Welcome to the second installment of The Spins, where we explore the unexpected phenomena that is the resurgence of vinyl. I’d like to thank the record labels dedicated to the cause of keeping our appetite for the black plastic stuff well nourished. This time out, the genres are all over the map, but be sure to pay special attention to a few recently unearthed vintage punk and power pop gems.
This scuzzy Texas trio plays greasy, heavy rock à la Motörhead and Danzig with a dash of ZZ Top tossed in for good measure. Songs like “Iron Lungs,” and “Overdrive” serve the cause well, with a curious combination of fuzz guitars, punk vocals and oddly, a little bit of swing. This gatefold LP comes in your choice of black, green, pink or yellow wax. (The End)
Playing with a Different Sex
UK post-punks Au Pairs never made much of a splash over here, but did manage to cause a bit of a stir in their homeland with debut Playing with a Different Sex and its single “It’s Obvious.”
Always the shite disturbers, the female-fronted band balanced its brash politics with biting humor and piercing guitars, and was most certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. This plush, numbered reissue comes in either pink or ultra-thick black vinyl for superior sound. (Drastic Plastic)
The Birthday Party
Mutiny/The Bad Seed
Nick Cave fans are surely rejoicing over this long-awaited vinyl reissue from his first band of note, The Birthday Party. Whether by design or not, the band’s dark, eccentric lyrics and haunting atmospherics placed it at the forefront of what would soon be classified as “gothic rock.”
This stunning package is made up of two EPs from 1983, The Bad Seed and Mutiny!. The 3-panel packaging is a sight to behold, with two slabs of thick vinyl, one in blue swirl and one in red. This limited, numbered edition also includes a bonus 7-inch single in gold vinyl. (Drastic Plastic)
Blue Öyster Cult
It’s only installment #2 and here I go breaking my own rules. But, before you decide to string me up for featuring a CD release in here, hear me out for a minute. This new collection of CDs replicates the original BÖC vinyl releases note for note, down to the cardboard record jacket and perfectly replicated inner sleeves. NYC label Culture Factory does a stellar job at recreating the vinyl experience, even staying true to the sound, and avoiding the urge to doctor it up with high-tech gadgetry. I happen to know several vinyl junkies that dig these mini LPs, as they’re so damn cute and convenient.
This collection features the first 10 albums by the band. While much has been made about the Agents of Fortune album, and its masterpiece “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” and rightfully so, I want to give due praise to the band’s seventh album, the spacey, cosmic Cultösaurus Erectus. Strange, heady and not easily accessible, the album, with its proggy, Sci-Fi tendencies, is rife with interesting twists and turns, exemplified in lead track “Black Blade,” an epic number with a pulsing, psychotic feel and lyrics courtesy of famed fantasy writer Michael Moorcock. (Culture Factory)
Bullet Proof Hearts
American Custom 7-inch
Peppy proto-punk with crass vocals, raunchy guitars and a spiritual nod to Johnny Thunders…sounds good to me. In spite of its rough exterior, “American Custom” packs a walloping pop chorus that’s hard to shake. Even better, it comes in red, white or blue vinyl. (Drastic Plastic)
Out of the ashes of power pop legends The Rockers, The Finders from San Francisco made a small but potent noise during the early ’80s, and even had a video that saw minor rotation on MTV. This killer LP compiles that band’s final studio recordings that unfortunately never saw release due to label skullfuckery at the time.
The music is classic early ’80s LA-style power pop à la 20/20 and The Plimsouls with a slight punk bent, as evidenced in the sprite “Talk To Me.” Great stuff, and you get your pick of black or highly limited blue vinyl. (Cheap Rewards)
Five Finger Death Punch
The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Vol. 1
Pretty much everyone I know hates this band, and with a passion. Anyone or anything that can evoke that kind of a reaction deserves at least a mention here. The reason I think Five Finger gets such negative attention is that it’s approach is like that of a brood of jock-ish cavemen, devoid of any subtlety, irony or sophistication. Critics and even some metal purists tend to hate this kind of stuff. And, while the predictable, nu-metal/radio-rock approach of songs like “Lift Me Up” and the title track are not my thing either, I can respect the moxy and enthusiasm the band obviously has. (Hell, I remember people saying the same about Pantera, and they’re considered gods nowadays.) This vinyl release comes in a colorful gatefold sleeve with two heavy slabs enclosed. (Prospect Park)
Fire and Water
Any true fan of ’80s hard rock knows how influential singer Paul Rodgers was on the bulging gaggle of front men that littered the scene. The man’s bluesy pipes spawned multitudes of copycats, though scant few could touch his technique and larger-than-life presence. Rodger’s first band was Free, whose biggest claim to fame was its massive hit “All Right Now,” and then the fact that it morphed into Bad Company.
“All Right Now” is one of those timeless anthems that instantly inspires asses to shake, heads to bob and air guitars to ignite. The song is so infectious that even Green Day ripped off its main riff with less success in “Oh Love.” You can hear it for yourself on the recent vinyl reissue of the band’s third album, Fire and Water, showcasing Rodger’s bloozy delivery and a young band at its swaggering best. (Music On Vinyl)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Animals
For the uninitiated, Luke Haines was the leader of early ’90s alternative pushers The Auteurs. The band is credited by some as being the forefathers of the Brit Pop movement, but most unfortunately, it would be overshadowed by the likes of Blur, Pulp, Suede and Oasis. Haines has since gone on to make records and write books.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Animals is a concept album of sorts that chronicles three cartoon animals that represent musicians Gene Vincent, Nick Lowe and Jimmy Pursey (Sham 69). It’s a musically challenging affair with quirky lyrics, unconventional arrangements and a stagey feel. But after a couple listens, I couldn’t put it down. This LP comes in a fragile paper cover with a tough plastic sleeve to keep it safe. (Cherry Red)
Ginger Wildheart is a musical force unto himself. First, he made heads bang on the world stage with pop-thrash malcontents The Wildhearts before embarking on an eclectic solo career that defied genres and practically singlehandedly put PledgeMusic on the map with his 100% release. Said record, actually charted in England, out-selling Rihanna and Coldplay during its first week.
Now, he’s back with Hey! Hello!, which teams him up with vocalist Victoria Leidtke for an album that’s pure sunshine power pop, with a nefarious, acidic edge. Check out my recent review of the CD version here. This long-awaited vinyl version gives the guitars and vocals a warm sheen, and comes in puke green with a gatefold sleeve. (The End)
Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit
After a lengthy, 25-year hiatus, country/punk deviants The Hickoids finally release their sophomore album. Was it worth the wait? That would be a hearty “Hell yeah!” (insert Southern accent).
Hairy Chafin’ sees the hick-ish ones mixing ample doses of psychedelia into their rootsy punk brew, as exemplified in the excellent “Fruit Fly.” Lead singer Jeff Smith is a thinking-man’s degenerate, and it will be interesting to see if the band keeps this new run going. The limited vinyl edition showcases the seediness in high style. (Saustex)
XX Two Decades Of Love Metal
To celebrate 20 years as a band, Finland’s favorite sons released this comp a little while back as a career retrospective. Now, you can own it in an impressive gatefold set with two blue vinyl discs—to get your love metal on right. (Hint: guys, our feline friends tend to eat the haunting melodic sounds of HIM up in spades—so get to it.) (The End)
“Punk boogie?” Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. But strangely, the formula works a charm on this cheap plastic slab by mysterious Texas combo Honky. Fans of bluesy guitars and big sleazy refrains should dig numbers like “All For Nothin'” and “Over Easy,” and said tunes would make great elevator music in a seedy truck stop along the side of the road. (MVD)
House of Pain
Fine Malt Lyrics
Rapper Everlast is a master of reinvention. After an unsuccessful stint as a pop rapper, he formed House of Pain with a couple friends and fashioned himself as a rowdy Irish hooligan—the Caucasian alternative to gangster rap, and one that would be acceptable in white suburbia. Anyway, the album was not without a few catchy rhymes and some funny bits as in the now iconic single “Jump Around” and “Top O’ the Morning to Ya.” Rarely seen on original vinyl, now you can own it for a song, with this high-quality new edition. (Music On Vinyl)
Worse Than Wolves
If sneering garage rock with uncanny melody is your thing, then this svelte little EP should do the trick. This, after a 10-year hiatus. Picture Green Day meets The Stooges and you’ve got a recipe for six upbeat, emotionally unhinged numbers that should easily put Kut-U-Up back on the map. This vinyl edition comes complete on clear wax with black accents. (MVD)
While it’s still a mystery as to who exactly these four masked punks are, one thing’s for certain, they can sure put a song across—complete with doo-wop vocals, multi-layered harmonies, massive pop-punk hooks and Phil Spector style arrangements. On that note, it’s kind of odd to think how much the murderous, wig-totin’ producer has impacted punk rock. The New York Dolls were obviously fans, as was Joey Ramone, and Spector would even produce The Ramones’ End of the Century album.
Masked Intruder is the latest bastard offspring of the Spector school of punk, and this self-titled debut is proof positive that the marriage between pop punk and the girl groups of yore is still very much thriving. (Fat Wreck Chords)
Speaking of girl group’s of yore, check out Culture Factory’s reissues of The Supremes’ back catalog in slick, mini-LP sleeves, in the event that you’re in the mood to explore the style further.
The Brightest Light
This is the vinyl edition of the triumphant comeback album I reviewed in Retro Action, a couple weeks back. This gatefold release comes on thick, high-quality vinyl with bonus tracks, making it the ultimate fan edition. If you don’t have time to check my original review, then just know this: The Mission has produced one of the best albums of its career—a hard-rocking affair that brims with texture, depth and muscular guitars, while leaving most all of the melodrama at the door. (The End)
The great Italian label Rave Up Records does a spectacular job at unearthing and reissuing lost and obscure punk, glam and hard rock. The Names hailed from Phoenix and played fairly traditional punk rock during the late ’70s. This release features sneering punk anthems “Young Romantics” and “I Don’t Like Radio,” and sound surprisingly clean. The packaging is also tops, with glossy cover and insert. (Rave Up)
When he left from Oasis in 1999, everyone kinda forgot about rhythm guitarist Bonehead (Paul Arthurs). Truth was, after he left, the band’s fortunes really began to dip, especially in these parts. Now, he’s back as part of the duo Parlour Flames, with London musician Vinny Peculiar, playing lazy, hazy middle-of-the-road rock with a psychedelic slant. As expected, there is a ’60s feel to the proceedings and Peculiar’s heady lyrics are accentuated with strong melodies, plus a few horns and strings. Check out “Manchester Rain” for a prime example. The insanely limited run comes in a bootleg-style plain sleeve, which makes it all the more interesting to collect. (Cherry Red)
While glam rock was all the rage during the early ’70s with the likes of Bowie, The Sweet, Slade and T.Rex, there were gaggles of second- and third-rate glitter–merchants that barely made any headway outside of their regional hangouts.
Plod was one such glam casualty. And while it may not seem completely obvious on the surface, the scene it helped drive had a major influence on early punk, with its stomping beat, charging guitars, chain-gang choruses and an overbearing sense of spectacle. The band’s single “Neo City” exemplifies this with its driving rhythms and sneering delivery. This excellent comp pulls the band’s studio output together into one tidy package. (Rave Up Records)
I’ve always thought this album got a bit of a raw deal. Critics tend to write it off as Iggy’s attempt at cashing in on the then-trendy ’80s hard rock scene, and that may be true. (He was hanging out with the likes of Guns ‘N Roses.) The production also gets bashed for being muddy and one-dimensional, which is also an apt summation. But songs like “Cold Metal” and “High On You remain pretty strong to this day. Iggy’s partnership with Sex Pistol Steve Jones was a lethal combo that imbued the album with the power that his prior album, the slick, and commercial Blah Blah Blah decidedly lacked.
This 25th anniversary edition comes in a thick, foil-stamped, numbered cover with 180-gram transparent vinyl with green flecks. The packaging and presentation of this reissue is tops, like most all of the MOV pressings. (Music On Vinyl)
Primal Scream/ DTK MC5
Black To Comm
There was a period during the ’90s and early 2000s (and probably still) where every new band claimed to be influenced by the MC5. Primal Scream wore their adoration on their track-marked sleeves, often aping the ‘5s style on their own albums.
When surviving MC5 members Davis, Kramer & Thompson got the band going again as “DTK MC5,” they played together with Primal Scream, and that’s what this live offering is all about. Vocals are split by Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie and William Duvall, who also happens to be a member of the reformed Alice In Chains. The sound? It’s what you might expect—loud and extra energized, which does the MC5 legacy some due justice.
This LP came issued in red vinyl a little bit ago, and is limited to 1000 copies. (Easy Action)
Prong was at the forefront of late ’80s and early ’90s metal bands that embraced electronics, industrial effects and groovy rhythms into the mix for what would ultimately become nu-metal a few years later. In my mind, that’s not necessarily a good thing. But, Prong did have enough traditional influences to transcend the derisive nu-metal tag, and there are at least a few Motörhead-isms on this record—including leader Tommy Victor’s rough-n-tumble vocals—to give it a little more of a timeless metal feel.
Now, almost 20 years after the fact, you can get the album in 180-gram audiophile vinyl, with a thick cover and insert. (Music On Vinyl)
Lost Power Pop Hits 1978-1983: Texas, Vol. 1
This killer regional comp culls lost power pop nuggets from the Texas vaults, spanning 1978-83. What amazes me is the reach the genre had at the time. A lot gets made about the LA and London scenes from era, but rarely do we hear about other power pop scenes from this golden age.
Bands like Pengwins, Bruce Moody and The Fad have the have it down pat—from the punchy guitars down to the melancholy, and it makes one wonder why some of this never achieved the status of bands like The Knack or The Vapors. Pulled from original sources and demos, the sound quality is warm and clear, and this vinyl edition comes in a nice gatefold with a download card, so you can take your pop to go. (Cheap Rewards)
Self Titled 7-inch
At a recent SF record swap I had the opportunity to score a mint copy of the original version of this highly sought-after 7-inch at a very fair price… and I passed. Lame, I know. But you don’t have to be, as this recent reissue faithfully replicates the original four-song, power pop EP and even manages to make it sound amazingly clean and crisp, even after 33 years. Hook-laden songs such as “Comeback” and “Don’t Leave Me Tonight” have a ’60s flair with driving guitars and big harmonies, making this a genre must-have. (Cheap Rewards)
Still Cyco After All These Years
Pissed off at their label and the world, Suicidal leader Mike Muir took matters into his own hands by re-recording the band’s most revered offering, 1983’s self-titled debut. Still Cyco contains that complete album, plus a few other tracks, including a cover of the band’s own “War Inside My Head.” Timing-wise, it was a smart move, as the grunge craze was in full swing and this kind of punk/metal fusion was pretty widely accepted in the new scene.
On the whole, it’s an entertaining album, but there’s still no substitute for the real thing, which eventually got reissued on CD a few years later. This reissue presents the 1993 album in 180-gram vinyl with a glossy cover and insert. (Music On Vinyl)
You Are Doomed 7-inch
Before you get too excited, no, this is not the same Wicked Lester that would eventually mutate into KISS. This one was comprised of three hessian kids from Cleveland that played a very primitive form of stoner-ish heavy rock during the ’70s. In spite of the basement production values and lack of any bells and whistles, the material n this deluxe 4-song, double 7-inch EP is quite effective, menacingly so, especially the eerily cool “Woman You’re Gonna Pay For This.”
The packaging is also top-notch, and includes a hardcover, gatefold sleeve with great artwork. Also, check out the Numero Group label’s other 7-inchers from lost garage gurus The Cave Dwellers and psych masters Pretty. (Numero Group)
For questions, comments or something you’d like to see, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers, JK.