No Vinyl

As a person who both has a problem with collecting vinyl records and who formed his musical tastes in an era where vinyl records fell out of favor (the mid-90’s), I’m always disappointed to come across albums I adore that have never been released on vinyl. For no other reason that to document my own frustration (…and maybe to act as an open plea to Jack White, who’s label, Third Man Records has re-released a bunch of excellent records, to rectify these deficiencies in the world order…), I’m compiling a far-from-comprehensive list of albums I wish existed on vinyl. They are almost exclusively from the mid-nineties when CDs were king, digital downloads were the new wild west, and vinyl had fallen out of favor in part to how terrible the record manufacturing was (by major labels).

Note: this is all according to discogs. It is possible some of these albums do have a vinyl press, but they aren’t listed there. But probably not. Have you ever spent time on Discogs?

Remy Zero – Villa Elaine (1998)

The band I was in during the mid-to-late 90’s (Emm’t Swank) played around Hollywood a lot and I used to read through the LA Weekly to find shows of other bands active during that same moment in time. I think I dreamed of creating a ‘scene’, but lacking the social and motivational skills to do anything about it. Anyway, one of the local bands that seemed to be “on the cusp” of becoming big was Remy Zero. Although originally from Alabama, their album, “Villa Elaine” is named after the apartment they lived in at the time, located across the street from the El Pollo Loco in Hollywood off Fountain & Vine, located two blocks from the apartment I lived in at the time (Afton Arms / Malaga Castle). More importantly than the proximity is the music. I just really liked Remy Zero’s Villa Elaine. Hollow is such a glorious swirling, kaleidoscopic vision before transitioning into something akin to Adrian Belew wearing his finest Beatles inspiration.

The Psyclone Rangers – The Devil May Care (1995)

The Psyclone Rangers were from Pennsylvania (Allentown, named after the Billy Joel song, no doubt) and played a driving, moody rock with punk edginess, rockabilly rhythms, and pop song sensibilities. Their first album, Feel Nice is outstanding, but The Devil May Care really got its hooks into me with its sonic blues riffs and laid back vocals. Tilt-A-Whirl was on every mixtape I made during this era. Would love to be able to spin that bad boy.

Tanner – (Germo)Phobic (1997)

One of the great “non Reis/Froberg” bands out of San Diego, Tanner was the band that emerged after the break-up of the also great, Fishwife. Apparently the singer, “had to leave San Diego when his clown suit got too hot” (lyrics burn!). In typical SD fashion, the members have also played with other incredible bands like Pinback (Chris Prescott) and Hot Snakes (Gar Wood), which IS a Reis/Froberg band… (Germo)Phobic was a stunner. It had the energy of the era and that dissonant dual guitar that epitomized the SD sound since Pitchfork’s “Burn Pigs, Burn“. The drums shred, the rhythm section change things up a dozen times per song, and the screeching vocals have unexpected beautiful harmony. A fucking great record. In terms of tossing vinyl on the ol’ turntable, I’ll just have to settle for the other Tanner masterpiece, Ill Gotten Gains.

The Sugarplastic – Bang, the Earth is Round (1996)

The Sugarplastic are another one of the bands that was out playing when I was most actively seeing shows in the LA area, but they were more established. In fact, “Bang, the Earth is Round” was their “major”, their first album to be released by a major label (Geffen). The Sugarplastic’s music is playful, unexpected, and offers enough ‘pop’ to give you diabetes. One of my all-time favorite concert-going experiences happened when going to see the Sugarplastic play at Spaceland in Silver Lake. They were playing as part of a festival where bunches of bands were playing at many of the smaller clubs around the east side. I don’t remember the name of the festival or any other bands on the bill (I did go see several other shows in the days before and after, but all have melted out my ears). I was just excited to see The Sugarplastic. Unfortunately, it had been raining pretty hard and just before the show (maybe even during the show…?) the power went out. It was pitch dark. The staff of the club ran around and added candles to all the tables and everyone just sat around, waiting to see if the power would return. After some time, one of the guitar players from one of the bands came out and sat in front of the stage and started strumming an acoustic guitar. I’ll never know for sure, but in my memory it was definitely Ben Eshbach because his voice is so distinct. Whoever it was they were eventually joined by someone with an acoustic bass. The two played a couple songs to a small, yet enamored crowd. LA audiences who attended Spaceland shows were notoriously a stoic bunch, but that intimate, candle-lit show had everyone rapt. Eventually the impromptu acoustic show was halted when someone from the club announced that they were in violation of safety laws and we couldn’t stay there anymore. The power never returned and we all had to leave. Before that though, came the most memorable part of the show (for me). After playing a few songs, the singer asked for requests. Someone yelled out, “Crazy Train”, the Randy Rhodes penned Ozzy Osbourne song. Everyone in there laughed because the request was so out of genre from the songs that had been played. But the singer said something like, “don’t think I won’t” and then started in on the blistering riffs of “Crazy Train”! It was unexpected and glorious. Again, I’ll never be sure that was The Sugarplastic playing that night, but if I were to ever find out it wasn’t, I would still adore their music… and be irritated that Bang, the Earth is Round is not out on vinyl.

Ne’er Do Wells/Judy and the Loadies – Gift of Knowledge (1993)

This split album from two of my Humboldt homeland’s own was released by Lookout! Records (RIP). This is where I need to make a confession. I have a copy of every vinyl that Lookout! released. They were my ‘local’ label and I used to buy every release I could get my hands on, spending a portion of my road construction paycheck every week. Many years later I contacted them and offered my services (read: the equipment at my old job) to digitize music videos to be posted on their fledgling website. I was paid in vinyl. During the 2020 covid-19 quarantine, I made it a goal to acquire the albums I didn’t have. Even the Panic Button years when I didn’t like most of the bands. All of that gives you some background on why it drives me nuts that this one only came out in CD format (the other CD-only release that jumps on my nerves is the Sweet Baby/Brent’s TV split, Hello Again, a couple more bands from many of the same people from Ne’er Do Wells. That is to say, Lookout! had it out for bands from Humboldt). The music on Gift of Knowledge is stripped-down, retro fare from a bygone era- reminiscent of early Knack or Kinks, perennial garage rock stars. It’s energetic and clever, a gimmick band that doesn’t hide behind the gimmick. In short, this is music that is made to be heard through warm, old school analog equipment. They found a little more success becoming the Hi-Fives, but I really enjoyed Gift of Knowledge, a gift that never made it to record form.

Praxis – Metatron (1994)

Praxis was a ‘supergroup’ created by bass player/Producer extraordinaire, Bill Laswell. While there were various combinations of members, Metatron was recorded as a trio featuring Laswell, Buckethead, and “Brain” (Bryan Mantia, early Primus drummer who broke his foot and had to leave the band). It’s serious musicians who don’t take themselves too seriously. All the Praxis stuff is unique and worth a listen to, but Metatron is special. I’d love to spin Turbine through a solid sound system. That’s some heavy shit.

Deli Creeps – Dawn of the Deli Creeps (2005)

Speaking of Buckethead, the Deli Creeps were a metal, funk, spoken word, weird, “everything and the kitchen sink” band that never got the attention they deserved. It’s got that Northern California thing going on where genres mean nothing and everything is a touch tongue-in-cheek. The Venn diagram they occupy would also house Primus and Mr. Bungle. It’s strange to me that this album came out in 2005 because they had demo tapes circulating throughout the 90’s and in my memory this was a mid-nineties album.

Estradashere – Palace of Mirrors (2006)

I don’t remember where I first heard of Estradasphere. There are personal connections- their records were produced by Web of Mimicry, Trey Spruance’s (of Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, and Faith No More fame) label. I went to high school with Trey (he was a senior when I was a freshman) and I liked him very much as a human being. I also met one of the band’s former members at a wedding- turns out he was married to my good friend’s younger sister. He left the band before Palace of Mirrors, my favorite of their albums. Again, unclear where I first heard them, but they are exceptional. Estradasphere occupy that musical bucket that includes Zappa, John Zorn, and of course, Mr. Bungle. They can seemingly play every style and genre, but more importantly, they can fluidly maneuver between them, weaving complex arrangements in a way that makes them seem natural, even easy. Take Corporate Merger. It is a narrative masterpiece. It’s the soundtrack of a film that never was, a smorgasbord of styles, themes, instrumentation, and motifs. Listen through headphones and focus. It will take you places. None of the band’s recordings were released on vinyl so far as I can tell, which is a crime.

WEEP – Worn Thin (2010)

Weep is a musical project of Eric “Doc” Hammer, one of the guys behind (and voice actors in) the genius cartoon, “The Venture Brothers”. I also dig his previous bands, Requiem in White (one LP on vinyl) and Mors Syphilitica (no LPs on vinyl), which also explored darker themes and had recognizable elements of Weep, but there’s something more accessible to Weep, who is less overtly gothic and not oppressively brooding. Plus they are melodic. I get Weep songs stuck in my head. The full album is not on youtube, so I could only link to the song, “When I’m Wrong” ) a remix at that. “Lay There and Drown“, not on Worn Thin, is one of my favorites. I had that song as my morning alarm for nearly a year and I still like it. “Hating what I have become / and I see all your perfect dreams are drowning you“. Goddamn right. Alas, like Worn Thin, none of their other albums are on vinyl either. In fact, while looking for streams for the album, I discovered they are now “The Weep” and had a new album (alas, digital only) released earlier this year. Going to have to go listen now!

The Jins – Death Wish EP (2019)

A group out of Vancouver, British Columbia, the Jins sound to me like old Local H, which is a compliment. They have the guitar fuzz and “quiet/loud/quiet” format of a bygone era, making me wonder what they guys were listening to as kids. Silverchair? Nirvana? Screaming Trees? Clearly I know nothing about them, just saw someone link to them on Reddit or somewhere. They have a 7″ on vinyl and an older album on cassette, because, you know hipsters love their cassettes like mustachioed phosphate pullers penny-farthing between busks.

Fischerspooner – Entertainment (2009)

I should mention right off the bat that even Fischerspooner’s debut album, #1, an album that contains tracks like Emerge and Invisible, two songs that were inescapable for a few years there, only have vinyl releases from Europe. Fischerspooner is an art school band, starting with more focus on performance art than making “real” music, but it turned out Warren Fischer could make some great music to go along with Casey Spooner’ stunning theatrical performances. I’ve seen them live three times- the first in support of #1 at the House of Blues in Hollywood which was a visual extravaganza with singing, dancing, wind machines, the works. The second time was at the Henry Fonda Theater (also in Hollywood), supporting either Odyssey or Entertainment, but it was a much more traditional band on stage. I read that they had a huge show for this tour, but not the budget to continue it through the North American leg. Le Sigh. The final time was also at the Fonda Theater and was for the SIR tour. It was the most homo erotic stage show I’ve seen since every year’s West Hollywood Pride Parade. The thing is, they looked and sounded different at each stage of their career (they only released four albums before breaking up in 2019), but consistently, wonderfully, entertaining. Entertainment was their third album and the first after being dropped by Capitol Records. They released the album on their own label, which may explain the lack of vinyl release. Amuse Bouche is a favorite, but I can’t play it on my record player.