BLAG. Vol. 9
Header Image: Das Drip at The Bunker, July 21, 2017
Prompt: Where do you listen to music and how?
An idea that’s laid dormant on the backburner for years: photographing punk record fiends with their collections. I’m not so much interested in the pissing contest of rare records (online commerce definitely took the fun out of that one, huh?), but in the utilitarian aesthetics of the collection itself. What’s the set-up like? How do they organize their records? What kind of shelves do they have?
I’m not going to do a slick video like Daniel, in fear of mine ending up like this, so I took some photos instead.
Yes, those are custom record shelves, built by a carpenter who lost his movie set building job in Wilmington when then-Governor Pat McCrory's administration cut the state's film budget. The story behind these was a series of indulgences, mostly enabled by my spouse. I think she was hoping to also get a china cabinet out of this build, but somehow, all that space got filled with records. I'm not sure how that happened!
It's in the center of our place, so we can listen to records on the couch, while cooking / eating, defiling the guest restroom, or working in the office. I'd add settling into bed, but the media consumption there is usually my wife falling asleep to Netflix prison documentaries.
Top row sections, from left to right: new arrivals, my wife's records*, soundtracks / compilations
* I implored her that we could combine collections in a statement of marital bliss and harmony. She replied – and I paraphrase – "No. I don't want to have to hunt for my good records in your sea of bullshit. Your patriarchal hegemony can suck it!" Wise one, she is.
The records on the shelves are just organized by artist, then chronologically. Despite buying records through the majority of my life, my collection is actually pretty middling, so there's not many gems to brag about.
On the floor is a pile I'm currently culling to sell at this here Sorry State Records. The red box contains 7"s inherited from my uncle. His 45 collection was more interesting than his LPs, but they also didn't have any sleeves and looked like, well, like they lived through the '70s.
I've had this belt-driven Yamaha P-200 since the mid-aughts, purchased used at the now-defunct Village Records in Chicago, IL. It's paired with an Onkyo receiver that my friend Keara gave me around the same time. Both have been sturdy workhorses.
That thing in the back is a Bluetooth receiver/transmitter, with the idea that we could listen to records through a Bluetooth speaker on the front porch. This way, we're not those horrible neighbors that would twiddle (badly) on an acoustic guitar with some PBRs like we did in college.
In the foreground is an old Touch & Go catalog from 2000 that I misplaced when I shelved the record already. What record do you think it belongs in? It's driving me nuts.
This is a Fastbacks concert poster by one of my favorite designers, Art Chantry. I came across this piece in a magazine while in high school, and it was one of the first epiphanies to bridge my music world to design.
We struck up a brief correspondence when I sent him a photo I took of bootleg Art Chantry t-shirts for sale at a street vendor in Bangkok, which helped inspire the title to his most recent book. Knowing it was going to a massive fan, he was willing to sell me one of his last copies of this classic.
This print of outtakes from the cover shoot of Screeching Weasel's "Punkhouse" 7" is by Martin Sorrondeguy of Los Crudos / Limp Wrist fame. I got this at an opening in Chicago, celebrating the release of his photo book, Get Shot.
The first poster is of the 2006 Horizontal Action Blackout! festival, designed and printed by David Head (who's been doing some amazing fine art work in NYC, and playing guitar in Surfbort). I think this was the last of the massive, multi-day blowouts before taking a hiatus, and coming back at a smaller scale. Check out that line-up.
Second poster is from a Fugazi / Shellac / The Ex show at The Congress Theater the first weekend after I moved to Chicago. Jay Ryan was standing in the lobby, selling these out of a bag for $5. It was the first of many, many Jay Ryan prints I would pick up at various street fairs. About ten feet away, Kim Deal was also standing there, holding a sign that said, "Breeders tickets for sale."
Third poster is a Woody Gutherie quote, documented in woodcut by Ricardo Levins Morales.
The silkscreen screen is an artifact of a flyer I made for a Lightning Bolt / Necronomitron / Double Dagger / The Coughs show in 2003.
Yeah, yeah, we have a Google Home. While the "Don't Be Evil" doers are listening to every conversation in our household, we use it a lot. Most of these appliances advertise its intuitive software "smartypantsness," but we're more fond of coming home and being able to turn on the lights with a voice command like in Star Trek. That sounds gluttonous, but when your arms are full with a squirmy infant, keys, work bag, diaper bag, your coat, the kid's coat, and four bags of groceries, it's a little thing that goes a long way.
Behind it is a framed Dead Kennedy's Frankenchrist LP with "BANNED" stamped on the hype sticker. Not sure if that was done by Alternative Tentacles, or the retailer, but it's a nice artifact of Tipper Gore's PMRC culture war crusade against everything awesome about America.
Little decorations: The Rancor monster and Medicine Man Ewok are just toys that somehow survived in my life for longer than all of my friendships. The bobblehead is of Clay Davis from HBO's The Wire, and it features a button that plays his trademark quote. The triangle thing hung on our front door at our previous residence, and those who played Skyrim know what it is.
Not sure why is this back behind the receiver, but this is the first time I took photos at a show: Jawbreaker at The Cat's Cradle in 1996, I think?
That's my kid in the background, going through a stack on the floor. We've got a game where whenever she pulls a record from the shelf, we play it, which I've been documenting as a Facebook photo album.
I bounce back-and-forth between a couple of jobs, and those that live in the Triangle know that traffic can be a tedious haul during rush hour. But, what better time to actively listen to stuff?
WUNC 91.5FM: Most mornings I'm listening to the news, so it's NPR's Morning Edition on the Triangle's great public radio station. They did some original content last year with Occasional Shivers, a play about 1960's jazz by local legend Chris Stamey (The dB's).
For music, it's various streaming services. A discussion of the big ones seems like boring rehash for this audience, so I'll just mention you can follow me on Bandcamp here.
Worth noting: the genesis of this prompt is that, every spring, I go through a phase where I'll listen to Lifetime's Hello Bastards and Jersey's Best Dancers back-to-back, in the car, windows down, and volume cranked. This combination ran the gauntlet of formats through time: dubbed cassette, the failed MiniDisc, CD-R, and now playlists across multiple streaming services. What was once a perfect summer-jam-and-car-seat- mosh wind-up became nostalgic habit. So ingrained, that to listen to these records elsewhere seems alien.
MY JAMS THIS ROUND
Bed Wettin' Bad Boys, Rot LP (What's Your Rupture? / RIP Society)
Talk around the SSR stoop bets that this Sydney band is the Next Big Thing, filling that "What's in the water?" Aussie void until another Royal Headache record. They carry the power pop energy that Gentlemen Jesse embodies, but there's a heavy Replacements vibe that give the shimmering hooks some grit.
Bodykit, No-NRG LP (New Body Tapes)
We've been anticipating this debut album from Raleigh's Bodykit (ex-Whateva Brainz and current ISS and Das Drip) for awhile. This duo exists in a hybrid world of avant techno and noise, where thumping beats are filtered through lo-fi static and ugly sounds make you dance. It's dark and lurches like the best power-electronics misanthropes, but maintains enough melodic integrity to keep you from killing yourself.
OR, if that's too pessimistic, know that my daughter goes bonkers to this record whenever I put it on:
(actual footage of her dancing to Bodykit, and there's plenty more where it came from)
Das Drip, demo cassette (self-released)
This new Raleigh outfit puts the "id" back in "mid-brow punk," tumbling quirky riffs and pissed vocals at a velocity that seems to be barely holding it together. It's not sloppy – but inspired, epitomizing punk's nervous nihilism in a spastic burst. Obligatory: ex-Whatever Brains, current Bodykit (see above) and ISS.
girlSperm, gSp LP (Thrilling Living)
Sporting a marquee name with Tobi Vail (ex-Bikini Kill, The Frumpies, The Go Team), I couldn't not pick this up. With Vail back on the drums, this Olympia, WA trio is rounded out with a twin guitar attack (from MRR's Marissa Magic and Layla Gibbon) that's minimalist in composition, but packs a wallop in its execution. The pointed call-and-response vocals hurl the songs between idiosyncratic playfulness to nervy punk, and every cut rings true.
Konvoi, No Rifts digital album (Friends Records)
I wrote about "Brakelights" / "Secretary" in the last BLAG, so here's the extension of an official album release. Choosing synths over a guitar replacement, Konvoi's new songs no longer have the choppy rhythm and angst that propelled their excellent first album. No riffs means ethereal textures that float over those familiar, pulsating bass lines like a stubborn fog. There's a heady fuzziness that brightens with noisy melody. It's a drastic departure, but I welcome the beautiful density.
Limp Wrist, Facades LP (Lengua Armada Discos / La Vida Es Un Mus)
First, read Daniel's very excellent write-up. I've seen Limp Wrist live in support of their last record, nine years ago, and just happened to be visiting Chicago for the Facades record release show. With increased visibility comes nuance, and it's fascinating to see a band evolve with the movement they speak to. Whereas earlier Limp Wrist played straight forward, balls-to-the-wall, in-your-face hardcore, the new songs have varying tempos and tone, more thought-out songwriting, and added depth to its lyrical topics. To call it mature seems too easy, as Limp Wrist's members were already seasoned hardcore veterans the first time around, but gay culture's influence has grown so much in the mainstream, giving Limp Wrist more room to play with other ideas.
Shortly after picking this LP up, an old college friend came up for a visit. He had spent the last few years getting deep into Dark Entries releases, a label that is reissuing lots of post-punk, goth, and dance music from the American gay scenes of the 70s and 80s, including minimalist techno that scored the gay pornographic films that played in arthouse theaters of the time. Coincidentally, those watching HBO's The Deuce, got to follow a plotline involving a bartender navigating the world of gay porn's influential rise and the NYC underground DIY dance parties of the 70s. I'm not versed enough to know if these cultures are related outside of a shared audience, but the exposure seemed uncanny for Facades' B-side.
There's a lot of discussion about how "out there" Facade's B-side is: four tracks of minimalist techno that's a far cry from their hardcore roots. But, that's no novelty gimmick – simply Limp Wrist exposing another part of their DNA.
Red Dons, "Genocide" / "Letters" 7" (Man in Decline)
It's been a spell since new Red Dons material (what, with members spread out across Chicago, London, Portland and the pits of Washington that might as well be Canada), but these new songs are some of their strongest to date. We still get the familiar dark, melodic punk with Wipers-esque riffs, but the songwriting – which is already smart – keeps getting more nuanced with subtler hooks and tiny brilliant details.