By the time I was old enough to make informed decisions about what I was buying, vinyl records’ slutty-and-available 3rd cousin twice-removed, “The Cassette,” had taken over the consumer market.
When I was a younger child, the world was flooded with records, including some I’d now consider to be toys. I had a Fisher-Price record player, so it’s hard to say with any significance what my first actual purchase was, technically. It’s hard to nail down what the most important and earliest purchase is, but I would say it’s a tie between two early eye-openers (both of them were on tape). My gut says Double Bummer by Bongwater, but my head says the self-titled third release by Camper Van Beethoven.
I got the CVB album first, at one of the great ‘80s “underground record stores” in my neighborhood in Philadelphia: Repo Records. It was in a somewhat tiny 1.5 room bright-red-brick building behind the train tracks, and it naturally seemed like a portal into another dimension. As a younger kid, my brother and I would pick up LP’s like The Empire Strikes Back and The Great Muppet Caper soundtracks (me) or the Bee Gees Spirits Having Flown (my brother, older) at K-mart after church with our mom. Sometimes she would take us down to the Tower Records on South Street for fun. Repo, and other stores like it, was a whole other thing, a different kind of place. Anyway, sometime around late middle school I picked up this tape by Camper Van Beethoven to try something different from classic rock, and it was awesome. It’s not so clever that it gets away from making killer songs, but it’s pretty goddamned clever; a perfect mix of experimenting and kicking ass, including some hard-core folk licks. I didn’t know anything about them, but it was like music just for me that came from outer space. Oh yeah, and really funny. Whatever happened to funny?
Bongwater’s magnum opus Double Bummer was like watching an illegal movie. I heard about them from my guitar teacher who was in punk bands called Gut Cart and Still Stupid. This was crazy stuff that took me awhile to even get through initially. It is basically recorded performance art. The tunes are largely like different skits being performed by I guess “avant-garde” actress/singer Ann Magnuson to the music of ‘80s NYC underground magnate Kramer, who specialized in articulated sludge with some of the city’s finest musical talents. Closely related to Butthole Surfers, Ween, and the Blues Explosion, these recordings reeked of tarry scum caked into the dope house corners of Burroughs and Bukowski’s shadowy purgatory. It was a world that seemed to be ripping the Reagan-era to shreds. Getting on into my teen age years, this kind of craziness was exactly what made the most sense to me.
Patrick McHugh is the songwriter, vocalist and guitarist for the Philadelphia band Grubstake. They have beenn a longstanding underground presence in the East Coast scene from Boston to Philadelphia for the past 10 years, garnering praise from local zines (The Noise, The Deli, PA Musician) to regional mainstream (Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe) and alternative press (Philly Weekly, Philadelphia Citypaper, Boston’s Weekly Dig , Boston Phoenix). They’ve been well received by radio & digital dj’s, showing up in the mix on stations like Philadelphia’s WKDU 91.7 FM Drexel radio and YRock on XPN (as well as live sessions at both), DJ Shred on WBCN 104fm Boston, MIT’s WMBR 88.1fm Cambridge, and Jon Solomon’s influential podcast Local Support, as well as others all over the country.
Their latest release is called ANYHOW. The group paid meticulous attention to not being meticulous in their recording process. Much like their previous records, Grubstake produced and recorded ANYHOW on 8-track cassette tapes in their living rooms and rehearsal spaces across the eastern sea board. The sound channels a guerilla-style Guided By Voices feel.