Monthly Archives: November 2021

TVD Live Shots:
Majid Jordan at
Metro Chicago, 11/27

Canadian R&B duo Majid Jordan, which is the powerhouse combo of singer Majid Al Maskati and producer Jordan Ullman, stopped by the Metro in Chicago on November 27th in support of their most recent album, Wildest Dreams, which was released this past October.

The packed concert hall was mesmerized by the duo’s dreamy, bass-heavy tracks, dancing and loudly singing along with every word. Running through their new tracks and mixing in a few old favorites, they captured the audience and held on to them for their entire set.

Al Maskati’s range on the album translates perfectly live, with Ullman’s skills as a producer providing the perfect soundtrack for the crowd to dance along to, further proving that this duo is not one to miss.

You can catch the last few dates of the Wildest Dreams Tour in New York and Canada.

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Needle Drop: Evan Toth, The Show

The Show is the latest studio album drop from New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Evan Toth. Its stylistic tone and overall sound are reminiscent of classic ’70s singer-songwriter records released during an era when The Album reigned supreme.

And, this nostalgic quality is brought even more to the forefront by the album’s backing band members themselves who are, in effect, Billy Joel’s core group from the ‘70s: drummer Liberty DeVitto, saxophonist (and organist) Richie Cannata, and guitarist Russell Javors. Classic Billy Joel albums Turnstiles, The Stranger, 52nd Street, Glass Houses, and the Nylon Curtain all featured these experienced instrumentalists, who today perform on their own as The Lords of 52nd Street. Original bassist Doug Stegmeyer sadly passed away in 1995, and Malcolm Gold has assumed the role.

Consider for a moment the sonic grandeur of such classic recordings as “New York State of Mind,” and pretty much the entirety of The Stranger, recordings for which The Lords are partly responsible. Echoes of this particular studio sound are ever-present on The Show, and Toth being a piano man himself, serves as an ideal frontman for such a band in this recording context, whose original songs are instrumentalized with the experienced studio musicians they deserve.

The Show offers the cohesion that ’70s concept or thematically-conscious records also did over the course of its ten original songs. Echoes of Billy Joel’s influence, via some song composition and vocal and piano delivery, can be heard throughout. Joel’s “self-conscious performer” songs like “Piano Man” and “Zanzibar” are echoed in Toth’s title-track “The Show,” which narrates his character’s experience surrounding a concert appearance.

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UK Artist of the Week: Atom Eyes

This week’s AOTW comes from Scotland’s Atom Eyes. The Edinburgh collective have unveiled their latest single, “Roll The Dice,” a jazz-funk infused odyssey epitomizing the eclectic, spacey grooves that have become synonymous with their sound.

Formed in 2017, Atom Eyes are comprised of vocalist Lissa Chen and backed by award-winning jazz pianist Alan Benzie, guitarist Fraser Christie, and the formidable rhythm section of drummer Scott Jamieson and bassist Tom Wilkinson. The quintet’s unerring ability to combine a cross section of genres, from neo-soul to R&B and funk to jazz, has seen them take centre stage the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival.

“Roll The Dice” is the first cut from Atom Eyes’ debut album and is the perfect illustration of their syncopated soundscapes. Opening with grooving, head bopping bass lines, the song is propelled at a rate of knots by Lissa Chen’s smooth, soulful vocals and accented beautifully by funky guitar segments, melodic keys, and complex drum beats.

“Roll The Dice” is an exhilarating single recalling artists such as 30/70 and Moonchild. Breathless and beguiling, it gives you a tantalising taste of what to expect over the coming months from an effortlessly talented band.

“Roll The Dice” is in stores now and is taken from the debut album due for release in Spring 2022.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Cutthroat Brothers and Mike Watt,
Devil in Berlin

Since debuting with a self-titled LP in 2018, The Cutthroat Brothers, a duo consisting of guitarist-vocalist Jason Cutthroat and drummer Donny Paycheck, have been busy. On Friday December 3 they issue their fifth full-length and second of 2021, with their latest the second consecutive release to feature the bass playing of Mike Watt, who deepens but doesn’t radically alter the punky-bluesy appeal. Produced and mixed by Jack Endino, Devil in Berlin fits snuggly into the discography of Hound Gawd! Records. It’s available on vinyl, CD, and digital.

I’ve a sneaking suspicion The Cutthroat Brothers aren’t blood siblings, It’s an established fact however that both men are barbers, with Donny Paycheck clipping wigs in Takoma, WA and Jason Cutthroat doing the same in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. In matters musical, Paycheck did some drumming with Seattle-based punk thrashers Zeke before hooking up with his partner in coiffure and spiking a potent vein of throbbing scuzz-pummel.

In terms of comparisons, The Cutthroats have chalked up quite a list, including The Cramps, The Stooges, X, The Gun Club, and even Nick Cave. But maybe more impressive is getting Texacala Jones (she of 1980s cowpunk notables Tex & the Horseheads) to sing on “Black Candle” from their second LP (and first for Hound Gawd!), 2019’s Taste for Evil.

It’s the sort of gesture that reinforces a sturdy base of knowledge and strengthens a healthy streak of non-genericism. In turn, the Cutthroat Brothers have thrived exclusively on full-length releases (their third album, the digital-only Live in Europe, came out in May of 2020), a format where many outfits of similar roots-punk temperament simply run out of creative gas.

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In rotation: 11/30/21

Adele’s ’30’ becomes 2021’s fastest-selling album in both the US and UK: Adele has made another record-breaking return to the charts, as her latest album “30” claims the title of fastest-selling album of 2021 in both the US and the UK. Released on November 19, the British singer’s fourth studio album also became the most successful album of the year in the US just three days after release, according to MRC data reported by Billboard. Selling more than 660,000 equivalent album units — which includes audio and video streaming and individual track sales — “30” has already triumphed over the other major releases of 2021. In the UK, Adele debuted at the top spot in the albums chart, with first-week sales of 261,000 according to the Official Charts, which said it was the biggest first week for an album since Ed Sheeran’s “Divide” (÷) in 2017.

UK | Partisan’s Zena White on the industry’s vinyl problem: Partisan Records had the No.1 vinyl record with Idles’ Crawler in the most recent albums chart. The label’s Brooklyn-based MD Zena White spoke to us about the campaign and the band’s return to touring. In the latest edition of Music Week, she also flagged a key issue for the independent sector – global vinyl capacity. It’s a problem that major label execs have recently discussed in light of the big Q4 releases – including albums from Adele, Ed Sheeran, ABBA and Coldplay – that have taken up a significant amount of the available production at pressing plants. In her Music Week Q&A, Zena White described the “very tough landscape” for the independent sector as it has to weigh up whether to wait for a vinyl slot or go digital-first. “It’s something that we have to be really conscious of as an industry because there is a delicate ecosystem,” said White.

New York, NY | New Record Store Plays on Growing Love for Vinyl: Ergot Records owner Adrien Rew says his new business has been surprisingly good: “Don’t use the word ‘vinyls’ plural.” Adrian Rew instructs. The Ergot Records owner donned a beanie and Birkenstocks with socks inside his store. “Vinyl is the material that records are made of. So, plural of record is records, plural of vinyl is vinyl.” Rew opened Ergot in September and business has been surprisingly good. He decided to open his store during the pandemic when rents were down. Rew used to work at A1 records, next to Tompkins Square Park, before leaving to work for a nonprofit. But he missed his time in a record store, which helped inspire him to start his own. The shop, which is located at 2nd Street and Second Ave., took around three months to renovate and set up. Most of the renovations were done by Rew’s girlfriend Valerie Keane, a New York based sculptor. “She has all of the handy woman skills that I entirely lack,” says Rew. Keane built all the furniture in the store.

Phoenixville, PA | New vinyl record store in Phoenixville continues family legacy: Vinyl collectors and music lovers are in luck as Forever Changes, a new shop located at 28 South Main Street in Phoenixville opens just in time for holiday shopping on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 27. Adding to the borough’s flourishing arts and culture scene, the shop will offer more than records, including locally made artwork, and a space for live music performances. Record selections will span a wide array of musical genres, from current popular music to jazz, rock, reggae and more. Both new and used vinyl, record players, vintage posters, tee shirts, and music related artwork will be among the shop’s colorful merchandise. Owners Shawn Cephas and Anna Spackman, both musicians, met while performing at an open mic night held at Steel City Coffee House and eventually got married. They decided Phoenixville was the perfect town to bring their vision of a diversely rich music store to life.

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TVD Live Shots: Sam Fender at Alexandra Palace, 11/21

The most prominent breakout artist in recent memory is at a pinnacle here in the UK, and his sights are now set on the rest of the world. Sam Fender is the real fucking deal and one of the most talented singer-songwriters of the past decade.

I like to think of him as the Bruce Springsteen for people who hate Bruce Springsteen (or don’t get Born to Run). His songs bring the voice of the working class together with the challenges and struggles of a new generation. His maturity and insight to write songs of this magnitude at such a young age are a sign of an extraordinary musician. It’s like watching an early Bono preparing for his Joshua Tree moment. And that’s precisely where we find the 27-year-old Sam Fender.

He’s clearly beaten the music industry’s much-feared “sophomore jinx” with his latest record Seventeen Going Under. It’s the perfect continuation and evolution from his celebrated and critically acclaimed debut Hypersonic Missiles. But the question remains, will the rest of the world get it?

The US is the most significant opportunity here set against a backdrop of incredible bands from the UK historically finding it difficult to replicate their European success in the States’ over-saturated, disposable pop-fueled scene. This isn’t a case where “you need to see the live show to get it.” It’s more about just hearing the songs for the first time and THEN having the live show seal the deal. That’s precisely what happened in my case.

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TVD Radar: Natalie Cole, Unforgettable…With Love 30th anniversary 2LP in stores 2/4

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Craft Recordings celebrates the 30th anniversary of Natalie Cole’s iconic smash-hit, Unforgettable…with Love, with a variety of special reissues.

The newly remastered 1991 album—which earned seven GRAMMY® Awards, topped the Billboard 200 and went on to be certified 7x Platinum by the RIAA—features Cole’s groundbreaking virtual duet of “Unforgettable” with her father, Nat King Cole, plus an array of classic hits from the Great American Songbook. As a bonus, CD and digital editions of Unforgettable…with Love include Cole’s stunning renditions of “At Last” and “Cottage for Sale,” both of which were released as B-sides during the album’s original release. The original 22-track album will also be available on 180-gram vinyl as a 2-LP set.

In stores February 4th, Unforgettable…with Love is currently available to pre-order today in all formats, while fans can find a limited-edition purple vinyl pressing of the album (as well as exclusive merch) on Cole’s official website. Ahead of that, Target will offer a pink vinyl edition of the LP on January 7th, while an exclusive white vinyl will be available at Barnes & Noble in tandem with the wide release. Fans can visit their favorite streaming site today to hear the newly remastered edition of “Unforgettable.”

For those who want to experience Unforgettable…with Love sooner, PBS will offer the CD exclusively during their pledge drive, beginning November 27th. This Saturday, PBS GREAT PERFORMANCES will also air a special encore of the Emmy®-winning 1992 concert, Unforgettable, with Love: Natalie Cole Sings the Songs of Nat King Cole (check local listings).

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Graded on a Curve: Montrose, Montrose

Remembering Ronnie Montrose, born on this day in 1947.Ed.

Nowadays the band Montrose is chiefly remembered as the rock boarding school one Sammy (“I can’t drive 55/With my thumbs stuck in my eyes”) Hagar attended before graduating to a disappointing, if not semi-disastrous, tenure as front man of the post-David Lee Roth Van Halen. How unfair. At their best, namely on their debut 1973 self-titled debut, Montrose rocked balls, kicked ass and took names, and established themselves as perhaps America’s best response to Led Zeppelin. As for Montrose itself, some consider it America’s first true heavy metal LP. Me, I’d go with Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but that’s beside the point.

Montrose came out of California, where guitarist Ronnie Montrose—who played sessions for Van Morrison (amongst others) and did a stint in The Edgar Winter Group—decided to put his own band together. The finished product included Sammy Hagar on vocals, Bill Church on bass, and Denny Carmassi on drums.

Ted Templeman, who played an instrumental role in getting the band signed to Warner Brothers, produced the LP. Unfortunately this turned out to be a mixed blessing as Warners, which made it a practice to push only one LP from each genre at a time, already had the Doobie Brothers (!!!) in the rock slot and Deep Purple in the hard rock slot. Without publicity push from Warners, Montrose got left out in the cold, and only managed to reach the 133 spot on the U.S. Billboard charts.

But you can’t keep a good album down, not forever anyway, and the Montrose LP has received increasing attention over the following years, thanks to its strong songwriting, Montrose’s great guitar work, and Hagar’s hard-hitting vocals. I’ve always found it exceptionally easy to poke fun at Hagar, but on Montrose he proves the joke is on me, by doing things with his vocal chords that are illegal in Mormon Utah. (No, I have no idea what that means either.) In any event, Montrose has received its just desserts, which is more than you can say about Warners’ beloved Doobie Brothers, who deserve to be tied to a large stone and dropped into some deep and very black water.

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TVD Radar: The Podcast with Evan Toth, Episode 55: Iain Taylor and the Cassette

Vinyl gets plenty of love in the 21st century even though streaming offers plenty of convenience and stability, while the venerable CD quietly sits waiting for someone to rediscover it. But what’s left for the cassette?

In this episode, I sit down with Dr. Iain Taylor who joins us all the way from Birmingham City University in the UK. Taylor is a Lecturer in Music Industries, and a researcher within the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research. As an educator, Iain teaches primarily on the Music Industries degree, leading modules which explore the cultural and emotive value of music, and how this translates into the business models and intellectual property rights of the music industries.

Earlier this year, Dr. Taylor wrote an article at The Conversation website titled, “Audio cassettes: despite being ‘a bit rubbish,’ sales have doubled during the pandemic – here’s why.” In that article, he explores the origins of the cassette and even the fact that the medium was more – or less – disowned by its creator. However, for all of their awkwardness and their inferior sound quality, cassettes still hold a place in the hearts of those who collect physical media, if only as a way for human beings to connect with something tangible, something real.

So, join Dr. Taylor and me as we explore the cassette from points of view nostalgic, economic, and humanistic. Cassettes may bring back some warm memories of days gone by, but no one looks forward to respooling a tape that had been eaten by a player with a number 2 pencil.

Evan Toth is a songwriter, professional musician, educator, radio host, avid record collector, and hi-fi aficionado. Toth hosts and produces The Evan Toth Show and TVD Radar on WFDU, 89.1 FM. Follow him at the usual social media places and visit his website.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Poppy Family,
A Good Thing Lost:

First, a plug. I’m reading 2001’s Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth, The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop, From The Banana Splits to Britney Spears. Edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay, the book is the Rosetta Gumball of preteen pop, including as it does essays on the machinations of record label svengalis like Don Kirshner, behind the scenes super-producers such as Kasenetz-Katz, here-and-gone-in-a-45rpm- flash record labels like Colgem Records, cartoon groups from Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids to The Beagles, and most importantly bands you’ve probably never heard of, like Salt Water Taffy, The Yummies, and Professor Morrison’s Lollipop.

Amidst such obscurities the group that most piqued my interest was The Poppy Family, because they weren’t really a bubblegum band at all. In fact they were an anti-bubblegum band. Their songs lacked bubblegum’s sunny sound and infectious choruses. Instead they were dark vignettes of existential despair which, strung from end to end, would make for a sturdy Juicy Fruit noose.

What Kim Cooper’s essay on The Poppy Family, which was really just a front for husband and wife team Susan and Terry Jacks, is doing in this anthology is just as great a mystery as why if you licked The Archies flexi disc on a box of Honeycomb it tasted suspiciously like the Monkees flexi disc on a box of Raisin Bran.

I suspect it came down to the fact that Cooper co-edited the anthology and could do whatever the hell she wanted. More importantly, the band’s name perfectly encapsulated the bubblegum aesthetic; you blow bubbles and they pop, and wholesome family values still meant something to the preteens of that era. Not only could they stomach their parents, they even fantasized about starting bands with them. Just ask the Partridges.

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In rotation: 11/29/21

Rochester, MN | Customers line up for record store day: We all have heard of Black Friday sales, but have you heard of Record Store Day sale? It’s a day when independent record stores sell popular and rare vinyl records. “It’s a biannual event that’s for independent record stores, new releases, special low number pressings of colored vinyl. It’s just kind of the big day for record collectors,” Rochester Records Owner Hussien “Huss” Esmailadeh said. “…Huss here has been awesome because he has everything very streamlined at Rochester Records. Black Friday’s pretty fun. So they just open up the doors, take a ticket and we come here and get to select from the exclusive titles that they have and the different just limited editions, different colored vinyl. It’s kinda like a candy store for us kids,” Rochester Records customer Brad Strain said.

Wilmington, NC | Holiday shoppers rush to a Wilmington store for Record Store Day on Black Friday: One local record store participated in Record Store Day on Black Friday. Dozens of shoppers who love their music on vinyl made their way to Record Bar, looking for deals. The biannual event gives independent stores an opportunity to have exclusive music titles to sell. Record Bar co-owner Tony Stroud said the store saw big lines, with records by Aerosmith, Billie Eilish, and The Life Aquatic Soundtrack being best sellers. “You know the support locally has been phenomenal. It was raining when we opened this morning, we still had a line outside. We had the sidewalk sale inside this morning, made things a little crazy, but once the weather broke away we were able to put folks out here shopping. They’ve had a big time all day,” said Tony Stroud, Record Bar co-owner.

Charlotte, NC | Manifest Discs to close Charlotte store after two decades of selling music and movies: One of the oldest and most popular music stores in Charlotte is shutting down. Manifest Discs did not provide a specific closure date, but announced “everything must go” in a liquidation sale starting 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 26. The store is at 6239 South Boulevard in south Charlotte. “After twenty plus years, Manifest Charlotte is closing,” the store posted Nov. 24 on Instagram and Facebook. “We would like to thank all of our loyal customers who have supported our store for so many years.”

Chicago, IL | Round Trip Records opens its brick-and-mortar shop after almost two years of pandemic delays: Chicago has a brand-new record store: Round Trip Records in North Park! Co-owner Paul Nixon says the shop has been in the works since November 2019, when he left his longtime gig at Laurie’s Planet of Sound. Shortly he and Round Trip co-owner David Baker started selling records online and at the Chicagoland Record & CD Collectors Show in Hillside. “We were looking for an office, and we found this retail space,” Nixon says. “We decided that it would be a fun thing to be involved with the community.” In January 2020 they signed a lease on a 500-square-foot storefront at 3455 W. Foster, but the pandemic changed their plans—they finally opened the shop on November 20. Round Trip’s inventory is mostly 12-inch vinyl, but it also sells books, VHS tapes, CDs, and seven-inches. Nixon and Baker stock jazz, avant-garde music, 60s and 70s psych, 80s and 90s alternative, and more, and future selections will reflect what their customers turn out to prefer.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

We’ve closed TVD’s HQ for the Thanksgiving holiday. While we’re away, why not fire up our Record Store Locator app and visit one of your local indie record stores?

Perhaps there’s an interview, review, or feature you might have missed? Catch up and we’ll see you back here on November 29.

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TVD Live: The Flaming Lips at The Anthem, 11/16

Add to the list of necessary roadie skills that of leaf blower.

He’s the guy who scampers on stage at a Flaming Lips concert to inflate a series of transparent plastic bubbles surrounding lead singer Wayne Coyne—or similarly blow-up giant rainbows, or swaying pink robots, as required.

Decades ago, Coyne developed the idea of singer-in-plastic bubble at rock concerts as a method to roll over his blissed-out audience, improving and streamlining the hand-to-hand combat of crowd surfing. When Covid hit, they proved safe barriers; he devised a series of concerts in the band’s hometown of Oklahoma City where not only all the band members were enclosed in their own bubbles, but so were the audience members. Now, the band must have piles of leftover bubbles.

By the end of their fall tour Tuesday at the Anthem in Washington, DC, concert restrictions had eased enough to allow fans to move around without being confined to bubbles (vaccination proof and masks were still part of the protocol, though).

But Coyne sang almost entirely inside a series of bubbles, with new ones constantly subbing in when his got too foggy, too hot, or a little less inflated. At 60, he no longer rolls over the audience. But he did roll out a big bubble full of balloons to the crowd at the show’s end. And he had other distractions: shooting streamers, pointing a spotlight into the crowd, unleashing confetti at various times, and hoisting a site-specific set of letter balloons at the finale.

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TVD Radar: ‘HARD + FAST’ book from photographer Melanie Nissen in stores 2/1

VIA PRESS RELEASE | There were quite a few photographers on L.A.’s early punk scene, but Melanie Nissen’s pictures have always stood apart. The legendary photographer shot for illustrious punk rock fanzine Slash from 1977-1980 and will release the first official collection of her work with HARD + FAST, a hardbound art book published by Blank Industries due out February 1, 2022.

In its early years, the L.A. punk scene was egalitarian, and the mix of people in her pictures is astonishing. Senior citizens, people of every race, children, swells in fancy clothes, people in rags – everyone was welcome. “The early years were special,” Nissen reflects. “There was a real sense of camaraderie and everyone was generous with their work.”

Immersed in the burgeoning scene herself, Nissen was friends with most of the people she photographed. This created a unique trust and comfort for her subjects to act naturally, injecting a biting sense of humor and extravagant body language into her photographs. There are also elements of formal portraiture evocative of work by Richard Avedon; like Avedon, Nissen sometimes prints her portraits framed with rough outlines of thick black ink that give them an unconventional edge.

“I can see that these are also documentary pictures because they include elements of Los Angeles that have disappeared,” concludes Nissen. “The Tropicana Motel, bars and cocktail lounges, newsstands, nightclubs, the street life on Hollywood Boulevard, boutiques run by and for punks, burger stands, phone booths – these things are gone today, and they represent an aspect of L.A. history that shouldn’t be forgotten. The entire city had the familiarity of a neighborhood then, and that’s no longer the case. L.A. is my home, though, and I’ll always remain loyal to it; I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

When Nissen left Slash she embarked on a career in the record industry, working as a photographer and graphic designer for the four major labels – Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Virgin, and A&M – for more than two decades.

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Graded on a Curve: Blondie,
Parallel Lines

Celebrating Clem Burke in advance of his 67th birthday tomorrow.Ed.

A bit of history: When Blondie signed on with Australian producer Mike Chapman (of Chapman and Nicky Chinn glam rock fame) to record their 1978 breakthrough LP Parallel Lines, little did they know what they were in for. Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, and the rest of the band had a rather punk attitude towards the studio, and everything else for that matter; as Chapman noted later, “They were really, really juvenile in their approach to life—a classic New York underground rock band—and they didn’t give a fuck about anything. They just wanted to have fun and they didn’t want to work too hard getting it.”

Chapman the perfectionist called Blondie “hopelessly horrible” and explained his attitude towards the sessions in frankly dictatorial terms: “I basically went in there like Adolf Hitler and said, ‘You are going to make a great record, and that means you are going to start playing better.’” And they did. The result was a landmark record that everybody should own but you know what? I really kind of miss the hopelessly horrible band that gave us Parallel Lines’ predecessor, Plastic Letters.

Sure, Plastic Letters lacks the gloss of Parallel Lines’ disco-inflected “Heart of Glass” and a song quite as catchy as “Hanging on the Telephone,” but it possesses the same gritty and off-kilter NYC charm as the first recordings by the Dictators and the Ramones. Spies, strange happenings in the Bermuda Triangle, and cheating at poker by means of telepathy—Plastic Letters may be an imperfect recording, but boring it ain’t.

That said, Parallel Lines is still loads of fun, and retains that good old punk spirit on such numbers as “Hanging on the Telephone” (love Harry’s New Yawk squawk), “One Way or Another” (great chainsaw riff meets manhunt disguised as love song), and the belligerent closing track, “Just Go Away,” which boasts wonderful shouted backing vocals and really snotty vocals by Harry. And then there’s the pneumatic “I Know But I Don’t Know,” which features some great vocals by an unnamed member of the band, who accompanies Harry and sounds about as New York, New York as they come.

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