Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: Pink "The Truth About Love"

The Love of Truth
4 Out Of 5 Stars

The new Pink album "The Truth About Love" is a funhouse of pure pop with a streak of sourness to it, Think Katy Perry's potty-mouthed sister, or maybe Joan Jett with considerably less attitude. Every song is a hookfilled manifesto that ruins its chance for mass appeal airplay without some serious re-work. Even the first single ("Blow Me One Last Kiss") had to get some substantial rerecording before it was ready for the radio. If you're adult enough to handle it, fine, but Mommy and Daddy might be disappointing if the kiddies get this version.

For the discerning pop ears, however, Pink still can't kick those pop-diva thrills. "Try" is a song of getting back up when life has you down, and the defiant "The Great Escape." The guests line up, like Lily Allen on the sarcastic "True Love" or Eminem on "Here Comes The Weekend." Best is the intimate duet with Nate Ruess of .Fun on "Just Give Me a Reason." Pink can hold her own with all the friends that came on board, but she's just as excitable on party tracks as "Slut Like You" or the deceptively perky cautionary tale "Walk Of Shame."

"The Truth About Love" is state of the art modern pop. Machine ready songwriting (on which Pink shares most of the credits) and sweet/sour disposition that reflects on modern relationships without getting too serious about it. Don't think too hard about it and you'll be rewarded. Over-think it and you'll miss the point; this is candyfloss with a sourball tucked in the middle. Let the sugar give you a buzz.


Friday, December 28, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: Shoes "35 Years: The Definitive Shoes Collection"

Shoe Tease
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Has it really been 35 years? "The Definitive Shoes Collection" takes 21 of their superb, melodic power pop songs and wraps them into one CD. The bulk of the disc comes from the trilogy of classic albums, "Present Tense," "Tongue Twister" and "Boomerang," then splits the difference among the remaining albums. Each track is one from the band's exquisitely layered harmonies, sugar buzz guitars and catchy melodies. You'll hear at least a dozen should've been hits, like the flawless "Summer Rain" and the heartfelt "Three Times."

Shoes were ahead of their time in 1980 when "Present Tense" first appeared and made me a fan. Time and admiration have caught up to the band, even allowing them the time to craft the excellent "Ignition" in 2012. ("Say It Like You Mean It" appears here from that CD.) What excites me more than anything is hearing all these songs newly remastered. It makes me hunger for reissues of the early albums - including the homemade "Black Vinyl Shoes" - for a new audience and old fans who snapped up the two-fers so many years ago. Until then, this set makes for an awesome primer for one of America's premier power pop rockers.


Monday, December 24, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: A Flock of Seagulls "The Best Of"

Haircuts and Attitudes
3 Out Of 5 Stars

One of the first new Wave acts to score a genuine hit single, these hairswooping seagulls did manage a couple of hits after their calling card of "I Ran." A Flock of Seagulls may not be remembered for much after that hit and the aforementioned hairstyles, but this collection does make an adequate case for the band as a competent singles machine. About as synthy as Duran Duran or the Thompson twins, lead singer Mike Score didn't have the charisma of Simon Lebon or Tom Bailey's pop sense, which is why the three US charting singles ("I Ran," Space Age Love Song" and "Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)") are all hear as is the "Wishing" extended mix.

That doesn't mean the rest of the batch is unlistenable. "Telecommunication" is a quick and snappy bit of synth rock, and "The Story of a Young Heart" is appropriately new romantic dramatic. I'd also chip in that "The More You Live The More You Love" was a should have been hit. They may no longer be required listening, but you can file "The Best of A Flock of Seagulls" along with your Wang Chung and Thompson Twins best ofs.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: Glee Cast "Season 4 Volume 1"

Glee 2.0
3 Out Of 5 Stars

With most of the cast of Glee 'graduating' at the end of last season, it's up to a batch of newcomers to pick up the slack and help out old favorites. The new members seem to be cloning the old (Mallory is Rachel, Kitty is the new Quinn, etc), so it's a bit tough to make distinctions in the musical presentation. It helps that old hands Blaine, Artie, and yes, Rachel and Kurt are still here to add support. It's just not enough, though.

There are highlights, like the group sung version of Coldplay's "The Scientist," and Marley and Rachel's duet on "New York State of Mind." Talking David Bowie's was an adventurous choice (even more so was Sam and Britney doing "Celebrity Skin," which is not included here). Kitty and Marley do a nice job resurrecting Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For a Hero" (from "Footloose"). Minus points are given for "Gangnam Style," this years most annoying one hit wonder.

Missing are the songs from outside the pop spectrum. I'd have much rather had "Let's have a Kiki/Turkey Lurkey" here than a few of these songs, along with Kurt's version of "Being Alive" from the musical "Company." I miss the variety; I guess the "Glease" CD was supposed to satisfy that segment of the musical audience. Overall, "Glee: Season 4 Vol 1" is not a total dud, but the series seems close to jumping the shark.


Friday, December 21, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: Aerosmith "Music From Another Dimension"

Aerosmith 2012
3 Out Of 5 Stars 

The newest incarnation of Aerosmith (it's been a decade since "Just Push Play") finds them almost in a parallel universe with the Rolling Stones. "Music From Another Dimension" is a confident and competent album, but no great shakes in the pantheon of Aerosmith. Like the Stones, they seem incapable of cutting a truly bad album in their golden years, but anyone expecting "Rocks" is stuck in a dimension all their own.

You're also stuck with the outside songwriter syndrome, with Desmond Child, Jim Vallance, Diane Warren and M. Moir (is that Monte Moir of The Time?) all sharing credits with the Aerosmith members. As usual, the Warren ballad "We All Fall Down" is commercial knockout (I'm going to bet on this as the single), while the Jim Vallance number "Legendary Child" is actually one of the better cuts. However, it's the Tyler/Perry songs that are the meat of "Dimension." The opener "Love XXX" is better than anything on "Just Push Play," and Tom Hamilton's "Tell Me" is an acoustic standout.

The lone curveball is the duet with country superstar Carrie Underwood. "Can't Stop Loving You" sounds like a song from the "Pump" period, even with Underwood's considerable pipes chiming in. It doesn't necessarily 'rock,' but it's no Nashville weeper, either. Add a bonus song from Joe Perry singing "Freedom Fighter" and you round out a decent Aerosmith album. "Music From Another Dimension" isn't going to convert any old fans, but at least it's not "Done With Mirrors."


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: The Wallflowers "Glad All Over"

Happy Happy Joy Joy
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Showing more spunk than would be expected after a seven year hiatus, "Glad All Over" finds The Wallflowers rocking harder than probably any of their previous albums. Especially after the neo-folk of Jakob Dylan's pair of solo cd's, this is an unexpected surprise and delight. Adding to the jet fuel is drummer Jack Irons (late of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Mick Jones guesting on two rather Clash like songs. "Glad All Over" is shaking all around with a triumphant feeling.

"Reboot The Mission," they snap on the best song here. With Jones adding back-up vocals, it's Casbah pleasing rock. That's not all the band has up their sleeve, though. The frantic opener "Hospital for Sinners" sounds wickedly fun, even a little sinister. Same with the piano pounding "Devil's Waltz." If you're looking for the "One Headlight" clone, the closest it the disc's closer "One Set of Wings." But this is an album that punches harder than the old songs. The band sounds absolutely revitalized, and that makes "Glad All Over" a really good album.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: Mika "Origin Of Love"

Dance With me Mika
3 Out Of 5 Stars

For his third album, Mika does an about face and lunges face first into dance pop. This is more a Pet Shop Boys departure than a George Michael, gilded electronically and laced with precision beats. His unique voice still stands head and shoulders above all the production and auto-tuning (hey he really didn't need this much of it, thanks), and the songs are still catchier than a tackle-box. Once again, Mika borrows heavily from the classic pop songbook; if you don't think of The Buggles during "Love You When I'm Drunk," you're missing the point.

But there's something missing, which the delightful "Lola" points out. When Mika isn't being dancified or vocoded half to death, he's a stunningly original artist. Great songs like the title track and "Make You Happy" are gossamered to the point where the beauty of what was so apparent on "Life In Cartoon Motion" and "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" is nearly buried. Mika is in a new phase of his career, and he still excels. Just be prepared that, if you're coming off those first two albums, "Origin Of Love" is a different animal entirely.