Thunder Perfect Mind is another of Tibet's experimental neo-folk albums that manages to be both haunting and beautiful as it caresses your ears with a velvet death shroud. It's the poet at his most sublime and personal. You don't need a knowledge of the Gnostic text from which it takes its name to appreciate the music. It's mostly acoustic guitar with quiet strings. Occasional female backing vocals from the always welcome Rose McDowall accompany the poetics, she brings a gothic serenity to the melodies. I wish she'd stayed permanently.
Neil Gaiman (author) and Amanda Fucking Palmer (singer/songwriter) are husband and wife. This release is a joint venture featuring music from her and some previously unpublished readings of stories and poems from him. Plus, he tries to sing. It'll be of interest to fans of either one or both of those two but will likely bore the ass off anyone who isn't, nor is it likely to change the mind of anyone who hates NG or AFP. Make of that what you will.
Songs of Note: Creepy Doll; Psycho
1 spoken word, the asshole gene and a Ukulele out of 5
Over the years, Vinnie has contented himself with writing song after song about leaving town. In retrospect, it was the juvenile coping strategy of someone convinced that a change of scenery could fix everything wrong in their life. With this b-side collection (of all things), he seems to have realized that true change comes as a result of not running away from the one thing you cannot escape: yourself. While there is an obligatory leaving song, this effort instead skews heavily to salvos about facing oneself while in the throes of substance abuse. Along the way you’ll realize that while he hasn’t reached a final answer in any narrative sense, he has talked a big enough game of resolve to make this their most impressive effort to date. As a band, they even manage to deliver a few songs in their best template of old: socially conscious meta-musings with hooks galore. B is for Bravo.
There's a belligerent melancholy infused within much of this lazy sounding release. It holds that feeling close to its chest for the longest time. You keep hoping it'll get better, but by the end you realise that the best was actually in the first half. Lyrically, it's initially cryptically insane, as always. Jaz Coleman fled to the Arctic after its release to await the end of the world, and have himself a nervous breakdown. I'm not even kidding.
"You can only blame your problems on the world for so long, before it all becomes the same old song."
I have a dirty little secret. I always skip about half of the songs on this album. How is this one of my favorites, again? Well, to be frank, there isn’t a 100% perfect Fall Out Boy album. I said it. Now, deal with it. Patrick used to rummage through Pete’s bile diaries and pull out bits and pieces that were sharp enough to slice your wrists and your ex-girlfriends' hearts. He shot them like arrows to heaven with his soaring voice and (as their career went on) glistening production. Here, a slight majority of the time, he manages to make Pete’s best musings about adultery, rampant dark-pride, smug drug use, and even regret into gloriously funky anthems and self-reflective ballads. The best we could expect from them came at the end, in their usual slap-dash manner. Come back, guys, we need your messy imperfection to keep us sane.
KT spent time as a busker, and there are a few tracks on Eye that carry that sense of vibrancy and foot-tapping infectiousness that the very best buskers seem to possess. The rest of the tracks are either competent Folk-infused Pop songs or almost-filler that lacks the primal strength that a voice in harmony with an acoustic guitar can bring. I skip some and adore the rest. Her performance on Jools Holland's Later highlights how talented she really is. Check out the Black Horse & The Cherry Tree link below to see exactly what I mean.
Covering 5 years of working together as a score composing duo, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis compiled a tight little 2-CD package appropriately titled White Lunar. Mainly showcasing the scores to the John Hillcoat films The Proposition & The Road, the album is inevitably filled with haunting passages of loneliness, dread and sadness. What's great about Cave/Ellis scores is they produce such clearly evocative and solemnly textured compositions for vast yet barren landscapes that the music works just as well without the attached films. Expect sounds closer to Ellis' band The Dirty Three rather than any of Cave's major projects and you get a better picture of the music on these discs.
A self-financed release that puts to shame many of the big name label releases. It's Death Metal but it's not - the basic structure is in place but there's a skin of experimentation stretched over the meat and bones. It's written and (with the exception of drums) performed by just one guy! Max Tomé take a bow. The opening track is an aural assault that sets the tone for what follows. It has enough surprises and outside influences to set it apart from the rest of the DM pack, with atmospheric keyboards and old school solos; it even reminded me of Diabolical Masquerade at times but with less of the Black, and more of the technical Death.
It's FREE (for a short time) from the official site. HERE. Go get!
To Mega Therion was a seminal work. You can still hear traces of it today in the Norwegian metal scene. CF was experimenting with the merging of classical and extreme music. The idea was still relatively new and it would be a few years before anyone came along and bettered it.
Today it sounds a little flat unless you can find it on vinyl. The CD is less than complementary to the classical aspect. It should sound like Wagner exploring the realms of hell, not like a fart in a concert hall.
If you're wondering, does Tom G go 'Ughh' more than once? Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course he fucking does.
If you've already binged on early Burzum albums and drank of the good Mayhem releases (let's face it, everything after Wolf's Lair Abyss (1997) was shit) the next step in your Black Metal education should be Darkthrone. They deserve a similar amount of praise for defining the genre, despite a lot of Death Metal guitar work lurking under the surface from their previous incarnation. Avoid the first album and jump right into this one, feet first, with a jar of greasy corpse paint in hand. It may not inspire you to burn a church, but it'll encourage you to glance angrily at one as you walk by. It'll also help you appreciate Fenriz a little better.
Coming out of Portland, Oregon is hip-hop newcomver Cloudy October and his 2010 debut EP The Aviator Is Dead.
A clever little sampler of what was to come a year later on his full-length The Metal Jerk. Cloudy inserts bitterly funny, yet witty lyrics over goofy sounding beats met with haunting string scales and dense walls of samples. His lyrical flow is near perfect and the quality of lyrics never resorts to silliness or cheap cop-out rhymes. Definitely one to watch because if this is just the beginning, then it's bound to get better and better.
The duo known as Psapp are, to put it simply, a quirky delight. An electronica bossa nova act comprised of instruments like toy pianos, wet cardboard boxes, living room sofas, cat toys and a rubber chicken named Brunhilda.
Their second album 2006's The Only Thing I Ever Wanted is a clever collection of melodic, playful and well-constructed songs that keep the quirkiness at bay just enough to allow the song-writing quality to flourish.
I'm going to eschew the usual semi-objective formula and indulge myself fully. The Downward Spiral is one of the greatest albums of the 90s. It's noisy. It's beautiful. It's textured. It's multifaceted and multilayered - you'll be hearing things on your 50th listen that you hadn't heard before. It's a concept album in which each song is like a piece of jigsaw puzzle; when the picture is complete it's a darkened mirror that both entices and frightens. It has insect noises. It has film samples. It's the perfect example of creativity born from negativity given form. The production is amazing. It sounds like it was recorded yesterday.
If you took the punishing sledge of Streetcleaner (1989) and mixed it with the experimental, sterile nihilism of Pure (1992), then you'd have something resembling this third album. That should mean it's another perfect score, but something went wrong. It's not the music, it's the production, which is much too clean and much too perfect. Godflesh should be a raw, open wound, not a sutured appendectomy scar. It's still heavier than a lorry load of bricks, but it pales in comparison to what came before. The 24 minute ending track is interesting.
Old-school thrash from the days when you could go to a record store and pick up any crap and it sounded great; the scene was in its infancy and every release brought something new. Acid Reign sound like Nuclear Assault but with a hardcore edge. The guitar sounds like a sputtering buzzsaw. The bass is too low in the mix. The drums sound like they were recorded in a draughty shed. The vocalist has only one mode: shouty. The melodies are similar much of the time. So why is it good? The energy of the guys was infectious. The passion is apparent in every cheap riff. Imagine yourself in a pit at an AR live gig and you'll understand.
Ben Cooper's first solo album 2007's Ghost is one of those albums I wonder why I don't listen to more often than I do.
Recording under the name Radical Face, Cooper crafts a quiet little folk-rock concept album about the life & death of a well-aged house. Deceivingly simple sounding, Cooper layers on gentle walls of sound that create such a wonderfully haunting mood that's simultaneously warm and chilling. His vocals are a little nasally and limited, but if you can get past that you have a real winner here.
The second and last Maiden album to feature Paul Di'Anno on vocals treads similar ground to their eponymous début. The production is better and the riffs are heavier, which gives new life to the dual guitar assault. Steve's bass is again the driving force - seeing as how he's the main songwriter that makes a kind of sense musically. Di'Anno seems less at home with the material but he still gives it full force. However, there are two tracks upon which he doesn't feature at all. It's Adrian Smith’s first album. Enough boring chatter. It's another classic.
Florence isn't a pretender, she can really sing. But if you disagree with that statement, if you didn’t like her previous works, then her MTV Unplugged session probably won't change your mind. She relies heavily on the impassioned wail that she's so very good at; her delivery's fervent, but it's Flo through and through, for good or ill. It's less stripped back than I'd have liked, it still sounds mostly like a full band - although I'd mourn the loss of the strings if they were absent, so I guess I'm as hard to please as the next person.
Her cover of the Cash/Carter song 'Jackson' with Josh Homme (of QotSA) was perhaps a bad idea. June did it a million times better.
This isn’t a concept album. It’s barely cohesive at all. Shit isn’t even very consistent. Whole lot of reckless abandon, dash of the mushy crap, little bit of 80s flair, and even some pure nonsense. Fuck, they left off the best song from these recording sessions. This is a goddamn mess of an album from a band that’s usually very consistent and inspiring. But.....why do I listen to it so much? Because sometimes you just have to shake your ass and bang your head, even if it doesn’t make much sense. Every album doesn't need to be The Black Parade. Stop expecting the world; start living a life others want to be a part of and will remember fondly.
Despite Malloy's brief stint as singer for Van Halen this is pretty far from that and what I was expecting. The whole album is sappy poetry that seems it should be written in a teenage girl's notebook. I should have been tipped off with its tagline, "You've heard these songs before, but until now they were only in your heart." :BARF: "We run from ceilings and walls"... what does that even mean? Speak for yourself, Mitch. It could have been saved if he mixed it up a bit instead of all cheesy faux-ballads and while bland it is at least technically competent. I would rather hear more of that pianist in the background.
Would you like to hear where early Metallica stole all their best riffs and drum techniques from? They ripped them off Hank Shermann and Kim Ruzz. If you want proof, listen to the Melissa album. The biggest difference is that Fate had King Diamond on vocals. King uses his falsetto tones to great effect, but some people don't like it, they laugh and poke fun. That's okay. What they fail to recognise is the humour in the work; King knows what he does and why he does it. Recognise that and stop the bitching. It's traditional metal with theatrical overtones and a darkly lyrical nature. Oh, and it's damn near perfect.
The Joke's second E.P. of 1982 has three studio tracks (that are also found on the CD reissue of HA!). It marks the beginnings of a slight shift in style for the band, something that would be more evident a year later on the Fire Dances album. It's still primarily percussion driven, but is much softer and safer than what had come before. It confused some fans and intrigued others.
A live E.P. that was originally only available on 10" and Cassette. If you have that 10" I will throw moderate amounts of money at you in exchange for it. There are only 6 tracks (the CD reissue adds an extra 3 tracks, which are really from the Birds of a Feather EP). Killing Joke are a formidable force live; when Jaz Coleman stares into your soul with those eyes of his, you'll never forget it. Obviously, that can't be reproduced on a recording. Nor do you get a sense of the tribal bonding that takes place through the music and its delivery. It's not an essential purchase, because the sound is a bit shit at times, but it has a few good moments.
I'm on an Alt-Country trip this week. Those Poor Bastards fit snugly into that odd sock. They play fuzzy tongue-in-cheek experimentation hillbilly hymns. If Hank Williams had sold his soul for a bottle of JD and a packet of cheap smokes and then hit the studio drunk, with a hooker at his side, he'd probably have churned out something like this. It's brooding and apocalyptic songs for everyone.
After getting fired from Faith No More for lack of enthusiasm, guitarist Jim Martin wandered around aimlessly for 5 years and eventually came out with his first (and last) solo record, 1997's Milk And Blood.
Judging by this record, it's pretty obvious Martin was not the songwriter in FNM. He merely brought the thrash metal flavor to the band and now he's infests his own album with it. The guitars are mixed so loudly it drowns out any sign of a bass, the drums sound like tin cans and his vocals are so atrociously bland and weak. It's pretty much watered down thrash metal crap that makes Metallica's more recent albums sound like the Mona Lisa's queefs.
Nashville's black sheep, Todd Snider, plays a rocking Bluesy style of Country with Punk sensibilities. There are occasional lapses into safe Country-pop territory, albeit with unusually acerbic lyrics. Happily, those trite moments are few and are easily skipped. Elsewhere it's on fire lyrically and musically, and even slips into almost straight up Blues. The album was recorded in a week. That hurried, guerilla sound is its greatest strength and is what sets it apart from similar works.
It's Country but it's cynical and scathing Todd Snider Alt-Country. His cover of Jimmy Buffett's West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gown is fantastic.
A live CD+DVD package from the Swedes. Tracks chosen are from the four previous albums only, so there's nothing prior Discøuraged Ønes (1998), which is a shame. However, it was a festival show (Summer Breeze in Germany) and not a full 80-90 min concert, so some concessions had to be made... But cutting Teargas from the set-list was unforgivable! It's a straight-up delivery with little deviation from the studio versions, so is extremely competent but also a little bland.
Mark Linkous had an uncanny knack for writing creaky folk songs or loud, feedback filled noise pop.
Linkous recorded his 1995 debut album, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot under the name Sparklehorse. Filled with slide guitars slipping into space, sleepwalking brush drums, daydreamy vocals and stabs of distorted feedback, Linkous' country tinged music manages to lean closer into alt. rock than it does hillbilly jamborees.
His music is sad but never annoyingly mopey as you can hear the appreciation Linkous had for the world and talents that surrounded him.
A new Nurse With Wound album always excites me (and about four other people in the world). Although Creakiness isn't exactly new material, it's the Creakiness side of the NWW/Spasm split vinyl LP Creakiness/Firepool (1991), along with various other tracks culled from long out of print 7" singles. It's the usual acid flashback music that makes you want to separate your consciousness from your scumbag brain and float it over a volcano. Be thrilled by car horns, cat meows, creaking doors, porky pig, fake duck calls, roundabouts and scratchy silence.
Songs of Note: Creakiness (all seventeen glorious minutes of it)
If you’re new to the sci-fi Metal of Voivod, then Nothingface is a perfect place to start. Not only is it arguably their best album, it's also accessible and forgiving while channelling weird. It's a mesh of styles, often playing at different speeds and seemingly independently, but together they work, somehow. They've taken all the oddness and streamlined it into a truly unique experience. Dissonant chords, spacey vocals and tribal drumming sound so very wrong and so very right at the same time alongside the progressive influences; it's a beautiful enigma. Nothing else (on Earth) quite resembles the sound that drips from the Voivod.
Trying to properly represent Pink Floyd's near-30 year career one 2 discs is a task I wouldn't wish on anyone. Proving it wasn't meant to be, even after the mutual break-up of the band, the 4 band members were still arguing, over what would be the final tracklisting of this compilation.
Longtime Floyd producer James Guthrie edits together all the songs to recreate the conceptual sound of their previous albums. 2001's Echoes: The Best Of Pink Floyd might not be perfect but it's a pretty damned fine representation of their massive discography.
WftSC is New Order by numbers, with a little extra guitar and a lot of extra sugary topping. Really, the happy-fairy has dribbled her happy-juice all over it. If running naked and carefree through summer meadows had a sound, it'd be WftSC.
Bernard Sumner has always been a reluctant vocalist, and that's fine, it's the music that people want, and musically it'll please, if not overly excite, existing fans. We can't have a Blue Monday on every album.
The dynamic second album from Killing Joke set the standard by which their career is judged as a whole. Jaz Coleman is maybe off his rocker in real life, but on record he's a focussed machine gun. Tribal drumming from the legendary Paul Ferguson is the heartbeat. Throw in Youth's bass lines and Geordie Walker's echoing guitars and you have a classic that inspired everyone and everything that followed in the industrial genre. I'm not exaggerating its importance. Listen to Ministry's The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste (1989) after hearing What's THIS For...! and you'll wonder why Jaz didn't call his lawyer.