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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Album Review: Metallica - St. Anger (2003)

Making a heavy metal album that sets out to portray the interpersonal tensions within a band, seems, in theory, to be a great idea. In practice, though, it's like taking relationship advice from Josef Fritzel. And the idea of making an album that portrays a band playing in the garage for the first time is fine, provided the band is a recent startup and the album is actually a demo tape. Metallica made this the theme of their 2003 effort, St. Anger, and despite much hype and anticipation prior to its release, and somehow selling several million copies in the process, public impressions of the album went down faster than a suicidal Japanese businessman jumping off the 55th floor of a Tokyo skyscraper with an anvil in tow. And listening to the album, it's not hard to see why. Firstly, the drum snare is ear-bleeding awful. It sounds like a three year old tanked on caffeine belting the shit out of a empty paint can with a pair of cucumbers. Secondly, some of the lyrics sound like they were written by the Rain Man, being repetitive and bearing little poetic quality. There are some tracks on this album that are bearable, but only on rare occasions. On the whole, this album is the low point of Metallica's career, and unless you are a serious 'Metallifan' or collector, then this album is worth giving a miss. My verdict - most people will shun it; but Rain Man will love it. C-

Album Review: ZZ Top - Recycler (1990)

ZZ Top's music has always been seen as the kind you'd associate with blokes sporting handlebar mustaches, who drive American muscle cars that'll make an SS Commodore look like a Reliant Robin and, paradoxically, have heart tattoos on arms thicker than tree trunks with the word 'mum' written across it. In other words, if one of these blokes told you to soil yourself, you would, for fear of being robbed of anything on you worth more than $29.95 and subsequently fed to a giant metal behemoth known as a Salvation Army clothing bin. This is partially true of their 80s and early 90s albums, where guys would turn up to their local servo in a 454 big-block powered hot rod cranking out "Sharp Dressed Man", wearing sunnies and tight black shirts with flaming skulls on them, just to project the image of manliness, when in reality they are actually saying, "I'm hung like a half chewed Tic Tac, I urinate with tweezers whilst sitting down, I have to wipe my nuts when I'm finished, I hope you don't get any ideas." And in reality these guys are usually skinny little 5"6" runts who probably had their fair share of being rolled home from school in a steel garbage can wearing the back of their undies on their heads.

Recycler is one of those typical ZZ Top records. On the whole it seems to follow on from Eliminator and Afterburner, however in other ways, notably a reduction in tempo and the absence of synthesizers, it also marks a change in musical direction. "2000 Blues", for instance, sounds like Afterburner's "Rough Boy" on pot. Other tracks, like "Penthouse Eyes", "Lovething" and "Tell It", also reflect the slower change in pace, as well as introducing a new, seemingly experimental sound. In contrast, "Burger Man", "Decision or Collision" and "Doubleback" could quite comfortably squeeze in amongst tracks likes "I Need You Tonight", "Thug" or "Velcro Fly." And of course, there's the final track, "Doubleback", which was featured in Back to the Future III. As a slightly interesting fact, the band actually featured in the movie, minus their trademark sunnies, with Gibbons and Hill plucking away on accoustic guitars and Beard beating away on a primitive drum kit.

Overall, Recycler is an album that will appeal to the more adventurous and open-minded ZZ Top fan, and although it is closely related to it's two predecessors, it's probably not the ideal album to listen to for those who are justing getting into the Texas Weird Beard's works. B+

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Album Review: The Offspring - Smash (1994)

The last time I got into The Offspring, it was 2001, and the album was Ixnay on the Hombre. There were two songs that I thought were just the cat's ass, "The Meaning of Life" and "I Choose." The rest of the album got pooh-poohed faster than a drunken flasher at a Women's Refuge. Since then I never thought once about investing or even listening to an Offspring CD, until recently. Smash is one of those very rare albums where the crappiest tracks get radio play and all the good ones don't. It is, in many aspects, very much the opposite of Ixnae on the Hombre. You can forget "Come out and Play" and "Self-Esteem", they are bollocks compared to the rest of the album, and will put you to sleep faster than a London pantomime in 35 degrees celsius weather. Therefore you should only really listen to them when you've been excessively liberal with your caffeine intake and you need to get up early the next morning, or you want to die and need something to help speed up the process. Hell, even that pointless and stupid 26 second intro, "Time to Relax" is more exciting. All up, however, it is a very good album, and is an essential addition to any punk rock fanatic's collection. A-

Album Review: Green Day - Dookie (1994)

Green Day, for me, has the accolade of being one of the very few 90's rock bands I actually like. Along with the likes of The Offspring and Rancid, they successfully reintroduced punk rock back into the mainstream. Pop music flourished and produced countless memorable hits during this era, but for me, rock was nearly dead. Comatose and on life support, would be a better way of putting it. But, to be honest I must confess I'm a closet punk rock fanatic, despite my many years of living in denial. Discovering the greatness of punk for me, is like a morbidly obese unemployed bricklayer making a futile attempt to jump for joy after seeing his penis for the first time since he was 6. And after listening to Dookie, their breakthrough album, I feel like a serial arsonist walking into a convienience store to buy a new lighter. Of course, there's the tracks that got airplay, like "When I Come Around", and "Basket Case", but forget about those, everybody likes them. To really appreciate this record, listen to the rest of the album, and you'll be glad you were stingy enough to take notice of the bargain bin outside the front of the record store. A-

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Album Review: Robin Williams - A Night at the Met (1986)

Around 4 or 5 years ago, I walked into a music store and browsed through the comedy section. I came across Robin Williams - Live 2002, and noting that it was a double CD, instantly went to the counter, thinking that based on it's funny factor or the fact there's two discs with a shitload of tracks it would be a good buy either way. And it was. I was rolling on the ground, pissing myself with laughter. Not literally of course, but you get the idea. Now, after investing 30 of my unearned dollars on his first hit album, A Night At The Met, I haven't been rolling on the ground, nor have I been pissing myself so hard. But I have been pissing myself nonetheless. Amongst all the comedy greats, Robin Williams comic genius is unquestionable. You simply cannot deny the man is funny. Very funny. But judging from the interviews he's given, the movies he's made, and of course the stand-up comedy shows he's performed and the subsequent albums that followed, he's also obsessed with circumcision. And possibly dogs. But, despite the slight Freudian nature of these fixations, it's his ability to do impressions and his socio-political commentary that makes his material worth the change of undies. B+

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dave's 10 Favorite Albums to Date

The following is a list of my 10 favorite albums to date. The genre's are mixed, so there's all sorts of music here, like pop, metal etc. There's also some music here that may force some to question my musical tastes, mental health, maybe even my sexuality. Not that I care, If it sounds good, I'll listen to it, and that's how more people should be thinking, in my opinion. Please note that, as this list reflects my favorite albums to date this list is subject to change.

1. Master of Puppets - Metallica

My favorite all-time album, partly because of its legendary status, partly because it has the best instrumental of ANY album, band and genre, and partly because it kicks ass all around. In some ways Ride the Lightning and Metallica are equal contenders, but each are merely Whistler's Mother compared to 'Puppets'' Mona Lisa. A+

2. Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen

Growing up in the eighties, "I'm on Fire" is one of the songs that got me switched on to music. And when I first heard "Dancing in the Dark" I had to go out and buy his Greatest Hits compilation. And when it finally came around to buying this album, I regarded as my best buy of the year, if not the decade. Not one song on this album is crappy. If you don't have it, go and get it. A+

3. The Raw and the Cooked - The Fine Young Cannibals

I loved Roland Gift's distinctive voice, I loved the music, I loved the album. I liked the album cover too, although the CD inlay's contents are a little confusing. A+

4. Metallica - Metallica

1991, and two landmark albums were released. The first was Nevermind by Nirvana, the second was Metallica's self-titled album, their biggest selling LP and the one that broke them into mainstream music. Bob Rock may have sent them in the direction of musical treason (as far as Metallica fans were concerned) but he sure did it in style. A

5. Graceland - Paul Simon

When I first heard Simon & Garfunkel's 52nd Street Bridge Song, I wanted to put myself out of my misery. I hated it, it was worse than a fat lady singing opera. But it seems Paul Simon had made up for this cacophonic monstrosity by releasing one the most adventurous, creative and bold albums I've ever heard. A

6. Rust Never Sleeps - Neil Young

Some things are an acquired taste. Others hit you like a ton of bricks instantly. This album does a little of both. The acoustic songs sound as if Neil was angel sent from Heaven to teach 70's musos how music should be made. On the other hand, the electric songs suffered from ear-bleeding distortion, which to begin with sounded horrible, but eventually grew on me. It's small wonder that music critics rate this album highly. A-

7. Spreading the Disease - Anthrax

Anthrax is one of those more eccentric thrash metal bands. Most heavy metal artists sing songs about death, or the fallen one known as Satan, and occasionally war. Anthrax, on the other hand, write songs at random. What other metal band, or any other band for that matter, write songs about milk? 1991's Attack of the Killer B's is probably one of the strangest albums ever made, but the same cannot be said about 1985's Spreading the Disease. Melodic, fast and heavy, this should, by all rights, be considered one of the finest heavy metal albums ever made. But that accolade by majority consensus goes to 1987's Among the Living, which for me is not quite as good, but still makes you want to live. A

8. She's So Unusual - Cyndi Lauper

Some people may question my sexuality for giving praise to this album, but hell, I like it. Not only does it bring back memories, but like Born in the USA, not one song on this album bores me. A+

9. Ride the Lightning - Metallica

Not as polished as "Puppets", not as commercially successful as the "Black Album", "Lightning" still makes you want to break your neck for a good cause. And the cause is thrash metal. "The Call of Ktulu" and "Escape" are the low points on this album, however, they're still listenable. A

10. The Wall - Pink Floyd

A rock masterpiece on one hand, a suicide tool on the other, this rock opera by Roger Waters stirs the emotions like Animal from the muppets with a blender. If only they'd put the bloody track listing on the back of the frickin' CD! A

My first blog!

Wow, my first blog, yet another foray into the wonders of 21st technology. I'm coming up 27 and boy has technology moved fast. I still vividly remember the old days; when televisions had knobs, no remotes and wooden casings, when phones were rotary and computers were for games which you loaded via a cassette deck and plugged into the telly. Michael Jackson was cool, wasn't weird (but slowly working at it) and the bulk of rock songs consisted of more than three chords and never a one or two chord riff to be heard. Metallica made metal and 'gay' still kinda meant happy.

Anyway, enough of the nostalgia, I'll save that for the rest home. The intended purpose of this blog is, well, to be a diary, an outlet for my thoughts, what I like, what I don't like etc. etc. If there's an album I'm listening to that I think is epic I will tell everyone else about on here. If there's an album I've heard that I think is absolutely bollocks I will rave on about it here. And then there's everything else...