Judgment Night Soundtrack

Here’s a forgotten aspect of the early 90’s. Remember Anthrax and Public Enemy teaming up to re-do PE’s “Bring The Noise”? (There was also Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith’s much more successful experiment with their remake of “Walk This Way.”) I’m sure MTV put it on both Headbanger’s Ball and Yo! MTV Raps. I have no idea why, but every executive in music programming at the time thought there was going to be huge crossover appeal between metal and rap. There seemed to be few to no actual musicians wanting to do something this, with the notable exceptions of the aforementioned bands and bands like Rage Against The Machine and their redheaded stepcousins Biohazard. It must have been that the execs were like, “Frustrated teenage boys love metal! And they love rap! So they should love both.” Which is complete ignorance of teenage boys at the time who were very sectarian in their metal v. rap camps. So we kept getting this crammed down our throat, even though it was never going to work.

And that’s before you even get to the music. Why did anybody think this was a good musical hybrid? Sure, sometimes you get rap songs over metal riffs, but those generally have had so much of the original metal song stripped out of them, that why would metalheads want to be involved? Again, there is nothing that says this should work, so why did it all culminate in this disaster of a soundtrack where every track is a metal (or just guitar-driven rock) band and hip-hop artist paired up for original songs?

Almost everything feels mailed in here. It feels like the rockers either tossed off a 30-second riff or reheated some of the stuff they were about to throw out because it was going bad, sent it to the rappers who tossed off a few rhymes, name-dropped the metal band involved, and acted tough to match the theme of the film.

I’m really not sure you can even say a lot of the bands were even involved. “Real Thing” by Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill sounds kinda like Pearl Jam, but Eddie Vedder definitely isn’t involved…at which point, is it even Pearl Jam? I own this because Faith No More is on it, paired with Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., and that track is merely boring, but it’s got very little Faith No More in it. I’m not sure who their guitarist was on this track, but it doesn’t sound like Jim Martin’s or Trey Spruance’s work. Songwriting credits are given to all four non-guitarist members, so my money’s on bassist Billy Gould covering the guitar parts here. There’s some keys and Mike Patton doing low, sonorant, wordless vocalization, but otherwise it hardly constitutes a Faith No More track. And actually what keeps that track as high as an open rating is the rapping. (House Of Pain and Onyx likewise steal their tracks.)

The best exception that proves the rule on here is the Slayer/Ice-T track “Disorder,” which Wikipedia credits as being a medley of three songs by The Exploited. So here you’ve got songs that were written to be songs, played by all four members of Slayer with their inimitable sound, and it’s all awesome enough that they kind of cover for the ridiculousness Ice-T brings to the table. (Remember his stupid metal band Body Count? They were mostly famous for their PMRC-baiting and truly tasteless and prurient “Cop Killer.”) Other tracks that bear the imprint of their rock band are also due to the style and sound of their guitarists: Vernon Reid of Living Colour and J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. Those guys just have their own sound.

Okay so at the top of this review I gave you “Walk This Way.” Are there any other examples where the rap/metal hybrid thing really works well? A serious question.

Rating:
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– “Disorder” (Slayer and Ice-T)
– “Me, Myself, & My Microphone” (Living Colour and Run-D.M.C.), “Another Body Murdered” (Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E.), “Missing Link” (Dinosaur Jr. and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien)
– “Just Another Victim” (Helmet and House Of Pain), “Fallin'” (Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul), “Judgment Night” (Biohazard and Onyx), “I Love You Mary Jane” (Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill), “Freak Momma” (Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot), “Come And Die” (Therapy? and Fatal), “Real Thing” (Pearl Jam And Cypress Hill)
Filed Between: Judas Priest (Painkiller) and Jump, Little Children (The Licorice Tea Demos)
Song Notes: After the jump
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Skid Row: Subhuman Race

Skid Row’s grunge album.

At least that’s how I always thought of it. I mean, just look at it. Plus, we talked about how their excellent Slave To The Grind was swallowed up under a wave of grunge, relegating Skid Row firmly to the “hair metal” bin of music history, even though they were becoming so much more than their hits from their self-titled debut. Anyway, even though I was a huge fan, and even though I remember thinking this wasn’t half-bad when I listened to it, I still never spent enough time with it to get rid of that “their grunge album” label.  I mean, it wasn’t as ridiculous as Motley Crue’s or Warrant’s grunge albums, but still, it just felt weird.

It turns out, though, that, while it is quite a departure from their earlier albums, it’s more like thrash and really is more of a continuation of the path they were on. The main problem is that I think they really were a little too influenced by what happened in the four years between this album and its predecessor and were trying a little too hard. Like I said, it’s full of double-bass and fast guitars like thrash, stop-and-start and rapidly shifting time signatures, and I think there’s even some drop-tuning and odd meters in here. But they almost entirely forgot about the melodies. And in a world where great rock melodies are becoming more and more rare, it’s a shame for a hook-driven band like Skid Row to forgo the tunes.

There’s also clearly some tension going on creatively here. On Wikipedia, bassist Rachel Bolan has a quote saying the band “had fallen apart” and “the album sucks.” It’s pretty clear that the members of the band have very different ideas of where to go at this point. Most of the songs are made up of two to four sections that, on their own, are pretty good, but aren’t melded together into great songs. (It’s a bit like I Love You in that sense.) That mix-tape strategy can work (Metallica’s …And Justice For All being the best example), but most of the time things just feel scattershot, and that’s what your left with here.

There are some great hooks on this album (along with some not-so-great earworms), including a few very good songs. However, I don’t think there’s a single song that, a year from now, I’ll be able to name, much less hum, without a memory refresher. This is almost the canonical album that Fat Clown is for. The album that, when I look at it, I’ll have some vague recollection of how I felt about it, but for the life of me I won’t be able to know why I liked or disliked it or even really be sure that I’m remembering my opinion correctly.

So in the end, some shell of Skid Row walked away (this is their last album with Bach) from the hair metal dustbin with their head held high and cred intact. Crazy rhythms; atonal, shredding guitars; and a lower register for lead singer Sebastian Bach: it’s an intellectual, visceral album. The lack of hooks may have been them defiantly pointing out they were more than what history was labeling them. But without those hooks, did anybody notice? And without those hooks is it even Skid Row? Or just the sum of its parts?

Rating:
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– “My Enemy,” “Firesign,” “Medicine Jar”
– “Bonehead,” “Beat Yourself Blind,” “Eileen,” “Remains To Be Seen,” “Subhuman Race,” “Frozen,” “Into Another,” “Face Against My Soul,” “Breakin’ Down,” “Iron Will”
Filed Between: Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind and Skin Yard (Fist Sized Chunks)
Song Notes: After the jump
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I Love You: I Love You

In 1991 I don’t think this band realized just how badly their name would eventually be Google-blocked. I dare you to find more than a few snippets of information on this band.

Their self-titled debut has a bunch of great songs, though I’d say it’s even a better album than its individual songs. There are a lot of great moments and riffs that end up constituting a really enjoyable start-to-finish listen, even if they have a little trouble, especially on the back half of the album, tying together three or four minutes of cohesive material really well.

I Love You’s predominant sound is that of a kind of scratch-funk guitar in the mode of Red Hot Chili Peppers but without Anthony Kiedis’ annoying “singing,” and RHCP never made anything this good. The guitar style works really well with the hippie dippie aspect of the lyrics, so popular with the long hairs at the time. It also works really well with the drummer. I didn’t really notice what he was doing back then, but I love it now. His work is chock full of syncopation, and he often just leaves the backbeat (and even the downbeat) completely out of the equation, playing around the beat, but, in part due to the guitar’s frequent scratchy strums, the drummer and the rest of the band never lose the rhythm. It’s the kind of drumming that I get the sense drummers hate, but I’m all over it.

The worst aspect of the album is probably the sound muddiness. Either that or the hippie dippie lyrics, which were so groundbreaking, heart-felt, and truthful to me when I was 17. Decades later I’m too cynical to do anything but sigh and roll my eyes at the silly idealism of youth.

It’s no mystery why this album has been forgotten to time. There’s nothing flashy or outrageously compelling here. (The closest the disc gets to that is the first track.) Still, it’s an excellent piece of work. The quality floor is high…the quality never dips below good. And, you know, I think for the most part I prefer an album with a high quality floor over one with a Best Song Ever and a bunch of filler. But then, I’m not most listeners.

Rating:
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– “Hang Straight Up,” “Open You,” “Love Is,” “2,” “She’s The One/I.N.S.E.T.,” “Swing,” “The Lamb”
– “Jesus,” “Flies,” “Jamf,” “Fuzz The Whirl”
Filed Between: Hype Soundtrack and I Love You’s All Of Us
Song Notes: After the jump
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Los Lobos: Just Another Band From East L.A. – A Collection

I can’t really do a full-on review of this because there are a whole bunch of songs that aren’t available on Xbox Music. I assume that’s due to publishing rights being goofy throughout this album, which is a bit of a compilation and a way to re-release one of their very early albums, Los Lobos Del Este De Los Angeles, whose title is obviously the inspiration of this collection’s.

It makes a ton of sense to do something like this for Los Lobos, whose style changed so much in the years covered by this collection. I think a lot of people who will like the rock stuff in the later part of that period will be turned off by all the bandoneon for the first several songs, but, you know, who cares, I guess?

Disc 1:

  1. Volver, Volver – N/A
  2. El Cuchipe – From Los Lobos Del Este de Los Angeles. Pretty sweet. A real nice feel to it. Upbeat.
  3. La Feria De La Flores – Slower, more like a ballad.
  4. Sabor A Mi – N/A
  5. Let’s Say Goodnight (Live) – Originally full-hearted on …And A Time To Dance, this one is fine but doesn’t sound as good. Loves the energy. The solos. Sweet.
  6. Anselma – From …And A Time To Dance.
  7. Will The Wolf Survive? – From How Will The Wolf Survive?
  8. A Matter Of Time – From How Will the Wolf Survive?
  9. I Got To Let You Know (Live) – Originally full-hearted on By The Light Of The Moon. Pretty manic here.
  10. Don’t Worry Baby – N/A.
  11. One Time One Night – From By The Light Of The Moon.
  12. Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes – From By The Light Of The Moon.
  13. River Of Fools (Live) – Full-hearted on By The Light Of The Moon.
  14. Carabina.30-30 – N/A
  15. Tears Of God – From By The Light Of The Moon.
  16. Set Me Free (Rosa Lee) – From By The Light Of The Moon.
  17. Come On, Let’s Go – N/A
  18. La Bamba – From La Bamba Soundtrack.
  19. El Gusto – N/A
  20. Estoy Sentado Aqui – From La Pistola Y El Corazón.
  21. La Pistola Y El Corazón – From La Pistola Y El Corazón.
  22. I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song) – I like this way better than the Disney version. Which isn’t hard. But this is awesome.

Disc 2:

  1. Someday – Wikipedia says it’s an outtake from The Neighborhood sessions. Good but a titch boring.
  2. Down On The Riverbed – From The Neighborhood.
  3. Be Still – From The Neighborhood.
  4. The Neighborhood – From The Neighborhood.
  5. I Can’t Understand – From The Neighborhood.
  6. Angel Dance – From The Neighborhood.
  7. Bertha (Live) – Jerry Garcia credited as a songwriter. Thin sound. Definitely a good song, though. Would probs prefer a studio version, but this is what I’ve got, so full.
  8. Saint Behind The Glass – From Kiko.
  9. Angels With Dirty Faces – From Kiko.
  10. Wicked Rain (Live) – Kiko version is open. This is worse, but the chaotic jam and dirty solo are pretty cool. Love the energy, dislike the sound.
  11. Kiko And The Lavender Moon – From Kiko.
  12. When The Circus Comes – From Kiko.
  13. Peace (Live) – Kiko version is full.
  14. Bella Maria De Mi Alma – like a julio iglesias kind of thing
  15. What’s Going On (Live) – Yes, the Marvin Gaye song. A good rendition, I like it. But live sound makes it open. And, I mean, it’s so faithful to the original that, while it’s nice to hear David Hidalgo singing this song, I don’t really need it.
  16. Wrong Man Theme – 1:44 and instrumental. I think it’s the theme to the Alfred Hitchcock movie. It’s pretty cool to hear them do it, but not exciting enough to get a full heart.
  17. Blue Moonlight – Seems kinda lame. Pretty boring soft jazz kinda stuff. Not really my thing. And this is just too straight.
  18. Politician (Live) – May be a Cream song since Jack Bruce listed as writer. Sounds like Cream. Dirty blues. It is Cream. Like “Bertha,” would probably prefer studio version due to sound, but this is all I’ve got so full heart.
  19. New Zandu – Vocal effect makes it sound like from Kiko sessions. It’s pretty sweet. Really cool use of dissonance. Start could be a ZZ Top song, but then it gets wacky. Would have loved for this to be on Kiko.

– “El Cuchipe,” “La Feria De Flores,” “A Matter Of Time,” “One Time One Night,” “Tears Of God,” “Set Me Free (Rosa Lee),” “La Bamba,” “La Pistola Y El Corazón,” “I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” “Be Still,” “I Can’t Understand,” “Angel Dance,” “Bertha (Live),” “Saint Behind The Glass,” “Angels With Dirty Faces,” “When The Circus Comes,” “Bella Maria De Mi Alma,” “Politician (Live),” “New Zandu”
– “Let’s Say Goodnight (Live),” “Anselma,” “Will The Wolf Survive?,” “I Got To Let You Know (Live),” “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes,” “River Of Fools (Live),” “Estoy Sentado Aqui,” “Someday,” “Down On The Riverbed”, “Wicked Rain (Live),” “Peace (Live),” “What’s Going On (Live),” “Wrong Man Theme”
– “The Neighborhood,” “Kiko And The Lavender Moon,” “Blue Moonlight”

Skid Row: Slave To The Grind

I remember the day this came out, in June of 1991, driving back from the record store with my buddy. I’d gotten the version with “Get The Fuck Out” as the sixth track. My friend got the one with “Beggar’s Day” in that position, which was a nod, I think, to the restrictions of retailers like Wal-Mart). This was an agreement we’d made prior so we could hear all the songs, but I knew I wanted the song with the swear word in the title. “Beggar’s Day” turned out to be the much better song.

Anyway, we’re driving back home to our CD players (none in the car, thank you very much), examining the long box, and I mocked it. More specifically, I mocked the formula that even bands I liked tended to follow. I reviewed the songs listed on the back and picked out what I was sure would be the power ballads: “In A Darkened Room” and “Wasted Time.” I still liked the band and loved the album, but I was clearly ready for something where I didn’t have to roll my eyes at the marketing department’s role in my favorite bands’ albums.

Consider, then, the release dates for the following albums later that year:

  • Ten by Pearl Jam – August
  • Nevermind by Nirvana – September
  • Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden – October

It didn’t matter how good this album was, there was no way it could avoid being swallowed up by the end of the year after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit.

I always liked this album, and wasn’t even particularly ashamed of it. I wore my (ridiculous) “Monkey Business” concert t-shirt from this tour (I’m pretty sure Soundgarden opened for them at Roy Wilkins Auditorium) just as I wore the one from the Pearl Jam shows I saw that fall and the following spring. But most high school kids were a little more attuned to how a shirt like that would affect their social status and Skid Row was swept aside with the rest of the hair bands.

Listening to this now, I hear that this wasn’t just a case of throwing out the best of the hair metal bands with all of them. It sounds to me like Skid Row was making the transition away from hair metal to a new sound just a bit too slowly before that sound hit from another direction. Beyond just moving too slowly, it would have been awfully difficult to outrun the legacy of the hits from their first album.

This release still has some of Skid Row’s original sound: squealy guitar solos and gang vocal choruses. But it’s way faster and thrashier than what was going on with other hair bands like Motley Crue and Warrant at the time. The power ballad-y songs aren’t completely formulaic, with “Wasted Time” and “Quicksand Jesus” being outright excellent cust. They cover a decent range of styles, including some wah wah guitar on “Creepshow” and a bit of a funk feel on “Psycho Love.” If there’s any style that’s overplayed on the album, it is that thrash element, one they emphasize by dialing down the bass and throwing tons of high-end at you just like most thrash bands of the era. I think they were going towards Anthrax here.

I’ve always felt this was an excellent album, and I’d say it’s the most criminally overlooked of its ilk. It doesn’t deserve its fate, but it was released with enough time ahead of the grunge and alternative waves that it still sold plenty, so I’ll take solace that, while it’s also probably filling up many used bins in record stores around the world, there are also plenty of fans like me enjoying it thoroughly decades later.

Rating:
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– “Monkey Business,” “Slave To The Grind,” “The Threat,” “Quicksand Jesus,” “Psycho Love,” “Beggar’s Day,” “Livin’ On A Chain Gang,” “Creepshow,” “Riot Act,” “Wasted Time”
– “Get The Fuck Out,” “In A Darkened Room,” “Mudkicker”
Filed Between: Skid Row’s Skid Row and Subhuman Race
Song Notes: After the jump
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Dälek: Gutter Tactics

I am coming into this with no expectations. I mean, after so many Dälek albums where I tried so hard to get into it only to be so disappointed, I just don’t feel like the band is going to change its tune at this point. They’ve found the formula they like, why would they be moving in my direction?

So, does the band non-meet my non-expectations? The beats and rhymes aren’t anything new. They’re same old same old. However, the sounds are much more inviting. They’re still cutting edge, aggressive; just not as antagonistic. It sounds much more pleasantly dissonant and noisy. And it’s those improved, more inviting sounds that have me negging the beats, because now that I’m not hung up on bracing to force myself through the music, I can focus more on what’s being said and how it’s being said. And it’s just kinda meh.

What I do pick up in the lyrics seems very anti-The Man, anti-The System, etc. And he hates me for not liking him and/or doesn’t care. And oh god, still with this? It’s like a really unfortunate mix of hip-hop machismo, liberal holier-than-thou indignation, and the me-against-the-world attitude of teenage boys.

It’s surprising then that one of the most appealing moments on the album is the opening track, which is Jeremiah Wright’s infamous speech (or at least a big chunk thereof) that drew so much lightning from the right during both of the last Presidential campaigns. At first I hated it because it was so angry, but then I started to hear it as music, and Wright has a keen sense of rhythm, tension, and crescendo. When you combine it with the music that Dälek masterfully puts under it, it kinda kicks ass. (Leaving aside, in this forum, the content of the speech, let alone its pragmatics.)

There’s still too much repetitiveness and too much blah. (If only they would forgo the rapping part.) But for the first time I can kind of tune that stuff out and just get lost in long stretches of the band’s soundscapes, and kind of look forward to listening to this. Maybe the band is coming around…. Nah, better keep my expectations minimal.

Rating:
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– “No Question,” “Gutter Tactics”
– “Blessed Are They Who Bash Your Children’s Head Against A Rock,” “Armed With Krylon,” “Street Diction,” “A Collection Of Miserable Thoughts Laced With Wit,” “Los Macheteros/Spear Of A Nation,” “2012 (The Pillage)”
– “Who Medgar Evers Was…,” “We Lost Sight,” “Atypical Stereotype”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Singles Soundtrack

Since I am so familiar with this album, or at least so intimately familiar with my experience with this album, I’m going to focus this re-review on what’s different for me now, 20 years later. By which I mean, what’s different between my experience now and what I remember my experience being then.

I remember liking this album a ton more than I did on these recent listens for this re-review. Specifically, I remember being hit much harder by Alice In Chains’ “Would?” and Pearl Jam’s “State Of Love And Trust” and really liking Pearl Jam’s “Breath,” Chris Cornell’s “Seasons,” and The Lovemongers’ cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Battle Of Evermore.”

I was kind of ready to be less enthused about those last two. I’ve cooled on Zep’s catalog in general, especially the deeper cuts, and I figured that time would diminish the novelty my high school self found in this version. The remaining interesting part of this track, and it’s not to be diminished, is the harmonic and contrapuntal interplay of the Wilson sisters’ vocals and how they evoke Robert Plant’s singular style.

I’ve almost completely soured on Cornell’s solo output after hearing everything that came out after the track here and finding that it all sounds exactly the same as this track. Cooling on “Breath” was more of a surprise as I remember it being something that was easily good enough to be on Ten. It probably still is, but I can hear now why it maybe fell into the B-side bin in the band’s mind.

“Would?” and “State Of Love And Trust” are still awesome, but they’re not completely flooring me the way they did in the past. I’m going to chalk that up to listening to ripped versions on my phone since I know I loved those two songs very recently.

On the other hand, I was expecting to like Soundgarden’s “Birth Ritual” less because over the years I’ve come to hear it as a B-sider of Soundgarden’s, not good enough to make Badmotorfinger, and it’s probably not, but it’s still pretty sweet (and gets bonus points for being in one of the best scenes of the movie).

I expected to like Paul Westerberg’s tracks more than I did back in the day, when I hated them. I still hate them. Though now I at least find some of the lyrics to “Dyslexic Heart” clever. Why those songs have not received more derision for completely bringing this album down and being utterly out of place, I don’t understand. I don’t know what dirt he has on Cameron Crowe to warrant his inclusion here.

It’s a bit sad that “Crown Of Thorns” has become Mother Love Bone’s legacy. They released a couple of great albums and have at least a handful of full-hearted songs. I understand why Pearl Jam’s gone on to play that and only that song, and it’s a great one, but its success has overshadowed the rest of the band’s output.

“Nearly Lost You” always was and still is the best track on the album.

It seems appropriate that Smashing Pumpkins round this thing out since they wouldn’t fit in any other place. Popular at the same time, but Chicago instead of Seattle (Paul Westerberg of Minneapolis is the only other non-Seattle artist) and not at all grungy. I have such an ambivalent relationship with them. Loved Gish, hated the too-clean production of Siamese Dream, though I can appreciate the songcraft there. This song fell in between those two releases. It has some great moments. But I think its verses are too long and quiet, meaning it falls just short of a full heart. It’s interesting to me that it’s not the feedback stuff at the end that takes away the heart but a big chunk of the more traditional song structure part.

I guess this ended up being a comparison of what I remember my old experience being, what I thought my new experience would be, and what my new experience ended up being. #navelgazing

Rating:
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– “Would?” (Alice In Chains), “Breath” (Pearl Jam), “Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns” (Mother Love Bone), “Birth Ritual” (Soundgarden), “State Of Love And Trust” (Pearl Jam), “Overblown” (Mudhoney), “May This Be Love” (Jimi Hendrix), “Nearly Lost You” (Screaming Trees)
– “Seasons” (Chris Cornell), “Battle Of Evermore” (The Lovemongers), “Drown” (Smashing Pumpkins)
– “Dyslexic Heart” (Paul Westerberg), “Waiting For Somebody” (Paul Westerberg)
Filed Between: Frank Sinatra (The Best Of The Capitol Years) and Skeleton Key (Obtainium)
Song Notes: After the jump
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