Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vinyl Vednesday 1/12/2011

[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. E-mail with your own big finds!]

The Byrds’ Greatest Hits (1967) on black, The Doobie Brothers’ Toulouse Street (1972) on black, and The Nation of Ulysses’ Plays Pretty For Baby (1992) on black.

Place of Purchase: Byrds twas inherited from my Uncle Mike. Doobies from my Aunt Jenny. Nation de Ulysses came from Hideaway Music in Chestnut Hill, which is weird if you’ve ever been there. They don’t really seem to care about records released after like 1980.

Thoughts: I got into vinyl because it was cheaper than CDs. These days, I spend way too much on the format via Jawbreaker singles and such, but for a time it was a nice money saver. Another penny pinching method: Scoring my elders’ record collections. My Uncle Mike gave me some top picks when I got my first record player. Most of it was power-pop a la Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, but he also threw in this curious collection from The Byrds. They straddled the lines between folk, country, and psychedelia. Also, I find it funny that four of the tracks on this best of were written by Bob Dylan. With some hindsight, I can see this gift as a precursor to my interest in alt-country acts like Wilco and Venice is Sinking, or, if you prefer, the beginning of my downfall into dad rock.

Here’s a tangential story for you: I heard “Jesus is Just Alright” for the first time on Freaks and Geeks, during the episode where Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) throws a kegger to impress the titular Freaks. Her old Christian friend Millie (Sarah Hagan) tries to set the drunks straight by playing “Jesus is Just Alright,” to no avail. It’s a funny/dorky moment in a show rife with them. Millie at least gets friendly stoner Nick (Jason Segel) to sing along, presumably because he knows the Doobie Brothers version of the song (Byrds? Maybe. The Art Reynolds Singers? Probably not. And the CD Talk version was still like a decade away). So when my aunt gave some of her vinyls prior to moving, I got a good chuckle out of this particular record. And “Listen to the Music” is totally uplifting.

Oh shit, better up the punx. The Nation of Ulysses are essentially the midpoint between Minor Threat and Refused. They played hardcore but they also read reactionary political literature. They wore suits and stole ideas from jazz (which Refused in turn stole from them). I bought Plays Pretty For Baby pretty much on a whim – there was a period during my college years where I bought anything with the Dischord logo attached – and it’s paid off handsomely. Opener “N-Sub Ulysses” has always been a favorite for me, although “A Comment on Ritual” and “Mockingbird, Yeah!” are pretty great too. Dig that line “My t-shirt shows everything.”

“N-Sub” is my mantra, though. I get so annoyed when people talk about music A) being better “back in the day” and B) being soulless, terrible tripe now. There will always be complainers – check out the average Lester Bangs article from the ’70s for proof that there was always bullshit being cut in studios. It’s up to us to sort through the crap to find the good stuff. Art is not a passive medium. It does not come to you. “N-Sub” taps into that philosophy, negating baby boomer nostalgia to live in the now. Sure, that song is now nearly 20 years old, but the point remains: There will always be a new “anti-parent culture sound.”

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