For this edition of On the Stereo, we welcome my friend and fellow record collector Gerry Stumbaugh. Gerry’s worked at the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa for almost ten years now, and he’s hosted the Left of the Dial radio show on KRCB for eight years. His preferred format is 7”s, bless his heart, and while he pounded Negro Modelos and I macked down on some El Farolito, we hung out and listened to nothing but 7”s.
I have to warn you—this play-by-play goes on forever. Click after the jump at your own risk. We’re record nerds. Lots of swearing, too. Sorry, Dad.
Included are discussions of 7”s by Themes, Bikini Kill, the Gaslamp Killer, Ratatat, Built to Spill, Santogold, No Age, Spank Rock, Screeching Weasel and Navy of the Nice, along with tangential excursions into Mexican snack treats, the unusual breakfast diet of Mike Watt, and the follies of WCW Tag Team Wrestling.
THEMES – “I Can’t Make You Believe” b/w “It’s Not Hopeless To Survive”
Gabe: Should we play it in chronological order: I can’t make you believe it’s not hopeless to survive?
G: It makes a sentence, the two songs together. See: “I Can’t Make You Believe” “It’s Not Hopeless To Survive.”
S: I will say, I listened to their CD today, which has the acoustic version on it. It’s totally different, and it’s still really awesome. But this version is so much better.
G: “We tried to tell our children that killing’s not the answer, and Jesus is never coming back.” So bitchin’! And I love his vocals. What does he sound like?
S: A bear? No, not a bear.
G: He sounds like a villain in a Broadway show. He’s like the bad guy from Into the Woods.
S: Yeah, I need to see this fuckin’ band. I looked on their website today and they’re touring in October. I’ve never seen ‘em. I’ve met the dude, and. . . is it his wife? Or his girlfriend?
G: I don’t know. I’m not sure.
S: I mean, maybe I shouldn’t assume.
G: No, they gotta be boyfriend and girlfriend. You can’t go on tour together for that long without wanting to jump each other’s bones.
S: Did you see ‘em at the Petaluma Church?
G: Yeah, and they were super-creepy, and like, from hell. There’s these 7” songs, which are all peppy and happy, but live, they did all these no-rhythm, weird atmospheric things where the whole room was singing along. It was really cool.
S: This record label has a singles club, Miniature Record Club, and it’s $15 for four 7”s. So I signed up for it, not knowing any of the bands. But, you know, I like singles clubs.
G: I’m glad that labels are still absolutely financially foolish enough to do singles clubs.
S: It would be interesting to figure out a list of labels that have started singles clubs, because of the Sub Pop Singles Club, and then failed.
G: Wait – did Huggy Bear do one?
S: You mean Huggy Bear the band?
G: Oh, no. . . I mean Honey Bear.
S: That was Lance’s label. He didn’t do one, it just seemed like it ‘cause he did a fuckload of 7”s. Huggy Bear was like a British girl band.
G: The Bikini Kill B-side. Is anyone ever going to remember them for any other reason than being the side you don’t listen to on the Bikini Kill record? That’s not even a good Bikini Kill record. Oh, DUDE! We have to fuckin’ listen to that one Bikini Kill 7” that RULES! (Pulls down a Bikini Kill 7”). This fuckin’ record, have you ever heard this one?
S: I remember “Rebel Girl,” that was on Pussy Whipped. Is this like a newer version?
G: No, dude, these are the fuckin’ O.G.s!
S: I saw Mike Watt cover “Rebel Girl” once, it was awesome.
G: Really? He did “Rebel Girl”?
S: Mike Watt covered “Rebel Girl,” John Cale, and the Pop Group all in a row.
BIKINI KILL – “New Radio” b/w “Demirep”
G: I guess double-dutch rhymes were popular around this era. Aren’t there some on Whip-Smart too?
S: Yeah. . . there’s that song, “Double Dutch.” Is this a different version from Pussy Whipped?
G (to the record): Dude, shut up with the double-dutch rhymes already!
S: I don’t think I ever had this record.
G: You know what makes this record is Joan Jett on second guitar playing all that, like, “bnoow, wowww, bnoow wowww.”
S: Yeah. Well, from Bikini Kill, to me this sounds like a Slade record or something. I generally remember them as much more jagged than that.
G: And not being able to play the guitar very well? This is a good example, the beginning of “New Radio.” Do you hear that? That second chord Joan Jett plays? Their guitar player would just play one chord.
S: Yeah, that guy was not a great guitar player. But he was interesting to watch.
G: I saw him climb up the stage ladder at the Warfield once, opening for the Go-Go’s. It was very awkward. In between songs, he just climbed up the ladder. And then he climbed back down. And you were like, “Yay.”
S: Oh shit, I saw ‘em at the Warfield! With Sonic Youth! This “Rebel Girl” is a lot like Mike Watt’s version.
G: Leave it up to you to bring it back to Mike Watt somehow!
S: I was totally inspired the other day watching a YouTube video of Mike Watt cooking. Mike Watt apparently gets up at 4am every day and makes himself halibut and hot peppers and then goes canoeing in the San Pedro canal while the sun comes up with his shirt off. That’s how he starts his day.
G: I have no response to that. That is at the same time totally weird and also makes the most sense ever.
THE GASLAMP KILLER – Box Set
G: Hey, how’s it goin’? Is this on the wrong speed?
S: Is it on 45 or 33?
G: It’s on 45.
S: I bet it’s too fast. (Switches it to 33.) Uh. I don’t know!
G: This is like Ween, The Pod, where you can’t tell whether it’s 33 or 45. (Switches it back to 45.) This sounds moogy.
S: I bet they’re British.
G: They’re like British teenagers who just discovered Perry & Kingsley.
S: It’s soundtracky. There was a Slant 6 record where the entire second side was a soundtrack to a ficticious zombie film. It makes me think of this.
G: Dude, I think we do have it on the wrong speed.
S: Put it back on 33.
G: Okay. No, actually, fuck this side. (Flips the record, looking at the label.) It doesn’t say. Oh, “33rpm.” Oh well.
S: That song wasn’t great either way. Nice artwork on the sleeve.
G: Yeah, you know who it is? Shepard Fairey, the “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” guy.
G: It’s weird, Shepard Fairey went from running this novelty sticker idea to being an artist that we’re all supposed to take seriously.
S: I wonder what Andre the Giant would think of this record.
G: He would say, “Why is there a sick goat moaning in the background while a drummer plays?”
S: He would probably be so drunk that he wouldn’t even notice. He was notoriously one of the world’s biggest alcoholics.
G: I bet you he had to drink 12 beers just to get a buzz.
S: Did you ever see that magazine Modern Drunkard? There’s an article on him where his old tourmate buddies would talk about him drinking 17 bottles of wine in a night, and he’d blast through 12-packs on road trips. And he was French. This isn’t really going anywhere for me.
G: This is really repetitive. Oh, wait, now the beats get heavier. It’ll probably do this for two more minutes.
S: Here’s probably the best quote I ever heard about 7” singles. It was from one of those Superchunk collections, and in the liner notes, one of the things that Mac wrote was “To us, what appealed to us about a 7” is that you give it your best shot. What are you gonna fuckin’ play, in four minutes, that’s gonna wanna make someone play it over and over and over again?” And this—this is okay, I don’t mind it. But I’m not gonna wanna play it over and over and over a-fuckin’-gain. Know what I mean?
G: As in, it’s not worth the energy it takes to put it on the record player, and then three minutes later take it off the record player.
S: Right! That Themes record is so fuckin’ good.
RATATAT – “Shiller” b/w “Mahalo”
S: I’ve never heard this band, but already it makes me think of Dave Breedlove.
G: Ooh. Cinematic. Ooh. Analog synthesizer.
S: Is this like one of those balls-out rock bands, is that the deal? Or do I just have that impression from their artwork? If so, this is a departure.
G: If they are a Delta revivalist blues trio, then this is also a departure.
S: It’s funny the impression you can get about bands seeing their records, having not heard them.
G: Well, they have that lame-ass gold dragon record, with the tiger meowing at you on the cover.
S: That’s some straight-up Transformers font on the front there.
G: Although there is no Autobot or Decepticon battle happening in this music. Is this a fish?
S: It’s a fish and an ashtray.
G: And a scorpion, humping a vase?
S: Or a pineapple or something?
G: Okay. So we think the art sucks, we think the font sucks, and we think the music sucks.
S: I thought this was a rock band. Maybe this is just a big lead-in?
G: Oh, wait, I can see the texture of the grooves changing soon on the record. Yeah. This is their Bollywood wannabe intro, and soon we’ll get into their Youth of Today action.
S: This is some Anton Maiden shit. There’s gonna be some Midi vocals coming in, I can feel it.
G: How can this band have sold out Slim’s already?! Can there really be that many people who want to rock out. . . to this?
S: Have you heard their other records?
G: This is wussy compared to their other records. That Classics record was okay, but I got it around the same time as that Holy Fuck record, and the Holy Fuck record does the same thing but so much better. Fuck this. The other side is called “Mahalo.” Great. Hawaiian bullshit.
S: This does not meet Mac McCaughan’s criteria for a kick-ass 7”.
SANTOGOLD – “Les Artistes” b/w “Your Voice”
G: You’ve heard this, right?
S: Oh, you mean the poor man’s M.I.A.?
G: You know, when I first heard her, I was like, oh right, M.I.A. all over again. But then I heard the whole record, and it was more on an ‘80s Blondie tip. Like this song.
S: I also got that impression because in all her press photos, she’s got the big white glasses and the silver jacket. If somebody showed me a photo of her with the glasses and the jacket, and told me it was M.I.A., I’d be like, okay. This is a lot less hip-hoppy.
G: It’s as if the record industry said, “M.I.A. is really weird. Let’s find a girl who’s kind of like her but who can have a radio hit.”
S: Her voice sounds like Cyndi Lauper a little bit, do you hear that? But it’s kind of catchy, I like it. I don’t want to take it off.
G: (Flips the record.) Here’s the reaggae dub b-side. It blows.
S: I wish I’d brought my bootleg Amy Winehouse 7” over, it’s Amy Winehouse’s ska band!
G: I’ve heard of that! Is it good?
S: It’s fuckin’ great! This girl also sounds a little bit like Gwen Stefani, on that “Underneath it All” song, which is one of those guilty pleasure No Doubt songs of mine. (Gabe gives a strange look.) I have like three of ‘em.
G: I’m not just trying to be cool, but I totally do not have any pleasurable No Doubt songs at all, guilty or otherwise. I can’t stand the fuck out of ‘em.
S: Not even that one. . . “Feelin’ hella good! Gonna keep on dancin’!”
G: Oh, you mean, “whannh whannh, wha-wha, whannh whaanh, wha-wha”? No, although to be fair, if I’m gonna get all Long Beach guilty pleasure. . . as much as I hate their guts, I think “Santeria” by Sublime is a really great song.
VARIOUS PRODUCTION – “Sir” b/w “In This”
G: This record has a naked lady on the cover. In fact, it utilizes the hipster icons of wolves, tigers, birds, and adds the naked lady.
S: Who is this?
G: I don’t know! It looks like that Mary Anne Hobbs record, but I can’t tell. I think it’s on XL.
S: There’s no label on this shit. If you’re gonna do a release this low-key, why bother covering up her breasts? You know what I mean? There’s no label name, there’s no band name, there’s no nothin’.
G: It’s not like they’re ever gonna stock it at the Virgin Megastore.
S: I was in the Virgin Megastore about three years ago and they had some vinyl. They had, like, the new Coolio record.
G (eating Gansito Snack Cake): I would like to stop reviewing this record right now and begin reviewing Gansito Snack Cake from the Tarasco Market next to El Farolito.
S: It’s like a frozen Twinkie?
G: It’s a chocolate-covered cake filled with strawberry jelly and cream.
S (takes a bite): That’s nothin’ but hella good.
G: You can say that again.
S: This band is just sort of boring.
BUILT TO SPILL – “Don’t Try” b/w “The Source”
S: Oh, fuck yeah. I’m not going to either of those Perfect From Now On shows. It’s our wedding anniversary that week.
G: Rob Yovino’s trying to get me to go. Rob Yovino still claims that Built to Spill are the creators of the greatest drum beat in the entire universe.
S: Which one?
G: When the hi-hat kicks in during the second half of the chorus on “Kicked It In The Sun.” The whole, like, “We’re special. . . in other ways.”. . .
S: It’s an awesome transition, but I don’t know if it’s the best drum beat in the history of the universe.
G: He also claims that the next two greatest drum beats in the history of the universe are two separate fills on the song “Big,” by Jawbreaker. And I asked, “What drum fills are they?” And he was all, “You wouldn’t even recognize them.”
S: This is the man who claimed, when I met him, that the song “Brand New Love” by Sebadoh was the best song ever written. And I had the audacity to claim Superchunk’s version’s superiority. Which I still claim to this day.
G: Did he refute Superchunk’s version’s superiority?
S: These are both great songs, but I don’t know if it was necessary to put out a 7” of live versions of them.
G: They should put out a 7” of some of those covers they do live. Dude, remember that tour where they did all those Clash songs? “White Man in Hammersmith Palais!”
S: And “Police and Thieves!”
G: And they did “Straight to Hell!” I couldn’t believe it! So rad! And that was before Joe Strummer died.
S: Yeah, it was like, “We just love the Clash.”
G: It wasn’t like, “We’re gonna play some Johnny Cash and Ray Charles songs.”
S: Those guys must be so sick of people yelling for “Cortez the Killer.” Every time I’ve seen them since that Live record came out, I’ve heard that yelled more than most of their own songs.
G: Did you know that the first time Neil Young ever played “Cortez the Killer” live was at the Marshall Tavern, in Marin County?
S: No, I didn’t.
SPANK ROCK – Sweet Talk
G: This fuckin’ shit I am totally biased on already, it’s the greatest thing ever.
S: Do you have this on tape in your car?
G: Actually, I do have this on tape in my car. This whole album is so rad.
S: This guy’s got that album where his head’s sideways, and there’s shit next to it, right?
G: Yeah. It’s called Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo. (Begins singing along embarrassingly to the basslines.)
S: You know, this is a 7” that grabs you immediately. The intro: not too long.
G: I think people on cocaine, in Brooklyn, in a warehouse listen to this music.
S (flipping thorugh my records): Is this James Taylor?
G: Hell no! What do you take me for?! This is Rick Byars, featuring Nina Gerber and Kate Wolf and Blair Hardman.
S: But from here, do you know the James Taylor record it looks like? (Continues flipping through my records.)
S (discovers the Master P record, Ghetto Postage): GHETTO POSTAGE?!?!!!
G: Oh, dammit, you found it! I was going to give you that for Christmas!
G: I can’t believe you found it! It was going to be the best Christmas present ever!
S: I’ll just drink more and forget that I found it.
G: How long have we been dragging out the Ghetto Postage joke?! I had no idea that it even existed on vinyl. . .
S: I had even looked for it a few times!
G: Remember when we saw that dude who was wearing the Ghetto Postage T-shirt?
S: And then I went on eBay and found some guy selling Ghetto Postage shirts—and mousepads!
G: Have you ever listened to Ghetto Postage?
G: Me neither. I think in honor of this occasion, we should break the rule of only listening to 7”s and listen to Ghetto Postage.
MASTER P – Ghetto Postage
S: Here’s how dated Ghetto Postage is: the postage on the front is 33 cents. That’s 9 cents ago.
G: He’s opening his album with a version of the Star-Spangled Banner, about the cops arresting his homies. I want him to start rapping about sending stuff in the mail.
S: Master P, along with the No Limit Soldiers, briefly held the WCW World Tag Team title.
G: Are you serious?
S: Yeah, he was a wrestler for a while. This was around the same time David Arquette became a world champion, and right before WCW went out of business. . . because they were doing things like making David Arquette and Master P wrestling champions.
G: (rapping): “Manila envelopes on the scale, ‘bout that! Taking ‘em and waiting in line, ‘bout that! Is there anything fragile or hazardous, ‘bout that! Don’t need no insurance or tracking, ‘bout that!”
S: Was Master P from the Bay Area?
G: I have a friend who has the Master P doll, and when you pull the string on the back, it makes him say, “Uuuuhhhhhnnnnhhhh!”
S: That’s hilarious.
G: And even though this Master P album is not that great, we still salute it on this day, because it is called Ghetto Postage.
NAVY OF THE NICE – S/T
S: Whoah, that sounded like Logan Whitehurst for a second.
G: I had it on the wrong speed.
S: This sounds like that, um, Desolation, Ohio, or. . .
G: Songs: Ohia?
S: No, not Songs: Ohia. You played a show with them, I think, in Eureka or something. Desperation Idaho, or something.
G: Defiance, Ohio!
S: Yeah. It sounds like the Mountain Goats too, his voice does.
G: There’s a banjo, and there’s a low voice and a high voice.
S: This was probably created somewhere similar to the Boogie Room.
G: It’s pretty lo-fi. I kinda like that the vocals is mixed low, and I usually don’t like that.
S: Really? What about Neutral Milk Hotel?
G: The vocals are mixed high in Neutral Milk Hotel! Except, like, “Holland 1945.”
S: I just think of that song a lot. Who is this? I’m going to look now.
G: I think you might be surprised when you find out who this is. It’s Nick Jackson!
S: I am surprised! Is he singing? Really?
G: Yeah, he’s playing all the instruments! This was his secret 7” that he didn’t tell anyone about, and then I came home one day and it was in my mailbox.
S: Dude! Why didn’t he fuckin’ send me one? I’m orderin’ it.
G: Okay, now here’s the test: Knowing that it’s Nick Jackson, do you like it more, or are you able to still be objective about it?
S: I liked it already. I mean, the first things that I heard in it were Mountain Goats, Defiance Ohio, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Guided By Voices. Those are all bands I like. I don’t know if I can approve of the bird thing, though.
G: Was it ruined by the naked lady bird record?
S: I think it was, actually.
G: I think the last song on this record is my favorite. (Cues up song.)
S: That’s the first thing he said that sounded like Nick Jackson, that little voice right there.
G: Yeah, what’d he say? (Cues up beginning of song again.) “It’s a lot?”
S: “It’s a lot,” or “Fix the lock,” or. . .
G (cues up beginning of song again): “Mix-a-Lot.”
S: Wow, this is really good. I need to get back in touch with this motherfucker.
G: Does he say. . .
S: “Staring drunk out the window.”
G: If I lived where he lived, staring drunk out the window would be a really entertaining experience. He lives on Telegraph across from Fondue Freds. There’s all kinds of crazy shit going on on that block.
S: This may be the only 7” released by someone who was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine.
NO AGE – Eraser
S: For about half a second, I thought this was the Clash.
G: I’m actually totally into this. I thought this band was gonna be some noise band, but they actually have tunes. I thought they’d be like the Liars or something, or Lightning Bolt.
S: I think of this band as a more palpable Times New Viking, at least on record.
G: Do you mean “palpable” or “palatable”?
S: Ah. “Palatable.” You are correct.
G: This almost sounds like the Doobie Brothers right here. (sings) “Takin’ it to the streets!”
S: See, I don’t hear the Doobie Brothers in this. (Looks inside the sleeve, sees printing.) This kinda pisses me off, though.
G: The printing on the inside?
S: I can’t look at it without fucking up my cover! There’s a Neil Young record, On the Beach, that’s like that. This one, I guess, is fine. It’s just a waste.
G: They could have saved themselves a lot of money if they didn’t print on the inside of the record. However, we have now talked about it for 45 seconds, and it is lodged in our brains that there is something unique about the No Age 7”.
S: That’s true.
G: It’s like an annoying radio jingle that you get stuck in your head, that you hate, but there it is, it’s in your head. (sings) “Wild birds unlimited, we bring people and nature together.” (Flips the record.)
S: These are probably just covers of their friends’ bands.
G: This is a cover of the Nerves. Peter Case! He was in the Plimsouls.
S: Is that the band? I always get him confused with Chuck Prophet, ‘cause he was in Green on Red.
G: I bet you Chuck Prophet could fuckin’ kick Peter Case’s ass.
S: Yeah. Peter Case’s last record was weak.
G: So is this cover song.
S: But No Age, still, I will say, is a good band.
G: Uuugghh! The white level of the Gelatina Mexicana is totally gross!
SCREECHING WEASEL – You Broke My Fucking Heart
G: Alright, here it is. Screeching Weasel, You Broke My Fucking Heart. What was the superlative comment you made about this?
S: Okay, these four songs, together, Side A and Side B, as a release, are the best fucking four-song combo in a row Screeching Weasel ever did.
G: That’s a lot more complicated than your original assertion.
S: Okay: This is the best Screeching Weasel record.
G: See, that’s just not true. That can’t be true! Okay, My Brain Hurts, or Anthem For a New Tomorrow, or. . .
S: Wiggle. . .
G: No, Wiggle sucks. Boogadaboogadaboogada is better than this.
S: Boogadaboogadaboogada is good, but there’s some parts of that you don’t need to hear again. I mean, “Mad at the Paperboy”?
G: There’s even songs on My Brain Hurts you don’t need to hear again, like “Fathead.”
S: But these could be the four best songs off of one of those records.
G: I think I know what you’re sayin’. This is totally a perfect 7”.
S: That’s it, that’s all you got of “American Dream,” it was perfect. And here’s the bouncy one.
G: No, actually, there is a better Screeching Weasel 7” than this.
G: There is! Pervo-Devo, which has “I Wanna Be A Homosexual,” backed with “I Fall To Pieces,” and it came with a zine, Teen Punks In Heat. And then that Punkhouse 7” was really good too.
S: Punkhouse is decent. “I Fall To Pieces”—awesome, but you know, also sort of a, you know, it’s a joke.
(Liz walks in)
G: Hey Liz, what’s the best Screeching Weasel record?
L: The one with the guy on the front, and it says Screeching Weasel on it. And it has green writing, and it has a dog or something.
L: That one there. Boogadaboogadaboogada.
(At this point, talk devolves into the forgotten zine Alphabet Threat, the feud between Los Huevos and the Yah Mos, and the politics of mid-’90s thanks lists. . . )
Tags: 7"s, Andre the Giant, Bikini Kill, Built to Spill, Gaslamp Killer, Gerry Stumbaugh, Ghetto Postage, Master P, Mike Watt, Nick Jackson, No Age, Pro Wrestling, Ratatat, Record Reviews, Rob Yovino, Santogold, Screeching Weasel, Spank Rock, The Gr'ups, Themes