ain’t that bold (or the artist) so I said to them, “Listen, please don’t order this again. I want this record, but I will not pay $45 for it. I’ll pay your cost.” Jim and Darren Blase, brothers and co-owners of the shop were completely understanding, solid dudes of the highest order who were more than conciliatory in their offer.

One of them grabbed a box sitting behind the counter, a collection of detritus, oddities, forgotten ephemera and just general shit fished out of LP jackets. After rooting around for a second he pulls out what I surmise is a 1970s era American Airlines luggage tag. Written widely on it is “Bo Diddley Archer FLA.” I take all of a half-second to recognize “Oh shit…that’s clearly hand-written by Bo Diddley!”

Being the dudest of dudes, Jim says “It’s yours. Take it.”

So Mabel’s first Christmas and Violet’s fourth were beautiful and full of happy memories made with family and friends and the framed Bo Diddley luggage tag will serve to remind me of that in a odd, roundabout manner, as an indirect showcase of how we got there.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Record of the Week: Young Zee "Stay Gold"

These "Record of the Week" posts began a few months back on the paid end of the Vault subscription site as a little bit of "content" for the customers there. Being a man of the people I can't let that shit live behind a paywall forever and will pull the best of those entries and let them live here for all the world to see. Enjoy!
Young Zee (No Brains Class)
"Musical Meltdown" Part One

Getting the Sonos back up after months without because of a router replacement had me building a monstrous stream-of-consciousness playlist. Honestly one of my prouder moments...not sure if you all can click in on it, but it's titled "Just Some Shits" if you're curious.
In the process of compiling the list, this song "Stay Gold" popped into my head as it has, on and off, over the past three years. And prior to popping into my head for those years, there was a little morsel of it buried in the deepest folds of my brain. 
So there's a clip I remember seeing MANY times on MTV. Featuring the Fugees, probably 1995 or so, I recall it being somewhat structured as a press conference, someone off camera says something inaudible and Pras or Wyclef say "Yo, they wanna know if we gonna do a rap about OJ" and Lauryn Hill steps up and immediately unleashes this verse (or a slight permutation of it)...
"These dimensions and extensions will secure my future pension
When I mention corporate lynchin's like the cowboys did to Indians
The intention of the Devil is to cause me hypertension
So stay gold like Stevie Wonder don't blunder like OJ Simpson"
Pure fucking genius. Unforgettable. Wowed my mind back then and I get chills just typing and re-reading it today.
Fast-forward a decade plus, and SOLID Milwaukee brother Chris Schulist starts a hip hop reissue label called Dope Folks. Shit is real, they don't mess around, put out tons of records and send multiple copies of all of them to TMR. I'd never heard of Young Zee before, but apparently these tracks were originally a cassette-only release that got four mics in a review in the Source but never saw widespread release.
When I put this on "Stay Gold" from this album the Christmas lights in my brain illuminate all corners like Clark Griswold. I KNOW THIS! The same damn verse from the Fugees press conference!
But YouTube detective work turns up absolutely no evidence of the aforementioned freestyle from back in the day. And I become more and more aware of a phenomenon that needs a name (if it doesn't have one already)...the doubting of memories solidly held because there's no corroboration of them. (I used to feel this about the fake episode of "Saved By the Bell" featuring Marsha Warfield, but that's been subsequently proven). I'm worried this will only be exacerbated by the seemingly absolute nature of the internet. If it's not on there, it must not exist...right? 
SIDE NOTE: It makes me want to dig through the garbage in my mom's basement and grabbed all the soot-stained VHS tapes, featuring old episodes of Squirt TV, long forgotten commercials and Presidents of the United States of America late night television appearances, digitize them and make sure they BE for everyone else out there who just might be curious. I know there were multiple episodes of the TV show "Comic Strip Live" that my brother taped...EARLY shit from Greg Proops (talking about Pixie Stix), EARLY Jeff Dunham featuring Peanut, Amazing Jonathan...we watched them endlessly, helping form the comedic bedrock that my life is based on. I met Proops once and asked him specifically about the Pixie Stix routine and he said "I literally cannot remember anything about that entire set other than I mentioned Pixie Stix." I get scared when I think that jokes are lost to time, if not for VHS tapes just waiting to be saved.
Anyway, the plucky high-pitched timbre of the backing melody on "Stay Gold" is just lazy and loopy enough to constantly replay in my head. But only this week did I think to ask Chris about all of this. Texting me tonight, he said "She would recycle that verse a lot. Especially on Sway and King Tech." Immediately followed by "Funny thing is at the Vanguard (bar Chris owns) right now we are having RAPPY HOUR where a DJ plays classic rap videos and he was just playing "Fugee-La." I saw this text and looked around like you guys were here punking me!"
So that leads me to intensely question whether the verse is written or spittin. Not that it really matters, but...I can't recall the other songs on the 12" and am not even going to bother trying at this hour, honestly anything/everything on Dope Folks is worth grabbing if you have a jones for old school, unknown, unheralded hip hop gems. NO ONE does it better than them. 
Texting through the night with Chris (who was lead singer in the Mistreaters in a past life) had him say "I sincerely wish we lived closer to you guys. It's crazy to think our dumb bands could forge such lasting friendships. I love it." I then sent him a pic of seventeen-year-old me sleeping on a recliner at his house and he said he wished he was at home to send a pic of my high school poetry zine...yeesh!
Followed up with "Are you drinking? This seems like drinking Blackwell"
Not drinking. Just drunk on memories and the tricks the mind plays on them.