L7 – Detroit (live)

There aren’t many better ways to start a new year than a release from L7, and it’s ever better when it’s a recording of a crazy 1990 live show in Detroit.  Detroit begins with the band apologizing for arriving late, co-lead vocalist and guitarist Donita Sparks making fun of a drunk guy in the crowd, and then having issues with guitarist / co-lead vocalist Suzi Gardner‘s microphone before unleashing a sonic assault with “Fast and Frightening.”  Thankfully, Gardner’s microphone works just fine for “(Right on) Thru” as she belts out the vocals like a professional boxer.

“Scrap” chugs along like a monster truck.  “Broomstick” is a forgotten metal classic.  “Packin’ a Rod” seems to fly by at 100mph (and ends with more great banter of Sparks taking down the rude drunk).  The inclusion of one of their earliest hits, “Cat-O’-Nine-Tails” is a welcome one, and the first time I’ve heard it live.  It’s crazier (and better) than I’d hoped it would be.  “Deathwish” is like a saw slicing through a log while the lumber mill is being swarmed by killer bees.  It ends with more fun banter like Sparks promising she’ll learn how to play guitar before their next tour.

“Till the Wheels Fall Off” has drummer Dee Plakas going bonkers through the whole track and probably terrifying most of the men in the crowd.  Gardner’s vocals on “Shove” are, as always, more like a hockey check than a push.  They end on “Bloodstains” before coming back for a fiery encore.  They initially offer to take requests, but that quickly devolves into drunken chaos in the crowd and Sparks dealing with tuner problems.  Bassist Jennifer Finch briefly teases playing some Black Sabbath before they announce “This is really going to suck, but we’re gonna do it anyway,” and launch into “Shitlist.”  This was when “Shitlist” hadn’t reached its levels of popularity that it has today.  This is the first time I’ve heard reverb effects on Sparks’ vocals (as she dedicates the song to her broken tuner), and they push her voice to the back wall of the venue.

Detroit is a welcome edition to L7‘s catalogue, and a nice time capsule of raw 1990’s rock.  By the way, they haven’t lost a thing.  They still hit as hard almost thirty years later.

Keep your mind open.

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Terminal Mind – Recordings

Austin, Texas punk / no wave legends Terminal Mind only blazed through the Austin scene for three years (1978 – 1981), but they are back with a powerful release of rare cuts from their short time together.  Recordings collects a rare four-song 7″, live cuts, and unreleased studio tracks.  It’s a solid collection and already in the running for best reissue of 2018.

Opening with the skronky, bold “I Want to Die Young,” the band’s powerhook guitars are put front and center right away.  “I see life as a TV at midnight, nothing but static and outdated reruns,” Steve Marsh sings as he dreams of becoming something better than he is now before he gets old and waits for a heart attack.

“Refugee” has Marsh continuing his themes of alienation as he sings, “In a war, there are winners and losers.  I’m in-between.”  The post-punk attitude of “Sense of Rhythm” is sharp as a hatchet (and so is the drumming).  “Zombieland” sounds like an early Devo cut as Marsh sings about the joys of “living in negative space” and ignoring the suffering and injustice around you.  The guitars on it devolve into a wild cacophony that almost sounds like air raid sirens by the end.

“Obsessed with Crime” has a raw energy not unlike something you’d hear from the Stooges.  Terminal Mind once opened for them, so the influence shouldn’t surprise anyone.  The guitars and bass on “Fear in the Future” are downright dangerous.  Marsh growls “Time is a trigger, I hold it in my hand.  I point it at the future.  I think you understand.”

The live tracks begin with the snappy “Radioactive,” in which Marsh sings about hoping to have super powers so he can survive a nuclear war and watch everything burn around him.  The equally speedy “Bridges Are for Burning” follows it.

“No one wants to know the meaning of life anymore,” Marsh sings on the angry “(I Give Up on) Human Rights.”  “Black” is like Joy Division if they decided to speed up the beats and crank up the distortion.  You can almost feeling the audience grooving during “Missing Pieces.”  The keyboards on “Bureaucracy” slather the song in a glorious, distorted noise that ends the album on a high, post-punk note.

Three years was too short for a band this good, but at least we have this reissue to remember Terminal Mind.  Let’s hope for some new material in the future.  I’d love to hear their take on modern times.

Keep your mind open.

[I don’t want you to die young.  I just want you to subscribe.]

Austin punk legends Terminal Mind release first single from upcoming retrospective album “Recordings.”

Terminal Mind premiere track from forthcoming retrospective Recordings
Extremely rare collectors’ fave 7″, Live at Raul’s compilation cuts and unreleased studio & live tracks from Austin first wave punk trio
Hear & share “Refugee” (Soundcloud) (Austin Chronicle)
Photo_ Ken Hoge
“Grayscale art-rock with punk desperation channeled through instrumental and songwriting legitimacy…Terminal Mind remains an act locals still celebrate despite a short lifespan and being under-recorded.” — Austin Chronicle
First-wave Austin, TX punk trio Terminal Mind premiere the first track from their forthcoming retrospective album today via Austin Chronicle. Recordings collects the short lived band’s 4-song 7″ (which fetches upwards of $100 on eBay), Live At Raul‘s compilation cuts and outstanding unreleased studio and live recordings. Hear and share “Refugee” HERE. (Direct Soundcloud.)
Terminal Mind, formed in 1978, was one of the early first-wave punk acts in Austin, TX. Based far from the urban roots of a genre in its earliest stages, the band absorbed influences as disparate as Pere Ubu, Roxy Music, John Cale, and Wire. The life span was short, but their influence touched many of the next generation of Texas noise and hardcore acts as they shared bills with fellow proto-punks The Huns and Standing Waves at Raul’s, The Big Boys on the UT campus, and even opened for Iggy Pop at the Armadillo World Headquarters.
Founding members Steve Marsh and the Murray Brothers, Doug and Greg, started as a trio before adding synthesizer player Jack Crow. Steve Marsh moved to New York with his experimental noise band Miracle Room (before eventually returning to Austin and forming space/psychedelic rock band Evil Triplet and beginning an experimental solo project dubbed Radarcave), while Doug Murary joined the Skunks and Greg Murray played in a later version of The Big Boys. Jack Crow passed away in 1994.
This collection of songs is a journey back to the ‘anything goes’ first steps of American punk as it left the dirty streets of New York and Los Angeles and made its way into the heartland. Like the Austin of 1978, Recordings is a small outpost of musical individualism that planted seeds for the alternative music explosion familiar to later generations.
Recordings will be available on LP, CD and download on January 19th, 2018 via Sonic Surgery Records.
Artist: Terminal Mind
Album: Recordings
Label: Sonic Surgery Records
Release Date: January 19, 2018
01. I Want to Die Young
02. Refugee
03. Sense of Rhythm
04. Zombieland
05. Obsessed With Crime
06. Fear In the Future
07. Radioactive
08. Bridges Are For Burning
09. (I Give Up On) Human Rights
10. Black
11. Missing Pieces
12. Bureaucracy

On The Web:

Sleaford Mods – English Tapas

I’d heard a lot of good things about Sleaford Mods, one of the best being that they were Iggy Pop‘s new favorite band.  That alone makes them worth a listen, but if you come for the Iggy Pop suggestion, stay for what might be the most punk record you’ve heard all year…and there doesn’t appear to be a single guitar on it.  It’s just Jason Williamson‘s half-rap, half-stream of consciousness social commentary and Andrew Fearn‘s minimalist electronic beats.  When you first hear a Sleaford Mods song, you might think, “This shouldn’t work.”  Yet, it does.  It does every fucking time.

English Tapas, the band’s newest, is a punch to the gut of subjects like Brexit, working class blues, one-percenters, consumerism, Donald Trump, hipsters, and everything else currently annoying.  The album title itself is a play on the gentrification of working class neighborhoods.

Opener “Army Nights” has them taking down weekend partiers.  Fearn’s electro-bass is instantly addictive, as are most of his beats.  They get stuck in your head and you find yourself humming them throughout the day.  “Just Like We Do” has Williamson making fun of music snobs.  “You walk around like a twat, just like we do,” he says, not caring about people who dwell on past accomplishments.

“Moptop” has Williamson worrying that he can’t cope with what’s happening around him (mostly having to deal with inane bands, internet overload, and annoying British politicians) while Fearn’s synth-bass gets downright groovy.  It’s even groovier on “Messy Everywhere,” as Williamson sings about people being stuck in dead end jobs (“First it’s this, then it moves on to that…”) yearning to get out and shake up things.

I love how Fearns loops crickets chirping in “Time Sands” to mock the crickets in our heads as we see chaos and inequality all around us yet we stand and often do nothing.  Williamson warns us that time, and history, is passing by us so we’d better “turn it upside-down” by getting off our asses and making our voices heard (or at least lending a hand now and then).  “Snout” immediately trashes people creating perfect, fake images of themselves to project to the world via social media.  “Felt like I was trying to be trendy, when I’m not,” Williamson says.  “I don’t fuck about, I’m making sure I don’t give my kids anything to feel fucking embarrassed about.”  Preach it, Jason.  Seriously, this might be the angriest track I’ve heard all year.

“Drayton Manored” refers to an amusement park in Staffordshire, England and is a funny song about Williamson and Fearns lamenting about a long trip there and all the odd looks and attitudes they receive there.  “Carlton Touts” has Williamson flat-out referring to English politicians and ticket touts (scalpers, as we call them here in the U.S.) as “fat bastards.”  “Cuddly” has slick beats from Fearns that any hip hop producer would love to have in their back pocket.  “What does a million quid a week bring when your brain can’t tell your legs to kick the fuckin’ thing?” Williamson asks, making us question our addictions – whatever they may be (iPhones?  Drugs?  Booze?  Recognition?).

“Dull” lashes out at those who voted for Brexit (“Safe bet, all the oldies vote for death.”) and “B.H.S.” is a lament for over eleven thousand people who lost their jobs (and more lost their pensions) when a British businessman, Sir Philip Green, bankrupted the B.H.S. department store chain and skated to the Mediterranean with hundreds of millions of pounds.  “I Feel So Wrong” has Williamson feeling conflicted over his own success with a chorus of him repeating the song’s title and lyrics like “I looked at myself tonight, I know I’m richer.  It turns itself inside and burns that little bit deeper.”

This is one of the smartest, wittiest, best,and most punk albums of 2017.  Sleaford Mods might not be for everyone, but they’re speaking for all of us.

Keep your mind open.

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Top 10 singles of 2017: #’s 10 – 6

2017 was the first year in a long while when I bought singles and not just full albums or EP’s, so I thought I’d keep track of my favorites.  Here’s the first half of the list!

#10 – Marlon Williams – “Vampire Again”

Not only does this song have the sexiest groove of the year, it also has a great backstory.  Marlon Williams was bored on Halloween night in L.A. and noticed a local theatre was showing Nosferatu with a live orchestra performing music for the silent film.  He got high, dressed up as a vampire, and went to the event only to discover he was the only one in costume.  This is the story of that night.

#9 – Bebel Gilberto – “Creep” (live)

When my wife and I saw Bebel Gilberto in 2016, she played this song and mentioned that she was “thinking of releasing it.”  “Please do!” I yelled from the middle of the amphitheater.  She did, along with her wonderful EP Live at the Belly Up.  This song makes me cry every time I hear it.

#8 – Honey – “Dream Come Now”

Honey‘s fiery single “Dream Come Now” was one of the most exciting tracks I heard all year.  The opening guitar chaos made me immediately want to buy their album, New Moody Judy, which wasn’t available for another few months.  It was well worth the wait.

#7 – Ty Segall – “The Main Pretender”

This wild, groovy bit of soul-punk from Ty Segall is jaw-dropping, especially with the wicked saxophone work from Mikal Cronin.  This is like a lost Captain Beefheart track and a great example of Segall‘s love of multiple genres.

#6 – The Moonlandingz – “Black Hanz”

Weird, trippy, funky, and catchy, the Moonlandingz released “Black Hanz” and I was immediately hooked on them.  The chorus roots into your head and the song warps into a crazy dream sequence at one point.  It’s my favorite psychedelic track of the year.

Who’s in the top 5?  Tune in tomorrow, friends!

Keep your mind open.

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Top live shows of 2017: #’s 5 – 1

We’ve arrived at the top 5 live shows I saw this year.  Here they are.

#5 – LCD Soundsystem – Aragon Ballroom – Chicago, IL November 7th.

This was the second of a three-night residency at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom for LCD Soundsystem.  It was the second time we saw them in 2017, and they were healthier and a bit goofier than the first time.  It was also the best show we’d seen at the Aragon in a long while.

#4 – Slaves – House of Blues Chicago – Chicago, IL September 20th.

Slaves‘ opening set for Kasabian at this show was, without question, the best punk rock show I’ve seen in a couple years.  They came out with cocksure swagger and proceeded to freak out the entire crowd.  My friend, Portia, and I had a “rock moment” with them when we were the only ones in the audience who knew to yell “Fuck the hi hat!” when they began telling the story behind the song of the same title and they pointed us out in the crowd.  Win.

#3 – Gary Numan – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL November 29th.

I hadn’t seen Gary Numan in concert for about ten years, but he hasn’t lost a step.  He actually has become better in that time.  His band was tighter, his vocals were sharp, and the spectacle of the performance was top-notch.

#2 – LCD Soundsystem – Pitchfork Music Festival – Chicago, IL July 14th.

No, this isn’t an error.  LCD Soundsystem are in my top five live shows of 2017 twice.  This was the first time my wife and I saw them, and we were instantly hooked.  They became one of our “We’ll see them anytime.” bands thanks to this performance that closed the first night of the 2017 Pitchfork Music Festival.  The crowd was wild, erupting into two mosh pits during the show, and LCDSS threw down a raucous set despite dealing with injuries and mild illness.

#1 – Midnight Oil – The Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL May 18th.

Within moments I knew this sold-out Midnight Oil show was going to be the best show we saw all year.  It was their return tour after twenty years and they sounded like they’d stepped out of a time machine.  Lead singer Peter Garrett even appeared to not have aged in that time.  They proved they were still one of the most relevant and best live acts in the world.  It was uplifting to see and hear them again, and left everyone hoping for new material soon.

There you have it.  Go see a bunch of live music in 2018.  Your favorite band is depending on you.

Keep your mind open.

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Top live shows of 2017: #’s 25 – 21

Who cracked the top 25 of my live shows I saw this year?  Read on!

#25 – Temples – Valley Bar – Phoenix, AZ March 11th.

Temples were the last band to play on the Desert Daze lineup at the VIVA PHX music festival.  It was my first time seeing them in a small venue, and they nailed it.  They sounded perfect and delivered a solid set that earned them many new fans.

#24 – The Damned – House of Blues – Chicago, IL April 23rd.

I’d wanted to see punk rock legends the Damned for a long while, and this show was pretty much what I’d hoped it would be.  The crowd was a fun mix of punks, goths, and horror film fans, and moshing to “Neat Neat Neat” with the Damned only a few feet away was a delight.

#23 – Thundercat – Mamby on the Beach – Chicago, IL June 25th.

I’d heard a lot of good things about Thundercat prior to seeing him live at this music festival, and he didn’t disappoint.  He and his two-man backing band played a great jazz fusion set in the middle of a festival mostly devoted to electronic dance music.  He’s an amazing bass player, and seeing him shred live makes you appreciate his skill even more.

#22 – Marian Hill – Mamby on the Beach – Chicago, IL June 24th.

Speaking of Mamby on the Beach, Marian Hill were one of the best bands we saw there.  They played a great set of sexy dance rock that might be the best new makeout music you need to hear.

#21 – Goblin – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL October 25th.

This performance from Italian prog / horror rock masters Goblin had a criminally light attendance, but they didn’t care.  As usual, being at a Goblin show is like being in a giallo film.  The whole atmosphere is creeping and fascinating.  They also played a nice tribute to the late George Romero.  Shame on you if you missed this one.

Who cracks the top 20?  Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Keep your mind open.

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Top live shows of 2017: #’s 30 – 26

I’ve arrived at the end of my live music year for 2017.  I saw over 60 performances this year, and the majority of them were a fun time.  There were some that might’ve had lame crowds or that just didn’t thrill me, of course, but 2017 was good for live music.  To save time (and my sanity and your patience), I’m counting the top 30 live shows I saw this year.  Here are the first five.

#30 – A Place to Bury Strangers – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL May 11th.

I’ll see APTBS at any opportunity, and seeing this set where they opened for the Black Angels was a no-brainer for me.  It was also the first time they played Thalia Hall, and they sounded great in there.  I was lucky enough to chat with front man Oliver Ackermann before and after (along with the rest of the band – Dion Lunadon and Lia Braswell) the set, so that made the show extra special.

#29 – Joe Walsh – Scottrade Center – St. Louis, MO May 12th.

Joe Walsh had a fun time opening for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  He joked with the sold-out crowd, played every hit you’d want to hear at one of his gigs, and had a huge, excellent backing band.  He also showed that he could still shred on guitar, and his performance of “Take It to the Limit” brought my wife to tears.

#28 – Bebel Gilberto – City Winery – Chicago, IL December 20th.

The last show I saw this year turned out to be a delightful night with bossa nova legend Bebel Gilberto.  It was a lovely set in an intimate venue.  Everyone needs to see Ms. Gilberto at least once, and hear her often.

#27 – Bleached – House of Blues – Chicago, IL April 23rd.

If you’re in a band, I wish you could’ve seen Bleached with me twice within six months because you’d have seen a perfect example of how to step up your game.  This show, which had them opening for the Damned, was the second time I’d seen them in that time period.  The first was at a gig in Cleveland in October 2016.  I thought they were good then, but this performance left me gobsmacked.  They’d become tighter and stronger in just half a year.  It had been at least a couple years since I saw so much improvement in one band.

#26 – Partner – Schuba’s – Chicago, IL January 22nd.

This was Partner‘s first gig in Chicago, and one of their first in the United States.  Shame on you if you missed it, because they are now indie rock darlings and their debut album, In Search of Lost Time, is one of the best of 2017.  This show was an absolute home run and wowed everyone there.

Stay tuned for #’s 25 – 21!

Keep your mind open.

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Partner – In Search of Lost Time

In Search of Lost Time isn’t the first music released by Canadian rock outfit Partner. They’ve released multiple excellent singles (i.e., “The Ellen Page” and “Personal Weekend”), and founding members Josee Caron (vocals and lead guitar) Lucy Niles (vocals and rhythm guitar), and Kevin Brasier (bass) already had Canadian indie rock scene credentials with their former bands Mouthbreathers and Go Get Fucked (possibly the best band name ever).  So it isn’t surprising that their first full-length record is witty, full of hooks, and one of the best pop-punk albums I’ve heard in a long while.

“Everybody Knows” starts the album with squealing, heavy guitar riffs and brings in a favorite subject of Partner’s – the goofy things that happen when one is high.  Caron sings about freaking out in the grocery store while in a euphoric quest for chips.  Niles sings about getting high while waiting for a friend and then realizing she can’t hide the fact that she “sparked another one” while waiting on the friend’s porch.  Oh yeah, Caron’s guitar solo on this will leave you stunned.

Niles’ guitar on “Comfort Zone” (a song about the joys of slacking) reminds me of Television riffs.  “Gross Secret,” with its sharp guitar work and dual vocals from Caron and Niles, reminds me of Sleater-Kinney if Sleater-Kinney would relax a bit now and then.  “Angels from Ontario” is about a perfect pop-punk love song you’ll ever hear.  The hooks and beat are instantly infectious and it bursts with enough energy to fill an opera house.

Caron reveals her love of shows like Judge Judy and The Maury Povich Show on “Daytime TV.”  Niles sings about the dangers of snooping in your roommate’s room on “Sex Object.”  “Ambassador to Ecstasy” is a solid rocker about trying to woo a hot girl and the possible complications that can come with such an endeavor.

“Play the Field” is a fun song about having a crush on a hot female athlete and contains what might be my favorite lyric of 2017 from Lucy Niles – “…to see you in your sports bra, though, just might change my life.”  “You Don’t Have to Say Thank You” is, without question, the sexiest song on the record as Caron tells her lover she doesn’t have to thank her for an amazing night since “your pleasure is my delight.”  Zowie!  As if that weren’t enough to sell you on it, wait until you hear the wall-flattening guitars and drums (from Toronto indie rock drumming legend Simone TB).

“Creature in the Sun,” a song about the joys of mindfulness, might be my favorite cut on the record.  It’s somewhere between new wave, post-punk, pop-punk, and spaghetti western music.  I guarantee that if you hear this on the radio or in a wrecka stow, you will instantly stop and think, “Who is this?”  The 1990’s alt-rock vibe is heavy on “Remember This,” which isn’t surprising when you consider the album was mixed by Chris Shaw who has worked with Weezer and Ween (among many others).

The closer, “Woman of Dreams,” has Caron and Niles pining for a lovely lady but realizing the best they can do about it (for now, at least) is write a song about her.  It reminds me of Fountains of Wayne‘s harder tracks with its punchy hooks and clever lyrics.

I haven’t even mentioned the sketches, which include various goofy telephone conversations with photographers, Caron’s father, and others.  I’ll let you discover those on your own.

This is one of those albums that will reveal new stuff to you every time you hear it – a drum fill, a wicked guitar lick, a funny lyric, etc.  I don’t know if Partner will get back the time they’re searching for, but they didn’t waste any making this record.  It won’t waste your time either.

Keep your mind open.

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Rewind Review: The Dirtbombs – If You Don’t Already Have a Look (2005)

In the liner notes to this excellent double album from Detroit rockers the Dirtbombs, band leader / guitarist / vocalist Mick Collins proclaims, “The best albums are all compilations, anyway.  Why?  Because they’re made up of SINGLES, duh.”

If You Don’t Already Have a Look is a full-length collection of downright dangerous singles and another disc of cover tunes.  Danger is missing from a lot of rock music nowadays, and the Dirtbombs were possibly the most dangerous band to come out of the Motor City since the MC5.  Even their songs that venture into soul and pop music always have a streak of menace hidden in them.

There are many standouts on the album.  The opener on the disc of originals is “Theme from the Dirtbombs,” a fiery song that sounds like it belongs in the opening credits of a 1960’s car race cartoon.  “The Sharpest Claws” is a theme song for dominatrixes everywhere.  “I’m Saving Myself for Nichelle Nichols (No. 3)” is one of the craziest punk rock songs in the last twenty years.  “High Octane Salvation” is an homage to muscle cars and sprinkles in some psychobilly riffs for good measure.  “Little Miss Chocolate Syrup” has a bass groove as sweet as the song’s namesake.

“Don’t Bogue My High” was, like many early Dirtbombs tracks, recorded into a dictation microphone.  It is thus gloriously distorted and trashy.  “Encrypted” is a satire of 1990’s Britpop.  “Broke in Detroit (Again)” has this cool 60’s surf guitar riff you can’t shake.  “Infra-red” is a weird, shapeshifting track with guitars that ooze around like the Blob and “Candyass” is a solid rock track.  The lyrics of “All My Friends Must Be Punished” are some of the wittiest on the record.  “They Saved Einstein’s Brain” is a one-take punk rock classic.

The disc of cover songs includes great tracks by obscure bands like Cheater Slicks (“Possession”) and classics like Stevie Wonder‘s “Maybe Your Baby.”  Their cover of the Rolling Stones‘ “No Expectations” includes a Beatles tribute and a salute to the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”  “Noise in This World” (originally by English Beat) fits in perfectly with the Dirtbombs’ sound, as does their fiery, almost unrecognizable cover of Soft Cell‘s “Insecure…Me?”  “Tanzen Gehn” is a song in German made for a German label while the band was in Germany.  It’s wonderfully funky.  “Crash Down Day” was written by a six-year-old and is still better than most current rock tracks.  Their cover of the Bee Gees “I Started a Joke” is one of the coolest Bee Gees covers ever (especially with the reverbed vocals).

It’s a great introduction to the Dirtbombs or an addition to your collection of your  material.

Keep your mind open.

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