ANALOG ADVENTURES: Les pioneers du rock

I get a lot of random records, tapes, and books in the mail, because publicists forget that outlets for which I used to work aren’t around anymore, or someone finds the address hidden on my website, or… whatever. This is a way to keep them from piling up uselessly in the corner of the office.

The self-released album Spells + Rituals from Charming Disaster is exactly what that candle-lit spell circle on the cover insinuates: neo-noir folk goth stuff. You’d expect to hear this after the Handsome Family track from True Detective‘s first season on a playlist, basically. The tempo’s pretty medium, which is a bit of a drag, but it occasionally livens up, a la “Devil May Care,” which is more a rag than the blues which dominates the album.

Were that Spells + Rituals came with a lyric sheet, because Charming Disaster needs drunken sing-alongs. The great cover art, as well as the creepily-perfect font choice on the rear of the jacket make Charming Disaster’s LP definitely an eye-catching collection, and when you open it up, the audiophile vinyl comes in one of those anti-static sleeves, too. It’s a class act all around.

You can get Spells + Rituals, along with what looks to be a fancy-schmancy lyric book, on a variety of formats at Bandcamp.

Speaking of class acts, ORG Music’s 20th anniversary release of Playtime, the debut album from David Hillyard & the Rocksteady Seven, was maybe the release I’ve been most excited about in a good long while. I’m surprised this gem’s never made it to LP before, but I’m guessing the 1999 Hellcat Records CD never really blew up the charts, since this is way more akin to the Skatalites than Operation Ivy. It’s super-jazzy stuff; look at that cover art, and you know there’s going to be a ’60s bebop feel to all of this, even if you have absolutely no clue as to what rocksteady is.

The reissue sounds amazing, and comes through my headphones even more fully than the original CD version. Sadly, Playtime‘s vinyl release omits “Thursday Night Stomp” and “Sidney’s Ghost,” the latter of which is a reprise of the opening cut, “Sidney’s March,” and maybe even does it one better in terms of execution. The vinyl color almost matches the color of the cover, though, so I guess that’s something? It is kind of mad impressive, and fuck it —they included the cover of “Norweigian Wood,” which still knocks my socks off and finds its way onto mixtapes alongside Booker T & the MGs’ take on “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” It’s a must-own for fans of ’60s ska, jazz, etc. Get it, nerds.

You can pre-order Playtime on black vinyl from MerchNow.

I was less-impressed with the album You Know, by Jaco. Released by Cornelius Chapel Records, the album sounds like ’80s power pop records mixed with early ’90s alt rock. It’s like that time when “college rock” became “alternative” music, but sounds like it’s been recorded and rebroadcast through a pitch-shifted turntable or warbly tape deck. The synth on cuts like “Blackboard” is pretty fun, but everything on You Know is too hazy for power pop and too clean for psych rock, making this an LP which uneasily straddles a subgenre divide.

There’s a download code included, and I absolutely hate all aspects of the artwork. The font’s awful, the cover looks cheap, and if there’s anything that says “we didn’t really care about this,” it’s transferring CD back cover art and not taking 10 minutes to do “Side A” and “Side B” numbering. This all looks terrible, to the point where it might’ve prejudiced me against the music, if I’m being honest.

To continue on in the ’90s alt-rock worship, let’s talk about Onesie’s album, Umpteenth, on Dadstache Records. That worship is evidently in right now, it seems. This is more of the quietly quirky level; think the Rugburns’ or the Wildhearts’ more toned down moments. The riffs are big and crunchy, but not overwhelming, and there’s no yelly or screamy moments. It feels like White Reaper or Diarrhea Planet took some edibles.

Listen, I know that’s a lot of references, but that’s just something you’ll have to deal with. This is every pretty damn good local band of the last 20 years. They draw pretty damn well, I imagine, but don’t necessarily do more than headline a club, or maybe open some really good touring shows at the big theater.

You can buy Umpteenth at Bandcamp. There’s a really fancy tri-color limited edition of 100, too.

A band local to me is Kansas City’s Salty, whose Dry Rub is out now on cassette from What’s For Breakfast Records. More cassettes for the column would be dope, by the way. Anyhow, I met Salty’s frontman Jonathan Brokaw sitting behind Dave’s Stagecoach in Westport one Record Store Day, where we were watching bands play in parking lot while getting day drunk. It was super.

The band, though? Warbly-yet-catchy Spits/Devo garage punk, and continuing the trend of all of JB’s projects being impressive (see also: All Blood), but the weirdness of Salty’s Dry Rub makes for a way more fun time. Case in point: you think the title track’s fading out into the sound of a bong rip, when it turns into a lawn mower. The songs are surfy, but oddly dirge-like, thanks to the synths. It feels like the score to Slime City was a punk band.

The tape comes with a download code, a What’s For Breakfast sticker, and JB threw in a copy of Salty’s Live at the Sprint Center cassette, which is a collection of old demos with crowd noise and stage banter overdubs. Like I said: it’s weird and fun.

You can buy Dry Rub on CD from What’s For Breakfast, but the tape isn’t officially available yet.

Finally: I did a feature on Lotuspool Records last summer and hung out drinking cocktails with the label’s Chris Garibaldi, along with Mark Henning of Zoom/Voice of Action and W. David Keith. It was an absolute blast, and now Garibaldi randomly emails me and asks if he can send over new releases. Thus, we have this package.

The forthcoming Suneaters III compact disc violates the very concept and premise of this column, but there’s something to be appreciated in the tri-fold digipack, which also includes the album on a business-card sized thumb drive. It also rocks sauce in a rumbly, early ’90s indie vibe and I totally dig it. Track four, “Come Alone,” is a stone-cold jam suitable for those who want a lurching number halfway between the Minutemen and Superchunk.

Also, the self-titled debut from Henning’s Voice of Action is super chill, but still pretty powerful. His old band Zoom’s sophomore album, Helium Octipede, got remastered and pressed to vinyl last year, packaged to look like a French album you’d find in a weird bargain bin. It resembles a comp I have, entitled Les pioneers du rock vol. 3, actually. It’s nice to have a replacement for my beat-to-shit compact disc, and it sounds head and shoulders better, as well.

The liner notes are bonkers, but sum up the special appeal of the band. To whit: “When I followed their trail I’d find them stuffed in the stacks of sound, diligently studying the curve of the headstock, the spine of rebellion pinched between notes of sex, knee deep in pastel sketches of energy and hungering for undetected daredevils.”

There’s also a download code. The final installment of the package was an actual, honest-to-goodness brand new 8-track tape from Zoom entitled Rockin’ in Rio. I have absolutely no way to play it, but it looks amazing, and I appreciate its existence in every way possible.

Buy all the Zoom stuff at Bandcamp.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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