Afraid to glance or glare...

Oh, Edsel...

 I'd almost entirely forgotten about them until I picked up the last Obits record Moody, Standard and Poor back when I was trying to review records again semiregularly.

 (deep breath for classic me storytelling, AKA done expect the point to reappear for some time)

I bought it knowing absolutely nothing about Obits other than the design of the packaging was ace. A mood was evoked by the colors, composition, and typography. Good enough.

 Driving home from the Electric Fetus, I gave the disc a preview. 45 seconds into the first track and barely a block down Franklin, the cigarette dropped from my mouth into my lap. My right hand was managing the steering wheel, and my left arm was out the window, fist clenched and pumping angrily. "FROBERG!" I bellowed.

 I don't really dislike Rick Froberg. I don't. But when I haven't heard one of his bands in awhile, I forget how his voice works and that human voices can work like that at all. Every ten years or so, I stumble across one of his projects, and this pattern had just been updated.

 Back in high school, I was a fairly bigbig Rocket From the Crypt Fan, which meant that I'd at least read about Drive like Jehu, Froberg's gig with Rocket frontman John Reis. I mean, the internet was around, but you couldn't burn CDs and you could maybe fit a short mp3 or two on a double-density 3 1/2 inch disk (still under 3 megs), and I was still in South Dakota, so it wasn't until I got to college in '97 that I got to experience Froberg for the first time.

 It was probably the first time I was left in alone in the KAOR studio that I really went nuts. I really had no idea which direction to go first. I went nuts and listened to pretty much every record and CD in there that I'd read about but had never heard. I even listened to Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, which I'd owned on CD for years, but, shit. They had the Blast First pressing. How the fuck do you not give that some love?

 But yes. There was a copy of Yank Crime. I listened to it. Think I actually still have it somewhere. Don't really recall. At the time, since it sounded nothing like RFTC, I was utterly uninterested. But Froberg. Oh, that voice stands out.

 Years later, I pick up the Hot Snakes' Suicide Invoice because I faintly remembered reading a good review of it somewhere and I knew Reis had been involved. Froberg!

 So anyhow. The first listen to the Obits record was hasty and broken up over several drives from here-to-there and back-again. Absorb-y, but not really cogent. Anyhow, fourth or fifth listen, I totally fucking notice that one (and eventually two) of the songs were sung by a not-Froberg, and the not-Froberg's voice was TOTALLY recognizable. So that led me to Googling Sohrab Habibion, the guy in the album credits labeled probably something more helpful than not-Froberg.

Turns out he was in...


 And I still have my copy of Techniques of Speed Hypnosis, which I actually remember hiding in the studio until I knew they were gonna sell all the CDs only I knew what were. Nope. Not concealing that I jacked stuff from the studio. But I felt guilty, so I made a point to but a TON of stuff when they unloaded. Man, it was OUTRAGEOUS what they wanted to charge for promotional copies (see what I did there, fuckers?) Anyhow. It's a great goddam record. Fits into that neat, bright, meaningful scuzzpop D.C. and nearby Virginia excelled at producing for so long, organized into a song-interlude-song-interlude rhythm. They put stuff out on Grass, Relativity, De Soto.

Full of goodness.


Musings on several months into vinyl fetishism...

I've been married for over a year now, and I like it. When I got married, I got many things: an amazing wife, a big party with all my friends and family, and a bunch of gifts. Still got the wife. Awesome. Still remember the party. Cool. Possess total recall of precisely one gift: a vinyl pressing of Mr. Bungle's California.

But the thing about that gift is that is was PERFECTLY suited to both Maureen and I.

The one problem: I burned up my stereo when I burned down France.

Sam, by way of giving us California, planted seeds that germinated several months ago when I convinced Maureen to let me go piece together a new stereo rig. Convinced is too strong a word as I didn't really have ply excessive charm, but still I prepared like it was going to be a Big Weird Fight. It's more fun that way.

I was unsatisfied with new gear offerings (in the financial ballpark we jointly agreed to), so I pieced together a modest system at a suburban pawn shop, and away we went.

A couple months in, and I'm throwing out about $50 a week on records. Sometimes it's $70 on two heavy pressings from a high-end boutique label like Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, sometimes it's $30 on a wholly random smattering of used records at the Fetus (the Fall, Michael Jackson, and Jethro Tull).

I'm not really an audio snob. I easily slipped from CDs to mp3s without a complaint. I couldn't tell (that I could tell). The records I had were more out of ironic faux nostalgia or out of simple neat-o collectorhood. The difference between a polybagged comic book and Kraftwerk's Computer World were surprising negligible.

But years and years into the digital revolution, vinyl offers a surprisingly nice punch. Again, I don't have a high-end system. It's a Technics-made JC Penney turntable with a generic AT-71 stylus on a Nakamichi receiver through some old Avid speakers. But the presence is outstanding, and depending on the record, the clarity of space and separation is somewhat mind-blowing.

It's an easy and unsurprisingly accurate summation to dismiss my wonder as the result of years of settling for almost all recorded music to be absorbed via either my car or my computer. I get that.

But that's not the reason I've fallen in love with records.

It's the ritual.

I want to listen to some music. I select a record, shuck the plastic sleeve and the paper sleeve, gingerly pull out the record and examine it. I put it on the platter. If it's clean and shiny, I drop the needle. If not, I dose it with some Pfan Stat and give it a twirly wipe first. Then the music comes.

While not circumstantially identical, it takes me back to when I was a high schooler in Redfield; when I first discovered music. A box would come in the mail. Depending on who I thought I was getting a great deal from at the time, it contained music from either BMG or Columbia House. Down to my basement room I'd run, grabbing a comp notebook and my trusty Aiwa disc portable on the way to flopping on my bed where I'd lie and ACTIVELY LISTEN, going so far as to even transcribe any lyrics I found particularly compelling.

So far, the only regret I have is with selection. I'm not taking too many chances with unfamiliar material, instead frequently choosing to repurchase my greatest favorites from circa '96-'01.

I assume this is a personal fad that will eventually die, either from exhaustion of reasonably priced still-in-print options or a significant uptick in trustworthy new releases.

Oh, and as an added bonus, Maureen kind of likes listening to records too*. She raises the same eyebrow she raises whenever I find a new way of spending money as a substitute for being a creative, productive human, but, hey, to that end, I don't recall ever writing this extensively about either my various lens lusts or even about having spent the last three years as far more of a photographer than as a writer.

So there's that.


* Yes, she more than "likes" listening to records. She still (correctly) thinks I'm spending too much money on it though.


Musical wife with spectatorjim.

This is fun. We had intentions of that sort of far-ranging house-cleaning couples frequently speculate about in their second year of marriage, but thankfully, I managed to subvert that by buying some beer and lugging some gear upstairs.

We've now been playing a game called Jim controls the iTunes, and Maureen plays bass to whatever Jim picks. We started with Echo and the Bunnymen's "Killing Moon" and have segued to Enon's "Natural Disasters."

This is fun.

Where to next?