Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Balls Bros. Band
"Come on Over"

Used record stores are like a magnet to me. There are a handful in my area that I hit on a semi-regular basis, and there are certain stores with certain sections that I always check. One of those sections is for vintage (or is it historic?) local records. It's usually full of stuff that doesn't look particularly appealing and/or stuff I already have. Every once in a while, though, something snags my eye.

Sometime in the last year, this album jabbed me in the ocular socket and made me take a closer gander. I flipped it over and saw that it was from 1977, no one was actually named Balls, and both guitarists also played synthesizers. What the heck; here's my $4. Thank you; goodbye.

Musically, these guys were pretty much straight up rock, pop, and roll. They're not flashy musicians and the compositions aren't challenging or anything, but, after a few spins, I found the songs pleasantly popping into my head on a fairly regular basis. Lyrically, the songs are mostly about love and rock and roll, i.e. Rock and Roll Freedom, A Rockin Love Song, Lovin to the Rock and Roll, etc. Today's jukebox selection doesn't have either concept in the title, but it's still about lovin', of course. It's a snazzy little power pop gem that, in my opinion, could have been a hit.

The songs on the album were all either written or co-written by the dude on the left below, Rocky Valentine. I've tried researching these guys on the 'net, but have found precious little info other than they have at least two or three more albums out there, plus some singles, all on the Gramex Records imprint, which may or may not be their own label. If anyone would like to hip me to more info, I'd be much obliged, thanks.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How Much of a Music Snob Are You?

Another annoying survey is making the rounds, so I thought I'd take a moment to rant about it. The premise of the survey is the higher you score on these 100 questions, the more of a snob you therefore are. The problem, though, is only 17 of the listed behaviors qualify as snobbish.

So, here it is. For easy reference, I have color coded the questions. I have also added notes to some of them. :-)

  • Actual snobbish behavior, in my opinion, in which I have not engaged, to the best of my recollection
  • Not at all snobbish things I have done
  • Snobbish behavior of which I am guilty

How Much Of A Music Snob Are You?
Please take a break from alphabetizing your vinyl collection and take this quiz.

Have you ever...

  1. Felt like ranking your favorite music of the year was a necessary thing to do?
    • It's fun!
  2. Skipped over someone on a dating site because they have bad taste in music?
  3. Shamed a younger person for not knowing a musical reference that was before their time?
    • That's just plain rude!
  4. Corrected someone for getting a minor fact about an artist wrong?
  5. Been annoyed when everyone starts liking something you liked a year ago?
    • Lame!
  6. Forced someone to listen to something obscure because you wanted to educate them?
  7. Been dismissive of someone buying a greatest hits album?
  8. Had elaborate rules for the sequencing of mix tapes and CDs?
  9. Been a DJ?
    • Nine years at my college radio station.
  10. Loaded your phone with new songs before a party, just in case?
  11. Been annoyed at someone DJing from an iPod?
  12. Complained about something being overproduced?
    • It's a completely valid criticism of plenty of recordings.
  13. Made a point of telling people that you preferred an artist's earlier work?
    • Some artists just peak early. Some get better with time. Some are consistently good (or terrible).
  14. Insisted that a demo version of a song was better than the finished studio version?
    • It happens.
  15. Insisted that a song (or an artist) is much better live?
    • Some are. Geez.
  16. Insisted that a remix was better than the original version?
  17. Believed that other people are too dumb to get the music you enjoy?
    • That is just rude, not to mention condescending.
  18. Coined a genre name – ___-core, ___-wave, etc?
    • I remember calling Rites of Spring REM-core before the term emo was coined.
  19. Said there's nothing good on the radio?
    • Only at a specific moment in time, not as a generality.
  20. Had your brain shut down upon being asked what kind of music do you like?
  21. Stopped liking an artist because you're embarrassed to be associated with their fans?
    • That is just plain asinine.
  22. Avoided going to see a band in a large venue?
    • Big shows have big prices, plus, I like to get up close.
  23. Left a show because you were annoyed with the crowd?
  24. Been to SXSW?
    • My band was invited to play back in 2006. It was fun, too.
  25. Been to Coachella?
  26. Been to Glastonbury?
    • Connecticut, yes. :-D
  27. Been to a DIY punk show?
  28. Been to an illegal warehouse rave?
  29. Bragged about seeing a band before anyone else knew them?
    • I was the only person in the audience when Dirty Projectors played where I live the first time. I'd never heard of them before, though, and was there for the headliner, who ended up turning in a really dull set.
  30. Worked at an independent record store?
    • A couple, yes.
  31. Worked at an independent record store and made someone feel bad about what they were buying?
    • Rude! I would never have done that.
  32. Had a college radio show?
    • See above Been a DJ?
  33. Had a free jazz phase?
    • I still like it, thank you.
  34. Had a dub phase?
  35. Had a black metal phase?
    • I still like it, thank you.
  36. Had a krautrock phase?
    • I still like it, thank you.
  37. Told someone that you think international pop music is better than American pop music?
  38. Acquired a copy of every single thing a band has ever released? (EVERTHING.)
    • If I really like a band, sure.
  39. Purchased a bootleg?
    • Very few.
  40. Bought an album on import?
    • I started buying imports when I was in middle school. Are we not supposed to buy music if it's not manufactured and distributed in our home country?
  41. Bought an import single?
    • Are we not supposed to buy singles if they're not manufactured and distributed in our home country?
  42. Bought every version of a CD single to get all the b-sides?
    • Begrudgingly, yes.
  43. Ordered from indie mail order catalogs?
    • Of course!
  44. Traveled out of your way to go to a record store?
    • Why not?
  45. Planned an entire vacation around record shopping?
    • Friends and I used to go to New York to go record shopping on Spring Break instead of going to the beach.
  46. Bought high-end headphones?
  47. Bought high-end speakers?
  48. Bought tube-amp speakers?
  49. Actually worried about the quality of your home stereo?
  50. Been anxious about the bitrate of audio files?
  51. Have you ever been mad at someone for ripping an mp3 under 320kbps?
  52. Insisted on listening to lossless audio files like FLAC?
  53. Purchased a FLAC file?
    • If that is the only way it's available, or if the MP3 and FLAC are the same price.
  54. Been actually ANGRY about the loudness war?
  55. Spent hours making sure your entire mp3 library had consistent metadata?
  56. Organized your mp3s by BPM?
    • Why would anyone do that?
  57. Spent hours alphabetizing CDs or LPs?
    • It makes finding stuff much easier when you have a large collection. Duh!
  58. Bought a turntable and vinyl records after 1990?
    • Yes and yes, and replacement styli when mine broke.
  59. Told people that vinyl just sounds better than CDs?
  60. Cared about how many grams a vinyl pressing weighs?
    • The quality of the pressing process matters much more than the weight of the vinyl.
  61. Bought a record you know you might not actually listen to?
  62. Bid on a rare record on eBay?
    • Of course!
  63. Spent more than $20 on a record?
    • Of course!
  64. Spent more than $50 on a record?
    • Very rarely
  65. Spent more than $100 on a record?
  66. Spent more than $500 on a record?
    • I am not made of money!
  67. Purchased a cassette-only indie release?
    • If that is the only format available.
  68. Purchased a limited-edition 7-inch single?
    • Plenty!
  69. Subscribed to multiple streaming services at once?
  70. Saved a hard drive because it had music on it?
  71. Laughed at someone for not being able to identify a sample in a song?
    • Rude!
  72. Accused an artist of selling out?
    • Sometimes, that is a valid criticism. For example, Pantera ditching the glam look when Metallica hit the big time dressed in jeans and t-shirts.
  73. Bristled at a pop song snuck into an otherwise niche DJ set?
  74. Contributed to a zine?
    • Two of them! Live Squid and . . . And Suddenly
  75. Heard of Lester Bangs?
  76. Heard of Gerard Cosloy?
  77. Heard of Nardwuar?
  78. Heard of Robert Christgau?
  79. Heard of John Peel?
    • I hardly see how knowing the name of the most famous radio disc jockey in history is snobbish.
  80. Heard of Ellen Willis?
  81. Been able to name 5 music journalists off the top of your head?
  82. Been able to name more than 10 music journalists off the top of your head?
  83. Bought an issue of The Wire magazine?
  84. Owned a 33 ⅓ book?
  85. Submitted a proposal to write a 33 ⅓ book?
  86. Regularly listened to a show on WFMU?
  87. Shopped at a record fair?
    • Yes, but not much since the dawn of the internet.
  88. Bluffed your way through a conversation about an obscure artist you actually didn't know much about?
  89. Bought a Soul Jazz Records compilation?
  90. Traveled more than five hours to see a show?
    • On a few occasions.
  91. Shamed someone for buying music at a chain store?
    • Why would I do that?
  92. Bought mixtapes on the street?
  93. Shamed someone for wearing a band's t-shirt at the band's concert?
  94. Bought a T-shirt at a show and wore it the next day?
    • Many times.
  95. Planned out the music played at your wedding even if you're totally single?
  96. Had a song or artist ruined for you because you associate it with an ex?
  97. Bought tickets to see a reunion show even though you kinda knew it'd be disappointing?
  98. Remembered parts of your own life based mainly on what you were listening to at the time?
  99. Been emotionally distraught after a favorite band has broken up?
    • Back when I was a couple of teenage girls, I killed myselves when Take That split up.
      I recovered, luckily.
  100. Mourned the death of a favorite musician as though they were someone you actually knew?

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Mein Leben"

Rasende Stümper
(Clarita Gomez Tapes, 1989? 1990?)

Jan and Kai Damkowski were a couple of really cool brothers from West Germany with whom I was pen pals in the late '80s/early '90s. Jan put a song from one of my old bands on a compilation tape he released and Kai took some pictures of my band that we ended up using on the back cover of one of our records. Kai also sent me tapes of a few bands in which he and/or his brother Jan played. One of those bands was Stümper, a loose-knit band composed of a bunch of energetic German teenagers.

Kai sent me a couple of Stümper tapes and they are a big mess of chaotic fun. I can't find the booklet he sent that went with this tape, so I have nothing at the moment but the song titles and a note in English that he stuck in the tape box. I don't throw stuff away, generally, so I'm sure I have the booklet somewhere, but I've been searching for days to no avail. Anyhow, per Kai's note:

We rotate on instruments. We use no distortion or effects mechanisms and no fuzzbox apart from one guitar on 'Gitarrenkampf'. . . . We never played a song twice and we are not planning to do it.

The song I've chosen for today is Mein Leben, and Kai had this to say about it in his note:

Translates as 'My Life' and has everything in it. Love, Pain, GG Allin, Highway-deaths, Oliver North, Freezer, Horst Hrubesch, money, sex, HSV, Genscher, Aussiedler, and more. A song about life that offers you absolutely everything. This is the ultimate tragedy.

Tragically, one of the founding members of Stümper, Flassoff, drowned in the Elbe River in the early '90s.

I stupidly lost contact with Kai and Jan ages ago, but I did some research this weekend and discovered that Kai was later in a band called Hrubesch Youth, named for the apparently famous footballer Horst Hrubesch. They released at least a few records and a CD, so I'm hoping I can find copies. Also, Kai is a published author!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Screaming Gypsy Bandits

The Screaming Gypsy Bandits
In the Eye
(BRBQ Records, Inc., 1973)

The world is full of unexpected connections. For instance, one would not be likely to think a link might exist between avant garde art punks MX-80 Sound, Top 40 popsters Looking Glass, mid-'70s metallers Starz, and contemporary jazzers like John Zorn, Tim Berne, and Satoko Fujii.

I'd like to introduce you to that link. Ladies and gentlemen, The Screaming Gypsy Bandits.

Their output during their lifetime was scant: this album and the compilation LP Bloomington 1, where I first heard them, released on the same label a couple of years later. Their members went on to stardom as the years wore on, however. Guitarist Bruce Anderson went on to fame, of a sort, with MX-80 Sound and its various offshoots. Guitarist Brendan Harkin joined Looking Glass, after their mega-hit Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) but in time to play on their final single, and stayed with them as they morphed into Fallen Angels then Starz. Bassist Mark Dresser (who left before this album was recorded) has played with the above jazz luminaries and scads more.

Three of the songs from this album were added as bonus tracks to the CD reissue of vocalist Caroline Peyton's 1972 album, Mock Up, so I've chosen one of the remaining six for today's post. It was written by Mark Bingham, who penned all the tracks on the album plus all of the songs on Mock Up. Junior is the longest track on the album and allows the members to really stretch out.

The liner notes for the Mock Up CD mention a Screaming Gypsy Bandits album that was never finished, Back to Doghead. In 2009, that album hit the shelves, finally, in compact disc form. Unlike In the Eye, it's a much more out there affair, with obvious inspiration from Captain Beefheart and The Mothers of Invention. I think it's pretty fabulous.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Crap Sandwich!

Yes, I've not posted in quite a while. My apologies! Unfortunately, it appears that the little Flash player that my blog uses to stream the songs in the individual posts no longer works. I thought perhaps I'd inadvertently screwed up my template, but it still didn't work after I loaded an older, saved template as a test.


I guess I'll need to get on updating the posts older than the most recent one to use HTML5 audio. Don't hold your breath, though, or you'll die.