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Vinyl Finds

chris_isaak_heart_shaped_world
Artist: Chris Isaak
Album: Heart Shaped World
Cost: $10.00 USD
Found: Gimme Gimme Records, 325 E 5th St, New York City, NY, USA.

“Women like three things: Men in kilts, Southern Comfort, and Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game‘.”- Flight of the Conchords

This is fact. Period. Don’t start shaking your head, don’t deny it. Don’t fight it. CHRIS ISAAK. For reals. Yes, I don’t care what anyone says, or the number of coworkers making fun of me on the bus (for the record it was 5), I love Chris Isaak. And I LOVE this album. I massively regret missing him play last fall at Massey Hall in Toronto.

Chris Isaak

There’s something about Chris Isaak’s voice that absolutely melts me and makes me stop whatever I’m doing. I don’t know why or where this stems from, it’s just an immutable fact.

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Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel Vinyl
Artist: Depeche Mode
Album: Playing the Angel
Cost: $23.99 CDN
Found: HMV, 333 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, CANADA.

Depeche Mode are back on top form with yesterdays release of Delta Machine (check out a concert webcast from “Live on Letterman” of the new album here).

One of my favourite Depeche Mode albums is actually a much later one in the DM canon and also one a lot of DM fans would disagree with me on, but I argue that Playing the Angel is a solid album.

Depeche_mode_playing_the_angel_sleeves_detail

Released in 2005 it did meet with positive reviews and decent sales. I really got into the album during what seemed like a never ending winter in Eastern Europe. If ever there was a locale suited to listening to Depeche Mode in, I think Bratislava, Slovakia was made for it.

Bratislava reminds me very much of some Canadian cities in some regards, specifically with the life of the city during the winter months contrasted with how once Spring hits everyone and everything comes alive again. I was on an Erasmus placement at VŠMU – the Academy of Performing Arts Bratislava for several months, which started in the dead of winter.

The city seemed almost abandoned in those long, dark winter months and I spent a lot of my time in coffee shops reading, writing and on my lap top taking advantage of the cafes wi-fi. It was during those hours whiled away drinking some of the best mint tea I’ve ever had, that I listened to Playing the Angel ad nauseum.

Playing the Angel Gatefold

It would seem I wasn’t the only one, everywhere I went it felt like the album was following be it billboard ads plastered throughout the city, constant radio play, Depeche Mode nights, and of course the lead up to the massive stadium show in Bratislava. I wound up having several chances to see Depeche Mode during their tour in support of Playing the Angel and missed them each and every time in what seemed like a comedy of errors. When they were in London I was in Bratislava, when they were in Bratislava I was back in London, when they were in Vienna I was…well you get the point.

I did however manage to go to a Slovak Depeche Mode night, which turned out to be nothing like I had expected. My experience in the past with Depeche Mode club nights have usually been very small venues, normally of the alternative, 80′s, goth variety with people doing their best plucking-cobwebs-out-of-thin-air dancing. This was not to be the case in Bratislava however.

Depeche Mode

After several snowbound weeks with the same routine of school, cafe, pub, then home, cabin fever was starting to set in for me. I came across flyers in one of the cafes for the Depeche Mode night and tried to convince my other UK classmates to go. No one was biting with the exception of my friend Joe who was pretty game for anything.

The night came and off we trotted to the club. When we got there I had to check twice as to whether it was the right place. The venue was huge. There was a lineup going around the block of people waiting to get in. And not an alternative/80s/goth type in sight either.

Once inside we saw the club was equally impressive with two floors with massive wall to wall screens with different projections of film footage from Depeche Mode concerts and music videos being played. The projections acted as a visual backdrop to the DJ who played literally nothing but Depeche Mode all night long.

Playing the Angel Inner Record Sleeves

It was interesting to see just how mainstream Depeche Mode are out of the normal circles I ran in back in the UK and North America. The club was almost entirely men that night, many dressed in white trousers, slicked back hair, and a variety of expensive smelling colognes wafted through the space. Joe and I danced into the wee hours with lovely smelling Eastern European men in what was a a very welcoming and calm space.

When it was all over, everyone dispersed and as we walked away from the club I remember looking back in wonderment at the venue, which from the outside resembled an enormous, industrial, concrete cube.

Playing the Angel saw me through a long and often lonely winter. I’m really loving Delta Machine and can’t wait to actually see Depeche Mode play live finally when they come to Toronto later this year.

I like to think that somewhere, in Eastern Europe another Depeche Mode night to the same scale is being prepared. White trousers pressed and hung in anticipation, cologne and hair gel on a dressing table waiting for the right time to be used again.

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Vinyl Finds

The Cramps Psychedelic Jungle

Artist: The Cramps
Album: Psychedelic Jungle
Cost: $24.99 CDN
Found: Hits & Misses, 799 Queen St West, Toronto, ON, CANADA. (Sadly now closed.)

There will never be another Lux Interior.

Singer and founding member of the most excellent garage punk band the Cramps, died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2009 from a heart condition.

I remember being pretty floored reading the news, floods of posts streaming by on Facebook. Such an outpouring, and such an incredible loss.

Years ago I saw the Cramps play at the London Astoria. The show was sold out, the venue absolutely packed with Cramps fans of all sorts, and the temperature soaring. I wasn’t wearing the most practical of outfits for a sweltering gig and was absolutely melting throughout the show. I can only imagine how Lux Interior and Poison Ivy were fairing on stage under the bright lights (and clad in PVC no less).

I was absolutely enamoured throughout the gig by Poison Ivy, watching her play with an effortless cool and rocking that guitar atop the tiniest of stiletto heel boots, swaying with the beat. The chemistry between Lux and Ivy onstage was electric.

Psychedelic Jungle Green Vinyl

Psychedelic Jungle was the first Cramps record I ever picked up.  We stumbled across this on one of our weekend wanders around Toronto at Hits & Misses which specialized in Punk and Metal vinyl. Very sad to report that Hits & Misses is now shut, and sorely missed as it was a go to if you were after vinyl from those genres.

It was also St.Patrick’s Day when I picked up Psychedelic  Jungle and I was pretty delighted to discover the record was green. 

I am an absolute sucker for colour vinyl. Add some glitter to it too, and man alive I’m yours (See: Grinderman ‘Evil’ 12″ for reference).

The Cramps Photo Detail

Psychedelic Jungle by The Cramps - Vinyl Detail

I’m incredibly thankful and glad I had the chance to see the Cramps when I did. And also having a good laugh on finding out that they appeared on a Halloween episode of the original series of Beverley Hills, 90210 as well – so random, surreal and frankly fantastic.

The entire show I went to is also surprisingly online in its entirety on YouTube (Embedded video below), and quite good quality for the time.

Poison Ivy really did put it best about Lux Interior -

 “Lux seemed like a creature from another world, with one foot already out of this dimension. As much as we might wonder, ‘Where are you now?’ we can also wonder, ‘Where on Earth did you come from?’ Now that’s a mystery!” 

- From the service program for Lux Interior’s Ascension Ceremony.

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Vinyl Finds

the_kinks_lola_vs_powerman

Artist: The Kinks
Album: Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
Cost: $15.00 CDN
Found: Rotate This, 801 Queen St West, Toronto, ON, CANADA.

Oh the original Muswell Hillbillies. It’s incredible sometimes to stop and look around at your surroundings and just realize how much has gone before you in these places.

I often took this for granted living in the UK, and the country is absolutely drenched in history.

My morning commute once upon a time would take me on a cobblestone path running through a 10th century castle, past the once home of Thomas Paine author of the Rights of Man, through the English countryside, into the city, by Big Ben, turn around Cleopatra’s Needle finally landing in an office across from the where the Demon Barber of Fleet Street was set.

And this journey was a twice daily occurrence!

Not surprising with that amount of history on just a morning commute I missed out on a lot of potential music geeking. Particularly with exploring the old stomping grounds of brothers Ray & Dave Davies of the Kinks in Muswell Hill.

I was often enough in Muswell Hill as several of my really good friends live there. I love the area, little boutiques, thrift shops and a particularly good French Pâtisserie where we often had coffee. Peaking out from behind and between buildings as well is one of the most spectacular views of the city below as well.

the_kinks_lola_vs_powerman_gatefold

Zapp Brannigan Singing Leela

My introduction to the Kinks was not the most conventional one. Sure my Dad was into them, but that’s not where I first properly identified with who the Kinks were. It was through Futurama.

Yuup, as in the Matt Groening animated Sci-Fi series set in the year 3000, Futurama.

There was an episode which saw the William Shatner-esque Space Captain Zapp Brannigan singing a play on of Lola by the Kinks entitled Leela.

the_kinks_lola_vs_powerman_gatefold_detail

And that was it, my official introduction to the Kinks care of Futurama. I found out who the original song was by because of that episode and from there got into their music more.

the_kinks_lola_vs_powerman_back_detail

It wasn’t until back in Canada when I really started collecting records, (the thought of moving with crates full of vinyl around Europe was never particularly appealing.) So, when I found a second hand copy in Rotate This of Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, I snapped it up.

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Vinyl Finds

Smashing Pumpkins – Adore

Smashing Pumpkins - Adore

Artist: Smashing Pumpkins
Album: Adore
Cost: $19.99 CDN
Found: HMV, 333 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, CANADA.

The first few chords of Siva on mixtape sent to me from an older penpal when I was 11 (we wrote honest to goodness letters and sent mixtapes back and forth!), had me hooked immediately on the Smashing Pumpkins.

The Smashing Pumpkins, or rather Billy Corgan, tends to incite pretty strong reactions from people. But frankly, I don’t care and am unapologetically a fan of Billy Corgan’s work (Zwan however we won’t talk about though).

The Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness Tour in 1997 is my all time favourite gig. Hands down. It was a mix of everything from right time, right place – and simply an amazing performance and incredible visual show to accompany the music. 16 years later I’m still emotionally connected to that moment and the beauty of it. It probably also doesn’t hurt that this was my early formative years of getting into music as well.

The show capped off a very surreal day for me too. I was in High School and we had a day off, and as typical for bored kids from the Suburbs, we were killing time hanging around the downtown core before the concert.
Smashing Pumpkins Adore Gatefold Detail

I used to always take linear notes with me when I went to small all ages shows to get signed, and despite the Smashing Pumpkins concert being at the once called Corel Centre in Ottawa (a massive arena) I had my Siamese Dream CD cover with me that day.

What happened next still beggars belief.

We were walking down the main drag on Rideau, and my friend Hilary pointed down the street and asked if that wasn’t Billy Corgan walking towards us.

Now, I was always the gullible one in our group, and Hilary would often prank me. Including somehow managing to get me to butter my salad in the belief that this was a fine “Yorkshire tradition” and that I was missing out on a part of my Northern heritage. Yes Buttered salad, and ya, I know, I know. Suffice to say, I don’t advise buttering your salad.

Smashing Pumpkins Adore LP Back Detail

For once in my life, I was wary of Hilary, thinking this was a pretty uncreative joke after the whole “Yorkshire Butter Salad Incident of ’96″.

Very quickly though, I realized it wasn’t a joke.

Walking down the street towards us was none other than Billy Corgan. All 6 ft 3″ of him. I was absolutely speechless as my friends pushed me forwards towards him, all I could manage to do was fumble in my pocket for my linear notes, and ask him shyly if he would mind signing them. I remember reaching up, waayyyyy up (little Friendly Giant reference for the non Canadian’s reading) and just held out my cd cover for him, all saucer eyes.

He kindly signed it and my concert ticket as well. As people on the street got wind that Billy Corgan was out and about in broad daylight and started to come over and crowd him, he quickly made his excuses and swept away with a tide of teenagers following him as he tried to disappear into the city.

Adore Gatefold Detail

It happened so fast. I often wonder and go over in my head sometimes what I could have done or said instead of being that wide eyed, black haired girl in my Docs and thrifted dress so quiet for once in my life in front of someone I respected (and still do) so much artistically.

And really, I don’t know if there is anything I could have articulated in such a brief and fleeting moment. The enormity of telling someone, a stranger no less, who despite this fact feels like a close friend because of the nature of art as a shared experience. Just how in the world do you even begin to put into words how much their work means to you, in an instant. How do you express that?

After all these years, I still don’t have the perfect words for what I would and could have said in that moment.

They say never meet your heros, but I don’t know if I totally agree with that. Meet them, but realize you don’t own them because of their celebrity, and that they too are human and flawed as well as brilliant for all the reasons you think they are.

Adore Detail

Adore, has one of my favourite SP tunes on it, being “Blank Page“. Beautiful, and haunting.

I found Adore on the off chance in the Vinyl section of HMV a few years ago. The album has since been discontinued on vinyl, but what with the recent reissues of Pumpkins albums on vinyl (Hello, this lucky duck is loving her MCIS remastered reissue!) it should only be a matter of time till Adore is given the reissue treatment as well.

Till then, I’m quite happy with my copy of the album and the memory of that surreal, incredible day as a teenager years ago.

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Vinyl Finds

My Bloody Valentine - This Is Your Bloody Valentine LP

Artist: My Bloody Valentine
Album: This Is Your Bloody Valentine
Cost: $19.99 CDN
Found: Rotate This, 801 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, CANADA.

Much like my love for The Damned, my interest in the music of My Bloody Valentine is a fairly recent discovery. I’d heard the band name bandied about over the years, but never consciously sought their music out. It wasn’t until I heard ‘Forever and Again‘ one day playing on random from Jeff’s iPod that I gave pause.

The song reminded me of the Cramps, whom I’m a huge fan of. So a little further digging into their back catalogue quickly had me hooked. Though their mini album This Is Your Bloody Valentine is vastly different from their later shoegaze infused releases, I love it for all its rough around the edges post punk, feedback thrash.

My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine

Bilinda Butcher - My Bloody Valentine

This Is Your Bloody Valentine LP - Back Artwork

This Is Your Bloody Valentine is an incredibly underrated album in my opinion, and really worth a listen. Which you can do in entirety with the below YouTube stream of the remastered album:

And now, over 20 years after the last My Bloody Valentine release Loveless, comes a new album. The release had shoegazers to looking up from their feet for a moment, causing the My Bloody Valentine site to crash. It’s back up and running now, and you can listen to the whole of MBV here:

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First things first, but not necessarily in that order.

- Doctor Who