Monday, December 15, 2014
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Okay, there are a few ways I can go with this one; immediately noting the fact that I honestly did not think I was going to like this record, at least within the first few seconds. But that's the humorist version of this post; perhaps the more interesting one to begin with. Ultimately, and to be clear, I applaud this album, especially after taking in side-b and having the intensely arresting track "Crawl" blast out my speakers.
To set the stage: it's early Sunday morning, and I don't often stay up late. However, last night was an exception to the rule, putting me in a position of only having a few hours of sleep; I'm by default an early riser, regardless of how raging the party was. I am stumbling about the house, my cat is clawing at my feet, demanding a bit of 'kitty-time,' and I have yet to determine if I am even awake. She always likes to play fetch at the brink of dawn with her fake mouse toys; a game we call "mouse" (that she responds to). As I often like / try to do during my hours of solitude, I reach for the 'review pile' of vinyl and look to take in some new tunes to discuss with all of you. Chuck Coffey from Snappy Little Numbers has had a very impressive 7inch catalog to date with his record label, and I have been meaning to dive into a few of his full length 12inch albums that he has released; what better time than today.
Glass Hits' Better Never Than Late ends up being my selection. As I hold the traditional black vinyl record in hand, I prepare the turntable for a 12inch LP. What happens next, meaning what comes out of my speakers, is very likely not what Glass Hits or Snappy Little Numbers had intended for us to hear... but it is an experience that I strongly recommend you allow yourself! Crude, deathly, conquering, massively impressive - Better Never Than Late played at 33-1/3 rpms is its own dark creation, perhaps a subconscious expression for Glass Hits, but certainly not what they set forth to capture in the studio (yet one completely worth exploring - just not first thing on a Sunday morning).
I was shaking my head (now awake), thinking, "Oh no. I really like Chuck, and his label, and what he's doing. I was really hoping to share some more good news about one of his records, but man... what am I going to do with this?" As my blurry eyes began to gain focus, I thankfully caught wind of the "45 RPM" noted on the rotating center label. At this exact moment, our cat, Kickflip, furiously ripped through our living room, as if she was frustratingly calling me an idiot for not having noticed the rotational directions given for this record; funny how cats are often more aware of our own human reality than we are.
"You're the Icing on a Cake That Never Should've Been Made in the First Place" takes off accurately, opening Better Never Than Late, and now I understand where we should have been: this is a quintessential punk rock record. I don't often listen to (or like for that matter) punk rock music (perhaps I should clarify: newer modern day punk rock, or what a lot of people call punk rock). For me, punk rock is Dischord Records, Alternative Tentacles, and SST Records (circa 80's and 90's). Being that punk rock is more of a state of mind, less of a music genre, punk rock is going to be different for everyone, and that is okay / that's the beauty of it. So on this crisp, early Fall Sunday morning, Glass Hits are my punk rock.
One of my favorite harder / heavier albums is The Crownhate Ruin's Until the Eagle Grins (Dischord Records 1996). It has always been an album I use to measure other like minded records against. I'll never forgot buying it; I was a fan of Dischord Records at the time, in general, but did not really buy a lot of their stuff. The cover art is solely what attracted me to even pick up The Crownhate Ruin. It's a beautiful weathered navy blue rough cardboard jacket, delicately screen printed with silver ink. The liner notes are elegantly similar, only with a blood red canvas. I bought the album on the spot without ever listening to it. The design always reminded me of the romantic nature of The Rachael's undeniably unparalleled release, "Music for Egon Schiele;" both albums of which inspired me to create this blog.
I immediately fell in love with The Crownhate Ruin. It did not matter how much indie pop or shoegaze I was getting into at the time (it's was the 90's); the energy, the passion, the perfection - it was all too gripping, never to let go (and still hasn't). Now, for the second time in life, I am getting that same feeling again about an expression I often don't understand. Better Never Than Late is a punk rock album that too will stand the test of time; it defies all trends - an honest manifesto. Sonically, it is an absolute A++; flawless and precise.
The liner notes and center labels are my favorite part of the overall packaging. The refined clarity equals the voice of Glass Hits. And I appreciate their common sense to include lyrics. I've always felt that if a band has so much emotionally drive behind their message, let's here it (read it) then. Thanks, Glass Hits.
I am just so happy my turntable plays at both 33-1/3 and 45 rpm speeds.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Friday, September 12, 2014
I don't believe I own many split 12inch releases. I mean, I have a few, but they are pretty rare. I think we can all agree, the split 7inch is more of the norm when it comes to shared releases. However, the split 12inch really gives you more bang for your buck. I've always been very fond of a good solid EP release. EPs have a short runtime by nature, and often force an artist to cut out the fat (all of the fat) from what would have made a mediocre full length (LP) album. The fact that the manufacturing costs of an EP are relatively equal to that of a LP, which translates to the retail price being not much less, keeps EPs from being produced as often as they probably should. A split 12inch record allows two artists the same opportunity to shine within the limitations of an EP, and provides the buyer with double the fun at what most likely is a more than fair price.
Summersteps Records delivers a solid indie-cred split 12inch with Kid Icarus and Cold Coffee. The music between the two bands does compliment each other; perhaps the common thread, Nathaniel Kane, who plays "phantom keys" for Kid Icarus and is the singer, guitarist, and keyboardist for Cold Coffee (I'm guessing this is his main gig), lends to those comparable tones. Not to mentiom, Nathaniel Kane engineered and produced the Kid Icarus tracks, while he mixed Cold Coffee's. I simply love the fact that his name is spelled "Nathaniel" everywhere except as a band member for Kid Icarus, where he is referred to as "Nate."
The digitized hounds tooth -slash- checkerboard monotone (white) cover art is what first caught my attention (as it should). Wait, that's a lie; it was actually my curiosity of the color of the jacket. I think it is black. I'm pretty sure it is black. But as strange as it may sound, every time I hold the jacket, it appears to be the deepest of dark, navy blues. Oceanianic; from the most distant abyss. A blue so blue; virgin to sunlight. I've compared it numerous times to other records with black jackets, and I tell you what... this blue jacket is definitely black, yet still so blue. (I actually think it is the amount of white ink from the hounds tooth pattern that hosts the humorous trickery to the eye.)
That all being said, what also makes me confirm this record's blackness is the fact that there is no printing on the spine. I know I've mentioned before how blank solid black record jackets can be purchased, and prove to be an economically choice canvas for young bands doing whatever it takes to get their music out on vinyl. These blank jackets are often used by bands to silkscreen their artwork on by hand, rather than mass production, giving them a more custom aesthetic, and saving a few bucks in the process. A well noted result of handprinted jackets is a spine without anything on it, simply because it is so hard to print on the spine once the jacket has been assembled. The split 12inch for Kid Icarus and Cold Coffee might not have printing on the spine, however the craftsmanship on the front and back is flawless enough to make me question even my own inner Sherlock Holmes.
Nonetheless, the stamp-like typography on the center labels delivers my second clue with trying to solve this home-ec-mystery. The name of each band is the only text printed on the label of each respective side of the vinyl record. On Cold Coffee's side, there is what appears to be an ink splotch that would likely have been caused by some leaking ink or mishandling by its home based creator. You see, if a band or label is going through the trouble to handprint jackets to save money, it would make sense that they order their vinyl records with basic white labels (no manufactured printing), or have the blank labels sent to them prior to being glued to the records, so that they could also handprint the center labels as well. Genius! And my gut is telling me that this is the case with Kid Icarus and Cold Coffee.
The obscurity of all this makes the Kid Icarus and Cold Coffee split 12inch a go-to record for when I'm wanting to intrigue friends within my abode. The youthful position of the music keeps me going back for more.
Monday, September 1, 2014
If you did not grow up in Florida, or perhaps have not familiarized yourself with Florida's geographical (nautical) surroundings, you might not know which side of MRENC's (pronounced "Mister E - N - C") album All Around Surround to play first, which I like. It puts the sequencing in the listener's hands. Side-A is the "Atlantic Side," while Side-B is the "Gulf Side." The title All Around Surround is a lyric from the closing track "Cover Me."
The vinyl release comes with a CD, not a MP3 download. I remember my first experience with this; getting a CD with a vinyl I purchased. It was the summer of 2000 in Cambridge, MA (I had just returned from an amazing honeymoon with my wife), and Shellac had just released 1000 Hurts. Inside they included a CD copy of their album. It was brilliant, and before MP3 downloads. Nowadays, when an artist like MRENC puts their CD inside the vinyl, it demonstrates their position on this whole digital movement; basically saying they ain't planning no games when it comes to their music. Giving you the CD is giving you the music itself (like the vinyl), not a cheap-ass digital photocopy. I've got all respect for bands like MRENC for including CDs with their wax. Plus, the CD jacket plays the role of the liner notes for the vinyl; a practical solution.
Added props go out to MRENC for their packaging. Those of you following this here little blog site are probably catching on to the fact that 1) I love black and white artwork, and 2) I love it when bands cheat the system and design an exquisite package on a dime. To the naked eye, one would not know that the latter was the case with MRENC. However, those in the industry may recall that jacket manufacturers offer solid black finished jackets at a discounted price. If a band or label is capable of designing simplistic, yet pro, artwork / imagery that can be hand silkscreened upon these ready-to-go jackets, without looking like it was hand silkscreened, or (possibly / debatably) worse feeling like it was hand silkscreened, then they just might be able to pull off an economicly sound design like MRENC was able to do with All Around Surround. Job well done Mr. Eric N. Collins (MRENC).
Hand numbered on the "Atlantic Side" center label in a silver ink. Housed in a polypropylene bag. Released by one of the hardest working indie labels this side of the Mississippi, New Granada Records. A lot of thought went into this vinyl record, and it shows.
MRENC remind me of The Walkmen, somewhere between the vocal and drums and guitar work, but not all at once. There is an aggressive punch at times like Les Savy Fav, and sexy (yup, that's a first), seductive lure that brings me back to why I liked that band Plexi (just saw their album somewhere on vinyl; should have picked it up); I think that is the Florida 90's goth vibe I'm picking up (and loving; love me some old school Florida goth).
Fuck it. This is a damn good album. Buy it. There were only 300 made.