As I started to wrap my head around the creation of this month’s column, it dawned on me that we had a holiday on the horizon. I’m not talking about the one where I typically OD on tryptophan and cheap wine. Nah, I’m referring to the one that happens a day later—Record Store Day.
In actuality, it’s the second RSD of the year, the first having taken place this past April. The purpose of RSD is to not only commemorate vinyl as a musical medium, but the independent brick-and-mortar stores that still make it available, and provide a place to hang out in the process. To celebrate, labels big and small issue special editions, made only available at the stores on the day of the event. Rather than just repost those lists here, you’ll find a few different things to keep an eye out for, plus some key releases from this past year to stick on your list.
Freaks In Love Vinyl
Alice Donut was born out of the CBGB scene of the mid ‘80s, playing a quirky, eclectic form of punk rock. Soon, the band signed with Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label. This set includes an 11-inch picture disc with a few rare tracks, plus a DVD documentary that has interviews with Jello and others who were there, which makes for an interesting view. (MVD)
GG Allin truly went to extremes for his art. His onstage antics often included the seamy sociopath mixing it up with all manner of sharp objects, blood, urine and…human feces (I shit you not!). This release features a few tracks from the vaults, including the prophetic “Die When You Die” and comes with a DVD that includes documentary footage of the man at his most mind-numbingly mad. (MVD)
Agalloch is not the type of band you’re gonna typically hear at a house party or backyard BBQ. The hefty folk metal is heavy on atmospherics and aura, eschewing melodic hooks in favor of sweeping arrangements and textural nuances. Pale Folklore was the American band’s 1999 debut, and has just been reissued in a double picture-disc package in a thick gatefold sleeve—a treat for collectors. (The End)
We Are the League
One of the key releases from the second wave of UK punk gets a prime vinyl reissue on your choice of either 150-gram colored vinyl or 200-gram black vinyl for optimal sound. While the League’s mission seemed to be rooted in taking the piss, numbers such as “Animal,” “Woman” and the title track still sound as sonically contagious as ever, which at the time was a welcome return to form, as synth-laden new wave was all the rage. (Drastic Plastic)
On Air Live at the BBC Volume 2
Rob Zombie once told me in an interview that The Beatles still remain the greatest band ever. He’s right, and there are a number of reasons why. With this triple-album release, one such reason becomes immediately apparent. The Beatles had a natural knack for performing. It’s inexplicable. There was just something in the chemistry of the four lads, and that fact comes across in spades in these spirited performances.
On Air Live at the BBC, Volume 2 chronicles the band’s appearance on BBC radio from the early ‘60s and serves as a sequel to the first BBC release from 1994. Jam-packed with 63 tracks—all independent of the first release—it includes several bits that have scarcely been available, such as a gritty version of Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You” and a rocked-up take on the timeless standard “Beautiful Dreamer.” There are also Beatles hits like “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Twist And Shout,” and a few spoken-word bits in between songs that make this collection a must-have for fans. After listening to the entire album, I’m left with one final thought—go to hell, Yoko Ono.
Hailing from Washington DC, Beaver were cult faves of the early hardcore scene. This sweet release features the band’s ultra-rare 7-inch recordings and demos, all in remastered form, for a nice and tidy trip down memory lane. Pressed in a limited batch of 500, this 12-incher should be a welcome release for those seeking out the band’s ultra-rare—and valuable—singles. (Dr. Strange)
Complexity of Stupidity
SoCal punk icon Billy Bones returns with a rousing set of upbeat traditional punk numbers guaranteed to get your head swaying and toes tapping. This lavish release comes on ultra-thick red vinyl in a hand-screened foldout sleeve, making it a treat for fans of old-school punk and raunchy rock ‘n’ roll. Highly recommended. (Dr. Strange)
The Classic Albums 1977-1979
If The Beatles were an eccentric garage band from the Midwest, they might sound something like Cheap Trick. But unlike the Anglo icons, Cheap Trick still remains underappreciated—at least in these parts—in spite of the fact that the band singlehandedly advanced the power pop cause in the US and is cited as an influence by musicians across the spectrum.
This killer set includes the band’s first five albums, all astonishingly created over a span of just three years. The self-titled debut was as offbeat and punk as anything else at the time, but had hooks that killed. In Color and Heaven Tonight are the band’s best works, bringing power pop to the masses with gems like “Oh Caroline” and “Surrender,” while Live at Budokan—along with KISS’s Alive—set the bar high for ‘70s live LPs. The set is rounded out by the decidedly heavier Dream Police, which rounds off this incredible musical run in high style.
Each LP in this set has been newly remastered on thick 180-gram vinyl with restored artwork, and it all comes packaged in a plush, numbered slipcase. (Sony Legacy)
I addition to the massive Sound System box set and individual reissues of the band’s back catalog, Sony has released this killer comp, now available on a limited-edition 3-LP set. Hits Back not only contains the “hits” that have been available for years, it’s got oodles of essential tracks that the average iTunes user may not think to seek out.
Stuff like “Safe European Home,” “Clampdown,” “English Civil War,” “Garageland” and others have all been given new life on these thick slabs, and that’s a great thing. Besides its thick gatefold sleeve and crisp sound, the song sequence mirrors that of a live set from 1982, making this an essential document. (Sony Legacy)
Back some two decades ago, a couple of bored ‘70s dinosaurs hooked up with an ‘80s radio rocker and an unknown drummer for an album that would set the music charts alight for a spell. Said players were Ted Nugent, Tommy Shaw of Styx, Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Michael Cartellone respectively.
The sounds amounted to pretty standard arena rock, not unlike the multitudes of bands that would soon be swept away by grunge a couple years later. But what set this album apart was the band’s synergy, particularly that of Shaw and Blades’ dual vocal interplay, which is rampant on this high-quality, audiophile vinyl reissue that replicates the original release—down to every last detail. (Music On Vinyl)
Storm Of The Light’s Bane
Swedish black metal heavies Dissection were never ones to shy away from the dark stuff. Storm Of The Light’s Bane was monumental in that it was the band’s last album before leader Jon Nödtveidt got sent to the slam—along with Burzum crony Varg Vikernes—for his involvement in the murder of a homosexual businessman. That infamous incident has been well documented, and has forever tarnished the original black metal scene. The album is loaded with dissonant riffs, raspy vocals and an icy aura that is enhanced by the grainy patina this picture disc reissue adds to the mix. With that, the long epic songs are probably best enjoyed in a walk-in freezer. (The End)
Also, check out new reissues of the band’s The Somberlain and Reinkaos albums in similar formats.
Fuck You Up And Get Live
This little combo includes an 11-inch picture disc and companion DVD. The DVD features a live set from 2004 that showcases the band at its evilest, cranking out nihilistic punk numbers such as “I Will Deny” and “Bleed On.” The vinyl features much of the audio for the flick. The sound quality lacks a bit of clarity, but it’s a spirited set nonetheless. (MVD)
If You Have Ghost
I don’t care what anyone says, I love Ghost B.C. Image aside, Papa E and his ghoulish minions have crafted a style all their own, sounding like nothing else out there.
This 5-track EP was produced by Dave Grohl and features a live version of “Secular Haze” plus covers of a few unexpected numbers from Abba, Depeche Mode, vintage psych guru Roky Erickson and an extraordinary, transformative version of “Crucified” by campy Euro-disco queens Army of Lovers, which is worth the cost of this disc alone. If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a copy, I’d nab it right away; Ghost vinyl tends to go fast. (Loma Vista Recordings)
Hymn For Her
Lucy and Wayne’s Smokin’ Flames
One day, this strange package arrives, containing an even stranger LP. For starters, the cover is adorned with skeletons, fruit, flames, cowboy regalia and a half moon. Initially, I figured it some hipster’s idea of being clever. Little did I know that I would soon be summarily shocked and awed by its insidiously addictive sound.
This is truly some original shite, the likes of which you’ve never heard before. A rootsy, Americana foundation soon finds itself overrun with fuzz guitars, psychedelic interludes, punk bluster and the twisted call-and-response vocals of the husband and wife team of Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing. (Think The White Stripes meets X, with Lucifer at the mixing board.)
Numbers like “Glistening Cowgirl” and “Trash the Sun” literally have a hypnotic effect in their idiosyncratic grooves. The murky sound quality of the vinyl only adds to the insanity. For something completely different, Lucy and Wayne’s is the way to go. (Baby Gas Mask Records)
Iggy And The Stooges
Live In Detroit 2003
The Stooges’ triumphant reunion homecoming gets captured here in this odd, 11-inch picture disc. While picture discs are often riddled with sound issues, in this case it almost adds to the grit of songs such as “1969,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “Real Cool Time.” This real cool package also includes a DVD of the show. (MVD)
While the fabled SF power pop band only released two albums back in the early ‘90s, its impact on a cult level has bordered on manic, which explains the high cost some of its bits tend to fetch. To remedy this, the good folks at Omnivore Records have gone to painstaking lengths to reissue its two original albums and unearth other lost gems.
Here we have a stellar acoustic set culled from two shows from back in the day. Fans used to the band’s grandiose arrangements à la Queen, will marvel over its ability to pull off the harmonies and quirky arrangements, even in a stripped-down setting. Numbers like the epic “Starting A Fan Club” exemplify this in spades. There’s also a great version of the eerie, Beatlesque “She Still Loves Him,” which sounds vibrant—even in its melancholy state. This vinyl release features the album in clear vinyl, packed in a glossy, colorful sleeve. (Omnivore)
Jook Rule OK
UK band Jook should’ve been huge. But—to be frank—the band’s timing sucked. And badly. Hitting the scene during the UK glam explosion of the ‘70s, the band’s rough-and-tumble image was anathema to the glitter and glitz, and more akin to the incoming punk movement. In fact, years before punk reared its spiky head, the band’s tough, power pop sound, shaggy hair, soccer shirts and unruly live set were all the rage. Sadly, Jook did not last long enough to get its due.
Jook Rule OK collects the band’s recorded output into a double-LP collection that finally does this undervalued institution due justice. (Sing Sing Records)
Rock & Roll Is Good For You
The Knack’s biggest flaw was its overexposure. The band’s 1979 uber-hot single “My Sharona” was so popular that not only could the band not replicate its success, it amassed a mass amount of haters in the process, dooming its subsequent releases. (Ironically, this was right around the time of the “KISS Sucks” phase that occurred for similar reasons.) The bummer about all this was that The Knack’s primary songwriting team of Doug Feiger and Berton Averre wrote great songs, in my mind, some of the best of the power pop genre.
Rock & Roll Is Good For You collects early demos the pair worked on before things started rolling with the band. Here, we get 14 numbers pressed on plush clear vinyl, including an early version of the later semi-hit “Good Girls Don’t,” which sounds raw and vital in this set. (Omnivore)
All Night Scan
Independent label Cheap Rewards has been doing an amazing job at unearthing and reissuing regional power pop obscurities from all ends of the spectrum. San Diego’s Manual Scan is one of its latest specimens. Sounding like a stateside version of the Jam, with quirky hints of the Violent Femmes, its neurotic, garage pop sounds burl their way into the psyche after a while and become difficult to shake. This new issue comes on thick black vinyl with a heavy sleeve. (Cheap Rewards)
Lemmy and the guys are back with another solid offering. As many Motörhead fans will attest, the band isn’t big on messing with the blueprint, thus each new release is a fairly predictable affair. Aftershock does have a few svelte twists as in the more subtle “Lost Woman Blues” and the ‘70s-flavored “Dust and Glass.” This LP version comes in a gatefold sleeve that showcases the killer artwork. (UDR)
New York Dolls
All Dolled Up: Interview
This peculiar little 11-inch picture disc features interviews with the Dolls during their prime, plus a DVD of the excellent documentary, All Dolled Up. The doc was shot by famed rock ‘n’ roll photographer Bob Gruen and his wife Nadya and gets all up in the Dolls’ business at the height of their debauchery. Fans of the band should be very pleased with this sweet little wax pack. (MVD)
Nobunny—aka Justin Champlin—is back with another slab of twisted bubblegum garage pop. Aside from the twisted tunes, what really sets this man apart is his stage persona, which consists of a ratty bunny mask, lingerie, meat, filth and other pleasantries. Highlighted by hooky doozies such as “Bye Bye Roxie” and “Little Bo Bitch,” Secret Songs is awash in fuzzy riffs and driving beats, its basic sonic approach augmented by the seamy imagery it conjures up…and it’s a winning combination. (Goner)
This ultra-rare LP sees a top-notch reissue, courtesy of Sing Sing Records. Hailing from Northern Ireland, Protex played traditional punk and power pop with upbeat, anthemic numbers brimming with style and attitude. Unfortunately, the record labels didn’t know what to do with the band, and its career was cut short. Now, you can finally own a copy, complete with remastered sound and faithfully restored artwork. (Sing Sing Records)
Richie Ramone joined the Ramones after the band sacked Marky for a spell during the mid ‘80s. Infusing new energy, chops and considerable songwriting skills into the mix, Richie became a key element in the resurgence of the band with albums Too Tough to Die (1984), Animal Boy (1986), and Halfway to Sanity (1987). Unfortunately, financial disputes with bandleader Johnny Ramone prevailed and Richie left to pursue his own stuff during the late ‘80s. And as we know, Marky rejoined the band.
Entitled is the first we’ve heard from the erstwhile Mr. Ramone in eons and I’m happy to report that it’s a real burner of an offering. With an insidious mix of Richie-penned Ramones numbers, killer riffs, big hooks and a crisp production, this white-vinyl disc is a wild ride from start to finish. Standouts include the upbeat “I Know Better Now,” which showcases his twisted Iggy Pop-esque vocals and the sleazy strut of “Better Than Me.” All in all, Entitled honors the legacy of The Ramones, while also putting Richie back on the map. (DC-Jam Records)
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
Originally released back in 1987, this comp collects some of the post-punk/pre-goth band’s best bits, including the darkly pop “Beating My Head” and the strangely cool “Monkeys on Juice.” Far from a household word in these parts, The Lorries were part of a scene that saw ex-punks explore more nuanced sounds and moods, in what would soon be termed by the press as “post punk.” Red Lorry Yellow Lorry put its own interesting twist on the proceedings, including vocalist Chris Reed’s ghostly baritone vocals. (Drastic Plastic)
Sly and the Family Stone
If you want to get really technical, the term punk rock could apply to virtually anything that challenges the status quo and shakes up a complacent mainstream. In that very loose interpretation, Sly and the Family Stone were punks par excellence. Creating a sound that incorporated rock, soul, funk, psychedelia and even a few dark twists—as evidenced in the cryptic There’s A Riot Goin’ On LP—the band bended genres and cultures, overcoming many obstacles that stood in its way.
This mammoth box set compiles 77 tracks of hits, album cuts, live jams and rarities over eight super-thick 180-gram LPs, and one CD. It also comes with a gorgeous book that chronicles the story behind the troubled genius that is Sly Stone. (Sony Legacy)
Fans of OG SoCal punk label Posh Boy have some serious rejoicing to do. Symbol Six were one of the leading lights of what would eventually be looked upon as hardcore. Loud guitars, melodic flourishes and driving beats abound on this killer reissue of the original EP—that also includes a clutch of rare, unearthed bonus tracks. (Dr. Strange)
The Tragically Hip
Up To Here
Hailing from Canada, The Tragically Hip played rootsy, organic rock ‘n’ roll with a slight bluesy twang. Sounds basic enough. But in spite of the band’s penchant for kicking out the jams, it was still seen as part of the college radio hipster set, the same scene that produced the likes of REM. So in a sense, the band had the potential for universal appeal to both rockers and hipsters—if it had broken big outside of its own country. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
A couple of the band’s best releases have now been lovingly reissued on thick slabs of audiophile vinyl. Up To Here (1989) and Road Apples (1991) sound surprisingly viable some two decades later. I can only put that down to the fact that it all started out as just straight-up, unpretentious rock to begin with—an approach that always seems to come back. Hip or not. (Music On Vinyl)
Shonna Tucker and Eye Candy
A Tell All
Shonna Tucker, bassist and badass Southern belle has a new album that features heaping doses of sweet vocal harmonies, swirling organ riffs and driving guitars. It all culminates in a set of hybrid pop/rock/country numbers that sound both fresh and timeless at once. Check out “When Jimmy Came” for proof. 1000 proof. (Sweet Nectar)
The Tunes were a power pop band from Kansas that focused on the lighter, more sensitive side of the genre. With strong songwriting and meticulous execution, the band should’ve been huge, but alas, the labels failed to notice the Beatlesque charms that would’ve undoubtedly caught fire during the skinny-tie influx of power pop bands at the time. This release comes in a highly limited run of yellow vinyl as well as standard black vinyl. (Cheap Rewards)
For questions, comments or something you’d like to see, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers, JK.