The buzz: A melodic hardcore band from Virginia with strong political undertones. They've been featured on the soundtracks of three different Tony Hawk video games.
Sounds like: A thousand pop-punk bands local to the abysmal New York scene. What if Fugazi had suddenly decided punk wasn't worth it? Well, they probably have already.
The verdict: This album is aptly named, for I will no longer live in content after hearing this mess of off-key distortion. I hate to use an old cliché, but each song is basically the same four chords over and over again. You know it's bad when the irritating electric guitars suddenly give away to a heartfelt acoustic performance as the outro.
Strike anywhere? Strike my house and put me out of my misery.
The buzz: Who the fuck is this and why are there so many guest appearances on this album? Beck's entire Midnite Vultures-era band appears on a number of tracks, including Beck himself. Billy Corgan is on a bunch of tracks as well. Even Blur makes an appearance. She fucking covers "Nobody's Fault" off of Beck's Mutations album. What the fuck? Who is this?
Sounds like: If Beck, Billy Corgan, and Damon Albarn were all old women who smoked three packs a day then that's exactly what this sounds like, except sometimes she's more Enya than 90's-alt-rocker.
The verdict: I don't even know what's real anymore! Everything on here sounds like a bizarro version of every song I've ever heard. I'm going to go ahead and say this rocks and it's iPod worthy. Marianne Faithful, I'm not sure if you've ever made it big, but you are a classy woman.
Sounds like: It's been a long time, but we're back to rock the kids and olds alike. Come with us as we ride the wild horse or "punctual rock" like it's 2000 all over again! Now with Kung-Fu grip and nachos!!!!
The verdict: "Texas rockers" is a phrase that should only be followed by any combination of "Butthole" and "Surfers". Otherwise we get shit like chomsky. Although this is only a three-track sampler, I feel as thought years have been taken off my life. It ends with a track called "00:15:00", in which the lead singer screams about how he has fifteen minutes to rock. What a coincidence. I only have fifteen minutes to live.
Anyway, hate to break it to you, but no awful band gets a pass by naming themselves after famous linguists.
The buzz: According to the promo sticker, it's for fans of bands like Spinto Band, Pinback, and The Sea and Cake. Great. I don't know any of those dudes. Apparently the trio is on break because they're sick of their own music.
Sounds like: Airy English Indie band with very minor influences in Britpop, with crying guitars over weepy string ensembles.
The verdict: There are many songs on this album, most of them averaging at the 3:15 mark. They're nice enough tunes although occasionally they sound like ditties, as if the songwriter wanted to quickly move on to the next track and get its point across as quickly as possible. However, it feels more like over-saturation, resulting in nothing that is particularly memorable but instead dozens of memories slowly fading away. The perfect euphemism for the singer's despaired vocals drowning behind twinkly pianos, xylophones and harmonica symphony. It's kind of like Beta Band mixed with Sufjan Stevens if they wrote an album for The Sea and Cake. Sorry.
Probably: good, who knows? I'm sad, for some reason.
The buzz: These guys are so obscure that I can't even find their album art online. They were a British band formed by members of Mr. Big, which is a band I've never heard of. The album I'm about to review was released in 1991 and I have no idea why I picked it.
Sounds like: Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, except replace them with the most generic 90's rockers you can imagine. The lead singer's a dude FYI.
The verdict: Softcore early 90's rock never gets old. I have to admit I'm surprised by the writing and the production values of this album, it is honestly just about as typical as you can get. There's nothing particularly notable about any of the songs, but there's nothing unpleasant about them either. Considering how hard these guys try to rock, I'm slightly uncomfortable when I say that this is appropriate background music. They are tragically missing that edge that would have propelled them into at least one-hit-wonder stardom back in 1991. They should have given Jesus Jones a call for some pointers or something.
Final Countdown: Sometimes you wonder why people bothered writing music at all in the 90's.
The buzz: Probably one of the more popular bands I'll be reviewing. They had a minor hit in 2006 with "Tear You Apart" and then fell deeper into obscurity until KROQ cut their airtime from once every five minutes to once every hour, thinking they were playing the next big thing.
What they sound like: Tears for Fears in the dark years, if they had ever existed. The lead singer sings from the bottom of his throat and moans with every word. The backups sings in military monotone voices over droning pads and metallic percussion. It's like industrial collapsed onto itself and invented new wave instead of the other way around.
The verdict: They're really not that bad, but I unironically enjoy bands like Orgy and Fischerspooner so take that as you will. This is their original EP with just four songs, including "Tear You Apart", which isn't nearly as good as the title track. I once passed up the opportunity to see them live a year or so ago and I now mildly regret it.
Recommended for: If you ever listened to the guy from B-52's sing and wished he were a bit more serious (and gayer), then this is the band for you.
The buzz: Apparently "one of the most talked about independent acts in the nation." How this was measured, I do not know.
According to their album cover: Lots of brown, with grown men holding their hearts surrounded by a slow-dripping splotch. We're in for a real treat.
What they sound like: Ben Gillard and Gruff Rhys tried to start a prog-rock band and then committed suicide together when it didn't work out.
The verdict: As long as you don't pay attention to the lyrics, it's at least enjoyable. "One Rabbit Race" is is a fun song with a catchy hook and not quite Bamboozled material as one would expect. But then there are ridiculous words, such as in "Forget You Know Me", that tend to rhyme the same word multiple times for some totally emoshunal effect, or something (In my world it's you // Still framed dreams of you // Rhyme less verse for you // Speechless words to you). Give me a break. Still, the instrumentation is nice, with plenty of warm synth sounds and not too heavy on the effects. The vocals tend to get drowned out just enough.
Recommended for fans of: Some of the songs on the album sound like shitty Depeche Mode, so Depeche Mode if you're really tired of Depeche Mode. And I mean really tired.
What they sound like: Poppy retro-style rock with semi-ironic lyrics ripped from campy 50's jukebox roller-disco tunes. Classic guitar riffs crunch alongside organs and vocoders with predictable chord progressions mixed lo-fi style. Occasionally sounds like they gagged Noel Gallagher and forced him to write shitty melodies while wearing ear plugs.
The verdict: Disappointing, considering their attractive album design. Someone must have told them that their post-modern take on music absolutely no one really likes really wasn't going to fly, because this appears to be the only album they've ever released. The music is so forgettable that I can't remember a single lick, and I'm listening to it right now. Their focus is all over the map; certain tracks sound like half-hearted attempts to capture a Top 40's audience, other tracks like "Idiot Boy" attempt to be experimental, but just come off as sloppy, poorly conceived catastrophes of reverb and effects peddles. And then there's stuff like "Daphne", which is just a boring acoustic ballad. It sounds like a bunch of concepts for three different albums, none of which being particularly interesting, but at least they are consistent in their mediocrity.
I have a tendency to have frightening dreams based on whatever I'm critically engaged in at the moment.
A few weeks ago, I had begun playing killer7 for the Gamecube again, a videomajiggy that features co-design credits of Shinji Mikami, creator of the campy Resident Evil series. In this game, enemies would laugh maniacally before slowly crawling towards you, invisible, and if you didn't take them down quickly enough they'd grab you and explode, wrecking your shit. I had a dream where I was running down tight corridors, and I heard the laughter and got very frightened, as if an army of invisible bad guys were waiting behind every corner.
Again, just last week after a hardcore 1984 session, I had a dream that involved telescreens. I had, apparently, broken some mortal law that was about to be scrutinized by the Party, and I had done it in front of a telescreen, which has the ability to watch the viewer at all times. Knowing that I was about to be erased, panic began welling up inside my chest. To me, in a nightmare, there is nothing scarier than knowing you are, undoubtably, going to die. Not even death itself is a scarier concept than knowing that your inevitable doom is slowly spreading through you like the slowly retracting jaw of a snake, ready to attack and strangle its prey for a quick meal. Holy mother of balls.
Needless to say, I have woken up the past few nights in a cold sweat. Sometimes I wake up with the fear still inside of me, as if the dream hadn't ended yet, and it has somehow manifested itself into my waking life.
So perhaps it is not a good thing that I have begun reading Ring, Koji Suzuki's horror novel that spawned the popular films. I briefly mentioned this in my last post, which I will not dignify with a link (scroll down). I, admittedly, have never seen the movies. I'm not much for the horror genre, in case you can't tell. But I find the book engrossing, at least in the first fifty pages, and despite the morbid air and atmosphere it is a casual, fun read.
The translating/publishing house is Verticle, who also has a hand in translating a few of Tezuka's works including Black Jack, which is fucking awesome. It's about an unlicensed surgeon who has the ability to perform miracle cures on patients. He is generally considered an outcast and a thief, considering how loner qualities, deformed appearance, and outrageous doctor's fees. However, we know he's grossly misunderstood - Black Jack is unbearably tragic, constantly the victim of circumstance and a bastion of moral indignity - he is essentially the human, adult version of the serialized Astro Boy and repeating his laundry list of woeful sorrow would be best left for a post later on, when volume 3 is released later this month.
Unfortunately this blog post must be cut short; I have decided that taking a winter class that forces me up at 6AM was a good idea, and so my recent nights have been cut tragically short. I shall end this post with a YouTube video of the Talking Heads, because if I can't see David Byrne live then I can at least close my eyes and pretend I'm there.