Dropping The Needle with Jimmy Cain of CHAMPION LOVER

First guest blog from the mainland and it comes from one of my dear friends, Jimmy Cain. He's a tremendous dude and a fantastic musician with one of the very best bands in the city (CHAMPION LOVER). It's a band loud and enough and dirty enough to be a staple on the deck here in St. John's, but accessible enough to be a mainstream rock fan's dirty sidepiece. Catch them for Canadian Music Week at Smiling Buddah on May 6th, you won't regret it!

But Jimmy also records bands for scratch, supports local like crazy, and has insanely good musical taste. For my pick of the week check out Toronto's Das Rad, another band from the Odonis Odonis pedigree and at the forefront of the heavy-meets-punk scene in the city. Great folks in that band as well.

As always, you can take 5% off any title in this post if you purchase it this week, even if it is on sale by using the promo code, this week it is CLOVER... as in the band, not the flower. And if you are out here in Newfoundland and you want the CHAMPION LOVER vinyl, let me know. I'll take no money on any sales, just the cost it takes to get it out here for you.  

-- Dan

I grew up poor, but my parents always found a way to keep music in the apartment. I couldn’t have been more than 8 when my dad upgraded his stereo and gave me and my brother his hand-me-down rig for our room. It was a beat-up Sanyo player with a pair of '70s Bose speakers.

Every time the record player stopped, its well-worn belt fell off. I didn’t know they made replacement belts, so whenever I changed records or sides I’d disassemble the top, reattach the belt just right with the motor spinning, reassemble the still spinning record player, place my vinyl, drop the needle, and listen to my side.

I did this for 8 years, every day, several hours a day. I would dig through my dad’s old record collection, playing what I knew or what looked interesting while my brother taught himself coding on a Commodore 64 that my dad’s friend at Canpar stole for us. Come to think of it, that’s probably also how he upgraded the stereo.

The slightest thing could trigger my interest. Popping on an album because it had a “swear” (in hindsight, a slur) on the cover and all of the sudden I’m the only 8-year-old that can recite a full Richard Pryor routine. Playing Eric Burdon Declares War because I knew I liked my dad’s Best of Eric Burdon & The Animals cassette and discovering a combination of rock, roll, and soul that I could have never imagined.

Those memories are why I insisted on releasing our debut on vinyl even though it made no financial sense. They are why I have two dead record labels (2 Tone and Stax) tattooed to my forearms. It’s why I still buy and listen to records through those old Bose speakers …though I’ve since upgraded the record player to a Pro-Ject.

I own every record below, with #10, #6, and #1 bought through Come From Away.

10. Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
When this was released, I had just written my first song. Andrew Masuda (older brother of CHAMP LOVE’s twins and frontman of Keratoid), told me my song reminded him of Pavement. Andrew was the coolest guy I knew, so even though I had never heard of Pavement I was at Sam the Record Man within a day buying this album. The guitars were so loose. Stephen Malkmus sounded like he had no idea what the next word out of his mouth would be. Pavement always seemed about to fall apart, but instead found this inspiring magic at the edge of failure.

Top Track – Elevate Me Later - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DF7wInjEGuc

9. Stiff Little Fingers - Inflammable Material
I was too young for the original wave of punk, but I’d hear the stories, see the pictures, and have this image of how tough and kinetic it must have been. Then I’d put on the records and think things like “well The Ramones are clearly an amazing band. I love this, but this isn’t as fierce as what I pictured.” Nothing measured up to what was in my head until I heard Suspect Device. That dirty guitar lead / screaming intro had me instantly.

Top track – Suspect Device - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKsN5cj9ehs

8. Odonis Odonis - Hard Boiled / Soft Boiled
This came out 2014, the same year as our full length debut. I love our album and will unashamedly pimp it every chance I get, but I put 2 albums from 2014 above it - Drag by Village (unbelievable lo-fi goodness) and this masterpiece. It goes from beautiful melodies washed in reverb to the destruction of worlds - like My Bloody Valentine with more power, structure, and a love of industrial music. Possibly the best Toronto album ever.

Top track – Highnote - https://vimeo.com/99467719

7. Ghostface Killah – Ironman
It’s crazy for me to have only one rap album on my list. So many formative records could have been up here - No Need for Alarm by Del, ’93 ‘til Infinity by Souls of Mischief, Illmatic by Nas, this could go on for pages without even leaving the early 90s. Ironman wins because it never left my rotation and the Speed Racer synched video got teenage me hooked on getting high while playing Simpsons (and other cartoons with lots of dialogue) on mute against aggressive rap to laugh my ass off to when the vocals synched to the faces.  

Top track – Daytona 500 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkKxsYgv12M

6. The Baby Huey Story – The Living Legend
This album breaks my heart every fucking time. I came to it because it was produced by Curtis Mayfield (one of my true gods alongside Rod Serling and Richard Pryor), but as much as I love Curtis this record surpasses anything he ever did. Unfortunately Baby Huey died at 26 before his debut’s release. If you don’t know this record, you’ve probably heard samples from it throughout classic 90s hip hop. If you’re down and listen to his version of A Change Is Going to Come and don’t tear up at least a little, we probably can never be friends.

Top track – Hard Times - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMIzTh0Lafg

5. Royal Headache - Royal Headache
Fast and catchy melodies slathered in lo-fi grime. I grew up on Guided by Voices and the first time Ted threw this on at practice, it took me back to everything I loved about GBV in a totally new way. It’s one of those albums where your musical upbringing will affect how you hear it. If you grew up on pretty, it may sound too grimey, but if you grew up on grime, it’s so fucking pretty.

Top track – Down the Lane - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5w7mfV_EYo

4. The Pixies – Doolittle
My girlfriend still teases me for playing side A at a house party while drunkingly insisting to everyone that the A side is the best side of any record ever. Well sober me thinks drunk me was on to something, even if I admit that I can’t stand the song Here Comes Your Man. I don’t hate it like I hate David Wilcox, but it’s a vapid commercial jingle compared with the rest of the album. Doolittle swings from lazy to mean to catchy to loud so naturally that it puts Frank Black on my Alec Baldwin All-Stars list of supremely talented people I can’t quit even though by all accounts they’re worthless pieces of shit.

Top track – Monkey Gone to Heaven - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHC9HE7vazI

3. Bass Drum of Death - GB City
THERE IS NOT ENOUGH ROCK AND ROLL THAT MAKES YOU WANT TO BANG YOUR HEAD AND DANCE SIMULTANEOUSLY! This album is 32 minutes non-stop of doing that - an absolute turning point in modern music for me. There’s not a current band with a bigger influence on us than Bass Drum of Death. It’s a great album by an even better live band. We’re at every Toronto show losing our shit up front.

Top track – Nerve Jamming - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHZpznGLiRk

2. Guided by Voices - Alien Lanes
I hate playing covers and never learn them, but I know the chords and words to this whole album. 21 years of playing it endlessly had that effect on me. GBV had the most unlikely script - a grade 4 school teacher making basement 4-track albums with his friends and somehow getting dragged into being the greatest indie band of all time. They broke every rule, even the one that says “don’t record if your drummer is passed out and snoring.” Instead they made it a drum beat. Robert Pollard is a genius.

Top track – Ex-Supermodel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADRbrSHnfqk

1. The Breeders – Last Splash
Maybe drunk me was wrong and this is the greatest A side ever. There’s mystery in how much or little of this album is a fuck you to Frank Black, but that tension is palpable and adds something meaningful. My biggest regret is never seeing The Breeders live in their heyday. Beautiful atmospheric vocal melodies creeping through huge fuzzy guitars; does it get any better than that? I want everything I ever record or mix to sound like this.

Top track – Invisible Man - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4DmReQoJLQ

Dan Wolovick