In all my Wax Trax! Records collecting days, I’ve never seen a gold version of the iconic logo. Not sure why it’s taken me so long to secure WAX005, A Popular History of Songs’ 1984 effort, Ladder Jack, but neatly affixed to the back cover of said EP is this glittering gem. I’m a sucker for logos, if you haven’t figured that out, and beside the Grand Royal Records logo, this one may take the cake.
Among the pile of “to be entered into Discogs.com” is this 19?? 78rpm of Peter Cottontail from Capitol Records. Bozo approved, which I imagine was a purified sign of prestigious quality back in the day, Mr. Cottontail’s, well, tale, will be the first spun during tomorrow’s mid-mourning session. Let’s say I didn’t watch Bozo the Clown on WGN in the mornings before school for, oh, let’s say close to 10 years, and let’s say I’m not a strong advocate of Mr. The Clown’s Grand Prize Game on said show. If both of these weren’t painfully obvious, I’d still lean my attention to a Bozo approved 78. Mr. Cottontail certainly had some heavy endorsers in his bushy, stolen carrot-filled pocket, and, well, he just made another. Peter Cottontail by Jimmy Wakely on Capitol Records is Groove approved. Next…
I was elated when I finally found my copy of Lead into Gold’s only full length, 1990’s Age of Reason. Like a child on Christmas unwrapping musical bliss, or something like that. I scored a sealed copy for super cheap online some, wow, 10+ years back. There is a bridge… there is water… and there has been a lot of that water… anyway, one needs to be in a very specific, sharp-minded and angry mood to fully enjoy this industrial masterwork. Today, I was that one. Enjoy with caution.
What is it about hand-numbered releases that draws so much mild elation from the collector? Is it the rarity? The often, almost illegible scribble isn’t much of a draw. Perhaps it’s hoping to score as low a number as possible? Or maybe, in the case of this 2008 vinyl release of Lawrence Arms’ 1999 debut album, A Guided Tour of Chicago, the hand-written, numbered feature is just a bonus that accompanies this album’s debut pressing. Whichever the reasoning behind its appeal, hand-numbered releases certainly aren’t going anywhere, and to that simple fact, I’m remain indifferent.
So… I’m going to expose myself in admitting that I have no recollection of obtaining this album. Mr. Mister’s Welcome to the Real World, an RCA Records 1985 release, contains both No. 1 singles Broken Wings and Kyrie. Wikipedia tells us that bassist and lead singer Richard Page turned down replacement roles in both Toto and Chicago to stay with Mr. Mister, so, you know, that’s something. This, the band’s second album, proved to be their most successful, and is a perfect glimpse of mid-80’s power-pop. (Electro-madness!) Happy Sunday, kids!
Real Damage, The Gossip / Tracy + The Plastics split 7″ was limited to 100, hand-numbered, screen printed copies, and was acquired, to the best of my knowledge, at a Har Mar Superstar show at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. The Gossip opened up for Har Mar, and totally blew me and my party away, and is a great prop to scratch that electro-garage-rock itch. Real Damage also has a grey marble vinyl release, as well as a pink vinyl release, both with a different, much more produced covers. The more you know, I guess…
My history with the famed prodigy of sensual sleaze is both long and enduring. Having accidentally stumbled across his sexual shtick back in 2000 at a sold out Alkaline Trio / Hot Water Music show at a now unknown Chicago club, my 21-year-old self couldn’t quite comprehend exactly what the hell this beefy, golden-voiced Midwesterner was doing up on stage between sets. His passion and talent eclipsed the belly laughs and sneers from the late winter crowd, and I was instantly struck with a rush of awe and morbid curiosity. I believe he played two songs that night, one of them being an early favorite (thanks to this “show”) Baby Do You Like My Clothes?
This album, Har Mar Superstar’s first, features the two bonus tracks, Wet Lovin’ and Sexual Contractor, and was acquired at the now defunct Atomic Records in Milwaukee. I distinctly remember a brief conversation with the store clerk and his overt disdain for my purchase. To each their own.
Underneath the wet and slippery layer of erotic bravado is an imaginative and intelligent songwriter with a beautiful voice, and the zeal of a thousand burning suns. Go in for the laugh, come out with overwhelming appreciation.
Guilty pleasures are certainly fine… on occasion, and in moderation. Such is the case with Alkaline Trio’s 2000 comp, Alkaline Trio (read: soundtrack to my early 20’s). Pressed on a variety of colors, this version (orange marbled) was part of the first, vinyl pressing (back in 2008), and was limited to 500 copies. Last night got a little crazy, and this here guy was sitting on the platter when I woke up this morning. Moderation, kids.
File tonight’s venture under the heading of 10” pictures discs that haven’t been played in over 18 years. One of the most memorable live bands my teenaged self has ever had the pleasure of witnessing, the Chicago-based new, new wave ska hardcore band, The Blue Meanies, combined big band numbers with post-hardcore aggression, offered eye-opening repetitive (and loud) percussion, horns, and spitting lyrics bellowing forth from an amplified megaphone.
Pave the World, like most spot-on commentaries on the everyday unraveling of social morality (based on the motivation of greed and fatter stacks), wails like an uneasy siren of truth. The Blue Meanies were not a band to be taken lightly, and their wisdom will continue to paint the horizons of willing truth seekers generations to come.
When one witnesses this 1992 seal of quality from the 1992 KMFDM album, Money, one knows one is witnessing one’s best possible selection one can possibly make. One need not continue looking once one discovers ol’ Moonface logo guy, here. One looks, one sees, and one gets that deep down warm and industrial fuzzy feeling one tends to get, when one knows, and respects, that Wax Trax! Records sound.
There can be only one, and this is it.
I’ve rarely, if ever, searched for 78s at record shops. Up until a few weeks ago, 78s had been the illusive blind spot in my collection’s rearview mirror. Finding the occasional (Lawrence Welk) 78 at the corner thrift shop, I got a hunch and stopped by the local b&m to see if this rickety ol’ obsolete format was still being bartered enough to possess a specific nook on the floor. After scouring the relatively small shop, I asked the cashier (read: fellow record nut) if they had a section for 78s. They did, and they were neatly tucked away in the back of the $1 bin area, a section they call “the attic.” 10 minutes later, I unearthed this 1957 copy of Chicago Blues great, Muddy Waters. Along with a few Glenn Millers, a few Les Browns, a few Woody Hermans, and a Frank Sinatra, I walked out of my local brick & mortar with 12 78s, equalling 12, happily spent dollars I’d kept tucked inside my wallet. Moral of the story… formats may be lost, but they’re never forgotten.
Victorious, self-promoted back-patting often follows a discovery of unrelated mediums. My fandom of all things Wax Trax!, (X-Ministry member) Paul Barker, and kickass covers first drove me, at nauseating high speeds, to the Lead into Gold (aka Paul Parker) three-track EP, Chicks & Speed: Futurism. Thinking little-to-nothing of the embossed “chick with speed” cover upon its immediate acquisition, set up a cloud parting, heaven’s light-shining, all-aware, and never forgotten moment of connection and instant recognizable correlation some several (possibly three) years later.
I’d heard Georges Bizet’s legendary opera, Carmen, several times prior, although I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint when and where, but this ear-ingesting fact is unimportant. What’s profoundly relevant is the striking similarity, i.e. blatant ripping off (homage?) of the 1955 Columbia Records (CL 735) discharge by André Kostelanetz and His Orchestra to the 1990 Wax Trax! Records release. Nowhere during the opera’s IV acts does the swelling drama invoke even a hint of the Chicago based American industrial offered by Lead into Gold, and nowhere throughout the 19 minutes of Chick & Speed: Futurism is a hint of Carmen revealed.
The struggles to continue the lifelong search of the ever-illusive relation between these two albums marches on, and perhaps always will, but the journey’s soundtrack, as well as its alluring cover art, certainly is provocative.
From what I can gather, the hard-working women and men behind this magnificent name, and alluring logo, performed admirably for their better-known Windy City chiefs at the Chess Record Corporation, Checkmate’s steadfast older brother. Records worthy of a king’s ransom only spin until the booty runs dry… or until the company is sold in 1969 for $6.5 million. A momentary blip In the radar of bygone yesteryears, Checkmate Records’ well may have run dry, but its game-winning logo is worthy of momentary appreciation.
There is a distinct level of sophistication found throughout the three tracks on Revolting Cocks’ debut 12” No Devotion that is only hinted at on Ministry releases from the same label (Wax Trax! Records) in the same year (1985). There is something much more nefarious and menacing here than say, Everyday (Is Halloween), or even Over the Shoulder (both Ministry releases, and both released in 1985). The Nature of Love (again, Ministry… you can see where my head has been lately) comes close, but is lacking that fiendish push into classic industrial / EBM territory. Perhaps No Devotion, with its three tracks clocking in at 22 minutes, benefits largely due to the fact that RevCo, at this time, was a bit of a Wax Trax! Records supergroup. Consisting of Front 242 head, Richard 23 and Luc Van Acker (surprisingly, Alain Jourgensen is isolated as Producer and not an official Cock), this preliminary incarnation of the ever-evolving band would only release one other record as a three piece, their first full length, 1986’s Big Sexy Land. After that, Richard 23 left, and Ministry mainstays Bill Rieflin, Paul Barker and Chris Connelly became official Cocks. The band would change again in 1993, then yet again in 2006, but that’s a topic for another time.
Every once in a blue moon I’ll get trapped amongst the early Wax Trax! Records releases, which usually leaves me with a raging headache and the smell of whiskey on my breath, but every time I’m more than happy to welcome the comfort of anger and disgust that inevitably comes along with some of the pinnacle releases of the industrial movement.
It’s the first rather cold day here in LA (if that isn’t the oxymoron to end all oxymorons), and it feels amazing. So, what may seem as a bit of a stretch for some (I’ll ask those to remain silent), today’s choice for the daily platter-player is the appropriate Cold Life EP by early-Ministry. I specify early-Ministry because the contents of the first seven or so years of the bands output sounds NOTHING like the music we’ve all grown to love and admire.
Those expecting the obsessive rage and severe crunch of Ministry circa: 1988-1996 (and beyond for that matter) will be extremely shocked (and instantly irate) upon first listen, and will demand a throw down claiming this new wave, funk noise is not Ministry at all. Well, my fellow tender meatheads, you’d lose that battle. Like a spitting, swinging light in the damp and musty basement of industrial music history, signs of classic Ministry illuminate in stabby bursts throughout these four, groove-happy tracks. They may be suffocated by early 80s synth-pop, but believe me… they’re there.
A must for the diehard Ministry fan, or the casual fan of the progressive lineage of industrial music as a whole, Cold Life, upon further spins, is not near as bad as it first seems, and after the cloud of fury subsides, it’s actually an extremely enjoyable listen.
It had been two, LONG years since I’d last seen Rocket from the Crypt in concert. I had been living in Milwaukee for little over a year at this point, and in that time, when San Diego’s finest came within driving distance (essentially any venue in any state bordering Wisconsin), you dropped whatever you were doing and you got your ass to the show.
This was the third time I’d seen Rocket from the Crypt, and before even fueling up the car to head some 90+ miles into Illinois territory, I had already made up my mind that, amid the enormous amount of live acts I’d seen up to that point, no other experience had topped the raw and ecstatic vigor of Rocket from the Crypt. I’ve seen a plethora of shows since that cloudy spring day, and my assessment has since proved to be 100% accurate.
Being an avid Refused fan and never having the esteemed opportunity to see them perform live, my youthful self was barely able to contain the restless fever of seeing Refused’s frontman, Dennis Lyxzén and his new, post-Refused band, The (International) Noise Conspiracy. To see a fraction of Refused open up for the greatest live act I had, and would ever see, was enough to blow the feeble mind of my 21-year-old self.
I escaped the evening intact, but only barely. It would be exactly 3 months (July 21, 2001) until I saw Rocket from the Crypt again, and I had to close the Hollywood Video where I worked an hour and a half early in order to do so, but that’s a story for another time.
My apologies to fans of the masterful, and iconic Ian Anderson, but there has never been a bigger, fear-invoking, badass flautist than Hubert Laws. Have a quick look-see at the bevy of influential and groundbreaking artists Mr. Laws has performed with: Chet Baker, George Benson, Ron Carter, Johnny Hammond, Freddie Hubbard, Milt Jackson, Quincy Jones, Herbie Mann, Mongo Santamaria, Leon Spencer and Walter Wanderley… and that’s only naming about half of his collaborators.
The man was even featured on an early Groove post about the “junk induced, vodka-and-coke spilling, dank, eye-burning, smoke-filled classic for the casual 1980 Contemporary Jazz fan in all of us,” the illustrious Empire Jazz.
The Chicago Theme is upbeat groove-jazz with a Starsky & Hutch-style flair, and comes highly recommended. Released on Creed Taylor’s prominent CTI label back in 1975, this six track funktastic medley tackles such well known incarnations as You Make Me Feel Brand New (covered by everyone from Boyz II Men, to Rod Stewart to Babyface) and Midnight at the Oasis (I can’t help but picture Ron and Sheila Albertson performing an abridged version of this track whilst auditioning for Corky St. Clair’s Red, White and Blaine in the timeless, Waiting for Guffman).
One doesn’t think “badass” when they think of the flute… Hubert Laws is here to rectify that, and but quick!
Some days you just need a creepy-smiling guy with (what looks like) a beautiful pheasant feather in his (what looks like) burgundy, felt hat (that matches his suit coat) playing 40 amazing, and TV advertized, polka ditties.
Some days you just need a dapper gent to kick off your day, and Whoopee John is certainly a man of devilish wit, a talented chap with striking good looks, and the perfect candidate to fit your early morning polka needs.
Some days you just need everything from the Barn Yard Blues Polka, to the Norwegian Schottische, to the often overlooked, No No Polka. This 2 record set, as advertised on TV (man, would I LOVE to see that commercial), is aimed at tickling the funny bone of the novice polka fan, from the tall trees of California (California Polka) to the windy streets of Chicago (Chicago Waltz). If an accordion-filled wave of sound is your monkey, The Whoopee John Story is your euphoriant fix.
Some days you just need to say, “To hell with modern pop, give me some Whoopee John!” Unfortunately, today is NOT one of those days.
The sample of, “al-Gadaffi” from a proud-sounding public speaker starts off Funkahdafi, and continues to appear (mimicking the technique of a sample scratch from a DJ) throughout the funk-infused, foot-tapping, synth-happy, unforgettable example of ear-joy that mark Front 242 as the undisputed staple of EBM (Electric Body Music). It is my humble opinion that they have yet to, and never will, become eclipsed from atop their genre-defining throne.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Front 242 lately, if you haven’t noticed.
The highlight to this EP is an ambiguous remix to Commando, ambiguous because the sleeve doesn’t indicate who remixed it and is simply titled, Commando (Remix), or Kommando (Remix) on the back sleeve. This 9+ minute track rides a hard, minimalist groove under waves of distant, and distorted fits of vocal aggression: a perfect combination of belligerent solidarity.
Although 1985’s Politics of Pressure by Front 242 is only three tracks, it comes highly recommended, as does EVERYTHING from Belgium’s finest, the illustrious Front 242.