100 Ways To Do Something Or Another, I Can't Remember Anymore: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 100

I’ve been doing this for five years now. This is the 100th review column I’ve written. I’m not sure how many total reviews that adds up to (seeing as these columns range between one and four reviews, usually), but it’s a good few. So, for this one, seeing as it’s moderately special (100 is a big number! Triple digits!), I’m doing a special column. These are quick re-reviews of some of my favorite releases of the past five years that I’ve reviewed here (note: there are things I liked but never reviewed that have been excluded, as well as things older than five years that I did review, but have cut since they’re not within the timeframe I’m trying to work with. I also have reviewed some non-Ohio releases that I loved and could’ve included here, but I tried to keep this Ohio just because otherwise it would be way too long!). There were a ton of records I cut from this list, and it pained me to do so, but I could really go on and on about how much great music has come from Ohio and fill this whole paper with the one column. Thanks for reading, and thank you very much to all the bands and artists who’ve been in some way a part of this column. Here’s to 100 more, I guess. 

Archival releases: 

Bernie & The Invisibles - All Possibilities Are Open LP (My Mind’s Eye)

This group was one of the lost acts of the late ‘70s Cleveland punk scene, with only three tracks ever being officially released across various compilations. This record solves that problem. Sure, it’s lo-fi, but the music contained is truly some of the best punk rock ever. Bernie is smart, funny, touching–- in certain ways, it’s like a cross between the Modern Lovers and the Urinals. It’s absolutely great. 

The Choir - I’d Rather You Leave Me 7” (Norton Records)

Two tracks from Cleveland’s first power pop group (?), both very good. Sure, I’ve got problems with this record (the lack of liner notes, the fact that it’s on lavender vinyl…), but the music is good enough for me to look past it. Every bit as great as “It’s Cold Outside.”

Bill Fox - Before I Went To Harvard LP (Eleventh Hour Recording Company)

Perhaps this material isn’t as essential as what’s on “Shelter From The Smoke,” but most of it is still prime Bill Fox. Plus, three Radio Flyers songs, so you need it for that alone. 

Great Plains - The Mark, Don, & Mel E.P. +4 LP and Born In A Barn LP (Rerun Records)

Sure, it’s cheating to include both of these, but how could I possibly choose between them? Ron House is one of the greatest lyricists of this generation or any other generation, and the eerie, Midwestern mood these records conjure is like nothing else I’ve ever heard. Two essential records. 

Kill The Hippies - Let’s Start A Band Nobody’s In CD (Phoenician MicroSystems)

It’s mildly funny to me that this is in the archival section here, but it is an archival release! It’s just that this band is still active, which is great. Two unreleased albums and an unreleased single in one package. And it’s a shame these records weren’t released, because they’re pretty great. Still one of the best punk bands around. 

The One Way Street - The One Way Street 2x7” (My Mind’s Eye/B-W Records)

A killer reissue of one of the greatest, dumbest, nuttiest (no pun intended) garage rock records ever (both sides are on the first “Back From The Grave” if that tells you anything) and a second, more straight-laced but still very good single with two unreleased songs. It has to be heard to be believed. The peanuts are nice but the acid is rare! 

Jim Shepard - Heavy Action 3xLP (Ever/Never Records)

A really great set of all the types of music Jim Shepard made. There are heavy, ripping noise-punk tracks from the band V-3, there are sparse, melancholy, acoustic pieces, there are strange audio collages and answering machine messages. A truly fascinating, touching, tragic, and just good portrait of one of Columbus’s best. 

The Society - You Girl 7” (My Mind’s Eye/B-W Records)

This thing’s been getting a lot of hype lately in garage rock circles, but it absolutely lives up to that hype, without question. A total blaster on Side A (with a ripping fuzz guitar solo less than a minute into the song!) and the moody, organ-driven “Lonely” on the flip, both nearly perfect examples of the genre.

The Styrenes - CLE 76-79 Unreleased 3x7” (My Mind’s Eye)

This is maybe not the most essential Styrenes material, nor the best place to start with them (I did like it more than “The Essential Styrenes,” though), but well worth hearing. Alternate/early versions of some their classics (a killer version of “I Saw You” and an instrumental version of “Where The Girls Are” that lets you appreciate just how fantastic the guitar playing is on it are two highlights), plus two totally unheard tracks, “Empty Vessels” and “Murder Me,” both of which are very good, especially the latter. For the fans, perhaps, but necessary for the fans. 

Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments - Straight To Video LP (Straight To Video)

The first-ever vinyl release of the second TJSAs album, in many ways just as essential as their first one, “Bait & Switch.” Every song on here is great, from the hazy opener “Secret Museum” to the centerpiece “Outside My Scene” to the closing destruction of “When The Entertainment Ends.” Other favorites along the way include “Rump Government,” “Lightnin’ Rod,” “Whisper In Your Mouth,” “El Cajon”…ah, they’re all good. 

Contemporary releases:

Cheap Clone - Cheap Clone LP (Peanut Butter Records)

This was a pretty early 5/5 in this column, and while I waver on most ratings I give everything, I’ll stand by that 5/5. Every song on this thing is great. This was a great band. It’s a darn shame this band is now no more, but they live on with this record (and their EP on Just Because is pretty good, too). 

Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound LP (Carpark Records)

Yeah, here’s my big mainstream pick. I don’t care; this is a local band and I still think this record is great. I know that makes me a poser fan since it’s their most “pop” record, but whatever, it’s still probably my favorite LP by them. Great guitar on this thing, great drumming, great songs in general. 

Counter Intuits - Monosyllabilly LP (Pyramid Scheme Records)

Ron House may have more entries than anyone else on this list. As well he probably should, he is that great. 

Cruelster - Terminal Windmill 7” (Turbine Piss)

Every Cruelster record holds a special place in my heart, but this one might be the most special. I’m not quite sure why– maybe because it was the first Cruelster record to be released in the time of this column (“Potatoe Boys,” also great, was out already when I started). Some of Cruelster’s greatest hits are on this thing, I’d say. A fantastic EP, and I think one that’s only grown on me since first hearing it. 

Fascinating - Dice Game LP (Quality Time Records)

Though not without its issues, Fascinating is still one of my favorite Ricky Hamilton products and this is probably their best moment (“Picture This” is very good as well– I never heard the third one because it never got a real release and someone was supposed to send me the tracks at some point but never did…I don’t know, stay tuned, I still might get it sometime). “Emily Street” and “Typical” are Ricky at his glammy power pop best and “Whirlwind Romance” has his most aggressive vocal performance possibly ever, and it’s great. Alfred Hood’s lead guitar is always at least pretty good– his backing vocals are all over the place, but that just adds to what I like about it. 

JuJu Shrine - JuJu Shrine cassette (Quality Time Records)

I will forever consider this one of the most underrated Quality Time releases. Totally ripping garage punk with great hooks and, it goes without saying, shredding guitar. Well worth seeking out. Like a lot of the cassettes on this list, it’s a shame this one never got released on a better format. Great stuff. 

Carter Luckfield - Crowley 666 cassette (Quality Time Records)

A strange, lo-fi mix of Nick Lowe, country rock, and a hint of glam. Loner psych or whatever people say. It’s good. Carter’s since brought some of these songs out into full rockin’ territory with the Red Devil Ryders, but there’s something special to me about these quiet, home-recorded versions on here. 

The Nico Missile - Live In Birmingham/Live In Chicago cassette (Quality Time Records)

This is how I always wished this band sounded. I like their studio material, but this is so much better. Far more energetic and even more Marty Brass shredding. Once you hear this, it’s hard to go back to the studio stuff. Ricky Hamilton tears it up on the drums and his singing, if at times off the tracks, has rarely been so full of punk rage. 

Obnox - Wiglet LP (Ever/Never Records)

I had a hard time choosing between this record and “Boogalou Reed” to make this list, but this one won out. It’s perhaps not the most representative of Obnox’s sound, but it’s probably my favorite one. Some of his best punk tracks are on here (“If You Wanna Know The Truth”) and some of his most catchy ones as well (“Burning Sage W/ Roseanna”). 

Perverts Again - Our Big Party LP (Noncommercial Records)

Some people have a party trick where they can quote entire Cheech & Chong records. I’m pretty sure I can quote this whole record. Every Perverts Again record is absolutely great, but this one really set the tone. So many lines from this thing pop into my head at random and not-so random times (for example, any time myself or someone near me hurts their knee). 

Queen Of Hell - 12-Inch Maxi EP 12” (My Mind’s Eye)

One of the best glam rock/art rock/rock ’n’ roll/hard rock/punk/prog/costume-wearing/cross-turning-upside-down bands out of Cleveland ever. Absolutely ripping and it doesn’t take itself so seriously that it becomes a bore. The titular “Queen Of Hell, Pts. I-V” is worth it alone, but the Motörhead-worshipping “Crowd Control” and rockin’ “The Ziggurat” make it even better. 

The Roobydocks - Reliant Robin 7” (My Mind’s Eye)

To me, this record is what a good punk record should sound like. I mean, not exactly like this, but this is a great example of what makes a good record. It’s got raging lyrics, but doesn’t take itself too seriously, and certainly not so seriously that it becomes boring (“Life Is Joke” is a defining statement of the era). It’s 100% punk and doesn’t have any dumb gimmicks, but it does have unique elements that make it stand out (the most obvious one is the clean guitar). What a punk record should be. 

Shitbox Jimmy - The Movie LP (Just Because Records)

This is SBJ in all their lo-fi, recorded live at the Franklin Castle glory. I might’ve preferred a slightly cleaner recording (and I’d love for Joey to stop obscuring his vocals, but oh well), but the energy is right there, man. This is an important transitional record for them, right between the garage rock of “Deliverance” (the fact that “Deliverance” is not out on vinyl is an absolute crime, it is so good) and the power pop of their tracks from the split with Goldmines. It’s really them at their best, and I like that some of the banter was left in. “Tug it, Joe!”

The Sight - Nite Vision cassette (Blow Blood Records)

I’m obviously a sucker for good power pop, and this is good power pop. Four great tracks on this thing, particularly “Tip Of My Tongue” and “Time Lapse.” Great guitar interplay between Adam Spektor and Carter Luckfield and the secret weapon of this band, in my opinion, is drummer Noah Depew, who just kills it on every track and takes them above and beyond. Their second tape is pretty good, too, but this is the one. 

Splat - Splat 7” (Saucepan Records)

One of the best, catchiest hardcore records I’ve heard in the course of doing this. I think this band gets ignored or somewhat shafted as “Bad Noids side project” or something, but Splat deserved so much better than that. This EP is a total killer from start to finish. Their side of their split tape with Fat Vegan is also excellent.

Wetbrain - Acoustic 12” (Start Sucking)

This sounds like such a stupid concept: Wetbrain, an excellent hardcore band (sadly now defunct), play some of their hits…unplugged. Most bands could not pull it off. Wetbrain is not most bands. Somehow, this is just as incredible as anything else they’ve done. Larry is a born lounge singer and it really is impressive that the band is able to play songs that you wouldn’t think would translate well to acoustic versions as well as they do. Someone’s gonna put out that other Wetbrain live bootleg “Killed By Wetbrain” at some point, I can just feel it. 

Are you a local-ish musician/band? Do you have a record out? Email vaguelythreatening@gmail.com.

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Volume 16, Issue 4, Posted 4:30 PM, 02.05.2020