Thursday, October 14, 2010

BOOM BOOM SATELLITES

HOW WAS I NOT LISTENING TO THIS BAND BEFORE?



Saw them play the above song live the other night at Irving Plaza - holy crap, it was just like that. There's a studio video of this song too (here), but the live version is much better. I love their drummer.





These last two are just the songs (no video), but I love them.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

All the vinyl records I still have

For some reason, I found myself rifling through my last remaining crate of vinyl records last night. This crate has been stuffed into a closet in the least-used room in my house for the last four years, and there's no practical reason for me to keep any of these. But I'm a pack rat. When I die, my house will be a time capsule of perfectly preserved pop culture artifacts from bygone eras. I miss the days when you'd actually go to a record store to rifle through the entire rack, just to see what they had from your favorite bands that you might not know even existed, or that you'd only heard the vaguest rumors about. It's great to have everything available all the time like we do now, but that sense of discovery and finding buried treasure is gone.

I had some pretty good taste in music when I was younger. (Actually, it hasn't really changed.)

I did have about 350 albums when I was in my late teens, which seemed like an obscene number at the time and I couldn't justify carrying them all around with me any longer - I was moving a lot back then. So I sold most of them in one big lot, keeping the ones that I thought were special in some way, or uncommon, and then in the 90's I actually started buying more vinyl again (for a little while). So what you see below is a mix of stuff. But I've always regretted that sale, mostly because to sweeten the deal I had to include all my KISS, all my Led Zeppelin, all my Pink Floyd, and about 95% of my Beatles records, not to mention the entire metal era of my life. Some of those albums probably are pretty rare now, at least in their original pressings.

Anyway, to the collection that remains!


I used to love Echobelly, although this song actually kinda sucks. But I loved Sonya Aurora Madan's look and voice and the fact that she somehow managed to sound like Morrissey even though the band's music was completely different than The Smiths, and she was a woman singing in a different range.  This single is a limited edition, though I don't suppose anyone cares anymore as, like most Britpop-era bands, Echobelly seems to have basically faded into obscurity.



Yes, it is what you think it is. I apologize for nothing!  If you can't appreciate the awesomeness of Xanadu, then I have no use for you.

I also have this movie on LaserDisc. (Oh, and DVD.)



Think I kept this because I thought it might be rare or something. I don't think I've ever listened to it; I have all the songs on it on other formats.



I thought I'd sold this, but I'm glad I was wrong. This is pressed on glow-in-the-dark vinyl - very rare! (It was also pressed on regular vinyl, and that version's way more common.)  Side-note: I saw them on the tour for this album, and it was like the Siouxsie of old. It was pretty fucking wondrous.  I was also about four feet from the stage.



I think I kept this out of my original batch because it's very old. It's not an original pressing, but I believe it is from 1972. Probably not worth anything, but just cool to still have all the old graphics on it, and an ad on the inside for Time Warner "Loss Leaders", which were double albums sold for the price of a single album.



Can't tell without a reference point but this is actually a double 10", not a 12". I love 10" records, they're like mini versions of themselves. This album ("Spooky" by Lush) was also released on single 12", but the double 10" version has wider grooves for better sound quality. It was also limited to 10,000 copies (which sounded like nothing at the time, but now sounds like a lot for any vinyl record), and came in its own fitted thick plastic sleeve. I remember buying this at Amoeba Music in San Francisco the day that it came out. They had a whole stack of them!



I think I probably stole this by mistake from my college radio station. (I was music director there, and often took stuff home to listen to, then forgot to bring it back... always legitimately!)



7 Year Bitch picture disc. Also a 10".  I remember in those days wondering how they got the pictures into the vinyl, and then how a record player could play it.  Man, kids are dumb.



This song has vocals from Elisabeth Fraser, which was a big deal at that time because the Cocteau Twins were still together and she never sang with anybody else (except This Mortal Coil, though that doesn't really count as another band). I bought it without even hearing it. Then I was pretty disappointed in the song itself. I bought it on vinyl because it came out like a week before the CD.



Labradford was awesome. My friends and I considered them an "ambient" band although we knew they were different from other bands in that category - I'm not sure how you'd really classify them. (Wikipedia says they're "post-rock", whatever the hell that means.) It's like music for horror film soundtracks. You can listen to this entire album on YouTube. I've always meant to replace this album on a format I can still play, but just never remember when I'm not looking at it.



Going Blank Again by Ride, one of the seminal albums of the shoegazer era, and it just feels "right" on vinyl. I bought it for "Leave Them All Behind", their biggest single, but nowadays it's clear to me that the real standout on this album is "Twisterella". I can listen to that song all day long.  (And I have, several times.)



The Cocteau Twins were my favorite band for a long, long time. This was one of their best EP's, and really hard to find, though it was later re-released in a CD box set that I also have. It features Pink Orange Red, still one of my favorite songs of all time. This is an interesting thing about the Cocteau Twins - a lot of their most famous songs never made it onto albums. You really have to get all the singles, EP's and B-sides. They actually opened with Pink Orange Red when I saw them on their final tour, and that was one of the most amazing moments of my life, hearing that song open a Cocteau Twins concert.



One of the best driving songs ever, not coincidentally.



I used to argue with people I worked with whether NOFX was "fake punk" or not. I wonder what those people think now that other "punk" albums been turned into Broadway show tunes.  Are the Ramones really the only real punk band in the world?

I still love NOFX, though their politics can get a little heavy-handed sometimes.  But god, their music is fucking catchy and sometimes their lyrics are right on point.  My one true foe: LCD indeed.



One of my original batch of albums from when I was a kid. In fact, one of the few to survive - I broke most of them in a temper tantrum when I was about 8 years old.



"April Skies" still reminds me of a time I'd rather not think about.



The Moon and the Melodies. This is really a Cocteau Twins album, although it's not called that because of the addition of Harold Budd. A lot of Twins fans I know don't really know this album exists (until I tell them) - it's not part of their official discography. I picked this up at Bleecker Bob's in NYC.



Lush's last good album, but kind of a bad omen for an album title! You may as well call an album "The End" or something. I also bought this on CD, but just wanted the vinyl because British records in those days were like American vinyl in the 1960's - it was still really high quality, with nice sleeves and thick vinyl.



I keep this sealed up with my copy of Split. It's a 7" flexi-disc of "Rupert the Bear".  Nowadays of course you can just find this on YouTube, but in those days this was one of those rarities that even most hardcore fans had never heard, and would go searching all over the world for. And I had it!  (I don't know where I got it.  But I was a monster Lush fan for a while.  I probably flew to England for it, or something.)



Not much to say about this one. Not my favorite song by them.



I have no idea why I have this or who "Paw" even is.


Where would the world be without The Runaways and the Go-Go's?  "Our Lips are Sealed" is still one of my favorite songs.  I was also one of those guys that had a massive crush on Jane Wiedlin, at least until the Bangles came along and Susanna Hoffs took over my life.  (btw, she still looks pretty awesome today.)


The first single from the Twins' worst album Four-Calendar Cafe.  I and other Twins fans were amazed by it at the time because you could understand the words.  The thing about Liz Fraser was always that she was dark and mysterious and kind of nuts.  And she intentionally made her lyrics unintelligible when she sang them, because she was afraid of people knowing her feelings about things.  This was her trademark.

But this was the first song of original Twins material in many years where she sang in plain, properly pronounced English.  Appropriately, she sings of letting go of that hidden persona and becoming more open.

Unfortunately the album itself, devoid of the mystery and with Fraser now singing almost entirely in her upper register, sounded sugary and weak compared to their other albums.  They actually returned to their earlier form a bit with their last album Milk and Kisses, and I'm glad they hung on long enough to record that one as their farewell.


Believe it or not, the first Talking Heads I ever heard was the movie version of Stop Making Sense.  I don't know what made me want to see it, but it was amazing.  I was like 12 years old and I had never been to a real concert before, and as I learned later, the experience was very close.  I remember it being ear-splittingly loud, but I couldn't get their songs out of my head afterwards.  I'm sure I bought this right after that.


REM's last good album.  I remember at the time, people considered even this album a sellout, what with "The End of the World As We Know It" and whatnot.  Now it seems positively quaint, and gets lumped in with "their old stuff" (as in "I only like...").  It is a really good album.  Bought in the waning days of the first coming of vinyl, when you weren't yet totally crazy if you wanted vinyl over a CD.  That's the original price tag on it - $6.99.  Records were really cheap in those days, because sales were declining as CD sales picked up.


An EP of Lush songs that all found their way onto Spooky.  I do remember that a couple of the songs are different in minor ways.


This is Alice Cooper's From the Inside.  I love Alice Cooper - I think he's really brilliant and has written some of the catchiest and most enduring rock songs ever.  He doesn't get enough credit.  And he did the whole theatrical thing before anybody else.  This album was more serious than most of his older albums, as it's kind of a semi-fictional account of his time in rehab.  I used to love it, but I'm more into his really early stuff now.

This album used to be tremendously rare but I don't know if anyone cares anymore, plus if I took a photo of the back side you'd see that it's got a giant chunk taken out of the jacket right in the middle.  This is actually my second copy of this, though - I had a pristine copy originally and sold it.  Somebody gave this one to me for free because of the jacket damage.  (btw, the line down the middle is a fold-out - inside is a scene from a hospital.)


I bought this album for one song that I don't even remember the name of anymore.  Oh well.  It wasn't very good otherwise, but it does have one really good song on it that I'll probably never get to hear again.


Cranes (not the Cranes, just Cranes) were a serious gothic band.  The way you could tell a real goth from a poser goth was to ask them if they liked Cranes.  (If they said "no, I'm mainly into Depeche Mode, and Siouxsie, and The Cure", then you could just smirk and laugh.)  As a band like Slayer was to metal, so Cranes were to gothic music.  Their music is fucking inaccessible to anyone else.  It's massive sounding, heavy, hard, majestic music, but with lead vocals from what sounds like a four year old girl.

Tragically I only have this album on vinyl and I don't even remember any of the songs, though I do remember liking it.  I have some of their other stuff on CD and I do still listen to it.

If you've never heard Cranes before, just watch this.  Then realize that that was on fucking MTV!  The same network that today has replaced all of its music programming with "Jersey Shore".


Dexy's Midnight Runners are usually considered one-hit wonders for "Come on Eileen", but I actually really like this whole album.


This is Rachel's, another really obtuse gothic band that uses a lot of string instruments.  I'm not sure why I bought this; I think I was trying to convince myself to like it.  Never could get into it.


The classic trip-hop single, probably the most required listening of all trip-hop singles.  Blew everyone away when it came out.  Which leads to...


One of the best, if not the best, trip-hop albums of all time.  In all honesty, I'm not a fan of every song on this album and I'm not a huge fan of trip-hop in general.  But the songs that are good are so good that everybody should really have this album.  It's still really relevant today (I hear songs from it all over the place, in other forms of media).


Echobelly's first album, when they were on the vanguard of the Britpop movement.  Seriously, take away the band shot on the bottom and that even looks like it could be a Smiths cover, doesn't it?  I still like this album, though I remember blasting it daily at the record store I used to work at and getting chills just from the melodies of some of the songs, and I don't get that anymore.  It's a pretty good album, but it hasn't aged that well for me.


The first Siouxsie album.  Fucking awesome.  Thought I'd sold it, and I'm so glad I was wrong.  This is a punk album.  Yeah, she's the goth queen, but she was a punk first.  There is no way to describe a song like Carcass as anything else.  Just an amazing song.


WTF is this?  I don't know.  I think I thought the song was cute at one point.  Not sure if I'd feel the same way now; I don't remember it.


Still love Elastica.  Hey, this is weird - I have their album on vinyl too, but it's not here.  Hmmm.  Limited edition too.

More Elastica.  I have their other singles on CD.


This Mortal Coil's "Song to the Siren", with Liz Fraser on vox and Robin Guthrie on guitar.  Basically 2/3 of the Cocteau Twins, though the original 2, before they added Simon Raymonde.  So really, it's the Cocteau Twins.  This is a classic cover of the Tim Buckley song, so haunting and beautiful.  (By the way, I am always mesmerized by watching Liz Fraser - her eyes!  I met her once, at the record store that I worked at.  Just wanted to throw that out there.)

I actually have the This Mortal Coil CD box set as well, which I think is also really rare, and it's one of my prized possessions.  That "band" was just an incredible and creative project.  Talk about a super-group.

(I also had dinner with Ivo Watts-Russell and his girlfriend one night... it was kind of awkward and I don't like to think about it too much.)


People hated this album and I'm not sure why.  I read on Wikipedia something to the effect that "the moment had just passed them by" and I think that's probably it... I really like the music on this album and I don't think it's tremendously different than their debut, but I think the scene had just moved on.  But listen to "Love Spreads" all the way through - I mean that is a great fucking song.  (That's the short version too.)


This is not Autechre's best single.  For the longest time I also thought it was pronounced "Click suite", which sort of makes sense if you know Autechre, but I finally realized something like last year that it's "sickly sweet".  Reading comprehension: comprehend it!


This is the 12" single to Lush's "Sweetness and Light", which was the first Lush single I ever got, and I was blown away by it.  Still one of my favorite songs ever.  This was 1990, and this music was not like anything anybody had ever heard at that time.  Oh sure, the Cocteau Twins were sort of similar, but this was that sound in rock music.

Incidentally, the single best song I've ever seen/heard in a live setting was this one, 1992 at The Ritz in New York City.  Sold out show, and the entire crowd was jumping up and down as one during the whole song.  I remember the band was backlit so you could not see them - just their silhouettes.  It felt like a rave.  I left that show drenched in sweat.  It still ranks as one of my top two or three shows ever.  (I saw them again in 1993 and it was a completely different experience, unfortunately.)



Like NOFX until a little while ago, I haven't listened to Down By Law in years and have no recollection of what they sound like.  Obviously I thought this album was good enough to buy, but I don't remember why.  I still like the fact that it's called "blue" and has an entirely red cover.  Was there a red, white and blue trilogy, or am I thinking of film?



And finally we have Gene, a pretty standard Britpop band at the tail end of that movement.  I bought this out of habit; at that time, I was buying pretty much any "limited edition" album (as this is) that came out of England.  This one was never my favorite, although I remember liking a few songs on it.  Ah well.

Hope you enjoyed this!  If you see anything you need here to complete your collection, feel free to contact me - I may be willing to part with most of the stuff on this list.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

My new toy (soon, anyway)

Dang, been 2 months since my last post.  I've got a backlog, some things in draft here that I'll hopefully get to finishing soon.

Anyway, my HTC Fuze is finally in the process of giving up the ghost for good, I think.  The screen looks like this now:


If you don't see it, look at the bottom row of icons as well as the top of the email header.  This isn't even as bad as it often is - sometimes I've got lines running all up and down the screen and I can't even tell what I'm doing.  I've always been able to fix it before, but it's been a week like this.

So I ordered this:


It's the Samsung Epic 4G.  I've stayed true to my word - I need a phone with a keyboard.  For a while I considered again whether I could live without one, and the answer I kept coming up with was "fuck no".  For a while it seemed like keyboarded phones were on their way to extinction, but I think people like me made a big enough stink about it that the manufacturers started listening.  All of a sudden, there are a bunch of new QWERTY phones on the market, including the Epic 4G, the Droid 2 and on the lower end, stuff like the Samsung Intercept.  I actually considered all of those, but decided on the Epic for a bunch of reasons.  Samsung doesn't gimp their phones, for one thing.  And Sprint's plans are a lot less expensive than Verizon's.  (Yep, I'm ditching AT&T, who still don't seem to realize that the iPhone is not the only phone in the world.  With no other option at the high end, I had no choice but to bolt.)

More thoughts once I receive it!  This is going to be my first Android phone, so I'll probably be having a lot of "gee wiz" moments as I play around with it.

And no, I never really considered a "Windows Phone Series 7 Series Phone" phone, or whatever ridiculous thing MS is calling their mobile OS these days, because they actually took everything I liked about Windows Mobile 6.5 and either stripped it out or fucked it up.  No multi-tasking, no copy-paste, uncustomizable and weird interface.  Mark my words: this OS release is going to be a disaster for them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The best ramen in the world is still the best ramen in the world

One of the things I had to do on our trip to Japan last month was return to the place that defines ramen for me: Yo! Teko-ya (or Yotteko-ya) in Odaiba.  I wrote about this place after my first visit there, and I have never had ramen that good before or since, in either Japan or New York.  (Some places come close, but none have quite gotten there.)  That includes the other Yo! Tekoya location in Shinjuku - don't assume that Japanese "chains" all have the exact same stuff.  Most smaller chains are just independently operated stores, like franchises in this country.

Anyway, it was a little different this time!  But still amazing.  For review, this is what I got on my first visit:


And this was my bowl last month:


This was that same bowl five minutes later:


I ransacked that ramen.

This was shoyu ramen, which is a soy sauce based broth.  I did not get shoyu ramen last time; I believe I got spicy ramen.  Anyway, this was unlike any shoyu ramen I've ever had - it was very rich for shoyu ramen, with a lot of marrow melted in there, and a lot of pork flavor.  It was the best ramen broth I have ever had.  And the pork!  It's a cliche, but the pork literally melted in my mouth.  I am not being at all hyperbolic.  I finally understood the appeal of pork fat.  Usually when I get ramen, the pork is kind of chewy and the fat is a big reason why; this pork was prepared properly and the fat, while solid sitting in the bowl, just turned to jello as soon as it hit the inside of my mouth.  It was delicious.

The whole thing was prepared a little differently than my bowl a couple years ago - maybe they have some new cooks in there.  But it was just as good.  You have to go to this place if you visit Tokyo.  It's in Odaiba, DECKS Tokyo Beach, ground floor.

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.

About Me

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I'm married. I like to travel. I have no kids. I have a house... that I'm bad at maintaining. I used to collect classic video games. I own a lot of musical equipment that far outstrips my ability to use it. When I was younger, I was in a band. I like gadgets, and I'm an Android guy. Someday, I would like to live on a different planet.

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