Thursday, 22 June 2017

Poison the Well - Tear From the Red

There was a time, particularly around the summer of 2003, when Poison the Well were the coolest band you could like. They came out of nowhere (for me, at least) and by that summer, I remember nearly every hardcore kid at Reading Festival was wearing a PTW t-shirt. Their set was very early in the day and dangerously mental from start. I've never seen more people leaving a pit bloodied and beaten as I did that day.

I was introduced to Poison the Well, rather unexpectedly, by the singer of shitty nu-metal/punk band Amen; he'd curated a mixtape for Kerrang! Magazine to give away as a free cd - it had some surprisingly strong moments, including Turbonegro, Refused and The Birthday Party. He'd chosen the song Botchla, which opens up the band’s second album Tear From the Red. That song was huge - the gentle intro quickly gives way a brutal assault that dominates for the rest of the record. You could see why the band was so popular - songs like that were written for messy mosh pits.

I always felt little else on the album lived up to Botchla. When you only really have very heavy hardcore and the ability to occasionally put in a bit of singing/spoken word, there's not a great deal you can do. My main memories of the album are Botchla and that the song title Parks and What You Meant to Me was the most emo song title I could imagine. Moments Over Exaggerate is quite strong, and the following song, Horns and Tails, opens up Side 2 in a similar way to Side 1 - acoustic guitar and singing. It's strange though, without the hardcore parts, songs like that are just generic, acoustic emo, of which there was plenty at the time (and I imagine not what most fans were after - it's fine in the context of Botchla because it juxtaposes the hardcore). Karsey Street is differently out-of-place, sounding like a filler from an industrial album.

I found this LP in a record shop in Bristol, a few months after it came out. I was in town for an open day at the university and made the most of the time there by checking out the local record shops. I found the shop because they were playing some fairly heavy metal on speakers outside - it was basically beneath a roundabout, so I'd never have found it if not for that music. It's since closed (of course), but I got a good haul in there that day, including Lookinglasself by Snapcase, and a Cave In record for Hugh. I paid £9 for Tear From the Red, which I'm still happy with - a quick scan on Discogs shows that it still sells for more than twice that (although that is basically the price of a new LP these days, so maybe it's just inflation).

Format: 12", insert
Tracks: 10
Cost: £9 new
Bought: Bristol
When: 05/02/03
Colour: Transparent red
Etching: none
mp3s: no

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Manic Street Preachers - Revol

I get the bus to work, which is basically dead time. One morning I decided to use my time more efficiently and try to fill in some holes in my record collection by getting back into eBay. I downloaded the app, browsed a bunch of records, put in a few small bids on some Manics records I didn't have, then pretty much forgot all about that plan. A few days later, I got a series of emails saying I'd won a few items, which was a pleasant surprise. I don't really remember making most of the bids, but I was happy with the prices and glad to add them to the collection.

One such purchase was this 10" single of Revol (#710). I have the Part 1 of the cd, which I paid £15 for in a record shop in Reading in 2002. The band released a bunch of two-part cd singles back in the 90's with these funny double cd-cases (or rather, Part 1 had the funny case to store Part 2), which was part of the appeal. The 10" has the exact same four songs as the cd I have.

Revol is a classic from The Holy Bible. For whatever reason (perhaps because the record is 20 years old), it sounds terrible; I was worried my needle had broken, it's so bad. Too Cold Here sounds clearer and is a nice b-side from the era - it reminds me a bit of Bored Out of My Mind, the b-side to Motorcycle Emptiness in that it's a quiet little song and unlike many that made it onto any album. I guess they share that they're curious additions to the band's back-catalogue that show a different side. I have a few copies of the Heavenly version of You Love Us and here is yet another. Finally we get a live recording of Life Becoming a Landslide from Bangkok in Thailand. It's nice to hear the songs from Gold Against the Soul live, because I love that album and they rarely play anything from it, sadly.

Format: 10", gatefold sleeve
Tracks: 4
Cost: £13.80 second hand
Bought: eBay
When: 13/04/17
Colour: Black
Etching: none
mp3s: no

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Red Hot Chili Peppers

If you grew up around the time I did, it was basically compulsory to own a RHCP album, often more than one. I own six, which - with the hindsight of age - is clearly far too many. I stopped after Californication, which I'm pretty sure was the point when most people agreed it was now definitely time to stop - my collection is then six of the seven they'd released up until 1999. Luckily, this is the only one I have on vinyl, so the only one you'll have to read my thoughts on.

A friend of mine who played the bass got into the Chili Peppers after reading a list of the 100 best albums, as rated by a bass guitar magazine; Blood Sugar Sex Magik was number one and he instantly became a huge fan. I picked up a few albums as and when I found them, including this copy of their debut for a mere £3.50 at a record fair (where I also got Blood Sugar Sex Magik on cd on the same day. Needless to say, that would get more play over the years that followed than this one did).

As of this moment, I can't say how many years have passed since the last time the needle hit the record on this album. I don't have mp3s of these songs, so I've not heard these songs in many, many years. Have the years helped it? No. True Men Don't Kill Coyotes was always a highlight and sounds pretty good, all considering. On first listen, all those years ago, I wondered if maybe early Chili Peppers was the era for me having not particularly gelled with the more recent era (despite my rampant album buying I wasn't a huge fan - I felt there was more to get from them that I wasn't seeing so kept buying more). However, Baby Appeal swiftly followed and quickly made me realise that wasn't the case. The real low of the album is Green Heaven, which is musically dull (a feat quite difficult for a funk band) beneath some of the most turgid lyrics surely ever committed to a major label debut. Mummy, Where's Daddy? is pretty dire too. Easily a contender for worst Side Two Track Two.

It's hard to predict when, if ever, I'll play this album again. I'm impressed by how well True Men Don't Kill Coyotes has aged, but that is more than cancelled out by how horrified I am by the rest of the album. I've clearly repressed a lot of memories of it.

Format: 12"
Tracks: 11
Cost: £3.50 second-hand
Bought: Record Fair, Southampton
When: 26/10/02
Colour: Black
Etching: none
mp3s: no

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Bangers - Dude Trips - Collected Recordings '08-'09

Dude Trips is the collection of songs by Bangers on various EPs and splits from their early days; a few of them I have on the original releases, but most were new to me. The album was originally only released on cd until Specialist Subject repressed it on this very nice blue and white vinyl in 2013.

Most Wanted Men was on the Brits Abroad 7" and was the first (studio) Bangers song I heard (excluding the ones they recorded with Kelly Kemp for the split 7" with El Morgan and The Arteries), and it was quite a way to start. They were very good at writing uniquely catchy punk-rock songs back then - Too Many Dark Knights and Jon Shoe being further great examples. I wonder if it's by the nature of writing songs for smaller releases than a bunch for an album - the songs are designed to individually shine (that's not a criticism of their LPs, which I love dearly). Huddle In from the split 12" with Break the Habit is probably the highlight of the album and one I remember being excited to hear live a bunch of times.

I was pleased the album got re-pressed on vinyl. I'm sure I would have eventually sought out the cd (or all the original releases), but it's nice to have the songs in one place on a 12". Plus, it looks so lovely (especially, in this case, side B).

Format: 12", insert
Tracks: 10
Cost: £13.10 new
Bought: Specialist Subject Records
When: 18/05/13
Colour: Blue and white splatter
Etching: none
mp3s: Download code

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Nirvana - In Utero

I'm a pretty bad Nirvana fan in many ways. One such way is that I very rarely listen to them; the result is that every time I do, I remember that I do really quite like them. Same thing happened when I wrote about Bleach last year. It's nice to consciously focus on an album and be genuinely impressed by it (that's mostly why I started this blog), but it's even nicer when it's band that you don't give that much time to day-to-day.

Another reason I'm a bad Nirvana fan is that I don't own a copy of Nevermind (shocking, I know). In my life I've bought over 2000 records and cds, but only four have ever left my collection - a copy of AC/DC's Highway to Hell (swapped with Hugh for something), a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion album (returned to the shop because I was clearly far too young to understand what the fuck they were doing), a copy of The Better Life by Three Doors Down (because it's crappiness outweighed the fact I was kinda enjoying Kryptonite at the time (it was very popular on nights out in Australia for some reason)). And finally, a copy of Nirvana's Nevermind.

I swapped my copy of Nevermind with my friend Johnny for his copy of Mer De Noms by A Perfect Circle (a band an ex-girlfriend once referred to as "Tool for girls"). I was 16 and I still basically stand by my choice. Even at the age of 16 I felt that I'd listened to Nevermind to a point where I didn't need it in my collection. I'd only been listening to Nirvana for a couple of years at this point, but I already knew those songs so well that I didn't need to hear them that much again. Over the years, I've thought about buying another copy of Nevermind, but I just don't need to - those songs were seared into the minds of teenagers for over a decade (and possibly still now?) to a point where I can hear practically the whole album in my mind. It's funny, really. Of course, none of this is to say that it's a bad album - quite the opposite. The other thing to note is that it is objectionably better than anything A Perfect Circle released - hands down - but I was very glad to have that album as a teenager. I'll probably buy a copy in the future and write about it on here many years from now.

Having got the obligatory mention of Nevermind out of the way, this post is about In Utero (I nearly wrote "Nirvana's final album", but I really doubt that would be news to anyone). In 2003 I found this 180 gram reissue in HMV Southampton whilst shopping with my parents. There were a couple of singles I was buying, so I figured I might as well get this too, since I was already going to the till; it wasn't the first time I'd seen it in a shop, just the first time I'd felt like buying it. In my earlier teen years I hadn't spent much time listening to In Utero - I'd heard it a few times, same as with Bleach and Incesticide, but never spent much time with it. I knew the singles, of course, but I've always enjoyed In Utero more as whole.

The charm of In Utero lies in what it's not - for the most part it isn't the polished, overly-produced album you'd expect the band to release, given they were the biggest band in the world and were following up one of the biggest albums of all-time (obligatory Steve Albini mention). Rape Me and, to a lesser-extent, Heart-Shaped Box are a little more radio-friendly than the rest, but that is a minor complaint (and, ultimately, not the work of Albini). On the other hand, not many bands would have the balls to put Scentless Apprentice or Milk It on such a hotly-anticipated album (Radio Friendly Unit Shifter counts less so because actively calling it out almost makes it ok).

Like I said, I don't listen to Nirvana much. The fact I have none of their (actual) albums on cd means I don't have the mp3s, and I rarely look through the sleeves and think "yes, I'd like to listen to Nirvana", but that almost makes it more fun when I actually do.

Format: 12"
Tracks: 12
Cost: £11.70 new
Bought: HMV Southampton
When: 08/06/03
Colour: Black
Etching: none
mp3s: no

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Pitch Shifter - Submit

There was a while (a long time ago) when I thought I might try to get a complete collection of Pitch Shifter records, but I never really put that much effort in and the idea kinda fell away. Shortly after starting university, I found this 12" in a second hand record shop in Manchester for a bargain £4. I'd recently bought Desensitized on vinyl on eBay, so it was almost a sign to begin a collection (of course, their later albums never got pressed on vinyl, so it would have been annoyingly incomplete).

I'd not heard Submit before, but was familiar with their heavier earlier sound from Industrial. It wasn't the Pitch Shifter I'd become a fan of, but I enjoyed it for seeing their roots. Now I'm much older, Desensitized might actually be the sweet spot - I've come round to Industrial in recent years, but it's still hard work. Songs like Triad and Diable are the right mix of accessible and heavy. Interestingly, Deconstruction here feels like the missing step between those first two albums - the first hint of vocals that weren't strictly growled. It's nice to hear (versions of) Bastardiser and New Flesh P.S.I. from the Death Industrial 7" - back in the day I remember that 7" used to sell for a lot more than it seems to now.

The etching in the run-out groove tells the listener to "buy the cd for Silo", a hidden song that appears after Tendrill. 14 years after buying the 12", I haven't bought the cd so still haven't heard Silo. Maybe someday I'll spend a few £ and get a copy. It's not at the top of my priorities mind you.

Format: 12", picture sleeve
Tracks: 6
Cost: £4 second hand
Bought: Manchester
When: 15/11/03
Colour: Black
Etching: Side A: "A fat wallet production" Side B: "Buy the cd for 'Silo'"
mp3s: no

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Public Service Broadcasting - The War Room

I saw Public Service Broadcasting supporting the Manics a few years ago and was blown away. I bought a copy of their debut album as soon as I found a copy afterwards and enjoyed it. It was a bit lighter than I remember them playing - that night it was like watching early Therapy?, an influence I could hear on the album but it was not so strong as it was live.

A few months later I found their debut EP in Fopp and decided to pick it up. It's a strong selection of songs and heavier than the album ended up being - the guitars on If War Should Come are particularly crunching and the drumming is great throughout. Spitfire ended up on the album, although either of the first two would have fit equally well.

My criticism of The War Room is something that seems to plague the band increasingly - by having such a strong theme (war, space travel, the Welsh valleys - although I can't judge the new album yet) they lack the variety that the debut album is filled with. The huge mixture of topics on the debut really added a lot to it, and made it much easier to get into. Still, as an EP this works and I like that it's heavier on the guitars than they've been more recently.

Format: 12", insert
Tracks: 5
Cost: £8 new
Bought: Fopp, London
When: 23/05/14
Colour: Black
Etching: none
mp3s: Download code