Monday, November 15, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Psychocandy

The Jesus And Mary Chain
Blanco y Negro
Produced by The Jesus And Mary Chain

What to say about this? Loud, cacophonous, poppy, shoegazey, lovely. There are few albums off the top of my head that are this drenched in distortion and feedback while being this breathtakingly beautiful. This is widely accepted as the first album in the rock subgenre of shoegaze and definitely one of the greatest.

Psychocandy, with its huge wall of sound and mumbled vocals, is an album that is enjoyable in spite of itself. Upon listening, you try to decipher lyrics or if there even are any words but the feedback keeps you just out of earshot. It is as if the lyrics contain the answers to life's great mysteries but the guitar's first line of defense disorients you and the monotonous beats are further pummeling your senses into submission. These secrets belong to the brothers Reid and they are not for you to know. It doesn't stop us from searching, though, does it?

Overall Grade=9.0

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Spreading The Disease

Spreading The Disease
Island Records
Produced by Anthrax and Carl Canedy

My issue with early Anthrax has never been the songwriting. It is quite impressive the amount of melody they managed to jam into all the heaviness. The first half of Spreading The Disease is especially impressive. Concert staple "A.I.R.," and classic "Madhouse," are massive achievements and are widely considered the band's flashpoint.

My problem, while always, present truly rears its ugly head in the second half of the album. Joey Belladonna's voice is that ugly head. While this is his first album with the group, he never did much more than hold the band back from truly breaking through. "Lone Justice," and "S.S.C.," could have been amazing if they weren't hampered by hair metal vocals. Even Pantera used to sound like this and it took them the better part of a decade to figure out that a stylistic change was necessary. Eventually, Anthrax would follow their lead but it wouldn't be for 8 more years. The result is a very top-heavy album that hints at a greater ability and reveals the measures it would take for the band to realize its potential.

Overall Grade = 7.92

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Frankenchrist

Dead Kennedys
Alternative Tentacles
Produced by Jello Biafra

This, the last studio album by the Dead Kennedys, is largely devoid of anthem quality. There are plenty of great messages. Right off the bat, "Soup Is Good Food," is a Eastern-tinged musical adventure that expands the idea of Punk or Hardcore as well as good advice for kids and their diets. "MTV - Get Off The Air," is a request that, unfortunately, was never granted.

Frankenchrist, great song titles not withstanding, sounds called in. East Bay Ray's guitars are well done but uninspired. Jello Biafra's vocals sound as they always do but without spitting vitriol. The Dead Kennedys were a band that motivated punks to riot and be counted. There are no moments of such revolutionary sincerity here. A good album but hardly a worthy sendoff for such an awe inspiring band.

Overall Grade = 7.83

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Listen Like Thieves

Listen Like Thieves
Produced by Chris Thomas

As far as an album containing the strongest singles of the year, 1985 had Listen Like Thieves. A somewhat forgotten album compared to mega-hit Kick, this album was the Aussie band's breakthrough and beginning of their creative apex. "What You Need," is as good a start-off as any and doesn't let up with the wonderful title track. Those along with "Shine Like It Does," and "This Time," revealed that singer Michael Hutchence and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Farriss could be a potent creative team. Not to be discounted is the influence and guiding hand of producer Chris Thomas, who had the unique distinction of having previously worked with The Beatles and The Sex Pistols.

Hutchence's voice is just a cooler, less abrasive Jagger croon while the Brothers Farriss provide the backing. There aren't any epically disappointing tracks on Listen Like Thieves and that's more than one can hope for most times. "Same Direction," is a fine deep cut that deserved some airplay in the "We Are The World," pop landscape. Is this largely pop fluff? Sure, but that doesn't make it less well-performed ear candy. This is a pleasure I refuse to be guilty of.

Overall Grade = 8.37

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Hell Awaits

Hell Awaits
Metal Blade Records
Produced by Slayer and Brian Slagel

Even though the style, content, and philosophy have remained the same throughout Slayer's career. Hell Awaits, aside from the ominous title, did not seem a portent of the band's greatness to come. Their sophomore effort is actually more of a step backwards, not in agressiveness or volume, but in songwriting. The album is almost exculsively chords. Missing are the soon-to-be trademark off-putting minor note riffs that signaled the dawn of the metal apocalypse. Also, Tom Araya had not yet begun to prefer yelling the lyrics, so much as growling them. The album's message rendered an idle threat.

All that being said, this is still a Slayer album and this early misstep is still better than that some of the other "Big Four" (I'm looking at you, Belladonna-era Anthrax). The lead guitarwork is spot-on. It's just that the album is one note. Despite what people may think of Slayer, they are actually quite diverse in their methods of attack. It is fitting that "Hardening Of The Arteries," (the standout track on the album) is the finisher because it gave marginal fans a reason to think the best was yet to come. They would not be disappointed.

Grade = 7.51

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quarter Century Review: This Nation's Saving Grace

The Fall
This Nation's Saving Grace
Beggars Banquet
Produced by John Leckie

Another album I had some trepidation in bothering with. But part of the point of this recurring feature was giving something a fresh listen to see if time had changed my ears. I certainly liked the short opening of "Mansion," that set a mood that I'm not sure matches with the album other than the musical archetype reprisal with the closer, "To NK Roachment: Yarbles,". The repetitiveness of "Spolit Victorian Child," is not redeemed by its blah instrumental interlude. "L.A.," and "Paint Work," are nice diversions from the Clash-esque guitar string-plucking romp of the majority of the album, which, as time wares on, starts to irritate.

It is difficult to deny the magnetism of frontman Mark E. Smith. His performance on the album is impossible to ignore, if not enjoy. I find that this album is far less annoying than other Fall albums I've heard and deserves multiple, but limited, listens.

Overall Grade = 7.03

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Pitchfork Festival Schedule: Because I Know You Care

Though I say it every year, "I'm never going to Pitchfork again", here I go again. I at least drew the line at not going Saturday. Other than Raekwon and Titus Andronicus, I really couldn't care less. As for the rest, these are the must watches:

Friday (I should be arriving as this entry posts):
4:30 El-P, dick around until
7:20 Broken Social Scene
8:30 Modest Mouse

1:55 Best Coast
4:15 Lightning Bolt, then rush over to
4:45 Surfer Blood, then lightly jog over to
5:15 St. Vincent
6:15 Major Lazer
7:25 Big Boi
8:30 Pavement

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Little Creatures

Talking Heads
Little Creatures
Produced by Talking Heads

To be honest, I'm not sure why I'm even listening to this in its entirety. I have, on occasion, enjoyed some Talking Heads tunes but the thought of an entire album rubs me the wrong way. There are certain instances where David Byrne's voice is not so irritating (like his 2007 collaboration with Brian Eno) but this album is not it.

Creatures starts off well enough with "And She Was,". There is then the canyon that the album inevitably falls into. It claws its way out for "Stay Up Late," only to slip back down into the deep recesses of pop hell. Early Talking Heads had an edge to it that is largely missing here. The eighties weren't kind to many artists and Byrne and company were not exempt.

Overall Grade = 6.83

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

All-Time Best EPs

The EP is somewhat of a lost art. There are several indie bands like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, No Age, and Fucked Up trying to keep it alive. Longer than a single, the name "Extended Play" makes it sound like it should be a really long album. But as albums were "Long Players", I guess the name is fitting. Anyhow, here is the list of my favorite all-time EPs:

Engineered by Dave Achelis
Plan 9 Records, 1978

The second Misfits release and first to establish the horror punk asthetic they are now known for. With the title track's brutal depiction of the aftermath of JFK's assassination and the chorus to "Attitude", it would be hard not to consider Glenn Danzig a male chauvinist. "We Are 138," is a violent call-to-arms and "Hollywood Babylon," is the first classic to delve into Danzig's fascination with the town. The four tracks were later released on the amazing Static Age comp.

Nine Inch Nails
Produced by Trent Reznor with Flood
Nothing/TVT Records, 1992

Broken is the most industrial Nine Inch Nails release. The guitars are front and center this time, as is the anger. Like other Reznor penned projects, this one is filled with dejected disenchantment. "Wish," and "Last," are the most aggressively excellent 1-2 punch in the NIN catalog, followed closely two tracks later by "Happiness In Slavery," and "Gave Up,". The two "hidden" covers are also gems. "Physical," can make you believe that Adam Ant was capable of great things and "Suck," would go on to be a live staple.

Mission Of Burma
Signals, Calls, And Marches
Produced by Richard W. Harte
Ace Of Hearts Records, 1981

No EP starts off with a better song than "That's When I Reach For My Revolver,". I have always been a greater fan of Clint Conley songs than Roger Miller songs and "Revolver," is the only Conley contribution on Signals and it outshines every other track. To be fair, Miller followed up that classic with four stellar tracks that are better than most subsequent Burma album tracks. The one Conley/Miller collaboration is the one just OK track on the album. They must have felt that way too as, almost 30 years later, there has not been another songwriting collaboration between the two.

Alice In Chains
Jar Of Flies
Produced by Alice In Chains
Columbia Records, 1994

I hope when historically, when we look back at the Seattle scene in the 1990's, Alice In Chains will get their just due. There are doomed to never be revered like Nirvana because Kurt Cobain died before he could make any mediocre music. Pearl Jam are the goodwill ambassadors of Seattle just because they tour endlessly and battle billion dollar ticket corporations. They haven't actually made any worthwhile music since 1995. AIC also flamed out too early due to the overdose of lead singer Layne Staley. But they did have one spectacular album, Dirt, and this beautiful left turn follow-up. Jar solidified Jerry Cantrell's place as one of rock's most gifted songwriters and Alice In Chains as versatile force to be reckoned with.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Slow Riot For New Zerø Kanada
Recorded and mixed by Dale Morningstar
Constellation Records, 1999

For only 2 songs, this EP runs over 27 minutes and has some strange backstory. The first song is named for guitarist Mike Moya, who left the group prior to the release. The second features the band putting their exquisite instrumental accompaniment to the raving poetry of a street performer going by the name Blaise Bailey Finnegan III, thus "BBF3,". What the band didn't realize at the time was that passages of Finnegan's poetry were taken directly from the Iron Maiden single, "Virus,", co-written by one Blaze Bayley, the ill-received, ill-voiced, and short-lived third singer for Maiden. That aside, Godspeed were never known for lyrics since they never wrote any, and the music was wonderful.

Black Flag
Nervous Breakdown
Produced by David Tarling & Black Flag
SST Records, 1978

The 4 best songs from Black Flag may have been their first 4. Now, I like Henry Rollins (see later in list) but even I can't deny that Keith Morris was the best frontman to carry the Flag. The title track was the blueprint for hardcore. Self-isolation? Check. Threat of violence? Check. Short, raw and concise. It may sound bad but Greg Ginn's guitar playing was much better when he wasn't so ambitious.

Minor Threat
In My Eyes
Engineered by Don Zientara
Dischord Records, 1981

The second hardcore entry on this list and it was a tough one. I was going to have the original Minor Threat EP because there were 7 great songs compared to In My Eyes' 4 songs. In the end, though, the title track was too much to ignore here. "In My Eyes," was the longest MT song to date and it had an MC5 feel to it complete with *gasp* tempo changes. "Guilty Of Being White," is a classic anthem of reverse racism. Both songs were eventually covered by much more financially successful bands. Rage Against The Machine's "In My Eyes," is perhaps even more emotionally charged than the original but Slayer's "Guilty Of Being Right," was a miscalculation. EP ends with a raucous version of "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone,".

Lacuna Coil
Lacuna Coil
Produced by Waldemar Sorychta
Century Media Records, 1998

This EP is basically the cause for all the horrendous "metal" bands that are fronted by women like Evanescence and Flyleaf. Where those bands failed is that Cristina Scabbia has a mystique to her voice and there is something that European and unable to be quantified about the band. "Falling," is an amazing song. Sorychta's production was key to the band's development as well. As the band moved onto American producers and were influenced more by American bands, the more they started to sound like the terrible bands they spawned. But the sparseness of the arrangements here works well for these songs.

Henrietta Collins and The Wifebeating Childhaters
Drive By Shooting
Produced by Norm Clout
Texas Hotel Records, 1987

This is a humorous, tongue-in-cheek release from Henry Rollins with future Rollins Band guitarist Chris Haskett. It starts with the surf rock title track about exactly what you would think. Following that is a positively stellar cover of Wire's "Ex-Lion Tamer," that actually improves on the original (even if the lyrics are wrong, what are they anyway?). What follows are the hard rock version of a knock knock joke, a strange tale of a widow and tools, a mutilation of "We Will Rock You", the mock recording of a sex act, and a nice uptempo instrumental number. I wish Rollins' music could reclaim some of this humor.

Bad Brains
Omega Sessions
Recorded and mixed by Billy Brady
Victory Records, 1997

Recorded in 1980, Omega Sessions are little more than demos but are somehow the definitive versions of the classics "I Against I", "At The Movies", and "Attitude,". These songs had all been recorded several times with different tempos and pitches. It is a shame that the band didn't make more formal recordings of these versions.

Your turn. Any suggestions?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Albums I Didn't Have Time to Write Full Reviews Of Part 6

Janelle Monáe
The Archandroid
Wonderland Arts Society/Bad Boy Records

I wish I had heard this earlier as it is as fresh-sounding an album as I have heard in ages. There are Michael Jackson elements but put through a Beyoncé filter. At least 3 future classic tracks here. Fantastic.

Overall Grade = 8.36

Something For Everybody
Warner Bros. Records

Leave it to Devo to make an album that is dancier and more timely than any of their previous efforts. They were always ahead of the curve as far as their sonic landscape but this album fits this era creating the impression that pop culture has caught up these New Wavers. Strangely enough, it is their most club-ready track that I enjoy the best.

Overall Grade = 7.43

Stone Temple Pilots
Stone Temple Pilots
Atlantic Records

Admittedly, this is an album that I kind of avoided listening to. It was not nearly as wretched as I thought it would be. This is a fairly solid effort. Would have higher marks if not for a couple of less than mediocre tracks.

Overall Grade = 7.4

LCD Soundsystem
This Is Happening
DFA/Virgin Records

Let me start off by saying LCD Soundsystem is never playing in my house...my house. That being said, "I Can Change," is now in heavy rotation. Too bad nothing else on the album is.

Overall Grade = 6.8

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fate Of The Metal Gods

Ozzy Osbourne

Let's start with the bad news. For all I can say about this album, the one positive is that the title is apropos. It did make me want to Scream at Ozzy.

"Get away from Kevin Churko and get a new writing partner!" or "Who is Gus G and why him?"

This is easily Ozzy's most disappointing album of new material in two decades. It is just really uninspired. It is a shame because the song that Ozzy contributed vocals (also co-written by Churko) to the Slash compilation should have been a good portent. With Velvet Revolver in limbo and Slash with no real permanent gig, that would seem to be a great partnership. What Ozzy needs is a true musical partner, a visionary in the vein of Randy Rhoades (hard to come by, I realize). Mr. Pinched Harmonics Zakk Wylde managed to make at least one amazing and a few other solid albums as the foil for the Prince Of Darkness. The first with Wylde, No Rest For The Wicked, would be the aforementioned last big disappointment. So perhaps it is unfair to place much blame on Gus G as he didn't write a note on the album. He is little more than a hired hand at this point. It is also no coincidence that the band's sound suffers since the rhythm section came directly from Rob Zombie, who himself is in a big-time musical slump.

Even 2007's Black Rain delivered some classic, signature Ozzy tracks. Every one of his albums has at least that one great song. Until now. There's no "Bark At The Moon," no "Fire In The Sky," or even a "Gets Me Through," here. Like shock rock disciples Zombie and Marilyn Manson, Osbourne has become guilty of being uninteresting.

Track Grades:
  1. Let It Die - 6.5
  2. Let Me Hear You Scream - 4.8
  3. Soul Sucker - 6.2
  4. Life Won't Wait - 7.7
  5. Diggin' Me Down - 7.0
  6. Crucify - 6.7
  7. Fearless - 6.0
  8. Time - 8.0
  9. I Want It More - 7.4
  10. Latimer's Mercy - 6.1
  11. I Love You All - 5.3
Overall Grade = 6.52

Deth Red Saboath
Evilive/The End Records
LP (Import)/CD

Now for the good news: Evil Elvis is back with his most consistent album since Danzig 4p (not counting 2007's stellar Lost Tracks Of Danzig comp). As always, the true album highlights are when Glenn's voice is used as a weapon, not just a blunt instrument. The leadoff track, "Hammer Of The Gods," is perhaps the best album track since 1993's "How The Gods Kill,". It does go decidedly downhill from there but that is only because of the incredible heights of that track.

The rest of the album is altogether solid, not necessarily eternal stuff, but nice. The obvious issue overall is the production and mix. Though he has the greatest voice in metal (now that Ronnie James Dio has passed), Glenn Danzig has preferred to almost drown out his voice on every album that he has produced. Rick Rubin knew what he had on those first four classic albums. Like his later work with Johnny Cash, Rubin tried to keep a sparse arrangement, allowing his electric frontman to truly shine as the centerpiece of every track. As Danzig became more and more enamored with electronic influences, the more his voice was hidden and manipulated to the point where it almost wasn't recognizeable. While there are not a lot of effects on his voice this time, Danzig has kept the general sound of Deth Red Saboath sludgy. This isn't Tool where Maynard James Keenan and the band have gone on record as saying that the vocals are just another instrument in the mix and shouldn't be front and center. This is Danzig. Glenn is the main attraction and should allow himself to be that. If and when he comes back to that notion, as long as he keeps writing songs this impressive, that is a recipe for a classic.

Track Grades:
  1. Hammer Of The Gods - 9.9
  2. The Revengeful - 8.0
  3. Rebel Spirits - 7.7
  4. Black Candy - 7.7
  5. On A Wicked Night - 7.8
  6. Deth Red Moon - 7.3
  7. Ju Ju Bone - 8.1
  8. Night Star Hel - 7.5
  9. Incanticle - 7.0
  10. Seasons Of Pain - 8.5
  11. Left Hand Rise Above - 8.3
Overall Grade = 7.98

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Fables Of The Reconstruction

Fables Of The Reconstruction
Produced by Joe Boyd

By this time, the band were indie alternative darlings that could do no wrong. Murmur was a dynamic debut and Reckoning showed R.E.M.'s myriad of influences. Fables was a more concerted effort to conquer rock singles charts with longtime staples "Feeling Gravity's Pull", "Driver 8", "Life And How To Live It", and "Can't Get There From Here,". Unlike what would come in the next decade, there weren't any true classics on this album but there were many great, solid songs.

In fact, out of their eighties output, this would be their weakest effort. But that's like saying Ringo Starr was the Beatles worst member (he was). Another solid album but it would be their last ho-hum effort for over a decade.

Overall Grade = 7.74

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Collaborations That Are Less Than The Sum Of Their Parts

Broken Bells
Broken Bells
Sub Pop

Grade = 5.77

Nas & Damian Marley
Distant Relatives
Universal Republic Records

Grade = 6.03

These were extremely disappointing, much like last year's Monsters Of Folk and Them Crooked Vultures.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Besnard Lakes Live Review

Caught The Besnard Lakes at the Pritzker Pavilion last night for the latest installment of the venue's Free Concert Series. It was kind of a nightmare getting into the city and ended up missing a couple of songs. But what I heard was enough to whet my appetite for more. A band with a sound that big should come from more than 4 members. The Arcade Fire has 35 members and they can't reach the crescendo that Jace Lasek (guitar/keybords/vocal), Olga Goreas (bass/vocal), Kevin Laing (drums), and Rich White (drums) manage to inflict upon the audience. Add into the fact that Lasek is a master-produced and it's amazing that the band can even come close to recreating the vast expanse of their studio works. I will definitely pay to see my perceived best band in the world right now when they come around next.

Thursday, May 20, 2010



Slash, following in the footsteps of fellow (and superior) lead guitarists like Tony Iommi and Carlos Santana, decided to put out a record with 12 different lead singers. The results are expectedly mixed. The guitarwork is, of course, not too shabby. The interesting part, as well as detriment to these songs, is that Slash conforms to the styles of the singer. With singers like The Cult's Ian Astbury (who will sing for anyone, anytime, and anywhere), Ozzy, and Iggy Pop, this technique works. Working with mediocre "artists" like Myles Kennedy and Adam Levine shows Slash playing down to their level. Not to say that they better the singer the better the song.

The album nosedives after the surprisingly pleasant "Beautiful Dangerous," with Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson. Even after the unforgiveable "Billie Jean," cover and terrible collaboration with Timbaland, Chris Cornell has still found a way to reach new lows. Once, Cornell was the greatest, most powerful voice in rock. Now, he is nothing more than Tom Waits in training. Lemmy also has a hard time fitting in here. He was much more at home on the Rise Above compilation singing Black Flag's "Thirsty And Miserable,". This collection, ultimately, is just more evidence of how Axl Rose and Slash should bury the hatchet (preferably not into each other). Musically, it is clear that they miss each other. And we miss them too.

Track Grades:
  1. Ghost feat. Ian Astbury - 7.4
  2. Crucify The Dead feat. Ozzy Osbourne - 8.8
  3. Beautiful Dangerous feat. Fergie - 7.8
  4. Back From Cali feat. Myles Kennedy - 5.5
  5. Promise feat. Chris Cornell - 3.6
  6. By The Sword feat. Andrew Stockdale - 5.8
  7. Gotten feat. Adam Levine - 2.5
  8. Doctor Alibi feat. Lemmy Kilmister - 7.0
  9. Watch This feat. Dave Grohl & Duff McKagan - 8.0
  10. I Hold On feat. Kid Rock - 6.9
  11. Nothing To Say feat. M. Shadows - 6.5
  12. Starlight feat. Myles Kennedy - 4.9
  13. Saint Is A Sinner Too feat. Rocco DeLuca - 3.8
  14. We're All Gonna Die feat. Iggy Pop - 7.6
Overall Grade = 6.15

Monday, May 17, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Killing Is My Business

Killing Is My Business....And Business Is Good
Produced by Dave Mustaine and Karat Faye

The album that began the quest of Dave Mustaine to crush his former bandmates in Metallica beneath his bootheels starts with, curiously, a piano. Seconds later, the thrashing begins with "Last Rites/Loved To Deth,". There would be no relenting again. Though Megadeth's legacy in metal is now cemented, in 1985 Dave Mustaine was desperate to succeed and to prove to his detractors that he could be a force to be reckoned with.

If comparing this to Metallica's debut Kill 'Em All, I'll probably give the edge to Metallica. However, Mustaine had a great deal to do with the songs and musical direction of Kill 'Em All, having several songwriting credits. One of theose credits was the classic "The Four Horseman,", the one song that was poached a bit here with the album's closing track "Mechanix,". Musically, the original lineup of Dave Ellefson on bass, Chris Poland on lead guitar, and Gar Samuelson is the second best of many configurations of Megadeth (first being the early-mid '90s lineup). At the end of the day, Mustaine and company definitely made a debut album to be proud of and instantly made a name for themselves as one of thrash metal's best and pioneers of the genre.

Overall Grade = 8.11

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Low-Life

New Order
Produced by New Order

In 1983, New Order chose to go in a new direction, departing from producer Martin Hannett. Whereas Hannett's mix of having the bass and drums in the forefront and the guitar just laying atmosphere worked in adding to the doom and dire attitude of Joy Division's records, New Order's music (despite some of the lyrical content) was far cheerier. And with their first self-produced album Power, Corruption & Lies, the band had finally freed themselves musically of the spectre of Ian Curtis.

As for the songs themselves, they no longer bore any resemblence to Joy Division either (unless you count that Peter Hook's basslines were still the driving force of the band). This was also the first time (for New Order or Joy Division) to include planned singles on an album ("The Perfect Kiss," and "Sub-Culture,"). Low-Life, for me, succeeds greatest with the album's bookend tracks "Love Vigilantes," and "Face Up,". The mix is very bright without being glossy. The results of their complete transformation into synth-pop is on display here and they do not disappoint. However, at being albeit just under an 8 out of 10, this album does not rank with classic status.

Overall Grade = 7.99

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The National - High Violet

The National
High Violet

Let's just say that the Brothers Dessner should give strong consideration to making The National an instrumental band like Bryce Dessner's side project, The Clogs. Aaron Dessner is the chief composer of the music on High Violet, however, and he seems content in letting Matt Berninger's vocals turn his often lovely music into a third rate Joy Division. Imagine Dustin Hoffman singing "Atmosphere," and you have an idea as to what "Sorrow," sounds like. After 11 tracks, you are an expert as to what sorrow sounds like. "Anyone's Ghost," could be a drunken studio outtake from Depeche Mode. High Violet is, at its worst, a snooze fest. At its best, an even more boring version of The Smiths. Listening to this album is painful to me because I think of what could have been with competent vocals. As it is, High Violet is a mediocre '80s relic.

Track Grades:
  1. Terrible Love - 6.5
  2. Sorrow - 4.6
  3. Anyone's Ghost - 4.9
  4. Little Faith - 4.3
  5. Afraid Of Everyone - 5.1
  6. Bloodbuzz Ohio - 7.2
  7. Lemonworld - 5.9
  8. Runaway - 3.8
  9. Conversation 16 - 5.0
  10. England - 4.5
  11. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks - 4.7
Overall Grade = 5.14

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Holy Fuck - Latin

Holy Fuck
XL Recordings/Young Turks

Fans of !!! looking for something similar with a little bit harder of an edge would do well checking out Latin. There are also Crystal Methodisms and, while a bit on the dancy side, I even hear elements of the Italian horror movie soundtrack band Goblin. The basslines are strong and the beats are, for the most part, too organic (there is a live drummer and no programming) to toss this into a gimmicky electronica category. Electronica artists are called groups or acts. Holy Fuck is far more unique, an electronica band.

Tracks like "Red Light," and "Stilletos," would be great as a track playing during a police chase. If Rockstar Games are looking for new music for the next Grand Theft Auto, they should start here. Strangely enough, "P.I.G.S." isn't relentless enough for such a thing. I can hardly imagine listening to this for extended periods of time, as I can't stand that much pep, but there is something inherently enjoyable about this album and I figured today (Cinco de Mayo) would be a good day to celebrate Latin.

Track Grades:
  1. 1MD - 7.0
  2. Red Lights - 8.8
  3. Latin America - 7.6
  4. Stay Lit - 8.1
  5. Silva & Grimes - 7.3
  6. SHT MTN - 7.8
  7. Stilettos - 8.5
  8. Lucky - 8.2
  9. P.I.G.S. - 7.5
Overall Grade = 7.87

Monday, May 03, 2010

The New Pornographers - Together

The New Pornographers
Matador Records

I am a huge fan of A.C. Newman, Neko Case, and The New Pornographers but I must say, Together is not my favorite. You can normally judge the overall strength of a New Pornos record by the quality of the songs written by Destroyer's Dan Bejar. Mass Romantic and Challengers, to me, are the best New Pornographers albums and they feature the likes of "To Wild Homes", "Execustion Day", and "Myriad Harbour,". Electric Version and Twin Cinema contain the blech "Chump Change", "Jackie Dressed In Cobras", and "Streets Of Fire,". However, Bejar is not to be blamed this time. I can't believe it either.

Bejar, for his part, delivers a couple of decent songs with "Silver Jenny Dollar," and "If You Can't See My Mirrors,". There are also some great, vintage A.C. Newman-New Pornos tracks like "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk", "Crash Years",  and the Roy Orbison-esque "Up In The Dark,". There are rhythmically pleasing tracks like "Your Hands (Together)," and "A Bite Out Of My Bed,". On the other side of it, though, "Valkyrie In The Roller Disco," may be the least interesting song ever written by Newman. One has to wonder how great this album could have been had Newman saved a couple of tracks from his solo album, Get Guilty. The album lacks another up-tempo gem like "The Palace At 4 AM,". If Newman can pick what he considers to be the best of Bejar's songs for The New Pornographers, he may want to consider that the next time he wants to put out a solo record.

Track Grades:
  1. Moves - 7.7
  2. Crash Years - 8.6
  3. Your Hands (Together) - 8.0
  4. Silver Jenny Dollar - 7.4
  5. Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk - 9.3
  6. My Shepherd - 7.2
  7. If You Can't See My Mirrors - 7.6
  8. Up In The Dark - 8.4
  9. Valkyrie In The Roller Disco - 6.5
  10. A Bite Out Of My Bed - 7.5
  11. Daughters Of Sorrow - 7.1
  12. We End Up Together - 7.4
Overall Grade = 7.75

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

Broken Social Scene
Forgiveness Rock Record
Arts & Crafts

I wasn't really on board with BSS until 2005's classic self-titled romp, and it appears they aren't looking back. They have become an indie rock band in the vein and relative importance of Pavement. Unlike Arcade Fire, too many cooks barely disturb the pot that Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, and company are cooking in. With so many singers and guest musicians, you would think there would be clutter with players choosing their spots but each track is well-crafted. The songs aren't trying to be overly catchy, more calculating and solid.

"World Sick," kicks it off and it may be the highlight of the album. There is a great pace throughout the first half that is more reminiscent of Feel Good Lost than the self-titled record. This album is really the marriage of what the band started off as and what they became into something bigger. This is just the latest progression of their musical identity. There are plenty of new elements, such as the use of the Dap-Kings' horn section on "Art House Director," that does not only take away (You may recall my distaste for horns in rock music) or annoy but is welcome. Half way through the album, I'm not even sure who I'm listening to anymore. "Ungrateful Little Father," could just as easily fit on a Modest Mouse album. The second half slows everything down. Typically, of course, albums run bi-polar in pace: up-tempo/ballad/up-tempo/slow, etc. This album more once to wake you up and then chill you out, at least until standout track "Water In Hell," gives you one last adrenaline rush before Kevin Drew delivers his not-for-kids lullabye, "Me And My Hand," which is certainly the low point of the album. Judging by the whole, the album would have benefitted from leaving this last track off because it is, by far, the weakest track and has no energy.

Listening to this album is a bigger ordeal than you realize going in but there are certainly plenty of rewards along the way. The band has taken another step on a different path. They took some steps off the trail but I believe eventually arrived where they wanted.

Track Grades:
  1. World Sick - 8.9
  2. Chase Scene - 7.7
  3. Texico Bitches - 8.3
  4. Forced To Love - 8.1
  5. All To All - 8.7
  6. Art House Director - 8.4
  7. Highway Slipper Jam - 7.2
  8. Ungrateful Little Father - 7.5
  9. Meet Me In The Basement - 8.0
  10. Sentimental X's - 7.7
  11. Sweetest Kill - 7.9
  12. Romance To The Grave - 8.2
  13. Water In Hell - 8.6
  14. Me And My Hand - 6.8
Overall Grade = 8.00

Broken Social Scene
Lo-Fi For The Dividing Nights
Arts & Crafts
Download only

Like 2005's self-titled, there is a concurrent collection of outtakes and leftovers along with a new LP. Largely consisting of what could be instrumental interludes on another album, this EP is really for die hard fans. If you can only download individual tracks, I recommend "Eling's Haus," and "Paperweight Room,".

Track Grades:
  1. New Instructions - 6.9
  2. Sudden Foot Loss - 6.5
  3. Shabba Lights - 6.1
  4. Song For Dee - 7.0
  5. Eling's Haus - 7.8
  6. Professor Sambo - 5.9
  7. Never Felt Alive - 7.4
  8. Paperweight Room - 7.7
  9. Turbo Mouse - 6.2
  10. Far Out - 6.8
Overall Grade = 6.83

Friday, April 30, 2010

Lapsed Review Round-up

There a couple of things I wanted to at least put my ratings on that I was late in hearing:

Titus Andronicus
The Monitor
XL Recordings

This is my favorite album of the year so far. It expands on the tempate created on their debut The Airing Of Grievances. Full of false endings and strangely addictive hooks, I have very few grievances to air about this album.

Overall Grade = 9.11

Black Tambourine
Black Tambourine

The timing for releasing this complete collection of old (and four new) Black Tambourine songs has never been more right as countless bands (The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Vivian Girls, Surfer Blood, Best Coast, etc.) are all becoming indie media darlings, having borrowed from Black Tambourine's sonic landscape. Strangley, Black Tambourine is not quite as interesting musically or melodically as some of those bands or their contemporaries (My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus & Mary Chain). Nevertheless, if you look at this collection as an album, it is fairly enjoyable.

Overall Grade = 7.94

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Black Francis - Nonstoperotik

Black Francis
Cooking Vinyl

Wait. Let me get this straight. The label is called Cooking Vinyl but the album is only available on a CD? OK then. Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of the Pixies, the first two Frank Black solo albums, as well as the first Black Francis solo album, Bluefinger. So it is with great disappointment that I have reviewed Nonstoperotik.

No matter what Charles Thompson calls himself, he is nothing if not prolific. When it was revealed in the liner notes of Frank Black's Christmass, the part-live part-studio album, that songs were indeed being written by Black Francis, I was excited and cringing all at once. I can get behind the reunion tour with the Pixies to get his share of the millions that Nirvana and other band made from his influence. But recording under that name again when you had long renounced it smelled of nothing but cashing in. Bluefinger, however, had some real gems including Thompson's finest post-Pixies tune, "Threshold Apprehension,". The idea is that we were supposed to hear the strangeness again. This collection shows slightly more resemblence to the Pixies than the output of Frank Black & The Catholics.

There are a few tracks worth checking out, if for nothing other than hearing Thompson's chord progressions and unique timing. The hope here is that, with bringing keyboard player Eric Feldman back into the fold, we could hear something like "Alec Eiffel," or "Hang On To Your Ego," again. But living in the past is fantasy and trying to recapture it is foolhardy. Sound advice for the listener and the artist.

Track Grades:
  1. Lake Of Sin - 7.0
  2. O My Tidy Sum - 8.4
  3. Rabbits - 4.7
  4. Wheels - 8.1
  5. Dead Man's Curve - 8.3
  6. Corrina - 7.2
  7. Six Legged Man - 7.8
  8. Wild Son - 6.7
  9. When I Go Down On You - 7.3
  10. Nonstoperotik - 5.6
  11. Cinema Star - 7.7
Overall Grade = 7.16

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Around The World In A Day

Prince And The Revolution
Around The World In A Day
Warner Bros.
Produced by Prince

These days, much of the world regards Prince as just a weirdo. Much in the way that Michael Jackson's reputation was tarnished because of allegations and many, many plastic surgeries, Prince's legacy is a tad shadowed by his eccentricities. This is the price for living such a public life in an age of pop culture transparency. There was a time, though, that both artists were regarded as geniuses.

Around The World In A Day is one of several albums in the eighties that exemplified the pop craftmanship of Prince Rogers Nelson. An album with two amazing singles ("Paisley Park," and "Raspberry Beret,"), soulful ballads ("Condition Of The Heart," and "The Ladder,"), and up-tempo dance tracks ("America,"), ATWIAD is smack dab in the middle of the era of Prince's creative apex. The album shows a prodigy continuing to expand his horizons and test the boundaries of his audience with a diverse group of songs and not just aiming for potential singles. It polarizes, it challenges, and does its intended job with expectedly mixed results. The truly wonderful moments on the album do ring clearer than the so-called shortcomings and do stand up 25 years later.

Overall Grade = 8.12

Monday, April 19, 2010

Best Ever Non-Album B-Sides

With Records Store Day just passed, I thought we could celebrate what makes vinyl special - an A- and B-side. Some b-sides are fantastic songs that, for some reason or another, never made it onto an album. This is their list.

Let's have some qualifiers before we start:
No live tracks, no remixes, or alternate versions of songs that appear on other original pressings of studio albums by the artists. No tracks from EPs, singles only. Tracks added to later or deluxe versions of albums as well as tracks on singles or b-sides compilations by the artist are eligible.
OK, now that that's out of the way:

  1. "Silver Springs," Fleetwood Mac (b-side of "Go Your Own Way," 1977)
  2. "You Looking At Me Looking At You," Ozzy Osbourne (b-side of "Crazy Train," 1980)
  3. "Hey, Hey What Can I Do," Led Zeppelin (b-side of "Immigrant Song," 1970)
  4. "Am I Evil?" Metallica (b-side of "Creeping Death," 1984)
  5. "An Ugly Death," Jay Reatard (b-side of "Painted Shut," 2008)
  6. "Burning Ambition," Iron Maiden (b-side of "Running Free," 1980)
  7. "I Want You Around," Ramones (b-side of "Rock 'N Roll Radio," 1979)
  8. "Children In Heat," The Misfits (b-side of "Horror Business," 1979)
  9. "Did You No Wrong," Sex Pistols (b-side of "God Save The Queen," 1977)
  10. "Devil Bunnies," My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult (b-side of "Kooler Than Jesus," 1989)
  11. "Ages Of You," R.E.M. (b-side of "Wendell Gee," 1985)
  12. "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore," Prince (b-side of "1999," 1982)
  13. "Dive," Nirvana (b-side of "Sliver," 1990)
  14. "Neat Parts," Fucked Up (b-side of "Triumph Of Life," 2006)
  15. "Footsteps," Pearl Jam (b-side of "Jeremy," 1991)
  16. "Flying Dutchman," Tori Amos (b-side of "China," 1992)
  17. "Into The White," Pixies (b-side of "Here Comes Your Man," 1989)
  18. "When Death Had No Name," Danzig (b-side of "Dirty Black Summer," 1992)
  19. "I Don't Think I'm Ever Gonna Figure It Out," Elliott Smith (b-side of "Speed Trials," 1996)
  20. "Novelty," Joy Division (b-side of "Transmission," 1979)

I'm sure there are some real gems that I'm missing here, so let me know.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - I Learned The Hard Way

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
I Learned The Hard Way
Daptone Recording Co.

The R&B soul revival began in earnest over a decade ago with The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill but as quickly as the former Fugee made this musical genre relevant again, she vanished from public consciousness. Thank goodness for Sharon Jones. Admittedly, I watched at least 40 minutes of a "Best Of Soul Train" infomercial last night but my interest in this music has been re-ignited. And I have Ms. Jones & The Dap-Kings to thank for that.

This music is so authentic that it's hard to believe that it is new. The rest of the Dap-Kings are very able musicians and, with Jones's voice and the production of Bosco Mann, they form a perfect union. I Learned The Hard Way is, in short, an album that is very easy to enjoy. There are fantastic grooves galore and no wasted time (unlike the Lauryn Hill album that suffered from the need to have skits, a hip-hop staple). The arrangements are rich without being cluttered. And the horns, oh how I usually loathe horns, mesh wonderfully. There is plenty of great R&B, soul, and Motown flavor to silence even the staunchest critics. It may not be the best but this is my most enjoyed album of the year so far.

Track Grades:
  1. The Game Gets Old - 8.5
  2. I Learned The Hard Way - 8.8
  3. Better Things - 8.2
  4. Give It Back - 7.8
  5. Money - 8.5
  6. The Reason - 7.5
  7. Window Shopping - 9.1
  8. She Ain't A Child No More - 7.7
  9. I'll Still Be True - 8.1
  10. Without A Heart - 8.4
  11. If You Call - 8.7
  12. Mama Don't Like My Man - 8.5
Overall Grade = 8.32

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dead Kings Rise Again

Jimi Hendrix
Valleys Of Neptune

Posthumous albums usually make me cringe. Not just because of the creep factor of mining the vaults of a dead musician for some last way to squeeze some proverbial blood from the stone. Like previous Hendrix collections, Valleys Of Neptune contains different versions of previously released material. The record kicks off with a more up-tempo version of "Stone Free," than was originally on Are You Experienced. It sounds far less menacing than the original and less of a threat from a man exercising his right to freedom.

Then comes the long sought after "Valleys Of Neptune", a decent enough song but hardly the long lost Hendrix classic. The covers of "Bleeding Heart", which is also a competent track with blistering Jimi guitar mastery, and the instrumental Cream "classic" "Sunshine Of Your Love," improve on their originals. I know it sounds as though I don't like this record, but I do. I do think it is the voyeuristing feeling of listening to this that maybe taints my feeling. The tracks are still strong. It's Jimi Fuckin' Hendrix! "Hear My Train A Comin'," and "Mr. Bad Luck," are fantastic and fresh. I could have done without the re-working of classics. But the lesser known or previously unknown traacks do not sully Jimi's legacy.

Track Grades:
  1. Stone Free - 8.8
  2. Valleys Of Neptune - 8.6
  3. Bleeding Heart - 8.4
  4. Hear My Train A Comin' - 9.3
  5. Mr. Bad Luck - 9.5
  6. Sunshine Of Your Love - 7.8
  7. Lover Man - 8.2
  8. Ships Passing Through The Night - 7.5
  9. Fire - 8.5
  10. Red House - 8.0
  11. Lullaby For The Summer - 8.7
  12. Crying Blue Rain - 8.5
Overall Grade=8.48

Johnny Cash
American VI: Ain't No Grave
Lost Highway

With all of the output that Rick Rubin managed to record from Johnny over the last few years of his life, it's easy to imagine Rubin locking Cash in a cabin yelling, "Sing, monkey, sing!". Even so, it is difficult to deny the effectiveness of Cash's voice, weakened by age, singing the remainder of his dwindling lifeforce over this simple arrangements. Ain't No Grave, like its posthumous predecessor A Hundred Highways, is little more than a collection of outtakes.

The first two tracks are lovely, poignant gems. Never has a Sheryl Crow song sounded so meaningful. And the title track is the prerequesite ominous tune about death or the endtimes in the vein of previous American album tracks like "The Man Comes Around", "God's Gonna Cut You Down",  or "The Mercy Seat,". Some albums are jam packed with them. After those first two songs, however, the record just gets bogged down and makes me sad, honestly.

Track Grades:
  1. Ain't No Grave - 9.3
  2. Redemption Day - 9.0
  3. For The Good Times - 7.4
  4. I Corinthians 15:55 - 7.8
  5. Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound - 7.4
  6. A Satisfied Mind - 7.6
  7. I Don't Hurt Anymore - 7.7
  8. Cool Water - 7.1
  9. Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream - 7.1
  10. Aloha Oe - 6.6
Overall Grade=7.7

Monday, March 22, 2010

Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me

Joanna Newsom
Have One On Me
Drag City

On previous albums, I have found Joanna Newsom to be incredibly talented but annoying. On this ambitious triple album, however, her talent just shines through and her voice only occasionally pierces my brain with hot pokers of shrillness. This is an album whose kind of beauty only Tori Amos has ever managed to show.

The album is remarkably consistent. There aren't any tracks that make you want to puncture your eardrums. That is a rather interesting feats considering that there are 18 real tracks, no interludes or weird intros (unless you count "On A Bad Day,"). There are some real standouts like the title track, "In California," and "Soft As Chalk,". Being a mellow affair, it surprises me that the highlights are the longer songs. Normally, that much somberness is too much to take. Perhaps it allows the multi-intrumentalist to really spread her creative wings. The arrangements on those tracks are, expectedly, more interesting as well. This is the album PJ Harvey wishes she sould have delivered with White Chalk.

There are recurring themes of companionship, drunkedness, regret, loss, and death sprinkled throughout the stories within Have One On Me. There are many characters Newsom sings through as to lead the listener away from thinking her transparent. The depths of feeling are hard to ignore but there's very little you should want to ignore on this album.

Track Grades:
  1. Easy - 7.9
  2. Have One On Me - 8.8
  3. '81 - 7.6
  4. Good Intentions Paving Co. - 8.0
  5. No Provenance - 7.3
  6. Baby Birch - 8.5
  7. On A Good Day - 7.7
  8. You And Me, Bess - 7.1
  9. In California - 9.3
  10. Jackrabbits - 7.9
  11. Go Long - 8.2
  12. Occident - 7.8
  13. Soft As Chalk - 9.2
  14. Esme - 7.7
  15. Autumn - 8.4
  16. Ribbon Bows - 7.4
  17. Kingfisher - 8.7
  18. Does Not Suffice - 8.1
Overall Grade = 8.09

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Titus Andronicus & A SXSW Wishlist

Titus Andronicus is a great young band gaining confidence. While I could not see the performance (best shot of my vantage point below), they were properly raucous and energetic for a free show. It is not difficult to imagine them blowing Ted Leo + The Pharmacists off the stage later that night.

Now, onto my own horrible mis-step. I did not, originally, think it was going to be feasible to get the time off of my day job to get down to South By Southwest. Imagine my surprise when I found that my workload had dwindled to nothing. So, if you could, let me live through you and tell me about these performances. Here is what I would have attended if I would have been in Austin for all the festivities:

Friday, March 12:
  2:00 PM Game On: Funding Gaming Start-Ups In A Recession
  3:30 PM How to Rawk SXSW Film
  4:30 PM The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Screening
  7:00 PM Kick-Ass Screening
10:00 PM Predators First Look w/Robert Rodriguez
11:59 PM Tucker And Dale vs. Evil

Saturday, March 13:
11:00 AM How To Make A Living As A Blogger (needed big time)
12:30 PM Directing the Dead: Genre Directors Spill Their Guts
  2:00 PM Blow Something Up!: Live Action Special Effects
  4:10 PM Zombies, Vampires & Monsters: Fostering Loyal Genre Communities
  6:00 PM The People vs. George Lucas
  7:00 PM The Thorn In The Heart: Michel Gondry
  9:00 PM American Grindhouse

Sunday, March 14:
  1:30 PM The Cow Who Wanted To Be a Burger: George Plimpton
  3:30 PM Jeffrey Tambor's Acting Workshop
  9:30 PM Elektra Luxx Screening

Monday, March 15:
12:30 PM Visual FX for Indies: Big Impact, Small Budgets
  3:30 PM Creating a Graphic Novel Hollywood Will Buy
  4:00 PM American: The Bill Hicks Story
  6:45 PM Lemmy
  9:00 PM The Annual Austin Chronicle Film Bash

Tuesday, March 16:
  9:30 AM 14,000 Songs in 28 Days: A Case Study
11:00 AM Music Licensing for Emerging Media: Apps, Widgets, Viral Videos
  3:30 PM Devo, the Internet and You
  5:00 PM The State of Music Blogs In 2010
  8:00 PM SXSW Film Awards
  9:00 PM SXSW Film Closing/Music Opening Party hosted by VH1 and YouTube

Wednesday, March 17:
12:00 PM Indie Record Labels At The Indie Village
  2:30 PM Martin Atkins & Whitney Francis
  3:00 PM Canadian Blast BBQ
  5:00 PM SXSW Interview: Lemmy
  6:00 PM One Night Only
  8:00 PM Melissa Auf der Maur
  8:45 PM The Walkmen
  9:45 PM Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
10:30 PM Motörhead
12:05 AM Andrew W.K.
wouldn't be going quietly into that good night

Thursday, March 18:
12:30 PM How to Make Money with Vinyl
  2:00 PM Merge Makes Noise
  2:30 PM Mac McCaughan & Laura Ballance
  5:00 PM Why Hasn't the Record Industry Sued Girl Talk?
  7:00 PM Gordon Gano and The Ryan Brothers
  8:30 PM The Besnard Lakes
  9:30 PM The Soft Pack
10:30 PM Drive-By Truckers
11:30 Band Of Horses
12:45 Broken Social Scene

Friday, March 19th:
11:00 AM Chicago Beats by Chicago.com /Music
12:00 PM SXSW Music Stimulus Party
  5:10 PM Jakob Dylan and Three Legs (Featuring Neko Case and Kelly Hogan)
  8:00 PM Thurston Moore
11:00 PM Cymbals Eat Guitars
  1:00 AM The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

Saturday, March 20th:
  1:00 PM Stereogum Range Life
  2:00 PM SXSW Interview: Death
  3:00 PM Death
  8:00 PM This Will Destroy You
10:15 PM Titus Andronicus
  1:15 AM Fucked Up

Bands like Surfer Blood and Les Savy Fav were victims of inconvenient timing. Luckily, I don't have to worry about missing them for something else because I will be missing all of it. [sigh]

Monday, March 15, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Up On The Sun

Meat Puppets
Up On The Sun
Produced by Spot

Like a million others, I was introduced to the Meat Puppets on December 14, 1993. When they joined Nirvana on their Unplugged special to perform a couple of their songs, I thought the songs were pretty good but wouldn't sound as good without Kurt Cobain singing them. While I was right about that, the Meat Puppets do have some merit as artists. Like SST alum (the late) D. Boon, Curt Kirkwood performs some very nimble guitarwork on this album. The album actually sounds like a more mellow Minutemen release.

The much mailgned (by me) production by SST house producer Spot is another fine example of just capturing the band as is, like the New Day Rising review from January. Up On The Sun just might be the slickest sounding SST release. The vocals fit in well with the music and are perfectly blended in the mix without being overpowering. Two of the tracks without vocals ("Maiden's Milk," and "Animal Kingdom,") are perhaps the most enjoyable musically on the album. I can't say that this album will ever be a part of any kind of regular rotation in my listening but I can say that is a very well-crafted album. It starts off great with "Up On The Sun," and does lose a little bit of steam toward the end but it is a great effort overall.

Overall Grade = 8.15