Review: The Best of FINGERPRINTZ – Bullet Proof Heart

The Scottish music scene in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s was, for lack of a better term, amazing. While the ‘80s gave us glistening, glorious Pop from the likes of The Bluebells, Friends Again, Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, and loads of others, the roots of the Scottish Punk, Post-Punk, and New Wave scene started way back in 1977 or so. You know, when British bands like Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, and all the other greats created a musical revolution. Punk Rock re-wrote the rule book, leading to dozens of new genres being created in a short period of time. One of the most endearing and enduring genres to rival Punk was something called Post-Punk. Relying less on melody and more on experimentation and mood, Post-Punk artists like Gang Of Four and PiL could still be abrasive without resorting to the Punk Rock stereotypes. And then there were bands influenced by Post-Punk that transcended the genre, bringing something new and exciting to the mix yet never achieving the acclaim they so richly deserved. Fingerprintz is one of those bands… but the three Scottish members of the band had to relocate to London before luck would bring them together. While they never quite connected with a larger audience, they certainly deserved fame, fortune, and a lifetime of adulation…

SOME HISTORY…

Scottish singer/songwriter/guitarist Jimme O’Neill formed Fingerprintz alongside guitarist Cha Burnz, drummer Bob Schilling (AKA Bogdan Wiczling), bassist Kenny Alton, and vocalist Step Lang. Fingerprintz’s sound was angular, quirky, a tad bit dark, and remarkably melodic and fun. Signing with Virgin Records, the quintet released two EPs before Step Lang left and Jimme slid into the lead vocal position. At this point, the band really found their voice.

Their 1979 debut album, THE VERY DAB, was daring and different. Not exactly an album filled with Pop songs (it wasn’t supposed to be), O’Neill was still capable of writing some great tunes including “Tough Luck,” “Close Circuit Connection,” and “Hey, Mr. Smith”. Elsewhere, the band offered up great songs that leaned towards the angular and experimental. The distinct guitar sounds – reflected in the cool little riffs that floated in and out of the songs – fluctuated between menacing and melodic. Infused with the energy of Punk and a unique musical vision, THE VERY DAB was an impressive debut and sounded like nobody else at the time.

The following year, the band released their sophomore album DISTINGUISHING MARKS. Produced by The Motors’ Nick Garvey, this platter was a completely different ball of wax. Perhaps one of the finest Pop albums of the era, DISTINGUISHING MARKS was jam packed with hooks. While the dark, experimental bits were stripped away, the band still sounded very much like the Fingerprintz that made THE VERY DAB, only much more confident. Garvey’s big, bold production added power to the band’s sound and brought out their best side (just listen to The Motors, Bram Tchaikovsky, and The A’s second album for proof that Garvey had ‘the Midas Pop Touch’!) The single “Bulletproof Heart” brought the band much-needed attention but was far from the best song on the album. I mean, this album was loaded with classics including “Amnesia,” “Yes Eyes,” “Houdini Love,” and many more. While New Wave and Power Pop fans ate up every moment of DISTINGUISHING MARKS, success still eluded the band.

Now, here is where things get confusing. In 1981, the band released their third album, BEAT NOIR, in Europe. Sonically, the album sounded very much like the true spiritual follow-up to their 1979 debut album. The arrangements were once again sparse, the mood was darker and more experimental, yet the songs were more melodic and charming than some of the material on THE VERY DAB. The original 11 track BEAT NOIR is a phenomenal Post-Punk album that is filled with shade and shadows. And yet there, in the darkness, you could feel that something more rhythmic and funky was going on. It wasn’t blatant… but it was there. Once the album was released, Jimme wanted to explore the rhythmic funkiness even further so they recorded a few new tracks, and reshaped BEAT NOIR by removing a few tracks in order to add songs like “The Beat Escape” and “Get Civilized” to the running order. Rereleasing the album in many different territories, the new tracklist sounded like a shiny new beast, breathing new life into an already fine album. In the U.S., they removed a few more songs from the original tracklist, making it a shorter, more danceable album… which only confused the matter even more. Most U.S. fans have only ever heard the American version of the album which bared little resemblance to the original release.

And that was it. The band split and went their separate ways. Bogdan Wiczling and Cha went on to tour with Adam Ant on the FRIEND OR FOE tour as well as record and tour his VIVA LE ROCK album. Jimme and Cha later formed The Silencers in the ‘80s and achieved much more success than Fingerprintz ever did.

THE REVIEW:

Surprisingly, over the years, not one single track by Fingerprintz has ever been officially released on CD – not even on an ‘80s compilation! For two decades, I have made suggestions to reissue labels, requesting a ‘best of’ or expanded editions of their albums but could never get any of them to commit. One label released an unofficial compilation mastered from vinyl, which, for a short time, was the only chance of owning Fingerprintz on CD. However, the tides have turned and I’m pleased to announce that Rubellan Remasters has just released the inspiring and downright wonderful THE BEST OF FINGERPRINTZ: BULLET PROOF HEART. Anyone into Post-Punk, New Wave, and Power Pop needs to own this collection!

First things first: this collection is digitally remastered from the original tapes and it sounds great. You no longer hear the slight vinyl distortion from your well-played copies of the original Fingerprintz vinyl LPs and 7” singles – the sound is crystal clear and really brings out the power of the original recordings. Even if you own the complete Fingerprintz catalog on vinyl, the punchy remaster gives these songs new life.

OK, I admit that some of my favorite Fingerprintz songs didn’t make the tracklist, but I prefer to focus on what IS here and not what is missing. “Bullet Proof Heart”, “Changing”, “Amnesia”, “Tough Luck”, “Get Civilized”, “Houdini Love”, “Who’s Your Friend”, “Close Circuit Connection”, “Yes Eyes”, and “Remorse Code” are just some of the life-affirming tracks you’ll find on this very healthy 22 track compilation. This is undoubtedly one of the best ‘reissues’ of the year. Fingerprintz deserve your love, respect, and attention and it is time you give it to them!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: CURRENTS/THE WAY IT ENDS

Metalcore is a genre that combines elements of Extreme Metal and Hardcore Punk. When listening to Metalcore, you’re likely to experience the pummeling audio experience of violent Metal yet the lyrics tend to be based in the real world of politics, personal tragedies, and other more emotionally dark topics. More often than not, the lyrics tend to be dark and shrouded in mystery and shadows. Some of the better-known Metalcore bands include Underoath, Silverstein, Shadows Fall, Of Mice And Men, and the oddly-named Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza. However, like any other genre, there are bands that may use Metalcore as a jumping off point, but they take it in new directions. Currents is one of those bands…

Currents was formed in Fairfield, Connecticut in 2011. Their first two releases – the VICTIMIZED EP (2013) and LIFE – LOST (2015) – were issued independently. The moody Metal quintet then signed with Sharptone Records and released THE PLACE I FEEL SAFEST in 2017. The album was followed by the I LET THE DEVIL IN EP in 2018. As the band’s sound matured, they began adding many elements into their sound. From Metalcore to Progressive Metal with a hint of Screamo, Currents charted their own musical course and set their phasers to stun! The band has had a few line-up changes but their ‘current’ configuration is their strongest yet: Brian Wille (vocals), Chris Wiseman (guitar), Ryan Castaldi (guitar). Matt Young (drums), and Christian Pulgarin (bass). And this line-up presents the band’s heaviest and strongest album to date, THE WAY IT ENDS.

THE WAY IT ENDS is a dark, angry album, but it is not completely without hope. Although written before the onset of a worldwide pandemic and the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the album now reflects the dark, cold, and tortured feelings that many people are experiencing at this time. The album is multi-layered, filled with emotional trauma that may shock the listener… but also help them realize that they are most certainly not alone in their own fears. This is an album that is focused on inner torment brought on by an unforgiving world. THE WAY IT ENDS is said to be ‘a thematic and spiritualsuccessor to their dense, bludgeoning, and smartly constructed full-length debut, THE PLACE I FEEL SAFEST, and a direct follow-up to the blistering and diverse EP, I LET THE DEVIL IN.’ While that may be the case, it certainly stands on its own as a massive punch to the gut in the best possible way. THE WAY IT ENDS may prove to be a prophetic title, or it could just end up being the best Currents album yet. Only time will tell.

CURRENTS

THE WAY IT ENDS

7.3.2020

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: KHRUANGBIN/MORDECHAI

Formed in Houston, Texas in 2009, Khruangbin is composed of bassist Laura Lee, guitarist Mark Speer, and drummer Donald ‘DJ’ Johnson. The band’s origins reach back to 2004 when Speer and Johnson met while playing in a church Gospel band. Three years on, Speer met Lee and he encouraged her to learn to play bass. They both ended up playing in Yppah’s live touring band. This experience encouraged the Speer and Lee to create original music together. The duo’s experimentation led to a unique Psychedelic sound that was bass-heavy and rooted in World Music. Speer brought in his old friend Johnson and Khruangbin (Thai for ‘flying engine’ or ‘airplane’) was born. The band’s initial musical output relied on the interplay between the instruments and vocals were not prominently featured on their recordings.

The trio’s first release was the 2014 EP THE INFAMOUS BILL, followed by their 2015 full-length debut album THE UNIVERSE SMILES UPON YOU. Influenced by Thai music, the album was nearly impossible to classify and defied all genres. Regardless, it was warmly embraced by music fans and critics. The band’s second album, CON TUDO EL MUNDO (2018), added Spanish and Middle Eastern influences, pushing the band further away from genre classification and making them one of the most riveting bands of the era. Playing small clubs and huge festivals alike, Khruangbin continued to tour and build a devoted audience. In 2019, they took a short break and focused on creating material for their next album.

Now, in 2020, Khruangbin return with their third album, MORDECHAI. Unsurprisingly, the trio adds new elements to their evolving sound including a stronger reliance on vocals. While the idea of emphasizing more vocals than usual on a Khruangbin album may seem to go against the flow of their previous releases, one spin of MORDECHAI and it all makes sense. This isn’t an album that finds the trio ‘selling out’ and aiming for the Pop charts. The vocals are a natural addition to their sound – they operate as instruments, adding a new layer of emotional depth to the songs. The grooves are as delectable as ever and the Psychedelic elements still keep the songs floating above the ozone, but the vocals help guide the listener through the ever-evolving musical world of Khruangbin. MORDECHAI is a unique listening experience that will keep you coming back for more helpings… and you will hear it differently with each spin. That is what music is all about.

KHRUANGBIN
MORDECHAI
(Dead Oceans)

6.26.2020

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: NEW FOUND GLORY/FOREVER + EVER X INFINITY



While melodic Pop-oriented Punk has existed since the late ‘70s, the term ‘Pop Punk’ (or ‘Punk Pop”) wasn’t widely used until bands like The Offspring, Green Day, Rancid, and Blink-182 brought the genre to the mainstream, selling millions of albums in the process. MTV and radio embraced this new movement that was as hook-filled as it was loud and aggressive. It is hard to tell whether Pop Punk was a reaction against the slick Pop and smooth R&B that filled the charts at the time or a full-on musical revolution but whatever happened, happened. Another band that made their mark in 1997 was New Found Glory, the Coral Springs, Florida-based band that seemed to have a never-ending supply of anthems for the Punk kids. Within two years of their debut EP, the band were one of the biggest Pop Punk bands in the land.

New Found Glory’s first full-length album, Nothing Gold Can Stay (1999) set the wheels in motion and by 2000, they had signed to Drive-Thru Records and released their self-titled second album. Over the next two decades, the band has released a series of hit records and spent plenty of time on the road, promoting their albums and entertaining audiences everywhere. They signed with Hopeless Records in 2014 and released Resurrection. The band returned three years later with Make Me Sick.  In 2019, they released the third in their From The Screen To Your Stereo series. Unlike many of their Pop Punk contemporaries, New Found Glory have shown no signs of slowing down.

Forever + Ever x Infinity is their 2020 album and their 10th studio album of original material (the band’s catalog also includes covers albums, live releases, EPs, and a few ‘hits’ collections to boot). The songs on this new release combine the spirit of classic New Found Glory with the spit of heavy Rock. The melodies still soar, but the guitars have a meaner bite. The songs still come fast and furious, but the guitars have a lean Metal-like chug-chug that makes each song hit harder but without causing any damage to the listener. Produced by Steve Evetts, the album features key tracks like “Himalaya”, “Shook By Your Shaved Head”, and the first single “Greatest Of All Time”. Forever + Ever x Infinity, amen!

NEW FOUND GLORY
FOREVER + EVER X INFINITY



Congratulations to AMPED’s own Dean Tabaac for being named a 2020 Indie Power Player by Billboard Magazine!

‘Dean Tabaac

Head of AMPED Distribution

Proving the vitality of physical music in a market with fewer places to sell it is a challenge that keeps Tabaac motivated. “I’m most proud of the combined tenacity of our labels and us to keep physical releases relevant, knowing that other distributors, and the labels they represent, are deemphasizing those configurations,” he says. Tabaac cites the ability of AMPED’s distribution centers to “continually get product into retailers, offline and online, faster than anyone else.”

Urgent Indie Issue: To meet the demand for vinyl, says Tabaac, “where we used to have a 40-foot row that was highly automated for processing CD orders, we had to build three mezzanines so our people could do manual LP picks more efficiently.”’

Read full article here:
https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/9400400/billboard-indie-power-players-executives-list-2020

An EXCLUSIVE interview with STEVE EARLE!

It’s About Blood:
 
An EXCLUSIVE interview
with 
 
Steve Earle
DAVE RAYBURN: First of all, the world has been turned on its ear over the last several months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. How have you and your family handled the situation?
STEVE EARLE: Well, I was in New York when everything started locking down and I was in a show. I was in COAL COUNTRY, which is sort of at the heart of this record. It was up and it was a hit and then all of a sudden everything gets shut down. The first thing that disappeared was culture. Theater went in like twelve hours. Broadway closed and, of course, off-Broadway just responded to that. Basically, we heard that Broadway was closing as of 5 o’clock. The next morning we were called to a meeting at The Public (Theater), and we did not go up that night. And then the museums closed in almost the same breath. My son’s school closed the following day. My son has autism and he goes to a private school, but its schedule mirrors the public school system. And so when that happened there was no school for him anymore. We’ve since then started taking classes with his regular teachers, with me being involved and his mother being involved online, so we get a half day in that way. But then the gym closed and that was sort of the end of it. I do have a house in Tennessee. And, thinking it was safer ‘cause there’d be more distance and all that stuff, John Henry (Earle) and I headed for Tennessee and we’ve been here since about the eighteenth (of April).
DR: You suggest that GHOSTS OF WEST VIRGINIA can be offered as a way to begin an exchange between those with different viewpoints or opinions in this uniquely politically-charged landscape. How did you come to select the 2010 Upper Big Branch mining disaster as the conduit for this dialog?
SE: I didn’t. It selected me. I was looking for that conversation. How do I make that record? I’ve made records like that before and written songs like that before. I’m not the guy in “Good Ol’ Boy (Gettin’ Tough)”. I’m not the guy in “Copperhead Road”. Believe it or not, I’m not John Walker Lynn. Some of my songs are my politics exactly. “Christmas In Washington” is. I’d made the “preaching to the choir” record twice, so I was looking to make a record that spoke to, and maybe even for, people that didn’t vote the way I did. And the reason I thought that was important was I felt like it was becoming increasingly obvious that very, very powerful people are able to do what they want to do by reinforcing the idea that we don’t have anything in common with the people that voted differently than we did. And, the truth is, they’re human beings, and we have way more in common with them than we think. Jessica Blank always says… the last acceptable prejudice is being prejudiced against people that come from places like West Virginia and Mississippi. People on the East Coast are afraid to say that ‘cause they’re afraid that it becomes some sort of reverse discrimination. I very much believe in doing whatever you have to do to make sure that schools are integrated and as equal as possible. Of course, nothing we’ve done has worked, but I do believe in trying, and I always have. And, my politics have been the same as they ever were. I just think that we probably have more in common with people in West Virginia and New York City than we think we do and than they think we do. I think we proved that with this piece. We were introducing New York theater audiences with to these people from West Virginia in their own words. The people portrayed in the show… all of them came to New York and saw the show, except one. He just happened to be hunting when we went looking for him, and we couldn’t find him (laughs). And our plan was to get him up there before it was over with… but they saw it and they were gratified that their story was being told. I think, probably, they knew more about us than we did about them, to tell you the truth, when it gets right down to it. I know a little bit about West Virginia. I play there. I still believe that coal and oil will eventually kill the planet, but I also believe that right now we still use it. Keep in mind, this coal and this mine that blew up was not going into coal-fired plants. This is steel-making coal. It was being loaded up and shipped to China and Singapore and South America where they’re still making steel, ‘cause we don’t make steel in this country. So, it’s one of those things that I just thought… it’s chess. It’s not checkers. I didn’t think I could write a song that could change that every night, but I thought maybe I could start a dialog, and I think I did.
DR: It’s a great approach. There are a lot of built-in biases, and this is one way to rethink how we converse.
SE: I think what made me aware of it… that even I was beginning to become guilty of it was when Trump finally got into office and I saw the mainstream Republican party, which I have plenty of problems with – I think they’re wrong about nearly everything… but when they started proving over and over again that they were okay with the Constitution being dismantled as long as their agenda was served, a light just went off in my head like… oh, that’s what people like that have always done. As long as they keep us at each other’s throats, then nothing gets done, and they can do whatever they want to. As long as they convince us that the other is coming to take our job, they can do anything that they want to. I believe what I believe, and my politics are what they are. That being said, the complete utter lack of a civil discourse of any sort in American politics has finally reached a point of critical mass. I never believed that we practiced the purest form of democracy in the world. I never diluted myself into believing that, but I thought our constitution was a way hipper document than even its framers intended it to be. And now it’s taking hits. The things that always saved our asses at the last minute are being damaged structurally. What can I do? What can a hillbilly singer with delusions of grandeur do? I thought, well… I talk like this… and then all of a sudden Jessica and Erik (Jensen) call me and they said… hey, we’ve been following this story of this explosion ten years ago… and I thought, this is it! This is the story that I can tell that will help me learn something and will give me something that I can teach to people that think like I do and maybe people that don’t think like I do, but talk more like I do. We’ll learn something from that, and maybe we can meet somewhere in the middle.
DR: Your push to remind us of our simplistic commonality and individuality, especially in songs like “It’s About Blood”, is reminiscent of Roger Miller‘s BIG RIVER and, even more specifically, the characterizations found in Edgar Lee Masters’ SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY. Taking the detail in that stride, was it always your strong intention to make sure all 38 mine victims were name-checked somewhere on the record?
SE: It’s an idea I came up with all of a sudden when we were workshopping it. I just did it. Like, I wrote the song… I turned it in, and everybody liked the song. It was designed to be the climax of the play. The first verse is pretty much totally based on Tommy Davis who was one of the most outspoken of the angry survivors. Tommy Davis was in the mine that day, but he was not down far enough that he died. He lost his son, his brother, and his nephew that day. There were five Davises working there that day, and they were all in the mine. Two of the five survived. So, that whole first verse is pure Tommy Davis. So, that’s the deal. Everybody that did this show was pretty close. Our intention is to see that it (COAL COUNTRY) go back up when New York opens back up, and I think that’s a possibility. We’re talking about it. We’re trying to figure out how to do it.
DR: With the large majority of America isolated and with a newly lengthened attention span due to stay-at-home orders that have been in place… are you hopeful that GHOSTS OF WEST VIRGINIA will have a greater chance of being received and absorbed in the way you had originally imagined in the short time leading up to the 2020 U.S. elections?
SE: The way I know how to do this best is to go out and play for people, but maybe this will work better for reaching that audience that maybe stopped listening to me because they decided I was a communist (laughs). I don’t know. Whatever happens now… we’re breaking it up, and that might be healthy. It’s one of those things. Maybe we’ll figure out that our health care system doesn’t work. Maybe. I’m an optimist. Like, baseball season starts every year and I’ve got friends that are like… I don’t know man, we don’t have any pitching… blah blah blah. And, I’m always… hey, we’re going to the World Series and we’re gonna win it! I’m just an optimist. It’s one of those things. I gotta think there’s some sort of silver lining here somewhere.
Special thanks to Steve Earle, Steve Dixon, Tommy Robinson, and Shelby McElrath

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RECORD STORE DAY 2020 postponed until June 20!

FROM THE OFFICIAL 
RECORD STORE DAY 
WEBSITE:
 
We’ve decided that the best of all possible moves is to change the date of Record Store Day this year to Saturday, June 20.
 
We think this gives stores around the world the best chance to have a profitable, successful Record Store Day, while taking into consideration the recommendations of doctors, scientists, the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and the need to be good citizens of both local and worldwide communities.
 
We’re working with all of our partners and our stores to make this change as smooth as possible for everyone who participates in Record Store Day: customers, record stores, artists, labels and more.  Record Store Day is everywhere and we want to hold our party when everyone can gather around safely to celebrate life, art, music and the culture of the indie record store. 

THIS IS MY LIFE: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with LISA LOEB!

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Your new album, A SIMPLE TRICK TO HAPPINESS, is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction so far?
LISA LOEB: I’m so proud, to see my new album being so incredibly well-received. People seem to be relating to it in a big way, and have also mentioned that they especially like the modern production of it. It very much sounds like me, intimate and personal, but yet it’s something new and different.

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A Trip Through THE THIRD MIND with DAVE ALVIN: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: THE THIRD MIND is about to be released. How are you feeling about the way the album turned out and the reaction to it so far?
DAVE ALVIN: I am extremely happy about how THE THIRD MIND album sounds and the performances on it. It’s about the most musically experimental album I’ve ever been involved with so I’ve been keeping track of responses both from my longtime fans as well as from new listeners who are just discovering the group and album. So far, most people seem to really like it. There’s been a few folks who nicely say that they prefer my other, more roots-rock material but only one or two have told me that I suck.

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Have A Nice SUNDAZED: Spaz picks some classic releases from Sundazed Music!


Bob Irwin should be in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Or at least have his own star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Or maybe have a star named after him. And the reason why is really quite simple. Over 30 years ago, he started a label called Sundazed and literally changed the world of CD reissues. From the label’s debut, THE FABULOUS KNICKERBOCKERS in 1989 to the label’s most recent releases, they’ve been handled with love and care. Great mastering, packaging, liner notes, and the addition of bonus tracks when available, every Sundazed release is a work of art and labor of love. The label has released catalog titles by The Velvet Underground, Buck Owens, Link Wray, Byrds, Meters, Bob Dylan, Love, MC5, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, and many others. 

While steering the Sundazed ship, Bob also had a 25-year relationship as a producer for Sony Music. Bob curated and restored titles by Santana, Janis Joplin, The Byrds, Sly & The Family Stone, Simon & Garfunkel, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jefferson Airplane, Donovan, and Carole King. Oh, and loads of others as well. There’s a pretty good chance that if you are a collector, you own at least 29 titles that Bob has worked his magic on!

I’ve collected Sundazed CDs throughout the years. And going through their catalog, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on some of my favorite titles on the label. Some are obscure while others are cult classics. All of them are very much worth your time. And some of them are even available on vinyl! However, I’m a CD man so that is what I’m focusing on below.

OK, let’s get this party started. Grab your favorite beverage and start taking notes!


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