Henry Rollins: Humanity Is at an All-Time Low, but at Least the Music Sounds Great

The new Dinosaur Jr. album on purple vinyl? Sold!EXPAND
The new Dinosaur Jr. album on purple vinyl? Sold!

I am in Los Angeles for a pit stop, approximately 53 hours in duration. I will be heading back to the airport and wheels up for New Zealand in about 25 hours.

I am one of those people who makes lists. I am often in situations where I have to get a lot done in a small amount of time, often on a less-than-desirable amount of sleep. So I make lists: what to do and what order to do it in. European and U.K. adapters out of my cable bag, Australia/New Zealand and South Africa adapters in, etc. The pack is only a few folded garments away from being good to go.

When I am here for only several hours at a time, my priority is analog listening time. On the road, my primary sound source is digital, so when I am home I do my best to push as much vinyl and cassette tape through my brain before I return to the cold, music-free environment of digital information.

Yesterday, upon staggering into my office to transfer computer files, I saw several LP mailers leaning crookedly against the wall. Hopefully, the records on my L.A. hello-goodbye must-hear list were contained therein. I set about carefully opening one after another. I had been looking forward to this.

I confess to my powerlessness to resist any vinyl color variation of a record released by Thee Oh Sees, Boris or Dinosaur Jr. There are several other bands that this also applies to; those are but three examples. I don’t feel at all bad about this but it does get to be a bit much. In a weak defense of my compulsion, I do listen to all of them.

2016 has been a great year for music, and it’s not anywhere near over. Thee Oh Sees’ new album, A Weird Exits, is a fantastic piece of work. This is a band that, in my opinion, has not released a record that isn’t worth repeated listening. To make it even better, Thee Oh Sees always have a few different color vinyl variations to keep us trainspotter types happy.

So far for this great, three-sided double-LP set, cut at 45 rpm for extraordinarily present sound, there are, besides the mass-produced black vinyl edition, the bloodshot eyeball version in a pressing of a mere 300, the murky web pressing of 1,700 and a transparent green version coming out of the U.K. in an edition of 975. I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be another variation released at some point. As soon as I find out, I will be there. It’s just another excuse to listen to the record again.

So far, I have been through the black and bloodshot versions. For the others, I will have to wait for my next 48-hour home layover, which I will be afforded after I climb out of South Africa early next month.

This year, Boris celebrate 10 years since they put out their monster album, Pink. The band have seen fit to rerelease the album. In classic Boris style, not only are there a few cool-looking color variations but, in order to make the record a mandatory acquisition for Boris fans, they have included nine previously unreleased tracks from the Pink sessions called the “Forbidden Songs.” Also, for this release, in a trademark Boris move, the vinyl version of a Pink track called “My Machine” clocks in at 11:15, different from the original length of 2 minutes, and the track “Pseudo-Bread,” originally at 4:30, now comes in at 10:08. Both longer versions totally scorch but neither is available on the download that comes with the album or the new CD version.

Why they did this, I have no idea, but at this point Boris fans are used to these mysteries. I will be making a needle-drop transfer of these tracks because there is no way I can’t play them on my radio show.

There are, to my knowledge, three color variations of this three-LP set: 1,000 in light pink/dark pink, 1,000 in pink with purple splatter, and clear and pink color-in-color, which I can’t find press run information on.

Usually, when a band leaves songs unreleased, there is a reason. When occasionally you are allowed access to these tracks, you understand why the band left them off. But in the case of these nine extra tracks, Boris continue to confuse as much as amaze. They are fantastic. It’s the best reissue in a long time by any band anywhere, and as with any record on the Sargent House label, it’s excellently packaged.

Upcoming Events

Dinosaur Jr. have just released a new album called Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. I’ve played it well over a dozen times and twice in the last 12 hours. If you like this band, run, do not walk to this one. Great from start to finish, with excellent playing from Jay, Lou and Murph. The album has a few color variations: pre-order purple of 9,000, the Newbury Comics clear run of 500 and Amoeba Records’ blue of 596.

To answer the question that isn’t burning a hole in your brain pan — yes, I got every single one of these versions. It’s a long way to go to listen to a few hours of music, but like I said, I’m unable to stop.

In the omnipresent dimness in which humanity currently toils, music sounds better than ever. I am not an escapist, but when your kung fu sucks, I leave the dojo, the village and the valley, to paraphrase a badly overdubbed martial arts film I saw years ago.

I was just at the airport in Brussels for the second time in the last several weeks. There are so many security personnel and guns to pass by before you even check in, you forget you’re at an airport in the first place. An all-time low.

I don’t have a bottle of vodka in the freezer. I’ve got vinyl.

Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.


More from the mind of Henry Rollins:
Let's Invade Canada

Bend Over, America — Here Comes President Trump
I Am Basically a Vinyl Cat Lady


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