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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Crowded House: Together Alone

togetheraloneIt turns out Crowded House had a career beyond their mega hits “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Something So Strong” from their 1986 self-titled album. In fact, it turns out there are like mega-fans of band-leader Neil Finn, whose credits also include band-I’ve-heard-of Split Enz.I’m gathering that Neil Finn is a bit like David Byrne in that he’s one of those musicians that musicians love and has a select but devoted following.

Crowded House was even putting out albums in the heart of grunge times, this one coming out in 1993, but you’ll see no reflection of those times in this music. This is still pretty straightforward pop rock with pretty vocals whose lyrics you can understand. It’s a clean sound, but with some additional effects brought in beyond the more strummy guitar sound I was familiar with from 1986.

It’s also similar to a David Byrne or Peter Gabriel type of thing where where it’s accessible songs, but a little more complex than standard radio fare, uses some modern electronics, and ends up being cold, stilted, and off-putting. Just a bit more cerebral than it needs to be. It lacks the raw energy, passion, and soul that I’m more attracted to. You can tell it’s pretty good, even though it just doesn’t grab you. Even when they use a Maori choir in the closing title track, it’s a bit removed, a bit too Graceland, failing to capture the raw power and emotion that I usually associate with indigenous music (but maybe this is more reflective of a potentially offensive cultural bias I have that indigenous means “raw”).

“Nails In My Feet,” which is maybe my fave song on this album, is a perfect counterexample of this. For the first 1:45 or so they’re stuck in their typical restrained mode, but then when the bridge pops in there’s a lovely build, an intensification of the rhythm, a key change, and even people in the lyrics “screaming surprise,” making for a lovely dramatic echoing of the music.

As a big fan of Rick Springfield and Faith No More, I’m always sympathetic to artists like this, where their popular legacy is based in one or more early songs but who have gone on to have a much richer career than most people are aware of. And I kinda dig most of this: I mean five Likes is nothing to sneeze at and everything else is Meh. So I feel like I get it. It just leaves me cold, so this ends up being about as close as I can get to liking an album without being able to say I actually like it.

Rating:
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Like: “Nails In My Feet,” “Black And White Boy,” “Locked Out,” “Walking On The Spot,” “Catherine Wheels”
Meh:
“Kare Kare,” “In My Command,” “Fingers Of Love,” “Pineapple Head,” “Private Universe,” “Distant Sun,” “Skin Feeling,” “Together Alone”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Prong: Songs From The Black Hole

songsfromtheblackholeI had no idea Prong was still putting out albums, but this album of cover songs caught my eye recently and I thought I’d give it a shot. The trio that I remember putting out punk- and hardcore-influenced metal albums in the early- and mid-90’s here brings together ten punk and hardcore (plus Neil Young) songs by ten different artists under one roof.

The artists are a diverse group, running from Hüsker Dü to Fugazi to Killing Joke to…well, Neil Young. The execution is great. The production and sound are fantastic, if a bit too compressed, and new drummer Art Cruz steals the show with his technical wizardry. The problem with the disc, though, is the concept. They’re halfway there, with this selection of diverse and excellent songs that inspired them. (In this golden age of streaming I was able to check out all the songs, none of which I was familiar with before now, by constructing a playlist of the originals.) However, by running them all through the Prong machine, they lose their variation and come out sounding like Prong songs, losing their original soul.

Furthermore, not much is added to the songs; there isn’t much in the way of interpretation beyond adding some muscle, intensity, and Tommy Victor’s growl. The already-too-long “Cortez The Killer,” from one of Neil Young’s most controversial albums, here becomes a seven minute exercise in “how many times can you hear this stanza at full volume?” Any one of the other tracks would have been great tacked on to a Prong originals album, but in this package it’s just too much same same.

Rating:
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Really Like: “Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely”
Like: “Vision Thing,” “Goofy’s Concern,” “Seeing Red”
Meh: “Doomsday,” “The Bars,” “Give Me The Cure,” “Banned In DC”
Dislike: “Kids Of The Black Hole,” “Cortez The Killer”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

King Diamond: The Best Of King Diamond

thebestofkingdiamondAlways got King Diamond mixed up with King Crimson. Still don’t know much about King Crimson except they’re prog. Part of why I don’t know much about them is that they don’t allow their music on streaming services, so screw you guys, I’m going home. But anyway, an intro to King Diamond. You see that picture above? Well, that tells you pretty much all of it. The only thing that’s missing is timeframe (mostly late-80’s) and the fact that there’s a ridiculous amount of falsetto in his style. Growly stuff, too, but it’s the falsetto that really stands out.

And if you can get past that falsetto and the cheesiness of the macabre lyrics (oh, gee, Greek mythology sure had some scary characters in it), you’ll find some late-80’s metal that still stands up almost 25 years later. But that’s a mighty big “if,” one I’m having quite a bit of trouble with myself.

Still, lots of listening has helped me appreciate what’s here. Sonically there’s a lot of overlap with the first three Queensrÿche releases, though of course Geoff Tate’s natural range is so much more appealing than any falsetto. Even lyrically, early Queensrÿche fits a bit here, with its evil woman and vampire themes, though Queensrÿche got plenty more sci-fi-y.

There are also some big concept albums in King Diamond’s discography, and that’s evident here, as songs repeatedly bring back the same names, characters, and elements. There’s lots of Abigail, Miriam, Jonathan, and a very disturbing grandmother that recur. Wikipedia gives run downs of the plots if you’re curious.

But all of that is far more enjoyable than what, from what I can tell, was King Diamond’s big break: “No Presents For Christmas,” a track that throws so much shlock into the mix that it becomes completely unlistenable despite containing some of his best riffs. To be fair, it’s obviously the great, thrashy riffs combined with the ludicrous lyrics that made it so popular. Too much for me, though.

Finally, by rating some of these as “Like,” I was rating them relatively to the rest of the album. It’s very hard for me to say I want to listen to any songs with his falsetto in them ever again. “Abigail” is the best.

Rating:
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Like: “Charon,” “Abigail,” “The Invisible Guests,” “Eye Of The Witch,” “Burn
Meh: “The Candle,” “Halloween,” “No Presents For Christmas,” “Arrival,” “A Mansion In Darkness,” “The Family Ghost,” “Welcome Home,” “Tea,” “At The Graves,” “Sleepless Nights”
Song Notes: After the jump

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Whiskeytown: Faithless Street [Reissued Version]

faithlessstreetIt’s important to note that this is the 1998 reissue and not the 1995 original. Important because, at 21 tracks and 67 minutes, this is as bloated as you would expect a reissue to be, even one for a relatively unknown album such as this one. Important because this is now the only version you can get on both Spotify and Xbox Music. In fact, it seems to be the only one listed at allmusic. Important because it sounds awful, at least on both Spotify and Xbox Music, and I even tried “Extreme” (seriously) quality on Spotify. The sound on almost every song is dominated by crackly, peaking static at every crescendo. And that ends up being the most salient quality of the album.

Once you get past that, the next step is to get past the fact that it’s 21 songs and 67 minutes and good god it doesn’t need to be anywhere close to that long. Get past the sound and the songs that have no business being included here, and you’re left with an album that, well, it still has a ceiling of like 3.5 clowns. But, hell, that’s better than I’m gonna give it.

There are a few gems and several more songs that have good parts. But the band’s a little too twangy; they’re pretty judicious with the violin but it still gets overbearing, as is its wont in a setting like this. Their attempts at 70’s Springsteen glory and broken dreams are fine but nevertheless just make you want to go listen to Springsteen’s superior versions.

In the end, maybe the length of this ends up serving it pretty well. Not because I want to listen to the whole thing, or really even that many songs on it, but more because it lets the good moments peppered throughout the album pile up to a point where I’m inclined to say that, you know, maybe with better sound I’d even be able to say I liked this.

Rating:
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– “Drank Like A River,” “Revenge”
– “Midway Park,” “What May Seen Like Love,” “If He Can’t Have You,” “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight,” “Desperate Ain’t Lonely,” “Hard Luck Story,” “Top Dollar,” “Lo Fi Tennessee Mountain Angel,” “Empty Baseball Park,” “16 Days,” “Yesterday’s News,” “Factory Girl”
– “Too Drunk To Dream,” “Tennessee Square,” “Faithless Street,” “Mining Town,” “Black Arrow, Bleeding Heart,” “Matrimony,” “Here’s To The Rest Of The World”
Song Notes: After the jump
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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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The Sugarplastic: Bang, The Earth Is Round

bangtheearthisroundThe Sugarplastic, at least on Bang, The Earth Is Round, is like a mix between They Might Be Giants and “Weird Al” Yankovic. They’re a bit of a gag band, kind of light-hearted with some cutesie melodies and silly, often too-cute lyrics. They’re not smart enough to be TMBG musically, or lyrically to be “Weird Al.” Really the best comparison is that they’re a lighter Presidents of the United States of America.

The thing they do best is in the production, the way certain, often off-beat or unconventional, sounds come and go just underneath the surface and add a lot of color to what is otherwise pretty plain instrumentation and timbres. It’s these little accents they make to their straightforward, almost nursery rhyme songs that makes it bearable. And I’ve still got to be in just the right mood to not have the silliness of the songs drive me nuts.

They teeter on the edge of annoyingness for the whole album, tipping over into it too often. The songs are well-crafted and only rarely too indulgent. I can’t find a whole lot to outright hate, but this is definitely not my style. I never want to listen to it again, but if I do I won’t be upset…just cringe a little.

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