Wednesday, February 21, 2018
February on the Turntable
I've been obsessively collecting vinyl for years. Here are some of my recent scores...
My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything
Kevin Shields is an aural genius. The man picks up guitars and creates sounds the likes of which no one has ever conceived. That combined with a beyond-obsessive attention to detail when it comes to recording technique has produced some music that is truly sublime. When he announced last November that he was going to release all-analog vinyl reissues of Isn't Anything and Loveless, I immediately pre-ordered. Isn't Anything marks the transition away from their early The Cramps-meets-The Birthday Party psychobilly, and into a refined distortion-powered indie rock, paving the way for their subsequent masterpiece Loveless. It's a great fucking record, and now it sounds better than ever.
My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
This, in every sense of the word, is the big one. It took over two years to record in nineteen different studios to the tune of a rumored £250,000, making it one of the most expensive records ever produced. And my God, was it worth it. It's not only the quintessential shoegaze record, but it consistently ranks in the Top Albums of All Time list in every magazine from Spin and Rolling Stone to your self-published neighborhood hipster zine. Shields went back to the original master tapes to create this version of Loveless entirely in the analog domain, a process that, like its original recording, turned into a multi-year ordeal. As always, his perfectionism paid off with interest. If you want to hear guitars make the sounds of love, sleep and sex, get this one immediately.
The Chameleons - What Does Anything Mean? Basically
The Chameleons were a post-punk band from Manchester who, by all rights, should have been as big as Joy Division and The Stone Roses. Their debut album Script of a Bridge is universally hailed as their masterpiece, and rightly so. However, it seems that What Does Anything Mean? Basically (along with everything else they ever recorded) is doomed to stand perpetually in its shadow. However, that's not to say this isn't a good one. If not wholly different, it's a natural post-Script, with that same slick production, suave vocals, stonking drums and pristine wall-of-sound guitar. I found this one in the sale bin at Radiation Records. Despite never having heard it before, and my resolve not to spend any money, I ended up going back for it. Very glad I did.
The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
The Cure's debut album was never my favorite, but when I found it in the sale bin at Radiation, I had to get it. I was surprised how much this album had grown on me. I was also surprised how different the track listing was on the UK edition. The singles like 'Boys Don't Cry,' 'Jumping Someone Else's Train' and 'Killing an Arab' that made the album such a hit in the US (released as Boys Don't Cry) are absent, and in their place are five tracks I'd never even heard before. Personally, I think it flows better this way. When I first got into The Cure, I was after their darker material like Faith, Pornography and Disintegration, and this one didn't do much for me. Now I look at it as a solid pop-punk record not too far from the Buzzcocks, that launched the career of a band that would continuously reinvent itself over the next four decades.
Johnny Cash Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous
Yet another score from the sale bin. The second album by Johnny Cash has more to do with wholesome radio-friendly 50's country-pop than the outlaw star who played at Folsom Prison, smashed the Grand Ole Opry's lights and smuggled amphetamines in his guitar case. It's still got plenty of great tunes like 'I Walk the Line,' 'Ballad of a Teenage Queen,' 'Guess Things Happen That Way,' 'Home of the Blues' and a cover of Hank Williams' 'I Can't Help It.'
Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
I generally only allow myself to buy one record per week. This time it was a toss-up between this one and Coltrane's Blue Train. Birth of the Cool is a compilation of tracks from three sessions his nonet recorded for Capital records in 1949 and 1950, marking a transition away from bebop and into the then-emerging cool jazz scene. I don't know man, there's something about jazz that makes you feel cool just by hearing it.
Attrition - The Unraveller of Angels
I've been a fan of the Coventy band Attrition since I discovered them on Projekt Records in the late '90s. Their sound is a strange brew of experimental electronic beats and the occasional wind or string instrument, with dark, surreal lyrics about love, sex, death and religious kitsch. Frontman Martin Bowes delivers his vocals in a semi-spoken Cohenesque tone, often backed up by an operatic female singer. It's eerie. It's sexy. It kicks ass. You can dance to it. Through a series of fortunate events, Martin and I have become friends over the last two years. He and his wife Kerri (keyboards and backing vocals--the girl on the cover) crashed at my place while they were in Rome for a gig, and brought me this as a gift. For a taste, check out 'Karma Mechanic' and 'One Horse Rider.'