Donut Age: America's Donut Magazine

Binge Breakdown

Over spring break, I made what is becoming an annual pilgrimage to the High Street record stores in Columbus. Time was short, so no Magnolia Thunderpussy this year, but Johnny Go's House of Music and Used Kids Records had more than enough fuel for my music addiction.

Here's the haul. Two weeks have not been enough to fully process all this, but I am offering some first impressions.

  • Ass Ponys, The Known Universe : Too early for a ruling. I've liked several other albums, especially the last two, enough to take a flyer on this 1996 effort.
  • James Brown, StarTime (box) : At $20 used for this 4-CD definitive collection of the Godfather of Soul, it was a no-brainer. Christgau gives it an A+, and he hates boxes. My only regret is that this makes my copy of 20 All-Time Greatest Hits obsolete.
  • Liz Phair, Juvenilia : Despite my great love for her other albums and Christgau's glowing review, I still can't bring myself to buy Phair's major-label debut. I'm sure I'll relent eventually, but Liz Phair just reeks of corporate pimpwork. In the meatime, I'll reminisce with these 8 early efforts. So far, the most memorable is her cover of the Vapors' novelty hit, "Turning Japanese."
  • Minor Threat, Complete Discography : I've been making efforts lately to broaden my familiarity with early punk bands, looking into folks like X and Gang of Four. Minor Threat is another band I've been aware of but never really listened to. This modestly priced 26-song compilation seemed like a good way to address that omission. Still working on an assessment.
  • Outkast, Speakerboxx/The Love Below : The critical accolades, including a Pazz & Jop number one finish, got me to shell out full price for this. It hasn't blown me away yet, but the high points are certainly high: great, tight, funky raps. The adolescent sex-fantasy "interludes" are less compelling, but don't necessarily spoil the pleasures of the overall effort.
  • Pavement, Terror Twilight : I was not part of the Pavement cult when they were together, but I find them entertaining enough. Nothing leaps out at me yet. Needs a few more listens.
  • Pretty Girls Make Graves, Good Health : About a month ago, I was feeling really itchy for new music, so I went on a download spree at Matador in search of some new sounds. The selections by PGMG were the standouts in that bunch: good, hard thrash with a a riot grrrl edge. The full album has not disappointed so far. We'll see if it has staying power.
  • Randy Newman, 12 Songs : I knew nothing about this 1970 record except that it is a Christgau A+. First listen was disapppointing: competent but nothing special. However, it's growing on me with each additional hearing. Reminds me more and more of The Band circa The Basement Tapes, which is pretty damn good. Not yet convinced it's "perfect" (Christgau), but I'm willing to keep listening to se how good it can get.
  • The New Pornographers, Mass Romantic : Another product of my Matador expedition. The album's not as "hard" as I somehow expected from the singles (including the title track of this album) I downloaded. Listened to as a whole, they remind me a lot of Game Theory, a kind of synthpop-with-an-attitude that is surprising effective.
  • The Ramones, Ramones : I'm ashamed to admit that I've only recently started listening seriously to the Ramones. Listening to this digitally remastered anniversary edition (8 bonus tracks) of their 1976 debut, I am baffled what's taken me so long. This is great, straight-ahead rock (call it punk if you must) that still sounds fresh and new (perhaps even fresher) a quarter-century later.
  • The Replacements, Hootenanny
  • The Replacements, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash
  • The Replacements, Stink : These three fall under the "filling the back catalog" heading. I caught the last bit of the actual Replacements craze (i.e., Pleased to Meet Me, which I never really liked, despite, or perhaps because of "Alex Chilton") and had most of the albums on cassette at one point or another. (One of my personal rules is that I am allowed to buy CDs -- or digital versions -- of albums I only have on tape, but not the ones I already have on vinyl.) These three pretty much complete my reassembly of that collection and I'm enjoying reacquainting myself with these proto-indie gods from Minneapolis.
  • The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow : I had no real expectation for this except for a general critical buzz in their favor, and while I can attest to certain positive feelings with regard to the album, I can't remember anything much more specific than that.
  • The Strokes, Room on Fire : Picks up precisely where 2000's Is This It? left off, which is mostly a good thing. I'm wary of the hype surrounding them, but when I just sit back and listen, their stuff works.
  • The Velvet Underground, VU : Another backcatalog stuffer. For something cobbled together out of studio dross, a remarkable album.
  • VA, Kiss My Ass : I don't like Kiss, and I don't much like the folks appearing on this "tribute" to the masters of makeup (Lenny Kravitz, Garth Brooks, Toad the Wet Sprocket, etc.), but the title alone (probably the greatest compilation title ever) is worth my $3.
  • VA, No Alternative : Alt-rock's all-stars, circa 1993, come together on behalf of the Red Hot organization. New originals by Matthew Sweet, Nirvana, Pavement, and others made this a good used-bin pickup.
  • VA, Teenbeat 50 : Another comp from the used bin. Put out in 1991 to celebrate Teeenbeat Records' 50th release, I bought it primarily for the Autoclave and Velocity Girl selections, but it holds interest as an historical document as well.