Johnny Jewel

Chromatics – Cherry (Deluxe Edition), Twisted Wires – Half Lives, Johnny Jewel – Music To Drive, Various Artists – After Dark

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Chromatics – Cherry (Deluxe Edition), Twisted Wires – Half Lives, Johnny Jewel – Music To Drive, Various Artists – After Dark

In a recent post I wrote about receiving an order from Italians Do It Better and ended up pledging my undying love to Johnny Jewel for everything he has created. Well here we are less than two months later and here I go again.

First up is the newly released deluxe edition of Chromatics’ album Cherry. This version extends the release from its original 8 songs to 18 tracks total. Like the first version of it all of the songs are culled from different eras and releases from the band, some in new forms and versions. It definitely has enough cool additions to make this well worth any listener’s time. Next, it is great to finally have a Twisted Wires release on CD. This one collects material from 2009’s One Night At The Raw Deal up through last year’s Struck Twice. The style and tone of Twisted Wires really connects with me and I would love to see a full album of new songs from this project in the near future. Finally we come to the skillfully tracked compilation Music To Drive, curated to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Winding-Refn’s movie mood masterpiece Drive. The original soundtrack to the film featured the likes of Chromatics and Desire and in Johnny’s words “introduced the electronic underground to audiences everywhere”. So its great to see it celebrated with a nice collection of songs from Johnny’s various label projects.

As always this order arrived from Italians Do It Better with an awesome FREE oversize poster, a FREE sticker and a FREE CD. Name me another label that does more for their fans.

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Johnny Jewel on Facebook
Chromatics on Facebook
Twisted Wires on Facebook
Italians Do It Better Website
Italians Do It Better on Facebook
Italians Do It Better Instagram

Italians Do It Better Store
Italians Do It Better on Spotify
Italians Do It Better on Soundcloud

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Thor

Sh*t The Pants

img_7096Thor And The Ass Boys – Sh*t The Pants

I recently posted about Thor’s new album Beyond The Pain Barrier. In that blog I mentioned his amazingly candid, funny and cool documentary I Am Thor. Well anyone who has seen that will recall the antics of Thor’s punk band side project, Thor And The Ass Boys. Although fronted by Thor one gets a sense that the band is actually helmed by Thundergeek (a/k/a Michael Pilmer) whom some may know as Devo-Obsesso or through his I Threw Up stickers or his Draw A Dick On It efforts or any other of Michael’s myriad of creative outlets. From seeing the film its obvious that when Thor, Pilmer and the rest of the Ass Boys get together, a good time is had and as a byproduct a bit of ridiculous, hilarious and kick ass punk rock is created.

Their newest novelty is a killer 7″ EP containing 4 songs. This limited edition of 500 is available with a photo cover on blue vinyl (400 pieces) or a special art cover by Micki Fever on gray vinyl (100 pieces). Both versions come with a lyric sheet backed with a label catalog in good old fashioned punk rock photocopy quality.  Two of the songs on this release,”Sh*t The Pants” and “F*cking & Fighting”, are taken from the 1999 shared CD by Coalition Against Shane/Thor/Thor And The Ass Boys called Keepin’ The Dogs Away. That disc was a strictly limited pressing of 500 so its pretty hard to come by. The tracks did turn up again recently on the I Am Thor soundtrack CD but they appear here on vinyl for the first time. The other two offerings on this EP, “Exploding Head” and “Spaceships In The Sky” initially appeared on a split Thor/Thor And The Ass Boys 7″ back in 2000. That record was a limited edition of 300 and is long sold out so its great to have those titles available again here, especially as they have been remastered for an even more intense and skull shattering effect!

I’m going to let you go watch I Am Thor to discover the origin of the band’s rather smelly moniker so don’t bother asking me about it. Hopefully these guys can jump on stage to join Thor for a couple of songs if his upcoming tour for Beyond The Pain Barrier stops in The Ass Boys’ area of North Carolina.

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Thor Website (Thor Central by Michael Pilmer)
Thor on Facebook
Thor on Twitter

Sh*t The Pants from Thor Central

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Cheap Trick

Woke Up With A Monster and Special One

img_6693Cheap Trick – Woke Up With A Monster and Special One

Checking through my collection I realized that I was missing a couple of Cheap Trick studio albums. Somehow I had skipped over two of their lesser known (and lesser liked) CDs from the mid ’90s/early 2000s. It was a time period where I was guilty of not following their new releases too closely as they had left longtime label Sony/Epic and seemed to be jumping from one sinking ship to another with each subsequent disc. Nonetheless I had to correct the error of my ways and get my hands on these records.

1997’s Woke Up With a Monster with the band’s first album away from longtime home Epic records. They had moved over to Warner Brothers and recorded this album with the legendary Ted Templeman of Van Halen fame at the helm. Just as it was released the execs who signed them were let go and the record fell into a black hole as the band was quickly dropped. This is some undeserved treatment for a record I came to love from first play. I can easily call it their most aggressive release since their early days. I really enjoyed hearing the band dispense wth their softer side, forego the ballads and hold their pop sensibilities in check long enough to just rock the hell out. I’m not saying its a perfect album, in fact its a downright weird one with lots of experimentation going on but it has really struck a chord with me.

Conversely, we have 2003’s Special One, a self produced release on their own label in partnership with Big3 that is frankly a very mixed bag and possibly my least favorite Cheap Trick album. Sadly there’s not really a true rocker among the tracklist, a few of the songs try to break out and jam but the odd restraint never seems to fall away. It feels like this album was written in a hotel room on acoustic guitars, had some electrified stuff added as an afterthought and was recorded and mixed with little to no direction. Cheap Trick’s leftovers and bits and pieces are usually better than this stuff. And even that is not to say I hate it, it just doesn’t measure up to any of the standards the band has set.

So there we are. Collection complete. Until the next one. Which I understand will be November. Long live Cheap Trick.

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Cheap Trick Website
Cheap Trick on Facebook
Cheap Trick on Twitter
Cheap Trick on Instagram

Cheap Trick from Amazon
Cheap Trick from iTunes
Cheap Trick on Spotify

KISS

10th Anniversary Tour Shirt by Tee Exclusives

img_6547KISS – 10th Anniversary Tour Shirt by Tee Exclusives

Well I gave in again and picked up yet another KISS shirt so here I am posting about it. Non-media items usually don’t make their way onto In The Mail Today but I couldn’t help myself with this one. Recently I wrote about getting some KISS Shirts from Tee Exclusives, one of those sites that offers shirts on a countdown then once the order taking period is over they print only the stock that was pre-purchased and delete the design. I was pretty happy with them and when I saw this one come up I couldn’t resist grabbing it as well.

Call me a sucker but this design hits the nostalgia sweet spot for me. I love the Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent era of KISS, especially this tour (10th Anniversary) and album (Creatures Of The Night). The stage design of the tank, the heaviness of the new songs and getting to see Eric and Vinnie live for the first time cured (almost) all the pain of losing original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  So I added one more to the already ridiculous number of KISS shirts in my collection.

That’s not to say I don’t have a good excuse for getting a new one, especially something that shows an often forgotten and rarely represented time in the band’s history like this. In a couple of weeks I will be heading to the mostly KISS related Nashville Rock-N-Pod Expo, plus seeing KISS themselves  on tour in September, sailing on the Kiss Kruise in November and going to a Gene Simmons solo show as well. So I will be getting some good wear out of these shirts as I rock and roll all night (and party every day)!

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KISS Website
KISS on Facebook
KISS on Twitter
KISS on Instagram

The KISS Kruise Website
Nashville Rock-N-Pod Expo Website

The Rain Within

Dark Drive, Thunderheart and Self-Titled

img_6564The Rain Within – Dark Drive, Thunderheart and Self-Titled

The Rain Within is Andy Deane of alt/goth band Bella Morte. This project reveals his retro-electronic side. It is synth-based and full of lovely analog keyboards pumping out sounds reminiscent of ’80s alternative, dance and new wave music. Bright washes and moody vocals with lots of fun vocoder style voice effects dominate these releases. The songs have a great flow and an easy presence, suitable for cranking them up and jamming full throttle or turning down and enjoying as a background mood-setter.

This type of music is not new for Deane. Bits and pieces of these sounds can be heard peeking through on a few of the earlier Bella Morte releases. The Rain Within has become Andy’s outlet to indulge in these influences fully. Technically The Rain Within began with the full length album Pain Management in 2010 but it is in the last three years that things have really been developing with the project. The self-titled EP release from 2014 is the more melancholy of the bunch, being synth-wavy and introspective. The Thunderheart EP, released the following year, picked up the pace a bit with its knockout title track. The 5.25″ floppy disc case packaging is a lot of fun and the perfect touch for these now sold out self-releases. I believe they are still available digitally and combined onto a single regular disc.

Last year’s full length album Dark Drive develops the sound even further, the songs have more individual personality and diversity. The music conveys a deceptive simplicity, leaving the listener to focus on the mood being created. Its hard not to pick the single “Murder” as the stand out track here, with its visions of purple neon, angst driven lyrics and dance floor ready chorus. I’ve got to hand it to Andy Dean for simultaneously reminding me of Martin Gore and Carpenter Brut. If that is a collaboration that would make you excited then The Rain Within is for you!

*full disclosure – this item did not come in the mail. I picked it up in person at the merch booth when I saw The Rain Within live recently.

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The Rain Within on Facebook
Andy Deane on Twitter
The Rain Within on Instagram

Dark Drive from Amazon
The Rain Within from iTunes
The Rain Within on Bandcamp
The Rain Within on Spotify

Harry Potter

The Complete Series (Paperback Box Set)

img_6677Harry Potter – The Complete Series (Paperback Box Set)

Another set of the Harry Potter books has arrived at our house for the newest HP fan in the family. Yes we already have a complete set of hardbacks (mostly first editions/first printings) and the two illustrated editions released so far. Just having moved a year ago we donated our second complete (and third incomplete) set of hardbacks, a complete set of paperbacks and a partial set of UK edition paperbacks. Who knew we would be delving back into the wizarding world again so soon? But this summer my 8 year old daughter has blasted through the first four books in about a month so I felt like she deserved her own set. Which brings us to disclaimer time, these books aren’t really even for me!

But I did want to take this chance to write for a minute about them. You just can’t understate impact they have had on the world, on culture and on reading in general. It has been exciting to try and describe the fever pitch of Potter-mania as the books were released to my daughter. I was surprised by my own nostalgia for the  midnight release parties we attended at different book stores. I’m not sure she believed me that we snuck a baby rabbit named Harry Potter for the lightning bolt shaped tuft of white fur on his forehead into one of those parties hidden in my wife’s coat. Or about the time the band Two Star Symphony played at midnight inside a multi-story Barnes & Noble which was filled to capacity with kids in costumes at another famous HP release party. Such great memories of these books and the effect they have had on my life not to mention the actual joy of reading them. And while I may not be thrilled with all of the post-Potter works in the Hogwarts world such as new movie spin-offs, plays, etc. for me it can never damage the original story, as long as you can still give a kid a new set of the books.

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Author J.K. Rowling on Facebook
Pottermore Website, The Source for All Things HP

Harry Potter Books from Amazon

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Alphaville

Strange Attractor

img_6551Alphaville – Strange Attractor

Sadly often miscast as a one hit wonder, Alphaville is a band that has never quite been given their due. Yes their amazing and anthemic song “Forever Young” has an ingrained popularity and familiarity heard in film soundtracks and at proms across the country and presumably the world. But the band has so much more to offer and the truth is that there were plenty of other songs on their synthpop masterpiece of a debut album that were popular at the time. “Big In Japan”, “Sounds Like A Melody” and “The Jet Set” singles and even album cuts “Summer In Berlin” and “Victory Of Love”, all from the Forever Young album got plenty of play in clubs and bars. “Dance With Me” and “Red Rose” from their follow up album both had a similar effect as did “Romeos” from their third album, albeit to a lesser extent.

All of this is to say that even though their last three albums didn’t really register in the US their first three did have measurable impact beyond the “Forever Young” single. I actually love their entire catalog. To me they always embodied the sound of a synth wave European opera with superb bright production and soaring vocals. Whether singing about the seven seals and scarlet beast of the end times on 1994’s “Fools” or talking to dolphins in a city on the moon in 1989’s “Sensations” their sensibilities and Marian’s lyrics have always spoken to me.

Its no surprise then that from the first listen I have been bowled over by their newly released seventh album, Strange Attractor. When sole remaining original band member Marian Gold starts the album singing in a deep drone “I hate to sleep, but I love to dream” I know that I am in for another true Alphaville style journey. From “Marionettes With Halos” dissing today’s fake YouTube stars to the obsessive love of “Beyond The Laughing Sky” this album hits all the right points. The surprising standout here is “A Handful Of Darkness”, the album’s bleakest but most soulful and powerful track which echoes a cry lost in spiritual darkness and questioning. For a synth hook based band Alphaville has always been somewhat profound. Here themes of loneliness and the circular nature of time run even deeper than usual in their work, as well as my favorite concept of theirs, a sleepless yet dream filled life. “The books on the wall dream ominous dreams and armies of shadows are walking off their pages.”

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Alphaville Website
Alphaville on Facebook

Strange Attractor from Amazon
Strange Attractor from iTunes
Strange Attractor on Spotify