Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lillingtons--Technically Unsound Box Set

Ah, the early 90s. Pop-punk before the explosion of Green Day and the Offspring. Long before the bastard children of Ben Weasel and the Ramones morphed into dreck like blink (yes, they sucked before they were blink-182). Weasel-core and Ramones-core bands littered the 'zines with mailorder ads. You could order from Lookout! Records on a Monday and have a nice wrapped package waiting in your mailbox by Friday (from NorCal to central California, granted). But, times were good.

The "elites" of the genre were all at the top of their game. Bands like Screeching Weasel, the Queers, The Vindictives, and The Mr. T Experience (although, personally, MTX was never my cup of tea).

The Lillingtons were always among those lower echelon mid-to-late 90s pop-punk bands populated with w/ competent (and even pretty darn good) peers like the Groovie Ghoulies, Sloppy Seconds, Squirtgun, et al.

While being one of my favorite "lesser" pop-punk bands, the early Lillingtons sometimes came dangerously close to being a straight-up Weasel/Queers "homage" band. They didn't really come into their own until 1999's Death By Television (originally released on Ben Weasel & John Jughead's Lookout! Records imprint, Panic Button, and soon to be reissued, along with the ok, but rather lackluster, followup, Backchannel Broadcast, by Red Scare Records--coincidentally enough, the home of Lillingtons vocalist/guitarist Kody's new band, Teenage Bottlerocket).

Technically Unsound, a 3-CD box set, collects the Lillingtons' early, long out-of-print material (original copies of the Shit Out of Luck LP and CD--with artwork by the Queers' B-Face--have been selling as high as $45 on eBay, which likely contributed to the recently reconstituted Clearview Records putting this release together). And, speaking of eBay, that seems to be the only place you can even pick one of these box sets up (or at a Teenage Bottlerocket show--catch them w/ the Groovie Ghoulies and Teenage Harlets this summer on the Teenage Kicks Tour!).

The box set contains a new remix of Shit Out of Luck (done by Mass Giorgini of Sonic Iguana), the original mix of the album, the tracks from the Nothing Cool split 10", the Lost My Marbles 7" (recorded by and featuring backup vocals from Joe Queer), material recorded for the never released Stupid World 7", and 12 live tracks.

But, why does it say "" on the back when there is not even a domain name registered for that URL?

The numbered, limited edition metal tin version with CDs signed by the band are likely already long gone (limited to 50 copies). If you can find one, the collector nerd in you should be more than pleased. The 22 gauge silkscreened metal tin is a nicely put together package, but at $50 a pop, it was a steep price to pay for simply a nifty metal case. The regular edition comes in a plastic box set ($15), but it is also limited (to 1000 copies, with 25 signed copies having been available).

For fans who discovered Kody through Teenage Bottlerocket, this could be a place to discover his earlier work, but I would highly recommend starting with Death By Television if that is your goal. When I first heard Teenage Bottlerocket, I described them as a the Riverdales version of the Lillingtons, as in how the Riverdales were a much more Ramones-ish version of Screeching Weasel. So, flip that analogy and you'll have a decent idea of what the early Lillingtons material is all about.

For later Lillingtons fans who could never track this stuff down, now you can get it all in one place in a nice package. The remixed version of the album sounds great, and the sound quality on the Jam Room live tracks blew me away (WAY better than I was expecting to hear). The unreleased and demo stuff is typical of unreleased and demo stuff (if you're a hardcore fan, it sounds great and you'll likely find it interesting--I enjoyed it, but casual fans can probably do without it).

All in all, a very nice, great-sounding package, but I would hope down the road they'll release the remixed album w/ at least the Nothing Cool split and 7" tracks as a regular single CD release. Since there is obvioulsy a demand for Shit Out of Luck, I would hope someone would have the good sense to get it back into print and make it available at a reasonable price.

Pressing info:
50 hand-numbered metal box sets (CDs signed by the band)
50 regular box sets (signed by the band)
900 regular box sets w/ a promo CD of Kody's previous band, Sack

Best Single Magazine Issue in Recent Memory

March 2005 Wired.

Read this thing cover to cover over the course of a month or so. I found every article incredibly interesting.

Technological Armageddon at Hand!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Hollywood vs. the Digital Age

Hollywood vs. Digital from Wired.

See also Darknet

Monday, July 11, 2005

Screeching Weasel--Remastered Reissues

Overall, much like 90% of all remastered reissues, this series isn't worth rebuying simply for the remastered album. Nor would I recommend avoiding them in favor of the original pressings. If you've worn out your original copies, they're cheap enough that you might as well replace them with the new versions. And, if you're new to Screeching Weasel, I wouldn't discourage you at all from picking up the new versions. For newcomers to Screeching Weasel, I'd recommend starting with either (or both) Anthem for a New Tomorrow and/or My Brain Hurts. You might even be best served by waiting for WeaselMania to come out this fall from Fat Wreck.


Original release: 9/10
Remaster release: 9.5/10

Boogadaboogadaboogada sounds virtually identical to the 1991 Lookout reissue. I'm not so sure they really did much on the sound-end for this release. Seems odd they didn't include all the 1st pressing LP pictures (naked Weasels bowling!) if they were adding photos too. The Lookout "cashing-in" green jacket is now back to the original pink (there is also a UK version with completely different art, which you can see in the CD tray of the new release). The liner notes by Jim Testa (Jersey Beat) are supurb and the commentary by Ben Weasel and Jughead make this one particularly worth picking up if you've worn out your old copy or never picked it up previously. However, even though I love this album and still think there are great songs on here ("My Right," "Hey Suburbia," and "Supermarket Fantasy" to name a few), I wouldn't recommend this as the first one to buy, as this version of Weasel had not yet developed into the pop-punk powerhouse they would be with the "classic" line-up. (On the other hand, SoCal punk rockers back at the time seemed to find this one the only one worth listening to at all, so if you swing that way, maybe it is the one to get.)

My Brain Hurts

Original release: 10/10
Remaster release: 10/10

Screeching Weasel had been broken up for a while before being coaxed into reforming by Lookout Records around 1990. Despite Ben's objections to using the name (he wanted to go in a more overtly Ramones-influenced direction and had an almost completely new line-up--guitarist Jughead and Ben would be the constants throughout Screeching Weasel's many line-up changes), Lookout wouldn't sign them unless they kept the Weasel moniker.

My Brain Hurts was the result--an all-time pop-punk masterpiece. Fans will argue whether Anthem was better (and I'm one of those in the Anthem camp), but it is a toss-up as far as I'm concerned. Both stayed in heavy rotation on my CD player for years. The reissue takes a bit of fun out of the packaging (no more "Hi Mom" on the spine), but great liner notes by Joe Queer and song commentary by Vapid, Ben, and Jughead make up for it. "New CD artwork" just means the actual CD has different art (pink with Weasel in leather jacket logo) and the "rare photos" seem to consist mostly of old show flyers (and photos used as background art under the lyrics). Remastered sound features more clarity (basslines in particular) and an overall fuller sound.


Original release: 8/10
Remaster release: 9/10

Following up a perfect masterpiece of an album is tough for any band, so perhaps the let down of Wiggle shouldn't have been totally unexpected. Wiggle is my least favorite "classic" Weasel album, yet still miles better than later disappointments like Emo and Teen Punks in Heat. There are some great songs on here like "Jeannie's Got a Problem With Her Uterus" "Sad Little Girl," "Slomotion," and "Teenage Slumber Party." But, something about this album just didn't quite work and I suspect it has a lot to do with this being the first album Mass Giorgini and Sonic Iguana produced.

However, this remaster is getting my "Most Improved" award, and is the only one I'm rating higher than the initial release. The artwork looks better, the liner notes from the UK's Lindsay Hutton (The Next Big Thing) are solid, and good song commentary by Ben, Jughead, and Vapid. Along with the more "mature" packaging of all the new CDs there seems to have come a newfound modesty, as well. Now, I'm just as happy to be spared gratuitous cockshots as the next red-blooded, heterosexual guy, but I was amused by the self-censorhip in the "new" (i.e., colorized) booklet photos. And was I not supposed to notice that one of the flyers in the art added to the booklet is a piece from The Onion that was done when Screeching Weasel reformed in 1996 and talks about Bark Like a Dog?

As for the bonus track, I've waited for years to finally hear Weasel reclaim "Fuck the World" like they did "Pervert at Large." While I still slightly prefer the original Vindictives rendition of "Pervert" (Joey's vocals really work for that song), Weasel's TVCD version was great. "Fuck the World," however, was a disappointment. Co-written by Ben and Joe Queer, this is one of the best punk rock love songs ever written and The Queers version is reason alone to buy Love Songs for the Retarded. (Yes, Joe--and the "Queers"--should have hung it up long ago, but once upon a time they were really good. This is another song that works better for someone else's voice rather than Ben's--more so than "Pervert at Large," for sure.) The recording included on the Wiggle reissue sounds kinda rushed, and it's probably no surprise why this track has stayed under wraps for so long (the song did appear with altnernate lyrics, as "Amy Caught Me Looking at Her Boobs," on the Thank You Very Little rarities/outtakes/demos compilation). If you were hoping this bonus track was enough to make rebuying the CD worthwhile, I'd have say, "eh, not so much." But, overall, this repackaging does the most to improve on the previous version. I can't put my finger on anything specific with the remastered sound, but I thought this one did sound a little better than the original. In fact, the more I'm listening to these again, the more I like Wiggle. I think the reason I didn't like it so much when it was released is the same reason Ben never seemed too stoked on it. His vocals have a much rougher edge to them than any of the other Weasel albums. I may be totally high, but on songs like "It's All in My Head," I even thought I was hearing a hint of some Jawbreaker flavor.

Anthem for a New Tomorrow

Original release: 10/10
Remaster release: 10/10

A favorite of the band, fans, and me personally. SW was really firing on all cylinders with this release, a kind of 'punk rock concept album'--12 years before American Idiot, by the way--albeit not as overtly tied together thematically. Any best-of SW CD I've ever made for myself or to introduce someone to SW includes almost every song off this album. Includes cameos by NoFX's Fat Mike ("Peter Brady") and Jawbreaker's Blake Schwarzenbach and Joey Vindictive ("Anthem for a New Tomorrow"). Solid liner notes and song commentary.

The remastered version seems to again add clarity to the low-end (particularly the basslines) and do the standard loudness-level raising. The original (1st anyway) CD pressing had a song track order error, which is now remedied (The tracklist didn't match up to the song #s after Track 5--"Talk to Me Summer." This could have been fixed on subsequent pressings of the CD, I'm not sure). Again some of the original packaging's "fun" is removed and a more straightforward presentation is used. Any way you slice it, though, this album is a must-have in any self-respecting punk rock collection.

How to Make Enemies and Irritate People

Original release: 8/10
Remaster release: 5/10

While I always enjoyed and listened to How to Make Enemies and Irritate People (the title refers to Dale Carnegie's best-seller How to Win Friends and Influence People), more so than say, Wiggle, it was still somewhat of a red-headed stepchild album. I'd listen to it when I'd worn out the Boogadax3, My Brain Hurts, and Anthem rotation I constantly had going. It's somehwat of an odds 'n' sods album Weasel put out just to record and release the last songs they had written after disintegrating during the short-lived Anthem for a New Tomorrow tour. As Vapid and Ben were on the outs, they enlisted Mike Dirnt (you might know him from some band called Green Day) to fill in on bass. It was intended to be their last release as they officially broke up the day it came out.

The discography included in the original CD booklet is gone, and all of the "fun" of the original packaging has been completely sucked out of this puppy (way more so than My Brain Hurts or Anthem). Gone are the fake song titles on the back of the album. I always liked those: "Planet of the Dupes," "Smurf Goddess," "I Hate Yer Nuts on Monday," Johnny is that Beer?," "If I was Hugh" (a nod to the late Queers drummer), "Da Genitals," and "I Wrote Ignatius J. Reilly."

The cover art looks even more blurry than the original (this cover art was intended for the original My Brain Hurts release, but Lookout was too cheap at the time to spring for a full-color cover), and the original 50s sci-fi movie-style font has been inexplicably replaced with simple block text.

Enemies song notes:

"Smurf Goddess" was another song co-written with Joe Queer. The Queers version appears on the Surf Goddess 7"/CDEP.

"I Wrote Holden Caulfield" is a "response" song, in title, at least, to Green Day's classic "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" (off Kerplunk!). At least, I always assumed it was. Holden Caulfield, of course, being the protaganist of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, while Ignatius J. Reilly is the hero of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces.

"Johnny Are You Queer?" is Josie Cotton cover (she also sang it in Valley Girl, I think). Gretchen Smear (The Smears) sings backup vocals on the Weasel track.

Gretchen Smear, by the way, was also involved in one of the early incarnations of the Riverdales. From what I remember, the original idea Ben had for the Riverdales was to have a male and female singer doing a more Ramones/50s r'n'r-style band (even more Ramones-ish than SW). There was a nasty completely unsubstantiated rumor going around at the time (and I can't remember where it even started or where I heard it) that the reason she got kicked out was that she went on a particularly gruesome heroin bender and totally freaked Ben out.

There are no real new liner notes (just a short paragraph from Ben) or song commentary. (I just told you more than you'd find out from reading the new liner notes). And if you consider the photo contact sheet that comprises the "new, unreleased photos" worth having than by all means pick this up. But, there is no good reason to rebuy this, and if you can find the original Lookout pressing used, a copy of that would suffice just as easily as the new release. The more I'm listening to these again, the less I like this album and the more I really like Wiggle, too.

From the look of things, the motivation for putting solid effort into these re-releases had severely run out of gas by the time they got to Enemies. And there is still Kill The Musicians plus the two Riverdales reissues to go!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Audio Remastering Explored

There have been some recent remastered reissues where I was immediately struck by how great they sounded (RFTC's Circa: Now! and the Bad Religion reissues come to mind), and then there have been those that didn't strike me as anything special but weren't botch jobs by any means (a la Green Day's 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours reissue). Then there were really weird ones like the remixed and remastered Megadeth albums (at least the first 4 early albums I checked out recently to see what they were all about). Listening to an album you know backward and forward and then having instruments and sounds coming from unexpected places can be a little disconcerting.

Very rarely you get something completely amazing, like the Misfits' 12 Hits From Hell, which doesn't seem likley to ever be officially released. The producer remixed the tracks using Bobby Steele and Doyle's guitar parts to make the band sound like a 5-piece (which allegedly, is a big reason why Danzig and Doyle shitcanned it). The Misfits were never a 5-piece, never had 2 guitar players, and these songs were never meant to be heard mixed this way. But, everyone I know that's heard it has thought these were the best versions of the songs they've ever heard (myself included). There are plenty of other places to hear the original versions and there have been so many Misfits releases with so many alternate versions and takes of their songs, it probably helped condition me to be more accepting of alternate sounds when it came to them, though.

On the flipside, there are albums like Rise Against's The Unraveling, where I felt the original releases's production was truly awful and really made the band and the songs sound a lot worse than they really are. The remastered song I've heard off the upcoming re-release of that record improved the sound dramatically. Before the bass and drums were way too high in the mix, while the vocals were buried. The remaster seems to have everything finally in the right place.

The other point about remastered albums is that so-called "purists" may often be basing their purity standard on an original pressing that may not sound anything at all like what the artist originally intended. There is a difference between taking an old movie or record that was recorded in mono and artificially creating a stereo or 5.1 mix out of thin air and improving the master job on something that has high quality original masters, but, for whatever reason, lower quality mass production. Time and budget constraints, poor production work, and any number of pressing plant issues could be to blame, but a remaster job using the most up-to-date technology is generally an effort to make the pressed CDs (or vinyl or whatever) match the master mixdown that the artist/producer was happy with in the studio. We've all heard albums that sound like they were recorded at the bottom of a pool or in a metal trash can. Those are great candidates for remastering. From what I understand, you're looking to get a much richer, fuller sound with clarity enough to hear all the dynamics of a given recording.

This is one reason hardcore audiophiles often are heard to say that "vinyl sounds better." The argument seems to go like this: because the analog process for pressing vinyl doesn't use compression the way CDs do, you CAN get a more accurate representation of what it sounded like in the studio when it was recorded. Also, vinyl LPs are said to sound "warmer" compared to the "harshness" of a digital CD. Of course, this is hardly always the case and generally refers to the first generation of CD production in the mid- to late 80s when studios weren't necessarily mastering CDs from the best source material (they'd just use whatever they could easily find).

Further, the human ear can't hear the additional frequencies that vinyl produces, so it's hard to make that argument to a casual listener with average playback equipment. So, in the end, unless you have superhuman ears and the highest-end audio equipment, it's hard to say you'll hear much of a difference.

So, to sum up, remasters can be a little disconcerting when you're used to hearing an album a certain way and all of a sudden things are a little different. It has certainly sometimes thrown me off a bit until I can adjust to the new sound. Once you get past how it's not exactly the same as the previous version (which would be the point), it's easier to appreciate the remastered album on its own merits.

Remastering Info

Strike Anywhere--To Live in Discontent Pic Disc LP (I'm Discontented)

Chunksaah Records recently released the LP version of the "smacking of record contract fullfillment" b-sides, rarities, and demos collection from one of my favorite modern melodic hardcore acts, Strike Anywhere. I had been turned on to Inquisition (Thomas, SA singer's old band) around the time the CD release of their material (long after they'd splintered). So, I was immediately interested in what his new band was going to be all about. I was lucky enough to get a tape of Strike Anywhere's demo and was hooked from moment #1 and have rarely missed a chance to see them live (highly recommended).

Their debut, the Chorus of One EP, was an instant classic and still remains a high-water mark for them (although Exit English would be my recommendation for introducing yourself to this band). This collection includes the now out-of-print Chorus of One EP along with their Fat Club 7" songs (which were re-recorded songs from their demo), the Underground Europe 2001 Genoa Benefit 7" (another demo track), an Exit English outtake, and some nondescript covers (Gorilla Biscuits, Dag Nasty, and Cock Sparrer).

I'm sorry to report, however, that the only tracks on here that are really worth having are from the Chorus of One EP. I love Exit English, but I'm glad "Two Fuses" was left on the cutting room floor. The 7" songs are good but not really worth springing for this collection on their own (especially if you already have everything they've put out like me). The only track I'm aware of that is missing is the acoustic version of Change is a Sound's "Chalkline," from Punk Goes Acoustic, which seems like an odd ommission.

I've already sold my CD version of this but figured the pic disc might be cool to have. But, in the end, I'd have to recommend searching out the Chorus of One CDEP or 12" before they become high-priced eBay items and leave this collection to the newbies who will be jumping on the bandwagon once their Fat Wreck Chords album comes out next year (and many are probably discovering this great band this summer due to Strike Anywhere's inclusion on the Warped Tour. (Unless you're after it just for the art, which was good enough reason for me to buy it, but I'm nutty like that. And the vinyl does sound great.)

HINT: No Idea Records just got some CDEPs in a return, grab 'em up fast! A-F Records is also re-releasing the Inquisition album in the fall (the 2nd pressing on blue vinyl was popping up frequently recently and may still be available if you do some digging, too).

Weasels in a Box: You're the Enemy--draft in progress

Fat Wreck Chords is releasing a Screeching Weasel collection, WeaselMania, this fall. As many of you know, Weasel has been one of my favorite punk bands for around 13 years. I'm going to review the final tracklist and then update the review when I get my grubby hands on the actual CD.

[insert Spin magazine 1990-91/green day, lookout blurb]

[definitions: anthology-retrospective/best-of/greatest hits]

[insert my suggested titles: my friends are all famous, ...and out come the weasels, weasels in a box, you're the enemy]

WeaselMania tracklist:
Boogadaboogadaboogada (Asian Man)
1. My Right
2. Ashtray
3. Supermarket Fantasy
4. Hey Suburbia

My Brain Hurts (Asian Man)
5. Cindy’s On Methadone
6. My Brain Hurts
7. What We Hate
8. The Science of Myth

Kill The Musicians (Asian Man)
9. She’s Giving Me the Creeps
10. I Wanna Be a Homosexual

Wiggle (Asian Man)
11. Jeannie’s Got a Problem With Her Uterus
12. Joanie Loves Johnny

Anthem For a New Tomorrow (Asian Man)
13. Peter Brady
14. Totally
15. Leather Jacket
16. Every Night

How To Make Enemies and Irritate People (Asian Man)
17. Planet of the Apes
18. 99
19. I Wrote Holden Caulfield

Bark Like a Dog (Fat Wreck Chords)
20. Phasers on Kill
21. You Blister My Paint
22. Cool Kids
23. The First Day Of Summer

Major Label Debut (Panic Button)
24. Racist Society

Television City Dream (Fat Wreck Chords)
25. Dummy Up
26. Pervert At Large
27. Speed of Mutation

Thank You Very Little (Panic Button)
28. My Own World

Four on the Floor (Panic Button)
29. Video

Emo (Panic Button)
30. Sidewalk Warrior
31. Static

Teen Punks In Heat (Panic Button)
32. Bottom of the 9th
33. Gotta Girlfriend
34. You’re the Enemy

[insert originally suggested tracklist, based on NoFX collection apparent base parameters, note how relieved and impressed w/ final tracklist--w/ 34 tracks, no 'crybaby' a disgrace, otherwise great.]

Weasels in a Box: You're the Enemy

Racist society
Dummy up
Cool kids
Pervert at large
Hey suburbia
Veronica hates me
My right
Peter brady
Burnout girl
Thrift store girl
Every night
Surf goddess
Jeannie’s got a problem w/ her uterus
The science of myth
Cindy’s on methadone
I hate your guts on Sunday
Kamala’s too nice
Radio blast
My friends are getting famous
You’re the enemy
I wanna be a homosexual
Supermarket fantasy
I wanna be naked
Murder in the brady house
Fuck the World*

High Fidelity Records announces pre-orders for upcoming releases

High Fidelity Records is now taking orders for the Fortunate Son EP. The CD/7” is slated to be released on July 19th. The 7” is limited edition, color vinyl, so get your orders in early. We are also working on something special to give away with the pre-orders.

Fortunate Son (Los Angeles) is a collective of former members of Try Harder, Wear the Mark, Miracle Mile, and As Hope Dies and current members of Final Fight, 7-Generations, and Graf Orlock. Fortunate Son sets itself apart from HFR's other projects with a more rock 'n' roll-influenced sound. If you like the Bars, Youth of Today and Panic all charged and ready to be unleashed, then get on it and pre-order!

To hear the band and for more info, check out MP3s and tour dates also available at

You can also place a pre-order for the new Countless Shadows EP, Maturity Through Tragedy. This high-powered four-piece from Grover Beach, CA is geared for fans of Strife, Mad Ball, Most Precious Blood and Hope Conspiracy. The official release date is set for Aug. 23rd and will be available in a limited edition “metal tin” version or a regular version. For MP3s and more info on the band check out or go to