Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Joanna Duda's Keen

My latest Vinyl Anachronist music review is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one's a fascinating soundscape from Polish avant-garde composer Joanna Duda. You can read it here.

Monday, June 24, 2019

T.H.E. Show 2019--mbl Loudspeakers and Memory Lane

My latest show report from T.H.E. Show 2019 in Long Beach is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is about a beautiful system from the always intriguing mbl from Germany. You can read it here.

Luca Di Luzio's Globetrotter

My latest Vinyl Anachronist music review is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is Luca Di Luzio's Globetrotter, which mixes jazz with his Italian roots. You can read it here.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

T.H.E. Show 2019--A Reunion with Gene Rubin

My latest show report from T.H.E. Show 2019 in Long Beach is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one's about meeting up with Gene Rubin, my original high-end audio dealer. You can read it here.

T.H.E. Show 2019--PBN Audio Does It All

My latest show report from T.H.E. Show 2019 in Long Beach is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one's about PBN Audio, and an entire system put together by the great Peter Noerbaek. You can read it here.

T.H.E. Show 2019--PranaFidelity, Helius, E.A.R. and Furutech

My latest show report from T.H.E. Show in Long Beach is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is about a new brand--to me, anyway--PranaFidelity! You can read it here.

T.H.E. Show 2019--Vertere Acoustics, Wilson, GoldNote and Rutherford

My latest show report from THE Show 2019 in Long Beach is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This concerns a very surprising room--not just because Touraj Moghaddam and his amazing turntables were there, but because I finally fell in love with a Wilson Audio loudspeaker! You can read it https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2019/06/22/vertere-wilson-goldnote-rutherford-t-h-e-show-2019/?fbclid=IwAR10VCvdNWF7bEe_RgVaOrcwulNCiynonDQOSPsdE2jYelIFN4Kxw26akbs.

Friday, June 21, 2019

T.H.E. Show 2019--Von Schweikert Audio, Esoteric and MasterBuilt

My latest show report from THE Show 2019 is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one's about another stellar room featuring Von Schweikert Audio speakers...another Best Sound of Show? You can read it here.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Interplay Jazz Orchestra's On the Sunny Side

I don't know how it is where you live, but I'm getting tired of all this rain. For the first time ever, I've just received a text from the Emergency Broadcasting System warning me of flash flooding in my area--an area that isn't known for flooding. Luckily, I have some big band jazz here that's perfect for an early summer day where the weather is more conducive to building arks than playing in the sun. The Interplay Jazz Orchestra, based in Long Island, has just released their third album, On the Sunny Side, and as you can imagine it's chock-full of songs that are mostly cheerful and celebratory. It's an optimistic album, obviously, but since it features some of the most in-demand jazz musicians in New York, it swings like nobody's business.

That's important for someone like me, a sometimes sad-sack who often wants to wallow in the saddest music in the world in order to unlock the lost keys to happiness. If you're going to be happy all over the place, you better have some attitude and swagger spilling all over everything. That means you need talent, which is the whole reason for the Interplay Jazz Orchestra to exist. The talent here is overflowing, forgive the rainy day pun. While the focus on this album is lively, upbeat tunes such as The Carpenter's "Sing" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street," it's also a showcase for compositions from the band--trombonist Joey Devassy, trumpeters Gary Henderson and Damien Pacheco and sax player Chris Scarnato have all arranged some of the classics here. On the Sunny Side is even recorded in Long Island, just barely so, at the famous Bunker Studios in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

IJO is a big band, but it's also unusually tight and focused. A lot of that comes from the energetic arrangements that focus on a more happy mood I suppose--loose might sound like morose in the world of big band jazz. Plus it's hard to sound lugubrious with an ensemble that's so heavy on horns--six on various saxes, four on trombones and four on trumpets. Fortunately this is not a one-note performance, so to speak, and the band isn't just trying to cheer us all up. There are thoughtful moments, usually focused around Jay Orig's interludes on piano, and some of the songs are designed to show the other side of happiness such as Devassy's "Broken" and the album's closer, Henderson's "Lights Down Low."

That's okay, because even at my most manic I could never suffer through more than ten minutes of happy-slappy music at a clip. On the Sunny Side appears to abide by the old adage that you'll never appreciate the good times unless you've had some bad ones along the way. I'm thankful for that, and that's what makes this album a pleasure instead of an "Up with People" marathon. Happiness is rare, but it is deserved by everyone--even when those flood waters are rising and speeding past your window.

Avery Sharpe's 400

Avery Sharpe's 400: An African-American Musical Project is one of those sprawling and ambitious projects that fixes upon several points in history and brings them together, presenting a new perspective from a thoroughly artistic standpoint. Sharpe is a supremely talented bassist from Georgia, and he was inspired by Duke Ellington's premiere of Black, Brown and Beige: A Tone Parallel to the History of the American Negro, which occurred at Carnegie Hall back in 1943. The 400, of course, refers to the number of years that have passed since the forced arrival of the first African slaves to Virginia. Sharpe uses a large and constantly evolving ensemble, complete with choir, to follow the history of slaves in America, century by century.

Avery Sharpe is perhaps best known as the long-time bass player for McCoy Tyner; his sound is the driving force behind this project. He surrounded himself with some truly remarkable talent for 400, most notably Kevin Eubanks on guitar and his brother Duane on trumpet. There's a family structure throughout--the Rivera family, including Sofia, makes up half of the Extended Family Choir, which is led by Kevin Sharpe. That's the important element in 400--this could be an album of anger and resentment and hopelessness, but instead it's about love. Love of family, love of each other, love of ourselves.

This is not a hard pill to swallow. Much of 400 is supremely musical, with beautiful melodies, haunting themes and fascinating ideas. It moves chronologically and always reflects the times--"Colonial Life," "Antebellum," and "Harlem and the War to End All Wars." The final song is titled "500," which is an obvious reference to the future and where we'll be 100 years from now. There are constant cues from history to guide us along, gospel and spirituals of course, the waltzes of the slave owners, American folk music and ultimately jazz.

It's an understatement to say that anything in 400 is half-hearted. There is a purity in the message, a reinforcement of hope, that makes this project seem far more optimistic than it should be. The idea behind gospel music and spirituals was always the need to be uplifted, just as the message of jazz is to think and to put one and one together to make two. 400 reveals a thrilling level of kindness and unity and focus, and it's one of the most compelling contemporary jazz releases all year.

Onesie's Umpteenth

The mid-to-late nineties weren't that long ago, were they? When it comes to indie rock, the stuff that was being recorded 20 to 25 years ago sounds pretty much the same as the indie rock that's being recorded now, especially since so much of today's indie rock is based upon evoking a fixed time in rock's past, anywhere from the late '60s to what was happening just last year. (That was me being facetious.) Onesie, for some reason, is different. This guitar-based quartet is totally 1995. That's not the same distinctive observation as saying they're totally 1965 or even 1985, but their sound on their new album Umpteenth is clearly based on the Clinton years. They sound like Matthew Sweet. They sound like Teenage Fanclub. They sound like a lot of acts from that era who simply wanted to create a new type of straightforward pop-rock, one defined by smart lyrics and a cohesive sound.

How is that different? Well, Onesie seems as if they're being completely honest about what type of music they want to play. You get the feeling that these 11 tracks weren't meant to be a tribute to all those other bands who played tributes to Big Star. It's almost as if these four guys started rehearsing together and this is the natural, organic sound that came out. Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Ben Haberland, who has the kind of earnest voice that probably belongs to a guy your parents would like (providing, of course, that you parents were boomers like me), Onesie isn't interested in blazing new paths. They just want to charm you with a pure, musical and smart way to play this kind of rock, the kind you listened to and loved when you were younger.

While drummer Lee Madaus, bassist Zack Fanelli and guitarist Andrew Nelson are certainly essential to the Onesie equation, it's Haberland's words that lift these songs above the norm. His lyrics are more poetic than most--they certainly read well on the page, which is something you can't say about everyone out there. Not everyone would inject lines into their power-pop such as "What's your pitiful excuse for casting this Depardieu?" or "If your life is small, maybe that's the right size." Or, let me write it like this and see what you think:

In '87 driving over the Brooklyn Bridge
The scaffolding draped over Lady Libs
When she passed the torch to you, you dropped it

In fact, I can take any couplet, any verse from Umpteenth and write it down on the page and it will seem unusually literate and on point. While Onesie's music will certainly make you smile and remember what good music sounded like twenty years ago, it's the lyrics that will carry this band far--provided you're the type of music fan who also likes to read.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Doug MacDonald Quartet's Organisms

Man, I seems like forever since I've heard some good B-3 Hammond organ-based jazz. The Doug MacDonald Quartet's Organism almost slipped under my radar--it has such an unassuming album cover, and I think it's been in the review pile for months. It's not like I expect all organ jazz to feature a B3 on the cover or to have "ORGAN JAZZ" written in bold letters, but it just seems like I never get tired of this music. Some jazz genres, yeah, I do place them back in the queue because I'm not in the mood. But I'm always in a Hammond mood.

In this case, Doug MacDonald is not the organ player. He's the smooth electric guitarist you hear out front. The B3 is played by Carey Frank, who is one of those Hammond players who add a drone-like layer of texture to the proceedings, although he is given the chance to solo his butt off at least once every song. The rest of the quartet, sax player Bob Sheppard and drummer Ben Scholz, are synched up with the other two in an unassuming and gentle way--something you might not expect from a sax player. Organisms is a low-key album, smoothly integrated into a relaxed whole that feels like an afternoon spent drinking with an old friend.

Doug MacDonald's been around for a while--this is his 13th album as leader. This CD has been waiting around so long, in fact, that #14 has already arrived. If I wasn't such a geek about the B3 I'd be focused on the way MacDonald plays his guitar. Like Frank, he floats back and forth between the front edge of the stage and the background, always lending a quiet touch when the others are soloing. He is the leader, but it's not as obvious as you think. Each note outside of a solo is designed to coax the others to explore. That said, he does add a lot of texture to his notes from the tips of his fingers and always lets you know how's he's coming up with these great little riffs.

Organisms isn't a landmark album by any means, or a step in a new direction. There's a sense that these four musicians really like each other, and that the whole is incredibly rewarding because there are no lofty expectations. This is a breezy album that flies by like a pastel ghost, and it will put you in a fabulous mood if you love the Hammond B-3 as much as I do.

Richie Beirach and Gregor Huebner's Crossing Borders

It's strange that I don't necessarily think of Zoho Music when it comes to big band recordings. There's always an intimacy involved, a deeply personal story that's being told from the point of view of a musician/composer who was born in one place and now plays jazz in another. Pianist Richie Beirach and violinist Gregor Huebner have enlisted the help of the WDR Big Band in Germany for Crossing Borders, which sounds like a perfect title for a Zoho release. These two musicians have taken the idea of how politics divides us and they have created both a piano concerto and a violin concerto, plus a handful of smaller works, to straddle the fine line between jazz and classical music.

Both Beirach and Huebner were classically trained, so they have the chops to pull it off. What's remarkable about Crossing Borders, however, is how the original ideas within these compositions float eerily between that gray space between the genres and occasionally toss in something that sounds almost familiar. In Huebner's Violin Concerto No. 3, for example, there's a spot where the violinist (Huebner, of course) starts flirting with Arvo Part's Fratres and does an evocative approximation of Gidon Kremer's take on this ethereal and haunting theme. This is anything but traditional big band jazz, in other words.

After spending way too much of 2018 submerged in contemporary big band jazz, I started to search for performances in this genre that strayed from the norm. Even in the most ambitious works, there's a desire to punctuate big ideas with a wall of sound, usually led by copious brass. In Crossing Borders, those temptations are resisted with the most astonishing moments occurring within the deep silences and empty spaces between those flourishes. This is one of the main reasons why I like the WDR Big Band--they're always willing to sound different and to do something that hasn't been done before, at least by a big band jazz ensemble.

That means, of course, that this is another ambitious and exceptional release from Zoho Music, one that stands out from most contemporary jazz releases. There's a looseness to these performances, a sense that there are no boundaries and no rules. (The title is a strong indicator of the themes here.) But this isn't messy music in the least--the melodies are tight and the ideas musically pleasing. It's the unexpectedness of the structure of Crossing Borders that's so unusual, and so surprising.

Tom Culver at Duke's Place

If you're going to use "Duke's Place" in the title of your album, you'd better have the goods. That classic Ellington song is more than just a personal favorite--Colleen and I consider it our song. Duke Ellington has become an obsession of mine over the last few years, a result of a gentle straying from my be-bop origins into the masters of the Great American Songbook such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and many more. Vocalist Tom Culver takes the "Duke's Place" mantel seriously as well. He knows to play it straight, to perform it in a way that could be considered contemporary in Ellington terms. He doesn't try to approach Ellington's music from a new angle or a novel approach. He has a pure and heartfelt respect for these songs.

Culver, who is based in LA, has that easy and slightly raspy croon that works so well with classic numbers such as "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me," "Mood Indigo" and "I'm Just a Lucky So and So." Culver does so much more than merely sell the song, or suggest the idea that he's worthy enough to tackle these tunes. He sounds like a guy who's been singing Ellington for decades, and you'd better sit down and accept that. There's a flow to his vocals, a sense that he somehow goes into a trance and these lyrics just float out into the room.

Tom Culver at Duke's Place is so much more than just great and old-fashioned voice owning some of the greatest jazz ever composed. Produced by Mark Winkler, who's also well-known for his magic touch in the studio, this album also features an ensemble that might be familiar to you--pianists Rich Eames and Josh Nelson, drummer Kevin Winard, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Gabe Davis and sax player Ricky Woodard. There's a professionalism at play here, an idea that Culver's voice is the star and the only way to augment that is through impeccable performances from everyone else on stage. It's not a flashy group of musicians, it's an effective and well-chosen one.

Does it compare to all of the great Ellington LPs I have in my collection? That's not a fair question, of course. I think it's difficult to separate jazz performances from their historical significance, and there's a huge difference between creating something on the fly that is immortal and looking back on how a tune has evolved over the decades and putting forth your best effort. There is a flawless character to Duke's Place that might not supplant wild invention and daring, but sometimes it's quite enough to listen to a performer, like Tom Culver, who understands the material and how to interpret it correctly.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

T.H.E. Show 2019--Saturday's Highlights

I've just returned from Southern California after a very whirlwind sort of week. My Saturday update from T.H.E. Show 2019 in Long Beach has been up a couple of days at Part-Time Audiophile, but you can read it here.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

T.H.E. Show 2019--Friday's Highlights

Here's my highlights from the first day of The Home Entertainment Show in Long Beach, California, courtesy of Part-Time Audiophile. You can read it here.

The Voice That Is! Presents Vertere Acoustics

Here's my coverage of the Vertere Acoustics event hosted by The Voice That Is!, a Philadelphia-based high-end audio dealer, that happened last week. Doug White of TVTI is certainly one of the premier dealers in the US, and this was an extraordinary event. You can read it at Part-Time Audiophile by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Marton Juhasz's Discovery

Continuing this week's theme of international influences on jazz, my latest music review for Part-Time Audiophile is now live. This covers Hungarian drummer/composer Marton Juhasz and his exciting Discovery. You can read it here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Akira Tana and Otonowa's Ai San San

My latest Vinyl Anachronist music review, of Akira Tana'a new mashup of jazz and traditional Japanese folk music, is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. You can read it here.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Anthony Caceras' Something's Gotta Give

My latest Vinyl Anachronist music review for Part-Time Audiophile is now live. This one concerns bassist-singer Anthony Caceras--an unusual combination of roles for a jazz musician. You can read it here.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Tuomo Uusitalo's Stories from Here and There

My latest Vinyl Anachronist music review is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one's jazz from an intriguing composer from Finland, Tuomo Uusitalo. You can read it here.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Deborah Shulman's The Shakespeare Project

My latest Vinyl Anachronist music review is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is about Deborah Shulman's The Shakespeare Project, which sets Shakespeare's words to jazz. You can read it here.

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Vinyl Anachronist #127 Now Online at Perfect Sound Forever

My latest Vinyl Anachronist column for Perfect Sound Forever is now online. This one's about the return of the 7" single among independent record labels. You can read it here.

Peter Lin's New Age Old Ways

My latest Vinyl Anachronist review is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one discusses Peter Lin and his new album, New Age Old Ways, which adds Taiwanese influences to classic bebop. You can read it here.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Lyn Stanley's London Calling: A Toast to Julie London

My latest Vinyl Anachronist music review is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one discusses the new Julie London "toast" from Lyn Stanley, who is making some of the finest vocal recordings today. You can read it here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

High End Munich 2019--Luxman, Ascendo and Isotek

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now online at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is concerned with Luxman, Ascendo and Isotek--a coincidence since I'm working on a Luxman review as we speak! You can read it here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Monday, May 27, 2019

Sunday, May 26, 2019

High End Munich 2019--Acoustique Quality

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is about Acoustique Quality, a very intriguing speaker manufacturer from the Czech Republic, and a little too much grappa. You can read it here.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

High End Munich 2019--Unison Research and Opera

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one concerns the brands I used to import and distribute in the US, Unison Research and Opera, and how seeing new products from these Italian companies brings me just a tinge of regret. You can read it here.

Gypsy Temple's King Youngblood

Gypsy Temple is from Seattle, and they definitely have that grunge sound down pat. The first time I listened to their new album, King Youngblood, I immediately thought of Alice in Chains--a band I've only grown to appreciate in recent years. The magic of Alice in Chains was two-fold: the sometimes horrific personal story of the band was a cautionary tale of rock and roll excess which brought an unexpected layer of poignancy to even their hardest songs, and the double lead vocals created such unique harmonies, a sound that made them immediately identifiable in an ocean of PNW rock.

Cameron Lavi-Jones is the obvious front man for Gypsy Temple. He sings, plays guitar, bass and drums, he produces, and he has written all of the tunes. He even raps on songs like "I'm Still Standing" and has an eloquence about him that reminds me of Johnny 5 from the Flobots. But he's also wise enough to include guitarist Wilson Rahn and bassist Moon Milannia in the vocals so he can create those same meaningful harmonies. What's even more intriguing about King Youngblood is how Lavi-Jones starts to steer the band away from those grunge cues and use his soulful voice to head in different directions.

The story behind Gypsy Temple is fascinating--Lavi-Jones is said to have started the band back when he was ten years old. His father was producer Maurice Jones Jr., who encouraged the young Cameron to learn piano, and then guitars, drums, bass and even cello. (That's why you hear so much cello from Cory Cavazos throughout this album.) He's a looming figure in the Seattle music scene--he even hosts a radio talk show, REAL TALK, where he interviews other musicians. He's also known for his incredible stage presence during live shows.

This sounds like the perfect recipe for success, and Gypsy Temple could be one of those bands where we're catching them at the beginning of their rise to the top. Lavi-Jones has the charisma needed to differentiate himself from other hard rock bands, just like Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley did 25 years ago. Based on Lavi-Jones involvement in the music community and his commitment to his performances, we can expect a far more optimistic path for this very promising band.

High End Munich 2019--Crystal Cable, Siltech

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is about Crystal Cable, and one of the most impressive "lifestyle" systems I've seen and heard. You can read it here.

High End Munich 2019--Brinkmann, Vandersteen, HRS

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one concerns Brinkmann and Vandersteen--two brands that have been making great equipment for decades. You can read it here.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Peculiar Pretzelmen's Transmissions from the Electromagnetic Understream

This is one of the strangest and coolest indie rock releases I've heard this year, a mixture of down-and-dirty delta blues mixed with junkyard percussion that's so crazy and cluttered that it sounds like it's being performed blindfolded in a junkyard after midnight. Incroyable and Deacon are the names of the two men who are both peculiar and pretzelmen, and yes they are following in the two-person rock template that has guided Black Keys, White Stripes and a multitude of other duos who want to ride the latest wave of glory. But Peculiar Pretzelman take it a step further with blues that are so ragged and deep that they waver in the sun like a mirage, augmented with a found-object rhythm section that is just as odd as anything David Van Tieghem came up with in the '80s.

As weird as this all sounds, it's also genuine and serious in a way. These two guys fill out their trademark dark pinstripe suits with some serious blues chops, as they seem more focused on hardcore delta fans than their hometown crowd in Hollywood. (That detachment, of course, is probably what makes them such an LA fixture. LA loves irony.) Their attack can seem frantic and full of chaos at times, but then they reign it in when they turn quiet and pull out something from the deepest part of the swamp. It's good, it's straightforward and it makes perfect sense.

There are plenty of familiar elements here--the Tom Waits caterwaul, the slide and the two scoops of unadulterated, American-grown voodoo. What breaks this loose from other roots albums is that massive, sharp-edged percussive wallop that is so beautifully recorded that you'll obsess over what it is you're actually hearing, and whether or not you can make those same sounds once you uncover the source.

I've read stories about the Pretzelmen's live shows, and I'm sure that would peel back some of those mysterious layers, but just remember that much of the fun in Transmissions from the Electromagnetic Understream is listening to these tracks like they're noises you've discovered on an old ham radio, noises that were made thousands of miles away...or even further.

High End Munich 2019--Whole Lotta Tidal

My latest report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one concerns a huge display of Tidal Audio speakers--more than I've ever seen in one place. You can read it here.

HIgh End Munich 2019--Garrard, SME and the Resurrection of a Dream

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one's about the new Garrard 301 from SME, perhaps the biggest news at the show. You can read it here.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

High End Munich 2019--The World of KEF

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is about the massive display of KEF speakers in one of the main atriums. (Atria?) You can read it here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. and Orphan Goggles

I think the title of this 7" single will be longer than the review, and the review will take longer to read than this record will take to hear. It's a fun little disc from White Worm Records featuring a band on each side, with just one song. I'm not even sure if either song cracks the two minute mark. This is an example, however, of the crazy fun stuff I get from indie record labels these days, and I never want them to stop putting me on their mailing lists.

The first band is called Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O, something I bet looks great on a club marquee. (Dammit, we ran out of letters again!) The song is called "From Planet Orb with Love, Part One." I'm not sure where Part Two is, but maybe it's coming. This track is on the psychedelic side, with a gradual and somewhat lengthy intro (lengthy, that is, in the context of its short running time), and it sounds just like Planet Orb is a few decades behind Earth, perhaps in the late '60s when rock was starting to stretch out and explore themes of interstellar travel. You know, prog rock but better and more succinct.

The second band is Orphan Goggles, and "Hey Bud, How's You Blood?" is a fast and dirty punk anthem, swirling with energy, over too soon. The LA-based Orphan Goggles (OG, get it?) is the work of one Harry Cloud, who has recorded this quick exercise with "underground scions" Sterling Riley, Neil Crowley and Arturo Shaman. Between them they've played in a thousand bands, maybe more, and this was a great opportunity for four friends to get together and explode.

Pairing these two songs together may seem odd, since they're not that similar, but there's this--who cares. Sometimes I get these crazy little singles and I think back to those days where I listened to records all day, something I just mentioned in the Stereo Creeps LP I reviewed just a little while ago. I'm too young for Woodstock and too old to really be the L.A. punk I wish I was, but this awesome little single brought these two worlds together for about four minutes and put a smile on my face.

Stereo Creeps' Suck

You've been reading all these show reports from Munich and AXPONA and, soon enough, Philadelphia and Long Beach CA, and you're probably wondering when the Vinyl Anachronist is going to start writing about music again--especially music on vinyl. The ol' review pile is perhaps bigger than ever, and people are starting to ask me these questions. To tell you the truth, I have been busy traveling the world and I won't apologize for that, but reviewing music is what keeps me grounded. In addition, the vinyl rig is about to go through some changes since I just purchased a new cartridge--the first one I've purchased since my Denon DL-103 a few years ago. I also have a few Vinyl Anachronist reviews cued up at Part-Time Audiophile, ready to go, and you'll see those soon. In other words, it's time to dig into some vinyl before I have to get on another airplane.

Stereo Creeps' Suck has been on the review for a very long time--it was the first record I played on the Technics SL-1200G turntable I have in for review, something I picked up way back in January or February. This angry/fun album seems like post-punk at first, which usually right up my alley, but after a few plays I think I'm onto something different--pre-punk. I'm not sure if this is a term that's been coined a million times before, but let me explain my concept of it. Back when I was a teenager in the mid to late '70s, my friends and I all listened to rock and roll, the stuff that's now called classic rock but was original just called rock. Then, here and there, we started finding music that was a bit different, a bit more strange and dark and angry. It wasn't quite what we called punk, but it was certainly the beginning of it. We're talking about the New York Dolls, the Runaways and even some of the music Bowie was recording in Berlin. It all sounded dark and confused, and we really liked it because no one else was listening to it yet.

Stereo Creeps, a power trio from Seattle that is made up of guitarist/vocalist Sean Moe, bassist Mark Wardell and guitarist Robert Dollison...wait just a minute. I'm confused. For some reason Stereo Creeps doesn't credit the very present drummer, and at first I thought Dollison had to be the drummer. I'm not sure what the story is here, a typo, or some kind of PR mystery, but anyways. Someone on their bandcamp page named Bucky has proclaimed that "this album SUCKs every last drop of nostalgic 90s chaos off the bar room floor and spits it in your pimple crusted face with a post-punkish sneer and a hydroponic punch." I don't see it. I see PRE-punk. I see an adherence to old-fashioned hard rock signatures dancing in the same dark corners where you might run into Satan or at least a very cute Goth girl with a few too many body piercings.

What's unusual about this tough album, tagged as scuzz pop on their website, is that it's nicely recorded and pressed on beautiful transparent blue vinyl. I thought this was another indie rock band lucky enough to make a deal with the Pallas Group pressing plant in Germany, but there are none of the prerequisite stickers on the outer sleeve. It's released by DeepSkull Records, mixed by Don Farwell at Earwig Studio and mastered by Levi Seitz at Black Belt Mastering and they've all done an incredible job. Our pre-punk albums back in 1976 didn't sound this good, but we were listening on little record players on the floors of our bedrooms and not with analog rigs that cost twice as much as my first new car. But Suck definitely takes me back to a time when everything was about to bust open and change in ways we couldn't possibly imagine.

(Edit: I just heard from Sean Moe, who wanted to explain the drummer situation: "We were in between drummers during this period of time so one of the engineers (Mikel Perkins) tracked the drums with us after rehearsing the songs with us. That's the quick story." Thanks for the clarification, Sean!)