Thursday, January 14, 2021

_Shrew'd_ and a turntable update

After going down the Francisca Griffin rabbit hole a little while back, I remembered that she had a track (as Kathy Bull) on the Flying Nun compilation Shrew'd back in the day. I had never actually bought that CD - Flying Nun CDs were expensive in the 90s and blank tapes were relatively cheap - but then I checked and someone had it on bleebay for pretty cheap. 

It's great. I think everyone from Look Blue Go Purple appears in some way or another, so in addition to basically being the fourth Look Blue Go Purple album (sort of like the fourth season of Arrested Development where they were never in the same room at the same time?), there are some pretty great rarities:

  • Sooty and Sweep (who overlapped with the much fiercer Queen Meanie Puss)
  • Alice Bulmer (great, well-written song that sounds like a better version of Dribbling Darts, for whom she played violin)
  • Piki Riwai, who were three women with Anglo/Nordic names who sang in Maori. I would love to hear more of their gentle lilting music, since it's such a weird and great cul-de-sac, but Dwiskwogs only lists one unobtainium two-song tape for which some Austrian maniac is asking an insane four figures (!!!)

I mentioned in my previous post that I was interested in upgrading my turntable cartridge/needle situation. Someone on bleebay was selling some NOS Audio-Technica cartridges - holy moley! Night and day! The curtain has been lifted! The problem with having a job and working from home in the middle of a pandemic is that I find reasons to spend money on stuff like this...

...since for years I was OK with this piece of absolute garbage, which ruined probably half the records in the Washington County library system as well as any tapes that I made from those records. Man, the low quality vibes just leap off that picture. I can feel how wobbly and insubstantial that "FUNCTION" knob is, the jiggly and unnecessarily duplicated sliders above it, the tape control buttons that don't quite line up. Sigh. That said, pretty sweet A and B indicators for the tape deck.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Turntables, sibilance, nomenclature

I was listening to Unrest's lovely Imperial f.f.r.r. on my turntable* the other day while doing some work and I thought, man, this album holds up pretty well, but it sounds like Mark Robinson has a gigantic gap between his front teeth - the sibilance is crazy, especially on the song "Suki," which is pretty much just him saying esses over and over again. Maybe he does have a gap - I forget? But it never sounded that bad. So I took out my newer and relatively fancy Grado cartridge (hooray for the P-mount system making cartridge swaps quick and easy) and swapped in my cheap old AT92E cartridge, and all of a sudden he sounds like he just got back from getting his braces taken off.

So I may have to go down the cartridge rabbit hole. NOS P-mount cartridge impulse-purchased from that internet auction site. Spending money on stupid incremental quality increases seems like a good middle-aged way to close out this terrible year.

Side note: I have decided that I am going to go with the flow and call records "vinyls" because I am convinced that it will make me less of an old fart. I will ride this vampire energy while listening to my old-fart 90s indie-rock vinyls on my *super awesome Technics SL-M2 turntable that I bought at a Deadhead yard sale. Love that thing, at least now that I've temporarily sorted out the sibilance issue. Let's see how this time capsule obsolete cartridge sorts out my vinyls issues. I'll still fly the CD flag and choose to purchase compact discs, because it is stupid to have to spend more money to have more stupid things to worry about, but it is nice to have a good way to listen to all these dumb big vinyls that I have all around my office.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Elia y Elizabeth

Just a reminder that La Onda de Elia y Elizabeth is there and waiting for you to listen. You could be listening to those breezy Colombian sounds right now. Groovy, youthful, innocent, perceptive, both totally of its time and totally timeless. I have listened to this like a trillion times and it never gets old. I love it, my wife loves it, my 3-year-old asks for "Se oculta el sol, muere una flor" over and over again. Do it.

Monday, December 21, 2020

XWay Vision, Francisca Griffin

I found myself wanting to hear some New Zealand semi-rarity the other day (Chug's "Oozing" if you must know - some days you're just looking for a song that says "I've got a hole in my head and it hurts"). It turns out that Chug's best work, naturally, is not available on my streaming service of choice, but said streaming service DID point me to XWay Vision , a VHS video documenting a bunch of Xpressway artists in concert, which I have fond memories of watching back at my folks' place on the old RCA ColorTrak TV. It still holds up pretty well even if the video effects and camerawork are a little over the top.

Anyway, the unsung hero of this video is totally Kathy Bull, whose bass playing inspired me back in the day more than I realized. It's hard to tell given how bad the video quality is, but she's the left-handed one who isn't Shayne Carter, the one playing the bass. And she is definitely sitting down and possibly very with child in at least one of those videos? Pretty awesome if so.

So of course I had to go down the rabbit hole. Her name is Francisca Griffin as of the 90s (side note: I approve of changing names when the spirit moves you) and she has a great album called The Space Between that is ragged and windblown in all the right ways. Her guitar playing lopes and rolls according to its own internal logic. Reminds me a bit of Joost Visser or even Syd Barrett, as obvious as that comparison is? And listening to this album is making me go back, find my old Cyclops CD, Killing Capitalism with Kindness, of course Look Blue Go Purple, etc. Anyway, great stuff.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Skink Tank

Newish Melbourne (Australia) band plays a brittle little jangly thing for you:

Melbourne Water

The lyrics capture that weird luminous young-adult state of doing shitwork in the early-morning outdoors and somehow finding meaning in the bug bites and the repetition. It reminds me a lot of John Porcellino's   Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man in terms of content and kind of makes me think about those moments on Wimp Factor 14 records when things broke down a bit and there was space, maybe a small instrument strumming.

The rest of the album has yet to grab me, but I would love to hear more songs of youthful woe and wonder along these lines.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Joe Osborn

A little while back I read that Wrecking Crew book (a fun summer read if summer ever comes back). Gradually I put two and two together and realized that a ton of my favorite bass lines are the work of Joe Osborn. A couple from my parents' record collection:

  • The Grass Roots' "Midnight Confessions"
  • The Fifth Dimension "Go Where You Wanna Go"

The latter is also one of my favorite bass lines that isn't really in tune. I love love love realizing that a favorite bass line isn't in tune. My 3-year-old got REALLY into "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," and after play 30,000, I realized that one of Dee Dee's strings was a little flat. An all time favorite of mine is Youth Brigade's "Waste of Time," which doesn't even PRETEND to be in tune.

Back to Joe. Turns out Joe Osborn also played the bass line on America's "Ventura Highway." I guess that song is a guilty pleasure of mine, but now that I listen to it again, the lyrics really are terrible, the melody is trite, the chord structure rides that fine line between cliched and just plain boring. But that bass line! That must have been why I liked it, not that dumb line about the alligator lizards or the part where they rhyme "sunshine" and "moonshine." That bass line goes all over the place, to the point where I can imagine this insanely talented bass player on take #579 saying eff it, stand back, here I go, just pinballing off the walls of everything. And they say yeah, that's the one, that's the take, the take that bought the hacks the mansions.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

ORANGE and PINK: the best color combo

Short-lived WFL team the Southern California Sun. Why has this color scheme not been repeated, as far as I know? Hotttt!!!!!


Most RCA Studio II cartridges. This short-lived, doomed videogame console rocked orange and magenta boxes despite being black and white on the screen. My theory: the worse the vintage videogame console, the snazzier the cartridge design. (c.f. Fairchild Channel F, Coleco Telstar Arcade)

(source: bleebay auction

Somehow in my youth I failed to notice that noted Charlie Brown Thanksgiving advertisers Dolly Madison were rocking this audacious color combo. Also, they had a product called Googles?!