Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Good Son

Released: Spring, 1990
Availability: recently Remastered and Rereleased, with bonus DVD.
Label: Mute Records (former independent, currently under Major Label EMI)

Nick Cave is one of those artists that everyone should have heard of, and even if you haven't I can almost guarantee you've heard a song by him in some incarnation or another. He started with a group called The Birthday Party, his next group was The Bad Seeds. The Bad Seeds contain Blixa Bargeld - a legend in the Industrial scene, so you know the group was good. Take my word for it.

Most often placed in the Gothic Rock scene, Nick Cave has a firm grasp of good old Rock, Blues, and Jazz. Certainly not to be missed.

Foi Na Cruz - This song is entirely in Portuguese (I believe), the title means "It Happened Upon The Cross". Nick Cave always has a religious theme somewhere on his albums, sometimes cynically, and sometimes not. I haven't translated the lyrics.

The Good Son - The title track is light, with a dark undertone. The song builds to an intense crescendo through the verse and immediately relents on the chorus. It fades out with a slightly too long repetition.

Sorrow's Child - A somber piano carries this tune of loneliness and sadness. We can never completely escape sadness in life, at this reminder of that has a really nice tune.

The Weeping Song - I absolutely love this song; confession: I have put this on repeat for over an hour just listening to everything in it. I couldn't possibly describe the effects this song are on me, but it is profound.

The Ship Song - Another slow dirge-like track. This album is not a dance album, it's not a crank-it-eleven rock out album. It is slow, melodic, and even when it's essentially a love song it sounds low. Generally, a good moody album to have for rainy summer nights.

The Hammer Song - You can almost always hear a story in Nick Cave's songs, but rarely as straight forward as in this one. The Hammer Song feels like an old western to me, from the image of the hammer on a six-shooter to the slight twang in the guitars in the background in parts.

Lament - This song may actually be a dirge, and one of the most cheerful sounding songs on the album.

The Witness Song - This song picks up the pace significantly from the previous songs. A relatively quick paced song that just begs to be hummed along with, and definitely requires a foot tapping.

Lucy - This one is definitely a dirge, a slow piano and string song that ends out the album on a long, slow, but ultimately quiet note of devotion and love. The song fades out with a harmonica and the sound of rain falling. . . just to make the point.

If you're wondering why half the songs are The X Song, it's because they never changed them from the working titles as things were being written. Personally, I think that was a good choice. The whole album is a little sad, but not morose. As I said at the start Nick Cave is often placed with the Gothic Rock scene, and not without good reason.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lady Gaga - The Fame

Released: August, 2008
Available: anywhere you look! seriously.
Label: Interscope (UMG Label, major label)

If you think I'm going to stick to one genre with this blog -- I'm not.

I don't listen to the radio except rarely in the car, so 'pop' music has to get my attention the same way every other genre in existence does: by me going out and just finding stuff. Or word of mouth. I also don't own a television so the Lady Gaga PR Machine never even crossed my radar. I came to this party late, after the wife said "I want some Lady Gaga albums" when I asked for ideas for Christmas gifts.

Fair enough. I went out and picked up the album, having a pretty solid idea of the artist as the current Pop Star, and having heard some of it, I deemed it passable but not particularly spectacular. Upon getting the album I gave it a solid listen. I didn't expect to enjoy it like I do. (as a note: this is actually the 'revised' release put out after the initial release, it contains two more tracks than before.)

Just Dance - This album is not some genre-breaking testament to music, it's not some intense social statement. It's a pop record. And the opening track comes in with a catchy beat and a statement one should take to heart: Just Dance. This album is supposed to be fun and this is one of the more fun tracks. I think this is my favorite track because it reminds us that sometimes, the music is just a vessel to get us dancing.

Get out on the floor and enjoy the ride.

Love Game - "Disco Stick" has got to be one of the best phallic allusions in a song I've heard in a long time. Not since Motorhead belted out "Bacon Torpedo" have I loved a double entendre so much. Another catchy fun track to dance to, allusions aside it's a good song overall.

Paparazzi - Either this is a statement of undying love, or a song about a stalker. The beat here slows down a bit, it's not as dancable as the previous tracks. I still haven't decided if I like this one or not, I skip over it half the time.

Poker Face - Another solid club track, mostly harmless fun, slathering on sexual tension without being nearly as crude as other artists can be.

Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say) - Slowing down again, this one is a definite pop-ballad song. Though instead of a song about true love, it's about breaking up. As far as sappy pop songs go, I like this one, it manages to be upbeat about the whole thing.

Beautiful, Dirty, Rich - I love this song, it makes me immediately think of AC/DC and the like. This song would be just as good with a killer guitar riff as it is here with a pop-techno beat.

The Fame - Another hard rock inspired track, definitely a good track to just get out on the floor and dance to. Doin' It For The Fame, what else is there for pop musicians. Cant' knock honesty set to a catchy beat.

Money Honey - Another song I like a lot, and yet another song I can picture as a hard rock song instead of technopop. What can I say, I love me some rock and roll, and while this is definitely a pop-tune it's mostly Rock.

Starstruck - The added song for the 'revised' release of the album. Pure club track dance music here. Slow beat, good steady rhythm, a guest artists breaks into a drawn out rap-verse in the middle, but the beat doesn't really change up behind it so you can look past the flaw.

Boys Boys Boys - More Rock fun here. Remember Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls"? Becuase this is the woman artists answer to it. I like that Lady Gaga is able to sexually charge her music without coming across as the submissive side of the relationship.

Paper Gangsta - A piano opening marks this one as something different. Another slower track, it's passable as far as songs go. A song about not wanting superficial boys to date, I'm pretty sure. A mellow song to put on at the end of the evening when things have slowed down.

Brown Eyes - Another mellow slow track. It sounds like it should be played with the lights low, in a noir-feeling lounge or night club. After the upbeat pop of the first part of the album this one almost seems out of place, this would have been a better outro to the whole album instead of just near the end.

I Like It Rough - Picking the beat back up again, but not as fast as the bouncier tracks from the first half. It's not a bad song, but it's not particularly good either. This is another track that was added to the revised release (it started life as an iTunes bonus track).

Summerboy - This one actually contains a guitar riff sound on it, but doesn't quite pick up the pace that would elevate it above top-40 radio fair. A little more oomph could have put this one on the dance floor too.

The album starts out as really good pop-dance fair, but lost some steam at the end, though it never actually goes bad. Sure, it's mostly vapid simple pop culture dance music - but it's good. Lady Gaga can actually write a tune, unlike most pop-musicians out there trying to get you to buy an album.

I wouldn't place this among my collection of Must Have Calssic Albums by any means, but it's listenable and fun.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Motorhead -- Inferno

Released: June, 2004
Availble: All Major Music Sources
Label: SPV (Independant Label)

Motorhead stands as an icon of Rock 'N' Roll, and it's my belief everyone should have at least one album in their collection. With over thirty years of history (2010 marks the 35th Anniversary) there are nearly twenty studio albums out there.

Let's look at Inferno. The album is one of my favorites, and the album cover is cool. If you don't know who Motorhead are, at the release of this album Motorhead is a trio of Lemmy, Mikkey Dee, and Phil Campbell.

Terminal Show - There is no fade in, intro, or even a count it. The album opens up with full guitar/bass/drums at volume and speed. A fast paced romp through the age old question of why we're here. Steve Vai provides a kickin' guitar solo in the middle.

Killers - Without slowing down track thunders on, Killers is a motorhead staple of songs about battle and war. Turn the volume up and play it loud, there's no deep philosophy to dwell on.

In The Name Of Tragedy - One of my favorite tracks on the album. A song about life's troubles and trials. The chorus is what caught me on this one. While he verses go on about losses and all the stupid things we do that mess up our lives the chorus tells us to stop whining and get it sorted out.

Suicide - Slowing things down just a little, without lowering the volume. Suicide is commentary on modern society, and the slow suicide of the human race through war, wasted resources, and greed.

Life's A Bitch - Speeding right back up the fifth track provides an important message. It's a fast and hard track, but the outro kinds of kills it, it's one of those extended drum roll things where the drummer feels the needs to hit every piece of the kit with the guitars wail on for half a dozen notes too many.

Down On Me - Still not slowing down, the album so far is a testament to the fact that you don't need to pause in the action. Another guitar solo from Steve Vai here, giving the song a bit of a kick.

In The Black - This one has a slower, crunchy guitar riff to it that's catchy. The guitar solo is punctuated by a change up in the drumming as well, extra tasty. I think you could remove the lyrics, toss in some more guitar solos and this would make a great instrumental.

Fight - "Put The Bass Up Will Ya." And the song takes off at a gallop. As close to a stadium anthem as this album will give you, the lyrics of the song are simple and shouted, mostly repeated words.

In The Year Of The Wolf - A steady, slower, track. Though by no means slow. A look back to the more primal thoughts, less domestic days. You can almost picture Viking long ships making their way to some hapless village. . .

Keys To The Kingdom - Still bringing it down in tempo just a little, without turning down the volume. The song could be about Lucifer after he was thrown out of Heaven and left to wander. Or a loss in faith. Either way it's a great track.

Smiling Like A Killer - Speeding right back up, this song always strikes me as a bit funny. Every horror movie trope creeps through the verses as the song speeds along. There's more humor than fright in this one.

Whorehouse Blues - The album ends with a down tempo track, drummer Mikkey Dee leaves the drum kit for a moment to give the track a double guitar sound. The song is a straight blues riff, something motorhead has used throughout their carreer in their songs. This time it's all acoustic calssic blues. Halfway through Lemmy plays the harmonica. The song is about Motorhead's career.

Motorhead has delivered solid fast paced album, good old Rock N Roll. Some of the songs have lyrics deeper than your average rock or metal album, some of them not very deep at all.

Everyone should own a Motorhead album, just so they know what good rock/metal really sounds like. It's Lemmy after all.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mandatory Intro Track

Who Am I: Just some guy who listens to a lot of music. Most people say they listen to everything, what they really mean is they listen to whatever the radio is playing, usually after flipping through stations to get past the commercials, or whatever random station they land on. I'd like to think I really do listen to a sampling of every major, and most minor, genres of music out there.

And there's a lot of music out there. So much so I'm constantly foiled in my attempts to get a smattering of everything.

Why This? Because every music blog I read devolves into one of a few things - 1) the blogger goes off on a series of non-music related tangets. 2) the blogger feels the need to form street cred by going over music you'll never get a hold of because it's some tiny local band who can barely produce 100 CD-Rs on their home computer. 3) the blogger goes off on what music means to them and just how clever they are by drawing parallels to... something.

Or some combination of all that.

What is This then? A review of an album at a time, fully and completely from start to finish. No clever anecdotes about how the lead singer was thinking of his dog when he thought of the verse. Or whatever. I take an album and listen to it track by track and put down my thoughts. The only criteria is that the album has to be easily available, either as a download, through a website, a major label, a minor label, a reliable distributor, or however more than just the 50 people who attened the last show in a coffee shop can get ahold of it.

There's a lot of cool blogs out there dedicated to small bands who aren't signed, and have no hope of being signed. And don't even need to be signed in today's world of internet distribution. I'm sure occasionally I'll even get a few of those here. there's a lot of blogs dedicated to mainstream reviews usually taking a couple paragraphs to describe the album from .... some angle.

Why read this? Existentialism.

I promise you this blog will only ever review albums, one album per post, with suggestions based on "if you liked this and this you might like this album too" type of thing. Track by Track.

In the end - it's just another opinion taking up bandwidth. But I will never tell you how awesome it was to see some underground band at somethingorother-fest to show my street cred.

You want to know my street cred? here's the only street cred I have: I've shared a smoke with Sascha K. of KMFDM while waiting for Lucia to get some paper for the credit card machine while at a concert. Sascha has talked to thousands of fans, because he's cool like that, which makes that encounter unspectacular. I'm sure somewhere that makes me officially cool. But I doubt it.

And since this intro is officially too long now... I'm out. First review in a day or two (I have to find a good album to lead this thing with). And in general - recommend music to me, I need to expand my horizons.