Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

TVD Vinyl Giveaway: Jillette Johnson, “Cameron” 7″

“…Electric Fetus in Minneapolis swiftly and sweetly took my vinyl v card. I got so many records, I needed help carrying them out of the store. I got everything from Bowie to Elton John, Emmylou Harris to Radiohead, Sinatra to Al Green.

It didn’t take long before I’d sneak away from venus before each show to pour through used vinyl stacks for any trace of Billie Holiday, which I’ve come to find is no easy feat.

What I love about vinyl and the culture that surrounds it is, beyond the fact that music just sounds better under a needle, real records help give an album the respect it deserves. You listen from start to finish. You take care of the physical product because it’s fragile and valuable, and it’s worth being kind to.

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Needle Drop: Cool Ghouls, “What a Dream
I Had”

Cool Ghouls’ “What a Dream I Had” sounds like The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride”—a bit drugged and dragged through a mosh pit.

The San Francisco based psych rockers new album, A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rhye, attempts to revitalize the city’s once prolific Haight-Ashbury sound with a little garage grit thrown in to contemporize things. Their sweet harmonies and luxurious grooves make for a pretty stimulating record and a fine follow-up to 2012’s limited cassette release, Allright.

If “What A Dream” wets your appetite for the Ghouls’ brand of amped up nostalgic rock, head over to their Bandcamp page and pre-order the full album.

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Bad Cop,
The TVD First Date

“For most of my life, vinyl records seemed as old and foreign as typewriters and telegrams.”

“The mere term “vinyl record” conjured up the dank mustiness of my grandparents’ basement, where they stored a few records and eight tracks amongst a hoard of 1900s furniture and knick knacks. When I got my first jobs in high school, vinyl didn’t even cross my mind. I bought CDs like they were going out of style. Thank God that they eventually did…

The first vinyl record I ever bought was a seven-inch record by Navies–a DC post punk band that blew my mind for a crowd of about a dozen people in Ventura, CA. I was in 9th grade, I bought the vinyl because they were out of CDs, and a couple of years went by before I even played the record for the first time at a friend’s house. He showed me why the 45 rpm seven-inch sounded like dinosaurs when I played it at the wrong speed.

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Graded on a Curve: The Velvet Underground,
White Light/White Heat

Have you ever driven over what you thought was a speed bump, only to discover later it was your grandmother? I know, I know, so have I. Well, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s partly her fault for falling face down in the street like that, and then failing (those old hips shatter like china!) to get back up. And the rest of the blame lies with the fact that you weren’t paying attention, but instead singing “too busy sucking on a ding dong” along with Loud Reed on “Sister Ray,” the centerpiece of the Velvet Underground’s magnum dopus, 1968’s White Light/White Heat.

Like many people I know and despise, I’ve gone through phases with the Velvet Underground. Their 1967 debut will be my favorite for a while, then I’ll switch allegiance to White Light/White Heat, and then I’ll go turncoat and spend a year or so listening only to Loaded. But I have given the matter a lot of thought, and have decided that White Light/White Heat is VU’s best LP, because it alone gets to the point, the point being that life is an absurd and awful place, and the only real and valid goal of art is to communicate said absurdity and awfulness in as absurd and awful a manner as possible.

Lou Reed was a Janus-faced fellow, an Apollonian and a Dionysian by turns, and as capable of producing songs of formalist beauty (“Pale Blue Eyes”) as he was of creating songs of seemingly chaotic ugliness (“I Heard Her Call My Name”). Me, I’ve decided (having spent the past year in an anteroom of Hell) I prefer the ugliness and chaos, and all of the nihilistic accoutrements that come with them. And on White Light/White Heat Reed was definitely in chaos mode.

As for vocalist/multi-instrumentalist John Cale, who would leave the Velvets after White Light/White Heat, he preferred the chaos to the beauty for aesthetic reasons having to do with his avant-garde predilections. Meanwhile, guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker were simply along for the ride. That said, they weren’t unwilling participants in the creation of the masterpiece of malignity and malice that is White Light/White Heat. Morrison summed up the band’s collective gestalt at the time by saying, “We may have been dragging each other off a cliff, but we were all definitely going in the same direction. In the White Light/White Heat era, our lives were chaos. That’s what’s reflected in the record.”

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High Highs,
The TVD First Date

“My flatmate Tim bought a Technics 1200 just before they were discontinued. When we first moved in together we used to just hang around and listen to records every night for like six months. I think my first purchase was a Steely Dan record, possibly Aja.

“I really got into record shopping on tour. It’s a great way to see a snapshot of a new city. I like to keep my ears open everywhere I go, and in a good record store there’s usually something interesting playing. I found Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians in Cleveland I think, and gave it to my bandmate Oli. It’s a recording of when the piece was debuted in Berlin and it sounds truly amazing.

I was at Som Records in DC recently (great record store), and the soundtrack to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh was playing. Apparently the film isn’t great, but the soundtrack is all great soul/disco tunes written for the film. The guy wasn’t selling it though!

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Graded on a Curve: Lothar and the Hand People,
Presenting…

Even as far back as 1968, there were more bands on the scene than a person could effectively shake a wet noodle at. Naturally, many of them are best left unexamined in history’s voluminous dustbin, but there remains more than a few worthies that endure in flying under the radar. One such example is New York City’s curiously tweaked psychedelic-pop act Lothar and the Hand People. They hung around the fringes of the whole hippie thing and produced a pair of LPs that over the years have managed to acquire a small cult following, and the better of the two is their first one, Presenting…Lothar and the Hand People.

The story goes that Lothar and the Hand People formed in Denver in 1965. That city hasn’t exactly been portrayed as a rock Mecca of the period, and it apparently took all of a year for them to hightail it to the greener musical pastures of NYC. They consisted of Rusty Ford on bass, Kim King on guitar, Moog and Ampex tape decks, Paul Conley on keyboards, liner controller and Moog, Tom Flye on drums and percussion, and John Emelin on lead vocals.

Oh, and there was Lothar, their trusty Theremin, the responsibilities of which fell mainly onto Emelin’s shoulders, or more appropriately, the motions of his two hands. For those unfamiliar, the Theremin was an early electronic instrument patented in 1928 and named after its inventor. For decades the most celebrated use of Léon Theremin’s creation came through the very enjoyable recordings of Clara Rockmore, noted as an early virtuoso on the device. Additionally, it’s a musical instrument that’s distinguished for how it never gets touched by the player’s fingers as it emits its sonic atmospheres.

The Theremin soon became a touchstone in the scores of numerous films, the bulk of them sci-fi flicks from the mid-section of last century including the classics The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing (From Another World). Contrary to popular lore however, it’s not a part of Louis and Bebe Barron’s soundtrack to Forbidden Planet (they used oscillator circuits and a ring modulator for that one.)

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Needle Drop: Halasan Bazar & Tara King th., “Rot Inside”

Halasan Bazar & Tara King th. are the modern Danish equivalent to Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. In fact, these two are serious devotees of the underappreciated ’60s duo and do their best to replicate the psychedelic, fringe country that Hazlewood made famous.

The bands whimsical folk-rock is offset by a wash of cinematic baroque pop, resulting in a strange and compelling take on the genre, best summed up as “interplanetary western.” Guitars shimmer and keyboards swirl and chime to form an atmosphere of giddy intoxication, while bass and drums provide a backbone of pulsating precision. In the foreground are the stoned, downtrodden vocals of Fredrick Rollum Eckoff and the seductive and nuanced tones of Béatrice Morel-Journel.

Together, they have perfected the off-the-cuff beauty of call and response beatnik poetry. Their voices tumble over the moody backdrops, complimenting each other’s unique delivery as Nancy and Lee did on their seminal recordings. The bands LP, entitled 8, was released earlier this month on Moon Glyph.

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Graded on a Curve:
Television,
Adventure

Sometimes I flabbergast myself. I think I know what I like and what I don’t like, only to find out I don’t know a damn thing about anything, least of all my likes and dislikes. Take KC and the Sunshine Band. I hated them with a passion for like 30 years and now I think they’re great. Or Elton John’s Caribou, which I liked for like 80 years only to realize just yesterday it only has two good songs on it, although to Captain Fantastic’s credit they’re two really great songs.

But occasionally I get it right the first time, as with Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” which I hated when it came out and still hate to this day. And the same goes for Television’s sophomore LP, 1978’s Adventure. People—as in every sentient human breathing air the year it came out—wrote Adventure off as a lackluster follow-up to the band’s 1977 debut, Marquee Moon. Everybody but me, that is. Because I had never heard of Marquee Moon. I didn’t even know it existed. Hell, I can’t even remember how or why I came to buy Adventure, because I had no clue as to who Television was and absolutely no inkling that they were an integral part of a musical revolution in progress at a ratty club in New York City called CBGBs.

But buy it I did, just as I bought Kill City without having ever heard the Stooges, which just goes to show you how isolating rural living was back in the days before the internet gave you access to all kinds of information, including who was who on the rock circuit. About all you got exposed to back in those days were hoof and mouth disease and square dancing, which is why I spent my teen years doing my level best to do as many drugs as I could get my greedy paws on, while trying to wrap my vehicle around a utility pole, which I finally accomplished on March 1, 1980. You’ve got to have goals, even in the boondocks, or life isn’t worth a damn.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Pop Group,
Cabinet of Curiosities

The Pop Group stands as one of our persistently vital and truly prescient post-punk units. This week their slim discography increases by one full-length release, specifically a collection of alternate, live, and unreleased material titled Cabinet of Curiosities. Offered in multiple formats by the Freaks R Us label (as is the smoking 1980 comp We Are Time), it’s not the best destination for a newbie, though fans of the outfit will definitely want to investigate.

Every listener has their own barometer when approaching the intersection (some would say the minefield) of the musical and the political. The yardstick of this writer is to proceed with caution while keeping cynicism at arm’s distance, prudence being necessary because, simply through the laws of qualitative averages, most political music is to varying degrees subpar.

Just as important is to not succumb to the bugaboo of sarcastic pessimism. This can be problematic since the majority of the politico-musical discourse is devoted to the lofty yet weak efforts of pop/rock stars. This isn’t to suggest the status of these individuals somehow denies them the right to have a voice in such matters, but rather that a confluence of factors regularly softens or negates the message.

Beyond the basic need to walk it like one talks it, those earning a substantial living through music frequently either purposefully or sub-consciously finesse their messages to avoid alienating all but the most egregious members of the audience, this reasoning likely selfish (don’t want to turn off those buyers) but also conceivably and wrong-headedly intended to just reach as many people as possible. This is of course a generalization, but the result reliably finds the pleas and protestations of the pop/rock star becoming as ineffectual as those of punks in a suburban garage ranting about the obvious.

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The Nearly Deads,
The TVD First Date

“I’ll be honest…I don’t even own a record player. I’ve been asking for one for Christmas for a few years now…”

“Years and years ago, everyone had a record player. Nowadays, not only are they hard to find, but they are kind of expensive for a starving artist like myself. I get most of my music on Spotify or iTunes. However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t want to experience music on vinyl. I say ‘experience’ because that’s truly what it is. Listening to a record start to finish on vinyl is something you take time to do, to truly savor the sounds and warmth of the tones. It’s on my agenda to one day have my own player. I actually only own one record personally, an Original Soundtrack recording from Singin’ in The Rain!

Not many people know this, but my background is in music theatre, opera, and classical music. Whenever I’m sifting through old records at McKay’s in Nashville, TN, I’m ALWAYS hoping for a Bernstein conducted piece. Or a Puccini opera. Or some rare original performance of a Stravinsky piece, like The Rite of Spring. There’s absolutely something amazing about hearing these classical performances on vinyl, because back then, they had no choice but to record them to vinyl. And every performance is different. So I love that McKay’s has tons of classical records. You NEVER know what you’re going to find. And there are some rare performances floating around out there.

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