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?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pearl Jam - No Code (1996)

No más is more like it. No rhyme, no reason, no grunge. Fresh off the heels off its album de la decadence, Vitalogy (the last decent PJ album, in my opinion), our Seattle über-friends here decided that: no, they would not break up because (a) their singer shot himself in the face (Nirvana); (b) they simply didn't want to do it anymore (Soundgarden); or (c) their singer was a fucking junkie (AIC); and instead opted to (d) keep going, even though they were no longer relevant under the watchful eyes of "De Civitate Dei" and had sorely squandered what little originality they had by looting and pillaging from themselves. Понимаешь?

So, let's review it, shall we? Do you like childish repetition "Sometimes?" or find yourself questioning "Who You Are," or simply prefer to "Smile" and show off your glistening little zoobies? Or perhaps, you would rather strum a guitar so slowly that it always seem like you're in the "Present Tense" while telling everyone about "Mankind?" Oh, and when you sing "I'll be playing with my magazine / Using up my listerine / Like Ovaltine" -- I actually want to throw myself in the fucking ocean and drown to escape such egregious lyrical nonsense -- and I'm actually only a hop, skip and a jump away. "In My Tree" is perhaps the only great song (the bass and drums clinch it), while "Hail Hail" and "Red Mosquito" are pretty decent as well. "Lukin'" is short, in a funny kind of way; it doesn't go on long enough for me to hate it, so I sort of dig it otherwise. The rest is fucking hogwash. Total musical excreta. A reason to read How to Kill Yourself the Hemingway. Oh, oh, oh, I got a better one! Ever wonder why Sylvia Plath and Assia Wevill killed themselves by sticking their heads in the oven? Common belief says it was Ted Hughes and his incorrigible demands; but it was Pearl Jam. Really. D+

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shadows Fall - The War Within (2004)

I kinda sorta maybe like these guys -- my most precise opening yet, eh? The Art Of Balance is a much better album methinks, but my favorite two songs are on this one. Here, I must admit, I am honestly disappointed with almost everything but the album's bookends. "Enlightened By The Cold" leaves me positively confused -- was that Joey Belladona during the chorus? Or just an earnest impression? Oh, wait, there it is in "Ghost Of Past Failures" again. Ok, if this is a long-lost Anthrax album, it's much too fucking slow. "Inspiration On Demand" doesn't make me feel any better; is Brian Fair trying to sing? Switching from his throaty growls to his (cough cough) mellifluous bird chirps when he wants to whine reminds me of ... emo -- (пиво пожалуйста!) -- which is to say: plaintive shit smears, poorly applied lip gloss, tortellini haircuts -- in short, glam rock poseurs, but without panache.

All isn't a complete loss, though. The album's bookends, for me, are where I become a repeat customer. The opening track, "The Light That Blinds"," is a nice distillation of nasty thrash and beautiful melodicism -- if this song could be replicated musically for the entirety of an album -- any album -- these guys could be the new kings of metal. Oh, and this brief solo is fucking sweet.

"Those Who Cannot Speak" is an amazing end to an otherwise forgettable album; I simply love the opening acoustic passages and how the riffs come pounding down. "The Power Of I And I," "Eternity Is Within" and "Stillness" are also decent heavy numbers. All in all, it's a decent thrash album that you will enjoy if you listen to it, but won't be able to recall anything afterwards (except the bookends), and will occasionally skip a few because you hate whiny suckass bitches. C-

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

I would like to address, perhaps, an unfounded perception everyone may have of me; namely, that I thoroughly despise the Beatles. This is partially true, but not entirely because of their music. While I do think Rubber Soul is utterly abominable (read here), I have more of a problem with how they have been treated (musical gods) than with how they should have been treated (brave pioneers). In this sense, much of the ire I have for them I utilize in the same vicious fashion as I do with hacks such as Clapton who, by-the-by, when unveiled beyond his guitar god hype, had considerably less to offer than the Beatles. These guys have, without argument, some deliciously good tunes; but for me, these tunes are sandwiched between mountains of awful offal. Which is why they seem to get it so right on Sgt. Pepper's.

From the joyful psychedelia of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" to the carnivalesque "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite," this is definitely my favorite Beatles album. I like the White Album as well, but it's a bit messier. Part of the reason for this is because of the tautness and remarkable fluidity this album possesses -- I tip my hat to you, George Martin. Even for the three songs I don't care for, the vaudeville "When I'm Sixty Four," the totally-doesn't-belong-on-this-album "Within You Without You" and the completely fucking stupid "Fixing A Hole," the album still flows quite nicely. (Ok, I am a total album purist, but whatever.) I also hate Ringo Starr and think he's fucking musical waste, but "With A Little Help From My Friends" is a great song, and if that's not proof enough why this album has to be good, I don't know what to tell you. Lastly, for those who missed my "preliminary" Beatles grades for all of their albums I own, click here and scroll down some. Oh, and "A Day In The Life" rules. B+

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Zombies - Odessey And Oracle (1968)

I didn't plan on reviewing anything today, but after reading comments here I basically had to. That and I've been known to be unforgiving of most things 'pop', and I'd like to show that I am not entirely hateful. This is not to say that Odessey And Oracle is pop; it's just that there are enough catchy hooks and melodies on here to put some pop confectioneers to shame. Otherwise, it is, without a doubt, one of the greatest records of the 60s (better than any Beatles album, oh yes). If you're like me and would make love to a Mellotron, this album is for you. Prefer the harpsichord? Organ? Piano? Uh-huh. In fact, if you like jazz, Rod Argent is your man.

The album itself is nice admixture of baroque arrangements, lush harmonies and always seems to be pushing for a fruition that never seems to be realized. "Care Of Cell 44" never sounds bleak nor entirely hopeful, despite the obvious location of the narrator. For those who have read Faulkner, "A Rose For Emily" is musically jarring due to the concurrent joy and melancholy, especially the last few bars. Whenever I listen to the album, in fact, I always feel like I'm watching the last few moments of a flower before it begins decaying. It's a weird feeling of rebirth, loss and nostalgia. "Hung Up On A Dream" is probably the best example of this.

Otherwise, if this one happened to evade your ears, and you happen to have a little nostalgia, maybe this one was supposed to be for you. A-

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Two Minutes Hate

For those unaware of what this is, please read here briefly for an explanation.

Let the hate begin:

The Cure Duran Duran Culture Club Tears For Fears Eurythmics Reo Speedwagon Michael Bolton The Killers R.E.M (Retarded Emo Band); and for you Chuck, Def Leppard's Hysteria.

The Creation - We Are Paintermen (1967)

§ Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, I present to you Exhibit A, heretofore known as We Are Paintermen, an album by the Creation. I'm certain that many of the local residents have heard, or at least heard of, Mr. James Page's use of a violin bow during live musical venues, but is everyone aware how Mr. Page came to pilfer and popularize the idea? As I've stated elsewhere, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, a one Edwin "Eddie" Phillips, guitarist of the Creation, was the true originator; and unlike Mr. Page, who merely caroused the bow like a sordid novelty and superficially impressed audiences with it, Phillips incorporated the violin into the actual musical melange.

§ Therefore, I submit to the Jury that the Creation should be listened to, without reservation or contempt; and that, under visible Oath by the attesting Witness who, by order of Judge Hatter, must establish forthwith a medley of dissimilar things with which to expediently pluck the measures to accede control from the preexisting provenance, the aforementioned Jury should note otherwise with due exception any irregularities and ask for an addendum no later than three (3) consecutive days upon final writ of said request, whichever is less than the preceding day's adjournment but not later than midday teatime of any particular day (the Judge is scrupulous).

§ That aside, the Witness also attests to the fact that "Cool Jerk", despite being originally performed by the Capitols, is a remarkably better version. Otherwise, "Nightmares," "Painter Man" and "Making Time" contain considerably intense and vigorous usage of the violin bow on guitar; and a certain "Biff Bang Pow" piece is sure to raise some ear lobes. Public complaints can be addressed using the form below. B+

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland (1968)

I remember very distinctly standing in the middle of the road of just about nowhere in complete darkness in some desertous region of Iraq on our way to Baghdad with my paranoid eyes hidden behind my Wiley X's and my weapon at-the-ready waiting for some potential human snuffing when, out of some perverse defensive mechanism, "1983...(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)" began playing with extreme prejudice in my head.

Nothing happened otherwise, and we continued on, but I'd figured I'd let you know.

Non-musical matters aside, this is an amazing album. The fractured majesty in "1983" continues to remain indelibly etched in my sonic consciousness. But one of the real strengths of this album is its musical flow. What I love is how it just ramps up on you -- this is not to say that the first track "...And The Gods Made Love" is weak, it's just that by the time Hendrix begins ripping through "Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)," if you haven't already fastened your seat-belt, you're fucking screwed. There is simply no room for whatever is otherwise. When Hendrix sings about chopping down the mountain with the edge of his hand, I believe him. The guitar swaggering is monumental, the psychedelic grooves flail at full tilt, the feedback shapeshifts like an embryo in chaos. Oh, I'm beside myself. Surely, if you aren't a Hendrix fan, or could care less for this album in particular, you can't possibly love the electric guitar -- which in my opinion remains the greatest testament of its usage by a man who played it better than anyone before or since. A

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Aerosmith - Aerosmith (1973)

What astounds me is that Aerosmith could create such a stale album and yet somehow cull "Dream On" from the same polluted pool of mediocrity. Granted, they would go on to become one of America's greatest pioneering bands of that lifeless rock sound that currently permeates FM radio and is championed by fucking idiots. Yes, and if you take offense to that, you're a fucking idiot. Most likely you know every Zeppelin, Eagles and Eric Clapton song that is played on the radio by heart -- the last hobo of which your idolatry should have you immediately extracted from the gene pool -- yet you couldn't distinguish a barre chord from the fucking Batmobile and you incessantly violate human decency by asking me to keep playing "Stairway" as if my ear was a fucking coin slot. Either that, or you'll try to convince me that Limp Bizkit really did write "Behind Blue Eyes." So here's to you assholes who help to engender the continued mediocrity in music by not delving into the bands that matter, by being spoon-fed rock pabulum via whatever the fuck you know how to turn on and by being altogether boring company at barbecues. Here's to your glorious Aerosmith, a bluesy wankfest of an album honed to perfection by Mssr. Joseph Perry, elder statesmen of the ho-hum. Here's to Steven Tyler, who showed the world that it could handle more than one big-lipped cock-rocking sex symbol. And here's to "One Way Street," a shit riff built on a tired blues scale; to "Make It" for not sustaining my attention for more than thirty seconds; to "Somebody" and "Write Me" and all those other songs not named "Dream On" and "Mama Kin" that sound exactly the same. 1973, if you do your research, was positively screaming with brilliant albums. How this one stuck around is beyond me. A D is being really nice, but "Dream On" truly is wonderful.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Muse - Black Holes & Revelations (2006)

This album has been in my ears less than a week and I'm utterly perplexed at how it's completely evaded my musical radar. That said, I've been listening to all four of their albums all week as a result. I would also like to add that the Radiohead-lite tag this band has been given is duly and wholeheartedly undeserved. Coldplay is a shameless wanking pop juggernaut capable of pilfering entire musical passages from greater bands and I find it hard to believe this trio is accused of the same. The only similarities between Muse and Radiohead, in my humblest of humbles, are that 1) they create complex music 2) feature a singer who predominately uses falsetto and 3) rose above the homogenized alt-rock of the 90s and progressed musically -- hence, a genre placement of prog seems more appropriate rather than Radioheadesque. Radiohead had Pablo Honey; Muse had Showbiz -- both promising, but equally derivative, equally vacuous mirrorings of the musical period they were borne out of. That any band can categorically evade influence is fucking nonsense -- music would not continue to evolve if that were the case.

That said, Black Holes & Revelations is an astonishing album, for its peculiarly measured bombast and the risks it continually takes to achieve such intensity. Will you hear Queen? Absolutely. But that doesn't detract from the quality of the music. "Take A Bow" begins in a steady plod with eerie vocal intonations and transforms into skittish electronica. "Map Of The Problematique" is probably my favorite tune so far, with its menacing opening synth, plaintive chorus and inevitable march towards ultimate despair -- what's not to be happy about? I'm out of tea at the moment, but you can have a slice of Gouda cheese if you like. Why Gouda? Because Chedda ain't betta', boyo. "Assassin," while only clocking at 3 and a 1/3, changes riffs so many times you'd wonder if they were listening to old Metallica records -- you know, when Metallica actually cared? "Knights Of Cydonia" is a kind of parodic bloated epic that ends the album with a triumphant bang. "Starlight" is as pop as these fellows ever get on this one and it's just a beautiful song, so fuck off otherwise. This album is so refreshing I'm beside myself. I'm behind the times in noticing them, but whatever. B+

The Police - Reggatta De Blanc (1979)

Despite my frequent protestations concerning reggae's lack of discernible musical oomph in general, I am quite the sucker for it on Reggatta De Blanc, my favorite Police album. Master Cianan, also a reggae-hater, will become roiled if I even describe this album as being reggae-tinged, but the music speaks for itself; and besides, the album is called "White Reggae." Kiss my sharries, dude.

"Message In A Bottle" is possibly the Police's best-known song, but it holds a special little place in my head as evidenced by the multiple indents on my steering wheel (thanks Stew!) Anyone who thinks that drums should be relegated to the background obviously haven't heard hi-hat syncopation at its finest; that and Andy's repetitive guitar sequence in this song is mesmerizing at worst. The other well-known song, "Walking On The Moon" is so fucking good I wish it would materialize in tangible form so I can eat it. And I'm always hungry.

Otherwise, if you're still reading, it's because you're still interested. Populism is unfortunately a hacking bitch who never stays off my heels and I've got to appease those who only listen to FM radio and buy compilation albums. Actually, that's a lie; I just wanted to see if you were paying attention -- it's been awhile since I've posted. "Reggatta De Blanc," for those real Police fans out there or those who want to indulge mightily, is a loose rocking instrumental with an unforgettable groove; I dig the shit out of this one, especially since it follows "Message." Does anyone think Andy's guitar lines on "Bring On The Night" are amazingly beautiful? I love how his presence is quietly understated and yet he completely controls the song. "On Any Other Day" is a fun little number that sounds like a leftover from Music Madness From The Kinetic Kid that Sting somehow permitted to be on the album -- you know, before they fucking imploded with internal strife and split. All in all, this one is a doozy of a listen. If you love the Police, this may top your list as well. A