Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Record Store Day Trip

When Dean asked me to follow up ‘The Death of a Disco Vendor’ from Issue 1.1 I jumped at the chance to revisit some of my favourite record stores, whilst discovering a new one. If the prospect seemed enticing, the reality of getting up at 6:30am to set off to Bradford was less enjoyable. But follow
ing a full English breakfast in Wetherspoons’ Sir Titus Salt I was ready to tackle the racks!

Every time I walk up Westgate I expect Discovery Records to be closed down, yet somehow it defies my expectations. However it had fallen victim to the weather, with the owner busy moving stock around to avoid it becoming water damaged by the leaks that had sprung.

Whilst I was thumbing through the metal section she brandished a copy of a Nolan’s DVD she was rescuing from the rain, joking “One for you here!” I love the fact that I always end up having a bit of banter with her.

I initially struggle to find anything of interest, but as I progress towards the end of the alphabetically arranged racks I come up trumps, picking an eclectic selection, none of which fit the traditional metal mould. I start with The Mars Volta’s The Bedlam in Goliath, up to now I only own Deloused in the Comatorium so it was high time I added to that.

Following that I spy (Rather appropriately) Mike Patton’s Peeping Tom, an album that saw him collaborate with a range of groups and artists. You never know what you’re getting with Patton from one album to the next, but it’s never less than interesting.

The next band I come across, Senser, were undoubtedly influenced by Patton-era Faith No More. I nearly bought Asylum on cassette shortly after it came out in 1998, but resisted based on some less than favourable comments from friends, so it was my first of a gamble.

Less of a punt was The Tea Party’s Splendor Solis. The Tea Party garnered quite a bit of airplay on Radio One’s rock show in the early ‘90s, combining The Doors and Led Zeppelin with added Eastern mysticism. Looking back their sound seemed at odds with what was popular at the time, hopefully ensuring it doesn’t sound dated.

I headed over to the rock & pop racks, which housed a healthy variety. From this I select a Death in Vegas’ Best of Milk It. Having heard Dirge on an episode of BBC 3’s Being Human I was keen to delve further into their electronica. There was added appeal in the shape of Aisha, a track featuring Mr Swift Cover himself, Iggy Pop. Due to it being a double-disc it cost £6 (All the other CDs I bought here were £4); for the same money you could have picked up the latest Manic Street Preachers’ compilation National Treasures, which had only been out for a couple of months.

However, if its old albums you desire there was a section which ideally should have been titled ‘Bands With Extensive Back Catalogues’’. From this I selected not one, not two, not three, but four Thin Lizzy albums. Four seemed appropriate, as it was BBC 4’s Renegades documentary that had fuelled my desire to expand my Lizzy collection. I replace my vinyl copies of Jailbreak and Live And Dangerous and get Black Rose and China Town.

I also finally buy AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Fear Factory’s Mechanize. Fear Factory are a band who have released some patchy albums in recent years, but the return of Dino Cazares and the presence of drum-god and one time Bradford resident Gene Hoglan had rejuvenated them when I saw them in 2010 so I decided to take a gamble.

All that remained upstairs was to peruse the DVDs. I forgo The Nolans, but manage to finally track down The Wildhearts Live At Scarborough for £6. At considerably less than the £29 I paid for a ticket to the actual event, it offers me a chance to spot myself in the crowd, although I doubt it will recreate how cold that September night in 2005 was!

As with my last visit to Discovery my choices draw comment from the owner. She takes a shine to the packaging for Peeping Tom’s album, suggests that Black Rose is Thin Lizzy’s best album and recommends a band called Trapeze to me if I enjoy The Tea Party. Apparently one of their albums is here, somewhere…if Discovery has a fault it’s that upstairs is somewhat disorganised, which leads me to the relative calm below.

Unlike my last visit I also part with some cash downstairs. The guy behind the counter is more than happy to let me search through the A-Z section that runs along the wall behind him. From this I select Motorhead’s first album as a four-piece Orgasmatron, another vinyl replacement; Seattle super group Temple Of The Dog’s sole album, which seems hard to come by on physical format and Skindred’s Shark Bites And Dog Fights, purchased on the strength of their excellent performance at last year’s Bingley Music Live.

My tote bag bulges as I catch the train to Huddersfield. In recent times I’ve drank in both of Huddersfield stations pubs, but have never made it into the town centre, which is a shame as it transpires Wall of Sound is a minute’s walk from the station.

Apparently Wall of Sound has just been taken over by Vinyl Tap. Whilst this seems to ensure the shop’s short term future I recall Vinyl Tap’s old shop in Leeds was generally overpriced. Thankfully I’m reassured by the well stocked, excellently labelled selection of CDs (There’s nothing worse than walking into a record shop and finding one, seemingly never-ending, ‘rock & pop’ section) which includes indie, metal, rap and even psychedelia. Much of the stock has been reduced, so there are numerous bargains to be had (At £6.99 Black Breath’s Heavy Breathing was cheaper than when I bought it direct from the band at their Joseph’s Well gig).

Initially I head to the indie section where I come up with Brett Anderson’s Wilderness (reduced from £5.99 to £3.99) and what I believed to be Graham Coxon’s Love Travels at Illegal Speeds (£5 down to £3). Closer inspection on the subsequent train reveals it is an interview disc to promote said album, housed in an identical sleeve. In fairness you wouldn’t stumble across said album in HMV or a supermarket as it was intended for press only, so it has some curiosity value. However, numerous such discs have been issued, usually unofficially, down the years. A friend had a Nirvana one in the early ‘90s which I recall was a veritable snooze fest.

Suddenly, the magpie in me takes over, as I spy a shimmering, silvery package. It happens to be Chrome Hoof’s Crush Depth (£11.99 down to £7.99). The band resembles extras from an early ‘80s episode of Doctor Who and features Leo Smee, formerly of British doom legends Cathedral. I was briefly exposed to their first album by my former housemate so I decide to give them a try, although ultimately it was the packaging I couldn’t resist.

To round things off upstairs I purchase Hail of Bullets’ On Divine Winds from the metal section. They’re a band I’ve heard good things about and their line-up features members of death metal veterans such as Bolt Thrower and Asphyx. They play the sort of music that prompted my brother to recently ask me “Haven’t you grown out of that?” Clearly not! It’s another album that’s in the £4 category.

Downstairs is a room that houses numerous tables with box after box of vinyl on them. A sign outside promises ‘Over 50,000 records for less than £2’ which I can believe. It actually makes me glad I don’t have a turntable at present as trawling through would be a herculean task. Although if you fancy something for your wall there are a number of cool framed promotional posters for £10.

I leave Wall of Sound and get the train to Leeds (Via the Head of Steam pub and a pint of Copper Dragon!). In the past my first port if call in Leeds would have been Hellraiser records. Sadly the last branch of the shop closed its doors almost a year ago on, although it lives on online. My last purchases there were Kreator’s Hordes of Chaos and Saxon’s Long Arm of the Law.

Despite the shop having closed I head down to Kirk Gate to see what has become of the premises and find it is about to become vacant again. It seems that ‘Fabrication – The Craftiest Place in Leeds’ are perhaps not surprisingly moving to the Merrion Centre, which is earmarked for renovation.

Much like Wakefield before it, Trinity is coming to Leeds, Trinity One rather than Trinity Walk Two (Confused yet?) Again it seems that this development has been at the detriment of other areas of the city, although it’s pleasing to note that The Corn Exchange is back on its way to being a vibrant alternative shopping experience.

With nothing to be had at this end of Leeds (Except fish ‘n’ chips with a cup of tea and bread and butter from Crown Fisheries; all for £3.10!) I head up to Crash Records. Crash’s stock is always well labelled, sometimes with highly informative hand-written labels, a trait that I notice HMV Leeds tried to pick up on with their ‘Staff Picks’ section.

I pick up A Fragile King by Gregor MacKintosh from Paradise Lost’s Vallenfyre side project, which at £9.99 is my most expensive purchase so far, but it only came out late last year. The sticker adorning it describes it as “A rotten mix of Autopsy, Celtic Frost, early Entombed and Paradise Lost”. Although this is record company blurb, I like to think Crash’s staff would have come up with something along the same lines.

Not only that they were more than happy to haggle when I noticed the girl behind the counter was in the process of reducing stock. She’d not got round to Skunk Anansie’s Wonderlustre yet, so I enquire how much they want for it and manage to get it for £8 down from £12.99, complete with bonus DVD.

On my way to Jumbo I call in That’s Entertainment, a relatively new chain of stores, whose website claims “There will always be a bargain to find - just like the good old fashioned independent music store”. My experience with them so far has been pretty positive and there are some ridiculously cheap albums if you want to do a bit of back catalogue filling. With that in mind I pick up Blur’s 13, Echobelly’s Everyone’s Got One and Graham Coxon’s Love Travels At Illegal Speeds from their 3 for £5 section. I make a point of checking Coxon’s album is what it seems before leaving the shop this time! They also stock plenty of new releases at prices the internet would struggle to match; I’d previously picked up PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake for £4.99 in their Wakefield store.

Up the escalator in the St John’s centre is Jumbo, a shop that unlike many people I have little affection for. However when I walk in I hear a familiar voice over their speakers so I approach a member of staff in order to confirm my suspicions.

“Is this the new Mark Lanegan album?” I enquire, “Yes it is.” was the rather brief reply I got from the woman behind the counter, “What date does it come out?” I continued. At this point she disappeared into the stock room, before coming back and advising me it was due out on the 6th of February. I paused, half expecting her to ask if I wanted to pre-order the album, but she didn’t so I merely repeated “Sixth of February, OK, thanks.”

I’ve had some poor customer service in Jumbo in the past and rarely come out of there with anything so it was disappointing that they missed a trick, especially after my experience in Crash earlier.

I’m pretty confident I won’t draw a blank at Relics Records on New Briggate; since I started going in a couple of years ago I’ve found some great stuff. It’s well divided sections meet with my preferences and although the second hand CDs are a couple of quid more than you’d tend to pay in Discovery it’s still reasonably priced. Today I even manage to find an album under Discovery’s average £4, L7’s Hungry for Stink at £3.99.

I continue the female vocalist theme with Arch Enemy’s Doomsday Machine, (£4.99) another album I’d previously heard through my bedroom wall when I flat-shared. Before picking up two albums by New York thrashers Overkill, Relix IV and Iron Bound (Both £4.99), the former contains the punked up Old School which has always come across well when I’ve seen Overkill live, whilst the latter received rave reviews when it was released in 2010. I also manage to get a Valentines gift, in the shape of Michael Monroe’s Sensory Overdrive, for £9.99.

My final destination of the day, somewhat contentiously is HMV. I paid a visit on the basis that Cathedral’s Anniversary box set was £24 in Crash, which seemed steep. It was in here for £16, but I ended up with their last studio album The Guessing Game a double disc affair that had come down in price to a reasonable £8. They also had Trap Them’s Seizure in Barren Praise in, whereas Crash no longer stocked it. At £10 it was my most expensive purchase, by a single penny!

Hopefully that penny might help keep HMV open, but if the profit warnings that keep being issued are anything to go by I think the company’s pink signs may soon be disappearing from the high street. Much as it pains me to admit it that would be a sad day, I for one wouldn’t relish writing their obituary.


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