Saturday, July 4, 2015

Brass City

Brass City Records in Waterbury, Connecticut was always a little too far away from me to be a regular stop.  Still, it's a place I've been probably a hundred times over the 25 years or so since I was sad to hear that Walt, its owner, had recently died from cancer.  His store was the kind of place where I'd spend a few hours digging around, usually turning up something odd enough to be worth the drive.  Last weekend, the store was opened by Walt's friends to clear out as much as possible at (for the most part) reduced prices.  I was initially resistant to making the drive but my friend Anthony made me go and I'm glad he did.  Here's the haul, $2.50 per album or 12", $1 for each 45.

Sigue Sigue Sputnick - Sex Bomb Boogie
Christmas - Wilhelm Reich
Prefab Sprout - When Love Breaks Down (double 45)
Afraid of Mice - I'm On Fire
Craze - Motions
Gary Numan - New Anger
Positive Noise - Give Me Passion (Ghosts, the B-side is great post-punk)
Bow Wow Wow - Louis Quatorze
Icicle Works - Seven Horses (double pack)
NME 45 - includes a live Smiths song
Richard Thompson - I Feel So Good
Pretenders - Message of Love
King - Love And Pride
Hoodoo Gurus - Come Anytime
Tubes - Prime Time (on clear/splattered vinyl)
The The - Controversial Subject (1st single on 4AD)
Toto Coelo - Milk From The Coconut
China Crisis - African And White
Soft Cell - What
OMD - If You Leave (double 45)
Those Melvins - Wasted Hippies (CT's own)
Bill Nelson's Red Noise - Revolt In Style (on blue vinyl)
John Otway - In Dreams
Buck Pets - Pearls
John Fox - Ever The Angel
Comsat Angels - Will You Stay Tonight
Incredible Casuals - That's Why
British Electric Foundation - Music Of Quality And Distinction : Volume One (5 45 box set)
Fischer-Z - Wax Dolls
Fischer-Z - Remember Russia
Adam Ant - Friend Or For
Adam Ant - Puss 'N Boots (German pressing)
Adam And The Ants - Dog Eat Dog
Japan - European Sun
Japan - Cantonese Boy
Japan - Life In Tokyo
The Church - When You Were Mine (original Australian pressing - tough to get)
The Church - Almost With You (also orig Aussie pressing, and one of my favorites of theirs)
The Church - Metropolis
The Church - You're Still Beautiful
The Rumour - Frozen Years
Department S - Going Left Right
Lene Lovich - It's You, Only You (picture disc)
Lene Lovich - The Night (US white label promo)
Lene Lovich - Bird Song (Japanese pressing)
Nick Lowe - Halfway To Paradise (UK pressing)
Nick Lowe - Halfway To Paradise (Belgian pressing on yellow vinyl)

LPs / 12"s
Colin Newman - Provisionally Entitled The Singing Fish
Theatre of Hate - Do You Believe In The Westworld 12"
Lene Lovich - Say When 12"
Lene Lovich - Angels 12"
Gleaming Spires - Life Out On The Lawn 12"
Gleaming Spires - Welcoming A New Ice Age
Rave-Ups - A Chance Conversation With Jimmer Podrasky
Bruce Gilbert - The Shivering Man
Bruce Gilbert - This Way 12"
Various - Start Swimming (with the Bongos, db's, Bush Tetras, more)
Ian Gomm - Talks (Interview LP on Stiff)
Dept S - I Want 12"
Huang Chung - Self-titled LP
Roger C. Reale - Radioctive
The Reducers With Roger C. Reale - Wake The Neighbors
Midnight Oil - Species Deceases EP
Midnight Oil - Place Without A Postcard
Ultravox - The Voice 12"
Ultravox - Quartet (UK picture disc)
Ultravox - U-Vox
Thompson Twins - Interview LP
Triffids - Calenture
UB40 - Present Arms
UB40 - The Singles Album
Pointed Sticks - Out Of Luck 12"
Simple Minds - Alive And Kicking Australian  Tour EP
The Crowd - A World Apart (1st press on Posh Boy)
Various - Savoy Sound Wave Goodbye (with Tuxedomoon, Snakefinger, Mutants, more)

Some of these can be mildly pricey (The The, Crowd, Pointed Sticks, Colin Newman) and some are just because I can't stop buying terrible new wave records (Toto Coelo, King, Huang Chung).  The last seven 45's and a few of the 12"s are on Stiff Records, which I also can't seem to stop buying.  I actually bought the Huang Chung because it's a mid-80's German reissue that mentions the name change and includes "Dance Hall Days".  And what kind of idiot buys Thompson Twins and Rave-Ups interview records?  It's sad, really.  All in, it ran me $117 plus tax and I (and every other customer there last weekend) would give it all back for Walt to still be there and for the store to still be up and running, even if we were infrequent shoppers.  Whatever you think of the list above, I challenge you to find a store left on the planet that would have that smattering of stuff.  I'll take digging through junk over Academy Records any day.  So long, Walt and so long, Brass City.  

By the way, that Triffids LP is great.  If you don't know them, try "Wide Open Road".  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Art Rock?

Earlier today my very tall friend Charles raised the old "last great art rock album" question. Since there's too many children over here to watch TV in peace, it only makes sense to write a lengthy, hopefully only slightly boring, essay on this topic. The conclusion I came to, after a second of thinking about it, is that I don't really know what art rock is. Well, Roxy Music is art rock and so are the Talking Heads and everything else involving Brian Eno. Other than that I don't know what to do with the question. I may not know what it is, but I know enough to know that Wikipedia's description is open ended enough that you could make a reasonable argument for Weird Al to be classified in the genre. Though someone's always willing to fuzzy the edges to admit entrance to a band that doesn't really belong, most genres are fairly easy to define. Since this one is harder to nail down, I'll clear it up. Art rock is non-mainstream (in the US at least) but still accessible, lyrically intelligent, possibly fashion conscious (but not trashy glam), not bordering on adult contempo, possibly worth the attention/temporary friendship of David Bowie, music that was made between roughly 1972 and 1981.

Now that the issue of genre definition has been so succinctly cleared up, let's run through some candidates.

1. Roxy Music : Country Life (1974)
2. Talking Heads : Remain In Light (1980)
3. David Bowie : Heroes (1977)
4. Ultravox : Systems Of Romance (1978)
5. Brian Eno : Before And After Science (1977)
6. Japan : Tin Drum (1981)

I'm not convinced the Japan record is all that great.  I thought it was and then listened to it and still can't deal with David Sylvian's voice all that well.  The Roxy Music records after Country Life are either not great or not art rock.  The same goes for Bowie and Eno.  The Ultravox record is possibly just straight up new wave.  The Talking Heads record is undeniably great and fits the category well enough.  So that's it.  Remain In Light, which Charles suggested when he brought up the question in the first place, is the last great art rock record.

The Kate Bush single at the top of the page?  Well it's because the answer is actually The Hounds Of Love from 1985.  Really, everything she did is art rock (Babooshka is a single from 1980).  I'm baffled how she had the success she did in England.  The video for Wuthering Heights looks like a prancercise commercial.  Hounds Of Love is a genuinely great album.  Running Up The Hill is a perfect song, and is pretty much as straight as the record gets.  Cloudbursting ("I still dream of Orgonon, I wake up crying...") was also a hit in the UK.  Listen to the whole thing and tell me there's a better answer.

Paul's pushing that Sonic Youth record with the washing machine on the cover from around 1994 that may actually be called Washing Machine.  I think he's tainted by that hour we spent sitting in a field outside Pittsburgh in 1995 watching Sonic Youth take an audience of Hole and Cypress Hill fans to school.  I just don't think they're art rock.  Noise rock maybe.  Now go define that.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Budget Christmas

The holidays are over and I've bought myself a few shiny, new (er...), things. My daughter got an iTunes gift card for Christmas and promptly bought herself a bunch of songs for her iPod. It appears that a new, popular, song is $1.29. Ouch. Everything in the list below cost me $1 or less (half were 50 cents). I'll admit, some of these are hard to admit to owning,

1. The Weathermen : Old Friend Sam 12".
2. The Weathermen : This Is The Third Communique 12"
3. Golden Palominos : Visions of Excess LP
4. Prefab Sprout : From Langley Park To Memphis LP
5. Yello : You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess LP (West German pressing)
6. Siouxsie & the Banshees : Nocturne 2LP
7. Altered Images : I Could Be Happy 12"
8. Tracy Chapman : Self-titled LP (to replace the one I sold)
9. Pretenders : 2000 Miles 12"
10. Cichlids : Be True To Your School LP
11. Midnight Oil : Self-titled 1st LP (Australian pressing)
12. Missing Persons : Words 12" (UK pressing)
13. Soft Cell : Soul Inside EP (Canadian pressing)
14. Soft Cell : Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing EP
15. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions : Easy Pieces LP (promo with label bio)
16. Cactus World News : SPIN Concert Series Live LP
17. Mission Papua Holland : June '87 LP (ambient noise - 500 copies)
18. Spiegelsplitter : Spiegelsplitterspitz 12" (German new wave)
19. In The Nursery : Stormhorse (test pressing on UK Sweatbox)
20. R.E.M. : Stand 7" (with "Memphis Train Blues" b-side)
21. Eyeless In Gaza : Sun Bursts In 7"
22. The Sound Asleep : I'm Cold Outside 7"
23. Graham Parker : Heat Treatment LP
24. Strawberry Switchblade : Let Her Go 12"
25. Dif Juz : Extractions LP
26. Doctor & The Medics : Spirit In The Sky 12"
27. Everything But The Girl : These Early Days 12"
28. Arms Akimbo : This Is Not The Late Show LP
29. Thompson Twins : Don't Mess With Doctor Dream 12"
30. Richard Barone & James Mastro : Nuts and Bolts LP
31. The Creatures : Standing There 12"
32. The Communards : Red LP

Now that I've typed it up, some of these are pretty embarrassing (Doctor & The Medics anyone?), but I'm happy to have them all. I've actually been looking for the Cactus World News SPIN radio show forever. The Dif Juz LP is great. The Mission Papua Holland LP is one I had never heard of but it was odd looking so I picked it up and it's probably the best thing in the list. The Spiegelsplitter 12" is nutzo electro new wave from 1981. The Soft Cell "Soul Inside" EP is a Canadian pressing with a different sleeve from the UK copy I already have. The remix EP (Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing) has some good versions but is not what I remember from the last time I heard it (circa 1988) at my friend George's house. The Yello record is amazing. The Midnight Oil is a little weak. The Richard Barone record is good but not great. The In The Nursery test pressing is a great find. I was surprised I didn't already have the Golden Palominos, Prefab Sprout, and Siouxsie records. The Graham Parker makes me wonder why I keep buying Graham Parker records. The Pretenders 12" has a live version of "Money" from the US Festival. Hit or miss, but more hit to my mind.