Time Bomb Records is both a label and a record store located in the basement of the Sun Bowl building in Osaka, Japan. If you only have time to visit one shop while in Osaka, this is the one. It’s quite large by Japanese standards and everything is meticulously organized, labeled and graded. You won’t find a lot of vinyl bargains in Japan, but man you’ll find some crazy rare and awesome stuff.
I grabbed a copy of I Love Punky Night when we visited because it was punk and it was also on the Time Bomb label. Plus that cover! It’s hard to describe the color-changing effect of the metallic jacket when you look at it in different kinds of light. And not only is the exterior package top-notch, but it also comes with an insert and a six-panel band poster. You’re definitely getting your money’s worth.
Musically I Love Punky Night is an alcohol-fueled funny car. It’s a motorcycle doing 120 mph down the road at night with he headlight turned off. It’s the speed at which the ground accelerates towards you right before you open your parachute. It has hardcore speed, but more of a Ramones style. It’s catchy as hell is what it is. Lyrics are in Japanese, but don’t let that deter you; you’re listening to this one for the speed and attitude, and it has tons of both.
Opinions seem to vary about the aesthetic merits of Fort Lauderdale’s Sewer Zombies, though the variance itself is binary – they are either derided as pure garbage or lauded as genius. Which camp is right? Well, like Einstein taught us with his theory of special relativity, it kind of depends on your perspective. As for me, I like ’em.
Reach Out And… is sort of like a hardcore version of a Butthole Surfers album. Musically it’s recognizably hardcore, but with some pure weirdness thrown in for good measure. The lyrics address some standard punk themes, riffing against capitalism (“Executive Execution”), the police (“Too Many Police”), and society in general (“Never”), while also cracking wise and taking shots at the kind of people who they probably encountered in their daily lives in Florida with the brilliantly funny “They Died With Their Willie Nelson T-Shirts On”:
The had to haul ass to the bar The had to get there early… to pick up a little girlie.
All of them home boys… Just out to make some noise Kickin’ ass in their 400 horsepower toys.
(And yes, at the end of the song they do die in a flaming car wreck while wearing their Willie Nelson t-shirts)
I’ve written about Green River a number of times, touching on their EPs Come On Down (1985) and Dry As A Bone (1987) as well as the 2016 RSD collection 1984 Demos, so I’ll make an effort not to re-hash all that stuff. Let it suffice to say there is an argument to be made that Green River was the Patient Zero of grunge. They were well known within the Seattle music community and their breakup led to the formation of some seminal bands, most notably Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, and Pearl Jam. That’s some pretty good lineage right there.
Rehab Doll was the band’s first and only full-length, nine songs of dirty, grimy rock ‘n’ roll. The guitar work has a surprising amount of 1980s hard rock and NWOBHM to it, though things stay a bit slower and weightier than the more popular metal of the period. You can almost feel what would become Mother Love Bone bubbling under in the music. Add to that Mark Arm’s somewhat unorthodox, half-spoken-half-sung vocal whine and you get something unusual, something that didn’t fit neatly into a genre box circa 1988 (though it would very soon).
It’s interesting that Green River included “Swallow My Pride”, arguably their best known song and one featuring Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon on backing vocals, on Rehab Doll. The song first appeared on Come On Down three years earlier, so it certainly wasn’t new. I’m not sure if this is a different version, and frankly I’m too lazy to check. It may simply be a matter of putting their best foot forward on this, their first Sub Pop release. My version is actually the one put out in Europe by Glitterhouse, which is notable because it includes an additional track that doesn’t appear on any of the Sub Pop versions, a cover of David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch”.
I took a new job last year, leaving the big, national company I’d worked at for almost two decades and going to a smaller, regional one headquartered near where I live. It was a great move for a host of reasons, one of which is that I don’t travel for work nearly as often as I used to (I think I maxed out at 25 work-related trips in 2016). Last week was one of those rare trips in my new gig and it took me a few hours south of home to Vancouver, Washington (a.k.a. “The Other Vancouver”) for two days of meetings. I didn’t think I’d have time to do any record shopping, but when I found myself with a brief window between the last meeting of the day and a work dinner, I grabbed my coat and headed up the street to 1709 Records. I knew I’d only have about 20 minutes to dig, but it sure beat sitting in my hotel room and working emails.
1709 Records is an outstanding shop. Everything was well-organized, clean, and thoughtful, and the dude working there that day was great. A quick scan of the wall records revealed a pristine Glitterhouse pressing of Green River’s Rehab Doll, as well as an equality high quality first pressing of Scratch Acid’s 1984 debut. I also snagged a German new wave comp called Deutschland Strike-Back Compilation – Volume One and some late 1970s synth music from a band/artist called Synergy. I literally didn’t even have enough time to look through any of the rock section, so I’ll definitely need to stop again the next time I find myself headed down to Portland, because if I could find that much awesomeness in just a few minutes I can only imagine what’s waiting for me in the rest of the bins.
I was very excited to find this gem over at Osaka’s Time Bomb Records during our recent trip to Japan. I love these late 1970s/early 1980s comps from other countries, which generally feature bands that to me are obscure or completely unknown. And Tokyo New Wave ’79 delivers, with five bands contributing a dozen songs. Of the five, I think that only 8 1/2 ever released a proper album of their own. A live CD from a 1979 performance by 自殺 (Jisatsu) eventually saw the light of day in 2004, but otherwise these bands were pretty much relegated to the odd track here and there on comps.
Sex opens the record with a pair of live tracks that are much more punk than new wave, though in 1979 those lines were certainly blurred. Next up is another pair of live songs, this time by 自殺. The first of these, “ゼロ” (“Zero”) sounds awfully familiar, though I can’t quite place it, and both of their contributions feel less punk than Sex, leaning more towards Rolling-Stones-inspired rock. Pain close out the A side by taking us back in a punkier direction with a pair of catchy jams, the latter of which “リフューズ·ナイト” reminds me of the punk that would be coming out of Iceland within a year or two.
8 1/2 opens side B with a trio of good songs, even if the organ sequences on “暗い所ヘ” sound a whole heck of a lot like the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off Of My Cloud”. Their third number, “シテイー·ボーイ”, is probably the most new wave thing on Tokyo New Wave ’79, with some crazy synths and sequence changes that are a bit reminiscent of bands like Devo. Bolshie close things out with a trifecta of their own, defined by their low, growled vocals that would be just as home in the world of metal as they are on these angst-ridden tracks.
I read on line that all 12 songs were recorded live at the same concert. Unfortunately I can’t read the relatively extensive liner notes because they’re in Japanese, so I can’t verify this. It would make sense though – everything has roughly the same sound quality, which is actually remarkably good for being live punk in 1979, and you can catch some crowd noise here and there (and the crowd sounds small).
If you have any interest in early Japanese punk/new wave, I highly recommend Tokyo New Wave ’79.