Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A-Z PROJECT: 177-183

183 days ago I started listening to all of my CDs in alphabetic order to see if I could do it. I found myself bored with what I was listening to and spending more and more time deciding on what to listen to. I realized I had a lot of CDs I never listened to, stuff I never had the urge to put on, and decided to just listen to all of them in order instead. My goal was to listen to everything in a year, or at least to see how long it would take me to accomplish this. I’ve been tracking my progress on Facebook by posting daily playlists and giving my immediate thoughts on what I was listening to as I was listening to it. I've since deleted my Facebook and thought I’d post my progress here instead since I need to make more use of this Blog site anyway. I don’t consider myself to be a writer, a music critic or an authority on music. This is simply a way to alleviate boredom at a job in which very little is expected out of me. I’m also not posting these playlists to brag about my music collection and I’m not burning copies of this stuff for people, so don’t ask.

(*) asterisks note things that are burned copies and not an original release. CDRs without asterisks behind them were originally issued as CDRs.

Day #177
MELVINS - "10 Songs" CD (Melvins have been terrible for so long, I had forgotten how great their earlier releases were. I found this used in Denver for cheap years ago, I really wasn't too familiar with them at the time, just knew my brother listened to them all the time and that this was out of print. There's very little rock on this album, instead heaps of plodding, thick, sludgy stuff with lots of changes and snarling, overdriven vocals. The recording has just the right amount of dirt and rawness for this kind of music, sounds like all of the instruments were recorded live without additional overdubs.)

MELVINS - "Eggnog" CD (Short, noisy and fun. I've always found Buzz's vocals to be annoying, even back in these days, but I suppose that was the idea. The first few songs on this are good, but the 13 minute long doom song that closes this CD is the reason to pick this up.)

MELVINS - "Electroretard" CD (This CD is made up of alternate recordings of a couple of songs from the "Stoner Witch" album, some cover songs and other weird stuff. The cover of Wipers' "Youth of America" is great, equally as good as the original. The Pink Floyd cover is fun, too but the rest of this album is pretty disposable. It's interesting once or twice, but not after that. I'm not a big fan of wacky, and this CD is full of it.)

MELVINS - "Gluey Porch Treatments" CD (This is the 1999 reissue with bonus tracks. I bought this in Denver the day after buying and listening to "10 Songs". Listening to "Eye Flys" right now, it's embarrassing how hard I ripped off the intro of that song when years later I recorded "The Wrath of Sasquatch" with Billy Crystal Meth. It's almost an exact copy. This shit is mind-boggling. The amount of parts crammed into a single song is staggering. Some don't ever repeat within the song, and none of it seems showy or technical for the sake of being technical. It's like prog rock played by punkers who listened to too much Black Sabbath growing up. Some of this stuff sounds similar to what Man is the Bastard were doing towards the end of their run. I didn't make that connection until just now. This is my favorite Melvins release. It sounds like they had something to prove and wanted to get it all out at once in case this was their only chance to do so.)

MELVINS - "Houdini Live 2005: A Live History of Gluttony and Lust" CD* (I don't think I've listened to this before today. I burned a copy of it when I borrowed it from a friend, but I think I've been sitting on it for 6 years because I don't remember hearing this before now. I suppose if you wanted a live recording of "Houdini" in it's entirety you couldn't do better than this. The recording is clean, playing great, etc., but this whole thing is unnecessary. It sounds too close to the studio album to warrant releasing it. I'll never choose to listen to this when the studio album is an option.)

MELVINS - "Mangled Demos From 1983" CD (This CD starts with a great radio broadcast from an ELKS lodge Christmas show / fund raiser. The stuffy hosts of the event don't know what to make of their noise and keep making jokes about their sinuses being cleared and getting a foot massage as a result. I'm sure they regretted letting them play as soon as they started up. The bulk of this CD is made up of demos recorded in 1983 while Mike Dillard was still in the band. The audio is surprisingly good and the songs are more HC and less complex when compared to their other releases. Buzz's vocals sound like a cross between Blaine from the Accüsed and H.R. from Bad Brains.)

MELVINS - "Stoner Witch" CD (Their second release on Atlantic Records, probably the best of the three. Sounding like a rock band this time around, less wacky shit on this one. This is probably the straightest these guys have ever played it, but there's enough familiar territory on here not to scare away many of the old fans. It's one of their best releases.)

MELVINS + LUSTMORD - "Pigs of the Roman Empire" CD (I was prepared not to like this today as I didn't like it in the past, but today has proven different. The dark ambient passages on this are good and the effect of thrash riffs weaving in and out of the noise periodically is pretty cool. Even better, a lot of the Melvins' contribution to this release is instrumental, so we're spared Buzz's annoying vocals for a good chunk of this. This is okay, but not great.)

MENTORS - "Trash Bag" EP + "You Axed For It" LP CDR* (At some point in the 90s I owned a CD with both "You Axed For It" and "Up the Dose" on it, but I traded it away. I had no idea this stuff would be out of print forever when I let go of it. Thank goodness for file sharing! Pioneers of the sleaze-rock genre and one of the biggest targets of the PMRC, the Mentors played bone-headed rock with some of the stupidest lyrics ever and coined the term "rape-rock". The "Trash Bag" EP was their first release, came out on Mystic Records and contains the great" Going Through Your Purse" and "Woman From Sodom" which was covered years later by German sleaze-grinders Dead. The sound on this EP is rough and the style is closer to punk rock than their Metal Blade releases, but this stuff is great and I wish there were more recordings from this era. With their first LP comes a huge jump in sound quality, but only minimal improvement in the musicianship (thankfully). Just as stupid as their EP, but with ripping guitar leads throughout. This stuff is fun for a while, but wears thin after a 5-6 songs. Their singer, El Duce, died in 1997 just days after being interviewed by the BBC about Curt Cobain's death and saying that Courtney Love offered him $50,000 to kill him. He was found cut in half by a train. RIP El Duce, you left behind a lot of stupid songs to remember you by.)

Day #178
MERCYFUL FATE - "The Beginning" CD (I was straight-up obsessed with King Diamond when I was in middle school, but sold all of his releases when I started listening to death metal thinking I would eventually re-buy all of them on CD. I've since picked up a few used, but would like to get more eventually. I bought this in Denver while visiting my friend Ace (RIP) the last time I was out there. I never had the chance to hear this one during my childhood, so it was new to me. What a scorcher this turned out to be! I've always preferred Mercyful Fate to King's solo stuff, so it was great finally hearing their earliest material. This has the "Nuns Have No Fun" EP on it as well as demos for the "Melissa" album. The recordings are crisp and powerful and King's voice sounds terrific. It's great hearing him without so many layers of backing vocals and not slipping into falsetto so often as his lower register vocals are just as unique, in my opinion. Unlike a lot of demos that leave you wanting to listen to the album versions, this stuff stands on it's own just fine. As far as traditional heavy metal goes, you'd have a difficult time finding a better band than Mercyful Fate.)

MERCYFUL FATE - "Don't Break the Oath" CD (This was their second full-length, and while it's not quite as good as their first album, it's the darker and more eerie of the two. There's something strange and unnerving about this that I can't put my finger on. When I was a kid, this spooked the hell out of me end I really felt like I was doing something wrong by listening to it. I got the same feeling from listening to the first Candlemass album as well. The production on this album is sort of thin and the guitars could use a little more meat on them, but that flimsy production just enhances the strangeness of this album. This is great, a "must own" for heavy metal fans.)

MERCYFUL FATE - "Melissa" CD (A landmark release, and for good reason. This is one of the greatest heavy metal albums ever recorded, that's an indisputable fact. Catchy, memorable songs, great playing, heavier than anything else recorded in 1983 and topped off with some of the best vocals King Diamond has ever laid down. "Melissa" is a dark album. Wether the lyrics were serious or not, these songs sound as if they're singing love songs directly to Satan himself. The vocals on the title track are so intense you can almost see the tears welling up in King's eyes as he's delivering those lines. I'm thoroughly enjoying these albums today.)

MERZBOW - "Music for Bondage Performance" CD (I think one of the reasons I never seriously got into Merzbow was that I'm a bit of a completist and if I like a project/band I have to seek out everything they've released. With a project like Merzbow that's impossible and it would could thousands of dollars just to keep up with where I started at in the 90s. My introduction came with the maxed-out digital era and I'm still in the dark re: the complexity and variety of his work because most everything I bought sounded so similar because it all came from that time frame. I had 7-8 other releases at one point but have since sold them off. This was the only one I kept that didn't sound like radio static ran through a distortion pedal cranked to 11. All week long I've been dreading listening to this stuff on headphones, but this CD is pretty mellow when compared to "Pulse Demon". It sounds like scraping metal over dark ambient through most of it, lots of dynamics and interesting stuff going on throughout. I'm terrible at describing this stuff, so I'll just say that today I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would.)

MERZBOW - "Oersted" CD (Okay, this is what I was expecting, total harsh noise overdose. This CD has 4 lengthy untitled tracks, each more or less non-stop noise. This was released by Vinyl Communications and was priced pretty cheaply compared to how expensive Merzbow releases were typically. I don't remember where I picked this up, though.)

MERZBOW - "Pulse Demon" CD (Another aural assault from the Release label, Relapse Records' sub-label for noise and electronic releases. 74 punishing minutes of harsh noise on this one. It took everything I had to keep from skipping past this CD. Yowzers...)

MERZBOW - "Venereology" CD (It's been said that this is his death metal / grindcore influenced album, and I suppose if you put your imagination to work you might be able to discern some death metal sounds on this release. It's certainly the harshest Merzbow release I've heard (that's saying a lot), pulsing, jack hammer-like rhythms can be heard throughout this mess and without a doubt this CD is mastered louder than any other CD I own. "Slave New Desart" starts out with what might have been a thrash riff, but 2 seconds in it's swallowed up by noise before it's heard for a fraction of a second minutes later. I did enjoy listening to this one today more do than the previous two, though I couldn't begin to tell you why.)

MESRINE - "Jack is Dead 1999-2004" CD (Taking their name from the famous French criminal of the same name, Mesrine are a serial killer obsessed Agathocles influenced grindcore band from Quebec that rose from the ashes of Thinkshit and Dahmer.It doesn't sound all that different from Dahmer, but without the pitch shifter. This sort of stuff works best in small doses, but I picked up this discography to fill in the gaps of my vinyl collection. I picked this up at a Bodies Lay Broken show in Minneapolis in 2005 or so. I debated between this CD and Wadge's "Road to Hana" CD, then spent years looking before I was finally able to track down a copy of said Wadge CD.)

Day #179
MESRINE / BADTRIPPE - split CD (I know it's cliche for grind bands to release a CD of cover songs, but they're usually a lot of fun. The Mesrine half of this is all cover songs and it sounds as if they had fun recording them. Impetigo, S.O.D., Unseen Terror, Dropdead, Agathocles, plus a bunch more get the Canadian goregrind treatment. I'm not sure where Badtrippe are from, but their samples are in French. They play grindcore, too, but thrashier than Mesrine and with dual vocals, neither of which are particularly powerful. The blasts are nice and strong and some of the riffs are memorable, but this doesn't move me at all or make me want to check out more of their releases.)

MESRINE / TRAUMATISM / NYCTOPHOBIC - 3 way CD (I can't remember exactly, but this might be Mesrine's first release. Sounding more like Dahmer than usual, this early stuff of theirs is still great. Nice crusty grindcore with manic vocals and a perfectly dirty DIY recording. Traumatism were a Canadian death metal band. I used to be in contact with one of the members and have their first CD and 7", but the guy I was in contact with quit the band and I stopped following them sometime in the late 90s. I don't remember them sounding as raw as they do on this CD, though. The guitar and bass tone are almost identical making it sound as if one or the other are missing. It's not sloppy, by any means, but this recording is messy. I'm not complaining. Nyctophobic are from Germany. I've tried getting into these guys several times, but they don't do anything for me. Their stuff on here is live and all you can hear is drums and vocals on the first half. The second set of songs sound like they were recorded by a boombox placed inside a metal trash can. No thanks...)

METAL DUCK - "Auto Ducko Destructo Mondo" CD* (Catching the tail end of the thrash metal scene, UK's Metal Duck released only this LP and a split LP with Lawnmower Deth. Some of these songs appear on the split LP, but they're recorded a little better this time around. The drums are bathed in reverb and the vocals are gruff, almost Popeye-like and give this an almost black metal feel. This isn't as fun as the split and the playing is still pretty sloppy, but it's an enjoyable album overall. I have this on LP, this CDR is a rip of my vinyl copy.)

METALLICA - "Kill 'Em All" CD (Over time this became my favorite Metallica. I know it's full of recycled NWoBHM riffs, but I don't care. These are the catchiest songs they've written (stolen) and this is better than anything they've released since. It's better than anything any of those thrash metal bands released. Never have I been let down more by a band than by Metallica, though. A lot of people attribute their descent into complete shit to Cliff Burton's death, but since when has the bass player been the glue and driving force behind any metal band? Metallica recorded a lot of fruity shit while he was still alive and I suspect they would have followed the same path had he lived. With the exception of maybe Kirk, this band is populated with the biggest bunch of douche bags ever. Throw bags of money at a group of douche bags and you get what they've since become, but, I suspect Lars has always been a horrible person to be around. It certainly seems as if that's the case, anyway. None of that matters, though. This album is great no matter who wrote the songs or how big of douches the people who recorded it were or still are. Sure, the drumming is shit, but these riffs are undeniably great. This album never gets old to me. Every time I listen to it I want to break stuff.)

METALLICA - "Master of Puppets" CD (Stripped of most of the NWoBHM influence, Metallica recorded what most people consider to be their best album. This is a great album with thick production and crunchy guitar riffs. There's enough noodling melodic shit on here to raise eyebrows (if such a genre as "chick-thrash" were ever to exist, "Welcome Home" would be the blueprint), but for the most part it's kept in check. I've probably listened to this 300 times throughout my lifetime, but this is my cut-off point. This was their last great album.)

METALLICA - "Ride the Lightning" CD (This is a unique album, certainly the only Metallica album that sounds like this. There's almost nothing recognizable from their first album on this one, like a completely different band wrote and recorded it. I guess the addition of Cliff and Kirk changed their writing a bit, as I understand most everything on "Kill 'Em All" was written before either were in the band. It still doesn't explain why they never sounded like this after this album, though. The songs are more melodic, but also heavier. The production is great and this sports the best guitar sound they've ever had. "Fade to Black" is proof positive that Cliff Burton would have been fine with them selling out. It's one of the shittiest, wimpiest songs they've written, equally as shit as "Unforgiven". Add all the crunch and power chords you want, it still doesn't undo the acoustic drivel that makes up the first half of the song.)

METALLICA - "No Life 'Til Leather" Demo / DEATH SQUAD - "Split You at the Seams" CDR* (A friend sent me this as part of a trade years ago. James hasn't quite found his voice at this point and does a lot of high pitch wails throughout. It's pretty funny, actually. The Metallica demo is really cool, but just makes me want to listen to their first album instead. Death Squad were completely unknown to me before this and an Internet search turned up very little. I've learned they're from Olympia, Washington, that this was released in 1991 on Ever Rat Records and that they had another album after this one called "Driving Blind". By 1991 the thrash bands that didn't break up or turn into death metal bands got really fucking heavy. Comparing these guys to Sadus or Demolition Hammer wouldn't be out of line. This is really fast with staccato, choppy shouted vocals and a clean bass guitar high in the mix. There's quite a bit of groove in this as well, but not enough to push it into the meathead territory of bands like Pantera. I forgot how good this was until revisiting it today. I'm curious to hear their demos and second album now. There's some demo-era Napalm Death stuff on this CD as well, but only 3-4 songs.)

MEXICAN POWER AUTHORITY - "Haiku... Gesundheit" CD* (See the entry below for a more detailed description of their sound. This CD collects their three cassette-only releases spanning 1991 to 1994, I believe. This was also released as a double LP with more songs. I have the 2LP, but downloaded and burned this CD for portability.)

MEXICAN POWER AUTHORITY - "I Just Want it to be Easy / 100 Year Old Shack" CD (MPA, from Canada, were a late 80s to early 90s band formed by the guitarist of the Neos. Neos might be one of the most extreme HC bands ever, and one of those great accidental noisecore bands that played so fast and sloppy you couldn't make out what was going on. Taking a different approach with MPA, this stuff blends HC, jazz, noise, progressive rock, metal, grindcore, pop, etc. Their earliest demo stuff was more straight forward hardcore and was released as a double LP and is one of those "must-own" releases, in my opinion. By the time they recorded this stuff they had added all sorts of bizarre elements to their music making it really difficult to describe. Mixing all those genres usually brings to mind a Naked City-esque start and stop thing where they shift from one style to the next seamlessly, but that's not what's going on with MPA. Somehow they manage to be all things at once without it sounding forced. It comes off as brilliant instead of pretentious. The material on this CD is made up of an LP and a 7", though the LP didn't come out until a great deal after this CD. I don't know anyone that's heard this and didn't like it.)

Day #180
CHARLES MINGUS - "The Charles Mingus Quintet & Max Roach Live" CD (My exposure to jazz has been limited. I never knew where to start with an artist who's released 100+ albums over their lifetime, so growing up I didn't buy as many jazz CDs as I would have liked. I checked out Mingus because Mike Watt said in an interview that more people should be listening to him. That was recommendation enough. I bought three of his CDs before moving on to something else. In the years since, I've downloaded a lot of Mingus stuff that I've enjoyed more than the CDs I bought, but never got around to buying them on CD. Let's face it, my money isn't nearly as disposable as it was in my 20s when I still lived with my parents. I like this CD okay. The first song is a slow sombre number, then leads into a meandering and noisy improv piece that kinda stinks. "Haitian Fight Song" is the highlight of this for me and things pick up from then on out. If you skip the first two tracks on this disc it's pretty great.)

CHARLES MINGUS - "The Complete Town Hall Concert" CD (Mingus was considered a genius at composing and arranging, but he also had a horrible temper and was nicknamed "the angry man of jazz". He always considered this recording to be a failure and abandoned it without finishing it. It wasn't released until the sometime after his death. This is Mingus leading a big band attempting to record his opus "Epitaph" (which didn't get recorded in it's full 2 hour+ running time until after his death), but with failed results. The band was unprepared, unfamiliar with the material and often the band is out of synch. At one point during the performance Mingus was so disgusted with the results he stormed off stage leaving the band to fend for themselves. You can't hear any of this on the recording, of course, but the music is often clumsy. The band got off easy. Mingus had a violent temper and on at least one occasion assaulted a band member. This is an interesting album with great moments of cohesion, but if Mingus didn't want us hearing it during his lifetime, it probably should have been left unreleased. I think my biggest complaint is that the horns are screamingly loud over the rest of the band. It's really ridiculous how loud they are.)

CHARLES MINGUS - "Mingus Ah Um" CD (This was my introduction to his work and I've read it's one of his best releases. It's the best of the three CDs I bought, for sure. I don't listen to this as often as I should, it sounds great today.)

MINOR THREAT - "Complete Discography" CD (It's hard to believe this stuff was recorded on a 4 track machine. Minor Threat were a great DC hardcore band and I think straight edge started with them. They released three 7"s and a 12", all collected on this CD. The earlier stuff is better, naturally, but with the exception of the "Salad Days" EP, it's all great.)

MINOR THREAT - "First Demo Tape" CD (Recorded in 1981 at the same studio they recorded their 7"s, these 8 songs don't sound too different that how their EPs sound. I suspect this was released to thwart the efforts of bootleggers. My friend Brian gave this to me. What a guy...)

Day #183
MINUTEMEN - "3 Way Tie (For Last)" CD (Their last album barely resembles their output from just 4 years earlier. You couldn't tell they were even the same band if you hadn't heard the releases between. This is a weird record with lots of cover songs, lots of rock, some spoken word and very little punk. At one point this was my favorite Minutemen album, but I don't listen to it very often now. Some of these songs rock harder than others, but so much of this sounds like amped up folk music to me. It'll probably be a while before I revisit this one again.)

MINUTEMEN - "Ballot Result" CD (Minutemen, to me, are one of those bands I can't understand how people don't like them. I see and hear a lot of people say they hate them, and I can't wrap my head around that. Hate some of their material, sure, but they covered so much territory during their short existence that they should appeal to almost everyone who listens to punk rock and underground music. For a good portion of my teenage years they were my favorite band and I was even in a band for a couple of years that tried our hardest to emulate their sound. It's not easy to do, and we fell way short. The "3 Way Tie (for Last)" LP came with a ballot for fans to check their favorite songs and mail in their votes to help select the tracklist for their upcoming triple LP, half of which was to be live recordings. Before the triple LP was realized, their singer/guitarist, D.Boon, died in an auto accident. This double album is mostly made up of the live tracks from the results of the ballot, hence the title, that were planned for the 3LP. The bulk of this sounds great, as if it was taken from a soundboard recording or a radio broadcast. A lot of these songs are from the later part of their catalog, but there's some older, noisier recordings towards the end of the disc including a track recorded by Katz Seki of Gorgonized Dorks fame (dude's been around a long fucking time!). The almost 8 minute long recording of "Mr. Robot's Holy Orders" is my favorite track from this release. This is a fun collection and a nice addition to their studio releases.)

MINUTEMEN - Demo + Live CDR* (This is stuff I downloaded from corndogs.org, all stuff Mike Watt gave the admin permission to share. It contains the Reactionaries demo from 1979, the "Georgeless" EP, live 10/26/1981 at Mabuhay Gardens + the "Just a Minute... Men" bootleg from 8/24/84. There's very little Minutemen sound in the Reactionaries demo, but one of these songs was included on the "Politics of Time" CD. The "Georgeless" EP is boombox quality, recorded during the brief time between the Reactionaries and when George relented and joined Minutemen. For the most part it's pretty forgettable. The live stuff on this CD is great, especially the stuff from 1981. Watt's bass sounds huge, like there's 2 or 3 of him playing at once.)

MINUTEMEN - "Double Nickels on the Dime" CD (The title refers to driving exactly 55mph on highway 10 home to San Pedro and was a reaction to Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55", his response to the national speed limit of 55. Minutemen commented that they'd rather take chances and be rebellious with their music than prove how dangerous they were by breaking the speed limit. Originally planned as a single album, once they caught wind of Hüsker Dü's "Zen Arcade" double album, they expanded it to two to sort of rub it in their faces. This is considered by most to be their crowning achievement, and it's a great and ambitious album, but I still prefer their earlier, more jangly recordings. It's remarkable they were able to record 2 albums of material at once and for none of it to be filler. I don't think this is their best work, but it's all solid. It's a shame Jackass has ruined the song "Corona" for me forever.)

MINUTEMEN - "Live at Flynn's Ocean 71" CDR* (This is a decent soundboard recording from 1984, I believe, with most of "Double Nickels..." making up the setlist. If you're a fan of that album, you'll probably like this, though the audience sounds as if they're asleep most of the time.)

MINUTEMEN - "Post-Mersh Vol. 1" CD (Collecting their first two LPs, this CD contains my favorite Minutemen releases. "The Punchline" is 15 minutes of perfection. The Wire and Gang of Four influence is strong on their earliest stuff and the songs are short, powerful and to the point. Only two songs of the 18 break the one minute mark. The sonic distance between Watt's booming bass and D's paper thin, jangly guitar has never been larger than on this release. "What Makes Man Start Fires?" is a great LP, too, but a little too produced when compared to "The Punchline". Everything sounds smoother. This isn't a bad thing, but shows how fast they were progressing as a band early on. The structures and playing have always been complex, but even more so on this LP. The longer song lengths, even if only slightly longer, have added more space to cram awesomeness into.)

MINUTEMEN - "Post-Mersh Vol. 2" CD (Another great CD collecting their "Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat" 12" and the "Project Mersh" 12", both great. "Buzz..." is a back to basics album of sorts, stripping away all the fluff and keeping things simple. It's my second favorite album after "The Punchline". "Project Mersh" was their rock album, a concept album of sorts. Having shied away from fade-outs, guitar solos, overdubs and traditional song structures in the past, they broke out every rock cliche and created a great album that's completely unique in their catalog. This one gets better the more you listen to it.)

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