I’m starting to compile my favorite albums of the year and have settled on the fact that Blitzen Trapper‘s Wild Mountain Nation (think Pavement meets the Kinks) will garner my much-coveted top spot. But when it comes to identifying the new release that I’ve listened to the most in ‘07, it would have to be the gloriously buoyant old school hip-hop comp Top Shelf 8-8-88 that was released this year as a Japanese import. I first heard about it on one of my favorite radio shows, NPR’s “Fair Game,” and got a hold of a copy soon after. Recently I’ve been revisiting some somewhat silly step-back stuff like Das EFX, Fu-Schnickens and A Tribe Called Quest, and Top Shelf slotted righted into that mix perfectly. And the best thing about the comp, which claims to feature “lost” recordings from ‘88 by the likes of Black Sheep, Biz Markie, Jungle Brothers, MC Lyte and Big Daddy Kane, is that it’s complete and utter bullshit and I really don’t care:
The rumors swirled all summer: a hip-hop El Dorado, a treasure trove of lost recordings by old-school greats like Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie, had been discovered in an abandoned storage locker in New Jersey.
Then, in August, an album called “Top Shelf 8/8/88” was issued in Japan. Supposedly a collection of never-before-released recordings from 1988, it came with a back story that was even more elaborate than the rumors. And as the music spread on the Internet, skeptics set blogs ablaze: was it a hoax?
The album’s liner notes told this story: An unidentified New York hip-hop aficionado scavenging through a storage locker near Hoboken, N.J., discovered a box of studio reels. The only clue to their contents was a name scribbled on a label: “Fab Five Freddy,” the hip-hop impresario who was host of “Yo! MTV Raps” in the 1980s.
According to the story, the reels turned out to be recordings from hip-hop’s fabled golden era, taped at a studio called Top Shelf in a basement in the East Village of Manhattan. The reels were supposedly lost during the Tompkins Square Park riots of 1988, and the studio later shut down.
Built on loops of classic soul songs and with rap that is at least four times faster than what is usually heard on the radio today, “Top Shelf” is peppered with references to Michael Dukakis, the Pontiac Fiero and the first “Die Hard” film. But why, as fans wrote online, do some of the supposedly teenage rappers sound hoarse and winded? And how come nobody has stepped forward and claimed to be one of the “anonymous Top Shelf producers” credited with the album’s excellent productions?
It’s due for a rumored US release in early ‘08 but if you want to preview it before then, I found this link via Google. You’re welcome.
Okkervil River’s The Stage Name will undoubtedly land on my best of 2007 list and you, my friends, should run (not trot) over to Daytrotter to pick up the excellent previously-unreleased 4-track session recording they’re giving away. It features Okkervil doing three cover songs and a terrific “skiffle” version of “You Can’t Hold The Hand Of A Rock And Roll Man” from The Stage Name.
Big Jesus Trash Can: At the beginning of the month Egg City Radio posted a few Birthday Party boots (scroll down) and I didn’t get a chance to listen to them until now. Good christ, if “Hacienda, Manchester, UK, 1982” doesn’t tear your face off, you’re faceless. And while you’re there, you might as well get stoopid.
“The picket line has a delicate, unique ecosystem”: A writer for the The Daily Show composes a strike diary for the The New York Times.
The Next 9 Children’s Characters That Should Come Out of the Closet: “If your given name was Jazz Hands McCoy, it wouldn’t mean that you were gay.”
If You Pick Her Too Hard (She Comes Out of Tune)—Download Little Richard’s terrific unreleased album Southern Child from The Heat Warps. Now. Thank you.
SANDRA’S HAVING HER BRAIN OUT: I wasn’t aware that the Soft Boys’ fun-as-shit debut album A Can of Bees, featuring Robyn Hitchcock, has been out-of-print for a few years, but Egg City Radio is graciously giving it away (scroll down). (Hint: delete the track “(I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp” that isn’t marked “Live” and doesn’t have a track # ... it’s actually a repeat of “Ugly Nora.”)
Gibby Haynes—de facto leader of the exponentially unfathomable, long running psych-punk-whatever amalgamators Butthole Surfers—will join a cadre of kiddies from the Paul Green School of Rock for a series of six dates in February (one, on the 12th, has yet to be confirmed). And together they’ll play Butthole Surfers material.
The Paul Green School—featured in the documentary film Rock School and not the similarly titled Jack Black/Richard Linklater film School of Rock—is a network of intensive music training programs for kids aged 8-18, and the school’s “All Stars” often pay tribute to and even gig out with famed musicians many years their senior.
Pitchfork seems a little shocked by this decision, but, c’mon, think about how righteous it would be to hear a choir of kids chiming in on “Lady Sniff”? I can’t imagine anything more beautiful.
He made positively the most cacophonous, awful records that had ever been made in the late 60s. [...] And [a Mercury records exec] gave me this stack of singles by this guy and I thought they were unbelievably atrocious, but in that wonderful way that you couldn’t stop listening to them they were so awful. [...] And there’s a bugle solo in the middle [of the song “Paralyzed”] that’s to die for (laughs). And he won me over. And his name Stardust became part of the Ziggy Stardust name. That’s where I got the name Ziggy Stardust.
Recently I finally got a chance to see the Ledge open up for Daniel Johnston in a show in NYC that was curated by Bowie and, man, he didn’t disappoint. As his band (which featured bassist Klaus Fluoride of the Dead Kennedys) played their opening instrumental, the then 59-year-old Ledge crawled on his belly all the way from the side of the stage to his microphone. They then ripped into a manic version (is there any other?) of “Paralyzed,” a song they performed twice that evening, and prior to the next tune, the Ledge removed his heavy gun holster and hurled it at a dangerous velocity into the crowd. Later he flung paper plates adorned with his siganture into the crowd and, yes, I’m the proud owner of one of them. It was rockin’ dementia at its finest.
Below you’ll find a few of the better Ledge videos on YouTube and an MP3 download of the rare “Standing in a Trashcan (Thinking About You)” that will be begging for a spot on your next mix CD for as long as you allow it to remain on your hard drive. Enjoy.
WFMU is putting on a great free show this Saturday at Southpaw in Park Slope featuring Oneida, Simply Saucer, Alan Vega (of Suicide), and Old Time Relijun. I’ve never had much luck at “getting” Oneida or Suicide (yes, I completely suck), but Simply Saucer and Old Time Relijun are both eagerly anticipated here at Rumproast HQ. Canada’s long dormant Simply Saucer, described accurately by WFMU’s “Beware of the Blog” as “the single greatest 1970’s band to influence absolutely no one,” only released one (posthumous) album in the history of the band (Cyborgs Revisted—most recently reissued in 2003), but it’s a humdinger of psych-skronk garage-isms worthy of all of the indie insider praise layered upon it. K Records vets Old Time Relijun just released their latest effort Catharsis In Crisis and, with the addition of Benjamin Hartman’s sax work to leader Arrington De Dionyso’s pulling-flesh-from-bone vocals, it explodes in so many directions you’ll find yourself ducking for cover the first few times you listen to it. OTR fan John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats put it best when reviewing Catharsis at his blog Last Plane to Jakarta: “I think Old Time Relijun are a very physical celebration of music and its possibilities, which is a terrible thing to say about anybody, since it makes them sound like professors, which they’re not. They’re hairy shirtless guys screaming about dark matter.”
Egg City Radio has just concluded an incredible series of Captain Beefheart posts that are stuffed with free downloads of live recordings and rarities. If you love Beefheart, you should grab ‘em all (or the ones you don’t already have). If you don’t love Beefheart, what’s fucking wrong with you? You should immediately fix that problem by downloading the stellar (and out-of-print) I’m Going To Do What I Wanna Do: Live At My Father’s Place, 1978 that Rhino’s Handmade label released in 2000.
The first time I saw La Strada perform, they didn’t have a name yet and they were playing in the bowels of the NYC subway system. They completely blew me away even though the most “electric” instrument they were playing was a little toy xylophone. They have since moved on and have done the incredibly smart thing of getting a name and the even smarter thing of laying down three of their tracks. They are nothing short of amazing (imagine if Beirut knew how to be be joyous instead of melodramatic) and two rank among the best songs of ‘07 (“The Sun Song” & “Mama”—the song I saw them perform next to the tracks of the G train). If you were smart (and I know that you are), you’d head over to MySpace right now and download those three “demo” tracks while La Strada is still graciously giving ‘em away. And if you were even smarter, you’d go check out Brooklyn’s “next big thing” at one of their three upcoming local shows while you can still get in the door.
MORE: Weird. As it turns out, rockin’ Robin posted about La Strada yesterday. Since I’m no longer burdened with the horrible, horrible G train, I had no idea they were still playing that line. Robin’s got a nice recording of them doing a new (?) song “Shapes In the Sky.”
The Mountain Goats & Bowerbirds show at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC sold out a while ago, but you can still catch this great two-fer tonight (Tuesday, 10/2) at Greenpoint’s Studio B. The Mountain Goats always put on a fine show. John Darnielle is one of the most inspiring and engaging indie rockers working the circuit these days and watching his bordering-on-cult-like fans quietly mouth along with every one of his lyrics is something to behold. The Bowerbirds released the drop dead gorgeous Hymns for a Dark Horse this year (without a doubt one of the best releases of ‘07) and since they live out in the woods in a trailer without electricity, they’ll probably get all excited about seeing the sparkly lights and rock the fuck out. Or, at least, put on a really good show. And if you can’t make the show tonight, you can catch the Bowerbirds (sans the Mountain Goats but not serif) for FREE at Sound Fix records in Williamsburg tomorrow (Wednesday, 10/3).
If you love African music, there’s no better mp3 blog to camp down in than Matsuli Music. Right now they’ve got a limited download available of a long-out-of-print ‘77 comp called Swaziland Likwindla Festival featuring four little known acts from South Africa (though Duma sounds suspiciously like the late great deep-throated vocalist Mahlathini). It’s a vinyl rip and a tad scratchy (almost in a good way ... trust me), but it’s an absolute treasure and you should grab it before it’s gone.
Bo Diddley’s messy semi-funk experiment The Black Gladiator was released back in ‘69 and it’s a fun-as-shit, organ-ized groove from the first track (the crunchy blues chug “Elephant Man”) to the last (the ultra-bizarre duet “I Don’t Like You”—I have no idea what Bo was thinking when he laid down the track, but I love it). It hasn’t been released on CD until this year, but it’ll cost you $40 as an import. If I were you, I’d head over to Egg City Radio and download the perfectly fine vinyl rip they’re handing out for free.
And as an added bonus, check out this pic of Bo buckled into a ... well, jeebus fuck, I don’t know diddley about what it is.