Posts Tagged ‘led zeppelin’

h1

Review Shuffle (11 this time)

May 7, 2007

I know I said last time that I would do some more complaining next time I did an album shuffle.

Yeah, about that. I think I have complained more comparatively at least. Most all of these are still albums I like though, but I find if I complain too much I am just dismal and if I rave too much I end up having no strong taste, at least as it appears. I have two reviews in the works, one an album that I don’t really like and one that I really love. I also have a lot of new albums that have come out this year so I’ll review a lot of that stuff too. For some reason this year I have just been picking up tons of new albums which I don’t usually do. This is mostly all old stuff though.

The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin

I really never got around to getting all the way through this album until very recently. It was one of the albums that just felt like a task to get all the way through although I knew in the first place that it was pretty damn good. This still isn’t one of my favorite Flaming Lips albums, but in any case The Soft Bulletin is very important and popular for a reason. Most all of the songs are very nice little melodies, but simply aren’t expanded upon adequately. What makes some of the Lips’ songs so great is how big and huge they are, and a lot of times, the songs here just don’t develop like they should and are fairly two dimensional, making the album potentially wonderful but kind of dry in the end. But there are some great songs here, and it is an album worth getting to know. Lyrically this is just fantastic. Wayne Coyne is more inspired here than ever and it seems like every song he has awesome line after awesome line, my favorite being “it takes a year to make a day/and I’m feeling like a float on the Macy’s Day Parade” from Slow Motion. Highlights are not few, but once again, everything should have been a highlight if they could have just added some more to each track to make them like the bonus remixes, if that makes any sense. But what really impressed me about this is the sheer command they have over strings in general and their ability to color a song any way they like. This is a good record and is one of the Flaming Lips’ most revered, and I think fans of 90s rock and alternative should really check this out. I don’t know what the deal is with all the different issues of this album though… I think one of them comes with a bonus disk, another with some bonus tracks, and then different versions got either Slow Motion or the Spiderbite Song, both of which are great. Shop around a little and do some research before you buy this one because you will really want the bonus tracks, two wonderful remixes of Race for the Prize and Waitin’ for a Superman as well as a great little tune Buggin’. In short, this is a damn good album showcasing The Flaming Lips’ unique style, but it pales in comparison to Yoshimi.

Aerosmith – Big Ones

I think the majority of the reason I appreciate this is because I listened to it so much as a kid. I basically refused to listen to anything except for The Beatles, this, and the Good Burger soundtrack on a ludicrously long trip to Colorado from Chicago, so I got to know this collection pretty well. People always view Aerosmith as being this really elementary mediocre mainstream rock, but they were really very capable of writing some great songs. This is specifically the best of the bands middle career, which had it’s ups and downs. It seems like about half of this is tough, well written hard rock while the other half is bullshit balladry, most of which is done pretty poorly and I don’t appreciate that much. Specifically Cryin’ and Crazy are alright by sleazy early 90s pop standards, but even then this collection feels too split. But I think it was worth it, considering Aerosmith had just as many good songs in their mid career as they did in the beginning. It’s definitely not all good, but whenever I crank the volume on songs like Rag Doll or Love In an Elevator, or even Eat The Rich, I get some really good nostalgia going on. For me, getting this and the original Aerosmith Greatest Hits is really all I need.

Bob Dylan – Masterpieces

Considering that putting together a Bob Dylan compilation is extremely hard, this three disk Japanese import does the job pretty well for Dylan’s early to mid career. I guess I’m not a huge Dylan fan so I’m not familiar with all of his albums, but this was a good launching point for me into a downright imposing discography. Any release like this runs the risk of not including enough or including too much, and this does miss a few really good ones while including a few questionable songs too (I personally loathe Tears of Rage). But when it comes to Bob Dylan, really it is all about personal preference, and people are going to find songs they love that most are indifferent about and songs they hate that most love. If you want to get into Bob Dylan, stopping here would be the worst thing you could do, because the albums themselves are what hold strength. With that said, you will never get a definitive answer as to where to start in that respect. People will say Freewheelin’, Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61, Bringing it All Back Home, Blood on the Tracks… There is no easy way to dig into this artists body of work, and the only options are to dig and keep digging or simply not get a full picture. But this compilation rustles up some essentials to round off whenever you decide to stop digging, which will happen if this is justified in the first place.

Various Artists – Aqua Teen Hunger Force

To be honest (as if I’m not honest all the time), I haven’t even seen the Aqua Teen movie yet. I really want to and I have been meaning too and it feels like I have been waiting to for years, but all of my friends saw it without me so I guess I’m kind of screwed. I would consider myself and all of my friends to be pretty big Aqua Teen fans anyway, so I think one of them might crack and end up seeing it with me for their second run. I was with one of these such friends at Best Buy browsing for CDs on sale, because god forbid now that Tower Records is closed the only place nearby with a decent selection is Best Buy. I found something I wanted, and then noticed a copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico on sale for ten dollars. I figured it was an album I had been meaning to listen to for a long time, and I had it in my hand when one of my friends came up.

“Dude, DUDE! You need to buy this for me. I promise I’ll pay you back when we get back to my place. I NEED to get this.”

I’m a nice guy. So I ended up buying the soundtrack to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie over The Velvet Underground and Nico. You all finally have an excuse to string me up by the balls with a piano wire, because I know you were all looking for one.

At any rate, this is about what I expected. I don’t think I could have possibly had high expectations for something like this in the first place anyway. But this suffers the same fate as many other movie soundtracks do by simply not having that many songs on it. A good chunk of the soundtrack is comprised of dialog from the shows characters, only a little of which is any good. Namely, Master Shake’s touching rendition of “Nude Love.” Beyond that, the disk is about equal parts silly rap, hardcore metal, and humorous shorts. Some highlights are the humorous original song by Mastadon “Cut You Up With a Linoleum Knife” where the singer threatens to dissolve any movie piraters testicles, Nine Pound Hammer (the ones who did the 12 oz. Mouse theme song) doing Carl’s Theme, and the ridiculously bass heavy ATHF classic I Want Candy. The album can be, at times, very funny, and even I laughed out loud at a reference to a movie I have not even seen yet, “I Like Your Booty (But I’m Not Gay)”. What I don’t understand is how The Hold Steady got on here. Total crap.

Considering I didn’t really pay for this, I can’t say I’m too disappointed. It’s for the fans, that’s for sure, and if you didn’t already know that then don’t even think about buying this. If you were really ever seriously considering buying the soundtrack to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, you know what you are getting into and could act on that accordingly.

The Album Leaf – In A Safe Place

With In A Safe Place, The Album Leaf has crafted an album that is geared towards a very specific purpose, but luckily that purpose is fulfilled with good to great success. To say that this album is good to fall asleep to might not be such a horrible insult, because it is obvious that this was made to be relaxing enough to fall asleep to. These melodies are relaxing, comforting, and most of all warm, and as the title declares, this music was mostly made to relax and melt troubles away at least for the span of a decent sized album. And really, it is quite impressive how much Jimmy LaValle accomplishes in a little over fifty minutes without really shifting his style much. At points, the goal is changed and the music becomes too tense to really relax too but at the same time it ends up being charming and abrasive nonetheless. Some songs like Window, Over The Pond (featuring Jonsi of Sigur Ros no less), and Streamside are absolutely gorgeous in how relaxing and warm they really are, and at other times songs develop with careful precision into beautiful soaring melodies. I think the production on this album is the biggest problem I had. I didn’t like the beats half the time, but they did end up successfully creating relaxing breakbeats, a monumental oxymoron in the ambient world. Also, some of the songs are just kind of dull and meandering, and to be honest, the album repeats itself and does not really develop or switch anything up. The delicate strings are downright wonderful though, and this album has interested me enough to go see the “band” live later this month. For it’s specific purpose, dream incubation and relaxation, this album achieves impressive heights.

The Melvins – Houdini

I find it very difficult to talk about The Melvins. The Melvins are just what they are. Just about every adjective you think you can describe them with can be refuted, and every positive or negative conjecture can be easily reversed. The only way to tell if you like The Melvins is to listen to them, and probably to start with Houdini. That said, Houdini might not be the most popular album the band ever made, for obvious reasons. For one thing it is startlingly coherent and actually recognizable as a set of songs that have their own identities. This is about as pure as they have ever been, whatever that means. But even when they are at the closest they have ever been to “pop,” they are still miles away. Most of these songs are dirty metallic sludge, and they still prove themselves as being one of the bands that truly held the Grunge movement up. The sheer quality of this album kind of overshadows how the band usually writes music, that is, with the intention of shocking and at times apalling, but there are still some comfortably obnoxious moments, such as Pearl Bomb and Sky Pup. But for the most part this is a really heavy sludge album that usually makes sense, and it packs in a lot of really heavy, really headbanging moments and is probably the centerfold of The Melvins’ long ongoing career. The album surprisingly sticks together and does not have too many disposable moments, but I think the standout songs are the first five in particular, as well as some great ones later like Joan of Arc.

Bjork – Homogenic

Approaching the catalog of an artist as prestigious as Bjork is very difficult, and at first glance new listeners would want to stray from Homogenic in exchange for an album where she looks prettier on the cover. But this album is definitely one of her most serious, moving works and should be an eventual purchase for even casual fans. For the record, this is generally argued to be her best album, and although it may not be easy to listen to at first, the album stands out as being great if you can manage to give it a bit of a chance to open up. From the beginning dynamics of Hunter to the final touching words of All Is Full of Love, most everything on this album is very good and melodies are used to their full potential. But while this album pushes Bjork’s songwriting ability to impressive lengths, it also expands her vocal finesse to it’s most beautiful lengths. Her range and technique are wonderful as usual, but the amount of feeling she puts into her singing is what makes the album truly shine. I think the only problem anyone could ever have with her singing is her distinct Icelandic accent, which to some is wonderful while annoying to others. In any case, Bjork has enough talent to put tingles down even her critics spines. The album’s clear highlight and strongest radio song is without a doubt Bachellorette, an unspeakably moving melancholy orchestral explosion. The consistancy of this is also surprisingly reliable, and although songs like Alarm Call and Pluto are comparitively weaker, the album stays true to it’s unique style of icy melodies dotted with electronic touches. It may not be the easiest Bjork album, but if you simply want to go for the throat and nothing more, this will be the one you want to get.

William Hung – Inspiration

With all due respect, if you accuse William Hung of being a bad singer, you have missed the point entirely and you need to re-evaluate your opinions. The title “inspiration” is one of the biggest understatements in years. I don’t know if there is anything here that is not inspiring. The fact that William Hung, WILLIAM HUNG got a record deal when in fact most American Idol qualifiers don’t get close is inspiring. His sense of humor is inspiring, and unbelievably huge. The fact that he has the balls to make a record like this is inspiring. And to be sure, his little interludes are inspiring too. People forget that whatever Sanjaya winning could have proved, William Hung proved twice as much either way. I can’t bear to call this bad music, mostly because I just have too much fun listening to this. The song selection is actually pretty great, although not all of the songs are key. That is about the only room for improvement that this album missed. In any case, the renditions of She Bangs, I Believe I Can Fly, Hotel California, and Rocket Man are about as good as it gets. William Hung is actually singing his heart out on all of this, so the original hit She Bangs wasn’t just a one time fluke. William Hung is William Hung. And nothing is going to change that. And as much as people like Kelly Clarkson giggle in his face and throw him over their shoulder, the truth is obvious. Fifty years from now, people are not going to remember Kelly Clarkson. People are going to remember William Hung, and THAT is truly an amazing accomplishment.

Sly and the Family Stone – Greatest Hits

Not being completely familiar with Sly and the Family Stone’s discography, I can really say almost nothing as to the validity of this disk as a collection. But what I will say is that upon first listen, this blew me away. It is almost unbelievable how many of these songs have quietly, and others not so quietly, become a part of our culture, and all of these songs are fantastic and memorable. Sometimes the problem is that the songs end too fast, just when the listener starts to be for more, but that makes this even more fun and irresistible to explore.What Sly did upon the making of this music is remarkable. The songs are catchy, fun, and energetic as well as skillfully played, but at the same time they really mean something and teach valuable lessons without sounding like they are preaching morals. Sly and the Family Stone are one of those bands that I would really love to get to know better, because I do know that they are one of the best at their kind and masters of soul and funk. But I can imagine if you need a starting point to get acquainted with this wonderful music, Greatest Hits is more than appropriate. I am pretty sure that all the biggest hits are included here, and you have almost certainly heard more than one. At least one or two more songs could have been included here, but I guess that says even more about the clarity and modesty here, a quality which most Greatest Hits collections sadly lack.

Eiffel 65 – Europop

I remember Europop well, and I remember liking it a lot. And now looking back, I can’t deny that this is severely under par music. The vocals are especially bad, but really the whole production is, and the hooks make a mockery out of the genre. But unfortunately, this album is noteworthy, even relevant. One has to have something going for them if they can construct a pop song as brilliant (although annoying as all hell) as Blue. The song’s power on the radio really can’t be downplayed effectively and for a brief period crashed sleazy dance into the mainstream. The songs are unfortunately memorable, which is weird, but maybe it is really only because of the nostalgic value this album has for me. But at the same time, most everything here is cringeworthy and ridiculous. As much as I would love to, I cannot forget Too Much Heaven, Livin’ In A Bubble, My Console (GOOD GOD) and Silicon World. As much as I hate this now, the songs have good hooks. And I do not think I have the right to completely tear apart an album that sold as much as this did. In short, this is a chunk of the dance genre breaking off and making noise on mainstream radio, which was actually a big deal because mainstream dance became more and more relevant because of it, even if it was justified by just one juggernaut of a song.

Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

Houses of The Holy is just…one of those albums. One of those albums that everyone seems to like and I just cannot figure out why. It is pretty much split between good and startlingly bad, and for a Led Zeppelin album this is about as bad as it gets in the early career. But with that said, the album still has a nice selection of good songs. The Song Remains the Same is an interesting ethnic epic that does it’s job pretty well, but Robert Plant falters here, like he does on most of the album. The Rain Song and Over the Hills and Far Away are two of Led Zep’s absolute best acoustic moments and are priceless treasures that haven’t aged a bit unlike their predecessor. The Crunge is usually cited as being the albums worst track, but to be sure it’s a nice little groove while unfortunately completely unnecessary. The next two songs are downright horrible. Dancing Days was an already tired riff that amounts to even less when Robert Plant takes the stage with the least melodic vocals of his career, a complete embarrassment. D’yer Mak’er is a sad attempt at Reggae, and it’s so bad that John Bonham refused to play it live he hated it so much. The last two tracks are alright though, No Quarter is a nice outing into the avant-garde written by John Paul Jones, and The Ocean is the necessary riff rocker to keep the album on it’s feet considering the mediocrity that came before it. I’m a huge Led Zeppelin fan, but even I’ll admit that this album feels like a missed opportunity and a mixed collection of b-sides. Casual listeners should be encouraged not to give up here, because the band did come back with great success on their next album, but this is one of the weaker in the discography.

Advertisements
h1

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.

h1

Eleven Reviews

April 1, 2007

Alice in Chains – Alice in Chains [Tripod]
Tripod
For their final studio effort, Alice In Chains delivered a full album that they did not accompany with a tour. They did, however, perform on David Letterman, and watching that performance even today will send chills down even casual fan’s backs. Alice In Chains Unplugged may have tied the loose ends up and ended up being the final farewell, but this album is where you see the breakdown happening for Layne Staley. Not that the album is all melancholy or heavy metal. This is actually AiCs most diverse record, and it touches on everything from the most hardcore sludge they have ever produced (no less Sludge Factory, and Grind too) to more positive songs (Heaven Beside You, Shame In You). But you can definitely hear the dissolution of the band in this record, mostly because it bounces around so much. The beautiful classic Heaven Beside You segues into the insane nausea of Head Creeps without any provocation. Most all the songs are good except for a few in the last half that don’t quite cut it as AiC classics, but Heaven Beside You is still one of the bands best and Again is the heaviest thing since Them Bones. The real winner is Over Now. After what appears to be a curl-up-and-die maneuver with the interesting Frogs, there is silence, and then a muffled recorded trumpet resound, after which the confused positive/negative song kicks in and does significant emotional effect on the listener. The biggest problem with this album is the production, which falters very obviously. The idea to continue layering Layne’s vocals was a good idea, but the vocals are treated very poorly here and the sound is simply not heavy enough. Such an emotional record should not have been treated so preciously. A remaster, perhaps? It’s not perfect, but it is a respectable way to throw in the towel and contains some of Alice In Chains’ very best songs.

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin [Box Set]
Tripod
This box set released in 1990 acts as an inflated greatest hits to the music of Led Zeppelin. Each disk both covers a specific time period as well as a musical aesthetic. The first disk is the dirty blues rock that made Led Zep famous, the second disk more folky acoustic stuff (my favorite), the third disk is the longer stuff mostly from the middle career, and the fourth disk is the best of the latter stuff that kind of needs to be included for posterity. Jimmy Paige himself chose the songs so the selection is solid, and every song is great. But the truth stands that this box set was probably unnecessary. There are some rarities rounded up, the bands two famous b-sides Traveling Riverside Blues and the Bob Dylan cover Hey Hey What Can I Do, as well as a brilliant live Jimmy Paige take of White Summer/Black Mountain Side. But beyond that, there isn’t too much incentive for fans. This collection is geared towards the fan who is a little more than casual but less than obsessive, a rare breed for Led Zeppelin. For that reason, people interested in the band could have done better with the two disk greatest hits, and people who want more could have gone with The Complete Studio Recordings box set, which also has the two aforementioned b-sides. The fourth disk may be useful for people who do not want to get too into the bands latter mediocre career, as it gathers the best of those albums pretty effectively. As a collection of songs this is easily an A+ purchase, but as a compilation it is just dumb. One is probably better off just getting The Complete Studio Recordings or starting the long fan trek of buying all the albums. Led Zeppelin was a fantastic band and this is a good portrait, but why stop at this when you could have the whole deal?

Boards of Canada – Music Has The Right to Children
Music Has The Right To Children
Surely Boards of Canada’s finest work, Music Has The Right to Children is at first downright confusing and off-putting but is ultimately a great ambient work. This is an album that has no clear purpose but in that sense reasserts itself within each song, creating everything ranging from small interludes to long beat oriented ambient techno. I remember walking home one day listening to this on my headphones. An Eagle In Your Mind was playing on the way there, the cool constantly changing beats keeping my mind interested and relaxed over the interesting synthesizer. Then the second I unlocked my door and walked into my dark apartment, The Color of the Fire started to play. The song is basically an airy drone underneath a childs voice horribly echoed and warped, complemented by bell-like instruments. I kind of freaked out. I didn’t know what the hell was going on and I felt like the sounds were real enough to be in the actual apartment. That is when the true purpose of this album opened up to me. Music Has The Right to Children is an album of electronic audio toys. Every song on the album has it’s own fun charms. There are some more straightforward pieces, especially the chill Turquoise Hexagon Sun comes to mind, and other times the album is more challenging, like with Sixtyten. Roygbiv is unspeakably fun or the short time it lasts, and Wildlife Analysis is a relaxing ambient opener. The whole album has a recurring mood of comfortable technology, and for that reason the album sticks together very well for how much it bounces around. It may have a few weaker songs, but the strong songs are enough to compensate and make the album a joy to listen to at any time, and a personal favorite as well. Rarely will you find an electronic/ambient album that is both passive and interesting, but Music Has The Right to Children makes the cut and is a completely unique, priceless album.

Aphex Twin – Richard D. James Album
Richard D. James Album
The issue everyone seems to have with Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James Album is mostly due to confusion. Confusion that the record simply does not straighten out. James’ approach on this record is completely skewed, and while this is definitely a product of his usual fun and ultimately effective psyche, listeners will likely be put off by his odd taste. Simply put, this record isn’t sure if it wants to be happy or evil, and the result is a big mess. It’s a fun mess, and an interesting one too, but by no means is this for the casual electronica listener. The ingredients are usually simple ambient melodies that could have worked as songs on their own (or maybe with soft beats) inflated to ludicrous levels of energy by breakneck beats. A surprise lies at every turn of this album, and as a result, the listener is hardly ever spared their temporary sanity. The opening 4 is an Aphex masterwork, a touching gel of strings hammered by the fast beats to make an interesting and contemplative modern piece. But then conversely the next song, Cornish Acid, is fun in a horribly evil way, with practically the same beats overlaying a creepy synthesizer. These decided contradictions are placed by the minute. Sometimes the trick works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Goon Gumpas strangely enough has no beat, and it’s a charming melody, enough to make even the happiest listener suspicious of what tricks might be up Richard’s sleeves. Girl/Boy Song is fairly innocuous even under the asteroid field of a drum machine, and another highlight. Logon Rock Witch is just evil, with a playful organ/jack-in-the-box tune that drifts into a creepy haze. And of course, Milkman is a schizophrenic trick that needs no explanation. This album probably does what it sets out to do with flying colors. I simply don’t always enjoy the goal. The intent is to make good electronic music, and there is a myriad of good tracks here, specifically 4, Fingerbib, and Girl/Boy Song. But the intent is also to confuse with an obnoxious juxtaposition of clashing elements. This can be enjoyable, and there are people who enjoy beats like this, so this is no throwaway. But I probably would have enjoyed the album more had those beats not been there at all. This album is insanity, take it or leave it.

The Cranberries – Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?
Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?
Irish rockers The Cranberries delivered their most acclaimed record as a debut, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We. There is a certain charm to this kind of music, and no question they presented their style very well for a debut. But there is simply something about this that is lacking. If anything, the wonderful tune Dreams is enough to justify the rest of the album repeating itself. And it does sort of linger on the same melancholy Gaelic themes a lot. When it does it with specific taste and hooks like with I Still Do, it’s alright. But one would think that if the band continued on in the same way they presented Dreams, the album would have been nothing short of phenomenal. But unfortunately, what The Cranberries do the most is not necessarily the most interesting. In any case, some songs here are just priceless, namely Linger and Dreams, but for anyone who wants good Irish rock, a very narrow genre, it definitely wouldn’t be a bad purchase.

The Cure – Standing on a Beach
Standing on a Beach
The Cure are the owners of a frighteningly large body of work and can therefore be a complete hassle to approach. Starting at any individual album can likely result in misconceptions or an unclear picture of what The Cure were really like because at every leg of their long career they have been a bit different. The later compilation Greatest Hits just doesn’t do the job, and there has not yet been a good collection that has covered the bands whole near three decade career. When Standing on a Beach was made, there was never any question whether another collection would have to be made because the band was already making their next album Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, so this was never meant to be a complete picture but it is most likely the best place to start diving into The Cure’s imposing discography. The material here runs from the subdued punk of the bands debut Three Imaginary Boys all the way through the commercial sucess The Head on the Door, and the development is undeniably great and a wonder to listen to. Robert Smith’s voice is honed and the guitars are refined over the years that this spans. All the songs here are great, and it’s a wonder how a band so comtemplative and long winded can make such great pop gems. Accuracy is not any issue because this is a collection of singles, but the band definitely gave their best to the radio and never lost their grace in the process. The Cure are a great band and worthy of exploring, but it is tiring and troublesome to know where to start. This is not a complete picture, but there will most likely never be a completely accurate one, so for casual fans this along with the bands other singles collection Galore will be all one could ever need. And for those who want to dig deeper, this is a good branching point and signpost for where to go next. Either way, Standing on a Beach is a collection of great songs and further proof that The Cure are always fantastic.

Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
Pretty Hate Machine
At what it does, Nine Inch Nails’ debut Pretty Hate Machine is a killer record. But unfortunately it has some qualities that are hard to get used to or simply not for everyone. This isn’t considered one of the industrial genres best records for no reason. Most all the songs are irresistibly catchy while staying abrasive and heavy. For a first song, Head Like a Hole is still arguably Trent Reznor’s finest concoction of muscular guitars and hypnotic electronica, and the lyrics aren’t bad either. However, one of this albums many flaws are how hit or miss the lyrics are. Half the time, they are spot on and a joy to hear unfurl (lay my hands on Heaven and the sun and the moon and the stars / while the devil wants to fuck me in the back of his car), and at all other times they are cringeworthy at best (how could you turn us into this? / after you just taught me how to kiss…you). Another problem people will have with this album is the very ’80s production values, such as the echoed snares and the stylized synthesizers. But fortunately the core of the record is simply good enough to keep it’s quality apparent even after almost twenty years under it’s belt. Each song is individually crisened with great hook and develops with great guitars and catchy electronic beats and tunes. Not only are all the songs strong, but the record presents itself like a finely cut gem. None of these tunes are as bleak or pained as Reznor’s later songs, but they still have a significant bit of emotion. No question, this is a thematic album based on a relationship that is both painful but also seductively fun, but the lyrics just don’t quite cut it in the end. All the tracks are standout, from the devils hook Kinda I Want To to the sexual pulse of Down In It. The album has great things to share with the right listener, a lot like The Downward Spiral, but it’s problems catch up with it pretty readily. Although it may not be an indesputable masterpiece, it is still a great collection of songs, one of the first truly good industrial records, and a fantastic start to Trent Reznor’s great career.

Cocteau Twins – Garlands
Garlands
Garlands is no question Cocteau Twins most off the wall, odd creation. Being the bands debut one can only expect so much, but either way this is hardly an enjoyable listen. The intension here is clouded. This is kind of a stab at the gothic genre but without as much force as The Cure or similar artists. Garlands is of it’s own world, though. The beats are almost primeval, and the guitar and bass provides a quiet, reserved swirl of out of place sound in the backdrop of Liz Frasers at this point un-honed vocals. To say I don’t understand this record is avoiding the obvious fact that I don’t enjoy listening to it, but the album may well be purposefully strange. Almost every track is an uncomfortable swirl of insanity, and the guitars rarely do anything more than unsettle, and the songs do not conclude very well. One has to wonder, judging from the sharp rise in quality with the proceeding record Head Over Heels, whether this disorder was intended. But the album does have it’s redeeming moments that justify it’s existence. Blind Dumb Deaf is absolutely gorgeous in a sad paranoid way, the title track Garlands is actually kind of interesting, and Wax and Wane is often cited as a Cocteau Twins favorite by hardcore fans who like the bands earlier work. The truth is, this is just setup for the brilliance of Head Over Heels and the spectacular career that follows, but this might actually be your thing if you are looking for early gothic music.

Oceans 11 Soundtrack
Ocean's 11
For a movie that has an otherwise fantastic soundtrack, the CD release is a let down in most all ways. Whoever compiled this clearly did not know what the hell they were doing, that simple. What struck me about Oceans 11 most the first time I saw it was the awesome jazz score, but on here, most of the songs are smashed in value by way of either brevity or inclusion of in-movie dialogue. Tunes like Pickpockets, Ruben’s In, and Stealing The Pinch, and Hookers would be ten times more enjoyable if they weren’t so criminally short, and the dialogue sprinkled throughout is not only unnecessary but also annoying. Some otherwise darling Percy Faith songs are only played as background music to dialogue… So stupid. What saves this for near salvation in the longrun is the fact that the music is fantastic. Boobytrapping, The Projets, Gritty Shaker, $160 Million Chinese Man, and 69 Police are all great songs and long enough for the keeping. Claire de Lune is, as always, a charming classic as well. But the fact of the matter is, the production here is catastrophic. Fans of the movie and it’s music deserve better, and this just doesn’t deliver on the level it should.

Smashing Pumpkins – Rotten Apples: The Smashing Pumpkins Greatest Hits
Rotten Apples
As a sampler to the Smashing Pumpkins discography, Rotten Apples does a fair job, but as a Greatest Hits compilation it fails on a few levels. For one thing, the song selection is rather mixed. To be fair, this is not “Rotten Apples: Best Of Smashing Pumpkins.” Instead, we are treated to what is supposed to be the bands biggest hits on the radio, and in many ways those hits are not presented well enough. Any fan could make the argument that certain songs should have been included, but for a few reasons this compilation just can’t decide whether it wants to be a Greatest Hits or a Best Of, so it falters more in the face of these complaints. The choice of including a shortened version of Drown from the Singles soundtrack is a nice treat though, and two bonus unreleased songs are saved for last as the incentive for fans. These two songs are, no question, fantastic. But attention to the bands whole career is divided between it’s uneven components at the demise of quality of songs. Once again, personal preference is a prevalent complaint. Mayonaise was a much bigger hit than Disarm, and there was no reason whatsoever to include Eye at all. Landslide is truly one of the bands greater gems, but it does not reflect on it’s respective album quite as much as something like Frail And Bedazzled would. If you want a place to start, this might be the best bet you have.

Nirvana – Nirvana Unplugged
Nirvana Unplugged
For as long as I can remember, Nirvana Unplugged has haunted, amazed, and touched me on levels that no other record can. It would be silly for me to pretend that this isn’t my all time favorite record considering how much I come back to it even after long periods of leaving the bands music on the backburner. Every song here is a classic, and each song, be it one of the bands songs or one of the covers, is flexed to it’s otherwise unseen limits, displaying all their glory at completely new revealing angles. Instrumentally, the music is hypnotizing, and I’m yet to figure out why even after all these years, but the perfect rhythm section probably helps and the beautiful guitars are always wonderful. The momentum the album carries is never interrupted, from the Beatles pop of About A Girl through the Meat Puppets set straight down to the Leadbelly cover. Absolutely every moment on this album is as good as can be; there is not one weak song, and even Something In The Way, which I have always considered to be one of Nirvana’s lesser songs from their popular days, is seamlessly transformed into a wonderful gem. Considering Kurt Cobain shot up some heroine right before this show and was nervous out of his mind, the quality of the music is nothing short of miraculous. The band is, in fact, in better playing condition than they have ever been, even if Dave isn’t used to playing so quietly and Kurt is high and emotionally broken. There is clearly an uneasiness here, which makes the listening experience that much more enjoyable. Kurt exaggerates the price of a Leadbelly guitar among other precious nuances shared with the audience in between songs, as if to hide what emotions are really there. Thankfully, this music speaks emotions that words cannot capture and more than makes up for the less than adequate suicide note that Kurt would write in not that many more weeks. This is not only the greatest recording Nirvana ever did, but it is also the unequivocal culmination of their entire career, perfectly tying up any loose ends and leaving me with nothing more to desire from what has always been my favorite band even under deep scrutiny. It is my personal opinion that no record is ever completely perfect, but for all intents and purposes, this is as perfect to me as any album has ever been.

h1

Ten More Reviews

March 15, 2007

Cocteau Twins – Love’s Easy Tears

Love’s Easy Tears kind of ties Echoes In A Shallow Bay as the Cocteau Twins best EP. It’s killer, that much is obvious; both Orange Appled and Those Eyes, That Mouth are frequent picks for favorite songs by the band, and both are fantastic. Those Eyes, That Mouth is a hypnotic pop love wave, and it’s really hard to get better than that. But Orange Appled does it. The song is just about as good as Carolyn’s Fingers if not better. It has a killer hook and a quenching Guthrie solo alongside absolutely gorgeous vocals, as usual, from Liz Fraser. The title track is also very fun and simple, and Sigh’s Smell of Farewell is nice too, just not as good as the others. In short, this is vintage Cocteau Twins, and some of the best of it. Don’t waste any time; if you are a fan who wants to delve into the EPs, go for this first. First timers should pick it up if nothing else because the songs are fantastic, but it might be better to start with a full album like Treasure or Blue Bell Knoll.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Psychocandy

When The Jesus And Mary Chain first started out, they had an idea, and it was delicious. And usable too, and even better, it could appeal to a mass market. Fans of pop and catchy hooks could appreciate the melodicism, and punk rockers valued the noise and chaos in the sonic density. The idea was to ultimately slam innocent pop tunes into a wall of sonic guitar sheen and noise, and the result is somewhat reminiscent of the albums title. It is candy and very sweet candy, that much is true. But it is candy in the most perverse and guilty way possible. Just listen to any track on this album and you will hear the utterly ingenious pop flowing through different parts in ways that even The Beatles would be somewhat impressed with if the production was smoother. But it’s not. It’s both rough and smooth, ugly and beautiful. These tunes are constantly accompanied by a sonic wall of meaty feedback, guitar shine, and occasionally the addition of a disturbing but fun sound effect like a hushed scream of agony in the background or an unintentional burst of noise. And it just keeps coming. Every track on this album is priceless in some way, from the pretty surf rock ballad Some Candy Talking to the relaxed rock of Taste The Floor to the pretty Just Like Honey and even the garden variety punk of Never Understand. Each song has an almost sinisterly simple beat and a simple chord progression. Even skilled musicians will sit and think to themselves, “hey, I could have written this.” But then they will realize that they so couldn’t have. What’s really amazing about this is how none of the songs have choruses or verses…a melody or tune is never used for more than a half minute, after which a completely new and impressive hook is thrown the listeners way. It’s candy, delicious sweet candy, and only a skilled band could have made it. It would take a little while for The Jesus And Mary Chain to reach a wider market and truly gain respect, but this is the start of something beautiful and easily The Chain’s best album.

Led Zeppelin – Coda

This is really not as bad of an album as you have been told it is. If you would even consider it an album. We should really be thankful of Jimmy Paige and company for releasing this after our dear John Bonham died, although it was more of a contractual thing than an act of kindness, but in any case this wraps up just about everything the band had to release save a good live album which would take a few decades to surface. So this is a b-sides collection. It doesn’t do anything more or less, and considering only a select few album tracks by the band are ever bad, this isn’t a huge blemish on the bands discography. We’re Gonna Grove is a pretty immediate winner, and it goes back to the blues rock that the band started out with. Wearing And Tearing is actually also very good, an answer to the seventies punk movement. Beyond that, Bonzo’s Montreux is an interesting drum-fest and Poor Tom is among the best of the bands Led Zeppelin 3 material, and most likely the best on the album. Yeah, of the two sides, half the material is bad, but not disposable. For a band where every scrap is a treasure, this is really pretty good. But only for the hardcore Zep fan.

My Bloody Valentine – Only Shallow Single

The Only Shallow single from My Bloody Valentine is actually a promo on vinyl that subscribers to certain French magazines acquired in a 1992 issue. The single contains three great songs, the first of which is Only Shallow, one of the better songs from Loveless. The song is truly single material, and it’s huge sound and wonderful melody are reasons enough to have made this single at all. But two b-sides are also included. Sugar is a MBV classic and one of the bands rarest songs. Instrumental B is also very good, and was released prior to this single on the Instrumentals promo a few years earlier, accompanying the Isn’t Anything release. A true rarity for hardcore MBV fans; it’s an antique, but it’s probably worth a ton and well worth the price if just to hear Sugar.

Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth

Back in 2005, Nine Inch Nails returned from a six year fallout with the fifth studio album and nineteenth Halo, With Teeth. I remember driving home from the record store and listening to this for the first time, and I was generally impressed. This album does get a lot of shit though, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Collectively I suppose it is kind of weak, but this easily delivers some of Reznor’s finest material since The Downward Spiral. The sound still echoes of The Fragile’s reconstructive cool production, but the album still stands alone with a good amount of success. It’s a compelling enough listen to make fans happy, and the songs are very good. Many songs are characterized by heavy riffing, especially the grooving The Collector and a popular live/club pick, The Hand That Feeds. But most of the songs are very individual, especially Only, Every Day Is Exactly The Same (a personal favorite and subject of it’s own remix EP), and Beside You In Time. The disk ends on Right Where It Belongs, a very Hurt-esque ballad that deserves some respect. The problems are minimal, and this is about as consistent as The Fragile, simply one disk less. If this is the future of Nine Inch Nails, I’m happy. Without a doubt this is the worst album NIN has produced thus far, but considering this album is very good, I think that says a lot for how much talent Reznor actually has. A good one, hardly disposable like most people will tell you.

Singles Soundtrack

Singles really wasn’t that great for a date flick, but it had a pretty good soundtrack and at least captured the look and part of the feel of the 1990s Seattle grunge scene. In retrospect, this soundtrack is probably less disposable than the movie itself. The soundtrack is mostly comprised of various rarities from some of Seattle’s most popular rock acts, save the conspicuous absence of any Nirvana. And there were some songs from the movie that didn’t make it here, namely Alice in Chains’ It Ain’t Like That and Soundgarden’s Spoonman. But hell, you probably already had those songs if you were ever interested in this disk in the first place. For that reason, the inclusion of Would? and I Nearly Lost You is probably unnecessary to the grunge fan, but both songs are fantastic in any case. Other highlights include some contributions from former Replacement John Westerberg, some really good Pearl Jam rarities, Soundgarden’s Birth Ritual (one of Chris Cornells best vocal performances), and a great Mother Love Bone take. It’s more of an odds and ends collection, but that is actually good, and you would stand well to pick this up if you like grunge or 90s alt rock.

But come on, theres no version of the movies original novelty “Touch Me I’m Dick.” That would have been a hilarious inclusion.

Malory – Not Here, Not Now

A decent shoegaze album, Not Here Not Now delivers the dreamy goods in as good of a way as it can. The problem is probably a lack of originality, because the band rips on Slowdive pretty relentlessly. This can only be complained about so much considering Slowdive are one of the worthiest bands to rip on in the genre, but the sampling only makes Not Here, Not Now more easy to call an attempted Souvlaki clone. If anything, the acquisition of this album would be justified enough by the opening Falling, an absolutely gorgeous dreamy instrumental that is nothing like anything else on the record. But the rest of the album doesn’t exactly continue with this same style and very obviously draws influence from Slowdive in just about every way. But in the same way Kevin Shields would probably be proud of some of Pia Fraus’ escapades, Neil Halstead probably wouldn’t have too much of a problem with someone drawing heavily from his style if it is done this tastefully. Dany, Sunday Nights, and Spring are all gorgeous songs, but once again, you can’t help but feel like you are being lied to. Everything down to the male/female vocals, soft beats, and emotional guitars, this practically IS Slowdive, the only difference being the bands serious problems with concluding their songs which Slowdive can conversely do very well; the most pretty of these songs just seem to drone with no conclusion when they were clearly within sight. It’s good, but uninspired and unfortunately completely disposable.

My Bloody Valentine – Olympia, Paris

While every My Bloody Valentine bootleg can be considered a treasure, this may well be the bands worst available bootleg that I have heard, and extremely overrated. The band is simply not in fantastic playing condition at this show, for one thing. But the real killer is the fact that the recording quality is atrocious. This bootleg is really almost unlistenable, but it does win in one respect on one song. The version of To Here Knows When here is good if you crank it up to ludicrous volumes and appreciate it for what one of MBVs greatest charms is, a wall of beautiful sound. However, this is really the only time that this bootleg is worth anything.

Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music For Airports

The ambient breakthrough of Brian Eno, Music For Airports was the blooming result of years of ideas and contemplation. Eno first honed his pop skills with the utmost reliability, and then took a turn for the experimental. The new idea was mood music, relaxing pieces that could be used in films or to make someone feel a certain way with just instruments. The new direction was explored with great success on Another Green World, again employed on Music For Films, and completely fleshed out into an ambient masterpiece with Music For Airports. The idea was simple, and utterly ingenious. Eno had been in an airport and had a bad experience witht he music playing, and decided to make a record of music built specifically for being played for the enjoyment of a wide array of people in public places. The soul of the music is relaxation and sheer beauty, but when the music is analyzed as closely as Eno explains it, it only makes more and more sense. The music had to be long so that it wasn’t changing too much on the listener, easily interrupted by P.A. systems, higher or lower than voice frequency so to not be a nuisance, and ever changing to keep the listeners interest. And beyond that, the music also had to be non intrusive a nd passive in the background of a situation, and also accessible to a wealth of people. While this is not the first album to employ modern ambient sounds, it is surely one of Eno’s most influential and enjoyable ambient works.

Nick Drake – Pink Moon

Considering the direction that it’s predecessor Bryter Layter took, Nick Drake’s last album is at first seemingly a step backward. The complexities of Nick Drake’s other work has been conspicuously stripped down to it’s core, a brutally honest album consisting of little more than Drake’s voice and a skillfully played acoustic guitar. And even more touching is how sudden and momentous it feels. And yet Pink Moon doesn’t play like anything close to a suicide note or a final farewell so much as a deeply personal and trusting letter from a friend. Aftergiving this gem enough time to unfold, every song can reveal a subtle relaxing beauty. The title track is fantastic if not a little misleading, projecting the definitive late night chill image. But as the album goes on, the music stays revealing and yet surprisingly simple. Only someone such as Nick Drake could possibly say so much with only a few chord strums like he does on Horn or discuss mixed feelings like on Parasite. In many ways, this is as close to Nick Drake as you will ever get, and as moving of an album as it is relaxing. Truly a classic album, taking the best of the folk genre and it’s most important aspects and bringing nothing more than poetry and personal taste.

h1

Shuffle Time (the snow is shining)

February 19, 2007

I guess I’ll do another shuffle, as I really have nothing better to do at the moment (four day weekend!).

Gorillaz – M1A1

One of the more punky songs on Gorillaz 1. I’ve always been a huge fan of this album, it’s really an album from my childhood. I was in eighth grade or so when I got this album and I got really excited about it, so I listened to it constantly, and I realize now that I liked it so mich for a good reason. It’s a friggin awesome album. It shifts so wildly and spontaneously with so much skill, and it never bores you. M1A1 is an ass kicker, like Punk I suppose, but it take a while to get to it’s point because it has this creepy little atmosphere thing going on at the beginning. In it’s own little strange way, Gorillaz is a masterpiece, and even though some of the songs might be confusing or strange, the album only has one or two weak songs. This is not one of them.

Nick Drake – Hazey Jane 1

My favorite Nick Drake album has always been Pink Moon by a longshot, and Bryter Layter has always been my least favorite. I guess the production always just felt very lacking. The strings are pushed to the back and have this very repetetive almost sleazy feeling to them. Bryter Layter is a good album, no question, but it shows it’s age after a while when Five Leaves Left and Pink Moon still sound great today. I think it’s on At The Chime of a City Clock where there is this long elegant saxaphone solo that just annoys the shit out of me. It just screams seventies, and not the seventies I like either. If they haden’t put the sax so low in the mix it would have been fine too. It’s got that echo on it that just doesn’t sit well with me. This is a good song though. It is more reminiscent of Five Leaves Left. I just really wish that Nick Drake hadn’t subdued himself so much in his music. He broke free and did what he really wanted to do on Pink Moon and that is why it’s such a touching record, but Bryter Layter just doesn’t have what it takes to carry on.

Rammstein – Mein Herz Brennt

This is a choice Rammstein song that makes use of great strings and some crunching guitars, yadadadadada. I’ve gotta tell you guys this story… I was down in Chicago one day around Christmas and a friend and I were sort of going record store hopping. We stopped at this small place called Rock Records because it looked like it would have the more obscure stuff we wanted. It didn’t have anything we wanted, and what few things appealed to us were way too expensive. So we sucked it up and walked into Virgin, and they had everything. It was ridiculous… I was specifically looking for some Mudhoney and Screaming Trees and they had pretty much everything by both bands, not to mention everything I would have ever wanted by Meat Puppets and everything else that was on my wishlist. I was fucking impressed. It’s my new favorite record store, I think. One of my friends is a huge Rammstein freak and he saw a Rammstein box set that came out last year I believe to accompany their tour on a shelf, that I believe contains a cd and a dvd. It’s called Volkerball, and it’s a rare import that usually runs for fifty bucks, sometimes even more. He found it on the shelf for thirty five bucks. I was about to smack him on the backside of the head for considering it because I wasn’t sure of it’s real value, but in any case he took it up to the counter and they had some trouble with it because it’s a rare import and shit… He ended up getting it for five dollars. I nearly crapped my pants. Depending on how you look at it, that’s a huge value. Easily the best deal on music I’ve ever seen. The cashiers looked so weirded out. He doesn’t have a region free DVD player which is I guess the only problem, but he still loves it and it is a choice live album. I’ve heard most all of it and it’s great, very crisp heavy sound quality.

Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight

Goddam, I just keep getting songs with strings today. Another great use of an orchestra. For the most part, the strings are out in front in this song and the guitars are more subdued, making the feeling very momentous and special. It’s really a song that you have to crank the volume to get the best out of, but it is classic Pumpkins for sure. It is probably the most pretty thing they ever wrote that made it to the radio, and this is one of the openers to the bands sprawling double disk Mellon Collie for a reason. The lyrics are pretty wonderful too “The indescribeable moments of your life (tonight, tonight)/The impossible is possible (tonight, tonight).” It’s just great. The ending is a nice explosion of energy and the song ends on the subtle note that it started out on.

Pia Fraus – No Need For Sanity

For as much as Pia Fraus rips on a lot of other shoegaze bands, In Solarium is still a great album. For sure this is one of it’s more individual and unique songs. It goes at a very slow pace. The bassline is cool and the guitars mimic Lush and MV at times but it is a nice song noetheless. One problem it does have is that it has problems really going anywhere. The long guitar solo instrumental parts are very nice though and give the rest of the song a lot of meaning. It’s probably what you would want to hear if you were on a beautiful tropical beach and you wanted it to snow just for five minutes.

Led Zeppelin – Friends

One of Zeps more underrated songs, and it’s on my favorite Zep album too. It starts off with a fairly simple guitar strum, but the indian influences come in full force very quickly a solo guitar playing very distinct little ditties and then the addition of (holy shit) some very soaring strings and Robert Plants voice when it was in it’s prime. I’ve learned something about eastern scales lately; most indian music uses it’s own modified scales for ragas and such, but a lot of times indian music is variation on the harmonic minor scale, and the varient is specifically the minor second. You may say, but Alex, isn’t the minor second the same as the major second? Actually, no. A minor second is just a chromatic, or a half step. It’s not the way it works in the normal minor scale but it is still called a minor seond for some reason. So you get that really rich indian sound by digging that second a half step lower so it’s just next to the first, specifically on the descending scale and not so much on the ascending. You can hear it here pretty distinctly as it really gives shape to the indian sound.

The Barenaked Ladies – Alcohol


Eh. There is a fine line between sleazy 90s rock and simply apathetic 90s rock. It’s not that great. When it goes off into the annoying little anthem at 1:45 it’s practically asking me to skip the rest of the song. You could do better for drinking songs. Mostly those should be more testosterome fueled than this, which ends up being pretty repetetive and boring. Whatever.

Elvis Presley – A Little Less Conversation (Radio Edit)


There is no reason this wasn’t featured on the Oceans 11 soundtrack. Period. It was released on an Elvis greatest hits compilation at almost the exact same time, and it’s a great remix. The movie instead settled for the original version. Stupid stupid stupid. I can just picture Andy Garcia flipping a shit at his realization of the heist at one of the songs great chorus transitions. It has a great bassline and the mood is well improved over the original while not sacrificing any of the Kings charm. It’s got trend and some great horns and energy highs. If you were ever to crank an Elvis song, this would be it. Yes, it may be a radio edit but even the original is extremely cool. I got no problems with the king and this is a great song no matter how it’s sliced.

Radiohead – Paranoid Android


Some people call this the modern day Bohemian Rhapsody, but that’s actually an insult. To Radiohead, I mean. Queen never meant much of anything, and I could never take them seriously. This is one of OKCs more serious songs and it is very rhythmic and reminiscent of everyday modern life, which is very much what this album is all about. Not a lot can be said about this album that hasn’t been said before, but I do still discover new things about this album every so often. As a friend pointed out to me, there is some nice foreshadowing in the song with the Apple robot sounds in the background forecasting what is to come on the great filler Fitter Happier. What is really strange about this song is that it sort of comes in distinct movements, the one at 3:32 being the most developing and poignant. When the vocals start to triple up the effect is hauntingly beautiful. I have some great memories of listening to this album a few years ago. I know it’s nerdy, but I associate a lot of music with video games, and OKC is totally perfect for Final Fantasy VIII. The huge open plains for Airbag, the nighttime city for Exit Music, and the wonderful technological Garden for Let Down. It’s a choice song from a perfect album.

Xymox – Spiritual High


One of the two good songs off of Headclouds, the other being A Single Day. The fact of the matter is that most people would buy headclouds just for the club hit A Single Day which is very good, but the rest of the album isn’t that great. I guess I haven’t given this band enough attension, as they are a pretty big deal in the electronica genre. They usually go under the name “The Clan of Xymox,” so I guess the career of “Xymox” is pretty mediocre while The Clan has had some pretty monumental albums since ’85 up until today. They aren’t small time, that’s for sure. But they aren’t exactly my favorite of their genre but I sure as hell won’t turn them off if they squeeze into any of my industrial/electronica/club loving friends mix CDs. Club hits, not too much more.

I guess that was ten. That’s all for now.

h1

Shuffle Time, Again

October 9, 2006

Hey, sorry about the missed update on Thursday again. It’s not that I’m running out of things to say so much as time to say it in. And beyond that, I am having difficulty finding things to review that haven’t already been acclaimed by everyone already. It’s not that I don’t want to review things like Oasis, Tool, or Liquid Tension Experiment. I’m just 90% sure that you don’t give a shit. And why should you? I don’t want to stray too far into the mainstream even though I am your typical mainstream whore. I just want to keep things a tad interesting.

Sonic Youth – Silver Rocket

Talk about a dream job. What non-jock guy wouldn’t want to be Thurston Moore? He’s around fifty now, and yet he’s still kicking, producing great records with his art punk band that not only revolutionized music, but can still kick out some good hooks and also features his lovely wife. Now that’s the life. I haven’t heard Rather Ripped yet but I’m told it’s pretty awesome. Daydream Nation, however, I have heard and it is an awesomely badass album not to mention revolutionary and extremely important on it’s own. Silver Rocket is actually a standout punk song of sorts, with a livid guitar squall in the forefront driving it all the way home. It’s no Teenage Riot, but holds it’s place as a fantastic short rocker.

Head Automatica – Broklyn Is Burning

Theres something awesome about this, but I don’t know what. It’s got a solid beat I guess, and the riff is nice, but that’s about it. It’s kind of sleazy rock, and if you are in the right mood for it, that’s good. I haven’t heard too much else by these guys nor do I really have a desire to. I believe they just recently came out with a new album. The guys voice really annoys me though, enough so that even if this is a half-decent song, I have absolutely no desire to get anywhere close to anything with these semi-emo vocals.

Stone Temple Pilots – Days Of The Week

This was one of STPs last hits off of Shangri – La Dee Da in, what, 02 or 03? Something like that. The album is rather difficult but if you give it a chance it could be considered better than No. 4, which is usually classified as a little better than Shangri. In any case, this is one of the bands better songs. But there are a few other good ones on that album… Bi-Polar Bear, Hollywood Bitch, even Coma. Theres good things to be found in the druggy mind of Scott Weiland, and it’s surprising enough that these good things are infectious straightforward pop. Purple was the height of that talent though, and after that things sort of went downhill, at least as far as albums go. The band still produced pop gold until the end, but just not consistantly as they did before.

Home – Smashing Pumpkins

This is one of the better tracks off of Machina II, the final album from our great friends Smashing Pumpkins. I’ve already ranted more than necessary in refference to their current situation, so I won’t do that. But this is a great song from a pretty underrated album. In my opinion, Machina II is miles over Machina/The Machines of God. For whatever reason, it is just much more inviting and comforting than it’s predecessor. For those of you who don’t know, the album was only released in hard copy form in extreme rarity in the form of four rare EPs (I think they may have all been vinyl, actually), but the gist of the whole thing was that the bands last album was encouraged to be shared on the internet for free. What a nice gesture. The only problem might be the production, and even then that might just be the version I have. I’m sure there is a higher quality version elsewhere on the web. Anyway, this is actually a standout track from an album that really shines and serves as a grand sendaway to SMP.

Led Zeppelin – Night Flight

As far as I’m concerned, Physical Graffiti was the last Led Zeppelin album that really mattered. Presence never did anything for me, nor did In Through The Out Door (although I guess In The Evening is a classic product of it’s time). I never even really liked Houses of The Holy that much either, but I would still say it’s a good album. Physical Graffiti, however, remustered the bands old energy and innovation and put out all the cards on the table. It was a big deal when it came out, surely. My mother even remembers the sign in the local mall above the entrance to the record store. “ITS NOT HERE YET.” That’s just how big they were. Half the album was new stuff and the other half old unreleased stuff. It’s hard to pinpoint which was which, but you can hear some of it having some newer eastern and even dance type stuff in it, while the other half is more vintage Led Zeppelin, consisting of more bluesy and pop stuff. This is one of the better tracks from that world. Great track from a great album.

Nirvana – Stain

Well, it was bound to happen. How many Nirvana songs do I have on my iPod anyway? Over two hundred easily. So one is bound to come up early in a shuffle. To be honest, there isn’t too much special about this song. There are some Nirvana songs I just don’t like. They are few and far between yes, and most of them are b-sides like this. It’s just generally an uninspired obnoxious rocker. And yet when I get to this whenever I listen to Incesticide, I won’t skip it. It’s got pretty good production and the solo is good. It’s got the punk attitude down, it just doesn’t follow through with it, and the lyrics are kind of tasteless. Not much else to say.

Porno For Pyros – 100 Ways

Theres something strange about Perry Ferrel…
Wait, I didn’t just fucking say that, did I?
EVERYTHING is strange about Perry Ferrel. He’s totally weird, but ingenious too. For some reason, not one of my friends likes Jane’s Addiction, and they seem to bring up the fact that they don’t like them at totally irrelevant times. I can’t understand that. Whatever. Porno For Pyros was the sort of follow up project to Jane’s Addiction featuring Perry as the main songwriter. They had two albums, and the approach was generally much more relaxed and mellow. This is a pretty good song, but there is something unnerving to hear him making something serious and contemplative instead of genuine angry punk like Mountain Song. I still like it though.

Elvis – Can’t Help Falling In Love

Here’s one from the King, maybe my favorite song from him. It’s just a beautiful love song. It’s a cover, like most all of Elvis’ songs, but we all know that Elvis didn’t really shine in his songwriting ability so much as his keen delivery. Everyone has to have a little Elvis, right? Right. Want a greatest hits? Go here and prepare to get sick.
http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:6qotk60x9kr0~T21
I myself find the vast number of movies he starred in more dependably hokie and interesting than I find his music ingenious or fantastic. He’s the man, theres no denying that.

Tool – Parabola

Tool disorients me. They are a great band, don’t get me wrong, but they have some obvious downfalls. One of which is their fanbase, which is about 7/8 complete and total ass wipes. Second is the fact that I personally find it tiring to listen to one of their albums all the way through. Their sophistication in the metal genre is off-putting to the casual listener too. Their sound is very tribal and often times filled with strange time signatures and progressive outings that people find difficult. I know I sure did, and it took me a long time to bring myself to like Lateralus. But it happened eventually, and this is probably one of the better songs off of the album, standing up there with The Grudge, Reflection, and Mantra (what can I say, I was never really one for Schism).

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dosed

The best song off of the bands best album, By The Way, easily. To be honest I’m not a big fan of the band, but they can pull off some great songs if they put their mind to it. I think the main reason why is Anthony Kiedis. I think the instrumentation of the band is utterly fantastic. But with his voice and lyrics… I find I can’t really take them too seriously anymore. Especially on Stadium Arcadium. There are so many great songs there just ruined by uninspired lyrics, but you have already heard my take on that album. Coincidentally, my friends mother recently saw Anthony Kiedis in an airport. Apparently there was some fuss in the ticket line with him, and he was a little flustered. Keep in mind that my friends mother is pretty much the biggest RHCP fan EVER. He was doing a little damage control I think, so he allowed a picture to be taken with her. Strangely enough, she saw the band on an airplane ten years earlier, before she was a fan. Weird coincidence.

Brian Eno – The Big Ship

Another Green World defined the electronic genre and what synthesizers could do in not only a pop context but in a lush instrumental. It’s easily one of the greatest albums ever made, truly a one of a kind piece. This is one of the instrumentals, which arguably make up the more interesting portion of the album. A very floaty and airy guitar fuzz wall is in the middle, with a piano like instrument augmenting the chords, a noteworthy beat supplementing the beauty, and an interesting synthesizer cut in the background (which if you listen closely enough, is in the same rhythm but not the same time as everything else). The image is what it sounds like. Think a traveller who has come all the way from a monastary in sixteenth century England, now arriving at a port with a big beautiful ship ready to take off to his next destination into the early morning sea.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Dirty Water

This is the opener to the bands 1994 accoustic album Stoned And Dethroned. It’s really a very relaxing tune. The entire album is underrated I’d say, and it contains a lot of mellow almost country-ish chill tunes. Like Psychocandy, it’s got such a great number of songs that it should keep even the most avid Chain fans satisfied for a long time. To me, this is the more obvious choice for a single, way more obvious than Come On or Sometimes Always (with all due respect). This song reminds me of when I was on vacation in upstate New York when I was in Seventh grade. We stayed with some relatives, and we all went swimming in a pond one day. I didn’t really swim so much as put my feet in the water. I was still a little pampered back then, so I didn’t really want to jump into the dirty and cold water on that chill late summer morning. It wasn’t that big of a pond as far as diameter goes, but it was bordered by an extremely high cliff, at least a few hundred feet tall. I remember someone saying that the pond was probably at least as deep as the cliff was tall. That always stuck with me for some reason.