Nut Suite. Mini reviews of albums old and new. Minimum words. No fuss. No spoilers [?]. Occasional smugs.

Friday, November 18, 2016

DANNY ELFMAN / Batman: Original Motion Picture Score [1989]

In 1989 Danny Elfman was primarily known as that guy from Oingo Boingo who's composed a small handful of scores for a few quirky comedies.  Naturally no one thought he was right for the big blockbuster Batman film but thankfully director Tim Burton was the only one who rightfully had faith in the composer.
Elfman's sprawling Gothic theme of grandeur helped bring a certain level of cheeky sophistication to the film and entirely redefined the cinematic Batman figure as suitably dangerous.  The score isn't afraid to engulf itself into the darkness but not once does it lose the sense of fun and wide-eyed excitement.  It's big, bold and brassy with flavors of tragic heroism, the lonely romantic and the criminally insane.  A definitive Elfman score that no fan of the composer, Batman or scores in general should be without.

5 beautiful dreamers out of 5

Songs of Note: The Batman ThemeDescent into Mystery

It should be noted that this particular album has seen 4 separate releases but La-La Land Records' 2010 double-disc release is definitely the most comprehensive collection to date.  

RADICAL FACE / The Family Tree: The Bastards [2015]

Before the release of each installment of his Family Tree trilogy, Radical Face put out a free EP of songs that didn't quite fit with the rest of their respective albums.
The suitably titled The Bastards is a complete collection of all 11 songs in a tidy little package that is just as quality a listen as each of the trilogy albums are.  These aren't throwaway songs by any means and in fact some songs are stronger than the albums they were originally meant for, they just didn't mesh with the pacing or tonal textures of their immediate family.  They are the mismatched black sheep if you will.  Twisted and quirky but still pack in enough heart to break and mend it with warm caring tired hands.

4 lovely little lies out of 5

Songs of Note: BaptismsNightclothes

ROGER WATERS & VARIOUS ARTISTS / When the Wind Blows (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [1986]

Based upon Raymond Briggs' graphic novel, director Jimmy Murakami (who also faithfully adapted Briggs' The Snowman) was lucky to hire ex-Pink Floyd member Roger Waters to score When the Wind Blows.
David Bowie's title track is another highlight of the soundtrack album.  However the four remaining songs leave much to be desired if you haven't already fallen asleep.  Waters' contributions sound like a prelude to his Radio K.A.O.S. 1987 solo album and that's all right because they're simply pleasant pieces in bits or as a whole track.  It's not a must-have album but certainly a quaint little record to revisit every once in a blue moon.

3 lullabies out of 5

Songs of Note: Tower of FaithFolded Flags

JOE VOLK / Happenings and Killings [2016]

Joe Volk's first album since leaving Crippled Black Phoenix, 2016's Happenings and Killings, is a familiar yet subtle departure from his previous works.
With production help from Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury it means careful attention was paid to the gentle yet complex production and rewards with each subsequent listen.  Volk channels a low-key acoustic tone that is subtly complimented with soft electronics and the occasional string textures.  There's slight echoes of Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys and Radiohead but never enough to mistake it for anybody else other than Volk.  His prog-rock influences are still evident but it focuses more on being a haunting singer/songwriter project that raises the bar with opening track and only gets better and better with each track.

4 thieves of our ideals out of 5

Songs of Note: Soliloquy; The Curve

VARIOUS ARTISTS / Wild at Heart: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [1990]

The soundtrack to director David Lynch's batshit crazy road-trip rom-com Wild at Heart has been a staple in my music collection since it's 1990 release.
Dramatically opening with a suitable snippet from Strauss' swan song Four Last Songs, the album is quick to bounce all over the musical map.  There's tongue-in-cheek speed metal, the obligatory finger-snapping Badalamenti jazz, Chris Isaak oozing sultry drama over reverberated guitars, scrappy rockabilly toe-tappers, lush orchestrated string pieces and all topped off with actor Nicolas Cage crooning like The King.  As incohesive as it all sounds it's still a tight little package of dreamy madness that reflects the schizophrenic nature of the film itself.

5 psalms from the Old Testament out of 5

Songs of Note: RUBBER CITY / PerditaCHRIS ISAAK / Blue Spanish Sky

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

SUM 41 / 13 Voices [2016]

After a second brush with death, Canadian rock act Sum 41 made a full sober recovery (with a new drummer and the return of guitarist Dave Baksh) to release their sixth studio album, 2016's 13 Voices.
For a guy who had to relearn how to walk, talk and nevermind play guitar, frontman Deryck Whibley has managed to put together a pretty solid record brimming with passionate urgency and furiously harsh melody.  It starts out with seething anger that rivals Screaming Bloody Murder's finest moments but slowly morphs into suspicious hope as the record comes to a close, making it feel almost as if were a concept album.  The Sums, with their fusion of hard rock and melodic metal, have no interest in re-living in their goofy Beastie Boys-esque pop-punk past and it's a very welcome addition to the sudden 2016 pop-punk revival.

4 phony friends left in the dust out of 5

Songs of Note: Fake My Own DeathWar

NOFX / First Ditch Effort [2016]

Spending well over 30 years as the grand-fathers of foul-mouthed pop-punk pranksters NOFX get a little more serious on their 2016 album, First Ditch Effort.
They might not be as instrumentally experimental as they have been on their past few albums and instead they trade it for the strongest vocal harmonizations to date.  They haven't been this aggressively melodic or enthusiastic in over a decade and it kicks ass.  As much as I like them NOFX seems to pump out the same record over and over doesn't make them a staple in my collection.  However when I'm in the mood for their retreaded brand of thrashy pop-punk then it's solid albums like this that are a definite go to.

3½ toasts to Tony Sly out of 5

Songs of Note:  I Don't Like Me AnymoreI'm So Sorry Tony

BLINK-182 / California [2016]

After losing squeaky-voiced guitarist Tom DeLonge to higher ambitions yet again, veteran pop-punkers blink-182 (vocalist/bassist Mark Hoppus & drummer extraordinaire Travis Barker) recruited Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba as a suitable replacement.
2016's California should have been a reinvention of sorts, considering the appetizing experimentation the band was dabbling in with their previous records.  However they played it safe here and produced a pretty standard blink-182 record of yesterday with the added minus of some embarrassing joke songs.  There's a small handful of great songs and potentially tasty melodic moments here but it's mostly overly-polished boredom that might have actually been a bit more interesting with some rough edges here and there.  As a return to form it's an average record but as an album that sets out to prove something it's pretty weak.  

2½ nods to home out of 5

Songs of Note: Bored to DeathShe's Out of Her Mind

DESCENDENTS / Hypercaffium Spazzinate [2016]

12 years after their previous record, Cool to Be You (which was a reunion of sorts as well) the Descendents cough up with their 2016 comeback record Hypercaffium Spazzinate.
With the band all being over the age of 50, it's time their lyrics grow old with them.  Vocalist Milo Aukerman tackles getting fat, illnesses, losing friends and struggling to remain cheery and true to oneself throughout the not-so graceful age progression.  Unlike most of their pop-punk peers, Descendents (and NOFX) have never had interest in changing their sound and instead opt to play tighter in their comfort zone which surprisingly hasn't gotten too stale over the years.  Sure there's a few cringe-worthy "out of touch grandpa" moments but it's to be expected and makes it all the more honest.

3½ fast food addictions out of 5

Songs of Note: Spineless and Scarlet RedComeback Kid

GREEN DAY / Radio Revolution [2016]

After a public meltdown resulting in rehab, two members getting cancer and a trilogy of commercially and critically unsuccessful albums it seemed like it was time for Green Day to call it quits.  So naturally, 2016's Revolution Radio was definitely an album that is set-up with something to prove.
Sadly they do nothing of the sort and rely on the safety of the same type of predictable cheese and Hot Topic "danger" they've been riding with since 21st Century Breakdown.  There's a few good songs in the mix but as a whole it's not the album that is going to win back the older fans they've lost over the years.  Sure it's a little more focused than the misdirected trilogy previous to that but it still feels like it's running around in circles trying to figure out how to top American Idiot.  Oh well, at least Rolling Stone & People magazine probably think it's risque punk album of the year and not the half-decent pop album that it really is.

3 rebel's lullabies out of 5

Songs of Note: Still BreathingOrdinary World

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM / Get Hurt [2014]

2014 saw the release of New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem's fifth (and probably final) studio album, Get Hurt.
Written after considerable commercial success and a nasty divorce for frontman Brian Fallon, The Gaslights push towards a quieter, darker mid-tempo sound that is a bit of a departure from their previous records.  There's still traces of Springsteen but they bring in more influences into the mix that will reminds listeners of '70's stoner rock and other vinyl era rock acts.  The problem here is the music is so moody all the fun of their previous works has been sucked dry.  One can't deny the passion is still firmly intact but it's easy to hear a lack of interest within the member's chemistry would lead into a indefinite hiatus in 2015.

3 favorite songs in the dark out of 5

Songs of Note:  Break Your HeartHave Mercy

PRINCE / Batman [1989]

After a few albums of minor commercial and critical success funky R&B weirdo Prince was about ready for another hit on his hands.  1989's Batman album was the answer, with it's thematic inspirations coming from Tim Burton's massively popular blockbuster film, the album was a surefire hit.
Apparently it hasn't really survived the test of time but I was surprised to find it's not as excruciating as I thought it would be.  It sounds hastily written and cobbled together but the roughness is some of it's charms, no matter how much some songs never really sound fully realized.  At best it's a guilty pleasure most folks can shamefully enjoy and at it's worst...well...they created the "skip" button for this reason.

3 nods to Neal Hefti out of 5

Songs of Note: Electric Chair; Partyman

Sunday, August 28, 2016

ROGER WATERS / The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking [1984]

After receiving mixed reviews for Pink Floyd's The Final Cut, Roger Waters opted to record a solo album (and ditch Floyd a year later) which resulted in 1984's The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.
The rest of Floyd chose The Wall over this album to record as their next opus in 1979 and it was probably a good idea career wise.  Critics and audiences weren't ready for Waters' bizarre sense of humor and only wanted him dark, melodramatic and cynical.  Still the story of a beaten down middle-aged man that dreams of fucking a hitchhiker he's picked up is still filled with plenty of anger, spit and melancholy as it dissects the human psyche.  Musically it isn't always up to par as it lacks any memorable hooks or melodies as it seems to jump all over the place as its searches for some common ground.  Maybe that's the point and it just requires the listener to dig deep to really find it's cold heart and soul.

3½ possible pasts out of 5

Songs of Note:  4:50 am (Go Fishing)4:58 am (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin)

ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD / The Bible 2 [2016]

Andrew Jackson Jihad's (or AJJ as they like to be known as now) previous album Christmas Island was a nervous reinvention that wasn't quite right but thankfully they've worked out most of the kinks on 2015's The Bible 2.
Picking up exactly where Christmas Island's "Angel of Death" protagonist Cody left us, AJJ kicks right into hilarious misery and honest self-deprecation with "Cody's Theme".  There's only minor traces of the folk-punk detected, so instead the complete band relies on lo-fi guitars, booming drums and whiny synths to get the head a bopping to their trademark cheery sneers.  Heavy with frightening sincerity is what AJJ does best and thankfully they aren't watering down the uncomfortable lyrics with an ever-growing audience.

4 flaming mommies out of

Songs of Note:  American Garbage; No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread

RADICAL FACE / The Family Tree: The Leaves [2016]

2016's The Leaves completes Radical Face's Family Tree trilogy about the fictional supernatural Northcote family of yesteryear.
Still holding onto the same sparse instrumentations of the previous installments, Cooper merely layers on top of them with subtle strings sections, gentle electric guitar and humming synths.  The lyrics might supposed to be about the Northcotes but one can't help but feel the closer Cooper got to his characters the more his own trials & tribulations spilled into the mix.  It's clear The Family Tree was never a linear form of storytelling but more like snapshots of the all the important times in a lost soul's life.  The lyrics have a beautiful way of transporting the listener back to all the their good and bad times they've encountered and miraculously what they have yet to experience.

4 resurrected birds out of 5

Songs of Note:  The Ship in PortBad Blood