Dodsferd: Wastes Of Life

wastesoflife

I’m reminded of The Golding Institute. Not because there’s anything sonically similar between that band and this, but because in both cases I found myself listening to something completely new and unfamiliar. This is not a position I find myself in often.

This is a very unique and interesting album.The two sounds that stick with you the most are this horrible, horror movie echoy like down the halls of an insane asylum sobbing, and the lead singer’s pained howl/yelp/”singing”. (Apparently the lyrics are all about how you’re worthless and should kill yourself, but that’s played out and I can’t understand what this Greek band is singing about most of the time, but more because of the singing style than the accent.)

Musically, things are slow and repetitive. It’s a bit reminiscent of Metallica’s “One” in parts, not least because in “The Dead Have No Speech For” [sic] they quote some of the same parts of Johnny Got His Gun that Metallica did in the video for “One.”

Mostly the album lays down a nice base of metal, but with the exception of the two Likes it just kind of remains at that background level. Save when they break the forgettable groove for some horrible crying or yelp-singing.

No, this is only intermittently good or enjoyable. Two clowns for that plus an extra half for being so damned compelling and unique.

Rating:
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Like: “To The Fall Of Man,” “Graves Of Your Creator”
Meh:
“Sterile Death, Without Mourning,” “To The Fall Of Man”
Dislike: “Wastes Of Life”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

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Rick Springfield: Working Class Dog

workingclassdog

Laugh if you will, but my love for Rick Springfield is not one iota ironic. I’ll defend his early material, fall passionately in love with his most recent releases, and I’ll definitively pronounce that the four albums that run from Wait For Night through Living In Oz are masterpieces. This is the second album in that run; you know it as “the one with ‘Jessie’s Girl.'”

This is the first tape I ever got. Yeah, we got tapes back then. I also got a Walkman, like an honest to got brand name Sony Walkman. Tapes are called cassettes now, but then they were definitely called tapes. And I’m willing to admit that a big part of my Rickers love comes from that birthday gift…with this serving as the foundation of my slowly building collection (tied for number two were Def Leppard’s Pyromania and Michael Jackson’s Thriller) I listened to it an awful lot and internalized Springfield’s songwriting tendencies. When he puts in a great bridge or key change in a new song, it feels right. But goddammit, I also think guitar-driven pop music is one of the crowning achievements of humankind, and Rick Springfield is one of its finest practitioners.

So the fact that I know this album inside and out is probably a part of the reason that I think that “Jessie’s Girl” is maybe the eighth best of the ten songs on here. But another big part of that is that, come on, if you’re a huge Rick Springfield fan you’re kind of sick of “Jessie’s Girl,” right? It’s like being a huge Faith No More fan and having them continually associated with just “Epic.” I can’t count the weddings at which “Jessie’s Girl” starts getting played and everybody looks at me for me to put on my performance, which is really hard when you get to the last third and the chorus keeps repeating without any more climaxes. I mean, at this point, I can’t even tell if I like it or not. Springfield himself has a much better attitude about the song, I think he calls it That Song or something like that, but he loves it as one of its own and recognizes all the fame and fortune afforded to him via that one song.

I don’t get flummoxed by an artist’s oeuvre being overshadowed by one song, but considering how much this album sold and how good it was it is pretty surprising that it’s not at least recognized as more than its biggest hit. When I was a kid “Daddy’s Pearl” was my favorite and I always wondered why it was buried in the middle of side two. The song, and especially its gang vocal chorus, seems a little less sophisticated than the rest of the album to me now, as do the next two tracks (see below). However, I have an even greater appreciation for the really awesome craft in “Love Is Alright Tonite,” “The Light Of Love” (which lead off their respective sides), “Hole In My Heart,” and “Carry Me Away.” The reggae-tinged “Everybody’s Girl” also holds up really well.

Now, let’s go back to those last two songs. “Red Hot & Blue Love” is fine. It’s a step away from the rest of the album to more of a doo wop boogie kind of feel. It doesn’t fit (in particular the husky female backing vocals don’t mix well with Springfield’s tenor), but it’s quite good and features a blistering guitar solo and a barn burner of an ending. And then the album closes with “Inside Silvia.” I have this really strong memory of unwrapping this tape, looking at the song listing, and feeling the need to say, “Oh it has [this track], too.” And since I didn’t recognize anything except “Jessie’s Girl,” I just went with the last one even though I had never heard of it. It’s a ballad. I appreciated it at the time. But I know I didn’t get the literal meaning of the title until I was much, much older, and now I think it’s just gross, though I recognize that kind of weird literal sincerity was prevalent in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Again, it’s fine, but it’s not great, and now I can’t listen to it without visualizing a vagina wrapped around Springfield’s member. And that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

So for the first seven tracks, this is definitely on a five-clown trajectory. And even through the first nine I’m kind of tempted to keep it up there. But “Inside Silvia” is just a misstep too blatant to ignore.

And now I feel bad that I spent two paragraphs on “Inside Silvia,” which is not even bad. This album is awesome and is so much more than “Jessie’s Girl.” If you write off Rick Springfield, you owe it to yourself to spend a few days with this power pop that has yet to be equaled.

Rating:
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Mix: “Carry Me Away,” “The Light Of Love”
Really Like: 
“Love Is Alright Tonite,” “Hole In My Heart”
Like: “Jessie’s Girl,” “I’ve Done Everything For You,” “Everybody’s Girl,” “Daddy’s Pearl,” “Red Hot & Blue Love”
Meh: “Inside Silvia”
Filed Between: Rick Springfield’s Wait For Night and Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Kampfar: Profan

profan

The first track my shuffle picked on this was “Icons,” and, due to the way it starts, I think I blurted out, at work no less, “Fucking flutes?! Angry Metal Guy screwed me again!” That’s the only track they pull that crap on, though, and it doesn’t last long. This is no Nechochwen, Myrkur, or Our Oceans, though. Of the metal I’ve reviewed recently, it’s closest to (the now defunct, unfortunately) Trials. Thrashy like that, but more screamy than singy.

The sound is massive; it’s really well produced, although with a bit too much emphasis on the upper-mids it ends up being awfully fatiguing, which means those flutes and piano at the start of “Icons” end up being a welcome reprieve.

The back half of the album is significantly better than the front half, but even then it is, for the most part, less than or equal to the sum of its parts. I mean, all the elements are there…great drumming, guitars, and some decent hooks. But it all kinds of flows together, a fact that is not helped by the first two songs having he same vocal melody in the chorus.

Add in the fact that it’s just pretty good and, I mean, when it comes to thrash, or dark thrash or whatever we’re calling this now, that means it’s just mediocre. I feel like music this fast and heavy absolutely needs something extra to take it beyond. Let’s put it this way. When a great song has been written, in many cases it can be made better by being played louder, faster, heavier, etc. That’s where the best metal is. However, if you’re starting with the loud, fast, and heavy and inserting merely decent songs, then you end up with something that just makes you tired.

This was fun. But I don’t think I’ll be coming back. I may, however, check out some of the rest of their catalog, which seems to be extensive. I mean, heck, I’m always willing to give dark Norwegian metal plenty of chances.

Rating:
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Like: “Profanum,” “Daimon,” “Pole In The Ground,” “Tornekratt”
Meh: “Gloria Ablaze,” “Icons,” “Skavank”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Our Oceans: Our Oceans

ouroceans

This is boring as all balls. It’s like an entire album of “Silent Lucidity.” There’s no harmonic movement. I think these are all the same song. Sometimes the lead singer sounds like Geoff Tate, but mostly he sounds like Jeff Buckley. Much of the album sounds like Dream Theater’s slower stuff. Looking back on the last two sentences, I realize they don’t support my thesis that this sucks, but just because the dude can sing and the band can play doesn’t mean this is worth listening to. I mean, it sounds fantastic, and I guess I’ll give it an extra half-clown for that. And you’ll note there isn’t a song that gets to Hate status, but goddamn it’s just so boring, and I Hate how Meh everything is.

I Liked “Let Me,” their most upbbeat and one of the shortest ones, but I think it might have been a pity Like.

This band is Dutch.

Rating:
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Like: “Let Me”
Meh: 
“What If,” “Precarious,” “Lioness Sunrise,” “Am I Still Here?,” “Turquoise,” “Reawaken”
Dislike: “Tangled,” “Illuminate”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Braid: Frame And Canvas

frameandcanvas

I think for the first time in like forever I can actually distinguish emo when I hear it. I’m not sure I can describe it yet, but as I peer into the next 20 minutes of so of my life I feel like this review is going to be my attempt to articulate the features I heard in this album that made me think, “A-ha! Emo.”

First of all, the lead singer can’t really sing. Or, it might be more accurate to say, for this gentleman at least, that he chooses, often, not to sing, but instead to howl and yip about really specific interpersonal moments that are supposed to make you feel like he’s your good friend because you’re tortured by similar youthful angsty demons.

Holy crap. I just realized…emo is just like grunge, just like six years later. Grunge had yarling about angst, emo’s got the yips about same. Okay, well, now that I’ve got a reference point, that’s the next step: How is emo different from grunge?

Most obviously is the guitar tuning, which in emo is traditional, in opposition to the drop-D of grunge. Lyrically I think grunge focuses a little more on self-loathing whereas emo is more about self-pity. Grunge does a lot of outward loathing, too, and emo’s got a bit of that, but grunge is more upset about the state of the world whereas emo is more concerned with that one girl. Emo tends to be a bit more upbeat when it comes to tempo, whereas grunge, in keeping with that down-tuning, wallows a bit more. In that vein, I’m also hearing on this record more space between the instruments, where grunge tends to be more of a spiked wall of sound.

This similarity of emo to grunge makes sense to me, because one of my shruggy responses when presented with “emo” was to say, “Isn’t all music emotional?” And a huge touchpoint for me on that was the fact that grunge struck a strong emotional chord for me in high school. So, yeah, the music I was into was emotional in pretty much the same way that emo is, just shift the guitar tuning, tempo, and lyrical content and you’ve got the other genre. I get it now.

So that’s kind of my review. This is pretty good. There are a lot of Upper Midwest references throughout. (The band is from Champaign, IL, and from when Netscape was hot, so that’s a thing.) The back half of the album leaves me a bit cold; the Likes and Really Likes on the front half are great songs, but the same on the back half are kind of saved by the guitars: “A Dozen Roses” has a great fingered riff, and “Breathe In” reminds me of the falling over vibe of Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I.

I’m tired of coming up with closing paragraphs, and I don’t think they’ve been that good lately anyway.

Rating:
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Really Like: “Killing A Camera,” “First Day Back,” “A Dozen Roses”
Like:
 “The New Nathan Detroits,” “Collect From Clark Kent,” “Breathe In”
Meh: “Never Will Come For Us,” “Milwaukee Sky Rocket,” “Urbana’s Too Dark,” “Consolation Prizefighter,” “Ariel,” “I Keep A Diary”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Mike Patton: The Solitude Of Prime Numbers

thesolitudeofprimenumbers

This sounds like the score of a movie done by Mike Patton. That’s because it is. You’ve seen movies. You’ve listened to Mike Patton. This is the combination of the two.

Not enough? Okay, fine, what if I told you the movie was Italian and about an awkward teenage friendship. Yeah? Now you’re starting to get it?

Yeah, it’s like that. It’s subdued, unlike a lot of Patton because, you know, he has to stay true to the film. And it’s a score, so it’s background-y in a lot of places. But it’s also quite avant-garde because it’s, you know, Mike Patton.

Most of the work here is done with the sound crafting. Reverb is heavy and mostly a result of the room. The instrumentation is mostly a (heavily-reverbed) piano, but there are plenty of electronics, too, especially in the big “Radius Of Convergence” or in more low drone tracks like “Method Of Infinite Descent.” The only vocals are some la la la’s in the first track.

The best stuff is in the first half. Up until, let’s say, track 19, it’s on a four-clown path, but then the back half of the album doesn’t offer anything besides Mehs and it gets a little too background-y for enjoyable listening.

What’s that? Back half after track 19? Oh yeah, that sounds like a lot, but track 19 is really only the eighth track. Because 19 is the eighth prime number. Yeah, check out that track listing, that’s one of the coolest things about this CD: all of the track numbers are prime numbers, from 2 to 53. And the names of the tracks are all mathematical concepts (I just read that, I don’t know any of them, nor did I look them all up).

Yay for weirdo musical scores.

Rating:
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Like: “Twin Primes,” “Identity Matrix,” “Contrapositive,” “Abscissa,” “Isolated Primes”
Meh: “Method Of Infinite Descent,” “Cicatrix,” “Radius Of Convergence,” “Separatrix,” “The Snow Angel,” “Apnoea,” “Supersingular Primes,” “Quadratix,” “Calculus Of Finite Differences,” “Zeroth,” “Weight Of Consequences (Quod Erat Demonstrandum)”
Filed Between:
 Mike Patton’s Mondo Cane and something else but I don’t know because I haven’t unpacked my CDs
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Rick Springfield: Comic Book Heroes

comicbookheroes

At other joints I’ve reviewed the other three Rick Springfield pre-Working Class Dog (i.e., the “Jessie’s Girl” album) records. This isn’t the five-[clown] masterpiece that was its successor, 1976’s Wait For Night, nor does it contain anything as ball-droppingly amazing as “Theme From Mission Magic” from its predecessor, Mission Magic! However, it’s much closer in quality to those entries than his debut album, Beginnings.

First, I can listen to this from start to finish and, except for a few lyrical clunks (and they’re big clunks), I never feel self-conscious or embarrassed; this is a legitimate pleasure, no guilt involved. Second, there’s plenty here that’s legitimately good, with the top two highlights being the motivational rocker “Why Are You Waiting” and the angry breakup song “The Liar.”

It may be just something that’s accessible to long-time Springfield fans who cut their teeth on his songwriting like me, but it’s a treat to go back to these albums from his pre-star days and hear the same sensibilities for song construction…it’s like going back and finding a toy that was very similar to one of your favorite childhood toys just different in a really cool way.

I foreshadowed this a bit, but the element that keeps this from being a higher review is the lyrics. Like on Beginnings he oddly juxtaposes his youthful pretty-boy look and energy with breathily-delivered cheesy lyrics of people at very different places in life. “The Photograph” tells the tale of an old woman who never married because her beau passed when they were young. In “Misty Water Woman” we get a poor remaking of the old tale of the dude who picks up a ghostly woman and drives her home where she disappears and her now elderly parents tell of how she drowned decades ago. So there’s the lyrics and then there’s just the genuinely weak portion of the album near the end where, from “The Photograph” to “Born Out Of Time” it’s hard to get too excited about anything, especially the very nearly bad “Bad Boy.”

Still, this is quite good. I enjoy it with no irony, and sing along with it all the day long, unable to get its melodies out of my head. As a fan, I want to give it four clowns. As a critic, I lean more towards three. I split the difference.

Rating:
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Mix: “The Liar”
Really Like:
 “Weep No More,” “Why Are You Waiting”
Like:
“Comic Book Heroes,” “I’m Your Superman,” “Do You Love Your Children”
Meh: “Believe In Me,” “Misty Water Woman,” “The Photograph,” “Bad Boy,” “Born Out Of Time”
Filed Between: Springfield’s Mission Magic! and Wait For Night
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading