Thursday, 23 August 2012

My Weirdest Vinyl

My Weirdest Vinyl

Like most music wankers, I have a vinyl collection. I have always loved vinyl records, and used to sit listening to my parents’ Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd albums in the spare room as a kid. My own collection started with Record Store Day last year, where I couldn’t help but pick up a few pieces such as King of Limbs and the Grinderman ‘EVIL’ Single. 18 months later and I have a pretty big collection, having received donations from my family and bought that old record player from my mum.

However, this list isn’t about my best records. This is about ones that I have either found or bought simply because they are pretty weird things. Some of these albums shouldn’t exist, but the world is a better place for them.

KLARK KENT - Klark Kent

You can't find a photo of this guy without him looking like he is defying gravity through the power of drugs.

The Story

I got this from an amazing second hand book/record store in Heidelberg while out there for a conference. I bought this for two reasons:
  1. The disc is green and see through (like kryptonite...geddit?!)
  2. The blurb on the back (more on that later).
It turns out that ‘Klark Kent’ was a solo pseudonym of Stewart Copeland, before he went onto be the drummer of the Police. After listening to it, I wasn’t left wondering why his solo career failed.

The Cover

The cover is plain except for the fact that it is made to look like a big letter ‘K’. The real magic comes on the back. Here’s some excerpts for you:
‘The Navajos themselves insist that he is a “visitor from outer space,” having arrived by one of the flying saucers so saucily described in Chariot of the Gods. The claim is taken seriously, however, by only a few right-wing religious groups.’
‘...the beautiful Eponymous triplets, stricken into sadness after he had rejected their sexual advances, threw themselves, holding hands, from the floor of the Mobil Oil building, New York City, singing ‘Ave Maria” until microsceconds before splashing themselves on a lonely square of forty-second street below.’
‘His music, according to Rolling Stone, is both “uniquely original” and “sexually electric”. Playing four instruments at one time, and providing his own hoarse voice accompaniment, he has caused audiences in the Isle of Man, East Hendred, St John’s Wood, Islington and Fewcott (near Bicester) to faint, ejaculate, urinate, defecate and fornicate simultaneously.’
More albums need to be like this.

Musical Content

Unfortunately that cover description writes cheques that the music itself cannot cash. It’s pretty much self-indulgent schlock. This is what happens when you let drummers believe they can be real musicians. It’s not bad, it’s just boring.

My Ratings

Style: 5/5
Music: 2/5
Dark Past: 5/5

Haiku Review

Bombastic boasting
Unsupported by talent.
Go back to the snare

MUSIC TO LURE PIGEONS BY - The Night Pastor and Seven Friends

The Story

I bought this off eBay for about £10 after reading about it on a Cracked article entitled ‘The 4 Most Baffling Trends in Old-Timey Album Covers’. If you don’t want to read that, it was featured because there’s a trend from about the 50‘s through to the 70‘s to make themed albums for every occasion possible. This album’s concept is the awful, unavoidable nadir of that trend. I couldn’t help but seek this album out and hear for myself.

The Cover

The title is why I actually bought the record, but there are a few other treasures amongst the otherwise simplistic stylings. The back tells the story of the ‘Night Pastor program’, where Father Robert Owens set up a small ministry for ‘the Night People’ of Chicago - a sort of Christian Nightline. Read that link back there. Go on...I will wait...

‘Offbeat Ministry’. Yeah. This guy was AWESOME.

Beyond that eerie coincidence, the back is mostly taken up with the story of each piece and the musicians that play it, bringing us onto...

Musical Content

The album itself is actually really fun. It’s a band of Father Owen (piano) and members of his congregation - people from club and bar bands across Chicago. There’s some Duke Ellington bebop and more traditional piano solos from the priest. Not sure how good it would be for luring pigeons, though. Unfortunately there aren't any versions on youtube, so I cant give you an example!

My Ratings

Style: 4/5
Music: 4/5
Pigeon Luring Ability: 2/5

Haiku Review

Bought just for the lols
An unexpected story
Why do the birds flee?


Apparently this cover is rare, so here's a webcam photo, moustache included.

The Story

I got this from the charity shop in Cannon Park. They had a box of records out the front, which is basically a hipster honey trap. I flicked through the requisite Perry Cuomo albums (which I of course already own) but stopped at this one. This was something I had to own, at a price I couldn’t refuse (£1.25, what a steal!).

The Cover

The cover features a rather pretty topless woman who seems confused by the function of wicker screens. Actually, what function do wicker screens have? They are transparent...I...I just don’t understand. The attention to detail in this is quite nice though; I expecally like the bottle of scotch in the background.

The reverse consists of a very wordy tract extolling the virtues of dirty folk songs. If you read it you might come out thinking that it is your privilege, nay DUTY, to be able to exercise the freedom of listening to these songs. If this is freedom, I am moving to North Korea. Each of the tracks also has a brief description - here’s an example for you:
No. 3 Chris Colombo - Another famous ballad, this presents an interesting explanation of how Christopher Columbus managed to get Queen Isabella to put her faith in his abilities of discovery.
Ooh Matron

Musical Content

You kind of prepare yourself for some naive ‘Carry On’ innuendo when you start playing, and then it just blindsides you with a very nice folksy guitar riff, followed by blunt racism. The first track could best be summed up as the Fleet Foxes singing about Persian maidens who are quite happy to get gang-fucked by a bunch of strangers, but draws the line at camels and children.
It’s  generally quite witty and funny, and well performed, just about as tasteful as Jim Davidson doing a running commentary of the Tottenham Riots. I can't find any of these specifically online, but here's one from Volume 3 of the same series.

My Ratings

Style: 1/5
Music: 3/5
Gender Politics: set back 20 years

Haiku Review

Persian gang rape songs
Set to pretty folk guitar.
I fear volume two.

TABU - Kombi and PIATA PROSTYTUCJA - Joanna Makabresku

The Story

I have merged these two, because they share the same story. I went to a conference in Poland, which was held at a weird castle in a town so remote that the local newspaper featured a story entitled ‘International Visitors to Putulsk!’. On the way back I left a bit of time so I could explore Warsaw before my flight. On the way from the bus station to the city centre, I spotted a sign that said ‘Hey Joe Records’ pointing down a sketchy looking alleyway. Feeling that this seemed legit, I followed the sign and saw an awesome shop where there were records piled right up into the window. I didn’t have a camera with me, so I shall have to refer you to flickr. ‘GOLDMINE!’ I thought. Then I entered the shop and realised that the window display was the shop. It was less than a meter wide, with records down one side, the window on the other, and a rather bemused looking customer right in front of me wondering how we would pass each other.

I asked the shopkeeper if he could recommend anything. He told me to just have a browse, because he was popping out, and would help me when he got back. Then he left me alone in the shop. I found these two records, which he described as ‘Shit 80s Pop’ (Kombi) and ‘great, kind of like Joy Division’ (Joanna Makabresku). It was a good day, as I also managed to later buy a fridge magnet that featured a drawing of the second prime minister of the Polish Republic dressed as a hipster.

The Covers

The band Kombi looks a bit two extras from a turkish ripoff of GI Joe, joined by Moby’s 80’s alter-ego. The back features some drawings that I would describe, but looking at them for too long made blood come out of my nose and ears, so I stopped.
Joanna Makabresku features a bunch of different black and white drawings, some similar to those on Kombi. Some of them have a bit of a Nazi-ish look to them, particularly the front cover, which makes me worry that I am listening to Polish racism and not realising it.

Musical Content

Kombi sounds a lot like Phil Collins, and should be judged accordingly. What is interesting is that Cold War Poland was only about 3 years behind the trends of Western music, which probably says a lot about the stagnation that Phil Collins causes wherever he goes.

Joanna Makabresku sounds like a band trying to subvert and transcend genres while under the effects of all the chemicals under the sink, recorded on someone’s dictaphone. I wouldn’t say that it’s the opposite of Joy Division, unless by ‘like Joy Division’ you mean ‘listenable’. It’s from almost exactly the same year as the other album, which could speak to some deep schism in the Polish national consciousness at the time, or it could just mean that different cultures aren’t monolithic beasts that exist for British and American pundits to pigeonhole. The most listenable track is below. If you hyperventilate first, some of the album is quite good.

My Ratings

Style: 3/5
Music: 3/5
Polishness: 5/5

Haiku Review:

Polish Shop Owner:
“Sounds like Joy Division.”
What a filthy lie

Friday, 17 August 2012

2011's albums you may have missed

There are many things that I dislike a disproportionate amount. Among them, is end of year "best of" lists. Why are they always done in December or January? Anything released near the start of the year might be forgotten about, anything released near the ends of the year hasn't had enough time to have a proper opinion formed about it. Plus there are always, every year, albums that just fly under your radar that you don't hear about until halfway through the next year. So with that in mind, I'd like to offer you some albums from 2011 that you might have missed. For each one, you'll find a Spotify play button ('cause they're pretty nifty) and a youtube link to the same song from the album. If you don't want to read and just want to listen, here's a spotify playlist of the whole lot. With any luck, you'll be able to find something you enjoy that passed you by. I've tried to avoid the obvious releases that I think most people will have heard or that seemed to receive a lot of hype (e.g. Bon Iver, Low, The Antlers etc) but feel free to suggest anything you think I've overlooked in the comments.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

A Summer Playlist

Hey Offbeatles. Hope you're all having a great summer. Today we're going to be talking about video games. This post is primarily aimed at people who have merely dabbled in the rather daunting world of computer games, or those want to play something a little more thoughtful than the latest Call of Duty clone this summer. 

So without further ado.


Audiosurf is a game about riding a neon spaceship along a racetrack generated by a song of your choice. It is about as amazing as it sounds. It is probably best described as guitar hero on acid, without the stupid plastic guitar. It can build a track using any mp3 file, so if you've ever hoped in vain that guitar hero included Soviet Funk as a genre, this is the game for you. 

The game can be picked up on Steam or on the official website, and there is even a free demo available. 

Who should play it: People who wish they had synaesthesia.
How to get it: Steam, Audiosurf website.


VVVVVV is a game all about exploration, the sad feeling of isolation, and avoiding flying stop signs by walking on ceilings. It's a love letter to old platformers, and somehow manages to create a world that feels bigger than most big budget RPGs. The games real strength is in its fantastic soundtrack, an 8-bit homage to the golden age of 2D platforming (which can be found in its entirety here: Souleye – Pppppp)

This game is not for everyone, the art style is very archaic and the story is pretty bare bones, but for those who invest enough time in it, and can get over the sometimes frustrating puzzles and obstacles, I promise you, you won't regret it.

Who should play it: People who are constantly plagued by nostalgia.
How to get it: Steam.


Fez is a platformer about a boy who is given a magic hat by a cube shaped super being. Oh yes, and the hat allows you to perceive the mysterious 3rd dimension. It's hardly super original in its premise and mechanics, but you're unlikely to find a modern game that is more visually engrossing, and downright trippy. With the box-art designed by Bryan Lee O'Malley, and music by the ever amazing Disasterpeace, this is definitely worth picking up if you have an xbox to play it on.

Who should play it: Nerds who like geometry.
How to get it: XBLA.

The Binding of Isaac

What can I say about this game? Brought to you by the minds behind Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac is a rogue-like, the same genre as Zelda, before it went 3D. In the opening scene of the game, Isaac's mother hears the voice of God, telling her to lock her son in the basement as punishment for his sins. Yep. The main gameplay mechanic is killing monsters in randomly generated dungeons using your tears. Death is permanent is this nightmarishly difficult, biblically inspired, dungeon crawler. A game of BOI can therefore take from 30 seconds to half an hour, and anywhere in between. If you are going to try one game on this list, it should be this one, I promise, you won't have experienced anything similar.

Who should play it: People who "enjoy dark humour".
How to get it: Steam.

Have a great summer you guys, see you on the other side. xx