Good times, great oldies.
Us old dudes are suckers for reissues of our favorite records. I’ve owned Green Mind by Dinosaur Jr. on cassette, compact disc and vinyl. Still, when I saw another colored vinyl version newly available for sale, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to make a purchase. It’s especially hard to resist that kind of acquisition when you believe that, after the apocalypse, the only currency worth anything will be vinyl records.
The limited edition vinyl game is not for the faint of heart nor the easily discouraged. A rare bundle of reissues came up recently for another one of my favorite indie rock bands, and before I even knew about the bundle, it was sold out.
The most frustrating thing about this sort of “you snooze, you lose” situation is that being off Instagram for a few days was what ultimately prevented me from getting the bundle of LP’s. Now that the three LP bundle is unavailable, the only way to get the third record is to buy it off of Discogs for a cool $100. This wouldn’t irritate me as much as it does if it wasn’t a case of a legendary independent record label like Merge Records using a corporate silo owned by Facebook exclusively to advertise their new hotness. There is a news section on the label’s website, but it doesn’t appear to have an RSS feed.
The founders of Merge records are famous for their progressive political activism. However, not even they consider the role that Facebook has played in undermining our democracy. That is a role to which even executives at the company now admit. It doesn’t seem like Facebook is a company a fiercely independent label would want to help strengthen. Merge shouldn’t force their fans onto a Facebook platform to keep up with new releases.
I saw my first show at a club in 1993, at the venerable Local 506, on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill. The venue is still there, nestled snugly between two Indian restaurants. Now I typically go to see a band there every couple of years or so. At that initial show, I saw Polvo, with the classic lineup of Ash Bowie, Dave Brylawski, Steve Popson and Eddie Watkins. My first rock show was supposed to be seeing Mudhoney the previous year, at the 9:30 Club in DC, where my cousin worked. However, my dad strongly objected to me going to what he just thought of as a bar to see a grunge band. He was intransigent on the subject, and it was out of my hands. I had to wait a bit longer to experience eardrum pounding indie rock in the dark confines of a club.
Polvo was brilliant and raw that night, and left me with a taste for move live music. Polvo remained on of my favorite bands through the 90’s (I also love their more recent records), though drummer Eddie Watkins left the group after the 1996 Exploded Drawing double-LP. That record is considered by many to be the best math rock album ever made. Exploded Drawing effectively showcased the many different sides of Polvo, from the Eastern influences, to the unusual time signatures and unpredictable song structures in an almost grinding journey through the essence of the band. It was certainly a fitting last act with the group for an unusually gifted drummer.