04 April 2013

Honeycrack - Prozaic (1996)

★ ★

Honeycrack were sadly disadvantaged by their main songwriter - Willie. There are two deadly paths songs in this punky-pop-rock-diet-metal genre must avoid. Billie Joe Armstrong is currently wandering down the left path, tossing off generic three chord songs without abandon. Willie chose the other path: desperate to be viewed as a serious songwriter he throws in every chord, riff, melody and genre he can find. The result is a fucking mess. If you like the first ten seconds of a song I guarantee there's something wanky round the corner that you will hate. Sometimes the music even gets kinda heavy in an industrial sorta way, but Willie's damp boyband voice just can't cut it. The Gil Norton produced "Go Away" is the highlight - shockingly it sounds a lot like the Pixies. This kind of rock music has to come from the heart, or the gut, or the balls. If you're coming from the brain then you better know what you're doing. I guess I just disagree with Willie about what makes cool-sounding rock music. He writes music for commercials now. Conclusion: Clever, but ugly as fuck.

27 March 2013

Dot dot dot

★ ★

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16 August 2010

Hole - Nobody's Daughter (2010)

★ ★

I liked the first track. Moody old school Alt-Rock. Cool. Next is the single "Skinny Little Bitch" - a fairly generic grunge-punk rocker. From then on its Marianne Faithful croaking over a backing track of R.E.M. b-sides - with over-compressed 'modern' production in place. There's more fun to be had with Courtney's semi-shitty 2004 solo record (because this is a Hole record you see...no honestly it is.)

03 August 2010

Stone Temple Pilots - Stone Temple Pilots (2010)

★ ★ ★

The grunge reformations continue. STP ditched the Pearl Jam In Chains vibe long ago and these days trade in muscular alt-rawk along the lines of Jane's Addiction. The single Between The Lines and the New Order-esque Cinnamon are instantly infectious, while the rest is a solid mixture of Zeppelin riffs and 60's psychedelic pop.

Billy Corgan - The Future Embrace (2005)

★ ★

Molten metal guitars are out: the guitars here are drowning in reverb and they whine and buzz like an army of emo-bees. The rhythm section is one lonely drum machine. There is a definite My Bloody Valentine influence here, but whereas "Loveless" soars, "The Future Embrace" just irritates. Sadly Corgan ran out of songs 3 or 4 Pumpkins albums back, and this collection lacks variety and fire.

12 March 2010

Crass - The Feeding Of The 5000 (1978)

★ ★

This is a difficult listen. It kicks off with the track that was banned from the original vinyl: "Asylum" is an awful militant-Feminist poem preached over guitar feedback. Its ridiculous. From then on its snotty punk all the way with Steve Ignorant spitting out his anarchist manifesto at 3000 mph. Some songs are gratingly simplistic, some are intriguingly creative, demonstrating touches of proto-noise rock and proto-hardcore. Sometimes the lyrics are embarassing, but mostly they are indecipherable. The recording is fairly clean and crisp, but the mix is bad - the drums are LOUD, the guitars are thin. Inconsistent but curious.

07 March 2010

Metallica - St. Anger (2003)

★ ★ ★ ★

Much bollocks has been written about this album, please allow me to contribute: First let's establish what "St. Anger" is not; it is not a Nu-Metal bandwagon-jumper, it is not like any Metallica album from the past, it is not polished with magic studio-dust. Bad production? Fuck no. This is molten Lo-Fi metal of a type never before see. Every song lasts for 3 days and is bursting open with brutal muscular riffs and bizarre twists and turns. The snare pings like a rusty oil drum, the kick drum feels like a brick to the face. Its slower than old-school Thrash-Metallica -  but far, far heavier. If "St. Anger" sounds like badly recorded mush to you right now... keep listening. There's genius in here. I'm serious. And it rocks like a bitch too.

05 March 2010

Sonic Youth - NYC Ghosts & Flowers (2000)

★ ★ ★

The song title "Small Flowers Crack Concrete" describes this album almost perfectly: delicate off-kilter guitar embroidery decorates vast grey oceans of punkish noise - a noise which pulsates rather than roars. Of course if you're not a fan of this sort of thing you will HATE this album. "NYC Ghosts & Flowers" presents Sonic Youth 20 years into a career spent weaving together bruised yet beautiful alt-rock with krautrock noise and feedback. This 12th effort is a calmer affair than usual - everything sounds semi-improvised and the atmosphere is relentlessly "arty" yet the band somehow steers clear of overt pretensiousness. A little too much reliance on mantric repetition in the vocals can become grating, but in general "Ghosts" succeeds as dreamy/nightmarish punk psychedelia.

Cable - Sub-Lingual (1999)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I'm biased here, since I am one of a few people who rate Cable as one of the greatest bands that ever lived. Forced to close up shop due to legal / financial / management issues, "Sub-Lingual" is the band's parting shot at an indifferent music industry and an unaware public. Its fucking brilliant. This is the same evolutionary strain which birthed Sonic Youth, The Pixies and Nirvana. Every song is a tightly wound excercise in alt-rock minimalism and noise-rock artiness. Previous Cable releases relied heavily on clashing textures and hypnotic repetition, both of which are present here, but this time we are treated to hooks galore - in fact underneath Darius Hinks's strangled guitar and Richie Millls's algebraic drums, Matt Bagguley's songs are a perfect mesh of intelligent pop and raucous snot-nosed punk. Like S*M*A*S*H with a few extra brain-cells, beautifully recorded, and full of great abstract lyrics - practically perfect in every way.

04 March 2010

Iron Maiden - The X Factor (1995)

★ ★

New boy Blaze's deep bellow is slightly difficult to take seriously - he seems almost like a parody of a heavy metal singer, and his performance is bloodlessly one dimensional and unintentionally amusing. The songs are okayish but energy levels seem to be down, though this may be an aesthetic choice: the riffs here are brooding and symphonic opposed to Maiden's usual muscular gallop. Supposedly named "The X Factor" because band and producer felt they were on to a winner. Maybe they were, but Blaze was never up to the job of leading this aging warhorse into battle.

01 March 2010

Guns N' Roses - "The Spaghetti Incident?" (1993)

★ ★

The covers album with which Guns N' Roses Mark 1 ground to a halt. Sometimes it works, and sometimes very much not: Axl's strangled rendering of "Since I've Been Loving You" and faux-cockney drawl on "Down On The Farm" are highlights, but there's too much karaoke going on here. Straight-ahead, un-embelished numbers like "New Rose" and "Human Being" just sound redundant and diminish the occasional truly awesome moments like "Ain't It Fun" and "Black Leather". Production is stark compared with the meticulous detail of "Use Your Illusion", and at times this exposes the GN'R sound to be pretty damn ordinary at its core. There is just too much filler here to award this album a higher score.

Nine Inch Nails - Broken (1992)

★ ★ ★

Essentially a stepping stone between NIN's comparatively pop debut and "The Downward Spiral", Reznor's intentions for the future are made clear here: "Pretty Hate Machine"'s crunchy synth-rock is galvanised with white-hot noise guitar and frantic industrial drums, squeals and belches. "Broken" dives head-first down the rabbit hole, gurgling and convulsing on its way to hell. A little light tune-wise perhaps, and a little less organic than "The Downward Spiral", but it certainly leaves a lasting impression.

Dead Kennedys - In God We Trust, Inc. (1981)

★ ★ ★

8 songs in 14 minutes - Jello and his boys are going for the jugular here. Stupidly fast and aggressive yet tuneful and even catchy, this is hardcore as artform, with social conscience and sense of humour both in full swing. Essentially recorded live, the Kennedys remain convincingly PUNK and yet remain listenable - a feat not matched by many 1980's hardcore bands. To keep things interesting "We've Got A Bigger Problem Now" re-invents "California Über Alles" as demented jazz, and the rocking cover of the theme from Rawhide is glorious.

28 February 2010

Donovan - Sunshine Superman (1966)

★ ★ ★ ★

On his third long-player Leitch decorates his delicate folk with sitars, tablas, swooning orchestras, and funky psychedelic rock. The songs have a flow of consciousness feel, perhaps less lyrically engaging yet musically somewhat more mature than the song-stories Dylan was dealing in at the time. Released a month after "Revolver", "Sunshine Superman" holds its head proudly among the auspicious company of 1966.

L7 - The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum (1997)

★ ★ ★ ★

This is L7's masterpiece. Its an A-Team style scrap metal tank of an album; huge slabs of garage punk and grunge welded onto quirky noise pop and laquered with pure sludge. Production is just the right side of careless: huge room-destroying drums, super-fat rhythm guitars, squealing Atari-like lead guitars, and Donita and Suzi screaming and gargling like nutters on top. The songs are great too.

Green Day - American Idiot (2004)

★ ★ ★

Here Green Day come to terms with what they have become: punk-esque stadium rock mega-stars; a role which "American Idiot" the album, and the tour embraced with relish. If there is a coherent storyline here (as claimed) it is well hidden, and as far as political commentary goes "American Idiot" offers little more than name-calling. One suspects the sudden spark of rebellion at this album's heart was as much a convenient career-revitalising contrivance as it was a genuine attempt to heal the world. Unforgivable perhaps if the material were less strong. "American Idiot" is a neat package of all the lessons learned from "Nimrod"'s loose-footed sonic adventurism, book-ended by two 9 minute, muti-part "rock opera"s. It all flows together convincingly enough, and the weaker songs are just about good enough to keep the whole show rolling along.

27 February 2010

Green Day - Warning (2000)

★ ★ ★

At last the punk rock millionaires come of age. The  key breakthrough here is the realization that Green Day is not really a punk band, and that to pretend that they are is counter-productive. Liberated from proving himself with 2 minute thrash-pop nuggets, Billie Joe turns his distortion pedal down a few notches, and the boys throw a little folk and some moody klezmer into the power-trio melting pot. And it works. The drums bounce, the guitars clang, and the songs once again sound like they were written by a band with a purpose.

Stiltskin - The Mind's Eye (1994)

★ ★

Cynical cash-in, hurriedly cobbled together by hurriedly cobbled together alt-rockers Stiltskin. The Levi's song is here with added gruff Cobain-cum-Bryan Adams vocals from a future ex-Genesis singer. The songwriting isn't bad, but the heavier guitars are overly caustic, making half the album frankly nasty to listen to. The "band" proves itself better suited to the REM-esque pop-rock ballads which make up the better half of this short album.

Alice In Chains - Black Gives Way To Blue (2009)

★ ★ ★

A worthy return, although sadly a victim of the loudness war, making this possibly the loudest, most overly-compressed album released so-far. The result is one motherfucking heavy slab of gothic-grunge-metal. This is not easy listening. This is music which demands to be played fucking loud, or not at all. William DuVall fills Layne Staley's post impressively, and Cantrell's guitar-work and songcraft remain as charismatic as ever. While their recent tour proved that Alice In Chains is still a band well worth paying attention to, "Black Gives Way To Blue" is just too relentless (partly due to the horribly butchered mastering) to be anything more than an occasional listen.

The Damned - Damned Damned Damned (1977)

★ ★ ★

The Damned's debut sprints along like an amphetamine-saturated Monkees, devouring songs and spitting them back out bloodied and spit-drenched. Less formulaic and po-faced than the Pistol's or The Clash's debuts, the band here seems to have become bored with the punk aesthetic already, so alongside the thrashers we are presented with gothic balladry and proto-noise rock. There is a level of musicianship here well beyond the reaches of most 70's punk bands, but its rushed along in such a drugged-out and fucked-up manner that it often sounds like pure chaos. This is real anarchy. The Sex Pistols sound like Staus Quo by comparison.

Danzig - Danzig II: Lucifuge (1990)

★ ★ ★ ★

Although not far removed musically from the debut, that first album's potential is realised fully here. This time around the band sizzles convincingly, while remaining thoroughly listenable, and Danzig throws in some of his old Misfits chorus-pizzazz. This is a genuinely great metal album; rocking AND catchy as hell.

Danzing - Danzig (1988)

★ ★ ★

This is a consistently high quality set, adequately showing off Danzig's heavy metal-Doors sctick. Its a shame that the guitars seem to be set to stun rather than kill. In fact the whole album feels hollow, as though there were an instrument missing. These songs work well individually, but as an album "Danzig" lacks the necessary thrills to hold one's attention through to the end.

Green Day - Insomniac (1995)

★ ★

Even by Green Day's standards this is stripped-down: seemingly reacting to sudden fame by cranking up the amps and rocking out a handful of not particularly carefully written songs, the Berkley pop-punkers are merely treading water here. Quirky tunes like "Brain Stew" and "Panic Song" stand out, but mostly this is just a big brick wall of crunchy power chords. Formulaic punk with nothing new to say.

Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden (1980)

★ ★ ★ ★

Steve Harris and Dave Murray are the only members of what would become Maiden's classic line-up present on this debut, which may account for its punk edge not present on following albums. The songwriting is mostly impeccable, but a slightly thin and ragged production mars what is still a very impressive and fully-realised first effort.