The fifth annual Record Store Day is almost upon us, and I await it with equal parts excitement and disdain. I’m thrilled that people will descend upon my favorite shopping establishments in droves. I’m happy that some artists and labels have come up with interesting exclusives for the day. I’m particularly excited for the 20% off vinyl discount at Newbury Comics. But for all of the positives, RSD is hardly above reproach. Many of the exclusives are downright lazy, slapping a new sleeve on old songs and writing “limited edition” in all caps on the front. While some of the exclusives are legitimately hard to find (in part because eBay resellers get up earlier than you do), most are still floating around in May. Unfortunately, without any day-of discounts, you’ll have to choke down an inflated price tag for a “limited” run of vinyl that would more than suffice for the majority of indie rock bands. Waiting would, however, allow you some much-needed elbow room for browsing, which is in short supply during the zoo of Record Store Day.
As much as I hate helping out other shoppers on Record Store Day—it’s just not the same experience if you don’t growl “I saw it first” at a timid fifteen-year-old before he keys your car in retribution—I have sifted through the towering list of exclusives to provide you this handy guide.
Buy: Mclusky’s Do Dallas LP: If I had a stitch of honor, I’d boycott this release in lieu of singer Andy Falkous’s comment on Twitter that Too Pure hadn’t even mentioned the tenth-anniversary vinyl reissue of Mclusky’s 2002 opus to him, let alone consulted him for a jaded retrospective in the liner notes. An intern at Too Pure likely noticed that the original pressing, out of print for years, goes for $100 on eBay, and nudged their superiors. But I don’t have the moral fiber necessary to make a stand. I missed the boat on Do Dallas when it came out and have spent the past few years shouting along to “To Hell with Good Intentions” and “Day of the Deadringers” to make up for it.
Don’t Buy: The Clash’s London Calling 2012 7”: If you’re searching for the least essential single to purchase on Record Store Day, consider poking Joe Strummer’s corpse with a sharp stick until a cavity opens up to reveal a stack of this wholly unnecessary retread. Boasting a digital remastering job from Mick Jones—who assures me that it will sound better than ever on your analog turntable—on the a-side and an instrumental version on the flip, London Calling 2012 is an unrepentant cash-grab. It may be a test from Epic to see if Clash fans will actually look at what they’re purchasing, so let’s hope literacy triumphs over a misplaced Summer Olympics tie-in.
Buy: St. Vincent’s “Krokodil” b/w “Grot” 7” Wait a second—new songs? On Record Store Day? Annie Clark, you crazy for this one.
Don’t Buy: Jimmy Fallon’s “Tebowie” b/w “Reading Rainbow”: Without the presence of The Lonely Island or Flight of the Conchords, the void of joke-rock novelty vinyl has to be filled by late-night host Jimmy Fallon’s rock star impersonations. Nothing against Fallon’s mimicry of David Bowie or Jim Morrison, but would you want to hear a parody of “Ziggy Stardust” about the Tim Tebow / Peyton Manning saga a year from now? What about two months from now? If you need it to complete your late-night host vinyl collection (joining Conan O’Brien’s 7” and LP), fine, but you’re contractually obligated to buy Craig Ferguson’s forthcoming Teenage Fanclub tribute album.
Buy: Various Artists’ Bring Beer compilation LP: Gerard Cosloy of 12XU is the rare record label owner who recognizes the day’s deficiencies: “While the rest of the nation celebrates Record Store Day 2012 by fighting over White Denim picture discs and Lars Ulrich spoken word albums, let’s spare a thought for the stores that are largely shut out of the party…and in one prominent case, has hosted far superior parties several times a week. Specifically, Austin’s Trailer Space, where proprietor Spot Long hosts countless free, all-ages shows in a decidedly R-rated environment.” While I would gladly purchase a Joel R. L. Phelps flexi disc box set from 12XU on RSD, Bring Beer is a welcome alternative, a compilation of 12XU artists and Austin bands. Here’s the kicker: the proceeds from Bring Beer actually go to Trailer Space, an independent store that isn’t large enough (Reckless, Amoeba, Newbury Comics) to qualify for many of the exclusives I’ve mentioned. If you don’t find Bring Beer at your local store, you can order it from 12XU along with a warehouse find copy of Phelps’s superlative Blackbird.
Don’t Buy: Pelican’s Australasia: The description for this release says “available [on vinyl] for the first time on Hydra Head since the album‘s 2003 release,” which isn’t remotely true. Not only did Hydra Head milk Australasia for four different pressings in 2004, Interloper followed it up with three more in 2006 and 2008 and Viva Hate included it in their Wooden Box collection in 2010. Play & Record highlighted one of those Interloper pressings in a recent post, and I’d rather have that one than this straight reissue (if I didn’t already own a Hydra Head original). Unless you’ve somehow managed not to score a copy of the record since it came out, pass on completing the set. Given the pressing history of Australasia, you need to stop the bleeding before Hydra Head drains your savings account.
Buy Unrest’s Perfect Teeth 7” box set: Included on the list of Record Store Day exclusives despite being available for pre-order from TeenBeat, this reissue of Unrest’s 1993 classic is worth picking up in either avenue. Finding common ground between the energetic pop of “Cath Carroll” and “Make Out Club” and the down-tempo meditations of “Breather XOXO” and “Angel I’ll Walk You Home,” Perfect Teeth is a precise achievement. This reissue is equally impressive: six seven-inch singles (five on colored vinyl) and a 24-page booklet in an Independent Project Press box. Sadly, unlike the similarly minded Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde singles box set, Perfect Teeth won’t say, “Oh, shit!” when you open it.
Don’t Buy: Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Stadium Arcadium: The greatest joke of them all? “On April 14, 2012, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and to commemorate this historic event, this classic deluxe box set of the band’s first number one album will be specially priced for Record Store Day.” Let me translate that press-gasm: “Record stores are tired of having this behemoth of a box set sit on their shelves, so we’ve allowed them to mark it down enough that someone might actually buy it, even though it’s not Blood Sugar Sex Magic or Californication. But it’s not just a regular markdown, it’s for Record Store Day. Please buy it. Please?” They should have just quoted Rolling Stone’s review of Stadium Arcadium, which anointed it the group’s most ambitious album (and later the second-best album of 2006 behind Bob Dylan, if you can believe it): “The guy [Kiedis] who once yelped, ‘I want to party on your pussy!’ whisper-sings a gentler, though not unrelated, proposition: ‘All I want is for you to be happy/And take this moment to make you my family.’” Why yes, Anthony, it truly does sound like you’ve maintained your edge 23 years into your career. Let me waste shelf space on that sentiment.
Buy: Mastodon’s split singles with The Flaming Lips and Feist: The reward of Mastodon covering the former’s “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” and the latter’s “Commotion” (and Feist returning the favor on Mastodon’s “Black Tongue”) will not be worth the $16 to $20 you’ll have to pony up, but think about the long-term investment. Next year Mastodon has split singles with Sharon Van Etten and Mercury Rev. The year after it’s a split LP with Godspeed You Black Emperor. The year after it’s a cassingle box set with Fine Young Cannibals. 2016 they forgo the one-off approach and use Record Store Day to welcome Nicky Minaj and Will Oldham to the group full-time.
Don’t Buy: Genesis’s Spot the Pigeon LP: In case you think every RSD exclusive is aimed at modern rock enthusiasts dabbling in the vinyl format (the people you’ll hear gasp “Whoa check out this copy of Dark Side of the Moon”) or Stereogum-reading hipsters aching for Animal Collective exclusives, every year you’ll find a few items like this reissue of an obscure 1977 Genesis EP aimed at the baby boomers who kept their vinyl collection instead of donating it to Goodwill or gifting it to their kids. Credit where credit’s due: Spot the Pigeon is legitimately hard to find, so this reissue is a greater service to fans than an audiophile pressing of Invisible Touch would be. The last release to feature guitarist Steve Hackett, Spot the Pigeon offers three Wind & Wuthering outtakes, including Hackett’s dexterous “Inside and Out.” None of that makes Spot the Pigeon a crime like London Calling 2012, but here’s why you don’t buy it: Unless you’re a prog-rock obsessive, you’re better off sifting through dollar bins for Genesis’s ’70s output, which you can acquire in total for less than the price of this reissue, than grabbing a copy of this away from someone’s dad. What else does he have to look forward to? Grandkids?
Buy: Cursive’s Burst and Bloom LP: Spinning Cursive’s newest LP, I Am Gemini, made me yearn for their solid run of Domestica/Burst and Bloom/The Ugly Organ. Saddle Creek must have heard my thoughts, since they’ve repressed this 2001 EP on colored vinyl. Marking the debut of cellist Gretta Cohn and the emergence of Tim Kasher’s meta-awareness (which spiraled into self-parody after The Ugly Organ), Burst and Bloom holds up as well-constructed turn-of-the-millennium indie rock / emo, especially post-intro “Sink to the Beat” and “Tall Tales, Telltales.”
Don’t Buy: Minus the Bear’s “Your Private Sky” b/w “South Side Life”: Given the recent reissues of Minus the Bear’s first two releases (This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic EP and Highly Refined Pirates LP), your money would be better spent remembering those salad days, not collecting the scraps from the group’s 2010 nadir Omni. These songs were initially released as iTunes bonus tracks, and “Your Private Sky” could have made Omni based on quality, but again, that album stinks.
Buy: Music not associated with Record Store Day: Lost in this deluge of largely inessential exclusives are albums you should buy because you will enjoy them, not because you feel a completist duty to a favorite artist, suspect you can fetch three times the asking price on eBay, or want to cause personal pain to the shopper behind you. Go into your favorite store, ignore the swarms surrounding the above releases, and flip through the racks for records you actually want. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp, The Twilight Sad’s No One Can Ever Know, or The Life and Times’ No One Loves You Like I Do this year but haven’t grabbed them yet. Maybe you just read Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life and have some SST and Dischord classics on your list. Who knows, you’ll recognize an album a friend recommended you a few years back and buy it on a whim. These exclusives get people into record stores on April 21, but stopping with them would be a huge mistake.