Home > Author blabber > (I Couldn’t) Resist the Temptation: Grab Bags

(I Couldn’t) Resist the Temptation: Grab Bags

The lure of the unknown can sometimes overpower the sense of reason (or frugality) that usually lingers in the back of my head.  This restraint has not always been there as I have had oodles of lawn mowing and leaf raking money in my youth to greedily spend on other forms of entertainment without a considering something called ‘savings’.   The same went for music until I sorta smartened up and decided to listen to songs online before purchase (like that Lala site I keep referencing in reviews).  However, when I see a brown bag that has some mysterious contents (notice the plural) that is only worth a dollar, the imagination takes over.  Maybe this bag holds an album that is a surprise of some sort!  You know, perhaps the assembler of such bags thought that in order to draw in customers they needed to stick something random in one of the bags to get people to play the lottery so to speak.  Yeah, okay, there wasn’t a sign that actually said there was a surprise in one of the bags, but perhaps someone stole the sign so that they could buy all the bags at their leisure!  Oh I know about that devious stuff, so I made sure to stick it to that villain and buy one of these things at a local music store.  Ha!

Agh!  What a bad idea!  A more sensible person would realize that grab bags are a way for record stores to get rid of terribly unsellable music without getting that guilty feeling of actually throwing it away.  A grab bag could even be considered the dollar bin graveyard, for dollar bins at least show that the store believes that an album could conceivably sell if one were to look at it.  Music in a grab bag doesn’t even give you that luxury.  In fact, it is likely the store thinks that the album contained within are not only not worth listening to but aren’t even interesting to look at!  Let me tell you, there are plenty of records out there that have some seriously bad album cover designs as well as font choices.  Usually that kind of appalling art can be found on local records since money and resources are an issue.  If one can’t get a professional photographer to help out, a band sometimes sticks a candid picture or some artwork hacked together by a band member to use as the album art.  That, combined with music that no one wanted to buy, makes most grab bags an unappealing event.  So here’s what I got …

Just awful, awful art.  It reminds me a lot of what was coming out by local or really indie bands back in the nineties.  There is very little creative design and the colors are just unattractive.  Granted, the band Magonia is named after the purple flower that makes up the album’s cover, but what the heck did they do to their band name?  It looks like they tried to go edgy … on top of a purple flower!  The numbers mean nothing and the title of “Dust” seems arbitrary, unless the band already knew what the record would be collecting upon it after years of sitting in a music store somewhere.  The price tag of this album had gone down from $4, to $2, and finally to the grab bag it ended up in.  Does it deserve such a fate?  This will be short, I promise.

This local band from the Massachusetts area are essentially a three piece instrumental act that alternates between drudging three minute numbers and slightly hard rocking three minute numbers.  The album is finished under thirty minutes.  Aside from a slightly interesting rock track entitled “Train Race”, the rest of the record is just agony to sit through.  It really, really does remind me of bands in those years that couldn’t figure out if they wanted to keep up the grunge trend or try to be something more serious and paced.  These guys should’ve gotten a vocalist, and that vocalist should’ve told them to cut it out.

Gahhhhh, another local band in the grab bag!  I knew it … I knew I would get screwed.  Local bands are a dime a million, so the odds that they actually sound any good are quite slim.  At least Machinery Hall has a vocalist, but man does this guy sound bored.  If I could draw a comparison, he sounds a little bit like the guy in the Psychedelic Furs when he sings “Pretty in Pink”.  I suppose the low key delivery is just a relaxed way of singing that allows the singer to use his voice sparingly to make the really excited parts sound unique.  Truth is the guy rarely gets excited because this band is more along the lines of Hootie and the Blowfish without a guy named Hootie.  Machinery Blowfish is what they should’ve called themselves.  They don’t have the sweeping, singalong choruses like their more popular (and eventually rejected) counterparts, but the music is at least listenable.  Like Magonia, though, they don’t stand out a whole lot throughout the record.  The music is about on par as far mid-level pop rock goes, so yet again I have struck out with something from the bag.  Thankfully, I didn’t strike out and pay for this thing with its original $8 price tag still stuck on it.  Whew, dodged one there!

Finally, something that might have some promise.  I only say this because it’s got some artists I have vaguely heard from and it’s a kid’s record, which is what my brother has (and will soon have two of).  If anything, maybe I could give this one to him and say hey, I know this is a completely random purchase of world music but here you go and where’s the beer?  Turns out this compilation from the Music for Little People (no, not those little people) is a collection of tunes by other compilations.  Think of this as a Putumayo Music sampler, if you will.  As you might imagine from a compilation geared for kids and featuring Los Lobos, it is “La Bamba” (Mexican style) that starts the record off.  Yariba yariba!  It sounds like these guys winged this off in one take, but at least it’s charming enough for some kids to enjoy.  Taj Mahal, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Buckwheat Zydeco throw in tracks that are expected from them, but the cajun-themed Papillion track is the one that sounds like it was definitely made for kids.  A track I don’t think any kid would be interested in is the slow, sleepy Celtic song from Karan Casey, but maybe that can be used induce napping when an overactive kid starts eating crayons. In total, it’s a cute compilation that probably should’ve been taken at $6 originally but certainly when it got to $2.  Some parent dropped the ball on this one.

Well thank goodness, I got one out of three discs that are worth a dollar.  Since I’m not a parent I totally struck out on something keepable here, but that is the gamble one takes with what essentially amounts to a music store’s trash.  Therefore, in case you haven’t figured this out by now, I must recommend that you stay away from those dollar grab bags unless you are up for a dose of disappointment.  Maybe I’ll try to salvage some of this by coming up with lyrics for that Magonia disc…

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