Sunday, September 11, 2011

Guest Post: Record Shopping at Toxic Ranch in Tucson.

(Ed. note: This is another guest post from my brother Pocaroba, who is angry at my lack of entries and apparently taking matters into his own hands. Enjoy!)

I moved to Tucson, AZ almost five years ago after spending my entire life in Salem/Portland, OR. People from back home are always telling me that Tucson is a super hip, musical town. Either that is true and I am too old to know it or they are sadly misinformed; because I have learned over these past five years that record shopping in Tucson is a rather lame affair.

We have a few Zia Records shops, which are basically less cool Music Millenniums with a good DVD selection. As for records, they basically have overpriced new vinyl and the standard used classic rock stuff. There is also a chain of stores called Bookman's that only sell used items and their vinyl selection is small and mostly 70s and 80s stuff. You know, Billy Joel records for five bucks, that kind of thing. Twist & Shout Records is a cool place but, once again, I am not a classic rock guy, and that is their bread and butter. Our best record shop, PDQ Records, closed months ago and to be honest, they were way too overpriced for me to be a regular there anyway. So what is an aging NW indie rock hipster to do? Go to Tucson's best and only cool record store Toxic Ranch, of course.

Toxic Ranch is my kind of place. It is located off of Tucson's only hip street, 4th Ave. It is surrounded by disgusting houses, a sketchy tattoo shop and ample amounts of broken glass. The house two doors down has a sign above the door that reads, "This Is Not A Crash Pad." No joke. When you enter Toxic Ranch, two things hit you: they have no A/C and it smells 30 years old. Both of these are good signs when you're searching for sweet records. With no A/C, shopping there is somewhat of an endurance test. I spent roughly an hour there today and was drenched with sweat by the end.

Toxic Ranch's specialty is punk. They carry no hip-hop, jazz, blues, rock or anything else. They have about 80% punk and 20% indie rock. It's heaven. Their vinyl selection is pretty small but solid with the only complaint being that they have very little used vinyl. The average LP price is 13 bucks, so it's easy to pull the trigger. They also have a nice 45 selection which I usually gravitate towards first. Their CD selection is amazing as far as punk goes but the 15-20 dollar prices make it more of a museum type feel for me. Look but don't touch. Aside from the music, they have shirts, buttons, patches, comics, and zines that look like they have been there since 1993. Speaking of, I'm pretty sure that they were a record label in the '90s and have some kind of Jack Endino connection.

Whatever, here is what I picked up today.

One Last Wish - 1986 (2008)

They had a healthy supply of Dischord releases and I decided to go for this one over the 3 "Dark Days Coming" LP that I was coveting. There's always next time. One Last Wish were a band for 5 minutes in 1986 (clever title, huh?). Basically, after Rites of Spring broke up, Guy Picciotto, Brendan Canty and Edward Janney, all of Rites of Spring, decided to form a new band with the guitarist from Embrace. Kind of makes you think that there were only like 15 actual musicians in Washington DC at the time. Anyway, I've had their song from the "State of the Union Compilation" for years and, even though this full-length was recorded way back in 1986, Dischord didn't release it until 3 years ago. The sweet cover art and the promise of a digital download sealed the deal. Pretty excited to get into this as it is Guy and Canty's last stuff before Fugazi. The 15-year-old Me would have killed for this thing back in the day.

Crackerbash - Crackerbash (1992)

My brother, you know, the Stallion Alert guy, had this CD back in the day and I used to sneak into his room and listen to it when he wasn't home. I was spoiled with incredible NW music in my youth. I mean, there is even a song on here called "Gresham." Anyway, Crackerbash are a great example of a band that were huge in their area and probably nowhere else. I've always thought that this album was way too front-loaded and kind of drops off towards the end but still, the first six songs are unstoppable. Later people would try to act like frontman Sean Croghan was some kind of emo-guy but I never bought that, as none of his songs seem to be about chicks. I think dude is just kind of a spaz live. Still can't believe I found this LP used for five bucks in Tucson. The sleeve has some pretty heavy wear but I am more than glad to see it in my collection.

Porn Orchard - "Chain Delivery" 7" (1988)

So yeah, I am a closet Porn Orchard fan. They have a sweet song on the Teriyaki Asthma compilation and I have been fascinated by them ever since. I have their two C/Z records full-lengths and was excited to find this single, which seems to have been released three years before their albums. Porn Orchard are from Athens, GA and play a weird math rock-metal-grunge-hardcore style of rock that fascinates me to no end. I'm especially interested in side two of this thing as they include two one-minute songs, which is weird since most of their songs are in the four minute range. The sleeve is noteworthy in that it is upside down. The fold is at the top of the artwork. I have never seen this done on a 45 before. You have to hope that it was a printing mistake and not just stupidity.

godheadSilo - "Elephentitus of the Night" 7" (1994)

My main complaint about shopping for records in Arizona is that I rarely come across stuff from the NW. So when I was flipping through 45s today and came across this my heart jumped a beat. The five dollar price tag felt fantastic and I couldn't pull it off the shelf fast enough. If you don't know godheadSilo then you are missing out. At a time when it seemed like no Olympia band had a bass player this two man outfit decided to have no guitar player and released some of the heaviest odes to BMXing ever committed to wax. Speaking of wax, from the looks of this 45, I don't think this thing has ever been played. Outstanding.

Chicken - "TV Telefiend" 7" (1992)

As I was still reveling in my NW rock score, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this 45 by 90s Seattle punk band Chicken. Chicken are interesting for a few reasons. One is that they have five members. You just don't see that all that much in the punk world. Two guitar players seems to be quite decadent for a genre that looks down upon guitar soloing but what are you going to do? Two is that Chicken has to be one of the worst band names for a band that is actually good. Out of all the band names that you kicked around at band practice, Chicken is the best one that the five of you could come up with? Hmm. This 45 has totally different artwork than the one on discogs but seems to be the same release. Those wacky punks! Did I mention that it's on clear yellow vinyl? No? Because it is.

Jonestown - "You Can't Swim With Handcuffs On..." 7" (1991)

I have been somewhat fascinated by Jonestown ever since hearing their incredible song on the Teriyaki Asthma compilation. Judging by their "Twenty Five Years" 7" and this 7", that incredible song was the fluke in their catalog. However, I will continue to amass their releases in order to prove this claim untrue. I refuse to believe it. By the by, I really like the artwork and title on this thing. Well done.

Asspiss - "Fuck Off And Die" 7" (2009)

Aside from the Crackerbash LP, this was really the crown jewel of my purchases today. First of all, the band is called Asspiss. Genius. The punk world hasn't produced a band name this brilliant since the angels delivered Anal Cunt on a flaming pie. As if the name wasn't enough they went ahead and named their release "Fuck Off And Die." You don't give a shit. Message received. The kicker to this thing was that it is on white marble vinyl. According to one of the seemingly endless inserts this is the rarest of the colors that the record was released in. Excellent. As for the inserts, there is a page about the band from the label, a page about the band from the band, three label stickers, two "Asspiss" stencils for your graffiti pleasure and an "Asspiss" sticker. You have to love the dedication of these crusty punk bands. They certainly give you a lot of bang for your three bucks.

In addition to these records I also bought issue 13 of "Short, Fast and Loud" magazine, which makes "Maximum Rock N Roll" look like "Rolling Stone." The promise of an interview with the drummer of one my favorite crusty punk bands, Despise You, is what sucked me in. After perusing it for a while I realized that the issue is from 2005. That thing sat on a shelf for six years waiting for me to pick it up. And I did.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Recent Purchases/Doing My Part to Support Music Millennium.

Yep, just doing my part. This is the rationale I'm using for the amount of time and money I've been spending there lately.

While I've been known to scour the bargain bins at Everyday Music, I realized I really only go there because they're open late. I much prefer Music Millennium. Not only is it a Portland institution, but the people there are always really nice, they do a great job with special orders, and they keep their stock well-organized and easy to look through. Their prices are reasonable (especially for used stuff), and I always feel good about spending my money there.

And I've been doing a lot of that lately. But it's all for the good of supporting not only a record store, but my favorite record store, and a treasured local business. I'd really be a dick if I wasn't spending all the money I can there. Right?

Oh, the things I tell myself. Anyway, I just got back from picking up some stuff I special ordered from there, so I figured I'd blog it out. Extra bonus from tonight's excursion: they're having a 20% off all vinyl sale this week. Again: I'd be crazy not to take advantage of a deal like that, right? Right?

Here's what I picked up.

Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011)

I may never love the music on this record as much as everyone else seems to, but man, the Beasties never disappoint when it comes to putting out vinyl versions of their releases. This thing is amazing: A bulky gatefold cover that houses two 180 gram slabs of white vinyl, a bonus 7" (also on white vinyl, with a vintage-looking Capitol sleeve and label), a t-shirt iron-on, thick inner sleeves with complete lyrics, and a code for a high-quality digital download of the entire thing. I guess this is the reason thing only came out on LP a few days ago. It's pretty. And the price wasn't outrageous.

Other nerdy things worth mentioning about it: It came in one of those plastic sleeves with a perforation along the top, so you just tear that part off, and you've already got a protective sleeve for it. Also, the inner sleeves have the opening on the side (instead of the top), which is the way all LPs should be if you ask me. And, the lyrics are color-coded, with a key indicating which color text goes with which member of the group. Seriously: well done.

Joe Lally - Why Should I Get Used to It (2011)

This came out in April, and since I'm apparently really clueless, I didn't find out about it until a few weeks ago. I've been listening to it on Spotify, but I was jonesing to purchase it so I could really dive into it. This is the third solo LP Lally's put out since Fugazi went on hiatus, and he's done a great job of advancing his sound on each one. I can't say too much about this one because I've only heard it a few times, but it seems more revved up than his previous work, which is cool. If you're looking for something different than anything else you're listening to, give ol' Joe a shot. Also came with a free download of the album.

Dwarves - The Dwarves are Born Again (2011)

I thought the doo-ragged woman behind the counter at MM might look down her nose at me for this one, but instead she said something like "How great is it that the Dwarves are still putting out records?" I agreed with her. A guilty pleasure of mine, but a pleasure nonetheless. This came with an insert with a collage and full lyrics, a digital download, and a DVD that, in girly writing on it, says "Dear Blag, your balls are huge!" Yes, it's all very mature.

Raekwon - Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang (2011)

I've been listening to this album for months, so I figured I should probably pony up the dough for the vinyl version. Never saw it in any stores, but MM was able to order it for me. Double LP, clear red vinyl, no credits to be found on it, and no download included. Fairly bare bones, but I'm glad I got it. Good album, but not as good as his last one, which is why people are probably treating it like a slight disappointment. But they shouldn't. It's solid.

Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat (2006)

Wow, has it really been five years since this came out? I think I bought this for my wife-back-when-she-was-my-girlfriend when it came out, because we have the CD. Found it on LP tonight used, and the price was already right, but with the additional 20% it was very right, so went for it. One more CD replaced with an LP, and one more CD I can trade in for a DVD or something. It's the circle of life.

The Gories - I Know You Fine, But How You Doin' (1994)

When it comes to bands that make me look cool for being into them, The Gories are right up there with Royal Trux. Truth be told, I only got into The Gories because the Supersuckers covered two of their songs: "Nitrogycerine" and "The View from Here" (that one's on the Junkyard Dogs album). I'm not a big garage rock guy, but I do dig this record. I've never seen it priced as low as it was tonight (six bucks...?), so I grabbed it.

Quasi - American Gong (2010)

I keep a list in my phone of LPs I need to buy, and this one has been #2 on the list, right under Surfer Blood, for about a year. Can't really remember why. You know those records where you'd gladly pay eight bucks for it used, but there's no way in hell you're paying 12 for it new? This was one of those. (I think the Surfer Blood one might be, too.) I've been keeping my eye open for a used copy for a while, and I finally found one tonight. Includes a big fold-out poster printed on newspaper stock with scrawled lyrics. No track listing on the cover, and the name of the band and album only appear on the spine. Bold move.

All right. I've purchased other records from the Millennium lately, and I'll talk about that stuff in another post soon.