Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quarter Century Review: King Of Rock

King Of Rock
Profile/Arista Records
Produced by Russell Simmons

Simply one of the most influential albums in hip-hop history. Rap rock, for better or worse, would not have existed without Run-D.M.C. and the meddling of Rick Rubin. Before he was a reality TV star, Run was the premier MC in the land and D.M.C. brought the thunder. They bridged the gap between the urban underground and the mainstream.

The opening track is a bit of a throwaway as it is merely just a sampling of what is to come. You should always feel good about skipping ahead to the trio's calling card track, "King Of Rock,". The only real issue with this album is that it gets repetitive but that was very common in early rap music. "You Talk Too Much," may go about 2 minutes too long but the enjoyment of aping this song is timeless. In fact, enough of this. I'm going to find my A.D.I.D.A.S. and stand outside in a b-boy stance.

Overall Grade = 8.09

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shearwater - The Golden Archipelago

The Golden Archipelago

I had to do a double take when first listening to this that I didn't accidentally put an Andrew Bird album on. After the opening cut, I no longer wondered because I suddenly felt like going into the garage and start punching a side of beef , training to get my revenge on the Soviet boxer that killed my friend. All joking aside, Shearwater is actually more enjoyable to me than Jonathan Meiburg's previous band Okkervil River. Now with all of his focus on this project, there are some interesting results. This album should be played in zoos for best effect as the rhythms and themes remind me of the monkey house or aquatic centers.

Though I won't likely have this in my year-end top 25 album list for content (barring a disastrous last 10 months), The Golden Archipelago is the leader for my favorite album title, so that's something.

Track Grades:
  1. Meridian - 7.7
  2. Black Eyes - 7.5
  3. Landscape At Speed - 6.3
  4. Hidden Lakes - 4.7
  5. Corridors - 3.9
  6. God Made Me - 6.7
  7. Runners Of The Sun - 7.0
  8. Castaways - 6.5
  9. An Insular Life - 4.2
  10. Uniforms - 6.9
  11. Missing Islands - 3.2
Overall Grade = 5.87

Friday, February 19, 2010

Beach House - Teen Dream

Beach House
Teen Dream
Sub Pop

Beach House is usually take-it-or-leave-it with me. They just leave me a little blah, (Christine Legrand's voice being reminiscent of a cross between an uninspired Chan Marshall and Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit) like listening to Belle And Sebastian (yuck). Sadly, there is not much here to make me alter my opinion.

This album is just flat. Somewhere deep within each of these tracks are the makings of great songs but got lost along the way. "Lover Of Mine," sounds like a bad Fleetwood Mac cover while "Silver Soul," could be the best song the Cowboy Junkies will never come up with. The musical palette, while producing nice things sonically sometimes, is limited and, therefore, the results are expectedly mixed.

Track Grades:
  1. Zebra - 7.3
  2. Silver Soul - 8.8
  3. Norway - 7.0
  4. Walk In The Park - 6.6
  5. Used To Be - 7.9
  6. Lover Of Mine - 5.4
  7. Better Times - 6.8
  8. 10 Mile Stereo - 6.3
  9. Real Love - 5.1
  10. Take Care - 6.5
Overall Grade = 6.77

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Silver Mt. Zion - Kollaps Tradixionales

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra
Kollaps Tradixionales
2x10"/CD/CD and book

Godspeed You! Black Emperor succeeded in making their music a mystery. In being largely instrumental, the songs gave you a soundtrack to a film inside your head. The former GY!BE members in Silver Mt. Zion still brilliantly play their instruments but added vocals that don't allow the intimate relationship the listener had with Godspeed. Once again, the real highlight is the magnificent violin interplay of Sophie Trudeau and Jessica Moss. Once again, the lone detraction is the grating vocals of founder Efrim Menuck.

As I said, there is some fantastic musicianship here. Had all of these songs been instrumentals (not just tracks 3 and 6), Kollaps would be a transcedent listening experience. The actual song composition and arranging is rather concise rather than the usual sprawling epics. Compared to previous albums, the majority of the songs are relatively short with four tracks clocking in at under 7 minutes (for these guys those are punk songs). The issue there is that Menuck sings as much in the shorter songs as he did in the thirteen minute-plus tracks on 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons. The main standout track is the uncharacteristic rocker "I Built Myself A Metal Bird,".

Ultimately, Silver Mt. Zion is mired in Smashing Pumpkins territory: great music with awful singing. To be fair, though, I would rather listen to this than Billy Corgan any day.

Track Grades:
  1. There Is A Light - 7.5
  2. I Built Myself A Metal Bird - 9.2
  3. I Fed My Metal Bird The Wings Of Other Metal Birds - 9.0
  4. Kollapz Tradixional (Thee Olde Dirty Flag) - 8.3
  5. Collapse Traditional (For Darling) - 7.1
  6. Kollaps Tradicional (Bury 3 Dynamos) - 7.7
  7. 'Piphany Rambler - 7.4
Overall Grade = 8.03

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reviews: Metal Edition Part 2

Two metal acts: one that has just signed to Roadrunner Records and the other having left there because of unfair financial parameters. These two acts are also going in opposite directions as far as quality of music.

Rob Zombie
Hellbilly Deluxe 2

Such is the case with his movies, Rob Zombie should avoid sequels in his music. As poor as 2006's Educated Horses was, this album is far more vanilla. Like Marilyn Manson, Zombie has painted himself into a corner with his image that he feels he needs to live up to that he becomes a caricature. It should come as no surprise then that John 5 returns as his guitar ingenue. 5, of course, was just a guy in a long line of Manson guitar foils. He is, actually, a capable guitar player and the only bright spots of the album are when Zombie manages to fit within the sonic landscape John 5 creates ("Cease To Exist,") and where his guitar abilities shine through (the Grindhouse-inspired "Werewolf Women Of The SS,"). Many of the songs are disjointed with no flow at all and just sound like a White Zombie tribute band with original music. This album was supposed to be some kind of return to form but is really just what Rob Zombie does in between terrible movies nowadays. He has said that this is probably the last physical album he will be releasing and that's a good thing because that'll be less fodder for landfills.

Track Grades:
  1. Jesus Frankenstein - 5.7
  2. Sick Bubblegum - 4.4
  3. What? - 5.4
  4. Mars Needs Women - 2.8
  5. Werewolf, Baby! - 6.0
  6. Virgin Witch - 4.7
  7. Death And Destiny Inside The Dream Factory - 5.8
  8. Burn - 4.6
  9. Cease To Exist - 8.1
  10. Werewolf Women Of The SS - 7.8
  11. The Man Who Laughs - 4.1
Overall Grade = 5.40

Fear Factory
LP/CD/Boxed Set

I was very excited upon learning that this album marked the return of founding guitarist Dino Cazares. I was a little less enthused to find that this was not a full-blown reunion as bassist Christian Olde Wolbers and (one of metal's best) drummer Raymond Herrera would not be joining Cazares and singer Burton Bell. One other cog from the previous lineup remains as Byron Stroud mans the bass as he did when Wolbers moved to guitar. But the pleasant surprise is how Dethklok drummer Gene Hoglan manages to fit in and not miss a beat (ha!). The machine gun assault is firmly intact.

When breaking this down, the thing that sticks out the most is how much Cazares's arranging was missed. Wolbers had tried admirably to ape his guitar style but they didn't have all the different parts to songs that Cazares created. Mechanize is not the caliber of the classic Demanufacture but it is their best album since 1998's Obsolete and they didn't have to resort to covers for airplay. This album still may not see any airplay but that doesn't discount the fact that Mechanize is a tour de force and a new beginning for this "Fear Campaign,".

Track Grades:
  1. Mechanize - 7.8
  2. Industrial Discipline - 8.4
  3. Fear Campaign - 8.7
  4. Powershifter - 8.5
  5. Christploitation - 7.2
  6. Oxidizer - 7.4
  7. Controlled Demolition - 8.1
  8. Designing The Enemy - 8.3
  9. Metallic Division - 7.3
  10. Final Exit - 8.6
Overall Grade = 8.03

Friday, February 05, 2010

Notable Upcoming Albums - February

Fear Factory - Mechanize
Yeasayer - Odd Blood
Buzzcocks album remasters

Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back
A Silver Mt. Zion - Kollaps Tradixionales

Johnny Cash - American VI: Ain't No Grave
Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
Shearwater - Golden Archipelago

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Quarter Century Review: Night Time

Killing Joke
Night Time
EG Records
Produced by Chris Kimsey

Killing Joke influenced many bands that I admire like Ministry (having had the late Paul Raven of Killing Joke on bass) and Big Black. That being said, I had never really seen their greatness. I understood their appeal but felt their '80s output doesn't seem to be much more that a louder, more aggressive version of Dead Or Alive.

Upon listening to Night Time in depth, I still don't think that my take on the music is incorrect, the perspective was just a tad skewed. Maybe there was nothing wrong with being a louder Dead Or Alive. "You Spin Me Round," is still a pretty good song, after all. But pretty good is as far as I'm willing to go. There are definite moments on this record that excite but they are not plentiful enough for this to be more than a pretty good album, much less a classic. For me, I prefer their later and heavier work. Still, this album is respectable and good for a listen every once in a while.

Overall Grade = 7.63