Thursday, 30 September 2010

Converge 7"

(((I completely forgot about this post. I had it saved in draft for weeks and somehow failed to realise I hadn't posted it for real. Whoops.)))

I used to like Converge a lot. I was listening to them from about 1995 when i read about their 'Unloved & Weeded Out' 7" in some paper publication - it was either the Very catalogue or maybe an issue of HeartattaCk zine. Whichever. But I do remember that I mail-ordered a copy of the 7" from Very and then a couple of months later I picked up the first LP. And as the years rolled on, the band got bigger and bigger and I carried on buying their records. Fortunately, because I am old and bit of a twat, I got all their records all as they were released on the limited colours of vinyl, so I have a pretty good collection that didn't cost too much, although I missed the limited pressings of the albums after 'Jane Doe' because the band were so popular by that point that the records sold out too quick. I'm not too fussed though, as I haven't been too excited by anything after 'Jane Doe' anyway. Sorry. I also haven't even heard the latest album at all yet. I do want one - specifically I want the one that has 'shards' in it. But seeing as I would probably need a second mortgage for that, I'm pretty sure that I'll probably never get one.

Anyway, enough claptrap. I'm telling you this because a funny thing happened a few weeks ago. I decided to go see Rot In Hell play in London, and by some coincidence it turned out that Converge were supporting. I managed to miss Converge because I generally always arrive so late that I miss the support bands, but I can report that Rot In Hell were slightly above average for this time of year. Anyway, I digress. Whilst waiting for the singer of Rot In Hell to finish signing girls' boobs so I could ask him for the test press that he had forgotten to bring me, I noticed that Converge had a new 7" for sale. I didn't really want one because they cost £5, and I could have used that money to buy myself a pizza... but then I figured that if I bought a record then some of the money might go to Deathwish and it might help to finance the lavish packaging required for the upcoming (for the last two years) Rot In Hell LP. So I did my bit to help out and I bought a 7". I also then went to the ATM & got some more money & bought a pizza anyway. And surprisingly, it turns out that the record is not half bad (apart from being pressed on euro vinyl of course, which I know that Tre hates even though he always pretends that he loves the efficiency).

The funny thing about this one is that I was talking to a friend about records at the show, and specifically how I sometimes buy doubles of records that turn out to be worth nothing, whereas the things that I could have bought doubles of, but didn't, always turn out to be worth good money. Well, the irony of the conversation became clear a few days later when I realised that this thing was selling on ebay for about $40. And like a clown I only bought one copy. Clearly I should have bought about five. Then I could have retired and spent the rest of my life sleeping on the deck of my yacht listening to an advance tape of the Rot In Hell LP.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

2 EVR Tests

As I said a couple of posts back, I never used to be interested in test pressings, but changed my mind about three years ago. I was mainly interested in tests if there was no limited version of the record available, or alternatively if the test was pretty cheap. Today I present one example of each...

The first one is a test press of the 90s New York band SHIFT. I always think of (and listen to) Shift around this time of year, because they have a song with the lyric "I wish it was still April, it's almost November" which to me is something that seems apt because I fucking hate this time of year. Anyway, I fell in love with this band when their first 12" came out on Equal Vision circa '94. It seemed that back then every band could be categorized as trying to sound like Sick Of It All or Quicksand. Shift fell into the latter category, but what made them interesting was that the were a three piece and they had a slightly rough, unpolished sound and consequently I played that record to death. Then, a year or so later, they brought out a full length, 'Spacesuit', also on Equal Vision. There was one of the few EVR releases for which there was no colour vinyl at all. So finally, fifteen years later, I picked up a test so I could own a "limited" version.

I've seen a few tests in my time, and know of a few US pressing plants, but until I got this I had never previously heard of Hub Servall. The name of this plant sounds to me a bit like the kind of name that someone in the 60s would have thought that people in the future would be called.

This one didn't come with a sleeve, so I dug out my regular copy to snap the test with the proper cover, for the benefit of those that have never seen it:

I also snapped this shot of the band which is on the insert.

The girl in the band is Samantha Maloney. She went on to play in Hole, Mötley Crüe and some other rubbish bands. The skinny white dude, Joshua Louka, went on to play in a band called The Big Collapse with Gavin Van Vlack. They were much better than Mötley Crüe, believe me. I have no idea what happened to the other dude though. If anyone knows, please comment.

Shift did alright for themselves in the 90s. They got signed to a major, recruited Mark Holcomb from Undertow to play second guitar and then put out another album... and then they broke up. At the time I was really disappointed, especially because they never came to the UK, which is something I am still remain unhappy about to this day. But hey, that's how it was in the mid-late 90s. No bands came to the UK.

The second test I picked up fits nicely into the 'cheap' category. This is a test of the first album by a band called The Liar's Academy, called 'No News Is Good News'. It came out on Equal Vision in about 2001. I bought the album when it came out for two reasons - firstly because it featured the singer for Cross My Heart (some wussy band that I liked), and because it was on EVR, and at that time everything they were putting out was pretty good, so I just bought everything they released as a matter of course. There were two colours of this one (blue and brown) as well as standard black. The test also comes without a sleeve.

And so, just for fun, here' the test with the regular sleeve (complete with whack artwork):

I listened to this for the first time in years and it hasn't aged too well. It also isn't very good compared to the Cross My Heart records, which I think still sound good. I guess that's why nobody was too interested in bidding on this one.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Integrity 'Those Who Fear Tomorrow' 2010

Today's entry is yet another Integrity record. It's also a long post. If you don't like Integrity, then I apologise.. although I'm hoping that I can still make it interesting enough for you to spend some time reading it. Think of it as some kind of history lesson.

Ok, so as you may know, Organized Crime Records has decided to reissue all the "classic" Integ records on vinyl, and in chronological order. I dealt with the reissue of the first 7" in two posts (HERE and HERE). The second installment in the series just came out, and this is the one that many still think of as the band's finest moment - the first album, 'Those Who Fear Tomorrow'. But before I get to the new reissue, I figured I would talk a little about the history of this album... mainly because it helps explain why the reissue looks the way that it does.

The history of this album is itself quite interesting, and I am guessing that not too many people at the younger end of the age spectrum would know the story. Not that I know the full story, but I know enough not to sound like a fool. So here is my version...

1991/2 - 'Those Who Fear Tomorrow' was first released by Overkill Records (a Seattle based label) on CD only. Here are some pictures of the original CD:

Then, a couple of years later (and maybe not even that much later, I am unsure) the album was re-released (again, on CD only) by the Dutch East India. This edition featured different artwork. I don't have the proper version of this one, just some 'promo' copy, which features only the booklet and CD in a slip case. Still, you get to see the artwork:

Then, circa 1996, the album finally got the vinyl treatment. Seems that a lot of kids these days think that this vinyl version is "the original". But no, it was a reissue that came 5 years after the original. I guess that, for this reason, the name of the record was slightly modified to 'And For Those Who Still Fear Tomorrow'. Funny how the 'still' is in reference to the fact that this record was being released five years after it's original release. Also funny how those 5 years felt like an eternity to me when I was 20 years old, but 5 years these days seem to fly by in a heartbeat! Well anyway, back then I remember thinking it kinda strange that this was put out by a record label based in Florida - Toybox Records. And even though it was cool to finally get the record on vinyl, I never really liked this edition. So let me explain why...

Firstly, I never liked the cover. The cover includes the original artwork, but puts it in a small box. It's also not in colour. The ink on the cover is kinda cool, in silver ink, but in my opinion there's just too much white going on, and overall it feels kinda like a half-finished job:

However, the main thing that I always disliked about this version was the randomness of the vinyl itself. There were three colours of vinyl (four if you include black). And there were also two different sleeves - the white one that I have pictured here, and a red one that I don't actually own... which actually looks better than this one in my opinion (so not sure why I never got around to picking a red one up!). Anyway, it's fair enough that there are multiple vinyl colours and sleeves. I mean, it's pretty much standard practice these days. But what I haven't yet explained is that the sleeves are numbered. And the numbering is what seems random to me. I got my copies of this LP from Dwid in a trade when this came out, and I was told that the pressing info is as follows:- Yellow (200), White (300), Purple (400). So, bearing that in mind, check the numbering of my records:

It doesn't make sense. I mean, if yellow is the most limited colour, why does the yellow one start at a much higher number than the white vinyl? More to the point, how is the number of the purple one so high? Also, if there are only 800 colour vinyl copies in total, how come the colour ones are as low as number 755 and as high as number 3616? That implies that there are nearly 3000 colour copies to me. I would expect the colour vinyl to be numbered from 1 to 800, but clearly that is not the case. More to the point, the red covers are numbered out of 1000... and I have seen all four vinyl colours in red sleeves. So clearly there is absolutely no consistency to the numbering or the sleeve usage. And being someone who is quite neat and organised, this really pisses me off. It's kinda like the dude who released this had the sleeves and records delivered in a truck, and it got toppled on the highway and the sleeves and records fell out of their boxes into a big heap, and rather than sort them out he just randomly assembled them. What other explanation could there possibly be?

Also, another point - according to the numbering there were 1000 red cover and 4000 white cover. But I have over the years seen far more copies for sale on ebay with the red cover than the white cover. So this doesn't quite tally. Were there REALLY 4000 white covers made (or, rather, sold)? I'm not sure I believe that. Surely if there were 5000 copies of this in existence it would pop up for sale on ebay more often than it does.

Even more irritating, this album comes with a nice little booklet, containing a couple of pictures and the lyrics.

However, distribution of the booklet is also just as random. Not all copies had one included. I have three records, and only one has a booklet, which is the white vinyl... which is not even supposed to be the most limited version. But I have seen red sleeves and yellow vinyl with the booklet. So again, it was clearly random.

This version did, however, have two things going for it - firstly, it had an extra song bolted on the end of the album - 'Eighteen'... which, let's face it, is a great song. It was also quite innovative too in that the extra song is pressed on a reverse groove at the end of side 2, i.e. you have to drop the needle in the centre of the record to play it, and the needle works its way back out towards the edge of the record. I'd never seen that before this album. Pretty funny since it is unplayable on cheap, automatic turntables.

The second cool feature is that the booklet contains an Integrity discography (to the point when this record was released):

Unfortunately though, the discography is not entirely correct. And, even worse, the label that made this were too lazy to update the discography with pressing info for this record. As the picture shows, it just says "many colors (limited to 5000)". Whack.

So anyway, as you can probably tell, I've always thought that this 1996 vinyl reissue to be a bit of an underachievement. Yes, it was nice to have it on vinyl after owning the CD for a few years, but overall it just felt a bit rushed, and the packaging was a bit of a let down. So I've never really been a big fan of it. Sorry!

This is where my knowledge lets itself down, mainly because I was never a CD person. This album was re-released on CD a several times. I don't have a record of how many versions exist nor how many labels have released it. But I do know one thing - the idea was never to create versions to bug collectors. It was more just a desire to keep it in print and keep it available. There was always demand for this album after all. It just seemed that one label would issue it, then fold. So then another label got given a chance to keep it going. So yes, there are several other CD versions of this thing out there under various names, but I don't know anything about any of them. So let's move on...

This brings me on the latest version. The 2010 reissue... which appears on the scene nearly 19 years after the original release on Overkill. How time flies eh?

The first thing to say is that the artwork is cool... because it pays homage to both of the "original" CD versions. The front cover is the same art as the original CD on Overkill, the Francis Bacon painting "Painting 1946". And unlike the '96 vinyl version, this one is full colour. Cool.

This LP comes in a gatefold sleeve. And despite me pretty much hating gatefold sleeves these days (because every record seems to have one as standard), this one uses the gatefold well. It contains the art of the Dark Empire CD on one side, and the lyrics on the other.

And the back cover features a picture that was included in the booklet of the original Overkill CD.

I guess the one thing that stands out to me now looking at this pic is how young the band look. I guess that, as I get older, it blows my mind to think how much creative output comes from such young minds. I mean, some hardcore records are now incredibly well known and influential, and these are things that were created (played, recorded, and released) by kids who were still at school or college. I guess it seemed normal back then, but these days it seems weird to me to think about how much great, lasting music is created by people with very limited life experience. Crazy.

Anyway, back to the point. There are three versions of this reissue available. Actually, maybe there are more, but these are the three that were available when I pre-ordered. First up is a pink vinyl copy. This comes in a regular cover, but sits in a stamped & numbered dust sleeve. I guess this is the pre-order version. It's numbered out of 225 copies:

The second version is red vinyl in a regular gatefold sleeve. This is the "regular" version I guess, being out of 680 copies. This one came shrink-wrapped, and the shrinkwrap had a little sticker on the front:

This picture shows the difference between the red and pink vinyl, since the pictures I just posted look pretty similar:

The third version has a limited Stephen Kasner cover, numbered out of 320 copies. The vinyl for this one, like the Kasner edition of the first 7" reissue, is on clear 'smoke' vinyl. It also has a stamped dust sleeve.

As previously, the first 30 copies of this have a hand drawn sketch inside the sleeve by Kasner himself, but unfortunately I didn't manage to get one of those... yet ;o)

As with the 7" reissue, there was also a flyer pack for the first 100 pre-orders. This is basically an envelope containing copies of some old Integrity flyers.

And finally, as yet another bonus, the card mailer itself is limited!

The funny thing about being a stupid collector is that I'm now going to have to keep this piece of cardboard. Ha!

In summary, I would say that Organized Crime have once again done a good job with this reissue. I hope you can also now appreciate it a little more, especially as compared to the previous vinyl reissue from 14 years ago. I definitely prefer this version. It's nice to see the original artwork full size and in full colour... finally! I only had to wait 18 years! I'm already startig to get excited in anticipation over what's in store for the next in the series (presumably 'Systems Overload'). Can't wait!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Trustkill Tests

Today's installment is two test pressings from Trustkill Records. If you'd have told me few weeks ago that I would be buying something on Trustkill I'd have laughed in your face. But someone (presumably from the label) has recently been selling the label's tests on ebay, and I had a look and spotted a couple of things that I kinda wanted, and figured I would get for pretty cheap since they were kinda obscure and forgotten 7"s from long ago.

Before the records though, let me explain something - I only really started collecting test pressings about three years ago. Before that I was never interested. My main point of interest has always been colour vinyl. Years ago, most labels would press 80-90% of their records on black vinyl, and the small remaining portion on colour. So I collected the colours and didn't bother with the black. I always liked colour vinyl, but also there was a part of me that wanted to own something different to the majority. However, now and again some foolish label would decide not to bother pressing a record on colour vinyl and the entire run would be on black. In such instances, theoretically I would have been interested in a test press, because it would have meant that I could still own a rare version of the record, despite no "real" rare version actually existing. Except I didn't get a test because years ago nobody sold or traded them anyway, because nobody who collected really cared about them anyway because they didn't have sleeves like most tests today. So even though I would have theoretically taken one if you had given it to me, I wouldn't have gone out of my way to find one. You with me so far? I hope so.

So anyway, both of these Trustkill tests were for 7"s that I own for which there was no colour vinyl or other limited pressing. So this made them attractive. But more to the point, both 7"s were/are (in my opinion) pretty damn good records. So really, there was no reason NOT to bid...

Trustkill Records number 4 - the self titled 7" from Shenoem.

I'm guessing that 99% of readers of this blog won't have heard of this band. I can't say I know anything about this band either to be honest. All I know is that I bought this back in about 1995 because it was touted as sounding just like Sunny Day Real Estate, which I was in love with back then. And yes, it does sound a lot like SDRE and Mineral and any other bands you may know like that. Here' some pics of the regular version of the record:

I wish I could give you some more information, but I can't find any. This seems to be the only band in the world that does not have a myspace. But I do notice that Geoff Creary is on the thank you list, so hopefully he reads this blog from time to time and can chip in with a comment about the band (like what happened to them, did the dudes go on to any other bands, did they ever record anything else, etc.).

Next is Trustkill number 9, the self titled 7" from Cast Iron Hike.

And again, just for reference, here's the regular version of the record. In my opinion, the cover art is a poor choice on someone's part.

This band came from Boston and were active between 1994 and 1997. They had an album out on Victory and I would say sound a bit like Quicksand & Snapcase (before they went crap). They also had a dude called Mike Gallagher on guitar who spent the next 13 years or so playing in a band called Isis, and who I did a nice trade with a few months back. My own experience of this band (being a kid in the UK) was that they seemed to appear on the scene outta nowhere, release two or three really good records, and then vanish. But the records have definitely stood the test of time, and I still listen to them occasionally. Cool band, and this is a great 7", which (in my opinion) features their best song. I also managed to find a video of said song on myspace. It's not the greatest quality video, but the sound is pretty good, and it does have a good 90s vibe going on with some bleach blond hair and baggy shirts, so you old farts can reminisce about life before you were fat and bald. If you've never heard this band, invest a minute of your life watching this and I'm sure it will make you want to listen to more. If not, you're probably an idiot.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Nails 'Obscene Humanity' 12"

I went to see Blacklisted play in London a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was more like three weeks ago. The show took place on the anniversary of last year's London Bane show from which I left in an ambulance. So I was a little hesitant about the show. I mean, I was hoping that 2nd September wasn't going to turn into my annual trip to hospital day. Fortunately though, I got through the night without suffering any bodily harm, which represents a big improvement on last year.

Nervousness aside, it was actually a pretty cool night. Blacklisted were really good, and I also watched (and enjoyed) Paint It Black, neither of which I expected to do. I also had a brief chat with Dave who runs Six Feet Under Records. I tried to convince him to get his records pressed in the States because, as we all know, the vinyl is better. I'm not sure I managed to persuade him completely, but I'm hoping that I gave him something to think about... ha!

Anyway, Dave had some records for sale, and I took the opportunity to pick up the first Nails 12". This band is one of the few current bands that I am excited about, and I was particularly pleased to hear that this is one record that Dave got pressed in the good old US of A, which made the record even more attractive. So I paid the price being asked, rejected the discount offered, & took the record home to annoy the neighbours.

The record itself comes in pretty minimal packaging. It's just a plain white LP jacket with a sticker on the front, and nothing on the back. Obviously life would be boring if all records looked like this, but now and again the minimal approach really works. Kinda suggests that the music is strong enough to speak for itself.

I'm into this band a lot. I don't even know why. There's just something about them that kinda excites me. I can't even explain why. The LP on pink is one of the few recent releases that I feel that I badly want. Hopefully I will find one soon.

At the same show there was some random dude selling some used 7"s from a shoe box. I picked up a spare copy of the In My Eyes demo 7" to send to a friend as a gift... but then it turned out he already had it. So this is now a spare that is up for grabs. If you want it, get in touch... and if you have a Nails LP on pink you want to trade for it, get in touch sooner!