As we hit upon the latest Record Store Day event, it’s time to reflect a bit on the state of the Vinyl Nation. A mere decade ago, vinyl was dead and CDs were quickly starting to go that way as well. The final nail was the closure of the much beloved and iconic Tower Records chain, along with countless mom-and-pop shops around the country.
But a few years on, vinyl somehow became a very hip commodity, with labels big and small issuing releases on black plastic once again. Soon enough, Record Store Days were in full swing and new shops began to surface, especially in places like Los Angeles and other major metros. Fast-forward to present day and this RSD sees loads of killer new releases to satiate our once-vacant turntables.
Here you’ll find a sampling of some of that stuff, along with a clutch of other recent releases that you surely need to know about.
New York Dolls
The tragically small studio output from The New York Dolls absolutely pales in comparison to the amount of post-mortem, basement comps and half-baked live sets. Butterflyin’ is the exception to the rule. Culled from a radio broadcast circa 1974, the sound has been remastered specially for this plush vinyl release, capturing The Dolls at their most decadent best. The high-grade colored vinyl, heavy sleeve and poster make this one even more of a stunner—and at just 400 copies, its days are numbered, just like the epic tragi-comedy that was The New York Dolls. (Easy Action)
The Guitar That Dripped Blood
Punk deity Brian James returns with the creepy and conquering The Guitar That Dripped Blood. For the uninitiated, James founded both The Damned (the first punk band to release a single) and late goth/rock greats The Lords of The New Church. Rife with James’ signature abrasive riffs and deadpan vocals—plus a guest appearance from fellow punk god Cheetah Chrome—the album kills with bluesy, punk-fueled tracks like “Becoming a Nuisance” and “The Regulator. The LP comes on a thick slab of blood-red vinyl, complete with the sweetest cover art of the day, courtesy of horror film poster designer Graham Humphries. (Easy Action)
At Budokan: The Complete Concert
The original 1978 release of Cheap Trick at Budokan was the album that put the band on the map, transforming the Midwestern misfits into global superstars. The album sounded fantastic, featuring juiced-up renditions of songs from the band’s first three albums—an unholy trilogy of hard rock, power pop and proto-punk that has gone on to influence artists across the entire spectrum.
Trouble was, the original Budokan only had 10 songs in the set, making it a rather incomplete document of the historic shows. Then, during the ’90s, Sony had the good sense to release the entire set on CD. While a step in the right direction, there was still no complete vinyl version—until now.
Created specially for RSD, Cheap Trick at Budokan: The Complete Concert has the entire iconic set, pressed on 180-gram audiophile vinyl, with a heavy gatefold sleeve. Sonically, the album captures the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers at the peak of their powers and is an essential addition to any collection—no matter what your fancy is. (Sony Legacy)
Do You Believe in Magyck?
Recorded in 1990, Magyck was the final recording by ex-Dead Boys and Lords front man Stiv Bators. Released as The Last Race on CD some years back, the prior version lacked some of the sonic nuance that this new issue includes. Here, Stiv covers favorites from across the rock ‘n’ roll spectrum, including the likes of The Ramones and The Young Rascals, mixed with a batch of originals. More power pop than punk, the album sounds damn fine on this highly limited colored vinyl release, and is far superior to the older CD version. (Easy Action)
Born To Rock N’ Roll
Led by former Sigue Sigue Sputnik axe man Neil X, The Montecristos are the new saviors of trashy, punked-up rock ‘n’ roll. Playing a seamy hybrid of punk, rockabilly, glam and dare I say, that so-called indie folk thing happening today, the UK band is especially known for its riotous live sets. Incorporating horns and stand-up bass into the mix, Born To Rock ‘N’ Roll is a raucous ride from start to finish, and includes a manic version of Sputnik’s “Love Missile F1-11.” This vinyl version has it all, on a thick cut of wax with a glossy insert. (Easy Action)
Before he’s went on to compose scores for Star Wars and Close Encounters, John Williams was tapped to score the now cult favorite Black Sunday (1977). Not to be confused with gothic horror goodie by the same name, this one followed a terrorist group attempting to cause havoc at the Super Bowl. As imagined, the film’s score is dark and brooding, which comes across extra effectively on this booming 2-LP set. The packaging is also top-notch, and includes a plush gatefold jacket, complete with bullet holes and all the trimmings that we’ve come to expect from the killer Mondo label. (Mondo)
New Orleans punk practitioners PEARS return with a fine slab of brand-new noise. Chock full of precision hardcore balanced with dashes of pop-punk, the album is a barnstormer from start to finish with tracks such as “Hinged by Spine,” “Anhedonia” and the title track. What sets PEARS apart from the masses is its knack for quirky lyrics, infectious melodic flourishes and super-tight arrangements. This LP comes in a gatefold sleeve with a digital download. (Fat Wreck Chords)
Nite Vision 7-inch single
Portland trio Mean Jeans play straightforward pop punk with heaping doses of garage rock and power pop. With the band’s upcoming full-length due out soon, this 3-track, 7-incher is a small sampling of things to come. “Nite Vision” bristles with Ramones-style, Road to Ruin-era riffs and hooks along with a healthy shot of youthful exuberance. If this brief single is any indication, Mean Jeans has the pop-punk modern mantle all sewn up. (Fat Wreck Chords)
Manic Street Preachers
A Design for Life
When Welsh band Manic Street Preachers first hit the scene in the early ’90s with the ground-breaking Generation Terrorists, no one knew quite what to make of them. Literate, angry and glam to the bone, the band was a strange combination of political prowess, smeared eyeliner and hard rock bravado (Think The Clash meets Public Enemy with a touch of Appetite-era GN’R.) But as time when on, shit got weird—the band’s sound got inexplicably darker, key member Richey James disappeared, and suddenly, it had big hits.
The 1996 album Everything Must Go changed everything, largely due to the success of lead single “A Design For Life.” Relying heavily on bittersweet melodies and atmosphere over political bombast, the single opened up mainstream European audiences to the reluctant band, who were just putting the pieces back together after losing their best friend and colleague.
For Record Store Day, Sony has reissued the groundbreaking single, in a copper-lined 12” sleeve with two other tracks and a studio remix. (Sony Legacy)
Complete Columbia: Live at University of Missouri 4/25/93
Big Star remains a mythical force in the realm of power pop and early alternative music. The Memphis band released three sleeper albums during the ’70s that would make a massive impression on caffeine-addled art-school kids and post-punks a decade later. 10 years after that, the band would semi-reform (key members Alex Chilton and Chris Bell) with two members of The Posies to play some shows. Complete Columbia is the official document of that historic reformation, and can finally now be had on two thick cuts of high-quality wax, with remastered sound and a deluxe sleeve. (Sony Legacy)
Joe Strummer’s solo stint after the Clash doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. While some were obviously still reeling over the fallout of The Clash’s final LP Cut The Crap and its epic critical and commercial failure, the period of the mid to late ’80s saw Strummer cranking out quite a cool racket. “Gangsterville” was one of the top tracks of the period.
It’s got it all: punk, pop, roots and that Caribbean flair that Strummer and his former cohorts seemed to revere so much. And the man’s voice is in fine form, all grit and attitude, down to the nasally spoken-word bridges. This 12-inch single features a remastered version of the song, plus other tracks and recently unearthed artwork. (Sony Legacy)
Never Mind The Bollocks Picture Disc
The album that defined punk for generations to come finally sees a reissue of its long-sought-after, picture-disc version. There’s not much more I can add that you haven’t already read or discovered on your own about this record, but just for the collectability aspects alone, you better snatch it up quick. As just a few thousand have been pressed for RSD, this one’s not gonna be around long. On top of that, it’s absolutely essential listening, with not a stinker in the bunch. This faithful reissue replicates the original’s artwork and packaging and makes for a worthy supplement to any punk collection. (Rhino)
Megadeth’s latest metal opus gets a highly limited picture disc version just in time for RSD. The signature artwork is an absolute stunner as pressed directly onto the shiny vinyl itself. But those looking to capture all of the sonic nuance of the album should stick with the standard vinyl release, as pic-discs tend to sound a little shabby in comparison. That aside, this one’s a collector’s item and true ’Deth fans will want to snatch it up quick before it’s gone. (Universal)
Armageddon Survival Guide
Returning after a 12-year hiatus, Canadian punk vets Dayglo Abortions are back with a raucous new set in the form of Armageddon Survival Guide. Long known for its memorable hooks, metallic guitars and sardonic sense of humor, the band has pulled it all together once again on tracks like “Cockroaches” and “The Dishwasher.” This new release comes complete on orange vinyl with over-the-top artwork that furthers the Dayglo legacy. (Unrest Records)
Erstwhile Bauhaus and Love and Rockets axe man Daniel Ash recently released Stripped, an album’s worth of reinterpretations of his back catalog. The revised versions feature loads of high-tech gadgetry, turning the originals into loud, dissonant dub-step stompers, and to good effect in many cases. This release features the album in slick 180-gram yellow vinyl, making it a sonic must-have for Ash enthusiasts. (Drastic Plastic)
Mr. Stress Blues Band
Live at the Brick Cottage 1972-1973
Bill “Mr. Stress” Miller was a bit of a cult legend during Cleveland’s heady pre-punk days of the early to mid ’70s. Having jammed with likes of the MC5 and Chrissie Hynde, Miller made a name cranking out scrappy blues and rock with an ultra-raunchy edge. This upcoming release includes several live sets recorded at the Brick Cottage in Cleveland in 1972 and 1973. With unbelievably sharp sound, the LP comes with a free download and extensive liner notes. (Smog Veil)
77 Rusty Trombones
Blowfly (RIP) was the genuine article. The OG singer, producer, rapper and all-around bad-ass was truly a radical proposition when he hit the scene during the ‘60s. With X-rated lyrics and bad attitude in tow, Blowfly was a pioneer, but one that still goes largely unnoticed, even all these years later.
Final album 77 Rusty Trombones showcases both Blowfly’s wry sense of humor and seedy soul side, harkening back to the golden era of ’70s R&B records that would get fleeced by sampling-savvy rappers a decade later, Blowfly being a prime victim of such thievery. Anyway, this new LP absolutely booms on high-end wax with album cover art that exemplifies the Blowfly blueprint. Kudos to the sage folks at Saustex Records for releasing this little nugget. (Saustex)
Hallucinations – Psychedelic Pop Nuggets
The Nuggets comps started in 1972 as a tribute to the long-lost garage bands of yore, showcasing obscure tracks from bands that would otherwise receive very little exposure. Fast-forward to now, the comps are still as popular as ever, flexing to provide coverage to other lost sub-genres and scenes. Hence, Hallucinations – Psychedelic Pop Nuggets covers obscure pop-psych tracks from the ’60s that again, you’d only be able to otherwise procure on pricey original LPs or bootleg comps.
This extensive 2-LP set comes on 180-gram purple marbled vinyl swirl and features a deluxe gatefold cover. Standout tracks include “Antique Doll “ by Electric Prunes and “Astrologically Incompatible” by The Bonniwell Music Machine, who were also a key feature on the original Nuggets comp way back when. (Rhino)
The Explorers Club
California’s Callin’ Ya single
While this single’s breezy feel is a direct throwback to the California sounds of the Beach Boys and The Turtles, The Explorers Club can definitely stand on its own. “California’s Callin’ Ya” may wear its influences squarely on its tan-lined sleeve, it nevertheless flourishes on multiple harmonies, melancholy melodies and a slight tinge of psychedelia for a minty-fresh take on the proceedings. This limited-edition single comes in a glossy picture sleeve. (Goldstar Recordings)
Kicked Out of Eden
West Coast punk pioneer Javier Escovedo releases his second solo album, the Stones-infused Kicked Out of Eden. For the uninitiated, Escovedo happens to be both the uncle to Prince protégé Sheila E. as well as founding member of San Diego punk legends The Zeros. Served up on hot pink wax, Kicked Out of Eden leverages Escovedo’s love of classic rock ‘n’ roll along with nods to his punk roots on the scrappy “Bad and Good” and “Gypsy Son.” (Saustex)
Gothic horror fans are levitating in their caskets over this sweet little demon. As campy TV horror soap Dark Shadows celebrates its 50th anniversary, this 1969 hit soundtrack gets an eerie and cool reissue. Cracking Billboard’s Top 20 upon its original release, the album comes with over a dozen haunting selections from the show such as “Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme),” and the show’s theme song. Infused within the ominous grooves are plenty of quirky little twists to keep things fun, which was always part of the show’s charm. This deluxe package includes faithfully rendered art work, a poster and a slab of spooky purple vinyl. (Varèse Sarabande)
Dark. Heavy. Cute as all hell. There’s no shortage of adjectives to describe the cleverly named Baby Metal’s appeal. This Japanese export mixes classically infused power metal with teeny pop, choreographed dance moves and loads of unintentionally funny moments. But in an odd way, it works. New album Metal Resistance showcases the female trio (17-year-old Su-Metal along with 16-year-olds Yuimetal and Moametal) and their backing band in high style with a set of tracks heavy enough to shake the gods, but with loads of perky and sweet harmonies to reassure that everything will be okay in the end. Trust me, you’ve never experienced anything like this, but when you do, this vinyl version is the best way to go. (RAL/Sony Music Entertainment)
The High Violets
Heroes and Halos
First off, kudos to the fine folks at Saint Marie Records for unearthing and releasing all this obscure shoegaze, dream pop and other related stuff. This special niche has existed in the shadows of Brit pop and indie rock for decades, but still manages to draw a fervently loyal following. Dream pop vets The High Violets are one of the label’s latest releases. Fronted by the angelic Kaitlyn ni Donovan, the band’s brand of wistful, psychedelic pop comes through in spades in the atmospheric Heroes and Halos. Songs such as the bittersweet “How I Love (Everything About You)” and the Baroque-ish “Long Last Night” are charmers of the highest degree, and sound extra sweet on this limited cut of blue-haze wax. Nice. (Saint Marie)
I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This
Austin’s noisy pop mavens Bloody Knives release the wonderfully chaotic I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This on a highly limited run of ox blood/electric blue vinyl. Cutting guitars mix with cold, dank synths and melodic vocal refrains for a sound that skirts My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Sisters of Mercy in one fell swoop. Key tracks include the blaring “Cystic” and riff-driven “Reflection Lies.” For those who enjoy their pop served up straight with a racket, this one’s for you. (Saint Marie)
For questions, comments or something you’d like to see, hit me up at Retrohead77@yahoo.com. JK