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Odds & Sods Song Reviews


Sean Altman: SeanDEMOnium (1997)

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SeanDEMOnium

Seandemonium Bop

.......Seandemonium... BOP!! That's all there is to this track. It's just four seconds long.

Person A

This is insanely likable. I almost don't need to write anything else. Sean Altman, having once been a member of an a cappella group, likes to overdub his own vocal harmonies over himself, and he's quite charming when he does it. The only instruments he uses (the only instruments he needs) is his voice and a simple drum beat. The song itself is a hooky and memorable one. You can tell that it's well-written since it's nicely developed. It has an intro. A verses section. A chorus. A middle-eight section. A conclusion. Wow, this must be a real songwriter! Most of all, it's 100 percent likable. This is like the early Beatles. Except they had guitars.

Big Sean Music NY

Again, this is a four-second track where he sings the title once. It's like he's doing some sort of radio jingle. *shrug*

Baby Go Bye-Bye A

Yes... I can listen to songs like this every day until I die. Similarly to “Person,” the only instrumentation that he uses is his own overdubbed voice and a simple drum pattern. Maybe I like this song a little bit more, because it's so playful. (His back-up vocals bubbily singing “Baby go bye-bye!” and “Beep beep!” and “Bop du bop doh bop du bop do!” are insanely fun!

Pretty Baby A

Yup, this guy has a sense of humor. He can't even do serious ballads without overdubbing himself, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, singing “la-la-la-la-la.” Great song, otherwise. What gets me of course is the melody. It's pretty complex for a two minute song... It has an uplifting chorus!!! (This is refreshing... songs with choruses...) Also can't be ignored is that gentle way Altman sings the lead vocals. ...Of course, anyone who does an a cappella album should have an excellent voice, and of course he succeeds there with flying colors.

I Quit

“I've decided that I want to leave the band.” ...Yup, he left the band.

Marry Me A+

Geez, the pessimist in me is waiting for this guy to do something that isn't charming or melodious, but this song even manages to sound even better than the previous songs. The lyrics are awfully corny, but that's basically the point. ...I mean, I guess we can demand cynical songs or something, but my guess is Altman isn't a cynical guy. If you have to write a song containing the lyrics “Marry me & we'll bind our souls to one / Marry me & we'll brown in heaven's sun” this is a good way to go about it. This is a completely likable romantic ballad with a passionate, soaring vocal performance and a memorable melody.

Married Man A-

I guess she said “yes!” This is more of a bouncy, playful song than the previous one, which is surely good... I don't have much to say about this other than it's another fun and enjoyable experience. It's upbeat and a lot of fun, particularly the Beach-Boys-esque vocal harmonies in the last half. The melody is good although not quite as memorable as these other songs.

Falling Over You A-

I hear a funk guitar in this! I didn't even notice it at first, which I suppose is a testament to how well he does a cappella songs. This has a bit of a rock 'n' roll flavor to it, which I like. Although the rock 'n' roll aspect of it comes off as rather cutesy, it fits in with the rest of the album.

Day's Easy Moan

This is a silly 20-second track with oompah horns and bouncy xylophone.

The Pink Pig

This sounds like Altman was goofing around with a young nephew (?). They're candidly singing a brief song about a pig to the tune of “Miss Mary Mack.”

I Won't Mind B+

Still a good song, but this ballad is a bit slow and doesn't have that uplifting singing or humor or any particular distinguishing factor that characterized ballads like “Marry Me” and “Pretty Baby.” It's rather easy to forget this song exists in the context of the album... But even then, it has a nice melody, and it's rather short. It doesn't impress me a whole lot, but I still like it.

Be My Friend A-

Oh yeah... Here is a goofy, upbeat a cappella song. The melody is catchy, the lyrics are bright and optimistic, and of course it's performed well. You'll want to tap your foot to it, I'm sure! This is just as good as the bright a cappella songs that opened the album....... but it's starting to sound perhaps a little too similar.

Rebecca A

He brings in a jangly keyboard (?) for this extremely pleasant ballad, which addresses my complaint in the previous track that things were starting to sound alike. All I need sometimes is a change in texture! Even though there's some light instrumentation in this, the concentration continues to be his vocal performance... Particularly the chorus is warm thanks to the gentle overdubbing.

Oooh-Angst

Another four-second song where he sings the title!

Perky Interlude

Another one of the more involved 20-second interludes. We hear him say in a spooky voice and a laugh “And now, ladies and gentlemen, we bring you more Seandemonium! Hahahahaaaa!” What? It hasn't been terrorizing me!

Julie Gone A

Man! How many of these cutesy, upbeat, a cappella songs does he have in him? And why am I not growing tired of them? I suppose it's that he's so naturally able to write ear-catching melodies... Anybody who writes such bright, memorable melodies like this is an automatic winner in my book! Even the back-up vocals manage to weave itself in my brain... “Julie, Julie, Ju-ju-ju-ju-Julie, no matter Julie gone-nah-nah-nah-nah.”

Sullen Malaise

Four seconds! “SULLEN MALAISE!”

Hazel Eyes A

Does this guy ever let up?? This is another one of his sweet ballads, but it has another fantastic, memorable melody, a passionate vocal performance, an uplifting chorus, and even some haunting vocal harmonies. The instrumentation is a simple acoustic guitar and tambourine... and some rather strange, wobbly synthesizer.

Miserable Destiny A+

This one's just entertaining. He does a '50s doo-wop style rhythm (“Bom-she-bom-she-bo-bo-she-bom...”) most of the time. It comes off as somewhat overblown and ironic, reminding me of Frank Zappa. Instead of singing a verses section, he talks them, muttering like some insane person. I have a little trouble figuring out what he's talking about... (“So now you wanted more - an open dialog involving those dreaded words of commitment. We paused for the moment of truth, realizing our respective futures - her life, my night - rested with my larynx. You asked, I caved, we did it and I had a sandwich...”) Eh?? I have no idea. But this is probably the most silly, entertaining song of the whole album.

My Parent's Son A

How is he doing this??? He takes out an acoustic guitar and delivers another sweet ballad where Altman delivers a charmingly sincere vocal performance in this tribute to his parents. He doesn't shirk his songwriting duties at all... the verses are just as memorable as the chorus. Even the middle-eight section is memorable. This is the sort of song that I might listen to a dozen times and start to gleefully sing along with it. ...I'm halfway there already.

Elektra

Thirty-eight seconds of a phone conversation of Altman apparently calling a record company to try to get a contract. ...Oh no, this must be how difficult it is to get a contract these days! (He musta self-published this...)

You're Mine A

Another excellent ballad with a strong melody. It's almost Beatles-esque (his high-pitched, somewhat doctored vocals sound a little like Lennon). It's up there. Have we been expecting anything less? Awww... the record companies who wouldn't give him a big contract were really missing out, because this is the sort of album people who drive around in minivans with their kids in the back would gobble up. ...I'm only sayin'... If I ever become a person who dives kids around in my minivan, getting albums like this to play over the speakers will be the thing I do right after getting car insurance.

Presto Change-o A-

Another ballad with a melody that manages to weave its way inside of me. I suppose I don't find it quite as endearing as the previous song, but that chorus is so uplifting and fun that I can't bear to even think about disliking it. The verses section is a bit slow, though... I suppose that's the reason I'm not completely getting into it. (But what a chorus!!)

Polly Gets A+

This must be the closest he's willing to get to rock 'n' roll! I hear an electric guitar playing a riff! Despite the electric guitar, this is nothing other than upbeat pop-rock. The melody is so catchy that I've been getting it stuck in my head over the last few days, and (again) the vocal performance is charming and playful.

Max & Sean's Phresh Jew Thang

A porn movie funk guitar plays amidst some goofy opera singing for thirty seconds. Silly!!

Male Pattern Baldness

Four sec--- Hey! I saw a picture of you in 1997. I'm a decade younger, and I'm balder! You've just set off my angst!

I'm Waiting B+

The cute and bubbly back-up singing with all the snaps and claps make it impossible for me to dislike the song. Although I'm going to have to complain that the melody doesn't strike me as the previous song! But, you see, that song spoiled me. This is a great song to tap your foot to, and I'd imagine I'll also be able to sing along with this as soon as I know it well enough.

Fan A-

LIKABLE MID-TEMPO THING WITH A GOOD MELODY AND A FUN BEAT!!! ...I wrote that in capital letters, because I'm repeating myself all the time and I wanted to do something slightly different. Good song! ...I'm still depressed about going bald...........

Are You a Man? B+

Not such a great finale as I might have expected, but this guitar-centered pop-rock song is another instantly likable creation. Tacked on the end of the track is a series of recordings. One of the more memorable ones is a recording of Altman harassing a record company receptionist, after that all-important recording contract. As I said earlier, I would have given him a lucrative one, if I was head of the company! I also would have told Britney Spears to take a hike!! .......But I guess that's why I'm not head of a record company. (“Will you provide the groupies?”)


Bad Brains: Bad Brains (1980)

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Bad Brains

Sailin' On A-

They don't beat around the bush. Three quick raps on the drumsticks and they start to play a rambunctious punk song that sounds like it was already well underway in its first milisecond. What makes that curious is that it has a somewhat lengthy coda... It's a sort of an atmospheric, twinkly coda, which doesn't exactly fit the rest of the song. The lead singer is good for punk... he sounds mean and vicious... although other than that, he's not particularly notable. He could be pretty anyone who could yell and growl a bit. (That's not a particular criticism.) The song itself is good, but not all that memorable. Yer supposedta just allow it to capture you in its rebellious spirit... or something... jump up and down... I don't know.

Don't Need It A

Just a minute long, but there's quite a lot of awesomeness packed into it. Even a non-fan can pick that up! That electric guitar is extremely fast, heavy and all in your face. Especially that solo that sounds like it's on speed. And those drums! In the last few seconds, it's almost a drum solo... except there's a few stabs of electric guitar in there. It's like thunder and lightning. I can't understand the lyrics. According to a lyrics web site, he's actually saying something... I guess it's about grungy hair. Pot heads would know a lot about that.

Attitude A-

The lead singer is starting to grow on me, with those incessant yelps he puts in throughout. Surprisingly, this song isn't too difficult for me to like. The fast, furious guitars are dark as hell playing that descending riff. This is like I'm going to hell or something.

The Regulator A-

Well... Just as soon as I thought I was going to get tired of their fast-paced mayhem songs, they bring in this (relatively) mid-tempo song with a nice, thumpy bass-line. It reminds me, actually, of early PiL... except these guys are more fast-paced of course. The lead singer, again, is screaming unintelligibly at the top of his lungs... I like those grunting noises he makes, though. (Should I look up his name? I guess I'm lazy. Ah, they're pot heads. They're in no position to complain about my laziness.)

Banned in D.C. B

Back to the insane mayhem songs! That incredible drum roll at the beginning of this surely puts things off on the right note, and the lead singer comes in screaming his head off. He yelps a little bit, although that's not quite as “charming” as it was on “Attitude,” because I can grow tired of that sort of thing. ...I like this song, because it's loud fast and exciting, but this time there's nothing in particular that sticks out at me. Particularly the last half... although I can't ignore that the last half features a fitting riff and a nice guitar solo.

Jah Calling B

...Jah called you? Why didn't you pick up the phone? I mean, he's one of the greatest bassists of all time! You could learn a thing or two from him!! ...Oh wait, that is some sort of “Jamaican accent” thing. “Jah” is “you,” I guess. Whatever. They're pot heads. .......And speaking of this song, it's a rather extreme departure from the previous track. It's a slow-paced reggae instrumental! I guess being Rastafarians they have to play reggae of some sort... I just wasn't expecting such a slowly paced thing to suddenly surface. ...This isn't bad. It has a cute guitar solo. I like those whoosy, echoey sound effects that flash through my speakers from time to time. It's a tad boring, though. It's two and a half minutes and it never really goes anywhere. Like a conversation with a pot head.

Supertouch/Shitfit A

Back to the hardcore stuff!!! ...Actually I am grateful for that previous track. It's like theater-produced intermission music to give us a break from the world's most insane album. Again, I really like this, which is unexpected, because I don't like hardcore punk music. It alternates between the typical fast and wild mayhem that these bands do, and another section that has some sort of evil power chord thing going on. Some editions split these two tracks up. ...I don't know why there's a difference...

Leaving Babylon B+

What's with these guys? I guess the reggae of “Jah Calling” wasn't a one-time deal; this is another slow-paced reggae. The main difference is this is quite a bit longer and has vocals. The vocals keep it from growing quite as boring as the previous attempt. Listening to him, he sounds like an appropriate reggae singer. Probably more appropriate than a punk singer! Although the punk music was invariably more awesome, so there you go. I'm not wild on reggae music, but I sort of like that mild texture they come up with. And again, I'll give them credit for having a hardcore punk album that's not 100 percent hardcore punk, thus allowing me to maintain some sort of sanity as I review this.

F.V.K. (Fearless Vampire Killers) B+

Sweet. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Awesome show. I haven't seen it. (GET ON TOPIC!!!!) Alright, they're back to the insane hardcore punk stuff, and not a bloody moment too soon. To my surprise, this actually has a pretty heavy introduction... Some guy noodles around on a very, very, very fuzzy electric guitar. After that the typical ultra-fast drums pipe up, and the weirdo starts to growl and scream. Yup. It's fun to listen to as a whole, but not particularly notable.

I A-

Is it “I” or “l?” Dammit, these computers and their sanserif fonts. I guess it's “I” since I hear him screaming that in the lyrics sometimes. Not a particularly great riff, but the singing wins me over. Particularly at the end, it sounds like he's yodeling!!!!!! I guess that's just another one of those things that comes from smoking pot all day.

Big Take Over A

A bit of a complex beginning for these guys. I hear a sonar beeping and the electric guitarist comes in with a very extended solo where he's playing some sort of ill-planned, descending solo. (Ill-planned is a compliment, mind you.) I really gotta hand it to them. Hardcore punk might all sound alike to me, but they do insane things like that to keep me engaged! The riff isn't bad, but I don't find it too memorable. It's just fun to listen to.

Pay to Cum A-

The riff is a little better than most, and the song is presented all crazily. It's a little amusing listening to this song while following the lyrics... It sounds like he's skipping every other word...

Right Brigade A-

Well, this is something different. It starts with a rolling drum solo, and then this mid-tempo, marching riff pipes up. Then a little bit later, it sounds like they finally got with the program and resumed their hardcore punk duties. ...So, I like the intro, since it captured my attention. The hardcore punk music is a lot of energetic fun as well. I don't find it memorable, in particular, but I allow it to sweep me up. The ending is a little more slowly paced and dark, power-chord based. ...Hey, I can't fault these guys for not being diverse!

I Luv I Jah B

He made an excellent Frodo... Oh, wait. This is another one of their reggae songs. This has some lead singing in it, which is good. This thing is six minutes long and as boring as hell, but as I said before, I love that it gives my poor eardrums a break. I'm grateful for that. Seriously grateful.

Intro

They were so hopped up on pot that they put the introduction at the end. Whatever. Punk music is sloppy by design. What we have here is a few seconds worth of power chords and zippy noises.

Bonus Track A-

This comes by several different names depending on where you look. If you can find a copy of this album with this bonus track on it, I would get it. It's one of the more interesting reggae numbers they produced. It has a bit of a jazzy flavor to it that I like, and their texture is pretty absorbing. The lead singer sounds nutty... he's not exactly keeping that microphone at a consistent distance away from his mouth... but that's also one of its charms.


Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs: More Arse Than Class (1974)

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More Arse Than Class

Boogie Woogie A

Just as the song title says, this is a boogie woogie. Billy Thorpe doesn't want to trix us! But this is a weird boogie woogie and it's a fun boogie woogie. It begins with a slowed-down tape recording of himself saying “boogie woogie all night long,” but that's not what's so weird about this. Those demented back-up singers sound like they're from a different planet. It's not that they're doing anything fundamentally different than most boogie-woogie back-up singers, but there's a weird menacing quality to them that's hard to put my finger on. Billy Thorpe's raspy and rambunctious lead vocals also have a funny demented quality to them. His voice sounds a little like Roy Wood, and the music itself isn't too far removed from a Roy Wood song. It's a very normal genre of song that's been given shock treatment. He changes keys willy nilly halfway through, and he brings in a maniacal instrumental interlude with such a quickly paced electric guitar that reminds me of the Doctor Who theme song. Even that sudden ending was really weird (and, unlike most sudden endings) seemed wholly appropriate. Good song!

Walking Down the Street B

Whoever did the mixing for this album really did a terrible job with this one... The panning is just weird, like someone was playing around with the nobs willy nilly. Anyway, when I'm not listening to this with headphones, it's a fun, swingin' R&B-oriented song. It has good energy, though not as much as the previous track, and it's not as weird either. The best thing about it by far is Thorpe's lead vocals, which continues to be raspy and raucous!

Don't You Know You're Changing A-

This is a pleasant mid-tempo song and, wow, this melody is catchy! Unfortunately, he repeats it so dang much that it eventually loses its power... but not all of its power. A couple times through this, it suddenly turns into a completely different song, one that's more fast-paced and slightly rowdier. I'm not sure how, but this jaunting transition works perfectly.

No More War B

Thorpe now lays a little bit of funk on us with this energetic rocker although I have trouble getting into it. You'll have to especially like the guitar for this song, because it's more jam-centric than the others. For me, the jam doesn't quite get me all riled up, but it's good enough for some air guitar, I'd wager. He comes in with some lyrics, which has quite a bit of an echo to it. That sounds a little psychedelic.

I Wanna Know A-

This is another jam-oriented song, but it's a lot better because this one has a rabble-rousing harmonica! Also, I think this is a more interesting composition. It's based on an ascending chord progression that sounds a little menacing like a Sparks song. (Bringing in that rapidly pounding piano also made me think of Sparks.) The vocal melody is also more exciting, and gave Thorpe more of a reason to display more of those impressive chops, especially in that impressive gospel-like ending.

Back on the Road Again A

Man, this wild Aussie is utterly unstoppable! I mean, I'm not usually impressed with ordinary boogie-woogie music, but this is like bottled lightning. Everything from the tight, electrifying guitar performances, the Jerry-Lee-Lewis piano, and more of Thorpe's extremely powerful vocal performance is nothing less than engaging. Unfortunately I have the predisposition of trying to judge rock songs by the nature of the composition... Yeah, this composition isn't anything special. But this performance seems to embody everything rock 'n' roll is supposed to be! This couldn't possibly be more wild and exciting!

Slowly Learning How A

It's nine minutes long, and it's completely electrifying from beginning to end. It takes a lot for a nine-minute song that's essentially one hook being repeated over and over again for me to like it, much less love it. It has that epic feel to it sort of like “Hey Jude,” except this one's a lot more soulful. Thorpe's very raspy, soulful performance is just as riveting as Joe Cocker. It begins as Thorpe is delivering some a cappella lines before emerging into something more rockin', tight, and fast-paced like early Dire Straits. It's funny how the transition between these two sections is always very sudden, but seems to fit perfectly. How are they able to always do that so well? Even though they don't ever present anything musically different than what we got in the two minutes, it gets more exciting and dramatic as it goes along. At the end, they bring in a whole gospel choir, and I want to join hand with them and sing with 'em. (I'm not being sarcastic, either... I would gladly participate in such an exercise.)

BONUS TRACKS:

A Little Bit of Lunacy, Maestro Please (Live) B-

This isn't anymore loony than the songs that appeared in the regular album... In fact, I'd say this was pretty 'normal' as far as rock-jam compositions go. It features an ordinary electric guitar noodling off while an organ plays around in the background. The drummer isn't doing anything interesting. Er. (If you love listening to rock jams, then this is probably your thing... I'm usually anti-jam. I'd say the same thing about Eric Clapton.) Listen to that polite audience clap at the end! I didn't think Australians were so reserved!

I Wanna Know (Live) B+

It's not quite as rabble rousing as the original and it's a little rawer, but that doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable. I'd probably rather listen to the studio version again instead of this, but ... heck, that's the nature of bonus tracks, right?

Pig's Blues B

This is a blues jam, and it's not a particularly amazing one. As I've said multiple times, jams don't usually impress me much. But I do like it in the middle when that electric guitar turns in some mean licks here and there.

Mame A-

This B-side should have been included on the original album! It wouldn't have been one of the highlights, but it's good and it's weird. That choppy guitar riff is one of the weirdest things I've ever heard. I'm a little upset that the volume of that guitar overpowers Thorpe's exciting, raspy wail... but that doesn't mean this isn't a memorable song.

Movie Queen A

This was the A-side of the single, and it's an exciting, fast-paced R&B number! It doesn't have that crazy weirdness that the previous track did, but it'll undoubtedly get your foot tappin'. I have nothing new to report about the instrumental performances other than they're awesome as usual.

Kawasaki (Advertisement)

An advertisement? ... It's more like a 30-second soundbyte... What is this song??

Kawasaki (Advertisement) B

Looks like this is the full version of the song “Kawasaki.” I'm not too sure what the point of including the previous bit was, but ... whatever. I'm sure the fans in Australia know. Anyway, this is a quickly paced song with some furiously strummed guitars while Thorpe sings his heart out again. It's not extremely memorable, but it's good.

Slowly Learning How (demo) B

This is an instrumental demo version of that great nine-minute song that closed the album. Yeah, and this is a full nine-minute demo. I suppose if you wanted to karaoke with it, then this would be a good way to go. But as far as listening to it straight goes, you truly begin to realize how important Thorpe's vocals were to the overall experience. (On the other hand, I also get to appreciate that thumpin' bass guitar!)


Belle and Sebastian: If You're Feeling Sinister (1996)

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If You're Feeling Sinister

The Stars of Track and Field A+

This album might be one of the most highly celebrated albums from the '90s by many music magazines, but that doesn't mean the songs on it aren't good! I'm listening to the opening song right now is undeniably great regardless of what they way. It starts out folky and bare. It could easily have been boring or (more commonly) uneventful, but Stuart Murdoch magically sings an interesting vocal melody. From that, instruments are layered on the mix to create a more dramatic experience. Electric guitars, pianos, woodwinds, electric organs and a few drum build-ups are intermittently brought into help this song flow beautifully. Quite a nice song!

Seeing Other People A-

This doesn't have nearly the amount of build-up and passion that I experienced in the previous song, but this piano-heavy pop rocker is based on an interesting chord progression and the melody is nice. Although the melody surely could have been more grabbing. At times the piano sounds a little like those Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown pieces, which is a quality I like. As a whole, this makes an excellent listen, but it doesn't do anything in particular to surprise me.

Me and the Major A-

I have the same general complaint about this song as I did the previous song. (I can't believe I'm complaining about a song that earns an easy A-!) But the melody isn't that memorable, and after the first 20 seconds or so are up, it doesn't seem to surprise me in particular. So, I can pretty easily find myself spacing out as I'm listening to this. But even when I'm spaced out, I still like what I'm listening to! That wild, chugging riff creates an energetic backdrop to this, and that chugging harmonica solo that comes in occasionally is a lot of fun.

Like Dylan in the Movies B+

This is a delightful song, of course, and I'm enjoying listening to it. But this doesn't really do much for me. The melody is even less memorable than the previous song, although it's nice to listen to (particularly that easygoing chorus). It's based on a pretty simple, bubbly riff, that isn't particularly original. The overall instrumentation is interesting... Much rougher than usual. A piano in the background seems only barely interested in that riff... it just twinkles along, almost as if it a mind of its own. The same thing with those somewhat disconnected string swells. ...It's intriguing and fun but not great.

The Fox in the Snow A

They wrote an excellent melody for this one. It's a melody that I can very well remember after it's through playing, and I want to remember it. The orchestration continues to be a bit unkempt, which provides just the right texture to contain Murdoch's somewhat rough vocal style. But like “The Stars of Track and Field,” it has a nice build-up. It begins with a lonely piano playing before it is accompanied by an acoustic guitar, and then a simple drum pattern picks up followed by a sparse string section and back-up vocals. This is a rather nostalgic sounding song, too. Nicely done!!

Get Away From Here, I'm Dying A

This is an upbeat song with a bubbly electric guitar strumming along while Murdoch sings some engagingly bittersweet lyrics. What gets me here is the strong melody, which I do remember long after it's done playing. (I had this stuck in my head for awhile! And I liked it there!) The instrumentation is quite unkempt and homemade sounding, just like everything else here. I like the textures they create. But what I appreciate the most is this is another song that very subtly builds up. So, it seems to get slightly better as it goes along.

If You're Feeling Sinister B+

The beginning of this is rather sound effects heavy... Somebody apparently brought a tape recorder to a playground or something. After that a light, trotting drum rhythm and a trotting bass-guitar plays for about five minutes with only a few breaks as Murdoch sings an OK vocal melody. The instrumentation builds up very subtly, which I like, but considering this is a five-minute song, the build-up might not be quick enough. The sound effects at the beginning don't seem all that useful, either... They just drag it down mostly. Other than that, this is good! (Sorry to be so nitpicky... This is overall a nicely written and nicely performed song.)

Mayfly A-

This is a melody that I could easily fall in love with. That combined with the upbeat, lighthearted instrumentation makes this one of my favorite bits of the album. The only thing it's missing is that incredible development these other songs have! Also, there's nothing extremely distinctive or unusual about this. An ordinary song... that happens to have an excellent melody. (Here I go nitpicking, again!) This is structured as a three-minute pop song, anyway.

The Boy Done Wrong Again A+

Am I crazy, or do these guys do the slow, acoustic songs the best? Maybe I like Murdoch's vocal performance, who always gives his vocal performances a nice, folksy twinge. Or maybe I like how well they're able to put a longing, bittersweet flavor to their works. At any rate, I do really like this song! It takes me in from the very beginning, guides me through a small orchestral upwelling, and leaves me with a tear in my eye. Brilliant.

Judy and the Dream of Horses A

Another excellent song. This is one of the nice and likable upbeat variety. Not only is the melody catchy and memorable, but they do that build-up thing with the instrumentation that I like so much! ...I think now's the time to tell you about one of my big hang-ups about this album. I can't think of a whole lot to say about this song. Is it because I have writer's block? ...Er, I don't think I have writer's block. ...It's because this album has a bit of a saminess issue. That's not a huge deal, since I find listening to this album a very pleasurable experience. But that's probably the main reason I'd never put this near the top on top of one of my lists.


Laura Branigan: Laura Branigan (1982)

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Laura Branigan

All Night With Me 8/10

It starts with a ballad. I usually think that most adult contemporary singers like to start their albums with upbeat rockers to get us off on the right start. Well, maybe Laura Branigan wanted to make us think that she was a great lover or something? Who knows? Well, the song is OK. The melody is fine, and the song production doesn't overkill. That's all you can ask for in the average adult contemporary love track! The problem is that it's not very uplifting, which is what it tries to be! The melody overextends its welcome by the end. Branigan has a decent voice, but she's no Pat Benatar I'm afraid.

Gloria 9.5/10

The biggest and bestest hit single ever! The melody is much catchier than most pop hits are, and that's why this song deserves such a high score. The song production is very straitlaced. If it were weirder, then I probably would have given it an A+ ... All these guys did was take some obscure hit from Italy had Branigan sing it with average studio musicians. Where's the art? Well, I'm tapping my feet at least.

Lovin' You Baby 7/10

Another ballad (appropriate for the third song in an album!!) but it's not a very good one. The melody is workable but the by-the-book instrumentation didn't support the melody at all. This song just grows stale after 30 second. I mean, that cheesy synth we hear every once in awhile might have made a fine gimmick, but that instrumental goes nowhere! Come on! Where's the creativity? If you keep this up, we might think you're just here for the money! .......... oh wait.

Living a Lie 7/10

The opening synth-keyboard riff rings of "Gloria," and it's obvious they were fishing for another Gloria-like hit. It doesn't work so well this time, obviously. That song worked because it had a great melody! This one doesn't. However, I am willing to give it some credit for being furious. That mood comes off more believable than I would have expected. Still, Laura Branigan is no Pat Benatar.

If You Loved Me 5/10

And now they're doing the cheesy ballad! Not that I don't resonate with cheesy ballads ... I probably like them more than I should. But this is cheesy in a bad way and in a dated way. The melody is fine but the presentation is so over-dramatic that it would have been ripe picking for Weird Al Yankovic if this were a hit.

Please Stay, Go Away 6/10

Yesh, I'm really trying to like this. Well, I can say that this has a vaguely promising beginning. The drum machine sounds interesting. It wasn't a well-chosen drum machine, but interesting anyway. The melody is just clumsy ... It sounds like a bad Meat Loaf song. It had some potential, but they didn't pull it off to well. The instrumental interlude with the dark guitars is interestingly the highlight! These guys were rushed in the studio ... it's pretty obvious. Everything's very uneven.

I Wish We Could Be Alone 6/10

This isn't the worst, but it's boring!! That's a shame, because the melody was alright. There were a few decent chord changes here and there. The instrumentation sounds like the musicians were sleeping ... or just not talented. My guess it's the latter.

Down Like a Rock 4/10

Oh no, you're not rocking, are you? This is just an embarrassment. The previous tracks might have been boring or misguided, but never embarrassing. This was meant to be a throwback to '50s music but it's just weird in a very bad way. The groove from the bass and the lead guitar sounds like a robot is malfunctioning. Branigan's voice is given an echoed effect presumably to sound like Elvis. Half of the time they insert a more usual, casual rocker, but the transition between this sections is rocky and unnatural. Rock 'n' roll disowns Laura Branigan. But God rest her soul anyway.

Maybe I Love You 6/10

And they close it with a ballad. Hopefully to raise our spirits or something to get us to leave the album on a positive note. But no sir, I'm not buying it! The melody was so-so and almost works here, but it's not nearly as uplifting as they were trying to be. I don't even get the mushy lovey feeling after hearing this. Well if a hot girl in leathery pants was singing this to me in person, it would be a different story...


Built to Spill: Perfect From Now On (1997)

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Perfect From Now On

Randy Described Eternity A-

Is that so? What did Randy have to say about it? It was long? (That's what she said.) Any-dang-way, let's get to the point, shall we? These guys know how to do funny mood changes! This song starts out fairly calmly and neutrally, but when the vocals pop up, it suddenly grows more vibrant and violent. These mood changes really help out the flow of the song since it's a massive six-minutes in length, and it consists of repeating the same few chords over and over again. So, it's not as mind-numbing a six-minutes as it should have been. The last two minutes or so of the song is excellent. A demented, wild guitar comes into noodle around, and the tempo of the groove slowly grows faster and faster until fade out. Nicely done! The vocal melody is even formidable!

I Would Hurt a Fly A-

Yeah, me too. I not only smack them with a flyswatter, but squish all the ooze out of them later... OK, not really. I just said that to disturb you. Um. Well, this is another very excellent song from these guys. I've always had a bone to pick with overextended rock-jam sorts of songs, but they actually have a good reason to keep these going for so long. Again, they do a great job of changing around the moods of these songs! This one, I'd say, even experimented with quite a bit of textures compared to the previous track. I love that morose cello they use in the first half of the song. Even the rock jam section in the last half has some pretty wild guitar licks!

Stop the Show A

Wow, these guys are good. I think that slow, murky beginning could have been cut by a minute or so, since it's really rather boring. Trim the fat, guys! Although I will say this section still has its slightly evolving textures, and is rather charming. Even though I don't like this part much, what comes next is more than enough to secure that A. But after that point, they change the rhythm to something more bouncy, upbeat and ear-catching, even introducing a melody that's just as poppy and catchy as a Ween song. This is great fun, and the composition is extremely complex! A chorus, a middle eight section, a spooky instrumental interlude with these funny Electric-Light-Orchestra-esque explosions in the middle. For the last minute, it sinks into echoey, industrial-esque sound effects... before regurgitating the main groove once again. This is quite a song! Maybe not as instantly memorable as a Ween song, but I love listening to it develop!

Made-Up Dreams A-

This is the only song on the album that's less than five minutes long. Granted, it's only eight seconds less than five minutes, but I feel like I should reward them for this. Succinctness is good! And this song is still quite excellent, and it fully deserves that high rating, anyway. The melody is good, and I like listening to all the textures they come out with their guitars. I like how it starts calmly, but then it suddenly turns into something more grabbing 45-seconds later. Man, these sudden changes are nice touches! The very end of the song starts to lose me, though, with those plain pounding drums. Hm. But they had a really good flow going until that point. The vocal melody is very good, too, particularly midway through the running time.

Velvet Waltz B

WOW! Eight friggin minutes and thirty-three seconds, this time! They like to keep their songs going, don't they? And it's really the same old groove the whole way; they don't significantly change the groove around like they did with that prog-esque “Stop the Show.” I guess since they still manage to create an easily absorbing experience with such a long-winded track, this is a pretty mighty success. Their guitar textures evolve throughout the track generally keeping it fresh and nice to listen to. The vocal melody is a little clunky, but I believe I note a few hooks in there. ...Now, while this is a *good* lengthy song, I wouldn't say that it was the best possible use of their time. They were good instrumentalists, but not much more than that... That's probably not fair to say, though, because The Rolling Stones spoiled me. Especially, that jamming bit of the last two minutes could have been trimmed significantly.

Out of Site B

Ah, the running length is more reasonable, but I'm having a slightly harder time getting caught up in this one for whatever reason. I love that they continue to do these weird tempo and dynamics changes, but that lull they find themselves getting caught up in a few times is drearier and sleepier than would have been effective. The more upbeat, violent passages are much easier to like! (Of course, slow and dreary segments can work beautifully in rock music... it just doesn't happen here.)

Kicked it in the Sun B+

I like that sweet, almost Hawaiian sliding guitar sound they work up at the beginning of this! It gives this rock song a nice, weird texture too! I almost can't hear the vocal melody over it, though! Eh, not a huge deal... I don't have any great desire to hear this guy's voice, which is average at best. The vocal melody isn't bad, anyway. This song develops a little cleaner and more dynamically than the previous two, but I'm going to have to throw the old “this is too long” argument at it. Again, the song is pretty damn good in spite of that. They change the textures around considerably even though they don't change their chord progressions that much. ...They're pretty good, but they're really not that amazing of a jam band to pull off these lengthy movements.

Untrustable / Part 2 (About Someone Else) B-

Almost nine minutes this time. These guys are really taking advantage of my patience! But, once again, for such a long track, they do a nice job keeping the guitar tones interesting without growing mind-numbing. I especially like that ringing guitar tone that surfaces quite a bit through this. The vocal melody is decent although it's average enough that I don't really pay much attention to it. The last three minutes of the track is a completely different groove, but this one sounds weird, flighty and not very absorbing. It consists of a very disjointed bass-groove and weird, rubbery guitar textures. That was probably the 'experimental' portion of the album, and ... gosh, these guys are better off if they just concentrate on the normal stuff.


Caravan: Better By Far (1977)

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Better By Far

Feelin' Alright B

Why I'm feeling smashing, thanks for asking! (OK, technically, there wasn't a question mark at the end of that song title... but in my defense, only about four people are ever going to read this track review. I think I can live my life happily knowing that only four people in the world think I'm a tit.) ...But anyway, I've gotta say that I sympathize with every Caravan fan in the world when they say that this album took the stars out of their eyes. This band, responsible for one of the great early '70s prog-rock classics In the Land of Grey and Pink and a healthy slew of others, had decided to “reduce” themselves as a pop act. But as long as we're here, why not smell the roses? This isn't a bad pop song at all. I like listening to that bar-rock piano in the background. The hooks are pretty strong, especially the chorus. The instrumentation is OK apart from some weird fills with that drumming, which also doesn't seem to be mixed terribly well. ...But on the other hand, it does sound an awful lot like an early non-hit ABBA song. The sort of song I'll listen to politely while I wait for a hit to roll around.

Behind You A-

Well now that I have it stuck in my head to compare these to early ABBA songs, it's going to be hard to get that out! On the other hand, I suppose these guys were better instrumentalists. ...At least they got the drumming squared away for this one—I'll call it toe-tapping, which is probably all a drummer should do anyway—and the melody seems to be a little more put together. The melody has some very nice hooks in it indeed. That ultra-high-pitched vocal I hear singing in the chorus is hilarious. (Not sure if they did that to be hilarious, since I hear The Sweet doing similar things. ...But The Sweet were hilarious, so...) There's an especially enjoyable funky bit in the middle. As a whole, this song doesn't blow me away or anything, but I think you'll like this as long as you're not too betrayed by this band's foray into straitlaced pop music. ...Caravan by way of The Bay City Rollers. (One of these days, I'm going to review The Bay City Rollers. ...And you only think I'm joking.)

Better By Far B+

As conventional album-compiling strategies would have it, the third song is always a ballad. (I guess if Caravan were going to go POP, they'd might as well adhere to such conventions.) And, once again, it's not a bad one. The melody is solidly written, and the instrumentation is OK. I might sling a bit of mud at the lyrics... I don't know if I really want another pop song that has a chorus that goes something like “I wanna make love toniiiiiiiight”. They were clearly shooting for the AM radio with this one. But speaking as someone who doesn't mind some AM radio stuff, this is a pretty enjoyable song. (At the same time, I really don't blame people who lash this album with negative reviews... You can't go AM radio and not expect there to be some bloodshed.)

Silver Strings B-

Again, this is not bad at all, but at the same time, it's pretty dopey. I'm somewhat perplexed to hear such a dopey groove but to hear them orchestrate it with real violins. ...And, moreover, the brief time they pop up, those violin arrangements seem pretty good. There's just a bit of crunch to them. ...And I'm not sure why, but I also like that goofy and cartoonish synthesizer that noodles throughout this. The melody is only OK this time. I wouldn't call it memorable or anything. Seems like a throwaway, but I have some fun with it.

The Last Unicorn B+

Man... were they trying to get their fans to hate them, or something? This is the first song of the album that could, even remotely be construed as progressive-rock, and they go and give it a name like “The Last Unicorn.” ...And besides that, I'm not too wild about this or anything. It's an instrumental that unfortunately doesn't contain much in terms of atmosphere or arrangements. It's a nice enough time-passer, but absolutely none of it sticks with me. A few bits of the instrumentation are rather diverting, at least. Particularly toward the end where a synthesizer and a guitar goes off on a rather enjoyable fusion-filled noodles.

Give Me More B+

Oh man... When this song starts, I think that it's not a whole lot different than some of their classic songs that were already of a pop persuasion... But then they get to the chorus where they really ham it up with that boisterous “Give me moooooooooooore!” Although, just like “Behind You,” I find that sort of endearingly hilarious. I'm also not going to claim that this is a badly written song; the hooks are strong enough. I like the 3/4 time signature, which I don't really hear very often in pop music it seems. ...And really out of nowhere, a very melancholy violin starts to play in its final third. ...This violinist seemed way too classy for the sorts of songs he was commissioned to play!

Man in a Car B-

...That's better than a woman in a car.. ...Because women can't drive. (Of all four people who are reading my track reviews, I know for a fact that none of them are women.) This is another OK song, but I don't find the melody all that fun to listen to. The instrumentation is fine but it seems just a bit loose around the edges. In the middle, there's a somewhat awkward bit with whooshy synthesizers and twinkly harps. ...Nice that they did something like that to keep the song from sounding too samey, but it also comes off as a last-ditch attempt to drag things on.

Let it Shine B

Again, I totally sympathize with Caravan fans who hate this album... These guys are REALLY getting campy. I mean, maybe it's only a few notches away from being fit for inclusion in The Rocky Horror Show. ...Although that would be something; that would at least make it fun! The chorus is pretty dumb, unfortunately, and they still like bringing in those goofy high-pitched vocals that remind me once again of listening to Sweet albums. But at least the melody is fine. It doesn't make a bad listen, but I also wouldn't call it a vastly memorable experience.

Nightmare A

...It's sort of weird how this song completely comes out of nowhere. I mean, after the hamminess of everything else, this is a mightily respectable ditty that I, at least, wouldn't think was such a far cry away from much of their classic material. It's a fairly lengthy song that I might even call “prog.” It's solid through and through—the atmosphere is rather thick and quite solemn. The overdubbed violins at the beginning of it play some rather beautiful harmonies, I like the melancholic lead vocals, and there's a genuinely exciting electric guitar noodle at the end. ...I would at least hope Caravan fans would concede this one's OK.


Chicago: Chicago Transit Authority (1969)

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Chicago Transit Authority

Introduction 9.5/10

This is a mighty long introduction. Six minutes! But what an introduction. It doesn't get boring for one nano-second. These funky horns playing throughout give it the life that it needed. Such was Chicago's early signature sound, after all. The best thing is that the song doesn't just recycle the same boring old hook throughout. The beginning is tremendously upbeat, funky and glorious in all ways that a band like CHICAGO can be. The vocal melody isn't the most creative, but it's catchy. They do an interesting transition in the middle for a slower, more lite-jazzy section. Despite that the mere term "lite-jazz" makes me vomit in my mouth, this is actually great jazz. The mood is so smooth that it's probably even effective for your bowels if you're having blockage. But the real winner there is that trumpet solo. Wooooooo. That section doesn't last too long, and I'm surprisingly sad because of that. What ensues is a crazy jazz-fusion section. It rarely gets better than that folks.......... The sound within this section is varied, and it's completely wild. Wow. Great work.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is 9.5/10

A bit of avant-garde piano starts these festivities, and it's off on the right note if you ask me! (Who doesn't love listening to avant-garde piano?) That turns into a slightly off-kilter jazz fusion tune, as one might expect. And then it turns into an extremely mainstream jazz tune. It's catchier than anything Frank Sinatra would sing, and it's enormously entertaining. I love how varied this song is --- it might seem clumsy if anybody else was doing it, but it's delightful to hear this done so well.

Beginnings 9/10

This begins with a nicely strummed acoustic guitar! A bass guitar comes up and then some horn sections. Some nicely harmonized vocals take over and a rather catchy melody. They don't change that idea, fundamentally, throughout the eight-minute running length, but that's not a negative. The middle turns into more of a jazz-fusion song, as expected. Except this sounds very epic. Let yourself get caught up in this thing! The seven minute song has real inertia! The horns don't seem to run out of ideas, anyway. They're playing different things throughout this... This is all quite entertaining. Even the end when they just succumb to some heavily tribal rhythms --- it's early Peter Gabriel without the synthesizers! Yay!!!

Questions 67 & 68 10/10

Maybe when these band members were in college, they used to write and sing songs during final exams to help them cheat. Or maybe this song is just called "Questions 67 & 68" for some other random reason. Anyway, this is a remarkably hooky song, and one that I'm sure you've heard before. Their chord progression is really worthy of distinction --- you hear this song's epic gloriness right from the beginning. It almost rivals King Crimson's chord progression for "In the Court of the Crimson King" released the same year, if I may be so bold. Anyway, this quite a catchy song, and everything is complimented perfectly with their beautiful, almost royal sounding trumpets. Are they turning British, I wonder? No? Well, I love the diversity though.

Listen 8.5/10

A relatively brief hard-rock song. Surprisingly I can't think of much to say about it. I've had it on repeat for a few listens. I like that bass-groove that it's based on. Naturally, they make their horns fit with such a song beautifully. This is really solid work. It's a shame this group would destroy their entire reputations eventually.

Poem 58 9/10

What an excellent jazz fusion song. This is more of an eight-minute showcase for the electric guitar than their signature horn section sound, which is utterly absent until the five-minute mark! And even then, it's just barely there until the very end. But, hey, the horn's not just a gimmick. They can make great music without it, too! This is an interesting song, and it sounds like they were enjoying structuring this song --- it's not just an enjoyable fusion song, but it's a work of art. These guys really knew how to be exciting.

Free Form Guitar 5/10

And now, the death-blow. Maybe Chicago weren't as brilliant as all of that? This is a huge mis-step. This consists of seven minutes worth of heavily distorted electric guitar solo. This is difficult to listen to, and I usually just press the skip button. I don't see much artistic merit to this and there's zero aesthetic merit. Boo! It nearly ruined this whole thing.

South California Purples 9.5/10

Here is an utterly solid little blues song. ("Little," what am I talking about, every freaking song on the album is hella long.) This one's six minutes long, to be exact. The electric guitar solo sounds much better when it's playing with a blues sequence than it does alone with that ear-deafening previous track. They include a bit of "I Am the Walrus" in here for good measure. It's nice to know they were Beatles fans... (I guess the Beatles were also among the first to use horns in pop music like this. They weren't denying it. Along with Blood, Sweat & Tears, apparently, which I haven't heard at this point.)

I'm a Man 8.5/10

Another fantastic bluesy song. The rhythm section is particularly well done here. There's probably more rhythms present here than you can count (but they make it easy on you, because they slowly layer the sounds on top of one another at the beginning). They apparently loved this rhythm, because they stopped the whole thing in the middle and succumbed to drum soloing. As I always say --- drum solos are not recommended for anyone. In fact, songs normally are better without drum solos than they are with drum solos. However, the one present here isn't nearly as bad as I've heard them. At the very least, this one's strictly rhythmic and not stupid like they can be. Otherwise, this song's melody doesn't impress me greatly, but it's perfectly nice. The center of attention, as always, is their instrumentation.

Prologue August 29, 1968 7/10

This is a brief snippet supposedly recorded during the 1968 Democratic national convention. They are chanting "The Whole World is Watching." Nixon was awesome.

Someday (August 29, 1968) 8/10

That chant is incorporated with this track. It isn't the most inspired song on the album. The melodic quality of this is average. The idea to bring in snippets of that protest chant was an interesting idea, but just a gimmick in the end. The instrumentation is very nice, but it's getting a bit obvious that the band didn't consider this one of their better songs.

Liberation 8.5/10

This whopping 15-minute song closes the album on a rocking note! The legend of this track is that it was played live in the studio with no overdubs whatsoever. For that reason, you'd expect it to be a little rough around the edges. It probably is. This track gives another moment for the guitarist (Terry Kath, I finally looked him up) to rock your socks off. This whole thing is a bit excessive, and I don't think they honestly needed a double album here if they're just going to fill it up with stuff like this. But as long as they have it, geeky kids can gawk all they want at those guitar licks knowing that they'll be nowhere near as awesome as that. This sort of culminates eventually into chaos that erupts, and then it gets calm in the final four minutes. This slowly builds up again. Apart from a bit of drum soloing, that was a nice ending for this.


DJ Screw: 3 'N the Mornin' Part 2 (1996)

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3 'N the Mornin' Part 2

Watch Yo Screw A-

I watch my screws all the time, thank you very much... This song is actually pretty funny. I mean, I never listen to rap music, really, but this song amuses me. There is a pretty funny monologue here that's done in front of a very muffled drum beat. It sounds like he recorded himself in front of his boom box. The music gets clearer later on in the album, but it's an interesting effect he did detaching himself from the groove.

Sailin Da South B

I still get the feeling he's singing in front of a boom-box. It sounds like the entire music is muffled, but his voice is utterly clear. I really have no idea what he's saying here. He's mumbling in a very, very deep voice, and it sounds like he was on something. After about thirty seconds of that, he just lets the rest of what was playing on his boombox go out. To my ears, it's a typical sort of hip-hop song. The beat is mid-tempo, and there's all these record scratchy sound effects. It's not boring, but I don't know why I should be excited about it, either.

Smokin' and Leanin' A

The music seems a little more in front this time... there's a much more fuller sound to the drums, and I like that echo effect it has. Although I hear record pops! ...The mid-tempo groove this time is very lethargic and drunk, almost like I'm listening to it slowed down a bit. ...It's really strange, but kind of alluring. I hear someone rapping in a very deep and slowed down voice, like he was some sort of rapper from the planet Jabba the Hut is from. All those wobbly synthesizers keep on coming in, which makes it even madder. It sounds like I'm listening to it underwater. I have no idea what he's saying. Why can't I have subtitles? Somehow, I like listening to this. I'm saying that amazed since it's more than six and a half minutes long.

No Way Out B+

Without a doubt, if you liked the previous track, you'll probably like this one. It sounds like another slowed-down rap song that's played for an extraordinary amount of time. Somehow, I'm not into this one as much as I was the previous. ...I don't quite get that underwater feeling from listening to it. It's characterized mostly by a descending, bending synthesizer pattern (that sounds a bit like the synthesizer from The Walker Brothers' “Nite Flights.” An a few spots after the half-way point, I hear what sounds like a muffled opera singer. ...Or maybe that's just a weird synthesizer tone?

Foe Life B+

Ah yes, the toils and trouble of the Giant from Jack and the Beanstalk finally gets its due in rap music. I mean isn't he the one who's the victim? I mean, Jack's the one who came up into the clouds and started taking things... Anyway, this is a two-minute extension of the previous song's groove, except there's some scratchy noises at the beginning of it.

Servin a Duce B+

Well the previous song never ended... this song just sort of started suddenly. ...I can't say I'm hugely into this one, either. All it sounds like is someone slowed down a rap song. Did he do anything else to it, or is he just slowing down the tapes? ...I don't know. The rapper here is actually singing a melody, and hearing it all sloooooooooow like this makes it sound a bit like that guy from The Crash Test Dummies. ...About the instrumentation, I like the drum beat—it evolves and it's as catchy as a drum beat can be. Some of their synthesizers grooving around capture my interest also. ...I'm not sure I'm getting this. I think I'd rather hear it played at a normal speed...

Sippin Codine B

According to Wikipedia, it was Codeine that killed DJ Screw. (Dead at 29 in the Year 2000.) Needless to say, spelling “Codeine” wrong doesn't make it any less lethal... Anyway, this is a one-minute song this time. The drums are pretty good, but that's about it. The vocals are slowed down again. Not boring, but also not terribly interesting to me.

Elbows Swangin B

This continues the same groove from the previous track, but there are some different synthesizers grooving around. Occasionally those grooving synthesizers are catchy, but they don't seem to stick around for long. ...About this point, I'm kind of getting tired of this gimmick. “Smokin' and Leanin'” genuinely sounded like it was from a different planet, but these tracks lately just sound like slowed-down rap songs. Er... what's the point?

High With the Blanksta B+

Again, all this sounds like to me is slowed down rap music, and very little more than that. There is a synthesizer texture I like listening to in this one, though, that makes me give it the higher rating. It's even playing an interesting descending chord progression. ...That's kind of cool. The mutant slugs have a lot of attitude even though they have filthy mouths. Kiss your mothers with those mouths? There are some whoozy sound effects shooting out every which keeps it sort of punchy.

G Ride B-

The slowed down instrumentals have an interesting effect here, but the drum machines are kind of boring this time. I like hearing all those tings and tangs, and those slowly moving strings in the background are pretty cool. Other than that... I get a bit bored with this one.

Why You Hatin Me B

I don't hate you... I just wish you would do something other than take perfectly fine rap songs and slowing them down. Why not get crazy?? ...Again, there's not much else to report other than it sounds like a slowed-down rap song. I'm not terribly bored with listening to these mutated slugs spout out a string of naughty words, but I'm not excited about it either.

Cloverland B

Again, this is a slowed-down rap song... It sounds like it's in the background, sort of detached, like the songs at the beginning of the album were. It doesn't make bad listening, but … it doesn't exactly steal my attention away, either. Nothing interesting to report in the synthesizer or groove department. I can't understand what the mutated slugs are saying to me, so I can't tell the extent of their potty mouths this time.

Pimp Tha Pen B

Yes, I give my writing utensils character descriptions, too. Your pen is pimped out, and mine is the manager of a mid-size garbage disposal company... This is still the same groove as the previous song. Someone in a very deep (probably slowed down) talking a lot about “The South Side” and “We're gonna kick you dogs” and “bitches and hoes” and “You know what I'm saying?” ...That's right, I do know what you're saying, because I wrote that down.

South Side B-

...The main rapper is also played at a normal speed here, but I still here that deep-voiced guy talking throughout this, still leftover from the previous song. ...If you took a shot of vodka every time he said the phrase “You know what I'm saying?” you would die of alcohol poisoning in roughly 10 minutes. ...This is a weak closer. It's sort of boring, and it goes on for seven minutes. ...But then again, I never claimed I knew what I'm talking about.


Dream Theater: Images and Words (1992)

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Images and Words

Pull Me Under B

Pull you under... the water where you DROWN!! HAHAHAAAAA!!! ...But in all seriousness, this song is pretty good. I'm not the hugest fan of those blank power chords... it sounds like they were trying to sound gruff, but they were too afraid to carry any GRIT with it. Seriously, if you're going to write gruffy guitar music, then why not make it ROCK, or something? The vocals are nice, at least, sounding loud, operatic and boisterous. They're similar to Iron Maiden's vocals, but again... not as gritty. The guitars are fast-paced although not terribly acrobatic. There's an atmospheric diversion they go off on midway through that I suppose is nice because of the change-up, but why use those cheap-sounding synthesizer tones? (Though to be fair, I think Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel and David Bowie completely spoiled me.) The overall flow of this song is nice, though.

Another Day B+

Uh oh! A piano ballad!!! …Well at least it's better than “Babe” by Styx, which is easily the most atrocious song on the planet. ...I'm not too sure why they thought using a Kenny G saxophone in it was a good idea, but... well at least it's better than listening Kenny G, which I've tried. The background synthesizers are right out of a 1980s adult contemporary song, and the way the melody is sung is also not too far off. But I kind of like it anyway. At least the operatic singing is loud and confident. ...And anyway, this album was released in 1992, which was like three years after the '80s. I think three years is good enough of a grace period for songs like this.

Take the Time B

I like those synthesizers at the beginning of this song. They remind me of Alan Parsons Project's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, and album that TOTALLY RULES. ...And after hearing those annoying, rapid-fire percussion bits that pipe up immediately after, it's an all-too-potent reminder that that's an album I'd much rather be listening to right now! But anyway, I'll go so far as to say that this is another good song. I guess I don't completely understand people who say that Dream Theater is the worst band on the planet Earth. Because I like some of these complicated guitar riffs and there are a few bits of constantly changing rhythms and patterns that come off pretty well. ...But what I don't care much for is how it CONSTANTLY changes. It's like they were too unsure of themselves to write an interesting bit of music, so they just kept on changing it so it would never grow “boring.” It's hard to deny their instrumental abilities, at least.

Surrounded B-

Another adult contemporary ballad that sounds right out of 1985! (I guess I did just give them a three-year grace period for writing '80s sounding music, but ….................. geez louise, if I wanted to listen to Europe or Bonnie Tyler, I would not be listening to a '90s album from guys who claim to be progressive-metal!) They certainly did like using synthesizers, but apart from the standard background synths, they limit themselves to a boring three-note pattern that opens this song and then fades out. Shouldn't musicians who call themselves progressive-rock work on their atmospheres a little more? Eh, I suppose there's some guitar patterns in this though it never gets terribly interesting. ...The vocal melody is OK at least.

Metropolis-Part 1: The Miracle & The Sleeper C+

Oh wait. I get it now. Dream Theater call themselves progressive rock because of Rush. Those goofy Canadians. And to think, mountees weren't the only goofy thing to come out of that country... Anyway, if you're going to groan, now's a good time to do it. Yes sir, here's a sprawling song that comes from a movie. Did you think those were out of fashion by the '90s? Think again! And... Argy bargy! All these RHYTHMS that are ALWAYS changing so much that it makes me DIZZY. Again, there are a few spots here that are alright, but they're packing so many sections in here that they're bound to come across something that's alright. ...Why couldn't they have also worked to develop some atmosphere, too? I know, there's a synthscape at the beginning of this and some jingle bells (prog-rock Santa?), but it all comes off as quite sterile to me. ...Ah well, I guess these guys wanted to be progressive rock by concentrating on vaguely metal-ish guitars and completely ignoring everything that was intriguing about that genre of music to begin with. Fortunately at least the guitaring is pretty good. Technically nice. I get a bit sick of the rapid-fire drumming. I wish that the drummer was more into building up the music instead of trying to steal the spotlight all the time, but anyway... Enough of my moaning.

Under a Glass Moon B-

If someone's ass was made out of glass, then why would you stand underneath it? (There's my philosophical poser of the evening.) Again with the rapid-fire machine gun drums. I know that he's technically proficient, but holy crap! It's like I'm under fire! Other than that, this isn't too horrible. Again, the lead vocals are decent as a whole. He sings a melody that's not bad. ...I'm sort of expecting him to get shot at some point, but I guess he had luck on his side. The crunchy guitars never do anything terribly interesting. ...I get a lot of e-mails from people who like to deride my constant demand for hooks. They must be Dream Theater fans. Well, it's impossible to deny that these guys have their fans, but their songs aren't terribly hooky. It was like they were religiously against writing interesting music. However, I will concede that it's sort of fun hearing some of their guitar patterns, although I think Rush were generally better at it.

Wait For Sleep A-

Ah, don't worry too much about that; I was asleep hours ago. It happened sometime in the middle of “Metropolis.” Anyway, there's some nice piano at the beginning this that sounds for a moment like Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. I always love hearing keyboards like that! (What? These guys had someone who could play more than blank chords and three-note, one-fingered patterns on the keyboards?) ...But why am I being so cynical? I actually like this song. It's a very competent ballad and—what's more—it doesn't sound like Bonnie Tyler. And guess what, Dream Theater fans? The melody has HOOKS. Whut-whut?

Learning to Live B+

I had someone accuse me before that I didn't know how to live. ...Well, at least I know how to live without being a total douche to people! How do you like that? ...But speaking of this Dream Theater song, this is pretty good. The singing, once again, is pretty nice. The pacing is always changing, but it comes across as a fairly coherent song as a whole. A few of the patterns come off as somewhat awkward, most notably that weirdly paced dark electric guitar part around the three-minute mark. I'm also somewhat hesitant to embrace those instrumental diversions, which just seem thrown in there because they didn't know what else to do, and they don't really do much to add to the song. ...And if they're really going to have a bit with a Spanish guitar part, then why make it sound like I'm watching The Weather Channel? Other parts are less cheesy, and I appreciate those. The electric guitarist seizes a few moments and comes out with some rip-roaring parts. It's all very cheesy, but whatever. It's progressive-metal. This is cheeze-metal masquerading as art! (Oh man, I can just feel my mailbox fill up right now.) Again, the drumming is very busy; whenever he decides to keep time, he comes off as pretty good.


England: Garden Shed (1977)

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Garden Shed

Midnight Madness A-

All around, a delightful track! It opens with a sort of synthscape, but it's incredibly simplistic. They only use pure synthesizers sounds, which are pretty much the best kind. Very tiny, sort of pinpricks create a mesmerizing texture before some bigger sounds come in. This is what Yes might have sounded like if they weren't always so dang pretentious. It's sort of cheap-sounding, but who cares? It's not fancy technology that makes music. This section only lasts for a minute and a towering organ sound fades in, which immediately recalls the classic Genesis sound. As you'd probably expect, what ensues is a lengthy, meandering song filled to the brim with huge crescendos intermittent with quieter bits all in some weird time-signature. That's prog fer ya! What you might not expect from such an obscure band is fantastic harmonies and real spirit to the proceedings. It's a bit rough around the edges... I was listening to this with headphones the other day, and some of those cymbal crashes in that crescendo in particular tried to deafen me. That's a semi-drag, but not a deal-breaker in my book. There's some really cool ideas throughout. The intro is awesome, I love that driving rhythm in the first half of the piece (particularly that dark, honking synthesizer), and that goofy Monty Python bit around the 4:50 mark was a unique touch. On the other hand, I think they overdid those extended sections of choppy chords... I do like the chords themselves, but the sound of the keyboards bug me there.

All Alone B

I guess you might call this Garden Shed's “More Fool Me.” It's a very simplistic piano composition that's neither particularly bad nor particularly good. I'd take that Phil Collins melody over this one, which isn't nearly as memorable. But whatever. It seemed earnest enough, and it isn't even two minutes long.

Three Piece Suite A-

This begins really nicely with some birdsong amidst another quasi-simple synthscape similar to the one that opened “Midnight Madness.” A Mellotron comes in, naturally, and plays around a little bit. It's quite an intriguing opener! But once that's over, they give us a heavier prog-rocker that sounds a lot like Yes. And it's Fragile Yes, so it's the good kind of Yes. The melody is catchy and the chord progressions catch the ear. Things slow down for a piano ballad, and it's decent with its simple, arpeggiated piano notes and fine vocal melody. I do get a bit squeamish when that sluggish, elephant guitar solo comes in. There's nothing in that guitar performance whatsoever. It was bad enough the first time, but they repeat that section three times, which ... bluh. The song thankfully changes tone at the six minute mark with their Genesis Mellotron providing its simple and raw background texture, although the vocal melody isn't too memorable and the chords aren't as amazing as they were in the first section. At one point, it erupts into a rather miserable crescendo with what was, I guess, a sort of Medieval fanfare, but it just came off as sloppy and halfhearted. Eh. But, that's not a big deal, I guess. The final part of this is where it picks up steam for a memorable closer. It's easily the poppiest bit of the album so far with a catchy piano riff and a fun vocal performance from someone singing in a goofy falsetto as though he was channeling Tiny Tim. There's a very amusing bit in there when everything stops and the keyboard player is picking at random chords on the Mellotron... eventually the drums and Hammond organ come in for the festivities. That's much better than those noisy, choppy chords that was all over the end of “Midnight Madness,” in my book. ...God, I wrote too much about this.

Paraffinalea A-

That's not how you spell that word! But if you want to continue making your prog like this, then go right ahead and do it. This one's a little bit childish, but so so charming. We hear that pure synthesizer fiddling around at the beginning of this as these guys deliver a simplistic vocal melody albeit with very good chords. Seriously, if there was a contest for the album with the most good proggy chords, then I hope this album comes out near the top. There's a very slight bit in here where they start singing like the Muppets. Cracks me up every time.

Yellow B-

I don't know what it is, but when these guys try to pen a “normal” song, they get more boring. It's probably because I've been loving their wild harmonies, and the harmonies on here are average. The vocal melody isn't anything memorable, and the instrumentation is plain. The acoustic guitar combined with mild synthesizer sounds does provide a nice, sort of pastoral atmosphere, though. Hm.

Poisoned Youth B

This is a little more of a sprawling time-consumer than the unpredictable crescendos of “Midnight Madness” or the exciting three-piece suite of “Three Piece Suite.” This is 16-minutes long, which beats the running length of “Three Piece Suite” by three minutes, and yet I'm not inspired enough to write such a huge paragraph! This is a song that has its ups and downs. For the most part, I can listen to it and enjoy it. The first five minutes are rather peaceful, and things start to get more dramatic after that. At six minutes, that build-up with the Mellotron resulting in a key-change and a rhythm change was especially nice, and I like that rhythm they come up with for an extended section around the 7:30 mark. The guitarist gets a chance to turn in a decent performance in the final third. It's not great, but it's better than the one from “Three Piece Suite,” anyway.


Melissa Etheridge: Melissa Etheridge (1988)

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Melissa Etheridge

Similar Features 7/10

Features very convicting singing proving that Etheridge wanted to show-off her voice more than anything. It's powerful and loud, but nothing about it is too pleasant. She's certainly confident, though, and it sounds like she wishes that she were actually emotionally resonant. The melody should have been much catchier considering this was allegedly meant to be radio-pop. The instrumentation is generic but for 1988, but the good news is that it could have been a lot worse.

Chrome Plated Heart 7/10

This sounds less like it was meant to be a single. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that it's so great. It's probably filler material, but the previous track seemed so much like filler material that it's difficult to make that distinction! Well, Melissa Etheridge isn't a talented songwriter --- Go freaking figure. Etheridge's gives that pseudo-passionate vocal performance to good effect.

Like the Way I Do 7.5/10

Oh yeah! Bring on the loud '80s snare drums! It's the law that every power-pop song from the era had to include those. Why? It's probably the communist conspiracy --- The USSR's one last attack on the West before they decided to break into Democracy. Let's talk about this song. It starts out kind of boring, but then it picks up some steam thanks to Etheridge's vocals. It's a shame that the melody wasn't better written, because this puts me to sleep even though Etheridge sounds like she's in the middle of another glorious bowel movement. This song would have been an 8 or so if it weren't so long --- well past five minutes. I would have axed a minute off the introduction and that meaningless instrumental interlude at the end. Then you'd have a nice little pop song!

Precious Pain 6/10

Oh god, it's a ballad. Etheridge sounds much more adult-contemporaryish as ever. She comes off as bad (or worse) than her male counterpart Rod Stewart does when she does this. This song is really boring. The melody is only so-so, the instrumentation is cheap and reminds me too much of "Dust in the Wind." This must be boring, because I think the Kansas song is so much better!

Don't You Need 7/10

This one starts out boring-like with a dull melody (and she starts the song by saying "I had a dream late last night" ... OK, I'm going to go back to not paying attention to her lyrics again.) It finally picks up a minutes into it. It has nice enough intertia, and you get enough of a joy at hearing the very mild hooks in the melody. This is a boring song. Nothing to note.

The Late September Dogs 5/10

Here's all the proof you needed that Melissa Etheridge boring. This is six minutes long, and it doesn't do anything. I say this knowing perfectly well that she undergoes these "rabble rousing" choruses, but they're so hopelessly dull that she had might as well have just recorded ocean waves. In fact I would have preferred that greatly! Ocean waves are beautiful and soothing. The only thing going for "The Late September Dogs" is that it's not irritating ... you can think about world politics or something while you're listening to this.

Occasionally 4.5/10

She's so pretentious that she thinks she can get away with an a cappella song (and a bongo drum). The only thing she proved was that she can get quite a bit more boring than even "Late September Dogs." Thankfully her pretentiousness didn't extend far enough to make this longer than three minutes.

Watching You 5/10

This song is more boring than all the others combined. Maybe I'm only thinking that because boringness tends to propogate itself, but ... holy crap. If you think you can handle Etheridge singing a toneless song to an acoustic guitar for five minutes straight, then all the more power to you. You deserve to waste your weekly paycheck on one of her worthless concerts.

Bring Me Some Water 6.5/10

Yeah, she needs water, because she's so thirsty for melody. Or maybe I need water, because I'm so thirsty for entertainment! One thing she did right here was to finally deliver a rock song. One thing she did wrong was be boring anyway.

I Want You 7.5/10

Here is a trite rocker, and Etheridge gives her best Rod Stewart impersonation! This is a banal hard-rock song, but it's probably the best song here. The bland riff has nice enough of a rhythm. I'm honestly trying to force myself to like it just like Etheridge is trying to force that bowel movement on the album cover, but nothing's coming out.


The Flaming Lips: Clouds Taste Metallic (1995)

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Clouds Taste Metallic

The Abandoned Hospital Ship B

This isn't such a vastly memorable opener for the ages, but I can view it more like a “warming up” track. They don't want to blow out their speakers on the first track! It starts out very quietly with some very subtle spaceship noises in the background whilst a distorted guitar noodles around quietly. The guitar gets thrust in the foreground midway through, and it's ugly as hell! And, how can I argue with a dreary '90s song that puts a tubular bell to use? I know that's not an important point, or anything, but seriously only the coolest of bands use that instrument.

Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus With Needles A

I don't know how many band out there can make ugly noises sound so much fun... Normally, I'm against such a thing, but these guys have that unbridled energy that makes it work so beautifully. There's a quiet introduction to the song where it lags a bit with these crunchy space sounds before it explodes into a really loud, energetic “chorus” of sorts. That's really cool, somehow.

Placebo Headwound A+

Ouch! This melody is delicious! In fact, every aspect of this track is scrumptious in every way humanly possible. Great instrumentation, and flawless transitions between acoustic parts, noisy electric explosions, psychedelic noodling, and a bouncy, poppy section. It's not even four minutes long, but there's so freaking much in it that it's nuts. This is such an amazing song! This is something you're going to have to hear. I'm not even going to try to describe it further.

This Here Giraffe A

Man, this band is so good that... um... I don't know. I probably don't need to keep on repeating that point, because everyone loves The Flaming Lips... except for my mom. We took a day-trip to Mt. Rainier and I put in The Soft Bulletin, and that didn't go over well... Oh well... Where was I? “This Here Giraffe” is another one of those songs that's so utterly cluttered with weird noise but it's enjoyable thanks to catchy vocals, very thick drums and a nice, regular bass guitar. All that noise gives it a chaotic texture, and I can only scratch the surface at singling everything that's going on here at once. There's a xylophone at times, acoustic guitars strumming along, an ultra-distorted guitar noodling around, some flute-sounding thing... Completely cool.

Brainville A+

There's nothing like a good old pop song to save the day... Always what I like about Flaming Lips is their great pop sensibilities even though they're still using distorted guitar noises sounds to pepper up their tunes. Although this one has this bubbly guitar strummed throughout, and an ultra-deep drum keeping a bouncy rhythm. But in the end, it's always the melody that saves the day, and this one is hella catchy. The instrumentation is what makes it unique and punchy.

Guy Who Got a Headache and Accidentally Saves the World A

I've gotten many headaches in my day, but I've never saved the world. I saved a fly once, though. I caught it in with bare hands and decided to let it go outside instead of squishing it. Seriously, I felt good for the next 15 minutes. ...Well, I have to say that Flaming Lips strikes pure gold once again with this gem. The melody is excellent of course, but the instrumentation puts it over the top once again. This is one of their more cluttery, noisy songs, but incredibly delightful thanks to its excellent song production. The sections when they bring in those bullfrog croaks are one of those weird, brilliant things that manages to be so distinctive. I also love that radio broadcast they bring in the end... Gosh, I've heard enough songs with incorporated radio broadcasts, but none of them ever serve to make the song somehow more 'epic.'

When You Smile B+

A letdown! But only because I rarely ever get a five-song stretch of songs that are As and A+s. What's less compelling about this song is the melody and the instrumentation, (i.e, pretty much everything)! The melody isn't as memorable, but it's still has nice vocal hooks. The instrumentation isn't nearly ambitious, this time just relying on normal guitars and that rawer distortion sound in the second half starts to give me headaches, and I'm not in any sense going to accidentally save the world...

Kim's Watermelon Gun A

Here's another song that's so awesome that I can hardly believe it. It has a really driving hard rock electric guitar playing these powerful licks with a busy drum section... but we can also pretty distinctly hear some twinkly instruments in the foreground. A few times the guitars stop playing and just let the twinkly instruments play... It all sounds so cool. Naturally, what makes this especially memorable is that great vocal melody. How are they able to do it?

They Punctured My Yolk A-

The one thing I don't particularly care for in this song is actually the vocal melody. It seems pretty trite, to be honest. But the nice thing about this is the really spaced-out arrangements, especially that weird, metallic noise that wobbles throughout the last two-thirds of the song as well as the captivating back-up vocals used. The drum-line is pretty cool, too. Somehow, I can listen to this and think that a rock song about space couldn't possibly sound more accurate.

Lightning Strikes the Postman A-

They increase the hard-rock instrumentation for this incredibly good, very cluttery song. The melody is very good, but the instrumentation doesn't compel me as thoroughly as some of these other songs, hence the “low” score of an A-. The rhythm is good, as always, but its utterly clunky quality only goes to enhance the experience *so* far. I know... I'm utterly spoiled if I'm making such petty criticisms. And, I like the clunky rhythms anyway...

Christmas at the Zoo A+

Now, why isn't this song played on the same stations that play “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas” around the second half of December? ... It's not traditional enough? The old fogies won't like it? ... It's not actually about Christmas? ...... Yeah, so what? It's better than that “Little Drummer Boy” piece of doodie I keep on hearing... I mean, it ruined The Dick Van Dyke Show for me, it's so evil... Well, except there's that one time when David Bowie and Tasha Yar's grandpa sang it on TV. Then it was cool... ..............Er, I apologize for that. It's two days after Halloween right now, and I'm hopped up on half a bag of bargain-price Hershey Kisses. Where was I? Oh yes, this song is so utterly awesome that it beats all other awesome things that I can think of right now. It's so catchy that it would have been something that The Beatles might have composed if they lasted until the '90s and kept their awesomeness intact. I know, that's a terrible thing to say, but I have to think of a high compliment. That ultra-fuzzy guitar going off in my left speaker is that important lovable “factor” that pushed it over the edge for me. And extra kudos for bringing back the tubular bell! Have I told you how much I like it when rock bands use the tubular bell? Seriously, if I was in a rock band, that's the only instrument you would probably hear... I can't sing, so that's probably a good thing.

Evil Will Prevail A

Did I mention that these guys are killing me? I mean, this is almost a folk song with acoustic guitars strumming and no drum beat until the second half. Naturally, there's some spaced-out electric guitars fiddling throughout, but this still a relatively straight song for the album. The melody is absolutely splendid, too. I used to have such a cynical view of '90s music that I didn't think anybody wrote good melodies in that decade. Of course that was naive and stupid, but I still get a minor shock when I hear so many great melodies in one place.

Bad Days A

OK, I'm experiencing a sugar crash pretty badly now, but it's only appropriate since this is the last song, and it's called “Bad Days.” I live such a bland life that sugar crashes are about the extent of the effects of my substance abuse, but I'm seriously about to pass out... mrrrrhhhh... OK, it's not that bad. But what a cool song! The beginning of it is nice and jangly with funny lyrics about pretending to murder your boss, or something. They bring in their loud, pounding drums in the second half as well as that glorious fuzz guitar. Somehow, the song manages to be delicate amidst the drums and the fuzz guitar with those sweet “ooohs” in the background.


A Flock of Seagulls: A Flock of Seagulls (1982)

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A Flock of Seagulls

I Ran 10/10

I'd imagine that it's difficult for even people who hate '80s music to dislike "I Ran," which was a huge hit in 1982 and still gets considerable radio play to this day. It takes about a minute and a half to start up, but it takes us through a pretty nice synth-passage with ear-catching chord progressions and a fun beat. Their instrumental work is very enjoyable in the '80s method. When the actual song pipes up, the melody is so catchy and danceable it's no wonder this song is still widely known to this day. It has a great guitar riff and dated (but extremely fun and semi-innovative) instrumentation. Take it or leave it, this is classic '80s pop at its best.

Space Age Love Song 8/10

It's a shame that they couldn't quite keep up with it. This is a much lesser effort! You can already tell that they didn't spend quite as much time with the instrumentation (although it's still fun ... you can hear the "Space Age" in it). The chord progression isn't quite as capturing, which is a shame! The melody is also quite a bit more simpler (consisting basically of two or three notes) and it seems to rely pretty strongly on the atmosphere. I will certainly give them credit for creating a relatively successful and thick atmosphere, but this song just isn't unabashed fun. You can note my sheer disappointment.

You Can Run 7/10

Of course, "You Can Run." You just ran so far away!! (Bad joke, but I couldn't resist just the same.) Again, they continue with thier practice of their long, bloated 1+ minute introductions before they think about adding some singing. Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that--it's just a weird habit! But there's a huge problem. This song has a horrible chord progression and it relies almost exclusively on its jerky drum machine beat. Where's the thick atmosphere? They still rely on some spacey guitar chords and synths but it's considerably thinner than the previous two tracks. Well, I hate to say it, but that's all just not good enough! The melody, to put a final stake in the coffin, is not catchy whatsoever. It's simple and it sounds like it was made up on the spot. Meh.

Don't Ask Me 7/10

This ends their habit of 1+ minute introductions. (At thirty seconds, it's still considerably longer than most, however.) It's unfortunate that this is such a bland pop-rocker. You could argue that the lyrics are goofy fun, but ... who cares about the lyrics when the melody is so bland? At the same time, this is a strictly silly song that's not difficult to sit through. The bouncy (but harmonically bland) guitars help with some of that. It certainly seems to have the right spirit.

Messages 8/10

Only a 15-second intro. Slowly getting normal, are we? It's for the best, anyway. This is the best song on the album since "I Ran," which isn't saying much frankly! The guitar riffs do manage to have some ear-catching power. I also think the melody is alright, but it would be nice if their chorus wouldn't consist of three notes altogether (it's mostly one note though). There's some pretty enjoyable guitar interchanges to boot. Altogether, this track is lacking, but it's mildly enjoyable enough to be worth hearing.

Telecommunication 8/10

This is easily the strangest track of the album. It consists of an almost industrial groove consisting of a very metalic sounding synthesizer! It's an interesting sound although slighly grating to the ears. They do the best they can with this novelty, but they don't have a melody to back it up. Just the same, this song is unusual enough to work. I like some of their rhythmic ideas, too.

Modern Love is Automatic 6.5/10

Just a wind sound effect starts it off, which isn't exactly impressive after we already heard how they began "I Ran" and "Space Age Love Song." But we get an idea of why they did that once a creepy and slow electric guitar solo pipes up gracefully in the background. Surely enough a new wave beat pipes up around the 1:15 minute mark as they try to deliver a catchy groove. Well, if you've picked up the general trend of the album, their "efforts" didn't produce anything extremely catchy. This melody is so bland that it almost hurts! Their atmospheric intro was appreciated but way too simple for me to actually be impressed with it. Well, nice try!

Standing in the Doorway 8.5/10

Funny that the beginning of this reminds me so much of Taco's version of "Puttin' on the Ritz." Well, I'm not a huge fan of that track (and half the world gasps for breath at that statement). But I do like the beginning of this song, "Standing in the Doorway." I like that cool beat, and these guys put forth a pretty impressive suite of sound effects, this time. There are all sorts of noises oscillating through my ears! It's dazzling in its weird, sci-fi way. Then, all of the sudden, the beat changes and the effort gets more danceable. They don't start singing until the two-minute mark and they sound, oddly enough, like Oingo Boingo. I must assume that this is a direct response to them, because the sound is so similar (including the singing style)! They really managed to pull off the song. The melody is only OK and there is a decent guitar lick or two. But it's their slightly crazed mood they pulled off. It helps that I'm an insufferable Oingo Boingo fan!!

D.N.A. 7/10

A 2:30 minute instrumental. I thought it was going to be another huge introduction and they would get around to the singing eventually. Maybe they just couldn't figure out what to sing! Anyway, this is kind of fun in its own way. At least it has a beat you can dance to. The guitar line is OK ... it keeps the effort from becoming tedious.

Manmade 7/10

It starts out pretty insteresting. A twinkly synth in a high register goes off as a slow, clunky groove slowly builds up. ... But, um, the idea doesn't quite materialize. They abadon their efforts to build-up the song for way too long. They insert some goofy lyrics about machines taking over the planet. And when the song does build up, it's not nearly as glorious as I would have liked. Furthermore, it is in desperate need of hooks! You might not believe me, but a catchy melody is what a song needs to be enjoyable. You can embelish your songs with sound-effects all you want, but that just seems like you're trying to cover up your lack of songwriting talent! Well, your sound effects and atmospheres are very neat (particularly in the last minute) but that doesn't make up for the fact that this track is melodically bland! I WANT A CATCHY MELODY! BLAGGGHHHH!!! That is all.


John Foxx: Metamatic (1980)

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Metamatic

Plaza A-

This song features exceptionally sparse instrumentation taken on by a single, deep synthesizer playing a slow and lonely groove along with the quiet puttering of a drum machine. Basically it sounds a lot like a Gary Numan song (who I think we're all familiar with thanks to his 1979 hit "Cars"). And then there's Foxx's robotic vocals sounding like some sort of monotone alien. Reading the lyrics—which are a very matter-of-fact description of a plaza—maybe this whole alien vibe is what he was going after? If not an extra-terrestrial, perhaps someone who's removed himself from society. This is usually considered 'minimalist' electro-pop music, but hearing some of the synthesizers interplay with one another (there are about four or so synthesizers grooving along independently at intermittent times in this song, but occasionally they seem to be aware of one another's existence.)

He's a Liquid A-

Well I hate to bring it up, but I still have Gary Numan on the mind, and this stuff isn't really holding a candle to The Pleasure Principle. However, I still like the style. And maybe Foxx lets himself get more flowery than Numan ever would? This one features a very slow paced drum machine pounding away at a never-changing pace while some cold and lonely synthesizers play loops. Occasionally, we get some beeping calculator synths, and at one point I hear someone whistling. (The whistling is mostly what I meant by “flowery!”) This is good, but not great.

Underpass A

This one sounds like it could have been a minor hit in 1980. I don't know, but it was cutting edge and it's pretty catchy. Although Foxx isn't helping the inevitable Gary Numan comparisons by calling this song “Underpass,” is he! Well, the lyrics are pretty cryptic, so they're not obviously about watching cars go by.

Metal Beat A-

This continues to be slowly paced, but his sparse use of effects gives it its class. This sounds almost like a synth-pop version of a slow tango with a steady but driving rhythm and a lead synthesizer playing kind of a flowery groove. The blippy and bloopy sound effects add to the fun, which almost gives it an industrial flavor. (Well, siren noises, bending synthesizers, echoey drum hits...) The melody is despondently spoken-sung by Foxx, and it's quite simple, but it's also quite memorable.

No-One Driving B+

Here in my car, there's no-one driving? (Sorry.) It's hard, really, to tell what draws me toward some songs and away from others. This one's just as sparse and '80s sylish as the rest of them, but the melody and groove don't pop out at me as well as the other songs on this release do. Of course, if you like this style, this song is hardly going to turn you off this whole thing! It just doesn't stand out for me.

A New Kind of Man A

This one does have that special *pop* to it that I crave in these sorts of songs. Mostly, what I like about this is its relatively faster paced (and heightened energy), but there's also a static-synthesizer whooshing about this in an amusing way as well as a prominent tinkly synthesizer that sounds like the noises I used to hear whenever I picked up a coin in an old-school video game. Moreover, there's quite a lot going on in the background with the percussion... all those bubbly bloops gives this a more interesting texture than most of the other songs here. Also helping is that busy bass-line bouncing along. Clearly one of the highlights for me.

Blurred Girl A-

If Foxx were a little more into being a pop star, I'd imagine he could have turned this one into a bit of a hit. That synthesizer groove he created--as bare and minimalist as it is--is pretty catchy! I had it running through my head for about two hours this afternoon. (Maybe it drove me just a little bit nuts. If he gave it a fuller sound and more glammified vocals, maybe one or two deejays would have picked it up at the radio station? But anyway, as it stands, this isn't one of the more dazzling pieces of the album and thus not especially impressive. But do I enjoy this? Yup... Just not massively.

030 B+

If that amazon.com reviewer I read is correct in stating that Foxx originated this sound and not Numan, then it's pretty unfortunate for Foxx that this album just isn't as good as The Pleasure Principle. This indeed would have been more impressive as a product of 1978 than 1980! (Oh, I'm jealous of people who lived during these times and were paying acute attention to the development of music!) But we still like it, don't we? This is another subdued and minimalist synth-pop song with a swooshy and subdued drum machine beat and cold-lonely synthesizers grooving around. Some of these other songs had things that dazzled me about them. ...I sort of like that whoosy synthesizer playing scales in the background, but that's just about it.

Tidal Wave A-

More coolness. I might not be giving these songs the highest ratings that I could be, but rest assured, I'm enjoying this album. (That is, if someone out there was concerned—for whatever reason—I wouldn't enjoy this. I eat up this artsy-fartsy early '80s electronic stuff, doncha know!) Hard to really say anything about this that I didn't say about the others since it consists of a deep and buzzy synthesizer playing a cold groove while some whooshy sounds fly past my ears from time to time. I like the drum machines, this time, which sound dark and bubbling.

Touch and Go A

So, a fun thing I learned about John Foxx and his relationship with Ultravox... Foxx had been performing this song—and some others—right before he split apart from Ultravox. The remaining members thought those songs were equally theirs as they were his, but Foxx only credited himself to these songs. Ultravox ended up releasing their own version of this song—titled “Mr. X” on Vienna and didn't give Foxx credit for it. This version is almost certainly the superior one, because it's more fast-paced and his vocals are far more playful than the Ultravox version, in which Ure mostly mumbles through it. I also like that he's starts to drown us in planetarium space-age noises at the end of this. ...You might even be able to dance to this version, if you're the sort of person who likes dancing to artsy and cold '80s synth-pop.

BONUS TRACKS:

Film One B

There are a whole hell of a lot of bonus tracks on this album! But who am I to say 'no' to a little bit of bonus track action? (Well, it takes me awhile to write 'em, and I've been going sloowwww with my reviews lately. But what else is new?) This was the B-side to “Underpass,” and listening to this, he saved his more “artistic” numbers for B-sides! And “artistic” is a code-word for “not especially entertaining.” This is an instrumental with extremely slow drum machines and dark, dark, dark synthesizers grooving around like some sort of monster industrial instrument. They kind of start to play off one another at the end, which means the thing somehow gets more entertaining as it goes along. But let's not get too carried away!

Glimmer B+

Again, this is an instrumental. Could Foxx have been wanting to score film soundtracks? ...Eh, I'm sure he would have if he wanted to, since I'm sure we've all seen quite a few '80s movies that seem to have nothing but synthesized patterns on it. And this one's really pretty good since he very gradually layers on more and more instruments as it goes along. It's still not terribly exciting, though—even though it builds up, it doesn't actually go anywhere. But what am I expecting? Don't you think people who wrote '80s soundtracks listened to these B-sides?

Mr. No A

Could this be a response to “Mr. X?” Who knows? This is yet another instrumental, and all I can say is that it really kicks ass. Stylistically, I can't say it's a whole lot different than anything else here, but it has this REALLY loud synthesizer that comes at you like a wall. The rubbery bass-synth and echoey-drum machine as well as the occasional blips-and-bloops from a drum machine gives it an interesting texture. Though the chord progression is also pretty doom-ridden, which might be the coolest thing about it.

This City A-

Oh, there are singing tracks in these bonus songs after all! What do you know? This one probably would have sounded pretty good on the real album, since it sounds exactly like those songs do with the exception of Foxx's vocals sounding a little more louder and passionate than usual. (I guess maybe that got in the way of him sounding coming off like some sort of weird robot through most of this.) Anyway, this is a pretty catchy song, anyway, but nothing I'm hugely enamored with. The synthesizers are grooving around with a drum machine, and they're playing a pretty good loop.

20th Century B-

...Foxx... Man, I remember the 20th Century...... Mostly just the tail-end of it, though. Those were some good times. The track description says this is the B-side to “Burning Car,” a song that I am completely unfamiliar with! That's because that's a non-LP single. It also happens to be the song that comes after this. (A little out of order, eh???) Anyway, this one's gotta be the worst song of this whole collection! The drum beat is quite loud and monotonous—which isn't actually any different than any of the other drum machines I've heard so far—but this is the first time it ever started to bother me. The groove is very abrasive, and Foxx sort of scream-sings the lyrics. Some sound effects pop in suddenly in stereo, which don't delight me nearly as much as they used to.

Burning Car B-

Well, now we have the A-side of that single, and it isn't a whole lot different. It's way uglier and more in-your-face than the far more passive and alienated songs of the actual album were. And again, that drum machine starts to bug be, because it's so dang loud. Where are those unusual drum machine sounds you gave us in other spots of this album? He might have been experimenting with an eviller sound, and I suppose a single is a pretty good place to do that. I can't imagine this sold too well, though!

Miles Away A

Miles away from the previous two singles! I still can't imagine teens bought this single off the shelf like hot-cakes, but... well, anyone who bought it had a pretty good pop song that's full of those new-fangled synthesizer gizmos. First of all, there are some blaring synthesizers that sound like an air-raid horn at the very beginning of this as well as interlaced throughout. Very cool! What I like most about it is there's a rhythm guitar in this that almost gets funky, and Foxx sounds a bit like a glammy rock star singing passionately those lyrics. Perhaps the most early-Ultravox ditty of the bunch. I could easily see myself dancing to this. (*See myself* is the key phrase there, as I almost never dance in real life. But I picture myself dancing all the time!) Nice show.


Philip Glass: 1000 Airplanes on the Roof (1988)

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1000 Airplanes on the Roof

1000 Airplanes on the Roof A+

This begins very quietly and an odd airplane sound effect slowly gets louder. You would guess that Brian Eno would have made something a little more interesting as far as synthscapes go, but what do you expect from Glass? He's a minimalist! Well, his famous repetitive chords pop up. Despite that repetition, this guy does clearly know a thing or two about harmonic sequences. Since his music doesn't normally consist of congruent, linear melodies, the chord changes are everything! So are his rhythms, but less so. Every once in awhile, however, instrumental melodies pop up and catch my ear. In the middle, the song stops and gets quieter. Then, we hear Ronstadt's sweet voice! She sounds scary, mystical and somewhat unapproachable. The mood of the track after this point keeps the same sort of feeling... It's intriguing, ear catching, simple and quite strange.

City Walk A-

This is quieter, darker and more subdued. The songwriting continues to be simple, but the harmonies are completely brilliant. The repetitive quality seems like it should get old rather quickly, but Glass has a tendency to come in at the last minute and do something else that's pretty odd.

Girlfriend B+

Less interesting chord changes here although the mood of the song is quite a bit more interesting than the previous two. It starts out pretty quiet and contemplative. Then there's a crazy explosion of synths ... the music seems almost flabbergasted, and even do Ronstadt's vocals when they come in here. How Ronstadt is able to keep that crystal clear voice while exhibiting such range is miraculous! The end of this track is nicely done although the mood is rather neutral. He's having fun with the synths though ... he gets a little weird at the end!

My Building Disappeared A+

Freaking fantastic! I suppose if your building really had disappeared, you might hear this sort of creepy song playing. It seems suited for a B-grade sci-fi movie except the harmonies are very advanced. Ronstadt's vocals seem to be at the top of her creepily perfect game on this one....

Screens of Memory A-

This has a woodwind melody, which is certainly nice to hear from Glass. (Can't you see? This is a transition work between his cinematic and minimal efforts!) Oh, this woodwind doesn't play much, but it's a nice touch. Very nice. There's a jolting, unexpected crazy section featuring Ronstadt again. Perhaps too jarring for my taste, but it manage to lend the song its weird flavor!

What Time is Grey B

It's so hard to write Philip Glass track reviews, it isn't funny. Well, I suppose one would say that this is very entertaining and possibly the most "minimal" track on the album. It consists mostly of these regular changes, and it can get pretty monotonous. At the same time, it's short and I still like his patterns. It's also reasonably short! You know he's restraining himself here...

Labyrinth B

This is more quiet and subdued. It would have worked nicer if Glass was one to arrange soundscapes, but that wouldn't be very minimal would it! This track features some vocals ... talking that sounds like it was played backwards. This song is best when you're not paying direct attention to! The chord changes are quite nice, though, and the build-up sections were done nicely. Ronstadt is brought in during the final third to give it that level of spookiness.

Return to the Hive A-

This is more complex and less awkward than some of these types of strange tracks have been. The song seems to have a good combination of minimalism and dramaticism. There's no melody to speak of, but the orchestrals are varied, and you're never quite sure where Glass is going to take it. Ronstadt is here pretty evenly throughout!

Three Truths A-

I do like this though people who hate minimalism will certainly be at a loss. The flute melodies are a nice change of pace. This track does have very nice pace --- it's calm and cool. The chord progression is excellent, and I like hearing this song develop. It goes through vastly different stages while keeping the instrumentation very simple (hey! minimalism!)

The Encounter A+

This is considerably more violent and involved. It's also nearly nine minutes long, which makes it the longest effort of this work by far. The twists and turns throughout the track are difficult to describe --- I would have to be a scholar to do it. But they always manage to catch my ears. Glass is playing around with synth sounds, and I believe he's even somewhat amused! Naturally, those creepy Ronstadt vocals add that extra touch that's so valued!

Grey Cloud Over New York B+

Less than two minutes and quite a bit less involved than the previous track. The chord progressions are depressing, which I guess that means it fits the song title. This is more patterns --- there isn't a melody to speak off.

Where Have You Been Asked the Doctor A

This is one of the more successfully creepy songs of the album. The harmonic progressions are interesting to me, and I really like how Glass arranges this one. He has sounds going off all over the place, and more of those fun synthesizers. Yet, Ronstadt is at the center of all of it!

A Normal Man Running A+

Now the album is over, and he saves one of the best for last. Here is a very dazzling track featuring Ronstadt singing like she's some sort of alien space-queen. The repetitive synthesizers twinkle!


Patty Griffin: Living With Ghosts (1996)

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Living With Ghosts

Moses B+

Strummy, strummy, strummy acoustic guitar and all-in-your-face singing. Don't think I think this music is boring or terrible or anything, but I can only use so many words to describe strummy, strummy, strummy acoustic guitar and all-in-your-face singing. So, my reviews are bound to get a little sardonic here and there. It's a good song, though. She sings this pretty loudly, which I hope I impressed upon you in my Neutral Milk Hotel review doesn't automatically mean it's emotional. But she's managed to convince a few people in the world that her yelling is emotional, so whatever. I won't argue with them. She's so loud that she's basically forcing me to paying attention, which is important, since folky female music doesn't always impress me. The melody isn't bad, but it also isn't particularly memorable. I've listened to this song a half dozen times now and I still don't remember how it goes... (OK, that was a pretty long track review... but the other ones will get shorter.)

Let Him Fly B

Another nice strummy strummy female folk song. She's not really yelling, this time, except toward the end when she gets passionate. I guess this is a ballad. It's hard to know since it's such a strummy strummy song! But this ain't bad. Again, she doesn't seem to be particularly good at melodies. ...Or maybe she is good at melodies and I just can't pick them up through all those wails and things. I don't know. Too much strumminess. I like Shawn Colvin. A Few Small Repairs is the greatest folky female album in the world. I mean, she knows melodies and has a sweet voice.

Every Little Bit A-

Hey, that climbing, dramatic riff she comes up with is pretty good, and I also the vocal melody. She overdoes that wailing a little bit in the chorus and a lot at the end, but it's not quite as overblown as the previous two songs. Maybe I also don't care as much about it, because she's doing a nice melody and she strums that acoustic guitar as loudly as she can. (That's “emotional” guitar strumming......... Again, this music isn't really getting inside of me and making me feel anything in particular. I must be a corpse.)

Time Will Do the Talking A

This sounds like a country-western song. Maybe I am glad the record company decided not to fork over the dough for full orchestration, because they probably would have got Mr. Hammy McCountry to play slide guitar on it. In that case, you'd might as well chop my head off, because I wouldn't want to hear it. Instead, we just get Patty Griffin singing with a slight country twang whilst strumming away with that acoustic guitar. Nice melody, too. It's almost something that I might be able to memorize. ......Well, except it's country, and I don't like country, because country sucks. Sorry.

Mad Mission A

Holy guacamole... Now I'm beginning to understand why Patty Griffin has a lot of fans. She sounded a lot like she was going to be some boring Joni Mitchell wannabe at the beginning of this album. No doubt talented, but her melodies were awfully bland. But right here, smack dab in the middle of the album she comes up with an excellent poppy/folky tune with a memorable chorus (one of the few places where her tendency to oversing actually works). I like the sweet, lighthearted way she strums that old guitar... All in all, this is excellent!

Poor Man's House B

This is a good song, but it's one of those things that starts out boringly with an unmemorable vocal melody. And then midway through the thing, it's like Patty Griffin understood that it was a little boring, so she decides to sing louder. ...Give her credit that singing loudly seemed to make this thing more exciting, but I'd rather there be something like a melody to grab my attention! ...I'm sure she would have orchestrated this somehow. It's a bit bare.

Forgiveness B

This is a nice song. (Notice how I start this track review and the previous pretty much saying the same thing. I didn't even NOTICE until after I wrote it.) Again, the melody is fine, but it doesn't appeal too greatly to me. Her vocals are good, but she does that wail thing in the chorus, because she knew that things were getting boring. ...I like that she cares enough about these songs to sing loudly over them, but I need other things........ I know, I'm shallow. I think the same things about Joni Mitchell, so don't get all pissy on me or anything...

You Never Get What You Want B+

Yeah... you certainly didn't get to orchestrate your songs! Maybe she's telling me not to dwell on it? For my money this one's a little better than the previous two, because her electric guitar plays, louder, darker tones sort of like George Harrison's “My Sweet Lord.” The melody is just as non-memorable, though. She wails a lot in the chorus. It's not that annoying, but it's ... eh ... not as impressive as most people probably think it is. Good voice, but ... loud and waily. “Do you baaaay-baaaay-baaaaybay!”“Walk awaaaaaaaaay, walk awaaaaaaaaaaay, walk uuhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!” *strummy strummy strummy*

Sweet Lorraine B

More of that folk country stuff. I hear that old country twang in her singing voice. ...Somehow I really hate singing that's done with that country twang, but Griffin at least concentrates more on singing instead of trying to annoy the crap outta me. Anyway, this is strummy guitar and singing. The whale comes up in the chorus. With a blow-hole. I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm bored. Nice song.

Not Alone B

It's funny that she waited until now to finally deliver a song that's 100 percent slow and 100 percent boring. I know I've been complaining this entire album that I don't care a whole lot for her tendency to SING REALLY LOUDLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THESE SONGS. But now that she finally comes out with a song where she doesn't do that, I'm completely bored through it. ...That said, it's still a pretty good song. Gentle and sweet. The lyrics are literate. Not so much resonant, but engaging. (I'm a pussy.)


Guided By Voices: Bee Thousand (1994)

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Bee Thousand

Hardcore UFOs A-

Oh no... There are 20 songs on this album and they can all mostly be described as “a rather short guitar-heavy song.” Unfortunately, that's the extent of my abilities to describe things, usually, so I'm obviously going to have to try very hard now. And I don't like it! ....... OK, here it goes. This is more of a thickly textured song with layered vocals and a rather busy texture. What's especially nice about it is the texture is simple though captivating. The drony vocals are also fine...

Buzzards and Dreadful Crows A

Bouncier and more catchy, this one features those heavy and rather sloppy guitars, but the vocal melody is the thing I pay attention to the most. Why? Because melody is always the most important thing! Now, I have a bone to pick with the band that I'm sure their fans will hate me for... But seriously, why find a nice hook like this and not milk it out into a full scale song? It's just a minute and forty seconds. Dudes...

Tractor Rape Chain A+

That's right. This mid-tempo sloppy rocker isn't necessarily better than the previous track, but I'm giving it the A+ because it's three minutes long, a proper length. I'm also giving it the A+ because the melody is catchy. It's nice that these guys are able to write so many good melodies! The instrumentation, once again, is filled with those sloppy guitars. Gosh, they're not giving me anything exciting to describe, here! I just like the melody, anyway...

The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory A-

Hey, they can do ballads, too! And this one isn't bad at all. Once again, the instrumentation isn't anything unusual, as far as I can really tell. It starts out with an acoustic guitar, but they bring in their electric guitars for the final bit of it. Oh, there's a train whistle at the end; that's something.

Hot Freaks A+

Oooo, I like this one. They come up with a real badass guitar riff. It's sort of passive, but it has attitude. I like it! Judging by that sort of Stooges-era Iggy Pop vocal performance, they were obviously trying to get an old late-'60s vibe going here. And what can I say? They succeeded wholly! And now I'm going to have to complain, again, that the length is too short. Why would you come up with such an excellent riff and not milk it out more?

Smothered in Hugs A

Wow, I really have to give these guys credit for being able to come out with so many compelling melody ideas. Maybe they were running so freely out of their brains that they had to keep on writing them down quickly and not take the time to develop them better. Oh well... This guitar-flooded rocker actually three minutes long, so it's more of a proper length, but it never alters its texture and just fades out into the next song...... Hmph.

Yours to Keep B

This folky ballad isn't actually that remarkable. It marks the first time in Bee Thousand when I was bored to some degree. The melody is passable, but nothing that memorable. Even though the minute-long running time might have been a benefit here, it's so short this time that it's awkward. Unexpectedly, they try to sort of bleed it into the next track, which doesn't work too well.

Echos Myron A+

Ah, better! It might not have fit well with that “lead-in” previous track, but this upbeat pop-rocker features bouncy instrumentation and an especially memorable vocal melody. I know I shouldn't be celebrating so much about this, but this almost a traditional sort of song with verses and a chorus. I said *almost* because it's only vaguely structured like that. But still. Yeah. It's amazing.

Gold Star for Robot Boy A-

I think the reason they wanted to create a lot of short songs is because they really like finding goofy titles for songs. Anyway, this track is very heavy on the sloppy guitar. The melody is pretty good, though, so it definitely deserves that rating. I'm also going to throw it out there that the minute-and-a-half length was about right for it... I would have grown tired of it if it was longer, probably. So there you go. I said something nice about it!

Awful Bliss B+

Yeah, I hate bliss! Bad bliss! This ballad is also just a minute long when it would have made a more compelling five-minute song. But how many times am I going to bring this up? Must I continue to beat the dead horse that many of these songs are so short that it's distracting me?? Well, it's particularly damaging here. They start strumming that acoustic guitar, and he begins singing such a nice melody. When it sounds like it's about to pick up into an earth-shattering chorus it's ............ over. Aw come on!!!

Mincer Ray A-

Noisy rock! Actually, this is a case when I'm glad that they didn't drag it out for too long, because there's a flooded electric guitar layered on top of it that had the potential to get annoying. But the novelty of hearing that is definitely good to keep that variety they were going after. The vocals are very light in the mix, and someone starts muttering something in the middle. Yeah, so this is a little crazy. I also think the melody is good. So there.

A Big Fan of the Pigpen C

So, here's one they could have cut in favor of extending their other ideas! ... Not that there were no interesting ideas in here, it's just an unpleasant listen. Someone's picking clumsily on a guitar and the singer is purposefully out-of-key. Sure, it was done intentionally, but that doesn't make it a good idea. Midway through they fade in a random jam they probably did while warming up. Geez....

Queen of Cans and Jars B

Did I just let the last song ruin the mood? I was afraid of that, so I listened to the earlier tracks in the album, and I must say that their musical ideas are less compelling down here. Maybe they weren't such Supermen composers after all! But at least the riff they come up with is mildly likable albeit forgettable. The song production is a little murky, so it's harder for me to like. (Who knows, maybe some people get off on that?)

Her Psychology Today A

This reminds me of that one Frank Zappa song that everyone hates. You know that one... Ah, my brain hurts too much now to think of it. But I kinda liked that song, and I kinda like this one. It's a quick and furious rocker. They find a really weird riff that's too weird to ever work in a real song. But they play the crap out of it. They fade in an acoustic ballad at the end of this... Geez, weren't 20 tracks enough for you that you had to incorporate different songs into other tracks?

Kicker of Elves B+

Don't kick Elvis! ...... Er, don't kick elves, either! Man, they're really getting strange. It's just a one-minute hook idea that may or may not have worked in an expanded song. It's not a terrible idea. I sort of like that deep, thumping drum along with the furiously strummed guitar. A fine vocal melody, too.

Ester's Day B-

There's these shaken, rapid synthesizer chords played at the beginning... But that quickly fades out in favor of a folk ballad. In that case, I'm glad they abandon that, because it was getting annoying. The folky ballad is good, but not great. The vocal melody is OK, but it's the sort of thing that seems like they spent 15 minutes on it and didn't go any further. I really don't understand this band, I guess.

Demons Are Real C

Not even a minute long, and it's a real mess. A rapidly pounding drum thumps along while an annoying squeaky thing noodles around in my speaker. Bluh!

I Am a Scientist A

A very good vocal hook this time, which is a relief, because I was beginning to lose faith. That electric guitar sounds like it's playing to a completely different song, but I don't mind that for some reason. I mean, I've grown to accept a lot of usually annoying things when listening to this band.

Peep-Hole B

It's almost a folk song, again, but the guitar sounds out of tune. The vocal melody is OK. Um. It's not even 90 seconds long. It's a little bit annoying, though, because the lead singer is being a little obnoxious. Like an old untalented neighbor annoying everyone on the block.

You're Not an Airplane B

And the album ends on a predictably understated note. It's a 30-second piano ballad with a fine melody, but it cuts out much sooner than it should have. They're just giving us soundbytes, which is OK, but it doesn't stick around long enough to make much of an impact. The production sounds like it was purposefully made to sound like a worn out piece of vinyl. An interesting idea I guess...


Hall & Oates: Private Eyes (1981)

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Private Eyes

Private Eyes A-

And it all starts with one of their big hits, which does manage to prove why it was such a hit! Its thankfully simple instrumentation predominantly based on a rapidly played piano (that could be thanks to Supertramp's big hit "The Logical Song" from 1979). There's some generally fine drumming with a few '80s embellishments. The melody is actually pretty catchy (though not quite to a Beatles level) and likable enough. But you can tell these guys weren't great songwriters .......... I'm never very impressed with songwriters who do can't think of anything else to do than end their songs with simple and boring fade-outs. Especially ones that extend over the course of a minute. Jeez!

Looking For a Good Sign A-

I find this a gospel-pop song of sorts to be a little bit catchier than the previous track. Although it's almost in a bad, cheesy way. The stripped down instrumentation is certainly welcome here --- not that I don't like a synthscape or two, but there aren't too many producers who can do those very well. So they're following a sort of Occam's Razor applied to pop music --- the simplest solution is the best! Well it is! It also helps this track not sound too dated. The instrumentation consists of a simple drum beat, guitars, a piano ... the only luxury is the real-sounding trumpets for effect.

I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) A-

Well, they're sounding pretty dated although that isn't necessarily a bad thing. They found a drum machine somewhere in the trash can, and they use it! A very basic synth scape with a few twinkles provides some backing whilst these guys sing a few rather catchy hooks. There's some nice guitar plucking in the chorus!! It still has the stripped down flavor, and I love it!

Mano A Mano B

This is pretty bland although hardly disagreeable. It has a nice, by the book riff that's neither stupid nor catchy. The production is still doing the bare minimum, and it's all it needed. I know it's pretty weird of me to always point out that songs are under-produced therefore perfect, but I'm quite delighted by it. Nothing about this song will stick in your memory, but it's a good listen for at-the-moment entertainment.

Did it in a Minute C

They must not be good lovers ... or perhaps they're referring to something else! Well, this track is so bland that I wouldn't be surprised if it was written in a minute! The melody is very dull.........

Head Above Water B+

A very fun song! It threatens to be a *gasp* hard rock song. Electric guitars are delivering power chords, although they're mixed rather softly! The instrumentation is quite entertaining here (getting a little bit posh with those calculator synths in the background). I like the melody, but the main attraction is its attitude ------ well, there's no use comparing this to Poison, but that might be considered a benefit to some listeners...

Tell Me What You Want B

Now, here you can witness Hall & Oates trying to be experimental. That is, isn't experimental at all, but it's unusual for them. Their instrumentation is a bit off beat (at first featuring some South American whistle sounds amidst a subdued drum machine and the guys singing a not-that-catchy melody). Then there's a drum hit, and an electric guitar loop ..... and a rather off-kilter song pipes up. OK... I'll give them credit for trying something new, but art-rock ain't exactly their forte.

Friday Let Me Down A-

Here is a highly enjoyable track. The melody is catchier than usual, and I like that instrumentation (noting that thundering drum in the chorus). It's just a good pop rock song --- very nice!!

Unguarded Minute B

This one begins rather synth-heavy, but it quickly turns into one of their barer productions. Oh, but that's not why this track isn't great --- it all comes down to the melody. This one just isn't catchy. I do enjoy the instrumentation (noting that nice bass guitar), and I think the song is well structured, but if the melody ain't catchy, then what good is it???? I mean, seriously....

Your Imagination A

Such neat groove accompanies this, and it's one more enjoyable tracks of the album. Granted, the groove is basically a subdued disco groove, but it doesn't matter ... it's catchy! The instrumentation here is especially enjoyable --- you cannot go wrong with a sax solo! I believe this is the catchiest song of the album. Therefore, it's the best song of the album.

Some Men B+

This concludes the album (unless you include the useless bonus tracks). It's more of a thundering track that's another subdued disco song. I like the thundering drums again, and I think the whole track is well structured, but it's not catchy. The theme? Meh. I do like a particular section in the middle that features some twinkly synths and an off-kilter drum beat. It doesn't help the track's catchiness, but I guess it lends a sort of 'epic' quality to it. It's difficult to hate this song.

BONUS TRACKS

These aren't worth anything more than a mention ... they're just the 12'' versions of "Your Imagination" and "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)." I suppose die hard fans would appreciate these, but they're useless for the rest of us!


Lobby Loyde: Obsecration (1976)

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Obsecration

Obsecration Parts A to D (A: Play My Guitar / B: Obligato / C: Continuation / D: Legato) A

Why did I bother writing out that entire title? Because this song is 17 and a half minutes, or roughly the length of four normal songs. ...And, really, if there could even be such a thing, this is '70s hard rock gone prog. It's a totally epic. But they don't use synthesizers or Mellotrons at all... There's one electric organ in the background (I think), but other than that, it's some electric guitars and drums. It starts out as an excellent, chuggy rock 'n' roll song where Loyde sings boisterously with tattered vocals before delving into sections with lengthy electric guitar solos. At one point, he starts to play the Phantom of the Opera riff, which amuses me to no end. (As you may or may not know, that riff was originally used in Pink Floyd's “Echoes,” so it's always interesting to hear it used in a song before Phantom of the Opera came out, which caused a boatload of controversy.) Anyway, as this song goes on and on, they always manage to find new textures to play to keep it interesting. It changes gears around the 10-minute mark, getting quieter, Loyde seems to be giving a sort of soliloquy with his guitar! Could it be philosophizing? (Is this like Hamlet in rock?) The mood picks up slowly and sweepingly, and he starts to sing again—this time a little more soaringly, which brings it all to a close with a strong ending. Quite nice! I don't believe I've ever heard anything quite like this.

A Rumble With Seven Parts and Lap Dissolve A+

Well... This is a very awesome blues instrumental and it would have gotten an A no matter what. (I have a bad feeling that I can't really describe what I'm hearing... So bear with me...) But what pushed me over to an A+? It's one electric guitar I'm hearing they twisted to make it sound like a didgeridoo. Lobby Loyde was an Australian, right?... Hell yeah! Let's get some of that didgeridoo sound in their blues-rock instrumentals! ...So why would it be an easy candidate for an A without the digeridoo-guitar? This is really kind of a blues-rock symphony. The bass and drum beat are slow, heavy, and repetitive like they're supposed to be, but the electric guitars are layered so thickly that it's like I'm in the middle of a crowd of people talking. Except their voices are made out of guitars. Oh, and there is at least one thick and juicy saxophone grooving around, too. Really, it's a blast. That part at the end? It sounds like someone's playing an electric guitar such that it's talking! How did he do that?

Rock and Roll Sunset A

A brief song? Two minutes? Hey! This is a fun and highly energetic piano rocker in Jerry Lee Lewis style! I like it, but why not make it longer? Ah, I guess they had to leave room for all the epics.

Dream Tide (A: Statement / B: Refrain) B+

Like this one. This one goes to show that Lobby Loyde wasn't only able to do energetic rockers, but he could sit back and deliver something calmer and more soulful. Acoustic guitars strum along pleasantly at first while a juicy saxophone plays some lines. By the three-minute mark, I finally hear some singing, although I'm not extremely wild about what he's singing about. (Eh? What's with me listening to lyrics all of the sudden? These Bob Dylan albums I've been reviewing lately must've been doing this to me!) At any rate, this is a very nice ballad, and the melody is quite alright... Oh, by the way, this goes on for 14 minutes. (WOW.) To pass the time, I hear a high-pitched and distorted electric guitar solo at the six minute mark. ...Other than that and some very gradual instrumental build-up, that's basically all there is to the song until the two-minute coda when a bass guitar finally kicks in and they start playing a slightly more rockin' groove. ...I won't complain too much about it, since it was very nice listening while I was browsing the web. ...Though perhaps not so much as I'm sitting here paying direct attention to it.

Goin' to Louisianna A-

...Is that how he's really spelling Louisiana? ...Ah, those Louisianans are wusses anyway. They have alligators? Bah! Australians have crocodiles, man!!! Crocodiles eat alligators!!!!!!! ...Anyway, this is another song based on a very traditional blues riff, but they put a fresh enough spin on it that I'm able to enjoy it. Perhaps it doesn't pick up the wild energy as “Rumble” did, this nevertheless makes a fun listen. The groove is taken on mostly by acoustic guitars and jammin' pianos, but the instrument I seem to be paying attention to most is that completely juicy saxophone grooving around. Lobby Loyde sings around in a guttural fashion, although he sounds awfully quiet in the mix for some reason! ...This is also extremely lengthy, this time clocking in at almost eight minutes! And yet it never gets boring... if anything, I get more into it as it goes along, since it seems to very gradually pick up steam as it goes along. At one point, one of the acoustic guitars actually starts to solo a bit, and that's pretty fun to hear... Although when it's all said and done, eight minutes was a bit excessive. It would have been better at five. ...In my opinion.

Congratulateonies

...Is that how he's really spelling Conglaturation? ...Well this is an album of extreme contrasts when it comes to song lengths, isn't it? This is 47 seconds long, and consists of this really weird and dark groove that eventually fades out. It's a pretty cool riff, and might have made a decent heavy metal song. ...Were these guys worried about writing a famous metal song or something and then get typecast into something they didn't want to do???

BONUS TRACKS

Do You Believe in Magic B+

(By the way, these bonus tracks have no bearing in the overall album rating...) I thought this was going to be a Lovin' Spoonful cover, but nope. This is a whole new song. This is definitely more of a *song* than the actual album it was on, which was kind of a blues-rock symphony. ...Anyway, this is pretty good. The guitars are rockin' and poundin', I hear that same saxophonist noodling around, and it gets busier and more chaotic as it moves toward the end. No doubt, this would be a lot of fun to hear in a pub somewhere. Unfortunately, I'm underwhelmed by the vocal melody...

Love Lost on Dream-tides B+

As you might have guessed, this is a lot like “Dream Tide” from the album. It's mid-tempo, instrumented mostly with acoustic guitar, and I continue to hear that saxophone noodling around! The main difference is this is a lot shorter (four and a half minutes), and there's a lot more singing.

Gypsy in My Soul A-

Ah good! More rock 'n' rolling than the previous song and thus more exciting! It doesn't seem to be mixed terribly well (the vocals are verrrrrrrrrry quiet in the mix). But oh well... it just makes it sound more dirty. They get a nice toe-tapping little groove going through much of this where the guitars are crunchy, and the beefy saxophone is still given plenty of room to noodle around at will. They slow it down for the chorus and a very unusual coda where they're playing a detached groove... It's quite odd. And it's kind of compelling me.

Too Poor To Die A

This is another verrrry muddy bit of rock 'n' roll mayhem. And I *really* mean rock 'n' roll mayhem. I hear these guys going to town with their guitars, playing as fast as they can. They even manage to find a very catchy heavy metal riff to play in a few spots! (The song comes with a “previously unreleased” tag to it, so … yes, these guys wouldn't become too famous. They weren't AC-DC or anything like that.) By far the weirdest thing about this song is the vocals. Lobby Loyde is singing like he went into a haunted house on Halloween while overdosing on hallucinogenics... really, very odd. But the weirdest thing about this is there's a female singer who is singing like she's apart of the hallucination, hissing and yelling in a manner that suggests she was unconcerned about the rhythm of the song, or that Loyde was trying to sing as well ...I really have no idea what I'm listening to. FREAKY.

Desperate For a Quid A-

I'm desperate for a squid!! (Seriously, calamari is some great stuff.) This is an interesting two-and-a-half-minute long instrumental that sounds like a hard rock version of Middle Eastern music. I hear a gruffy guitar making noisy crunches while this horn noodles around in a bendy way. Also strange.

First of Is (A: At the Colosseum / B: The Fist Falls) A

It's hard to really say “no” to their attempts at hard-rock/prog-rock. I mean, they're not complicated or bother with arranging them with anything other than guitars, drums, electric organs, a saxophone, and … I think I hear a piano … but the textures and melodies they come up with are pretty good. Plus it rocks when it wants to. There's a part in the middle that's pretty good... maybe it's as close as they get to creating the “geeky aura of starry eyed wonder” feeling that most prog bands of the '70s were chasing, and really it's kind of fun to listen to. (Those rumbly organs finally take center stage at one point!) Of course the main star of the show is the electric guitar noodles, and those are very fun to hear, especially by the six-minute mark when that same old beefy saxophone puts in some input.


Barry Manilow: Barry Manilow II (1974)

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Barry Manilow II

I Want to Be Somebody's Baby 9/10

This is Manilow's admission that he never had a mother! (HAH HAH...hah....... OK that's not funny.) Anyway, this is a very '70s sounding song for better or worse. I do enjoy it though, because the melody is rather catchy. That's the most important factor when listening to pop music, after all. The instrumentation is varied --- it consists of bongo drums and rather elaborate horn arrangements. Hey, he's already working to be the Vegas superstar!

Early Morning Strangers 9.5/10

What an enjoyable soft rock ditty. The melody is catchy, and it does contain one or two nice chord changes. Again, it sounds very '70s to a fault, but the melody makes up for it. It's also complex enough to give it some artistic merit (notably, it almost turns into a jazz song in the middle). The instrumentation is rather usual, but at least there's a clavinet! Yay!

Mandy 10/10

Everyone seems surprised to learn that this famous ditty is from Barry Manilow. Although please note that he didn't lend a hand in the songwriting. This was a megahit that is played all the time on the radio. And guess what? I like hearing it. It's corny and over-dramatic in the best way possible. Naturally, the melody is great and does warrant many listens.

The Two of Us 8/10

Here is a rather pretty ballad with a good melody. It's a little boring though --- I'm always expecting this song to explode into a sweeping pop song like "Mandy" but it ultimately doesn't. It's disappointing in those regards.

Something's Comin' Up 8/10

This interesting pop song is also rather complex. Manilow is the only credited songwriter for this one, so you can tell this guy was a pretty talented songwriter. At the same time, this track is pretty spotty. The upbeat sections are much better than the rest. That faux-gospel section at the end is fun --- it could have been an embarrassment, but he makes it work.

It's a Miracle 8/10

A fun and entirely upbeat song. I'm not a big fan of those cheesy back-up vocals, but ... on second thought this whole song is cheesy. This is way too '70s for most audiences to take, but I can stomach this stuff pretty easily. The melody is fine though I can't say I find it as catchy as everyone says it is. The proto-disco rhythm section is probably why this was a hit. I don't find this to be overly special.

Avenue C 7/10

This vomity song that sounds like an annoying '50s television commercial jingle. This guy used to be a commercial jingle writer, and it's painfully obvious. He proves that he can pull off these tricky vocals, but this song is pretty annoying. He pulled off this song in his earlier album, but it didn't sound so out of place there.... yeesh....

My Baby Loves Me 6/10

Eh, more cutsiness. Again, I have nothing against cutesy songs unless it doesn't have a melody that's catchy enough to distract me from that fact. This melody isn't anything special, and all that's left is this relentless sunshine-pop mood that's not convincing me enough to get in that mood. Those back-up singers are awful.

Sandra 5/10

A ballad tribute to a housewife??! (Oh, I guess that's who Manilow's primary audience was ... I don't know what the hell I'm doing listening to this.) I'm going to conveniently forget that I heard the lyrics (because I would really *hate* this song) and just concentrate on the melody. Parts of it are good, but not enough of it. It's not badly written though entirely generic --- in a bad way. This is so '70s that it hurts. He should let the mood evolve better instead of making this so boring.

Home Again 7/10

Yet another sentimental ballad. This album is on ballad overload, although this isn't as bad as the previous tune. The melody works a little more nicely ... the five+ minute running length is too much! At least Manilow lets the song rock out a little bit (as much as it can in such a mainstream pop album) even including a little electric guitar solo. The orchestral quality of this track picks up some of the slack also.

Good News 8/10

The good news is that he doesn't put another one of his freaking ballads at the end and instead delivers a modestly entertaining upbeat number. He obviously saved the best of that for the beginning of the album, but this is nice too.

BONUS TRACK

"Halfway Over the Hill" might be a bonus track, but it actually serves as a nice little closer to the album. It's another Vegasy song with a good melody and (naturally) bongo drums! The scaling violins were well orchestrated. This has a nice soaring quality that seems to define Manilow's best. Hooray!


George Michael: Older (1996)

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Older

Jesus to a Child B

This slow, atmospheric ballad is described by Wikipedia writers to be melancholic, but it doesn't seem all that emotional to me. It's really not a bad song, all things considered. The melody flows well, and the melodic hooks are passable. George Michael's voice is nice and smooth. But why the hell does this thing have to be so long? It's nearly seven minutes long. The last three-and-a-half minutes are exactly the same thing as the first three-and-a-half minutes. Does he think I have unlimited time on this planet, or something? (...the fact that I write extensively in a music blog, notwithstanding.) Come on, man!!!!!!!!!

Fastlove B

It's slightly better than the previous song, because it has a dance groove and its length is only mildly excessive, at five-and-a-half-minutes. The groove is a typical, post-Michael Jackson R&B thing. It's sterile, but it'll make your toe tap as long as your toe isn't too discriminating. There isn't really a vocal melody to speak of. He sings a few lines in the background, but he lets the groove run the show. That was probably a good idea, come to think of it.

Older C+

Well, there has been a slow ballad and a groove-lite dance ditty in this album so far. ...I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's only the third song of the album, and we've already covered the entire scope of the musical styles that he bothers to cover for this album. This is one of the slow ballads. It has a smooth, slick and sterile atmosphere. Again, it's not the worst slow ballad that I've ever heard, but it seems like I already spent a lot of time listening to him do the same thing in “Jesus to a Child,” and I don't notice any discernible differences between them other than a tiny smattering of bedroom-sax. The reason for the lower rating is that my predilection of yawning tends to increase exponentially the more I'm exposed to these sorts of songs.

Spinning the Wheel C+

There's a very odd drum rhythm at the beginning of this song, which is what Wikipedia viewers might have been referring to when they said that he was exploring different styles of music for this release. But it sounds very awkward to me, and it just turns into another one of his slow ballads after thirty seconds of it. ...And it doesn't stop for six minutes. The elevator-music atmosphere is quite sterile, and the melody is forgettable. But I'll at least give it some credit that he keeps that light groove going well enough that I can tolerate it when I zone it out. I'll certainly keep it in mind if I'm having trouble falling asleep.

It Doesn't Really Matter D

I was attempting to listen to this album while doing homework a couple days ago, and it really wasn't going well for me. I eventually told it to shut up and then turned on some Shostakovich in a crass attempt to regrow some of those braincells. (I actually enjoy him, though!) I can't remember exactly where the breaking point was, but I think it must have been this song. It's the third boringly slow song in a row. Not only that, but he uses a very canned sounding, programmed drum machine sound that just gets on my nerves mostly because IT NEVER CHANGES AT ALL THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF THE ENTIRE SONG. Structurally speaking, it's two-chords, and he never even bothers breaking into a chorus. Not that “Jesus to a Child” had a chorus, but this is the moment that I'm really starting to want to bash my brains in with my fists.

The Strangest Thing C

Another slow, atmospheric song. At least bring back the brainless toe-tapping stuff you gave me in “Fastlove.” My toe isn't attached to my brain. But these atmospheric songs have me longing for feeling and melody, and he just doesn't have any of that. (Except I'm at odds with the vast majority of people there... George Michael is just singing with a slight whisper to his voice, which apparently makes people think he has passion.) Once again, the programmed drum beat DOESN'T CHANGE AT ALL THROUGH THE ENTIRE COURSE OF THIS SIX-MINUTE SONG, AND IT GETS ON MY NERVES. But I will give him due credit for that surprisingly nice flute solo and whatever that Middle-Eastern-sounding instrument I hear in the background. If I just focus my attention on those and tone out the drums, I kind of start to enjoy this. ...I'll also add that I appreciate that George Michael didn't fade this out, but suddenly slowing down the tempo, which has been nonstop for six minutes, comes across as terribly awkward.

To Be Forgiven B+

...Well, I think this at least proves that George Michael hasn't turned me off of every slow song that ever existed. He actually manages to create something here that I find quite pleasant, and there's nothing here to speak of that irritates me. The running length is kept at five-and-a-half-minutes, which is still excessive for a two-chord song that sounds exactly the same from beginning to end. It would have been a better three-minute song. But as I said, it's pleasant. The groove is more organic. Michael's whispery vocal melody, while still devoid of emotion, is more on the haunting side. The real star of the show continues to be the flautist who works his/her way into the groove in a rather haunting manner. My only beef is that part in the final third where the song pauses a bit before starting up again. That does nothing but throws the song off the tracks.

Move On C-

The first moments of this song are almost a relief, because they're not a song. They're some sound effects of a small cocktail party. Eventually they start to applaud and, lo and behold, George Michael starts to sing. ...Was he really so insecure that he needed to artificially implant applause in his songs? Or maybe he was just trying to recreate the intimate atmosphere of a nightclub? I don't know. All I know is that this is yet another slow ballad. The groove is more snappy than they have been lately, but it continues to come across as canned, plastic and infinitely unchanging. The melody is uninteresting, and I'm still not convinced that his quiet whispery vocals translates to passion.

Star People B

This song is sort of good, and we have at long last found a song that's good for brainless toe-tapping as opposed to just another sleepy slow thing. I took a bathroom break between this and the previous song, which might have recharged my batteries slightly. Again, I take issue with the fact that the programmed rhythm section is 100 percent unchanging throughout the whole piece. Michael's vocal melody is kind of good; he hits a few hooks. He also doesn't sing in such a whispery manner and for once puts a bit of humph into it. The female backup singers, while sounding just as stiff and plastic as the groove, also help providing some variety to the texture. …Even as this song passes the five-minute mark, I'm sort of enjoying it. So there you go. Nice work, Georgie boy.

You Have Been Loved B-

Yup, back to the bland slow songs. Again, there's not a huge difference between this and “Jesus to a Child.” Well, the melody is slightly different and there isn't as much percussion, if you want to get technical about it. On the other hand, this song isn't very irritating. George Michael's whispery vocals are pleasant to listen to even though I'm not at all getting that feeling of melancholy that everyone says I should be getting. The melody is rather nice. Like some sort of lullaby. Putting me to sleeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Free C+

More like I'M FREE OF THE BORINGNESS OF THIS GEORGE MICHAEL ALBUM!!! I suppose George Michael will always be on my good side since he let himself become the butt of a funny joke on a scene from Extras, and bearing through this boring album of his from 1996 was a relatively small price to pay for that. Nonetheless, it doesn't excuse the fact that this album was BORING, and I'm hella glad to be done with the track reviews. ...Well, almost done. I guess I haven't talked about this particular song yet. Did I say song? This is actually an instrumental. It takes awhile for it to build-up its thick atmosphere consisting of bedroom saxophone noises. I guess because Michael realized it was boring, he brought in a canned groove midway through. It's very thick and smooth, like PeptoBismol, but it's really nothing to write home about. The smartest thing he did was only make it three minutes long. Now, if he only exercised that sort of smartness for the previous 10 songs...


Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)

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Double Nickels on the Dime

D.'s Car Jam / Anxious Mo-Fo A-

Alright. Here goes the first of 43 track review. Wish me luck. They start the album off on more of a hyperactive punk route, which I understand is their roots, after all. The riff is quick, and catchy. The bass guitarist is off doing his own thing, playing what sounds like jazzy progressions part of the time. It all sounds very thrown-together, and very willy-nilly. The lead singer, D. Boon, has a similar approach to this willinilliness, I'm guessing he improvises that melody. The energy is undeniable. Invention, too? Sure! Charm? Why not!

Theatre is the Life For You A-

Another 90 second song, they start this one up calmly and quietly with some spooky acoustic guitars. But it's not quick before a bass-groove starts to play, and they play a jumpy song. The guitars are tight and almost funky. The electric guitars noodling and soloing around are fun and inventive. Cool!

Viet Nam A

I like those tight drum rolls at the beginning of this... Drumming is not always something I remember to mention in song reviews, but this guy's as undisciplined as the others, and obviously having a lot of fun too. That said, this is by far the most “together-sounding” song of the album yet, delivering a hyperactive funk-groove consistently the whole way through. Is it fun and energetic? Yup.

Cohesion B

Almost two minutes long, and it sounds positively long-winded compared to everything else. Give them points for diversity; this is an acoustic guitar instrumental. It's hardly a very complicated acoustic guitar arrangement. A lot of arpeggiated chords. It's nice to hear, but ... hm. It's not too good on its own. But since the idea of this whole album is to give us a smörgåsbord of little songs no matter what they are, it's pretty cool in context of everything.

It's Expected I'm Gone A-

Also two minutes, although the amounts of different grooves they come up with, it could very well be considered two songs. It starts with a very plain sounding drum as though he was going to play a pop song or something. A minimal two-note high-pitched bass comes in almost making it sound like another funk song. But the heavier, punk guitars and the more growling vocal performance makes it more firmly routed in punk-rock. That instrumental interlude in the middle is probably more closely related to jazz fusion... and they deliver a cool, clean improvised solo!

#1 Hit Song A-

The song begins with a fade-in of the drums and guitars rumbling away. After that a mid-tempo and snappy riff starts to play. The bass guitar plays a nice, steady groove, which makes this overall surprisingly steady and logical. The electric guitar solo continues to be good though not amazing. The lyrics are spoken in a sarcastic manner and not screamed, which is sort of cool.

Two Beads At the End A+

Great riff, but why does it sound so familiar? Maybe I just remember it from when I listened to this album ages ago, and it managed to implant itself firmly in my brain. Five points to anyone who knows. I don't care, because it's a GREAT RIFF! The hyperactive guitars are excellent here, particularly those opening licks which vaguely recalls Chuck Berry, but puts a distinctly more punkish flavor to it. Not bad, sirs!!!

Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want The Truth A

New wave is the truth! (Isn't it?) Anyway, they take a more Velvet-Underground-ish turn on this one, providing a rather complicated and mesmerizing texture, and they speak the lyrics. It reminds me of a specific Velvet Underground song except this one's at a much more merciful two minutes.

Don't Look Now B

Ah, now why did they have to bring in a live recording? ...Ah, I don't care. It still fits in with their policy of throwing together songs in here no matter what it is. It's not very well recorded, though. I can hear a girl squawking in the audience about as clearly than I can hear the guitars. Hm. I don't know about the song. I can't hear it well as I would like. Um.

Shit From an Old Notebook A+

Ah yes, the studio stuff is back, and I can hear the guitars as clearly as a bell. This is one of their more excitable punk songs with tight guitars playing some impressively good licks. D. Boon's vocal performance is loud and fun, still sounding as though he's improvising some of it. The drumming has all sorts of flashy fills. And, most importantly, this song has great flow and I like to hear it! The rather extended guitar solo toward the end is remarkably tight and good.

Nature Without Man A

I suppose it would be as more chaotic and unpredictable as this song? Are they telling us humans put some order to the universe? Does PETA know about this? Once again, there's not a shortage of quick and flashy ideas for a song that's not even close to two minutes long. The guitars play a wayward sort of loop in some parts and, other parts, making a particular stabbing sound. Interestingly, even though this is basically “punk” music the guitars are playing things that don't sound like anything else on the album.

One Reporter's Opinion B+

Hah, well! This is still a winner. The beginning of it is more of a weird, low-key jam sort of thing with rumbly instruments play a funny texture. It's interesting, but not entirely captivating. The bass guitarist gets it together for the second half, playing a quick bass line. The lead guitars take a sloppier route this time. It doesn't flow as nicely as I would have liked. But for something that sounds so improvised, this is basically excellent.

Political Song For Michael Jackson to Sing A+

Ah, this is more like punk I think. I really don't know what I'm talking about. Those huge, raucous drum sounds. Those dirty, dirty guitar sounds play an extremely catchy riff, and Boon's lead singing has quite a good growl to it. He was an engaging performer. Once again, the guitar solo is excellent and brief.

Maybe Partying Will Help A-

Well, partying won't hurt unless you're some sort of binge drinker. This is one of the sloppier punkish songs, and I like that tight riff they create. It goes back and forth between this groove and a more calmer acoustic part. Geez, even though these are short songs, they can still put quite a bit in them. Once again, they bring in a cool guitar solo at the end. Guitar fans probably love this whole album...

Toadies A

I like toads! I really don't know why exactly this song deserves an A and the other songs don't... This just seems better to me. It's juicier. Has more of that raw excitement. A great, tight, riff. I like the patterns! The foul-mouthed lyrics are funny. The melody is—um—not bad. I like that climbing bass guitar. Good song!

Retreat A

Darker and eviler. The minimalist bass guitar has a nice groove to play while the drums clickety clack around. The melody is mostly two-note, but that's OK. Occasionally, the guitars go completely nuts, providing an effective contrast to the quiet minimalism. It's always a good thing when the guitars go completely nuts from this band, it seems.

The Big Foist A+

It starts out with the guitars sounding a little like they're playing that famous four-note chime from a grandfather clock, but they eventually turn into playing something a little more punkish. The guitars find a good, tight riff to play. That guitar solo sequence they undergo around the 20 second mark sounds really weird particularly with that uncouth drumming sequence. The second guitar solo has more of a ringing tone. (Maybe that's explained by the grandfather clock?)

God Bows to Math B+

Everybody must bow to the power of mathematics. I live to compute! Again, I really adore that tight guitar riff at the beginning, and the bass guitar continues to be cool. ...For some reason I don't get a whole lot out of this one... That guitar solo at the end seems like its drunk. It's interesting at least.

Corona A+

Country-western? ...Is that what they were going for here? Listen to that thumpy bass-line; that's a dead giveaway if there ever was one. I think this is the first time in the whole album that these guys actually wrote a conventional melody. Although, that's probably the side effect of going country-westernish. Their rhythm is quite menacing and hyperactive. The guitaring continues to be excellent, and it has adopted fuzzier tones. This is quite a fun song to hear!

The Glory of Man A+

Now I feel bad for some of these other A+ scores I gave out, because this song is clearly superior to the majority of them. Ah, I'm guessing this is one of the main fan favorites. That bass guitar is as polished as it can be, and those lead guitars play some of the most extremely tight licks I've heard in my life. Even that drummer should be commended for those wildly fast fills he comes up with. He even finds time to do a brief solo in the middle that's as rumbly and as exciting as those could get. YIKES, this one's good. It's also about three minutes long, which is EPIC for this album. They picked the nicest one to drag out! This is absolute greatness.

Take 5, D. A-

Weird. Probably one of the more “avant-garde” ideas of the whole album. Somebody speaks some dialog while a loose acoustic guitar and a loose electric guitar noodle around sweetly. A tambourine jangles along, too. The second half of the song consists of a series of really weird guitar solos that sounds like it was broken. The acoustic guitar comes in at the very end to play something vaguely nice. This was probably improvised...

My Heart and the Real World A

Track review #22! Halfway done! (woo!!) This song is just a minute long, but that was just about the right length for it. They come out with another ultra-stiff riff that plays some rather disconnected, but engaging patterns. The drums also sound slightly robotic, and its interaction with that the electric guitar solo in the middle sounds pretty cool.

History Lesson Part 2 B+

This gets a B+, because I've sat through many-a-boring history lesson in my day. ...No, actually, I just don't like it that much I guess. That is, the acoustic guitar riff is pretty good and the drums keep a nice laid-back pace. It just doesn't have an incredible effect on me. Although, again, they do a nice job keeping the variety fresh in the album. So, there's value in hearing something pleasant every once in awhile. The lyrics muse about some good old rock stars!

You Need the Glory A

This is very interesting. It sounds like a really weird take on world music with light bongo drums going off all over the place and a tabula-like instrument noodling around. Midway through, these huge industrial-ish chords come in. Clicking sounds are coming out of everywhere. D. Boon (or somebody) jabbers along in what I guess is a wayward form of scat-singing. Probably the most creative work of the album so far. They create a really odd texture, anyway.

The Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts A+

Freaking hilarious song title! (I always like a good fart joke. My favorite movie of all time: The Nutty Professor 2: Electric Boogaloo). This song also is one of the more “normal” style punk songs of the album since it has a very tiiiight riff and some extremely exciting drumming work. The electric guitar solo in the middle? Continues to be impressive. Even those very brief calm spots keeps this 1:21 minute song from even having the chance of growing dull. Really, this is one mightily exciting album!

West Germany A

Pffft. That country doesn't exist anymore. Dorks. This song is also one of the more pure punkish songs here with another incredibly tight riff and .... yeah, it's all great again. For the same reasons that the above song is great. (Apart from the song title.) It only gets the plain 'A' because it doesn't excite me as much.

The Politics of Time A

Absolutely hyperactive! It's weird, it's exciting, it's menacing. It's not very accessible, but you made it *this* far in the album so nothing should be a surprise to you. I have a feeling the speed that guy was playing the guitar at points in here was the fastest that he could possibly play it, which was pretty dang fast.

Themselves A-

This is slightly jangly this time, maybe in an R.E.M. way. Of course, these guys' instrumentation standards are very sloppy, so the comparisons to R.E.M. end with “jangly.” The singing is a little bit out-of-tune, which is not too unusual for this album! The guitars are looser and not so absolutely impressive, but the vocal melody is quite good here, and I like some of those drum fills.

Please Don't Be Gentle With Me B

This is 46 seconds, making this the second shortest song on the album. It's funny that there are only two songs less than 50 seconds even though it's a 43-track album! (And the shortest song is a series of automobile engine noises, so that's not really even a song.) Yeesh! Well, this isn't one of the more lasting ideas they came up with here. The guitars sound a little disheveled, and the vocal melody sounds like it was made-up on the spot. There's a good solo in here, though.

Nothing Indeed A

Ah, they're back to the tighter, more interesting songs! The riffs are very catchy, and the bass guitar plays a nice creepy and bouncy wobble throughout. The melody ain't nothing interesting, but it's the riff that we're paying attention to.

No Exchange B+

This seems slightly new-wave-ish to me with that ultra-clean and rapid drum and those pulsating rhythm guitars. The vocal melody is basically three-notes! I might not think this particular song is the cat's meow, but I think this is the only real new wavish song of the whole album.

There Ain't Shit on TV Tonight B

This is one of the more pleasant songs on the album, but it's not greatly memorable or anything. The guitars aren't really doing anything special... They're just briefly stabbing the groove. The bass guitar has a few nice lines, though, if you're even listening to it. It's not a terrible composition, though. The groove is fine, and again, it keeps the variety thing going pretty well. We need a laid-back tune every once in a while.

This Ain't No Picnic A

Ah yes, this is more like it! Not that I think that Minutemen should only be concentrating on straighter punk songs, but they're sure a lot more fun when they're doing that! This song starts up with a few slow fuzzy guitar licks before an upbeat groove pipes up. Boon starts to sing a hooky melody, and there's an excellente electric guitar solo in the middle. It's fun, exciting, memorable. Those are the primary ingredients!

Spillage B+

This is one of the quicker songs, and it's fun to listen to. It has a nice, tight and fast guitar solo in the middle. Although this time, overall, I'd say the song doesn't have as much of an impression on me as I'd like it to. The vocal melody is OK but not extremely distinctive.

Untitled Song For Latin America A-

A tight and catchy groove, and a likable vocal melody, although it would have had to be even catchier for a higher rating! (I hope you're appreciating how hard it is to write these reviews!) The instrumentals are impeccable here. That guitar solo is excellent, again, doing quite a number of acrobatic stunts.

Jesus and Tequila A+

This is a mid-tempo song, but that riff is very weird and very appealing! They let this song go close to three minutes long, which is great because this groove has a lot of staying power. They even flawlessly work in a different groove in the middle of the song. This is easily one of the most and most memorable songs from the whole album!

June 16th B+

An instrumental this time, I would have thought they'd use the opportunity to do some rip-roaring solos, but he uses his guitar in a very minimal sense. The bass and drums play a rather straightforward groove. Hm. The groove is pretty good, and the minimal licks are fine. But why no singing? ... Eh, I shouldn't ask such questions.

Storm in My House A

The melody is a tad more complex than usual, and it's also fairly hooky. The guitars once again sound tight and find a couple of catchy riffs to dazzle us through this two-minute song. Although one of these riffs seems to be pretty circular, which makes it a bit dizzying! That's an interesting effect, I guess.

Martin's Story B

Fifty-two seconds, and very hyperactive. The riff is rather monotonous, but that was the point I guess! The drummer comes up with some impressive fills... In fact, half of this entire song is probably fills!

Dr. Wu A+

Huh, I've given out so many A-pluses in the course of these track reviews that I'm going to have a hard time picking out a favorite track. It could be this one, because it's the only song here that's a duet. Boon talks the vocals while someone who sounds like a cross between Neil Young and Mel Brooks sings in the background. The groove they find to play is incredibly catchy, and I also adore that guitar solo in the middle (as always)!

The World According to Nouns A-

Kudos for the weirdness. The bass guitar plays a somewhat boring groove, but Boon's tinkling away with that lead guitar in a strange fashion. Meanwhile, the drums rumble around quietly. After that going on for a while, they engage in a very detached mid-tempo jam. The vocals don't pop up until a minute of this two-minute song is over. This section is rather loud and menacing, so it's the best part! But it only lasts for a few seconds, and they do that atmospheric rumbly bit again...

Love Dance A+

Ah yes, next time you're in a bar and you want a girl to dance with you, you should make sure this is playing on a juke box. No woman can resist. Not that I have any personal experience to back me up; it just seems like it would work. This is another instrumental, and yes! This time Boon lets it out with electric guitar, playing some mighty complicated licks that mimics The Ventures. The groove is snappy and happy. Yeah, you go get yourself a girl with this song!

Three Car Jam B

I can't remember what I thought about this 43-track album before I listened to it for the first time, but I was probably surprised that the album as a whole didn't contain more of these throwaway-type tracks of useless noise and sound effects. This one, a thirty-eight second series of car engine noise, doesn't have much point to it. But... considering this whole album was a lot of quick and almost random series of ditties, this doesn't exactly hurt either... Hmm...


The Monkees: The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees (1968)

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The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees

Dream World 8/10

Davey Jones co-wrote this song along with somebody named Steve Pitts. It's not bad, actually. I like the melody --- and the harmonies might be somewhat sunshiney, but it's far from the generic tripe that many bands were doing from this era. There's a sense of urgency about it that keeps it interesting and fun. The instrumentation is great --- perfectly mixed sounds including a trumpet, violins and the usual guitars and drums and stuff... It's quite good!!

Auntie's Munipal Court 8.5/10

Oh, this is nice. Michael Nesmith tries on some of The Byrds' country-rock on for size, and they do quite a good job with it. This is an enjoyable song that's fully equipped with a fine melody and jangly 12-string guitars. Quite charming. I like those sound effects at the end (most of which are just Nesmith's voice acting goofy --- ha!!!). You've got to love these guys.

We Were Made for Each Other 6/10

OK. They've gone down the sunshine-pop alley, which is their reputation (though somewhat unfounded --- but hardly worth arguing). This is a rather pretty song albeit the melody is too simple --- it's pretty run of the mill. It's funny that I check the songwriting credits and discover that this was from outside songwriters who never took an Earth science class in high school --- what are they telling me? "The stars are made for the sky."

Tapioca Tundra 9.5/10

Michael Nesmith co-wrote this crazy track although he did seem to borrow the riff from The Searchers' "Needles and Pins." But hey, there's no huge problem, because the song itself is pretty strange and creative. You hear a little bit of bossa nova in here and this whole effort has such a wonderful energy that does that old riff a few favors. Nesmith takes off with some crazy vocal effects --- meant to be psychedelic but you get the feeling that he's joking. My guess is he was.

Daydream Believer 9/10

John Stewart wrote this enjoyable sunshine-pop tune. (Talk show hosts writing Monkees songs --- Oh no, that guy doesn't spell his name with an 'h'). The chorus is legendary --- I probably only think that because I've heard it in CD compilation commercials. Well, it's a great chorus. I probably would have thought this was a Neil Diamond song if I didn't already look at the credit --- this is just as good as "Holly Holy" and all that stuff he comes up with.

Writing Wrongs 9.5/10

Weird....... I guess this is where the Monkees meet Pink Floyd if those two entities were ever meant to cross paths. It's like the Flintstones Meet the Jetsons. Talk about "Writing Wrongs!" (OK, maybe not.) I love it that Michael Nesmith is exhibiting weird creativity all throughout this album and this is probably the most flamboyant example. Not only that, but everything he's doing is freaking enjoyable. The melody closely resembles Pink Floyd's style --- but it's a good one. They go through an instrumental interlude toward the end. It's about 1/8th as drugged up as a Pink Floyd tune, but I don't think the Michael Nesmith wasn't on the verge of total mental collapse like Syd Barrett! Well, this is fantastic anyway.

I'll Be Back on My Feet 8/10

Outside songwriters and not as good. But still quite fun. This is a horn-led track with an enjoyable (but rather simple) melody. The instrumentation is the best part about it --- upbeat with well-done rhythm horn section, nicely strummed guitar and a rather busy drum. Not bad.

The Poster 8/10

Davey Jones co-wrote this one --- and it's pretty good. Not great. The nicest thing about it is undoubtedly the melody although it does get slightly boring after awhile. The instrumentation is fun, but it takes a bit of a cheesy route with those corny flutes --- I feel like I'm nitpicking, though. This is very well-done.

P. O. Box 9847 9.5/10

Geez, just when I think they laid the smelly goose egg, they prove me wrong. This song seems like their contribution to Magical Mystery Tour Beatles --- it's weird and crazy. The instrumentation is very convincing for the era, and none of it seems stupid. I don't even think it sounds dated, but I define that term based on how well it holds up as entertainment today. This is great!!! (Outside songwriters, too --- Boyce and Hart! Lovely fellows...)

Magnolia Simms 9.5/10

Help! I'm listening to this in headphones and I'm only getting sound out of one side! OK, I turned it to the computer speakers now. That's better. Nesmith's fourth contribution here is an old-timey song done in a shuffley 20's jazz style and crackly vinyl sound effects (and it even gets stuck somewhere). This won't get old ... it's even better than Queen's attempts with this music (as enjoyable as they are).

Valleri 9/10

A powerful pop song from Boyce and Hart. This is quite fun! Rather inconsequential when you consider what comes before it, but --- who cares? It's hella fun.

Zori and Zamm 8.5/10

Outside songwriters contributed this strange song. Military drums begin this off to a crazy start --- the lyrics sound like Rush lyrics except the Monkees had better singers. The instrumentation is awesome --- epic sounding trumpet hits. It's a shame that this is only two minutes long --- I would have liked to hear more.

BONUS TRACKS:

"Alvin" is a silly a cappella tune about some alligator. It's very brief. Um. Thanks.

OK, now this is what bonus tracks were born for. A pretty sunshine pop "I'm Gonna Try" is another Davey Jones song. It could have easily replaced "We Were Made For Each Other." It has the same sort of feel, and it's much better written. The instrumentation is gorgeous, too. Violins are just where they ought to be, and there's even some xylophones. Beautiful!

Here's another version of "P.O. Box 9847," and I certainly don't mind hearing it once again! This one's even weirder though and the instrumentation sounds a little less polished. This version makes the song seem even more "experimental." (Not to suggest that this song is really experimental.)

"The Girl I Left Behind Me" is another well-written song. It's weird how they can leave these out of albums. Perhaps it was a B-side or something. Anyway, this is generic but still nice in that sunshine poppy way... It reminds me of Barry Mannilow's '70s work.

Poor Peter Tork. He wrote a song, but it got buried at the end of the bonus tracks. OK, I can certainly see why "Lady's Baby" wouldn't be given a whole lotta love. It has a relatively hookless and generic melody, and I don't really care for his singing. The redeeming factor of this is it still comes off as weird despite it all. Thanks to a rhythm change in his sort of anti-chorus. ...This strikes me as the product of a songwriter who wasn't completely "with it." Well, whatever.


The Monkees: Head (1968)

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Head

Opening Ceremony A

Yup, these are opening ceremonies alright. When I talk about a sound collage, this is pretty much that. Various bits of soundbytes from movies, speeches, machines and music come in and out of your speakers with the expressed purpose to be weird. But even weirder than that is a man and a woman intermittently chanting the word "Head" to each other as if they were both given lobotomies, but the doctors cut a little too deeply. I'll tell ya what, this is lots more entertaining than The Beatles' "#9 Revolution," and it's only a minute and a half long.

Porpoise Song (Theme From Head) A+

And I'll also tell ya what. This song is excellent. Is this The Monkees or is it the Moody Blues? Hey hey it's the Monkees!! What do you know! They gracefully fade the beginning of this track with the ending of the previous one, but I've had to continually press the back-skip button with this song to try and catch everything. This intro is the greatest Monkees intro ever done, and I say that with a strong degree of confidence. The very beginning features a European police siren slowly fading out as strings, a dark organ and a glockenspiel with tons of reverb play a simple chord progression. Then, some sweet piano chords begin to play along with an acoustic guitar. This is just the first 20 seconds. The singing comes in oddly anthemic and dramatic, and the producers certainly don't give up one millisecond on all that thick production. It's even more grandiose and involved than the intro was. The melody is catchy and appropriate for the type of music they're trying to deliver. I also really dig the ending. Some dissonant violin chords, and an electric organ that fades in and out, and some freaky squeaking sound. Yes, this is a perfect song. Thanks Carole King!! Give me this over "Natural (freaky) Woman" any day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ditty Diego-War Chant A-

For crap's sake. They really make this weird thing work, and I feel like I'm going to break something in my brain if I were to try to completely describe it. Well, here I go anyway... It opens with some random movie soundbytes, and then the Monkees come into a sort of silly "rap" talking about The Monkees being a commercially manufactured band along with a music hall piano. Somebody is playing with the speed-knob, so sometimes they're talking faster or slower than normal. Instead of saying the last word, there's an explosion, and someone screaming, and then a chant of an audience screaming "We Want Monkees!!!" And then there's another explosion. ... I missed some things, but I played this 1:30 minute track four times already!!

Circle Sky A+

Yeah, some manufactured band. Mike Nesmith wrote this song! It's less splendid like the Carole King composition, but it's just as refined and equally as awesome. This is quite a ROCKING song. That initial "UUUUUuuuuuuhhhhhhhh" at the beginning is so hilarious, and it's timed perfectly with this intro. That guitar riff is unusual, and it really fits. The song production continues to the thick and the vocal performance is just about as excited as those rapid and spirited guitars. There are some really nicely done chord changes in the middle of this, which proves that these guys really did have songwriting talent ... if you didn't already gather that impression. This song is fantabulous!!

Supplico

A cinematic orchestral build-up begins this, but spaceship noises and God talking ends it. Oh yeah. 48-seconds of cool cool cool.... uh ....

Can You Dig It A-

Yeah!!!!!!! This song, from Peter Tork, is really fun as well. The melody is not so much enduring, but the song arrangements are quite dazzling. You hear these rapidly played acoustic guitars almost with the same character as rattling change around in your pocket. The percussion (involving bongos among other interesting sounds) is so involved that it's pretty much FREAKING AWESOME. The melody is the primary weak point, but I would be lying if my spirits weren't piqued when they run into that chorus! There's a bit of an orchestral clash at the end. Hecks yes!!!

Gravy

"And, I'd like a cold glass of cold gravy with a hair in it, please."

Superstitious

"Sounds like a a lot of supernatural baloney to me / Supernatural, perhaps. Baloney, perhaps not."

As We Go Along A-

Wow, those two tracks happened fast, and I gave away them both away to you! You'll still have to hear them for the voices though... Hee hee!! Anyway, let's talk about "As We Go Along," because that's what I've been commissioned to write about. Carole King also contributed this song, and it's a nice one. It constitutes the most normal composition of the album and therefore the least interesting one by default. I can't imagine giving this less than an A-level rating, so ... there you go. It begins with some light acoustic guitar strumming and a light-toned electric guitar comes in to give its two cents worth. Then a likewise homely and natural tune comes in. This makes a great listen, and I especially love that recorder they bring in. It's so sweet!

Dandruff?

This is forty seconds worth of random movie sound bytes. It's funny and brief, so it's not obnoxious or anything. Yay!!

Daddy's Song A-

Harry Nillson was a great songwriter, and here's one of his coo' songs. It has a nice swing to it with some "whining" jazzy trumpets. Naturally, the arrangements are fantastic here! The melody is catchy though somewhat simplistic. Well, the melody is smooth and the hooks are solid, so I don't have anything at all to complain about here!! ... yaaaay ...

Poll

This is another movie sound collage and it even includes some clips from "Circle Sky." I could be imagining it, but I think I hear Frank Zappa in here saying "Are you telling my you don't see the connection between the government and laughing at people?" Yeah, I'm going to have to see this movie one day...

Do I Have to do This All Over Again A

Peter Tork wrote this song, his last songwriting contribution to the band before he left. (Oh gosh, the band sucked after this album, but ... there were probably other factors at work.) This track is especially upbeat and a lot of fun to hear. The melody is only somewhat catchy, but it's still strong. The rapid and determined beat makes it fun enough to be recommendable, but what I like listening to the most is that electric guitar solo that's playing constantly through it. It's rather simple but well conceived and it doesn't show off. You also have to hear how they're changing rhythms at one point in the middle of this. That was nicely done indeed!!

Swami B+

So the final end. It's sort of the ultimate sound collage ... and it's past five minutes long, so I sort of have to score it. Well I think it's well done especially for such a song. There is a guy with an Indian accent lecturing through most of the beginning as more soundbytes from movies and music plays. Those lobotomized wackos are repeating "Head, head, head" over and over again. Then "Porpoise Song" pipes up for an extended stay. It's the exact same song --- the mixing and everything. The very end contains some classical music!! I'd say it's of the Mozart variety, but I may just be proving to you how little I know about classical music by saying that! Oh well... The ultimate sound-effect comes at the end, very simply. Instead of the usual orchestral hit ending to this, there's someone saying "quick, suck it before the venom reaches my heart" another orchestral hit and "Ok, I will." The end.

BONUS TRACKS

There are bonus tracks but I really hate listening to them. I don't even like their existence. It seems like ending the album with anything other than that "Swami" ending would be a mistake! So in my protest, I am just going to acknowledge them and then end this review. Bonus tracks: You're acknowledged.


Harry Nilsson: Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)

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Nilsson Schmilsson

Gotta Get Up A

There's no doubt about it that Harry Nilsson was more influenced by The Beatles more than any other band. He writes melodies with a catchy punch to them, and he's not afraid to orchestrate his songs in funny ways. This starts out simply with a poppy piano before a full horn section starts to well up in the background. The horn arrangements are very punchy and nicely done—they're quite dazzling and never get too repetitive. (If someone told me George Martin arranged that, I wouldn't question it.) An accordion also plays around in the background, which gives it just an extra dash of flavor. I also like the ending where we get a piano tinkling crazily in the highest registers during the fade-out. In general fade-outs can be pretty lame unless it's something like that. All in all, this is a nice little pop song.

Driving AlongA

Man, this is so Beatles-esque that it's... Well, it's no wonder that Nilsson would soon become great friends with John Lennon. (That, I suppose, would mean Lennon only like hanging around people who reminded him of himself!) This is a very brief (just two minutes) and punchy pop song with a melody that has so many twists and turns that it's surprising he managed to fit all that in there. The orchestration is a poppy guitar and a happy drum beat. Midway through, there's an electric guitar solo... Quite standard, but very likeable!

Early in the Morning A-

I almost want to give this a solid “A” just because I like its sort of graceful minimalism. He's playing a very standard blues riff with a very clean and quiet organ while soulfully singing a generic blues tune. I'm used to hearing these sorts of songs but much louder. Also, it's brief and does something to the diversity of this album.

The Moonbeam Song A+

Such a pretty song! I haven't listened to all of Nilsson's albums (really, this is the only one), but I have to wonder if these sort of laid-back ballads were his major strength. This melody is as sweet and smooth as honey, and his vocal performance is beautiful. The instrumentation consists only of a quietly strummed but heavily layered acoustic guitars in the background. By the end, we get some heavy “ahhs” in the background and... a recorder? This is sweet and graceful. I even like the lyrics, and I don't usually like the lyrics.

Down A

Really, just chalk this up for variety. After that quiet and beautiful ballad, we get a sort of outlandish Vaudeville-style tune with a bouncy piano, brass section, and vocals so outlandishly loud that … well, he sounds a little bit like John Lennon in Abbey Road, doesn't he! The melody is pretty good when you can make it out. (He is, after all, screaming most of this.) Like most songs here, it's quite brief, it makes its impression, then it's over.

Without You A+

It's weird that I didn't know until now that this is actually a Badfinger cover. I always thought that this was Nilsson's song! But many consider this the definitive version, and that's for good reason. It has that bittersweet piano, and then Nilsson lets it rippppp for the chorus. (Badfinger cuts the notes short in the chorus.) A full orchestra comes in at the end to let the song comes off into a grandiose fade-out. ...I probably like this version the best of them, but really it's all a matter of taste. Everyone likes both versions, right? (Oh and more people these days are familiar with a version by Mariah Carey. ...I'm listening to it right now, and it's an even more polished version of Nilsson's version. So, it's a cover of a cover.)

Coconut B

A few years ago, I decided I hated this song. And I'll confess: I was tempted to write a review of this album just to tell the world how much I hated this song. (I remember I was too busy writing Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd reviews at the time...) But my negative impression of this song quickly waned. ...But I'll nevertheless slap it with a B, which I assume is a pretty low rating for a song as famous as this. One thing that it took me awhile to realize is that this isn't a song meant to be taken seriously. He probably meant it as a throwaway novelty song, and he could never have realized that it would escalate into one of his most widely celebrated songs. It has a vaguely tropical flavor to it (a brand of music that I never particularly liked) and he repeats “put the lime in the coconut” so many times that it becomes somewhat irritating. The melody is OK, but it's just as repetitive as the lyrics. The one thing I do like is the percussion gradually gets busier by the end, and it gets pretty dazzling.

Let the Good Times Roll A-

This is also a cover. But not of the Cars song! (Come on, The Cars song wouldn't be written until the good year of 1978!) It's a cover of a song from 1956 by Shirley and Lee, who I've never heard of until now, but they had a really good song. Nilsson plays it more slowly than they did, and lets a full-sounding piano play the groove. Some electric guitar that sounds exactly like the electric guitar on “Yellow Submarine” gives a few contributions before a cutesy harmonica solo starts to play. It doesn't rock my world, but it's a lot of fun.

Jump Into the Fire A-

Wow, he fills this album up with songs that are short and sweet, but when it comes to the penultimate song, he throws a seven-minute song at us! Good thing it actually rocks, which always helps with these sorts of things. The drums are heavy, the bass guitar is snarly and thumpy, and the electric guitar was about as distorted as that era was willing to make it. Nilsson's singing is loud and tremendous... he even puts an echoey effect on his voice to make it sound as big as the universe. (He must've had a pretty large budget to make this album! Such an echo effect couldn't have been cheap.) It eventually turns into an extended drum solo, which I've gotta shrug my shoulders at. ...But as a whole it's energetic and enjoyable. Maybe not as epic as he was hoping it'd be, but it's nicely done.

I'll Never Leave You A-

This is really a kind of heart-wrenching ballad with Nilsson singing a sad song to a morose piano. It's lovely, but it doesn't really pick up enough momentum to turn into something truly astounding... Although it seemed like it should have. (Sometimes at least that *impression* is enough for me to be satisfied with a song!) The melody is nice although doesn't make a special impression. The instrumentation starts out simply enough, but some odd instruments (like what I'd imagine must be a steel drum) makes appearances and ends up seeming a bit cluttery. But why am I focusing on negatives on what's otherwise a very nice tune?


Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Dazzle Ships (1983)

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Dazzle Ships

Radio Prague

A one minute instrumental? Some sort of radio jingle? Eh?????

Genetic Engineering A

This was released as a pop-single, and it did moderately well if Wikipedia can be trusted at all. Of course, something like this is surely too strange to have been a smash-hit... but speaking as someone who has a weird taste in music, I find this thing to be utterly delightful. The fist thing in its favor is that catchy melody! The rhythms are weird, also. The pulsating synthesizers are what you'd expect from a synth-pop band, but those soundbytes coming in rhythmically, the clomping drums and hand-claps, and the goofy operatic singing makes this stand out above the rest.

ABC Auto Industry B+

They've gone and done it now! They created a sound effects song! This almost isn't even a song. What might be considered a vocal melody is various overdubs singing “ABC” and “123” in three notes. In the mean time, we're treated to a series of sound-effects and a slowly pounding timpani. Quite interesting! Although not particularly ear-catching.

Telegraph A

Alright. Here it is. The coolest song ever. Well, almost. This is the sort of '80s synth-pop song that grabs me in its first second and takes me along for its ride. It has everything: a fun groove and a catchy melody. It's funny that I don't even particularly care that it's pretty much a two-chord song! It's no stretch of the imagination to assume that if they took out a few more chords, I would have liked it even more. But all the same, this is delightful. The instrumentation is fun all the way from those ear-friendly programmed vibes to that bubbly, squeaky synthesizer whose repetitive melody line is more catchy than the actual vocal melody. The vocals are pretty great, too. I can't make them out particularly well over the mix, but I don't have to. All that matters is that they're very raucous and passionate for synth pop.

This is Helena A+

Whoah... If this is the reason Dazzle Ships has its fanbase, then I'm with it 100 percent! ...God, that groove is terrific. That constant tack-tack-tack of those drums helps create a both hard and dark atmosphere, but they don't seem to ever abandon their strict synth-pop origins. The mid-tempo bass-line, in particular, is hypnotic. Of course, we're also treated to a series of bendy synthesizer effects in the background as well as a few sound-effects of city noises and people talking. This song makes quite a strong impression on me considering it isn't even two minutes long!

International A

I sit through this four-minute ballad (?) always anticipating something out-of-the-ordinary to happen, but nothing really does. I have to admit, I was terribly bored with it the first time I sat through it, but I suppose that was the same sort of knee-jerk response that plagued OMD when they first released this album. What we have here is a moody song with minimal but effective instrumentation consisting of a Kraftwerk-esque deep synthesizer and a simple drum pattern. What sets it apart is the terribly soul-bearing vocal performance. Again, it's a two-chord song, but the more I listen to this, the more I don't actually care.

Dazzle Ships (parts 2, 3 and 7) B+

I'm not sure how to score this... It's a two-and-a-half minute track of sound effects. It starts out with some sort of sonar beeping, and then they fashion their synthesizers to simulate some sort of manufacturing engines. The last half consists of a pulsating synthesizer that sounds like a man talking amidst a noodly, echoey keyboard. (How did I do describing it?) It wins out in the moody department, for sure.

Romance of the Telescope A-

Geez, no wonder these guys had a tough time selling this album. I was able to take “International” pretty damn well, but it's a bit much having two slow, moody songs in a row. This one loses out a bit because it's also dreary and doesn't quite have that soaring vocal performance. But as you noticed from the score, it snagged me in the end. The vocal melody is engaging, and I am glad that there were more than two chords. This is the sort of song that'll drag you in its weirdness if you let it. Particularly those creepy vocal-synths start to give me the old shivers. It's like watching some sort of bizarre noir movie about Russia. ...Not that I've ever seen such a movie.

Silent Running A-

Another one of these two-chord dealies, but there's a little more orchestration to this (which gives us nice contrast to the previous song), and that deep, smooth vocal performance that gets rather soul-shatteringly passionate by the end is utterly transfixing. The melody is pretty strong, although not one of the album's strongest. I suppose the point of it was that vocal performance, anyway. Given that, I might consider it a nice gesture that it has an interesting melody to begin with!

Radio Waves A

It starts out with some beepy noises (as you might expect from listening to this album so far), and what gradually builds up from that is one of the more lighthearted and enjoyable synth-pop songs of the whole album. It's still dark and moody but they've incorporated fast-paced, bubbly hand claps into the beat, which automatically means I think that it's bubbly. Musically, this sounds something like an '80s version of a '60s beach-party song, but it has dark, seedy undertones. It's a lot of fun to listen to anyway!

Time Zones B+

Here is another track that pretty much sound-effects the whole way through. Again, I'm not too sure how to score it. I suppose it doesn't captivate me well enough to warrant anything in the A-range, but it isn't uninteresting enough for me to dismiss it.

Of All the Things We've Made A-

It ends with a whimper and not a shout, which is surely appropriate for such a moody album. Again, they create a very sparse and repetitive texture. A guitar stabs along at a seemingly out-of-tune tone, and a lone drum pounds along regularly. It starts to get a little mind-numbing, but the gentle vocal melody keeps it real, and there's a very quiet piano that moodily acts out its own small melody.


Os Mutantes: Os Mutantes (1968)

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Os Mutantes

Panet Et Circenses 10/10

Os Mutantes don't make any excuses! They begin their album with what's among the weirdest, craziest things on the album. And I've heard nothing like it before. The song begins with a bit of a fanfare with a trumpet. But then, in a cut-and-paste method, they go right into a psychedelic ballad. The melody is starkly simple but the arrangements, predominantly featuring an off-kilter trumpet in the background. They add other little treats in here such as a violin at the end of a stanza and some variety in their drums. Toward the end, they stop everything (as if they turned off the record player) and then they gradually turn up the meter!!!!! The song ends in an absolute FRENZY, and then they insert a sound effect of a breaking glass. The coda of the song shows a faint Strauss record as a person apparently sweeps up the broken glass. It's so bizarre but it absolutely works. They're tasteful and innovative! How can I not fall in love with this?

A Minha Menina 9.5/10

This is the song that shows their combination with bossa nova and psychedelic pop. It's also decidedly more normal than the previous song, but what isn't? More of a straight ahead song with an extremely distorted guitar accenting every line of lyric. The melody might be simple, but it's catchy and that's enough. This is an exciting song with a smashing attitude. It's difficult not to let this song take your spirits high! I LOVE IT!

O Relógio 9/10

A compelling, atmospheric and psychedelic ballad is what follows. This starts out with Rita Lee with a lot of reverb singing an excellent, dreamy ballad. You'd almost think this song was normal by the way it starts (apart from the occasional "tinkle" noise ... it sounds like someone was playing around with a glass bottle). But no. They rock out in the middle, and continue to be weird. They reprise the atmospheric ballad at the end.

Adeus Maria Fulô 9.5/10

Oh the sound effects! This track begins with bird noises, odd clicking noises, and wind noises. The group sings faintly in the background. Then, a tropicana groove pipes up. And this ain't no Barry Manilow Tropicana groove, either! It's weird!!! The xylophone plays a disjointed groove along with some well utilized bongo drums. The group sings a pretty fun melody along with it, though not particularly catchy. You've got to appreciate the sheer weirdness of it, especially the quasi-Pee Wee Herman singing at the end!!!

Baby 9.5/10

Here is a psychedelic ballad, and it's incredibly disjointed. They start the song with a weird organ. The melody is very catchy but chances are you're not paying attention to the melody. Why? The instrumentation is so odd! AGAIN! The extremely distorted guitar often plays in the forefront in a way I'm sure you never heard before (but it works). The organ continues to do weird stuff. They also sing this song partly in English. ("Baby, I love you!")

Senhor F 10/10

Hey, The Beatles were writing throwbacks to old '20s and '30s jazz pop tunes in their albums. Well, count this as their take on that. They even sing in a funnel like they did in the old days for part of this. This is perhaps the poppiest song of the whole album, which might seem strange to you, because this continues to be very odd! Their trumpets in the background take a jazzier tune, naturally, but they're still doing their own unique things most of the time. They take the opportunity to rock out at the end of the song whilst playing around with the volume controls. Ha!!!

Bat Macumba 10/10

This is probably the most famous song of the album although I doubt most people have ever heard it. (I rented Nacho Libre recently, and they did play a small clip of this song to my surprise. Never mind the movie had nothing to do with Brazil.) ... Talking Heads front man David Byrne said Os Mutantes was one of his main inspirations, and you can see that especially in this song. They have a tight groove playing, and a very repetitive bass-line that could be mistaken for a Talking Heads bass. Meanwhile, the bongo drums are pounding away like there's no tomorrow! Anyway, I love this song. They basically spend this entire song repeating "Bat Macumba ê ê, Bat macumba oba" the whole time, but they manage to say it differently. An electric guitar that sounds like they were playing it in front of a fan slowly begins to take over. At the instrumental interlude toward the end of the song, the electric guitar almost sounds like a synthesizer!!! Do you need any more proof that this was an innovative group?

Le Premier Bonheur Du Jour 9.5/10

It's almost normal! (And it's sung in French... duh) The melody is sung by Rita Lee again with a lot of reverb (making this sort of a spiritual relative to "O Relógio"). They add in some sound effects that sound a little like a cash register opening (I think they probably created this noise with a simple tambourine and sucking in air). It isn't until the final minute when they really get weird. They speed up the meter again, and then they create an utterly creepy atmosphere that I've never quite heard before. So strange and effective!

Trem Fantasma 9.5/10

This is another song where Os Mutantes drops everything and rocks out. Naturally, there's a lot about this song that's utterly disjointed. The song begins with a huge accent of rockingness (if that makes sense). Then they slow things down as if it were another ballad, but they slowly go back to rocking! ... This group knows rock 'n' roll. They're also incredibly creative. And they know how to write melodies. Oh my! A triple threat! They threaten to turn into Frank Zappa by the end. Extremely interesting!

Tempo No Tempo 9/10

Here is another go at '20s and '30s pop music. Although they start the song off like a church hymn. (The fact that they would go back and forth between such styles should intrigue you to say the least.) The horn section is a little subtle here, but they're jazzy! The melody the guys sing is very catchy. The last of the song turns out to be someone playing church bells. Odd but good!!

Ave Gengis Khan 9.5/10

Anybody who was secretly wishing this band to start playing riff-rock would get their wish finally. It doesn't sound as solid as a Rolling Stones riff ... it's probably more like an Animals riff. And an electric organ plays some very usual rock lines. Anyway, the song might start off sounding like a relatively normal rock song, but the middle of the song is FRIGHTFULLY odd. It's a psychedelic hodgepodge featuring someone singing in a goofy operatic voice while noises and a guitar plays seemingly randomly. They end the song with the rock song again. They get strange again at the end by changing the rhythm and having the organ go nuts. I've never heard the organ played like this ever, either, but it's very fun to hear. This whole song is FUN. ... Wow...


Pearls Before Swine: Balaklava (1968)

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Balaklava

Trumpeter Lanfrey

Apparently, old Rapp found an old 1890 cyllinder recording of a trumpeter who was at the Charge of the Light Brigade at Bakalava. Oh, this is what that album title means... Alright, thanks.

Translucent Carriages 7/10

This song is really trippy. Rapp sings a dreary old song while strumming lightly on his acoustic guitar. He has a really weird voice --- he has a tendency to bend it if he's on a really long note. That's freaking creepy. To make it even weirder, he inserts these noises of somebody breathing very hard in and out. There's yet another creepy voice of someone whispering with a lot of reverb. So... yeah... Not exactly pleasant, but ... well ... effective, I guess.

Images of April 10/10

Oh, here goes something. It's another trippy, psychedelic song, but this one's a little more appealing. It begins with a strange sliding bass-line, a sort of glassy synthesizer and (naturally) a jumpy flute. Most notably, they bring in bird and bullfrog noises for an awesome background texture. (Hey! It's natural!!) This song is creepy, but in a good way this time. I'm very much drawn to this ultimate statement of strangeness ... It kind of reminds me of Soft Bulletin Flaming Lips!!!!!!

There Was a Man 7.5/10

Enough was enough for the trippy music --- for now. He gives us a break with this folk music that has a bit of a British vibe. For some reason, I complimented the melody in an early review I wrote of this, but it's really kind of corny. But it's engaging enough --- all it needed to be, I guess... Why does that vocal performance sound so much like he had spit dribbling out of his lips? Dude!!

I Saw the World 8/10

Oh, it's back to the trippy music! It's much less charming than "Images of April" --- it seems more like a collection of sounds than a real, cohesive effort, but I guess that's to be expected. Some ocean wave sound effects and wind chime noises clutter up this thing while some pizzicato strings are plunking away and an organic-sounding piano plays some nice chords. Of course, Rapp is singing here, but he's not too terribly interesting. The good news is there's so much to listen to, you might be too dazzled to care that this song kind of sucks. Well, I'm endorsing this song, anyway. For some irrational reason, I like it...

Guardian Angels 6.5/10

This song irritates me a little bit. I'll tell you why a little later. This is a remarkably simple song compared to everything except "There Was a Man." Rapp sings a rather old fashioned tune amidst a string quartet. The melody and instrumentation is OK but not too well-conceived. But for some weird reason, you hear this incessant shuffling sound in the background, and there's absolutely no reason for it. It sounds like some eight year old snuck into the recording studio and was shaking a rattle incessantly while the quartet was trying to play...

Suzanne 7/10

This is so dreary that it's not even funny. They use some jangly guitar strumming (not quite Byrdsian) and a very pretty English horn in the background. The general problem with this song is that it doesn't have a very good melody to begin with, it never changes its tone and it drags on for five minutes. I like that one texture they have very much, but it overstays its welcome.

Lepers & Roses 7.5/10

Freaking heck. They are trying to get me sent to a mental institution. This instrumentation texture has about the same stability as water. I mean, it doesn't get any trippier than that... The sounds he uses are from pianos, flutes, bass guitars, organs, tambourine --- and whatever else was available --- and they're all spaced out and playing their own tune. For the most part, these instruments seem to be playing the same chord progression, but --- geez... This is flabbergastingly awesome!

Florence Nightingale

This might be the only rock album to contain an old, 17-second soundbyte from Florence Nightingale. That's definitely one for the history books...

Ring Thing 8.5/10

Well, this isn't quite the ultimate statement of weirdness that "Lepers & Roses" was, but this comes close. It's dark and so thoroughly creepy that it might send shivers up your arms. That melody seems right out of a horror movie and so does the texture. Filled it gongs and cymbals--- geez... The avant-garde bagpipes they use in the background, however, are REALLY AWESOME. Such a strange texture! They lose me at the end where we hear some tape being sped up. I have the feeling that it's the sound of the entire album getting rewound.


Radiohead: OK Computer (1997)

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OK Computer

Airbag A

The big triumph here is in the arrangements, treating these songs as though they were scientists. Of course, it's an array of guitars, synthesizers and drums, but they combine to create a beautiful new atmosphere. I don't even know what went into producing some of these sounds, and not even too sure how to describe them—or even the use of describing them. The point is, they create an atmosphere that's weird, complex, and not so dreary that it numbs my mind. Real talent there. Now, the melody on the other hand is average, but somehow I don't mind so much here. What the guitars are playing ends up capturing more of my attention than the melody.

Paranoid Android A

Beautiful! This is six minutes long, and we get emotions ranging from pleasant to tortured to depressed. The beginning of it sounds like a bossa nova. Such a light and snappy beat, and an exotic rhythm. I love the beginning, and Yorke's vocals show some color, convincingly delivering a nice old angst-ridden performance. Some freaking cool tortured, distorted guitars take over in the middle and at the very end—I guess the android was having its paranoia episode there. There's a nice, tranquil almost acoustic ballad in the middle. Yeesh! There's impressively a lot to this track!

Subterranean Homesick Alien A+

Ah yes. If this was the only reason OK Computer has such a high reputation, then that's OK with me. This is beautiful music right from outer space! The instrumentation is wonderful, particularly that cosmic electric guitar that we hear opening the track and noodling around throughout. The other instrumentation is also thick and lovely, and Yorke even manages some real anguished passion in that performance of his. The melody is OK, too. OK!

Exit Music (For a Film) A

Well, that's it. I'm convinced OK Computer is a great album, because this song is so great. It's an extremely low-key and dreary ballad. I don't know how many of these miserable sorts of songs I've sat through before, but Radiohead managed to create one that actually captures my attention and prompts me to actually enjoy it. Usually, these things bore the crap out of me. We have to thank this Nigel Godrich fellow for helping create these sounds, some of which includes early '70s sounding synthesizers, which help keep the flow going. That really buzzy synthesizer coming in was just the right touch to keep it gritty. They weirdly decide to close it with Yorke singing basically a cappella. It's very lonely!

Let Down B

I'm not quite to the point of being such a Radiohead that I'll love every single track here to death! But I still like it. I think in this case, the dreariness starts to take over. The instrumentation is hypnotic and overall fairly samey. That's not always a bad thing, but I do start to get slightly bored with this five-minute song. The melody is strikingly simple, but it seems to really soar at some pivotal moments.

Karma Police A-

This is good! I don't know how much flack I'm gonna get for not giving all these songs A+s, but... whatever. That's part of the excitement of reviewing, I guess. They did a very nice job with this one, of course. I like a few of the turns it takes a number of times, particularly in the verses section. It's not a terribly interesting composition this time; I miss some of their complex, clever instrumental touches in the previous songs. This song has a good melody, but not too memorable by itself.

Fitter Happier B

I remember from my OK computer of the late '80s was messing about with a voice synthesizer program on our family's Commodore 128. (I was about six or seven, but I thought that voice synthesizer program was so cool! I type something and the computer says it!) They typed a poem in one of these programs and let the computer spew it out for a two-minute song. Of course, they provide some space-age sound effects and lonely piano in the background. It gives it the extra dimension, you see!

Electioneering A

This is more rockin' and more chaotic. It's almost weird to hear them do a song like this after sitting through the first half of the album, but it still manages to give off that futuristic vibe that is the theme for the whole album! It's also nice to know that they could play a bit of riff-rock if they're pressed hard enough, and this here is a good riff. The melody is nice, and I like their chord progressions. More importantly, this song has ENERGY, and I'm not just saying that 'cos it's loud!

Climbing Up the Walls A+

It's funny how they're able to do this. The track starts out quietly with a pretty neat, fuzzy bass synth that I like hearing at first. (Of course, there's a lot of beepy effects, too, but they're just glitter.) And then it starts to grow a little tedious, especially since Yorke's squeaky voice melody never progresses beyond a few repeated lines. But, before, I grow too tired of it, they bring in a deep string section. Yorke's vocals begin to overdub itself a lot, and the instruments and sound effects just keep coming. The vocals grow more passionate and tortured by the end until it all erupts, and the very brief aftermath is an extremely creepy atmosphere. Quite a captivating song!

No Surprises A+

Yikes, there's one thing undoubtedly true about Radiohead: They could start a really ravaging fire sometimes. This particular song is reminiscent of a nursery rhyme with a simple though charming melody and hypnotically jangly instruments. It's immediately easy for me to get caught up in this.

Lucky A-

This is good! But great? Hm. What's prompting me to give this a A- where I gave the previous song an A+ is the simple fact that it doesn't capture me nearly as quickly. The instrumentation continues to be atmospheric, but not quite so infectious this time. The guitars start to get a little dreary and dull. The melody is the typical sort of melody in this album: Not too memorable at all. The singing, though, starts to get me in the final half! I can't deny that.

The Tourist A

Well, they did it again! The main difference between this and every single other dreary ballad on the planet is this one actually gets off its lazy behind and does something. It starts very calmly and prettily, but if it sustained that mode for more than two minutes, it would have grown tedious. But these guys try to split open the heavens. By the end, Mr. Yorke is singing passionately with his pretty voice, and it's hard to not to also feel whatever anguished emotion that he was. Quite a song!


Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation (1988)

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Daydream Nation

Teen Age Riot A+

Oh wow. This one of those great songs that I know will never grow tiring no matter how many times I hear it. It begins with some slow strumming of a pure electric guitar and some weird female vocals come in at random times out of a random speaker. (Ah these guys were believers in stereo!) A clean drumbeat also comes in intermittently. That's just an introduction to the real song, but it was a creepy and effective one nevertheless. The real song is an upbeat one with fuzzy guitar tones, memorable riffs, and a melody so catchy that it would have worked outside the context of an artsy group obviously inspired by The Velvet Underground. This is a song for the ages, and I believe anybody would like it.

Silver Rocket A-

This is much more intense and punky, which sort of left me at a loss because I was having so much fun with the poppy tune that preceded this. But that doesn't make it any less worthwhile, I guess. The furious guitar riffs contain a lot of energy and power as well as a notable, spirited lead performance. (Not the most distinguishable voice, but spirited nonetheless.) That nuclear-meltdown bit in the middle was an ugly and creative touch... Fuel for the oncoming grunge era, I guess. I know Neil Young's early '90s albums had a lot of that distortion going on, but they at least attempted some sort of arrangements with them.

The Sprawl A-

When I had my preconceived notions of Sonic Youth, this is probably what I had in mind. It's a very heavy distorted rocker that goes on practically forever (nearly eight minutes). It starts out relatively normally as a mid-tempo rocker with some tasty riffs and a sort of speak-sung vocal performance. But by the end, it unravels into a sort of meandering, dreary jam. I understand that some listeners might very well love the last half of this song, and I can appreciate it well enough. It's very noisy, but not obnoxiously so like The Velvet Underground's “Sister Ray.” I'm not a huge fan of it, but it's interesting...

Cross the Breeze B+

What a weird song. Considering this also has a monstrous running length (seven minutes) and you certainly can't claim that they're known for their succinctness. But they actually use most of this running length for good and not for evil. It begins sort of vaguely with half-hearted guitar strumming and it ends in a very similar way. But in the middle things get pretty ugly (intentionally). It is filled to the brim with dissonant guitar tones, and it's not the prettiest thing to listen to. It goes back and forth between so many textures and riffs that it's basically insane. The singer takes over three minutes into the thing, and she's screaming so loudly that I'm trying not to let it generate a headache! But seriously, you're going to have to work pretty hard not to get a headache throughout this whole freaking album. I'll admit that I appreciate this song more than I like it... It's just too ugly for my taste.

Eric's Trip A

They really like layering on the noise with this one. There's a real chaotic, rubbery feeling they achieve, which sounds like nothing else. But this whole album sounds like nothing else, so I guess that statement can only go so far! It's amazing for me to think that they only used guitars to achieve this (as far as I can tell) considering most bands like this had to use keyboards and stuff. The grumpy part of me is really resenting this, though, since it's so freaking noisy. But it's not noise-for-noise sake, since it's far too complicated than that.

Total Trash A-

Another song that's difficult for me to like, but I appreciate the textures faaaaaaar too much to dismiss it. The base of it is a very catchy guitar riff-rocker, but as most of the 7+ minute songs on this album, it meanders in the middle. The ugliness of it takes over and threatens to drive me into the deep end specifically in the middle when everything gets so distorted that it's like some nightmarish horror movie. I mean, that part is so intricate and mental that I can positively make out the guitars screaming for dear life. It's not an easy pill to swallow, for sure, but these guys really knew how to make violent music sound meaningful (if that makes sense). I can tell why so many people like this album!

Hey Joni A

I don't know what's wrong with me, but I'm responding best to the shorter, more punkish songs than the more epic-length ones even though they're generally the interesting ones. I guess I like songs that get to the point! What I like about this one is probably the fact that the regular drumbeat never stops and the pure energy that's displayed throughout. Yes, there's a lot of noise and dissonance, but it doesn't overwhelm me. So many textures... At some points, the guitar sounds like windchimes... At other points, I can hear guitars that sound like an angry robot... Geez!

Providence B+

Oh, a piano playing lovely notes!!!!!! I don't know what's with those airplane noises playing over it, but I like pianos when they play lovely notes! I just want to listen to it forever....... OK, then there's someone interrupting it with what sounds like police communicating on their walkie talkies. Um... This is less than three minutes, which is alarmingly short, and I have no idea what to make of it. If I didn't have an idea of what to make of the previous tracks, I'll tell you, that was nothing compared to this. This is a very eerie and unsettling song, but not in the usual ways.

Candle A+

While their arrangements are wild and exciting, I've got to stress that I prefer the more minimal ones. And, wow, this thing is beautiful anyway. It begins with some very captivating guitar arpeggios that's sort of like “Dust in the Wind” but with a much more mystifying and meatier chord progression. Naturally, things get a little more frantic when the vocals come in, but it's incredibly exciting and less dizzying (although with plenty of weird chords, but I love these chords)! Listening to this song throughout and catching all those intricate riffs and textures they come up that so flawlessly melds together is something to behold, to say the least. Even those extra-scratchy guitar textures that come in the middle are wildly exciting and not too much for my poor, battered brain to handle.

Rain King A

Indeed, if The Beatles had the Sun King, it's only appropriate that Sonic Youth would have the Rain King. And they're doing a lot of that distorted noisiness for no other reason than to be distorted and noisy. That is exactly why I can never be a true fan of this album! But I guess that's not the end of the world. Even if I don't find this particularly pleasurable in the way that I like, there's so much going on here, and so much energy in it. It has an incredible drive that doesn't just make my foot tap—it gets my blood flowing. Again, these noisy arrangements have so much to them that there's no way that I could adequately describe them. Not only would it take an entire typewritten page, but they'd be filled with meaningless and abstract images. For example, there are a few parts in here where a monster comes in and tries to eat everybody... See how that doesn't make sense?

Kissability A-

The lyrics mention something about going crazy and getting sick, which describes the experience of listening to this song, in a nutshell! This one doesn't quite captivate me as the other ones, and all the noise seems more like they're trying to incite migraines, and they're not so much trying to dazzle me with their textures! Although, there is a really nutty, clangy bit they do in some points. At any rate, it's effective for what it is, and I'm glad that it's only three minutes long.

Trilogy: The Wonder B+

The wonder, indeed! I wonder why they're intent on driving me completely up the wall with those sliding, scratchy guitars and the scream-singing all the time! I'll admit right here that I don't perceive this to be a whole lot more than noise for noise sake even though that riff has a certain menacing quality that manages to get inside my brain and try to mess with its wiring. Well, the riff is certainly successful for what it does... but the other aspects of it aren't impressing me much.

Trilogy: Hyperstation B

They're really losing me here, and I'm not sure if it's just because I'm tired or the music is genuinely becoming less interesting. One important thing this song lacks compared to the others are very interesting riffs or a vocal melody. Even the textures are becoming less exciting and more like pure noise. The length of this seems too much like they were waiting around. Although there are changes of mood throughout the track, which still makes it more interesting than a few songs like this I could mention.

Trilogy: Eliminator, Jr. B

They choose to end the album with one of the ugliest and most maniacal things yet. A really, really fast guitar riff played on a junky-sounding guitar while someone makes grunting noises over it. After that, a really intense punky song starts to play. Oh, the noise! I'm sorry, but I don't get the appeal of this particular track, if there is one. It's a little too ... er ... monotonous. Even at its running length, kept at less than three minutes. It's a weak ending track at any rate...


Sparks: Kimono My House (1974)

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Kimono My House

This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us A+

An A+ doesn't even come close to what this song deserves. If the world was going to explode, and we could only choose one Sparks song to launch into outer space, it would have to be this one. These guys have written a lot of A+-scoring songs in their time, but this is the mother of them all. If you haven't heard this, then you're in for a treat. This was fairly obvious inspiration for Freddie Mercury who penned the more famous opera-rock song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” except that song is donkey piddle compared to this. (And I like “Bohemian Rhapsody” by the way.) This dramatic multi-part suite is filled to the brim with theatrics, dramatic crescendos, and an acrobatic vocal performance from lead singer Russell Mael. Not only that, but it has a danceable beat and the melody is catchy as hell. God, that's an amazing song to listen to... If I was going to try to describe all the sounds they bless us with, it probably wouldn't be coherent. And why should I try to explain it, anyway? Listen it for yourself!

Amateur Hour A+

The best thing about Sparks is they know exactly how to write a catchy melody. While I wouldn't go to the point of launching this song in outer space if the world was about to explode, this is still a glorious pop song. The maniacal, pounding drum rhythms aren't quite like anything you'd hear from disco or techno, but if this doesn't make you want to wiggle your booty on the dance floor, then you're not listening to this right. I mean, that's what this song really is isn't it? Weird dance music! This doesn't seem that weird to current audiences, because we are well aware that new wave and the '80s happened, but this was completely out-of-this-world for 1974. Do you know how many good artists who were directly inspired by these guys?

Falling In Love With Myself Again A

Once again, these guys come up with another flabbergastingly catchy melody. Making it unique is how this thing freaking sounds. It's a waltz with the kind of advanced harmonic chord sequences you'd expect out of a classically trained musician. Impressive, eh? The instrumentation is even moreso with blocky chords from a slightly crazy electric organ, a bass playing the part of a “tuba,” and some huge pounding drums. They even find the time to work in a sub-theme here, which is as catchy as the main one. Once again, you can really see where Queen got their ideas!

Here in Heaven A+

Oh man, this is another super-A+. It's better than “Amateur Hour,” but not as good as “This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us.” Hm! I like albums so solid that I get to debate levels of A+'s! That's not very common at all, mind you! The melody is as infectious as anything I've ever heard, and the instrumentation continues to be maniacal and bold. Russell's falsetto voice is a weird thing to behold, but they warble away like some sort of crazed fairy king, or something. And it's not like this stuff is completely inaccessible; this is some of the most danceable music on the planet. These guys were geniuses.

Thank God It's Not Christmas A

Yeah, seriously! Christmas? Pfft!! ...Well, in case you didn't notice the pattern by now, every single song on here is a masterpiece. Frankly, there isn't any huge reason to keep the + off the song score, since this is as complicatedly structured and exciting to listen to as all the previous songs. The melody is even extremely infectious, but perhaps not as much as the previous songs. The pacing of this song is still very fast-paced and maniacal though I reckon this was conceived more as an epic power-ballad sort of thing. It's not as infectiously danceable, although you could try I suppose! That chorus is absolutely heavenly! ...God, this really should be an A+. The electric guitar solo is even brilliant.

Hasta Manana Monsieur A+

Do you know how easy it is for me to score these tracks? Usually I have to sit here and carefully measure the pros and cons of each song; how much I like the melody, how good are the harmonies, how well the moods are done. But this song is an automatic A+ in the first 10 seconds after that elaborate (and interesting) introduction is through. Could they have possibly introduced a more potent hook than that? The textures continue to be quickly paced and crazed, and the fast rhythm makes it incredibly danceable. Man, this song would have been great without the elaborate instrumentation and fancy song development!

Talent is an Asset A

This track begins with that fast-paced drumbeat all alone, and I guess I didn't realize how Gary-Glitter-esque it was! I guess that's what comes from moving to England. And that also keeps the song fairly danceable for moments although it's not as consistent throughout the song. Once again they created a very catchy pop melody. The development doesn't dazzle me as much here, though. I'm delighted to hear this of course, but not as*much* for some reason. Yeah, that's right. An A- is a very low score for this album.

Complaints A

No complaints from me, kind sirs! I'm still dancing away at your songs like a complete madman who just contracted rabies (and is enjoying every moment of it). Catchy melody? CHECK! Appealing, lush instrumentation with a beat you can dance to? CHECK! Weird pixie-man lead vocals from Russell? CHECK! Funny, creative development ideas? CHECK! A cool guitar solo at the end? ...That's not a requirement, but this song has it! I don't know what else to say.

In My Family A+

A good song to listen to if you think your family is driving you nuts. Maybe it would be a good song to blare in their speakers and they would never have heard such sounds before and they would scream at you. That would be constructive! This isn't the incessantly sort of dancey pop song, but rather just a regularly excellent song with a funny, classical-music-oriented song structure and an extremely catchy melody. Man, could these guys write songs!

Equator A+

Russell sings this mid-tempo song with the most falsetto of his falsetto vocals, helping to create this strangely atmospheric song. It's also characterized by a weirdly ticked-off-sounding out-of-tune saxophone that's wobbling around unpredictably throughout. Naturally, it's still based on a more or less straightforward keyboard-and-drum groove that's playing more of their famously classical-inspired chord progressions. It all sounds a tad drunk. It's quite a unique song! The backing instrumentation ends leaving the crazed saxophone and Russell to duet together. It's very crazy and isolated.

BONUS TRACKS

Barbecutie A+

Bonus tracks! Yay! More good times! This was a B-side to something, and it's just as incredibly catchy as everything else on this album. The rapidly pounding piano continues to predict those new wave textures, and it has a rapid beat that you can dance to of course.

Lost and Found A

God, does it ever end with them? I mean, stylistically this is the exact same sort of thing that was on the rest of the album, but I swear listening to it never ever grows tiring. The melodies are wonderful, and the classical-inspired chord progressions continue to be well-used and impressive.

Amateur Hour [Live At Fiarfield Halls 09/11/1975] B+

This bonus track doesn't appear on the CD version of the album I own, but it appears on a version I can stream from Rhapsody. It's funny to hear that Russell Mael sounded even more out of whack in his live performances than he did on the album. The way he talks at the beginning of this sounds like he's doing a bad impersonation of John Travolta's character from Welcome Back Kotter. His weird vocal intonations in the singing performance makes this a little difficult to listen to, but there is a cool guitar solo. It's also nice to hear they had a lot of screaming fans in Britain. Sparks deserved to be loved!


Spiritualized: Royal Albert Hall October 10 1997 (1998)

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Royal Albert Hall October 10 1997

Intro A

Huh... I actually had to look it up and make sure they weren't singing a Velvet Underground cover, since the beginning of this track is very reminiscent of them. The disheveled guitar-and-piano led instrumentation plays quietly while Jason Pierce (who vaguely sounds like Lou Reed sound-a-like, incidentally) sleepily though passionately sings the lyrics. But, then again, I don't remember The Velvet Underground ever writing gospel lyrics! Nope... This is a cover of an old 18th Century spiritual “Oh Happy Day,” and I probably remember it from a Joan Baez album. Halfway though, the lovely delivery of the gospel tune is interrupted with a series of zippy space noises! Somehow, it's pretty exciting to listen to... It's very noisy, but nothing too ear shattering. It all manages to culminate into a huge build-up, and ...

Shine a Light A+

... the next track begins. This starts as a calm ballad, which is quite the opposite of what it was building up to! This is a trick that I'm pretty sure I've heard in other albums... Abbey Road, for a start... But it's great when executed well. About this ballad, it's lovely! It's very much like a Pink Floyd ballad when they're on top of their game. The vocals are sleepy and the instrumentals are calm and atmospheric (very impressive for a live album). The instrumentals, again, are very loose but they meld together to create some complex textures. The slide work on the guitar, for example, is fantastic! In the last half, the song gradually gets more threatening, and a spooky mountain-lion type of guitar begins screeching all over. Geez! I can't believe this thing goes on for seven minutes and I'm actually on the edge of my seat at the end.

Electric Mainline A

This is a very vivid instrumental. It doesn't start off that well, with a spacey, electronic loop that repeats over and over again... but then they gradually slow down the tempo, giving me a bit of a shiver up my spine. A deep synthesizer comes into to give it a different dimension, and they play a new loop. Just as soon as that loop started to grow tiring, they up the tempo again and bring in some drums! Eventually, it explodes into a loud song rife with fury. ...These guys really knew how to take the pulse of their material! That's undoubtedly the most important thing when it comes to writing space-rock with no melodies.

Electricity A

I'm not sure how they're able to do this. It's a very '60s heavy rock kind of a song. A lot of guitars, a good vocal melody, a catchy riff, a POUNDING drum beat. But they also work in tiny, pulsating synthesizers, whizzing guitars playing chaotically all over the place... and these touches make it sound so unique that it's hard to imagine that anyone in the '60s would've known how to do this. This is earth-shattering rock 'n' roll!

Home of the Brave A

Oh, listen! Finally something I like in this album! The rhythm guitar sounds like The Cars!! (...Just kidding. I've really been having a blast with this album so far.) With that deeply pounding rhythm guitar, and the high-pitched synthesizer, this does sound like they were going for something more new wavy. At one point, they very briefly bring in a rhythmic saxophone, which gave me a flash of Roxy Music! Of course, the lead guitar is still irrepressibly whizzy, and their chaotic nature hijacked the pleasant groove to go absolutely nuts. Weird, but somehow fits the song pretty well.

The Individual A-

They did do this better than Neil Young, I've got to give them that. This track is three full minutes of layered, distortion noise! But they were at least nice enough to not make that squeaky tone so damaging to my ear-drums, and they even manage to make that drone evolve a little bit throughout. Some kind soul was in charge of sound effects, and they ushered in a near series of space age beeping and whooshing noises throughout. Not bad!

Medication B+

More of the Velvet Underground vibe! Have I ever mentioned that I like The Velvet Underground vibe? The song goes back and forth between a dreary, high pitched organ vibe and Pierce's sleepy vocals to a more exciting, harder rocking section. It keeps on doing the same thing for more than six minutes. ...Well, it's still impressive and the sound-layering of the hard rock sections continue to be interesting and mesmerizing. I also love the things they do around the 4:40 mark... geez, how do they come up with this stuff? But for the first time in this album, I was hit with a few pangs of boredom, and feel they could have cut the middle of it by a few minutes.

Walking With Jesus A

A lot like the previous song in that it goes back and forth between a calmer, Velvet-Underground type section and a more chaotic, louder section. The reason this gets such a higher rating is not because it's only four minutes long ... although that definitely helped. Rather, this is another amazing song! The build-up is very exciting this time, and the sound layering is chaotic, busy, exciting, energetic, and all sorts of other things. It's amazing to hear that they were able to even do this stuff live---I mean, it would've been tough enough if they had endless takes to create this in a studio album. But all in one go? Wow. The very end of it reminds me of a keyed-up jam section from an early Roxy Music album, except this is more thunderous than Roxy Music ever got. I think I like the more whimsically alien Roxy atmospheres better than this, but they're both equally as amazing, technically. (And that's not even fair, because I've memorized the Roxy music albums, and I only sat through this about four times.)

Take Your Time A-

This starts as another Velvet-Underground type song. It's jangly at the beginning and very slow to develop. By the middle turns into more of a Doors-type mid-tempo rocker in the middle with a free-flowing melody and a steady rhythm section. Once again, they do an excellent job of slowly evolving the song from a nice, calm beginning to a more maddening and dynamic conclusion. I'm going to go ahead and pull out the general complaint that I think this was about two minutes too long. That said, I'm never entirely bored with it... just slightly tired of it.

No God Only Religion A+

There's nothing like a little Latin soul to bring a little life to your albums! Not that this one wasn't already dribbling to the brim with intense life, but a little bit o' Latin brass will make it dribble with even more intense life! These horn arrangements are phenomenal, and hearing them combined with the deeper, gruffer electric guitar sounds is a combination that I'm sure I never heard before. This is more of that intense chaos, but with a cool Latin twist.

Broken Heart A+

Lovely! I've heard plenty of these broken hearted ballads in the past, but I wonder why not more of them sound quite like this. The melody is normal but good; it's the backing instrumentation that's weird. And it's not weird because they're chaotic. As a matter of fact, they seemed to be giving the old, messy chaotic stuff a rest for once! The huge string arrangements sound like they're coming from out behind the wall, but they're absolutely heavenly. The harmonica wailing throughout expresses all the soul-wretchedness that Pierce wasn't able to express in his voice but was undoubtedly feeling inside. Yikes!!!!!!!!!!!! I didn't think rock music was able to sound like this in 1997. I mean, I was actually alive that year!

Come Together A-

Not a cover of the Beatles! Although the way he keeps on repeating the song title, trying to pound it in my head, is reminiscent of it. This is also seems like an epic rock song. They bring back the horn section from “No God Only Religion,” playing lines that could have been on a classic Earth, Wind & Fire funk epic. The guitars continue to be busy, creating another impressively intricate texture. Just like all these tracks, the guitars will take quite a few listens for you to even attempt to unravel them!

I Think I'm in Love A-

Now living up to their space-rock label, the beginning of this track is very calm, soothing, and they create a sparse atmosphere right out of outer space. The synthesizers are light and echoey, the guitars are minimal and contemplative, and the vocal melody is more spaced out than the atmosphere. This is a 10-minute track, so luckily they don't keep on doing that! A drum beat picks up and the guitars begin to start making sense and play a groove together. Some more of that horn section pops up, and a gospel choir assists the vocal duties. By the end, as you'd expect, it starts to get heavier and more driving. Once again, they created a very lengthy song with minimal musical ideas, but they keep it so fresh that I don't get overly bored with it.

Cop Shoot Cop A+

Did you think 10 minutes was long? That's not long. This is 16 minutes. That's long. But heck, if this song doesn't take you down its twisted, demented journey through total insanity, then nothing else will. It goes back and forth between a calmer, Velvet-Underground-like mid-tempo song and these maniacal zippy, space-age noises. It's very demented and tormented, but hugely amazing if you're willing to invest the time. And you really should ...That is, if you're the sort of person who would buy an album with such music on it. Once again, this is a good song to hear unravel, and there's quite a lot going on here. What's more, I guess this shows that prog-rock wasn't as dead as I thought it was in 1998. I thought it was a goner by 1975!

Oh Happy Day A+

Whew! I made it to the end, and this is my reward. A hugely powerful gospel choir helps sing the melody that opened the album. It's really an appropriate, bombastic ending to such a lengthy live album. I mean, if this doesn't get you on your knees (figuratively speaking), then you're pretty much dead. If you're into gospel, then this'll be one of the greatest renditions of this popular one ........ which I'm sure had plenty of inspired renditions.


Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996)

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Emperor Tomato Ketchup

Metronomic Underground A+

These guys like kraut-rock. That mechanical beat. The unimaginative chord progression. All the blips, bleeps and bloops. The rather long running time. And yet, they develop and orchestrate this perfectly. It starts out with a somewhat bare drum beat and whooshy sound effects. Then a simple bass-line pops up. Then a rhythm guitar. Then a muted back-up voice. Then another guitar playing a different groove. Then an electric organ. ...And then, about two minutes into it, the lead vocals finally pop up. They're speaking French, I guess. I don't know. ...All throughout this, I'm completely mesmerized by it. The central groove and chord progression never change at all, but things manage to get more weird and tense as they move along. They add new sounds. They subtract old sounds. All throughout this, there is nothing is taking my attention away from it! In fact, I had to struggle with myself to write this track review instead of staring off into the middle of space in a catatonic state. I could have very well listened to a three-hour version of this, and I wouldn't have grown bored with it. That would have been a monumental waste of time, but I wouldn't be bored. If the government is ever going to try to control us, they're going to use music like this to help them. Obviously.

Cybele's Reverie A-

They haven't abandon their panache for super-repetitive music, but now they're using that style to create this sweet, upbeat and memorable pop song! Those repetitive, short stabs of that acoustic guitar keeps us transfixed on it, while the melody delights us. They're continuing to sing these lyrics in French (which is just as well since it gives me a pretty good excuse not to listen to the lyrics), and the vocals are sweet and somehow fit these string-laden instruments perfectly. My only complaint (and it's a minor one) is that section in the middle when they strip away the instrumentation for a section that's rather clunky and clumsy....

Percolator A

This is still quite poppish like the previous track. The difference is that this is quite a bit tenser, and it doesn't have any slow middle-sections. That chord progression always sounds like it's ascending, even though it really isn't. It also has a pretty catchy melody. Not too complicated of a vocal melody, but it's solid enough that you never grow tired of it. The instrumentation continues to be interesting, as they constantly seem to be adding and subtracting weird instruments. (There's that full-on string section in the final third that seems to be trying to get onto the groove... as well as that out of tune instrument in some sort of crazed rut.)

Les Yper-Sound A

A little more on a quirky vein this time, which indicates how excellently diverse this album is. (I also prefer tend to prefer funny, lighthearted music!) Although the drawback is this isn't quite as intrinsically memorable or stop-in-your-tracks thrilling as many of these other songs. This incredibly repetitive groove from that scratchy electric guitar they come up with is another mesmerizing pattern, which utterly transfixes me. The vocal melody is simple, but catchy and memorable. (Have we expected anything less?) I'm on the A/A- border on this one, but I went with the A because it probably deserves it.

Spark Plug A

I like this! It sounds like '70s funk music! That funk guitar playing part of the texture is a lot of fun. It's not straight-funk, of course, as the vocals seem completely wrong for it. They're still pretty emotionless and plain (sort of a trademark they get from Kraut rock, I'd imagine). And funk music doesn't normally have bubbly synthesizers in them. Even though this is pretty funk-ish, it doesn't sound out of place whatsoever. Give it an A- for being fun and snappy, give it an A for sounding different than the others.

Olv 26 A

That four note bass groove sounds a little like they're about to play Kraftwerk's “Autobahn,” but of course they don't! Maybe it was some sort of tribute? These guys probably considered Kraftwerk one of their grandparents after all... This is weird, hazy and druggy... I listen to it, not necessarily pleased with the world they brought me to, but I have a difficult time trying to shake myself out of it all the same. It all has to do with that Kraftwerk-esque bass groove, but the repetitive guitars and those long-drawn-out chords on that electric organ have a big thing to do with it. And of course there's that female lead singer who I don't understand. She could be putting some sort of voodoo hex on me for all I know.

The Noise of Carpet A

God, you gotta love these guys. The #1 complaint I seem to have with talented artists who know how to write songs is that they tend to write songs that are so similar that they start to blend in with each other. Not Stereolab. This is a quickly paced song with a fuzzy guitar riff. It's almost like hard rock or something! Except the singers sound wimpy. I also just noticed they were speaking English.

Tomorrow is Already Here A

Boy, I'd think that choppy, repetitive groove would have been clumsy enough for me to finally break down and give an A- or a B+ to something on here, but I swear it's just as mesmerizing as the other songs. These five minutes go by just like that. As the best songs on here do, it starts out simply, but it keeps building up on itself so much that it grows more interesting by the second. The tone of this song is spooky and creepy, a little like “Olv 26,” but this atmosphere seems a little more sci-fi. We not only have that strange, disconnected groove, but those long-drawn-out organ chords that give me an outer space feeling.

Emperor Tomato Ketchup A

.....Wow, this band. There is a guitar chord at very regular intervals, this time, which gives off a completely different vibe than the previous one did. Instead of being weird and druggy, this one's more alert and exciting. The sweet female vocal melody (in French!) sings a sweet little melody. Very simple, of course, but memorable all the same. All the zippy and calculator sound effects they put in the background are all for extra credit.

Monstre Sacre A+

!!! ... Right about now, it's pretty obvious to me these guys aren't going to cease being great. I wouldn't even dare give this song a score of anything less. Usually by now I look for excuses to downgrade songs, but ... sheesh. They sound a little more laid back this time, giving us a weird, creepy old ballad. Of course that acoustic guitar plays an incredibly repetitive melody, but the dark and thick instrumentation gives off an almost “gothic” vibe. (...I'm not too sure I'm using the term 'gothic' correctly... It wouldn't sound too out of place in a vampire movie...) I guess judging by the title, this could very well be about vampires! (I don't speako no French. I took French in college a long time ago, but all I remember anymore is the word for shit.)

Motoroller Scalatron A

You know, that riff sounds like it could have been on The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers. There's something subtle about it that reminds me of “Brown Sugar.” Of course these guys are still stiff and repetitive, so it sounds completely different than The Stones. But I'm sure old Keith would have been proud to have written such a thing. Not only does it have that engaging, repetitive riff, but it has some weirdly entrancing robotic lead vocals. And then some zippy, techy sound effects!

Slow Fast Hazel A

It's the penultimate track of the album, and I have yet to be unimpressed with anything. Maybe this album isn't as wholly delightful as Abbey Road or Kimono My House or Arthur, but this is definitely in the same league. This particular track is more of the thoughtful, hopeful variety. The full string track in the background gives it a baroque-rock feel, but the almost boring bass-line still gives it that robotic, almost unhuman feel of everything else here. The melody again isn't too complicated, but it's surely ear-catching. Quite a good song!

Anonymous Collective A-

Ha, well, the A- isn't really for anything. Maybe I'm getting sick of giving As to everything and I want to try something a little bit new. I will say that one thing this song doesn't have that most of the other ones have is development. They aren't constantly adding on instrument after instrument to keep my ears from drifting away. That ultra-deep synth groove is pretty mesmerizing, though.


Toy Matinee: Toy Matinee (1990)

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Toy Matinee

Last Plane Out A

Alright, this music is from 1990. That will more or less be obvious to you once you hear those drums. Also, these singers almost come across as too cutesy although that aspect of it only bothered me my first time listening to this. Or maybe that's just because their clean-cut, friendly guy singing is vaguely reminiscent of the awful kiddie music I was subject to in 1990? But then I start to really appreciate how well these guys know how to write a good, lighthearted tune. It has a typical verses/chorus/interlude structure, but it all flows well into each other, and every part of it makes an entertaining listen.

Turn it On Salvador A+

This is even catchier than the previous song. It's so catchy that they make writing melodies seem too easy. The guitars, drums, and vocals sound just as polished as ever, and the bouncy way they groove along is very entertaining. I read other reviewers comparing this album to Steely Dan, and that's a good comparison. There's a plasticy funk feeling to this, which is what I generally associate with that band. However, that quirky horn-led instrumental outro makes me think I'm listening to Madness!

Things She Said A

It starts out as an acoustic-led ballad, and it's not that much of an interesting one, which makes me think perhaps that they ran out of songwriting juice! But no, the upbeat drums quickly pop in and they sing, yet, another one of their infectious melodies. It's like they couldn't even bear to sing a song that wasn't upbeat in any way. ...And hey, why not? Upbeat music rules!

Remember My Name A-

My first impression listening to this was that it sounded like it could be a power ballad from any of those pop-metal bands at the time. It has those loud stadium drums, extremely polished vocals, and a loudly soaring chorus. Perhaps the metal band would have done more with that electric guitar solo, since they're always looking for excuses to that. If one of those bands did write this song, then I'm sure it would have seen tons of radio-play. My complaint about this is repeats itself an awful lot needlessly. It would have been better at three and a half minutes. (The previous songs were also quite long, but they were danceable!)

The Toy Matinee B+

I guess I'm only slated to *love* the wholly upbeat songs, but this slow song has its merits as well. The lumbering melody does get airborne on a few occasions even though I don't find it all that memorable. I'm also not a huge fan of those washy synthesizers they use as well as the obviously Dire Straits inspired, minimalist guitar noodles. The instrumentation all seems a bit blank to me, albeit it's hardly terrible. While the instrumentals aren't too mind blowing, they do keep a dependably lively texture.

Queen of Misery B+

Back to the upbeat stuff, but why only the B+? This is a tremendously fun song to listen to and I'm hardly in any mood to turn off the album, but the melody doesn't strike me as being very infectious. Given that their instrumental standards seem to strike me as relatively ho-hum and even somewhat sterile, their melodies are really all they have. And my complaints about instrumentation are really rather minor. Of course they spice this up with fun Steely Dan style funk guitar rhythms. Although, I hear a classic Mellotron noodling around in here, which was a nice touch!

The Ballad of Jenny Ledge A

You guessed it! It's back to the punchy melodies that *pop* out at me. It takes a number of twists that just catch my ear. The verses section is just as memorable as the chorus, so you're likely to get this entire song pleasantly stuck in your head. It's instrumented mainly with those funky guitars, but the use of tightly harmonized, Beatles-esque back-up vocals was an excellent idea. ...I can tell this song is strong, because it goes on for nearly six minutes and I hardly even notice the time pass. The quieter extended outro probably didn't need to be in there, but I don't mind it.

There Was a Little Boy A+

At some points in this song, I get the feeling that he's about to start singing “The Eye of the Tiger!” But in spite of that, this is an excellent song. It's not even one of the upbeat ones; this is far moodier even though the drums are busy and heavy. He displays an unexpected punch of power when he sings the chorus. (“How can you expect a child to understand the sickness of a world whose eyes are blind? / The dying man inside inside this boy is questioning once upon a time”). I also like that string synthesizer that scales around as he's singing that chorus. The lounge piano that twinkles around throughout comes off as excellent as well. By a mile, this is the best instrumented piece of this album.

We Always Come Home A-

This homely folk-rocker is not a terribly exciting closer, but as everything else here, it's sweetly presented, and the melody is strong enough that I'm sure you'll be carrying it in your heart by the time it's over. Not a whole lot to report about the instrumentation, since it all seems fairly standard to me. Acoustic guitars, electric piano, drums, singing. Yup. A time tested formula, for sure, but it's still capable of producing nice tunes.

BONUS TRACKS:

Eenitam Yot Eht

Isn't it awesome how things spelled backwards looks like complete gibberish until you realize that it spells something backwards? And guess what? This is a weird, 30-second instrumental that was played backwards. They were probably just foolin' around...

Blank Page A-

Bare but nice, this piano ballad sports an interesting melody and a moody vocal performance. Many times, only Elton John is able to pull of these songs with any degree of success. If this appeared on one of Elton John's albums, I'd believe it, so it must be a success then!

Things She Said [Alternate Version] A

This is actually significantly different than the version from the album... The instrumentation is much barer, and, most notably, instead of that drum-heavy upbeat chorus, they just play it with some acoustic guitars. I suppose I like the more energetic version better, but … this actually somewhat addresses my complaints about this album sounding a little too polished. This version doesn't sound that polished. Give me some of that grit!

There Was a Little Boy [Early Version] A

I almost don't even recognize this! It seems geared toward being a dance song, and I don't even recognize the melody (i.e., I never get the impression that he's about to sing “Eye of the Tiger” as I'm listening to this. This is one case where the bonus tracks are quite interesting... Would you have expected that song to have originated like this?

Last Plane Out [Early Version] A-

This on the other hand sounds a lot like the original version did! The instrumentation is much barer, but that's about the only huge difference that I'm able to pick up on.


The Turtles: Happy Together (1967)

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Happy Together

Makin' My Mind Up 9.5/10

Here is a happy, sunshine-pop song with a catchy melody... And all of it is done in a method that doesn't seem cheap to me. Hey! If you're going to make sunshine pop, this is the way to do it. Make me happy without making me want to vomit. The instrumentation is similar to what the Beatles might have done in 1964. But the melody is so wonderful and the harmonies are quite complex. It's not brilliant, but it's joyous and makes me think of "the good times."

Guide For the Married Man 9/10

Here is another killer melody. Gosh, the lyrics are just crazy ...... it's hard to know if they're serious. Anyway, speaking of the melody, it's so hooky that it's surprising. They have a nice, danceable beat and some orchestral stings to keep things sounding current. This seems like the band was treating it a throwaway song, but the melody is too catchy.

I Think I'll Run Away 9.5/10

And they slow things up with an interesting ballad. The melody is so catchy that you CANNOT dislike it. The mid-tempoed beat is well-constructed ... in ways it's reminiscent of a country-western ballad, but it's much too awesome for that. The instrumentation is quite interesting ... you hear those "Aaahs" and funny horn loops going in and out of the speakers at opportune times. This is a complex song with interesting harmonies and even some rather clever rhythm changes.

The Walking Song 9/10

This would be loved by every indie-fan if it were recorded by They Might Be Giants ... and that's not far off to be honest. The chorus sounds exactly like them. This is a rather exciting song, and it sounds like The Turtles were having quite a lot of fun! When the Turtles have fun, I have fun as well... That's how it works, folks. And that's why I don't like Madonna!

Me About You 8.5/10

They don't relent. This is a rather thunderous pop ballad with another melody that would make Phil Collins shutter in his shorts. The instrumentation is fun and interesting ... they're obviously Beatles inspired here, but that doesn't mean it's not fun. I'm having a blast.

Happy Together 10/10

Here is that famous song that I know best from the movie Ernest Goes to Camp, which I loved for reasons when I was a kid that I'd rather not remember. This is one of those songs that you think you are going to hate because it's so over-played. But then when you sit down and actually listen to it, you discover that it's genuinely a very good song. These guys certainly aren't cheap about it. Their melody is just perfect. They give it all the care in the world with their instrumentation .... The rhythm section is almost fit for the Beatles (not quite) but they throw in things like that horn solo in in the background, tasteful vocal "ooohs," dramatic build-ups ....... in all actuality, this is one spankin' song.

She'd Rather Be With Me 8/10

This is another happy, smile-inducing song. The instrumentation doesn't seem to be quite as good. Surely the drummer could have done something a little less ... pounding? There's a lot of creativity here with their chord changes anyway. The melody is catchy but not their finest.

Too Young to Be One 8/10

Another gorgeous melody! It's average for them but well above average for everyone else. It has a nice flow and good instrumentation. It's far from a great song, though, but it's not cheap either.

Person Without a Care 8.5/10

This is a similarly happy song with a good melody! They have an interesting bit of instrumentation in here consisting of a jangly xylophone type instrument, and other odd sounds. Some of it sounds like a tape recorder experiment ... and some odd percussion that sounds like what Paul McCartney would later do in "Ram On" in Ram.

Like the Season 9/10

Ah, back to the timeless melodies. This is a sweet folky ballad. They don't try to be unusual with the instrumentation ... it's just an acoustic guitar, singing and a light violin in the background. It's gorgeous.

Rugs of Woods and Flowers 9/10

I never doubted these guys had a sense of humor, but they're just being goofy here. There's some weird, mock operatic singing amidst a similarly weird song that sounds like a fake showtune. It's silly but seemed to worked thanks to the catchy melody and those nice instrumental ideas. (The horns are very nicely arranged in particular... I'd go so far as to say the horns are tasty.)

She's My Girl 9/10

This is a strangely epic track, but it's still happy to the core... You've got to love optimism anyway! The instrumentation might be at home in a soundtrack ... it's surprisingly thick and quite involving. These guys knew a thing or two about harmonies ... I love those chord changes.

You Know What I Mean 9.5/10

Yet another strange track that's completely enjoyable. The melodies, again, are killer. It has an orchestral quality that's even more flamboyant than the previous track. There's horn fanfare, string glissandos ....... hooo yeah!

Is it Any Wonder 9.5/10

And they close with a beautiful ending... another happy track with some fun instrumentation. Their melodies don't seem like they're trying ... it's larger than life in that respect. The horns are very well arranged. The vocal work gives the track a glorious vibe that I hate to say is rarely repeated.


Van Der Graaf Generator: H to He, Who Am the Only One (1970)

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H to He, Who Am the Only One

Killer A

The only thing I can possibly compare this song to is the opening number of King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King, and that would be legitimate since I can assume that that's where Van Der Graaf Generator were getting their ideas. It's of course a very lengthy and meandering progressive rock song, but more than that, they're fond of using powerful riffs that are driven on mainly by a hammond organ and a saxophone. They also, in classic prog-rock fashion, use an unusual time signature and off-kilter chord changes. ...Yes, you're going to have to be a real noodle-head to like a song like this, and I do hope that there's just a little bit of a noodle-head in every one of us to appreciate a song like this. In addition to the usual grooving instruments, they give us some space-age sound effects as well as an extremely wild saxophone solo that flails about in a squeaky and uncouth manner. ...Not bad!!! Wildly off-kilter, squeaky saxophone solos were sort of a trend in the early '70s art-rock crowd, and I always seem to have fun hearing those. Peter Hammill's lead vocals are theatrical and fun to listen to even though he might not have the chops of an American Idol contestant. (I want to compare him to Ozzy Osbourne...) As a whole, this is an entertaining song with good riffs, nice instrumental performances, and weird lyrics about fish.

House With No Door A+

I bet somebody got sued over that one... Doors are a good thing for a house to have, I reckon. …I'm not sure what's wrong with me, but in early prog albums, I seem to go for these nice ballads whereas everyone else goes for those huge, grand-scale songs such as the previous song. (I haven't gotten as much flack for liking “Time Table” the most off of Genesis' Foxtrot as I thought I would... so maybe people aren't actually offended by my tastes?) ...Anyway, this is a great piano ballad! The melody is beautiful, and I also like the presentation of it. Just like the previous song, Hammill gives a powerful and theatrical vocal performance... even at one point switching over into a falsetto. It doesn't seem that much like he should be singing falsetto, but how can you think ill of him since he's all gung ho about it and has a good falsetto voice anyway? The instrumentation does come across as a bit loose... maybe these guys weren't the best instrumentalists on the prog-crowd. King Crimson surely beat them, and Genesis and Yes would surely eclipse this in a few short years. If this were tightened up or the instrumentalists had more virtuosity, this might have been even more impressive. But that doesn't matter, because it's a lovely song anyway. It's an easy A+ from me...

Emperor in His War Room A-

Does anyone else hear Queen's “The Prophet Song” at the beginning of this? ...My my! I think we might have discovered the inspiration for that song right here! (It's just a mild *hint* …just listen to the first 10-20 seconds of both songs and try to see if you're hearing what I'm hearing...) ...This is mostly an atmospheric, and “mystical” song that slowly builds up to a hammond-organ-heavy chorus that's supplemented with some nicely orchestrated dramatic flutes. ...I can eat this thing up for dessert. The melody certainly isn't the best thing I've ever heard, and it does start to get repetitive after awhile, but it makes a terrifically fun listen. I'm not sure if Hammill is trying to be campy with his vocals, but he's fun as well. I suppose my major complaint about it is that it just doesn't strike me as epic like “Killer” was, and the extended proggy interludes sometimes drag. And even some of the fast-paced instrumentals, namely that off kilter guitar duet in the middle, don't really capture my interest. Still it's a fun song. Perfect for all you noodle-heads.

Lost: The Dance in Sand and Sea / The Dance in the Frost A

This album reminds me of playing those RPG games from the late '80s... If they had the power to get some prog bands to write music for them, they should be something like this: Songs about different landscapes, and a lead singer who tries to sing glamorously to the heavens like some sort of wandering minstrel who is getting carried away. It's so large scale and pompous that I think I'd understand why some people might find it too much. But what can I say? Maybe I like overblown things? Like in the previous song, their instrumental diversions aren't always catchy, and it seems sometimes like they were more interested in grooving along in an unusual time signature than giving us something that would be terribly inspiring to listen to. I also have to put it in perspective and not geek out over this album too much and give it the same rating as Foxtrot or anything like that. Certainly the chord progressions are interesting and I like hearing their instrumental choices. As always, they have their hammond organs and saxophone that play around seedily and ominously, which are undoubtedly the highlights of the song. Halfway through the song, Hammill sounds like he got stuck in some sort of Broadway musical. (I really eat this stuff up... Knock it down a few letter ratings if you don't...)

Pioneers Over C A-

It's been killing me for awhile... that “chorus” of sorts where Peter Hammill sings four long-drawn-out notes “Into sky, into earth” sounds exactly like something I've heard before. I'm pretty sure it's from Les Miserables but after poking around that album, I haven't been able to find it... Anyway, this is a long-drawn-out space adventure, this time about being lost in space in the distant year of 1983. (I'm always amused when I look at old movies or music about some distant year in the future, which is now a far more distant moment in the past... Considering how much I like old sci-fi, it's no wonder I always feel like I'm living in the future...) Without a doubt, this 13-minute space epic has its ups and downs although they're mostly ups. At least the first half of it is a very beautifully constructed with atmospheric, slow bits melding in wonderfully with more fast-paced, riff-heavy parts. I'm never too sure where it's going to go, and it's fun to hear it develop. As you might expect, they bring us plenty of neat riffs in it and a dramatic vocal performance from Hammill who sings lyrics that are geeky but I'm nonetheless buying them. The last half doesn't quite flow as well as the first half, although the freaky psychedelic backwards instrumentals are fun to hear. There are just a few spots that drag for me. The melody might not be catchy like a Beatles song, but they still do things that manage to get stuck in my head.

BONUS TRACKS:

Squid/Octopus A

Well this is surely a huge bonus track for their big-time fans... a 15-minute epic called “Squid/Octopus.” (What, you think those animals are interchangeable or something? That must make you a cephalopod racist.) It's quite an energetic song, with drums thundering all over the place, a noisy vocal performance from Hammill who sounds like he ought to have been a hair-metal star at times. Probably the most appealing thing about this song (for once) is the backing instrumentals. Those tight drums are pounding and rattling along every which way, complimented by a wonderfully detached Hammond organ and a saxophone playing a few wobbly notes. This is something else... Around the five minute mark, the organ sounds like something out of a Dracula movie, before getting back into those super-wild, atonal jammy moods... This amuses me... Definitely take a listen to this if your version of this album is without bonus tracks!

Emperor in His War-Room (Early Take) B

This certainly isn't the “lost gem” since we've already heard it before! As you'd probably assume, it's much rougher than the version that appeared on the album. It indeed had a lot of kinks in it that needed to be ironed out before they went to press with it! This is paced more dully than the final cut, which I guess shows that the secret to this album's success is as much in the polishing as it is in the songwriting.


Ween: The Mollusk (1997)

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The Mollusk

I'm Dancing in the Show Tonight A

Ha! They are singing with goofy cartoon voices to a cheesy grade-school-kids piano show tune. Their tongues are in their cheeks so far that they were coming out of their ears, and I love it for that. I want to say the melody is catchy, too, but it seems pretty much “borrowed” from the generic sort of melody these types of songs take. But the orchestration is pretty elaborate with a tuba, some woodwinds, string synthesizers. Very pleasant! Hardly a throwaway, either. Usually when bands do this, it seems throwaway.

The Mollusk A+

You might think that the band would write more cheeky music after listening to that opening track, but this is as serious as the most serious late '60s Beatles song. It's as good as one, too, with a rich melody and captivating instrumentation. A repetitive scaling synthesizer strewn throughout was a rather ingenious idea to give me the idea that this is taking place under water, and I really like that sort of underwater jam session they take on the outro with that beautiful horn solo!

Polka Dot Tail A

This bizarro, clanky waltz is also completely different from the song that preceded it. I should probably mention that this thing is diverse as hell. On the other hand, this still gives me a rustic, salty sea-air sort of vibe to it, like some sort of clunky crab dance. (I'll let you try to figure out what I mean by a “clunky crab dance,” because I'm not sure about it myself.) The instrumentation is fascinating, though... I don't think anybody could really dissect what it took to produce all those clanky sounds. And then the messed-up, vibrating guitar solos are interesting... They sound “watery,” which continues to keep that ocean theme going. Also, I should mention that this melody is catchy.

I'll Be Your Johnny on the Spot A-

I'm not too sure how they're getting away with this, because usually things like this would be annoying to me, but perhaps the previous three songs have me in too much of a great mood! Or maybe this too fast paced pop song manages to hypnotize while it drags me into its rather hellish groove. The melody isn't too great, but I still somehow like it. ...I really don't know how they got away with this.

Mutilated Lips A+

Geez, another huge masterpiece, and I'll have an impossible time trying to decide whether I like this song more than “The Mollusk,” because they're so different. So let's just love them both! This one takes a more psychedelic route with this slower paced song, featuring some acoustic guitar playing and these amazingly smooth electric guitar textures in the background. (Definitely watery.) The vocals are done interestingly, too. There is a whooshy effect to them in the verses, and they're calmly rapped in gnomish vocals in the chorus. If you haven't heard this song before, you really should; it's one of the most calming songs I've ever heard that, unlike most new age music for instance, it doesn't also give me the sensation that I have been lobotomized. The chorus is really fun to talk along with... Get a load of them! “Mutilated lips give a kiss on the wrist / of the worm like tips of tentacles expanding / In my mind, I'm fine, accepting only fresh brine / You can get another drop of this, yeah you wish...”

The Blarney Stone A+

We're going to have to say that the main reason for the A+ is because I have a bit of an unexplainable soft spot for crusty old sea shanties, and I've never heard one done quite like this before. The melody itself isn't anything too interesting (it's the typical thing you hear in movies that have crusty old English guys drinking beers and singing), but this actually sounds like they were doing this in a crowded pub. There are overexcited people cheering and singing off-key in the background, a thick sounding accordion and a rustic acoustic guitar providing the only instrumentation, and Dean's low-pitched, gravelly lead singing sounds like he should have a gray, stubbly beard. It sounds like a crazy amount of work went into this, and it all paid off.

It's Gonna Be (Alright) A+

I like how they're able to move from a crusty old sea shanty to a calm, Beatles-esque ballad, and they don't think twice about it. I don't even find the switch that jolting or unexpected! They are subtly continuing the water theme of this album by using particularly watery guitars in the background and a thick sounding electric drum beat. This song would have been good just because of the instrumentation, but the extremely hooky melody takes it! It's rare that I run across albums with this many excellent melodies in them...

The Golden Eel A-

This is a weird song that I never have much success getting into by itself, although it's different enough from the awesome songs that surround it that I find it rather fresh, and it doesn't go on long enough for it to start boring me. The melody has a few hooks on it although it's fairly weak for the album. What gets me the most are those hugely pounding drums they bring in here along with its electrifying guitar solo! Still, this is one of the least accessible bits of the album, and I certainly don't see The Beatles or The Rolling Stones ever trying something like this. Like it or not, though, it's unusual!

Cold Blows the Wind A

Definitely in the folky realm, and I can imagine this thing being sung by a world-worn sailor. The melody is good but not unlike most sea-weary folk songs sound like. They make this unusual by adding in deep, wobbly synthesizers, a slow buy huge pounding drum, and a rather awkward noodly Mellotron. Not bad!

Pink Eye (On My Leg) A-

Maybe the weirdness of this track can be explained exclusively through their silly humor. Basically, it consists of a nice albeit rather canned sounding groove that's not too unlike stock music. Of course it's much more involved and complicated than normal stock music, but that feeling is there. And then midway through, a fake noise starts to bark... And then later on, a noise is emitted that sounds like a cross between a burp and a groan. I'm not too sure what to think about this... I guess the synthesizer solo is pretty good.

Waving My Dick in the Wind A-

This is similar to “I'll Be Your Johnny on the Spot” in that it's very fast-paced and kind of cheesy. This song however misses that hypnotic quality I liked, but in turn it's not quite as potentially irritating. The melody is alright, but doesn't seem altogether original. The presentation of it is certainly interesting... How many of these humorous fast-paced rock songs are there?

Buckingham Green A+

A lot of people seem to like calling this album progressive rock, but this is the first instance where I get that impression strongly enough to write about it. There's a definite prog influence here with this orchestrally dense piece featuring an interesting chord progression and a wandering vocal melody. The only thing non-proggy about this is the three-minute running length! Then again, they could have brought it out to eight minutes and I'm sure it would have been interesting the whole way through... but Ween had more fish to fry in this album!

Ocean Man A+

I remember this song played at the end credits of the Sponge Bob Square Pants movie, which played when I had a part time job cleaning up theaters. ...I loved cleaning up after that movie, even though it was usually infested with little kids who used to stomp popcorn into the floors... Anyway, this is just a great pop song. The melody is catchy, catchy, catchy. The presentation is extremely fun, too, with those funny vocals, the bubble-gum drum patterns, and the jangly guitars. The lyrics are also a lot of fun to sing along with...

She Wanted to Leave (Reprise) A

And they end the album with a song that sounds like it should end an album. It has a sort of conclusive aura to it, which is essential for any sort of concept album. (Maybe this album isn't progressive rock, but it's definitely a concept album.) The melody continues to be strong and memorable, which shouldn't come to a surprise considering what I've been saying about all these songs. ...They even bring back a piano instrumental version of “I'm Dancing in the Show Tonight” at the end, which is cute.


Yello: You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess (1983)

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You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess

I Love You A

Awwwwwww, thanks. That's sweet.... (At some point I'm going to have to realize that song titles aren't personal messages from the artist to me.) This is an almost insanely good song, and I'm rather amazed they made it so. I would have thought that the steady drum beat that NEVER CHANGES would get on my nerves, but it doesn't. They do a great job messing about with synthesizer sounds and bringing in a variety of samples to keep the experience fun and fresh. The main synthesizer groove is just as catchy as any of them were back in that decade. Dieter Meier is an interesting lead singer since he's one of the few synth-pop singers who doesn't try to sing like David Bowie. Rather, he sings in a very low-key almost talking, almost whispering. He sounds like a creepy stalker sometimes. Other times, he's too cool for school. It's fun hearing him interact with that oft-repeated sample of a woman saying “I Love You.” It's a little like he was playing that sample over and over again in his bedroom and then responding to it.

Lost Again A

This might even be better than the previous song even though I don't get that creepy, whispery stalker quality from it, and they're also not quite as creative with the samples. (Although I like those footsteps that opens the song.) The chords are quite good, and Meier finds a rather catchy melody to talk-sing. They alter his vocals through whatever vocoder machines they were using back then, and they make it sound like he's singing with a quiet chorus of emotionless extra-terrestrials. Cool use of those computerized effects, I say. The synthesizer textures continue to be well developed and fun to listen to. There's an abundance of wavy, outer-space synthesizers in the background... which represents the FUTURE. I'm kind of disappointed with the boring fade-out, though.

No More Words A-

More closely resembling Talking Heads, I suppose, since it uses some funkier groove-synthesizers, and the drum machine rhythm is almost something I'd want to do a fast-dance to. (Most of their songs are best suited for fancy walking and not fast dancing!) It's not terribly infectious as much as it is ear candy. The groove is fun to listen to by itself, but they keep on introducing new textures, new percussion instruments, and some samples, which always manages to keep the experience fresh. (There are a few points in this song where it sounds like somebody's knocking on a door... Over the last few weeks listening to this album, I kept on having to turn it off and make sure that nobody was actually outside my door... Similarly, there's a point in a Kate Bush song that makes me think my cell phone is ringing.)

Crash Dance B+

Does anyone know what this guy is saying? He's jibber-jabbering something all throughout this song. When he's not doing that, he's panting. Is that what all millionaire industrialists do in their homes at night? ...This is another fun song to listen to. The drum machine groove is fun and quick, and those echoing synthesizers make me think of some sort of spooky cave. They use some samples here, which accentuate the cave-like imagery I get from this, but they're not quite as interesting as previous songs.

Great Mission B+

Perhaps you would like to know what sort of things Dieter Meier says on this album? (“The jungle near Manaus / The Amazonas full of piranhas / The birds of paradise / Disappear into the green desert / For years and years / We are hungry and desperate / For the only thing worth living / The excess / We end our Great Mission / Exhausted and sad / And there is no hope left / When suddenly / In a cloud of golden smog / The father of excess / Jumps out of the water of / The Amazonas full of piranhas / And screams to the lost souls.” ...at this point, Meier alters his voice to make it sound very deep... “What are you doing at the Amazonas / Leave Manaus full of piranhas / BURP!!! / You will not find excess in the jungle ...and back in the “normal” voice... “And then / He opened the green curtain / Made of fleshy leaves and said” ...deep voice... “I show you the excess of the / Asphalt a Montmartre / The excess of the belly dance / In Abu Dhabi / And the excess of the everlasting night in Manhattan / BURP!!! / Are you ready for the sensation del dango a Rosario? / Leave him, the gorilla / Leave the jungle of the Amazonas / Leave Manhaus full of piranhas / And follow father excess... …............Yes, this is exactly the sort of thing rich people do, don't they? They don't get enough of everything in the civilized world, so they go to the jungles looking for burpy smog monsters. Anyway... this story is probably this song's biggest appeal since there is no drum machine rhythm, but they also layer on some bird sound effects to give it a thicker atmosphere.

You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess A-

The drum machines are back for this one, but they keep the jungle sound effects leftover from the previous track. I'm not sure I mentioned yet that they do an excellent job programming these drum machines... They aren't usually just a single pattern playing throughout the track. The drum machines in this one, in particular, are always evolving, and there is an occasional fill. Clearly they worked hard programming this! The drum machines + jungle sound effects + more of Meier's deep-voiced style-talking = two minutes of FUN.

Swing A

Yes, you probably would have guessed it... This is a synthesizer and drum-machine version of a SWING song. Except there's something creepy about it, like a Tim Burton movie. A typical bass rhythm is played with a lively and rubbery synthesizer. Meier sings much of this in a whispery, ghoulish crooner's voice (which he does pretty well), but during the interlude he starts to mutter something in German. If I were to imagine skeletons dancing around at night in the graveyard, this would be the perfect background music for that.

Heavy Whispers B+

Heavy whispers... Maybe I should have been using that term to describe Meier's singing style from the very beginning? It starts out with another subdued Kraftwerk-esque drum-machine rhythm, and Meier whisper-sings over it. They do use some samples through this... I hear a soundbye of a woman gasping over and over again, and also some Star Wars laser effects. But there aren't enough of them! Occasionally a whistly synthesizer plays an ominous melody. At one point, I hear a mystical harp texture come in... Not bad.

Smile On You B

I almost have to wonder if these are filler-ish tracks, since they don't at all do anything that I haven't heard before. It's another drum-machine rhythm that you can walk to while Meier talks over it. There is a point where he belts out some strained notes, which is interesting to hear him do.

Pumping Velvet A-

They're going for a kind of anti-Arnold Schwarzenegger thing, I guess. (Now I can't get the image of that muscle man in the gym lifting up with some fabric. It helps that Meier raps/talks some of lyrics in German.) The atmosphere of this song is very seedy, and interesting. The drum machine rhythm is another interesting one that's good enough to walk to. The accompanying electric guitars (which have a funky, Talking Heads vibe to it) and synthesizers are always evolving and piques my ears. ...And this rapping really cracks me up, for some reason, especially at the end of some of the stanzas where he does this strange sort of shrill.

Salut Mayoumba A-

You know that somebody knows how to program drum machines when they can make these percussive-heavy world-music rhythms so much fun to hear. ...And the somewhat complex rhythm is basically all there is to this song, because I guess Deiter Meier got tired of whispering and doesn't show up on this track. (I guess that would technically make this an “instrumental” … not that any of the previous tracks were “songs” per se...) They mess around with more synthesizers to keep it from becoming boring.

BONUS TRACKS

Base For Alec B

These are bonus tracks that I like to hear. Songs dropped from the album for whatever reason, but it gives the die-hard fans some cookies after all these years. (Are there actually die-hard Yello fans, come to think of it?) Nothing too special, though. It has another beat you can walk to, and it's loaded with repetitive samples. Meier doesn't do much in the vocal department, occasionally whispering something. It's not too distinguished compared to everything else, I'm afraid...

Rubber West B+

These guys were capable of guitar solos? ...There was some guitar in their previous songs, but the consistent use of sampling, and Meier's whisper-singing always distracted me from them. But here, there are no samples, and all I hear are some atmospheric synthesizers, rubbery bass synths, and somebody NOODLING with a guitar! It sounds very much like Dire Straits' similar noodly tunes from Communique. It's not quite as compelling to me as that, but it's close, which is rather surprising.

You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess (Club Mix) B

...Eh, I never saw the appeal of a “club mix,” although, this one isn't actually bad. The drum machine rhythms are completely different, and they use other sorts of synthesizers. The vocals sound different also. ...I definitely prefer the original to this, and interestingly I think that version would play better in a club.

Live At the Roxy C+

(Just so you know, bonus track ratings don't hold any influence on the overall album score...) This is what Yello would sound like if they were completely uninteresting. It's a busy drum machine rhythm that doesn't change around much and samples that never catch my ear. There's no singing or anything, so it's pretty easy for me to space out to this... And that pretty much happens, because some space-age synthesizers come in at the end and overshadow the drum machines. ...I'm guessing this is just a product of them screwing around in the studio.

Pumping Velvet (Remastered Club Mix) C

Do these songs actually get played in clubs? ...I guess I'll have to talk to some formerly hip person from the '80s, because I have no idea. Anyway, this version of that excellent song from the album is nearly five minutes long, and its almost completely without the original appeal. Instead of having a thick and seedy atmosphere, it's a thinner and tinny one. It's definitely more overextended and it doesn't hold my attention. They also only use that awesome synth-bass line sparingly here seeming to prefer letting the drum machine rhythms drag on...

I Love You (Club Mix) B+

Awwwwwww, thanks. That's sweet (Club Mix)... Unlike the club mix previous to this, they actually keep much of what was originally appealing about the track intact. In fact, they build up the drums heavily by the final third, which is kind of exciting to hear. What I don't understand is why they took out most of Meier's vocals! He makes a very faint appearance towards the end, but that's not enough! I want to hear his performance! (I guess we should just listen to the original again? … Unless, I guess, you're in a club that plays '80s synth-pop music.)


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