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An On-Line Used Record Guide by Thunderbolt Pagoda

How the guide works...

The Vinyl Devourer is a multi-genre guide to vinyl records and CD's that could be expected to appear in the used section of a particularly good record store, pop culture outlet, collectors' fair or on E-Bay. Some are quite common, while others are more rare. Entries generally fall into one of two categories: older titles that people have held for a while before growing tired of them and selling them, or more obtuse selections the original owners bought and never learned to appreciate. In the real world, the former are becoming easier to find "in the wild" at actual brick-and-mortar shops, while the latter have become increasingly an internet or collector fair phenomenon. By and large, I have purposely disregarded the relative availability or rarity of a given item in the best interest of providing a varied and fun read; were I to limit the scope of this tome to the Peter Frampton, Billy Idol and Gary Puckett records that are the most common finds in so many towns, It would be a dull, dull book, indeed.

The Vinyl Devourer makes certain assumptions about its readership. It assumes that the typical reader of this kind of publication:

a) Is open to most genres of recorded music

b) Enjoys reading strong and subjective opinions about music he or she may have differing strong and subjective opinions.

c) Comes to the guide with a certain body of knowledge in place, or at least a willingness to investigate bands, references or recordings when the guide assumes too much.

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all underlined items are links to video, audio and / or further info: 

(v) denotes a video link 

(a) denotes a link to audio files

(i) denotes a link to another article or website


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Can - FLOW MOTION LP (v)

The next time some pompous "purist" gives you shit for listening to Rush, you might make him aware of this late period disco album by Can. A tepid concoction of duff, white-boy funk moves and souless reggae, Flow Motion nevertheless gave the group its greatest commercial success, via the 1976 hit single, "I Want More." The only good song on the LP, "I Want More" - which is a really great song - became a massive Eurodisco hit, selling so many copies that the band was able to retire wealthy men on the sales of that single alone. Yeah, I'm whinin', but I've obviously never known the bitter frustration of trying to "Latin Hustle" to Tago Mago.

Chic - RISQUE LP (v)

This 1979 collection of atmospheric ballads and disco torch songs is certainly Chic’s finest moment. It serves, simultaneously, as a farewell to the disco era and as a signpost to the musical trends and revolutions of the 1980’s. Even if one ignores most of this record and considers only the hit, “Good Times,” Risque’s importance and lasting influence on rap, neo-soul and pop is obvious. 


By ’79, Chic were disco only because no one knew what else to call them. Their slick, frictionless grooves had far less in common with the sweatier dance floor funk of groups like the Traamps than with the smooth, industrial precision of seventies Krautrock, ala Neu!, Harmonia and Kraftwerk. Journalist Paul Lester once called Chic’s sound that of “glass mountains on fire,” an image I’ve always found fitting, as it acknowledges both the smoldering, emotional quality of the band’s music, along with its cool, studio perfection. It’s a shame so few at the time could appreciate what Chic was really up – at least not enough to keep them around after fad disco went down at the dawn of the 80’s. That Chic was tossed in the same dustbin as Lipps Inc. is unjust and infuriating

 Coltrane, Alice:  JOURNEY IN SATCHIDANANDA LP (v)

 I realize going into this that Alice Coltrane is still the Yoko Ono of Jazz to a lot of John Coltrane fans - the wicked Jezebel who lured a heroic husband from the One True Path into the Dark Woods of the Avant Garde, then added insult to injury by dragging the Holy Name down with a singular artistic vision that none of the Defenders of Faith could get behind. I'll have none of that. Alice Coltrane was a musical visionary who informed her husband's art when they played together, then carried on his legacy admirably after his death. While all of her albums are worth hearing, 1970's JOURNEY IN SATCHIDANANDA remains my personal favorite. While Coltrane's earlier work remained firmly rooted in the small-combo jazz tradition. Here, she sets out for the raga-jazz frontier, creating rich, exotic textures via the lush interplay of harp, piano, saxes and Indian instrumentation.

The Damned - THE BLACK ALBUM dbl LP (v)

Dismal double-LP from 1980. A few classics here and there ("Wait For the Blackout," is one of the band's best songs) but overall, this album is way too long and a plethora of lackluster tunes crowd out the gems. Side three is devoted to a pointless concept piece that drones on and on for over 17 uninteresting minutes. Side four is a live set that is alright, but could be a lot better.

The Decemberists- CASTAWAYS AND CUTOUTS CD (v)

Although I've loved all the Decemberists' albums, this one remains a sentimental favorite. A little rougher around the edges than their later work - Colin Malloy has had A LOT of vocal coaching since this was recorded - but possessed of a stately melancholy that really hits on a sincere, emotional level, especially on "Grace Cathedral Hill," "Cocoon," and the classic "California One." Use of a steel guitar on some songs gives the album a poignant country edge that would be missed from future releases, but would re-appear, in a strange way, on 2008's THE HAZARDS OF LOVE.

Fleetwood Mac - MYSTERY TO ME LP (v)

An under appreciated album from a neglected period in the band's discography. A collection of tunes that run the gamut from balladry to inspired, if typical, seventies guitar rock to accomplished fake jazz. Much of this suffers in comparison when the modern listen reflects on a) how much better Fleetwood Mac was up until Danny Kirwin was fired and b) how much better Fleetwood Mac would soon be upon the introduction of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. This does not. however, detract from the inventive drive of such tracks as the classic "Hypnotized (see video link above.)"

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HENRY FLYNT TAKES IT TO THE STREETS, CIRCA 1966

Henry Flynt and the Insurrections - I DON'T WANNA LP (i)

Henry Flynt is a classically trained musician whose disdain for the Eurocentric bigotry of musical academe led him to develop his own gutteral style of lost-in-the-holler hillbilly punk protest music. Taught to play guitar by none other than the Velvet Underground's Lou Reed - who would later punch Flynt in the mouth on stage for playing too many country licks while sitting in with the VU - Flynt's style is simultaneously raw and complex. The first time you hear this 1966 album, you'll swear Roscoe Holcomb has gone punk rock, or that some other untrained, mountain musician has been listening to some Troggs records on his wind-up Victrola, then gone and got himself joined up with one of them electrical bands. Further listens however, reveal subtle textures and a trained hand for the transcendant drone of Eastern music. A lot of bands have played dumb while courting the avant garde, but there are very few, if any, albums so legitimately entrenched in the vernacular of the American South (Flynt operated in New York high art circles, but was actually from North Carolina) while simultaneously reaching for a disciplined, theoretical and modern approach to The Other. In reaching back into the redneck past to thumb his nose at the modern, Flynt created music that was simultaneously lower class real and highbrow adventurous - and stirred up a mighty rock 'n' roll blast in the process. No one has channeled Dock Boggs, Bo Diddley and La Monte Young to such stunning effect.

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Genesis - GENESIS LP (v)

The point in the 1980's where I can remember Genesis becoming GENESIS!!! All the hipsters still hate this record, but it's damn near a perfect album and ten times more rhythmically inventive than almost anything else being recorded at the time. Had this album been recorded by some "right-on" combo like the Pop Group, the intelligentsia would have been all over it.

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German Oak - GERMAN OAK LP (v)

This 1972 LP, now reissued on CD with extra tracks, has long been the redheaded stepchild of Krautrock albums, mostly because of its bizarre, apparantly neo-nazi packaging. With a nazi infantryman on the cover and song titles like "Down in the Bunker," "The Third Reich" and "Swastika Rising," the album seems to arise from some marginalized band of Holocaust Revisionists - an impression compounded by the fact that the only vocals present on the album are sampled recordings of speeches by Adolf Hitler. Despite all this, THIS IS NOT A NAZI ALBUM. It is, rather, a concept album about the German experience during World War 2, from the rise of the sinister Third Reich to the eventual bombing and descimation of Germany at the end of the war. 

This album becomes a lot easier to appreciate when you stop to reflect that World War 2 had only ended 27 years before this album was first released. More time has passed between the release of this album and the present day than had passed between the surrender of Germany and GERMAN OAK'S recording. The war was still a fresh issue with most Germans. Every adult German either lived through the war, was a child during the fall of Hitler or born early enough in the postwar period to spend their earliest days beneath the shadow of a war lost. As world-changing as the war was for the rest of the world, it was doubly so for the German people, whose politics had given rise to the most massive conflict in world history, and who had seen their entire society practically destroyed and rebuilt from next to nothing. For these people, the war was still a source of many questions, a lot of pain, more than a little embarrassment and bitterness over lives lost and a nation betrayed. In this context, the notion of a German rock band recording a concept album about the war seems only natural. That the record deals so unblinkingly with the still-provocative symbols of the war years seems downright heroic. 

The music of German Oak is a particularly ominus brand of garage rock, falling somewhere between the trance groove of Amon Duul II's "Hawknose Harlequin" and the noise rock of Guru Guru. Throughout the album, the group is able to summon up a sinister atmosphere in keeping with the subject matter. This is particularly true in those powerful passages in which the band simulates, through music, the sound and terror of incoming bombers.

Haley, Bill and the Comets - ROCK THE JOINT! THE ORIGINAL ESSEX RECORDINGS 1951-1954 CD (v)


Bill Haley’s transformation from western swing cowboy into kiss-curled rock and roller was almost strictly mercenary, but he and his Comets (nee the Saddlemen) rocked as hard as any band of the day. While Haley would later sack the steel guitar in favor of a more contemporary R&B saxophone, these recordings show how dynamite and futuristic Billy Williamson’s manic steel playing was. In wild, distorted runs that preface all the wild rock guitar you’ve ever heard, Williamson’s steel zigzags over the rolling rhythm section like Hendrix on locoweed. An essential and little heard body of work.

Hole - CELEBRITY SKIN CD (v)

This 1998 album, the last stand for this problematic grunge band, seems more of a lost Smashing Pumpkins album than a proper Hole LP. Although Billy Corgan has only been officially credited with "helping things along" and co-writing five of the album's 12 songs, his influence over every aspect of this recording is unmistakable. The songs all sound like Smashing Pumpkins songs, the band plays like Smashing Pumpkins and Courtney Love sings like a female (albeit less whiney,) Billy Corrigan. If you have ever wished the Pumpkins had stuck to a hard rock sound, or hadn't become so arty after ADORE, this one has "you" written all over it.

Jandek: BLUE CORPSE CD (i)

This 1987 album from mystery man, Jandek, is a lot of people's favorite - not so much for the music itself, as for the way it figures into the fantasy/soap opera many fans have constructed around the Jandek canon. Supposedly, this is Jandek's break up album. Nancy, who had appeared on Jandek albums on-and-off since 1983, has disappeared by this album and, since so many of the lyrics deal with parting and loss, this is  perceived to be Jandek's bitter assessment of the end of their relationship. All of that aside, this is one of the J Man's more accessable recordings with actual blues songs taking the place of Jandek's typical graveyard drones, and a more conventional singer/ guitarist standing in for Jandek on at least three tracks. Not be a boor, but this has been my least favorite Jandek record so far. When Jandek simply does whatever it is that Jandek does, at least no one else is doing anything remotely like it. Thus, there's really nothing to directly compare it to. It retains its essential enigma. But when Jandek sings the blues, entering into territory already mapped out and claimed by so many others, he's just some guy who can't play guitar or sing trying to play the blues. Why would I not rather listen to Lightnin' Hopkins?

...if you have no idea what I'm talking about, click here

Julian's Treatment: A TIME BEFORE THIS LP (i)

A 1970 concept album, with a story based liberally on Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy. Organ-propelled prog rock with jazzy leanings. Some passages are a little ponderous, but much of this - particularly those tracks with lengthy cathedral organ workouts - is A+ work. Very spacey and atmospheric.

Mazzy Star - AMONG MY SWAN CD (v)

The group's last album, from 1996. Languid hymns from the Church of the Nodding Hippie. Perhaps a little too languid over the long haul, but simply gorgeous so long as the spell remains unbroken.

Melvins - THE BOOTLICKER CD (v)

One of the Melvins' "wierd" albums. These songs largely eschews the band's usual heavy riffing for whispery, quiet arrangments that build tension without the expected heavy metal catharsis. the Melvins album to play at your next midnight seance, or virgin sacrifice soirée.

Metallica - METALLICA (THE BLACK ALBUM) dbl LP (v)

Clearly, a seminal metal album, and the the record that propelled Metallica from cult status to megarock stardom. Side one starts out strong, with The Big Hit right out there, front and center, followed by one of the group's heaviest songs, "Sad But True." In a perfect world, this would have led straight into the similarly heavy "The God That Failed." Side two could have opened with the lesser, but atmospherically consistent, "Anywhere I Roam," then gone on to that dumb werewolf song, then on to the underappreciated "My Friend of Misery." "Through the Never" could have picked up the pace, and provided a good lead into the otherwise misplaced "Don't tread on Me." "The Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters" could have been moved onto a Bon Jovi record, where they belonged in the first place.

Ninnixu - THE COLLECTION CDR 

Filthy black metal from the putrid pits of Boston, Mass., circa 2008. A complete sonic mess. So poorly produced, the only instrument you can really hear is the bass, although what might be a leafblower and blender full of raw meat seem to emerge from the muck the more times you listen. The vocalist, who resides in the mix a few levels below the leaf blower, sounds like a crack-crazed monkey with his feet on fire locked in a dog carrier. Song titles suggest the lyrics to be the usual profane blasphemies, but this guy could be reading a phonebook in Belgian for all you'll know. Simply beautiful.

Nirvana - IN UTERO LP 

While most hit bands would have attempted to replicate their big moment on their next record, Nirvana followed their multi-mega-platinum NEVERMIND with a collection of live-in-the-studio sessions recorded with a broken guitar amp. While that's not quite what was eventually released - the final mix is far more genteel than originally concieved - there is enough of that rawness still present on IN UTERO that it qualifies as a cave man classic. An altogether darker affair than NEVERMIND had been, IN UTERO alternates the expected grunge-pop with astoundingly pissed-off "songs" that throb and pound with unabashed, knuckle-dragging fury. Kurt Cobain spends at least half the album screaming like a baby in a Skinner Box, and the band as a whole works hard to deliver the "unlistenable punk rock nightmare" Cobain promised in pre-album interviews.

Nugent, Ted - s/t LP (v)

This LP marks the point when, in 1977, the Amboy Dukes were totally absorbed into Terrible Ted's Awesome Ego. No matter - this is a better album than the Dukes ever recorded, and one of the best heavy rock albums of its era. Some of the faster, boogie numbers have not aged so well, but the slower, heavier tracks convey as muchatmosphere as any metal tunes this side of the first Sabbath album. Ted can protest that he was drug-free during the day, but make no mistake - this is drug music, in all its echoey, smoke-clouded, wah-wahed glory. Don't think for a second that Kawabata Makoto has not smoked a zillion bowls to this album over the years. Psychedelia for the glue and qualuudes generation.

Om - PILGRIMAGE CD (v)

Om is a duo that consists of the former rhythm section of the famous stoner metal band, Sleep. Given this pedigree, it's not surprising that critics who don't understand Om's music generally lump them in with the doom metal crowd - especially now that the pair have left Holy Mountain for Southern Lord Records.

The guitarless Om uses simple bass and drums to create a psuedo-devotional music that is as subtle and lovely in it's long, gentle passages as it is dense and pummeling in it's heavier moments. They've been been criticized for releasing a number of records that all sound basically the same, which is fair - there are more expansive musical visions than Om's, still. Still the group has successfully carved out a distinctive niche and, with their newest album,PILGRIMAGE, has built upon their previous work to create a powerful album that both sums up and transcends everything they've recorded so far. Pilgrimage begins with nearly eleven minutes of whispery arabesque - the darkness is deep within the Great Mosque - which gives way to approximately 16 minutes of heavy as hell, Ammon Duul 2- like psychedelic riffing, then settles back down to 4 minutes or so of quiet meditation. Much like Sleep's most ambitious LP, DOPESMOKER, PILGRIMAGE was recorded to be listened to in one setting, with the aim of simulating a religious journey, complete with chant-like vocals and psuedo-profound lyrics. That PILGRIMAGE is ultimately more interesting than the more monochromatic Dopesmoker, is a testament to Om's greater sense of subtlety

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Ono, Yoko - PLASTIC ONO BAND LP 

Few people can say they have belonged to a seminal band that actually changed rock and roll. John Lennon and Ringo Starr have both belonged to two such groups: The Beatles and the Plastic Ono Band. Initially a loose aggregate of whoever John Lennon happened to be playing with at a given time, the Plastic Ono band had solidified, by late 1970, into a core group of Lennon, Starr, and bassist Klaus Voorman. This group recorded only two albums, both called PLASTIC ONO BAND, one credited to John, the other to Yoko. While John's LP is a collection of traditional rock songs recorded in the standard fashion of the day, Yoko's album featured all improvised material culled from a single, marathon jam session which was later edited and produced by Phil Spector. 

Although famous as a hi-art debutante, Yoko found herself at the helm of a massive rock and roll engine during the monsterous jam that was the PLASTIC ONO BAND session. She performed admirably, her trademark avant garde howl spiraling around John's super-distorted, ultra-pissed off guitar clatter like a bat with its ass on fire. Six years before the Sex Pistols, Yoko and the boys were already post punk, whipping up a convulsive, art rock racket the likes of which would not become common currency until bands like Birthday Party would make it so at least a decade later.

Pink Floyd: MUSIC FROM THE FILM "MORE" LP (v)

Pink Floyd's first soundtrack, from 1968. The best of the Floyd's soundtracks, and an album that has really grown on me over the years. Psychedelic in the mode of the group's first two albums, and a distinct improvement upon the less focused SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS, MORE is an essential part of the group's discography that is too often ignored.

Plant, Robert and Allison Krauss - RAISING SAND CD (v)

These celebrity collaborations rarely amount to much anymore, but this album is a keeper, with both Plant and Krauss in top form, and both set on creating a original sounding, idiosyncratic work that stands apart from either's discography. The album's greatest simularity is to the more mystical, celtic-moody side of the Zeppelin tradition, filtered through the country sensibilities of Alison Kraus and producer T Bone Burnett. Plant, in particular, stuns from beginning to end, clearly at the peak of his ability to convey the emotional weight of a good song.

Possessed - BEYOND THE GATES LP (v)

This group's debut album, SEVEN CHURCHES, is supposed to be a cornerstone of what would eventually become black metal - form your expectations accordingly. This is their other album, from 1987. Combat Records invested a lot of money in the record's elaborate packaging, but they should have saved their jack and hired a better producer. Not that even the best production would have elevated this tepid trash above the realm of the generic. Par-for-the-course, Satanic lyrics strive to create a horrific atmosphere, but it's hard to be very scary when the band sounds like a Slayer cover band rocking a car show, the demons on the cover look like calamari and there's a picture of the band posing with somebody's mom on the inner sleeve. The guitarist here is none other than Larry LaLonde, later of Primus.

Prince - THE BLACK ALBUM LP (v)

Not bragging, but I got this back in the late 80's or early 90's, when it was still a bootleg. This album either originated as a pirated copy of music Prince had written and recorded for Sheila E.'s birthday party, or was originally an album called "The Funk Bible," which was recorded as a hard-edged response to critics who complained that Prince's work had become too pop oriented. In either case, this album is a lot heavier and funkier than any of Prince's official releases had been in awhile. Prince's last minute decision to scrap this album in favor of the lukewarm pop of the LOVESEXY LP is at first puzzling, but makes sense when you think about it. LOVESEXY, as lackluster as it was, allowed Prince to further court the pop audience he had been catering to with albums like PARADE, while bootlegs of THE BLACK ALBUM, which were way too slick and easily acquired to be anything other than a sanctioned boot, earned him further credibility with a more funk oriented audience. 

Rice, Boyd: THE BLACK ALBUM LP (i)

Rice's first recordings from 1975, released in super-limited quantities in 1977. By the time Boyd Rice began performing as Non, his sound had become the most densely constructed wall of noise yet heard. Here however, we find Boyd Rice the record geek playing around with his collection of old, vinyl albums. Since all the loops and collages here are constructed from classical albums, the proceedings take on a surprisingly understated, if relentless, tone. Not at all what his later work would have us expect it to be, and utterly unlike anything that emerged from the Industrial underground of its day. "I think I created something that blanks out your brain," Rice has said of this album, " leaving a vacuum and allowing new thoughts to form. There is no area of modern life where you have room for undirected thought. Unless you're sitting on a toilet, there is always some intrusive information. I wanted to crate something that would run all the thought out of people's heads." 

Originally released in a private pressing of 85 copies, this album has been re-issued a couple times, both on LP (which is nearly as rare as the original pressing) and I would be shocked if a CD issue doesn't exist under whatever circustances. Look to the 'net...

Rush: ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE dbl-LP (v)

From 1976, this live album finds Rush on the very cusp of their transformation from lunkheaded purveyors of pothead hobbit metal into a "thinking man's rock band." Granted, their best work was still ahead of them, but there's not a damn thing wrong with two discs of lunkedheaded, pothead hobbit metal.

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Throbbing Gristle: NOTHING SHORT OF A TOTAL WAR cassette (i)

The first Throbbing Gristle recordings from 1977, unreleased until 1984. Throbbing Gristle were, of course, the first industrial group, back when "industrial" still meant machine noise and not cliche' eurodance electronica. Needless to say, these recordings sound like absolutely nothing being recorded back in the late seventies, to the point that you can't help but feel a certain reality disconnect when you try to put this music within the context of its era. While already as disconcerting and scary as they would ever be (witness "Slug Bait's" giddy depictions of castration, auto-cannibalism and pocket knife abortion,) Throbbing Gristle was not entirely as sonically oppressive as they would soon become. Much of this music is surprisingly spare, and a lot of the tracks here sound like odd field recordings from some apocalyptic future where the tribal inhabitants of a future London re-invent rudimentary rock music in their spare time between clan wars and human sacrifices . The opening track, "Epping Forest," is actually very dreamy and lovely. All of this provides brilliant contrast for the more balls-out moments of electronic noise mayhem that punctuate the proceedings. Released in a limited edition of 25, this cassette is readlly available for download for those who know where and how to look, and much if not all these tracks have been made otherwise available on similarly out-of-print cassettes.

V/A  - THE SUN STORY Dbl-LP (and assorted re-issues)

The essential core of Sun singles your collection is utterly meaningless without, as compiled by Rhino Records in 1986. Elvis, Carl Perkins, Billy Lee Riley, Sonny Burgess, Rufus Thomas, Charley Rich, etc., etc. Sun was the essential rockabilly label, and one could make a worthwhile collection of fifties rock and roll based solely on Sun recordings, many of which have been reissued on album several times. Hardcore Sun freaks are steered towards Bear Family’s series of Sun box sets. Those who wish to collect specific artists are directed towards the indispensable, if shoddily packaged, vinyl re-issues of the 1970’s, which include at least two volumes of Jerry Lee Lewis’s ORIGINAL GOLDEN HITS, three collections of Charlie Rich’s Sun recordings, JOHNNY CASH’S ORIGINAL GOLDEN HITS VOLUMES 1 & 2, THE BEST OF CARL PERKINS (2 LPs issued by Trip records in the early 1970s,) and RCA’s 1976 re-issue of the Elvis’s Sun session, which the label bought from Sun owner Sam Phillips in the 1950’s.

Voivod - KILLING TECHNOLOGY LP (v)

The 1988 album on which this much revered French Canadian band outgrew its thrash metal roots and began to develop its own voice. Outside of a few obvious riffs, this is scarcely metal at all. Spiney, twisted and violent, this music owes much to the then-current european Anarcho-punk sound, albiet run through the conceptual blender of Voivod's own unique sonic vision of techno-social collapse. The bass sound is huge, the drums almost tribal (as per a tribe of cannibal pigmies living inside your trash compactor.) The lead guitar rattles like a rusty chain. Voivod would eventually smooth down some of their rough edges, but here they were still as raw as a chewed up scab. 

Like most Voivod albums, this one is an impenetrable science fiction concept album, concerning the futuristic adventures of an alien called - surprise! - Voivod. This is not, however, the streamlined future fable typical of the prog rock, sci fi genre. This is a dystopian universe, teetering on the brink of the final calamity, infested with malignant technologies that scurry across the darkened cosmos like a horde of mechanized cockroaches. An utterly black, utterly essential vision.

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Weakling: DEAD AS DREAMS dbl LP (i)

The best, most epic black metal album I've ever heard, and a real life-changer for anyone I've encountered who can get past the dumb band name and (genre-standard) shitty vocals. On a certain level, I guess Weakling wasn't "really" black metal, since they were from San Francisco, the drummer was nicknamed "Little Sunshine," and one of the guitarists was on loan from the Fucking Champs. Still, "Dead As Dreams" blows 9/10 of the "real stuff" out of the water in terms of musical accomplishment, epic sweep and emotional depth. 

Weakling was one of the great two-guitar bands of the late 1990's. They were easily as good as Sonic Youth was during the same period, and a lot better than Interpol. Guitarists John Gossard and John Smith used the black metal palette to paint surprisingly colorful sonic landscapes, building textures similar to those Television might have constructed had they come of age listening to Emperor instead of the Byrds. Guitars slash ferociously together with power metal precision, then zone out into more experimental, almost ambient passages that evoke a melancholic inner landscape not far from that explored by earlier, "slowcore" bands like Codeine. The tension between disparate elements covers a lot of emotional ground, with Gossard and Smith alternately building glass castles in the sad air for ten minutes or so, then smashing them down with some heroic black metal riffing. Had "Ordinary People" been a viking movie, these guys would have provided the perfect soundtrack. 

Yes - TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS dbl-LP (v)

Nobody can agree on religion, politics, the war or anything else. At least we can all hate TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS together, right? Ever since its release in 1974, this ambitious double album by the band, Yes, has been reviled as the apex of everything wrong with the progressive rock of the early 1970's. At the time of its release, the fans found its overlong, overly complex arrangements impenetrable and pompous. The critics dismissed the record as unfocused, self indulgent and needlessly obtuse. Melody Maker spoke for most critics by lambasting the album's lack of "warmth or personal expression." Rolling Stone summed up similarly widespread critique when it called the record's heady, freeform music "psychedelic noodling" - which was no longer a compliment in 1974. Even Rick Wakeman, who actually played on the record, hated it, and expressed his disdain for the work by famously eating his lunch on stage during its performance. Generations of punk rockers have used this record as the prime justification for their decades-long war on old school rock values, while prog geeks who will usually go so far as to actually defend the excesses of Van der Graaf Freakin' Generator won't go near TALES... with a ten foot pole. It is, after all, the album that "killed the prog" - the one grandious leap too many that sent the kids screaming back to three chord rock and roll a la T Rex and Kiss. 

A double album comprised of one song, separated into four pseudo-symphonic "movements" stretched out over all four sides of the vinyl, TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS is a ponderous work that is too long by at least three album sides. The lyrics, loosely based on a footnote in Paramahansa Yogananda's book, "Autobiography of a Yogi," could be generously described as pseudo-religious gobbledygook. TALES... is pretentious in every way on every level. Yes vocalist , and prime Ocean Topographer Jon Anderson, actually had the temerity to name the opening movement "The Revealing Science of God" for Chris'sakes! While the music attempts to invoke the spirit of Gustov Mahler, it just sounds like - surprise! - a prog rock band trying to stretch five minute rock songs into 18 minute "masterpieces" and getting lost halfway through. Not even the Jews of the Old Testament wandered around as much as do the "tunes" on TALES... 

Of course, I love this album, with a love similar to that one might have for a pretty girlfriend who never got over being in drama club in high school and talks too damn much about superficial "profundities" that she doesn't really understand, and probably aren't worth trying to understand, anyway. While she's pretentious, annoying and your friends can't stand her at all, there's just enough genuine sweetness, just enough beauty in her when the light's shining just right on her profile, that you're hooked in the end, no matter what.