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?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Muse - Absolution (2003)

You've got to hand it to these fellows; for being a mere trio, they create a wallop of a sound, yet they verge so close to pure camp that it's a wonder they don't occasionally trip over it. The album's first song proper, "Apocalypse Please," sounds exactly how it would seem, a stomping piano melody amidst a swath of synth backdrop and wailing vocals. Don't ask me about the lyrics because I don't really pay too much attention to that sort of thing, although it seems as though there is a point to it all. But while I care little for lyrics, I certainly don't fudge on vocals. I like Matt Bellamy. Not the best I've heard, but he's damned good and surely worth his bundle of Ukrainian maps. "Sing For Absolution" is a fairly good showcase of some of his operatic versatility, among other things. Did I mention he's also the guitarist and pianist/keyboardist? That's not knocking the bassist or drummer, who play some meaty stuff and wouldn't sound the same without them, but Bellamy is obviously way into music. I mean, as you are hearing the awesomeness that is "Butterflies And Hurricanes," who the fuck expects a classical piano interlude in the middle of it? And if I've mentioned "piano" too much in this review for my fellow rocker fiends, let me flip a bitch and discuss "Stockholm Syndrome," which features possibly one of Muse's best guitar riffs. Fucking tastiness. What I especially love about this song is the seeming unity of the guitar solo to the main melody. Usually solos gargle and noodle and go for the jugular to impress, but this one, while not extravagant, is quite the nicety. What else? "Endlessly" and "Falling Away With You" are beautiful songs. I think "Blackout" and "Time Is Running Out" are songs from the band's earlier years I'm sad to see still around. But otherwise, excellent album. Play it loud. B+

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rolling Stones - Beggar's Banquet (1968)

I realize that despite having some fondness for certain songs by these antichrists of Altamont, their albums are like filibusters designed to kill what precious few good ideas they do come up with. In this instance, "Sympathy For The Devil" and "Street Fightin' Man" are such examples. But it's funny that the first target of my ire, "No Expectations," does exactly by its title. Love boring bluesy piano ballads? Check it out. If bluesy harmonica-laden mid-tempo music is your thing, perhaps check out "Dear Doctor." Oh, you're a bluesy romper kind of person?; check out "Parachute Woman" -- it even has some little harmonica flourishes for good measure. "Jig-Saw Puzzle" couldn't be put together if the band helped me. This album is simply too boring to be a mess, and I really don't think there's much of a difference between it and Goat's Head Soup, another album I trashed, or any other Stones albums, for that matter. It seems to me, in my own revisionist musical history, that the more I listen to the Stones, the more they seem like the bastard son of bad blues music. If they are to be hoisted on some grand pedestal, it's still obviously low enough that I can shit on it, no matter how ornate it may appear. I mean, I still love Keef when he's brilliant, and I don't think anyone can do swagger like Mick can, but enough is enough. Also, for those easily disgusted/offended and with nothing more than sitcoms as the basis of their exposure to comedy, I suggest you not check out Master Cianan's hilarious and completely aristocratic review on this same album. Otherwise, for once, I may actually be seen as a kinder, gentler hatter. D+

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Who - Tommy (1969)

Yeah, I know. The classic Who album. The pinball wizard. The great rock opera. Whatever. This album had been so thoroughly propped up on an untouchable musical throne that, after hearing it for the first time, I thought I was a court jester being played for a codpiece fool. Seriously, this isn't a great album -- it's not terrible, either, but that's not saying much, is it? "Overture" is fantastic. I remember being quite excited to hear such a strong beginning, and then remember spending the next half hour waiting for "Pinball Wizard" to come on. Sure, "Sparks" and "Christmas" are fairly decent numbers, and "Underture" at least tries to be as good as "Overture," but the pomp was obviously draining what power the album possessed and pissing on it. Bad rock opera, bad. After the glorious "Pinball Wizard", it's merely more of the same little narrative vignettes and poor musicianship. "Go To The Mirror!" is a great tune though, as is "Tommy, Can you Hear Me?" I really enjoy "I'm Free" and that's about it. This is simply a monstrous album, long-winded and most certainly diluted. My good friend Borges once remarked that writing cumbersome novels was relatively wasteful in expressing an idea when it could easily been done in a few concise pages. Perhaps Pete decided he really really wanted to build a portcullis when all he needed was a privacy fence. Ditto for Thomas Mann and his stupid magic mountain. C+

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Stooges - Fun House (1970)

This album is raw. This album is primal. Like a catfish stripped of its whiskers and thrashing violently. Like a mad hatter dying of mercury poisoning and careening sideways from exhaustion. This is the steely without the dan and the grit without the grist -- a veritable low-fi fuzzbox of sounds and sinister sweets. "Down On The Street," the opening track, begins with a filthy guitar riff played by Mr. Ron Asheton, who is a certified fucking monster. It is said that imitation is nothing more than flattery and that it never supersedes an original. Often cited as proto-punk, if punk owes Asheton anything, it's an apology, because it never sounds as good as he does here. My favorite track is the excellent "T.V. Eye" where Asheton rips along to a nasty riff whilst the bass punches along and Iggy sneers. The erratic interweaving guitar solo is priceless as well. "1970" has some tasty sax, very much in the vein of Ornette Coleman, who I've dug into recently. Did I mention that the guitarist is completely awesome? Ok, just making sure; it's hard to type with tea in one hand and my brain in the other. "L.A. Blues," the last song, is complete random bursts of something or the other that somehow sounds coherent -- which I believe is a result of preconditioning from the album's previous six dizzying tracks (minus "Dirt" -- I care little for that one.) It's a shame that they wouldn't go on to bigger and better things after this, but it is what it is. Enjoy. B