Electronic: Twisted Tenderness

twistedtendernessI’d never heard of Electronic before, but they’ve got quite a pedigree. It’s Johnny Marr from The Smiths along with a guy (his name’s Bernard Summer, but I’d never heard of him) from New Order. And then some collaboration with Pet Shop Boys and Kraftwerk but not on this record, which is kind of funny, because if there’s one bad this reminds me of it’s Pet Shop Boys.

Anyway, this isn’t as good as any of those bands. It mostly sucks and is way too long in the way only the 90’s could be. The original 11 tracks clock in at a total of 62 minutes, but then I’ve got three bonus tracks on this Xbox Music version that I guess combined to form the American version.

I think you can just review this group the same you review almost any supergroup. It ends up being: Hey, geez, these guys do a bunch of things well, like some good sounds here and half of a good song there, but too often this devolves into navel gazing or adding a 45-second intro because you feel like your songs should have an intro or both guys needed writing credits on all the songs or whatever.

Notably, the band does a passable cover of a song originally done by a supergroup. Have you ever heard of Blind Faith? I hadn’t. But I’d heard of some of their band members, like Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Steve Winwood. And I’d also heard their song that’s covered here, “Can’t Find My Way Home.” (“Lord I’m wasted and I/Can’t find my way home.”)

So, you know, pleasant pieces of music sprinkled unevenly throughout (mostly concentrated in the middle or at the top of the second half, actually), but for the most part, just bloated and not worth it.

Like: “Twisted Tenderness”, “Late At Night,” “Prodigal Son,” “Make It Happen (Remix)”
Meh: “Make It Happen,” “Haze,” “Vivid,” “Breakdown,” “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “King For A Day”
Hate: “Like No Other,” “When She’s Gone,” “Flicker,” “Warning Sign”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Guns N’ Roses: Lies

liesI remember liking this a lot more. And that’s weird because I’m super familiar with it, having listened to it maybe even more than Appetite For Destruction, since when these two came out I was super price sensitive.

It’s amazing that Guns N’ Roses followed up Appetite just a year later, given that it would take an additional three years before they put out their next album(s). It may not seem like it now, but anything more than two years back then was shocking. Especially for a band whose iron was as hot as Guns N’ Roses’. Of course, then there was the additional 17 years before their next studio album came out, but much ink has been spilled on that.

Anyhoo, here’s my new take on this. The first side (trust me on this, kids) was a re-release of their 1986, four-song, live EP Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide. These tracks all reveal the instrumental and performance prowess the band had, but gave no hint into the songwriting brilliance they would later have. There’s an Aerosmith cover, a Rose Tattoo cover, and two other songs that kind of fit into that blues/glam metal style. Including one that covers Rose’s move from Indiana to L.A., a subject he never seemed to grow tired of writing songs about (“One In A Milllon,” “Welcome To The Jungle,” etc.)

Then there’s the 1988 side, all acoustic. You’ve got the mega-hit “Patience,” which is a cut above all of the other “power ballads” (scare quotes because this doesn’t quite fit the mold as it doesn’t bring as much power with its complete lack of electric guitar) of the time, adding a bridge that elevates it but also reinforces that the rest of it is too long for what it is. Then there’s a wonderfully-performed acoustic version of the Appetite cut “You’re Crazy.” And then there’s the shit you can’t avoid. In order of less offensive to more…

“Used To Love Her” follows its title up with the lyrics “But I had to kill her/She’s buried right in my back yard.” In interviews the band said this was about “their” dog, but that doesn’t jibe because whose dog? What was its name? Why does Rose cheekily add the line “Take it for what it is”? No, misogyny making light of domestic violence and murder. Not funny. Nice song otherwise, but that’s a big fucking otherwise.

Then there’s “One In A Million.” Which is a fucking amazing song and moreso because it’s Rose being Rose. He’s being so true to himself and his core, inner, raw feelings, and that’s what makes this so fucking powerful…one of the most powerful artistic statements I’ve ever heard. Unfortunately, you’ve got the N-word, the f-word that means homosexual men, and a horribly isolationist and xenophobic rant against immigrants. The band took shit about it at the time, rightfully so, but I can’t believe the shitstorm this would kick off now. (Would be interested to hear better lettered critics than me take a crack at it.) The band says they didn’t want to include it but Rose insisted. Slash’s mom is black, for Christ’s sake.

There’s no excuse for this, and in particular when this kind of speech comes out in popular media, well, I’m glad it gets shot down. But I think the reception of this track is a big part of what set Rose off on his current trajectory. You’ve got a ridiculously gifted “small town white boy” who’s been anti-authoritarian his whole life, has a bit of a Messiah complex, and is the biggest rock star on his planet while being (mostly) celebrated for an album that celebrates debauchery and rugged individualism and triumphing against all odds and all that. Then he bares his soul, we find out how disgusting it is and rebuke it and him along with it. Add into all of it that he probably didn’t have the most solid of mental foundations to begin with and then give him more money than God and, well, you’ve got the last 26 years.

Programming note: Windows Phone 8.1 took away my hearts, so now I’m ranking things as Mix, Love, Like, Meh, and Hate. “Used To Love Her” and “One In A Million” both get knocked down for their hatred, and not just as punishment, but because when I listen to them that’s how I feel. And I kinda wish I didn’t like “One In A Million” so much. But fuck god that’s a great song.

Love: “One In A Million”
Like: “Reckless Life,” “Nice Boys,” “Move To The City,” “Mama Kin,” “Patience,” “You’re Crazy”
Meh: “Used To Love Her”
Filed Between: Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction and “You Could Be Mine” cassette single
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Guns N’ Roses: Appetite For Destruction

appetitefordestructionAlmost certainly the most perfect rock and roll album ever made. And somehow it’s only #62 on the RS500 (and 27th best of the 80’s). I kind of want to say let’s make the whole damned thing a mix CD and be done with it. You just can’t improve on this.

Two things stand out to me that I missed in middle school, or at least these are things that I didn’t fully appreciate then. First, Slash is a fucking monster. This is easily the greatest rock and roll guitar record ever made. I think I used to listen to music in a much more holistic fashion, just kind of taking it all in as one, but now I realize just how fucking amazing his work here is and how basically almost everything that’s my favorite part of the album, which is kind of the whole thing, is basically him just completely fucking killing it. Second, these lyrics are really filled with an attitude of celebrating debauchery and degrading and objectifying women. Which was of course a big part of its overall appeal, at least the debauchery celebration but of course I’d be naive to think the misogyny didn’t appeal to many. Anyway, that’s the only knock on it and the only part of it that doesn’t hold up 27 years later. It’s telling how good the music is that I don’t knock it down a notch for that, because that’s kind of a big one. And, of course, when we revisit Guns N’ Roses on their next release, we’ll really get into some sickening lyrics.

Mix: “Nightrain,” “Mr. Brownstone,” “Paradise City,” “Think About You,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
– “Welcome To The Jungle,” “It’s So Easy,” “Out Ta Get Me,” “My Michelle,” “You’re Crazy,” “Anything Goes,” “Rocket Queen”
Filed Between: The Gumdrops (Tight Pants) and Guns N’ Roses’ Lies
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Corey Glover: Hymns

hymnsApparently Living Colour singer Corey Glover released a solo album in 1998. Who knew? Probably the fewer the better. Glover’s talents are obvious and he pulls off the varied stylistic tributes to what I will assume are his primary musical influences from black artists, but in the end you really just want to hear the influences themselves and/or more Living Colour.

An additional, and completely unnecessary, flaw of the album is the spoken word samples that lead off and close tracks. These additions invariably make the tracks less enjoyable while almost always knocking the song down a ranking. “Hymn #1017” is a maddeningly self-congratulatory monologue on the evils of modernity, primarily fluorescent lights. (Are you ready to rock?) And I think the intro to “Sermon,” is an example of parasitic preachers that the song is railing against, but it so opaque and hostile it ends up being a giant turn off in front of what is otherwise a fantastic song.

This album as a whole is unnecessary other than, I suppose, Glover’s own desires to branch out and explore other aspects of his musicality. But I don’t really need Glover’s take on the style of Prince, George Clinton, and Marvin Gaye…I’d rather just listen to those guys. But even those are pulled off sufficiently well that, in the right mood, I can enjoy the songs and Glover’s voice together. I want to like it at least three clowns worth based on that, but he keeps getting in his own way with frustrating interludes throughout the record and the album doesn’t cohere, because does he want to rock me or lick my pussy…can’t tell.

– “Do You First, Then Do Myself”
– “April Rain,” “Little Girl,” “Hot-Buttered Soul,” “Things Are Getting In The Way,” “One,” “Lowball Express,” “Silence”
– “Hymn #1017,” “Sidewalk Angel,” “Sermon,” “Only Time Will Tell”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Retox: Ugly Animals


Why drive a Chevy to a broken levy?
– “Stick A Fork In It”

So apparently powerviolence is a genre, an extreme form of hardcore. And, amazingly, this extreme assault of upper-mid-range frequencies, incredibly fast guitars, and screaming vocals is growing on me. It helps that the 11-song “album” is just a hair over 11 minutes long. (No, really, I added it up, it’s 662 seconds.)

Misanthropic, sometimes juvenilely so, lyrics and their aforementioned presentation make it a difficult listen, particularly at first, but the math rock rhythms keep things varied and interesting enough. You’ll even notice, as you spend more time with the album, that there are timbre and tempi changes throughout, which also provide nice respites. Some feeback here and some slowed-down crunchiness there, even for a few seconds (which, after all, on an 11-minute album can take up a significant percentage of the disc) greatly increase the enjoyment level.

– “Thirty Cents Shy Of A Quarter,” “Boredom Is Counter-revolutionary,” “Ten Pounds Of Shit In A Five Pound Bag,” “Piss Elegant”
– “The World Is Ending And It’s About Time,” “A Bastard On Father’s Day,” “A Funeral On Christmas Sunday,” “Stick A Fork In It,” “Cement Sucking,” “A Captive Audience,” “Sorry We Are Just Not Compatible”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Sleater-Kinney: Get Up

getupJumping out of order here as I realized Xbox Music had this single from the disappointing The Hot Rock. “Get Up” doesn’t really bug me that much, and even on my earlier review I conceded it was close to open, but I gave it broken then so it gets it again here.

“By The Time You’re Twenty Five” [sic] is another one where if I pay attention during the right parts I dig it pretty well, but if I perk up during the out of key whiny part I’m pretty upset. Thankfully the first 75% of the song is dominated by the better parts, so, even though the last 25% is just meh, this borderline track gets an open heart.

“Tapping” is simultaneously the best (no really annoying parts) and worst (lackluster) song on the single.

Two clowns may be high, but I don’t want to spend too much time debating it with myself.

– “By The Time You’re Twenty Five,” “Tapping”
– “Get Up”
Song Notes: After the jump
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CPE Bach: Cello Concertos (cond. Bernard Labadie, perf. Truls Mørk, Les Violons du Roy)

cpebachcelloconcertThrough high school and college (and probably even beyond that but I stopped keeping track), I had no patience for Classical-era (note the capital C) music. Too balanced, too restrained, too courtly, it just did not reflect how I felt about anything, with its emotions so neatly tucked in and buttoned up. But when life throws at you what 2014 has thrown at us, well, it sure has been refreshing to turn on some Classical forms and let them be the order in my life. I wanted nothing hairy, nothing unkempt, nothing that was unpredictable. These forms were comforting. And with my newfound maturity (read: boringness) as I approach old-age, I found I really enjoyed them. Once you are comfortable with the format, you can find the expressiveness within, and these cello concerti by the most famous of the most famous Bach’s sons are wonderful, especially given the amount of latitude conductor Bernard Labadie takes with rhythms. I find the slower, second movements the least enjoyable and a bit draggy on Labadie’s part, but Concerto 172 in A Major here is basically perfect from start to finish.

Cello Concerto Wq. 172 in A major, Cello Concerto Wq. 171 in B flat major, Cello Concerto Wq. 170 in A minor
Song Notes: After the jump
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