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?!


Gate Crasher


[photo courtesy of this Ebay auction]

I had a Commodore VIC-20 in my youth, and I appreciate the fact that its game lineup was pretty weird (c.f. the eye-searing Garden Wars). But I had not seen Gate Crasher, which features these amazing lines in its description:

As guests look on in horror, he begins gulping caviar costing $500 an ounce!
Then he punches a dancer and grabs more caviar!

I haven't been able to find any information about this online aside from this bleebay auction. So all I have is my imagination, which is probably for the best.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Maximum nuclear burnt orange

(1) Some days you just want to listen to Captain Beefheart's "Sue Egypt" over and over again. Right? (1a.) There's some newish version of the Rooolliiingggg Stooooonnnnnee Finest 500 Collections of Muuuuuusic out there, and I read it, and I'm sure lots of ink has already been spilled over it, but two things I noticed: (1b.) Any Finest 500 Collections of Muuuuuusic list that does not contain anything by Captain Beefheart is automatically disqualified! I mean, for goodness' sake, get rid of some random Rooolling Stoooooones album that they shat out in some castle after jumping into a vat of drugs. No one will notice. There are a lot of them. Who cares. Add Trout Mask Replica at #499 right below, like, some Taaaaylor Swiiiiift outtakes collection, and all is forgiven. (1c.) So so many errors, spelling, fact checking. Ugh. It is one thing to overuse creative misspellings and fail to check facts creatively, but man, the errors made me hurt. So many.

(2) Bay Area combo Neutrals continue to show that they have my number by emblazoning their newest single with old computers, ridiculous typography, huge eyeglasses, and maximum nuclear burnt orange. Their show at the lovably ramshackle Firkin Tavern at some point before 2020 started out with me thinking, hmm, that sure is a lot of I IV and V chords - and this new single is no exception - but then they won me over with their unstoppable blast guitar sound - treble strum that is about ready to burst - and impenetrable but ultimately great lyrics. 

(3) It still feels weird to be paying $7 for a single, but then I went to an inflation calculator and realized that $7 is the equivalent of about $4 back in my youth, which I would have begrudgingly paid for a Dadamah record. Of course, I would RATHER have gone straight to the 4-for-a-dollar bin and picked up the likes of Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink, whose "I Am a Gorilla" is still clattering around my box of little records, not worth enough to resell, just waiting for the day that the tastemakers finally move on from stiff humorless post-punk records and bland pastel vaporwave city-pop gas clouds and foreign-language covers of, like, Air Supply songs, the day when they say, you know what we need? Really poorly recorded obscure punk-noise blasts like "Anarcy [sic] Is Stupid!" The more the better! Now I need to go nudge some algorithm into thinking I'm right.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Some Days are Diamonds, feelings of superiority, old baseball videogames

 Things I love:

(1) When the DJs on the invaluable local community radio station play things I love but get little details wrong and I feel like a supergenius talking back to my speakers. No, actually, the Chills were from New Zealand, not Australia! And no, Jerry Reed didn't write "Eastbound and Down," the legendary Dick Feller did! Right, Wikipedia?

(2) Of course I was right! But I was not aware that the writer of "Eastbound and Down" had transitioned and is now Deena Kaye Rose, and that she has written a memoir! Of course I bought it, being a big fan of her songs and overall attitude (c.f. the essay on the back of this record). It's a fun read, a little scruffy around the edges and probably in need of an editor, but chock full of heart, and she lays out the double meanings behind "Some Days are Diamonds" and "Any Old Wind that Blows." Both songs already really rich but made much richer for their hidden context, and even better that these coded messages went out to the world as hit singles through the voices of John Denver and Johnny Cash respectively.

(3) The whole "retrogaming" thing feels totally wrung out and stupid to me at this point, and I find baseball pretty boring in general, but every so often I still feel the need to play HardBall for the Commodore 64 (on an emulator, please). Now that my videogaming pretty much takes place in 30-60 minute chunks while riding an exercise bike, my needs are pretty specific. 

HardBall scratches a lot of itches. It is sports-y without requiring much sports knowledge or hand-eye coordination. It is nostalgic (I played it a lot on my Apple IIc back in the day) but also second-order nostalgic (I've been playing it on emulators way longer than I played it on floppy disc). And because the single-player game is really not that difficult, I usually win, which is important. No one wants to get off the bike after getting trounced.