“The Sound of Hollywood Copulation” (1984)

soundofhollywoodThis is a solid mid-80s hardcore comp.  Quite a few of these bands were from California, but other west coast entries include Sado Nation (Portland) and the Mentors (Seattle), plus Government Issue is from DC, so it feels like it’s more about the Hollywood punk scene than it is local bands per se.

This probably my favorite of all the various hardcore comps I’ve listened to over the years. Songs from this period were fast, but you could still follow along and understand most of the lyrics.  Sure the Mentors inject a dose of their typical sloppiness, but so be it.  Only available on vinyl, it appears there was a 2015 re-release that’s more affordable than an original pressing ($20 versus $40-50 for a nice 1984 version).  A good primer for someone looking to start exploring the 1980s LA hardcore scene.

Singapore Sling – “Killer Classics” (2019)

There’s a certain nihilism to Singapore Sling.  It’s not the nihilism that burns hot and causes one to lash out at the world, but more one of resignation, the sense of a unceasing buzz in your mind that you can’t shake, a slow death by a thousand cuts, the adding of the tiniest weights onto your chest done so slowly that you can’t even sense the change but that over time makes it harder and harder to breathe.  Hell, it’s right there in the song titles.  Killer Classics gives us “Nothing Matters But Rock ‘N’ Roll”.  Prior to that we got “Nothing’s Theme” and “Nothing And Nowhere” on an album called Kill Kill Kill (Songs About Nothing), and “Nuthin’s Real” on The Tower of Fornicity.  And the list goes on.  “The Nothing Inside”; “Nothin’ Ain’t Bad”; and a possible candidate simply called “Noth”.  That’s a whole lot of nothing.  If there are three overarching themes to Singapore Sling’s music they are:

  • Nothing
  • Death (including killing and various forms of destruction)
  • Rock ‘N’ Roll

My perception is that in this trinity Nothing and Death are the elements out there in the world, the weights being put on top of you, the inevitable outcome to life.  Rock ‘N’ Roll, however, is the salvation.  It’s the one thing that cracks the wall of nihilism, the one thing that makes life worth living.  I’m probably extrapolating a bit on the Rock ‘N’ Roll part, but bear with me.  “Nothing Matters But Rock ‘N’ Roll”, we’re told on the latest album, which is a step in the right direction from when the Slingers opined back in 2004 that Life Is Killing My Rock ‘N’ Roll (which included a song of the same name).  The feeling I get when I listen to Singapore Sling is that of driving at night, the windows rolled down and the air coming up from the road still radiating heat from the day’s scorching sun, racing to escape that constant buzz of Nothing and Death chasing you in the rear view mirror, trying to outrace fate.  And, of course, blasting Singapore Sling’s psych soundtrack to it all on the car stereo.

singaporeslingkillerclassics

Right from the opening riff of “Suicide Twist” (Death again!) it was clear what Singapore Sling has in store for us on Killer Classics (more Death).  They’ve honed their brand of shoegazey-psych to a sharp edge and they use it with the precision of surgeons, cutting away the pretense and bloat of what rock has become and skinning it down to its most basic and rawest elements.  The drum beats are the relentless pressure of life, the fuzz of the guitars the unceasing pressure trying to overwhelm you, the bass following your heartbeat as it rises and falls as you struggle to maintain your sanity, and the vocals are the voice inside your head, the one that sometimes tells you that you can do it, but at other times calls for the sweet release of death.

Record Shopping Bend, Oregon Style

Oregon is less than a three hour drive from our house (♠), but once you get off the I-5 corridor it gets dicey – there aren’t a lot of straight routes into the state’s interior.  So when we were invited to our friend The Bossiest’s (♥) wedding in lovely Bend, Oregon, we had a choice to make – drive or fly.  By car it’s 6+ hours.  By plane?  40 minutes.  Plus driving to the airport (almost an hour) and getting to the airport early (two hours)… Decisions, decisions.  But we had enough points for some free tickets and a rental car so figured we’d luxuriate in the tiny Embraer E175 jet (“we don’t serve alcohol on this flight, sir”) and go in style.  I also made sure to pack our bigger hard case suitcase, because Bend has a record store that I wanted to check out, and I’d need a sturdy bag to get my treasures home safely. (♦)

ranchrecordsbend

Ranch Records
117 NW Oregon Ave

Right in the heart of historic downtown Bend, Oregon, and right next door to what is literally an old school arcade complete with bubble hockey, lies Ranch Records, a surprisingly spacious and well-stocked store for little old Bend.  On the plus side Ranch had a nice selection of new vinyl.  On the not-quite-as-plus side the used selection was pretty limited.  But…. I found some tremendous stuff on the wall, some punk business I’ve never seen before.

During our first visit I picked a couple of dollar bin gems, super-clean copies of Steve Martin’s A Wild and Crazy Guy and Barry Manilow Live.  I also found a pair of obscure nuggets, the self-released records by whack-job punks Dr. Sadistic and the Silverking Crybabies (Pyramid Punk and Maroon Balls, and if you must know the copy of Pyramid Punk was still sealed).  After a sleepless night filled with regret for the things I left behind at Ranch, I returned the next day for Judas Priest’s Hero, Hero and an OG pressing of Poison Idea’s Kings of Punk.  No a bad haul if I do say so myself.

So if you find yourself in bend, definitely drink some beer at one of the seemingly hundreds of brew pubs, then stroll on down to Ranch Records and wrap your day up with a stop at the arcade to beat those pesky Ruskies at hockey…

(♠) At least it is when I’m driving…

(♥) Not her real name, but it is her real nickname

(♦) Actually two, but we only made it to one

Black Sabbath – “Paranoid” (1970)

As the compact disc rose to ascendancy in the second half of the 1980s it appeared that vinyl was headed to the dustbin of history to hang out with Betamax tapes, rotary telephones, and disco.  Cassettes hung on for a bit, but it wasn’t long before the Walkman was replaced by the Discman and the CD completed its domination, having crushed all before it.  There were things we lost as part of this transition.  Music recorded specifically for digital fell victim to its own hubris, the loudness wars reducing sonic range.  Album art became less important with the smaller format. And, most importantly in my opinion, we lost the concept of the “album side”.

Having distinct album sides gave artists options in laying out their albums, providing a natural break between two groups of songs (or four if it was a double album).  Often this held little if any significance other than the leading singles generally occupying side A.  But occasionally the separation was like a line in the sand.  Side B of Black Flag’s My War was a complete departure from the band’s sound, a move that pissed off their fan base something fierce.  In 1968 Iron Butterfly gave over the B side of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to a 17-minute version of the title track, one that took the entire side and became the litmus test of both heavy psych and, to some extent, self-indulgence.  Of course Blue Öyster Cult threw a curve ball at the whole thing with Imaginos, a concept album with a linear storyline but with the songs appearing in non-linear order, which is bizarre on a lot of levels.  But I digress.  The other thing albums sides do is give us the ability to break down an album into smaller parts.  Sure, we can talk about the greatest albums of all time.  But we can also talk about the greatest album sides of all time, the best four for five (or three… or six…) songs in a row, sides that force you to listen to them all the way through because they’re so perfect.  The kinds of sides that you play from start to finish, meaning you had maybe 15-20 minutes before you’d have to get up and put something else on the turntable.

Which brings me to Paranoid.  Side A of Paranoid is one of the all-time great album sides.  And I do mean all-time greats.

  • War Pigs
  • Paranoid
  • Planet Caravan
  • Iron Man

blacksabbathparanoid

Black Sabbath are one of the originators of truly heavy metal, revered by just about everyone and producing a list of hits as long as your arm.  And yet arguably three of their biggest all-time most popular songs appear on the four-song side A of their second album, Paranoid.  The anti-war “War Pigs” combines weight, shredding guitars, and completely music free stretches in which Ozzy basically sings a cappella.  Politicians hide themselves away / They only started the war / Why should they go out to fight / They leave that role for the poor.  “Paranoid” was written as a last-minute filler, a throw-away song that immediately caught on with it’s matter-of-fact depiction of mental health struggles.  I tell you to enjoy life / I wish I could but it’s too late.  And that brings us to the criminally underrated “Planet Caravan”, a psych trip of spacey grooviness, an acid-soaked journey through the inner space of the mind, the guitar work sounding more like something by Santana than by Sabbath.  Which brings us to “Iron Man”, a truly strange song both in structure and story.  The opening metronome-like kick drum followed by the tuned down distorted guitar, then launching into the heaviest and most plodding jam ever. The entire time you’re waiting for the pace to increase and it doesn’t; it stays relentlessly heavy and in time, never breaking free, like nails being pounded into your head.  He was turned to steel / In the great magnetic field.  A song about alienation and revenge.  Nobody wants him / They just turned their heads / Nobody helps him / Now he has his revenge.  It’s a comic book story come to life, only without a hero to come and save the day in the last 10 pages.  No.  This time there are no heroes.  Only revenge.

Four songs.  The powerful.  The fast.  The slow.  The heavy.  All excellent in their own rights, and fitting perfectly together across 21 minutes of grooved vinyl.

The B side of Paranoid is no slouch in its own right.  “Electric Funeral” is the love-child of “Planet Caravan” and “Iron Man”, all dense psych and great riffs, and all four of the flip side tracks are solid.  But that A side, that sweet, sweet A side, is a masterpiece and definitely one of the all-time greats.

Dark Ages – “Medieval Sorcery” (1987)

darkagesmedievalI like the obscure stuff, especially when I can track down someone who was part of it and ask them some questions for the blog.  So when I found this late-1980s private press metal album from Seattle band Dark Ages I figured I had some good blog fodder.  But I was stymied by the use of pseudonyms, lack of memory, and likely one death.  At some point too-common names led me to either dead ends or so many possible hits that I all I’m left with is four songs on black wax.  I hope no one asks me to turn in my copy of The Hardy Boys’ Detective Handbook.

Medieval Sorcery isn’t typical metal.  The female-fronted Dark Ages do something a bit rawer and a bit less refined than often found in uber-intricate and/or uber-fast late 80s metal, bringing a touch of riot-grrrl-like sensibility paired with some sort of Dark-Ages-esque heavy folk influences.  “Auric Slumbers / Ophelia” opens grunge-like before bursting into a thrash pace overlaid with vocals of fluctuating speed, the whole thing a disorienting array of sonic elements and shredding riffs.  It may be the song that best defines the four-track record.

It’s too bad this is all we got from Dark ages, and that I couldn’t track down vocalist Erin Jean.  If I ever do find her though, you’ll hear about it right here on Life in the Vinyl Lane.