Sometimes I’m glad I got into buying records and obsessing about them before the internet existed. The thrill of discovering a new record by a band or a label that you had never heard of before, (but you knew it would be amazing based on a label logo or a producer’s name alone anyway) is tough to describe to someone who’s always been able to load up discogs and see everything a label/band/producer ever put out. I don’t know that “adding items to a shopping cart” by clicking links with thumbnails of records would have had the same allure as digging through an entire dingy record store for a few cool or intriguing looking pieces.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the internet and discogs and ebay and etc have made buying and finding (and learning about) weird old records much easier. I can now easily look up entire labels’ discographies with a few clicks. Sites like BandtoBand allow one to search your favorite musical artist(s) and see EVERYONE they’re connected to and how. Sure, clicking the link to the Allied Recordings page on Discogs and seeing a listing for a record I didn’t know about carries a certain thrill, but not quite the same as flipping to it unknowingly in a used bin in a record store. There’s also the whole “nothing new is as romantic as the old” thing.
A few years ago, I decided to try to track down and buy one of everything Lookout Records ever put out. Of course, the first step in doing this was to find a list of everything the label ever released. At the time, there was no such complete list. Discogs had HUGE gaps in their list that I knew from my own collection were legit Lookout releases. (It’s still pretty messy in terms of a real chronology of their actual releases. [Honey, have you seen my blood pressure meds?])
So I sat down with a blank google spreadsheet and a few Lookout LP’s with their catalog liner notes, and started typing up the list. Eventually, I got as complete a list as I could find online anywhere. Then I made a list of every Dr. Strange Records release. Then Fat. Then No Idea. As you can imagine, a label that’s more currently active like Fat than Lookout was (they hadn’t yet officially closed when I started my project, but their blog/website thing had been taken down. Some of the information in my Lookout list was gleaned from google caches of their now dead pages.) more conducive to having information about their discography on a page on their website. In my mind, my goal was to sort of tick off everything Lookout put out, as I acquired it, then shift and get into Dr. Strange’s stuff, and just kind of go down the list.
Back to my Lookout list. I marked the ones I already had, the ones I’m missing, the ones that never were or will be released, and color coded them all.
Then I opened up ebay and started putting bids on stuff I didn’t have. But it wasn’t the same. I got this weird resigned feeling a day or two later. I realized that if I could come up with $1000, I could, in an afternoon, just go buy all the stuff my collection lacks, and have the complete “set” and be done with it. But that’s no fun. Having the records is only part of the fun. Finding them is like the other equally important half. Well, maybe not half. Definitely at least 36% of the fun.
I took a break from buying records online for a bit after that. I continued to browse, and I continued digging up information about Lookout releases that I was interested in using whatever internet tools I could find.
I still haven’t completed my Lookout collection, and I still buy records on ebay. I even started a “want list” of stuff I don’t own but would like to someday, and I still add things to it regularly. But I’m a lot less deliberate about it than I was when I started that list. I don’t consult the want list and then immediately get on discogs to hunt things down. I’ve often opened the list to add something and realized that I’ve already grabbed something else I added to it a year ago.
Ummm, that was much more of a detour into my own record collecting habits than I intended. Also I didn’t mean to put on my Let’s Ramble On About Lookout Records Again hat (again), but here it is on my head. I think the point I was trying to make is that some records I pick up more because of the label they’re on, not the band making the songs. Both can be important, sometimes one more than the other. Before I take this hat off, bear with me for just a little longer. We’ll get to some actual tangible music here shortly.
Today’s post comes from 1994, on a label mentioned above, Too Many Records. Started by the guy who co-founded Lookout and then left after that label had put out about 12 records, David Hayes, Too Many was born as Very Small Records a few years earlier. The early stuff from Lookout sounds either similar or related to what Very Small and Too Many put out, and they’re often thought of as sort of sibling labels, even though they weren’t actively related or working together. Lots of the stuff on today’s record sounds very akin to some of the smaller bands that called Lookout home in the early days. Comparisons with and references to bands on Lookout are pretty much inevitable. Monsula, Surrogate Brains, Nuisance all have that late-80’s-early-90’s-sort-of-bay-area-or-maybe-north-of-there-hippy-pop-punk sound that wasn’t quite Green Day/MTX but also clearly wasn’t Epifat or LA/NY/UK punk and that’s the sound I’m talking about here. In my mind, “the Very Small Records sound” is more like to “the early Lookout sound” (Monsula, etc…) than “the Lookout sound” (MTX, Green Day, Queers, etc).
But enough about the label. You can read lots more about both labels elsewhere on the intertubes. In the case of today’s post, this is a record I picked up recently despite never having heard of any of the bands on it, simply because it had the Too Many label on it.
There’s your segueway, I guess.
The packaging is what sets this one apart out of the gate. It’s in an actual reused beer case, with a plain sticker on the front. (Unsettlingly and somewhat disappointingly close to an idea I had for a record cover a few years before even coming across this thing.) It’s roughly 8 inches tall by 10 inches wide. Good thing I got some extra storage in my 7″ shelves for wonky shaped records! The inner sleeves are glued to the inside of the beer case, so the 7″s don’t flop around loose in there. The back cover is the same/opposite side of the same Schlitz case but without the sticker. The discogs page mentions two other “variants”–cases of different brands of beer– for the cover, if that sort of thing matters to you.
1. Boycott – “Red Ants” – Pretty much a more punky, less metal L7 sound. ”
2. Motherload – “Hot Dog Country” – Song about eating cased meat.
3. The Flies – “Green Flares” – This reminds me A LOT of a song on either Can of Pork or The Thing That Ate Floyd but I’ve now listened to both just for this line and I can’t figure it out. I thought it was The Lookouts but it’s not. Urgh.
4. The Fumes – “Shot Out My Heart” – Was going to compare them to some gearhead punk and roll band like the Gotohells or some other punk band that would have Rat Fink on their album cover but then I realized their name was The Fumes and I probably don’t have to.
5. Velvet Pelvis – “My Girlfriend” – A female fronted poppy/sober Germs? Maybe.
6. Big Comb – “Big Punk Comb” – I take back what I said before about not having heard any bands on this. I do have a Big Comb 7″. The cover art is a back pocket, and the jacket has a cut in it and the record originally came with one of those cheap plastic “picture day at elementary school” combs. Mine didn’t come with a comb. Early East Bay hardcore that seems a lot more poppy now than it probably did then.
7. Bellywipe – “Meet My Ulcer” – Reminds me of The Orphans or a more punky Mischief Brew even, which I guess is kind of what The Orphans were. Kind of spooky throaty chalky vocals over mid tempo wandering instruments, but I mean that in a good way.
8. Milltown – “Wander” – Well that’s weird. Someone put an Ebullition style emo song on side D of this thing. Wait. Now this sounds like a slowed down Jawbreaker song. Whatever. It’s good. Always listen all the way through to the end of a new compilation, doofus.