Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Abrasive Wheels: When The Punks Go Marching In

Review # 2
Artist: Abrasive Wheels
Title: When the Punks Go Marching In
Format: LP
Label: Get Back
Year: 1982/1997
Songs: 19

Get Back Records is an Italian record label that, especially during the late 1990s, re-released a lot of classic British punk rock on vinyl. They were very prolific with these releases, so much so that the next two reviews after this one will also cover records on the Get Back label, and several others will come up as well as we move beyond the letter "A." This record, released in 1997, includes Abrasive Wheels' first full-length, When The Punks Go Marching In (1982) as well as some tracks from the band's 7" releases. This is a record that was extremely important to me when I went through my UK-'82 punk phase about 10 years ago.  Listening to it now brings back memories of spinning this disc while sewing band patches onto old clothes, studding things, and dyeing my hair bright red.

When The Punks Go Marching In is in many ways a quintessential representation of the early '80s British punk scene. This record is a collection of mid-tempo punk with sing-a-long/shout-out choruses and more than a little bit of that catchy street punk/Oi! influenced sound that I found so addictive in my late teens and early 20s. There's nothing intellectual or profound here, but there's nothing pretentious either. Buzzsaw guitars, sometimes reminiscent of the Ramones, bang out no-time-for-solos rhythms while working-class Brits shout about the very real threats of war and poverty in the 1980s. "Voice of Youth" demands that we "put Margaret Thatcher on the dole" while "Vicious Circle" describes in simple terms the ugly life of unemployed youth under her regime. This is classic UK-82. But it's not all anger and urban decay: the title track is in fact a rather silly cover of "When the Saints Go Marching In" that, with a few minor changes, is now about punks, skins, police officers, and the band themselves ("when the wheels go marching in"). Highlights of this record for me include "BBC" and "Just Another Punk Band," both of which have choruses I'll be singing to myself for days, and the single version of "Vicious Circle" from the groups 1981 7", which captures the raw energy of this band at its peak.

Total songs listened so far: 26

Monday, May 30, 2011

7 Seconds: Walk Together Rock Together

Review #: 1
Artist: 7 Seconds
Title: Walk Together Rock Together
Format: LP
Year: 1985
Label: BYO/Positive Force
Songs: 7

Walk Together Rock Together is the follow-up to 7 Seconds' influential first full-length record, The Crew (which will be covered later in CDs). While I've had this record for a while, I've never actually listened to it all the way through before today. 7 Seconds is a band I tend to forget about. I saw them back in 1999, at the penultimate show at the RKCNDY in Seattle, and I was really impressed with their energy and liked them a lot, but for whatever reason I don't listen to them on record very much. I got Walk Together Rock Together over a year ago when my friend Tim moved away and gave me his record collection, and I should have given this a listen before today. The record is made up of 7 songs of a genre which seems to be nearly extinct, melodic hardcore. Catchy, short and fast, these tunes had me bouncing around while I cleaned the kitchen. The energy is similar to a good pop-punk band, and the record is over before you know it because the songs just fly by. The lyrics here are heartfelt and tend to be upbeat and personal without being saccharine. The real stand-out tracks on this release are the title track, which is a call for unity that sticks in my head for days every time I hear it, and their cover of "99 Red Balloons," a song I've always liked anyway but works really well covered by a punk band. A couple of things that set this record apart from others like it are the occasional use of cowbell by drummer Troy Mowat, which will suddenly show up in unexpected places and is kind of amusing, and the picture of the band on the back of the sleeve, which features guitarist Dan Pozniak sporting one of the worst punk haircuts I've ever seen. Additionally, it was produced by Ian MacKaye (of Minor Threat and later, Fugazi). While I wouldn't say MacKaye's work is particularly evident here, it does make this record just a little cooler from a historical perspective. Although there's nothing startlingly innovative or profound on Walk Together Rock Together, this is a fun, upbeat record if you like '80s punk and hardcore.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The project begins...

Hello, and welcome to the 30,000 songs project.

30,000 songs is an idea that I had in the spring of 2011 as I was perusing my vast record collection. Those who know me know that I am an avid fan and collector of music. While my collection is heavily skewed toward punk rock, it also includes blues, hip hop, country, indie rock, classic rock, post-punk, goth, folk, jazz, and lot and lots and lots of Frank Sinatra, as well as a number of unclassifiable oddities, spoken word records, radio plays, and more. It is my goal on this blog to post reviews of every record, CD, and tape in my collection, systematically working through every single recording I own.
Here's how it will work:
I'll begin with LPs, then move to CDs, then work my way through all my 7" records.  I'll complete the process by reviewing the handful of cassettes I still own and the small pile of 78rpm records that have made their way into the collection.

I'll move through my collection as I have it organized, that is, alphabetical by artist (except for CDs that are in non-standard packaging, which are all stacked up higgildy-piggilidy and will be reviewed in an equally random way when I work my way over to them). There will be a couple of exceptions to this: holiday themed albums will be saved for the period around the appropriate holidays, and because I have SO much Frank Sinatra, I'll throw these in on random Fridays as "Frank Fridays." I've also got a few things stowed away that I don't play anymore but retain for sentimental reasons. These often embarrassing little gems will be thrown in here and there, posted as "It came from under the bed..."  Anything new added to the collection which fits in somewhere that I've already passed through will be added at the first possible opportunity.

All of the records will also be entered into a data sheet that I hope to make available and searchable at some point, but that's probably at least a few weeks off at least.

So that's it, in a nutshell.  Join me now as I start the process of reviewing the records, which, I have estimated, will take me through about 30,000 songs....