The Dirty Dan Project – “Music Concrète” 7″

This is “one of those records.”  As in, what the hell is it, and how did it come to actually be made by someone?  And not so much from the standpoint of the artists… but more the label.

dirtydanproject

So here’s what I know.  The Dirty Dan Project was an Icelandic trio comprised of the Pollock brothers and Asgeir Bragason, and they released their one and only 7″ way back in 1981.  My guess is they were able to pull off getting GRAMM to put this out because the A side is comprised of two pretty good, standard rock songs, one of which (“Drifter’s Escape”) is a Bob Dylan cover.  It’s the B side where things get weird, and the name of the song even lets you know that’s going to be the case:  “Music Concrète.”  Now I’m only familiar with the concept of Musique Concrète (as the style is written) in a very vague way, but at the most basic level it’s kind of electronic music that doesn’t fit into the normal song structures, often using non-musical equipment to make music.  And don’t think that it’s a relatively modern phenomenon – it dates back to at least the 1940s if not earlier.  And, like the genre for which it is named, The Dirty Dan Project’s “Music Concrète” is pretty out there, mixing instruments, electronic sounds, and the human voice in a sort of mashup.  Definitely something that is completely dissimilar with the two songs on side A.

But let’s be honest – “Music Concrète” is why this little record is still interesting and relevant today, because it still sounds freshly weird and modern (maybe more post-modern… but you get the point).  Certainly not going to be in regular rotation, but it is a mind expander, that’s for sure.

Oppslutning – “Oppslutning 1981-1982”

I have to admit a certain fondness for classic era Oi! tunes.  I know that the movement quickly became associated with the far right… but I’m not talking white supremacist stuff, just more working class Oi! punk rock.  I picked this up on Oslo recently since Oppslutning was a Norwegian band that fell into the time period I seem to enjoy the most, and from what little I’ve read about them online they were either the first or one of the very earliest Oi! bands in Norway, which is cool.

oppslutning

Oppslutning recorded a 14-song demo back in 1982 that made the rounds on the cassette circuit, but as near as I can tell that was it until someone got a hold of the original masters and put out this vinyl version in 2010.  The release is limited to 300 hand numbered copies (I have #188), and I have to say the quality is surprisingly good.  Nice jacket, clean vinyl, and the recording sounds decent – the playing is certainly raw and basic, and my guess is that each song is simply the best full take the band did of each.  I’d be shocked if there was any mixing done, but I could be wrong there.  But the one thing I do know is that Oppslutning 1981-1982 captures the feel of an energetic live band.  I didn’t time it, but I’d be surprised if the whole thing runs more than 30 minutes – classic early punk.

Not the best sound quality in the world, but it’s perfectly serviceable for what it is, and I for one am glad someone took the time to put this nugget out.

Mother Love Bone – “Hold Your Head Up / Holy Roller” RSD 7″

I woke up in a bit of a funk this morning.  It was raining hard, and while I was looking forward to hitting up a couple of shops for Record Store Day Black Friday, I did not expect to get a copy of what I really wanted, the Mother Love Bone 7″ featuring a cover of Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up.”  Maybe if I lived anywhere other than Seattle, this would have seemed attainable.  But here… I figured probably not.

motherloveboneholdyourheadup

I’ve written about Mother Love Bone before as a side note in various other posts, so I won’t go into the whole backstory.  I don’t have a good perspective on the popularity of the band outside of Seattle, which only managed one EP and one LP before lead singer Andy Wood’s heroin overdose… and if memory serves, he actually died right before the LP came out.  Personally I think they would have been huge, and I love their music.  Of course, some of the members of MLB ended up finding success in bands like, you know, Pearl Jam.  So I somehow suspect that MLB fans fall into two groups – Pearl Jam fans who experience them as part of the overall Pearl Jam thing, and the relatively small number of people who’d heard of them when they were new… and I think a large percentage of the later were in Seattle.

I checked Facebook in the AM and saw there were already lines at the shops, but still figured it was worth a shot.  So we got some coffee, tried not to hydroplane the car into the  freeway jersey barriers, and made it to Easy Street in West Seattle.  Where I found an entire wall of the single, still in stock.  Score!  In fact I even picked up a second copy as a Christmas present for a friend.  Hell, they even still had copies at the next shop we stopped at, Silver Platters.  Maybe I over-estimated the popularity of this item here in Seattle.  Regardless, I’m stoked to have my copy.

I’m not sure how “limited” this is, and frankly I don’t care.  Hearing some fresh material with Andy Wood’s voice is awesome, and he definitely takes the Argent cover and makes it his own, with his trademark Andy Wood flourishes and emotion.  The B side is a previously unreleased version of the MLB song “Holy Roller,” though at least to my ears the first time through it sounds a lot like the album version.

This probably doesn’t appeal to anyone who isn’t a Pearl Jam fan or an old school Seattle music fan… but if you’re in one of those two camps, like I am, then it’s a great chance to hear Andy Wood’s voice again.  We lost him too soon.  He would have been one of the greats.

Spray Paint – “Clean Blood, Regular Acid”

My friend Ingvar at Reykjavik’s Lucky Records put a copy of the recently released Clean Blood, Regular Acid into my hands a few weeks ago.  I didn’t think twice about it since he always recommends stuff to me when I’m there, and it wasn’t until I got home that I realized, much to my surprise, that Spray Paint are not an Icelandic band.  They’re actually from Austin, Texas.  Seems odd to have picked up a record by an American band while traveling in Iceland, but once again Ingvar steered me right, so whatever.  Turns out he also snuck a copy of their 7″ single “Cussin’ / Three Thumbs Up” into my bag when I wasn’t looking, so he’s obviously down with Spray Paint.

spraypaintcleanbloodAnd well he should be.  I’ve seen Spray Point described in various corners of the internet as post-punk.  I suppose that’s as good as anything, though this isn’t your 1980s style post-punk.  Oh no.  It’s a little bit Shellac, a little bit Butthole Surfers, maybe a pinch of industrial… probably mixed in a blender with some beer and Mountain Dew.  If I had to describe the band’s sound in one word, that word would be “jarring”.  Musically they will take you out of your comfort zone.  Yes, Clean Blood, Regular Acid has songs on it, and they each have their own pattern and flow, but you’re not getting what you expect.  The pieces don’t go together nicely and cleanly, and that’s by design.  The vocals are sort of sung, but not with much effort to differentiate them from just speaking.  I wasn’t so sure at first, but Spray Paint grew on me pretty quick.

Here’s the thing about Clean Blood, Regular Acid, though – given Spray Paint’s style, you’re almost certain to find some songs that don’t work for you.  It’s all just different and out there.  But if you find some of these songs to connect with, like I did in “Rednecks Everywhere,” “Wet Beer,” and the almost hardcore “Live From Camp Mabry,” you’ll feel like your musical mind was expanded a bit, and that’s always a good thing.

spraypaintcussin

The Cussin’ 7″ (also released in 2014) is actually a more stylistically consistent release, with each of its three songs having a more driving pace and punkish feel.  Yes, there’s still some weirdness here, but these are three songs that get after it and drive all the way through.  “Cussin'” is my favorite Spray Paint song after having listened to both the LP and the 7″, and while that may be because it seems more familiar and less experimental, it could also be because it’s a damn good song.  You, of course, will have to judge for yourself.

“Anarki & Kaos – Norsk Punk ’79-’81” Compilation

During our recent trip to Oslo I had my best luck with finding Norwegian punk rock at Råkk og Rålls.  It’s three floors of great stuff – records, CDs, magazines, memorabilia… something for pretty much everyone (who is into music…).  After I’d wrapped up my shopping in the vinyl basement I went up to the mail floor to check out, and that’s where I spotted Anarki & Kaos on the wall.  It was expensive.  Probably a fair amount more than I wanted to spend really.  But they took credit cards, and I figured I’ll probably never make it to Norway again, so why not.  And after listening to it today for the first time, I’m glad I did (and, of course, when I got home I checked Discogs… and it turns out the price I paid was pretty much spot on with the asking prices there… <whew>).

anarkikaos

This comp consists of 18 early Norwegian punk songs, all from different bands.  The time period is perfect for me – I find that I prefer the stuff from the late 1970s, so this is exactly what I was looking for.  And it delivers – all the sneering and attitude, most of it compressed into pretty short bursts of music.  The recording quality is varied – some songs sound great, others are scratchy, raw, and hollow.  My guess is it isn’t like there were a lot of master tapes to go back to when this was released in 1992, so you do the best you can with what you have.  It also comes with a 20-page booklet that is a collection of material from some old fanzines and such.  The booklet is actually very high quality and a nice addition to the record.

There’s some good stuff on Anarki & Kaos.  Anaconda’s “Clever London Houses” stands out for its great hook, and I’m also particularly fond of the opener “Hey Sir” by Pink Dirt with it’s spoken introduction, 50s style rock guitars, and vocal sounds straight out of Rocky Horror Picture Show.  This is definitely second generation punk rock – these bands learned from the first wave of punk, and hardcore hadn’t started to influence this material.  It’s raw, but a bit more polished in that these folks know how to play.  Plus their influences are on display – this isn’t anti-rock, in that you can hear some surf (Sjølmord’s “Holocaust”), rockabilly, and even classic rock ‘n’ roll in the sound, though unlike some of their counterparts in the UK, I don’t hear much in the way of reggae or ska.  

I did run into a few troubling problems with this record.  The vinyl looks pristine – not a scratch or scuff to be seen, and I ran it through the record cleaner when I got home.  But.  That didn’t prevent a skip on the last track of side A… though a quick stylus cleaning and running a brush over the record seemed to have resolved that problem, as I played the side through two more times with no problems.  But on the B side… there are two spots that generate skips, but interestingly enough both are in the gaps between tracks.  I’m wondering if there isn’t some kind of locked groove problem in those two spots, since re-cleaning the stylus and brushing off the vinyl didn’t seem to resolve the problems.  Kind of a bummer, especially on a more expensive record.  I guess that’s one of the risks of vinyl in general, but like most record guys I’m anal and it bugs the hell out of me.

Anarki & Kaos also came out on CD, and was re-released on CD (but not vinyl) in 2007 with a couple of bonus tracks, so it might be worth trying to track down, as it’ll be way cheaper than the record.  In fact, it’s even available on iTunes for just $9.99… so you have no excuse to not give a listen to some of these songs.  There’s a Volume 2 as well which is CD/mp3 only… I might need to check that out myself.

[Tangent Alert!]  Sometimes I wonder if this whole vinyl infatuation makes any sense at all.  I could have just as easily (in fact, more easily…) bought both volumes of Anarki & Kaos as digital downloads, and had enough money left over to buy like eight more albums online.  Maybe I’m part of that last generation that feels tied to the physical media… but I have a hard time buying downloads.  It’s kind of ridiculous, and I know this.  Sure, the quality of an mp3 or mp4 isn’t has high as that of a clean record or a CD, but let’s be real – it’s plenty good enough the vast majority of the time.  There’s just something about having the physical object that I can’t seem to get past.  I guess I feel like music should have a form, something tangible, and that is certainly tied to how we consumed music up until the new century.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy my vinyl, and I’m glad it’s in resurgence; but sometimes I wonder what’s more important to me, the music, or the sense of “owning” the music by having something I can hold and look at.  I’m not 100% sure.  But if you’ll forgive me, the record is over and I need to go tend to my turntable.