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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

13GHOSTS / The Strangest Colored Lights [2008]

Spacey Americana folk-rockers 13ghosts' 4th full length album, The Strangest Colored Lights is a lyrically brilliant album full of finely crafted ballads about Death.
At times it's solemn but not so much that it puts you into a state of depression. In fact, there a few faster tempo songs placed in just right spots so not to get too emotionally heavy.
Unfortunately, as it is with a lot of Americana folk groups, many of the songs just aren't that memorable in the melodic sense. With that said, I can honestly recommend this album just for a few of the 5 star songs.

3½ Songs sung into a buried jar out of 5

Songs Of Note: Bury Me; Transmissions

INAURA / One Million Smiles (1998)

One Million Smiles kicks ass, but in its own retro-new way. It's a guitar-heavy eighties rock inspired Syth-Pop-Punk Dance-revival record that occasionally reminds me of New Order or Jesus Jones or maybe the KLF or... the era.
If the album had been promoted properly it could've been huge. Instead, it was shelved for two years by EMI. Damn them. If you want to take a chance on something old that sounds new, seek it out.

Songs of Note: 90's Itch; Soap Opera

4 victims of self-demands out of 5

PUBLIC IMAGE LTD / Metal Box (1979)

PiL's second album pushed the boundaries even more of what experimental music could be. Jah Wobble's bass was again to the fore but was this time accompanied by Keith Levene's fully aluminium guitar, both of which helped lift John Lydon's vocals to something truly unique. Pretentious art students and music theorists loved it. It sounds as unique today as it did back in '79.
The original packaging was a 12" metal film can (pictured) with three vinyl records inside. When it was reissued in regular packaging (double vinyl, gatefold) the name was changed to Second Edition. Years later, a CD edition paid homage to the original design, packaged in a CD-size metal tin. I have it. It's sexy.

Songs of Note: Albatross; The Suit

4 they love you until they know you out of 5

THE ALMIGHTY / Crank (1994)

The Almighty got heavier yet again on their fourth studio album and seemed to forget what it was that had made them interesting before. It's a competent hybrid of grunge and traditional British rock but is oh-so-very boring. They added some double kick and wanky guitar moments that really don't fit with the aesthetic they had before. I listened to it from start to finish for the first time since I got it for the purposes of this review and was left wondering why I bothered.

Songs of Note: None.

0½ because they had Andy Cairns guest out of 5

CHRIS CONNELLY / Phenobarb Bambalam (1993)

Connelly's CV reads like a masterclass in industrial music production: Ministry, Murder Inc, Pigface, Revolting Cocks and Whitehouse are only some of what's there. I expected his solo material to be similar. Not so. Phenobarb is an expressive, emotionally charged but often quiet album that was created during a period of personal tragedy for the multi-instrumentalist. Jazz, piano, drums and guitars mesh into a thing of beauty that took me many months to really appreciate. It's an album rooted in personal pain, anguish and, above all, honesty.

Songs of Note: Souvenir from a Dream; July

4 refusals to be denied out of 5

ALICE COOPER / Along Came a Spider (2008)

Along Came a Spider has all the elements Alice is known for but it never quite manages to break out of safe territory. It's heavier than I'd expected but still melodic enough that Alice can have fun with the chorus'. Repeated listens reveal just how well-constructed the songs are within the narrative, which tells the story of The Spider, a serial killer who removes limbs from his victims and wraps the bodies in silk. There was a short promotional movie made for the release, you can find it after this text. The production is very murky, perhaps reflective of the topic, but more openness and freedom might have made better listening.

Songs of Note: Along Came A Spider - The Movie

3 love is never pretty, best keep killing out of 5

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MARILYN MANSON / Mechanical Animals [1998]


After becoming known for his violent shock rock antics more than his music, Marilyn Manson played it smart and completely reinvented his musical sound. The glam-rocking Mechanical Animals showcased the image makeover with what would become Manson's strongest record to date.
A satirical jab at his own public image, Manson dissolves into split personalities paying tribute to David Bowie. The lyrics are sometimes a little hammy but the music is top notch stadium rock like glitter exploding from the bowels of a digital Hell.
Love him or loathe him. It can't be denied that Manson had some serious balls (contradicting the album cover) to release such an album. Easily a desert island disc.

5 Rose McGowans glittering in gold out of 5

Songs Of Note: Mechanical Animals; Coma White

NOFX / Coaster [2009]


NOFX have been making their special brand of pop-punk for slobs for nearly 30 years now and they don't seem to be running out of steam.
Coaster (or Frisbee as it's known as on vinyl) is their 11th studio album and there's no shortage of fast-paced punchy melodic pieces of enjoyable sneers and jeers. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes it's next to impossible to grow bored of the samesy sounding songs they constantly pump out.
It's difficult not to give NOFX anything but 3 stars. They're still doing the same thing they've been doing for 3 decades but they've never tried to be anything but. Just good ol' fashioned pop punk that spits in the faces of the crap that the youth of today are fooled into thinking is rebellious.

3 songs about Iron Maiden and Tegan & Sara out of 5

Songs Of Note: Best God In Show; I'm An Alcoholic

BALKAN BEAT BOX / Blue Eyed Black Boy [2010]


By fusing Jamaican dub, Mediterranean and Balkan traditional musical styles and dance-heavy hip-hop, Israeli music act, Balkan Balkan Beat have established themselves as one of the most unique groups working today.
On their third album, Blue Eyed Black Boy, BBB have smoothed out all the kinks of their previous albums and now it sounds as if every genre and texture flows together quite naturally. While they were mostly an excellent live band before and somewhat watered down for the studio, BBB manages to excel in both worlds with BEBB.
Being their best album yet, I look forward to what Balkan Beat Box have in store for us next.

4 Gogol Bordello Values out of 5

Songs Of Note: Dancing With The Moon; Lijepa Mare

OINGO BOINGO / Boingo [1994]


Oingo Boingo's final studio album 1994's Boingo is a bitter-sweet farewell to a band who had been recording since 1976.
Incorporating the Gothic sounds of frontman Danny Elfman's film scoring into the mix is every fan's dream come true. Nearly dropping all signs of the horn section, The Vandals guitarist Warren Fitzgerald steps in giving it a modern feel. With lyrical jabs at organized religion, the kids these days, American fueled war and society's silly elitists, Elfman borders dangerously close to grumpy old man cynicism.
Juggling horror-laced material, good ol' rockers and insanely beautiful ballads, Boingo is Elfman's finest hour in the rock music genre. Another addition to my desert island disc collection.

5 Tender Lumplings out of 5

Songs Of Note: Insanity; Helpless [available on cassette only]

NEW MODEL ARMY / Impurity (1990)

Violins, spoken word by Joolz, electric and acoustic guitars belted-out in a traditional folk rock style made Impurity stand out from the rest of the crap released the same year. NMA never succumbed to trends, so their output never seems overly dated, because it was never actually in style.
Much of the album is sure to make it onto a NMA Best of.. compilation, it's that good. The remaster improves the sound a lot, so seek it if you can. I find it really hard to describe their sound, so it's best to just listen to the links:

Songs of Note: Marrakesh; Innocence

5 buried hatchets out of 5

VARIOUS ARTISTS / Monsieur Gainsbourg: Revisited [2006]


France's own self-proclaimed pervert, Serge Gainsbourg has received numerous covers and tributes but Monsieur Gainsbourg: Revisited would be the first time an entire album would made with all English cover versions.
With the likes of Portishead, Tricky, Placebo, Michael Stipe, James Iha, Marianne Faithful, Feist, Jarvis Cocker and more contributing, it's inevitable that the more solemn songs of Gainsbourg would be covered. Not to say his distinctive "sexy" sound isn't still there, it's just a little gloomier to fit with the modern era.
Like most tribute albums there's a few drastic misses but luckily enough the source material is good enough to have more hits.

4 where's Nick Cave, Barry Adamson or Mick Harvey? out of 5

Songs Of Note: L'Hotel / Michael Stipe; Those Little Things / Carla Bruni

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR / F# A# ∞ [1997]


Canadian post-rock ensemble Godspeed You! Black Emperor's first full-length album, F# A# ∞ is a post-apocalyptic aural painting of rage, despair and fear.
Broken up into 3 movements, Godspeed makes incredible use of haunting sound effects inserted between drawn out instrumentals that emotionally unfold into a surreal mixture of emptiness and grandiosity. Using the standard guitars, bass and drums, they cleverly throw in strings, horns, xylophones and glockenspiels to create a more organic sound that is that much more disturbing.
It's a difficult album to endure in one sitting but is certainly one of the most rewarding if you aren't turned off by being nearly suffocated with such beautiful desolation. Yet another desert island disc to add to my list.

5 Streets I nearly died on out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Dead Flag Blues [excerpt]; East Hastings [excerpt]

PUBLIC IMAGE LTD / First Issue (1978)

Public Image Ltd was a highly stylised percussion based band that was both experimental and challenging. Aided by a prominent bass sound from the wonderfully named Jah Wobble, the music was the perfect fit for front-man John Lydon's unusual voice. It's the musical equivalent of an art student with a paintbrush and clinical ADHD. It's not passive listening, you have to engage with it to appreciate it. The first album, First Issue, is considered a classic by many folks, and looking back now it's clear that PiL was years ahead of its time.

Songs of Note: Public Image; Annalisa

4 bibles full of libel out of 5

REVOLTING COCKS / Sex-O Olympic-O (2008)

Revolting Cocks (shortened to Rev Co on the album sleeve) dropped the ball; has the joke worn thin? Sex-O is essentially the same repetitive drum machine, fuzzy guitars, dance-hall disco-beats and intentional cheesy 80s synth that they were so good at years ago, but it's tedious, uninspired and duller than white paint. I'm sincerely happy for Grandpa Jourgensen that he was able to give up the coke, but perhaps he should've given up the Cocks as well. Drugs and creativity go hand in hand, it's a sad fact, and without the first acting as a trigger, sometimes the magic just doesn't happen. Sex-O is painful to listen to. I'll stick with the older albums.

Songs of Least Fail: Wizard of SextownHookerbot3000

1 revolting collection of songs out of 5

KATATONIA / Tonight's Decision (1999)

Tonight's Decision is one step closer to perfection for arguably the best melodic doom/goth metal act ever. It's almost perfect, the next album would be, but TD suffered from being a little too similar to the previous one (which also means that everything I said about Discøuraged Ønes (1998) is relevant here). It's once again a celebration of the melancholy that rests deep inside all of us, performed with passion and, despite the sadness is a strangely uplifting experience. Jonas Renkse on vocals and Blakkheim on guitar complement each other at every turn, and there's a new drummer, but you'd maybe never know, because he fits right in.

Songs of Note: For My Demons; In Death, a Song

4½ letters never sent out of 5

THE YOUNG GODS / Only Heaven (1995)

The Swedes toned down the harsh sampled sounds and upped the ambient beauty for their fourth album. It's too dreamy to be considered Industrial, and too frenetic to be Chill-out, so it sits somewhere between the two. It's much less diverse than earlier works, and if you're not in the mood for its charms, it can even be considered boring. If, however, you are in need of something more circumfluous, more open and ethereal, it can hit the mark about half the time.

Songs of Note: Strangel; Donnez les Esprits

3½ moon revolutions out of 5

GORILLAZ / The Fall [2011]


Virtual hip-hop band the Gorillaz, being the "digital era" group that they are, were destined to release a free digital album eventually.
Produced late at night in hotel rooms while Damon Albarn was on tour supporting the Plastic Beach album, The Fall doesn't include the usual mob of guest musicians as previous albums do (with the exception of The Clash's Mick Jones & Paul Simonon).
The end result sounds exactly like what it should be. Late night hotel room fun with a case of beer and cigarettes, resulting in a moody sonic spectral of bleeps and bloops. It's not great but it's an interesting listen. It captures the sound of late night experimentation perfectly.

3 Sounds that disturb the hell out of your pets out of 5

Songs Of Note: Amarillo; Bobby In Phoenix

ALICE COOPER / The Last Temptation (1994)

Something Alice this way comes. It's the king of theatrical rock back in the chair where he belongs, giving us a full concept album with a cast of weirds and a young boy called Steven (yes, Steven!). There are nods to WtMN musically too, particularly in album opener Sideshow, which sounds both retro and current.
Chris Cornell adds his voice once or twice but can be ignored, along with the first single, Lost in America, which has the dubious honour of being Alice's worst song since Trash. It's easy to make a playlist without it and neither the story nor album flow suffers from its removal. What's doubly great about TLT is that the softer lullaby tracks are equally as interesting as the regular guitar tracks.

Songs of Note: Sideshow; Nothing's Free

4 ringmasters with blackened eyes out of 5

Monday, November 28, 2011

NEIL YOUNG / Chrome Dreams II (2007)

Neil Young needs no introduction; he's that old guy that old guys listen to. I don't much like his rocking Crazy Horse albums, but I adore his solo acoustic stuff. Chrome Dreams II is closer in spirit to the latter but has a lot of the former, and somehow manages to be the best thing he's released since Harvest Moon (1992). Even Neil knows it, hence the title (go research it). Listen to the 18 minute 'Ordinary People' and you'll understand why I love everything about this. It's perhaps his last great hurrah and, aside from one turd, as close to perfect as he can still get(?).

Songs of Note: Beautiful Bluebird, Ordinary People

5 old guys know what's what out of 5

THE SISTERS OF MERCY / Vision Thing (1990)

The third and final official (non-Best of) album by The Sisters is a huge departure from where they started out. Listen to Vision Thing without knowing anything about the earlier releases and you'd wonder where the goth connection came from. It's fast and punchy radio-friendly Power-pop played in a Rock style. There's less dark brooding synth and more guitars than ever before.  And Eldritch's vocals are clearer than they'd ever been. I'm not saying it's a bad album, I think it's a great album, but not very much of it resembles the expected TSoM template.

Songs of Note: Ribbons; I Was Wrong

4 red lights (and Oh No! Jim Steinman) out of 5

MICK HARVEY / Sketches From The Book Of The Dead [2011]


After a breaking all ties with Nick Cave in a bitter split, former Birthday Party and Bad Seeds member, Mick Harvey finally releases his first full solo album of original material.
Sketches From The Book Of The Dead is solemn collection of dreary ballads that tell of loved ones long gone and the places that evoke their memories. After working with Cave for over 30 years, it's impossible to step out of his shadow in a musical sense and the influence is very evident in Harvey's songwriting.
While each song has beautiful textures and mood, not all of it is memorable enough to really stand on it's own for a complete album. Still well worth checking out if you're a fan of his Cave compositions.

3 denials into Heaven out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Ballad Of Jay Givens; Two Paintings

RUBY / Salt Peter (1995)

Industrial Trip-hop, or something like that. Ruby were kind of unique, which maybe explains why they never really got out of the ditch they were unfairly put in. The lazy Trip-hop beats are married to light Industrial guitars and droning distorted bass, at times reminiscent of GarbageSalt Peter, their first album, had potential and I think could've been the basis of a formidable live experience, but on record it's a little tame and not as snappy as it needed to be to really shine.

Songs of Note: Paraffin; Pine

3 paper muscles out of 5

GLENN DANZIG / Black Aria (1992)

Black Aria isn't typical Danzig; it's dark, sinister and classical. Yes, classical. All instruments were played by Glenn; there are strings, synthesisers, piano and occasional female voice courtesy of Renee Rubach. The album suffers from too much synth and never really achieves the grandeur of what much of it tries to evoke (John Milton's Paradise Lost), but it's an interesting aside to Danzig's usual work. Good luck trying to find a copy; it's rarer than dodo piss.

Songs of Note: Shifter; Battle for Heaven

2½ bells of heaven out of 5

DANZIG / Danzig 6:66 Satan's Child (1999)

It's been quite a while since I listened to Satan's Child. I'm hearing it now and I remember why that is: the awful industrial mess of the previous album was mostly abandoned, but we got Stadium Rock Danzig instead. Jumping bandwagons must be tiring. And he sacked one of the new guys for some reason; at least he's still consistent in something.~ It's not a hateful album, but it is mostly dull. It has a few interesting tracks but nothing that he'll be remembered for, except perhaps as the album that had the track Johnny Cash covered...and Cash did it better.

Songs of Note: Cult without a NameThirteen

2 embarrassing inlay band photo shoots out of 5

NINE INCH NAILS / Still (2002)

Still is a stripped-back acoustic session of mostly old Nine Inch Nails songs played on piano, guitar, synth and drums. It's intimate, haunting and occasionally intense; often sounding like the band is playing in your front room. It has one new track not available elsewhere, but it's the achingly beautiful renditions of fan-favourites that really make it worthwhile. Trent is nearly always whining about something, but here it sounds like a cathartic release, not an angry tirade.
If you're a NIN fan and don't have it already, then it’s an essential addition to your collection. It can only be purchased from the NIN website, but is well worth it.

Songs of Note: Something I Can Never Have; The Fragile

5 heartfelt moments of anguish and tranquillity out of 5

SIGH / Hail Horror Hail (1997)

More avant-garde Black Metal, this time from Japan. Japanese society doesn't have the traditional anti-Christian god to use as a basis for their Black Metal, so Sigh did things a little differently, and on Hail Horror Hail, their first full-length album, a lot differently. It says in the liner notes: "This album is way beyond the conceived notion of how metal, or music, should be. In Essence it is a movie without pictures; a celluloid phantasmagoria." That sums it up better than I could. I love theatrical music and HRH delivers; it hasn't aged as well as some of their later works, but I like to revisit it occasionally. The following YouTube vids sound like crap, but you'll get the idea:

Songs of Note: Hail Horror Hail; Burial

3½ demons from the underworld out of 5

VED BUENS ENDE / Written in Waters (1995)

VBE are an Avant-garde Metal band from Norway. Their music sounds wrong; it's filled with intentionally atonal bass, discordant changes and unexpected jazz breaks alongside the more traditional Black Metal noise. Special mention must go to Einar Sjursø for his remarkable drum techniques. It takes a long time to really appreciate the diversity of Written in Waters, but once it gets under your skin it stays there. Sadly, it was the only full-length album they ever released.

Songs of Note: I Sang for the Swans; You, That May Wither

4 undreamt dreams out of 5

KING DIAMOND / Fatal Portrait (1986)

King's music is firmly rooted in the traditional heavy metal camp, but is much more inventive and visually theatrical than most. He fuses quality riffs with technical (widdly) guitar solos that sometimes go on too long. Vocally he can go from a balls-in-a-vice falsetto to a balls-in-hell demonic growl in the same sentence, and it's that talent that can make people laugh and fail to look beneath the surface. The fools. Fatal Portrait, the first of his solo albums, isn't his best work, his voice is too screechy much of the time, but it has some fun moments and some comedy moments that are worth a revisit every now and again. Get the reissue for his Christmas 12" song as a bonus track - I shit you not.

Songs of Note: The Portrait; Charon

2½ faces in the candle flame out of 5

THE RUGBURNS / Mommy, I'm Sorry [1995]


Acting like the bridge that connects the folksy based Morning Wood and the punkier Taking The World By Donkey, The Rugburns' EP Mommy, I'm Sorry is the 2nd of their only 3 releases.
The Rugburns was pretty much songwriter Steve Poltz's way to announce the things that ticked him off in the world. Nothing big but enough to laugh at and enjoy like he's lost everything all ready.
Packed with 5 storytelling songs and one Sesame Street theme cover, Mommy, I'm Sorry is good quick fun that leaves no bitter aftertaste.

3 dead deers on LSD out of 5

Songs Of Note: Dick's Automotive; Skyfuckingline Of Toronto

SEX PISTOLS / Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols (1977)

Do I even need to describe NMtB? It's the most famous 'Punk' album to come out of the U.K. scene. Surely everyone who wants to know, already knows... But for those that don't, it's a lot more Pop-friendly than your preacher may think. But that doesn't mean it lacks attitude. No, it has that in spades. Time hasn't diminished it.

Songs of Note: Anarchy in the U.K; Holiday in the Sun

5 ways to get what you want out of 5

Sunday, November 27, 2011

WOVEN HAND / Woven Hand [2002]


In between 16 Horsepower albums, David Eugene Edwards takes a solo ride on his new project entitled Woven Hand.
Brooding over a sound palate leaning towards a Gothic Bluegrass sound that's teetering on the brink of neo-folk, Edwards sounds right at home here. If not for the twangy sounds of mandolins, brush drums and banjos, one might actually swear it was Nick Cave washing his menace all over this haunting and hypnotizing project.
It's the type of music that's meant to played loudly over the mountaintops as the sun goes down on a dead winter's night. Simply a wonderful delight for this weary traveler.

4 nods to Bill Withers out of 5

Songs Of Note: My Russia; Arrowhead

PAUL CANTELON & VARIOUS ARTISTS / Everything Is Illuminated OST [2005]


The soundtrack to Liev Schreiber's moving yet quirky drama Everything Is Illuminated captures the feel of the film perfectly.
The album features a line-up of various Eastern European flavored artists like Gogol Bordello, Leningrad and Tin Hat Trio. What takes center stage though are the eight score cues from composer Paul Cantelon. Sounding more like Odessa street performers than a regular score ensemble, Cantelon's score is organic and heartwarming while still retaining a slight goofy charm.
It's a wonderful little soundtrack that may not be for everybody but if you're curious about foreign music genres then this is a great place to start.

4 soundtracks in a baggy out of 5

Songs Of Note: PROLOGUE/BABUSHKA : Paul Cantelon; FEAR OF THE SOUTH : Tin Hat Trio

GREEN DAY / Insomniac [1995]


Following the breakthrough success of 1994's Dookie, pop punk outfit Green Day were beaten down, alienated and ready for a break. 1995's Insomniac captured those feelings perfectly with a bratty smirk gashed into their faces.
Louder, grittier and tighter than before, Green Day spit up a tight little package of snot-nosed pop punk songs packed with such an infectious bounce you'll hardly notice how angry they actually are.
It may not be a step forward from their Dookie sound but it's still good ol' fashioned rock n' roll with an honest sneer and that's exactly what captured my heart for all these years. Add this to my desert island discs.

5 Jesus Christ Supermarkets out of 5

Songs Of Note: Stuck With Me; Panic Song

KATATONIA / Discøuraged Ønes (1998)

Katatonia gave us their first really successful foray into the melodic goth metal genre when they unleashed Discøuraged Ønes. The pattern of slow rhythms broken by a soaring chorus became their method of working for many years thereafter. It's a record filled with pathos; and despite being almost happy and upbeat at times, the lyrics deal with a fractured persona and a deep ingrained loneliness. Vocalist Jonas Renkse, who also performed drums, has an amazingly powerful voice that works in tandem with Blakkheim's guitars to produce a template that was copied by everyone and their dog but never equalled.

Songs of Note: Deadhouse; I Break

5 Mikael Åkerfeldt cameos out of 5

CARTER U.S.M / 101 Damnations (1989)

Carter U.S.M. were two people, a drum machine and a synthesiser. It's a late 80s alternative synth punk fusion that appealed to a new generation of discontented young voters. They were the poets of the working class in 1990s Britain. They sang odes to the underdog and the socially inept. They gave a voice to the losers in crappy accommodation and the homeless bums that lurked around the rear of the local student union building. In short, they were what Britain needed at that time. 101 Damnations may sound dated now, but the lyrics are as relevant as ever.

Songs of Note: 24 Minutes From Tulse Hill; Sheriff Fatman

3½ teeth as deposit out of 5

ALICE COOPER / Lace And Whiskey (1977)

Alice took on the role of Maurice Escargot for L+W, a Private Investigator with a love of 40s and 50s movies. The singer was reportedly in a heavy alcoholic haze during the making, so the marriage of 40s and 50s rock with 70s instrumentation maybe seemed like a good idea, but it wasn't a success at the time. Looking back now, it has a certain unique charm that's fun every once in a while. It slips in a number of silver age show tunes but removes the eerie, creepy songs that he was known for. I'm kind of indifferent about it, so I'll give it an average score.

Songs of Note: My God; You and Me

2½ the door opened, then shut out of 5

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NEIL DIAMOND / 12 Songs (2005)

Neil's first album with Rick Rubin as producer is a striped-down affair, full of genuine emotion and personal reflection, exploring what it means to be an old-time singer/songwriter in the fast-paced, hypocritical music scene of today.
Its main focus is his voice and acoustic guitar; there's other orchestration but it's not in your face. Neil is a performer, he loves the extravagance; to hear him so reserved is a joy. 12 Songs is without a doubt the best album he'd made in over a decade. But it was just the beginning. The album he made after is even better.

Songs of Note: Delirious Love; Hell Yeah

3½ Beach Boy cameos out of 5

NEIL DIAMOND / Home Before Dark (2008)

Album No.2 with Rick Rubin as producer, using the same musicians he'd used to revive Johnny Cash's career, is almost perfect, let down only occasionally by a lyric not sitting as comfortable with the music as it could've been, given a little more effort. It's less concerned with being naked, and Neil seems more at ease with the extra accompaniment. It almost succeeded in making him relevant again. I find it's best enjoyed with a glass of whisky, a dimmed light and a footstool.

Songs of Note: Another Day (That Time Forgot); Don't Go There

4 bites of the apple out of 5

Friday, November 25, 2011

FAITH NO MORE / Angel Dust [1992]


Following the platinum success of the The Real Thing, influential gonzo hard rockers Faith No More took a genre-colliding sharp turn into something even more twisted and disturbing than what listeners were ready for.
It starts off sounding like the powerpop of their previous album but quickly dissolves into something far weirder and unfriendly. Mike Patton's vocals take center stage as he channels a vast array of personalities from a smug "I have the power" charm to blasts of falsetto elegance to the screeches of a rabid animal.
With cheerleader choruses, masturbation & oral sex allusions and Kronos Quartet samples, Angel Dust is an definitive album of the '90's that practically runs through my blood like a drug. Another desert island disc to add to my list.

5 Midnight Cowboys out of 5

Songs Of Note: Caffeine; A Small Victory

JARBOE / Disburden Disciple (2000)

Jarboe embraces experimental. Her music is full of textures, loops, projected beauty and synchronized disharmony. Her voice is strong, passionate and unique; it still gives way to the percussion a lot but she's ceased hiding it behind the music. Piano, guitar, bass and drums seem to be fighting each other for dominance on the album, creating a power play that becomes a great strength. It's harsh at times, avant-garde always, but I find her enthralling. I can't see it appealing to anyone that didn't like her work in Swans, though. If you're one of the ones that did enjoy those days, then Disburden Disciple is worth the effort.

Songs of Note: Consume Me; Dear 666

3½ portraits of the artist out of 5

PANTERA / Vulgar Display of Power (1992)

Phil 'Hard Bastard' Anselmo finally shed his glam metal past and became the hero of half of my school in '92. Diamond Darrell gave us THAT humongous riff, you know the one! Vulgar… was Pantera on top form. It's anger personified. It's crushing hatred in riff form. It's rage and pain squished into a ball and fired vehemently in your direction. Need to get somewhere fast and are on foot? Put it on your mp3 player and you'll be there in record time. I would have killed someone to see them live. (Apparently it's called Groove Metal. That's news to me.)

Songs of Note: Mouth for War; Walk

4 moved mountains out of 5

CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX / Night Raider (2009)

Crippled Black Phoenix are an ambient rock band consisting of a great pedigree of musicians from other bands (among them Iron Monkey, Gonga, Mogwai, Electric Wizard).  They play what they call "endtime ballads" which includes but is not limited to eerie folk, ambient unease, Southern gothic and a heck of a lot more I can't give words to. You'll hear some Pink Floyd in there, some Tom Waits and a host of others harder to pin down. It's self-indulgent at times but at others it's truly inspiring. If you're open to something new and challenging, give them a try.

Songs of Note: Time of Ye Life / Born For Nothing / Paranoid Arm of Narcoleptic Empire; Bat Stack

4 unusual and hard to define projects out of 5

DANZIG / Danzig V: Blackacidevil (1996)

It's entirely possible that Glenn tripped on his ego and landed with his head up his ass prior to recording album number V. When he popped it free he sacked his entire band; John Christ, Eerie Von and Chuck Biscuits were history. I mean, how do you even consider sacking a guy called Chuck Biscuits? Best name in metal.
Most of Blackacidevil is a noisy industrial mess; it's distorted, fuzzy, irritating and boring. It's the ugly child that no parent wants to pick up after school. I'm tempted to give it permanent banishment from my collection. It sullies the rest. Approach with caution. It gets 1 point for the song Ashes.

Songs of Note: Come to Silver; Ashes

1 downhearted loss of 5

JELLYFISH / Bellybutton (1990)

A Power-pop band from San Francisco. Jellyfish were forced upon me many years ago. After repeated listens I grew to like it. It's full of happy harmonies and sing-a-long moments that are almost too sugary, but suffer through those and you'll be rewarded with songs that The Beatles could've penned (turns out McCartney was a fan). With occasional nods to Jazz and Blues, it's worthy of a recommendation, provided Power-pop sound waves filling a room doesn't make you hurl.

Songs of Note: Now She Knows She's Wrong; The King is Half-Undressed

4 fashion explosions out of 5

SWEATSHOP UNION / Natural Progression [2004]


Coming out of Vancouver, Canada, hip-hop act Sweatshop Union is a smooth mishmash of varied vocal styles and musical backdrops. With vocal rhythms reminiscent of Heavy D, Eminem, Chali 2na and Del The Funky Homosapien, Sweatshop produces a strong musical sense of positivity while tackling some serious subjects in their lyrics.
Their sophomore album Natural Progression is a mixture of everything mentioned above, plus friendly charisma, impressive production and a firm grasp on the underground hip-hop movement.
It's only downfall is the lengthy playtime. Clocking in at over 60 minutes, Natural Progression could have benefited from maybe 4 or 5 songs cut from the playlist.

4 New World Orders out of 5

Songs Of Note: Us; The Thing About It

THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN / Psychocandy (1985)

The noise terrorists' first album is a fan favourite but not very forgiving for newcomers. The production gives the impression that it was recorded in a tin fallout shelter. The brothers write songs on an acoustic and then record them on electric with more feedback and distortion than is necessary, but that's their way.
Psychocandy has some great Pop songs buried beneath the fuzzy sound, but you may have to work extra hard to hear them. Later albums were more ear-friendly, so don't hate them just yet.~

Songs of Note: Taste of Cindy; Never Understand

3½ seeds out of 5

Thursday, November 24, 2011

MORTIIS / The Grudge (2004)

If you're not aware, Mortiis is Håvard Ellefsen, the onetime bassist of Norwegin Black Metal band Emperor. The Grudge album is on the Earache label, so you'd expect some crushing heavy Black/Death/Industrial metal, right? But what you get is Mortiis pissing around with his keyboard and… I can't even… I laughed.
I didn't laugh when he wore his pointy nose and pointy ears or when he grew bat wings, but The Grudge is a musical joke. Does anyone like it?

Songs of Least Fail: Decadent and Desperate; Le Petit Cochon Sordide

0 'cos it's bad for your Elf out of 5

BITTER:SWEET / Drama [2008]


Trip-hop duo Bitter:sweet are a bit of a lone-wolf in their genre. Upbeat and toe-tappingly delightful, they'll have a problem attracting fans of Massive Attack or Portishead.
Taking healthy dips into 60's lounge music, Bitter:sweet is reminiscent of The Supreme Beings Of Leisure, only having more fun than they ever did. Shana Halligan's kittenish vampy vocals echo that of Beth Gibbons, except Halligan isn't too shy to let her sexuality shine.
The songs don't really leave a lasting impression but are incredibly enjoyable while they last. Fun, catchy and sugar-sweet.

3 lipstick jungles out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Bomb; Trouble

NEW MODEL ARMY / The Love of Hopeless Causes (1993)

NMA have trundled on for twenty years without great success. They've been accused of being post-punk, folk-rock, alternative, etc, convenient labels that I've used myself from time to time, but it really doesn't matter about labels, they're NMA and that's all I really care about. The Hopeless Causes album is the band by-numbers; it's competent but not essential. Expect the usual guitar-driven slices of poetic musings about life, people, war and friendship. Don't waste your time watching the videos linked below, just put the music on another tab.

Songs of Note: Here Comes the War; Living in the Rose

3 thick black nights out of 5