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Friday, July 31, 2009

Album Review: Megadeth - Risk (1999)

Back in the late 90s, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich allegedly advised former bandmate and Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine to be more "risky" in producing his albums. Well, Dave took heed of Lars' advice, and it backfired - horribly. Disco music and heavy metal go together about as well as a peanut butter, cucumber and licorice sandwich topped with worcestershire sauce. Someone's bound to like it, but whoever they are, they are clearly mutants and should be put down like a half deaf, half blind three-legged cat that's just suffered a crippling stroke. And Risk is no different. Not only was it not worth the 'risk', it's by far Megadeth's most boring album ever. It makes St. Anger look like Rain in Blood, and makes Another Side of Bob Dylan look like Rust Never Sleeps. If you like Megadeth you will eventually buy it, but like St. Anger it'll be for collector's purposes. Overall, it's about as fun to listen to as vomiting with tonsilitis, and half as exciting as morris dancing. D

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Album Review: Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms (1985)

Dire Straits have never been known as a band who put out five star albums; yet strangely, there's no shortage of people out there who regard them as five star musicians. Some of their albums have some classic little numbers that'll get over-ecstatic drunkards starting mexican waves within the comfort of their own home whenever "Twisting by the Pool" comes up on the playlist, and rock DJs have no doubt received threats of a wild stabbing by some short-fused reprobate cat rapist from Gisborne on home detention for not playing "Romeo and Juliet" during the song request period. Despite the high regard held for the band by countless fans, the albums as they are never quite stack up, particularly among rock critics and to a lesser extent, the fans themselves. For instance, had "Industrial Disease" been cut from Love over Gold, it's fair to say that the album could very well have ended up in the $2.99 bin at K-Mart for use as a novelty clock or beer coaster.

1985's Brothers in Arms gets off better than the rest of the Dire Straits discography, but not by much. Despite holding the status of being the first album to be recorded entirely using digital equipment (DDD, compared to ADD or AAD), and to have CD sales outstrip vinyl, it still lacks the musical aura and charisma of an typical 12 million+ selling album that you hear every music lover talking about. With songs like "Money for Nothing", "Walk of Life", "Brothers in Arms", "Why Worry" and "So Far Away", it should, by all rights, be hailed universally as a masterpiece, yet it doesn't, probably because most of the songs extend well past the average attention span of a human. "Money for Nothing" got cut back to 4:10, most probably because 85% of listeners tend to drift off to la-la land after then. And apparently, co-producer Neil Dorfsman threatened to cut "Walk of Life", and I can see why; it's like getting Bongo the crack-addled clown to sing cheery kiddie's songs to a group of suicidal emos. It's exactly the opposite of what the whole album is all about. Not necessarily a bad thing though; "Walk of Life" is a song I'll never get sick of. And "Money for Nothing" is a great song to hear over the phone whenever you call the Welfare office.

Overall, the album is a classic, not because it's a collection of fantastic songs, which it should be, but because of its pioneering status, and the fact that it holds great value as a collector's item. Stick to the hits on this one, and forget about the rest. B+

Monday, July 20, 2009

Album Review: Icehouse - Flowers (1980)

Two significant events occurred in Australian music history in 1980 that would alter the industry's direction forever - Bon Scott supposedly choked to death on his own chunder, and a pop group called Flowers would release their most excellent debut album, only to wisely change their name to Icehouse shortly after. When you first buy this album, the first thing you'll do is play all the tracks that got radio play. And that is very wrong. When you listen to this album in it's entirety, you'll be excited, overjoyed, thrilled. It's the same feeling a cocaine-addled streaker gets when he runs across a footy field during the Rugby World Cup grand final. And you would too, only rather than advertising Vodafone's latest and greatest mobile pricing plan you'll be making a complete berk of yourself, waving about a copy of Flowers in your hand and shaking off sarcastic jeers for you to buy a big-as car with the biggest, most powerful motor possible. And with songs like "Sister", "Walls", and "Can't Help Myself," you'll end up chucking your radio out the window. Because when the songs that get radio airplay sound worse (but still very good) than the rest of the album, it means the album deserves classic status. A-

Album Review: Bob Dylan - Good as I Been to You (1992)

From singing pseudo-witty ballads about smoking pot and getting stoned, to songs of racial bias and injustice, Bob Dylan has, with much justification, made his mark in modern recording history as a renowned folk singer and songwriter, despite the fact his nasal pubescent yodeling has the propensity to set off fire alarms and scare all bird life away within a two-kilometer radius. Despite the lack of vocal prowess, he makes up for it with exceptionally well-crafted and thought-provoking lyrics, with equally happy-go-lucky melodies to boot. Songs like, "The Times They Are A-Changin'", Blowin' in the Wind" and "Like A Rolling Stone" defined a whole generation of Kombi-driving shower dodgers out to espouse and promote the merits of public nudity and the delights of smoking rope fiber. And you're bound to be regarded as one of great musical taste and put on a pedestal if you mentioned that you owned Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde or Blood on the Tracks.

Like much of his post 1979 work, 1992's Good as I Been to You is, unfortunately, not so-much thought provoking, unless it's suicide you are contemplating, and it is not so happy-go-lucky. It is dreadful. And unbelievably boring. Bob's voice sounds as if he's recovering from a car accident, and the decision to do traditional folk songs rather than his own was a very wrong one. For Bob to do a version of "Black Jack Davey" is like getting Slayer to do a cover of "Barbie Girl" by Aqua.

In a couple of ways I would like to write more favorably of this album, but that's rather difficult when you're trying to listen to a record that's done nothing for you except induce low-grade narcolepsy. My verdict - Leave traditional folk song covers to funky-smelling street buskers. D+

Monday, July 13, 2009

Album Review: Pink Floyd - A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)

Pink Floyd are regarded as sheer musical geniuses by many different people from different walks of life - record store owners, stoners, schizophrenics, bulimic teenagers with attachment issues and a penchant for self-cutting, bogans, the list goes on. And still, many others will see their music as depressing, down and out synthesized cacophonies that even an Emo couldn't stand. Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, for instance, sound deep, dark and brooding after a couple of spliffs, but for the teetotalling it sounds melancholic, pessimistic and makes about as much sense to them as an Amish peasant watching The Matrix. The film rendition of 1979's The Wall is, likewise sheer brilliance to someone who can't stop giggling, thinks running up and down stairs is like watching the Millennium Falcon jump into hyperspace and forgets everything that lands on the tip of his tongue, but like Schindler's List everyone else is just content to drool profusely over the bare boobies scene like a starving Neanderthal at a Valentines all-you-can-eat smorgasbord.

1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason is different, very different. It sounds exciting, optimistic, and stands out from the other Floyd albums for two main reasons, 1) Roger Waters had quit after their previous album and 2) You'll want to live after listening to it. It doesn't go on about drugged musos with oedipus complexes turning into fascist dictators, nor does it go on about former bandmates losing the plot and spending recording sessions in a catatonic state. But it does project a more positive side to Pink Floyd, even if the lyrics now and then suggest otherwise. And that is good thing, except for when you're stoned. A-