A Perfect Storm… or Sonic Youth – Goo

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It can be difficult to quantify the importance of a single LP, not only as a piece of art, but also on its impact on the zeitgeist. Music being a quite subjective form of expression usually gets defined by observers in two very different, if not opposing standards – sales (numbers sold) and contextualization… being the present, historical and critical importance perceived by music writers and individuals alike. Every so often the two standards align within a moment that one can point at and yell (in their best Charlie Brown voice) “THAT’S IT!!!”

Goo acted as such a watershed. While being the most commercially accessible album Sonic Youth had produced to date, it changed how other artists saw themselves and their art within the music world. Without compromising their artistic vision, the band had joined a major label and sounded just as fucking insanely awesome as ever. Following Goo, Nirvana signed with DGC on Kim Gordon’s recommendation. Neil Young released Weld on the advice of Thurston Moore. Hell, they even made Steve Albini’s cries of sell outs to all major label acts seem like a distant voice lost in a strong wind. After all, if Sonic Youth were recording for DGC, then how bad could it be?

Just look back at the classic documentary 1991: The Year That Punk Broke. For many, this was ‘the’ introduction to the world of 90’s alt-rock having just witnessed Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. Babes in Toyland and more pre-grunge explosion (grunge is such a useless word). Thing is… the real subject and focus of the film is Sonic Youth and their tour in support of Goo. Everyone in the film went on to either moderate or phenomenal success.

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Like any band that has the repertoire of Sonic Youth, arguments will always ensue about where albums rank against one another. Dirty was more commercially successful and Daydream Nation got more critical laurels, but Goo was proof positive that Sonic Youth could take their brand of indie-avant-rock into the public consciousness. Basically, if you’re a music-geek, then Goo is essential.

If you’re looking to pick up a 12” version there are a few options. Your first is the original LP from 1990, some limited quantities came with a bonus 7” of “Kool Thing” and are decently priced at under $40 through discogs. They were limited at the time to 3000 copies so some e-bay resellers are asking as much as $200 for “near mint”… so do some research if you’re looking for it.

The most coveted edition is the 1996 Mobile Fidelity 200 gram vinyl. As per usual, MF did the recording at half cutting speed to ensure sound quality and did a limited run. Of course, this also means a high price on the resale market with vendors asking for over $200 in many cases. Again you’re looking at tags like “near mint.”

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The next option is for music enthusiasts and can be purchased “new.” In 2005, Goo was re-mastered and put out as a four LP set. The first two discs contained the album proper on Sides A, B and C while D had ‘B-sides and outtakes.’  The second set of records contained demos and unreleased material.  Also included was a 16 page booklet. This can be special ordered through most record stores or ordered direct through the bands website.

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This year Goo got another re-master and re-release. This time out it is on a single disc. You can find the standard black vinyl at all the usual outlets, or a pink/white swirl through Newbury Comics. The coloured vinyl edition is limited to 1000 copies and sounds pretty damn good against the CD.

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Any way you look at it, Sonic Youth provided a road for other bands to follow, and Goo was a significant part of what would follow in the 90’s alt-rock era. It’s worth the price of admission.

Aimee Mann: She isn’t the Ramones… but she is pretty damn cool! (A first concert story)

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Back in university there was only one major thing I was envious about regarding my roommate/friend – his first concert. The first band he ever saw live was the Ramones; only the ‘coolest’ band to have ever graced the planet earth. Oh, you can mention ‘better’ or ‘more popular’ bands like Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Smiths, the Cure, etc and so forth… but unless you can tell me you saw James Brown live at the Apollo, or the B 52’s in an Athens dive as your first show, he had you beat.

Of course, his first concert outshone mine easily. I’m embarrassed to say, but that first for me was in the freezing cold at Nathan Phillips Square featuring Platinum Blonde. Sure, there are many bands that could rank worse as a first show, and it wasn’t a bad night either, but “It Doesn’t Really Matter” isn’t exactly “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.” A few years later, with one four year old at my feet, and another child on the way, I vowed to make sure that my kids would get a cool first concert; something ‘worthy’ of telling college roommates about in a childish game of ‘mine is better than yours.’

So it was that in 2008, a couple things had lined themselves up. Local record store Sonic Boom (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World filmed a couple scenes in there) had acoustic concerts every so often in the basement of their Bloor Street location. I attended a Nada Surf show with the ‘former roomy’ and when it finished I saw the bands singer/songwriter Matthew Caws hanging out with some kids. Not ‘kids’ as in a middle-aged definition of people of the teenaged variety… but honest to goodness children. Not being the most perceptive of individuals, it only dawned on me right then, that… well, um, a record store is a safe and… dare I add, perhaps even ‘cool’ place to see a concert.

!!!LIGHTBULB!!!!

Five months after watching Nada Surf, and barely 8 weeks after my second child was born a quick e-mail announced that Aimee Mann was going to be playing a set at Sonic Boom. Since the early 90’s I had become a pretty big fan of Mann’s music. She had put together a consistent string of outstanding records that caught a great balance between power-pop (Big Star), new-wave (Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe), and the alt-rock scene of the times. Bachelor #2 was a staple in my house as the new millennium began and 2005’s concept album The Forgotten Arm seemed to be just more proof that she should be a household name. In other words, Mann had become an essential part of my life’s soundtrack. Alas, critical praise doesn’t always result in record sales. Of course, and from a purely selfish perspective, it also meant that seeing a ‘bucket list’ artist in a strange different style venue was about to happen.

So it was that during the early evening May 9th, 08 my wife and I took the boys out to see Aimee Mann. Needless to say, the youngest was in a car seat hanging out with my wife just in case he expressed any discomfort with the noise level. However, my 4 year old and I were sitting cross-legged in front of the small riser where he began to ask me a thousand questions about the small soundboard and the instruments on stage. He had a poster clutched in his hands and was smiling from ear to ear. Since his birth he had seen me playing guitar and singing songs and was now completely enthralled by the prospect of seeing a real music artist. Mann didn’t disappoint. Playing a few selections from @#%&*! Smilers, which was due for release a couple weeks later, she had everyone in a great mood. By the end of the set my son was convinced that Mann was the world’s greatest songwriter, and that she was smiling at him between songs. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him she was looking at where she was placing the capo on her guitar… and that the neck of the instrument was pointed in his direction.)

After the set, we waited around for about 30 minutes to see if we could get the poster signed. I’m not usually one for signatures, but I figured a momentous occasion like a first concert would be a great opportunity for my kids to have a keepsake. So we looked at the vinyl and cassettes which shared the basement with the stage, and kept an eye on the door for her exit. Unfortunately, whoever was interviewing her after the show was getting a really good chat, because she just never came out of the backroom in time for my son to get it signed. The baby needed to get home, and so we jumped into the rusty old minivan with a poster, our memories and a great first concert story.

Eighteen months later, my first born would get his second concert poster signed by a confused looking J. Mascis and a very gracious Lou Barlow after a Dinosaur Jr. acoustic set at Sonic Boom. (I mean come on, how many times do alt-rock legends get five year-olds walking up for an autograph.) Since then we’ve been to a bunch of small sets or shows. Both my boys (now just about to turn 12 and 8) enjoy going to shows at Sugar Beach where they can play in the sand before a band breaks into song.

Over the years, I’ve seen Mann perform a couple times, each time more impressive than the last and yet she still remains on my bucket list for a couple reasons. One, I’d eventually like to get to one of her annual Christmas shows. But, even more importantly, I’d like to have the kids go to a full concert that they’ll actually remember without daddy reminding them of when playing music on the stereo. When she last came to Toronto with The Both we were away on holidays and missed the chance. All joking about bragging rights aside, taking my kids to a concert isn’t about bravado, it is about bonding. Doing those things that allow memories to grow and be sustained.

So my old roommate has the Ramones… and that is pretty cool. But, on some future day when they’re at college and a friend asks “what was your first show?” both my children will be able to give a sly grin and reply – “Aimee Mann… and I wasn’t even in kindergarten yet.” The older one can even add “and, it’s on youtube. You can see my dad and I on the floor waiting for the music to start.”

Thanks for the memory Aimee

“Make Everyday Your Record Store Day” Fade Into You – J. Mascis & Failure – The Posies

Recently I saw an article about Record Store Day and how very small independent labels aren’t seeing a benefit. One owner said that if every day was treated more like RSD than perhaps it would get better results. The other complaint is that big labels waiting to release on Record Store Day squeezes the smaller labels out in terms of printing the records to begin with.

From a record buyer point of view, I’m not sure I get the complaints about big vs. small labels, but I do get that treating all releases like they are part of Record Store Day may pay dividends. In this world where many people just don’t see the value in paying for something they can download or stream for free, music has the feeling of being as disposable as the toys you get   for free with the kids menu at the fast food chain. Play with it for a week than toss it, because if you didn’t pay for it, it just doesn’t mean shit anyway.

BUT…

Instead of offering some downloadable shit sounding garbage, you offer a unique product that plays on multiple formats of a listener’s choice.

OR

Musicians make a product that is collectible, so that fans don’t just want to hear your song, but also feel they must have what you’re selling. Give it colour, give it flash, and make it really damn cool.

On Black Friday/Record Store Day back in November 2014, I missed out on J. Mascis doing a cover of the 90’s cult classic “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star. It is a phenomenal song that you have probably heard play in the background of some moving scene from a number of various movies and TV shows. Seriously, a quick internet search came up with 39 instances in which it was used.

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Anyway, Mascis released a very limited amount as a 7” inch single and every record store in the city was sold out of their few copies by the following day. I was able to eventually find a copy, but that was after months of searching. Now yes, I could hear it on Spotify, or buy it from itunes, but I’m a fan. J. Mascis and his band Dinosaur Jr. They are not some disposable artists who I toss on a mix and forget about, they are legendary artists who continue to make relevant music and deserve to make a living from it. In turn, they have not only supplied great music and performances, but done events and created product that their fans believe in. Some of it is released on RSD and some not, but it is all very cool.

Hell, Mascis and fellow Dinosaur Jr. member Lou Barlow signed a poster for my 5 year old son after an acoustic show a few years back, which is the kind of gesture that can help to create lifelong fans who are vocal about purchasing the music of the bands they love. (It also had nothing to do with RSD.)

My point of course though, isn’t just about RSD. Earlier this year the Posies re-released their debut record Failure on vinyl for the first time. It was put out by Omnivore Records as a limited print on yellow 180 gram vinyl. Failure had been long out of print and highly sought after by fans. So now, a person can test drive this record on Spotify if they don’t know the music, but if like me, you are a fan, here is a very cool copy in your hands, and a download card so you can take your music on the road to play on your ‘whatever’ device. Again, it is very cool product that doesn’t wait for a special day to be released.

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http://omnivorerecordings.com/music/failure/

Each week I see new releases on vinyl being put out in cool new ways, and when an artist I love matches up with product I can hold in my hands for a great listening experience, then I drop some coin and pray they sell enough music to continue making a living off this crazy music biz. The only difficulty for people who like vinyl is finding all the cool things out there, but then again, that is also part of the fun.

Playlist March 22/15

Here is this weeks playlist. I will update the song stuff as I go.

March 22/15 Playlist

1. “Bottle Of Fur” – Urge Overkill

Saturation is one of my all time favorite records, which I am really wanting to find on vinyl, at a reasonable price…

2. “Three Women” – Jack White

Yeah yeah, Lazaretto, great record… not much more you can say.

3. “Freak Scene” – Dinosaur Jr.

From Bug, because Spotify doesn’t have Bug Live, “Freak Scene would kinda be considered the hit, if such a thing really existed for a cult classic. You can pick this up at some of the better record stores out and about, but the special purple splatter vinyl is sold out.

4. “In The Clear” – Foo Fighters

Great record that keeps finding its way onto my turntable.

5. “Born To Run (Live) – Bruce Springsteen

Did a write up on this a while back. Still think “Born to Run” is the perfect classic rock tune.

6. “20th Century Man” – The Kinks

7. “Everybody Makes A Mistake” – Otis Redding

8. “Little Wing” – Jimi Hendrix

This arrived from Newbury Comics last week. Sounds frickin great and is still available here.

9. “Witchy Woman” – Eagles

10. “Can’t Feel My Soul” – Teenage Fanclub

11. “Do You” – Spoon

12. “Crestfallen” – Pernice Brothers

13. “Neither Here Nor There” – Sloan

14. “A Very Sorry Christmas” – The New Medicants

15. “Things” – Paul Westerberg

16. “Crazy For You” – The Dirtbombs

Such an awesome sound on this band, just had to get a couple of their records. Listen and you might agree. If you do click here.

17. “Wild Eyes” – Vivian Girls

Couple years ago I was listening to these guys and thinking how great they were. Finally picked some up on vinyl.

18. “I’m Shy” – The Juliana Hatfield Three

What I said just a few days ago.

19. “Willow” – Said The Whale

20. “Kitsch Trick” – The Seasons

 

Superchunk: I Hate Music … (Just Kidding, because no one can hate music and do it this well)

There were quite a few bands that my roommate was into that took a bit of time for me to agree on. Usually it was pretty back and forth; I introduced him to Dinosaur Jr, he replied with Urge Overkill; I put on the Lemonheads and he replies with Sugar, but some stuff didn’t really stick.

Superchunk was one of those bands for me. I could appreciate what he was hearing, but other than the odd song (“Slack Motherfucker” is a frickin’ anthem of undeniable proportion) I just couldn’t get beyond the throwing then into a mix tape. Full albums just kinda slipped by me and never stood out in the collection as more than filler space.

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So here we are more than twenty years later and Superchunk has me re-evaluating my attitude with an awesome frickin’ record, that even makes my kids play air guitar. Of course their excitement might have more to do with the fan made Lego video for “FOH”, but they really don’t need to apologise for that.

“Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” bursts out with ‘anthemic’ glee as Mac McCaughan sings “I hate music – what is it worth?/ Can’t bring anyone back to this earth / Or fill in the space between all of the notes / But I got nothing else so I guess here we go.”

I Hate Music is a brilliant alt-rock masterpiece that arrives twenty years after such things were ‘so-called’ fashionable. It’s fuzzed out guitars and vocals seeped in blasts to match. The overall sentiment a ‘tongue in cheek’ “screw you – I play rock ‘n’ roll because I want to, mixed with some of the darker crap that comes with… well for lack of a better term – being a fuckin’ adult.

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http://www.mergerecords.com/i-hate-music

Beyond the tunes, the vinyl packaging for I Hate Music is phenomenal. For just a couple bucks more than the standard black disc, you get 150 gram coloured vinyl with a extra 7” inch single of unreleased material… and the damn 45 is white vinyl to boot. (You also get the download card, to put the album on your device of choice.)

So now that I Hate Music has finished playing I’m looking through my old CD’s for Superchunk’s Foolish with a sheepish grin on my face.  I’m wondering if I should have been paying closer attention to my roommates pontificating about the finer points of Afghan Whigs or the Archers of Loaf or…

On The Path To Vinyl Glory – Dinosaur Jr.: Bug Live @ the 9:30 Club

Back by popular demand, another round of Dinosaur Jr’s Bug Live @ the 9:30 Club. The Original limited release back in 2012 was in two colours. 800 copies were in were in translucent green and another 200 in purple. They sold out quick.

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Original 2012 Release

So now it’s 2015 and Outer Battery Records has decided to do a second run. This time the release is both slightly more limited and less at the same time. The more exclusive edition is a white and purple splatter vinyl that will see only 300 made and has to be ordered direct from Outer Battery. The regular edition that will hit record stores on February 10th will be on red vinyl.

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New 2015 Release (http://www.outerbatteryrecords.com/products/dinosaur-jr-bug-live)

The original green vinyl sounded great on the turntable and it sounds as if the new release is taken from the same masters.

Now as for a review, well, Bug Live is a phenomenal documentation of the Dinosaur Jr. with their best line up. While most fans are more familiar with the bands 90’s output on the major label Sire (Green Mind, Where You Been, Without A Sound, Hand It Over), there most powerful music came from the line up of J. Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph who appeared together on their first three records (Dinosaur, You’re Living All Over Me and Bug). Apparently, creative tensions between Mascis and Barlow led to the departure of Barlow, and it wasn’t long after that Murph left.

Regardless the three started recording and touring again in 2005 and have released several very well received records since. This album was recorded live in 2011 and captures the band playing a highly energized performance of their 1988 release Bug.

If you are even a passing fan of Dinosaur Jr. then I’d suggest that this is a bit of an opportunity to expand both your listening experience with a great live record and own a pretty damn awesome collectible at the same time.