Thursday, March 26, 2009

Paleontology for Dullards: Poor Investment Edition

"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.

Various Artists Diamond Hidden in the Mouth of a Corpse
This compilation album was released by Giorno Poetry Systems, an organization that people who've gone to art school are much more qualified to discuss than me. I've been told that this disc fetches some high prices on eBay, mainly because of the Keith Harring sleeve and interior art. My main attraction to the album was the otherwise unreleased Hüsker Dü cut "Won't Change," an outtake from Metal Circus. Also included is Sonic Youth's awesome "Halloween" though it's easily available elsewhere. However, most of the album is hodgepodge documenting experimental approaches to rock music that were novel and cutting edge in the 80s but haven't aged particularly well. There's some post-disco dance rock amalgams, industrial from the likes of Coil (an instrumental that's actually one of the record's highlights) and Cabaret Voltaire (not half as compelling as "Nag Nag Nag") and an I-don't-know-what-you'd-want-to-call-it a cappella piece from Diamanda Galas. The album also features a pair spoken word cuts from Giorno staple William Burroughs (remarkable for taking place in front of an audience and getting laughs to boot) and Swans frontman Michael Gira (trying to transgressive and creepy and succeeding more in the latter than former but mostly just coming off as pretentious.) There are some enjoyable moments to be had here but for the most part this is work of conceptualists, not music fan. At the very least, Diamond Hidden in the Mouth of a Corpse is a reminder of a time when there was a dominant culture and existing outside of it actually meant something, a notion that's pretty much lost in the post-internet diaspora.
Price Paid: $10 Rating: 70%

B People Petrified Conditions 1979-81
I generally like skronky no-wave. I almost universally adore LA's post-Dangerhouse post-punk scene. Then why is this record so dull? There's a distinct whiff of art-house pretension and music-theory stuffiness here that might have something to do with it. B People's music is so densely layered that it feels as though there's no space where the listener could find entry. "Challenging" doesn't necessarily have to be an antonym for "listenable." It's no surprise that "Weather to Worry," the record's most unequivocally punky moment, is also its best.
Price Paid: $7 Rating: 28%

Love Child Okay?
This is what NYC hipsters were listening to 20 years ago. In some ways, this album (recorded in February of 1990) feels like the tipping point between the scuzz-loving, punk irreverence of 80s independent rock and the slacker-centric 90s, a sentiment clearly expressed the in refrain of "Can't get out of bed" in Side 1's closer, "Slow Me Down." Most of Okay? is dominated by willfully dissonant songs from Alan Licht and Will Baum, most of which seem to dollop on the noise whenever they get in danger of becoming catchy. They both have their moments but it's actually Rebecca Odes' more straightforward pop-like songs that are the standouts: "He's So Sensitive," "Cigarette Ash" and (who could forget) "Church of Satan." Okay? is an aesthetically similar record to Sebadoh III though none of the members of Love Child have the songwriting chops of Lou Barlow or Jason Lowenstein nor the adventurousness of Eric Gaffney, which makes Okay? altogether less than memorable.
Price Paid: $8 Rating: 37.5%

Pezband s/t
I don't think one could have lived in the Midwest in the late 70s without tripping over a power pop band. It was probably the success of regional heroes Cheap Trick that served as the catalyst for this trend. A handful of these were worthy but Chicago's Pezband weren't exactly the creme de la creme. Passable at best, most of Pezband's songs fade from memory as soon as they end. This may be a byproduct of the disposable 60s bubblegum pop they were obviously emulating but it doesn't make for engrossing listening. If you're going to be a purveyor of cotton candy, your product should really stick to one's teeth.
Price Paid: $2 Rating: 50%

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