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Life is a Rip Off

February 6, 2017

John Olson of the band Wolf Eyes reviews one record per day for one year... from the best in death metal demo tapes to thrift store bin gospel.

Golden rule of rock criticism is don't try to be Lester Bangs. Imagine the spirit of Bangs wafting via paint fumes blurted from the dented sax of a skate punk in a Detroit basement and you might have John Olson’s Life is a Rip Off. Polymath aesthete Olson challenged himself to review a record a day. They are all compiled here courtsey of Nashville's own Third Man Books. Rip Off is a tornado through jazz, dub, blues, prog, punk, metal and noise with an emphasis on the obscure, the obscene, the local (Detroit), the hyper-local (Lansing), the rare, forgotten and bizarre: thrift store bins, demo cassettes, lost master[mind] tapes. His style is double barrel even when writing about a gospel seven-inch. His take on The Jackson Southernairs' "Too Late":

Further evidence that if you like your gospel to be slow burning, damaged, and fried alive at 2am, then Houston's your spot. Amazing post-Peacock label jammage with a more raw rugged despaired approach, this two part "Too Late" sequence just burns and sizzles inside an achy deranged skeleton. My favorite closeout finale song to DJ to a late night wasted crowd: a sort of Sick Fix, Positive Noise styled straight edge dank anthem, here to think about your drugged drunken ways before you can't turn back.

Though often presenting himself as a wastoid as washed out as his jeans, he’s a successful musician, visual artist, record label owner, husband, and dad. Life is a Rip Off is a de facto manual about how to keep it all together without getting totally fried / bummed. He’s also very funny and knows more about music than you. Hidden in plainsight: Freegal covers a ton of tiny record labels. A parlor game you can play is check Freegal and see if we have whatever dark side of the moon album he’s riffing about. Did I mention his emphasis on local acts? Start doing the leg work that makes Olson such a treasure by dipping into BoomBox - a collection of local acts in all genres hosted by the library. I recommend KROVI, which is way more chill than most of the records featured in Life is a Rip Off but we all can’t roll as hard as Olson 24/7. And speaking of Lester Bangs - read his original work in our new database of music criticism, Rock’s Back Pages. Without Mr. Bangs, there’s probably no John Olson.



Bryan is a librarian at Nashville Public Library. Bryan enjoys board games, bikes, and free software. His only star is Trek.


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