Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Learned The Truth at 17

Found this while rooting through some old boxes. It's my senior class portrait, wearing a tan leather suit and obvious 70's shirt. My guess is the pic was taken the Summer of 77.

My Amazon Reviews: Radiohead "The Bends"

Radiohead Turns It On  
5 Out Of 5 Stars

While the first Radiohead album, Pablo Honey, was a decent go at the prevailing grunge sound of the time, The Bends was where Thom Yorke and company went from imitation to originality.Yorke's infatuation with modern alienation was focused and Jon Greenwood had fine tuned his guitar attacks into a voice that became unique to him and the band. More than any of their other albums, "The Bends" rocked hard and loud.

While the follow-up would find Yorke pushing his view more into the technology of alienation (and produce a masterwork in OK Computer), "The Bends" was still a human album. As "High and Dry" made it clear:
"Drying up in conversation, You'll be the one that cannot talk.
All your insides fall to pieces, you just sit there wishing
you could still make love."

That may be the most aching lyric to come off Yorke's pen, and it's followed by yet another bit of brilliance, "Fake Plastic Trees." I always though the line "that she bought from a rubber man in a town full of rubber plans" was a nod to The Beatles in Radiohead's own twisted world. Then there's the band looking at the flukish success of "Creep" on "My Iron Lung," where the sudden recognition of that one song becomes the twin blessing and curse of rock hit and novelty...and insecurity of creative doubt takes root.

While Yorke was already pushing Radiohead up and away from the typical rock forms of the day, "The Bends" remains the band's most rocking and accessible CD. The seeds of artistic explosion had already reached a fertile stage and would jump the tracks on the next two albums, yet to my ears, "The Bends" was Radiohead's first perfect record.

How Deadly Funny: How To Create a Newsclip

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just a quick post surgery note.

Doctor visit today, three weeks after surgery. He is happy with the healing so far. Turns out I also had a mole that needed to be removed, and the good news is that the tissue study indicates it was benign.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I'm SO psyched for this!

The Best of the Runaways: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection

My Amazon Reviews: Mastodon "Crack the Skye"

Crack the SkyeMammoth
5 out of 5 Stars

Mastodon are bending time and space on their fourth studio album. "Crack The Skye" picks up where the progressive leaning Blood Mountain, but they expand even deeper into the elements of the music. If there was ever a band that made the melodic chiming sounds of an army of panzer tanks, it's Mastodon. This album is that heavy a trip.

Allegedly a concept album about the rise and fall of Tsarist Russia, "Crack The Skye" is ambitious and thoughtful at the same time it is skull crushing. The centerpiece of the CD, "The Czar," is a sonic spiral of heavy rock with textures shifting throughout the four parts of the piece. There's plenty of menacing atmosphere to the point that some listeners might be taken aback...most metal depends one speed and the harshness of the sound to provide the intimidation, yet Mastodon have mastered that most elusive of beasts; dynamic. The drawn out harmonies of "The Last Baron" wouldn't be possible if the band were trying to crack land speed records, yet there's no way to miss the power and the weight of the song itself.

"Crack The Skye" was my favorite metal album of 2009, and on a par with another conceptual rocking fave, Iced Earth's Glorious Burden.Months later, it continues to reveal new things on repeat listens. Along with producer Brendan O'Brien, Mastodon have delivered an album that is both a sonic boom (listen on headphones or a surround system for the best effect) and rocks harder than 90% of what most metal bands and fans collectively obsess over.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: Moody Blues "Playlist (3 CD Set)"

Playlist PlusMoody to Fair
3 Out Of 5 Stars

For sheer sonic audacity, few recording artists have ever topped The Moody Blues. They were one of the bands to wed the concepts of symphonic rock successfully to their albums. This three disc set follows them just as they start their strongest work (skipping the early singles and dropping "Go Now" from this collection) and moving as they mellow into a successful stadium rock band from after late 70's.
Once they became psychedelic darlings with Days of Future Passed,they adopted the mellotron into their core sound. Seeing as member Mike Pinder actually worked at a factory that built the instruments, he was able to adapt them as he saw fit. It adds to the warbley and mystical sounds in "Story In Your Eyes," "Isn't Life Strange" and "Dear Diary," and began to offer the band an identity that set them apart. At one point, the image became so much that John Lodge wrote "I"m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band" (a top 20 US hot) to speak back to the issue. The band called it quits soon after, and their are two fine efforts from Justin Hayward and John Lodge's "Blue Jays" project on disc two. (However, Hayward's terrific "Forever Autumn" is inexcusably missing.)
The third disc highlights the comeback singles from 1978's Octave on. While the songs sound strangely 'typical' as opposed to the transcendental 60's and early 70's work, that is not to say that the songs aren't any good. In fact, "Your Wildest Dreams" is a great work, matching a nostalgic lyric to a contemporary sound. It's not bad stuff, just average. Had I been asked to grade disc three, it would probably be a stand alone 3 star effort. As with many of the progeny of the 60's that helped define an era (think The Grateful Dead, The Who, even The Beach Boys) that have seemingly coasted more on legend than output, The Moodies' compilations are best served as introductions to the best albums, like On the Threshold of a Dreamor Question of Balance.
Incidentally, the sound on these discs is even better than the 1996 reissues. There is nothing by way of liner notes, but the band is represented by a good series of photographs that run through the decades. And finally, if you really need a comp set, you might be better off with the double disc Moody Blues - Goldor - if you really want to splurge - the 4 disc Time Travellerbox set.

The Onion sticks it to Rush Limbaugh

Monday, January 25, 2010

Keeping America Stupid: Athletic Division

Georgia man proposes starting all white basketball league.
No, I am not making this up.  
And naturally, he wants a TV show.


My Amazon Reviews: Yeah Yeah Yeah's "It's Blitz"

It's Blitz!It's...It's...a Yeah Yeah's Blitz
4 Out of 5 Stars 

Pushing aside the jittery nerves of their post-punk attack, Karen O goes to Dance Floor Ice Queen on "It's Blitz!." The Yeah Yeah Yeahsdecided to lay down the guitars for the bulk of the tracks here and dig out some vintage synths. Surprisingly enough, it works.

The openers "Zero" and "Heads Will Roll" both are disco sirens, with Karen cooing "get your leather, leather on" as she invites you for a night on the town. But beware. "Dragon Queen" also exhorts you to dance, but the band is back into aggro mold with their stinging guitars back in front of the dancey keyboards. Purists may cry foul, but "It's Blitz" is still unmistakably a YYY's record. When Karen cools down for the stately ender "Little Shadow," you can hear that the band is in control of the proceedings. Same with the bare-bones "Skeletons."

"It's Blitz"was one of the last CD's I picked up in 2009, and the similarities it shares with another disc I purchased at the same time startled me. The Gossip's Music for Menshares plenty of the same ground as "It's Blitz;" both CD's are swimming in the kind of icy dance music of the mid-80's and having a dang good time of it. While I prefer the heartier tone of The Gossip's disc, "It's Blitz" is still a cool listen.

Sale Alert - Muse!

One day download Sale on Amazon

Origin Of Symmetry

Today only $2.99!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: The Gosssip "Music For Men"

Spread The Word, 4 Out of 5 Stars

Beth Ditto could sing your shirts off. She channels every diva from Dolly to Stevie Nicks and then her bandmates drive the point home with new-wavey dance-beats and bare-knuckles instrumentation. Music For Men is so subtle that it overpowers all in its path, and this is a good thing.

The CD kicks off with "Dimestore Diamond," all about a girl who makes it glamorous on the cheap. With Ditto's public antics (posing naked, etc), it is easy to see how much she would identify with being a non-conformist while trying to get yourself noticed. Same with "Spare Me From The Mold," which reminds me of another great punk-dance band led by a lady with attitude, Romeo Void. The dance kick off "Heavy Cross" plays it tough while still making you want to get on your feet. If that song doesn't get you off your duff, there's plenty of jittery synths to come.

Still, "Music For Men" isn't all punch and pop. "Love and Let Love" and "Four Letter Word" let Ditto get emotive even as the disco ball is spinning. The Gossip cover so much ground and to it so effectively that the temptation to give the album a perfect score is daunting. Every song connects here; my only gripe is that producer Rick Rubin keeps the sound too spartan for my taste (which is unusual in that I rarely find fault with the way he frames the bands he works with). A bit more meat on these bones might have made the album juicier, and I suspect any club-remixes will head in that direction. On the other hand, fans of old-school female-fronted new wave or the new school of 80's agit-pop revivalists (think Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Franz Ferdinand) should pick this up now.

And on the next album? I have a fantasy of hearing The Gossip take on "Our Lips Are Sealed" or "Never Say Never."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club

I heard you on the wireless back in 82... 
4 Out Of 5 Stars
Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club This nifty little record slipped under the radar in 1979. It is composed of tightly wound, keyboard driven new wave and an edgy sounding vocalist, just the kind of thing that everyone expected of the period's next charge of the British invasion. What set "English Garden" (the UK version of this album) apart was the pedigree. Woolley was a founder of The Bugglesand a co-writer of two of their best known songs. The band also included a little known but inventive keyboardist named Thomas Dolby

English GardenMost of the songs here are pretty good, and Woolley takes those two signature songs and works them out in a way that suggest why he split from Horn and Downes...he rocks them instead of machinates them. With the exception of "You Are The Circus," the songs are a cut above most of drivel that was being released as "new wave" about as fast as companies could sign them. Unfortunately, Woolley didn't catch on, the band broke up, Dolby discovered science, and this record fell into the ranks of cult classics.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: Alan Parsons Project "Ammonia Avenue"

Ammonia AvenueChemical Balance
4 Out Of 5 Stars

As the Alan Parsons Project continued their glide from prog-rock to prog-pop, "Ammonia Avenue" maintained the quality of the previous Eye in the Sky. Stellar musicianship, exquisite production values, and top-notch songwriting. This also may be the album where the first cracks in the Parsons/Woolfson alliance can be seen forming.

The late Eric Woolfson was still the conceptual leader in the APP, but he was also aspiring to the stage. "Ammonia Avenue's" pop conventions were now more prominent than the rock ones, with the Phil Spector wall-of-sound homage of "Don't Answer Me" being the most obvious. (I was also surprised to learn the these songs were originally being considered as a double album, with the remainders eventually arriving on Vulture Culture. Parsons still delivered his sonic expertise, with his signature sound permeating "You Don't Believe" and the instrumental "Pipeline."

Ultimately, "Ammonia Avenue" reaches a balance between the two men, yet it was the first time an APP album felt like it was being divided between its two creative forces. Parsons and Woolfson would soldier on for two more albums, but this was the junction that the two men began taking their separate highways.

Because I so dig 'em

The new video from OK Go. Review of new CD coming soon.  Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky

OK Go - This Too Shall Pass from OK Go on Vimeo. Interesting article from the band on why EMI doesn't want you to see this here.

New CD Here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: 30 Seconds To Mars "This Is War"

Battle Anthems - 4 Out of 5 Stars 

For their 3rd album, 30 Seconds To Marswant you to know that they're deep. They've got big thoughts. They're serious thinkers. They are epic. You will pump your fists. You'll feel liberated. Get on board, brothers and sisters, The Revolution will be digitized. Lights, fog machine, action! Drama! Get on your feet! Lift those cell-phones in the air and light up the stadium, concert goers!

"This Is War" is Jared Leto's big statement. There's plenty of rising up to be done here, with victory, faith, and railing against the
oppressors. Youthful choirs raise hopefully from song after song, with militaristic beats propelling Leto as he goes from whispers to screams. The music itself follows suit, with crashing, anthemic guitars blasting through barricades like U2 hadn't been invented yet. Lead single "Kings and Queens" is a penultimate radio record, all meat and huge hooks, utterly destroying any chance of you noticing how derivative the song itself is. Same with "Night Of The Hunter," "Stranger In A Strange Land" and the title track.

That pretty much describes "This Is War" overall. Like any good actor, Leto knows his moves and his music is both crowd pleasing and widescreening. Heck, I could imagine this being played under the visuals for "Avatar," or even some sci-fi cheese like "Starship Troopers" The big, emotive roar that is 30 Seconds to Mars - and worked so well on A Beautiful Lie- is still in full effect here, and "This Is War" is a really ambitious sounding album. However, the constant battle-cries that push this album to nearly an hour's running time eventually weigh it down, and when you compare it to the similarly themed Muse CD The Resistance, "This Is War" ultimately comes up short.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: The Arctic Monkeys "Humbug"

HumbugMonkeys in Slo-Mo, 
4 Out Of 5 Stars
The Arctic Monkeys aren't kids anymore. The mere need for speed no longer thrills the way it used to, and their third album is a darker, more complex batch of songs than anything they've ever attempted. Stone Age QueenJosh Homme may have pushed the band in this direction, but since some of the songs on Favourite Worst Nightmare seemed to me to already be moving towards the dark, I suspect a natural progression. In many ways, "Humbug" reminds me of The Undertones as they progressed to their Positive Touchalbum. The bands both started out as hyper-adolescent punkier outfits, with their lyrical sights set on teen girls and gear (Mars Bars to Nikes), and both sounded like a group that could have only formed in a British DiY environment.

While their fans might have wanted the Monkeys to do songs like "I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor" forever, band leader Alex Turner appears to be tired of the form. So he minor-keys it, slows the pace down (allowing drummer Matt Helders room to show off) and allows his voice to flow like an instrument. That makes songs like "Propeller" sound almost menacing. Or let the hook in the first single, "Crying Lightning," evolve out from the song instead of sledgehammering you. Or to experiment with textures, like the backwards guitar on "Cornerstone." With "Humbug," the Arctic Monkeys prove once and for all that they're a three dimensional act, and will outlast the hype that swept them to their original stardom.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Passings: Kate McGarrigle

Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle has died, aged 63, after losing her battle with cancer. It was reported last week that McGarrigle was "critically ill" after her son, the singer Rufus Wainwright, cancelled his Australian tour to be with her. CBC News now reports that McGarrigle's brother-in-law, Dane Lanken, has confirmed the singer's death, while Canadian radio station CJAD has stated that she passed away yesterday (Monday 18 January) at her Montreal home, where she was surrounded by family and friends. McGarrigle's doctor, Robert Taba, said she played a three-and-a-half-hour show at the Royal Albert Hall last month despite being "gravely ill". He said: "I was amazed by her courage and her stamina in order to do this."

McGarrigle performed widely with her sister, Anna McGarrigle, for more than three decades, recording 10 albums. She was also well-known for being the matriarch of a musical family, the Wainrights. McGarrigle was the mother of singers Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and the ex-wife of Loudon Wainwrightlll. (Reposted from Winstonthriller)