Archive for May, 2006

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Beck: New Album!

May 29, 2006

“Beck has just completed his new album, which he’s been in the studio working on with producer Nigel Godrich. The album is due out this fall – check back here at beck.com soon for more information.”

What more can be said? It’s Beck. It’s freaking Beck. And he’s got another album after, what, less than two years? That’s pretty fudging good in my opinion. What confuses me is how he is completely done with the album and he made no indication (as far as I know) that he was ever even working on it, considering he is working with as big of a name as Nigel Godrich. But I think this is great. The last Beck album, Guero, still stands as my favorite album he has made, and yes, I have heard Odelay, so don’t reccomend it to me. Mutations is way up there too, maybe even above Odelay. The man is a genius, and I think it’s great that he’s putting out another record. He seems to not really plug along at a quick pace when it comes to releasing albums, but hey, if he’s got more material totally done this quick, then wow. I’m excited. And you can bet I’m going to pick this baby up on the day of release.

1. Elevator Music

2. I Think I’m In Love

3. Cell Phones Dead

4. Nausea

5. Soldier Jane

6. Strange Apparition

7. Dark Star

8. Movie Theme

9. We Dance Alone

10. No Complaints

11. 1000 BPM

12. Motorcade

13. The Information

14. New Round

15. Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton

It’s going to be a more hip-hopy thing, which is fine, but if you want my opinion on it, it seems like theres way too much rapping and not enough singing. But you won’t hear me really truly complaining about anything that Beck releases anyway. I’ve heard a lot of the new songs. There are even videos for We Dance Alone ande I Think I’m In Love, and theres one coming for Cell Phones Dead too. The deal with the album art is, and this is straight from Becks mouth, it’s going to be a sticker thing. Like, it’s just a blank cover, and the album art is in stickers, so you can make your own. Pretty cool stuff.

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Radiohead – Kid A

May 25, 2006

With Kid A, Radiohead never truly intended to make anything resembling techno. At least it doesn’t seem like it. But their intent was to more make a work of art like their previous albums, but in a different more surreal way. OK Computer almost paved the road to Kid A, and it is easy to see that when you consider the electronic turn the music took at that point in their career. They still had beautiful melodies in the OK era, but they were seasoned with sparkling electronic soundscapes and bittersweet synthesizers. But Kid A was a full transformation. The album almost completely hinges on an electronic edge, and while the band almost entirely (temporarily, anyway) threw the brit-pop over their shoulder for this album, they still found themselves in a state of fame. Many critics were put off, but fans and casual listeners alike seemed to embrace the new style one way or another. This is an album where the band has no desire to please any critics or have any radio respect, and is more concentrated on just making good music that the fans will like, and trying something new in the process.

One disturbing fact about Kid A is that there are almost no drums. There are beats and rhythm, but more often than not, they are artificial and employed by the use of synthesizers and other strange instruments. Everything In It’s Right Place shows this early on. The title is not misleading, because this might be the most relaxing track on the album. The keyboard and synthesizers that dot the surreal song are extremely well placed, and the meticulous vocals and rhythm really get your ear into the right mood. And the lyrics are very easy too, and when listening to the song, it won’t be too uncommon to hear yourself saying “yesterday I WOKE UP SUCK ING ON LEM ON,” in accordance with Thom Yorkes strange vocals. Conversely, a great deal of the song is not in its right place. Thoms voice is played back, layered, warped, etc. Synthesizers float around. And the keyboards persist. Perhaps this is the bands message to the listener to let music come how it is, and accept the strange and different. And then we have a sort of filler track, but I hesitate to call it filler. It’s really not. It just sounds like it should be. You need to understand that this entire album is created meticulously to make the listener feel and think in certain directions. This is a very relaxing little tune, and is also made using some extreme precision. There are very soft chimes, synthesizers, bells, sound effects, etc that make up the song at first, and are then greeted by the drums (I don’t know if they are real or not. Don’t ask me), perhaps a friend that arrived fashionably late. The entire song puts images in my head that are kind of strange… One is the bedroom of a friend I had when I was a little kid, but that is kind of a strange thing to associate this with. I also picture animals and mythical creatures sort of marching through suburbia in the light of the moon. There are also vocals here, but they are warped beyond recognition. They do add to the strangeness.

But this album is extremely unpredictable, so there is little to no way for anyone to know that The National Anthem would come up. The National Anthem is not beautiful, it does not support your flag, and it is not “patriotic” in any way. Actually, this is the track that is notoriously known for being purposefully off-putting, but it is also a common favorite of fans. If you can somehow view the live version of this song that Radiohead performed on Saturday Night Live, I truly recommend you do, because it is one of the better live performances I have ever seen. There are definitely drums here, and the beat plays a significant role in the development of the song. The core of the song is the bassline though, an extremely off-beat and strange fast moving heart pumper. But then synthesizes jump in and Thoms Vocals work your brain into a corner. And there is nothing better than the horns coming it. It takes you by surprise. They are louder than the vocals, so they are more out front. And as if that weren’t enough, the horns start off going with the beat at least, and then they explode into their own things, and they don’t really make any sense. It takes a long time to truly appreciate this effect. Nothing has been more beautifully nonsensical in a long time. And then there is a hush, and the process repeats itself even more chaotically. And then it ends. There is no resolution at all.

And we are thrown into another completely unrelated emotion that works it’s magic just as well, How To Disappear Completely. This is hands down one of the saddest songs I have ever heard. There is an ominous inverted chord of noise in the background during the entire song, and it lingers there throughout. And the bassline is almost tragic it is so beautiful. The strums on the guitar are drifty, and Thoms vocals are in tip top shape. He gloomily sings about, well, disappearing, and even I almost wanted to cry the first time I heard it. And I can’t remember the last time I cried. Seriously, just listen to it. Synthesizers once again beautifully dot the song, and a great marching drumline comes in later. There is just so much detail going on in this song it’s amazing. There is even an orchestra, which crescendos to perfection, and imitates the haunting noise that you heard in the background in the very beginning, in all of it’s warped and sad glory. This might be the best song on the album, but it is very sad. But if any song can convince you that sad can be a good thing, this is it. The song ends with Thom Yorkes vocals literally melding into synthesizers and disappearing into the chords and music. It’s amazing. And by the end of all of that, you are in sort of a daze. You are depressed. And you might be shocked and impressed. And the transition into Treefingers is smooth. This is often regarded as the worst song on the album, but I would say it is not. Because it clearly succeeds in it’s goal. It is fully comprised of synthesizers, and there is no beat at all. And the swirls of synthesizers are also haunting, but full, and somehow satisfying. It’s kind of hard to explain. It is both sad and welcoming at the same time. You can almost hear the sparkling of the stars above as the trees blackened by the light on the horizon sway into night time. Welcoming you to stay. But there is a falling feeling. And it the track kind of swallows your ear and mind.

Optimistic is what catches you and reassures you that the band is still aware of the existence of major scales. The beat is almost tribal, and the song is once again so tightly constructed that it almost seems like a march. But during this march, you are still in some kind of trance. It is probably the exact opposite of the HTDC, and this is also another one of the more popular tracks that the album has to offer. It is very accessible, if nothing else because it is catchy and easy to hum. However, the music still has a bitter message to present. The words tell that the world is still the same way, and you kind of need to fight for your life, your liberty, and your pursuit of happiness. It perfectly demonstrates Darwins theory about survival of the fittest. Anyway, the groove of the song is irresistible, and it’s a Radiohead classic. In Limbo is one of the weaker songs on the album, but it is still good. The song is extremely layered, and is actually slightly more reminiscent of the bands earlier sound in that it actually has guitars, but this one must have confused even hardcore Radiohead fans. The sound is still extremely detailed and exact, something that the listener has probably gotten used to by now. Your ears hardly have to do any work by this point in the album. The song sort of feels like it should trail from Optimistic, so there is no question why it actually does. But of course, the song ends on an extremely uncomfortable note, like most of the other songs do.

And we are launched into the song that might have prompted critics to label the entire album as techno, Idioteque. It is close to techno, as close as you will hear. But I hesitate to actually call it techno. It’s once again very exact, but this time less detailed, at least at first. The bass and the beat are both artificial, and complement each other very well. Synthesizers still wisp around creepily, and Thom Yorkes lyrics are literally haunting here. The image that I got into my head when I first heard this song even creeped me out. It was sort of a Titanic type ship, teetering on its edge. There are already hundreds of bodies in the water floating, and people are trying to escape on lifeboats, but people are dying for some reason even from just standing on the ship. The sky is ominous, the definition of the word. Millions of stars, millions of planets, millions of nebulas. Just a lot of big crap. Anyway, the song picks up with a more detailed beat later on, and Thoms voice is layered to the point where it is going in rounds, and notes from both are placed next to one another with sheer perfection. By the end of the song, the creeping has done its damage, and there are only those wispy synthesizers I mentioned remaining.

And they are in the beginning of Morning Bell, a debatable song. It’s got an easygoing pace, and you guessed it, some keyboards and synthesizers. But it is still the worst song on the album. I mean, without a doubt. I don’t think it’s bad. But the version of this song on Kid A’s sister album Amnesiac is better. The song just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do. This was probably intentional though. Sometimes the song is littered with accidentals and an inverted major scale, but sometimes it is just flat out nice to listen to. Namely, later on when it gets more detailed and when Thom says “release me!” Its also purposefully off-putting, but this time not in such a great way.

The most beautiful part of this album is it’s conclusion, where the band almost seems like it is apologizing to you for putting you through what it did. There is a grand organ in the background chiming away beautiful chords, and Thom lets the listener know that even though things can look grim at times, there is still life, and there are always some good in things in life. And then the vocals and organ take an extremely beautiful turn. And then there is an explosion of slow gentle bass, swirling harps, and shiny pianos. And there are some other sound effects too. If this track wasn’t here, the album wouldn’t have amounted to anything. Very rarely does a song do the kind of work this does. But when you think it’s over, it’s not.

There is a long silence.

And then there is a final glorious stand of breathtaking measure, with pianos, harps, synthesizers, organs, and echo chamber played over the most beautiful cold, winter canyon of production.

And then there is more silence.

And then it is over.

While Kid A is not the best Radiohead album to date (OK Computer still holds that award, for me anyway), it is immensely provocative and extremely interesting. I think there are a lot of underlying meanings in the songs, especially how our kids are raised and how we live our life. But while OK Computer was more comfortable, Kid A is more straightforward and brutally honest. People usually lean towards either The Bends or Kid A, which OK Computer compromised between, but in my opinion, Kid A is the better album. You know what, if you are going to listen to it (you should) don’t think about it too much. Let it take you away. It’s definitely one of the best albums this century has seen thus far.

Also keep in mind that not all of my analyses will be like this. Sometimes I’ll just want to tell you what’s on my mind about an album, and sometimes I will post something outlining every song on the album, like this. And sometimes, I’ll pull something out from the Red archive that I wrote months or even years ago, and post it. It all depends on how I’m feeling. Also, if there is an album you really want me to review and you think that I have heard it, email me. It’s not like anyone ever really emails me anyway. But people have read some of these already and told me that they are very long and winded and unnecessarily drifty. I do ramble a lot, and I understand that this is a problem for some people. But I figure the more I ramble and free associate, the more interesting things will get, and the less I will seem like I’m just full of ****, and some dude who just wants attention and wants people to care about what he thinks. That’s not the case, I promise.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium

May 19, 2006

I guess I have never really been a huge fan of RHCP, but I’ve liked them in any case. I heard their songs as much as any other kid who listened to the radio regularly would. The band had some solid classics, such as Give it Away, By The Way, and Under The Bridge. The band is simply irresistable to whoever listens to them, for whatever reason. I have found very few people who don’t like the band at least a little, and I think that is because they are versatile enough to be able to crank out at least one tune that you will like. They have their hard rockers and wacky stuff, they have their relaxed California tunes, and they have their more artistic slower songs from recent years. So they can find some kind of, well, weakspot in everybody.

So out of the three big releases of older bands this Spring, Stadium Arcadium is going to be the one that sells the most, easily. Fans will obviously jump for it. The fact that it is a double album is reason enough for even casual fans to pick it up. And Anthony Kiedis said it was the best material they have ever made, so then even less casual fans jump for it. And then, get this, the album ends up almost being a summary of all of the bands different eras and styles, so even people who only like a few songs by the band will probably get more interested.

Is it good? …Yeah, it’s good. It’s actually really good. And I think the reason why it’s good is because the band is experienced enough to know how to make an album while appealing the general public more than their desire to go off and just try something different. All bands do that, where they go off and do experimental stuff after their initial popularity. Well, I think that Red Hot Chili Peppers just know how to keep it real, and keeping it real means doing what they have been doing for over twenty years. And then putting it on a double album.

It’s not all solid gold. In fact, I’d say maybe around half of the material is mediocre. But mediocre is a misleading word. The album does touch on all of the different styles the band has done, but they haven’t exactly done this in a balanced way. They seem to be more geared towards their recent By The Way/Californication type stuff, at least that’s what it seems like to me. And I think that’s great. By The Way is still my favorite RHCP album, and I think the band can do really well when they are concentrating on these relaxing slower sad type songs. But they do it an awful lot on this album, and not all of this material is good. But they still manage to produce some of the funkier older type stuff, the flat out hard rock, and then some stuff that’s in between. So I guess half of it is mediocre because the other half is just better. Sometimes the band recycles ideas, and sometimes they force beats and riffs too much, but that’s okay, because the really solid stuff is stuff that everyone will love, and the other half seems like the kind of stuff that fans will eat up more than anyone.

The album is divided into two disks called Juppiter and Mars. It’s hard to say which one is better, but you have to keep in mind, this album doesn’t exactly flow, and it finds it’s better points more in the songs than in the big picture like By The Way did. Juppiter kicks it off with Dani California, which to me seems like the tune that the band things would get the most radio play and popularity anyway, so they put it out as the single so that the album will sell and people can see the rest of what they have to say. It’s a good song, and it sort of does the typical funky thing in the verses and explodes into a more serious album opener type of chorus. I like it a lot, even though I didn’t at first. Next is Snow (Hey Oh) which in my opinion, is a real keeper because of the atmosphere it creates. That guitar is just such a great weapon for the band, and John Frusciante can do that quick rhythmic sound really well. This is one of the more successful riffs he makes on this album. Also keep in mind that the chord progressions on this album are extremely predictable, and you can find yourself almost humming the tune when you have only heard it for a little bit. And only sometimes does the pull a trick out to make it a little different. But that happens mostly on the filler.

Charlie is the kind of thing you would expect from the band in the BSSM era, and for a while it’s just this free verse nonsensical rhyming, which is okay, because these guys may be older but they are still totally kids. So they can get away with that really easily. It’s a classic song. The part where Anthony goes “so much more than/Charlies waking me” is just fantastic. Its’ one of the best hooks the band has produced in years, at least from the stuff I have heard. The song is supposed to be about little sparkles of immagination you can find, which is probably the lyrics talking about this hook and how good it is. Maybe.

Anyway, the band clearly put all of it’s best stuff on the first disk, in my opinion. Stadium Arcadium is another lush By The Way type song, but it’s one of the better of it’s breed on this album. Hump de Bump is also interesting, mostly because it is just a fun groove. Maybe the best one is Slow Cheetah, a song with another mildly uncreative and familliar chord progression, but it’s good. It’s rugged, and it is also very accessible. But when a lot of people listen to RHCP, they don’t want JUST this touchy feely more creative type stuff. A lot of the better RHCP is when they are totally unleashed, and they are doing “let me jump on top of you and work you uncontrollably” stuff. Which is why Especially in Michigan and Warlocks are cool. They aren’t THAT uncontrollable, but they are happier and more optimistic, and they are a good break from the sadder stuff.

The rest of the first disk is okay, but it starts up again on the next disk. You have to keep in mind, it’s not like a good deal of this album is bad or anything. It’s just you have heard it before. And there is better stuff that tries to do the same thing in other places. Desecration Smile is surely a highlight, even if it is more of what you have already heard. It’s still a solid track, and I like it a lot. Hard To Concentrate should be better than it is. It’s sort of built lyrically like a marriage proposal. That’s what the words say anyway. While I am always the kind of person to accept new ideas, this is just too un-RHCP even for me, and I’m not a huge fan. It’s a shame, because the riff and groove are solid. Whatever. It happens. We have bad stuff.

Readymade is another one that people seem to like a lot. I guess it’s okay. It’s just that the tune doesn’t sound as strong or anything than a lot of the Peppers better material. And it doesn’t seem to really go anywhere. The chorus is short enough to propell the song back into the riff, which is just generally uninteresting after a while. But it’s a rocker, so any fans who were waiting for a relentless ball breaker, well, here it is. A song that tries a different style successfully is If, which sort of explores a simple trippy summer sleep feeling. I like it.

Probably the best thing on Mars is Make You Feel Better. This is another totally classic song, and it’s fast paced and more aggressive and catchy. Yeah, you might still be able to call the progressions as you hear them, but the lyrics really don’t fault too much here like they do in some of the albums lesser works. It’s just vintage Peppers. I know that and I don’t even know them too well. It’s good stuff. Beyond that, Animal Bar is probably the second best thing on this disk, and it does the entire mellow schtick without exactly being sad or boring. It just seems to drive itself.

Just because I summarized most of the better stuff doesn’t mean there aren’t other treats to be found on this album. That’s essentially what it is… An album full of treats. There are only a few tracks that will stand out as the best of the best in the RHCP catalog, but the rest is still really good for fans, in that they have their own tunes that can be accessed with time, or at least that’s how it seems to me. I feel bad that I haven’t completely gotten to know this album and all of it’s songs, but that’s okay. The great thing is, it’s got material for everyone, and that is enough to make it one of the better albums I have heard this year.

I still probably like Pearl Jam better though. I mentioned that I have heard two out of three of those releases that older bands are releasing this year. The only one that I haven’t heard is Tool’s 10,000 Days. I might talk about it once I hear it, which will be soon, but I’m not huge on Tool, so we will see.

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The White Stripes – Walking with a Ghost [EP]

May 14, 2006


I’ll level here. I LOVE The White Stripes. And I know I shouldn’t. I usually appreciate the exact opposite kind of music, stuff with layers and details. But I can’t help getting wrapped up into the detroit duo’s minimalist style. I bought Elephant right when it came out a few years ago and I was blown away. I then got White Blood Cells, and I saw the bands knack for writing straight up pop. I also got The White Stripes and De Stijl and saw the bands talent for garage blues. I love their first four albums to death.

And then I picked up Get Behind Me Satan. This should have been the kind of thing I like, or so they tell me. It was supposed to be very different, feature a lot of marimbas, and cover a myriad of styles. I was excited. I still have that newspaper page from The Onion up on my wall. While not a lot of great music came out last year, it seemed like some kind of Angel at least gave me the three things I wanted. A new Foo Fighters album, a new Gorillaz album, and a new White Stripes album. There was a lot of anticipation.

I popped in the CD and it was dreadful. I still can’t get into it. It’s just BAD. Most of the material is under par, except maybe Blue Orchid, Little Ghost, and White Moon, and MAYBE As Ugly As I Seem and Red Rain. But the rest is utter crap, and you have no idea how hard it is for me to swallow that one of my favorite, uh, “bands” made an album that truly sucked. The production is bad too. The PRODUCTION IS BAD. ON A WHITE STRIPES ALBUM. I didn’t even think it was possible at first. Sometimes Jacks voice is played back a tiny bit and the effect is completely flubbed. There are a ton of little details that people will recognize that make this album a bore and a task to listen to. Beyond that, Jack has reached a songwriting low. I don’t even like one of the hit singles “My Doorbell” very much. And Jack could have saved that one with a simple “bout” instead of a quick annoying “about.” The Nurse is a joke. Red Rain is a perfectly good riff rocker ruined by Jacks vocals and that horrid production. It’s a bad album. It happens.

HOWEVER, someone I know snagged a copy of the Blue Orchid single before I actually got Satan. I was pleased. It can be argued that this single was weirder and more out there than the actual album. Blue Orchid is a great song. I’ll admit it. And I like the B-Sides too, even though I know they are kind of bad. I ignored the live version of You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket, because I knew that it would be bad. Looking back, I was right. It must have been hard enought to get that tune right back in the studio, and near impossible live. I saw the Walking with a Ghost EP in the store some months after the disappointment of Satan, and I decided to pick it up. I already had each of the bands albums and a single, so why not start a collection?

Bad idea. The EP features five tracks, four of which are live versions of songs on the bands previous albums. The new one is actually a cover of Tegan and Sarah’s Walking with a Ghost, which gives the EP it’s name. It’s not a very good song. The tune just kind of drones and looks for a place to go, a chorus perhaps, but it never finds this comfort. And the song seems to drift between several verses without any real resolution. I was kind of hoping for a really consistant pop tune with that one. Obviously I never got it. The live tracks are half and half. The Same Boy You’ve Always known is a good take, because it is almost completely acoustic. Same with the As Ugly As I Seem performance. It is extended, and the extra few minutes are interesting. But we also have a live version of The Denial Twist, which is a song I never really liked in the studio, so I don’t like it here either. And the version of Screwdriver makes it seem like Jack is at his bursting point. He almost tries to hush his own vocals, which is a bad idea when he could clearly just explode and the performance wouldn’t break apart. Meg also drifts into a session of Passive Manipulation, which I’m sure the audience was ecstatic about.

Not a good purchase, and I regret it. I’ve been bitten on the ass again here. I’m wondering if it’s going to happen again with Jacks new little side project The Raconteurs. The critics like them, but hell, they liked Get Behind Me Satan too and look how much that let me down. In this new experience, Jack has dropped Meg for a full fledged band to work with. But I know for a fact that Meg White was NOT the problem in Get Behind Me Satan, and only had a small flub in this EP. The majority of this bands problems come from the fact that Jack has reached a new low with his songwriting, and I’m hoping he can pull himself out of this little hole he has dug himself into.

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Jerry Cantrell – Degradation Trip Volumes 1 & 2

May 13, 2006


Grunge seems to be something that a lot of music fans care to put behind them. Every once and a while I will hear a purist talk about how much the 80s rocked and how much the 90s sucked, and I want set their gonads on fire. But yeah, grunge did fizzle out maybe a little over ten years ago. And no one is going to pretend that the tragic death of Kurt Cobain didn’t have anything to do with it. Whether or not it actually did though is another story. But from late 1993 to 1995, alternative rock led by the grunge genre had it’s final, glorious stand. More good albums came out in that timeframe than I can count. Seriously, let me just try. Nirvana with In Utero and Unplugged, Alice in Chains with Jar of Flies and s/t, Soundgarden with Superunknown, Hole with Live Through This, Mudhoney with My Brother The Cow, Pearl Jam with Vs. and Vitalogy, Stone Temple Pilots with Purple, Radiohead with The Bends… I’m stopping there, but it really goes on. For a looooong time. It seems like every other week I find another great classic album that came out around then, no joke. I may have summarized some of the better ones, but don’t think that’s it.

Yeah, Kurts death led to the downfall of grunge, but it didn’t immediately cause it, because a lot of classic grunge and alternative albums came out after his death, actually. Anyway, by 1996, for all intents and purposes, grunge had done it’s damage, and it’s time was up. In the mid to late 90s, it just fizzled out. Which is okay, because it did do a buttload of damage over a timeframe spanning almost ten years, when you really think about how early it started. One of the most focal of the great alternative bands of the 90s was Alice in Chains. Today, only two members of the big four remain. Pearl Jam, and the newly reunited remaining members of Alice in Chains. At first, I asked myself, can they even do that? Can they even have Alice in Chains without Layne Staley?

Then I thought about it some more, and yes, I think they can. While Layne surely was the icing on the cake and what really made Alice special, Jerry Cantrell was the backbone. The substance. He wrote a majority of the bands better songs. Don’t get me wrong, Layne was very very important. He wrote some good songs himself, and most of the best Alice in Chains songs are a result of both Jerry and Laynes songwriting. But as far as songwriting goes, Jerry is clearly the most skilled and important. Just looking at his latest work, the collection of both volumes of Degradation Trip, shows that he really does have some great skills going for him. All of the lyrics on the album have Jerry singing, which is great, because he does have a great voice. It’s impossible to get the same kind of range and skill that Layne had in his singing. You just can’t do it. But Jerry still has his own thing going in his voice. It’s very smooth. And the best is when you hear Layne and Jerry singing together in a song. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, WOW. Anyway, Degradation Trip Volumes 1& 2 is a big collection spanning two disks of pain, anguish and rage. Which is great, because Jerry clearly works best when he focuses on the negative, as far as music goes.

Psychotic Break kicks it off, and is a swirling downward spiral into the rest of the album, and a great song to boot. Bargain Basement Howard Hughes is one of the weaker songs on the album actually, which is a shame considering how early on it comes. Owned is when you really see stuff start to materialize. You start to see how much that guitar plays in. It’s crunchy, it’s looming, it’s powerful. And then there is a pattern of aggressive crunching guitar in the verses, and beautiful tunes in the choruses. Owned does that too, and it shows that even a song about a prostitute can be great. Angel Eyes is a standout tune, because of it’s great layered structure, and also because it is quite obviously about Layne. A lot of these songs clearly are, and this is the best one. This is a perfect example of how grunge would not be dead if people tried to look a little harder. This should have been a staple of the radio when it came out maybe two years ago. Solitude is a nice quiet ballad. Mother’s Spinning in Her Grave (Glass Dick Jones) is a really interesting one. Clearly some kind of sequel of sorts to Godsmack, a song that Alice produced on Dirt back in ’92. The name of that song gave birth to a metal band of today named Godsmack. Yeah, they are supposed to suck, but whatever. Remember, this is not the grunge you may remember from back in the early 90s, and while it is in fact clearly grunge, it’s still harder to register. I had that problem at first too. Because this seems like it’s a half and halt type thing. Half homegrown grunge, and half metal. Given enough time, you start to understand the metal aspects more. You also have to get to know the songs individually well enough, and when you do, the album starts to open up more. Hellbound is a sprawling piece on, well, probably what’s in the name. It’s got a nice riff, but it’s hard to listen to for six minutes anyway. It’s companion song is Spiderbite. They are both good, but kind of difficult. Once you understand them, they get better. Pro False Idol is the single from the album, and the only one that made any significant radio play. It’s a good song, that much is true, but as far as material goes, you can do better on the album. It’s about Layne too, and the chorus is irresistible, so it’s understandable how it got it’s glory. Feel the void is strange. It’s very quiet, and does a lot of strange quiet sound effects throughout. It’s more of an experience track than the rest, as it really creates an atmosphere as opposed to making any riffs or metal guitars. Locked On is one of the better ones. It’s gnarled verses complement the great choruses once again. Might actually be about Layne too. Gone is a quiet acoustic piece to pull it all together.

But forget that, now we have the second disk. The album was originally released with just the first disk and was known as Degradation Trip because Jerry could only get signed on to a minor record company, which doesn’t make any sense to me. You would think anyone would sign Jerry on. I guess not… Anyway, the company didn’t want to release the double album right away for some reason. So they struck a deal that they would release just volume 1 first and then both at once the next year. The second disk isn’t just b-sides or second rate tracks. It’s part of the body of the entire album. Mr. Cantrells original intent was to release both at once anyway. The slow trudging of Castaway is very painful even to listen to. It makes you feel sad and lonely just to hear it. But that kind of power is good. Chemical Tribe is more great Cantrell riffing with the same kind of pattern you know by now, which is good. What It Takes a great one, for many reasons. The acoustic guitar and feeling of the drums is very organic. The second disk follows a lot of this pattern. I said before that it’s all one big body of music, which is true, but both disks still have their own personalities. While the first disk might have been anger and rage, the second is probably loneliness and alienation. Dying Inside once again breaks out the acoustic guitar. Nothing too special though. Keep in mind that I haven’t listened to each track a thousand times. Some I have gotten to know better than others. It’s possible, I guess, that I’m missing the best ones by not understanding each one really well. But this is another one about Layne, and it’s not more than mediocre. It’s followed up by Siddhartha and it’s genuine creep. That ones great. Next is Hurts, Don’t it? which is more alienation. It’s good though. She Was My Girl really stands out as one of the best songs off of both disks. While the first disk still had traces of loneliness on it, this disk still has traces of anger on it. This song is also irresistible, and has a great angry chorus. The echo effect really works itself in here, and the aggressive nature does wonders. Which is strange, considering it’s probably the most harmless track on the entire album. It’s about a relationship, but as charged as it is, it almost doesn’t seem like it’s too negative. Pig Charmer is another highlight, and another tune about Layne, clearly. It’s slow, but it finds it’s power in the lyrics and also in slow moving guitars. Pretty much all the lyrics on the album are good. Jerry still knows how to make poetry without being too sappy or detaching himself from the music too much. Anger Rising also had a video, but I never saw it. It’s hard to listen to, because it’s about abuse, but it has probably the single most catchy and likeable music out of any song on the album. It’s immediately accessible and brings together the worlds of grunge and metal perfectly. S.O.S. is another meh one. It’s very quiet and acoustic, sort of creeping along progressively. But Give It A Name is absolutely fantastic. It reminds me of Over Now, because the verses are pretty happy and mellow, but then for the chorus, it transforms into something more dark and smooth and alienating. Very good. Thanks Anyway is yet another meh, but only because by this time, the listener has already heard everything it has to offer. The guitar part here is so crunchy and nondescript… It’s one of the few bad songs on this album. 31/32 is much like Gone, but better, in my opinion. It’s slow and acoustic, major but sad, also about Layne. It’s hard to listen to. There, I said it. But that is usually because when you think Jerry Cantrell, you don’t like to think about sad endings like this. But it’s still a classic song.

So this is where music doesn’t suck, and it’s hard to find releases like this in this day and age. It’s such a shame that the heroes of grunge are today labeled as post-grunge, as if the movement was just some kind of phase. I’ll have you know that this is a classic grunge album, even if it is ten years late. It’s still great stuff, and Jerry Cantrell is a genious.

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Nirvana – Lithium (Single)

May 13, 2006


My favorite band has always been Nirvana, and I always get slammed for that. I like it for the memories, the artistic nature, the tunes, the words, etc. But the problem is, the radio killed them. They didn’t really sell out, because anyone who knows what that means knows that they would have to deliberately contribute to their popularity and purposefully and knowingly try to make themselves liked by everybody. Anyone who truly knows Nirvana knows this never happened.

The band only had three studio albums. Then there were two live albums, an album of B-Sides, and many EPs, bootlegs, and box sets. Beyond that, we have singles. And the Lithium single is still one of the most respectable singles the band ever released, even if it only has a few songs on it.

What is a single supposed to do anyway? Well, it promotes sale of the album. So if someone hears the song on the radio and likes it, they can buy the single and will hopefully be convinced later on to buy the album. And making a single also means the lead song has to be really good, and the single will promote radio play, which will also promote the album a lot. But the single also has to have some incentive for fans to actually buy the single, beyond the fact that it is material that the band released. So there is usually a B-Side or two, some interesting cover art, and maybe some cool liner notes to boot.

In this way, Lithium delivers on just about every level. Lithium was destined to be a staple of rock radio, and it deserved a single of it’s own. It really encompasses the carefree attitude of the 90s pretty well, and despite the grim lyrics, it’s a happy song. You just kind of have to let it go, and drift off a little. Or have an image in your head. Just don’t concentrate too much on the actual music. Be busy while you are listening to this song. Anyway, it’s a solid track and enough reason for someone who doesn’t know Nirvana too well to buy the single.

Then we have a live version of Been A Son. The song was released on the bands B-Side collection Incesticide around the same time, but to be honest with you, this may be better than the studio version. You will always find many versions of the song floating around, and many live versions too. But this live take just really packs a punch. The band is clearly in good condition here, and cranking the song out at a very comfortable pace. Kurts vocals are great here too. This is probably going to be the incentive for fans to buy the album, just because the take is so good.

Curmudgeon has floated around elsewhere a few times, but I think it appeared first on this single. Fans can tell you that the bands B-Sides can really get to be a personal thing. Each fan has favorites. This isn’t a unanimously liked or hated track, but in my opinion, it is really good. It’s got a swirling heavy guitar part, and the Krist Novaselich on bass supports it and Dave Grohls crashing drums keep up perfectly. Of course, casual fans probably won’t understand this one right away, but more persistant fans will flat out love it. It is probably one of my favorite of Nirvanas B-Sides. Kurt Cobains words are nothing short of poetry here.

And then there are some other goodies that come with the single. Fans will probably find the mildly disgusting images on the front and back covers of the single amusing. And even better is the fact that in the liner, we have the complete lyrics from Nevermind, which is actually a great treat, because the release of Nevermind showed no actual lyrics sheets. Well, there was a little blurb of some of the albums lyrics, but they were warped, changed, and scattered. A lot of people complain about Kurt Cobain being unintelligible, so the lyrics sheet will also really give fans a treat.

I got my copy of this CD-single by chance at Best Buy for less than ten dollars. Considering the single was released about fifteen years ago, finding it in this day and age at a Best Buy is pretty amazing. You could probably get a much better price at amazon if you check some alternative outlets from the page of the actual product. New could be as little as around five, and used could be less than two dollars. It’s a great deal, especially for fans. Well worth picking up, for sure.

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Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam

May 12, 2006


Out of the big four bands of the Seattle Grunge era of the early nineties, only two remain. And one has only resurfaced recently to do a small tour. That band is Alice in Chains. But the only band that has continued to create albums since their debut to this very day is Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam has always been a special band to me, and I remember hearing most of their songs on the radio when I was just a little kid. One of my parents would often play albums by the band over and over, and the tunes got burned into my head.

So when I rediscovered Pearl Jam some years later, I already knew a good deal of the songs. The nostalgia is probably why I like the band as much as I do now. I can hum most of their songs. But that nostalgia is a result of me listening the crap out of those songs for years. When you hear a new album, you really need to play it over and over to truly find what the album has to offer. I will probably never get any nostalgia from Pearl Jams newest self titled release, simply because my childhood has already come and gone. And to be honest with you, most fond memories and nostalgia come from when you are a kid. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have those fantastic memories from another part of your life. And those kinds of childhood memories aren’t even the best kinds of memories. But they are ominous, and really deep. So this is really my first Pearl Jam album where I can form an opinion on it that is nonbiast, and more straight from me, because upon hearing this album in it’s entirety, I haven’t already had every song on it crammed into my brain.

It’s good. I’ll say that right off. I’m sure most Pearl Jam fans who have been watching the reviews have been hearing that it is a really straightforward album. That couldn’t be more true. Most Pearl Jam albums kick off with a strong set of opening tracks and charge forward for a little bit, drift off into obscurity for a little bit, come back kicking ass, and then end on either a strange or strong note. S/T does this too, a little, in that it is an album that really develops. It’s first five tracks, including the hit single World Wide Suicide, are fantastic. Then the album mellows out just a little bit, and drifts back upward into longer more interesting sounding songs until it’s glorius conclusion. If you could view an albums strength by statistics, this might be the best Pearl Jam album yet. But you can’t, and the songs are new, so you kind of need to get into them a little.

Yeah, the first five songs are all real ass kickers. The awesome guitar duo of Mike McCready and Stone Gossard are still great at crating riffs that can catch your ear, and Eddie Vedder still really knows how to write the lyrics. While tunes like Life Wasted and Marker in the Sand sound like they cover territory that has already been explored, they are still just generally rocking tracks. Comatose is the revival of another classic Pearl Jam tendency; it’s a fast ass kicking short rocker that has great catchy vocals. World Wide Suicide at first sounds like a song built around a title, but it later opens up to be more than that, and gets more enjoyable after every listen.

Then the album mellows out with Parachutes, almost a tropical love tune. It might be the best song on the album. It’s not classic Pearl Jam right away, but once you get used to the lyrics, it opens up too. Unemployable is an autumny 70s type tune which is much more accessible than most other songs on the album. Big Wave is kind of weak, but the chorus is cool. Same with Gone. You have to listen to that one for a while to understand it, because the song itself is not completely consistant. It starts out slow and minor and eventually grows to be the exact opposite. It’s a good song. Then we have a brief reprise of Life Wasted, and we are launched into Army Reserve, which is really vintage Pearl Jam. It’s catchy and almost a litte Psychedelic. Come Back is a Yellow Ledbetter type tune, but to be honest with you, it’s not that great. It’s just kind of weak to me, but everyone else seems to love it, so what do I know? And then we end the album with Inside Job, an extremely strong song involving a change of heart and an a great developing tune that covers a lot of ground.

It’s a really good disc. It’s exactly what a Pearl Jam fan could want too, because Pearl Jam fans understand that you really need to listen to Pearl jam a lot to understand and like them fully. This may be the bands most consistant and solid album ever, and it might be my favorite album they have made too, and I have almost all of their albums. Just give it a little time, that’s all I ask.