Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Rolling Stones - Goat's Head Soup (1973)

I've trashed the Beatles -- unapologetically -- for the furiously awful offal that is Rubber Soul and have decided I am musically obligated to administer like if not equal treatment to the Stones as well -- because, well, Goat's Head Soup very well deserves it. See, a good portion of what we perceive in life consists of the dialectic interplay between a thesis and antithesis. For me, most examples of this proffered nonsense are confused readily with dichotomies, pure opposites, polarities, etc. -- Good and Evil, Being and Nothingness (any Sartre fans?); and, most importantly for this review, Beatles and Stones. Except, in terms of fulfilling their end of the deal, the Beatles and Stones, for all intents and purposes, are poor purveyors of such musical foodstuffs and therefore I tend to treat them in terms of Hegelian aufhebung, or sublation -- which is to say, if you follow such philosophy, I offer The Who as a better alternative instead. Follow me? If not, it's all good; you aren't coming here for the coffee. Or are you?

Ok, the album. It's almost purely fucking awful. Aside from the splendid "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) and its tasty riff, I can't wrap myself around this one. For all the acclaim "Angie" receives, I don't get it -- it's decent; nothing very spectacular, though. I certainly don't crave listening to it. "Dancing With Mr. D" is awful. "100 Years Ago" is awful. "Coming Down Again" is awful. And these begin the album. "Can You Hear The Music?" No. I can't. This album feels similar in feeling for me with Houses Of The Holy, which I also trashed -- and it's where we hear faint glimmers of former glory but its mostly torpor and excess that are present all that is left is a blurrily traced outline of what existed formerly. This album sucks. D

Frank Zappa - Hot Rats (1969)

This is one of my favorite Zappa albums -- which is possibly more of a testament to my jazz leanings than anything else -- but I really never tire of this one. Ever. What's to tire of? "Peaches En Regalia" never gets old -- no matter how many times I play it (that interjectory acoustic noodling always makes me happy.) It's one of Zappa's most inventive songs -- or at least, an excellent showcase of his dazzling compositional variety; and besides, it strikes just enough of a silly tone to distinguish him from the Mahavishnu, for example. (That and I prefer Zappa over McLaughlin anyway.) "Willie The Pimp" (a blues-drenched jam featuring the aural gruffings of Captain Beefheart and some tasty violin) "The Gumbo Variation" (a crazed sax/guitar noodlefest) and "Son Of Mr. Green Genes" are the three longest pieces of the record. Besides "Peaches," these represent, I think, a sort of loose musical centerpiece for the album. "Little Umbrellas" is okay -- not really amazing. "It Must Be A Camel" is fairly blah for me; once "Gumbo" ends, I usually forget this one. Other than that, "Peaches" and the three aforementioned longer jazz pieces will undoubtedly keep you occupied for most of the 47 or so minutes of this fantastic record. Oh, and besides Beefheart's appearance, this all instrumental. B+

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stormtroopers Of Death - Speak English Or Die (1985)

I apologize beforehand for those who might expect some kind of rampant racist rant or endorsement of the obvious lyrical content of this album, since everybody knows that I'm likely to say anything. I've never been one to pay too close attention to lyrics and have always focused more on the music instead, although I will briefly state that I do believe you should learn the native tongue of whatever country you wish to live in and respect their laws and culture. I'm not fond at all of the Mexican flag being hoisted above the American one in California schools, but I don't think blind hatred is the answer. Not that these fellows intended to hate; I think they just felt like rattling everyone for fun.

Controversy aside, this is an insanely good thrash album, sprinkled with some fairly amusing odes to milk, ballads to Jimi Hendrix and other stupid topics that only concern those among us who care either very little for such things or never really bother to think of them at all yet find them superficially profound. Comprised of members from Nuclear Assault and Anthrax (fans will recognize some of these songs from Attack Of The Killer B's), the band indulges in an all-out speedfest of sorts, scorching through 20-odd songs in less than a half hour and never letting up. The riffs are aplenty, the attitude is brash and this is most certainly for any metal fan worth his can of thrashing beans. Not that silly sludge metal. Or doom metal. Or whatever sub-genres they have nowadays; I can't keep track. For me, it's either fast or slow, and I prefer fast. Ya gotta love it. Top tracks: "Chromatic Death," "Milk," "Freddy Krueger," Sargent D & The S.O.D." and "Pussy Whipped." And "Fist Banging Mania" and "Kill Yourself" and you get the point. B+

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lenny Kravitz - It Is Time For A Love Revolution (2008)

Lenny Kravitz is an interesting musician: despite the stabbings he's received throughout the years as being a retro-rock connoisseur incapable of anything original, he's still around. This is partly because, well, his musical template is classic rock and funk; and therefore if he sounds remotely close -- even sometimes -- to the wonderful period during the 70s he seamlessly emulates, he's placed himself above the moribund music we already suffer through. But that's the rub: he's good enough to stick around but not enough to be accepted; like the White Stripes, he reminds you of the joys of the original without entirely sounding like them, but take away this musical crutch, and he can't even break his fall with his arms. We admire him (for his good taste in past music), yet we revile him for doing nothing more than repeating it. Interestingly enough, he does have his own guitar tone; there is a definite strangeness in being able to know the difference between a Zeppelin-like riff played by no one in particular and a Zeppelin-like riff that is played by Lenny Kravitz. He's made an art form of sounding like himself sounding like others -- that's why he's still around, and why shite bands like Blink 1-82, Creed, et al, are not.

Okay, the album: this is one of many albums that I would classify as being of the 'taking-a-shit' variety, which is to say, it takes a shit roughly halfway through, transforming into a smatter of coagulated fester smitten in a public toilet bowl, never quite clean because of constant use. The lyrics are shallow, the music is blah and it's pretty awful. The first half, however, is pure indulgence. Like what I've said of Blur, Lenny wears his influences on his sleeve: Zeppelin, Grand Funk, Sly Stone, the Rolling Stones, Prince, etc. It's highly entertaining stuff, makes you bob your head up and down to his nifty rhythms and causes you to smile that someone still manages to play guitar solos. But don't mix this up with your old Floyd records. It's just a re-creation tie-dye tapestry, not the real thing. C-

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction (1987)

When I first heard this album, I was arguably at a point in my life where I could not consistently produce coherent, rational thoughts -- after all, I was eight! -- but the fact remains that this was, indeed, my first taste of rock 'n' roll. The above artwork is somehow a preserved relic from my stubborn little days as a child artiste. I'm not sure why I still have it, but it's kind of interesting. Even more interesting, in retrospect, is why my parents let me listen to this, of all albums. I suppose this accounts for my omnipresent devilish grin in all matters unholy and my sincere lack of decorum in anything regarding social order.

Ok, so the album -- nostalgic waffle aside -- is exceptionally good, despite the soon-to-be ridicule I already anticipate receiving from two otherwise splifficated musical fiends. This is where Slash the guitar god makes his first entrance and more notably, where GNR totally snorts rock and roll from off a table and trashes your living room. But enough of its historical import -- this album rocks. You know when an album starts with a doozy such as "Welcome To The Jungle" that awesomeness is in store for your ears. Hell, that's all you need to hear, I think, with its brazen taunts and indomitable menace -- how could this not be the future of rock? And who said rock was dead? Ok, this was 1987, the year of the mush, the long scuttlebutt and dreck accumulated from an otherwise useless and musically soulless decade (Fuck you Depeche Mode! Fuck you Tears For Fears!). Just as well, this is a mite better than the homogenized rock we have posing as the real thing today, where classic rock rip-offs like The White Stripes are actually refreshing.

Sidetracked again. "Nightrain" is delicious. "You're Crazy" is fucking crazy. "Sweet Child O' Mine" is positively fucking sick. If Slash's guitar tone hadn't been burned into your consciousness by this track, it surely is now. Super fucking tasty. "Paradise City" -- OMFG! These guys never did anything like this again, so cherish it. Granted, I dig some of the stuff from Lies; but nothing was ever as brutal, bombastic, fresh and irreverent as this. Those who believe that this album contains weak riffs, I think, are misguided, as they may be mistaking the Use Your Illusion I and II monstrosities instead. A

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (1966)

For those familiar with my petulant fumings over the paltry relics of a musical era long past, you should know that I usually do not bestow heaps of pointless praise on albums that are otherwise made to have us fawn and froth over. Greatest album ever made? Hardly. The fact that Rubber Soul -- itself a horrible musical truncheon smashed against my face -- begat this middling morass of musical muck utterly astounds me. Granted, I do like some of it -- but the production, the "influence", the cockamamy of bells and whistle melodies with or without harpsichord is of no consequence to me. I am undeterred by any particular zeitgeist -- in truth, not having been born even remotely close to this album only strengthens the fact that I can't get nostalgic with it. Did this sounds fresh and exciting, then? Most likely. But I don't listen to an album because of its importance, or its value, or the fact that it conjures up some pleasant memory -- I listen to it because I like it; and besides "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "God Only Knows," Sloop John B" and "Here Today," this album is fucking gobbidge. Just because the Mesopotamians invented the wheel doesn't make them the greatest civilization (especially now that we've made a ruin of it). D+