Posts Tagged ‘jane’s addiction’

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Lollapalooza 2009: Sunday

August 21, 2009

On August 9th, I attended yet another music festival, but only for a single day. I didn’t have the cash to attend all three days of Lollapalooza 2009, not to mention the lineup didn’t really excite me this year, but I’d say I got my money’s worth on the one day I did attend. I had so much fun last year that I couldn’t pass up at least one day this time, and although the day was money well spent, it was more of an interesting exploration, as opposed to last years unaddulterated fun.

We started the day in the beautiful/burning hot Grant Park off with Bat for Lashes on the Vitaminwater stage. The singer songwriter Natasha Khan drew a big crowd, and when she got on stage and started playing, her music oddly enough fit the mood of the day. Her style of fairy-tale rock seems out of place in what is usually considered an “alternative rock festival,” but is that really what Lollapalooza is anymore? The dramatic hooks, diverse instrumentation and arcane lyrics had life breathed into them from the hugeness of the stage and the wind that blew over the band and the giant curtains. Also particularly strong was the percussion, which often times took on a sun-baked electronic flair. Khan herself is as attractive of a personality as she is a person. She apologized for the heat and seemed to be only visually suffering from it as much as we were. She stated her worry that dry-mouth might hinder her vocal performance but throughout the show, her vocals were sweeping and impressive.

So why was I bored with the show? My immediate thought on this is probably the most meaningful; the songs sounded exactly like the album versions. Which in some ways is fine, because Khan’s albums are pretty damn good. But I’m reminded of many other festival experiences I have had this year, especially the Pitchfork Music Festival, that had me thinking about what I want in a show. I want my live music to be something that truly benefits me seeing the artist live over just sitting at home listening to an album, and that does not include a pretty face. Khan and her band did bring the goods more than once, enough to make the show worth it. “You might want to dance along to this one,” said Khan before firing into an uptempo rendition of “Sleep Alone” from her latest album Two Suns. Bat for Lashes really benefits when the band try to get their audience dancing. Even on the more hushed numbers, the big beats do their work. But clearly not enough for me, admittedly a head-nodder and an easily bored show-hopper. I’m glad I saw Bat for Lashes, but I didn’t need to see them for more than a half hour.

So we got the Citi Bank stage early enough to see most of Cage the Elephant‘s set, who were just awful. Frontman Matt Shultz was stoned beyond the level that a frontman should be, and I can’t tell if it hindered his performance or if his vocals really are that bad without any help. The band’s southern rock songwriting and delivery is almost comically bland and standard, but the audience, now mostly consisting of bros, just ate it up. It is now that I recognize that the crowd of Lollapalooza has drastically changed. Of course, shirtless jocks were just as big a part of Rage Against the Machine last year, but here they seem to have more attitude and majority.

But they all cleared out after that show, leaving a scant few to wait for the eclectic electronic/noise/world music band Gang Gang Dance to start. Most of these people were probably actually waiting for Passion Pit or Deerhunter instead, and I think I was the only one in the early audience to wave my hand when someone else asked “Does anyone else here actually listen to Gang Gang Dance?” This might as well have been the show I was most excited for on this day, mostly because I love this band and am always jumping at opportunities to see world music influenced shows these days (I am the one who has seen Yeasayer three times in the past year).

So I loved this set despite it’s shortcomings, and there were a few. The sound levels seemed a bit off, and Liz Bougatsos’ wonderful vocals weren’t given enough volume. I can’t tell if this was actually because something was wrong, or because we were in the second row, or because it was just one of the loudest shows I’ve ever heard. The only other show I can think of being worthy of comparison would be Animal Collective’s set at the Pitchfork Festival last year. At that show, the sound of the band was sometimes so convoluted and loud that I often couldn’t hear what I was hearing. This simultaneously frustrating and awesome occurrence happened here at Gang Gang Dance a few times, but even though this was clearly the louder and more experimental show, I found that the sound generally had more clarity and punch to it than Animal Collective did, even though the bands might have uncannily similar descriptions in the Lollapalooza handbook.

But fuck all the descriptions and preconceived notions; you can’t really prepare yourself for a Gang Gang Dance show. It’s just something different than most anything you’ve seen before. The band’s songwriting only adheres to the notion that songs should include guitars and drums, but for a lot of the show, three out of four band members were hitting away at drums and samplers and the guitar was used more as a slow burning electronic instrument, making this a very percussively strong show. Some of the band’s more accessible songs came from last year’s excellent Saint Dymphna, such as the high as the sun “Vacuum” and the down-the-rabbit-hole dance burner “House Jam.” The electronic production from Brian DeGraw simply rocked in a way that I haven’t seen an electronic artist do so before, and his noise passages were really fun and fascinating to listen to. In fact, when I compare them again to fellow psychedelic band Animal Collective (who by all accounts played a very mediocre set on Saturday), Gang Gang Dance seemed to be more complex and experimental and yet still so much more immediate and likable. Also, they might have had the most entertaining set of roadies I have seen in a while; Can someone get me an “OH SHIT, GANG GANG” shirt, please?

I didn’t know exactly what to expect for Passion Pit because I didn’t know their music. By the time they started, I was reminded of what kind of shows I don’t like. The crowd was, for the first hundred feet or so, a gigantic, sweaty, pulsing mosh pit. I decided pretty early that I was sick of having man titties rubbed up against me and barely being able to stand, so I worked my way back in the crowd, got some refreshments, and watched from far away. Which I was just fine with, because I don’t know or care enough about Passion Pit’s music enough to endure the newly awakened Bro-a-Palooza. However, this band amassed an incredibly large crowd. Even from hundreds of feet away, the area was still packed, and the crowd was going fucking nuts. And these guys do have a certain minor gravity. Even I found myself tapping my foot from far away.

Easy, unprofessional bro music? Yes indeed, but when I found myself wrapped up in my elitist thoughts – this is just stupid party music – I had to stop and remind myself that these guys drew a massive, enthusiastic crowd. People love this band, and their music is, to these fans, unstoppable. Towards the latter half of the show, a balding man named Josh greeted me and asked me if that was a girl singing on stage. I said that amazingly it was a guy, and he seemed stunned. He kept asking me, “that’s really a guy?” He said he couldn’t get to the festival any earlier than just recently, if I recall correctly because he couldn’t get off of work, and that he was thinking of seeing Vampire Weekend and The Killers. He proclaimed that he really liked what he was hearing at this stage and proceed to walk his way into the inner crowd. I was left just as bewildered as he was seconds ago. Who’s the teenager here?

When Deerhunter hit the stage next, Bradford Cox seemed frustrated and unhappy. It might be enough that his band had to go up against festival juggernauts Lou Reed and Snoop Dogg, and it looked like he was having pedal issues, but he seemed too distressed too early for things like that. During sound check he seemed quite grumpy and kept to himself, though when he did give the audience his attention he charmingly smiled, waved, and greeted. What we found later during the show was that, according to Cox, he has the H1N1 virus and recently got a shot of B-12. Regardless of whether it was the virus or the meds, he was clearly tripping for the vast majority of the show, and after the show got off the ground, Cox’s anxiety turned to ecstasy. He noted that to him the audience looked like a massive ocean of faceless flesh, recounted a hilarious story of his hallucinations that morning in a Holiday Inn that featured a Mayan themed water park, and threatened to play Snoop Dogg and Velvet Underground songs. And they would have fucking done it too; they had three fourths of the band playing “What Goes On” before Cox asked where his drummer was, to which Moses Archuleta bitched that he didn’t know the drum part (and apparently just couldn’t improvise something. Come on man, Velvet Underground percussion is simple shit, and it’s not like Deerhunter’s is that much more complex.) But through all of this, Cox looked not only slightly terrified but also completely giddy. By the end of the show, he looked ready to pass out but was all smiles.

With that said, all of the banter was just as epic as the music, which went on shockingly unhindered by Bradford Cox’s state of mind. Cox is an electrifying stage presence, and he never fails to bring a smile to the audience, even when he is rambling at what may at first seem like a little too long. But Deerhunter’s set was long and strong enough to live up to the almost legendary hype that has surrounded the band since they hit it big with Cryptograms in 2007 and has accompanied them up through their current tour with Dan Deacon and No Age. The band’s pieces are usually long and reverb-laden, and even their earlier, tougher material sounds lush with Cox and second guitarist Lockett Pundt’s work, which ranges from beautiful atmospherics to tough riffing. The drums and bass are often the driving power behind the songs, as simple as their parts can be. Pieces can range almost to ten minutes of squealing feedback and vocals repeated like mantra, and the rhythm section is slow and brooding. All of those elements sound like they should build up to some terrifying GY!BE type shit, but Deerhunter are actually a really beautiful sounding band, and the songs from the albums sound even more uplifting and brilliant live as on record. Although Cox may have playfully played the band down, it’s not hard to see Deerhunter pulling in as big of a crowd as his competition on Saturday within a couple more years.

To me, it was a no brainer choosing between Deerhunter, Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed. I knew in my head that, considering my lack of familiarity with Lou Reed’s solo work and my love for Deerhunter, there would be no reason for me to see Reed other than to be able to say I saw him. But there was still a tinge of disappointment in my heart knowing I’d miss a punk rock ‘n roll legend that might not be around that much longer, despite my expectations that his show might be a little slow. So I was delighted to find that by the time Deerhunter ended and I was walking over to the Budweiser stage to wait for Jane’s Addiction. Granted, I only ended up hearing one song from Lou Reed and his band, but if you’re only going to see Lou Reed perform one song, “Walk on the Wild Side” is pretty ideal. And Reed sounded a lot like I thought he would. Kinda old, kinda slow, kinda fried, kinda awesome. I’m glad I went for the superlative set and didn’t settle for a “kinda” show, but I’m happy that I got to see him play one good song. It’ll be one to tell the grandkids.

But that story will probably be a side note to my accounts of Jane’s Addiction. Granted, seeing Jane’s Addiction headline Lollapalooza seems legendary right off the bat, and I had to give credit to Perry Farrell, a man who has poured his life into fourteen years of Lollapalooza over the past two decades, as well as the rest of Jane’s Addiction, who headlined the first Lollapalooza in 1991. This was Jane’s Addiction’s moment to shine, with their original lineup on the main stage of one of the most renowned music festivals in the world, which they themselves founded.

But I’ll be damned if they didn’t earn it right there and then. Jane’s Addiction really rocked that stage. This show is just about the greatest major stadium show I’ve ever seen, even standing strong against headliners last year like Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails. Jane’s Addiction delivered the balls out hard rock goods that was exactly what this year needed with it’s otherwise mostly tame lineup. Perry Farrell is still a magnetic frontman who can hype up an audience like no other, Dave Navarro is an incredible and fun guitarist, Eric Avery rumbles the ground with his basslines and Steve Perkin’s is a behemoth on drums (despite the fact that his elbow was fucked up and two specialists said that he shouldn’t play the show). Everything about the delivery here was spot on. What shocked me the most was that the guys don’t seem like they are half as old as they actually are. No one in the band looks or acts older than thirty five. Perry Farrell, originally dressed in sequins pants and vest, still looks like he did twenty years ago, chizzled with nary a wrinkle at a ripe fifty years old. Dave Navarro is even more cut and still seems to not own a shirt, and he’s probably better off. These guys look and sound probably even better than they did at Lollapalooza ’91, judging from the footage of that performance.

Musically they were spot on, tearing through a set that included classics from the band’s original incarnation in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Songs like “Mountain Song,” “Oceanside,” “Whores” and “Three Days” were given great live treatment that only compounds the energy of the originals threefold, and crowd favorites “Been Caught Stealin'” and “Stop!” got a big crowd response. There was a sort of spectacle to the delivery, yes. Giant paper waves came out of the pit for “Oceanside,” streamers flew over the audience at the conclusion of “Stop,” voluptuous women danced on elevated platforms, and Farrell invited Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry to join the band for the final performance of “Jane Says.” The general complaint seems to be that these tricks are hammy and overblown, but to me they seem relatively tame. Maybe it’s just because I’ve seen the Flaming Lips twice this year, or maybe it’s because I’m comparing this festival show to the band’s recent club shows that featured fire-breathing strippers. In my opinion, Jane’s Addiction like their audience to have fun just as much as they do, and there is nothing wrong with that. It seems like one of alternative rock’s greatest bands is still under-appreciated.

Which isn’t to say that the band didn’t attract a big crowd; the entire weekend was a complete sellout, like last year, and tens of thousands watched Jane’s Addiction tear it up. But the crowd, mostly consisting of middle aged rockers and young classicists, was awkwardly quiet at encore time and wasn’t giving the band nearly the feedback I would have expected. An especially unnerving moment came early on in the set, when Farrell triumphantly yelled “What the fuck is this!? 80,000 punk rockers?? What the FUCK is this!?” I must have been beaming in affection at Farrell’s words, but then it occurred to me that his calculation couldn’t have been correct.

Lollapalooza was founded in 1991 as being a showcase for what was called then “alternative rock.” Lineup selection has usually reflected this, and when it hasn’t, the choices have still ended up being pretty awesome (Kanye West and Daft Punk come to mind). However, I’m still one of those fans of the music which Lollapalooza was born on, although I’m still not sure that I even know what “alternative rock” means. Looking back at previous years’ lineups, I pretty much salivate over the bands that played from 1991 to 1995, when I was a toddler and couldn’t have possibly attended the festival. I saw a guy in the crowd for, interestingly enough, Passion Pit, who had a Lollapalooza 1993 shirt on. Among the bands that played in ’93 were Alice in Chains, Primus, Dinosaur Jr., Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Sebadoh and Mercury Rev. It occurred to me that I would have killed to have been ten years older in ’93. I complimented the guy, and he said that he brings out the shirt about once every five years.

I’ll level; I feel old. I’m nineteen years old and I feel like I’m one of the few people I know that would consider themselves a fan of hard rock. Some of the same bands that were on the guys shirt have even played Lollapalooza since it’s 2005 revival. Hell, Jane’s Addiction, the original spirit of the festival, headlined this year and I loved every overblown, commercialized minute of it. And it was commercialized, because there is still a market for Jane’s Addiction. If there wasn’t, they wouldn’t have played. Lollapalooza, and the entire festival circuit, is now part of the music business. Even though I scoffed at the fact that The Killers were chosen to headline this year, I had no right to scoff at their crowd, which I’m sure was 50,000 strong. Hell, the festival completely sold out again this year, so someone is doing their job right.

In a nutshell, at Jane’s Addiction I felt like an old spirit in a new environment. Just as I’m sure that rock music will never completely leave festivals like Lollapalooza, I’m not completely a classicist; I had just as much fun at Deerhunter and Gang Gang Dance as I did at Jane’s Addiction, and the word “alternative” doesn’t mean anything more to me than the word “indie” does. But it’s obvious and sensible that the nature of this festival is changing, and I find myself watching this happen, a little uncomfortable. But I doubt you’ll see me steering away. I’ll probably have just as much confused fun next year.

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Yet Another Ten Reviews

April 23, 2007

For some reason, this time I ended up reviewing a lot of albums that I love and not so many that I just like a lot or are in the middle. I pulled some of them out of the vaults. I find it easier to praise than to complain, I guess. Some of these are my absolute favorites. I’ll bitch more next time, I promise.

Alice in Chains – MTV Unplugged

This Unplugged concert was, for all intents and purposes, Alice in Chains’ final farewell. There is almost nothing that is not conclusive about this collection of songs, and in some ways it does it’s job very well. Alice in Chains was just screaming for an Unplugged concert, having two acoustic EPs under their belt and an impressive array of softspoken songs alongside their haunting metal. But perhaps there just wasn’t quite enough in the queue for the acoustic treatment. While half of these acoustic takes are absolute treasures, the other half are miscalculated performances of songs that should not have been acoustic in the first place. The renditions of Down in a Hole and Rooster were the only songs appropriate from the bands second album Dirt, and Angry Chair and Would are simply better loud and electric. Frogs probably was not a good choice to include either, nor was Sludge Factory, the name of which lets the listener know it is best played with muddy obnoxious guitars. While these clunkers are present, the rest of the performance is solid. Performances of classics such as Nutshell, Got Me Wrong, and Over Now are among the bands best moments, and unspeakably touching. Some other songs from the Sap and Jar of Flies EPs could have been included, but for the most part the most important cornerstones are hit that should have been hit. Another perk of this show is that the band is in excellent playing condition even after not playing a show for many years, and the guitar sound is as distinct and delicious as many other famous Unplugged shows are known for. The rendition of the unreleased Killer Is Me would have been grounds to buy this in the first place, and it is the perfect closer to the bands career. On one hand some great songs are played here, but the setlist is just not that well thought out. Depending on the listener, this could be either wonderful or bland, thus leaving this to be for the fans only and really a wasted opportunity.

Boards of Canada – Trans Canada Highway

While nothing works effectively as a replacement for a Board of Canada LP, Trans Canada Highway is a more than good way to whet fans appetites. While this is fairly short in terms of new material, it is also easily the best EP Boards of Canada have released yet. Boards of Canada are a band with such scant material that fans delightfully lap up whatever material they can get their hands on. Luckily, this is a solid release and completely consistent despite it’s brevity. Dayvan Cowboy, the head track from The Campfire Headphase, is truly one of the greatest songs Boards of Canada have ever produced, and it is very worthy of being included here as well as being remixed. The remix, however, feels like a completely new song and is not just a throwaway. Trans Canada Highway does almost feel like a miniature BoC LP though, as it almost equally split between longer building signature electronica and short aural vignettes. The two longer new songs, Left Side Drive and Skyliner, are both fantastic and among the bands best. The signature Boards of Canada sound is marginally augmented by a simple matter of experience, and both songs are absolutely gorgeous in every way you love the band to be. Left Side Drive is a great chillout track with a great, steady, varying beat and awesome synthesizers floating in the background. Skyliner is equally as priceless though, layering itself an impressive amount of times and carefully changing the beat in comfortable ways. The two short interludes are both heavenly, otherworldly ambiance that you would expect a group with as much clarity to produce. Trans Canada Highway may simply be a taste of Boards of Canada’s future, but it’s a fantastic EP and a necessary augmentation onto an impressive discography.

Jane’s Addiction – Strays

This really isn’t as bad as everyone says it is. Sure, it doesn’t compare to Nothing’s Shocking or Ritual de lo Habitual, but very few albums do, so what is the point in complaining? People don’t seem to get that they should be thankful that the band came back and did their career justice at all. The album is not as completely standout on a song by song basis, but there are a few of the bands absolute best songs on here. True Nature is the heaviest Perry Ferrel and company have ever been, The Riches is a classic riff that seamlessly transforms into a relaxing segment that is very distinctly Jane’s Addiction, and Just Because and Superhero are very respectable short rockers. All of the other songs are good, just not great. Part of why people complain so much is because these are more aimed at the mainstream, but after doing as much trailblazing as the band did a decade earlier, this is a bit of a relief in some way. The production is solid, but Perry’s voice has deteriorated a little bit and is at his best when he’s really yelling. It’s no question that this is Jane’s Addiction’s worst album and it does not really stand out that much, but it’s a treat that fans will especially love.

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

All things considered, Physical Graffiti was the last Led Zeppelin album that really mattered. And it was a surprise too, considering Houses of the Holy was rather disappointing when compared to the bands earlier numbered albums. Fortunately, the bounceback was in the form of a gargantuan double album around the time that the bands popularity was at it’s height and anticipation was at a record high. The album delivered in any way that a fan could ask for, with as much hard blues as could ever be asked for, and enough new heavy sophistication to keep critics who wanted change and variance happy. The disk delivered as a middle ground between every extreme the band had ever relinquished in. Custard Pie is a shorter lighthearted sexual blues knockout, and In My Time of Dying is a marathon ten minute blues epic. Trampled Underfoot is a danceable organ oriented heavy trance, while Night Flight is shorter guitar pop reminiscent of earlier days. Even Led Zeppelin’s love for eastern music is touched on with Kashmir and In The Light, alongside the pounding dinosaur rock of Houses of The Holy. Surprisingly enough, yet another middle ground is reached when one considers that the album was about half full of older unreleased tracks and half new material. The result of all of these factors convening is a colossal smorgesborg for fans of hard rock, and not just Led Zeppelin either, but a wider audience. You could even say this album shows the band in their absolute prime, and although it may never surpass the popularity of IV or II, Physical Graffiti is a grand album and anything but a let down.

Luna – Bewitched

Although Luna’s momentous worth should truly be judged by the span of their long career, their most respectable effort, Bewitched, should not be overlooked. The album not only defined the bands sound for many great albums to come, but presented it with unmatched consistency. The mood that the pleasant dreampop group always tried to convey was a sleepy melodic dreamscape, and if there is one kind of dream that people love to have, they are dreams of love. The impressive aspect of not only this album but Luna in general is that they can do so much with so little; the simple dreamy chords and lullaby bass line gently carry the title track into a definitive sleeping song, and utilizing what could easily be Beatles lyrics, centered around love and wispy attractions. The level of sophistication in the songcraft is also very impressive, and while certain songs like Bewitched and Sleeping Pill may make do with simple strums and reserved beats, others like Great Jones Street and This Time Around boast beautifully spontaneous guitars and complex yet accessible melodies. The album also has two killer openers, setting the mood perfectly. On one hand the more uptempo daytime song California (All The Way) that very well might be the least depressing breakup song ever, and the dropdead gorgeous innocent classic Tiger Lily, that may just make your heart melt. If you have ever wanted a varied collection of top notch dreampop, look no further.

Brian Eno – Another Green World

Essentially, this album was the first venture into the art of synthesizers, loops, and synthetic sounds incorporated into pop music that was easily accessible. And it still stands as an absolutely gorgeous venture even to this day, which makes it even more amazing that it was released in the seventies. Although I hate to quote AMG, the writer of that sites review for this says it best. Another Green World plays like a dream sequence, or at least the ideal dream sequence, of creations both relaxing and structured. The record is almost short lived, and in a way sadly so, because each song almost begs for more time to express itself. This work of art comes in two specific but scattered parts. There are a few melodic pop songs featuring Eno’s pop/rock lyrics that accompany a catchy electronic background. Some of these songs are the compelling St. Elmo’s Fire featuring Robert Fripp on a downright mean guitar, the charming I’ll Come Running, and Sky Saw, which was probably the most out there pop music at the time. The other side of the spectrum are a wealth of amazing instrumental pieces that seem to describe their moods in perfect harmony with their names. In Dark Trees is an unsettling nightmare, Sombre Reptiles is a wonderful natural groove, and The Big Ship might just be Eno’s most gorgeous creation. The final five songs on the album are also to be noted as one of the strongest wrap-ups in pop history, reiterating the defined structure of the album. And while Eno amazes on all of these levels, he keeps up a specific style, which is about what would happen if someone built a time machine and simultaneously mixed the future of pop music with classical aesthetic, as the cover art projects. While Brian Eno may have arguably changed music even more with his ambient series, this was the record that not only pointed in that direction, but also made all of that able to happen. What Brian Eno did with Another Green World inspired a wealth of change in the pop music industry, and if not for it, electronica, ambient, or even structured mood music would not have been possible. So not only did Eno make a fantastic record, but he set the stage of music for years to come. Almost all artists today owe something to Eno, unless they foolishly believe that the studio’s only function is to record what is played and nothing more.

The Radio Dept. – Pulling Our Weight [EP]

Radio Dept.’s follow-up EP to their 2003 full length debut Lesser Matters ended up being more than just affirmation that the band were a one shot deal. The Pulling Our Weight EP ended up trumping an already impressive album of lovely dream-pop with only five songs, all of which are utterly fantastic and indesposable. This EP is the Radio Dept. shedding off whatever weaknesses they may have had and exploding with their full talent much like a blooming flower. The title track is the bands greatest and most representative work. The song seamlessly presents hook after hook over the trademark soft looped drums and shy hushed vocals, and the accompanying music video is a charming work of art on it’s own. The album surprisingly looses no momentum even with the consideration in mind that from the top, there is no where to go but down. A shockingly touching aural poetry is delivered with We Climb The Wired Fences, and I Don’t Need Love I’ve Got My Band is the romantic keystone of the disk and a lovely display of gently cascading guitar solos. The short two minute haiku Someone Else is tropical and relaxing, and the band once again displays their knack of creating an atmosphere with subtle touches without loosing their pop sensibilities. The album is rounded off by what seems to be a shoegaze revival, The City Limit. The song carries along a wonderful soundscape and many more beautiful melodies to contemplate. This is truly one of the most accomplished works of pop music produced in years and the Radio Dept. may well be the best band indie band out of Sweeden ever. Pulling Our Weight EP is a masterpiece of underspoken dream-pop, a perfect culmination of everything this wonderful band has to offer, and a grand sign of what the future may hold. One of the best EPs ever, for sure.

Silversun Pickups – Carnavas

Silversun Pickups’ full length debut has been pinned as a lot of things. They say takes influence from certain alternative bands of the nineties a lot, but in truth this album is fairly unique. But being unique does not always make you fantastic, as Carnavas proves. The song with the most pinnable source is the opening Melatonin, a pretty obvious My Bloody Valentine rip, but it is actually a very good song despite it’s unoriginality. But if unoriginality was the only problem with this album, it would simply be a damn good album for nostalgic alt rockers. But the problems dig deeper than that. The mood here is despondent, which is fine, but unfortunately the theme does not develop throughout the near hour it lasts. The concluding moments of this pretty much sum it up. “We’re always going to cross the finish line while everybody wants to run and hide, but now it’s too late.” Whatever opportunity that Carnavas had to be concluded beautifully was botched. Sound wise this album just feels tired. This could have been a great shoegaze record, but the drums are too loud, the guitars are too subdued (this problem is relieved if you REALLY crank it), and the vocals are awkwardly miscalculated. The vocalist kind of sounds like s/he wants to scream like Dave Grohl but doesn’t quite have the guts to actually come out and do it, and if they did it would just be painful. The upshot is that these guys can write some very good songs. Lazy Eye has gotten some significant radio play for a reason, Rusted Wheel is a very contemplative outing, and some of the albums first half can be very fun. But the fact that these people know how to write music is unfortunately overshadowed by the fact that they simply cannot produce it well quite yet. If you have heard some of these songs and liked them you will find comfort in the rest of the record, but it still really isn’t that memorable. As imaginative as these songs are, they feel like wasted ammunition, and I can only hope that the future holds good things for these possibly talented but misguided musicians.

Tool – Ænima

Tool’s second album Ænima is a significant leap forward from an already great album, and it secured the bands fanbase while delivering one of the ninties more compelling metal albums. Like all of Tool’s albums, this takes time to open up. At first it seems passive and less forceful than the aggressive and fast-paced Undertow, but Ænima is truly an informing listen. And simultaneously driving too. On one hand the album delivers a radio hit with Stinkfist, but after that the listener is plunged right into the middle of the issues and ideals that are to be put accross. As opposed to being stated explicitly, these themes are to be realized after close inspection. Even then, fans of Undertow will love this album. Songs like Eulogy and Forty Six & 2 are alternately introspective and uncompromising. And yet the album still rocks out while delivering it’s complex and important messages. Hooker With A Penis is a short rocker (at least for Tool), and the title track is more rock solid than anything off of this album or Undertow. And the album can get progressive too. Eulogy, Pushit, and Third Eye are all huge, interesting pieces that are expanded on in complex ways that only the attentive ear can decifer quickly. When I first bought this album I didn’t like it at all, but after giving it a chance and looking for what makes this so popular, every song on this album opened up. This really isn’t inviting, as far as the general style goes or the colorful yet disturbing filler, but this is a fantastic album and it really put Tool on the map for a reason.

Cocteau Twins – Treasure

Treasure is Cocteau Twins’ most popular and influential record, but it’s questionable whether it is truly the best. Undeniably this is the Twin’s at their stylistic peak, delivering the goods with a greater and more constructive precision than ever before. These melodies are, for the most part, touchingly beautiful and accessible. This is really the breakthrough music that the band had been working towards, although the Spangle Maker EP was geared towards the same thing with significantly less success. The difference lies in the vocals, and Treasure is Liz Fraser’s vocal peak. The most obvious and unique charm of this record is Liz Fraser’s new vocal style. She no longer even tries to sing words but instead sings in unintelligible sounds thus extending her voice into what is now truly a musical instrument. Side A is quite simply perfect, and all five songs are beautiful and essential. Ivo is perfectly refined nuanced poetic dream-pop and one of the bands absolute best. The following Lorelei is misleading. The song has unbelievably beautiful hooks, a quality that the band were not known for, but if you turn up the volume on this, spontaneous eargasms will follow. Beatrix is as regal as it is fresh even over twenty years later, Persephone has deliciously dirty guitar cutting accompanied by another flawless vocal performance, and Pandora (For Cindy) is a lovely, relaxing, and almost tropical song that points directly to the bands next album, the beautiful Victorialand. An album with this much momentum seems unstoppable, and it almost is, but the unfortunate flaw of Treasure is that Side B derails a bit. Or maybe it just seems like it does because some of the songs aren’t as standout as those that preceeded them, but in any case it feels like the album runs out of energy. Amelia is very good upon closer inspection, and Aloysius is just as priceless as anything on Side A. But Cicely feels like a revisit to Persephone only with less enthusiasm, Otterley has almost no melody at all (although it is pretty ambiance), and Donimo is a vocal misfire. Even considering the fact that some of these songs are not quite as priceless as others, the album still stands in quality and this may well be the Twin’s best, most moving album.