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reviews

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? Allmusic.com 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…

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general

walking, iPod

I went for a long walk today, because I figure I will take more than one when I’m in Hawaii and I could use a shakedown cruise or two. I found that my iPod doesn’t like being in a loose pocket when I walk somewhere between a fast walk and a jog; it tends to lock up and requires a hard reset, which isn’t good. Normally, I keep it in a small holster-type bag, but I didn’t this time. This will be my first trip with the iPod, so I’m trying to test out any use beyond its regular daily pattern, just so there won’t be any surprises.

The walk was good though. It was in the low 70s, and I got all the way to Queens Plaza before I chickened out of walking over Queensborough Bridge. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around SoHo and record shopping at a few used places. I managed to score a copy of the out-of-print Henry Rollins The Boxed Life 2-CD for only $4.99. I had it on tape, but it’s good that I have it digitized and ready for my long trip. That album is pretty much the reason I became a writer. I used to listen to it during my long walks to Colonial Crest, and it made me start carrying a pen and paper so I could collect my thoughts and eventually develop them into writing. And that was almost ten years ago – ten this fall. Weird how time flies. I bought an album today that I hadn’t heard in TWENTY YEARS. That’s a bit weird to me.

I updated the music collection pageĀ [long since gone], although I think I may have missed some things, and now I really think I should develop some sort of database system that is fed via a barcode scanner. The collection is now above 800 CDs. That isn’t the shocking part; the shocking part is that I really don’t consider that to be a lot of CDs. I really want to get above 1000 in the near future. Maybe I need to start scamming CD clubs again.

Okay, almost bedtime.

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general

Sleep, sickness, Van Halen

I slept almost all day today. It’s rainy and I did manage to drag 30 pounds of laundry to the ‘mat and get a couple of bagels and some juice, but otherwise I spent the day drifting in and out of sleep, flipping through the channels and watching nothing, and wishing I didn’t have a sore throat. Now I await my Indian food, listen to Van Halen’s Women and Children First (current track “Everybody Wants Some”, which reminds me of my 30th birthday when I rented a Corvette and drove around Vegas with the glass roof removed and this track on repeat, the Delco all-exclusive, all-top-end, better-than-Blaupunkt premium sound system at like 11.)

I actually spent a lot of last night and this afternoon reading Chuck Klosterman’s book Fargo Rock City, which Julie recommended when I said I was writing a book about 80s rock. I got a copy from the last Amazon dispatch, and sat on it because I thought I’d take it to Hawaii with me to help kill the 12-hour plane flight. But I cracked it open last night and started reading. I thought it would be a quasi-fictional book about some dudes in North Dakota hooked on Dokken records or something, but it’s more of a reviewer’s deconstruction and personal tales about heavy metal and what it means to him.

That’s a great premise, and I really do like a lot of his examination of the genre. That said, he’s a big fan of various glam metal that I really don’t like and consider to be more of a product of MTV and the LA scene than the kind of music I like. There are generally two types of metal: the kind that’s about the lifestyle, and the kind that’s about the power, the extreme-ness. He’s the kind of person that loves Poison and Motley Crue and completely dismisses guitar-metal and Death Metal, while I’m the complete opposite. But there are enough bands in the gray area and he’s an intelligent enough observer that I didn’t throw the book out of the window at page 6. (Which I assume people like Ray would.)

That said, he says some pretty stupid shit. He dismisses Rush as a Christian band; he says Slayer is a Death Metal band; he rails on bands with a more technical guitar player (i.e. the Steve Vais and Joe Satrianis) and he spends a lot of time at the beginning trying to define and dissect hard rock versus heavy metal, mostly getting it wrong. There were many points at which I thought this guy was full of shit, aside from the fact that he liked the most weak bands of the era.

That said, I stuck with it, and a lot of his observation was dead-on. One thing that really struck me was the fact that any rock music on the heavy end is written in such a way that you think you have a personal relationship with the person who created it. I mean, if you are a really huge Van Halen fan, and let’s say you relate most to Diamond Dave (as opposed to being a guitar fan and Eddie Van Halen virtuo-protege), you think to some extent that you have a conenction to Dave. He wrote the music (okay, the band did, but he sang it on the record) and you understand it, so you think he understands you, or you understand him. So there’s this strange premise of “wouldn’t it be cool to just hang out with David Lee Roth and life would be just like that video with the chicks with the boobs.” But in reality, that isn’t true, and that’s just part of the product. You won’t hang out with Dave or Eddie, and if you do, they aren’t going to be flying through the air on wire-mounted motorcycles like the “Panama.” They’re probably going to be hidden away in a trailer, bitching about their accountants. And that strange illusion is weird, because once you really realize it, the whole thing breaks. You can’t be an insane fan of a band if you know that it’s all fake. It’s like hooking up with a beautiful woman from a Victoria’s Secret catalog and becoming her boyfriend and girlfriend, and then getting to the point where you watch her take a shit, and that wall of illusion is gone. As a person who has never had a truly successful long-term relationship, I often wonder what that happy medium is, and if the secret to fifty years of marriage is that you really need to fall out of love and drink a lot of Pabst Blue Ribbon on a daily basis.

Okay, I went from book review to “too much information,” so I’ll stop there. I have absolutely nothing else to report – it’s been a very boring time around here. Maybe after my Indian food, I will have a greater burst of creativity and try to get to work on the book.

Categories
general

iPod, CD binging

This iPod is incredible. It’s a great experience to have a big plurality of your music collection with you at all times, in a tiny little box as big as a deck of cards. And it’s great to listen to everything on shuffle, hearing old favorites next to new CDs next to things I cherished ten years ago but haven’t heard in ages because they were on a compilation CD buried somewhere in my apartment. I’ve been ripping CDs nonstop, and I’m barely filling up the 20 gigs of space. I’ve got about six gigs on there, and another gig or so of stuff I’ve ripped today.

I went to Best Buy today, the new one in Chelsea. It was a minor pain in the ass because there wasn’t an N/W train running to Manhattan, so I had to get on the 7. Then I got on an F, and it took me right to the door of this new place. The whole store is actually underground, and it’s big for a store in Chelsea, although it’s probably one of the smallest Best Buys I’ve been in. I went on a CD rampage, and here’s what I got:

  • CKY – Infiltrate, Destroy, Rebuild
  • CKY – Volume 1
  • Twisted Forever – A Tribute to the Legendary Twisted Sister
  • Iron Maiden – Powerslave
  • Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
  • Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time
  • Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden
  • Orgy – Vapor Transmission
  • NWA – Greatest Hits
  • Green Day – Kerplunk
  • Dead Kennedys – Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

The Iron Maiden CDs are all the new “full cover” versions, with shitty bonus tracks available as multimedia only. I should’ve bought them all five years ago when they were in the cool Castle reissues with a bonus CD in a brilliant box, but I’m an idiot. I don’t have any of them on CD – all of my old Maiden stuff was on vinyl. The CKY is new to me, but I really like them a lot – I first heard them in the Jackass movie. The rest of the list were impulse purchases or stuff that was at a good price, so there you go.

I also picked up a copy of The Sims for PS/2, not really knowing much about it except that a lot of people like it. I played it for an hour or so this afternoon, and it is a total pain in the ass. You have to tell your dude what to do: eat, crap, bathe, watch TV, learn stuff, pick up the house, etc etc. If you don’t do stuff, your meters go down. For example, if you don’t talk to other family members, your social meter goes down. If you don’t watch TV or listen to the radio, your fun meter goes down. And you never, ever have time to do everything. So basically, it’s like real life. And I can’t manage to keep my own house clean or eat three square meals a day, so there’s not a chance I can do it on the computer. Despite this, it’s hard to put down. Go figure.

OK, gotta get out of here and get some stuff done.

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general

Up

The new Peter Gabiel album, Up is pretty damn good. The music behind it has progressed greatly over the last ten years, although in a strange way, this is not as pop-accessible to me. It reminds me much more of one of his first three self-titled albums, but if they were recorded with incredibly advanced and modern digital equipment. There’s still the world music-oriented influences on there, although in a different direction than Us. But the thing above all of it is that his signature voice is still as pronounced as ever. It’s a very strange experience, and I think it will grow on me even more after I get it on a MiniDisc and listen to it with headphones on the train for a week straight.

I can’t believe it has been ten years since the last Peter Gabriel album. I don’t remember exactly when I bought Us, but I do remember spending a hell of a lot of time listening to it in the 1992-1993 school year. It’s one of those pieces of hyper-nostalgia that ties me into that timeframe. I really remember listening to it a lot when I was briefly dating this girl Kim in January of 1993, because the song “Secret World” really reminded me of her. I also remember a night where I listened to the whole tape three or four times, when I was dragging my laundry from my house on Mitchell Street in Bloomington to the laundromat in Eastgate Plaza. It made me remember the whole routine; I’d drag the clothes there and practically explode the tendons in my wrists from the laundry baskets. Everything went in, then I would walk down the plaza. This was, of course, on a Saturday night, because I had no life. I would go to Morgenstern’s and look at some books or the magazine rack, and pick up some obscure magazine that looked cool. Then I’d go to the cheap Chinese place – was it called Grasshopper? – and order some very Americanized sweet and sour pork, and read my magazine. I guess the Peter Gabriel fit this well; Us was such an introspective and dark album, following Gabriel’s divorce and really picking at various parts of the same problems I was facing. It was such a soundtrack to the strange ups and downs of my life at that point, unlike the steady stream of Death Metal that also shared the CD player around the same time. Death Metal marked the peaks, the energy and anger of being 21 and being in college and everything else, but after that all faded and I found myself sitting alone in an apartment as a 31-year old writer, the Peter Gabriel stood the test of time.

Speaking about thinking about the past too much, I’ve been getting some letters about the NecroKonicon, the glossary about my life. I guess I’m not the only one plugging their past into Google and hoping for an answer. I wish I could do more with this thing, either expand it more or do something fancy with the layout. I also wish I knew of a better way to send this out to more people, or somehow market it or put the right spin on it. I have a hard time even describing it to people. Most of its readership is from Google. If you have any bright ideas, let me know.

I had to move all of my logs off of rumored.com today, so I did a quick report with analog to see how things stood. The directory currently getting the most hits is the Vegas directory, and I suspect that most of the hits are from people googling on stuff like “cheap vegas hotel.” And a ton of them are from google’s image search. I have very mixed feelings about this. For one, I’m running out of space posting photos, and I get no feedback whatsoever from them, they seem like such a waste of time to me sometimes. But, if I had nothing but text, my site would be incredibly boring. So, I don’t know.

 

 

Categories
general reviews

Saxon

I think I have some kind of seasonal disorder. This rain isn’t very fun anymore. It’s 45 and slightly drizzling, but it’s been raining for so long that the sky is always grey and the ground is like a full sponge. Don’t move to Seattle – If you do, show up in April and leave by October.

The CD(s) spending most of the time in my player(s) lately is the latest Saxon album, The Eagle Has Landed. It’s a live album from 1995, and I love it. I used to listen to Saxon back hin high school – I bought a copy of Crusader because Vyvvyan on The Young Ones was wearing a Saxon shirt. I loved their sound, this NWOBHM two-guitar attack with lyrics about British motorcycles and castles and military history and touring the world. Their sound wa kindof cheesy – almost Spinal Tap-esque, but I didn’t care. I grew up on their albums from the early and mid 80s, but when the 90s came around and the albums started looking slightly stupid, I gave up on the new stuff, and stuck to the classics.

Fast forward to 1998, when I felt a need to replace every cassette in my collection with a CD or MD. I had a lot of trouble finding any of the Saxon stuff, although I did find a Dutch pressing of Crusader. Then, this week I decided to pick up this live album, because it had some of my favorite old songs. I guess these guys kept touring and playing all of this time, because they sound really tight. They sound like if Bruce Dickinson was singing for the new Helloween. It’s a great 2-CD set, and it will probably be in my player all weekend.

Aah, the weekend. I haven’t done shit all week, so it’ll be nice to get caught up on Rumored. I’m sure it will be pouring all weekend, so I’ll be at home, on the computer.

I can’t seem to spell today, and I want to finish my reuben. Maybe I’ll get to write some more entries this weekend.

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general

Snap Judgment

Thank you to Ray for my early birthday present, which I got in the mail today. It’s the best three demos from the Chicago hardcore/Death band Snap Judgment, all compiled together on a CD-R. Ray put the whole thing together for his own evil intentions, but he also made me a copy, with a nice laserprinted package that has scans of the original three covers and very comprehensive, anal-retentive track info that a fellow audiophile would love. The first demo, Tomorrow Will Be Worse reminds me most of a trip to Chicago I took with Ray during spring break of 1992. There’s a funny and tragic story that goes along with this which I need to tell at some point, but these six tracks remind me more of other imagery from March 92, like my VW, my old girlfriend Patty, the spring break trip home I took with Ken Rawlings along for the ride, the new Realistic cassette-only deck in the dash of my car, and Eternity cologne. The second demo, Hey! Soul Classics reminds me of Jan/Feb 1993, when I was dating both Kim and Danielle, and walking everywhere because I didn’t have a car. I only heard the third demo, 1993 once or twice, and never got a copy. Around that time, I was going to Chicago a lot with Ray, almost every weekend, and I must’ve met their lead singer John Tekiela a few times, but I don’t remember for sure. I never saw them play, but I heard many times the fable of when Ray saw them on his birthday. They threw together an impromptu cover of the Motorhead song “We Are the Road Crew” for him, and when John didn’t know the words, he gave the mike to Ray and let him sing.

Memories like that make me wish the music scene hadn’t gotten so stupid in the last five years. At least I’m finding more old, cool stuff on CD so I can listen to it until the next wave of decent stuff comes out.

I hate to cut this short, but I just got home and ate dinner, and I have a new Nintendo game waiting for me. Maybe I’ll write more later.

Categories
general

quick thoughts on music

Quick thoughts – I have been listening to more death metal, especially before work every morning. At first, it made me uneasy – I choose to listen to the speed and type of music based on my mood. Like if I am lying in bed at 2am and wanting to sleep soon, I might listen to Brian Eno, but not Motorhead. But it works in reverse – if I listen to Dismember before work, it keeps me from being slow and passive. I have this fear that I have become such a slow working person, both at work and at home, that I spend 20 hours a day being lazy and the other 4 doing an hour of work. Listening to unholy satanic death metal seems to artificially raise my metabolism a bit.

I don’t remember my other thought, but I’ve got a meeting now.