Gum – “Vinyl”

Gum’s Vinyl is the weirdest thing in my record collection.


Look, I’d never heard of “turntabilism” before.  I mean, I like Australian stuff, and what little I could find about Gum online made them seem experimental, so I bought this record.  And I suppose they were.  But they’re weird.  I mean really, really weird.  It’s literally locked groove madness, like snipits from deranged records that have skips, caught in continuous loops that bore a hole in your head.  Some are insanely annoying, like the opening track “Stormy Weather;” others like “Testicle Stench” are almost pleasant… if not for being incessantly repetitive.  And yes, I just wrote that “Testicle Stench” is “almost pleasant.”  See?  Gum makes you do and write and say and think strange things.  It’s like a bad acid trip, without the trip to the ER.  I suspect it’s a bit like an updated samples version of Lou Reed’s screw you to the world Metal Machine Music.  Except, you know, just crazy in a different way.

Somehow I came across what I think is a first pressing of this over at Silver Platters the other day.  You can tell it’s a first printing by the old school bondage photo inserts and the 45 with the word “VINYL” painted on it attached to one of them (apparently the second edition has the 45 glued to the jacket…).  Right.  Of course.  All used records have a story.  So does this one.  Someone owned this before me.  Who was it?  Did they buy it new?  At a store… at a show?  What did they think the first time they dropped the needle to it?  Did they love it, or did they find it as troubling as I do?  Did it change their life or make them change their drawers?

The sounds on Vinyl are nothing more than loops from other records, tiny segments repeated over and over and over and over and over… What was going on in Australia in 1987 that led to this?  What was going on in Andrew Curtis’ and Philip Samartzis’ heads, and are they well now?  There are actually some very in depth dissertations of Gum’s work on the internet, but perhaps this quote describes them best:

“At high volumes it will also piss off your parents more effectively than the last nordic black metal record you just bought. I promise.”

Bravo to Gum for coming up with something uniquely bizarre.  Not sure if I’ll ever play it again, but I’m glad I listened to it once.

The Best of 2012

I figured I’d wrap up 2012 with a series of Top 5 lists to share the different ways I enjoyed music over the course of the last year, probably in part because I just finished re-reading Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity which, like the movie, has lots of Top 5 lists created by Rob, Dick, and Barry.  All of this is, of course, purely subjective… I don’t pretend to have been exposed to a broad array of music, so I’m sure there’s some amazing stuff out there that not only does not appear on my lists, but that I’ve never even heard of.  But such is life.  So with that…. on to the lists!

Top 5 New Releases in 2012

1.  Fearless – Legend
2.  Live at Gamla Bíó – Agent Fresco
3.  Division of Culture & Tourism – Ghostigital
4.  K2R – Halleluwah
5.  Börn Loka – Skálmöld

I feel like this list might seem a bit pretentious, since all these bands are from Iceland… and I am not.  However, with Iceland Airwaves being the biggest week each year on my calendar, and considering how many bands I saw there this year (36), it kind of makes sense.  Ironically the only one of these I have on vinyl is K2R, though I do have the limited edition vinyl release of Ghostigital on order.  And unintentionally this is a pretty good mix of genres – goth/electronic (Legend), alt (Agent Fresco), industrial (Ghostigital), hip hop (Halleluwah), and hard core metal (Skálmöld).

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands

1.  Legend (Iceland)
2.  Lama (Finland)
3.  Ghostland Observatory (Texas)
4.  Skálmöld (Iceland)
5.  Shabazz Palaces (Seattle)

Most of these bands, other than maybe Legend, are not new.  But they were new to me in 2012 – I’d never heard of them before.  I also had the opportunity to see all of them except Lama live over the course of the year, which certainly increased my interest and appreciation in them.  Check them out.  You won’t be disappointed.

Top 5 Vinyl Purchases

1.  Miranda – Tappi Tikarrass
2.  Rokk Í Reykjavík
3.  The Fourth Reich
– Þeyr
4.  Seattle Syndrome, Vols. 1-2
5.  Mistakes 7″ – Gruppo Sportivo

The top two on this list came from an unexpected source – the flea market in downtown Reykjavik.  I figured I was already done with all my vinyl buying when we walked in, but there was a seller with tons of vinyl including these hard to find gems.  They weren’t cheap, but both were on my short list of things I wanted to find while I was in Iceland, so I was happy to pay the price.  The Fourth Reich was a surprise find at Trash Palace in Stockholm.  The Seattle Syndrome records came to me a day apart, and from different sources, and are a great snapshot of the early 1980s Seattle music scene.  The Gruppo Sportivo 7″ I ran across in someone’s garage, and it sort of opened my mind to taking a chance on stuff that I wasn’t familiar with.

Top 5 Live Shows

1.  Agent Fresco (acoustic) – Nordic House, Reykjavik
2.  Legend – Gamli Gaukurinn, Reykjavik
3.  Ghostigital – KEX Hostel, Reykjavik
4.  Devil Makes Three – Showbox Market, Seattle
5.  Ghostland Observatory – Showbox SODO, Seattle

I could have easily gone strictly with shows we saw at Airwaves, but the two Seattle entries were both strong and featured bands I really like a lot.  The Agent Fresco show was the best, hands down, as the intimacy of the tiny Nordic House venue and the emotional power of the show was almost overwhelming.

Top 5 Favorite Places to Buy Records

1.  Lucky Records, Reykjavik
2.  Easy Street Records, Seattle
3.  Trash Palace, Stockholm
4.  Jive Time, Seattle
5.  Amoeba Records, Los Angeles

I found great stuff in all these places in 2012, and hope to shop at four of them again in 2013 (unfortunately I have no plans to go back to Sweden…).  They all have great selections and are well organized, and I could spend hours flipping through their inventories.

Top 5 Websites

1.  Dust & Grooves – Record collector profiles and photos
2.  Vinyl Noize – Blurbs on rare punk and metal vinyl for sale on eBay
3.  Discogs – THE place to research artists and records
4.  I Love Icelandic Music Blog – No longer getting new posts, but still great
5.  Wikipedia – It has it’s limitations, but a good place to get basic info on bands

Top 5 Music Books

1.  Stuð vors lands by Dr. Gunni
2.  Rip It Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds
3.  Everybody Loves Our Town by Mark Yarm
4.  Iggy Pop – Open Up and Bleed by Paul Trynka
5.  How Music Works by David Byrne

All in all it was a great year, musically speaking (and in lots of other ways as well, to be sure).  My vinyl library grew considerably (see photo) – I’m not sure how many new discs I added, but in all honesty it has to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 or so.  I suspect that will slow down a bit in 2013… but then again, we’re hoping to go to Iceland twice next year (fingers crossed), and we’re planning to hit up Tokyo as well… so time will tell.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings!

The Gun Club – “Ahmed’s Wild Dream”

I was late getting on the Gun Club train (or, as Holly referred to them the other night after we’d had some wine, the “Glun Cub”).  In fact, I have to admit I’d never even heard of the band until a few months ago when I ran across a copy of Two Sides of the Beast at Easy Street Records.  After looking up the band on my trusty iPhone (thanks to my employer…), I figured they were worth a shot.  And I was right.

Fast forward to a trip to Tacoma last weekend, when we ran across about five different Gun Club titles on vinyl (and another on CD) at Hi-Voltage records, including some “unofficial” releases.  We picked them all up and have been working our way through the stack (along with some other LPs that already made it to the blog) this week.  While Gun Club is perhaps best known for their early releases Fire of Love and Miami, I’ve got a thing for live recordings, so I was really looking forward to spinning Ahmed’s Wild Dream.

Originally released in 1992/93, Ahmed’s Wild Dream was also re-released in 2008, and that’s the version I have.  The two record set is primarily live recordings, along with a couple of demos.  Unlike some of the other Gun Club live albums I’ve heard, the quality here is very good – both in terms of the actual sound as well as Pierce’s vocals.  It really seems like an effort was made to pick some of the better live recordings, and the tracks are a bit faster paced and cleaner vocally, making them that much more enjoyable (than, for instance, Sexy Beat ’81 (oddly enough the second album I’ve referenced here in less than two weeks with the word “Sexy” in the title… paging Dr. Freud… Dr. Freud please…)).

As we listened to this tonight, we talked about my comparison of Pierce to Andy Wood (of Mother Love Bone), though Holly finds Gun Club (a.k.a. Glun Cub) reminds her more of The Doors, especially live – structured music, but with vocals that sometimes seem to exist outside the song.  I was drawn heavily to “Go Tell the Mountain” and “Preachin’ the Blues”, the later of which seems constructed as nothing more than a framework within which Pierce could do whatever he wanted vocally.

The first record (Sides A and B) is a winner… though honestly the second one is pretty lack-luster by comparison (with the exception of the cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing”).  Gun Club is certainly worth checking out, especially the previously mentioned Fire of Love and Two Sides of the Beast, though unless you’re already a fan I wouldn’t go out of my way to pick up Ahmed’s Wild Dream, unless of course you find a used copy at a good price.

Revolting Cocks – “Big Sexy Land”

It’s kind of funny that just a week or so after starting this blog I’m posting on a second industrial album, given that prior to a week or so ago I probably didn’t even own one.  But one of the funny things about going through the bins at record stores is that you often run across stuff that looks interesting and you pick it up on a lark.  That’s kind of what happened here – I picked up the band’s No Devotion EP, and Holly and I both liked it, so when we ran across this the other day we picked it up too.

Now, I’ve heard a little industrial over the years, but not much.  In high school one of my best friends was way into Skinny Puppy and Ministry, so I heard some of this stuff at his place.  Mind you, at that time I was listening to a lot of AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Led Zeppelin, so I really wasn’t quite prepared for this type of music.  Let’s be honest – it freaked me the hell out.  Sitting in a dark bedroom closed off to the world with nothing but a lava lamp going and blasting Skinny Puppy LPs was a pretty intense experience for little sheltered ol’ me, who didn’t even have a mullet yet.  While I never really gained an appreciation for industrial, he also turned me on to a band called Metallica, so for that I certainly owe him one.

Big Sexy Land was the Cocks’ first album, released in 1985.  The band itself was a sort of industrial super-group, comprised of musicians already established in the genre.  The music has some really nice beats, and it doesn’t come across as dark as some other bands.  Of course, part of the reason for that is it’s almost 30 years old, and we’ve already seen elements of industrial music incorporated into more mainstream fare.  Some of these tracks could certainly have made it onto turntables spinning at certain types of dance clubs or raves, and probably still could today.

Overall I think Big Sexy Land could be a good intro to industrial for someone looking to see what the sound is like.  It’s not really dark or freaky, and musically it’s very good.  Then again, my guess is industrial aficionados would probably sneer at me as an ignorant outsider and label me a tourist.  And maybe I am.  But I do like me some Big Sexy Land.  Now if only I could find some glow sticks…

Jeffrey Lee Pierce – “Flamingo”

Jeffrey Lee Pierce is best known as the singer and guitarist for The Gun Club, the quasi-punk band that put out most if its material in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.  The band mixed elements of blues and bluegrass with punk… but certainly with some new wave touches.  Frankly I find their music hard to categorize (which is a good thing).  If I were to compare them to another band it would probably be one of a different genre that also had a flamboyant front-man who’s voice defined the band’s sound – Mother Love Bone.  Unfortunately the two had something else in common – both died relatively young, Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone at 24 of a heroin overdose, and Pierce at 37 of a brain hemorrhage (while suffering from cirrhosis and hepatitis as well).  At least Pierce left behind a fairly substantial body of work before his passing.

Flamingo is a 1985 solo release from Pierce, a 33 rpm 12″ with only six tracks.  Most impressive to me are “Fire” and “No More Fire”, the last two songs on Side A, which are (sacrilege alert!) a sort of cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” – complete with synths and a drum machine.  Sounds terrible, right?  Like the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse covering Hendrix, if the Four Horsemen just happened to all be members of an 80s boy band?  But it actually is a pretty cool take on the song, and I have to admit I enjoyed it.

Side B… well… I’d probably just suggest not flipping it when Side A is done and moving on to the next record.