Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

Friday, February 8, 2019

Audiolore's TOP 20 Best Hardcore/Punk Records of All-Time

 A few years back Rolling Stone magazine posted an article  "40 Greatest Punk Albums of All-Time" and of course everyone tore it apart. (The  article is here). Soon everyone online was posting and blogging about their picks.One of my favorites was this one by Tim Sommer

Of course I wanted to join in. The only problem was I had no computer at the time. So my list was assembled, reordered, had bands added and omitted over and over again my head but was never typed out anywhere. By the time my computer was up and running, the Rolling Stone article and all it's following angry rebuttal posts were long gone. My picks had never been considered,

Then a little while ago while at gym each day I watched and re-watched a bunch of documentaries about hardcore/punk acts, scenes, etc. Soon that list from a couple years ago was back in my head. I figured why not just put it out there now. The only difference is I am focusing more on the "hardcore" side of punk here. 

As ridiculous as it may sound. when i make lists like this I give myself rules. The big one is "No Compilations" (I/m looking at you "Minor Threat  Complete Discography!). Everything has to be an individual release of new music. 

Second Rule: Albums. EPs, and Singles are eligible to be on the list.

Also, just to make the list a little more interesting, I omitted some really obvious ones.

So without further delay. here is my picks for: 

The 20 Best Hardcore/Punk Records of All-Time

19 -Monster X - To the Positive Youth 7” (Gloom Records) - Albany’s Monster X was a band that played good straight edge hardcore with grindcore vocals. Maybe the only band to successfully pull this off. To The Positive Youth is 7" single composed entirely of covers of classic youth crew and straight edge songs, It may seem strange that I would include and EP of hardcore cover songs (two of which are off of other releases on this list) but it is that good with many of them rivaling the originals(Available on Youtube here )

18 – Crucial Youth – Posi-Machine LP (1988, New Red Archives Records)- A funny thing happened when New Jersey's Crucial Youth tried to release a hardcore parody record: They actually produced a good hardcore/punk album. Even though the 21 songs on Posi-Machine cover such topics as how caffeine is bad ("Caffeine), the importance of brushing your teeth ("Positive Dental Outlook"), the importance of having a balanced diet ("4 Food Groups"), or many other lessons, the album also contains some of the best hardcore riffs and wide ranged vocals I have ever heard on any punk record. (Still available through New Red Archives Records, with a few of their singles and "Crucial Yule" and on most listening platforms. Here it is on Youtube. Prepare to be informed)

17-Life Sentence – S/T LP (1986, Walkthrufyre Records) – Life  Sentence's sound was not too different from the strict regimen hardcore sound of California's Uniform Choice, but with a definite Chicago punk grittiness ala The Effigies or Naked Raygun. A lot of fans think the band tried to write more complicated songs and maybe went a little metal on their second album No Experience Necessary (which I surprisingly found in a clearance section at Borders) but I don't really hear too much of a difference. Well, except that the songs are not quite as good. (Available on YouTube here or for download at the Blogged and Quartered website Here)

16- I Hate You - Prime Directive 7" EP(1997, Punk Uprising Records)- When the band was around I never really to get a straight answer or find out real evidence of this Philadelphia band was really a militant or a joke/satire band. But this 10 song 7” EP (Yes just a 7”) has some of the best riffs and best lyrics about anti-smoking, drinking, drugs, etc. I never got the chance to see them live but I heard a lot of their shows ended up pretty bloody (Available as part of their Discography compilation on Apple Music, Spotify, the band's Bandcamp here)

15-Four Walls Falling - Culture Shock LP (1991, Jade Tree)- Perfect mixture of hardcore and SoCal style skate rock. Awesome hooks, a few solos, and on point sociopolitical lyrics. I never really got the hang of skateboarding but I always thought this album would make the perfect soundtrack for it. Their next album Food for Worms was a serious departure in sound, so proceed carefully. I saw a reunion show they did in College Park circa 2000. Everyone was very surprised they played songs off of it. (Available from Jade Tree Records, all listening platforms, and YouTube here)

14 – Beyond – No Longer At Ease LP (1989,Combined Effort Records)- I never thought I could like a band that uses slap bass. It's just a little bit but there is some on this album. For a long time the  Long Island band Beyond's material was very hard to find. I never even actually heard the band until a song of theirs ("Vitality") ended up on a  compilation of NYHC bands. Then in 1997 Some Record reissued No Longer at Ease and I finally got the chance to hear the album in it's entirety. Very good NYHC with a lot of breakdowns. The only thing is, like the band's name implies, they just took it a little beyond the genre, adding elements of metal There is even some funk in the form of that slap bass. Singer Kevin Egan would go on to the 1.6 Band, drummer Alan Cage would go on to Burn and Quicksand, bassist Tom Capone would go on to Quicksand, and guitarist Vic DiCara would play in Inside Out (with some guy name Zach De La Rocha) and 108. Available from Revelation Records,on all listening platforms, or YouTube here.

13 - No For An Answer - You Laugh 7” (1988, Revelation
Records) - NFAA were very fast, almost to the point of being grindcore. Plus singer Dan O’Mahoney wrote ( and still does in his present bands) some of the best straight edge, no drugs, and don’t drink and drive lyrics out there. They would slow down significantly on their debut album Thought Crusade but still retain the same topics in their lyrics. This EP's "Without A Reason" was covered on the Monster X 7: EP listed before (Available from Revelation Records, all listening platforms, and YouTube here)

12- Gray Matter - Take it Back LP (1986, Dischord Records) - This often overlooked DC punk band's singer Jeff Turner writes some of the best hooks in all the bands he’s been in (he was the singer of 3, the short lived band who did that song “Swann Street” people know and so many bands cover). The band featured two ex-members of Iron Cross in Dante Fernando (also partial owner of the Black Cat in DC) on drums, Mark Haggerty on guitar, and Iron Cross roadie Steve Niles on bass. It's pretty ironic since Gray Matter's fast semi melodic punk is so far removed from the hardcore street punk of Iron Cross. I only got to see Gray Matter once and it was at the 9:30 Club Tenth Anniversary show where almost every DC band played one cover song. If anyone was there and remembers what song they played, please let me know. (Available on one CD with their follow up Food For Thought from Dischord Records,all listening platforms, and YouTube here)

11- Born Against - s/t 7”(1990, Vermiform Records) The thing that separates Born Against from so many other hardcore bands of the era is you can still hear the influence of NYHC bands like Agnostic Front and Life’s Blood (a band some of Born Against's members has been in), but you can also hear some of the emerging newer hardcore punk sound coming out too. This mixed with singer Sam McPheeter sarcastic lyrics make for a band that would soon influence so many bands for years to come. Even though they released many singles and an album or two, this EP is where everything gelled together perfectly. (Available as part of their Rebel Sound of Shit and Failure singles compilation on Apple Music or Spotify, or by itself on YouTube here)

10-White Flag - Wild Kingdom (1987, Positive Force
Records)– I always thought of LA's The Chiefs as a more faster and harder version of The Descendents. Their album Holly West Crisis almost made this list. But on the other end of the spectrum I always thought beginning on Wild Kingdom White Flag moved away from the hardcore sound of their previous albums and became a more glam Descendents. They also aren't afraid to show off their influences by covering The Beatles, Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult, KISS, and The Saints alongside their awesome originals "Instant Breakfast", "Suicide King", and my favorite, "Butterfly Revolution".( Available on Spotify, but beware, the song titles and the tracks are all mixed up. Also available on YouTube here ).

9 -Life’s Halt - We Sold Our Souls for Rock in Roll 7” EP (1998, Youngblood Records)- Life's Halt was the perfect mixture of the youth crew Of Youth Of Today and the proto-powerviolence ( I think I just made up a new genre) of Infest. I saw them at the Sidebar in Baltimore, along with the almost equally great Carry On, circa 2000 and the urgency by every member the band on each song was just just seriously out of control (It can be downloaded with the rest of their discography at the Blogged and Quatered website Here or listned to on YouTube here)

8 - Die Kreutzen - Cows and Beer 7” (1982, Version Sound) - The band's name translated to "The Cross" but they aren't a Christian
band. This EP  was recorded when the band was fast, rough, and very punk sounding. Before singer Dan Kubinski's vocals would reach out of this world levels on their debut album. There was definitely no sight of the college rock sound the band would produce just a few albums down down the line. There also aren't any songs about farm animals or alcoholic beverages. The EP's title is more of a joke on what their home state of Wisconsin was known for. The original Version Sound release is $210 on Discogs (some records on this list actually go for tons more) but it is more affordably available tacked on to the end of their Gone Away CD (where they also do a great cover of The Germs'" Land of Treason") or by itself on Beer City Records. You can also listen on Youtube here)

7-Corrosion of Conformity - Six Songs with Mike Singing EP (1985, Caroline Records)-Eye for an Eye is an awesome album. Still my favorite of their full lengths. But singer Erik Eyker vocals also sound just a little painfully uncomfortable. It’s probably the whole point but I think it was on the following release where Mike Dean took over vocals was where the band hit it's hardcore/punk heights. You could hear the thrash of the next two albums (one with Mike singing, one without) broiling underneath (but thankfully not the southern fried stoner rock of 1994 and on C.O.C.) but to my ears Six Songs with Mike Singing is total hardcore/punk (You can find this EP tacked on to the end Eye for an Eye on Apple Music, Spotify, or can be listned on YouTube here)

6-Ill Repute – What Happens Next? LP (1984, Mystic Records)
– Super fast, awesome hardcore/punk out of Oxnard, California (Nardcore) with surprisingly positive lyrics. Most the lyrics like the ones in "Sleep Walking", "Book and It's Cover" and "It's Not Gonna Happen to Me" deal with finding your own identity in the world. Available on all listening platforms, sometimes with the "Next" changed to "Then" and on YouTube here ). Be forewarned: starting with the 1994 album Big Rusty Balls the band became more of a rockin' melodic punk band. Still good stuff though

5-Last Rights 7” (1984, TAANG! Records) - Ex- Negative FX(Although I could be mixing up the order of the bands) and pre- Slapshot Boston band that was actually so much more than just a hardcore/punk band. Listen to the lead off guitar on the first song "Chunks", later covered impressively by their fellow Mass, band Dinosaur  Jr. The band actually only played one show. This 7" Ep was TAANG! Records second release. (Available with a few extra tracks and the almost as great Negative FX album on most listening platforms. Here it is on YouTube)

4- Half Off - The Truth LP (1987, New Beginnings Records) – Southern California's Half Off has always been a slight mystery to me. Still to this day I have never found a copy of this album "in the wild" and have had to rely on taped copies or mp3s found online. I have not had a chance to read any info on the insert. What I do know is the band does the an awesome job combining the SoCal hardcore sound of bands like No For An Answer and Uniform Choice with the hardcore punk sound of Boston bands like Jerry's Kids. Surprisingly unlike other SoCal hardcore bands like Uniform Choice or Insted, the lyrics, sung by singer Bill Rubin (who would go on to the more metal Haywire) are not very positive at all and often critical of the hardcore/punk/straight edge scene. Especially on song #8 "Rain on the Parade", which on a side note is where the Pennsylvania band Rain on the Parade took their name from. (Available to listen to on Youtube Here)

3-Straight Ahead - Breakaway 12”(1987, I Risk Records) - Hands down the best NYHC record. Only a little over 6 minutes in total but every second of it taken up by perfect positive lyrics, gang vocals, and hardcore breakdowns. They even manage to throw in a few guitar solos. The band featured Craig “Ahead” Setari (Later Of Agnostic Front and Sick of it All) Rob Escaverria (later of Rest in Pieces and Helmet) and Armand Majidi (of Rest in Pieces and Sick of it All), although I am not sure if Armand played on this EP. Straight Ahead's song "Straight Ahead" is one of the covers on the Monster X single. (Avilaible on YouTube here or for download on the Blogged and Quartered website here)

2-Faith/Void - Split LP (1982, Dischord Records)- I have to admit
I listen to the Void side an awful lot more than the Faith side. I’ve actually worn out multiple copies on vinyl and compact disc. But that is because Void’s sound was so unlike anyone else. Total fast, blistering guitars. Inhuman vocals. They also happen to be from my hometown of Columbia, MD, so that made them even cooler. Faith is also very good hardcore. Not much of the more emo sound that would begin to come out on their following Subject to Change LP, where Minor Threat and (future) Fugazi front man Ian Mackaye would take over vocals from his brother Alex and the band took part in creating a whole new genre as Embrace. (Still available from Dischord on CD with Faith's Subject to Change LP on most listening platforms or Youtube here

1 - Poison Idea - Feel The Darkness LP (1990, Vinyl Solution/American Leather Records) - More rockin’ than the Portland, Oregon band's earlier more hardcore stuff which makes most these lists. They do manage to keep some of the Germs influence. But the band finally got some good production. Songs like "Plastic Bomb", "Deep Sleep", "Gone for Good", well, pretty much all 13 of the tracks come bulldozing out of the speakers at you. The most powerful track on the album of course is song #3 "Just to Get Away". I always thought of the total "fuck the world" song as Poison Idea's signature song. The great news is after being unavailable for so long (not sure why because the last label it was on was Epitaph) TKO Records has brought it back in print and also made the album available on Spotify. You can also listen on YouTube here

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Coming Clean or Ten Bands/Artists I Wish I Liked More Than I Do

Most people know there are three major bands whose music I am not a fan of at all: Led Zeppelin, Rush, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I won't get into specifics about what I don't like about each band's music, although in the case of RHCP it should be obvious, but after all these years I am secure in my feelings towards them.
There are however a couple bands and artists I am not secure in my feelings about. There are some bands and artists that for reasons such being so influenical or supportive to bands I do like, or bands that have overcome hardships to make good music, or even bands that just have an overall reputation of being nice guys. I just feel really bad about not liking their music.
Here are Ten of Them

Guided by Voices - the quintessential music geek band. I recently went through all their albums, eps, singles etc on Spotify, oldest to newest making a playlist of songs I liked.There ended up being 39 of them. 13 of the, from the Under the Bushes Under the Stars album.This is also the only album by them I have owned a physical copy of but even that was because I found a copy among a bunch of promos that were supposed to go to a much larger local chain store with initials K.M..39 might seem like a decent number of songs but too put it into little perspective Guided By Voices has hundreds of albums, eps, etc. So that's 39 out of about 400 songs.

The Fall - Probably my biggest disappointment in not liking a band since they are so seminal and influenced so many bands I do enjoy. I tried the Guided By Voices Spotify trick and ended up with one song on the playlist: Their cover of The Kinks "Victoria",which I knew I liked years ago when it was on 120 Minutes making me rush out to buy all those Fall albums I would later be selling back to the used record store. 

The Jesus and Mary Chain - I loved their feedback drenched debut album Psychocandy since the first day I heard it after hearing the band on theSome Kind of Wonderful soundtrack. Unfortunately I think the next two albums Darklands and Automatic were just the band trying to make more accessible versions of their debut. I honestly lost interest in them after that so I can't really comment of the next couple of records. But Psychocandy  (and the b-sides comp Barbed Wired Kisses) will always be in my regular rotation

Pavement - Their debut album Slanted and Enchanted is awesome (Surprisingly very influenced by The Fall too) I think I wore out multiple copies of the album. I was also lucky enough to see them on that tour and will always be happy I got to see them before they blew up. Except for that album and about half the songs off of the follow up Crooked Rain,Crooked Rain, I just can't get into them. They sound so...lazy and disinterested in what they are playing. I know that's kind of their thing but it's not mine 

Johnny Cash - The cat is really out of the bag for this one. I really like his
history and I made sure to visit Sun Studios when I was in Memphis. I think I even wore black for a year because I thought it was so cool he dressed that way. But when it comes down to it, the songs I like by him would take up half of a 90 minute cassette, with most of the songs recorded before 1960. I know his sound is supposed to be like the rhythm of a train or something but it's just a little to slow for me. When I listen, I just want to give him a little push.Those songs just make me want to give him a push to speed it up. Also I really can't stand his version of "Hurt" 

New York Dolls - I may be the only person who’s prefers David Johanson in his Buster Poindexter persona over his work as vocalist for the New York City proto-punk/glam band. There is something about their sound that I just find too basic and kind of boring. David Sounds like a second rate Mick Jagger (Although I have seen some early live footage where his voice sounds pretty powerful) and Johnny Thunders sounds so held back on guitar compared to what he would go to do in the Heartbreakers and (where I think he sounded the best) the short lived Gang War. I think the New York Dolls fall under one of those bands if I had heard them when their first album came out (which was 6 months after I was born) I would appreciate them a lot more. Now I have heard too many bands influenced but also that expanded on their sound. But there is always a chance my opinion may change. Johnny Thunders, with the Heartbreakers and solo, never really clicked with me until a few years ago. Now I listen to L.AM.F. and Gang War non-stop

Shudder to Think - Maybe as not near as a household name as the others on this list but growing up in the D.C.. area I always wanted to like the band more than I did. Their first couple releases I like a lot. They still sounded punk but with a lot of melody. Kind of like a more melodic, less intense Rites of Spring. But by the time Get Your Goat came out the "groove" was gone and the herky jerky "art-rock" had crept in. Over their next few albums they were probably one of the best bands out there but still to arty and choppy for me. I saw them circa 1993 at Maxwells in Hoboken and all though they did play "Red House" off of  Funeral at the Movies, what I remember most of the show was singer Craig Wedron reciting poetry between each song, which held the whole audience in awe and me looking at my watch to see how much time we had left on the meter 

Gang of Four - My favorite Gang of Four album is 1990's Mall. If you ask most Gang of Four fans they will pan
this album. Too be totally honest it really is not too special but I like it for nostalgic reasons, having been one of the first albums I purchased on compact disc

Public Image Ltd - We recently saw a documentary on John Lyndon and his post Sex Pistols band Public Image Ltd, or P.I.L. for short, at the TriBeCa Filmfest. Not only was the film pretty bad (it was a TrBeCa filmfest movie after all) but it made me realize how uneventful the band's career has been. So many people rave and rave about how awesome their second album, 1979's Second Edition (also known as Metal Box). I've tried many many times over the years and although guitar player Keith Levine's and bassist Jah Wobble turn in awesome performances, I just can't get past John Lydon's voice. Although it was perfect for The Sex Pistols, it just doesn't fit this music.

The Residents - The way this band got their name is one of my favorite “how the band got their name” stories. Years ago the band sent out a demo tape to a record label. The return label didn’t have a name on it so when the label sent back the rejected tape they addressed it to “The Residents”. Unfortunately that is all I like about the band. I mean I like the idea and history of the band. They’ve been around for 40+ years and no one knows their true identities because they wear those big eyeballs over their heads, which by the way seriously creep me out. But out of their zillion releases I can't bear one song. Someone told me once that that is the point. It's "Anti-Music). It;s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. Why would you want to listen to something like that?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Spring is here. The sun is shining and biking season is in full effect. For me this means it's time to dust off those harmony and hook filled Pop/Punk Lp's, CD, and Mp3's to smile and sing along while on bike rides around the city. 

Here are what what I consider-

The Top-15 Pop/Punk Albums of All-Time (with a Spotify Playlist w/ two songs from each album at the bottom of the post)
15) Sicko – Laugh While You Can Monkey Boy (1995, eMTy Records) – Washington State's Sicko debut album You Can Feel the Love In the Room will always be in my Top-25 favorite albums of all time but that album is a little too fast and manic to really be considered Pop/Punk. Their second album Chef-Boy-R-U-Dumb was good but it was on their third album where the smiles and pop hooks really came out. Eleven original songs of punk/pop bliss, with a cover of (Canadian band) Cub's "Little Star". They do have some fun with the faux-metal of "Weasel of Doom" hidden at the end of the album.

14) Consumed – Pistold at and Dawn (2002, Golf Records) – I actually passed over this album when it was originally released since their two Fat Wreck Chords releases to me sounded like sup par Screeching Weasel or NoFX albums. This was a major mistake. Pistols contains some of the thickest pop hooks and funny sarcastic lyrics I have heard. There have been times when I have listend to this album three times in a row.
13) Smoking Popes – Born to Quit (1995, Capital Records) – It's a shame this Chicago band often gets deemed a "One Hit Wonder" since they never really put our a bad album. From the rougher more punk sounding Get Fired to the "reunion" albums of the 2000's The Smoking Popes perfected their own brand of "Low Self-Esteem" pop/punk that significantly influenced another band on this list. Yes "Need You Around" is on this album but so are nine other pop/punk gems.
12) The Dickies – Incredible Shrinking Dickies (1979, A&M Records)- Is it okay to like The Dickies again? To perfectly capture the who experience of this legendary California band you have to listn to one of their (many) compilation albums, but again I don't include compilations in these lists. Out of their individual albums their debut takes the prize since there are so many songs that defined their sound ("Give it Back", "You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla") and perfectly picked covers ("Sounds of Silence", "Paranoid")
11) The Get Up Kids - Something to Write Home About (1999, Vagrant Records) -Many people still consider The Get Up Kids an "Emo" band but I think by the time the Kansas City band released their second album Something to Write Home About all the "emo-ness" had been shed. Instead what is left is underappreciated pop/punk masterpiece.
10) Green Day – Dookie (1994, Reprise) – Of course Green Day would pop up on this list somewhere. Some people may feel their debut or Kerplunk! would be more deserving, and although Kerplunk! is definitely my favorite of their albums, Dookie is the pick since their debut was very good but still a little rough, and Kerplunk! is seriosuly brought down by the terrible "Dominated Love Slave". Their post Dookie albums I feel lean more to power/pop than punk. Plus when you think of the songs on this record tracks like "Basket Case", "When I Come Around", and "Longview" are always the first to come to mind. We often forget about such awesome numbers like "Coming Clean", "Sassafras Root", and the (better sounding than the version on Kerplunk! ) "Welcome to Paradise". I do have to add this album would be much higher on my list if it wasn't  for the terrible "All By Myself" that closes out the album
9) Chixdiggit! – S/T (1996, Sub Pop Records). A lot of people forget these Canadians released their first album on Sub Pop before settling on the Fat Wreck Chords owned label Honest Don's. This is actually one of the albums I have listened to the most out of any in my whole collection. Fifteen urgent songs in thirty minutes. Tons of fast guitars without a note our of place. Also almost every song mentions their mom..Such an upbeat fun album. Even when the band is trying to sound mean on "Angriest Young Men (We're The)" you have to smile while you sing along.
8) Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary (2001, Vagrant Records) – No I do not consider Alkaline Trio a pop/punk band but after they released two very good punk albums (Goddmmit and Maybe I'll Catch Fire) and before they began to form their "horror punk" image on the next album (my favorite Good Mourning) , they released a perfect pop/punk album in From Here To Infirmary. Pop hooks all over the place, with barely any horror lyrics in sight.
7) The Lillingtons – Death By Television (1998, Panic Button) – Although I am thanked on the Montana band's debut album Shit Out of Luck (they did a two night stint at my store on their first tour) I still think they really came into their own on the sophomore album Death By Television. Singer Cody's voice got stronger, the songs got faster, guitars got heavier, and the hooks got sharper. They also gained a more "sci-fi" theme to the songs after their first album dealt mostly with high school and girlfriends problems. After a couple more records Cody went on to sing for the pop/punk band Teenage Bottlerocket but The Lillingtons just got back together, released a new album and are touring at the end of the month.
6) The Undertones – S/T (1979, Sire)- On so many of these lists of best pop/punk albums I see people list Belfast's Stiff Little Finger's Inflammable Materials album listed. That is a great punk album but by no means is it a pop/punk album. But if you look a little west to Derry's The Undertones debut self-titled is one. "Family Entertainment", "Male Model", "Here Comes the Summer" "Get Over You" (which I first heard covered by another band on this list), and the seminal "Teenage Kicks", all delivered with singer Feargal Sharkey's one of a kind voice, pretty much invented the genre.  
5) Bracket - 924 Forrestville St (1994, Caroline) – Take the best song by Green Day and beef it up a bit. Take the best vocals of Stan Lee (Of The Dickies) and slow them down a bit. Add more hooks than almost any other band, make the music LOUD and you may get something close to the California band Bracket. Their debut album clocks it at a whopping (for a pop/punk album) 40 minutes but doesn't contain one note of filler. Definitely an underrated album by an underrated band. The album isn't available on Spotify or Apple Music (some of their other albums are) but try to find a copy or check it out on YouTube.
4) The Parasites – Pair of Sides and Punch Lines – (1990 and 1993, Shredder Records)- This will be the only time on the list where I cheat and list two albums together since both of them are equally awesome. Although The Parasites are now based in California, these two albums where released when the band was located in New Jersey. Fittingly so since when you listen to all the hook and harmony filled songs of these two albums you can picture the band playing them over and over again perfecting them in a suburban home garage somewhere in the Garden State. "Let Down" at the end of Punch Lines is in my Top-10 favorite songs of all-time but make sure you listen to it all the way until the end. For the full effect search out the rougher sounding version on the 7" version.  
Bayside – Sirens and Condolences (2004, Victory Records) – Bayside at this point in their career was a hard band to describe because they were so heavy, had so many hooks, thick riffs, and pretty somber vocals and lyrical subject matter. To me they sounded like the perfect mixture of Jawbreaker and The Smoking Popes.Everyone of the eleven songs on Sirens is perfect. They cheered up a bit on subsequent albums. 
3) The Mr T Experience – Making Things With Light (1990 Lookout! Records) – In my opinion The Mr T Experience sounded the best when they had two guitarists. Once Jon Von left the band in 1992 the band just didn't have the FULL sound. Plus the song or two Jon Von sang on each album were sorely missed. Wen he was in the band, they were in a league of their own. The third album Making Things With Light was where everything gelled together perfectly. The hooks and riffs are there, the two guitarists play off each other perfectly, and singer Dr Frank's lyrics are funny as hell. He even sings a song in pig Latin. Side note: I bought this album the same day I bought Nirvana's Bleach album. Years later I would realize they bother contained cover of the Dutch band Shocking Pink. MTX does" Postcard" and Nirvana "Love Buzz.
2) Discount – Half Fiction (1999, Kat Records) – These days Alison Mosshart is mostly known for being the singer of The Kills or the Jack White project The Dead Weather. But before she moved to London and became VV she sang crisp vocals for Florida's Discount. Discount release three albums (and an ep of Billy Bragg songs) but while all three are great their most infectuos collection is 1999's Half Fiction. Not a clunker among the fifteen tracks.

1) The Queers – Love Songs for the Retarded (Lookout! Records 1993) Now this album in my opinion hands down is the best pop/punk album ever released. For the duration of the sixteen songs there is not one note out of place.
It's definitely not The Queers most punk. That would probably be their debut album Grow Up. It's also not their most poppy album. That would probably go to 1996's Don't Back Down. That album is so filled with Beach Boys style harmonies they decided to name it after the Beach Boys song, which they also happen to cover on the album. It was Love Songs where the punk rock speed and attitude songs, like “You're Tripping”, “I Hate Everything”, or “Monster Zero”, are perfectly teamed up with the harmony filled pop songs like “Teenage Bonehead”, ”Debra Jean”, “Granola Head”,and “Daydreaming”. They also pull off some of the best tongue and cheek song titles and lyrics in “ Ursula Finally Has Tits”, Fuck the World”, and “I Can't Stop Farting”, But what more would you expect from a band who picked their name to piss off the locals in their hometown of Portsmouth, NH. Oh, and lets not forget the VERY un-P.C. name of the album. 

Honorable Mentions: 

Screeching Weasel - Anthems for a New Tomorrow (Lookout Records, 1993) - Screeching Weasel is just a little too angry to crack the top 15
The Ergs - DorkRockCorkRod (Whoa Oh Records, 2004) - Very good album but contains a few clunker/filler songs

 Link to Spotify Playlist: Top Pop/Punk Albums of All-Time (In My Opinion)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Feelies - Time for a Witness (Out of the Vaults #25)

Every once in awhile ..well you know the drill

Where as most 14/15/16 year olds may have written fan letters to their sports players, actors, or pop music idols, I wrote letters to members of indie rock bands. Yeah, my music geek roots run pretty deep.

I would get the addresses of the LP jackets or cassette inserts, write out carefully handwritten letters, seal them, send them out and wait patiently for replies.

I can't remember exactly how I first heard of the Hoboken,New Jersey band  The Feelies but it probably has to do with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck co-producing their 1986 The Good Earth album. Soon The Good Earth and 1988's Only Life, the only two Feelies records I was aware of at that time, were two of my favorite albums,always in heavy rotation.

Along with The Feelies, at the time two of my favorite indie rock discoveries at the time were Boston's Galaxie 500 who had just released the awesome On Fire album, and New Zealand's The Chills. One day I decided the three bands would be the next victims of my music geek letter writing.

I never heard back from Galaxie 500 or The Chills, I chalked it up to the
former being busy on tour and the latter's letter getting lost somewhere overseas en route to New Zealand.

But The Feelies actually wrote back. The letter was written by drummer Stanley Demeski  He said that when he joined the band it was decided he would be the one responsible for all the fan mail the band received. He said my letter was their very first one.

In the letter he expressed how thrilled he and the rest of the band were that someone had taken the time to write to them. He included a Coyote Records press release for the band. It was in the press release that I first learned the band was taken from a device in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I made a mental note to pick up a copy at the Crown Books next to the Kemp Mill Records store in town. I also had no idea the band had actually all but split up in the early 80's , playing together in various musical project, before reforming and recording The Good Earth This was about when Stanley Demeski joined on drums,

The Feelies perforning in "Something Wild"
The press release also talked about the band's close affiliation to director Jonathan Demme. Their song “Too Far Gone” had appeared on the soundtrack to his movie Married to the Mob. The band even made an appearance in Demme's Something Wild as “the Willies”, playing live during the high school reunion. They preformed a couple songs including David Bowie's “Fame”. I would go on to look for an actual recording of that song for years

One of the most important thing the press release informed  me (and plus radio stations and live venues the release was intended for) of was that The Feelies actually had another album. Their debut album Crazy Rhythms was originally released in 1980 but at the point the press release was written it was long out of print. Even then the album was considered a classic. I would go on to try and find a decently priced copy. Finally in 1990 A&M rereleased it on compact disc 

In 1991 I had the opportunity to by my first "new" album by The Feelies when they released Time for a Witness,

The music found on the disc really broke no new ground but
"Sooner or Later" promo 12"
it was by far a disappointment either. Time for a Witness has some awesome revved up songs toward in "Waiting" at track 1, with it's smooth guitar groove during the chorus, "Time for a Witness" with a slight jangle added track, and "Sooner of Later, containing one of my favorite lyrics ("I don't know what's up ahead, Don't think too much, it'll hurt your head") at track 3. 

The band also continues paying tribute to their music
forefathers with the Velvet Underground influenced "Decide" at track 5 and early Rolliug Stones inspired "What She Said", as well what I thought as their totally own sound on "Invitation", a song that would fit perfectly right on The Good Earth

One big surprise of the album is "Doing it Again" at track 6. The song sound very similar to the Jackson Browne classic "Somebody's baby". I'm not sure if this was intended buy the band or just an accidental coincidence. I'm also surprised in all these years no one besides me has ever called the band out on it. 

Continuing to pay tribute to their influence (they covered The Velvet Underground's "What Goes On" on the previous album) The Feelies close the album with a amped up cover of The Stooges "Real Cool Time", which may have been the first time I was aware of hearing the classic but at the time pretty unavailable band 

Unfortunately Time for a Witness would be the last album the band would release, The band went on hiatus, Later reforming for post 2000 to play sporatic shows (I caught them in Battery Park opening for Sonic Youth on July 4th 2008) before releasing their Time for a Witness followup Here in 2011.

But The Feelies hiatus did not leave this now 18 year old music geek too upset because right around the same time both Galaxie 500 and The Chills called it a day too. Galaxie 50 's singer/guitarist Dean Warhem would form a new band with The Chills bassist Justin Harwood,  my old pen pal Stanley Demeski on drums. 

Years later Dean Warhem would retweet a tweet I made about an upcoming Luna concert. I consider it my long overdue reply.

The Feelies performing "Doin' it Again" on David Letterman in 1991