Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Indie outfit Small Pond plays Saturday at Warehouse XI in Somerville, opening for Twen. (Photo: Michael Gutierrez)

The beat marches on with our latest spotlight from the “Totally Excellent” Cambridge Day Record Walk: Cheapo Records (538 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge).

You’ll recognize the beloved Central Square music shop by the discount shelves flanking your left and right as you enter through the vestibule. That’s the proper way to start an afternoon of crate digging – respectable $1 selections on offer before you even walk through the door.

Once inside you’ll notice the shotgun-style floor plan. The inventory is packed into shelves along the wall and in the central island, which customers circumnavigate via a narrow aisle, clockwise or counterclockwise, more or less cognizant of other souls as they flip through the stacks intently.

The inventory trends toward “used,” rather than “new arrivals.” Exactly what you’d expect in a place called “Cheapo.” Vinyl predominates, but there are plenty of CDs to hunt through, plus a few tapes and DVDs.

And like most record shops, Cheapo’s doesn’t miss the opportunity to stock whatever pop culture detritus or music paraphernalia it thinks will sell. You will find an impressive collection of bootleg T-shirts, posters and pins. You can even buy a portable record player in the shade of lavender, if it strikes your fancy.

Among the genres, rock is most prominent. Soul comes a close second. And the local music bin is a head scratcher, featuring artists such as Andy Pratt (so much Andy Pratt!), Robin Lane, Human Sexual Response, John Butcher and a band called New England. All fine picks, but none of those artists were born after 1975. Maybe the newer stuff just gets filed under Indie?

Another question to ponder: What’s the rubric for deciding which music gets sent to the $1 Cheapo bins and which music stays in the standard used bins? Shuffling through the stacks, I came up with a few guiding principles.

What’s getting sent to the $1 Cheapo bin?

  • Any classical record with a ravishing blonde in a ballgown on the cover
  • Any holiday album older than five years, unless Bing Crosby and David Bowie are involved
  • Any album with a xylophone, flute or sousaphone on the cover
  • Any album by a guy named Mort, excluding the pioneer composer Mort Feldman
  • Any album with a midcentury bourgeois couple lounging on a bear rug drinking martinis
  • Any album with a white musician who is marketed as “the best white version” of black music, excluding Eric Burdon, whom you’ll still pay full price for
  • Any volume past Volume 2
  • Any stag party album with hits such as “I’m Late” and “My First Piece,” sung by Terri “Cup Cake” O’Mason
  • Any album with a Bible verse on the cover
  • Any album with an artist photo that zooms in too closely on the teeth
  • Any minstrel album
  • Any album dedicated to marches, waltzes or square dances
  • Any brother-sister musical duo whose artist photo reads as incestuous
  • Any album with a roaring hearth on the cover
  • Any album by singer and actor Jim Nabors (aka Gomer Pyle)

That’s about it. Cheapo Records has really hit on the value formula, and other record shops would be wise to fall in line.


Hit this

Friday: Mountain Movers, The Spatulas, Mordecai (Lilypad, Cambridge)

A constellation of weird and wonderful indie rock bands, labels and at least one blog have conspired to throw a triple-stack indie rock fête at Inman Square’s favorite mural gallery. Join the party. Mountain Movers will be your psych rock headliner, touring their latest LP “Walking After Dark,” available via Trouble In Mind Records. TIM has excellent taste – you should too. The Spatulas also have a recent record to celebrate. Their LP “Beehive Mind” is chock full of minimalist, lo-fi indie rock magic. Opener Mordecai is kind of a curveball, bringing an improvisational noise rock approach with shades of Sunburned Hand of Man.

Sunday: Les Savy Fav, Kal Marks (The Sinclair, Cambridge)

Les Savy Fav have come a long way since the five members met and started jamming in 1995 at the Rhode Island School of Design: about 55.3 miles via Interstate 95 if you don’t mind paying tolls, according to Google Maps. Boston’s Kal Marks, who keep insisting they’re from Providence, open.

Tuesday: Os Mutantes (Crystal Ballroom, Somerville)

Super mega uber influential Brazilian psych outfit Os Mutantes are rolling through Crystal Ballroom, and you’ve got to roll with them. Every music celeb from Beck, Flea and Kurt Cobain to David Byrne has praised, promoted or otherwise drooled like a fanatic over this mutant crew of avant art pop. Find out why so much of contemporary pop music is still in love with these South American sweethearts. Find out what the hell “Tropicália” is. Find out whether the Crystal Ballroom has finally added a second bartender to cut down the ludicrously long wait for adult beverages.


Live: Twen, Raavi, Small Pond at Warehouse XI

Jane Fitzsimmons and Ian Jones are the twin suns illuminating the Twen solar system. The once-upon-a-time local rockers have spread their wings, left the nest and are living the #vanlife in search of the perfect sound somewhere in the Sunshine State. But all bets are off once the tour starts.

The tour has started. About five months, 20 states, six countries, two continents plus a half-dozen jumbo inflatable dice for bouncing around the pit. There’s a romance to life on the road in exotic destinations, though it’s a hard slog too that can build toward exhaustion as the weeks and months pile on top of each other.

The Warehouse XI show found the band in fresh and fine fettle at the start of the journey. Twen performed as a five-piece, with a trio of touring members providing a deep rhythmic foundation for Fitzsimmons’ vocals and Jones’ guitar. The approach is Britpop with a shade of psych rock. You hear the British influence especially in their seamless transitions between dancehall grooves and more conventional, lick-driven numbers. Psych trippers such as “Feeling In Love (From The Waist Down)” or “Fortune 500,” off their LP “One Stop Shop,” are those kind of happy hybrids from a time when rock ’n’ roll was trying to get you to move with your hips instead of just banging your head.

Indie outfits Raavi and Small Pond opened in support, tagging along for the northeastern leg of the tour before parting ways at the Mason-Dixon line.=

Michael Gutierrez is an author, educator, activist and editor-in-chief at Hump Day News.