Reviewing a bunch of music I normally wouldn’t even acknowledge

Many moons ago, I wrote an essay about my different tastes in music, because I didn’t really have a common musical genre that I could tell people that I was into. At the time, I actually listened to FM radio, and could at least name more than five artists that had released a new album in the last decade. Now that I no longer listen to the radio or watch MTV, I look back at this old essay and realize that aside from buying a lot of new Dream Theater albums and replacements of old 80s heavy metal tapes that have been remastered, I really haven’t kept up with music at all. In fact, I recently found out that not only do I not know the difference between Dave Mathews and John Mayer, but I thought they were the same person.

In an effort to educate myself and possibly give you the reader some information on pop music (although I know neither of you give a fuck about this, and I know for a fact that Larry has absolutely no preference or use for music, other than selling it on eBay if he somehow happens upon it) I decided to go to Amazon and listen to a few samples provided for popular albums. Coincidentally, they have a new feature which enables you to easily browse music and listen to thirty second samples, usually with five of them provided for many albums. Instead of clicking each individual sound sample, this new media browser lets you load up a whole albums’ worth of samples in a jukebox, and will show related titles for your perusal.

I decided to hunt down a bunch of albums that are either very popular at the moment, or were recorded by artists that I had some sort of curiousity about. This meant hitting the new releases and top seller tabs of this Amazon browser. When I got bored of the suggestions it gave me, I went to Billboard and got a few ideas from the top 100. I weeded out anything immediately identifiable as rap or country, and went from there. Here are my brief reviews – take them with a grain of salt, as I’m more of a heavy metal sort of fan.

Seal – Seal IV

I actually really like this. It’s got a really funky sound, very energetic. He’s got a dynamic voice that sounds like a classic, like classic Stevie Wonder. The music is more modern, newer beats and fresh rhythm. I seriously think I’m going to pick up a copy of this.

Dido – White for Rent

I don’t know anything at all about her, except that more women than men seem to like her. Anyway, the music reminds me of Natalie Merchant or something. No wait, it’s more like Suzanne Vega, except not as artsy-fartsy. But it’s not as sly either, not as sexy. It’s more poppy, straightforward. It doesn’t do much for me.

Outkast – Speakerboxx/The Love Below

This starts with some kind of big band intro. “Love Hater” continues the motif, although there’s rap-style lyrics over it. It’s not hardcore rap stuff, it sounds more like Fishbone. And now on “Happy Valentine’s Day”, there’s more of the funkified lyrics that sound like Fishbone, but without the heavy, funky rhythm behind it. “Spread” is a faster rap thing, not as good. It’s mixed, and I don’t know what the focus is, so I don’t get into it as much. I think I’d like some songs, but not the whole concept.

Coldplay – A Rush of Blood

Are they trying to sound like the Beatles? calls them “Brit-pop darlings”. I asked a friend who actually listens to the radio, and she said they are “whiny white boys who think they are Radiohead.” And I remember Chuck Klosterman doesn’t like them, but I forget his exact reason. Oh wait, I have heard “Clocks” before, in a commercial or movie or something. I thought it was a U2 song. Well that’s enough of a reason for me to not like them.

The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

A bunch of people online seem to like these guys, so I had to listen to them for a bit. This sounds like if Beck’s band recorded a solo album without Beck, like The Beck Experience or something. It’s got this more relaxed and acoustic guitar, with a totally geeked-out synth sound. “Flight Test” and “One More Robot” sound sortof like an old Yes album with a different vocalist, so I could almost deal with that. I think I could come to like this, since it sounds enough like Spock’s Beard, but I’m afraid that if I went to one of their shows, there would be a lot of hippies and people with star tattoos there.

Radiohead – Hail to the Thief

I have OK Computer but never got into it that much, except to listen to it when I was trying to sleep. This is pretty much the same deal. This reminds me of the slower parts of Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon, very subdued with piano and quiet vocals, like “Sail to the Moon”. “Backdrifts” has a pretty cool drum sound, all sampled and electronic. “Go to Sleep” has more energy, more like REM or something. It’s not bad, but I’ll stick with OK Computer.

Probot – Probot

Holy shit, I was hoping to hear this! Dave Grohl (I think he was in some stupid band in the 80s before the Foo Fighters) got all of these metal figureheads together to record new songs with his band. “Centuries of Sin” has Cronos from Venom, although it sounds more like a Sepultura song. “Red War” has Max Cavalera from Sepultura, but it sounds more like a Slayer song. “Shake Your Blood” has Lemmy! Lemmy! Lemmy! It sounds like Motorhead, maybe a few bits of the equation changed to make it sound different. There are a couple of more hardcore songs, like “Silent Spring” with Kurt from DRI and “Access Babylon” with the guy from CoC. I will surely get this CD.

Jessica Simpson – In This Skin

I know what she looks like, and that she doesn’t know that tuna is a fish, but I had to hear her music. She sounds a lot like Britney Spears, who I have heard on commercials and everywhere else. But she can actually sing a bit better, her anunciation and vibrato is softer, more flowing. Britney always has that forced, pseudo-synthesized e-e-e-e-e sound, where Simpson actually hits and holds notes. “Sweetest Sin” sounds like classic Mariah Carey, and “With You” is a lot of fun. If someone gave me a copy of this, I could see myself being a closet fan of it, but maybe I shouldn’t say that publically.

Britney Spears – In the Zone

I had to do a back-to-back comparison, and I’m not impressed with this, even for the genre. There’s more talking than singing, talking that’s crammed into a dance beat or whatever to make it sound more like actual music. And on stuff like “Breathe on Me”, they make her sing the chorus over the verse so you can’t tell that she isn’t really singing. It’s more of a rap album than the infectious bubblegum pop, not that either one works for me.

Nickelback – Long Road

This is what Ray would probably call “pit-riffy”. I think “Do This Anymore” is catchy, and I almost considered this album until “Someday” came on – this is the sickly slow song. “Believe it or Not” is almost okay, but “Feelin Way Too Damn Good” peters out. The CD probably sounds better with a lot of low bass, but it mostly reminds me of the entrance songs in WWE Wrestling.

Hoobastank – The Reason

What a weird band name. Here’s another riffy one, sortof mixing lightweight hardcore with really catchy lyrics. It’s something I would expect a 14-year-old skateboarder to be into. It does have a really clean, poppy sound. I’d just be afraid if I was listening to it in my car, that someone would pull up next to me and start laughing at my 33-year-old ass.

Audioslave – Audioslave

When this started off, I was thinking “this band is the biggest Soundgarden ripoff ever! The singer even sounds like Chris Cornell!” Then I looked up the CD info and it turns out it is Chris Cornell. It’s also I think everyone from Rage Against the Machine except the singer. I didn’t listen to it long enough to see if the band had the same political themes as RatM. I guess it’s hard to be anti-corporate when you’re simultaneously signed to two major labels with two management teams.

Those are the brief, useless reviews for today. I’m sure I will have a bunch of teenagers sending me shitty email about trashing their idols, so I better go adjust my spam filters appropriately…