Thursday, September 24, 2009
Friend and blogreader Dan Yepes has done America a great service through this album request. Because, when it comes right down to it, I think he has been the only person to request an actual modern-day indie rock album! Perish the thought! Looking through all the requests I've gotten, most seem to run the gamut of classic rock to jokey party rap, but nothing I could classify as "hip" with today's indie-rock crowd. That Songs: Ohia review came kinda close, but jeez that album came out when Marcy Playground were still a hot commodity. Honestly, I expected a whole slew of indie rock from you guys, but I haven't seen that much! Oh well. Looks like I'll have to focus all of my unabashed hatred of all things indie into one article. Sorry, Jupiter One - you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Aha. No, I'm generalizing. I don't hate modern day indie rock - I just feel that most of it is, more often than not, on the "Last Train to Dullsville" (heheheh, ya like that?!?). So I guess it's not too surprising that the Jupiter One album by so-called indie-rock group Jupiter One does not do all that much for me in the "excitement" department. See, before I started listening to them I somehow got the impression that I would be listening to an electro-pop group, and the opener "Intro for Ani Endorda" confirmed this suspicion. But then, I heard "Countdown" and realized that what we REALLY have here is your basic modern indie rock group: clean, post-punk-influenced pop rock with an 80's dance bend, fronted by a disaffected singer who sounds like Alex Kapranos without the spunk. Your Interpol here, your Coldplay there. Sometimes the lead guy sounds like Sting, actually - usually in the chorus of each song, where he decides to sing a slightly more "uppity" voice. But it's not a common occurrence.
Okay - and I mean it this time - since when does this count as indie rock? I mean, I don't want to belabor the point, but none of this music sounds the least bit "indie." It's cleanly produced dance-pop-rock with electronic flourishes. That's it. Is it "indie" 'cause the singer doesn't sound like he's enjoying himself even the slightest bit? Is that it? How about the occasional faux-Britishness? That too? Or maybe I'm focusing on the wrong thing here. Maybe they're on an indie label? So were the Offspring. I don't think that counts. You know - yeah, I'm not going to talk about this. I'll stop here. Because, in the end, who gives a shit? People have been arguing about the "indie rock" label for decades now, and it's only gotten worse in the past five or six years. So I'll do you (and myself) a favor and move on amicably.
(pshh. "indie rock." PSHHH)
My problem with Jupiter One isn't that they're "indie." It's that they don't seem to be doing anything new or interesting. Now, I'll clarify - I don't think that a band needs to be shockingly original in order to be good. If that were the case, there would not be much room for Hanson in my heart, would there?? But there needs to be some distinction - some guts, some verve - that makes an otherwise run-of-the-mill band stand out from its peers, and Jupiter One doesn't have it. When I can't listen to a band without immediately thinking of every other band from the past five years that sounds exactly like them, then something is wrong.
It's a little upsetting. I don't want to hate, you know? Despite the potentially inflammatory title of this blog (which I came up with on a whim like three years ago and would LOVE to change, but at this point it's kinda stuck hasn't it), I don't enjoy ranting about bands I don't care about and never listen to. Once in a while it is definitely therapeutic for me to get angry about a band I don't like, but, y'know - not when it's public. When I type out my "I hate indie rock for this and that reason" schpiel, not only is it never as effective and "cutting" as I picture it to be in my head, but it just comes across as petty and mean. Which it is of course.
So here is what I will say about Jupiter One. They do not excite me the least bit. Something I do like about them: once in a while they will write an eerily hooky chorus that makes me say "oooh." Like "Moon Won't Turn" - kind of a "meh" song, but with a spacey, harmonized chorus that reminds me of early 70's Pink Floyd. And once in a while, they'll pull out a surprisingly fun jaunty song - "Unglued," for instance, a song I think I would enjoy much more if someone else sang it. But then, you know, the annoying parts stand out too - like the BLUGGH vocals in "Wrong Line," or the overuse of that crappy synth-violin sound you hear bands like the Killers use. It crops up on a few songs on here, and man I HATE it so so much. It just sounds so sterile. Good song: the closing track "Way To The Floating Hospital / The Miracle Of Flight," an ethereal piece of nigh-baroque pop, with harmonized vocals and a loopy electronic coda. "Oooooh" I say! "Bluhhhhh" to most of the rest of the album, though. There is just nothing to see here.
I'm sorry, Dan. I really wanted to like this one! I listened to it like three times hoping it would eventually become my favorite record, but that did not happen. As such, I must be moving on.
Final thoughts: I can see why people would like this album. It's well-produced, occasionally catchy, and features a cool "I-don't-give-a-shit-bout-nuthin-including-the-song-I-am-singing-right-now" vocalist. But it's not for me. In a word - and I guess, now that the decade's almost over, I am free to say this - this album is so 2000s.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tonight's review from blogfriend Nick Stevens is a doozy, folks. And by "doozy" I mean "a really easy review of an album I really like by a band I already really like."
Let me explain. Mr. Stevens, like Mr. Coryea before him, gave me a few options for albums to review. One was Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, an album I love but one that I know just a little too well. Maybe the stuff of a future review, why not? Another was Cat Stevens' Teaser and the Firecat (or was it Tea For The Tillerman? I'm too lazy to look it up) but, y'know, I'm not always in the mood to "mellow out" with Mr. Yusuf Stevens. The last, of course, was the album you can see in the title of this post. And in the large album cover photo I am sure I have posted at the top of this page, with those three fresh young faces with unusually blotchy blond hair. I figured, by now, I've reviewed plenty of requested bands I don't know anything about - why not review a band I already know and really like, for once?
To be honest, though, the only Police album I had in my possession before Outlandos D'Amour was Zenyata Mondatta. It's a great album, but, you know - that was the only Police album I had. They had a lot of albums. What if I hated everything else they recorded? What if Zenyata was their only decent album and nobody bothered to tell me?!?
But of course, none of that is true. Outlandos is a really good album. I honestly don't have too much to say about it 'cause - c'mon, in the Police. C'monnnnn. So what I will do is take the same cop-out route I took for the Appetite For Destruction review and go over my thoughts point-by-point. This will be easier for you to read - and more importantly, easier for me to write, because I am lazy and tired.
- This was the Police's debut album, from '78. As such, they sound like a group of peppy young bucks playing punk-pop new wave on the fan-tahstic opening track "Next To You." It is a song that will get you on your feet and make you groove 'round and 'round!! Then "So Lonely" comes on and you're realizing that you're actually listening to a reggae band. WAAAAT
- Speaking of that "new wave" label: I would only apply it to a few songs. The rest are reggae-influenced punk-pop, but not quite "new wave." The new-wavey songs are the aforementioned "Next To You," "Peanuts," "Can't Stand Losing You," "Truth Hits Everybody," "Born In The 50's," and "Be My Girl - Sally."
- Actually, that's most of the songs on here, isn't it? Shit.
- "Roxanne" is on here too, but I'll be fucked if I'm gonna talk about that one. WHAT COULD I POSSIBLY SAY??
- "Born In The 50's". Let's talk about that one. This track in particular gets singled out as one of the weakest on the album, at least in most of the reviews I've read. It's not a bad song - musically, I enjoy it - but I will admit that the lyrics are a little preachy, and Sting's raspy vocal delivery in the verses makes it sound like he's trying too hard to be righteously angry. Also - and get ready to be shocked, readers, 'cuz I just found this out - Police guitarist Andy Summers wasn't "BORN! BORN IN THE FIIIIIFTAYES" at all! In fact, he was born in 1942. 1942. To put that in context, the man is the same age as Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, and about a full decade older than the rest of the band. And here he is, the old fussbudget lost in a sea of swarthy young punks. In fact, before he joined the Police (and, coincidentally enough, when he was around the same age that the rest of the band were on this album) he played on one of those later-period psychedelic Animals albums, his only appearance on record before Outlandos. Fun facts all around!!
- Speaking of Mr. Summers, his out-of-fucking-nowhere monologue in the middle of "Be My Girl - Sally," which seems to be a whimsical tale about marrying a blow-up-doll, has to be one of the most un-Police-like moments I have ever heard on a Police album. What is wrong with you, you randy old hippie?? The rest of the song is pretty basic pop rock, but made a hundred times more interesting by that interlude.
- "Can't Stand Losing You" is not only catchy as heck, but it's funny! REAL funny. Something tells me they lost their sense of humor right quick once they became more and more popular, but who am I to say?
- I definitely prefer the poppier, more rockin' numbers to the slower reggae stuff. I mean, they do reggae just fine, but how can you deny that rock-solid pop songcraft?! You just can't. It does bother me a slight bit that it takes the album a little while to regain its momentum after the epic opener "Next To You" - after hearing such a fast-paced rocker, I expect (nay, DEMAND) more of the same! Goddamn you, Policemen, for being so diverse!!
- That's it. In all honesty, I just found out that the Flaming Lips' new album Embryonic is streaming on the Colbert Report site, and I am considering staying up for another hour tonight just to hear the whole thing. The stuff of a future review, I'm sure!
- Shit, I'll review it right now, if you want me to. Right in the middle of a Police review, the new Flaming Lips album, reviewed in its entirety, track by track! Jeez, isn't that exciting and unexpected?? Never know what's gonna pop up in the well-renowned "WHAT IS THIS SHIT" music blog.
- No. No. I'm going to sleep.
- I'm not proofreading this.
-UPDATE 9/17/09: ...eh, alright, I'll proofread it.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Hope everybody's been enjoying the requested reviews! I read through some of them and I think they have gone perfectly OK. If you haven't been particularly excited by the requested selections so far (I don't know why in God's name you wouldn't be excited by an LMFAO review, but then again I'm not you), no need to worry! We're not even halfway through the requests I've gotten and I've saved some of the more compelling ones for last. (By that I mean, I'm doing them in the order that people actually requested them and I'm not actually choosing the order myself, so apparently I am a complete and total liar who should not be listened to.) So sit tight and you will receive more of them in due time.
It is honestly shocking to me that I last asked for these requests way back in early July. That's almost two months ago! And in that time I've listened to all these other records of my own choosing that I've listened to more than the requests! Jeez. Not very nice of me. I can say with a bit of pride, however, that those aforementioned request-delaying albums were all real good. I already talked about one of those a couple weeks back, so I figured it might be nice of me to talk about a couple more: The Small Faces' There Are But Four Small Faces and Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, two albums that were way way way too good for me to ignore.
One thing you might notice is that, yes, like the other album, these Small Faces records also feature Ronnie Lane. I'll do you a favor and not talk about how much I enjoy his cherubic feel-good personality for the umpteenth time. The Small Faces, in case you do not know, were a British mod-pop-rock group from the mid-to-late 60's. Their lead singer/songwriter/guitarist was a man by the name of Steve Marriott, whose speaking voice was the most cockney British thing you could possibly hear and whose singing voice was the best Sam Cooke-inspired vocal thing you could possibly hear. He was very good at switching between goofy over-the-top British snarls and powerful rock 'n roll bellows, often within the same song. The bassist for this band was the aforementioned Lane, who wrote songs with Marriott and sang lead once in a blue moon; I won't say any more about him. The other two dudes were Ian McLagan, who didn't sing at all I don't think but was a very talented keyboardist, and Kenney Jones, whose poundy-pound-pound drum sound (I don't know how to describe the way drums sound) gave every Small Faces song a super-heavy backbone. Once Marriott left the band in '69 to do music things with the great Pete Frampton, the rest recruited the now-very-well-known-but-not-so-much-so-in-ninteen-sixty-nine Rod Stewart and the kinda-sorta-well-known-now-but-only-cuz-he's-in-the-Stones Ronnie Wood and became the Faces, another real cool band that were great for completely different reasons (The Faces = loose, sloppy and rootsy; The Small Faces = tight, poppy and rockin'). Then they broke up too, at some point. The end.
I judged the Small Faces harshly before I even heard one song by them. Once I was told they were considered "rivals of the Who" in their prime, my initial response was something along the lines of "Pshhh. Also rans." I was a hardcore Who guy at the time, you see, and I had no more room in my heart for Mod-influenced British rock groups. From their band name and image, I'd always thought of theme as a bunch of whimsical British flower-power men. Their big hit was called "Itchycoo Park," for crying out loud!! But of course I was wrong about all of this, like usual. "Itchycoo Park," while a little cutesy, is the greatest song, featuring a classic call-and-response between Marriott and Lane that alternates between Lane's innocent questions and Marriott's unhinged responses ("What didja do there?" "I GOT HIIIIIIIII-IGH!"). Then I heard their classic '68 concept album Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, which features some cute-yet-sinister whimsical Britishisms ("Rene" and "Lazy Sunday", the latter being the best possible example of Marriott's ability to switch between vocal mannerisms) and songs like "Song Of A Baker," maybe the most (read: ONLY) badass song ever written about baking. How could a song featuring the lyrics "I'll jug some water, bake some flower, store some salt and wait the hour" be badass, you ask? Especially one sung mostly by all-around nice man Ronnie Lane?? You'll just have to listen for yourself, friend.
That was what really surprised me about the Small Faces - they were a pretty rockin' band! Sure, they would sometimes be prone to the cutesier side of British psychedelia (see the entire second side of Ogden's), but most of the time they had as heavy of a sound as anybody during the mid 60's - and that includes the Who. Hell, if anything, they were heavier than the Who - on record, at least. While the Who were always powerful onstage, by the time of The Who Sell Out (and especially Tommy) they were adopting a more pop-oriented sound. The Small Faces wrote pop songs as well, but even on Ogden's the force of their sound is unrelenting. My love of that album eventually led me to pick up There Are But Four Small Faces - the album immediately preceding it - on vinyl, and I would have to say I like it even better. It's an American version of the original British release, so purists may take issue with the tracks on here, but I certainly can't complain - a bunch of great, great singles are tacked on, including "Itchycoo Park" and "Tin Soldier," the latter being maybe my favorite Small Faces song ever. Not unlike "Song Of A Baker," I expected it to be almost Kinks-ian just from its title (see the Kinks' goofy "Tin Soldier Man"), but instead it is one of the most powerfully soulful songs they ever recorded! Who knew?? That, and you've got "Green Circles" and "Here Come The Nice" and "Get Yourself Together" - there is not a track on this album that I do not like. While the second side of Ogden's can be a little off-putting, Four Small Faces is primo British psych-rock from top to bottom. Twelve great tracks. Not bad at all.
So yes, yes. The Small Faces were one of those "really great bands from the Sixties" that you hear so much about. I don't have their first album but one day I am destined to own it. And, by extension, every album by the Faces and the Humble Pie (ehhhh not so sure about that last one). If you don't believe me about These Small Faces, take it from a band that was influenced by them a heckuva lot - the Greatest Band Alive, OASIS.
Hah! Yeah, that's right. God-damn OASIS. If you don't love the Small Faces just from hearing that name, what kind of awful good-music-hating cretin are you? The worst worst kind, that's what.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Before I delve into this sure-to-be-a-winner Little Feat review, I would like to take a moment to apologize for last week's post in which I claimed blogfriend Ben Vigeant was "legitimately upset" with an old video game review of mine. It was unnecessary and simply not true! Which I guess goes for that entire video game-related tangent in that very same post. You would all do well to ignore it next time the urge to read my Sebadoh reviews hits you. Which I'm sure will be a frequent problem.
Moving on then. Tonight's review was requested by none other than my good friend Luke Coryea! I have known good 'ol Luke for a very long time. Kindergarten, at least. It is not much of a stretch to say that, without Luke's musical influence on me during high school, I would not be writing in a blog about music much at all. He was inadvertently responsible for most of my sudden classic rock obsession during my teenage years, and for that I owe him quite a bit! Without him I would probably not know a single thing about Todd Rundgren. What kind of life would I be leading without knowing what album "Bang The Drum All Day" was on??
Well, anyway. Luke gave me a few options for albums to review; one was a Todd Rundgren record that I didn't do 'cuz I already reviewed like 5 of his albums at once, and another was a Stephen Stills album which I didn't do because I actually know who Stephen Stills is. The last one was Little Feat's Sailin' Shoes, which I chose mostly 'cuz I remember Luke talking about how much he liked them back in high school. I knew nothing about them then, and until about a week ago, I still knew absolutely nothing about them! So I figured that would make for a kinda-sorta interesting review.
What are Little Feat, anyway? Who IS Little Feat? When was Little Feat?? So so many questions about these Feat. Well, the main dude (at least in the early 70's, when Sailin' Shoes was recorded) is a man named Lowell George, who sang, played guitar and wrote most of the songs here. There's also a bunch of other dudes whose names I do not know, so let's not worry about them. Sailin' Shoes, released in '72, sounds to me like a mix of country rock with a tinge of Stonesy hard-rock and blues, not to mention some occasional early 70's pop-rock. The latter is most evident on "Easy To Slip," the first track on here; it's a sweet, easy going piece of pop-rock that almost sounds like Jackson Browne at his most slick. I mean that in a good way, though, since "Easy To Slip" might be my favorite song on here. The guitars are chimey and twangy, and the vocal melody is remarkably amiable - it's a good time, is what I'm saying. A pleasant early-70's vibe. It makes a man feel good.
The rest of the album isn't quite as poppy as the opening track. "Cold, Cold, Cold", "Cat Fever" and (obviously) "A Apolitical Blues" all dip into the blues; "Willin'" "Trouble" and the title track are pretty much straight-up country; and "Tripe Face Boogie" and ESPECIALLY "Teenage Nervous Breakdown" are rock rock rockin'! The latter is almost punk-rock, one could say! (Not really, though. It's pretty much just fast rock 'n roll. Not all fast rock 'n roll is punk rock. I would do well to remember this.) So while there is some stylistic diversity on here, the whole record as a pretty clear, poppy production. Nothing really sounds raw or legit bluesy - it's a well-produced album. And that's not a detriment; this album has a very amiable sound, and the production reflects that.
Pshh. I don't know what I'm talking about. "Production" - sheesh. Let's talk about what songs I like on here. "Easy To Slip," I already talked about that one. "Trouble" is a sweet little country-rock tune. "Teenage Nervous Breakdown" is - well I'm actually not sure what to think about it. Something about it puts me off. Lowell George's vocals? He kinda sounds like he's trying to hard to force a "rockin'" voice out of his usually amiable country-boy vocals. Jury's still out on that one. "Got No Shadow" starts off with a lite-funk keyboard that doesn't really appeal to me, but turns into a melodic laid-back jam that does, so that's a good thing. "Willin'" actually has a story behind it: apparently, Lowell George used to be in the Mothers of Invention for some strange reason, and ended up getting kicked out 'cause he offered Frank Zappa the aforementioned track. According to him, Mr. Zappa was so opposed to recreational drug use that any endorsement of it in a song like "Willin'" was grounds for termination. Now, to me, that seems like kind of a silly reason to kick someone out of a band, but who the hell am I? I'm no musician from the early 70's. I have no idea what actually happened. Either way "Willin'" is a cute country-rock ditty with mostly spoke-sung verses. I think it's from the point of view of a trucker? Either way it mentions drug use a lot. There you go.
"Texas Rose Cafe" feels like an unusual way to end an album. Not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination, but hey, what's with that falsetto vocal from Mr. George? What's up with that? Actually, you know, hearing it again that's probably the only unusual thing about the song. Otherwise it's a bluesy-rock road song. Or maybe it's not a road song. Let's not worry about it.
I don't always like whiteboy British blues songs but I like "A Apolitical Blues" enough. It's not my favorite song on the album but it's got a nice sound. Everything here sounds good, and hey, to record an album as likeable as Sailin' Shoes is certainly no little feat. Heh. Heheh HAHAHA!! I'm sure you saw that one coming.
Apparently the misspelling of "feet" is supposed to be a tribute to the Beatles? That's nice. They don't sound anything like the Beatles even the slightest bit but it's cute.
Lowell George died in '79 of a heart attack. A heart attack? The guy was in his mid-30's! That's rough. That's kind of scary. Unless it was drug related. Then it makes perfect sense and we can move on without issue.
Unfortunately, there's not much to move on to! This is a pretty likeable album that you might enjoy if you like early 70's country-pop-rock (or "classic rock," as you could call it, although that's not much of a genre). You'll probably like it. Apparently Little Feat are still recording and touring! And sometimes they have album covers like this one:
These guys sure had zany album covers!!!
This review isn't very interesting huh.