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