Cleaning out the promo shelf:

Cleaning out the promo shelf:

The Bongos

Drums Along the Hudson (reissue)

Cooking Vinyl

Grade: B

A New Jersey group active in the ’80s that is credited with ushering in the beast known as “alternative music” — you had me, and then you lost me. Premiering in 1980 with their self-titled EP on Fetish Records — a British label more prone to releasing experimental music from Throbbing Gristle and 23 Skidoo (two the live tracks from ‘81 include 3/4 of Throbbing Gristle & a Bush Tetras member)— they entered a world fueled by “Who Shot J.R.?”, the Iran Hostage crisis, Ted Bundy and the Walkman. With modern-day production by Moby and 27 tracks of Reagan-era nerviness, ambiguity and the temporary Xanadu of the three-minute pop single, the only thing that keeps it from getting a “10” from the East German judge is the overwhelmingly beige name. Download: “Video Eyes,” “Automatic Doors”


Prayer of Death

Tee Pee

Grade: B

With songs like “Grim Reaper Blues” and “Valium Blues,” you might be correct in presuming there might be a fair portion of good old-fashioned American myth-baking crawling through every 0 and 1 on this shiny little disc. Arranged and co-produced with A Perfect Circle’s Paz Lenchantin, the handwritten liner notes quote the Tibetan Book of the Dead and James Baldwin in equal measures. Blakeslee’s echoing howls and moans try to summon the hallowed portals to Elsewhere with bluesy, vaguely Asian guitar and percussion, but instead of the cosmic OM we get the Earthly MEH. Looking forward to the next Entrance album? Very possibly. Do we criticize the man for trying? Absolutely not. But, like it says on the man’s tombstone: “Don’t try.” Download: “Requiem for Sandy Bull (R.I.P.)”

Various Artists

Crunk Hits Vol. 3


Grade: B

TVT, rapidly becoming a slightly more respectable update of K-TEL Records’ winning strategy of re-issuing and repackaging rap and hip-hop hits, presents this mind-melting barrage of pants-and-ass shakin’ crunk blockbusters. “Crunk”, for the terminally square and beige music writers among us, stems from a kind of Southern rap fueled by the binary sun of “marihuana” and “alcohol,” a neologism of “chronic-drunk” (which formerly meant a sponsor and more meetings) or “crazy-elephant-hit-me-with-its-trunk,” so deep and hard do these tracks land. Highlight: David Banner (absolutely not related to the Hulk) and his smasher “Play,” which turns out to be about sex, sex and more sex and not some creepy stalker chasing after a jogger in the morning! Because, really, he wants to see you sweat. Girl. Download: “Play,” “Locked Up”

Cleaning out the promo shelf:

Cleaning out the promo shelf:

Various Artists

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten


Grade: B+

In the 1970s, two voices dominated English punk: Johnny Rotten’s and Joe Strummer’s. Today, Rotten, a.k.a. John Lydon, is alive in obscurity, while Strummer, sadly, is dead — but more popular than ever. This is a soundtrack to a new documentary about Strummer, and if you love Joe, you will love this record, even if it’s mostly a grab bag of little-known classics he played on his BBC radio show. The compilation includes a few of Strummer’s own greatest hits, including a demo of the Clash’s “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” That says a lot about Strummer’s love for all kinds of music, and we get a satisfying mix on this soulful record.

Download: “Johnny Appleseed” (Joe Strummer), “Corrina, Corrina” (Bob Dylan)



City of Echoes

Hydra Head

Grade: A

This is heavy metal, insofar as it suggests brooding (in a good way) and contemplation (in a progressive way): What am I about? What am I for? How did a typeface cribbed from the Gutenberg Bible make so many religious people think every heavy metal LP that used it was Satanic and not just irrelevant? Apart from their obvious chops as musicians, it’s the fact that Pelican doesn’t try to be anything other than what they are, which is a fairly interesting band that plays heavy, loud rock instrumentals which incidentally has made an impressively transportive album that takes the listener places other than pointless moping in the bedroom.

Download: “Bliss in Concrete,” “Spaceship Broken – Parts Needed”


Carlton Patterson

& King Tubby

Black & White In Dub

Hot Pot

Grade: A

I might as well write the word “perfect” 100 times and just be done with it. Patterson, a relatively unsung producer who worked in Jamaican popular music most heavily throughout the period 1974-1982, is represented here with 21 collaborations with the late King Tubby, one of dub’s pioneers. Patterson and Tubby’s dub is not the soundtrack to metropolitan dystopia and bad-pot paranoia: It’s an impossibly upbeat, wet-reverb heavy invitation to dance. The liner notes include an interview with Patterson about his early days working as a pharmaceutical employee for Pfizer and quitting his job when his production work took off. Now he works construction in Rochester. Imagine a world so small.

Download: The whole album


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