Sunday, February 27, 2011

328 Exile in Guyville. The woman your mother warned you about





Album: Exile in Guyville Artist: Liz Phair Year: 1993 Genre: Rock Tracks
  1. 6'1"
  2. Help Me Mary
  3. Glory
  4. Dance of the Seven Veils
  5. Never Said
  6. Soap Star Joe
  7. Explain It to Me
  8. Canary
  9. Mesmerizing
  10. Fuck and Run
  11. Girls! Girls! Girls!
  12. Divorce Song
  13. Shatter
  14. Flower
  15. Johnny Sunshine
  16. Gunshy
  17. Stratford-On-Guy
  18. Strange Loop

Liz Phair is one of those artists forever living in the shadow of their debut recording. Exile in Guyville is held up as her greatest album and nothing she’s done ever comes close. She must hate the comparisons which is ironic since her debut was deliberately created to invite comparisons to another album.


Phair publicised Exile in Guyville as a track by track response. to the Rolling Stones' Exile on Mainstreet. Apparently the 18 songs on Guyville are lyrically and musically a response to the 18 tracks that make up the Rolling Stone’s finest hour. As a claim it’s slightly baffling since there’s not much that seems to really compare. The cynics amongst you could claim Phair just needed a title and decided to have fun with the music press and who could blame her? There are few things more earnest than a rock journalist and it must be great fun to toy with them from time to time.

Taken as a work in it’s own right Guyville is a strange listen and not one that I’d recommend introducing to any elderly relatives who have worn out their Dean Martin records. The lyrics to Flower contain lines like the following: “I want to fuck you like a dog,” “I’ll fuck you and your minions too”, “Your dicks a perfect suck me size,” “I want to be your blowjob queen,” “I want your fresh young Jimmy, ramming slamming jamming in me” and “I’ll fuck you till your dick is blue”. We’re used to hearing similar (but gender reversed) feelings expressed by heavy metal and rap singers all the time. What makes it more shocking is the way Phair sings in such a sweet voice. She doesn’t put on a lascivious leer or knowing tone, it’s a sweet kind of tone with a definite lilt.

Like the rest of the album the instrumentation on Flower is sparse and barren. Her voice is the main instrument on the album and the hook that gets people involved. Normally I’d say if you liked her voice you’ll like this album but you also need to get past the lyrical content if you’re the sort who is put off by declarations of sexual intent so vigorous they can actually transform the colour of one member’s sexual organs.

Highlight: 6'1" (it's not often someone sings a song about how tall I am)
Lowlight: Flower

Influenced by: Feminine Sexuality and Rock and Roll
Influenced: Girl Indy rock.
Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote:
"Of course, don't ever, ever - EVER! - criticize something a woman has done, especially if she's one of the ordained favorites of insular media critics otherwise they will smite you with the inevitable "You have a short ****!" And remember, criticism of women is ALWAYS sexist".

-What the heck does that mean? If you criticise a woman people say you have a small willy? You make no sense.

So are you an Exile in Guyville or the Mayor of the whole damn town. Let me know below.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

329- Daydream Nation- Sonic youth back when they were youth




Album: Daydream Nation

Artist: Sonic Youth
Genre: Punk
Year: 1988

Tracks
  1. Teen Age Riot
  2. Silver Rocket
  3. The Sprawl
  4. Cross the Breeze
  5. Eric's Trip
  6. Total Trash
  7. Hey Joni
  8. Providence
  9. Candle
  10. Rain King
  11. Kissability
  12. Trilogy



Sonic Youth have my undying respect and admiration. As a band they really are an incredibly impressive outfit. Not many acts that started back in 1977 are still going strong today and have their integrity in tact and their fanbase firmly in place. U2 began life around the same time but there aren’t many people who love their entire catalogue. But Sonic Youth have continued to release music and managed to hold onto their fans despite being genuinely innovative and daring in their musical approach. During their life they never sold out or compromised their artistic integrity in any way. As a concept they’re hard not to like- as a musical outfit they’re a lot more... challenging.

My experience with Sonic Youth before this album came from Goo which they released two years later. Goo was their first signing with a major record label and is considered their most accessible release, although I should point out that accessible is definitely a relative term. It’s accessible in the way that the Everest base camp is accessible when compared to the summit. There’s a still a lot of effort required to get there.

Daydream Nation is more challenging still. It’s refusal to sit in any genre makes it impossible to adequately define. But unlike other difficult-to-box albums that are complicated because they’ve incorporated so many influences it sounds like Sonic Youth have invented their own sources of inspiration. It doesn’t sound like they were influenced by punk it sounds more like punk was influenced by them but hadn’t realised it until they came along.

I can appreciate this review hasn’t been especially helpful if you’re undecided as to whether you should give them a listen or not. Let me conclude by putting it this way- if you’re a fan of simple tunes, pleasant vocals, and guitar theatrics then this isn’t for you. If you like to work for your music and appreciate listening to an artist who is writing for you and not their record label overlords then this might well be your bag.

Influenced by: It could be polka and norwegian whaling songs as much as anything else.
Influenced: Indy rock.

Highlight: Teen Age Riot
Lowlight: Trilogy.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: “Sonic Youth are basically what is wrong with music nowadays. The rely on computerized Auto-Tune vocals, 4/4 rhythm, repetitive guitar riffs and immature lyrics about breakups for their fame. Thurston Moore is a horrible guitarist and Kim Gordon can't sing for her life without the use of computers. Check out Nickelback, Tokio Hotel, new Metallica or Seether for some good old fashioned rock n' roll the way it SHOULD be.”

-This is some very obvious trolling. But no obvious enough for the 26 people who felt the need to comment. You bunch of sillies. Do not feed the troll.

-So is this you’re idea of a perfect Daydream Nation or a trip to nightmare country? Let me know below.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

330 In the Jungle Groove- Where hip hop was born.

Album: In the Jungle Groove
Artist: James Brown
Year: 1986
Genre: Funk

Tracks

  1. It's a New Day
  2. Funky Drummer
  3. Give It Up or Turnit a Loose (Remix)
  4. I Got to Move
  5. Funky Drummer (Bonus Beat Reprise)
  6. Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing (Remix)
  7. Get Up, Get into It, Get Involved
  8. Soul Power
  9. Hot Pants (She Got to Use What She Got to Get What She Wants)

James Brown invented Soul music. He also invented Funk. It's also possible he invented stage antics, screaming in tune and massive hair cuts on men. Most of these things are well known by casual music fans. What's less appreciated is his role in the invention of hip-hop rhythms.

One of the undisputed candidates for most sampled songs ever is The Funky Drummer which isn't so much a song it's a band exercise. For it's 9 minute run time James leads his band through a funk outing and limits his vocals to a series of encouragements and Brownisms. There's the occasional screech and Woo but basically it's just a chance for his band to show off over the top of a funky rhythm. In amongst the soloing the drummer gets a chance to do his thing for a while. Even if you have never heard a James Brown song ever (and what are the chances of that?) it's a fair bet that you've heard these beats if you're a fan of hip hop. Producers who need drums to back rappers have turned to Funky Drummer more than any other song. The Beastie boys, De La Soul, Will Smith, Dr Dre, George Michael, Ice Cube, Ice T, LL Cool J, Nine Inch Nails, Prince, Public Enemy, Sinead O'Connor, Queen and Vanilla Ice are some of the bigger names (and Slick Rick, Sweet Tee, Tung Twista and Maestro Fresh Wes are some of the silliest) who have sampled its grooves. In the eighties it became such a standard choice that Brown and his production company decided that in order to cash in on the Funky Drummer's popularity they should release this compilation and publicise it as the place where Hip Hop Beats were born. In the Jungle Groove is a James Brown geared towards a mid-eighties crowd who wanted to hear where their heroes got their licks from.

On paper this album should be terrible. It's basically a quick cash-in full of already released tracks with a few remixes, there should be no reason why we're talking about it now. But Jungle Groove is frankly a fantastic album. It doesn't have many actual songs and none that you'd recognise from radio but it's proof that all Brown needs to get hips moving is a bunch of musicians who are nearly as talented as he is. It's full of long work-outs that get your head shaking and your booty moovin and it's just the bomb. It's funk and soul and groove and everything good. If you're a fan of Brown's hits (and why the hell wouldn't you be?) then there's nothing on Jungle Groove that will make you sing along in recognition. But if you love a good funky workout you might be happy to have this in your collection. And of course if you're a hip-hop producer you've already got it loaded onto your computer ready to pull out whenever you need some dope beats.

(500 horizons would like to apologise for all attempts to introduce hip hop terminology into this post and assures loyal readers it won't happen again)


Highlight: Funky drummer
Lowlight: Soul Power

Influenced by: The fear that Brown instilled in his musicians.
Influenced: Every Hip Hop Producer you care to name.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Qoute: "I expected this disc to be off the hook and boy was it, me being a musician I put this disc on pull out my instument and I'm in another world."

-What qualifies someone to be a musician? I can play a few chords on a guitar does that make me a musician? I've never understood this and I always treat anyone who feels the need to say their a musician in their amazon review with a degree of skepticism. For all I know it could have been written by Yo Yo Ma but I'm guessing it's just some guy playing with his instrument.

So are you in the Jungle Groove or would you have the jungle logged and the trees pulped? Let me know below.

Friday, February 18, 2011

331. Tonight's the night- More tragedy courtesy of Neil Young.

Album: Tonight's the night
Artist: Neil Young
Genre: Rock.
Year: 1975

Tracks

  1. Tonight's the Night
  2. Speakin' Out
  3. World on a String
  4. Borrowed Tune
  5. Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown
  6. Mellow My Mind
  7. Roll Another Number (for the Road)
  8. Albuquerque
  9. New Mama
  10. Lookout Joe
  11. Tired Eyes
  12. Tonight's the Night—Part II




Neil Young is one of music's survivors. He was around in the early sixties and he's still around now. Still playing, still recording, still touring and still being Neil. The problem with being a survivor is that you have to mourn the loss of the non-survivors. Musical immortality means attending the funerals of musical mortals who were claimed by the Rock and Roll lifestyle. The deaths of a bandmate (Crazy Horse's Danny Whitten) and crewmember (Bruce Berry) inspired Neil to pen a collection of sadly reflective songs that make up the bulk of Tonight's the Night. It's often held up as his darkest album which is no mean feat for a guy who rarely recorded much that was especially light-hearted and breezy (although he does have his moments). What seperates Tonight's the night from other records made in a state of grief is the underlying current of anger and self recrimination. Whitten and Berry both died from drug overdoses which always leave a fairly heavy burden on those left behind. The friends and colleagues of those who die with a needle in their arm are always left asking themselves if they could have somehow filled the void that their friend felt the need to fill with drugs. If only they'd said something or done something to arrest the downard slide into dependency their friends might still be around.

Consequently Tonight's the night isn't just sad or meloncholy it's reproachful and undercut with a sense of guilt. It's also gloriously ragged. It sounds like a group of sad and guilty individuals gathered together to make music to exorcise their pain. Nobody was thinking about the end product or the final sales, they were more interested in venting in the studio so they could sleep at night. And despite the fact that the fallen comrades they were mourning died of substance abuse it's clear that the players decided to drown their sorrows in bottles and other intoxicants. It's testament to how talented Neil is that this actually works. A group of sad and dejected people with self-recrimination on their minds and substances in their veins should not be capable of producing great music. Somehow Neil manages to round up their abilities and focus them on a great bunch of songs. They don't put in polished performances but that's definitely part of their charm.

The title track is a highlight in both it's forms. It opens the album in an acoustic arrangement and closes it in an electric version, a trick Neil was fond of pulling off. There's nothing crypic about Tonight's the night, it's lyrics are overtly and direct: "Bruce Berry was a working man/ He used to load that Econoline van/ A sparkle was in his eye/ But his life was in his hands." The real tragedy is in the picture that Neil paints of his friend. He sings of how late at night when everyone else had gone he used to play Neil's guitar and sing. There's something about Neil Young recalling how his roadie friend used to perform music of his own that makes the tale so much more poignant. Neil goes on to say that the listener won't have heard Berry sing and never will. Listening to Tonight's the Night you can't help but feel a genuine sense of regret.

There are other great tracks on the album as well, Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown is a live track featuring Danny Whitten and Albuquerque is a great song that doesn't reference Bugs Bunny but does feature the song title sung as it's own chorus thanks to Neils ability to make the "Al" part of Albuquerque last for a full seven syllables. If you're only experience with Neil has been through the radio hits then give Tonight's the Night a chance to persaude you that he's a great album artist as well.


Highlight: Tonight's the Night (both versions)
Lowlight: Borrowed Tune (but at least it's honest)

Influenced by: Despair, guilt and substances.
Influenced: Pearl Jam.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "It's obvious that most Neil Young fans are thrilled with him no matter what sort of dreck he comes up with. But speaking as a long-time (since Buffalo Springfield days; I saw the first CSNY concert) fan myself, I have to say that this one just doesn't cut it. "

-If this guy is telling the truth then he definitely has earned some credibility. The first CSNY gig was just before Woodstock.

So is Tonight the Night or would you rather it was any other night? Let me know below.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

332. Help! Worse film, better album.



Album: Help!
Artist: The Beatles
Genre: Rock
Year: 1965

Help! is the Soundtrack to the Beatles second movie which was produced after the huge success of A Hard Day’s Night. While the earlier movie had a great script, an engaging, if lightweight story, and a chance for the Beatles to shine as characters, Help! was basically an excuse for the fab four to go to interesting locations. There is a pointless story about a stolen ring and a lot of running about by the supporting cast but the whole thing is a bit of a yawn in the long run and the Beatles themselves were fairly dissatisfied with the result. But the soundtrack... the soundtrack is a killer. One of the great albums of the sixties and another step towards the more complicated psychedelia of their final albums. As always with the Beatles I’ll go track by track so I can really wax lyrical


Help!

John Lennon wrote this when he was genuinely feeling down and really did need help. The lyrics are sincere even if the music wasn’t. John felt able to write about his true feelings but decided he needed to mask the words in a typically Beatley upbeat tune. Some people since have decided to try and slow down the song and sing it in an imploring style that matches the lyrics. This is a huge mistake and people who do this should be smacked. Part of the charm is the mismatch of the words and the tune.

The Night Before

A fairly simple rocker from Paul McCartney. If you were keeping score (and you shouldn’t) John is definitely ahead on this opening salvo. Paul has written a great song but John has written a classic,

You’ve got to Hide your love away

John wasn’t the only one having a nasty time in 1965. Beatles manager Brian Epstein was a closet homosexual in an era that still felt the closet was the only appropriate place for anyone from the alternative sexualities. John wrote Hide about Brian as a warning to conceal his real feelings for his fellow man, feelings that many felt were directed towards John himself. Two classic songs for John in the album so far.

I need you.

If you’re keeping score (and you shouldn’t) then there’s no reason to register any points for George so far. Listening to this it’s hard to imagine that this is the guy who later wrote While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Although if his guitar had to listen to this song too often you can sympathise with it’s emotional state.

Another Girl

Here’s another song that failed to trouble the Liverpool Postal Service because this is nothing to write home about. Paul was writing some great songs around this time but so far Help! has been John’s album.

You’re gonna lose that girl.

A nice song sadly ruined by some over-zealous percussion. There are some bongos on this track that just don’t need to be there. Thankfully some nice people at the Beatles remixers group felt they didn’t need to be there either and released a version on the internet with the bongos removed. It lets the strength of the melody and the harmonies come through and sounds a lot better. Isn’t modern technology great?

Ticket to Ride

The last song on side one and John’s third classic on the album. A lot of band’s would be happy with three songs this good in three years. The Beatles had them on one side of vinyl. Ticket to Ride is the perfect example of where they were at this point in their musical life. It still uses the same instruments they’ve been using throughout their career but there’s something that suggests they’re moving into more experimental territory. It’s got an edgier feel. It would feel out of place on Revolver but then it wouldn't fit on Please Please Me either.

Act Naturally

Act Naturally leads off side two. Like A Hard Day’s Night before it these are the songs that didn’t make the cut for the movie but pad the album out to a full length. This song is a bit of a joke referencing the fact that Ringo is the most natural actor of the group. He’s certainly a better actor than he is a singer. It’s a cute song but it does wear out it’s welcome on repeated listens. And you know I’ve given this album repeated listens.

It’s Only Love

A pleasant enough ditty from John. The final take is nice but I always prefer take 2 which has a simpler feel and lets John give a more emotional performance. He really does sound like a troubled soul on this version as opposed to the final release which seems a bit cleaned up and sanitized for the record buying public.

You like me too much.

George’s second contribution and one that’s worthy of its place on the album. It’s not a classic by any stretch of the imagination but at least you can understand why they chose to include it. George Martin plays some nice piano as well.

Tell me what you see

Paul has yet to contribute a really great song on this album. All his efforts have been fairly lacklustre and a long distance behind John. All that’s about to change.

I’ve just seen a face

This is definitely my pick for under-appreciated Beatles gem. You don’t find it on best-of compilations and it rarely makes people’s favourites list but it’s a truly sensational song. It’s just over 2 minutes of pop bliss played on acoustic instruments that bounces along and can’t help but put a smile on your face. It’s a sensational song and if it was the only contribution Paul made to Help! he would have earned his money. But there was one other number he felt the need to record...

Yesterday

Apparently this is the most covered song in the history of songs. More people have heard this and felt the need to put out their own version than any other tune. It’s one of those songs that has invaded the world’s conscience. Amazingly Paul woke up with Yesterday in his head after a dream. It boggles my mind that he can write songs this good while napping. It’s also the first Beatles song to only include a lone Beatle. Paul recorded his guitar and vocal and strings were added without the other three touching an instrument. Personally I prefer the song without the string overdubs.

Dizzy Miss Lizzy

After four albums of material the Beatles had included most of their best covers and so were reduced to scraping the bottom of the barrel a bit to pad out the length of this album. Dizzy Miss Lizzy is no Roll over Beethoven or Money. But it does act as a farewell to one part of their career. From this point onwards albums wouldn’t have a smattering of covers to take up their running length. After Help! the Beatles were no longer a covers band, they were breaking totally new territory and their albums from here on in were innovations.

Highlight: You’ve got to hide your love away
Lowlight: I need you

Influenced by: Sleep (Paul), desperation and overeating (John) and the other two (George)
Influenced: Everyone

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote:I never bought it, so I don't know why they asked me to review this.”

-Sorry? You’re giving an album one star because someone asked you to review it? Who asked you- the voices in your head? Baffling.

So who do you think needs help- this album or anyone who doesn’t like it? Let me know below.

Friday, February 11, 2011

333 Shoot out the lights- A revision of opinion.

Album: Shoot out the lights
Artist: Richard and Linda Thompson
Genre: Rock
Year: 1982

Tracks


  1. Don't Renege on Our Love
  2. Walking on a Wire
  3. Man in Need
  4. Just the Motion
  5. Shoot Out the Lights
  6. Back Street Slide
  7. Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?
  8. Wall of Death


Regular readers may recall many moons ago when I reviewed album 479 on this countdown which was I want to See the Bright Lights tonight by Richard and Linda Thompson. I didn't enjoy it. In fact it's fair to say I never wanted to hear it again. Now a year has passed, along with almost 150 albums and nothing much as changed. Just reading the track-listing of that former album makes me unhappy in ways I can't describe. Although I have since become aware of how many people have covered the title track and Down Where The Drunkards Roll.

So here I am reviewing another album by Richard and Linda and getting the chance to reassess my views. The good news is that I'm prepared to say Shoot Out the lights is a far superior album. It's better in every respect and light years ahead of Bright Lights. The fact that I still don't like it should go some way to telling you how much I didn't enjoy their other offering.

I can say without fear of contradiction that Richard Thompson is a great guitarist. One of the strengths of this release is the fact that he's allowed a chance to actually play that thing a lot more. Bright Lights was a weird attempt to mix folk and rock and failed at both. Shoot out the lights at least knows it's a rock album. Richard Thompson spends most of his time on an electric six-string and he can clearly play that thing. He has a really clean sounding tone and a soloing style that clearly owes a lot to his more acoustic rootes. If he could sing and write songs as well as he can play this album would be fantastic. In fact I wouldn't be writing this now I'd be typing this in a few years when I get to the top 100. Sadly Richard Thompson has a voice that can best be described as dreary. It sounds like a guy who likes playing guitar and only sings under sufference because nobody else will. So what makes it more baffling is the fact that he has a perfectly good singer hanging around the studio. Linda can definitely hold a note and sings really well. She's great on this album and it's a mystery to me that Richard ever thought his tones would be preferable in a song to hers.

The songwriting is also a major let down. Richard writes all the music and frankly it's tedious stuff. He doesn't really have a great ear for a tune and he's quite happy to find an annoyingly repetitive hook and milk it for all it's worth. Don't renege on our love is the worst example but Did she Jump or Was she pushed comes a close second.

Shoot out the lights was a pleasant surprise. It didn't annoy me in the way I expected it to and Thompson's playing has peaked my interest enough to want to hunt out some of his other work. If Richard and Linda hooked up with someone who could write really good tracks and Richard was content to play guitar then great things could ensue.

Highlight: The guitar work. There is no doubt the man can play
Lowlight: Don't renege on our love. Listening to it makes you realise just how silly the word Renege actually is. Say it a few times outloud. Who in their right mind would want to include it in a song lyric, let alone make it the title and main chorus?

Influenced by: Traditional Folk and the Beatles.
Influenced: Richard Thompson fans. If you meet them it doesn't take them long to tell you how under rated he is. I've even heard one use the sacriligous term: better than Hendrix.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "this album bears re-listening and re-listening. Simply brilliant. I laugh; I cry; I want my mommy."

-I'm sure your maternal parent is touched beyond words.


So did this make you renege on your love for Richard and Linda or was it Just the Motion you were looking for? Let me know below.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

334- Wild Gift. Punk for couples

Album: Wild Gift
Artist: X
Genre: Punk
Year: 1981

Tracks


  1. The Once Over Twice
  2. We're Desperate
  3. Adult Books
  4. Universal Corner
  5. I'm Coming Over
  6. It's Who You Know
  7. In This House That I Call Home
  8. Some Other Time
  9. White Girl
  10. Beyond and Back
  11. Back 2 the Base
  12. When Our Love Passed Out on the Couch
  13. Year 1

I should probably start by clearing some things up. There were three bands who thought X would be a good name for a band. Depending on your viewpoint all three were correct because two other bands agreed with them or all three were wrong because two other bands had the same idea. Two of them are punk bands formed in 1977 which was definitely The Year For Forming Punk Bands. To avoid confusion one is often called X America and the other is called X Australia. To add to the confusion there is also a heavy-metal hair band from Japan who are not surprisingly called X-Japan. X-America decided what Punk needed was relationship angst. X-Australia decided Punk needed some Aussie urban reference points, X-Japan decided bands like Poison and Motley Crue were too subtle and needed to be made more a bit more flamboyant and bombastic. X America earned international respect and moderate sales, X-Australia earned enough to keep them in beer and smokes on the road and X-Japan earned millions of yen in their home town and widespread derision throughout the rest of the world (by the way to give you some indication of how unfortunate X are when it comes to naming- their best of box set was called "The X-box" which was a great idea until Microsoft needed a name for a gaming console).

Anyway the point is that Wild Gift is by the American band and it's a seminal punk album. It's also the first punk album I've reviewed that features a female vocalist. Exene Cervenka duets with bass player John Doe to form a sound that no other punk band I've ever heard has. Although as regular readers know I'm no punk aficianado.

I have to be honest but I'm not a huge fan of Wild Gift. I really like some of the lyrical direction "He gave me the once over twice" is quite a clever line and "When our love passed out on the couch" is a great name for a song. Generally however the music is pretty much stuck in traditional punk territory and it takes more than the presence of a female vocalist to lift it in my estimation. Especially when the vocalist is question doesn't possess one of the most inspiring voices in music.

If you love old school punk music- real punk music without the flair, pretension or attempt to hijack the punk image and attach it to pop music, you'll probably love Wild Gift. If punk is not your thing then you won't like it at all. The good news is that songs are over so quickly you won't have to worry about them wearing out their limited welcome.

Influenced by: The Sex Pistols and relationship angst
Influenced: X Japan to stick a Japan at the end of their name.

Highlight: When our love passed out on the couch.
Lowlight: We're desperate

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: (Okay I'm cheating but this actually comes from a review of Dahlia by X-Japan but it's worth sharing: "So sit yourself back comfortably, open your mind and let your ears guide you instead of your eyes. Because if you do, you will find something you've never felt before; a new path to the very meaning of life itself! Yes I WILL get a lot of flaming, hate mail and various spiteful comments about this, (maybe enemies for life, who knows!) but yes I mean it, this cd is THE MEANING OF LIFE!!! The answer to the question of what humanity has asked itself ever since our first days. HAHA!"

-The guy is deadly serious. I've read every word of the 6111 word review (seriously over 6 thousand words!) and his love for Dahlia and X-Japan far outdoes pretty much every other review on Amazon.

So does Wild Gift leave you X-cited, or X-asperated? Let me know below.

Friday, February 4, 2011

335. Squeezing out Sparks. A great title

Album: Squeezing out Sparks
Artist: Graham Parker and the Rumour
Year: 1979
Genre: Rock.

Tracks


  1. Discovering Japan
  2. Local Girls
  3. Nobody Hurts You
  4. You Can't Be Too Strong
  5. Passion Is No Ordinary Word
  6. Saturday Nite Is Dead
  7. Love Gets You Twisted
  8. Protection
  9. Waiting for the UFOs
  10. Don't Get Excited


I've never met a Graham Parker fan. I haven't actually gone on a hunt for one (I wouldn't know what to use as bait) but I've never encountered one in the flesh. I wonder what they look like? Are they mainly English? I lived in England for a while and never saw any. Perhaps it's a more regional thing. I never got to Bath while I was there. Maybe Bath is just swimming with Graham Parker fans. Who knows?

I only ask because I wonder what they're like. Parker's music is sort of punk but then enough not-punk to be sort of not-punk as well. It's fairly pop in it's sensibility but his voice isn't going to win over any pop fans. The guitars are clean enough to be pop and the piano sounds like it's being played by a pop musician rather than a punk one (what the hell does a punk piano player look like?) His music is a weird kind of hybrid that reminds me of Elvis Costello, which isn't a bad thing.

Sparks is an up-tempo album that was obviously written to be played to clubs full of dancing fools enjoying the music and singing along to the catchy choruses. But the dancers probably liked to think of themselves as the sort of people who didn't dance along and sing to a catchy chorus.

I can't really see too many people getting rabidly enthusiastic about this release in the same way that people obsess over Radiohead, bacon, Kiss, Stephanie Myer novels or Michael Jackson. It's a pop/rock album that has catchy moments but as a whole gets a bit samey after a while. If you're a Graham Parker fan (or you know one, or you know what to use as bait in order to trap one) can you please get in touch by commenting below? I'd really love to know what the appeal is. I'm dying to understand what it is I'm missing.

Influenced by: Post Punk and new wave
Influenced: Post Post Punk and even newer wave

Highlight: Saturday nite is dead. Catchy fun.
Lowlight: Waiting for the UFO's too much like everything else at a time when we needed something a bit different.


Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: Interestingly the majority of the Amazon Customer reviews (and there weren't many) focused on the song "You can't be too strong" and just how pro or anti abortion it is. It makes for intriguing but not very funny reading.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

336- Superunknown- Ironically their best known album

Album: Superunknown
Artist: Soundgarden
Year: 1994
Genre: Grunge

Tracks


1. Let Me Drown
2. My Wave
3. Fell on Black Days
4. Mailman
5. Superunknown
6. Head Down
7. Black Hole Sun
8. Spoonman
9. Limo Wreck
10. The Day I Tried to Live
11. Kickstand
12. Fresh Tendrils
13. 4th of July
14. Half
15. Like Suicide


Grunge was partly responsible for killing off the vocalist. In the early nineties the idea of a front man whose job was to sing songs and dance a bit was thrown out the window along with stage costumes and hair spray. Lots of bands seemed to follow the idea that nobody listened to music for the quality of the vocals they were just interested in the song. Singing duties were taken by whichever musician could hold a note and play their instrument at the same time. Chris Cornell isn't an old school vocalist (he still plays an instrument and he doesn't ponce about the stage feeding off the fan's love) but he's definitely a singer in the sense that he can really sing. Cornell is probably the best singer rock and roll produced in the 1990's. It's a telling fact that when the producers of Casino Royale wanted someone to sing the theme music they chose Cornell. I love Mick Jagger but can you imagine him singing a Bond Theme? Name me another singer who has a good enough voice to really belt out a rousing tune over the top of silhouetted nude women and hand guns?

Cornell's career has wandered a bit of late but back in the nineties he was the voice of Soundgarden and Superunknown was their finest hour. It's a landmark album that said Heavy Rock could still look back to Zeppelin, Sabbath and Purple without slavishly ripping them off. Punk wasn't dead but it didn't need to be the exclusive cultural reference point for every band who liked to distort their guitars.

I'm not adverse to a bit of Hard Rock from time to time but for some reason my own birth marked the end of my interest in Heavy music. If it's recorded before 1973 I'm more more inclined to like it. The first two Zeppelin albums are sensational and I don't mind a bit of Purple. I feel heavy from time to time and when I do a Zeppelin bootleg normally does it for me. But I have to say I enjoyed bits of Superunknown. Let Me Drown opens the album well and Spoonman is a great track. Black Hole Sun was a huge hit single but it leaves me feeling fairly cold and unaffected as do parts of the rest of the album. It's one of those releases that I can understand the appeal of but I can't fully get into myself.

Superunknown hasn't dated at all. It's 15 years old but could have been recorded yesterday. If you like hard rock and an impressive vocalist it could well be your bag.

Highlight: Spoonman
Lowlight: Black Hole Sun

Influenced by: Led Purple Sabbath
Influenced: Nickleback.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Was shocked to be recommended this album after listening to & loving Sublime. Not at all in the same genre. Absolutely hated it. Skimmed through all the tracks in utter horror before giving it to my brother - sorry guys! "

-It is kind of refreshing to find a reviewer who is apologetic. Most one star reviews blame the band for not meeting their music tastes so to find someone prepared to think the other way around was a highly original twist.