Manic Street Preachers: The Holy Bible

theholybibleThere’s something that’s just so almost about this. And it’s not like I like it a little and it’s almost great. It’s like I almost love it but don’t even really like it. My appreciation of it is all checklist-based. Heavy music: check. Acerbic lyrics: check. Progressive song structure: check. But it doesn’t grab me. It’s got a bad case of Marillion syndrome or something.

Maybe I’ve just outgrown this type of thing. Maybe if I’d heard this back in 1994 I’d be a huge fan. Maybe it’s the mid-range emphasis and generally dry sound that leaves me cold.

For a while I was going on they hypothesis that I would like it more if I could understand more than just the occasional America-hating (something I always prefer be done by Americans; Manic Street Preachers are Welsh) lyric. And then I read the lyrics as I listened and I actually liked it a lot less. Apparently these lyrics were written first and the lyricists and songwriter are not the same people…and that’s not surprising at all. The music never fits the lyrics, the lyrics are never lyrical, and the delivery of the lyrics ignores pretty much all American-English prosody. (As an aside the guy who wrote most of these lyrics disappeared shortly after this album was released. I don’t have anything to say about that, but something like that looms large over a CD and I can’t really let that go unmentioned.)

From about halfway through the eighth track, “Mausoleum,” to the end of the album (13 tracks in total), things are pretty awesome. Almost awesome enough to keep it at three clowns. Almost.

Rating:
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Mix: “P.C.P.”
– “Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart,” “This Is Yesterday,” “Die In The Summertime”
– “Yes,” “She Is Suffering,” “Revol,” “4st 7lb,” “Mausoleum,” “Faster,” “The Intense Humming Of Evil”
– “Of Walking Abortion,” “Archives Of Pain”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Sleater-Kinney: The Hot Rock

thehotrockWhat the hell happened here? Two four-and-a-half clown albums in a row and then Sleater-Kinney drops this with their next release? It was nice that they had ratcheted down the passion a bit from their too-raw debut, but this, their fourth album, is an overcorrection. Where’s the energy? Where’s the passion?

The album starts with a good, but not great track, and then by the time we get to “Hot Rock” in the second position, we’re already into some weird Sonic Youth mopey, eighth-note-heavy, and out-of-tune vocals and guitars stretch that doesn’t really pick up until we’re at least a third of the way through the 12th track. That song, “Memorize Your Lines,” is damned good, but even then they can’t keep it up for an entire song. It starts off with an A-B-A-B-C pattern, and the song is barely worth listening to until the C section. Why would you bury your best couple of minutes 11-plus songs into an album?

Stylistically, along with the guitar rhythm and atonality of everything that I mentioned above, the most notable element here is that the band brings out the dual-vocals much more, often times in contrapuntal melodic and lyrical lines. “Burn, Don’t Freeze!” simultaneously describes an arsonist (I think) in lyrical and explicit form.

This album is mostly meh. And there’s just so much of it that I finally had to differentiate by pushing songs into both full (“The End Of You,” “Burn, Don’t Freeze!”, “One Song For You”) and broken (“Don’t Talk Like,” “Living In Exile”) that otherwise wouldnt’ deserve their fate. Nice try, but no, there’s only one Kim Gordon.

Rating:
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– “The End Of You,” “Burn, Don’t Freeze!”, “One Song For You,” “Memorize Your Lines,” “A Quarter To Three”
– “Start Together,” “God Is A Number,” “Banned From The End Of The World”
– “Hot Rock,” “Don’t Talk Like,” “Get Up,” “The Size Of Our Love,” “Living In Exile”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Silver Sun: Silver Sun

silversunSilver Sun’s debut album is Teenage Fanclub (sloppy-sounding big guitars) britpop meets Elliott Smith (spesh the falsetto) indie meets horrible sound. Which is bizarre because it was produced by Nigel Goodrich (Radiohead), who has done excellent production work (see: Radiohead). Here he does a bunch of very good pop songs a huge disservice by hiding them behind layers of unpleasant fuzz and distortion. This kind of production might (might) work well on a Mudhoney album or something where the muscle, grit, and gruffness push the melody through, but these songs are often too delicate to stand up to this kind of treatment.

The best tracks are those where, in fact, the band does put some oomph into their songs. They do the quiet-to-loud transitions expertly on “Yellow Light” (where they push a sometimes plodding song into full-heart territory) and “Nobody.” “Lava” features a dual-guitar complement of a rapid-fire one-note ostinato with a syncopated palm-muted thing.

The album features no awful songs, two or three amazing songs (“Lava,” “Wonderful,” and “Nobody” are the best), a few more quite good songs, and the rest split between pleasant and meh. But they’re all made worse by the production…maybe with the exception of the quiet, reflective album-closer “Animal Feets,” whose piano-and-vocals-only (plus garbage truck) production seems to actually match its mood.

Would have been four clowns with better sound.

Rating:
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– “Golden Skin,” “Last Day,” “Yellow Light,” “Lava,” “Wonderful,” “Nobody,” “Animal Feets”
– “Dumb Bitch,” “Julia,” “Service,” “2 Digits,” “This N’ That,” “Bad Haircut”
Song Notes: After the jump
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