Nine Inch Nails

#924.5: Rippin’

RECORD STORE TALES #924.5:  Rippin’ 

It’s a long weekend here in Canada, and since we’re stuck in Kitchener instead of the lake this time, I spent my Saturday ripping music to hard drive.  And then backing up that hard drive to about five other devices.  I’ve been slowly but surely putting my collection on the ol’ PC for years now, in spurts.  Huge catalogues of bands have gone un-ripped due to negligence.  It’s fun to do when I’m looking for something to listen to that I haven’t heard in a while.

Right now I’m working on my Soundgarden.  Most of my Soundgarden was sitting there on the  shelves unloved until now.  Before that, I updated my Nine Inch Nails folder with all my CDs.  Apparently I was collecting NIN right up to The Slip (2008), although I missed a few albums like The Fragile and Ghosts.

I enjoy doing pretty mechanical tasks, like combining “part 1” and “part 2” of a CD single into one folder.  Adjusting the id3 tags.  For my “March of the Pigs” double CD, I added in an mp3 of the live music video as a bonus track.  All the while, listening to this music I haven’t played in over a decade.

Remixes are not something I’ve derived a lot of enjoyment from over the years, but bands like Nine Inch Nails flood their singles with them.   And I found myself enjoying quite a few of them.  The nine minute version of “Wish” from the Fixed EP is awesome.  Might even be my go-to version!  The “Clay” mix of “Head Like a Hole” (which is on both the “black” and “pink” versions of the single) was quite enjoyable.  And I have a lot of Nine Inch Nails it seems.  Three bootlegs too, including Purest Feeling (early versions and unreleased songs), Demos & Remixes (which includes “Supernaut”) and Woodstock ’94.  Diving back in is an adventure, listening to Trent Reznor evolve.

While I was grabbing my Prodigy Fat of the Land and “Firestarter” single, I lingered in the “P” section and pulled Elvis Presley, Praying Mantis, and Gord Prior.  Praying Mantis with Paul Di’Anno and Dennis Stratton, in fact.  A lot of Maiden covers that just remind me that nobody sounds like Iron Maiden.  Nobody.  I’ll probably get more enjoyment from the Elvis 30 #1 Hits.  “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto”, oh yeah!  I know the saying goes “There are only two kinds of people, Beatles people and Elvis people”.  I’m a Beatles guy.  That’s all the Elvis I need, I’m good with it.

Moving up into the “O” section, I realized I hadn’t touched any of my Our Lady Peace.  I don’t have a lot.  A couple singles, Naveed, Spiritual Machines, Gravity and Burn Burn Burn.  Raine Maida is admittedly an acquired taste vocally and I won’t spend any time trying to convince you, or KevinSpiritual Machines is interesting for two reasons.  One, it’s a concept album about artificial intelligence, and two, I have an early copy in the rare black jewel case in perfect condition.

One thing for sure I’m noticing about these pockets of my collection.  I went big or I went home.  I have the DualDisc versions of Nine Inch Nails albums, or the CD/DVD combo sets.  I have the double CD of Badmotorfinger.  I didn’t buy the basic version of anything.  It looks like I also bought just about every single I could get my hands on.  Most of this stuff was acquired back in the Record Store days, so I had access to the rare stuff in the best condition.

Soundgarden seem to be hit or miss as far as B-sides go.  For every “Cold Bitch” there’s a “Jerry’s Garcia’s Finger”.  I see there is a super deluxe of Superunknown out there with four discs of extras.  I think I’d better just listen to what I’ve neglected before I worry about any upgrades.

Tangent:  Speaking of super deluxes, this week we were given previews for new ones from Whitesnake (Restless Heart) and Black Sabbath (Technical Ecstacy).  We have a 42 CD Judas Priest box set coming with oddles of unreleased live albums.  A Metallica “Black” album box with 14 CDs, six LPs and 6 DVDs.  There. Is. A. Lot.  It’s getting harder to pick and choose.  It’s also getting harder to find time to listen to it all.  In particular, all that DVD content.  There are not that many long weekends.

I know what my dad would say.  “Don’t you have enough music?”  Evidently!

A music collection is the kind of thing we justify by saying “It’s there for me to listen to on a rainy day.”  A long weekend home from the lake is kind of like a rainy day, so here I am enjoying the very dusty corners of my music collection.  Let’s see if these Soundgarden B-sides get any better!

 

 

#923: The Dead 90s (A Nigel Tufnel Top Ten list)

RECORD STORE TALES #923: The Dead 90s (A Nigel Tufnel Top Ten list)

I think it was around 1995 that I really gave up into the ’90s.

What do I mean by this?  It’s simple.  In late 1991, there was a sea change in rock music.  The old guard was suddenly unhip, while a new unkept kind of rock was surfacing in Seattle.  Within three years, classic rock bands such as Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Poison, Ratt, Whitesnake, and even the once-bulletproof Guns N’ Roses were in some sort of decline, losing key band members or just breaking up completely.  They were replaced on the charts with a swath of new bands, from Nirvana, to Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.  Rock had been on such a high in mid-91 with #1 albums by Skid Row, Metallica, Van Halen and more.  It only took months for the landscape to darken.  But really, the warnings were in place well back in ’89.

It was a disorienting change and it got to a point in the middle of the decade where my favourite bands were dropped, broken up, or transformed.  Bon Jovi survived this period unscathed, losing only the inconsequential Alec John Such.  They were one of the few exceptions.  Motley Crue put out a killer record with their new singer that was criminally panned at the time by its critics and many longtime fans.  Winger couldn’t catch a break.  Some of the bands that did put out records in the 90s released sub-par trash.  Quiet Riot:  guilty with Down to the Bone.  Judas Priest:  Jugulator.  Dokken:  Shadowlife.  Unless your name ended with Jovi, it seems like every old guard rock band put out albums that were crap, sold like shit, or both.  Then, half of ’em broke up.

What was a metal head to do?  Still buy the old bands’ records and hope for the best, yes, but when you’re buying so much shit on a wing and a prayer, you start looking for something else.  I had to open my heart to some newer bands that, I felt, had something in common with the old.

Here is a list of 11 bands that made their way in.


1. OASIS.  I still love those first three records, and all the B-sides that came along with the tide.  My mom got me into the Beatles, and while I never bought into that “the new Beatles” crap, I did like that Oasis brought back some of what I liked about the fab four.  They were the only Brit Pop band I could put my heart behind.  Not metal at all, but Lars liked ’em.  They had guitar solos at least.


2. GOO GOO DOLLS.  Right around the time of “Slide” and “Broadway”, I let the Goo Goo Dolls into my life.  They reminded me of Bon Jovi without the bombast (and the solos).  They would have to do during the time when I needed a surrogate Jovi, which happened in the late part of the 90s when Jon released the stinker Destination Anywhere.  Goo Goo Dolls nailed the lovestruck acoustic/electric vibe that was once a Bon Jovi strength.


3. THE BARSTOOL PROPHETS.  Amazing Canadian band that could have been the next Tragically Hip.  The Prophets might have been a little more hard edged, and I identified with their lyrics more than the labyrinthic words of Saint Downie.  T-Trev was a fan and he recommended I give ’em a try, and I have loved them since.


4. sandbox.  A band that did not win me through a friend or a music video, but through the live experience.  Opening for the Barenaked Ladies, sandbox (all lower case) were a bit gloomier and heavier.  But there was also something magical about their songs “Curious” and “Lustre”.  They soothed my soul when I was lonely.  Later on, I found out that guitarist Mike Smith was on a television show called Trailer Park Boys


5. THE PRODIGY.  Who didn’t buy Fat of the Land in ’97?  It was a good album and Crispian Miller from Kula Shaker had lead vocals on one track.  This new heavy brand of electronica had hooks and a rock-like vibe.  It was like dance-y industrial rock.  I could dig it.  They even had a guitar player named — no word of a lie — Gizz Butt.


6. THE TEA PARTY.  I couldn’t get into Splendor Solis; I foolishly dismissed the band as a Zep clone.  I came to my senses on their third album The Edges of Twilight.  The Zeppelin comparisons were obvious (and I didn’t care about the Doors), but who else was making music like this anymore?  Nobody.  The Tea Party would do!


7. SLOAN.  It was not until their fourth album Navy Blues that Sloan scratched the itch.  Yes, I was a late comer.  Yes, I got into them during their commercial peak.  But the truth is it was really their double live 4 Nights at the Palais Royale that really nailed it.  One of the best live albums since the mighty Kiss Alive.  The comparisons don’t end there, as both bands feature four lead singers — a configuration I always enjoy.  (Hello, Goodbye, Beatles!)


8. RANCID.  Incredible band, two lead singers, and one great album that just slayed me.  Many of the rock bands I liked, such as Guns and Motley, extolled the merits of their punk rock backgrounds.  Just as Zeppelin and ZZ Top encouraged me to check out Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, Nikki Sixx pushed the Pistols on me.  Rancid were much better than the Pistols, but they had the same snot in their noses.  Rancid brought with them the ska and reggae side, which appealed to me immediately.


9. OUR LADY PEACE.  For one album, anyway.  Maybe it was Arnold Lanni that made this band buzz for me, but they were really a single album group.  Naveed is a monster.  Jeremy Taggart was a good enough drummer for Geddy Lee!  It had some things in common with hard rock, like loud guitars.  I could build them a bridge into my heart.


10. LIVE.  I maintain that everybody bought Throwing Copper in 1995.  This band just had tremendously broad appeal.  Unusually, every song was up to the same lofty level of quality; no duds, all keepers.  A number of strong singles led to massive radio and video play, but no followup album of the same stature ever emerged.


11. NINE INCH NAILS.  I was just starting to get into Nine Inch Nails.  The Downward Spiral is my album when it comes to this band.  They took such a long break after it that I lost interest.  What I liked were the riffs built from noise, the layered approach, the angst, the self-loathing, and the anger.  The album is still is trip to play, but I have never liked “Piggy” or “Closer” and think them a bit contrived.  Admirable though that the video for “March of the Pigs” is 100% live, music included.


Although there were many good albums made by metal bands in the 1990s that I have not mentioned, it was not enough for a music addict.  I needed to expand my horizons or remain stuck in the past.  There were more — Ben Folds Five, Steve Earle, Robbie Williams, Mel C. (yes that Mel C.) and Tonic to name a few.  Anything that had some kind of integrity of connection to the rock music I loved.  Ben Folds didn’t even have a guitar player, but his music rocked nonetheless.  These were all great picks to sample some of the best of the 90s.  Have a listen.

#878: Building Empires

GETTING MORE TALE #878: Building Empires

On multiple occasions I’ve said the best years working at the Record Store were the early years.  1994, 1995, into 1996…I’d never been happier working hard, and maybe never will be again.  There was no corporate head office, no regional managers, and minimal pre-fab signage that all looked the same.  It was just a few of us, die hard music fans, and a Record Store.  We were in the process of building empires!

The boss was always looking to expand our CD inventory.  Rarities of any kind were hard to find in Kitchener.  Be they singles, Japanese imports, or live bootlegs, they were hard to come by.  Periodically, let’s say once every couple months, the boss would drive to Toronto to pick up our weekly inventory orders from Records on Wheels.  R.O.W. didn’t carry anything particularly rare, just the major label hits that we needed.  Occasionally the boss would stop at other retailers in Toronto to pick up live bootlegs.  Nirvana, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Guns N’ Roses, whatever was popular.  There were a couple stores in Toronto that had massive amounts of bootleg CDs.  He’d bring them back here and sell them for around $40.  Nobody in Kitchener had access to that kind of stock.  They weren’t cheap and we didn’t make any profit off them, but they sure made us look better.  A lot better.  It gave us a chance to catch up a little bit with Sam’s and Encore in the “cool” stakes.

We also tried some more obscure distributors.  One of them carried UK, US and Japanese imports.  But again they were expensive and we had to hope they’d sell.  These distributors were really unreliable.  Long backorders were a problem, and there was no guarantee we’d get what we ordered.  We sometimes got lucky.  Nirvana’s Hormoaning was in demand, and we did get a few of those.

I’ll never forget this one Nirvana kid who wanted Hormoaning so bad.   He didn’t have enough cash so he kept trading in discs until he had enough credit to cover it.  You had to trade in a lot of CDs to cover $40 plus tax.  But he got his Hormoaning.  Until he had to trade that one in, too.  And he did.


There was another guy (he kind of looked like a little troll doll), and he worked up at Carry On Comics in Waterloo.  I think his brother was friends with the owner, and that’s why he started coming in.  He had his eyes set on an R.E.M. bootleg, specifically because it had a song called “Where’s Captain Kirk?”.  It was one of R.E.M.’s non-album singles, a cover of a band called Spizzenergi.

I was beamed aboard the Starship Enterprise,
What I felt what I saw was a total surprise,
I looked around and wondered can this be,
Or is this the start of my insanity.
Oh but its true,
As we went warp factor 2,
And I met all of the crew,
Where’s Captain Kirk?

The comic book guy salivated over that CD until he finally had enough cash to buy it.  I didn’t think he was serious.  He used to talk about buying this vintage Millenium Falcon toy and hanging it from his ceiling.  He was serious this time!


I managed to snag a couple live bootlegs.  No discounts on these!  Nine Inch Nails – Woodstock ’94, and Guns N’ Roses Covering ‘Em were both favourites of mine.  Money well spent and still in the collection today.  The boss hated that we took some of his good Toronto stock.  He was selling them virtually at cost, so that’s why we had to pay full price.  But he really, really did not appreciate when T-Rev and I bought stuff like that.  Here he was, stocking them to make our store look cooler…but in swoops T-Rev and metal Mike!  Maybe he should have charged more for them, across the board.  Where else in town were you going to find them?

On one of those early Toronto runs, the boss was one of the first victims of the Ontario NDP government’s photo radar project.  In order to curb speeding, the NDP launched the 400-series highway photo radar.  The boss was caught speeding on the 401 and found a nice photo and fine in his mailbox.  It was from one of the trips back from R.O.W.  The project was only semi-successful.  Drivers experimented with methods of covering up their license plates from photo radar cameras, and over 5000 photos were deemed useless.  The incoming Mike Harris government campaigned on getting rid of photo radar, and they did immediately after taking office.  The great experiment was over, but the boss was one of the drivers dinged.  All he was trying to do was bring us some rock and roll!  But it was the first and only photo radar picture I saw back then.

Damn government always cutting into our profits!

Behind the scenes, he was building empires.  He announced that he wanted us to buy even more stock from the public.  Trade-in CDs were big business but we were now going to be buying for two stores.  Or more.

It was just the beginning!

 

#729.3: Frank’s Mysterious Top 10 of 2018

Frank is the resident Sausagefest Man of Mystery.  We don’t really know anything about Frank.  We do know he likes to rock.  He also likes movies and TV series.  Here are his favourites from 2018.  Now you know as much about Frank as we do! ***


TOP 10 ALBUMS / SONGS OF 2018

  • Ghost:  Prequelle / “Faith”
  • Judas Priest: Firepower / “Flame Thrower” *
  • Evergrey: The Atlantic /A Silent Arc”
  • Lamb of God: Legion: XX / “Jesus Built My Hot Rod”
  • Jack White: Boarding House Reach / “Over and Over and Over”
  • Nine Inch Nails: “Ahead of Ourselves”
  • Greta Van Fleet:  “Age of Man”
  • Ayreon: The Best of Ayreon Live / “Star of Sirrah”
  • Godsmack: When Legends Rise / “Take It to the Edge”
  • Behemoth: I Loved You at Your Darkest / “Bartzabel”

 

* LeBrain’s note – I fucking LOVE that he put “Flame Thrower” on his list.  I didn’t care for it much when the album came out, but now it’s my favourite track too!


 

TOP 5 MOVIES

  • Aquaman
  • Deadpool 2
  • Bohemain Rhapsody
  • Solo
  • Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

 

* LeBrain’s note:  Uncle Meat put Solo on his list too.  I’m “frankly” surprised.


TOP 5 NETFLIX SERIES

  • Altered Carbon
  • Disenchantment
  • Lost in Space
  • Castlevania
  • Bert Kreischer: Secret Time

 

*** The “Man of Mystery” thing is a nickname.  Frank likes to keep a low profile but yes, we do know Frank.  We know enough for blackmail, anyway!

#447: Fist Fudge

GETTING MORE TALE #447: Fist Fudge

What’s the biggest musical rip off you’ve ever seen?

The Nine Inch Nails unofficial Fisted box set comes to mind.

This set, supposedly limited to just 1000 pieces, retailed for about $200 in the mid-90’s. It included five CDs:

  • Fixed (EP)
  • March of the Pigs parts I and II
  • Closer to God parts I and II

Those singles are available on their own, for much less. The box also included an unauthorized T-shirt that said “FIST” on the front, and “F%@#” on the back. No Nine Inch Nails logos anywhere to be found on that. It came in a cheap black plastic box with the Nine Inch Nails “n” logo and the word “Fisted” on top…except it’s not really the Nine Inch Nails “n” logo.  The official one is backwards.  This is just a normal “n”.  They were hoping you wouldn’t notice that.  This package was assembled by Phantom Imports, who must have been laughing their asses off at the ridiculous amount of markup.

This is a great example of a collectible that is not. The artist labels had no involvement and certainly did not set the pricing. The shirt and box have no logos on them. Anybody can go and print a T-shirt that says “FIST” and “FUCK” on it. All this for $200. Even if you were missing those five singles (which any real Nails fan was not) there is no reason to buy this.

We had an incomplete copy of this come into one of our stores, but it was missing the shirt and the other goodies. Looking to make a few extra bucks, we stuffed the box full of other albums and singles and jacked the price up. That was a decision made by a franchise owner. I don’t think he had an easy time selling this box, which was really just a plastic box with a random selection of CDs in it by the time we put it up for sale. A rip off box set made even more so.

FISTED

I’ve seen others just as irritating as this. One was a “deluxe” version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. This was the 2 CD set, packed into a wooden carving of a wall. It looked cool, but it also looked like something a skilled woodworker could make in his or her shop at home. It was painted white with the Wall logo scrawled across it. Around $200 for that too, somewhere at a store in Hamilton ironically called Cheapies.

Probably made by the same company was a commemorative Beatles single for “Real Love”. It came in a red box with a heart on it, with a button “Real Love” inside that looked like a cross between a heart and an apple. We ordered this one in, new, and our cost was about $40. It sat and sat and sat there for months. It wasn’t authorized any more than the Nine Inch Nails box was.  We didn’t realize we’d brought in a lemon until it was too late.  We had to be told by a customer who was a Beatles collector.  “These things aren’t worth anything,” he said.  “They’re not issued by the Beatles.  It’s a made-up collectible.”  We should have known, but it’s hard when you’re ordering this shit from a distributor’s catalogue.

Have you ever run across a rip off like these in your travels?  Or worse, have you ever bought one?

REAL LOVE

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

This is, by far, the most painful loss that Star Trek fans have had to endure yet.  Even more so than the great Gene Roddenberry, Leonard Nimoy embodied Star Trek.  He was Spock — he became that character.  After Star Trek, he struggled against it.  His first autobiography was entitled I Am Not Spock.  A couple decades later, he recanted and released a new book called I Am Spock.  It took him a while to come to peace with the fact that he will always be remembered as Mr. Spock, but he did and the fans loved him for it.

I’ll miss you, my Vulcan friend.


 


 

Part 314: The Musical Crimes of Mrs. LeBrain

Apologies in advance to my lovely wife.  She really is awesome for letting me do this.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 314: The Musical Crimes of Mrs. LeBrain

As we wind down the Record Store Tales, we get to the point that I met Jen in September 2005.  The funny thing about love is the rose-coloured glasses.  I don’t remember Jen having such bad taste in music.  However, the photographic proof is here.  She recently dug up her old Linkin Park CD wallet (!!!) , inside which are many dirty and scratched CDs.  Yes, Jen never took proper care of her discs either before we met, it’s true.  I can’t even identify some of the filth on her Marilyn Manson CD.  Could be coffee.

So here I am, a single Record Store Guy in the fall of ’05, meeting the love of his life…and these are the CDs in her collection.  Thankfully we shared a love of bands such as The Beatles and The Darkness too.  Even more thankfully, Jen doesn’t listen to Limp Bizkit anymore.  (I mean seriously, look at these!  She even owns the Limp Bizkit CD without Wes Borland!)

In her defense, I found no Nickelback. What I did find may upset you.

REVIEW: Nine Inch Nails – Broken (1992)

 

NINE INCH NAILS – broken (1992 Interscope EP) / halo five

I remember seeing this in my local HMV store in 1992.  I thought, “Nine Inch Nails have cool packaging,” because you didn’t see too many digipacks back then.  It’s cooler than just that though, with three panels unfolding in a “T” shape each with a letter on it.  “n”…”i”…”n”…

Gotta give Trent Reznor credit for packaging, he usually has very striking and original concepts for his discs.  Also cool how the packaging for broken nicely complements the remix album fixed once both are bought.  broken technically qualifies as an EP I guess, or a mini-album maybe, even though it is longer than most classic Van Halen albums.

BROKENThere is a version of broken out there that was once considered one of the Holy Grails of Nine Inch Nails collectibles.  I guess the advent of eBay made it much easier to get, because eBay has one as of this writing for $12, free shipping, VG condition.  It is a 2 CD version, with the two “hidden” tracks on a separate 3″ CD enclosed within the digipack.  This was supposedly discontinued because unscrupulous store owners were taking out the bonus CD and selling it separately.  Or so goes the legend.  I think cost would also have been a factor in discontinuing the bonus CD.  On re-releases like I own, the bonus tracks are included as #98 and #99, with 91 tracks of 1 second silences preceding them.

“Pinion” serves as a brief intro to “Wish” and they are always presented together.  This serves to intensify the mighty “Wish”, the heaviest song released by Nine Inch Nails up to the time.  What sounds like a blowtorch punctuates a frantic drum rhythm.  This progresses into a mélange of bizarre sounds, shredding guitars and a sledgehammer riff.  “Last” follows, a slower more relentless riff.  At times its the industrial version of “Sad But True”, but with a synthpop style chorus.  Reznor maintains his angry snarl throughout, bitching about whatever he’s bitching about.  “Pigs” are referenced, he sounds upset, angry, sad…aww!

“Help Me I Am In Hell” is one of the coolest tracks, a quiet two-minute guitar n’ noise respite.  It sounds a lot like some of the quieter moments that would later come on The Downward Spiral (a genius album if there ever was one).  Then, “Happiness in Slavery” serves as a barrage to the noggin’, Trent yelling stuff about slaves screaming in a distorted voice.  There are some cool, ascending metal-y guitar licks and another synthpop chorus.  If I had to guess, I’d say the lyrics are a thinly veiled discourse on getting screwed by your record label, as Trent was at the time.

The final song of this batch of tracks is “Gave Up”, another fast metallic song.  It’s hard to discern the melodies from it, such is the distortion of the track.  It does have a bad-ass keyboard solo though. Trent sounds like he’s singing on a broken tape deck and the guitars sound like they’re on the same cassette too.  It’s my least favourite song on the EP, although I remember it had a cool “live” style music video with Marilyn Manson on guitar.

After 91 tracks of silence (a quaint-oh-so 90’s gimmick that I sidestepped by not ripping them) are the bonus cover songs.  “Physical (You’re So)” is an Adam and the Ants tune, morphed into something that sounds like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Motley Crue.  This is a great track.  Among the best on the album.  There are jackhammer sounds, plenty of distortion and unidentifiable but cool sounds.  “Suck” is a Pigface cover (from Gub) that Trent originally sang and co-wrote anyway.  It has a powerful chorus and riff much like the rest of broken, but the verses (pun intended) kind of suck.  That funky bassline…it’s not my thing, I guess.

One weird thing.  I don’t know where it came from, but I somehow got a booklet for a Japanese version of broken.  I found it inside my copy…I must have found it laying around at the store.  Kinda neat to have, I can’t read a word of it, but cool.  My CD appears to just be the regular single disc US release otherwise.

4.5/5 stars

More Nine Inch Nails at mikeladano.com:  RECORD STORE TALES Part 222:  Mr. Self Destruct

Part 222: Mr. Self Destruct

RECORD STORE TALES Part 222:  Mr. Self Destruct

In a previous chapter, I mentioned that in 1994, I had created our store’s very first online ads.  They were in colour, made in full glorious ANSI, and eye-catching.  We even had a flashing logo on screen!  I did this for free, because I was so passionate about the store.  And it was fun!  (Tip: One thing I had to learn was that if you do something for free once, it becomes expected later.)

The reactions were mostly positive.  One guy, a 14 year old kid who went by the online handle “Mr. Self Destruct” (I think his real name was Justin), posted a message that was a bit of a wake up call.

“The kind of things I look for,” he said, “like imported Nine Inch Nails and Pop Will Eat Itself singles, you can’t get at a mall store like the one that Mike works at.  You can only get those downtown, at the good stores.”

That burned!  So I decided to do something about it.

The boss had always told T-Rev and I to order stock that we thought the store needed.  We both took this to heart.  T-Rev for example made sure we stocked things like the new Guns N’ Roses single (“Sympathy for the Devil”) and several other up and coming titles.  Later on, Trevor made sure we stocked all the Oasis singles.  I took care of the Nine Inch Nails side.

GNRNIN_0001I ordered in “Sin”, Pretty Hate Machine, “Head Like A Hole”, Fixed, and Broken.  Fixed had just been deleted, we missed that one.  I ended up buying copies of “Sin” and Pretty Hate Machine for myself (we ordered 3 copies of each).  Unfortunately, it wasn’t like having a few of these titles in stock changed the fortunes of our store.  They sold all but immediately, but there was no sudden and dramatic jump in numbers.  Yet, by summer 1995 we had a much cooler selection.  I like to think we made a difference, albeit a small one, to music lovers.  We sure did try anyway.  It was more about just loving the job and store, and wanting to give 200%.

By that summer, we were even carrying live bootlegs.  The boss picked them up in Toronto, and he’d walk in with a box full of 20 or 30.  I remember T-Rev and I drooling all over them and the boss warning us that there would be no discount on these puppies!  (I didn’t need a discount to want them!)

This period circa 1995-1996, was probably my personal peak at the record store.  It was my peak time for happiness, for motivation, input, pride, and satisfaction.  It was a time of mutual respect, fellowship, and hard work.  I loved every day of it.

Our inventory now had some stuff that you couldn’t get at the cool downtown stores.  I still have some of the bootlegs that I bought:  bands like Guns N’ Roses (Covering ‘Em) and Nine Inch Nails (Woodstock 94).  There were lots more titles (such as the Pearl Jam edition of Covering ‘Em), and our boss would try to get multiple copies of the good ones, like Nine Inch Nails. We even started getting in Japanese imports!  I remember when we carried Hormoaning, by Nirvana, it was like $60 with taxes.  The one guy who bought it had to trade in most of the rest of his collection to buy it.  My buddy Aaron got the other copy.

I spread the word online, and a few of those people became customers.  Guess who was among them?  Mr. Self Destruct!

REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (2013)

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – …Like Clockwork (2013 Matador)

Yeah, I’m one of those jaded pricks who “only liked Queens when Nick was in the band.”  I bought the other albums too, but of those only the live CD really did anything for me.  Until now.  I really …Like Clockwork!  It succeeds completely at taking the Queens down a somewhat quieter and more mature road, while maintaining every ounce of their integrity.  They are still sometimes heavy, experimental and haunting.  But now they are almost always melodic, too.

Opener “Keep Your Eyes Closed” starts off somewhat slowly, but morphs into a bizarre Queens-meet-Alice in Chains concoction.  It’s actually the one song on the album that I didn’t like on first listen.  Imagine my delight in finding that I liked the rest of the album much more!

The most immediate song is second:  “I Sat by the Ocean”.  I put it in a category with songs like “If Only Everything”; it’s memorable on first listen.  “The Vampire of Time and Memory” is a space-age blues, but with some Queen-like moments (Queen, not Queens).  Josh’s understated vocals are classy and the keyboards create atmosphere rather than distract.

Next, the strangely-titled “If I Had a Tail” could have been released in 1981, or 1983, some time during the New Wave movement.  If I heard this on the radio, I’d think it was an 80’s band.  Only the occasional blasts of electric guitar remind me that this is 2013.  Here’s the cool thing — this track reunites the Songs For the Deaf lineup in a way.  Homme is joined by Dave Grohl on drums (who appears on several tracks), as well as Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri on backing vocals.

“My God is the Sun” is one of the tunes that sound the most like vintage QOTSA, and it is also one of the songs featuring Dave Grohl on drums.  It has some serious heaviness to it, as well as that stuttering, stammering Queens vibe.  All topped by the smoove as glass Joshe Homme vocals.

“Kalopsia” is a weird underwater easy jazz slow dance.  Trent Reznor duets, and suddenly its an explosive Bowie number.  Great tune.  “Fairweather Friends” has piano.  O, it has piano alright — by Elton freakin’ John!  There’s also lots of rich guitar.  It even feels Zeppelin-y at times.  Maybe JPJ rubbed off on Josh a bit?  Then things get funky on “Smooth Sailing”, but it’s a heavy funk with Homme in vocal falsetto.  Fucked-up Disco?  Sure, why not.  The guitar solo is pure noisy heaven, but Grohl’s heavy hitting keeps it in the world of rock.

Soft guitars and a whispery Homme introduce a song called “I Appear Missing”.  It’s hauntingly powerful, and dramatic. The guitar work here is incredible and intense.  It’s also perfect as the penultimate track on a strong album such as this. And when your second last song is as intense as “I Appear Missing”, then it’s often wise to end the album with something quiet.  “Like Clockwork” exists as simply piano and Homme for a couple minutes, Josh using his voice is ways I’ve never heard before.  Instruments build, and it’s a beautiful sunset-stained closer.

I don’t know what Josh was thinking in terms of the packaging.  I know he likes the colour red.  I got that part.  But all you get is a slipcase, a jewel case and a little card cover inside with minimal credits.  It says to go to quotsa.com for “extended credits”.  I paid for a physical copy, you’d think they could at least print the credits.

Musically?  5/5 stars.  With this and Sabbath already upon us, I have two contenders for album of the year so far.

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