Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Tom Williams,
The TVD First Date

“Vinyl stands out like a sore thumb in today’s culture of music consumption which is what makes it so intriguing that new vinyl sales continue to increase world-wide. You can’t listen to vinyl in your car or on the train, or as you bustle and shove your way through the underground on the way to work. You can’t get vinyl for free if you know the right websites and it doesn’t all fit compactly into your pocket. It’s heavy, it’s cumbersome, it warps, skips, and scratches, and it’s expensive. But yet still more and more people each year fall back in love, or even in love for the first time, with vinyl.”

“What music formats that plead convenience do is undermine what music means to billions of music fans world-wide. Music becomes something that needs to be squeezed in while you do something else. It ceases to become a ritual, a sacred thing that one might make time for. Music is something to be multi tasked to, something enjoyed on low quality headphones or on the speakers of your phone, laptop, or iPad. Something to be listened once to and then thrown away.

What vinyl does is create space and time for the music that lies within its grooves. As soon you bring a record into your house, it demands attention. It’s heavy, so you need special shelves for it, especially if you’ve got thousands. You need a turntable, good cartridge and stylus, an amp, and speakers that will all do the record justice, and you need to set up your room for maximum listening pleasure. You need a great chair to collapse into, low lighting and posters of your favourite records. If you’re so inclined you need a bottle of good whiskey and an ashtray too.

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Graded on a Curve: Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Blank Generation

Of New York punk’s first wave, only Richard Hell and the Voidoids truly embraced the nihilism that punk has come to represent in the popular imagination. The Ramones, great as they were, were one step away from being a joke band; Television was far too ascetic and monk-like; and the Talking Heads were too intellectually frigid. As for Patti Smith, she flirted with the idea of anarchy, but was far too positive a soul to be a nihilist. It’s not her fault; nihilists never hail from New Jersey.

I could go on but I won’t, because the only point I want to make is that Hell was the only musician at that time and place asking the only question the existentialists found pertinent, to wit, “Why should I bother living?” And his grappling with this question—along with the excellence of his band, which included the late, great guitarist Robert Quine—are what makes 1977’s Blank Generation such a seminal punk recording.

Hell, aka Richard Mayers, was born in Kentucky and took the scenic route to the Voidoids. Having moved to New York City, he commenced his rock career as a member of the Neon Boys, which became Television. Friction with Television’s Tom Verlaine led Hell to leave and co-found the Heartbreakers with Johnny Thunders, but Hell found it no easier to work with Thunders than he did with Verlaine, so he finally set about establishing a band in which he was boss. The Voidoids—they got their name from a novel Hell was writing—included Hell on vocals and bass, Quine and Ivan Julian on guitars, and Marc Bell on drums.

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Graded on a Curve:
Sly & The Family Stone,
Original Album Classics

The late-1960s was loaded with musical groundbreakers, and one of the most enduring is Sly & the Family Stone. Formed by brothers Sly and Freddie Stone, the group grew by leaps and bounds through the combination of rock, R&B/soul, psychedelia, and pop, and by ’69 they had effectively conquered the scene. Theirs is a reign dotted with masterworks, and Sony has collected the bulk of the discography into the vinyl box set Original Album Classics. It includes five 180gm LPs remastered from the source tapes by Vic Anesini and pressed at URP; for a limited time it’s available exclusively at Popmarket.

He was born Sylvester Stewart in Denton, TX in 1943. Two decades later the man was wielding the handle Sly Stone, and when his Sly & the Stoners joined forces with his brother’s Freddie & the Stone Souls in ’67 San Francisco, he was already well-ensconced in the music biz both as a performer and producer at Autumn Records. In due time Sly excelled at his leadership role, though the Family Stone, credited as the first major American rock act to incorporate integrated multi-gender personnel, was always something more.

They initially consisted of Sly (vocals, organ, and assorted other instruments), Freddie (guitar, vocals), Larry Graham (bass, vocals), Cynthia Robinson (trumpet, vocal interjections), Jerry Martini (saxophone), and Greg Errico (drums), with assistance from Vet Stone, Mary McCreary, and Elva Mouton, collectively known as Little Sister (backing vocals). Signed to CBS Records’ subsidiary Epic, they worked fast, maybe too fast; the first long-player was in the can before June was done.

Indeed, if they’d broken up after A Whole New Thing’s cashbox failure, Sly & the Family Stone would likely be forgotten. Over the years the debut has taken its share of heat, some of it undeserved. Things begin fairly well; “Underdog” is bookended by horns riffing on the melody to “Frère Jacques,” but the meat of the matter is upbeat soul. The opener establishes one of the album’s distinctive attributes, specifically a heavier drum sound than was then the norm for the R&B genre.

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TVD Premiere:
The Young Romans,
“Five Exit Town”

LA rockers The Young Romans find future-pop niche on new album.

We have the pleasure of premiering “Five Exit Town” off the duo’s newest EP offering, “Bells and Sirens Part 1″. The Young Romans sleek blend of high-end Coldplay piano pop and Springsteen-esque heartland rock find a touching balance on the evocative single. There is a nice flow and powerful stride to the track which climaxes in a high arching chorus. It is equal parts indie and top 40—and will probably appeal to fans on both sides of the charts.

The band’s press materials cite Brad Hooks as the pop constructer while Sari Mellafe is presumed to be responsible for the ethereal ambience—their songwriting styles meet in the middle to create a unique and beautiful balance. They have seen some well-deserved success with recent song placements in both film and major network TV, and with this recent release in hand, The Young Romans are likely to see similar results in the press and on radio.

“Bells and Sirens Part 1″ arrives in stores on April 14 via Red Parade Music.

The Young Romans Official | Facebook | Twitter

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Graded on a Curve:
The Wedding Present,

The Wedding Present is a simple enough proposition—if amphetamines could make a noise, they’re making it. If you could snort a sound, it would be theirs. Their songs mark the triumph of the rhythm guitar played fast, very fast indeed. Musical crank cranked up, super propulsive and less jangly than jaunty, their songs are all sound and fury, and the proof that the siren call of the Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On” did not go unheard. It just got faster.

The Wedding Present was founded in Leeds, England in 1985 by guitarist and vocalist David Gedge, following the dissolution of his former band, The Lost Pandas. Gedge, the Wedding Present’s only permanent member, has operated in adherence to a credo that involves three-chord structures and rhythmic grooves played as fast and as loud as possible. The band’s name is an homage to The Birthday Party, and its influences have been cited as The Buzzcocks, the Velvet Underground, and The Fall (although I’ll be damned if I hear The Fall in their music). Lumped in (although Gedge wasn’t happy about it) with the shambolic C86 subgenre—which joined jangling guitars to power pop—The Wedding Present’s first LP (1987’s George Best) won critical acclaim.

In February 1989 The Wedding Present came upon an ingenious way of ruining their own career. Українські Виступи в Івана Піла is one of the most offbeat compilation LPs ever released by a major band. Composed of two John Peel sessions, and sung in Ukrainian, it failed miserably, which is to say that instead of sidetracking the band forever it inexplicably rose to #22 on the UK album charts. Fortunately, unless you’re a Ukrainian folk song fanatic, The Wedding Present returned to form with their sophomore LP, October 1989’s Bizarro. Featuring Gedge, Peter Solowka on guitar, Keith Gregory on bass, and Simon Smith on drums, the original LP featured 10 songs, all but 3 or so of them hard-edged rhythm guitar workouts. (The subsequent US CD release included 4 additional tracks, including a not-so-different version of “Brassneck” produced by Steve Albini and a cover of Pavement’s “Box Elder.”)

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Thoughts Detecting Machines, The TVD
First Date

“The college radio station in the college town I went to college in wasn’t really a college radio station at all—it was a commercial classic rock station run by students who were getting “real world experience.” Instead of college radio, we had The Quaker.”

“The Quaker sat behind the register of a windowless record shop on the second floor of a building in Campustown. He looked suspiciously like a hippie but had impeccable taste in music and brought the best of the American and British underground to the cornfields.

It was all vinyl then, maybe a few cassettes, and The Quaker would handwrite reviews on tiny circular stickers pasted onto the shrink-wrap. Key phrases to look for were “Dark, driving, post-punk,” “Reminiscent of Mission of Burma,” and “Highly Recommended.” If you saw a record with 6 stickers down the front, you knew you had to buy it. And the variety! Sonic Youth’s Bad Moon Rising in “Best New Music” next to Cocteau Twins’ Treasure.

This is where I went from being a just another kid who bought records to an obsessive who needed to hear and own every great album. Every Tuesday was spent trying to find the perfect album for that week—negotiating with friends, “I’ll buy this and if you buy that, we can tape and trade.”

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Graded on a Curve: People of the North,
Era of Manifestations

When Rock and improvisation are spoken of in the same breath it’s frequently in the context of some sweaty creature in the throes of an uninhibited onstage solo, but on occasion it can refer to sensibilities of a deeper nature. One such example is People of the North, an outfit shaped-up by Bobby Matador and Kid Millions, both noted as part of the veteran Brooklyn unit Oneida. With key assistance from band mates, they’ve managed a handful of worthwhile platters over the last half decade; their latest LP and second for Thrill Jockey is Era of Manifestations.

Since 1997 Oneida has issued a dozen full-lengths and a serious mess of singles and EPs, the contents of which detail the combination of psychedelia, Krautrock, and assorted elements of experimentation. Theirs is a decidedly expansive proposition, and its prolificacy leaves most of the band’s contemporaries looking like comparative underachievers.

And yet for certain members Oneida’s level of activity is apparently inadequate. That’s particularly the case with Kid Millions aka John Colpitts, his drumstick plying digits jabbed into all sorts of aural pies, e.g. Scarcity of Tanks, White Hills, Man Forever, and a recent collaboration with the tenor saxophonist Jim Sauter (of NYC jazz-noise titans Borbetomagus); their Fountain, released late last year on Family Vineyard is a wonderfully ass-flaying ride.

The handiwork of Kid and his Oneida cohort Bobby Matador aka Fat Bobby on organ, People of the North first emerged on wax in 2010 with the murky, keyboardy-Krauty repetition of Deep Tissue via Jagjaguwar subsidiary Brah Records. The 2LP Steep Formations arrived two years later; also on Brah, it offers a surplus of kit rumble and soundscapes spanning from minimalist to early industrial in texture.

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TVD’s 9 weeks of vinyl giveaways, Week 6:
The Meters, Fire On The Bayou (Starburst Vinyl)

As we noted upon the launch of our first of 9 weeks of vinyl giveaways, it’s easy to forget that going on 8 years now when TVD was in its year one (as was Record Store Day) the vinyl medium wasn’t “back,” sales weren’t stellar, and indeed record stores were a fading lot. No, worse actually. Shops we’re closing at such a clip, their disappearance literally informed the launch of the site you’re reading at present.

And as we’ll repeat for 9 weeks—vinyl and record stores go hand in hand. Their shared intrinsic value is the cultural commodity and the bedrock of any local music scene. Don’t believe us though…hit up your locals and the marriage becomes crystal clear. 

But we too have been overwhelmed with the resounding popular and prevalent headlines as to vinyl’s big resurgence, yet they also arrive in tandem with far less rosy headlines such as “Starbucks to Open in Former Bleecker Street Records Space”—and worse, some very bad ideas when one advocates for record shops have, of late, become internet fodder. (Seriously, vinyl subscription clubs are the Carson Daly of record collecting.)

As such, picking up with an old TVD favorite, we’ve lined up 9 (count ‘em, 9) weeks of vinyl giveaways as we count down to Record Store Day 2015 to redouble our efforts to underscore the viability and the inherent need for your local brick and mortar record shops to remain the vibrant community touchstone that they intrinsically are. And while we kinda hate hanging out by the mailbox waiting for a record to show up (unless you’ve ordered it from a mom and pop or directly from a label!) we’re shipping out records for 9 weeks straight as sweet reminders that record stores are literally where it’s at.

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Needle Drop: Echo Bloom, “Evangeline”

Brooklyn transplants Echo Bloom capture undeniable indie-country twang on “Evangeline.”

The Americana/orchestral folk band’s newest single off their upcoming album Red, “Evangeline” is a slow burning love song awash in summer colors and southern comfort. The grit of lead singer Kyle Evans is countered by a glowing backdrop of tumbling twang and weeping slide guitar while the track ebbs and flows from full-blown orchestration to up-front guitar and vocal.

“After bouncing between Washington DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, Evans eventually caught the muse he was searching for in Berlin. Completely submerged in the German culture, Evans found inspiration in dusty libraries along the Spree and quiet bike rides through the city. After a few months, he left Germany with material for three records.

Because each album seemed to fit into slightly different genres, Evans began thinking about them as different seasons, different countries, and finally different colors. Blue would be the more folk-oriented of the group, Red would be more country rock, and Green would be more classic pop.”

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Graded on a Curve: Connie Converse,
How Sad, How Lovely

For each musician scoring a measure of lasting recognition there are multiple examples of the opposite. This is reliably due to a dearth of ability, though occasionally gifted artists do fall through history’s crevices. And sometimes they receive belated acclaim; so it is with Connie Converse, a folk-oriented singer-songwriter whose material, originally documented in the 1950s, remained unreleased and almost entirely unknown for decades. In 2009, 17 of her tunes were collected on How Sad, How Lovely; it’s just received the clear vinyl treatment with an extra cut by Squirrel Thing Recordings.

Every lost record has its own story to tell. In fact, many of those accounts are more remarkable than the music; they frequently include one or more of the following: being out-of-step with the era, eccentricities, conflict, flagrant bungling and flat-out bad luck. Additionally, there are tales of talented individuals who plainly lacked the aptitude for self-promotion, scenarios less gripping in unusual content, but ultimately ringing of truth.

Connie Converse was not adept at career-building. Her narrative is quite interesting however, though the positive circumstance of her music’s long-delayed emergence is tempered by the events of 1974, the year she packed up her belongings, wrote goodbyes to family and friends, and drove off in her Volkswagen Bug. None of those she left behind have heard from her since. If alive today, unlikely as the notes hinted at suicide, she would be 90 years old.

The “big break” is often simply possessing the knack for putting forward one’s best when the right person is in the room. After learning that Connie Converse, born Elizabeth Eaton Converse on August 3 1924, appeared on CBS’s “The Morning Show” with Walter Cronkite, some will assume she either blew it or just didn’t have the goods.

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