The Records Of Record Store Day

Thu Apr 21 2011
As I like to keep saying over and over again, we Milwaukeeans have it good.  Not only do we still HAVE record stores, we actually have this Wisconsin chain with some real pull in terms of distribution.  So while the little little guys across the country get practically shut out of Record Store Day, The Exclusive Company managed to score a lot of great limited releases for the holiday.  I lined up right as the store opened and still managed to snag everything I was hoping to find.  Yesterday I sat down for an old-fashioned licorice pizza party with all the new goodies; read on for my impressions.

I started with the reissue of Nirvana's 1992 EP Hormoaning, ‘cause I already knew I loved it.  I know I scoffed many years ago when I saw Kurt Cobain's name high up on Rolling Stone's top-guitarists-ever list, but maybe I was so saturated in Cobain guitar at that time that I had no perspective.  Technical ecstasy is one thing, but a defining sound, iconic, that can't be mistaken for anyone else's, is another.  Plus, Nirvana's version of The Wipers' "D-7" might be the best cover song of all time; finally hearing it fed through a needle as God intended was a near-religious experience.  It would've been plenty cool just because of the dark-orange-with-black-swirls vinyl, but hearing these six tunes in their original format had a more powerful impact on me than I anticipated.  And I guarantee that guitar has a lot to do with it.

Next, the first offering from punk chick supergroup Wild Flag, featuring easily one of the top ten drummers on the planet, Janet Weiss.  "Glass Tambourine" reminds me very much of something Weiss’s old band Sleater-Kinney (whose singer Carrie Brownstein is also in this band) might have come up with eventually, until the last couple of minutes, when it gets trippy.  Seriously, a psychedelic space noise jam.  Didn’t see that coming.  Side B, "Future Crimes", is closer to what I expected, roughshod Go-Go's/Sonic Youth mashup.  It all sounds kind of tossed together but exciting as hell.

Phish was about the last band I expected to put out a 7” single in 2011, but in true oddball fashion the band rolled out a couple of soundcheck jams.  Didn’t realize it would be such a hot item either, but Exclusive sold out of its 15 or so copies within minutes.  Side A features a pretty stellar open jam from the Greek Theater in Berkeley last summer, the kind of stuff fans are clamoring for more of during the actual shows.  Side B is just Fishman on drums and Trey on bass telling a story about a dream about party on a lamppost.  Hey, unselfconsciousness is a good sign, right?

Yeasayer's "End Blood" 7": it actually contains two songs, neither of which is called "End Blood".  But I can't bring myself to put the title of a 7" in italics, even though the record runs at 33 RPM for some reason.  Anyway, I didn't even realize this record was coming out until I saw it on the shelf at Exclusive.  "Swallowing The Decibels" (a perfect song title) is a loping, dubby slab of hypnopop, almost anthemic but more blissed out than anything.  Side B, "Phoenix Wind", is even slower; halfway through the song, I got suspicious that the "45 RPM" printed on the label was actually correct.  It's a fascinating coda to Odd Blood; it feels like a vacation after a long, successful year, most likely sipping a strong cocktail from a semi-reclined position.

That would be about it for the happy music.  Next was Rush's new 45, both sides of which the band had played at Summerfest last year and instantly blew away everything from the band's last album, the fairly dismal Snakes & Ladders.  "Caravan" would've been right at home on 1993's classic Counterparts album, and features an uncharacteristically creepy Alex Lifeson solo.  Every time I think this band is washed up, it resurges.  "BU2B" is equally dark, Lifeson's leads equally piercing, Neil Peart playing for his life.  The next album may not be called Excuse To Tour after all.

The Opeth single, “The Throat Of Winter”, is just one song backed with an etching of the band's logo.  Apparently, the band wrote it for a video game, so I wasn’t expecting much.  It starts with some acoustic, major-chord fingerpicking (???) and stays acoustic for quite some time.  Mikael Åkerfeldt shows almost instantly why he is the greatest across-the-board singer in all of metal.  Doesn't sound like we're going to get any growling in this one, though.  This sounds more like a lost Moody Blues classic than anything else, except much more unnerving.  Following some psychedelic organ touches, the song breaks down into an incredible acoustic guitar duel, then suddenly a church bell begins to chime, somebody starts shaking a maraca, and the song is just over.  That's really not fair.  I haven't felt so robbed of a proper ending since Coventry.  Amazing song, though, unlike anything Opeth has ever done; hope it's not just a curiosity.
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