Voivod: Post Society

postsociety

It’s fitting that the always-futuristic Voivod is featured as my first 2016 review. This is the band’s umpteenth lineup, though, notably, they’ve got their original singer (“Snake”) back in the band, and they’ve always had the same drummer.

I kind of quit on Voivod, ironically, after my favorite album of theirs, Negatron, from 1995. I think what happened at that point was that they became my favorite band, which meant I had to go buy their entire discography. I started with their debut, War And Pain, found it not to my liking, and just walked away, thinking I’d come back at some point, though not 21 years later. Somehow I even missed the entire Jason Newsted era.

Anyway, unsurprisingly, this lineup sounds most similar to the Angel Rat and The Outer Limits entries in my collection. The prominent features are crazy, jazzy chords and harmonies, odd, shifting rhythms, and mid- to up-tempo songs. Actually, it might make more sense to instead contrast this to the parts of their catalog that this doesn’t mesh with as cleanly. It’s not the thrash of War And Pain and it’s not the bombastic uber-metal (I just made up that genre right now) of Negatron.

Two of the tracks here, “Post Society” and “We Are Connected,” were part of a recent split seven-inch. A third, “Silver Machine,” is a Hawkwind cover. In its original incarnation it was sung by Lemmy, and I can’t help but wonder if its inclusion here, two months after his death, is a tribute. Which leaves two new original songs to round out the album, and I think those, “Forever Mountain” and “Fall,” might be the two best, though I waver on that.

This is not guitarist Chewy’s first release with the band, but it’s worth noting that he carries on the legacy of original guitarist Piggy admirably. Voivod couldn’t possibly hire a slouch in that position, but his solos here are well within the vein of earlier releases, as I mentioned, but they also continue to be inventive.

This is a strong release. The chorus of “Fall” gets too whiny and repetitive, and the three other Voivod-penned tracks have exactly one section each that could be trimmed. But at least with a Voivod song if you don’t like one section there are several others to potentially enjoy. Revisiting these guys now makes me realize what a huge mistake it was to, in 1995, jettison them due to their 1984 release. I can’t wait to refamiliarize myself with the many albums of theirs I’ve missed.

Rating:
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Really Like: “Forever Mountain”
Like:
“Post Society,” “Fall,” “We Are Connected,” “Silver Machine”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Mother Love Bone: Shine

shineMother Love Bone is essentially required listening. They had a massive impact while only putting out an EP and an LP. Lead singer Andrew Wood died right before the Seattle scene really het up, and guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament would join forces with Eddie Vedder to form Pearl Jam. When Green River (of whom I’ve written extensively) broke up, it was to form Mudhoney and these guys. So, given the legacy and the ease with which you can listen to the entirety of their recorded output, why haven’t you done so? It must be something inferior about your innate being.

Anway, another nice feature of their small catalog is this EP is really a nice warm up to their album, Apple. It’s five (or four or six or seven depending on how you count them) tracks much in that style, but with a little bit of a rawer, less polished feel. Wood’s lyrical abilities and vocal charms are in full effect, as are the songwriting chops of Gossard, Ament, Bruce Fairweather, and Greg Gilmore. There’s a strong blues and glam influence and the band does a wonderful job of running with legs in both the world of catchy pop metal and that of alternative radio of the time. Which, given that this was 1989, sets them up just about perfectly for the coming merging of those styles in the early 90’s, grunge and otherwise.

You know “Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns” from the Singles soundtrack, but the rest of this material rocks considerably harder. My favorite is probably the “CD Bonus Track,” “Capricorn Sister,” which might have even gotten a Mix rating if it hadn’t been for the bonus track tacked on to the end of it which also features some silly dialogue and laughter at its end.

In my mind, I can hardly separate this from Apple. I came to them at the same time, and the music of the two is barely indistinguishable. The biggest difference is the bigger production of Apple, when the band managed to get to work with Terry Date. Which is maybe why it didn’t bother me too much when, post grunge blowup, the record label stuck both of them together onto one CD and named it Stardog Champion. SO JUST GO LISTEN TO THAT ALREADY!

But this is about Shine. If I had to pick which of the band’s releases was worse, fine, I’d probably pick this one. But it’s five tracks long and all of them would have worked on Apple, so your Mother Love Bone journey, which, again, is required, isn’t complete until you’ve taken this in.

Rating:
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Really Like: “Thru Face Away,” “Mindshaker Meltdown,” “Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns,” “Capricorn Sister”
Like: “Half Ass Monkey Boy”
Filed Between: [I don’t know I Haven’t unpacked my CDs yet] and Mother Love Bone’s Apple
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Anthrax: Armed And Dangerous

armedanddangerousThis EP first came out in 1985, the year after Anthrax’s first album, Fistful Of Metal. It was the first release to feature Joey Belladonna, who would be the band’s lead singer through its most successful years, on vocals. As such, it serves kind of as a reboot for the band, a chance to set themselves on a new course without all the pressure of an entirely new album full of new material while also working a new singer into the mix.

And new material is surely in short supply here. The five tracks on the original 1985 release really only have one song you can’t get elsewhere in some form or another. There are two re-recordings of songs from the first album (“Metal Thrashing Mad” and “Panic”), this time with Belladonna singing. (They’re listed as “live” tracks, but I think that means they were played live in the studio instead of being tracked individually.) There’s also a preview of “Armed And Dangerous,” which would appear on Spreading The Disease with a different mix, a faithful, but slightly faster and metal-er cover of Sex Pistol’s “God Save The Queen,” and finally, “Raise Hell,” which is the only track that I think is here and only here. And even then Fistful‘s lead singer, Neil Turbin, still has writing credits.

In 1992 the expanded re-release included both sides of the band’s first single…the original versions, with Turbin on vocals. The tracks are “Soldiers Of Metal” and “Howling Furies,” both of which were re-recorded for Fistful Of Metal.

That’s a really long way of saying there are seven tracks here, only one of which is a song that appears here and only here, and that’s the worst song of them all. Everything’s somewhere between good and really good, it just feels like the band is kind of running in place. Still, if this is what the band needed to do to make sure Spreading The Disease, which would come out later this same year, would be as good as it was, this fine but wanting release was more than worth it.

Rating:
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Really Like: “Soldiers Of Metal”
Like:
“Armed And Dangerous,” “Raise Hell,” “God Save The Queen,” “Metal Thrashing Mad (Live),” “Panic (Live),” “Howling Furies”

Regime: Demo 1991 + 3

demo1991+3This is a bizarre little release. I learned everything I know about this band from the bio in the album’s liner notes. They were from Texas and in 1991 recorded a four song demo before ever playing live. They never got signed. In the second half of 1991 they played some shows then broke up before the year was out. So far, no bizarre, except for the fact that I own their demo on CD. But then, at least according to the bio, the band became popular worldwide purely by word of mouth on this demo pressing of 1000. And here Stormspell Records has re-packaged that demo along with three bonus tracks, which were recorded live at a band rehearsal.

We’ll address the bonus tracks first, because, unfortunately, that’s the most prominent part of the collection, and not in a good way. They should not have been included, and you get the feeling that they were only so Stormspell could justify charging the price of a full CD for it. They sound absolutely awful, the songs aren’t complete (in particular, the vocal melodies reek of a work in progress), and the band can be overheard razzing each other and dissing their own performance throughout “Whatever Will Be Will Be” (whose title is two words too long), culminating in one member calling the other a gay slur (it’s the other f-word). The band admits in the liner notes the tracks aren’t fully-cooked, and maybe there are like a dozen hardcore Regime fans around the world who are, like, super psyched they have some more Regime in their lives, but couldn’t they have just released them for free on the Internet?

Anyhoo, the other four songs are all pretty good (though they still don’t sound fantastic, what with it being a demo and all). It’s like a faster Dokken or Queensrÿche with a guitarist in the style of Marty Friedman (Megadeth) or John Petrucci (Dream Theater) but not as good as either of those guys because, well, because they’re those guys. The emphasis is on technical skills, especially in the lead guitar, and soaring vocals, and the songwriting is complex but not at the level of what I would call “progressive”…it’s more of a NWOBHM feel, in fact I’m just now realizing the vocalist owes a lot to Rob Halford of Judas Priest.

I don’t know…did we need more NWOBHM? If you read my Reign Of Fury reviews, the answer is hells yeah. But there’s something that’s so fun and free about that band that makes it worthwhile. These guys, right down to the scowls on the back cover, seem to take themselves a bit too seriously, and that, along with the production values, keep it from being something I ever really want to go back to.

Rating:
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Really Like: “Sorrow’s Victim”
Like: “Illusions Of You,” “Amnesty Plan,” “Greeted By Confusion”
Meh: “Brave New World”
Dislike: “Angels Born Free”
Hate: “Whatever Will Be Will Be”
Filed Between: Lou Reed (Transformer) and Steve Reich (You Are (Variations))
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Animal Chin: The Ins & Outs Of Terrorism!

theinsandoutsofterrorism

I went to high school with vocalist/guitarist Jamie Woolford, and another high school friend, Josh Steinbauer, gets writing credit, so no review, just the song notes and song ratings.

  1. Seven – ska influence
  2. Heir To The X-Fortune – hardcore. fast.
  3. Have You Seen Him? – instrumental
  4. Time-Out – probably the Animal Chin song
  5. The Top Contender – almost reggae in parts
  6. Not Like You

Mix: “Have You Seen Him?,” “Time-Out”
Really Like: “Heir To The X-Fortune,” “The Top Contender,” “Not Like You”
Like: “Seven”
Filed Between: Tori Amos (Abnormally Attracted To Sin) and Animal Chin’s All The Kids Agree

Sonic Youth: Sonic Youth

sonicyouthWell this makes three albums in a row that have been debuts where the band basically came out of the womb sounding like their much more mature selves. The main difference between Sonic Youth’s first release and that of Melvins and Led Zeppelin is that this one isn’t very good.

Which is to be expected. I mean, I don’t know what kind of deal Sonic Youth made with the devil in order to let their noodly, noisy experiments elevate so high above the sum of their parts, but they clearly hadn’t made that deal yet in 1982. Everything’s there: the reverbed-out repetitive guitar, the rudimentary bass line, Kim Gordon’s breathy vocals delivering abstruse lyrics. It’s just not magic yet.

I can get through this without getting too bored or upset with the quality. Still, it’s more of a historical document than an enjoyable listen.

This, of course, has been re-released with an ancient concert tacked on to it. Screw that, I’m reviewing the original five songs EP.

Rating:
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Meh: “I Dreamed I Dream,” “She Is Not Alone,” “I Don’t Want To Push It,” “The Good And The Bad”
Hate: “The Burning Spear”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

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.

Rating:
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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