Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
August 2018, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2018.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Miss Information, Sequence (Pioneer Works Press) This and the item directly below, the first two vinyl offerings from Pioneer Works Press, aren’t obtainable until 9/7, unless you visit the Press Play Book and Music Fair in Red Hook, Brooklyn on 8/3–8/4, where both will be available in advance of that date. Miss Information is Miho Hatori, who’s known for her work in Cibo Matto, Gorillaz and tons of other projects, with this LP formulated while she was artist in residence at Pioneer Works. The time spent shows in the fullness of the work. It’s not solo per se, as drummer Greg Fox, guitarist Patrick Higgins, and electronic musician Nicky Mao all contribute, but from futuristic pop and funk to twisted electronica to intriguing soundscapes to woozy rap, but it all plainly carries Hatori’s stamp. A-

Marijuana Deathsquads, Tuff Guy Electronics (Pioneer Works Press) Like Sequence, this is available at Pioneer Works’ Press Play Book and Music Fair on 8/3–8/4 and nowhere else until 9/7, so if you’re excited for the first stuff from these Minnesotans since 2013 and reside within reasonable traveling distance, then you know what to do. For this, Marijuana Deathsquads’ core group of contributors are Ryan Olson, Ben Ivascu, Isaac Gale, and newcomer Trever Hagen. Throughout their existence extra hands have helped, including Justin Vernon (he of Bon Iver) and Jim Eno (of Spoon). I’m not exactly sure of the auxiliary for Tuff Guy Electronics (a fantastic title), but the outcome is loosely twisted and at times rhythmically rolling. After a few spins, it begins cohering into a shape that’s attractively fucked. B+

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Hampton Grease Band, Music to Eat (Real Gone) I gave this surrealist psychedelic 2LP a long review back in 2014, but the record, described as the second worst seller in Columbia Records’ history, was OOP at the time, so this 1,000-copy reissue on peach colored vinyl is cause for celebration. The late Bruce Hampton gained some notoriety in the ’90s through the jam band scene, but Music to Eat is a much weirder animal as it hovers on the outskirts of the psych and blues rock milieu that inspired the likes of Phish, Govt. Mule, and Widespread Panic. Holding similarities to the Dead, Zappa, and Georgia cohorts the Allmans, there’s a much deeper connection to Beefheart, making this, alongside Trout Mask Replica, one of the few true Dada-rock artifacts of the pre-punk era. A

Pere Ubu, Terminal Tower (Varèse Vintage) When this comp of early Ubu material emerged in 1985, it was a big deal; ’78’s “Datapanik in the Year Zero” dipped into the first three 45s but was scarce nearly a decade later. Terminal Tower offered the entirety of that EP and more. When the first big Ubu box arrived in ’96 (sharing the EP’s title), it was all there too, but not on vinyl. Fire Records’ extensive reissue series, now four volumes deep, is on wax; it includes everything here and is still in print, which might lead you to surmise that this reissue, offered on limited clear and standard black vinyl, is redundant. I can understand that line of thinking, but disagree rather emphatically, as this record holds some of the best music from one of the finest bands of the last 50 years. It serves as an excellent introduction. A+

Bad Bad Hats, Lightning Round (Afternoon) This Minneapolis-based trio made a splash in 2015 with Psychic Reader, but like so much of this vast contemporary musical landscape I’ve missed out on hearing them until now. Bad Bad Hats have been described as indie pop/ indie rock, which had me poised for something different. What I got disappointed me a bit, as I was expecting (and I’ll confess, hoping) this would land somewhere in the neighborhood of C86. With guitarist Kerry Alexander’s appealing voice out front, the whole is much closer to a blend of dream pop and a decidedly 21st century strain of indie, with occasional hooks that remind me of ’90s mainstream pop radio. It’s the latter aspect that thrills me the least, though if not really my bag, at least it’s engagingly delivered, and not too ornate. B-

Merry Clayton, S/T (Real Gone) You’ve heard Merry Clayton. Even if you profess to hate music (which is nonsensical if you’re reading this), if you’ve watched Goodfellas…well, you probably hate Goodfellas, but the point is you’ve heard her vocals on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” That performance led to a string of solo LPs (she’d been singing professionally since the early ’60s), of which this is the second (the first was titled after and featured her version of the Stones’ song). The results here are…okay. Well, better than okay, but disappointing in that the rather slicked-up soul makes me wish she’d hit the studio with Willie Mitchell, the Hi Rhythm Section, and the Memphis Horns. Clayton is in strong voice however, with the interpretations and the gospel vibe strong. “Love Me or Let Me Be Lonely” is a standout. B+

Futuropaco, S/T (El Paraiso) Drummer Justin Pinkerton, he of the Thrill Jockey-signed psych-rock act Golden Void, is Futuropaco, where his predilection for things expansive gets combined with an interest in Krautrock and library music (he’s also a full-time library and commercial film composer). If you’ll allow me to be so gauche. I dig this more than a fair amount (okay, a lot) of the original library/ Italian soundtrack stuff, partly due to the Germanic connection and the general heaviness, but more so how these elements (and the benefit of hindsight, perhaps) help to negate library music’s occasionally doofus, at other times rinky-dink tendencies. The vibe here is at once cinematic and tangibly retro-minded, but with a lack of calculation that makes this one a likely candidate for repeated spins. B+

Ronnie Davis and Idren, Come Straight (Omnivore) For a while now, Omnivore’s been dishing a steady stream of CD reissues from the reggae label Nighthawk; this and the Winston Jarrett disc below are the latest. Davis’ career stretches back to the ’60s, but he came to international prominence in the Itals, who cut four records for Nighthawk in the ’80s, including the Grammy-nominated Rasta Philosophy. The Itals were distinguished by their rich harmonies, and post-breakup, the tradition continued as Davis formed his own group. Come Straight is categorized by Omnivore as roots reggae, but released in ’96, the whole is loaded with rigid synthetic beats, though this doesn’t detract from the overall warmth. Vocally, this is superb, and offers a bunch of solid dubs and two previously unreleased bonus tracks. A-

Garcia Peoples, Cosmic Cash (Beyond Beyond is Beyond) The debut LP from this Jersey band, who with the addition of PG Six (of Tower Recordings and more recently Wet Tuna) on keys, have expanded to a five-piece. This album’s “Show Your Troubles Out” is also featured on the benefit compilation Freedom of the Press, which was a pick in last week’s column; the rest of this set, certainly psych-kissed but with attention paid to the songs (there are seven, totaling 37 minutes), easily fulfils the promise of that track. Garcia Peoples like to lean into clean-licks, robust grooving, and unstrained vocalizing a la the cited reference points of the Allmans, The Band, and the Dead (the latter especially during portions of the five-part suite that is the set’s highpoint), and all without plummeting into choogle hell. Terrific. A-

hERON, S/T (Concuss Music) It does appear that this record, the joint endeavor of Erick Progeny Frias of Chisme/ Ghost Palace and Rob Castro of Grayskul/ Ghost Palace, came out last autumn, and that the duo is shooting for a follow-up this upcoming October. However, as this one just landed on my doorstep for review, meaning copies are still available, we’ll add it to the list. I’ll confess that the promo blurb mentioning trip-hop had me worried, but on the other hand, the collage-psychedelic jacket art was enticing, and the contents didn’t disappoint. A trip-hop vibe is extant, but it’s interestingly low-budget, with the beats non-hackneyed and the samples registering as swiped from a box of thrift-store vinyl cast-offs rather than the standard overused sources. Relaxing yet strange, and distinctive. B+

Monk Higgins, Extra Soul Perception (Real Gone) Originally released in ’69 by Solid State, the jazz subsidiary of United Artists, this often gets tagged as soul jazz (I mean, it’s right there in the title), and over the decades it’s become something of a score for crate diggers, but to my ear it’s better described as simply pop jazz. I’m admittedly hot and cold in soul jazz terms (ditto pop jazz), but this misses the Blue Note standard by a rather wide margin. For starters, there are too many string arrangements, as Higgins, an extensive studio guy who had a few minor instrumental R&B hits, isn’t doing anything especially memorable with his saxophone. Recurring flute flourishes compound the problems. Drummer John Guerin does lay down some heaviness, but it’s not enough to put this into the keeper pile. C+

Winston Jarrett & the Righteous Flames, Jonestown (Omnivore) Due to sheer volume, reggae can be a formidable genre to contend with, but Omnivore’s Nighthawk label reissues have thus far sidestepped the problem of being too much of a good thing, though this set by vocalist Jarrett does strike my ear as just a wee bit lesser than most of the material offered in the program up to this point. Like the other artists in the series, Jarrett’s career began in the ’60s, where he sang alongside Eggar Gordon (Baby Gee) in a harmony group with Alton Ellis. When Ellis’ success led him to go solo, Jarrett and Gordon formed the Righteous Flames with the former singing lead, and to fruitful result. This tidy 10-track reunion set can occasionally get a little too polished, but it’s impossible to deny that it all goes down easy. B+

Willie Nile, Children of Paradise (River House) Nile’s been covered in this column before, via last year’s Positively Bob: Willie Nile Sings Bob Dylan. I liked that one, and I feel the same about this collection of his own stuff. Nile emerged on the scene at the dawn of the ’80s, blending sharp songwriting, power-pop hooks, and Springsteen-esque regular guy weekend bar transcendence. He should’ve been big, but it didn’t pan out; thankfully, he hasn’t altered his approach, as his tunes, alternately and sometimes simultaneously smart, anthemic and earthy, are up to snuff. A lot of melodic rock has historically sidestepped significant issues, but as the Bob trib indicated, such is not the case with Nile (see “Gettin’ Ugly Out There”). Still, much of this is worthy of blasting in a convertible out on the interstate. B+

Robert Poss, Frozen Flowers Curse the Day (Trace Elements) Poss was one of the three guitarists in NYC avant-rock act Band of Susans, an underrated outfit that broke up in 1996. Solo recordings followed in the ’00s along with collaborations with Phill Niblock and his former bandmate Susan Stenger, but this CD is his first release under his own name since Settings – Music For Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry in 2010. Similar to Band of Susans, the experimentation in Poss’ own work is easily discernible but rarely in your face, with this lack of aggressiveness and abrasion embodied by the short dose of drone-ambient glide that is “Ribbon Candy Colors.” Poss’ Minimalist background is felt (he’s played with Rhys Chatham), but there’s also a long stretch that is appropriately assessed as rock. It’s smart rock, and very good. A-

The Purrs, Destroy the Sun (Swoon) Seattle’s The Purrs burst out of the gate so heavily on the opening title cut from this, their second album, that had I not read up on them before hand, I likely would’ve thought a psychedelic metal excursion was in store. This was not to be, for as advertised, Destroy the Sun is nearer to shoegaze-ish psych-rock; the twin guitar attack of Liz Herrin and Jason Milne dish weight and edge throughout, as bassist Jima and drummer Dusty Haze (if a pseudonym, cool, if not, even cooler) add the necessary heft. Along the way, there are some major pop-rock songwriting gestures, a tendency most prominently expressed in the almost rootsy “Here For So Long” and the tangibly power-poppish (but in an early ’80s rock radio way) “Lifetime of Wrong Turns.” Overall, there’s a little too much breadth here, though I do like the up-tempo psych-punk of “Walking Out the Door.” B

Shy Boys, Bell House (Polyvinyl) The Beach Boys, or more to the point one component of that iconic act’s sound, specifically vocal harmony, comes on strong in “Miracle Gro,” the a cappella and handclaps opener of this Kansas City, MO outfit’s second long-player. It never becomes a studied situation, though the flourish at the start of “Evil Sin” does connect like a track from one of those outtakes-loaded Beach Boys box sets. But hey, if you take the second word of that song title, add an H and make it plural (apologies to Will Shortz), you’ll understand what Shy Boys’ often sound like after kicking in instrumentally. It goes down pretty okay, but then the last couple numbers on this very short album take a turn into late ’70s pop sensitivity. If reflective of their name, this move doesn’t thrill me. B

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