About Administrator

I live in the Seattle area and love searching out new and interesting music.

Heavy Manners – “Politics & Pleasure” (1982)

heavymannersWhenever I travel I try to pick up local music, especially when I go overseas.  Even the biggest name acts in other countries are often unknown here in the US, so there’s a ton of great stuff to find.  It’s not always as “easy” to do when I travel here in the US, though, since that requires more of a dive into the underground.  It’s not like I was going to grab albums by Kanye and The Smashing Pumpkins on my recent trip to Chicago, after all.  And unfortunately there was no “local” section over at Reckless Records, so that wasn’t an option either.  Lucky for me then that I came across this ska EP by Heavy Manners in the New Arrivals bin, because the State of Illinois sign right on the cover made me stop and look it up.  And lo and behold, they’re from Chicago.  And it’s ska, which I don’t have a lot of, so for five bucks why not?

There’s definitely a ska undercurrent to the rhythm section on Politics & Pleasure‘s half-dozen songs, though the vocals are more new wave.  Some enjoyable stuff, particularly the closer “On The Way Down”, which is probably the most pop song on the record.  A tad dated, but still a fun spin.

Record Shopping, Chicago Style

With my current employer I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to.  And trust me, I’m perfectly good with that.  There’s a lot to be said for having dinner with your spouse and spending the night in your own bed.  But when I do take a work trip, one of the first things I do is look up my destination’s record stores to see if I might be able to sneak in a few.

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Last week I was in Chicago.  On the surface this was not an exciting prospect because (A) it’s January and will be cold as hell and (B) the TSA is in their second week of being forced to work unpaid.  But the stars were aligned, and while it was cold in Chicago (it never got above freezing during the three day trip) we didn’t get any bad weather and the airport security lines were reasonable.  The good news was that one of the city’s three Reckless Records stores (26 E. Madison) was only a block from my hotel.  Even with the below-freezing weather I managed two cold walks to Reckless when time permitted.

Reckless has a  surprisingly good selection for such a small space.  I went through the sections for Punk, Metal, Experimental, Dance, Hip Hop, Reggae, and Soundtracks, and there were titles in each I considered buying.  I came away with a small armful of old and new, all of it reasonably priced.  One unique thing about Reckless is that none of the records were in their jackets – you had to go to the counter and have them pull the actual disc from the back shelves if you wanted to look at it.  On a positive note, however, I found the grading listed on the price stickers to be very accurate.

Normally I don’t look at the CDs, but in this case I was glad I did.  Their Goth and Experimental sections had a surprising number of titles by some hard-to-find artists like Nurse With Wound, Coil, Current 93, and Diamanda Galás.  Coincidentally I was reading England’s Hidden Reverse, an in-depth history of some of the UK’s early industrial artists, so that helped me make a few Nurse With Wound CD selections to bring home.

I can’t speak to the other two Reckless locations in Chicago, but if there anywhere near as good as the Madison store they’re definitely worth a visit.  And don’t take my word for it, because Rolling Stone included Reckless on its recent list of the 10 Best Record Stores in America.

Genöcide – “Submit To Genöcide” (1987)

Things were kind of weird in the 1980s.  Stuff that seemed so extreme then is so banal now, often coming across like you’re sadly trying too hard and failing.  I suppose this has always been true, be it the sexuality perceived in young Elvis’ hips in the 1950s the shock value of the rare bit of lyrical profanity in the 1970s.  It was probably true in ancient times too; “They fell for a big wooden horse?  That would never work today!”  So the 1980s were really no different  In 1987 Submit To Genöcide songs like “12:00 And All Is Hell”, “Manson Youth”, and “Live To Fuck – Fuck To Live” would have had teenaged eyes opening wide at the sheer extremity and audacity of their titles, but today they’re more likely to elicit a smirk and a chuckle.  Some things hold up.  Some do not.  Such is life.

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Musically Submit To Genöcide falls square into the metal/punk crossover thing that was happening at the time, and frankly it still sounds pretty killer to my ears, though quite probably because that’s what was happening in music when I was a teen.  The guitars are more metal and thrash, the rhythm and vocals more punk, a bit like DRI.  Some songs lean more towards metal (“Predator”) and others are more punk (“Sociopath”), but all-in-all it’s some solid stuff.  I would have absolutely loved this if I’d come across it when I was in high school, and as long as I don’t pay too much attention to some of the more ridiculous lyrics I think this will get more spins whenever the thrash mood strikes me.

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Vocalist Bobby Ebz (right) lived life hard.  An associate (some say friend, some say hanger-on) of GG Allin, Ebz was actually with the notorious Allin at one point on the day GG died of a drug overdose.  And like Allin, he too died young.  I couldn’t find a birth date for Ebz, but his first album with Genöcide came out in 1982 and he passed away in 2001 (possibly of hepatitis), so best guess is he was maybe around 40 or so.  According to those that knew him, the way Bobby dressed and behaved wasn’t an act – he lived that way 24/7.  And that, my friends, is a candle that burns hot.  RIP Bobby.

 

Sir Mix-A-Lot – “My Hooptie” 12″ (1990)

Sir Mix-A-Lot was a big deal to my group of friends in high school.  Whether we were all piled into my car or Brent’s, there was always a cassette (and later CD) copy of Swass on hand to blast out the windows as we rapped loudly along with Mix.  We were all excited when Seminar came out the following year, but it never caught on with the crew as a whole.  I loved “Beepers” and “My Hooptie”, but for the most part we stuck with Swass as our high school years came to an end.

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When we saw Mix perform live a year or so ago I was excited that he played both these tracks from Seminar.  Generally speaking I prefer his wittier and funnier rhymes, and both of these tracks fit the bill.  To be clear, Sir Mix-A-Lot isn’t some kind of comedy rap act – he’s no Bobby Jimmy & The Critters.  But he did bring us songs about biscuits, square dancing, and swap meet Louis Vuitton, so he definitely has a sense of humor.

Which brings me to this great 12″ of “My Hooptie” I scored on a recent business trip to Chicago.  I actually started on the B side so I could hear “Society’s Creation”, a track that I don’t believe ever appeared on a Mix album.  The beats and scratching in the intro have an almost industrial feel to them, followed by dry snappy snares coming in when Mix starts to rap.  The society that hates the man / Made the man.  This is more serious social commentary about society reaping what it sows, with inner city poverty and lack of opportunity resulting in violence.  It’s hardly gansta in approach, simply a matter-of-fact explanation of how things got this way.

Side A is a 5-minute remix of “My Hooptie”.  And my friend, if you can’t get down with “My Hooptie” I don’t know if I can be down with you.

My hooptie rollin’, tailpipe draggin’
Heat don’t work an’ my girl keeps naggin’
Six-nine Buick, deuce keeps rollin’
One hubcap ’cause three got stolen

Mix and the crew are rollin’ in the ’69 Buick because his Benz is in the shop, and shenanigans ensue.

I ain’t really fazed, ’cause I pop much game
Rolled up tough, ’cause I got much fame
“How ya doin’ baby, my name is Mixalot”
“Mix-A-Lot got a Benz boy, quit smokin’ that rock”

This is Mix-A-Lot at his storytelling finest – witty and exaggerating, but with doses of harsh reality.

Tank on E, pulled into Arco
Cops on tip for Columbian cargo
We fit a stereotype, that’s what he said
Big long car, four big black heads
Cops keep jockin’, grabbin’ like ‘gators
‘Bout stereotypes, I’m lookin’ nuthin’ like Noriega
Cop took my wallet, looked at my license
His partner said “Damn, they all look like Tyson”

“My Hooptie” still sounds as good to me today as it did 30 years ago. (♠)  It makes me want to get in the car, roll the windows down, and let ‘er rip.

(♠)  Wait, what?  What???  30 years ago?????

Record Store Bags

No, “Record Store Bags” is not a hot new underground shoegaze band from Prague.  Though if someone wants to use that name, I’ll let you have it (it’s not half bad….).  I’m actually talking about the plastic, and sometimes if you’re lucky, canvas bags that your vinyl purchases are packaged in before they’re handed back across the counter to you.

Am I the only person who quasi-collects record store bags?  I’m sure the answer is no, and I found a few Pinterest pages devoted to them, so clearly I’m not entirely alone in this. And to be clear, I don’t actively seek and purchase vintage record store bags.  That would be ridiculous and compulsive. (♠)  I simply save them when I get them.  Why?  It’s sort of like taking a picture… a way to remember a trip or a cool shop.  In fact I’m in Chicago on business this week and I’ve already managed to pick up one from Reckless Records.  I also usually pack a few with me when I travel in case I end up buying some vinyl and need a way to keep the records dry and at least somewhat contained.  While packing for this trip on Sunday I uncovered my stack of bags… and was surprised at how many there are!

In breaking them down geographically, for plastic bags I have:

  • Japan – 11 (nice bags are part of ALL retail shopping in Japan)
  • US – 8
  • Sweden – 5
  • Canada – 2
  • France – 2
  • Ireland – 2
  • Iceland – 2
  • Hong Kong – 1
  • South Korea – 1

Damn, that’s 34 different plastic bags.  And let’s not forget canvas totes – best guess is I have another 6-7 of those (turns out I have 8).  The nicest bag I ever got for free as part of a purchase is a messenger-style canvas bag Trash Palace on our first trip to Stockholm.  The downside is that I got about half a block down the street when one of the two plastic clips attaching the strap to the bag broke (fortunately I caught it before my records hit the sidewalk).  The upside is Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane is very good at sewing and she did some super heavy-duty stitching that fixed it right up.  In fact we’ve sewn some patches on it over the years and it now serves as a sort of “day bag” sometimes when we travel.

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Will I ever do anything with these bags?  Maybe the totes… Holly has a few that she uses from time to time.  But they’re really more just for the memories, something to put a smile on my face when I think about a trip.  I’m sure they’ll end up in a recycling bin at some point.  But not for a while….

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And below are the assorted canvas totes… not shown is one from Amoeba.

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(♠) And something I could totally see my self doing.