Cheap In The End, Round In The Middle
19 Raids on the Dollar Bins of Ohio!
Daniel L. Mitchell
When someone living outside of the state of Ohio thinks “Ohio,” more than likely said person will have a hard time thinking of an exciting adjective to place either at the beginning or end of that word. Ohio is what it is: a state trapped somewhere in the farmlands of Nebraska and the city life of Atlanta; it is a state without a “punch,” something that makes it one of the truly great states. Don’t get me wrong, as there are fantastic music scenes in various cities, including Kent and Dayton, and there’s also the staple attractions, such as the watered down Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Football Hall of Fame in Canton… but, come on, I’ve lived in Canton for five years now, and I’ve never even gone to the stupid Football Hall of Fame! So, with millions of people crying for an identity, I believe I’ve found it: Ohio has the greatest per capita ratio of super dollar bin buys than anywhere in the country!
I have seen many a dollar bin in my day, having once played in a touring band on Vagrant records, which will remain nameless; I’ve had the luxury of hitting record stores from Ohio to Texas, from Rhode Island to Louisiana, and so on, and the truth is simple: no state can compete with Ohio, period! 2003 was an especially exceptional year, too, as the dollar bin at my local store seemed to perpetually froth with lost gems, laying unwanted by the masses. Like a stalking mountain lion, I lay in wait, hitting the dollar bin every Wednesday and Sunday like clockwork, hoping to capitalize on the lack of taste of the general public who have left a slew of diamonds amongst the endless streams of old, scratched Celine Dion and Limp Bizkit cds; what follows is a report of the 19 most spectacular jewels from 2003’s harvest.
#19. Enter My Silence Remote Controlled Scythe (World War III)
I got a bit misty when I stumbled upon this melodic death metal classic, as I had lost my copy of this on a road trip to Cedar Point last spring. The disc and artwork were pristine, and it looks like it was never even played. The music on the album is some of the most creative and well-delivered melodic death metal I’ve heard, ever. The vocalist a fantastic growl, and this is the kind of record of which I will never tire.
#18. Shellac At Action Park (Touch and Go)
This is actually the second copy of this math rock classic that I’ve found in my dollar bin hunting days (I found one a good four years ago, which I gave to a co-worker to enjoy). The fact that an album this good has ended up in the dollar bin twice in North Canton, OH makes me question what’s in the water around here. The disc and digi-pak sleeve were perfect and if you’ve never heard Shellac, this is the only truly great full length they ever put together.
#17. Boys Life Boys Life (Crank!)
I’ve always championed the Christie Front Drive / Boys Life split 10″ as classic emo fare (ever since ex-Ink19er Nathan Birk turned me on to it during our high school days), so this was actually my first experience with this release. The recording quality is much better than on other Boys Life releases, and they trump Mineral easily with the incredible melodies and pounding drums throughout. The disc was slightly scuffed, but the artwork was perfect.
#16. Promise Ring The Horse Latitudes (Jade Tree)
I really enjoyed finding this one, as I had never heard it and knew it was early in their career, and I greatly preferred Cap’n Jazz to just about anything by The Promise Ring or Joan of Arc. It didn’t disappoint, as the songs are very complex and intricate, with lots of melody and time changing, and it’s totally not poppy. The vocalist for them (I forget his name) who played guitar in Cap’n Jazz kind of keeps the reigns on his voice here, thankfully, as he becomes too big of a part of their future releases, and makes himself into an emo self parody. The disc was lightly scuffed, but the artwork was perfect.
#15. That Dog Retreat From The Sun (DGC)
This is a really great album by a band that seems to be long forgotten. What’s great about this dollar bin find is that it shows a band at the peak of their crafty song writing, but also willing to turn up their usually tame guitars. The melodies and song structures on this remind me somewhat of one of my all time favorite records, Weezer’s Pinkerton. Both the disc and artwork were in perfect shape.
#14. AFI Sing the Sorrow (Dreamworks)
I was surprised to see a new release like this in the dollar bin last week, but it was there for a reason: it looked as if someone had used the disc as their dinner plate. The thing was beaten to hell, but I knew I could make it listenable with my Skip Doctor, and that’s what I did. I guess it wasn’t a truly great dollar bin purchase, as the music on the disc is rather poor when comparing it to their earlier work; it did, however, save me a few dollars, as I had in the back of my head to look for a copy of it in the $5 bin one of these days. In a nutshell: once creative melodic punkers with a flair for the dark side of life get too big for their britches and make a less than savory album of watered down Samhain covers.
#13. The Police Every Breath You Take: The Classics (A & M)
This was a truly fantastic dollar bin purchase! The disc and artwork were perfect, and there are fourteen super hits from one of the greatest mainstream post punk bands ever! I’m guessing that my find was a pricing error, as when I was paying my bill, the sullen manager looked at the price, then at the shop worker across the room and shook his head. That’s just too bad for those suckers, as I still enjoy this one every time I need a pick me up!
#12. Sugar Copper Blue (Ryko)
The aforementioned Nathan Birk used to always try to get me into Husker Du and/ or Sugar when we were younger, and I never took the bait. For whatever reason, both bands’ music just sounded corny to me, at the time. On a whim, I decided to shell out a dollar for this disc, as I wanted to thin the herd a bit (when I bought this, I swear, there were three copies of it, and no less than five copies of their album File Under Easy Listening). Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the driving melodic punk contained on the disc, and I have since listened to it on several occasions, this time by choice. Both the disc and artwork were perfect.
#11. Helium The Dirt of Luck (Matador)
I found this album’s placement in the dollar bin rather offensive, given how absolutely incredible it is. I already owned the vinyl pressing of this downtrodden, guitar driven, and moody indie rock classic, but I bought it simply so I could listen to it in my car on CD. This is probably one of single coolest, memorable, and enjoyable recordings I’ve ever owned, and again, its placement in the dollar bin was criminal! Both the disc and artwork were in perfect shape.
#10. Various Cassettes
One of the forgotten realms of the local stores is the dusty, ignored used cassette section. 2003 was an especially fruitful year for quality cassettes for one dollar or less, including The Misfits Earth AD (+ bonus tracks), Motorhead’s No Remorse, Megadeth’s Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying, So Far So Good… So What, and Killing is My Business, and Business is Good, the NOFX melodic punk classic Punk in Drublic, and U2’s War and The Unforgettable Fire, just to name a few. I also managed to scrounge up Prince’s Lovesexy, Wu Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang, and PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me. These were just the tip of the iceberg, as many other cassette jewels were found, with the aforementioned being the kings of the hill.
#9. Vertical Horizon Everything You Want (RCA)
I know it’s probably not very cool to like major label, low brow emo stuff like this, but I’m a true fan of this band. I was quite excited to see this one staring at me, and doubly tickled to see in what fantastic condition both the disc and the artwork were in!
#8. Remy Zero The Golden Hum (Matador)
I only knew these guys as the band that had the theme song for the WB’s “Smallville” program (of which I am a fan), so I picked up this one on a whim. I was blindsided from start to finish, when the lush melodies and vocal acrobatics of this frighteningly underrated act gave me the best melodic adult contemporary alternative album since Radiohead’s OK Computer. Just about every song on the album is replete with gorgeous instrumentation and hooks sharp enough to land the biggest whale in the sea. Both the disc and artwork were in perfect shape.
#7. A Perfect Circle Mer De Noms (Virgin)
It had been a few years since I had last listened to this one, so I was quick to snatch it out of the dollar bin. The disc was a little scratched up, but not even close to enough to warrant exile to the dollar bin. I didn’t even need to Skip Doctor it, as the driving guitars and incredibly destructive drums pummeled me instantly, without a single skip. This one could have easily made it to the more prestigious $2.50 bin, but thankfully for me, I was given the opportunity to rescue it.
#6. Lydia Lunch Queen of Siam (Triple X)
I honestly wasn’t surprised to find this dark, murky excursion into all things creepy and frightening in the dollar bin. Lydia Lunch is very under appreciated, and her talent for all things dark is clearly evident in this spectacular disc which is best listened to during the winter time, by yourself. Tribal, dark, moody, and rather aggressive, there are only certain times when I can actually listen to this and enjoy it, but when I do, it’s a really great experience.
#5. Mission of Burma Peking Spring (Taang!)
This was one of the single best purchases from the dollar bin, ever. Mission of Burma was an incredible band, who created angular post punk, similar to an imagined cross between Gang of Four and Fugazi. These guys were very ahead of their time, crafting some truly amazing music that still sounds new and vibrant twenty years later. If you can pick this up, anywhere, at any price, I highly recommend it; I was just lucky enough to spy it, in perfect condition, sitting quietly in the dollar bin.
#4. Various LPs
I’ll be the first to admit that the dollar or less album shelves are pretty hard to navigate, what with being packed much too tightly. This year was proof positive, however, that many a jewel can be found amongst the endless copies of Pablo Cruise and Seals and Crofts LPs. This year’s booty from the dollar LP shelf included REM’s Green, Document, and Fables of the Reconstruction, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Naked Raygun’s Basement Screams, and The Metroschifter’s Generation Rx. There were various other steals to be had, but these are the main ones which stick out in my mind.
#3. Ink and Dagger Drive This Seven Inch Stake Through My Philadelphia Heart (Initial)
The CD pressing of this includes a bunch more songs than the 7″, so I was freaking out and peeing my pants when I found this hottie. Ink and Dagger were one of the only bands to build on the early 1990s’ Gravity sound and make it better; they added spookiness, darkness, and a penchant for vampirism to the violent sounds of bands like Antioch Arrow and Heroin. Ink and Dagger only released two proper full lengths (this not being one of them), but this is probably the best collection of their work (and it’s by far their most violent and spastic stuff). The disc and artwork were perfect, and to find this in the dollar bin made my month.
#2. ElliotFalse Cathedrals (Revelation)
I actually verbalized “sweet!” when I saw this in the dollar bin, frightening the man next to me, who had, no joke, Michael Bolton and Guns & Roses CDs in his hand (these were from the high class $5.00 bin, mind you). After I gathered myself a bit, I sat and browsed through the artwork and disc, which were in perfect shape. If you’ve never heard this, this is one of those records which remains unforgettable (such as The Cure’s Disintegration or Radiohead’s OK Computer). The band was slipped into the emo category, but they were much more, making grandiose music which rises and falls with such grandeur and power that I have trouble imagining why these guys never made it big.
#1. Metallica St. Anger (Elektra)
In what was clearly a huge mistake on the part of the clerks, I managed to pick this one up for $1.00 only three weeks after its release. I stopped by the Metallica section, just to take a peek, and there was only one other copy of this album used, and it was priced $9.00, thus ensuring that I had indeed stuck it to the man. I paid with a huge grin exactly one dollar for this rather enjoyable Metallica release, and I still enjoy it to this day. Regardless of what this album should have sounded like, I honestly like it much more than anything they’ve done since And Justice For All. The disc was pristine, as was the digi-pak sleeve (although the little website address & username slip was missing from the inside).
So, what is there to be learned from my little list? Not much, truthfully, but at the very least, a super bargain can be found if you’re willing to wade through the crap. The only bad thing about indie rock getting over the years is that less and less quality indie rock ends up in the dollar bin, being placed in the pricier $2.50 and $5.00 bins instead. In conclusion, if you have taste in music beyond Justin Timberlake and Simple Plan, you too can find super bargains beyond your wildest dreams, deep within the caverns of Ohio’s used record stores!