Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Paleontology for Dullards: A Consumer's Guide

"Paleontology for Dullards" rates records I've found in used LP bins by assigning them a cash value. For further explanation, please see my original post here.

Drunks With Guns s/t
Many years ago I was lucky enough to stumble upon a copy of Drunks With Guns' Second Verses LP. Though I enjoyed it thoroughly, I was told that despite containing the awesome Alter Human Industrial Fetishisms 7" in its entirety, the LP did not actually represent the band at their finest. The self-titled LP, a comp of their first two 7 inches plus an extra track, was the pukka DWG. And after listening to this, I find it hard to disagree.

For those who've never experienced the glory, try to imagine punk band just as powerful as Minor Threat but sort of their aesthetic opposite. Instead of taut and speedy, Drunks With Guns were sloppy and plodding. And instead espousing a generally positive philosophy of mental acuteness, they were about a negative and nihilistic as they come. You can practically smell the cigarette butts and stale beer wafting from the grooves. (Or maybe I just get that impression from the cover shot.) Singer Myk Doskocil doesn't so much sing or even scream as much as he vomits up total contempt for humanity as the band churns away behind him. Many since have tried to emulate Drunks With Guns mixture of misanthropy and primitive rock action (Pissed Jeans is recent example) but few have matched their potency. And the preceding isn't enough to pique your interest, then song titles like "Dick in One Hand" and "Punched in the Head" probably won't either.

I must stress that this is not the original Archvillian/Chopper 1987 pressing but the 1999 Demolition Derby/Nitro! reissue. I still paid $15 for it. It was still worth every fucking penny.

(Caveat emptor: Not the most comradely bunch, Drunks with Guns split up and members formed two separate bands, both called Drunks With Guns. Records from this era should be avoided.)
Price Paid: $15 Rating: 100%

The Jam In the City
I've never been as much of a Jamophile as some but I like most of their records just fine. Paul Weller was an undeniably skilled pop tunesmith even if his reach sometimes exceeded his grasp and the soul affectations got to be too much after a while. Here, on the Jam's debut, Weller's skills were still in nascent form and the band simply bashes away at appropriated sixties mod at punk tempos. The energy level never seems to drop below blinding fury and the band's chops are up to the task but considering what they would later accomplish, the Jam's lack of ambition is somewhat startling. They seem content to reenact a bygone era rather offer new ideas. It doesn't seem probable that they would become one of the most important British groups of their era. Clearly, their best work was ahead of them.

Still, In the City succeeds on it's own modest terms. The title track is an absolute monster and fully deserving of it's classic status. None of the other cuts come close to equaling it, but most ("Away From the Numbers" and "Takin' My Love," for example) are high-energy fun. The album is far from the greatest artifact of class of '77 Britpunk, but it's a good one.
Price Paid: $10 Rating: 60%

The Smiths The Queen is Dead
This is the first Smiths album I've ever owned. Yeah, really. Morrissey, Marr and co. never really did it for me except as a singles band, maybe. The Smiths are enjoyable in short bursts but Mozz's schtick really grates on my nerves in larger does. And I wasn't going to drop money in the amount of double digit figures for Rough Trade imports to possibly have my mind changed. Though when I saw The Queen is Dead available for under 5 bucks, I figured I'd give it a listen. Have I changed my opinion? Slightly, perhaps. I was able to get through the entire record without really grimacing but that may have been because the band put the best songs on Side 2, which is about 80% brilliant. ("Vicar in a Tutu" is okay though if I could never hear it again for the rest of my life I wouldn't lose any sleep.) Or maybe it's because Mozz is in a more playful mood than usual. Or maybe it's just the talent of Johnny Marr shining through. Whatever. I still like the Go-Betweens better.
Price Paid: $3 Rating: 100%

The Move Looking On
This is first album on which you can hear the path crackpot/genius Roy Wood took for more or less the rest of his career: saving concise poppy statements for singles and using albums to stretch out with his more ambitious ideas. The LP features seven(!) songs, none of which you think were by the same band that recorded "(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree." This is also the first Move album to feature Jeff Lynne and one can certainly hear the embryo of ELO. This is art rock, through and through, though to their credit the Move never lose slight of the "rock" part of that equation and never let wankery get in the way of melody. On paper, the album's blend of highfalutin prog and hard boogie may appear to be a recipe for disaster. However, so gifted were Wood and Lynne as arrangers and composers that it rarely sounds pompous or lumpy in practice. Emerson, Lake and Palmer couldn't dream of such vitality. Wood has done more enjoyable work before (and after) but in it's own way Looking On is an example of "rock as art" on the level of Sgt Pepper or Tommy. Do keep in mind I'm not particularly fond of either of those records.
Price Paid: $7 Rating: 85.7%

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