Thursday, November 30, 2006

Underneathica's Guide to Atlanta Record Stores, part 2

Today, our record hunt takes us to Little Five Points, which has been Atlanta's version of Greenwich Village for the last few decades. Travelling west on Ponce de Leon Avenue from Decatur (where our tour ended last time), turn left on Moreland Avenue and go half a mile south. Criminal Records is on your right. Criminal opened 15 years ago as one of the first post-vinyl independent music retailers in Atlanta. There is a decent selection of audiophile and local vinyl, but no crates of dusty old LP's. The store specializes in new and used CD's, plus music and lifestyle magazines, books, DVD's, comics and collectibles. The staff (which includes Tessa) is friendly, which more than compensates for the occasional lapse (I found Thin Lizzy filed under L). Frequent instore performances, and a website that puts other Atlanta online stores to shame. 466 Moreland Avenue (404-215-9511). Hours: Mon-Sat 10am to 10pm, Sundays 12noon to 7pm.

From Criminal, it's just a block south to Wax'n'Facts, opened in 1976 by Danny Beard. Danny is also the founder of DB Recs and its sister label, Press Records. Wax'n'Facts has an exhaustive selection of new and used CD's, vinyl, and cassettes. You need to give yourself a couple hours here. 432 Moreland Avenue (404-525-2275). Hours: Mon-Sat 11am to 8pm, Sundays 12noon to 6pm.

While you're in Little 5 Points, you can visit two of Atlanta's remaining independent bookstores, A Cappella Books(where Richard Buckner once worked) and Charis Books. And you can listen to WRAS (88.5FM), WRFG (89.3FM), or WREK (91.1FM).

At the next light south of Wax'n'Facts, turn left onto McLendon Avenue, and go about a mile. Just past Candler Park, look for a row of shops on the right. Full Moon Records has a small selection of new and used CD's, which is dwarfed by the surprising range of their vinyl collection. There's a nook upstairs with used LP's for $1 each. 1653 McLendon Avenue (404-377-1919). Hours: Fridays and Saturdays from 12noon to 8pm, and Sundays from 12noon to 6pm.

Ready for more? Find your way back to Ponce and go west to Midtown. Cross Peachtree Street and you'll spot the fabulous Fox Theater, where Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded their double live album. Ponce dead ends on Spring Street at the backside of the Varsity (largest fast food restaurant in the world!) Here once stood the 688 Club, where Richard Hell and the Voidoids recorded their live album. Turn left on Spring Street and go south a few blocks. Earwax Records is on your left. Catering primarily to hip-hop fans, Earwax also carries rock CD's, DVD's and rare vinyl. Their inventory and their busy schedule of instore appearances are detailed on their website. 565 Spring Street (404-875-5600). Hours: Mon-Sat 12noon to 8pm.

If you continue south on Spring Street, crossing under the interstates (75/85 and I-20), turning right on Fulton Street and left on Metropolitan Parkway, your next right is Shelton Avenue. You're in the historic West End neighborhood, the home of Joel Chandler Harris and Stickfigure Distribution. Stickfigure is a record label, a show promoter, and a distributor of music, books, films and magazines. The website says that their store is open "most Saturdays" from noon to 6pm. 712 Shelton Avenue SW (404-752-7399). In our next installment, we hit the north! Stay tuned.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Underneathica's Guide to Atlanta Record Stores, part 1

Like any metropolitan area, Atlanta has its chain stores that sell cd's, and its thrift stores that sell old vinyl. This guide for those music buyers who aren't mall shoppers or crate diggers. It is arranged geographically, so that you can hit the stores in closest proximity to each other if your shopping time is limited. Please don't hold me responsible if hours of operation change since I checked them. This first installment will feature the Emory/Decatur area.

Let's start with A Book Nook, because it opens earliest. Book Nook is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. As the name suggests, Book Nook is primarily a used bookstore which also trades in CD's, LP's, DVD's, VHS and cassettes. Book Nook first opened in 1973. Four years ago, the main store moved down Clairmont Road from Buford Highway to the intersection of North Druid Hills Road (just downhill from the BP station). David T. Lindsay works there, and he oversees the substantial collection of new and used comic books, and a nice section of rock-related literature. Most of the used vinyl LP's are priced at $5. Book Nook has a couple of suburban locations in Marietta and Lilburn. The main store is at 3073 North Druid Hills Road (404-633-1343). Hours: Mon-Sat 9am to 10:30pm, Sundays 10am to 10:30pm.

From the Book Nook, go west on North Druid Hills. Less than a quarter mile on the left, you'll see the Toco Hills Shopping Center. Ella Guru is located there, and sells new and used CD's. It's a friendly place, with in-store listening stations. Ella Guru is the first of Atlanta's two record stores named after Captain Beefheart songs. 2993 North Druid Hills Road (404-325-1350). Hours: Mon-Sat 11am to 9pm, Sundays 12noon to 6pm.

Turn back toward Book Nook, then make a right on Clairmont Road and go a mile and a half south (past the VA hospital) to the corner of North Decatur Road. Wuxtry Records is in a strip mall on the left (along with Rainbow Foods, where you may run into an Indigo Girl). Wuxtry has a sister store in Athens, where Peter Buck first met Michael Stipe. Atlanta's Wuxtry is notable for its jazz selection, and it has lots of rock (new and used CD's, vinyl, and cassettes). You can search their vinyl inventory on their website. 2096 North Decatur Road (404-329-0020). Hours: Mon-Sat 11am to 8pm, Sundays 12noon to 6pm.

Continue south on Clairmont Road a little over a mile, and turn right on Ponce de Leon Avenue. Go about three blocks and look for a sky blue single story building on the left. It's Decatur CD! Listening stations and in-store performances (with free beer!) from both local and touring musicians add to the selection of new and used CD's. Decatur CD has its own blog, and Austin works there. 356 West Ponce de Leon Avenue (404-371-9090). Hours: Mon-Sat 11am to 11pm, Sundays 12noon to 5pm.

The vinyl hound will want to track back east on Ponce. It's about five miles (across I-285 and through Scottdale) to the town of Clarkston, home of Records Galore. There's a mixed bag here, a lot of 12" rap singles and country LP's, and loads of pre-rock vinyl, but I've found some good stuff here, and the prices are low. 4148 East Ponce de Leon Avenue (404-294-5271). Hours: Mon-Sat 11am to 6pm, closed Sundays.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ninety-Nine and a Half Won't Do

According to Blogger, my post yesterday was number 100 for Underneathica. And it only took almost a year to reach that mark! I may not be prolific, but I make up for it in... I don't know what. Something very special. You tell me.

At any rate, it's high time to start recycling some of the material from Underneathica's first century that newer readers may have missed. I've learned a little during the past year about ripping vinyl to mp3's, and I want to repost an improved copy of the uniquely spooky and twisted song that gives this blog its name.

Atlantans or Athenians who read this blog might be interested in a couple of unusual shows from reunited 70's groups. Turgid metal band Blue Cheer will eruptum their vincebus again at the EARL tonight (November 14th). And the band Wet Willie (featuring original singer Jimmy Hall) will play their Dixie Rock at Chip's in Winder on Friday, November 24 (the day after Thanksgiving).

You might be asking, "Jon, wasn't Wet Willie that band of Allman Brothers wannabe's with the sleazy album covers?" Well, the music that Wet Willie produced (at least in their early days) was inspired by the chicken-scratch guitar and strutting funk rhythms of the Meters and James Brown, moreso than the jazz and blues influenced Allmans or the dual-lead boogie rock of Skynyrd et al. They're probably closer in sound to Little Feat (though they lack Lowell George's sense of humor). And Wet Willie covered "Shout Bamalama" about thirty years before the Detroit Cobras. They're worth checking out.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Swedish Hangover

Last night, I saw the Atlanta Rollergirls All-Stars whup up on the Dixie Derby Girls from Huntsville, Alabama. It was an extremely fast-paced bout, with a lot of crashes and collisions.

Did a little post-season celebrating at one of those bars that has umpteen beers on tap. Had a Coal Porter from the Bar Harbor Brewery, and some type of high gravity stout from a brewery called Great Divide. I was hoping to sample Terrapin's coffee-infused beer, which is called Wake & Bake, but it's not available yet. Today I'm awake, and feeling a little baked.

I'm still trying to put into words (other than "amazing") my impressions of the Slits' live show from last week. More on that later. EMusic has added a bunch of titles from the British punk label Anagram (999, Blitz, Lurkers, Eater, Angelic Upstarts, Sham, GBH, and more) as well as the very twee Sarah Records. Like the Stranglers, the Vibrators took a lot of shit back in '77 because they were a bit older, and because they had learned their instruments before they got onstage. Unlike most of their peers, the Vibrators are still playing punk rock today. This song has a great chorus and all the classic signifiers: sneering vocals, hedonistic lyrics, piercing guitar, tribal drums. My college friends might remember this one from the jukebox.

The Vibrators: Flash Flash Flash


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bram Tchaikovsky: Strange Man, Changed Man, Forgotten Band

Today, I got to thinking about Bram Tchaikovsky. Pete at Disco:Very recently wrote a post about his personal canon of top albums. My personal canon would be headed by Strange Man, Changed Man, the album against which all other power pop pales (and it's an awfully pale genre to begin with). Bram Tchaikovsky's 1979 debut album has never been issued on CD (outside of Japan), and the band is remembered now, if at all, for the classic power pop single "Girl of My Dreams". But lo and behold, somebody ripped the whole album to mp3 recently!

The Allmusic review of "Girl of My Dreams" is incorrect on three points: first, songwriter Ronald Thomas did NOT use the stage name Bram Tchaikovsky, and was not even a member of the band. He was a member of the Heavy Metal Kids (whose drummer, Keith Boyce, also played with Bram Tchaikovsky). Peter Bramall was the leader of the band Bram Tchaikovsky, and he used the band name as his stage name, even back when he was in the band the Motors.

Second, the lyrics aren't "nothing special". If you listen closely to "Girl of My Dreams", you realize that the "girl" is a picture: a pinup or a centerfold. It's clever, goddammit! Third, the song does not include "sleigh bells": Mike Oldfield plays his famous tubular bells on the outro. But I do agree with Stewart Mason of Allmusic that "Girl of My Dreams" sounds like "Shake Some Action".

Bram Tchaikovsky's first album was followed by the forgettable Pressure (released in the UK as The Russians Are Coming) and Funland. Those albums don't equal the heady mix of multi-tracked harmonies and crashing power chords, plus the driving pub rock rhythms and surf guitar leads, that make Strange Man, Changed Man such a great album. I have loved it since I was 13. Peter Bramall will be 56 this Friday (November 10). He shares a birthday with the lovely Mrs. Manyjars.

Bram Tchaikovsky: Girl of My Dreams
Bram Tchaikovsky: Come Back (non-lp b side)
Bram Tchaikovsky: (Who Wants to Be a) Criminal (non-lp b side)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dancing about Music

Writing about music is not like dancing about architecture. Nor is it like herding cats. It's neither impossible nor futile, and it can be done well. Examples of good writing about music abound in this year's music issue of the Oxford American, "The Southern Magazine of Good Writing". There's an excellent piece about Richard Hell (who was born in Kentucky), a respectful profile of Bob Dorough (who wrote and sang "Three Is a Magic Number", and who is a member of the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame), and a convincing comparison between the band Drivin 'n' Cryin and the platypus.

Each year the Oxford American packages its music issue with a wide-ranging compilation CD of Southern music, which is not to be confused with Southern Rock. This year's CD includes Eartha Kitt, Sun Ra, Big Star, the Voidoids, and more. Find it among the literary magazines at your bookstore, or go online and subscribe.

Here's a band that's from the South, and they rock. I've written about the Marked Men before. This particular song packs more energy and hooks into 80 seconds than most songs that are twice (or thrice) as long. I usually listen to it at least three times in a row, because that money note at 0:39 only comes around once.

Marked Men: Don't Lose It