Momma’s Little Jewel

Mott

Glam rock certainly rolls on here at The Fault, doesn’t it?  Good Mott the Hoople albums are hard to come by – by ‘good’, I mean, of course, “All the Young Dudes” (pictured above), as well as the follow-up album, “Mott”.  And…that’s about it.  There are a couple good songs on the “Mott” follow up -appropriately titled “The Hoople”, but that’s it.  Diminishing returns after, and presumptive failures prior.  If you want your money’s worth, pick up Greatest Hits.  While not imaginatively named, it does feature most of the great tracks from Dudes, Mott, and Hoople.  I’ve seen copies of both Mott and The Hoople at local shops and passed on them, waiting for the crown jewel – that being Young Dudes.  I did recently stumble upon the Greatest Hits, and it was a bargain at 5 bucks…although, let’s look at the economics of scale here.  Music is time-sensitive, much more so than cost-sensitive.  Sure, the first LP ever pressed is going to cost an exorbitant amount of money to acquire, that should be a given.  But a CBS Records packaged greatest hits compilation from 1976 (with the majority of the music contained having been released in 1972 and 1973)? And on vinyl – used vinyl at that – shouldn’t be that hard to come by today.  And yet, this is the first time I’d seen a copy of Mott’s Greatest Hits on vinyl in years.  Mott only set the world on fire briefly, for a scant second – and that on the back of a David Bowie penned song (you know it, it’s “All The Young Dudes” – you did know Bowie wrote that, right?), so maybe it’s wrong of me to think there should be tons of used Mott records floating around.  I mean, it’s hard enough to find original Bowie pressings, and they pressed those things in the millions.

It’s really more the economics of time than anything related to price.  When you’ve spent as much time shopping for records as I have, you come to realize most pieces of original-pressed wax settle into one of two price points – under 20 dollars, 20-60, and anything over 60.  Much like the X.99 price tag, where marketers eventually realized people though, hey bargain, cause it was under XX dollars, 60 bucks seems to be the cutoff point for most ‘harder to find’ vinyl in decent shape.  And 60 is still too much.  But right now, it’s still partly a sellers market where vinyl is concerned, as any readers (there have to be a few) of this blog will realize from my many, many, probably too many, posts on the subject.  So, this is where the economics of time intersect with the economics of price.  I’m not young, by anyone’s standards – I’m your average middle aged guy, maybe a bit grumpier than most, certainly more bald than most!  So, we have our equation of TIME + PRICE.  Anything else?  Oh yeah, demand.  How many people are looking for Mott the Hoople’s hits on vinyl in the year of our something, 2018?  I suppose regardless of the demand, you still have to factor supply into this somewhere.  Sure, CBS (or whoever owns the rights to Mott’s catalog today) aren’t rolling copies of their Greatest Hits off the assembly line to the tune of thousands a day.  Why would they?  How many people are actually looking – or would actually be willing to pick up a copy, if they stumbled upon one?  This one might be a little tougher.  Sales = (Demand/Supply)*(Time+Price)?

I like data, I love analytics, but I’ve never been the guy who can figure out an equation like this off the top of my head.  These variables are very much of the ‘sliding scale’ variety – in terms of supply (how many copies were pressed, how many still exist, and how many are within a few miles of me – namely, in one of my local record shops), in terms of demand (Led Zeppelin pressings?  Demand.  Mott the Hoople pressings?  Demand, but of a lesser scale).  Time (how long since the record came out?  was it genre specific?  how many people still give enough of a crap to shell out money for it today?  who is it appealing to – middle aged guys, younger people, some odd intersection, or nobody?)  Intersecting with Time is Demand – for the further away from a production point you get, the harder the product is to acquire.  So, if the demand remains high (like with Zeppelin pressings), the time away from pressing (40+ years and counting for some Zeppelin releases) makes acquiring a copy harder, despite the high pressing count.  Add into this the fact that more people ‘want’ Zeppelin than ‘want’ Mott, and that has to, in some exponential way, factor into the equation.  Finally, but not really finally, we have price.  Price is dictated by supply, demand, and also, at least for something like records, time.  Again, Zeppelin is going to cost more than Mott.  But by how much and for how long?  So, I said price was the final element, but not really, because…cultural cache.  Who’s cool?  Is Zeppelin cool?  Still seem to be.  Is Mott cool?  Maybe to a few.

This really could make someone’s head hurt. It makes mine hurt.  I’m going to figure out a way to put all of this into Tableau Software, if I can ever make sense of the equation.  I might be able to get ahold of initial sales figures (minus returns, so again, not a full picture).  Look, here’s the deal…if you want some glam that isn’t Bowie, Eno, Roxy Music, Lou Reed…find some Mott the Hoople, or at least the two albums I mentioned (or their Greatest Hits).  If you want to expand your glam library, you won’t be disappoint.  However, can someone tell me what a Hoople is?

New Sound All Around, You Can Hear It Too

depeche-mode-sometimes-i-wish-i-was-dead-flexipop.jpg

So today, I found this flexidisc at one of my local shops.  It was originally issued with a magazine called “Flexipop” which used to give away exclusive tracks by emerging artists (this was emerging artists of the early 80’s).  This release is probably one of only two from the series that are really collectible (the other being the early version of “Lament” by the Cure – a more finished version would feature on their “The Walk” EP, but the version on the flexidisc is actually Smith + Steve Severin of The Banshees, making it the first release by their side project The Glove).

This was a Vince Clarke composition from Depeche Mode’s “Speak & Spell” era, making this one of the few releases where Clarke was a member of DM.  It was all Clarke in the studio, with singer Dave Gahan providing the vocals.  In a book on DM, it was apparently Clarke’s ability to write and record all the instruments (save vocals) on this track by himself that gave him the idea that he didn’t need DM, and could instead branch out and perform with whichever vocalists he wanted, and not be constrained by a ‘group’ hierarchy.  But, solid group lineups tend to sell better than some boffo studio genius plus random vocalists, and so Clarke’s other best-known works are when he performed as part of a group – first as half of Yazoo (Yaz in the US) and then as half of Erasure, his longest-running project.  It’s a good song, but it sounds very 8-bit, as a lot of early synthesizers tended to sound – you either got deep and rich, or thin and tinny.  Being a ‘flexible’ record means the sound is fairly crap, even if the record is in great shape.  It’s since been reissued as part of DM’s “Speak & Spell” on solid 180-gram vinyl, but it’s still cool to have this early, original version in my collection.

Something Else…By The Kinks

SomethingElseKinksCover

There seems to be one store where I find all my Kinks records.  After finishing up at the gym today, I went to said shop, just randomly to kill some time.  I’d been thinking I’d love to find a copy of Something Else by the Kinks, and lo and behold, it was right there behind the counter.  So of course, I didn’t buy it.  But I did call later in the day to have them put it on hold for me.  Yeah, sometimes I don’t do the obvious thing.  This is one of their best albums, with well-known tracks like “David Watts” (which was covered beautifully by The Jam) as well as “Waterloo Sunset” an absolutely brilliant track.  It also features one of my favorite Kinks tracks “Lazy Old Sun”, along with a bunch of other early-period Kinks gems.  You really can see the blueprint for Britpop within the grooves of early Kinks records, a very English-centric, wistful, nostalgic, feel to the songs.  Good stuff if that’s your bag.

The Ideal Copy

Wire_-_Mannequin_ad

Speaking of groups that don’t get enough credit or respect, let’s talk about Wire.  Going strong (on and off) since 1977, this band is the band that’s inspired all the bands you love.  Their first album, 1977’s Pink Flag, features a lot of short, sharp ‘punk’ tunes.  They took the pre-formatted punk angst and boiled it down to unique, 90-second snippets of aggression.  By the time of 1978’s Chairs Missing, they’d already tired of the short-song format, and the speed.  They slowed things down some, and brought in some artistic twists to the lyrics.  If you like The Cure’s first two albums, this is the blueprint for that sound.  By the time of 1979’s unheralded classic 154, they slowed things down even more, and brought in elements of dub and a burgeoning electronica influence.  It’s a fantastic album that rewards deep, extended listening.  It also features perhaps their only ‘classic’ song, in Map. Ref. 41N 93W.  They couldn’t even title their most overtly ‘pop’ song in any way people would be able to remember easily.

And then they broke up.  Or so everyone thought.  Wire has always been a band of extremes, and it became the ‘rock’ duo versus the ‘art’ duo.  So they split, and made a bunch of solo-and-collaboration albums that are fine on their own, but for the most part are missing that certain spark that some groups have only when they’re all operating together.  There was a posthumous live release called Document and Eyewitness that was released in 1981, which showed them playing songs that hadn’t been on any of their albums previously – this restless, relentless writing was a quality they would keep for ages.  I’ve seen Wire live 3 times now, and they rarely play ‘recognizable’ songs.  They keep plugging away with newness, forwardness – and that can make for an exasperating concert experience – certainly one different from every other group you’ve ever seen live.

And then they got back together.  The 80’s would see a new Wire as much aware of the decade’s new ideals as they were in the 70’s, with a new sound to match.  Wire returned in 1987 with The Ideal Copy, with a complete shift in the way they composed their songs.  This would continue with 1988’s A Bell Is A Cup…, and 1989’s ‘live’ album It’s Beginning To And Back Again, which, much like Document and Eyewitness, was not so much live songs as reworkings of old material in a live setting.  Then came 1990’s Manscape, a mostly electronic affair – even the ‘played’ instruments were fed through primitive MIDI equipment.  After that came The Drill, live versions of a single track (The Drill), their first song recorded as a group in the 80’s.  Each version is manipulated in such a way that you can’t put them together – you’d certainly have trouble recognizing each of the 8 versions as the same song.  Then their first, and only, drummer, Robert Gotobed, left the band.  They dropped a letter from their name and put out one album as Wir, now a trio.  The album was called The First Letter, because the graphics showed the W in the Wir as the number 3 turned on it’s side.  It’s even more electronic that Manscape, once again reflecting the dominant alternative sounds of the times.

Maybe that was too much, because then they broke up again.  They’d be back, different again, in 2003.  But that’s a discussion for another time…

Slaughter’s Big Rip Off

slaughter

Records these days are a rip off.  I get that anything made in ‘limited’ quantities is going to have some sort of sliding cost structure associated with it, but it’s really about supply and demand.  And the worst example of supply without demand is Ebay.  I’m sure that Ebay has deals on certain things, but…wow, even their cd’s are overpriced.  I’m not sure if anyone realizes this, but you can get most cd’s for pennies on the dollar.  Records are a little harder to come by, but when the average cost on Ebay versus other seller sites (like Discogs) is 30-40% more per title, on average…who are these sellers?  If overhead isn’t a cost concern, then sure, leave your record on there forever, but…where’s the logic in that?  I thought the idea of selling something was to, you know, actually sell product.  One problem I can see is that, since shortly after it’s launch, Discogs became the official ‘price guide’ for record stores and online sellers.  Now, instead of pricing something to sell, nobody wants to go below the Discogs minimum listed price.  And Ebay sellers seem to take that and immediately add 20%.  But hey, if you need something now, this minute, I suppose that’s what Ebay is there for.  Otherwise, if you’re already into the hobby, or just getting into the hobby, be very careful with your dollars.  Here’s a nice post about cost aggregating.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to bash on Ebay, but when it comes to their vinyl pricing, yeah, I guess I am.  But that’s not down to the website, it’s down to the sellers operating there.

Kickboxing In America

Dark

Sometimes I want to talk about things other than music.  Although, I don’t, not really.  However, sometimes, your day is too busy to think of something original to write about.  I wanted to write about Simple Minds, a band that is way better than most people remember (right up until about 1985, that is), a band that is still making music today, but given that i just read a decent article about them on Stereogum, I didn’t want to potentially parrot anything I’d just read.  Instead, let’s talk about television.

I watch TV, like most people do.  We don’t have cable here at The Fault, so we watch streaming platforms, mostly Netflix but sometimes Amazon as well, and the odd new release movie.  Yesterday we started watching a Netflix show called Dark, which deals with time travel and shifting perceptions associated with the same.  The wife and I are suckers for a well done time travel story, and this one has started out well.  It’s a -bit- hard to follow because it has a large cast of characters (in 2019 and 1986 versions) to keep straight, so it’s definitely a show that is best watched and not had on as background to something else like a mobile video game.  The show centers on a nuclear power plant, a series of caves, and some odd time shifts, but that’s all I know so far (and it’s all I’m going to give you.  Go watch it yourself.)  It is a German-produced show, but dubbed into English – I wish they had left the native German with subtitles – but I do understand that there are lazy viewers out there who don’t want to, like, read, maaahn.

We’ve not finished the first series yet, but we’re halfway through it and so far, so good.  Although I do think it’s one of those shows you may have to watch through a second time to catch all the nuances and missed clues, which, hey, there’s only so much time in the day, so I’m not all cool with that.  Still and all, it’s decent, and you could do worse – the first (and only) season of The Mist was a massive letdown, with only the last 2 episodes being decent enough to warrant the (ostensibly free) cost of admission.

OK, yeah, Simple Minds.  Screw up, a quick recap.  Their first album, Life In A Day, is pretty sterile and lacking in focus.  Their second album, Reel to Real Cacophony, is a good, experimental, post-punk album.  It’s their third album, Empires and Dance, that really kicks.  It’s electro-rock in a vein not dissimilar to PIL, only with more melodies present.  They followed this up with Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call (an LP and EP recorded at the same time), which doubles down on the synthetics (a favorite here at The Fault) and electronic grooves.  The end of their ‘experimental’ period was also the start of their ‘pop’ period, 1984’s New Gold Dream.  It’s a perfect blend of pop and experimental, showing both sides of the band in perfect harmony.  After that they went pop, did some song to a John Hughes film (you know the one) and kind of got boring.  They’re still making music and they are touring, something I’d be – kind of – interested in, if I thought they’d be playing pre-1986 stuff only.  However, I doubt that’s the case so, in one of the instances where I wish I had access to a time machine, I’d go back and see them in their pre-pop, experimental (though unloved) glory.  That’s what a show like Dark’s possibilities could do for me – give me the ability to catch bands when I loved them, not when the general public decided which songs were good.

Failure?

Posies

Check out the duo above, they are the primary architects of long-standing Seattle band The Posies.  They look like rejects from The Cure – the leather coats, the button-up long sleeve shirts, the hair.  A picture is worth a thousand words (or maybe a thousand songs?), so you can be forgiven if, after looking at the above image (which graced the back cover of their debut album, Failure), you assumed the grooves inside were some goth-gloomcave-type sound.  However, you would be wrong.  The Posies might look like rejects from a Cure tribute band, but their music hews much closer to classic 70’s power-pop groups like The Raspberries, Cheap Trick, Neil Young, and of course, Big Star, a band they would at various times be members of.

Retro power-pop was a big sound at the turn of the 90’s, with acts like Matthew Sweet, Lloyd Cole, Material Issue, and Weezer all playing a 70’s-homage type of music.  The Posies released Failure on a local indie, Popllama, and the songs sound like polished demos.  They’re not bad, but they’re lacking something.  The Posies signed to Geffen records in 1989, and their debut for that label, Dear 23, came out in 1991, with Geffen putting a decent amount of promotion behind the album.  But, Geffen had also signed another local band, of a different stripe of 70’s sound, that ended up eclipsing what The Posies might have been capable of under different circumstance.  I speak of Nirvana, a band I’m sure you’re all familiar with.  I was already quite familiar with Nirvana by the time “Smells Like Teen Spirit” jump-started alternative nation, and perhaps on another post I’ll speak more about Nirvana.  For now though, let’s stick with The Posies.

While the power-pop vibe was a breath of fresh air after the late-80’s sterile, machine-like lock-step and homogenous lifelessness, it was Nirvana’s recycled punk/Sabbath grooves that really took off in popularity.  And while a rising tide lifts all ships, briefly helping any Seattle band shift units, each ship rises a different amount.  Dear 23 did ok for The Posies, and their follow-up Frosting on the Beater, from 1993, had perhaps their best-known track “Dream All Day”.  But while The Posies were probably looking around at what their career might have been if not for…, they did help resurrect the aforementioned Big Star, appearing live with Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens (from the original lineup), to bring 3 critically-lauded Big Star albums from the early 70’s to a new audience.  While it’s no doubt that without Big Star there probably would have been no Posies, it’s nice that they were able to play with their idols and maintain a side-career (as sidemen) while they were putting out original material that was largely ignored for the more aggressive and angsty grunge music of the time.

I personally prefer The Posies, Matthew Sweet, and the other power-pop adherents of the 90’s to the majority of the grunge acts from the era, despite my living in Seattle at the time, and also being in various bands also at the same time.  I mean, I never say “hey, I really feel like listening to some Nirvana”, but I do find myself saying “hey, some Posies might be ok right now.”  It’s a different vibe, something that I think holds up a bit better than grunge does.  This is, of course, my opinion.  Your mileage may vary in relation to mine.

Oh yeah, right.  I found an original Popllama blue vinyl copy of Failure yesterday at one of my local shops.  I grabbed it right away, and I’ve listened to it a couple times now.  Good stuff…a bit raw and unpolished, but definitely pointing in the direction their sound would ultimately take (despite them looking like Robert Smith acolytes).  The Posies are still making original music, and it’s still good.  They’re also running a PledgeMusic campaign to reissue their classic Geffen albums from the 90’s, if that’s your thing, support them.  Go forth and listen!