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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

DOLLY PARTON / The Bargain Store (1975)

It's Dolly.
That's all I need to write for this one.

Songs of Note: The Bargain StoreKentucky Gambler

3½ career wigs out of 5

BATHORY / Twilight of the Gods (1991)

TotG continues and expands upon the Viking themed Hammerheart (1990) sound. As the title suggests, it's greatly inspired by classical compositions; he even uses Holst's Jupiter suite. It's soaring and epic in the very real sense of the word, being poetic and lengthy. The opening trilogy is one of the most beautiful pieces of music Quorthon has ever produced. Yes, beautiful, not blackly heavy. It has pounding drums and a sense of grandeur but is far removed from his usual cavernous sound. His acoustic guitar summons visions of ages past and his drums could guide longboats to distant shores. TotG was planned as the Bathory swansong album, and had that been the case, then it would've been a fitting farewell for the one-man-band that single-handedly spawned a number of genres.

Songs of Note: Twilight of the GodsThrough Blood By Thunder

5 ambitious and masterful progressions out of 5

JELLO BIAFRA AND MOJO NIXON / Prairie Home Invasion (1994)

In my experience, Prairie Home Invasion freaks people out. Not because it's creepy, but because it's country music and they can't help but like it. That scares them. It's not just regular county, though. It's Cowpunk. Yup. Whatever that is. Mojo Nixon knows, as it's undoubtedly his album musically. It's Jello's lyrically. The two opposites meet in the middle and deliver a disc full of hick tunes that you can't help but tap your foot to, or someone else's foot.
It goes without saying that Mojo fans will lap it up, but if you’re a punk at heart and loved Dead Kennedys, then there's a chance you'll love it, too, even if you hate country. Buy two copies... one for grandma.

Songs of Note: Love Me I'm a Liberal; Will the Fetus be Aborted?

5 politically charged hoedowns out of 5

Friday, December 30, 2011

DIO / Dream Evil (1987)

Ronnie James Dio gets credit for many things, but few people outside of his hardcore fan base can name more than one or two of his solo albums. The Dream Evil album is a popular one. It has some classic Dio-styled rock that follows his usual song structure: they start with a timeless melodic riff and sustain it until the chorus kicks in, then they soar with his voice at the forefront. The keyboards have dated it pretty badly but there's still some fine work herein.
Naysayers claim that he took the Black Sabbath sound with him, but I don't believe that's true. I believe Ronnie kept what he'd brought to Sabbath, and for a time made best use of it, while they spiralled into mediocrity after his departure.

Songs of Note: Night People; Dream Evil

3½ perverts at your bedroom window out of 5

HEAVEN AND HELL / The Devil You Know (2009)

Iommi, Butler, Appice and Dio. Sound familiar? It's Dio-era Black Sabbath in all but name. Geezer Butler brings a lifetime's experience of bass riffs but doesn't dwell on past glories. Sure, there's some of the old Sabbath vibe, but it's not a rehash of old sold as new, it's a lot of new from a bunch of olds.
It's not as good as the Heaven and Hell (1980) album from which they took their name, but I don't think it's possible to ever top that.
It's a lot more doom sounding than I ever imagined it would be, so it took a few listens before I could shake the old expectations and find the stand-out tracks. I expect that may well be a common feeling among fans.

Songs of Note: Follow the Tears; Bible Black

3½ surges of power out of 5

BLACK SABBATH / Dehumanizer (1992)

Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio back on the mic! It's a 90s comeback album that sounds like it was birthed in the 70s. It captures the essence of the old but was modern enough to appeal to new fans, not an easy thing to do. If all you've heard is the Ozzy era Sabbath, then you'll maybe be a little lost here, they're a different entity with Dio (let's never mention Tony Martin, except I just did but let's never do it again). An oft overlooked milestone in the band's history, Dehumanizer is characteristically riff-heavy and a little bit doomy at times but never gloomy.

Songs of Note: TV Crimes; Master of Insanity

4 comeback albums that are worth coming back for out of 5

Thursday, December 29, 2011

CUCKOO'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2011

People keep saying new music is crap but I don't believe it. Out of the 50 albums or so that I reviewed this year, I can honestly say I'd recommend atleast 80% of them which is pretty good. Granted I did do some digging to find some of this stuff...but it's worth it when you find it.

It wasn't that tough a decision to narrow down my top 10 seeing as I awarded only 10 albums with 5 "stars".

(click on the names for the mini-reviews)

10. BLUE SKY BLACK DEATH / Noir

9. THE CURE / Bestival Live 2011

8. PJ HARVEY / Let England Shake

7. THE WAR ON DRUGS / Slave Ambient

6. VESPERTINA / The Waiting Wolf

5. TOM WAITS / Bad As Me

4. ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD / Knife Man

3. LYDIA LOVELESS / Indestructible Machine

2. LYKKE LI / Wounded Rhymes

1. FRANK TURNER / England Keep My Bones


Some honorable mentions go to:

BANG DATA / Maldito Carnaval
BLINK-182 / Neighborhoods
DIRTY BEACHES / Badlands
DOOMTREE / No Kings
DUM DUM GIRLS / Only In Dreams
DAVID LYNCH / Crazy Clown Time
JEFF MARTIN 777 / The Ground Cries Out
PUSCIFER / Conditions Of My Parole
ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS / Songs Of Man
VARIOUS ARTISTS / Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

SUM 41 / Screaming Bloody Murder [2011]


Playing side by side with Metallica, Slayer, Judas Priest, Motley Crue and Iggy Pop have allowed Canadian rockers Sum 41 to gracefully step out of the pop-punk label they were bunched into in the mid '90's. Their latest album Screaming Bloody Murder only establishes them as a definite hard rock group rather than sitting along side Green Day or blink-182.
Loud, aggressive and angry music built upon a keen sense of melody is what Sum 41 does best and there's plenty of it here. Unfortunately what keeps this album from being an instant classic is it's running time. By dropping some of the more "friendlier" songs Screaming Bloody Murder would have been the closest thing to perfect The Sums would have ever done.

4 so longs, princess bitch out of 5

Songs Of Note: Screaming Bloody Murder; Sick Of Everyone

MATTHEW GOOD / Lights of Endangered Species [2011]


I'll be honest and confess I didn't have much in the way of expectations with Matt Good's latest (and possibly final) album Lights of Endangered Species but was quickly astounded by the quality of songwriting my hometown boy displayed.
This is some of Good's best work since 2003's Avanlanche and sometimes even excels that material. In an interesting move, Good opted to use brass, strings, woodwinds and piano on this album rather than just the usual standard rock ensemble. Good never really uses his new ensemble like most would expect but rather to subtly compliment the guitar driven music in the foreground.
It's hauntingly moody, grim and pure Vancouver rainy day music with songs that expand into something greater as the album progresses.

4 Ideal Swan Songs out of 5

Songs Of Note: Non Populus; Set Me On Fire

LIMP BIZKIT / Gold Cobra [2011]


It's always a mild surprise when you set out for a really, really bad review and don't quite get the disastrous album you thought you would.
Meathead rap/metal outfit Limp Bizkit's latest effort Gold Cobra sort of falls under this. It's not a great album by any means but it is what it is and never tries to be anything more than that.
At it's best, Gold Cobra is a heavy hitting testosterone-fueled record made for angry 15 year olds. At it's worst, Gold Cobra is an eye-rolling, manboy cheesefest of a record made for angry 15 year olds.
It's Limp Bizkit and that's all you really need to know.

1½ at least Wes Borland knows his shit out of 5

Songs Of Note: Walking Away; Shotgun

VARIOUS ARTISTS / Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [2011]


The soundtrack to the noir/thriller Drive, like the film itself, is slick, stylish and sexy with a menacing undercurrent of extreme violence constantly waiting to break free.
Seasoned with a collection of cool retro-synthpop songs that sound like they've been pulled right out of the '80's, the Drive soundtrack is all about style and boy does it ever have it. Composer Cliff Martinez's ambient score pulsates and thrives like the sun is just going down or just readying to come up.
With the way-cool moody synthpop songs and Martinez's broody soundscape, Drive is without a doubt a front-runner for best soundtrack collection of 2011.

4 hammers out of 5

Songs Of Note: NIGHTCALL by Kavinsky & Lovefoxx; A REAL HERO by College & Electric Youth

TOKIMONSTA / Creature Dreams [2011]


American/Korean beatmaker Jennifer Lee aka TOKiMONSTA is a shining talent just at the beginning of a very hopeful career. Her Creature Dreams EP might be short but it's all killer and no filler.
With a smooth, woozy trip-hop backdrop evoking images of sleek city nights and dimly lit rooms filled with smoke and red-eyed lovers of music. It's polished with such smoothness and tranquility it's difficult not to slip into full on relaxation mode.
It's a prime example of what Lee can do and is highly recommended if it's good chill-out music that's missing from your collection.

4 rabbit monsters out of 5

Songs Of Note: Little Pleasures [ft. Gavin Turek]; Day Job

THE DECEMBERISTS / The King Is Dead [2011]


Dropping the English folklore for a little more lore from their American roots, The Decemberists fall into a fine form, not much unlike old R.E.M., on their 6th studio album The King Is Dead.
With the aid of Gillian Welch as a back-up vocalist, The Decemberists have a wonderful little album of Americana country-folk that is both haunting and catchy. Colin Meloy's trademark over-achieving vocabulary and knack for subtle jokes buried underneath all the thoughtful lyrics are all just as good as ever.
Like a pleasant stroll through an vast empty field, The King Is Dead is light, comforting folk music without a bad aftertaste.

3 Peter Buck's out of 5

Songs Of Note: Down By The Water; June Hymm

CHRYSTA BELL / This Train [2011]


Sort of like the more feminine and velvety counterpart to David Lynch's Crazy Clown Time, Chrysta Bell's This Train is a sultry, pleasant little trip into a dreamworld that time forgot.
Produced and co-written by Lynch himself, This Train features Bell's soulful, almost blues-like voice at the forefront while it's backed up by reverberated guitars twinkling over brush drums and smooth low end bass notes ringing in the distance.
With an ethereal voice dripping with sex-appeal and hazy Lynchian musical backdrops, This Train is a hypnotizing journey into the weird and alluring.

3½ trains in the woods out of 5

Songs Of Note: Swing With Me; Real Love

ANGELS & AIRWAVES / Love [2011]


Hate him or love him, it can't be denied that Angels & Airwaves frontman Tom DeLonge is one of the most innovative and passionate personalities in the music business today.
Serving as the soundtrack to the feature film of the same name, LOVE is a cold and wondrous journey into the emptiness of space while still retaining an organic warmth. Because it's a double album, it does seem to lag in a few spots and could have been perfect had it been cut down to one disc.
As long as LOVE is, the space-rock atmosphere is perfect and the ominous production is top-notch. If you're a fan of AVA then this is a special treat...if you're not...then avoid it like the plague.

3½ Soul Survivors out of 5

Songs Of Note: Epic Holiday; All That We Are

BANG DATA / Maldito Carnaval [2011]


A smooth latin fusion of rap, rock, cumbia and reggae, Bang Data's debut EP Maldito Carnaval is the definition of "cool".
Fronted by bilingual vocalist Deuce Eclipse, Maldito Carnaval demands to be played loud, preferably over many drinks after dusk. 7 tracks of pure chilled-out booty-shakin', Bang Data's EP is too short to get old and pretty much begs for back-to-back repeat listens. Laced with intricate güiro drum breaks reminiscent of classic Los Fabulosos Cadillacs or Cypress Hill and finger plucked guitar solos not unlike anything you wouldn't expect from Latin music, Bang Data's debut is a head-turner.
With a little more push from the press, Bang Data could easily begin dominating the music scene with their special brand of dance within the year.

4½ Breaking Bad's out of 5

Songs Of Note: Bang Data; Pressure

FOO FIGHTERS / Wasting Light [2011]


Almost 20 years into their career and the Foo Fighters finally deliver the hard-rocking record they've always seem destined to do but for some reason held themselves back from really letting loose.
Wasting Light's raw rock energy might be partly due to Nirvana's Nevermind producer Butch Vig's input into the recording process. Sounding like The Queens Of The Stone Age finally rubbed off on Dave Grohl, the songwriting is rough, heavy and upbeat. Filled with fist-pumping garage rock anthems, the Foos sound like they're having the most fun they've had since The Color & The Shape.
It's not a classic album but one worthy of throwing on when you just want to feel good and forget the shit that lies underneath all this rock.

3½ Krist Novoselic, Ladies & Gentlemen out of 5

Songs Of Note: Dear Rosemary; I Should Have Known

ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS / Songs Of Man [2011]


The alt-country scene in Canada is booming so it's hard to pick out the cream of the crop but One Hundred Dollars' sophomore album Songs Of Man solidifies them a spot near the top.
A deeply textured and full body of music, Songs Of Man showcases Simone Schmidt's gravelly mumbled vocal delivery that sounds almost like beaten down Dolly Parton after 30 years of cigarettes and whiskey.
More country music than alternative this time around, Songs Of Man may not be the best album to slide into this genre but for the all ready initiated this is a fine album indeed.

4 calloused voices unheard out of 5

Songs Of Note: Where The Sparrows Drop; Aaron's Song

GILLIAN WELCH / The Harrow & The Harvest [2011]


Old timey Americana folk artist Gillian Welch returns after an extended hiatus with the beautifully somber The Harrow & The Harvest.
Keeping it simple with vocals, guitar, banjo and harmonicas, Welch crafts a deeply rich and intimate album that tells stories of heartbreak, loneliness and tragedy. Sung with such vulnerable confidence, Welch's voice reminds one a flickering candle that just refuses to go out.
It's down-to-earth, often polarizing emotions and an absolute delight to listen to no matter how grim the subject matter gets.

4 good ol' knee slaps out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Way It Goes; Six White Horses

VESPERTINA / The Waiting Wolf [2011]


One of the biggest disappointments of 2011 is the lack of attention paid to the operatic trip-hop duo Vespertina (comprised of Jedi Mind Tricks' Stoupe and vocalist/pianist Lorrie Doriza).
With their wonderfully melodramatic debut album The Waiting Wolf, Vespertina seemed like they would receive a considerate more amount of buzz than they actually did. Doriza's powerful vocals are both playful, sweet and laced with a vengeful streak. While Stoupe's production and beats compliment Doriza's songwriting without ever getting too busy or distracting.
A flare for the theatrics and storytelling, The Waiting Wolf is one of the most highly recommended albums of 2011.

5 Rabbit Holes out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Girl In The Basement; Devil's Dance

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SCREECHING WEASEL / First World Manifesto [2011]


Some 25 years into their career, pop-punkers Screeching Weasel are just as snotty as ever and still capable at holding an inane grudge.
First World Manifesto is Weasel's 12 album and it seems not a single thing has changed since their first record. The production is a little cleaner and the songwriting is a little tighter, but whiny Ramones-esque Ben Weasel refuses to change for anybody. He takes jabs at everything from well-known fellow pop-punkers, to his own fans and even the punk rock scene he is very much a part of. Some tired subject matter but SW keeps it addictive with catchy melodies and head-bopping anthems.
It's an all right Weasel record but not really anything special to anybody that didn't grow up with them.

3 pokes at Fat Mike out of 5

Songs Of Note: Frankengirl; Dry Is The Desert

THE ROOTS / Undun [2011]


Soulful hip-hop act, The Roots take a bleak turn on their concept album Undun , which tells the story of Redford Stevens, a man living and dying in urban poverty.
The music is a compelling blend of a warm, yet dreary Curtis Mayfield and John Coltrane that works perfectly, however it's the lyrics that fall flat on their face. Black Thought's words should bring a heartbeat to the character of Redford but never does and the concept of the album becomes boring really quick.
The band themselves are at some of their best composing and playing here, it's just Thought's lyrics that pull it down a bit too much. Normally lyrics wouldn't be such a problem, however if you're going to do something conceptual you should at least make it lyrically interesting.

3 Sufjan Stevens nods out of 5

Songs Of Note: One Time; undun "short"

FRANK TURNER / England Keep My Bones [2011]


Nice-guy Englishman folkster Frank Turner is really coming into his own on his 4th studio album England Keep My Bones.
Lifting the album title from Shakespeare, Turner's songwriting style is noticeably the strongest it's ever been. While he's dropped the "I'm the underdog" type lyrics, Tuner has opted for more of an album based on his English identity and the rich history of his homeland. Retaining his punk rock like attitude and strong sense of the genuine and passionate, Turner seems to be heading to greener pastures.
England Keep My Bones proves no matter how big Turner is getting, he can still be fun, real and never forgetful of where he came from.

5 Lives and Deaths of King John out of 5

Songs Of Note: I Still Believe; Glory Hallelujah

JÓHANN JÓHANNSSON / The Miners' Hymns: United To Obtain The Just Reward Of Our Labour [2011]


Atmospheric Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson tackles the wonderful world of film score composing for Bill Morrison's documentary The Miner's Hymms.
Relying heavily on a brass ensemble which is incredibly powerful and moody it reminds me somewhat of Howard Shore's brooding David Cronenberg score work. It rumbles quietly in the corner rarely ever stepping into the light adding a haunting backdrop to the film. While it might be effective on film, it makes for a somewhat uninspired listen.
With long lulls of ambient drones, The Miner's Hymms soars with stark beauty when it is finally allowed to. A so-so affair from an otherwise brilliant musical act.

3 Durham Miners of yesteryear out of 5

Songs Of Note: They Being Dead Yet Speaketh; The Cause of Labour is the Hope of the World

MOBY / Destroyed [2011]

After an album as amazing as Wait For Me it's a might bit disappointing to receive something as mediocre as Moby's 10th album Destroyed.
Not to say it's horrible but it's really only effective at certain times of the day and that being the wee hours of the morning. This is probably due to the recording process Moby endured while working on this album: at 2am isolated in hotel rooms while on tour in support of Wait For Me. There are a few very impressive bits here and there but clocking in at 71 minutes it would have benefited greatly with 20-25 minutes cut from it.
It's nice for writing or painting with but as a listening experience only it falls short mostly due to length. Oh well.

2½ lonely cities out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Day; Stella Maris

LYDIA LOVELESS / Indestructible Machine [2011]


21 year old Lydia Loveless proves that country music girls don't have to be bubbly blond pop-tarts disguised as cosmetic commercial models.
On her debut, Indestructible Machine, Loveless wows with her full-bodied expressive voice decorated with colorful language and an unapologetic attitude. With her knack of entertaining punk-flavored songwriting and tongue-in-cheek lyrics, Loveless is a name to keep an eye on.
In a music wasteland of American Idol "country" girls, Lydia Loveless' Indestructible Machine is more than welcome and hopefully just the beginning of a long and successful career.

5 Steve Earle stalking victims out of 5

Songs Of Note: Can't Change Me; Jesus Was A Wino

PJ HARVEY / Let England Shake [2011]


20 years into her career, PJ Harvey has delivered her finest album to date with Let England Shake.
A bittersweet love letter to her home country and it's wars, all bent on hopelessness, loss and scathing criticism of your leader's choices. With Mick Harvey (no relation) and John Parish at her side, Harvey's produced a richly textured album that's something between airy dream-pop & melodic folk rock complimented with beautiful lyrical storytelling.
Never one to mince words, Harvey will probably chase off quite a few listeners with her opinionated lyrics but that's part of her charm. She's bold, smart and supremely talented. The triumphant Let England Shake showcases this talent quite nicely.

5 Autoharp ditties out of 5

Songs Of Note: On Battleship Hill; Written On The Forehead

CITIES AVIV / Digital Lows [2011]


Cities Aviv's debut album Digital Lows is a broody and seductive hip-hop record filled with intelligent and often smugly humorous two-liners.
It's chilled out and hazy production almost allows it to fall into the stoner-rap genre but Cities Aviv is much too alert and witty to go in that direction. With lyrics that go from the hopeful to the downright seething, Digital Lows is somewhat of an emotional mish-mash which is refreshing compared to a lot of one-note hip-hop acts.
There's no singles, hooks or repetitive lyrics here...just finely crafted songwriting that shamefully went largely ignored this year.

4 White Bitches That Like Mr. Bungle out of 5

Songs Of Note: Die Young; Sixsixsixes

R.E.M. / Collapse Into Now [2011]


R.E.M.'s 15th and final album, Collapse Into Now seems to act as sort of a final revisit to the many musical areas they've visited over their plus 30 year old career.
Even though the band doesn't visit any territories on Collapse it's all good as their skill is so finely crafted with such casual passion and grace. Good time post-punk rockers, mandolin-fueled ballads and feedback fuzzy country songs are all present and they serve as a reminder as to just how good a library of songs R.E.M. have left behind them.
It's R.E.M. in fine form and a nice album to end a bumpy career. They will be missed but it's nice to go out with a great album and not linger till they didn't have it in them anymore.

4 The Return Of Patti Smith's out of 5

Songs Of Note: It Happened Today; Blue

TIM HECKER / Ravedeath, 1972 [2011]

Sound-sculptor Tim Hecker's 6th ominously titled album Ravedeath, 1972 is an effective one indeed.
A hostile, but never aggressive, wall of sound created by multiple recordings of a church organ battling it out with a dense atmosphere of crackles, drones and distorted loops. Hecker never really needs to resort to anything outright terrifying but instead relies on the mood he's created to fog up your mind and chill you right to the bone.
It's as pleasant as it is unnerving. If you can accept this as listening material then I can highly recommend it.

4 digital garbage obsessions out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Piano Drop; No Drums

JARBOE and JUSTIN K BROADRICK / J² (2008)

Two of my favourite experimental musicians together on one album, Jarboe (of Swans fame) and Justin K Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu, etc). At its most basic level it's the angelic/demonic voice of Jarboe layered over the top of Broadrick's Jesu-style soundscapes. But delve deeper and you'll find a marriage of two distinct identities that together produce a crushingly complex and chaotic third perspective. It oozes atmosphere and primal terror through ambient repetition.
It's not as initially amazing as I thought it'd be, but it gets under the skin after repeated listens - or more precisely after prolonged exposure. There have been no rumours suggesting they'll do a second album, but I really hope they do.

Songs of Note: RompMagick Girl

4 worthwhile experiments for the strange out of 5

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD / Knife Man [2011]


Folk-punkers Andrew Jackson Jihad go from basic guitar & bass duo to more of a complete act by throwing in some drums on their 4th album, Knife Man.
Riddled with their trademark soul-baring, hilarious-turn-deadly serious lyrics and wailing whiny vocals, reminiscent of the Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano, Knife Man still showcases the same old great songwriting as before only louder.
One moment you're pissing yourself laughing the next you're ready to cry as you realize you're in just the same boat as these guys. It's a little different from the stripped-down AJJ we're used to but it works...very, very well.

5 shameless plagiarisms out of 5

Songs Of Note: Hate, Rain On Me; Big Bird

AUSTRA / Feel It Break [2011]


Canadian Gothic synth-pop trio Austra's debut album Feel It Break just keeps growing on me more and more with each listen.
At first I wasn't too mesmerized with the Kate Bush/Cocteau Twins-esque music they were playing but for some reason I was eager to give it another chance.
What was revealed was hypnotically composed synth-pop songs that are never too synthy and don't rely to heavily on the exquisite dreamlike vocals to hold the songs up. In fact it's a perfect blend of both in such a nice and subtle shimmering '80's sort of way.
A fine little debut album that went under most folks radars but will hopefully keep turning heads in the future.

3½ SoHo's Revenge out of 5

Songs Of Note: Darken Her Horse; The Choke

Saturday, December 24, 2011

JARBOE and CEDRIC VICTOR / The End (2006)

Jarboe's first dipping of toes into the spoken-word medium that she does so well (most of the time). It has some ambient music and trippy sound collages that support the narratives and give them a more esoteric nature. The 'music' of the album is created by Cedric Victor-DeSouza, a visual and audio artist from NY. It's a weird collaborative piece of spoken word/music experimentation/audible art that will have very limited appeal. but isn't that what blogs are for? To introduce you to new things? For fans of Jarboe and those that aren't afraid...

Songs of Note: Dog; Dead End

4 Gnostic narratives out of 5

Friday, December 23, 2011

THE WILDHEARTS / Earth vs The Wildhearts (1993)

A Power-pop/Rock band from Newcastle (home of the brown ale) that made a minor dent in the UK Rock music scene way back when. It's hard to hate the catchy riffs and sing-along choruses they chug out, even when you notice the structure of each song is virtually the same. Ginger (vocals) is a great front man and seems to be always full of energy. The songs are similarly imbued. The best compliment I can give them is to say that they're fun and full of good-time melodies. If you're in the mood for this kind of light-hearted Pop/Rock, then they shouldn't disappoint.

Songs of Note:  Caffeine BombMy Baby is a Headfuck

2½ suckerpunches from Shitsville out of 5

MANOWAR / Kings of Metal (1998)

It's Heavy Metal with a capital H and a capital M. It's also cheesy as hell, but get a good amp and a set of floor-standing speakers and it'll kick your eardrums out your ass. I unashamedly love Manowar, and if you like your Metal traditional, with widdly solos, pounding bass and the loudest drums ever recorded (Guinness book of records agrees), then maybe you will, too. Just remember to have a laugh at yourself once in a while, because it keeps life bearable.
It's rumoured that if you slip into an unwashed loincloth and wave a plastic sword around, it will increase your listening pleasure of Kings of Metal.

WARNING: May cause excessive manliness and a love of leather pants.

Songs of Note:  ALL of them, but try: Wheels of Fire; Hail and Kill first.

5 tales for the grandkids out of 5

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DIRTY BEACHES / Badlands [2011]


Try to imagine Wong Kar Wai directing a tripped-out Nick Cave music video in The Roadhouse in Twin Peaks and you get a pretty good idea as to what Dirty Beaches is like.
Crackling lo-fi distorted rockabilly sounding like a bad drug trip is Canadian Alex Zhang Hungtai's idea of a good time and I have to agree with him. His reverberated voice is sometimes so muffled it's difficult to tell what he's saying but it's fine as it just ads to the haunting atmosphere created by the rattling music ringing in your ears.
With only 8 tracks and clocking in at barely 30 minutes, Badlands is all too brief but well worth revisiting over and over again.

4½ Chris Isaak's on LSD out of 5

Songs Of Note: Horses; Lord Knows Best

DUM DUM GIRLS / Only In Dreams [2011]


Sounding like Chrissie Hynde possessed by the heartbroken spirit of The Leader Of The Pack, the Dum Dum Girls seem like they're having a great ol' time on their second full-length Only In Dreams.
It's filled with head-bopping pop songs arranged and produced like classic songs of the '60's about heartbreak and crying into your pillow. Complimented with emotionally powerful vocals that are immediately likable and a tight rhythm section, the Dum Dum Girls couldn't be anymore fun than this.
This is girly rock pop filled with melodic hooks at some of it's best in many, many years. Keep an eye on these girls, I think they've got a bright future.

4 Shangri-Las out of 5

Songs Of Note: Bedroom Eyes; Heartbeat (Take It Away)

SOCIAL DISTORTION / Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes [2011]


Over 30 years being together as a band it'd be just too easy to churn out albums for a quick cash-grab or go on "Best Of" arena tours. Rockabilly country-punker Mike Ness & Social Distortion have never been the ones to take the easy route though.
The SD boys never really venture into new territory and stick pretty close to the exact same sound they had in the early 80's and that's all right. Ness' songwriting skills are still solid as ever and you can tell the man still gives a damn about his music.
It's familiar territory and it's great.

3½ Hank Williams with a 'tude out of 5

Songs Of Note: Road Zombie; Diamond In The Rough

BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE / Beileid [2011]


The German doom-jazz quartet Bohren & der Club Of Gore's latest album Beileid once again ventures into a murky, depressing world reminiscent of a rainy noir-ish cityscape created by David Lynch.
After 4 years of hiding, you'd think Bohren would have come up with a longer album, however this not the case. Clocking in at only 35 minutes and featuring only 3 tracks, Beileid is just a little too short to really get into the mood they set out to make. The second track, a cover of Warlock's Catch My Heart, features guest vocalist Mike Patton and for some reason just doesn't work.
With only 2 tracks worth seeking out, Beileid is a no-brainer for hardcore fans but if you're just dipping into Bohren I'd seek out Sunset Mission or Black Earth.

2½ condolences out of 5

Songs Of Note: Zombies Never Die (Blues)

NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS / Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds [2011]


After the inevitable end of the '90's Britpop outfit Oasis, Noel & Liam Gallagher started their own projects hoping to outshine the other.
While Liam's Beady Eyes' effort was a so-so album full of boastful rawness, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds proves that the older brother is in fact finely in tune with the tasteful craftmanship of songwriting. Gone are the pompous intros and lagging straight-faced guitar solos of Oasis and are now replaced by tight little pop songs that are just pure fun and even silly in spots.
Without his younger brother, Noel does sound a little naked and isn't afraid to admit it. It might not be a classic Gallagher album but is certainly a step in the right direction.

3 Shy eyes following you out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Death Of You & Me; AKA...What A Life!

GREEN DAY / Awesome As F**K [2011]


Recorded in 2009-2010 while on tour in support of their rock opera 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day release their second official live album Awesome As F**k.
It's enthusiastically energetic and filled with great songs both old & new (plus a few rare surprises) only the sound quality dips up and down and is just...well...pointless after the release of their perfectly executed live album Bullet In A Bible only a few years before this.
The boys in Green Day are all in fine form here never losing their high octane performance abilities even once, it's just this album seems like a label cash-grab in between the long waits of 21st and whenever the next album is released.

2 hey-ho's out of 5

Songs Of Note: Cigarettes & Valentines; J.A.R.

DOOMTREE / No Kings [2011]


It's not often that punk rock hip-hoppers Doomtree release an album as a complete collective, so their 3rd album No Kings is a noteworthy release of 2011.
It's filled with a thickly layered production quality, vocals attacking you from all sides (P.O.S.'s work here is magnificent) and an attitude that is one part Fugazi and one part Wu-Tang Clan.
With 7 different creative forces at work here it can get a little heavy and bloated at times but it's a hardly a problem with some of the best work coming out of the Doomtree since 2007's False Hopes.

4½ disobeying the kings out of 5

Songs Of Note: No Way; Little Mercy

LYKKE LI / Wounded Rhymes [2011]


Swedish singer Lykke Li drops the bubblegum poppy insecurities of her debut, Youth Novel and comes out bloody nosed and fists a flailing on her sophomore effort Wounded Rhymes.
Li still maintains a certain type of sweetness and keen sense of 60's-esque melodic hooks, only now she's grown more self-certain and certainly more forceful which makes for a wonderful record. With thundering percussion heavy anthems to vulnerable, stripped down campfire ballads Wounded Rhymes is an impressive turn into the right direction for Li and confirms that she'll be around for awhile yet.

5 knives into the sand out of 5

Songs Of Note: Youth Knows No Pain; Jerome

TOM WAITS / Bad As Me [2011]


Most artists would be treading water in the dinosaur pool of rockstardom when they're 40 years into their musical career. Not Tom Waits.
Sounding just as fresh as he did on Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones, Waits' 2011 album Bad As Me captures that bourbon soaked, bat-shit crazy attitude that still remains untouched by the sands of time. A fine little collection of 13 short songs, Bad As Me charges by so quickly and with such fierce, heartbreaking demeanor it demands back-to-back repeat listens a plenty.
This is Waits at some of his best songwriting in over a decade and easily one of the best albums of the year.

5 swings down from the gallows out of 5

Songs Of Note: Talking At The Same Time; Pay Me

JEFFREY LEWIS / 12 Crass Songs (2007)

It's anarchic British punk band CRASS covered by an American in an acoustic indie (anti)folk style. It really shouldn't work, but it does. Acoustic guitar, vocals, bongo drums and piano married to punk sensibilities and scathing lyrics make it one of the more unique albums on my hard drive.
The songs are the same, and you'll recognise them instantly if you're at all familiar with the originals. There's an occasional lyric change but nothing disrespectful. CRASS never got the recognition they deserved for their lyrics - hearing them delivered in such a clear manner gives them a new, modern power that finds much of what's said still relevant, despite being decades old.

Songs of Note: I Ain't Thick; System System

4 Punk is Folk is Dead out of 5

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

S.O.D / Speak English or Die (1985)

Written and recorded in a week, S.O.D. (Stormtroopers of Death) were Billy Milano of M.O.D., Dan Lilker of Nuclear Assault, and Scott Ian and Charlie Benante of Anthrax having a laugh, but it became a cult release. It was purposefully offensive, and if it gets your undies in a twist then the joke's on you. The sound is like hearing Nuclear Assault cover Anthrax with some M.O.D. thrown in to keep it fresh; so, basically exactly what you'd expect, given the talent involved. It's a wonderful party album (if your parties are populated with people that like thrash music, or alternatively good for clearing a room if they don't). Songs range from 5 seconds to 2 mins 30 secs, so never outstay their welcome.

Songs of Note: Anti-Procrastination SongKill Yourself

4 pre-menstrual Princess' out of 5

DANZIG / Circle of Snakes (2004)

It sucked being a Danzig fan for many years, but it did eventually get better. Before that, however, we got Circle of Snakes. The numbers ended (if you were counting, it's number VIII) and, yes, there's another new line-up. Jebus. Revolving-door-zig. The music is uninspired, with Glenn's vocals lower in the mix than ever before. There are times when he almost manages to be the Evil Elvis of old but it's not like coming home, it's like remembering home while being stuck in a shitty motel. The song Night BeSodom reminds of Danzig III (1992), but the new guitar sound of Tommy Victor (Prong) isn't well-suited to the vocals. I hope Fonzig regretted sacking Christ, Von and Biscuits.

Songs of Note: 1000 Devils Reign; Black Angel, White Angel

2½ snakes and stuff... meh out of 5

CARCASS / Swansong (1996)

I forgot I owned this album. It never gets played. It's not very good. The production is the biggest problem; it’s just too polished and boring to be a Carcass album. The guitars are too low in the mix, the bass is too loud and fuzzy, and while the drums sound fine they're a lot more simplified than previous releases. Jeff Walker's vocal delivery is the only thing that holds it together. The gore/grind/death metal of old is replaced with something resembling bad Megadeth, and seeing as how 90% of Megadeth is bad Megadeth, we don’t need any more of that, thank you very much. It's maybe a good thing this was their actual swansong.

Songs of Note: R**k the Vote; Black Star

2 bad rot n’ roll out of 5

Monday, December 19, 2011

THERAPY? / Nurse (1992)

The Therapy? sound is a love it or hate it, or love parts of it and hate parts of it, thing. After two experimental E.P.s their first album took the trio to new places. It's a blend of indie, punk and occasional industrial sounding guitar riffs. The guitar sound is full of antagonism and has a 'not caring if they're pleasing the listener' attitude. The drum sound can take a long time to appreciate, or at the very least tolerate; Fyfe Ewing was actually a damn good drummer, but the removal of the strands on the snare was something that many people hated. In the end it became the thing that defined them. Nurse needs to be pulled from the vaults and re-released with a fresh remaster so that people can hear Therapy? at their best.

Songs of Note: Nausea; Teethgrinder

4 thoughts rushing at full speed out of 5