Friday, July 31, 2009

Joe Jackson - Night and Day (LP, 1982)

I bought this record because "Steppin' Out" is one of the greatest pure pop songs in the history of music. I expected the rest of the record to be good, but not this good–it ended up over-impressing me with how deep and diverse it is.

Joe Jackson is one of those rare artists that should, by any and all rational means, be as popular as an Elvis Costello or a David Byrne. However, he's always managed (at least in the U.S.) to stay one tier below guys like that. It's not for a lack of great songs. While he'll eternally be linked with the bland "Is She Really Going Out With Him?", there are non-single tracks on this LP ("Target" comes to mind) that run circles around the saccharine lumps in that radio staple.

Keeping in mind that I have a fairly uninformed opinion of the man's entire career, Jackson strikes me as one of those guys who is maybe too good a musician to really do the pop thing justice. Even the slicker pop numbers on this record (like "Breaking Us In Two") are sprinkled with tricky percussion and lots of little hits and intricacies, and often take left turns to allow for dense solos that are, while really great, unexpected when taken in context with the catchiness of the melodies.

I was listening to "Steppin' Out" a few weeks ago, and my wife made some comment about Jackson not being much of a singer. I had never really thought about that, but maybe his voice is a little off-putting. I've always found it sort of shaky and charming, adding a strange nervousness to the music. I guess that might not be a good thing...

Either way, this record is another one of those bargain bin scores that you shouldn't pass up. If you've got a turntable, you can easily find a copy of this on vinyl for a few bucks. Love it for "Steppin' Out," hold onto it for the other eight terrific songs.

"Breaking Us In Two"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

White Whales.

There's a short segment in the movie Vinyl where Alan Zwieg talks about (and I'm paraphrasing here) the thrill of hunting down that record you've always been looking for–your "white whale," as it were. In his case, he had always–for reasons even he was unsure of–wanted a copy of The Louvin Brothers' Satan is Real LP. Can't say I blame him; it's a sweet looking record.

He ends up meeting a guy who was an avid collector of classic country music, and he figures out that the dude has a copy of the album in his storage unit. They go look for it, find it, and even though the fellow won't sell it to him, he's still able to admire it while holding it in his hand. He talks about it afterward, while still struck with some unexpected confusion–as soon as it became real, it was almost a letdown. Of course, he didn't actually buy the record, so he's still got that project to tackle, if he chooses to. But he didn't seem as excited about it.

I've been a collector of all things Supersuckers since I was 15. The level of my collecting obsession has had its ups and downs over the years, but they're easily the one band that I own more music by than any other. I got in on the ground floor in 1991 and I never looked back. My Supersuckers collection is a story unto itself, so I'll save that for another time. But, here's where I'm going with all this:

In 1994, the Supersuckers put out an Australian-only tour album called The Songs All Sound the Same II (as it's listed on the cover) aka Put This on the Barbie, Fucker (as it reads on the spine). When I was 18 and living in Eugene right after high school (in 1994), I came across this CD at a local record shop. I was incredibly broke, and though I really wanted it, I literally didn't have the money. A few weeks later I pointed it out to a friend who was in town visiting, and he bought it. That was the last time I ever saw it. I don't know how it even ended up in the States, let alone in Eugene. But there it was. And there it went. And when I bugged my friend years later to sell it to me, he wouldn't do it. And he didn't even really like the band that much. And then I lost track of him.

Like I said, my Supersuckers collecting has been known to wane depending on my funds and my general laziness, but it's always there. When I started using eBay a decade ago, it gave me a streamlined way to stalk the band's products. I have purchased way too much Supersuckers stuff from eBay, but I never saw my white whale on there. I took to emailing people I saw selling rare Supersuckers stuff on eBay and asking them if they had it. I emailed the band's manager to see if he could help me get it. I searched the web high and low, only to find that there's barely any record of it existing.

About a year ago, I set up a Google Alert for the CD, just to see if that would get me anywhere. I kept getting random alerts that didn't have anything to do with the album. Then, a few short weeks ago, I finally got the alert I had been waiting for: a record store in Australia had a copy on their site for 15 bucks. I ran for my wallet, frantically moving to swipe it up before someone else did (this is how crazy I am), typing in my credit card number and waiting for it all to go through. It did. And I waited.

And today, it showed up:
(Sorry for the crappy photo.)

I always thought I'd come across it in a record store. I always thought I'd pay way too much money for it. I always thought it would be this huge event that I'd have a great story to go along with. Nope. I found it on the internet for 15 bucks and they sent it right to me. Huh.

And while I'm going to miss always having that CD out there eluding me, I have to say: I've been looking at it all night, and finally having it really is as good as I hoped it would be.

Now: does anyone know where I can get a copy of Nirvana's "Love Buzz" 7"?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stallion Alert at the Movies: Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986/2006)

I'll be honest: I never saw Heavy Metal Parking Lot before it was released on DVD. I've never been big on bootleg tape trading and I'm not a Judas Priest fan, so maybe that explains part of it. But a little bit of me feels like a rock know-nothing for not having known about this underground semi-phenomenon. I'm not going to dwell on it, but I just wanted to put that out there.

The 20th anniversary DVD release of this short documentary (shot pre-show in the parking lot of a Judas Priest concert in Landover, Maryland in 1986) is about as deluxe as it gets. Not only is there a pristine-as-possible restoration of the original 17-minute film, but you can even watch it in a recreation of what a heavily dubbed copy would look like. I actually think that's quite brilliant. There are also collections of tributes to the film, a great segment where they catch up with a few of the people who were in the flick, and some other geeky extras.

But, my favorite part of this DVD is tucked away in the bonus features and only pertains to the film via a loose Priest connection. It's the "Heavy Metal Basement" mini-doc, and it will thrill any record collecting nerd to no end. They go into this dude's basement, he pulls out this huge stack of Judas Priest records, and explains what each one is and where it came from. Like I said, I don't even like Judas Priest, but I've watched this segment three times in the past couple o' years and I still love it. Dude also shows off ticket stubs, t-shirts, bootleg vids, and other random items that only a superfan could treasure. It's shakily shot and hastily edited, but it's fantastic.

If you've never seen HMPL, it's worth a Netflix, at least for Zebra Man.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tacoma/Seattle Record Store Road Trip, Part Two.

Store #6: Easy Street Records
We rolled into Seattle right around rush hour, which was poor planning on our part. After fighting traffic downtown (Mapquest, you bastard), we made our way to Easy Street Records, and the doors to Valhalla opened for us. Right away, we knew we were going to be spending some serious time and serious dough here.

Easy Street has a ton of stuff, a ton of different sections, and is organized really well. While the layout makes browsing easy, the sheer volume of stuff was almost overwhelming. I think we may have spent almost two hours there, flipping through records and DVDs, and finally had to drag ourselves out so we'd have time for the rest of our planned stops.

I ended up walking out with a gang of LPs: A Deluxe Edition copy of Paris's The Devil Made Me Do It, Phife Dawg's Ventalation: Da LP, Hurricane's The Hurra, Busdriver's Jhelli Beam, and a limited edition version of Talking Heads' Speaking in Tongues that I had been looking for a decent copy of for years. I also picked up the Supersuckers Live at Helldorado DVD that I somehow didn't have. I think that was it, but I feel like there may have been more... Anyway, we needed to move on.

Store #7: Silver Platters
Silver Platters was like no other music store I'd been in before, and I'm still trying to figure out if that was a good thing or not. They have a ton of stuff, and though the concentration seems to be on music, they stock an insane amount of DVDs as well. Their vinyl is all very well organized, and everything is in plastic sleeves and priced quite fairly.

We weren't incredibly stoked on the place for one reason or another, but I ended up walking with sweet copy of The **** of The Mothers for ten bucks, which was a steal. In the shape that this copy was in, they could have easily charged 25. So that was nice. My brother enjoyed the vast selection of psych/cult DVDs and picked up some sort of reform school girls flick. All in all, not a bad spot, though it lacked the character of any of the other places we went to, so maybe that turned us off a bit.

Store #8: Sonic Boom
I had been to the Sonic Boom in Ballard when I went to the Supersuckers 20th Anniversary show (they played their in-store there), but I'd never been to the Capitol Hill one. If you've ever been to Jackpot Records in Portland, then you've got a good idea of what this place is like. Same sort of deal: indie-rock-centric with other shit they've deemed cool enough to be in there. That's fine by me, as it cuts out a lot of the crap that takes up space in other record stores. For them, it's probably practical, too, as they don't have a whole lotta space.

They have a nice selection of 7"s, though we didn't have the time to really examine all of them. I ended up walking with a sealed copy of Tad's 8-Way Santa (with the original cover, mind you) and maybe something else, but now I can't remember. We then hit Olympia Pizza next door because we were mad hungry. The pie was dope.

Store #9: Everyday Music
Yes, I've railed against EM in the past, but when in Rome, eh? By this time it was dark and we were starting to feel a bit ragged (and also starting to dread the three-hour drive home), but we powered on to our last stop. Capitol Hill must be hipster central, because the streets were teaming with skinny-jeaned dirtbags. We actually saw dudes playing fixed-gear bike polo. Seriously.

This EM is a lot like the ones in Portland (duh), but in sharp contrast, I actually walked out of this one with shit that I wanted. I picked up vinyl copies of RZA's Bobby Digital and Ice Cube's War & Peace Vol. 1, as well as 7"s from Peaches and Mudhoney/Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Oh, and a DVD of Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Not bad. We could have spent a lot more time in there, but it was after 10 at this point and we needed to hit the road. After watching the EM employees deal with a drunk transient and once we had sufficiently admired the sweet Hendrix statue outside the entrance (see photo), we decided to hit the road.

We got home at 1:30 in the AM, bringing the whole excursion to right about the 16 hour mark. I'd say about seven hours of that was spent in the car, so we can still say we put in a full work day of record shopping. Time well spent, and I can't wait to do it again.

So there you go.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tacoma/Seattle Record Store Road Trip, Part One.

I'm back! And I'm feeling refreshed and ready to take this blog on again. So get your bookmarks and your RSS feeds ready, because I'm postin'.

During my lengthy vacation from blogsville, my brother was in town. He moved to AZ a few years back, and often misses the NW record stores. So, since I'm sick of all the ones in Portland (except for Crossroads), we decided to give ourselves the sweet mission of hitting as many Washingtonian record stores as we could in one day. Armed with Mapquest directions, coffee, and expendable cash, we set out at 9AM this past Tuesday to do just that. Here's how it went.

Store #1: Hi-Voltage Records
Hi-Voltage is (along with the next four spots we hit) on 6th Ave. in Tacoma. It's small, nicely organized, and has a ton of vinyl. While their prices are a bit on the inflated side, their selection almost warrants it. Almost. I had been there a few months earlier and begrudgingly paid ten bucks for a Hazel 7" that I had long been searching for, and I wasn't really looking to do that again. After combing through the rock and hip hop, I ended up leaving with a decent copy of Run-DMC's Raising Hell, which I have been needing for a long time.

There were some other records I wanted, but the prices were high and this was only our first stop. We didn't want to go too nuts at the beginning. I would have liked to have, though. This is a great little shop and well worth checking out. Doesn't seem like a hip hop place, but they have a nice selection of old school rap.

Store #2: Turntable Treasures and House of Records
Located right across the street from Hi-Voltage, TT&HoR is a place that I could easily spend a whole day in. Their organizational methods are tough to grasp at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's great fun to dig around. I've been in there a few times, and the gents who work there are always really nice and happy to help.

This place specializes in 12" vinyl, so if you're looking for CDs, you're not going to find much here. But if you're looking for original sealed copies of 20-year-old LPs, this is the spot. They also have racks of everything you can imagine. The last time I was up there I picked up a Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock LP and a Faith No More 12" single on blue vinyl. And I almost bought a Donnie Most (Ralph Malph) LP, too. Like I said, they've got a ton of stuff, and the variety is impressive. I'm already looking forward to the next time I can go up there with a hundred bucks and go crazy.

This time around I picked up a Simple Minds "Alive and Kicking" 12" import single, a Men at Work "Everything I Need" 12" promo single, and a copy of Run-DMC's King of Rock that is in pretty good shape. (My brother bought some stuff too, but I can't remember what.) This store is fantastic. Set aside some hours and do it right.

Store #3: Drastic Plastic
After hopping back in the car and driving a few blocks, we came up on Drastic Plastic, which seemed to be open, but it wasn't until we set foot inside the place that we were able to confirm this. Upon walking in, we saw a table full of 7"s, a mini head shop filled with pipes and bongs, baseball cards, CDs, videos, role playing card games...a ton of random stuff. But no LPs. After inquiring, we were granted access to the darkened room adjacent to the main one, which housed multiple racks of records and several racks of used blue jeans. An odd mix, for sure, but it really didn't seem that nuts when we were in there.

Also odd: there were no prices on the records. Dude told us that he would just tell us what the prices were. I really don't care for that approach, as it often leads to awkwardness and disappointment. Their selection of rock was standard, but they did have a nice selection of oddities and unclassifiable albums. I picked up WWF's The Wrestling Album, an instructional LP called Train Your Bird to Talk, and Belante's Mr. Hypnosis, which is a bizarre weight control and self-confidence hypnosis record from what looks like the 60's.

The guy who was working in the store was quite chatty, and as you can see from the photo, he followed me out to the street when we left, still talking away. That was an experience.

Store #4: Golden Oldies
Across the street from Drastic Plastic lies Golden Oldies, a tiny little shop that is very clean, very well organized, and focuses guessed it: black metal. Nah, I'm foolin'. If you're looking to up your Kingsmen collection, this may be the place to start. But the nice guy who runs this place (seen here opening the door for us after coming back from lunch) also keeps a healthy stock of vintage comedy records and some stuff that definitely fits into the Classic Rock category.

So, not really what I was focusing on for this trip, but I did end up leaving with a sweet signed copy of Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart's Outrageous Conduct, which I didn't even know existed. Score. And, there were some well-behaved dogs that kept us company in there while we flipped through the vinyl. A nice experience, I must say.

Store #5: Rocket Records
I think this may have been the only place that we left without buying anything. Rocket Records is a great space, but their prices are inconsistent and there's just too much jammed in there. Though I have to say, if I had a few hours to kill flipping through their dollar bin, I'm sure I could find some stuff I wanted.

As it was, we didn't have much luck. The stuff is ostensibly divided by genre, but after flipping through some of the crates, there didn't seem to be much care put into really organizing the stuff. And the multiple "new arrival" sections were a bit confusing. I think we were also concerned about getting to Seattle at a decent hour (by this point it was almost 4PM), so maybe we didn't give it a fair shake. I'm going to head back there the next time I'm in Tacoma and hit that dollar bin.

So that was Tacoma. Next stop: Seattle!