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The Haul: Fucked Up, The Smiths, and Obits

It’s not the mammoth Record Store Day purchase that unnerves me with regard to my purchasing control, since I’d budgeted that one. It’s the return trip to Newbury Comics to pick up a few of the stragglers that had grown on me since the big event that makes me worry about whether this meme is a document of an uncontrollable addiction. I’d only planned to pick up the Fucked Up EP and the Obits LP, but finding that Smiths single suckered me into another buy. Just one more hit!

64. Fucked Up – Year of the Pig – Matador, 2008 – $10

Fucked Up's Year of the Pig

I doubt I’d given Fucked Up more than a dismissive skim before heading out to Seattle in March to interview the members of Juno. Both Arlie Carstens and Gabe Carter raved about the group (I can’t remember if Jason Guyer or Greg Ferguson did, so I’ll have to consult the tape), which prompted Jon to pick up a CD copy of their 2006 album Hidden World at Jive Time Records (from a former member of the band, no less). Damian Abraham’s (Pink Eyes) vocals immediately turned me off, all gruff shouting without enough melody, and I assumed that they weren’t for me. That is, of course, until I found out they had an eighteen-minute-long song.

“Year of the Pig” is a loose, pulsing epic, switching between soothing female vocals and Abraham’s guttural incantations. Piano, strings, and bongos all make appearances, but the song keeps pushing forward, even when it’s coming apart at the seams. Matador has released three different single edits for the song, which could sound like drastically different songs depending on the tempo for that four-minute chunk, but I’d rather stick with the eighteen-minute version. The flip is “The Black Hats,” a more traditional, guitar-heavy punk rock song.

I’ve since gotten into their 2008 LP The Chemistry of Common Life, or at least “Son the Father,” “Black Albino Bones,” and the title track. I was about to buy it at Newbury Comics when I’d noticed that it had jumped from $17.99 to $27.99. I’m sure I’ll pick it up sometime this year, but not at that price.

65. The Smiths – “The Headmaster Ritual” b/w “Oscillate Wildly” – Sire, 2009 – $7

The Smiths' The Headmaster Ritual single

Call me a sucker for limited edition wares, but when I found this Record Store Day exclusive a few weeks after the big event, I quickly snapped it up. This single sold out at the Newbury Street location I visited on Record Store Day within the first ten minutes, so I’m a bit amazed that copies were floating around. This Newbury Comics location also had a few extra copies of the Pavement live LP, so either demand wasn’t as high as anticipated, particular locations had some additional stock after the event, or the “exclusive” and “limited edition” tags were designed purely to sucker me in to buying a reissue single I don’t need. Score one up for the record industry.

Perhaps the more astonishing aspect of this single is that even at seven dollars, it’s still cheaper than the other Smiths reissue singles currently available. Those sell for a whopping $11 apiece and I don’t think they were even pressed on 100% celibate vinyl. You could buy a box set of all twelve of those singles, not including this one, for around $100 (a steal!), but for the same price you could purchase the majority of the singles/best-of compilations the Smiths issued during or after their existence (Hatful of Hollow, Louder than Bombs, The World Won’t Listen, Singles, etc.) on compact disc. Choose wisely.

66. Obits – I Blame You LP – Sub Pop, 2009 – $15

Obits' I Blame You

I blame The Night Marchers for the delay in my purchase of Obits’ debut full-length. The Night Marchers, helmed by Rick Froberg’s former partner in post-hardcore crime, John Reis, stumbled out of the gate with See You in Magic. Even Reis’s charisma couldn’t make up for the fact that the album has at most three memorable tracks, one of which they didn’t play at their concert last May. An auspicious beginning for his post-Hot Snakes career. Despite my relative fondness for Obits’ first single (“One Cross Apiece” b/w “Put It in Writing”), I was poised to be underwhelmed by I Blame You and the lack of Froberg’s signature throat-shredding screams.

Without the serrated edge of Drive Like Jehu or Hot Snakes, the surf-rock informed interplay between Froberg and former Edsel frontman Sohrab Habibion doesn’t pack the same immediate impact of Froberg’s past work or the coolly melodic touch of Edsel, but I Blame You proved to be a grower, especially once I put the LP on the turntable. The key track is the cover of Kokomo Arnold’s blues classic “Milk Cow Blues,” which incorporates a downright nasty rhythm guitar riff midway through the song. Once “Milk Cow Blues” sunk its claws in, the opening track, “Widow of My Dreams” and a number of other excellent album tracks clicked as well, like Sohrab Habibion’s excellent vocal contribution on “Run.” Closer “Back and Forth” starts out with a great, low-key 60s pop feel before ratcheting the energy up for the chorus, and I’d love a few more songs with that flavor.