[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. This week's installment comes from Patch.com editor and Left of the Dial writer Nathan Quincey Adams. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your own big finds!]
Records: Cap'n Jazz's Analphabetapolothology (originally released on CD in 1998, re-issued on vinyl in 2009 to coincide with the band's reunion shows) on black, Archers of Loaf's Harnessed in Slums single (1995) on black, and the Old 97's Wreck Your Life...and Then Some (2009) on black.
Place of Purchase: All records were all purchased at the 2010 Pitchfork Festival. Cap'n Jazz came from the Polyvinyl Records merch table, Old 97's from some chummy dude at the Bloodshot booth and AoL came from a big dusty pile of punk records from some Chicago record store that happened to have a table there. Shouts out to the guy who bullshitted with me for 10 minutes about punk music before giving me a sweet discount on Buttsweat and Tears.
Thoughts: The Archers of Loaf released four untouchable records, and Harnessed in Slums is one of them. Now, yes, it's true that this single only has two songs, the title track and b-side "Telepathic Traffic," so getting this one totally right isn't such an accomplishment. That being said, shut up. "Harnessed in Slums" is a ripping shit-kicker of early '90s guitar fuzz, landing somewhere between Built to Spill and Sonic Youth, with enough panache to serve as the missing link between '80s hardcore and Alice in Chains. "Telepathic Traffic" is a little more plodding, more indicative of the slowdown the band would eventually undertake on Vee Vee and All The Nation's Airports, but still packed with more than enough post-grunge rock to blow the wax out of your eardrums. Of all the lost causes cast aside by history, the Archers of Loaf are most deserving of some limelight.
Wreck Your Life...And Then Some packages everything the Old 97's recorded for Bloodshot records into one convenient, sexy double-vinyl package. Truth be told, the b-sides and demos are largely the stuff of super-fans and hyper-freaks: rough cuts of classics like "W.I.F.E" and "Cryin' Drunk" are fun as a means to hear the band in its larval stages, but not really the stuff of legend. Not that it matters too much, as Wreck Your Life still holds up as the 97's last statement of pure country. "Victoria," "Doreen" and 'Goin', Goin', Gone" still belong in the band's pantheon of great songs, while lesser tracks like "Old Familiar Steam" and "The Other Shoe" fill out some on wax. The record comes with extensive liner notes and photographs of the band, circa 1995, further cementing its cult status. People looking to get into the Old 97's (and really, if you like pop music at all, you should) would be better suited with the band's masterwork, 1998's Wreck Your Life, or its most recent success, 2008's Blame it on Gravity, but once the addiction kicks in, this is one for the collection.
"So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
-Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I understand why people don't love Cap'n Jazz as much as the bands the group would help create. American Football and Owen emote more effectively and make for better decompression. The Promise Ring rocked a little harder and was more instantly assessable. You can't really sing along to Cap'n Jazz, which, as much as audio-whores refuse to admit, is a big reason a lot of us listen to music in the first place. Still, I firmly believe that Cap'n Jazz represents a high water mark not only for punk in all its genres but for rock and roll in general.
Analphabetapolothology represents the promise and experience of a very specific kind of youth. There is no sex in this record, no violence, no outward feeling of regression or rebellion or self-loathing. It has none of the extreme feelings that are the hallmark of puberty. Instead, it represents the cold winter nights driving with friends, when everything seems possible and everyone feels invincible. Tracks like "Oh Messy Life" and "Que Suerte!" explode with a force that cannot be replicated outside of that very young, very safe place of adolescent manifest destiny, when you are finally big enough to start exploring the world, still small enough not to feel its boundaries.
I don't want to get all dramatical. This is a great release. It features a massive collection of pictures and fliers, as well as all-new liner notes from lead singer Tim Kinsella. The vinyl collection isn't as massive as the CD release from 1998, but most of the tracks left off are inferior demos and audio-experiments for the extreme collectors. Haters gonna hate, but the facts remain: Sometime nearly 20 years ago, a bunch of kids caught lightening in a bottle in such a way that no one has been able to replicate it since. Twenty years later, this record still has the power to surprise, to take breaths away, to remind those willing to listen that we were all young, brave and excited, once.