Thursday, April 30, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins: Cherub Rock

As news of drummer Jimmy Chamberlain's recent departure from the Guns N' Roses of 90s alternative rock surfaced a month ago, the words "Smashing" and "Pumpkins" found themselves coupled together and tied to some noteworthy relevance.

Thinking about Billy Corgan and realizing that I'd only ever thought of the Smashing Pumpkins as an act whose welcome had probably been overstayed, they did a couple things right, namely "Cherub Rock," whose thick, arena amplified riffs still give me a nostalgic jolt whenever I hear them.

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shopping For Records #14: Revolution 09.09.09 Remastered, or How I Justify Putting My Family In The Poorhouse…

For Rock Band enthusiasts, 09.09.09 carries different weight. The Beatles’ catalogue, the single most celebrated and cherished discography in pop music, (no matter what you think), will be available to butcher with fake instruments on that day.

The rest of us can celebrate 09.09.09 because said catalogue is being digitally re-mastered, repackaged and re-released into two different collections: A stereo set with mini-documentaries and a “mono” set of the Beatles’ albums that had initially been mixed as such.

As the write-up can explain everything probably better than I can, click here for more information.

So, this will replace your 1987 CD mixes. I can only assume that Capitol, who’s already squeezed every drop of blood out of Radiohead’s past catalogue this year, will be benefiting from the update.

It’s interesting to see how extravagant the reissued CD package has grown, fear of the impending move for a digital file-only marketplace demanding high-quality for tangible media and music news outlets like Pitchfork foretelling of the CD’s imminent demise every chance they get.

And yet, in spite of CDs having left a trail of cracked, broken and obsolete audio cassettes in its wake, and having almost exhausted the demand for LPs only twenty years ago, vinyl’s still selling. In the end, it will be analog purists vs. digital downloaders. Steve Albini really wasn’t far off:

“The future belongs to the analog loyalists. Fuck digital.”

But, before the CD goes the way of the 8-Track, at least The Beatles will get a chance to shine. This will hopefully be the last time you’ll ever have to buy this catalogue again.

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What I Heard This Morning: Wavves

Some lighthearted noise pop to crowd your head and make you go "huh, that's kind of cool."

Wavves "So Bored"

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shopping For Records #13: 4.18.09

By now, I’m sure I’ve annoyed the shit out of you with my incessant ramblings about the current trials of the independent record store and the devaluing of music through technological “advancement.” If that’s the case, I apologize, (kind of). If not, I’ll tell you how I spent this year’s Record Store Day.

First off, I’ll admit that I was expecting more of an “event.” Deciding to spend my sunny Saturday around the vicinity of A.K.A. Music, I awoke in anticipation around 8AM. I’d rallied some of my friends together to meet up for the occasion, picking up my brother before heading over to Olde City, armed with a wad of cash, a full tank of gas and a 20 oz. of Wawa coffee.

Around 10AM, the store looked deserted… at least, from the outside. Realizing we weren’t missing anything, we decided to get some lunch and basically kept an eye out for any tents or local bands setting up.

11AM, it still looked pretty empty… once again, from the outside. Walking in was a different story.

“’Scuse me…pardon me…”

The exclusives for the day were shelved past the register, staked out by a gang of eager salivating Radiohead fans awaiting the availability of all those Capitol EPs. All of them were already weighed down by the day’s selections, Radiohead being the prime pickin.’ I pulled a Moses, parting the sea of Yorke-thusiasts and zeroed in on my picks. I nabbed the Sonic Youth/Beck split 7,” the Jay Reatard/Sonic Youth split and the Tom Waits Glitter 7.” I decided against the Jesus Lizard set, figuring my money might be better spent elsewhere. Besides, I’d only just arrived and wanted to make a day of shopping around.

Shopping wasn’t too difficult. The exclusives attracted shoppers like Brundle Fly to raw sugar, but a lot of those shoppers failed to breach the imagined boundary that led to the rest of the store, a perpetual line to the register comprised of prize hounds.

As noon approached, more people began to filter past the line. By then, I’d easily spent a hundred bucks. Clutching my wish list like Bob Dole’s pencil, I was in a constant state of “brain fart,” forgetting within seconds of setting out for something in particular what it was I was looking for, the price of being easily distracted by the plethora of available music in sight. Record store A.D.D. is an ailment, which is why I now always keep a list.

In my hands were the following:

Jay Reatard - Matador Singles ‘08 12”
Crystal Antlers - Tentacles 12”
DNA - DNA On DNA Double 12”
Butthole Surfers - Locust Abortion Technician
Mission Of Burma - Vs. (Definitive Edition)
Vivian Girls - s/t
PJ Harvey & John Parish - A Woman A Man Walked By
And the three 7”s.

And, of course there was more to get, but I suddenly felt the tension of restraint. I switched out the Vivian Girls for a Stooges 7,” figuring I’d spend a little less. After a couple more light surveys of the store, I decided to take a spot in the perpetual line and found Koenji Hyakkkei’s Nivraym in the new releases. THAT was my last purchase for the day.

As the cashier filed through my selections, I regrettably decided to abandon the DNA LP, thinking that I’d already spent too much loot. My brother told me I’d regret it, and he was right: I’m kicking myself as I type this. Thankfully, I found a copy online, so at least it’s still within reach.

The rest of the day was spent with coffee or beer in hand, music-based discussions passing the hours until it was time to hit the Schuylkill.

As an excuse to support my favorite record store, Record Store Day was a good time. I do however wish that A.K.A., in light of their patrons coming out in droves to support them, had invested more energy and treated the occasion like an actual celebration. The store’s owner and employees seemed contented enough to just stock the exclusives and sell records, no real enticements for first-time patrons or connectivity with their public. Other record stores around the country seemed to embrace the opportunity to grab people’s attentions, brining live music, discounts and swag, drawing in the crowds and spitting out happy customers. Why not for the best independent store in Philadelphia?

Having said that, it was nice to take a few names off my wish list and bring home something new for my turntable to feed upon. Already looking forward to next year, but I might spend it elsewhere.

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No Ripcord: Pink Mountaintops

Pink Mountaintops
Outside Love
Releases: 5.5.09

No Ripcord review

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, April 16, 2009

4.18.09: Now it's definitive...

A while ago I tried to come up with a comprehensive list of all the goodies being released for this year's Record Store Day. The good people running the show have finally compiled the list on their site.

The day is almost upon us. Excited?

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shopping For Records #12: Read Silence EP

By itself, TV On The Radio’s Dear Science wasn’t worth the hype it received. Now, it’s been remixed.

Read Silence EP
1. “Shout Me Out” (Willie Isz Remix by Jneiro Jarel)
2. “Stork & Owl” (Gang Gang Dance Remix)
3. “Red Dress” (Remixed by THE GLITCH MOB)

I can’t imagine that this will improve anything, but what price mileage?

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cobain’s Fifteen Years Are Up...

Admittedly, though I felt progressively embarrassed about it as I grew into my subsequent twentieth decade, I remember feeling affected by Kurt Cobain’s suicide, his way out the splattered manifestation of an obvious disdain for whatever he was and however people perceived him. Nirvana was and is still one of those monumental occurrences, sparking something visceral in my teenage brain, leading me to seek out new life and new civilizations. Once it was determined that Cobain was indeed the faceless burger meat at the other side of the shotgun barrel, Nirvana was no more and the 90s lost its footing.

It’s assumed why he died: his drug addiction, stomach ailments, increasing dislike of fame and his well-publicized depression… ad nauseum, etc. The only certainty around his death was what it signified: This was our generation’s Altamont, a violent event that knocked the wind out of any renaissance and basically marked the end of an era. Candles were lit; albums were played in mourning, the seeming triumph of a decade lasting only three years.

Cynicism set in and ultimately Cobain became a t-shirt, picturesque HOT TOPIC folklore pretending to mean something deeper. It would have been deeper had Cobain not rearranged his face. It’s hard to romanticize the life and death of an artist when the way out was so thoroughly laced with “fuck you; clean this up,” his daughter’s abandonment also lessening any sympathetic or heroic pose.


Fifteen years later, Nirvana’s relevance and actual worth scrutinized in hindsight as the posthumous fruit was bore and picked dry, his genius has become disputable. Was he just of a time and that’s that? Would he even rate these days? Unanswered questions that will remain unanswered, Cobain’s potential never having reached past his twenties, “You Know You’re Right” his LAST testimonial to reach the public’s ears two years after the millennium began, the song used as an enticement to buy a greatest hits record.

It’s difficult not to be cynical about Cobain’s legacy, his art a casualty of either overblown exaggerated sainthood or undervalued by a league of people that were ready to move on after Nevermind made its indelible impression. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has transitioned into “Stairway to Heaven”’s kingdom, exhausted and played out, meaningless now. Unexciting to the now grown and jaded workforce that were once teenagers starving for an inspired fix.

Personally, I don’t really believe Cobain thought any of this would happen, his way out intended to prevent any further escalation of his celebrity. But, at the hands of an industry ready to squeeze the corpse of its remaining blood, Cobain’s physical being denied protest, it was inevitable.

This past March, ex-bassist, Krist Novoselic, possibly sensing there would be an upcoming public bout with nostalgia, claimed that there would be no new Nirvana albums. The well runneth dry, and that’s probably okay. As the struggling artist that died to maintain his street cred, Cobain wound up commercialized at the hands of his own anti-commercial persona. And though three actual albums were all that came of it, Nirvana, despite what some may think, will always be a band that meant something. It’s just unfortunate that their time was so short.

Not long after Cobain’s death, Woodstock became a shill for Pepsi and people pretended to be happy spending too much money to dance in the mud. Maybe it’s good he didn't live to see that happen.

Letters From A Tapehead

Friday, April 10, 2009


Mystery EP
Secretly Canadian
Released: 3.10.09

Rating: 9.25 out of 10

As of the last three or four days, it’s been the waves of vocal harmony that wash over BLK JKS single, “Lakeside,” that’s occupied my mind, a sound to defeat all sounds. Pairing tragedy with momentary breaks into joy, “Lakeside” demonstrates the rock n’ dub capabilities of the South African quartet, an impressive combination of reggae bounce and rock fury. Guitarist Mpumi Mcata passionately strangles his guitar strings like a pre-Rob Thomas Santana over drummer Tshepang Ramoba’s hyped sticks, singer Linda Buthelezi the storyteller.

The four-song Mystery EP is as impressive a debut as any packed LP that’s come out in the last year, exhibiting a band with a unique grasp of harmonic and noise possibilities. Some may hear TV On The Radio, but who cares? From passion comes creation, the album’s title track an explosion of unplaced tempo and expansive freeform dub-rock jamming (Molefi Makananise’s overstated bass its only real reliability); too beautiful to be maddening, too unsettling to easily accept.

Video for “Lakeside”

Buthelezi is soulful and it helps that his band plays with range that isn't so much identifiable as it is adventurous, conviction in both their cultural embrace and day-to-day lamentations. The pleasantly danceable “Summertime” abruptly transitions into scattershot percussion, its tone almost Arabic as the music grows, swells, heightens, Buthelezi’s singing transitioning to reverberating wails. Closing song, “It’s In Every Thing You’ll See,” is the desert spiritual of the album, almost a lonesome cowboy of a guitar song riddled with echoed strings.

BLK JKS communicates a lot with four songs, Mystery owning its roots while reaching beyond the Mediterranean: world music for the world. A really good album from an exceptional band.

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

No Ripcord: ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
The Century Of Self
Richter Scale/Justice
Released: 2.17.09

No Ripcord review

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Shopping For Records #11: High Ate Us 4 A Tapehead (Looking at the Past)

I'm exhausted.

As much as I have pending, it's easy to get a little burnt out and I apologize for having lapsed on the update end. The hours in the day bestowed me lately have required effort and attention elsewhere in terms of work and home.

As of now, I have about four or five reviews in the works, an upcoming interview and an all day event that I'm going to attempt to cover. The next couple weeks will see what I hope will be a wealth of mentally stimulating and entertaining material that all will love, cherish and adore thusly leading yours truly to eventual superstardom and an influx of dolla, dolla bills, y'all.

And while I’m dreaming, cancel American Idol, put an end to present-day R&B and make The Jonas Brothers disappear forever.

While the new releases continually require attention of an analytic nature, lately I've been seeking out older albums that I can just listen to. And, though I really haven't had much time to devote to listening either, it's been kind of nice to pick and choose at random treasures that I've either always meant to own, or just some albums that I never got around to checking out. My last couple record store outings and online scavenger hunts led me to the following:

Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
One of last year’s notables that I didn’t get around to noticing. I got a free copy of Acid Tongue as incentive for renewing a magazine subscription and it’s been a good, solid listen. When the blues-rock is at full swing, the album reaches peeks of energized bliss. Some of the folk tracks are a bit generic.

The La's - s/t
Didn’t buy this one, actually: CD-R in the house. A Deluxe Edition was released last year, so at some point I’ll be owning a proper copy. “There She Goes,” though the band’s best known song, is the album’s weakest moment.

Big Black - Songs About Fucking
Seam - The Pace Is Glacial
In light of Touch & Go’s recent near-collapse, I’m better acquainting myself with their past catalogue. Songs About Fucking is something I’ve been meaning to pick up for years, but The Pace Is Glacial was an impulse buy. I found a vinyl copy at Siren Records for about $7. The cover won me over.

N.Y. No Wave
Another no wave compilation. I really can’t have enough of this stuff. It’s no longer in print, but I managed to find a relatively cheap copy through a merchant on Amazon. Really good James Chance tracks.

David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
I’ve listened to this once and I want to give it a couple more spins before I commit to an opinion. As My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts fairly reeked of high grade electronic experimentalism, influence so thick it still feels relevant in the current technology-based musicscape, Everything That Happens… is much more of an accessible pop album, pleasantly sung by David Byrne and sort of sanitized. It doesn’t even feel like Brian Eno was available for comment. I’ll give it another whirl.

Letters From A Tapehead

Gritty Death Mask...

Ben Parrish of Kill Rock Stars made the following statement: Gritty should join Taiwan Housing Project ✌️ — benjamin parrish (@mrbe...