Flipsides & Otherwise: FAO #7

faoAlthough the current flood of ‘expanded’, ‘deluxe’ and ‘collector’s edition’ album reissues can be viewed as a concerted act of desperation by the music industry in the face of falling CD sales, it’s still a positive thing such releases that many are putting right was so wrong with many earlier CD pressings from the ‘80s and ‘90s. With higher-quality artwork, remastered sound, fan-friendly extra tracks and the like, many latter-day CD reprints have both breathed life into the unfairly-maligned format and into historically-important records. 2008 sees no abatement in the repacking trend – particularly for DOA-endorsed sonic brands – hence the need to round-up a bundle of them in one grab-bag edition of this column (along with one relevant new album), before the next dollop drops on to the buckling shelves of 30+ year old music hoarders…

 

 

The Replacements – Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash / Stink / Hootenanny / Let It Be (Rhino)

Although put out on CD via Rykodisc/Restless Records as recently as 2003, now both labels have been annexed by the Warners empire, it gives a chance for The Replacements’ early-Twin/Tone canon to be given a more expansive and superior refreshment from the well-respected back catalogue curators at Rhino. The restorative results are unquestionably impressive, although the onetime Minneapolis outfit’s contrary quality control hasn’t been tampered with one iota – which would of course have defeated the object.

1981’s Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash debut is still as blisteringly raw and as liquor-laced as before, with its juvenile rockabilly ‘n’ roll swollen from 18 to 31 tracks, making it a purist’s wet-dream as well as scarecrow to easily-intimidated novices. Either way, split-flecked gems like “Takin A Ride” and “Customer” are essential to The Replacements story, as is the rediscovered rustic B-side “If Only You Were Lonely.” 1982’s strychnine-charged 8-song Stink perhaps benefits the most from its new edition. Previously it felt like an almost quaint homage to the nascent contemporaneous hardcore scene led by Black Flag and Hüsker Dü, but now it sounds like a harder sarcastic Americana take on the bubble-gum Britpunk of The Buzzcocks and The Sex Pistols, with Paul Westerberg adopting a throat-shredding rasp informed by Johnny Rotten at his most snot-drenched and splenetic. Top-draw new extras include a snarling fun stab at Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’” and a heartily-disrespectful wrecking of “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock.”

1983’s Hootenanny captured The Replacements’ musical ambition-levels ratcheted-up tenfold for a transitory set that maintained the wilfully adolescent abandonment whilst reaching into slightly more refined and experimental territory. No longer wedded to just one-chord hollering, Hootenanny is gleefully eclectic, if a little hit and miss. Therefore within you’ll find the anthemic classicism of “Color Me Impressed,” the thrilling cow-punk of “Take Me Down To The Hospital,” the eerie atmospheric “Willpower” and the weirdly endearing dark electro-pop of “Within Your Reach” but also the grating sub-Red Chilli Peppers funk of “Lovelines” and the scratchy Beggars Banquet-era Stones pastiche that is “Treatment Bound.” The supplementary cuts are decidedly scrappy, aside from Westerberg’s solo “Bad Worker” demo and a much more believable rendering of “Treatment Bound.” Without much doubt, 1984’s Let It Be was The Replacements’ defining moment before the major-label chequebook triggered through the band’s slow disintegration. All the seminal standards still resonate with the powerful pain of growing-up in a backwards town; from The Smithsian jangle of “I Will Dare,” and the soaring “Favorite Thing,” to the yearning folk-rock of “Unsatisfied” and “Sixteen Blue.” There remains some foolhardy filler – like “Gary’s Got A Boner” and “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” – but they’re offset by the playful tenderness of “Androgynous” and the sparse grittiness of “Answering Machine.” The freshly-appended outtakes add little to the might of Let It Be itself, but a throwaway go at T Rex’s “20th Century Boy” raises a smile along with the previously unheard self-penned “Perfectly Lethal.” Until the Sire-era catalogue reappears via Rhino later this year, these four re-embodied Replacements records serve both devotees and late-comers with authoritative open-handed aplomb.

Visit: www.rhino.com

 

Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff [deluxe edition] / The Lucky Ones (Sub Pop)

Despite the treasure-trove of mini-albums in the indie-rock pantheon – like the Pixies’ Come On Pilgrim, Throwing Muses’ The Fat Skier and Eleventh Dream Day’s eponymous debut six-tracker – it’s doubtful that many could justify being expanded to such a gloriously over-long 2CD like Mudhoney’s new-revision of Superfuzz Bigmuff. Given that the Mark Arm’s quartet have long since forsaken any attempts to step away from the shadow of the six-track opening salvo and its sibling singles, fully-upgrading Superfuzz makes almost perfect sense, especially in Sub Pop’s twentieth anniversary year. The throbbing rhythm section of drummer Dan Peters and erstwhile bassist Matt Lukin and never sounded so tight as well as loose, Steve Turner’s searing riffs never felt so influential again and Arm’s Ozzy-meets-Iggy snarl has never been so convincing since. Pretty much all the Mudhoney you could even need is here; notably the terrific pogo-inciting proto-grunge classic “Touch Me I’m Sick,” the white-knuckle ride of “In ‘n’ Out Of Grace,” The Black Sabbath-like sludge of “Mudride,” a smouldering seductive cover of Sonic Youth’s “Halloween” and the sleazy “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More.” Aside from the main studio recordings, a heavy splattering of raw primordial demos and live tracks may add more than you possibly need to know, but as self-indulgent celebrations go this wins on the pure force of its comprehensiveness. The simultaneously-released new Mudhoney long-player – The Lucky Ones – obviously can’t compete in comparison but it hasn’t stopped the Arm and co. from trying with age-defying gusto. Cut in 3 or so days with Laura Veirs/Decemberists-producer Tucker Martine, The Lucky Ones has its fair share of sprightly moments – like the early-Stooges pounding of “I’m Now” and sing-along funky stomp of “What’s This Thing?” – amidst more formulaic garage-rock fare.

Visit: www.subpop.com

 

Sebadoh – Bubble And Scrape [deluxe edition] (Domino)

Whilst many of us less die-hard Sebadoh followers impatiently wait for the deluxe treatment of the band’s mother lode moment – 1994’s Bakesale – here comes a fleshed-out reheating of 1993’s Bubble And Scrape to bridge the gap between the messy early lo-fi years and the more enduring mid-period melodicism. Therefore, Bubble And Scrape has a unmistakeably restless and schizophrenic personality; with Lou Barlow considerably sharpening his melodic edge, Jason Loewenstein asserting himself more as a songwriter and the soon-to-leave Eric Gaffney dropping-in mind-boggling no-fidelity freak-outs. Consequently, Barlow’s wares shines brighter than before; with the beatific balladry of the seminal Sebadoh single “Soul And Fire”, the aching Bakesale-style chug-rock of “Two Years Two Days,” and the plaintive unplugged “Think (Let Tomorrow Bee).” Loewenstein paved the way for his future star turns on Bakesale and 1999’s The Sebadoh through the rustic dirge of “Happily Divided” and the stinging “Sister,” although he blows things somewhat with the ear-bleeding “Flood.” Gaffney’s contributions vary from the inspired racket of “Emma Get Wild” and The Minuteman-aping “No Way Out” to the almost-unlistenable “Bouquet For A Siren” and the demented “Telecosmic Alchemy.” The newly bolted-on attachments are equally beguiling and baffling; from a gorgeous acoustic demo of “Soul And Fire,” via a compelling coruscating cover of The Necros’ “Reject” and on to the dreadful hardcore bludgeoning of “Visibly Wasted II.” Like preceding Sebadoh reissues of Sebadoh III and The Freed Man this is a truly warts ‘n’ all affair, which is a rewarding blessing and a challenging curse in equal measures.

Visit: www.domincorecordco.com

 

Mogwai – Mogwai Young Team [deluxe edition] (Chemikal Underground)

Like Mudhoney, Mogwai’s career has long been dwarfed by a first album that defined ensuing proceedings rather too early and too precisely. But unlike Mudhoney, Mogwai’s creative inertia since the originally release of Mogwai Young Team in 1997 is more down to laurel-resting arrogance and the distractions of self-made controversies (like launching the “Blur: are shite” T-shirt range) than copycat usurping and the grunge-bubble bursting. Consequently, we do need a reminder of what made Mogwai appear so damn special to be begin with; which is where this extended version of Mogwai Young Team comes in. Although the Glasgow-dwelling group has been ripped-off ad infinitum over the last ten or so years, it’s crucial to remember how refreshing and well-crafted the calculated amalgam of the Stuart Braithwaite and compadres’ influences coalesced into a satisfying and diverse collection of largely wordless pieces. The quiet/VERY LOUD-lurch of “Like Herod” still sounds more terrifying than Sonic Youth’s most discordant moments; the dreamy drifting of The Durutti Column-indebted “Tracy” continues to hold spine-tingling magic; the elegiac piano-led “A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters” and “Radar Maker” boast a subtly that’s been lost in more recent Mogwai wares; the spoken-word guest spot from Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat on “R U Still Into It” dispels accusations of aloofness with warming naked-humanity; the layered-discordance of the My Bloody Valentine vs. Slint “Katrien” opened-up a subliminal transatlantic sonic worm-hole; and the epic majesty of “Mogwai Fear Satan” is post-rock at its most melodic, evocative and transcendental. The second disc of miscellaneous period matter, complements rather competes with the main event, with highlights including the previously unreleased “Young Face Gone Wrong,” the prowling percussive “I Can’t Remember,” a predictable but pretty cover of Spacemen 3’s “Honey,” and breathtaking louder-than-bombs live incarnations of “Katrien” and “Mogwai Fear Satan.” You can now confidently cast aside much of what Mogwai have released since – bar the likes of 1999’s succinctly-titled EP and 2006’s Zidane soundtrack – and bury your ears in the chore-less otherworldly enchantment of the reinvigorated Mogwai Young Team.

Visit: www.mogwai.co.uk