Archive for April, 2011

The Vaccines “What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?” LP

Posted in Music Reviews on April 6, 2011 by Billy Shears

So, aside from the fact that the return of my Rega turntable amounted to something bordering farce (see story below) there was one nice sidebar to the story: the first LP back played on it was What Did You Expect From The Vaccines.

As anyone who has been reading NME for the last 6 months or so knows, The Vaccines are the next band you love.

Thing about carrying that burden is, most groups aren’t up to it.

Good news is this: neither are The Vaccines. They could care less about such accolades. Don’t want them. The result is just this – an excellent record.

Start with the title – What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? The band knows how silly all this pre-hysteria is, and they’ve rolled with it, and rolled their eyes to it.

Here is the LP, they say. What did you expect? Which gives them a nice out. If it’s great, it’s great. If not, shame on you for buying into the publicity. What did you expect?

Well, what you get is more of the exact same as The Vaccines have dished out prior.

If not familiar with the band, page down a bit and read the review of the “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” single, as the album mostly follows its forumla: The Jesus & Mary Chain, filtered through the Ramones, with a few slower tunes here and there, all overproduced by Phil Spector.

Side one is flawless. Kicks off smartly with “Wreckin’ Bar.” So rather than make a new fan wait for it, The Vaccines basically give you the main course first. And why the fuck not?

And while maybe never topping it, at least 2 cuts are its equal – the second track “If You Wanna,” and the manic “Norgaard” (maybe my favorite cut on the record, in fact.) “Wet Suit” and “Blow It Up,” are very nearly, if not at, that same quality level.

This accounts for all but one of the cuts on side one, and “Lack of Understanding,” the hold-out, is really better than most anything else on any other guitar band from England’s recent outpourings.

Side two seems to lose a little energy, but is more of the same – it does start out with my least favorite cut (probably) in “Post Break-up Sex.” It’s not that bad, but having heard it before, and not being impressed with it originally, nothing much has changed my opinion. It’s kind of a slower, more deliberate tune, as is its successor “Under My Thumb.” Both are lacking the joie de vivre  that most of the other cuts contain – they are still very Spector, but a Ramoneless Spector.

Redeemed by the really nice slow grower, the “Leader of the Pack”-like mid-tempo anthem “All in White,” and the chipper bounceback “Wolf Pack” (and most every other cut on the record though) these two aforementioned songs are the forgivable kind of failures.

Listen, I feel as stupid as anyone about raving about this record, maybe it’s not that good, and maybe I’m really bored with most music these days (I am) but The Vaccines have already tipped their hand at what they sound like, and what kind of record they could make if they wanted to. And they went out and did it.

It is no more and no less than what “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” promised. What was expected, as it turns out, was what was delivered.

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Fleeced: Meggy & Goldblum “Do Work”

Posted in Misc on April 6, 2011 by Billy Shears

So I’ve been in a rather lousy mood for a few weeks; on top of things being a general pain in the ass as of late, my Rega turntable seemingly shot craps, so I took it into an unnamed hi fi den in Chicago to get a diagnosis.

This shop sits in a rather lucrative spot; they are one of the only places in the city that sells hi-fi such as Rega, let alone repairs it, and it was where I’d bought mine, etc, so I had few other options. The only thing I could think of when I realized my turntable needed repair was when my Dad used to advise me against buying a VW because of the need for repairs, and how (back in the 80s) alot of mechanics around central Illinois didn’t service them. Which is the problem when buying something like a Rega turntable. I should listen to my Dad more.

To be fair, as a precursor, I’ll say that I’ve generally had good experiences in there before, but at times, the Deepak Chopra-like turntable gurus are a bit hard to handle.

TRIP ONE: From the outset, not only was a diagnosis not forthcoming, but the general maliase with which I was told I’d need to leave the player there in order for the “part” to come in (after I was told two days prior over the phone that they had it) was rather unnerving. But I had little to no choice. Leave it there I did.

TRIP TWO: So I return one week later (queue up last Saturday) and go in, only to be fleeced by what I can safely say is the most non-threatening duo since Ace & Gary. Allow me to elaborate.

The first half of the duo calmy explained to me in the hushed whispers that only the trained hi fi salesman and his cronies can actually hear, how the new cartridge they installed, along with new belt, made the player sound “brand new.”

Hmmm. To me, never a good sign. Telling the customer how good it sounds, is a classic Jedi mind trick lead in. It seems to chide: “what you hear will be NO different than before, but trust us, it SOUNDS better.”

"Sell You a Rega?"

Imagine, if you will, a more out of shape and worse complexed Meggy from This is England ’86, and this was who I was dealing with. His partner in crime looked like Jeff Goldblum, with Morrissey’s haircut, except totally silver.

The pair both communicated in mumurs (complete with Cheshire cat fixed grins) that amounted to a more aloof and less aggressive (if can be imagined) Kip from Napoleon Dynamite.

"Upgrade that cable?"

Meggy raved about this and that, Goldblum agreed. I think I may have been having an asthma attack. But undaunted, they plodded ahead with their pitch.

Before I knew it, not only was I down for a new cartridge (I had this in the budget) but also a new belt (not in budget, but not a big deal) and here’s the kicker – new speaker/amp wire. Which is expensive. Even more expensive when Meggy does not tell you it costs an additional $50 to put banana ends on said wire.

When I left, I had to take a second to gather my thoughts and process what had just happened: The complete and total opposite of savvy salesmen had just talked me into spending nearly double what I had planned on spending.

In a way, the only thought going through my mind should be, to quote Irwin Fletcher ,”God I admire you.”

That is, truly, “how it’s done.”

Hat tip, Meggy and Goldblum. Round One & Two go to you. There will be no Round Three. I am outgunned.