Friday, May 29, 2009

Roxy Music - Flesh + Blood

3/10

This was only released a few months into the 1980's, but it still bears the hallmark of everything that made that decade bad. The drums are overcompressed, the synths are cheesy, the basslines are comatose, Manzanera's tone has devolved to the point that he sounds like anyone from the era, and Ferry frequently sounds like he's sleepwalking his way through this material. There are also two unnecessary covers of Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour" and the Byrds' "Eight Miles High". I heard a better cover of the former tune on an album called "Freddy's Greatest Hits" that was a tie-in to one of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels(I'll have to review that after I'm done with this band), and while I like the organ on the latter, it would've been better on an original song. None of these songs have any bite whatsoever. Skip it!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Roxy Music - Manifesto

3/10

Now this is an album I really have no use for. It's the band's first after a hiatus of several years, and it has NOTHING of what made the previous albums great. It's just generic disco-pop with no energy whatsoever; the saxophone is underused, Manzanera's performance is lackluster at best, and even Bryan Ferry's vocals are uninspired as hell. None of the songs rise above mediocrity; my favorite part was the intro of "Spin Me Round," and that was only because it reminded my of an awesome remix of the moon theme from the Ducktales NES game that I heard a few years ago.
Instead of having an actual woman on the cover, they opted to go with a bunch of female mannequins, which is a pretty apt metaphor for how dull and boring this album is. I can't figure out who this album was supposed to appeal to.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Roxy Music - Viva!

6/10

This live album has a few things working against it. Its songs come from no less than three different tours. This would've been fine if it had been a double album, but for a single-disc release, this fact just robs it of any real consistency of sound. Some songs suffer greatly; "The Bogus Man" loses its lush Eno sound and while "In Every Dream Home a Heartache's" first part is even more ominous than before, Ferry just goes a bit overboard in his vocals, which were just hilariously detached in the original. (Note to bands: try to slow down songs in concert as well as speed them up. "Heartache" worked really well when it was played more slowly than the studio version.)
Viva isn't horrible or anything, it's just kind of unnecessary. The only rarity is the non-album track "Pyjamarama", so you're not getting much you wouldn't get on the studio albums. It's completely skippable.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Roxy Music - Siren

8/10

Damn, that girl from the "Houses of the Holy" cover sure grew up to be hot.
But enough about the album cover, let's talk about the album itself. The first song, "Love is the Drug" is a KILLER disco song with an awesome bassline, simplistic yet well-used synths and a typically great performance from Ferry. Other strong tracks include "Both Ends Burning" and "Just Another High." However, as on "Country Life," none of these songs really do a whole lot that we haven't already seen from earlier Roxy Music albums; there's the typically loud guitar, the saxophone, and varied keyboards that've characterized all the band's work to this point. The formula still works, but it's a formula nonetheless. Siren is still a little bit better than its predecessor, mostly because there's less of that blasted electric violin (which is replaced with a real one on some tracks). Some people think this is the best Roxy album, but I attribute that to the fact that the best tracks by far are the first and last ones. (I call this the "Who's Next" effect). Still, this is the last of the Roxy Music albums I consider essential.

Monday, May 25, 2009

No, no, NO!

As if Paul Rodgers wasn't bad enough:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert's performance with rock band Queen on the finale of the TV singing contest this week has the British band thinking about a new front man.

"Amongst all that furor, there wasn't really a quiet moment to talk," Queen guitarist Brian May told Rolling Stone in an interview released on Friday.

"But and I are definitely hoping to have a meaningful conversation with at some point. It's not like we, as Queen, would rush into coalescing with another singer just like that. It isn't that easy. But I'd certainly like to work with Adam. That is one amazing instrument he has there," May told the magazine in an e-mail exchange.

Speaking separately, Lambert also reached out to May.

"Queen is one of my all-time favorite bands, I would love to work with him," he said in a conference call with reporters on Friday.

Queen, one of the biggest rock bands of the 1970s and '80s, has not had a permanent frontman since the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991.

The English band recently ended a four-year partnership with Paul Rodgers, the former lead singer in the bands Free and Bad Company.

Lambert, 27, dubbed "Glambert" by fans, lost out in the "American Idol" final to Kris Allen. But his vocal skills and flair for the dramatic made him a good fit for performances with both Queen and glam rockers KISS in the show's finale on Wednesday.

KISS bassist and vocalist Gene Simmons was less effusive about musical theater actor Lambert in the wake of the "Idol" final.

"Respectfully, I don't think Adam is a rock singer," Simmons wrote in a question-and-answer post on his website.

"He sounds much more convincing singing ballads, and Broadway shows," Simmons said. "His voice doesn't seem to have a 'rock quality.' But, I'm sure he's going to do just fine."

Can May and Taylor sink any lower? You know you're running on empty when Gene Fucking Simmons looks like a bastion of integrity next to you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Roxy Music - Country Life

7/10

I've refrained from commenting on the album covers to this point, but CHRIST does the one on the right have a total manface. It's like they had to make her wear those see-through panties just to say "No, I do not have a penis." And they're both just disgustingly skinny, too.
Country Life features an electric violin, an instrument I've never really been partial to, played by Eddie Jobson, who, if you're familiar with the second tier of British prog bands, seems to be the only person in the entire world who plays the instrument. Except for that addition, this album seems like Roxy by numbers to me, with few real innovations. Of course, there are still some extremely good songs, such as "The Thrill of It All," one of the band's best known songs, the jazzy throwback "If It Takes All Night," and the pretentious-but-fun "Triptych". Unfortunately, there are also a few questionable moments, such as the gratuitious German in "Bittersweet". Still, this isn't a bad album at all. I suspect the fact that it's overrated might be due to the controversial cover (which also explains why the Scorpions' Virgin Killer has topped so many "Greatest Album" lists as of late).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Roxy Music - Stranded

8/10

Eno is out, but Roxy is still as good as ever, if not nearly as inventive. They didn't replace him because Ferry could play pretty well; his vocal performance is also all over the map on this album, from the sickly sweet falsetto on "Just Like You" to the gospel crooning on "Psalm" to his moody delivery on "A Song for Europe," he can do it all. God only knows why he's not often listed in the top tier of rock frontmen. There are a few low spots (for example, "Mother of Pearl" has a catchy melody, but the second half is just too damn repetitive), but they're few and far between.
This album feels very different than "For Your Pleasure," but it's more of an atmospheric shift than a stylistic one. Stranded is bright, happy, vibrant and hopeful where its predecessor was dark and cynical. I guess this could be called a mainstreaming of Roxy's sound, but if all mainstream music were this good, I'd barely bother to venture into the underground in the first place.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure

10/10

I had to give this the 10 because it's got some of my favorite Roxy songs on it and no real clunkers at all. It's also probably their darkest album, which is something I tend to gravitate to, what with my desert island list containing albums by Van der Graaf Generator, the Sisters of Mercy and Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town. My favorite song on it is "In Every Dream Home A Heartache," which has to be the greatest song about a blow-up doll ever written, blowing all of Zappa's songs on the subject out of the park. Sure, it's mostly buildup, but it's a great buildup, with ominous synthesizers, and when it finally explodes, it's amazing. I also like how it fades out and then fades back in at the end (this led to its length being listed incorrectly on the original LP)
Other great songs include "Editions of You" (although I like pretty much any song with synths that remind me of an NES game, so I'm biased), "Do the Strand" (which is lighter than most of the other songs, but still great) and the lengthy jam "The Bogus Man" (which sounds almost like Captain Beefheart at times with its off-kilter sax and guitar solos). For Your Pleasure may not be as revolutionary as its predecessor, but it's even more consistent.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Roxy Music - Roxy Music

9/10

This album was YEARS ahead of its time. There are all sorts of neat Eno-treated synth textures that were way more nuanced than what the prog bands were doing in 1972 (although there are some more traditional keyboards such as the Mellotron). Ferry is such a great singer- I normally have no idea what the hell women find attractive in men, but even I have to admit that his voice is sexy as hell.
Some songs, like "If There Is Something," are long and multi-parted without feeling like a bunch of songs stuck together in the prog mold, while others are great mixes of soul, prog and glam rock (after all, there's little true originality in any field- most of it is just taking elements used by other people and combining them in a way that no one has done before) The album was produced by Peter Sinfield, best known for writing lyrics on the first four King Crimson albums, and it sounds great (although, given his extensive production history since, I can't help but wonder if Eno deserves a co-production credit).
Eno and Ferry aren't the only stars, though; McKay does a great job on saxophone and Manazera's guitar tones are always interesting. The rhythm section is fairly dull, but they were never really a main focus of the band so that fact doesn't matter much. It's not often that a band this revolutionary comes out of the womb fully formed; this is an excellent debut with far-reaching influences.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Roxy Music - Intro

Roxy Music were one of the most prominent glam-rock bands and an early forerunner of the new wave movement. They're best remembered for their first two albums with Brian Eno, but the constants throughout the band's lifetime were frontman Bryan Ferry, saxophonist Andy McKay and guitarist Phil Manzanera. Their sound combined innovative use of keyboards with Ferry's Rat Pack-style crooning and Manzanera's trashy-as-hell guitar, and the results were awesome.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Disowned albums

Sometimes, bands are just ashamed of entries in their back catalog and force them out of print. Personally, I think that doing this is just immature and fans of a band deserve to be able to hear even their worst moments, but what do I know? Here are a few prominent examples:

The Doors - Other Voices and Full Circle: These albums were recorded after the death of Jim Morrison and featured the other band members on vocals. They have a pretty bad reputation, and supposedly, the surviving members don't have the master tapes (which is bullshit, as tracks from both have appeared on compilations)

Bad Religion - Into the Unknown: A synth-filled AOR album recorded by a hardcore punk band. Yeah, it's not surprising that this'll never get re-released.

Destruction - 90's albums: The German thrash metal band declared that 2 EPs and a full-length recorded during the 90's were no longer part of the Destruction discography. Apparently, they were nu-metal influenced or something. At first I thought that these were disowned because they didn't have the original singer on them- but "Cracked Brain" didn't have him and it's still in print.

Blue Oyster Cult - Imaginos: This was originally supposed to be a solo album by ex-BOC drummer Albert Bouchard, but the label forced him to use the BOC name. All of the current members participated, but most of their contributions were vocals and most of the instruments were played by session musicians.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chalk - Dead World

5/10

In the New Hampshire town where I went to college, there was an alt-weekly called the Keene Free Press. Basically, imagine your run-of-the-mill urban alt-weekly, give it the kind of budget you'd expect in a town of 23,000 and make it fiercely and irrationally libertarian, with headlines about a man refusing to pay "federal fines" (the guy who holed himself up in a compound because he refused to pay his taxes), and a woman being jailed for a month without charge (she was pulled over for speeding and only spent time in jail because she refused to acknowledge the government's authority over her and wouldn't speak to the judge).
Chalk's Dead World is a little like that rag, in that it slavishly imitates something while still putting its own spin on it. Basically, these two white rappers from Detroit imitate two other white guys from Detroit, the Insane Clown Posse, while ditching the circus motif and just focusing on making the songs as offensive as humanly possible.
Chalk's Dead World is so awful it's almost beautiful. The lyrics might have been written by Chris Barnes of Cannibal Corpse on a day where he felt especially deranged; they're all about rape, pedophilia and murder. However, they're so over the top that they stop being offensive and just become ludicrous. The band members played the instrumental backing themselves, and it's the definition of "rudimentary" and will make you long for the instrumental prowess of nu-metal outfits like Limp Bizkit and Korn. There are also some samples from "true crime" shows; the one at the start of "Walls of tha Coffin" is really hard to get through, with a child killer explicitly talking about why he's on death row. Chalk try so hard to be offensive that they're hilarious even though their material isn't the kind of stuff you'd want people to know you'd laugh at.
This is an insanely obscure release. I only found out about it from an internet friend who gave me a digital copy; I don't even know what the album cover looks like. I normally don't provide download links as I don't want to encourage anything illegal, but this album was released over a decade ago on a record label that doesn't exist anymore, so I'll provide one.

Download Chalk's Dead World


I previously reviewed this release for Metal Jerks; that review can be found here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Meads of Asphodel - Life is Shit

4/10

More like "EP is Shit!"
This EP just consists of three covers of punk songs by bands I've never heard of. While I understand that punk is a major influence on the band, these songs just aren't that interesting to me, especially since I'd guess that they're more or less faithful to the originals (well, the female vocals on "Tank" probably weren't there in the original, but that's the only exception that's evident to someone like me who hasn't heard the original versions). This is only for fans of early British punk and Meads completists.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Meads of Asphodel - In the Name of God, Welcome to Planet Genocide

6/10

Eh, this release is kind of the Meads by numbers. As with most of their releases, there's an instrumental opening with some samples, a few relatively typical black metal songs (one of which is a re-recording of My Beautiful Genocide, which is much shorter than the Mill Hill version), some synth-heavy tracks, and a cover (Hell on Earth/Blood Runs Red, a medley of two songs by the hardcore punk band Discharge). There's also another hidden track preceded by a long stretch of silence, which is a parody of a sermon that would've been hilarious at two or three minutes but stretches on for eight.
Essentially, the Meads have been relying on their formula for a bit too long. It worked for a while, but now it's getting kind of stale. I guess we'll have to wait until their next full-length to see if they evolve or just stagnate more.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Meads of Asphodel - Damascus Steel

7/10

"Damascus Steel" follows the same formula as the band's other releases, but that formula hasn't really gotten stale yet, so it's all good. The non-musical samples have been toned down a bit, with most of them appearing in the opening instrumental track, which minimizes one of my pet peeves about the Meads.
My favorite track is a deliciously tasteless cover of Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World," with hilariously depraved and cynical lyrics; Metatron does a great job of parodying Armstrong's gravelly voice. I also greatly enjoyed the Hammond organ solo in "The Gods Who Mock Us" (I believe it's played by Sigh's Mirai Kawashima).
However, while the Meads have gotten some of the kinks out of their formula, they haven't really progressed a whole lot. That's okay for now, but if the rest of their albums are all like this, it might be cause for concern. The main reason I docked this from an 8 to a 7 is that there's one of those obnoxious hidden tracks on the end that's preceded by a long period of silence. I fucking hate that gimmick. Can't they at least make a whole bunch of silent hidden tracks in between, like on that one Tool album, so I won't have to rip an mp3 with minutes of silence to my computer? Ugh.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Exam week

Next week is my college's exam week, after which I graduate, so there will be no new posts then. Just wanted to make that clear.