I recently realized that I would include this in my list of “favorite albums,” which is weird, because a lot of it is kind of just a joke pop album, but they’re really pretty jokes! Actually, only a handful of the songs actually seem like jokes, so don’t worry; this isn’t a Bloodhound Gang album or anything (god, how I wish it were- all I care about is swearing and tits). Anyway, if you only spend time checking out that sassy lady on the cover and the minimal artwork, you may think that this is a cold, weird, hip mail-order clothing catalog soundtrack, but it’s not that, either. So what does it sound like? Well, you’ll never know, you pathetic, needy Internet person (or most likely Facebook friend that was pressured into clicking on this link for one reason or another- thanks guys).
Oh! So I feel like this is cheating, because Air Miami is literally just Unrest with one person swapped out, and that person is not either of the singers (Mark Robinson and Bridget Cross), so it really does sound exactly like a more keyboard-y version of Perfect Teeth, which I reviewed on here a couple years ago, which is why I feel like it’s cheating and that this sentence has gone on for far too long. I guess it’s not cheating though, because this is different enough. Don’t worry too much about the “more keyboard-y” part if that frightens you, because it’s only minor flourishes, which may initially seem like a lot, considering that Perfect Teeth had zero keyboard content, but they add quite a bit to the fun and not-overly-serious atmosphere of the songs. Also, a lot of the songs have surprise/weird “adult” content or swearing on them that makes their sugary-ness kind of confusing and awesome, for example, the pretty straight-forward opener/pop-rocker “I Hate Milk,” contains a joyous chorus of, “Please, please, someone kill me soon.” Later on, the surprisingly enjoyable and bouncy should-be-throwaway, “Neely,” immediately begins with the extremely non-threateningly-sung repetition of, “Hey, hey/Hey, hey/I’m gonna fuck you up today,” but it sounds soooooooooo fun! You won’t even notice that all of the children in your car now have their minds ruined. There’s even a later part in the song about gettin’ “fucked up.” COOL!
Me. Me. Me. continues on, alternating between good-time, quick pop gems, and slower, prettier slightly-more-serious sounding fare. The first time I heard this album, I thought the slower songs were kind of boring, but then I realized that they all sound like taking a really relaxing, slow plane ride (if that’s a thing) over an ocean. I guess that’s a really specific feeling, but listen to any of the Bridget Cross sung tunes on here, and tell me I’m wrong- I dare ya- and because everyone on Earth clearly shares the same mental associations, I’ll win.
Here’s a bad transition to end things: “Dolphin Expressway” is one of the shimmery-est, prettiest songs I’ve ever heard, and it feels like getting a sunburn. “World Cup Fever” is a silly dance song that RULES! Look at all that lazy writing I just did. Pathetic.
I’m done. Download this. Look how blue that goddamn cover is!
I’ve been lazy at keeping this blog up lately, and it’s not gonna stop, because this is merely a 3 SONG EP! That’s right, the returns coming at longer intervals and are still diminishing- this review can’t possibly be that long! It’s a good thing that this is one of the best EPs released in the 90s by anyone ever, except for maybe the OTHER Bedhead EP and Pavement’s “Watery, Domestic.” And with that sentence, I abandon the “blatant subjectivity” portion of my post and forge ahead to the point where I cleverly trick you into thinking you are reading something free of bias, yet I manage to persuade you to take the time to click a download link.
So, as I just said, The Dark Ages is a three song EP that totals up to a very satisfying 15 minutes. Each song, though definitely within the “traditional” Bedhead territory, has a very distinct and different focus from the other ones. The title track is unusually drum-driven and has very clear vocals- two things that didn’t appear much on any Bedhead releases until their final (next) album, Transaction de Novo. This, paired with their usual style of splitting the lead melody between three interlocking guitars, makes for an unusually cathartic experience that occasionally brings a tear to my eye, which, being as manly as I am, means a lot. This is immediately followed by “Inhume,” a song that functions as a polar opposite- barely any percussion and no vocals for an entirely atmospheric six minute build up that gets LOUDER but never really changes. Yes, that probably sounds awful in writing, but it’s really quite pleasant. Finally, we have “Any Life,” which is a (slightly) faster paced country-influenced tune, sort of a more melancholic sequel to “To the Ground,” off of their first album. There’s also a really nice slide (steel? I don’t know, I can’t really tell on this particular song) guitar thrown in right towards the end.
So, there you have it. Those last few sentences were a fucking tragedy, as I kept editing them for two weeks and never got ’em to a point with which I was pleased, so now I’m just publishing this thing because it’s been almost two months since my last one.
REMIND ME NEVER TO REVIEW A THREE SONG EP AGAIN! I hesitate to even “publish” this one, but like I said before, it’s really one of the best EPs around. You’ll thank me later after a period of anger and boredom reading that awful middle paragraph.
*Upon reading that paragraph again, it wasn’t really THAT bad, but I have been looking at it so long that it seems to have totally lost its meaning, SO YOU BE THE JUDGE! Leave me some comments- should I be ashamed? Exuberant? Proud? Indifferent? Aroused? That’s it- send me some arousing comments.
After all of those excuses, here’s the goddamn download link:
Well, what do you know, another compilation! Rest assured, this is a justified posting just as the Dicks one was. I know you were horribly worried that this wasn’t the case. I’ve had this on my computer for quite some time, thinking it would be something I would never come across in real life, but LO AND BEHOLD, I saw a copy of it sittin’ around this weekend for 8 bucks!
Smells Like Smoked Sausages is double 7″ release from the Sub Pop singles club, serving as the February/March 1992 installment- each disc counts for a month even though it was released as one package. Now, here comes the justification- this particular entry in the singles club is comprised entirely of bands on Amphetamine Reptile Records, and none of the songs are available ANYWHERE ELSE (except for the Helmet song)! That’s right- if you call within the next 10 minutes, all eight of these gems can be yours with fifteen EASY payments of just 54 cents (I’ll make a 10 cent profit)!
So, yeah, this isn’t Punk-O-Rama 27 where everything is already on other records- it’s just here, and it’s comprised of bands who have some really fun, noisy songs, but full-lengths that are mostly a chore to listen to (except for the Cows discography and the first Helmet album, WHICH I SWEAR I’LL REVIEW). Even if you do find some of the bands’ full lengths worthwhile, this can at least be the stepping stone for you to dive right into owning the entire Surgery discography (I’m pretty sure no one has ever done this).
Honestly, all of the songs on here are great, except for the Boss Hog “I’m Jon Spencer’s other band and I still play stupid, kitschy moronic fake blues” entry. It starts off with a Tar song, “Deep Throw,” which has a surprisingly good combination of noise with a melodic chorus, most of which cannot be said about their other releases (I own several of their albums, I don’t know why), and then immediately jumps into Helmet covering the Melvins’ “Oven,” which is GREAT, and this version sounds (essentially) exactly the same, thus making it great and pointless at the same time. Also thrown in at one point or another, you have two efforts in some straight, standard AmRep rock stuff by Surgery and Vertigo, again made enjoyable because of the length of their appearances. There’s a spacey Helios Creed offering, that worthless Boss Hog shit, and, saving the best for last, the Cows performing an overly noisy version of Leadbelly’s “My Girl,” and a really funny and disturbing entry by God Bullies called “Bullet,” which is unrelated to the Misfits tune, but does involve a lot of murderin’.
And there you have it! Little did you know that Vienna sausages were actually modeled after the smell and taste of Page Hamilton’s penis.
In yet another exercise in poor album art, apparently someone became fascinated with the blue cellophane encasing his or her untouched fruit basket, combined this with a love for arbitrarily changing font sizes, and came up with this gem of an album cover, sure to pique the interests of anyone fingering through the “Used 90s Albums That No One Cares About Anymore” section of the local Half Priced Books. Thankfully, like many design-inept 90s guitar rock bands, Arcwelder’s Entropy is far, far better than their choice in packaging aesthetics.
As I unsubtly just hinted, Arcwelder is one of those bands that sounds like a distillation of “90s guitar guys on independent labels,” and it even shows in their non-musical representetions- 1991’s Jacket Made in Canada comes with a record label catalog that sells t-shirts strictly in large and extra large. SO WHAT SETS THEM APART, you ask? Well, it’s kind of hard to describe. I find their vocals to be both distinctive and pleasing- Bill Graber and Scott McDonald sing in an almost identical register, which is similar to that of Bob Mould, and often back each other up, creating a sound of DOUBLE TRACKED BOB MOULDS without actually doing any double tracked vocals. The other brother, Rob Graber, only ever plays bass or guitar, and therefore is incredibly lazy and slobbish, leeching off of the rest of the band’s efforts. In addition to that last snippet not really being true, they tend to jump between a stuttering post-hardcore sound and a 90s “heart on sleeve” (for lack of a better expression) Archers of Loaf style within the same album and/or song- which are two things that rule.
Honestly, none of their albums really sound that different, but Entropy is my pick because of it’s consistency with being able to rock hard, be melodic, or both. Some of their other albums, even though they’re all pretty good, have a tendency to contain a few songs that don’t really do either, which suffers at the hands of the unvaried vocals. It’s also the first of their albums that I purchased due to it receiving a check mark on Allmusic.com, so I may just be obeying what people on the Internet that I’ve never met are telling me. Either way, it contains examples of everything I mentioned before- offbeat post-hardcore (“Captain Allen”), sort-of-sappy heart-on-sleeve stuff (“I Promise Not to Be an Asshole”), combinations of both (“Blowin’ Smoke”), and the greatest song ever (“Turn To”).
And yes, I realize that these entries are getting a little bit 90s heavy, BUT I’M WORKIN’ ON IT! My next review is going to be the very first Helmet album. I’m not sure if I’m joking yet.
Get all 90s listenin’ and stuff with Entropy:
Unrest started off as a sort of lo-fi mess that seemed to make music for several different audiences all at the same time. Almost-novelty tunes, spoken word, minimalist pop experiments, and rackety post-hardcore sometimes showed up immediately after one another on the same album. The only other band I can even think of that regularly put together so many songs that don’t even belong on the same album would probably be Eric Gaffney-era Sebadoh. BUT THEN- on their last two albums, Unrest focused more on the “minimalist pop experiments” side of their sound, and not only made two records that sounded like one band, but made the two best of their career.
Perfect Teeth is the second of these two albums. The former, Imperial f.f.r.r., is great, but there are a few songs that go on way too long and don’t really do anything (see the title track). While Perfect Teeth has a little less variety, it fully carries through the minimal sound that the band was developing, and the result is an entire album of incredibly simple pop songs- and I’m not joking about them being “simple”- every song but one is strictly undistorted guitar (usually strummed very quickly), a bass guitar, drums, and vocals- maybe an occasional small piano part too. The one tune that isn’t, “Food & Drink Synthesizer,” is an electronic sort of piece, purely there for transitional purposes- although it does seem to defeat the statement on the insert that claims no synthesizers were used on the album.
Highlights, you say? Well, Perfect Teeth is initially kind of oddly sequenced, though it doesn’t matter because the songs are so good. It opens with one of the slowest and most vocal-oriented tracks, “Angel I’ll Walk You Home,” which might trick you into thinking the album’s going to be a little more “sensitive” than it really is, but then it’s followed immediately by album’s the fastest and most frantically strummed song, “Cath Carroll” (who happens to be the woman on the cover and the first wife of former Big Black guitarist Santiago Durango). The rest fully explores the area between these two songs, focusing on incredibly satisfying guitar/bass interplay (particularly on “West Coast Love Affair”) and peaks at the goddamn-masterpiece-of-a-pop-single, “Make Out Club.”
Oh, and if any of this seems too “wimpy” (well, I guess some of it kind of is), there’s still evidence that the band has a weirdo sense of humor/inappropriateness to them- I don’t know if all formats have it, but if you look at the LP insert under a bright light, there’s a pleasant picture of a man with a giant mustache cooking dinner with his penis fully exposed. This would later be used much more visibly as on the cover of the following year’s Animal Park 7″- go ahead, Google image search it- and yes, I am aware that this is the second time I’ve highlighted male frontal nudity in album inserts on this blog.
Download the whole, peen-exposin’ album here:
Bonus link to the “Make Out Club” music video on Youtube:
Shellac’s first release was The Rude Gesture: A Pictorial History, which among other things (one other song), included “The Billiard Player Song” (perhaps their best song to date) and “The Rambler Song.” The latter of which still kicked ass- as much as a song comprised of one chord and a bunch of feedback could, anyway.
This release contains an alternate version of “The Rambler Song,” released several years later, and holy hell is it awesome. Produced even more minimally than the original, which seems impossible considering Shellac recordings are all incredibly minimal, this version sounds like it was recorded after an inspired by a marathon session of listening to ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres. I’m fucking serious, go back and listen to that album, specifically focusing on “Sheik” and “Master of Sparks” and tell me that it doesn’t resemble that album at all- I dare you. I dare you at the expense of losing nothing. This new production, coupled with adding a few extra notes to the song somehow simultaneously makes you feel like sportin’ some cheap sunglasses, yet feeling oddly emotional at the same time- and the song is just about a goddamn car! AND THERE IS A KEYBOARD PART AT ONE POINT! None of these things are contained in normal Shellac songs, which is why I thought it was worth highlighting.
I don’t really know much about Mule, except that some of them were in the Laughing Hyenas (I have one of their albums) a few years before. Apparently Mule is bluesier. “Beauteous” is produced with the same vibe as “Rambler Song,” except the vocalist is a little more nasal-y and traditionally blues-ish sounding. Apparently it was also recorded before, but basically sounds the same except with a different mix. I didn’t really write this review for that one, though. Sorry, Mule. Not a bad song though!
Ramble around right here, pal: