Frank Gutch Jr: Vinyl Presence & Presents (After All, Christmas Is Around the Corner) and Notes From Under the Ground…..

I don’t know what youth wants from us old farts, especially when it comes to music.  Many mock us for being Boomers, many laugh at our music.  I can understand.  I laugh at us, too.  Our insistence that stars are gods, especially rock and movie stars.  Our self-indulgence.  Our knowledge that we more than any others are omniscient.  God, but there have been times when I wished I had been borne of another generation (until I look at the other generations and realize that they are as fucked up as are we).

Right now, and indeed for some time, we have become involved in the music format debate.  For those of you not as involved in music as others, that means the ongoing debate about whether music sounds best on vinyl, on CD or just plain digital.  Just this past Saturday I talked with JD Monroe, drummer with Corvallis, Oregon band Xenat-Ra, about vinyl.  They released their new album, Science For the Sound Man, on vinyl.  JD pushed his chest out a bit when he told me, and rightfully so.  It is not a decision made lightly these days.  Vinyl costs money, something most bands do not have (contrary to popular opinion).  We talked about that decision in some detail, but I could tell JD was hurt by my lack of enthusiasm.  Not about the release, but about the format.  I hold the view that music depends upon so much more than format.  JD, technician that he is, takes those things for granted.  Vinyl, to him, is the Holy Grail.  I live by the track.  He lives by the format.  I’m overstating it, of course.  That’s what I do.  Sometimes to make a point and sometimes because I’m an asshat who doesn’t really know what he’s talking about but can’t back down from a fight.

But JD has a point.  There is something comforting about vinyl.  Those pieces of plastic are just pieces of plastic to some, but to us older people, they contained a lot of what was good in our lives.  Now, JD is not a boomer, having been born in the mid-seventies, but he was surrounded by vinyl as he was growing up.  His father’s vinyl.  His friends’ vinyl.  And, yes, his vinyl also.  He grew up with records as did I.

I have been thinking about vinyl a lot these past few months, but my little talk with JD made me think harder.  I have always said that today’s supposed “junk” is tomorrow’s collectors item and JD drive it home.  There are a lot of albums and EPs and 45s out there right now, many of them as good as anything on the market, and they haven’t necessarily been produced by the machine known as the majors (Universal, Warners, Sony, etc.).  Many have the cachet of the early reggae 45s I used to see in small stores around San Diego in the seventies— 45s I used to say were pressed on cow dung because of the lack of quality.  Many of those were hand-pressed, I found out later, and if anything screams collector’s item, it is that handmade one.

Well, we’re surrounded by handmade items right now.  Not handmade in terms of the actual hands-on pressings, but handmade in terms of the music and the personal involvement which got the music to the point of physical product.  Add that personal involvement to the limited edition attitude many of the artists and labels have these days and you have a collector’s dream come true.

Here’s where it gets tricky.  You have to match the limited edition aspect to the quality of music to make it work for the collector.  What good does it do to have one of a million Led Zeppelin pressings compared to one of Xenat-Ra‘s extremely limited pressings of Science For the Sound Man?  Led Zeppelin fans would probably say, so who’s Xenat-Ra.  That’s why I seldom talk to Led Zeppelin freaks.  On the other hand, if an album sucks, it doesn’t really matter how many you press (though many might have kitsch value decades later).

What this column is ultimately about is vinyl and Christmas.  Vinyl as presents.  I loved the records I got every year and, thanks to a couple of amazing parents, it was every year.  It start off with Fats Domino‘s Blueberry Hill (Aunt Dixie, may she rest in peace, that same year gave me the Elvis EP with Rip It Up on it).  No, let me correct that.  It started with a series of childrens records.  I even got a 78 of someone singing Ten Little Indians b/w The Sullivans.  But Blueberry Hill was a benchmark record.  It was my first real record.  My first adult record.  And it set the stage for years to come.

They were the first gifts my sister and I went for on Christmas morning, easily recognizable by their shapes.  I think my sister did it because she was hoping there would be new Christmas music (for her, there usually was) and I did it because music, even at that very young age, consumed me.  I have received some incredible and very valuable gifts on that special morning, but few impressed me as much as a single well-thought-out 45 or album.

You can still do it— give that special someone an album which is not only very impressive but in time will become very valuable.  I have been doing my research lately and have a raft of possibilities.  If you choose your music wisely (and make sure that the receptee has a system which includes a turntable), you can blow a mind.  Being’s how JD kickstarted me on this, let’s start out with…

Xenat-Ra/Science For the Sound Man—  I cannot even begin to tell you how fortunate I have been since reviving my writing jag.  I have “met” and written about many musicians for whom I have gained an immense amount of respect and have discovered heaps of good-to-great music in the process.  I found Xenat-Ra through one Samuel Kincaid, CEO of Truss Media LLC (and, no, he didn’t fit the generalized description of a CEO, rather a young dude just having a beer).  We started talking about music and he obviously knew sound (our main topic of conversation were these PA speaker boxes stored against the wall at the Bombs Away Cafe in Corvallis, Oregon, where we happened to be drinking those beers), so I asked him if there was anyone I needed to hear in the area.  Two popped out of his mouth without hesitation.  Xenat-Ra and 30 Pound Test.  I’ll get to 30 Pound Test soon.  Not in this piece, but hopefully in a future article.

I listened to Xenat-Ra and went to see them this past Saturday (review here).  It was intense.  If you have a musician in your life— one who appreciates the finer points of Living Colour, Van der Graaf Generator or Ticktockman—  this is an album you need to get them.  Science For the Sound Man is as good a mix of prog, jazz, rock (math and otherwise) and hip-hop as you will find anywhere.  It comes as a double LP (actually, it comes as two LPs linked together only by the music, each record coming in its own cover) on 150 gram vinyl (that means good quality, my friends).  I thought the music a bit on the experimental side until I saw them live.  You get live what you get on the album, with twists.  These guys are talent-heavy and play like they have been together (and on the same plane) for decades.  Here is the Bandcamp page so you can listen.  You can also buy the LP(s) or CD there, each of which comes with a free download.  If you’re not sure, at least pass the information along.  For musicians, bands like this are not to be missed.  Hey, they have T-shirts too, though you will have to contact them direct for info.  Do it.  These guys love what they do and are willing to talk with anyone about it.

Ticktockman /Ticktockman—  I almost hate to call these guys prog because a lot of you will just skip on to the next item, but they are.  Damn fine prog.  They have that same jazz-tinged influence as does Xenat-Ra, but not as far out nor is it mixed with hip-hop.  Their latest release is an EP, digital only as far as I can tell, titled Calling Out the Hounds, but the good news is that the self-titled album is available on vinyl.  It’s a killer.  I got the same rush on Archaic Republic, the track that kicks off Ticktockman, that I did when I first heard Don’t Want You No More on the Allman Brothers Band‘s first album.  While they don’t sound anything alike, there is a tight and forceful aspect to each song which grabbed me right off.  Think King’s X with more of a jazz and prog direction.  I love these guys.  You don’t need to bang your head, but they’re good enough that you find yourself doing it, if only in small almost unnoticeable jerks.  You can stream the album here.  If you want to buy the vinyl, the album comes in both red and black vinyl.  Click here.

Sydney Wayser/Bell Choir Coast—  No prog here, just excellent and unique music.  I discovered Sydney Wayser a few years ago when she put out the outstanding The Colorful album.  I fell in love not only with the voice but the excellent songwriting skills she has.  And the production.  And the music.  Bell Choir Coast is The Colorful +.  Both are fine, fine albums.  Bell Choir Coast, though, is available on vinyl.  Would I buy one of these for myself if I had the money?  You bet.  When albums like this come out, I find myself wishing I was a millionaire.  The music is hard to describe (I try but fail here), but luckily there is a streaming site (click here).  She has vinyl as well as T-shirts and other stuff too (click here).  Very cool and perfect for anyone who loves just plain old good music.  Wait.  Did I just say good?  I meant outstanding!!!

Freedom Hawk/Holding On—  Did someone say colored vinyl, because if they did, have I got the band for you!  Of course, this assumes that the person you are buying for has hard rock in his or her veins.  Freedom Hawkis a four-man dynamo on jet skis.  They caught my ear with a solid rocker titled Stand Back (watch video here) and I’ve been with them since.  This is hard hook-laden rock, full of crunchy guitar and a solid rhythm section.  Their latest recording is Holding On and is not only available on vinyl, but on 180 gram vinyl— aqua blue, red or black— your choice (click here).  You’d better hurry, though.  The quantities are very limited.  You can stream the album on their website (click on the band name directly before “four-man dynamo.”  Tell you what, though.  They just Youtubed a cool video for the song Indian SummerWatch it here.

But hey, you know what?  Small Stone Recordings are loaded with cool vinyl offerings from bands with names like Dixie Witch and Five Horse Johnson and Sasquatch and Ironweed and Wo Fat.  Man, if you have hard-rockin’ teens in your house, this stuff would be perfect!  And they have posters and T-shirts too.  One stop shopping!  Click here and browse.

Putters, Zombie vs. Shark, the 667s—  Okay, the 667sare not available on vinyl (though it is available on CD), but there are a couple of Zombie vs. Shark items and a Putters‘4-Song 7” EP  that will do nicely.  Crunchy punk-edged hard rock with an attitude and a sense of humor.  On Modern Peasant Records— “Trans Oklahoma-Washington gas money rock  n roll” as they so eloquently put it.  My connection to these guys is through guitarist Nathan Hill (known by friends and enemies alike as “Natehead”), one-time purveyor of fake Rolex watches and guitar picks (“Jimmy Page threw this one into the audience right after his guitar solo on Stairway, honest.  Heh-heh.”)  Modern Peasant lives here.  And I’m glad it does.  Where else can you get lines like “Ass-kicking Punk n Roll.  Resistance is feudal”?

Sarah White, The Fire Tapes, Red Rattles—  Bear with me for a minute.  I know I write a lot about  Charlottesville’s tiny WarHen Records label, but I do it for a reason.  I don’t know how the idea got started, but a couple of Charlottesvillains one day decided that putting out extremely limited quantities of 45s by well-vetted Charlottesville musicians was a good idea, thus was born the label.  The first was Sarah White‘s Married Life b/w ILY 45, 90 available on white vinyl (sold out).  You can still get it on black vinyl.  Sarah is a mainstay on Charlottesville’s musicians of worth list.  Just recently, WarHen announced the release of Red RattlesUh Huh on, what else?  Opaque red vinyl.  Only 150 available and I’ll bet they’re going fast.  About the same time, The Fire TapesSkull Xbones 45 popped in the door.  Again, only 150 on “randomly mixed splatter.”  The music on these is topnotch.  Scope them out here.

Sandrider/Sandrider—  Don’t ask me why but lately I have been enamored with loud and raucous and there are few louder or more raucous than Seattle’s Sandrider.  Straight-on steam engine rock ‘n’ roll is what they play, rhythm guitar dominating the sound but the drums and bass dominating the beat.  This album is a headbanger’s delight and while that may make some parents cringe, this is hardly the screaming death metal they fear.  It is instead music to get the heart pumping and the head bobbing.  Think Deep Purple in their glory years, parental units, then amp it up a few decibels.  Okay, a lot of decibels.  Keep in mind, though, that this is not music to be feared.  This is music to be felt.  Crank this puppy up and you’ll have everyone in the neighborhood banging their heads.

Comes in gatefold jacket and is 180 grams-guaranteed to rock the house.  Very reminiscent of the seventies in terms of the band’s approach to music.  Three-man rock.  Here is the Bandcamp page from which you can link to order the album.  Stream some of the songs, especially the ten-minute-long Judge.  They find a groove on that song that knocks me out.  Nothing fancy, just addictive.  And very cool.  Oh, and they give you a free download with purchase of album.  Can’t beat that with a stick.

By the way, Sandrider is not the only band to record for Good To Die Records.  They have other goodies as well.  Click here and check out what they have.  It will be fun!

Wes Swing/Through a Fogged Glass—  Forgive me for going Charlottesville on you again.  Wait.  Don’t bother.  C-ville has handed me way more than its share of outstanding music and there are few better than Wes Swing,  especially his latest, Through a Fogged Glass.  Swing playscello, but don’t let that throw you.  This is a beautiful and flowing piece of Americana, it is, brought to life by full acoustic ensemble and the voices of Mr. Swing and guest Devon Sproule.  That cello does get a little bit of a workout in the more ethereal segments but is hardly dominant and the band is spot-on outstanding.  It says on Wes’s Bandcamp page (click here) that it was released in January of 2011.  That can’t be right.  It wasn’t that long ago that Wes sent me an email asking if I would review the album.  You know what?  I pushed the whole thing aside.  That proves that I can be as big an idiot as anyone.  This is beautiful stuff!  Stream it!  Listen for yourself.

I’m thinking that maybe Wes released the vinyl edition of this album recently.  Maybe?  Regardless, the music is timeless.  Reminds me a bit of Jimmie Spheeris on a beautiful Spring day.  Better hurry.  They only pressed 250.  Total.

There are tons of items out there on vinyl and the ones that aren’t, you might want to check out anyway.  For instance, The Electric Prunes have vinyl items available (click here).  Who’d a thunk, huh?  Seattle’s Spyn Reset have a vinyl album for sale through CDBaby titled Four Dimensional Audio.  Interesting slightly experimental music which relies a lot on keyboards.  Intriguing.  (click here)  Minneapolis band Sundowners have a seven-incher for sale which they titled Sundowners 7” for obvious reasons.  A nice bit of punkish pop.  (click hereCDBaby itself, in fact, have a whole listing of vinyl offerings.  Click on this page and be prepared to do some research.  I hope to take a whole day off soon to delve into the CDBaby quagmire.  I call it a quagmire because they carry so many titles, the numbers alone make my head spin.

I’ve saved the best for last.  Green Monkey Records has some leftover quantities of GM product.  Wait a minute.  Leftover is not what it is.  Collectible is what it is.  Including (get this) copies of the original pressing of Monkey Business, a 1986 compilation of tracks by the original Green Monkey artists.  They also have very rare copies of the last album The Green Pajamas recorded for Green Monkey on their first go-round:  Ghosts of Love. 1990 Pajama classic!!  There are also copies of The Hitmen‘s overlooked Smashface album.  On vinyl.  Click here for the monkey love.

Now here’s the capper.  There are, amazingly, copies of a Green Pajamas single available.  Here’s the info as supplied by the monkey-esque Howie Wahlen:

PJ’s single info: Both songs (She’s Had Enough/London Sundays) are ONLY on this 7″ in fantastic MONO! Recorded back in 1998 at Vagrant Records Studio all ANALOG! Cut by Charles Bork of on his disc cutter in 2011 for release on Vagrant Records of Seattle Washington. When they are gone, They’re GONE! No re-pressings.
They feature the CLASSIC Green Pajamas line up of Jeff Kelly, Joe Ross, Karl Wilhem & Eric Lichter too.

Eric 4A added this:

I have about 100 of them left (all numbered above 150 out of 300) I am selling them (domestically) for $5 per single while they last, Plus $6 (priority mail) postage (domestically) OR $20 shipping per International Order (prepaid) Money/Postal Order only. NO CHECKS (too many scammers out there these days).
You can order them here;
Vagrant Records of Seattle Washington
5512 University Way N.E.
Seattle WA 98105
or here;

Vagrant Records Merchandise Order Form

If that ain’t cool, I don’t know what is.

Again, I feel as if I am leaving out something very important (I do just about every week), but this will have to do.  Do me a favor and pass the link to this column around to all of the friends you have who might want access to some of this information.  There’s nuggets in these pages, vinyl though they may be.

Now that we’ve gotten the heavy weight lifted, let’s move on to

Notes…..  Charlottesville’s Sarah White is back and better than ever.  After her outstanding 45 for WarHen Records (Married Life b/w ILY), she started working on new tracks and here they are.  Four obvious Sarah White beauties.  If you don’t know her, you should.  The songs are available on Bandcamp on a pay what you want basis.  Ever since her Sweetheart EP, I can’t get enough.  Click here…..  Nick Holmes fans, rejoice!  Not only is Nick in the studio at the end of this month recording a new album with many of the musicians who made Soulful Crooner the classic that it is, but there is a possibility (and a strong one) that Nick will be releasing yet another album which was recorded about ten years ago, Freedom Slave.   This is getting seriously weird.  Nothing from Nick makes itself known to me for decades and now how many?  A bunch.  Which makes life pretty damn good.  Nick sez first, the new album.  Then, Freedom Slave.  Hell, I don’t care what order they show up in, I just want them to get here!!!…..  Dala, after having a drink named after them:  “We’re basically Kardashian’s”…..  It keeps getting better and better.  Really!  Lisa Joy Pimentel, leader of the parade (The Lisa Parade, that is) is now head meatgrinder of No Small Children who are readying an EP for release and if the track I heard is any indication at all, it’s a killer.  This is what I have come to expect out of Pimentel, who has to rate as one of the least appreciated real talents out there over the years.  Want to hear a little in-your-face coolness, listen to their new track, Wenches and Bitches (click here).  If radio was still viable, disc jockeys all, over the world would be screaming “It’s a smash!”…..  Maine’s Arborea are one of those fringe duos you read about a lot and get to hear all too seldom (unless you’re plugged in).  Lucky for you, I’m plugged in.  Here is a recording they did for The 78 Project ( titled Red Bird.  (Click here)  Acoustic dessert…..  Have I mentioned Gavin Guss before?  Buddy Howie Wahlen is pretty high on this guy and after one listen, I understand why.  A lot of brit pop influence and done very well indeed.  If you like your music melodic with a lot of upbeat harmonies, you should check this guy out.  Nice, nice stuff.  Click here…..

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”



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