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Friday, August 28, 2009

Album Review: Roxy Music - Avalon (1982)

Most music I listen to varies in appeal along a spectrum ranging anywhere between good and bad, but I've often found my view of Roxy Music's work, as well as that of Bryan Ferry's solo recordings, to be rather bipolar, in that one song may be as fun as sucking on an aspirin tablet coated with nail polish, and another will liberate your inhibitions and subsequently have you booked for disorderly conduct of some sort. It's very much a case of black and white, one and zero, yes or no. But the former is easily resolved with a press of the forward button on your music player, whereas the latter will have you wearing the reverse button out. For instance, "More than This" will bring a tear to your eye, with it's melodic, poetic beauty, whereas the silly-sounding, "These Foolish Things" will bring you down faster than elephant tranquilizer. It's either a work of genius or just a filler, and rarely will you say, 'yeah, I guess it's ok.'
Now, along with 10 million Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry greatest hits albums, I've owned a copy of 1982's Avalon since the industrial revolution and only recently have I been able to understand what makes this album so special, and why critics generally held this album in high esteem. When I first bought it all those moons ago I only liked three tracks, "More than This", "Avalon" and "True to Life" - the rest simply sucked, I thought. But going over them again, I can now see why it's on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all Time. The title, the album cover, and the songs all come together to produce a record with a part-nostalgic, part-artistic and part-genius aura to it. You might be thinking I was on drugs when I wrote this, but nothing could be further from the truth - it really has a certain quality to it that I can't put my finger on, and that's why I think it's simply a great album. A-

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Album Review: Bob Dylan - Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)

I really like Bob Dylan's music, don't get me wrong. He is a true legend, the best songwriter ever, and has worn some pretty out-of-it clothes throughout his career. But, like all other greats, he has his pitfalls, and sadly, this album is one of very few. And I'm going to be short and blunt about it. It is pretty much crap, and is one of Bob's worst works. But anyway, let's get down to business...

It terms of musical enjoyment, this album is up there with a colonoscopy, if you'll pardon the pun. It starts with a dreadful prepubescent cacophony called "All I Really Want to Do", which should end with "is return the record", and concludes with the worst song to ever grace a Greatest Hits compilation, "It Ain't Me, Babe." Most of the songs are boring, tedious and coma inducing, except for two notable exceptions - "Motorpsycho Nitemare", the most intelligent song on the album, and "My Back Passage...I mean Pages", which are only really useful for when you have little time left and you need to stretch things out a bit. And putting the track listing on the front cover is frankly a pathetic idea - it's like waddling into a classy uptown bar and trying to score sympathy sex by telling people you're dying of AIDS. Still, at least this album comes to an end, just like the colonoscopy. My verdict - two songs are ok, but overall this album is about as pointless as pubic hair. C-


Album Review: AC/DC - The Razors Edge (1990)

AC/DC is an extremely rare breed of band, in that not only did the band thrive after it's legendary lead singer carked it, subsequently throwing the band's future into jeopardy, but it also holds the accolade of being able to sound the same musically across it's entire discography - and get away with it. In fact, sticking a fork in the power socket is smarter than telling Young, Young & Johnson to come up with a new sound. But try telling it to them in front of their fans and some West Auckland mum's gonna be wearing your balls for earrings. Which would be a fitting statement really, given the nature of some of the band's material - Family Jewels, Ballbreaker, Got You by the Balls...all are appropriate to the occasion. Big Balls - not so much. On second thought, however, it would've taken plums for one to have had the cheek to propose the idea in the first place, so Big Balls is in there too.

Brian Johnson made his debut on 1980's breakthrough Back in Black, which would go on to sell 42 million+ copies and cement Johnson's image as the perfect replacement for Bon Scott. Sadly, most of the following albums didn't quite hold up as well, until 1990's The Razors Edge came onto the scene. It was brilliant; It had power, cheek, a tiny bit of wit, and plenty of screaming by Brian Johnson. His voice now sounded somewhat different to his previous works, and it sounded better - as if the boogieman had just castrated himself with a sledgehammer dipped in iodine and itching powder, or like Sammy Davis Jr. in Cannonball Run II where Dean Martin belts his knuckles with his shoe. Songs that got airplay, like "Thunderstruck", "Are You Ready" and of course, "Money Talks", are legendary, but set them aside for gems like "Shot of Love", "The Razors Edge" and "Fire Your Guns", because they are what make this album a must-have. My verdict: Buy this album, and stone anybody who dares suggest they create a new sound. A


Friday, August 14, 2009

Album Review: Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke (2008)

The last few years has seen a slightly odd trend in people becoming obsessed with things retro, in particular fashion and, to a lesser extent, music. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing in the case of music - in fact, it's the best thing since sliced bread (unless you're gluten intolerant, for which I apologize half-heartedly for my lack of sensitivity). But fashion wise this has been disastrous. In New Zealand, where I live, for instance, as far back as last year the 'mullet' for a while became all the rage. Which is great for the ego of self-conscious bogans, but not for the rest of society in general. It's a bit like getting 30 stone hookers with stubble, sweatrash and a bikini line like a backyard garden in Jamaica to do nude modeling. It is just plain bad, and should be confined to the era in which it belongs. Another bad example of retro gone wrong is the BMW Mini. Why bother recreating a piddly like brick on-a-roller-skate that's built like a Congolese malaria ward that only made strong sales simply because people felt sorry for it. Plus, the new one is practically German anyway. Painting a union jack on the top of a new Mini is like coating a moldy scone in raisins and calling it spotted dick (as in the pudding). In this day of age, it's small wonder Queen Bess II pomps around in a 2 ton Bentley that has a rated gas mileage lower than the entire population of Bikini Atoll.

But, as I've said earlier, not all things old fashioned are necessarily bad. Ladyhawke's self-titled debut album, for instance, is proof trying to sound retro can indeed be a good thing. And when you do it well, like she has, then you've got an album that belongs on a pedestal. She has done exceptionally well in recreating the 80s sound on "Back of the Van", with the synthesizer punching out melodies like a tired heavyweight boxer and a Cyndi Lauper-like anti-climax on the bridge leading up to the chorus. "Another Runaway", in keeping with the general mood of the album, has the climatic qualities of an 80s power ballad. Even the more mellow tracks, like "Paris is Burning" and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" hold my attention for the entire duration of the song, which is good for someone who loves tempo. Plus, unlike 95% of music produced these days, you can listen to every single track on the album and spare the fast forward button. Retro never ever sounded so good, and her next album better be as good, if not better, than this one. My verdict - Best album of the 2000s - ever! A+


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Album Review: Metallica - ...And Justice for All (1988)

To say that Jethro Tull makes better music than Metallica is like turning down an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord after a week long fast in favor of picking your nose for sustenance. It is the pinnacle of ignorance. In fact, if your ears are bleeding after listening to "Bungle in the Jungle", that's a positive sign...it means you've gone deaf. Had you otherwise listened to that wretched cacophony with fully functioning eardrums, chances are you would've dropped dead immediately. Even Satan himself would turf himself into the Lake of Fire 1000 years early just to get away from that garbage. Personally, I've never liked Jethro Tull's music on the whole, and, pending my own ears ceasing to function, I guess I never will.

Now, back in 1988, two albums were pipped to take out the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. Metallica's ...And Justice for All, and Jethro Tull's Crest of a Knave. And guess who won? Metallica, you'd think? Alas, they didn't. And what a grave injustice that was, pardon the pun. OK, the songs were a bit lengthy and the album cover is a bit dull. Who really cares? Listen to "One", and you'll see why people love them. Listen to "Blackened", and you'll hear a symphonic masterpiece. Crank out "To Live is to Die", a fitting tribute to the late legendary bassist Cliff Burton, and even the butchest and toughest bogans will wail like a newborn baby being circumcised. Like I mentioned earlier a few of the songs are a bit of a stretch, such as the title track, but overall this album is heavy, poetic, extremely outspoken and lovingly crafted. To this day it is highly regarded by many, and not just metal fans either. It was a visionary piece of work that would eventually open up Metallica to a whole new audience - an audience devoid of the usual tats and mullets associated with metalheads. And that's exactly why it should've won a Grammy. A-