Gruppo Sportivo - “Vinylly!” (2019)

I first discovered the pop joy that is Gruppo Sportivo in, of all places, some random dude’s garage not far from my house.  I was dropping off my car for an oil change and saw a sandwich board set up outside a neighborhood advertising records for sale.  So after I got the car back I snaked through the neighborhood and eventually found the place, the garage completely slammed with records (and a  thick layer of dust).  Seems the guy used to own a store or something and still had all of this stuff.  Now if I’m being honest it was mostly junk - the same old used rock records you can find anywhere, in generally marginal condition, and most of it overpriced.  Even the one record I decided to buy, Gruppo Sportivo’s Mistakes, was probably too much, but I wanted to come away with something and it seemed interesting enough.  And it was - Holly and I both enjoyed it, and we’ve kept our eyes peeled for Sportivo record ever since.

Needless to say we were quite excited to see a new Gruppo Sportivo comp on the Record Store Day 2019 list, and even more so when we found a copy at Seattle’s Silver Platters.  Vinylly! is a 2 X LP on yellow vinyl in a sturdy, brightly colored gatefold in a numbered limited edition of 500 copies.  My guess is that most copies ended up in the band’s native Netherlands - that’s where almost all of the copies for sale on Discogs originate, plus the liner notes are in Dutch (OK, I’m guessing here… they’re not in English, and I can also eliminate French and Spanish…).  I can’t speak to the band’s popularity in the English speaking world, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned them to anyone here in the US and gotten anything but a blank stare in return.  Their loss.

Vinylly! consists of 29 songs from the band’s 1979-1991 period (Gruppo Sportivo is still active, their most recent album being 2018s Great).  At the most basic level their music is pop, though infused with elements of rock, ska, new wave, and even a bit of funk.  High points include “My Old Coritina” and a cover of Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio”.  Sure, some of the songs are a bit dated - pop seldom holds up as well as rock, but it’s still a lot of fun.  Gruppo Sportivo have released roughly a dozen comps over the decades and I can’t tell you how Vinylly! compares to the others, though it is the first to come out on vinyl since Greatest Hats in 1984.

At $30+ there are certainly less expensive entry points into the band’s music.  Shoot, if you’re patient you might be able to pick up their first seven albums, which cover the time period of this comp, for roughly that price.  But if you’re a vinyl junkie like me this is the perfect way to take a deep dive into the Gruppo Sportivo catalog.

International Party Mix

It’s that time of year again.  Time for the 16th Annual Post-Holiday Holiday part at the Life in the Vinyl Lane house.  We put on this shindig every January and invite our friends over to eat and drink their fill.  And, as we’ve done for the last 10 or so years, we also made an official party CD as a give away for those who stop by.  This year we’re going with a sort of travel theme to the festivities, so the 16 artists on the CD are all from different countries.  Here’s what we put together:

1.  “Pale Green Ghost” - John Grant (USA)
2.  “Storm” - Django Django (Scotland)
3.  “Iso Pasi” - Lama (Finland)
4.  “Amidinine” - Bombino (Niger)
5.  “Don’t Mess” - Juvelen (Sweden)
6.  “Feel Like You Should” - Shiny Darkly (Denmark)
7.  “Hand of Law” - Radio Birdman (Australia)
8.  “Egu Szot Se Szoij” - Sarolta Zalatnay (Hungary)
9.  “Gleipnir” - Skálmöld (Iceland)
10.  “Dynamite” - Jamiroquai (England)
11.  “Manhattan Skyline” - A-ha (Norway)
12.  “Wenu Wenu” - Omar Souleyman (Syria)
13.  “Top of the World” - Shonen Knife (Japan)
14.  “Mission a Paris” - Gruppo Sportivo (Netherlands)
15.  “O mundo é já aqui” - OVO (Portugal)
16.  “Someone Says” - Casino Royale (Italy)

We think it’s a pretty cool mix, so we’re excited to hear what our guests think.

But for now, I have to get back to some serious party prep.

Gruppo Sportivo - “Copy Copy” (1980)

This isn’t the first time the Dutch band Gruppo Sportivo has appeared on the blog.  I “discovered” (hard to say I discovered a band that’s been around since the late 70s…) them in a totally strange way, looking trough what used to be the inventory of a used record store that is now housed in the garage of a guy who lives a few miles from me.  When the weather is reasonable and he feels like it, he puts out some signs that you can follow to his place and dig through his stuff.  If you don’t mind the cigarette smoke or some interesting conversation, you might just come across something interesting.  It was there that I found the six-song 45 that came with the Mistakes album, and Holly and I fell hard for Gruppo Sportivo’s pop stylings.    A few weeks later I bought a copy of Mistakes on eBay and we’ve stayed on the lookout for other records since then, though the only thing we ever seem to run across is copies of that same album.

Enter M-Theory records in San Diego, a cool indie shop we visited on our recent trip.  I was flipping through their “recently marked down” section and that’s where I found the band’s 1980 release Copy Copy.  Half off of the $8 sticker price, you say?  Why yes, don’t mind if I do!  If you find yourself in San Diego, M-Theory is well worth the stop - great selection and decent prices.

The bottom line is that Gruppo Sportivo is just a whole lot of fun.  They play pop music, but mix up the styles a bit, and having both male and female lead vocalists gives them even more range and variety.  You’ve got some saxophones here, and some keyboards too, standard early 80s pop fare.  Holly and I agreed that they remind us of a straight forward pop version of the B-52s, but much more approachable (helped by the fact that all their songs are in English) and not so weird.

The disco lifestyle,
I liked it a while,
Only on weekends.

The rude-boy lifestyle,
I liked it a while,
Only on weekends.
— “Only On Weekends” 

Copy Copy is good time, fun, get your feet movin’ pop music.  My favorite track is “Life In Tokyo”, but I can’t give you a compelling reason why other than that the style has just a hint of Japanese pop flavor to it.  Not only is the music good on Copy, Copy, but at times the lyrics are poignant too.

I can’t stand your pretty face,
It brings back memories.
It all has been such a waste,
No more fantasies.
— “In Love Again”

If you like 80s pop, or if you just like good music and want something a little different, check out some Gruppo Sportivo.



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!

Gruppo Sportivo - “Mistakes” (1979)

This just arrived in the mail a few hours ago.  It’s like breaking news on the vinyl blog… except that it’s a 33-year-old record (how is that even possible???).

Gruppo Sportivo may be the first band to appear on this blog for a second time… as I touched briefly on their 7″ More Mistakes a few weeks ago.  It was so good (Holly and I both liked it, and so did our friend Matt - three thumbs up constitutes a winner in my world) that I decided to look these guys up on eBay, as they’re not on iTunes.  Mistakes from 1979 looked promising, and we’re generally fans of earlier albums from bands, so I ordered it.  And since it’s Friday night and we’re drinking margaritas, it seemed like the perfect night to put this on for a spin.

The first song on Side A (“Mission A Paris”) opens with a kazoo.  So there’s that.

This is some real power pop.  No punk here, and it’s not new wave either.  I mean, this has saxophones and trumpets (and the previously mentioned kazoo).  I might be having a flashback to the first concert I ever went to without my parents - Huey Lewis & the News circa 1983 in Columbia, South Carolina (Holly says that while there are horns, they are not Huey Lewis calibre horns… she says more early 80s Billy Joel.  I hate it when she’s more or less right.).  But this still has a raw feel to it, which I really like.

This isn’t as stylistically diverse as More Mistakes, which was actually released along with the promo versions of this album.  The big difference is that the 7″ seemed to be comprised of six songs all done in completely different genres, which was extremely cool, while Mistakes is more homogenous.

Side A ends with “I Shot My Manager” - which out of nowhere goes into a reggae chorus of, “I shot my manager / Because he took all my royalties”.  Welcome to the record biz.

There’s a lot of pop here, including some Japanese and surf rock, and reggae influences.  Hell, a lot of this has a very late 50s/early 60s pop-love-song-doo-wap sound to it.  You’ve got horns, kazoos, and even steel drums in addition to the standard pop guitar, bass, and keyboards, so there’s a lot going on here, and all of it is pretty good.  I mean, there’s a goddamn triangle being played in “Bottom of the Class”, a song that also references the television show “Columbo” (seriously, were we exporting “Columbo” to Holland?  Really?  That was the cultural TV export to the world circa 1979?).

Go dig through the cheapo bins and find yourself some Gruppo Sportivo.  It’s worth the listen.