I’ve been doing this for five years now. This is the 100th review column I’ve written. I’m not sure how many total reviews that adds up to (seeing as these columns range between one and four reviews, usually), but it’s a good few. So, for this one, seeing as it’s moderately special (100 is a big number! Triple digits!), I’m doing a special column. These are quick re-reviews of some of my favorite releases of the past five years that I’ve reviewed here (note: there are things I liked but never reviewed that have been excluded, as well as things older than five years that I did review, but have cut since they’re not within the timeframe I’m trying to work with. I also have reviewed some non-Ohio releases that I loved and could’ve included here, but I tried to keep this Ohio just because otherwise it would be way too long!). There were a ton of records I cut from this list, and it pained me to do so, but I could really go on and on about how much great music has come from Ohio and fill this whole paper with the one column. Thanks for reading, and thank you very much to all the bands and artists who’ve been in some way a part of this column. Here’s to 100 more, I guess.
Bernie & The Invisibles - All Possibilities Are Open LP (My Mind’s Eye)
This group was one of the lost acts of the late ‘70s Cleveland punk scene, with only three tracks ever being officially released across various compilations. This record solves that problem. Sure, it’s lo-fi, but the music contained is truly some of the best punk rock ever. Bernie is smart, funny, touching–- in certain ways, it’s like a cross between the Modern Lovers and the Urinals. It’s absolutely great.
The Choir - I’d Rather You Leave Me 7” (Norton Records)
Two tracks from Cleveland’s first power pop group (?), both very good. Sure, I’ve got problems with this record (the lack of liner notes, the fact that it’s on lavender vinyl…), but the music is good enough for me to look past it. Every bit as great as “It’s Cold Outside.”
Bill Fox - Before I Went To Harvard LP (Eleventh Hour Recording Company)
Perhaps this material isn’t as essential as what’s on “Shelter From The Smoke,” but most of it is still prime Bill Fox. Plus, three Radio Flyers songs, so you need it for that alone.
Great Plains - The Mark, Don, & Mel E.P. +4 LP and Born In A Barn LP (Rerun Records)
Sure, it’s cheating to include both of these, but how could I possibly choose between them? Ron House is one of the greatest lyricists of this generation or any other generation, and the eerie, Midwestern mood these records conjure is like nothing else I’ve ever heard. Two essential records.
Kill The Hippies - Let’s Start A Band Nobody’s In CD (Phoenician MicroSystems)
It’s mildly funny to me that this is in the archival section here, but it is an archival release! It’s just that this band is still active, which is great. Two unreleased albums and an unreleased single in one package. And it’s a shame these records weren’t released, because they’re pretty great. Still one of the best punk bands around.
The One Way Street - The One Way Street 2x7” (My Mind’s Eye/B-W Records)
A killer reissue of one of the greatest, dumbest, nuttiest (no pun intended) garage rock records ever (both sides are on the first “Back From The Grave” if that tells you anything) and a second, more straight-laced but still very good single with two unreleased songs. It has to be heard to be believed. The peanuts are nice but the acid is rare!
Jim Shepard - Heavy Action 3xLP (Ever/Never Records)
A really great set of all the types of music Jim Shepard made. There are heavy, ripping noise-punk tracks from the band V-3, there are sparse, melancholy, acoustic pieces, there are strange audio collages and answering machine messages. A truly fascinating, touching, tragic, and just good portrait of one of Columbus’s best.
The Society - You Girl 7” (My Mind’s Eye/B-W Records)
This thing’s been getting a lot of hype lately in garage rock circles, but it absolutely lives up to that hype, without question. A total blaster on Side A (with a ripping fuzz guitar solo less than a minute into the song!) and the moody, organ-driven “Lonely” on the flip, both nearly perfect examples of the genre.
The Styrenes - CLE 76-79 Unreleased 3x7” (My Mind’s Eye)
This is maybe not the most essential Styrenes material, nor the best place to start with them (I did like it more than “The Essential Styrenes,” though), but well worth hearing. Alternate/early versions of some their classics (a killer version of “I Saw You” and an instrumental version of “Where The Girls Are” that lets you appreciate just how fantastic the guitar playing is on it are two highlights), plus two totally unheard tracks, “Empty Vessels” and “Murder Me,” both of which are very good, especially the latter. For the fans, perhaps, but necessary for the fans.