Tuesday, 25 November 2008
"G.L.O.W." is a heavy track from chicago duet The Smashing Pumpkins (because truthfully thats all thats left of the band if you look at the credits). Billy Corgan is a difficult artist to follow as his musical indulgences are plentiful and his curiosity or flights of fancy are never reigned in. On the one hand this gives rise to masterpieces such as 1995's Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness but the flipside are Machina I & II and the rather soulless (if still awesome in my opinion) Zeitgeist.
I am a fan of the Pumpkins. I loved their Belfast gig in February of this year and I would consider seeing them again if they returned but despite this, there is a palpable coldness from Billy Corgan that resonates with every new release. Its almost as if he will do what he wants and we should like it regardless. It's off-putting and alienating and if the reports from their recent 20th Anniversary shows are to be believed, the fans have maybe had enough (lots of fans walked out and Corgan mocked them, the following night, another fan told Corgan on stage that last night's show "fucking sucked".)
"G.L.O.W." is standard and average and completely what I expected from the current iteration of the Pumpkins. Its heavy but soulless, like a Zeitgeist B-Side. Its not bad but its nowhere near the standard we know they are capable of.
The second track is the much-hyped and oft-played live "SuperChrist". Its a long, rambling track, full of bombast, with riffs that sound like the start of "Doomsday Clock" which isnt a bad thing. Live it sounds awesome. However, the vocals are annoying in their delivery and the constant back-beat is also grating. There is one nice bit in the middle with acoustic guitars and strings but its a fleeting moment of inspiration in a largely dull track.
I wanted to defend the band so much but its really beyond that now. Nostalgia only gets you so far. I'll always be a fan but I just want some inspiration again and less of Corgan's musical ego. Don't follow every idea you have man. Let it go, let it go...
Verdict: ** (2/5)
Monday, 24 November 2008
As the magnetism of Sigur-Rós’ most recent album had just begun to fade away and the listening endlessly began to grow tiresome and as the album takes its place among all those other greats that have preceded then it was time to revitalise my enjoyment and sheer awe at one of the most elemental bands in contemporary music. No better way to do this than engage in, what was for me, a quasi-religious, aesthetically perfect, well measured, supremely balanced night of entertainment.
Sigur-Rós’ potential to inculcate wonder and awe in their presence is largely undisputed yet, that still does not mean that one is left aghast at their overwhelmingly beautiful command of the live concert. Sigur-Rós entered into the rapturous applause of a crowd clearly hanging on in eager anticipation at what marvels would await them and indeed Sigur-Rós did bestow upon us an abundance of delights right from the off. For their first numbers Sigur-Rós played Sevn-e-glar and Ny Batterí proving that their older (and less mainstream) material holds just as much credence as the music that has propelled Sigur-Rós to fame within the last few years. This was simply a treat to listen and it only grew more enthralling with every alluring sonar ping and every violent stoke of Joní’s bow on his guitar. It was also extremely tactically placed, as from this moment Sigur-Rós were able to command the temperament of the crowd to ensure that it was totally in line with their disposition. With this power in hand Sigur-Rós opened the gig up to their more mainstream music with Við Spilum Endalaust, Hoppípolla Með Blóðnasir and Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur. It was at this point that one could notice, in spite of the vigor and energy that these songs were played with, Sigur-Rós were more comfortable with their more epic soundscape and while it was still a treat to hear these great tunes, it was possible to see the fragility and vulnerability of Sigur-Rós if they are pushed into the mainstream and that is why, in this authors opinion people should stop doing it.
The magnanimity of Sigur-Rós was soon to return in E-Bow and Sæglópur which also included the best visual element of the night, a huge water screen falling from the ceiling with images then blending into this ‘magical rain’. It was one of the design features, like many others, that gave itself so well to the music. Sigur-Rós finished the night with Festival, Hafssól and Gobbledigook and in the end it was the humorous, joyous, parodic and eccentric Sigur-Rós that left us demonstrating that they are truly capable of taking diversity to new levels of extreme. For the Encore we had All Alright and Popplagið. In the end despite its atmosphere, its well polished and brilliantly executed design and even its music, it was the personality of Sigur-Rós that won the day demonstrating that their character complexities, their artistic integrity and their musical ingenuity will remain sovereign lest anyone try to sell it off to the nearest wishing to push them into the ‘mainstream’.
Meh. Thats my honest opinion. It's not quite great, it's not quite bad either. There was a time when I hated The Killers. I was more snobbish than usual, despised their bland jock-rock sound and unfairly lumped them in with the vile, disease-ridden Kaiser Chiefs in a bucket of musical fail. However, reappraisal came a couple of years ago when I found myself liking a couple of songs here and there, particularly the rocking "When You Were Young". The Killers were saved from the bucket and dried off. "You're ok" I told them. I listened again to "Hot Fuss" and decided I had been a fool to dismiss them so easily.
However, I honestly and unbiasedly didnt like their new single "Human" when I heard it. Over time though, it grew on me. Its quite endearing in an 80s new-wave way. Even the much debated lyrics: "Are we human?/Or are we dancer?" didnt bother me as it seemingly has bothered the rest of their fanbase.
Disappointment spread like a dropped ice-cream at Disneyland when I listened to "Day And Age". Its just...meh. "Human" is undoubtedly the strongest track which is worrisome considering that it took so long to grow on me. The other tracks are instantly forgettable if not bad enough to make me condemn this album outright. I quite liked "A Dustland Fairytale" but maybe it stood out so much because the previous track "Joy Ride" was so mind-numbingly awful, it's space-reggae sounding like an even worse version of Dexys Midnight Runners' "Come On Eileen".
But look! REDEMPTION! Somehow, the final track on the album (well, if you don't count the now-mandatory bonus tracks) "Goodnight, Travel Well" manages to break out of the blandness and is genuinely as beautiful as it is brilliant. It's slow and gloomy, dripping with despair and angst. It certainly made me smile after sitting through so many sub-par tracks.
As for the aforementioned Bonus Tracks, they are better than most of the main album songs. "Forget About What I Said" in particular is quite good. In conclusion, its a disappointing album but maybe it will grow on me in time. For now though, its their worst album so far. Please inject some emotionality into the music guys. "Goodnight..." is so good because it has genuine emotional punch, like their early material. Its just vacuous stadium pop now.
For the iPod playlist: "Human", "Goodnight, Travel Well."
Verdict: ** (2/5)
Thursday, 13 November 2008
"Leech" rocks like a motherfucker. Grooving bass and drums, low-end guitars and some funky vocal work from Ruki and the GazettE backing singers. It sounds like a mix between "Hyena" and "Filth In The Beauty" - always a good thing in my book. Great single.
The B-Side is "Distorted Daytime" which is a grungy metal track with angry shouted vocals and a rough melodic chorus. It's nice and heavy and another top notch B-Side from the band that never fob us off with live tracks or poor remixes.
Lastly, those of you who purchase the Auditory Impression of the single will get a third song called "Hole". Its bass heavy and funky. There is some psychedelic guitar going on but there are some bits that are a little too similar to the previous track. Perhaps more variation would help in future.
Nothing much to say overall, its a great single. "Leech" is obviously the highlight on the disc and its well worth your money alone.
Verdict: **** (4/5)
Friday, 7 November 2008
Fuck, what is the world coming to?! I like this album?!
Believe it or not, Keane have actually impressed me with an album so unashamedly 80s and cheesy that it rocks. Lead single "Spiralling" is an inspired, retro-pop anthem that sets up the whole album and whilst the other songs can't match it for quality, they do put up a pretty good attempt. "You Don't See Me" is a dark song dressed as an 80s power ballad. Its filled with synth and piano but packs an emotional punch that is totally unexpected.
There are some clunkers: "Pretend That You're Alone" is a bit Dexys Midnight Runners and for that reason, unforgivable. Also, some of the songs are just disposable in that they just roll out filler-style. But for every moment of doubt, something happens to reaffirm the good points in the album. Its the cheesy record modern 80s lovers reminisce about. And for THAT reason, it gets a thumbs up from me.
For the iPod playlist: "Spiralling", "You Don't See Me".
Verdict: **** (4/5) - Against my better judgement, I can't help but love this album.
I'm shocked. I actually like this. Rentrer en Soi (or RENTRER EN SOI as they like to be called after going to the DIR EN GREY school of Caps lock) were never a band I had much time for. I found their major label releases to be Diru clones and one of their recent singles was absolutely awful.
Then they decided to disband. As a send-off we are getting a greatest hits package and this rather brilliant mini-album called "Megiddo". Its heavy and melodic in all the right places and damn if I didnt have a smile on my face throughout. "Crusade" has perfect melancholic passages interspersed with growling and chunky riffs and an angelic chorus. "Baptism" is a v-kei style sinister growler and its great. "Damnation" starts with pounding drums and then a funky riff which cements the track in groove territory and those little cascading guitar licks are orgasmic. Vocally, they've never been better. The choruses are awesome and there are harmonies to rival even Kyo's.
Its still Diru-lite but now they have a better voice of their own. Its more like Luna Sea meets Dir en grey. Fantastic.
For the iPod playlist: Put it all on, its only a 5 song mini-album. And its their best.
verdict: ***** (5/5)
Sorry I havent posted anything in a while. I've been quite busy. However, I have had time to listen to quite a few new releases so its time for a review party.
First up is the long-awaited new album from hard-rock veterans AC/DC. Black Ice is everything you would expect from an AC/DC album. There are chunky, simplistic riffs, vocal-chord-damaging screeches and the type of bawdy lyrics that ooze good ol' fashioned hedonism. Angus Young said that rock n' roll was just about going out and having fun and getting your dick wet. That pretty much sums up the album. Its good fun but its also nothing we havent come to expect from AC/DC. Its pile-driving road-trip rock at its most predictable. Sigh... Its also, dare I say it, kinda boring... Apart from "Rock N' Roll Train" there arent many decent hard rockers on the album. Its just song after song of the same, not-quite-good-enough AC/DCness.
Preaching to the converted. But then again, the converted can populate a small continent.
For the iPod playlist: "Rock N' Roll Train", "War Machine".
Verdict: ** (2/5)