The 10 Best Reissues of November/December: Bikini Kill, Ghetto Brothers, an Unhealthy Amount of Johnny Cash
Plus: Hairy Mancunian dude-rock, Philly soul stepping stones, and trashy horror-surf obscurities
6. Bikini Kill
Bikini Kill EP
Bikini Kill Records
You should already know that SPIN loves the 15 scorching minutes that forever dynamited the punk rock boys’ little treehouse. This 20th anniversary vinyl reissue doesn’t have too many frills — the reprints from the band members zines (Bikini Kill and Jigsaw) are more than welcome — but they should probably reissue this every year until dudes stop writing stuff like this.
7. Ghetto Brothers
Power – Fuerza
Truth & Soul
As the mighty Jeff Chang says in the press release: “The story of the Ghetto Brothers is the story of the Bronx in the 1970s: gang members turning from violence to music…the sound of change and optimism.” A familiar story, sure, but by the time the socially minded Puerto Rican street gang hit 1972, hip-hop culture was but an embryo still figuring how to put break to beat. Instead, founder Benjamin Melendez invented his own profound sample-era NYC smash-up of perfect beats — Please Please Me-era Beatles harmonies, manic Latin-rock percussion, “Tighten Up” chunka-chunka guitars, and lyrics about backstabbers and girls that are bad for your health. This 40th anniversary reissue is the next best thing to owning an original copy — which you can get on Discogs right now if you have $900 to spare.
8. Various Artists
Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard: Hard Time, Good Time & End Time Music: 1923-1936
A Kentucky record hoarder who died in 2010 became an accidental Harry Smith for this three-disc compilation, mostly culled from the unlikely gems found moldy and filth-caked among his stacks on stacks on stacks. The first disc, mostly songs of toil and Depression-era depression is clearly the most resonant: North Carolina guitarist and former hobo David McCarn spits out the rant “Cotton Mill Colic No. 2 (Poor Man, Rich Man),” which should have been the “Take This Job and Shove It” of its time. And the Gid Tanner track should have been the “Slack Motherfucker” of its time (“I don’t bother work, work don’t bother me / I’m just as happy as a bumblebee”). The “Play Hard” disc, full of rags and instrumentals, is where you’ll find the Oldest Weirdest America possible: Warren Caplinger’s Cumberland Mountain Entertainers going absolutely ham with the animal noises on “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”; White Gaydon’s totally batshit “Tennessee Coon Hunt,” best described as a ” psychotic one-act radio play for violin and sloppy dog noises”; and the godfather of the album skit, 1928’s “Corn Shucking Party in Georgia” where the joke is that they never get to the song (or the corn-shucking, for that matter) since everyone’s too busy drinking.
9. Tony, Caro & John
A circa-1975 D.I.Y. freak-folk obscurity with an energy that drags the Incredible String Band to the edges of the punk era (check out the blazing Mamas & the Papas-meet-Thee Oh Sees opener “Forever and Ever,” if nothing else), and whose quirky minimalism predates bands like the Vaselines. These lost sides work as kind of weirder, cooler stepson to the band’s proper studio offering, 1972’s All On The First Day, a record-collector gem (Beach House covered one of its songs). As they braved deeper into the ’70s, their Barrett-fried folk was increasingly creeped-up and hazed-out by haunting, embryonic Residents-era synths. Their dreamy folk is all the more surreal and floaty thanks to farting drum machines and dewy fogs of bloop.
10. Various Artists
Diablos del Ritmos: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960-1985
An admittedly daunting cross-section of styles and sounds that attempts to shed some light on how African rhythms influenced Colombian music in the ’60s and ’70s. Covering a whoooole lot of ground in just 32 tracks — Afrobeat, paleque sounds, tropical funk, terapia, puya, porro, goita, cumbiamba, mapale, chande — the comp suffers from schizophrenic sequencing, but makes up for it in the high-octane grooves of groups like Fuentes All Stars and the afro-funk gems from the Machuca label.