By John B Moore

In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 [Vinyl Reissue] (Craft Recordings)

Despite breaking up nearly 10 years ago, there are still few bands from the '80s and '90s that can still command allegiance from the masses like R.E.M. Sure there are a slew of groups from that era that can brag about cult status, but R.E.M is among the few who have managed to hold on to their core early adopters from their I.R.S. years and bring along an entire generation of new fans when they moved onto the much larger Warner Bros label in 1988. Which brings us to this stellar vinyl reissue of In Time their best of 1988 – 2003 collections.

The set, released less than six months after the band's Reveal album, covers their time on Warner from 1988's Green up to this point. The label Craft Recordings, like they have with other R.E.M. vinyl reissues, have done a brilliant job. Released on 180-gram vinyl, they made a limited run on translucent blue – simply stunning. This marks the first time in 15 years this record has been out on vinyl.

The double LP set includes 18 songs, including two from soundtracks (the so-so "All The Right Friends" from Vanilla Sky and the stunning "The Great Beyond" from Man On The Moon) as well as two previously unreleased tracks, "Animal" and "Bad Day". The records are housed in a deluxe gatefold jacket. Unlike many of the quickly thrown together vinyl re-releases that are almost routine nowadays, In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003, along from being crammed with great songs, is georgeously designed, befitting a band as important as R.E.M.

TK & The Holy Know-Nothings
Arguably OK (Mama Bird Recording Co.)

Make no mistake, Portland's TK & The Holy Know-Nothings are above all else a bar band. And quite possibly one of the best bar bands going at the moment.

From the tear in your beer opening track, "Alone" to the boogie woogie vibe on a song like "Good Stuff," there's a song on Arguably OK to speak to just about anyone inside the bar. Elsewhere on the album, "Emanuel," is likely the slowest, savviest song ever written about pills and caffeine, while "The Devil's Point" is witty enough to impress Kris Kristofferson. The five-piece turns in a groove-heavy, almost dream-like record with remarkably insightful lyrics that owe quite a bit to the Outlaw Country sound of the late '70s. The only track here that doesn't catch right away is the dark, "Hard Times," a challenging song compared to the others here.

Coming in at nine songs, Arguably Ok is the perfect length: long enough to showcase the band's impressive depth and range, while still managing to leave you wanting more.

Brad Marino
Extra Credit (Rum Bar Records)

With his skin tight black jeans, leather biker jacket and Little Lord Fauntleroy jet black hairstyle, Brad Marino comes off one of the long lost Ramones on the cover of Extra Credit, his debut solo record.

And the look is a pretty apt, as his songs can clearly match the Ramones in terms of catchy earworms. But unlike the boys from Queens, Marino digs much deeper into the crates for influences and comes up with a near-perfect Power Pop record. There are snatches of punk rock attitude, some garage rock chords, but the overall vibe is so much catchier – think a caffeinated Big Star or Material Issue – big fat song-along choruses that stay with you long after you've turned off the music. As co-founder of The Connection, that garage rock influences are a given, but Marino let's his pop instincts shine through on tracks like "Fit to Be Tied," the infectious "Broken Record Baby" and the commendable Chuck Berry cover "Bye Bye Johnny."

Impressively, Marino plays just about all of the instruments on Extra Credit. Even more impressive is the fact that he has managed to cram 15 songs onto the album and the momentum doesn't fade until the last chord rings out on the final track.

Bat Music For Bat People (Cleopatra Records)

Does the world really need another psychobilly supergroup?

Turns out, that yeah, we kind of do. The Bats, a trio made up of members from Nekromantix, The Brains, Rezurez and Stellar Corpses, churn through 20 (20!) songs on their debut, Bat Music For Bat People and the music manages to be catchy enough that hardly a moment drags here. Yes, they dig up the old genre tropes ("Graveyard Girl," "Cemetery Man,"), but with a rhythm section that would make The Stray Cats sit up and pay attention, the band actually sound like they're enjoying themselves as they churn through a mix of originals and covers. From the 1960s comic inspired album cover to the bat-shaped masks the band wear at all times, Bat! is certainly not half-assing it on the image front either.

Among the covers here are a mix of some obvious ones (Danzig's "Mother," The Damned's "Love Song" and Dick Dale's "Misirlou), and two left of center tracks (Gloria Jones' "tainted Love" and Portugal. The Man's "Feel It Still") that work unbelievable well in part because the band manages to completely make the songs their own.

After a 20-song intro it may be asking a lot, but here's hoping Bat! is more than a one-off side project and a taste of more to come.

Umpteenth (Dadstache Records)

Just two tracks into Umpteenth, the sophomore LP from Brooklyn-based Onesie, you'd swear this was an early '90s college radio rock find, sandwiched between Pavement and The Breeders. Across 11 tracks, the band play a beautifully-cohesive brand of Power Pop, but it's clear they also have a strong affinity for some of the classic Glam and 1970s rock bands as well after listening to the chugging guitars on a song like "Customers," "Coin Op" or "Amour Phuss" (it doesn't hurt that Ben Haberland put in his time with punk bands years ago).

One of the main appeals of Umpteenth is, despite being tethered to Power Pop, there is plenty of experimentation here, with synths popping in and out of songs and a violin that makes a cameo on "Final Days of Nineteen" (lyrically a song whose vagueness would impress even Michael Stipe). The downside is that not every track here is bound to please everybody. But fuck it, playing music strictly to appeal to the general masses is hardly something to be proud of.



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