Let me open with an apology: The metaphorical pause-button had to be depressed onto VinylSighting for a few weeks whilst I relocated. And, as any record-nerd will tell you, the worst part of accumulating vast vinyl reserves is moving it all. It has serious mass. Lugging it across town in endless successive carloads only prolonged the agony. But unpacking LPs is a thrill, handling each one again, remembering the sounds and sights, reflecting on just where I was when a particular nugget fell into my clammy hands (“Ah, yes – St. Vincent de Paul, Mikado, Michigan”). As Marge Simpson described unpacking groceries, “It’s like unwrapping presents to yourself.”
The moving process was made immensely more pleasant thanks to this little device:
It’s a portable, mono, tube-pre-amp suitcase turntable, retired some time ago from the Cambridge Public Schools. You may know it from the cover of this bluegrass anthology, but probably not. When the photo shoot was over, no one wanted it, so I took it. It sounds really nice. I’ve heard that its heavy, wide needle would eventually damage my records…but, frankly, not listening to records at all is way more tragic than ruining records by listening to them. After all, any time you enjoy analog technology, you are eroding it slightly. How like life.
In the midst of the move, One Happy Island – the band of which I am one third – received an invitation to perform alongside some amazing outfits at the Athens Popfest in my home state of Georgia. We took it as an opportunity to hit up local retailers in search of cool southern platters the likes of which are hard to come by up in Boston. Here are a few things we came back with…
A reformed edition of this alluring Athens new wave ensemble actually played at Popfest. Much is made about the presence of Michael Stipe’s sister Lydia in the band, but OH-OK has more than nepotism to recommend them: sparse, playful, curious, inquisitive, melodic…great stuff, that never takes itself too seriously. This is their second EP, and it has recently been compiled with its predecessor and some unreleased bits (including new recordings!) into a great full-length vinyl anthology by our good friends at Happy Happy Birthday to Me. Oh, and hey, Matthew Sweet was an early member, too.
Growing up in Atlanta, I was exposed to a surprising amount of drag queen performance art via our public access channel (DeAundra Peek, anyone?). Indelibly burned into my retinas is Star Booty, a camcorder-shot thriller starring a pre-“Supermodel” RUPAUL. This is the soundtrack…campy goodness, maybe not the most amazing thing to listen to, but a fond souvenir of the more flamboyant side of the new south.
Remember when I said that Matthew Sweet was in Oh-OK? He was also half of this post-Oh-OK duo – just him (guitars, bass, keys, songs) and ex-O-O drummer David Pierce. Shimmer shimmer. More formal and less exploratory than Oh-OK, BUZZ OF DELIGHT's sole EP is more classically pop, but pretty dang exhilarating. At least for the first few songs, before the hooks kinda start repeating themselves.
Not strictly southern, but a genius bit of super-sessioneering under the watchful baton of drummer Anton Fier (Feelies, Lounge Lizards, etc.). Tremendous (and nearly-forgotten) Moby Grape tune, catapulted into the ‘80s courtesy of Fier, Michael Stipe (lead vocals), Henry Kaiser and Chris Stamey (guitars), and Bill Laswell (bass). The b-side points to the bands downtown NYC roots, with John Zorn, Arto Lindsay, et al in tow. Would it be so wrong to hear this at the occasional ‘80s night meat markets around Boston?
OK, this is Memphis, not Georgia. But the man had style…found a stash of TAV FALCO singles at the great Wuxtry in Athens, and was all too happy to bring them home. This single celebrates the 10th anniversary of his band Panther Burns, who dismantled southern roots music through a fractured post-punk conceptual-art lens, emerging as a sort of alternate-dimension mash-up of Dean Martin, Elvis, and R.L. Burnside. Triple gatefold, with one song from his anniversary gig and one song from the first-ever Panther Burns show in 1979. He has a new album out, actually, his disruption now more subtle but still provocative and menacing.
Brad San Martin is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter in the Boston-based indie-pop trio One Happy Island, who will celebrate the release of their new EP and songbook Unsummer on December 16 at Toad in Cambridge. His recently reactivated VinylSighting blog is a welcome addition to On The Download, despite the shortcomings of not being able to download a vinyl record.