Sometimes

Fellini FrontSometimes you visit family and friends in the wooded, open-air state in which you grew up. Sometimes you cry from laughing so hard, you wear stocking hats in the early afternoon, you run the same route you did in High School Cross-Country, and sometimes you eat a whole, 1/3 box of Honey Maid graham crackers in one sitting.

Sometimes you throw away tiny mementos of your childhood to make room for tiny mementos of your adulthood, you discover a workman’s jacket your grandfather used to wear, you weave and dodge deer crossing rural roads at night, you attempt to snap pictures of the house cat chasing a chipmunk from the kitchen to the dining room and back, while your parents scurry from room to room attempting to get the poor zoo creature out of the house, you enjoy a severe thunderstorm, you visit your grandmother’s new apartment, you adjust to the idea of your grandmother living in an apartment, you drink countless, hearty cocktails, and eat at all your favorite restaurants that Los Angeles reluctantly ignores.

Sometimes you visit Half Price Books and find the soundtrack to Fellini’s 8 ½ for $2.99, you get your picture taken with your favorite MLB mascot, you delightfully peruse your parents’ record collection, you laugh ad nauseam with friends you haven’t seen in nearly 8 years, you play with cats, and you create new memories with which to bring up and enjoy in the future.

Sometimes you play Atari and drink Wisconsin’s finest beer with your girlfriend while laughing hysterically, you enjoy a bucket of balls at the driving range with your father, you play games at the kitchen table and your mother adorably invents a number of priceless one-liners, you build a bonfire, you visit the lake in which you learned to swim, and you wonder why you don’t visit more often.

Sometimes… it’s good to go home.

I Just Started Hatin’ Cheatin’ Songs Today (AKA, Arguably the Best Album Cover of All-Time)

Moooooooooe BandyVery few albums capture the soul-crushing heartache brought on by the ailing dark side of love. “I just found out my woman is the devil” is a picture-perfect tagline for this seminal 1974 release that not only defines the rural mindset of a love-lost victim, it also calls for, rather DEMANDS a visual representation (via means of album art) so classic, so surreal, that it goes down in history as one of the best concepts of all-time.

Moe Bandy… the name in and of itself brings (emotional) mountains to mere rubble. With a scorned look, and a drunk, blackened heart, Mr. Bandy sits with the company of sorrow and misery, amidst a muted, bruised, and tattered jukebox full of shattered, and as you’ll notice, empty, Evan Williams bottles. When the cause of your broken heart is outside your bottle-throwing range, take it out on the jukebox.

I Just Started Hatin’ Cheatin’ Songs Today is, as you can imagine, two parts love-sick country, one part hurtin’ western, and 24-parts OUTSTANDING. Whether you have the stomach for long, drawn-out whimpers of melancholy depression or not, this album is nothing short of a necessity, if only for the unparalleled cover.

Dear Mr. Bandy… I wish I could tell you that things will get better, but as you well know… they won’t. Have another bottle, on the house.

Happy Birthday, Mother Groove!

Betsi Two-StepShe’s known for an uncounted amount of selfless, kind gestures, for possessing an incredibly energetic personality, and for being unbelievably thoughtful. But above all else, she’s known for the a little jig we call, the Betsi Two-Step.

Play a song… any song… and if there’s a backbeat, you can bet your pulled-pork sandwich that the Betsi Two-Step will be out in full force. For the few of you who aren’t in the know, the Betsi Two-Step is a rhythmic groove-dance that crosses the Riverdance with the Electric Boogaloo, but with excessive grace and charm (complete with an atmosphere of uncontrollable merriment and boisterous laughter). You know, that when the Betsi Two-Step makes its appearance, you’re at exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

I’ve tried the Betsi Two-Step, and failed… miserably. It’s an art form not unlike poetry, stained-glass murals, and/or the delicacies of a delicious seven-course meal. It’s certainly a sight to behold, and is as contagious as the Bubonic Plague, but you know, in that insanely wonderful way.

The Betsi Two-Step is often imitated, but very seldom is the proper justice served. Many things are best left to the masters… and the Betsi Two-Step is positively no exception.

Happy birthday, Mom! Thank you for all your continued support, for your enormous heart, for your infectious laugh, for your open arms, and for creating a little rhythmic hustle that we’ll never forget! Now, let’s start the music and get this party started!

First Artists Presents: 311 with No Doubt (Saturday, September 16, 1995)

311 Stub311 catches a ton of flack. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve thrown my fair share of insulting tongues towards this Omaha band… but before I wrote off this relax-happy, genre-bending five-piece musical act (for reasons I’m not willing to explain at the moment), they acted as a brief, three year favorite for me and a few of my close, rural Wisconsin friends.

1995 seems like a dream being quietly suffocated by a nightmare these days. I guess I was a sophomore in high school, but I really can’t remember. All I can remember from this show is 1) Gwen Stefani was nearly booed off the stage (what the hell was No Doubt doing opening for 311 in the first place?), 2) an avid fan attempted to pass a jay past a security guard to frontman Nick Hexum. Nick dropped it, then politely ordered the security guard to fetch the fallen, illegal substance, which the portly guard did. Nick took a deep drag, and then gave the doob back to the ecstatic fan. Oh, and I also remember catching 37 types of hell from a judgmental girlfriend for attending a concert where such “barbaric” things took place.

Rural Wisconsin can be a bit of a drag sometimes, know what I mean?

Saturday, April 21, 2001

RFTC at The MetroThe day: Saturday, April 21st, 2001. The venue: Chicago’s Metro. The event: International Noise Conspiracy opening up for Rocket from the Crypt.

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.

RFTC StubI 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.

Groove on the Run

BluebirdJust having returned from a 3.8 mile run through my hometown (and back), 1973’s Band on the Run seemed like an appropriate choice for this post-run, early Monday afternoon.

I’ve only recently begun collecting solo Beatles’ work, but my father owns just about everything, so for the next week or so, I’ll enjoy perusing through his Beatles-heavy collection and making a well-thought-out checklist.

George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music is next on the platter, but will more than likely NOT yield a post. Busy day over here… off and running!

Happy Birthday, Big Guy!

Abbey RoadI was a needle-nosed 12-year-old when I endured my first, of many, very important lessons in the ways of essential music listening. That topic… The Beatles. The coach… my father.

Back when my only CDs were Gonna Make You Sweat by C+C Music Factory and Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em by the illustrious MC Hammer, you can imagine my childish shock upon hearing Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and Polythene Pam for the first time, let alone I Want You (She’s So Heavy). It was the summer of 1992, and all I listened to, all summer, was 1969’s Abbey Road. It was a stern suggestion from my father, and was a crucial, and unforgettable introduction to the boundless universe of planet Beatle.

Needless to say, that summer changed my life. I hit the Beatles accelerator (on my VW Bug… sorry, had to) and have yet to look back.

Thanks for the scholarly advice, dad, and for opening the door to a lifetime of euphoric, and essential music. Happy birthday, Big Guy!

Hey, Rich!!!

Little RichardCertain quintessential artists, I’m ashamed to admit, go overlooked from time to time. And sometimes, that “time to time” duration, which started out as an innocent week or two, grows into a decade of selfish neglect.

I’d seen and heard of Little Richard in the wee days of my youth, and his story was one of the first that drew sympathy and frustration (as far as sympathy for the record industry goes), even at an early age. He was famous, but not as famous as he should have been, if you catch what I’m throwing down.

Little Richard!!! is both an essential compilation of this master’s incredible work, as well as an album in my parents’ record collection. When I get back to Los Angeles, Little Richard will FINALLY get my enthusiastic and undivided attention.

You Never Forget Your First

Baby PhonoIt’s not every day an obsessive-compulsive collector is reunited with his first turntable. Today was that immortal day. While on holiday in the muggy bayou that is (currently) Southern Wisconsin, I (actually, my father found it) discovered a crucial piece of my record loving history, this late 70s, Disco Mouse, Sears, Roebuck and Co. phonograph.

Still in working, albeit cosmetically challenged, condition, this little guy provided countless hours of Pac-Man adventures, abridged versions of my favorite Star Wars, and Star Wars related fantasies (think The Ewoks Join the Fight), and spun my very first picture disc, 1977’s Main Street Electrical Parade. (It was most recently the spinner of Louie Louie by The Kingsmen, Volare by Dean Martin, and Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. Oh how times have changed.)

A collector exhausts many a turntable throughout their lives. Some rest in unrepaired ruin, while others lay in storage for over 30 years, waiting to once again offer a plethora of new memories.

Many thanks to my folks for introducing me the wonderful world of recorded music.

Play it Loud, Mutha!

TSTwisted Sister, to a five-year-old in rural Wisconsin, was a bit of an eye-opening spectacle. Back before the (ridiculously) small town in which I grew up (1200 open air loving residents) collectively banned MTV from the township limits, the roots of my rebellious nature were beginning to seep into the ground of my shielded childhood. Twisted Sister’s classic video to We’re Not Gonna Take It was always a personal favorite, for many adolescent reasons, and it acts as a significant, early-adulthood bridge to the burgeoning days of my foolish innocence.

DeeSo, I’m an early 20-something attending the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and working at Hollywood Video. Remember brick and mortar video stores? Neither do I. Anyway, I was closing up the store one hot, summer evening and a guy approached the check-out with a movie I’ve long since forgotten. I greeted this man with both a courteous smile, and curious stare. The man was Mark Metcalf, the legendary barking father from the We’re Not Gonna Take It video. I didn’t call him out, as you can possibly imagine, celebrities of any caliber, NEVER walk into a Hollywood Video on Milwaukee’s north side. I worked there for another year or so, and never saw Mr. Metcalf again, but I’ll never forget that immediate wave of childhood warmth felt only for those 30-odd seconds.

Look, I’m just gonna go on the record and say that Stay Hungry still holds up! I don’t care who mocks, scorns, maligns, or even shin-kicks. My favoritism towards Dee Snider, Mark Metcalf, Twisted Sister, and this striking album is not unlike a bonfire that’s been burning for nearly 30 years, and every delicate spin of this angst-ridden album adds more fuel to that never-ending flame.Play it Loud, Mutha!

Oh, the Summer of 1998

IntergalacticMy fondness for the summer of 1998 stands unmatched (as far as late 90s summers are concerned). I’d spent the bulk of my high school years blasting Beastie beats (much to my parents’ dismay), and that summer’s theme song, Intergalactic, would prove to be the first Beastie Boys single in nearly four years (a streak of lifetimes when you’re between the ages of 15 and 19).

I distinctly remember listening to the radio (an extremely rare thing at the time, and a practice exclusively unheard of today), waiting to hit play + record on my cassette player in the hopes of capturing this new, legendary song. The single was released in mid-May, but in Madison, Wisconsin, if you weren’t present when ANY Beasties single was displayed, your chances of obtaining one were next to nil. This was 1998, before the internet as we now know it, and a full year before Napster. Back then, if you wanted music, you had to hunt, and often times, you came home empty handed.

It’s sad to admit, but I’ve all but disowned Intergalactic now, along with its album, Hello Nasty. However, I’ll never forget the perpetual excitement that stuck to my early adulthood (not unlike Midwestern humidity), and this cover, above all others, transforms a weary man in his mid 30s back into a wide-eyed, overly vocal, and optimistic young man. Oh, the summer of 1998.

RSDBOTB LP

HSBOTB LPI had no Earthly idea what to expect when I picked up Record Store Day Presents High School Battle of the Bands, but for only $1.99, and sealed, I figured, what the hell. Released as part of 2010’s Collector Christmas, also known as Record Store Day, this nine track comp, quite understandably, acts more as a vehicle for parading individual tracks than that of a comprehensive album. With that in mind, the pool of talent displayed throughout this record overwhelmed me. The overall lurid inflection on the majority of these tracks assured me that what I found was something significant.

InsertIn a nutshell, Fender teamed up with the liberators at Records Store Day to devise a brick-and-mortar-record-store-sponsored-high-school-band-contest. The winning band was to win a bunch of free gear, studio time, and a slot on this record. It was up to some undisclosed record executives and members from the Fender Corp. to judge all the entries that eventually resulted in this record. I have no idea how many bands entered, but every single one of the chosen nine are studio/label worthy.

It’s gratifying to see my two home states, Wisconsin and California, representing four of the nine tracks on this comp. My only gripe is that the link to the free download is dead… my fault for waiting three years to get this album. Support the future of noise pollution and GET THIS ALBUM!

Let’s Talk About Maturity

LTAFSave for the compilation, Let’s Talk About Leftovers, 1998’s Let’s Talk About Feelings was the last studio album by the Goleta, CA pop-punk rockers… the illustrious Lagwagon… that demanded my immediate, consistent, dumbfounded, and adolescent attention. I believe, shortly after the release of this album, the wings of my music evolution stretched into the dark, disheveled world of industrial music, so needless to say, Let’s Talk About Feelings left a lasting impression.

To fly over the specifics of this album, allow me to ramble off a few key (irrelevant) facts. Let’s Talk About Feelings was released, as I stated, in 1998 by Fat Wreck Chords. It was offered on compact disc and via wax by means of a 10”. Lagwagon released a box set of their major albums back in 2011, and Let’s Talk About Feelings was finally given a proper 12” format. Ok… back to the lamenting.

LTAF 10Let’s Talk About Feelings was one of those albums that never left the car. You know those albums, those discs of the compact nature. This particular disc postulated my attention for what seemed like SEVERAL years (I was 19 then, so a day felt like a week, and a week felt like, well, two weeks). Let’s Talk About Feelings, or LTAF, marked something of an uncomfortable maturity from the band that, at the time, I was both not prepared for, and unwilling to accept. Again, I was 19… daft, irrelevant, thick, and extremely pissed off.

LTAF PinkWith only 25 minutes dispersed throughout 12 emotionally weighing tracks, LTAF feeds that driving need for fast-paced, melodically moving, and hook-tastic pop-punk, that, for me, acted as a perfect half-hour soundtrack to the inevitable, adolescent-abandoning struggles of my late teen years. Let’s Talk About Feelings is a difficult album… not by what it presents, but by the nostalgia it unearths. My experience with this album is certainly only isolated to me, my actions, and the immediate concerns of a 19 year old pizza delivery driver facing the woes of the budding responsibility that erupts from the inevitable mountain of mastered maturity.

Let’s Talk About Feelings… I just did.

Editor’s note: This post was by request, and marks the first of (hopefully only a few more… just kidding) many friendly, reader-based requests to come. Do you have a specific request? Email me or drop me a line in the comments. I can’t promise you’ll enjoy what you read, but your requests certainly will not go overlooked.

Listening in Depth

Listening in DepthListening in Depth, as apposed to listening in width, I suppose, is Columbia’s new (at the time) marketing gimmick to sell their “360 High Fidelity” phonographs. “Choose from more than 35 new Columbia phonographs in a wide price range and variety of cabinet designs and colors.” The phonograph featured here, Model 532, is available in mahogany, blonde mahogany, dirty-blonde mahogany, sandy-blonde mahogany, unnatural-blonde mahogany, ditsy-blonde mahogany, or walnut.

Announced in this ad-sert is Columbia sound laboratory’s own Directed Electromotive Power, or D.E.P. for short. This new feature “seals the sound chamber for tonal balance throughout the entire listening range.” (Seals it with a kiss, I suppose.)

Considering a phonograph upgrade to your own private domicile? “We invite you to inspect these portables, consoles and combinations at your Columbia Phonograph showroom today.” Update: All former Columbia Phonograph showrooms have, rather unfortunately, been converted into Jo-Ann Fabrics stores, with the exception of Wisconsin. Those have been transformed into Ben Franklin discount stores.

If I Had No Loot

No Loot Cover1993 was an interesting year. I was 14, and back then, New Jack Swing was alive and violently flowing from the radio waves like a raging river of hip hop and dance-pop fusion, but you know, with tight-rolled Z Cavaricci’s and LA Gear footwear.

Shifting away from spoon-fed radio, for me, was a slow burn.  We only had two radio stations that played anything other than Western or Country, and the closest record store was something like 40 miles away. A bit too far for me and my trusty BMX, as it turned out.

No Loot BackIf I Had No Loot was a recent purchase, a $1 thrift store find actually, and serves as one of those “throwback” records that I’ll frequent when the thoughts of my younger years slowly begin to seep through the thin layer of 2013 reality. Other bands that fit this category include Animotion, Tone-Lōc, Paula Abdul, R.E.M., Prince, Jane’s Addiction, Faith No More and Pet Shop Boys (I was a confused kid).

For all its amazing shortcomings, If I Had No Loot still manages to stand its ground, and is as catchy and enjoyable as when I heard it for the first time screaming from Z-104 (104 FM) out of Madison, WI. People say music is timeless. I say, music is a time casket, emerging from yesteryear like a Pepe jean, Hypercolor shirt wearing zombie.

Beware the Vegas Sun

Red CoverThis may be a no-brainer for the majority of you fine lovers of high fidelity, but unfortunately, I had to learn this bitter reality the hard way.  Let this be a lesson to those of you to whom this has yet to happen.

A few years ago, wow! It’s been five years now. Crazy. Moving on… a few years ago, I was visiting my parents in Las Vegas. You see, my father is the President of a Steel Workers Union in Wisconsin, and every once-and-a-while he needs to travel to Vegas for meetings. My mom joined him, and since Vegas is only a 4-½ hour car ride from Los Angeles, I met up with them for the weekend. Plus, at the time, one of my closest High School friends lived in Vegas, so it was a gathering of the happies if you will. Or, if you won’t. This happened 5 years ago, so there really isn’t anything you can do about it now.

Long story short, my buddy took me to Zia Records where I picked up the (then) new self-titled Weezer album (their 3rd self-titled album). For those of you who are unaware of how violently hot Vegas gets in the summer, allow me to paint you a wet, sticky picture. Being mindful that records warp when exposed to extreme heat, I opted to place my recent find in the trunk of my car instead of in the front or backseat where the Sun had been playing all day. So, this guy here thought the hot, oven-baked trunk would be the logical solution to a potential $22.99 problem.

photo(14)As you can see, my decision was a poor one, and this copy of Weezer’s 3rd self-titled album is clearly unplayable. I’ve since repurchased this album (with grave hesitation), and I keep this guy around to remind me of how stupid I was on a hot summer day in Las Vegas.

Learn from the idiots, kids. Take your records indoors instead of locking them in the car where they die a painful, never-played death while warping in the 112 degree Vegas heat. Weezer would hope you’ll learn from the errors of The Prudent Groove, and take better care of your records. A thought just occurred to me. Maybe Weezer was working closely with the Sun so they could sell more records. Well played, giant middle-sized star & Weezer. Well played indeed.

1980: London Calling

London CoverFive days after the conclusion of a decade filled with orange, brown, swagger and abundance (the 1970s), the United States saw a paramount release that that would transcend every other album released throughout the rest of the decade. On January 5th, 1980, Americans received a message from across the pond. It was a message of conflict, disdain and unforgettable beauty. This message… the uncompromising London Calling.

Five days into the 80s, and the decade saw its best work… crazy. Released a few weeks earlier in its native land (December 14, 1979 in the UK), London Calling became the owner of the #8 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. #8… all time. 8… out of 500! This isn’t news to the majority of you as you probably already own this treasured album, and if you don’t, I’ll pretend not to know you in public next time I see you… seriously… GET this album!

Calling BackBridging the weathered gap between Hard Rock, Punk, Reggae, Lounge Jazz, Rockabilly and Ska (to name a few of the many genres defining this “epic” album… it was actually released on Epic Records in the states, so HA!), The Clash were able to showcase their angst towards authority, their cry for better paying jobs, their thoughts on civil war, love, and the church, and they were able to do it by staying within the confines of the social attention span. The Clash found that the message of insolence, distrust, hope and liberation could reach more ears if the music was more accessible to a broader audience.

Everyone who has ever learned to type has written about this album, so anything I say here won’t be groundbreaking. I will however express my personal affection towards this gem, and try to offer its beauty onto others. I’m a London Calling pusher, essentially… and I’ve got a quota to meet, so shoot up!

Rudie LyricsReally quickly, I’ll get into this then I’ll leave you the hell alone. It was July 1997 and I’d just turned 18. I was sharing a room with my best friend and we were both in our infant stage of record collecting. He with his Jimmy Durante, Glenn Miller and Dean Martin, and I with my Beastie Boys, NOFX and Doobie Brothers. There is a little store in Madison, Wisconsin called Half Price Books. If you’re from the Midwest you’ve undoubtedly been there. It was at the East Side location where I found my calling of the London variety. I’d already owned 1982’s Combat Rock, and was eager for more from the almighty Clash. Anyway, to make a long, drawn-out story short, the first side to the first record (London Calling is a double LP, btw) instantly became the soundtrack to our summer, with Rudie Can’t Fail becoming our favorite, miss-quotable song (substituting “chicken-boo for breakfast” instead of the proper “drinking brew…” something I still do to this day).

Maybe it was because that summer saw us living on our own for the first time, but for us, London Calling equaled liberation. Few albums attach themselves to such monumentally important moments in an individual’s life. The acute notice these moments, and they never forget them. London Calling, for all its global importance, still manages to satisfy my local, nostalgic needs.Offensive Boyo

Electric Breakdance (Don’t Don’t Do It)

EB CoverThere are certain compilations that come out with the intent to capitalize on various social trends. The most popular of these could be the Nuggets compilation (a groovy series showcasing the one-hit-wonders of the bygone psychedelic days), the Now That’s What I Call Music! or simply Now! compilations (a grotesque series of comps for people who loath and despise everything creative about music), and those compilations that are hastily put together and distributed with the intent to sell as many copies as possible before the trend dies and becomes a stepping stone for the next “cool thing.” Electric Breakdance is, in my opinion, just about the best stepping stone compilation ever to hit the big city streets, and/or the hardwood floors of my parent’s living room.

Electric Breakdance was released with the intention of showcasing the techniques found within the art of breakdancing, while at the same time presenting a soundtrack of “the hottest breaking music on the street.” BUT, unlike many “As Seen on TV” comps, Electric Breakdance actually delivers with its 9 tracks of hard-hitting early 80’s Hip-Hop.

Breakdance HistoryFeatured on this break-tastic single LP are tracks by Run-D.M.C., Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel, Whodini and a slew of other early Hip-Hop acts that I’m now bound to explore. The dopest track (is my rural Wisconsin showing?), or the smash single amongst an album of smash singles is Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel’s White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It), which is basically a song about freebasing. You’ve gotta’ love early 80’s radio.

It’s heartbreaking and extremely unfortunate that I don’t have the “giant detailed poser on how to break.” That little educational gem of early 80’s fashion would be nothing short of amazing framed on my living room wall (I’m sure my girlfriend would LOVE that).

Overall, Electric Breakdance was a welcoming surprise when I discovered it at a Goodwill, hiding between a Steven Stills LP and the soundtrack to Xanadu (both of which I also purchased). Although my breakdancing never left my parent’s smooth-spinning hardwood floors, the art of breaking will never be too far away from my heart.

Along with a brief write-up on the history of breakdance, the back cover offers the following disclaimer… in tiny print:

 If you have any ankle, knee, back or other physical problems, you should have a medical checkup before attempting the dances described in these materials. Parental supervision is advised for children who attempt these dances.

Playing Cards, and Drinking Lemonade… the Sun Was Shining in the Month of May

Screen shot 2013-03-07 at 9.53.40 AMUnderstanding that a groove is relevant only to a record and does not, in any case pertain to the spools of a cassette tape, I, via ways of inadvertent and very magic-like slight of hand, attempt to fool your senses in discussing a nostalgically important glimmer of rural mid-western indie-pop music… before the term indie was, well, indie. (How’s that for the recommended number of commas for those comma-touting liberals? #sniff) Cassettes need love too, so today The Prudent Groove will temporarily change its name to The Prudent Spool.

Illinois to Wisconsin is like Republicans to Democrats… or Democrats to Republicans, depending on where you align your morals. (The Prudent Spool doesn’t, as of yet, publicize its political alliances.) There was a batch of amazing music emerging from both states during the early 1990’s. The Smashing Pumpkins; remember them? They recorded their debut album, Gish (produced by Butch Vig), at Madison, Wisconsin’s Smart Studios. The mid-90’s brought Milwaukee’s The Promise Ring and their absolutely perfect debut, 30° Everywhere.

While south of the line that divides the cheese heads from the FISH, bands like Braid, Lard, Slapstick and the alternative (again, before the term was branded and incorporated) and very groove-heavy 7-track cassette (the name of which I’ve never known) by the locally infamous cats, Vacuum Scam. The Scam sounded like an amped-up, pop-punk version of early Pearl Jam if you know, Pearl Jam were ever any good. To say they were crunchy guitar driven is to ignore their brilliant ability to create melodies so painfully catchy, yet with the ability to sound fresh with each new listen. They were a SOLID unit, and to this day I’m scouring the earth, emailing the band, convincing my High School friends to search their junk drawers for the original 7-track cassette. It’s been 17 years and my search has turned up nothing.

Adrian, or DJ Mr. Brown as he is internationally known, introduced me to these 7, anxiety-ridden-jam tracks. You see, back in the day, cassettes were the thing. You could, well, I guess what 2013 would call the loathingly media-heavy adjective, “pirate,” tracks onto a “mix tape” that personally represented the “recent break-up mood” mix, the “my folks don’t let me go out on Friday nights and I’m fuggin’ pissed about it” mix, or even your “big bro says this is necessary listening material” mix. A mixed CD before mp3s, for those of you who remember what it was like before the internet. I dubbed these 7 tracked from someone who dubbed them from someone else who had the original tape. I’ve always been thankful that Adrian introduced me to the Scam (and endless other essential music). I managed to burn the cassette to CD before returning his dubbed copy, so I’m still able to enjoy the memories of my Senior year of high school anytime I choose.

Not much can be found on Vacuum Scam these days. They have a myspace page, but only 424 plays on last.fm. It’s a shame considering about a third of those plays are by me.Prudent Groove Spool Logo New

 

Atomic Love

Atomic Records StickersThe affection I have towards my addiction (of collecting records) is not unlike a relationship. A relationship filled with ecstasy and hopeless bleak despair.  Looking back at my nearly 20-year relationship (fugg I’m old!), certain milestones come to mind that mark my progression/devolution. Like for instance, my first record store.

One never forgets their first time.

It was, and is still called Mad City Music Exchange and was, and is still located on Willy St. (Williamson St.) a few blocks from the State Capitol in Madison, WI. It was here where I began to build my (nearing completion) Beastie Boys discography, where I obtained my Big Rig 7” (Jesse from Op Ivy’s band after Op Ivy), and whose owner agreed to be interviewed by a High School Senior version of me for a fictitious record store I was to own and operate for a Marketing project. I’ll never forget his response after I gleefully informed him that I too wanted to own and operate an independent record store. His reply, “Why would you want to do a thing like that?”

As with many relationships, things just don’t work out. There is the whole “growing apart” thing, the “I dig your store but not your prices, so, you know, let’s just be friends” thing, and the “common necessity for relocation” thing. (THAT’S IT! THOSE ARE THE ONLY THINGS THAT DOOM A RELATIONSHIP! I kid.) So when opportunity (and my parents) moved me to Milwaukee, I was in desperate need of finding a new lover; a pusher for my audio starved addiction.

Enter Atomic Records.

Atomic Records was then, what Hollywood’s legendary Amoeba Music is now. If you’ve been to Amoeba in Hollywood, you get an idea of what I’m talking (writing) about. Atomic was my one-stop-shop for just about everything! Sleeves, Rocket from the Crypt stickers, tickets to BS 2000 shows, rare UK Zines, Christmas gifts for my father (who also collects records), my Har Mar Superstar picture disc, t-shirts, and sometimes live acoustic shows by nearby Chicago bands.

I’d stop in at Atomic 3-4 times a week while attending UW Milwaukee. There was something romantic about that shop in the dark winter months. With warm, inviting lights and the childlike anticipation of finding a coveted gem, Atomic almost acted like a temporary dose of sanity while helping me to forget about the death that is winter in Wisconsin. It was a safe haven, if only at 30-minute increments.

After leaving Milwaukee and moving to the much more mentally sustainable environment of Southern California, I found other record shop relationships and all but forgot about my brief, but prodigious admiration towards Atomic Records.

She’s gone now; closed her doors in 2009, and with it a chapter of my life that is just as important as the current chapter I’m attempting to write with The Prudent Groove.

Atomic may not have been my first, but she was arguably the best and, one I will certainly never forget.

RIP Atomic Records.