It's Tuesday and my finger nails still have red under them. If you are aware of what happens at a Gwar concert, than you are also likely aware that the remaining blood under my nails means I had a good time. Seeing as this week is Halloween, and in my opinion Metal and Halloween go hand in hand, all the posts this week are going to be combination's of that.
On Friday I was lucky and able to see the amazing Gwar live for probably the seventh time. As with all of the other shows, it was a great time full of gore, carnage, various boy and girl parts being used to spray the crowd with blood, and of course, metal.
The show began with the moderately interested American Sharks. I won't spend much time on these guys, but as far as a band opening for Gwar they did the trick I guess. One major issue I had quite honestly was the lead singer. The music was good enough, and I wasn't watching the clock like crazy, t frankly, he talks way way too much. Even worse is that he says nothing while talking. Thankfully it was over soon enough and the next band was due.
That band, Decapitated from Poland, were a one hundred and fifty improvement. I had been hearing the name for years, but finally I got to see them, and they didn't disappoint. They've been in the game awhile now, and the skill they have really does show. They rocked through a fifty minute set with minimal talking, and the crowd was into it the entire set. One of the things I liked most about them though, was their clear influence of Meshuggah. Quite a few of the songs had Meshuggah trademarks, but they managed to make it their own to an extent, which was really good. If you're a metal guy, and you haven't checked these guys out, I suggest you do. Really good technical metal, and a thoroughly enjoyable middle set before the headliners.
Finally, it was approaching time for Gwar. I had been very curious for weeks now what the show would be like. As you likely know, Dave Brockie the singer passed away earlier this year, and the band decided to continue on. The show starts with the manager, Sleazy P. Martini, explaining that singer Oderus, had gotten sucked in a time portal looking for drugs, and that they were going to find him. Meanwhile, the band had dispatched various singers to fill in for him. Most were cool but the main attraction was clearly new minted female singer Vulvatron. Yes, that's her name. And she shoots blood from her breasts'. Really guys, you can't make this up.
Now as entertaining as the show was, I actually did find myself a bit sad and retrospective throughout the show. As a band, it's very difficult to keep going after the death of your leader, but i'm still not convinced in the way it was handled. Many jokes were made about Oderus being lost in the portal while looking for crack(they even bring out a ball labeled crack at one point to summon him back). But I can't help but think the band members must be hurting. Maybe this was their way of getting through it, but it was a bit too much for me.
The music was alright as it always was, and of course the visuals were amazing, but I can't help but wonder why they were so adamant about making a big deal of out the character dying. The tribute though at the and with his sword was cool, and former singer Dave Brockie likely would have loved the way they handled it, but for me it was just sad. Beyond that though, the show was stellar, and after all these years, I really think that at this point Gwar is a thing and entity that will never die, which is fine.
For a few years now, I've been a big fan of the Warpaint, the all girl band from Los Angeles. For two full length albums and an EP I've been moderately obsessed, and on Tuesday I finally got a chance to witness the band live. The venue in New Orleans, Republic, sometimes leaves something to be desired in the type of clientele that visit there, but tonight it was a pretty good mix of people.
Anyway, we arrived right as opener Liam Finn was getting on stage. Now, I had never heard of him before tonight, but I really wish I had. The band, made up of Finn, his brother, his son, and two groovy ladies are amazing. I found them to be mesmerizing to watch. Sometimes you have to sit through undesirable openers, but tonight the band playing first was thankfully a joy to watch. The music reminded me at different times of many different bands from the classic era. Some things reminded me of Pink Floyd, others the Rolling Stones, and others just straight ahead gnarly rock and roll. You might think this was a bad thing, but it you listen to it you can feel the influences and accept them. They really do make it their own. Honestly, I couldn't say a bad thing about the band, and I'll be tracking down some of their material very, very soon. Also, the last song featured the Warpaint drummer, Stella, pounding away on the kit. It was awesome to see her play way more intensely than she's required on the Warpaint records, and it got everyone in the crowd stoked for what was coming next.
After a quick break and rearranging of the equipment on stage, it was Warpaint time. Playing in front of a backdrop of the newest album cover, the ladies came out and quickly settled into set opener “Biggy.” Like much of their catalog, it's a slow burn of a sensual nature and although it's a bit slow, it's an excellent choice for an opener. One of the things I like most about the band is the nature in which they consistently switch instruments and rolls in the band. Sometimes Theresa Wayman takes the lead and wow's the crowd with her swagger, and other times Emily mixes her keyboard playing with a different but equally effective vocal style. Most things about two singers in a band are cheesy, but for Warpaint it really adds to it. The set was mixed pretty good among all of their releases, and although they didn't play their best song in my opinion(Billie Holiday), you really couldn't ask for a better show for twenty bucks. Many songs included jam sessions, which is always a plus. “Composure” has all the funk on the record, and going straight into “Undertow” following that was perfectly executed.
Really though, all the band members were really on this night, and the energy and their love for New Orleans really did show. Finally, after a good bit of time on the set, the band returned for a two song encore. “Drive,” was another textured piece of hypnotic music from the ladies, and it set up the closing song nicely. Finally, we get to “Elephants.” Let me just say the album version is great, but the live version is completely killer. The buildup in the track was pulled off flawlessly, and the big closing was just what you would want out of a last song. The band then went straight into a pretty extended jam of various layers and textures and noises. To say the least, it was awesome and one of the best parts to the entire set.
Lastly, if you never heard of this band, they're a band you need in your life. Go see them, and Liam Finn. Buy the merch. Thanks for reading.
It's easier to dismiss now, but we forget how many copies this record sold. I was of course one of those children, frustrated and uncertain(although for unexplained reasons) who drove out in flocks to get this “Punk Rock” record. Much like Green Day, except to a lesser extent, the Offspring and their giant fourth album “Smash” was full of angst, sweat, and the turmoil of growing up. I was never a punk guy and I assume many punk rock purists don't consider this band to be punk, but for my fourteen year old self, the Offspring's “Smash” was the best thing in the world of punk rock I had ever heard. Today we discuss the next entry in the Albums of my Life series, “Smash” by the Offspring.
The signature opening is still pretty great. That dude's voice is so nice, warm, and welcoming. It especially helps that the rest of the record is both abrasive and uplifting, which is in line with the punk rock scene. “Nitro [Youth Energy]” sounds exactly like you would expect a song with that name to be. It's hard driven to a break neck pace and it does it's job by getting things started off at a good speed. That's important in an album opener, and the Offspring nail it here.
Many of the songs deal with issues both personal and frustrating. The third track, “Bad Habit” is a rage filled song for road rage victims. Dexter Hollands lyrics and vocally rushed style perfectly compliment the whole point of the song. A “Bad Habit” can be many things, but in this instance, it's the ferocity of a scorned automobile driver that is the subject matter. Everyone has moments of road rage and pure hatred, and this selection perfectly captures the vitriol of the situation.
Moving along, this album did so well because of giant singles “Self Esteem” and “Come Out and Play”(more on those later), but for my money there isn't a better single on this record than “Gotta Get Away.” The drumming is really tight all the way through, and the even keeled bass is the compliment to the guitars that's very much welcomed and appreciated. This might even be my favorite song by the band. As a person who's dealt with depression, severe frustration, and uncertainty this song always had a hold on me. Music is better when you can relate to the circumstances of the author, and with this song, and the album on a whole, the Offspring tapped into the veins of millions of teenagers pissed off about their lives. Let's talk about how huge this band was in it's heyday. Thirty million copies worldwide sold of this record, and although future album's weren't as highly sought after or acclaimed, this is the one that got the band on the map, and as you can hear it's still a great album. It also helped set the stage for the future of “Pop Punk.” If not for these so-cal punkers, bands like Sum 41, Blink 182 and New Found Glory wouldn't have ever had the success they did, Maybe the world of music wouldn't be so bad without those bands, but hey you can't help who's inspired by your music.
Pretty soon, we find ourselves in the heart and soul-filled middle of the record. “Something to Believe In” finds us and perhaps it's the closest to a pure punk track on the album. The background wails are awesome, and the lyrics are words that speak both of thinking there's no hope left in the world but also speak to the need of progressing and persevering over intolerance. That's a big thing in this world, and it's a concept that the band takes to heart and tries to overcome. Everyone needs that in life at times. “Something to Believe In” is akin to the thought of a person waking up everyday and having a goal and endpoint in sight. The promise of a hard day's work is so sweet because of the promise of the victorious evening and weekend we'll soon find ourselves in. It's also in line with people who have a place to go to everyday living longer and more plentiful. The title of the track can mean different things for different people, but it's necessary for us all. Following the track though, we get to the two main reasons this band has continued to go on and be well known outside of their circle. “Come out and Play” is the anthem kids at the time needed. It was also highly beneficial for the band. The guitar line is classic 90's rock, and Holland's guitar and vocal range are really things that pull the song in.
The next song though, is a giant rock for the band. At the time I wasn't sure what the lyrics of the track “Self Esteem” actually had to do with, but having grown up, it's pretty clear now. Having been through difficult relationships, both on the friendship and romantic sides, you relate to the character. I think a certain amount of people really want to believe that everyone has great qualities to them, but that's not always the case. Some people truly are selfish and thoughtless when it comes to the needs of others. Unfortunately we live in a “me” society, and the problem will only get worse. Having said that though, I still believe people can be utterly good at times, but to be completely honest, stories about good people don't make good songs.
It's after “Self Esteem” that the album get's decidedly more punk rock, both in the essence of the music and the lyrical content. “It'll be a Long Time” is full of political minded leanings that speak to the state of world reform and the urgency to act. One of the best things about this band though is how intelligent they are. Holland for example has a B.S, M.S, and is currently pursuing his P.H.D. in various area's of biology. I mention this only because it shows that musicians can be extremely talented in a multitude of areas, and also that the rules of punk rock had changed. I doubt Sid Vicious could even properly spell, so it's good to know that people are able to grow.
“So Alone” is one of the most immediate tracks on the album, and as the end of the record nears, it is a much needed stay the course track for the record. The guitars are passed up by speed only by the constant drumming in the background. It's a swift punch to the face, but sometimes that's the kind of song you need. The second to last track “Not the One” has a biting guitar part that has become a staple of this album. This band's prime may have passed, but one of the best things about them is that the chords, lyrics, and overall feeling of the album still resonate in the bones of people who grew up listening to it. That's a quality that much of today's music lacks, sadly.
Rarely does it happen where the best song on the album is the last one, but this is one of the best cases of it. “Smash,” which happens to be the title track as you likely noticed, is the culmination of all the other songs. Aesthetically it's very much in the same world as the previous tracks, but to me there's always been a little extra to it. It's not the fastest song on the record, and it's not the longest, but it's the most honest. This is a song about a person at the end up their rope. It's defiant in the best way possible, and it's a major fuck you to the powers of conformity. It's a song about being alive and breathing in the air of negativity and turning it into victory for yourself. The lyrics are also the most punk you find on the whole album. Seriously, I could listen to this song every day and not get sick of it. It's a song for power, positivity, and it exemplifies the need to be true to yourself. At the end of the day though, the major tagline of the song can serve not only as the basis for the spirit of the whole record, but for people who have been bullied, told they didn't matter, and forced to do things against their code. That line of course is “I'm not a trendy asshole, don't give a fuck if it's good enough for you. I am alive.”
Thanks for reading.
For most of my life, I was a casual Soundgarden fan. I loved a few songs, had a few albums, and had even seen them live. It was only in the last few years that I became a really big fan of the band. Got all the records, listened to them all, and finally dug my feet into how incredible this band actually was. Being a part of the Seattle grunge scene was good and bad for them I think. Often times I hear them listed last in talent among the “big four” of the scene ( Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains being the others), but they might actually be my number 2 among that group. The chords are heavy and layered, and Cornell's howl has amazing depth and range. Today I present to you my top ten songs from the Seattle noisemakers, Soundgarden.
10. Pretty Noose, Down on the Up Side
I remember when I got this album. This song was huge, and I was concerned about purchasing it because it has the “Parental Advisory” sticker on it. Even though my father had purchased it, I was terrified mother would be livid. All things considered, it's pretty funny how things change. The song itself is a pretty straight ahead jammer. Cornell's voice is clear and rough in only the way his voice can be, and the guitar work courtesy of Kim Thayil is, as expected, superb. This song doesn't get mentioned enough when considering some of the bands best work, but maybe it should.
9. Spoonman, Superunknown
One of the best, and most consistent songs from the breakthrough album “Superunknown,” “Spoonman” finds us at number nine on the list. Do I know what a “Spoonman” is? Not even slightly, but the song is pretty much bad ass. I mean, seriously, the groove in this track is grade A, and the breakdown towards the end has a really unique interesting tribal quality to it. Overall, it's one of their better known songs, and one of the reasons that “Superunknown” was as big of a hit as it was. It's easy to forget how popular this album was upon release, but judging by the reception the songs from the records received when I saw them with Nine Inch Nails in August, people still love their “Superunknown.”
8. Like Suicide, Superunknown
An underrated track in my opinion, “Like Suicide” is another example of how exquisite and exacting these dudes are at making a really even and gradually layered track. For me it's always been a song about trying to make the wrongs and rights, but it's also strangely dark and poignant. It's even more refreshing and emotional given the way in which certain counterparts of the early Seattle scene departed the earth. It's not an in your face type track, but that's one of the things I like so much about it. It barely even get's going at all, but at the end, there is a slight surge of energy, propelled mostly by Matt Cameron's precise drumming and the range and scope that only Chris Cornell is capable of.
7. Rusty Cage, Badmotorfinger
Ok, so the shredding on this track in un-fucking-believeable. For real, dat guitar though. Even for a song that might as well be about escaping the clutches of a sadistic murderer, it's very well crafted and then once again, the guitar work is flawless. Soundgarden has always been known for Cornell's voice mostly, but the work by the remainder of the band is excellent throughout all of their catalog. Seeing it live is as heavy and sonic as you might imagine, and it was one of the better parts of the show. I'm not really sure what to say to make this point any more obvious, but “Rusty Cage” is a rocker, and one of the early and best examples of how heavy this band would end up being.
6. Jesus Christ Pose, Badmotorfinger
Another heavy ass track, and this time the subject matter is pretty dark. “Jesus Christ Pose” is one of the better instances in this band where the musical aspect of the song is as ominous and menacing as the lyrical section. For anyone who's religious, you clearly get the message, and it's not terribly uplifting at all. The guitar almost howls in the night sky while Cornell wails about being hoisted up, bled out, and taken for granted, much in the same way that “Jesus Christ” might have been. Hearing the song now makes me wonder what kind of religious background the group has( if any), but just listening to the track, you have to assume that whatever views they have, they probably aren't optimistic.
5. Burden in my Hand, Down on the Upside
One of the best starting points I've heard this band deliver. From the first second, we are met by the raspy voice of Cornell. The imagery set up here is also really purposeful and great. The story being told is classic Soundgarden, and it's one of the things they do well. Everything works here. During this album the band found themselves going even further away from the grunge roots of their early releases, but this was always going to be a band that evolved. In the early albums you wouldn't have ever heard an acoustic guitar and piano, but time and age add depth, and the band accepted and embraced it, Yeah, this song is a fairly well known track, but it delivers well on everything it's trying to do and makes you want more.
4. Searching with My Good Eye Closed, Badmotorfinger
Easily in my top five best openings in a song ever, The monologue is enticing and evil, and the soaring drums and power of the guitar are simply flawless. Seeing this as the show opener in August was very powerful and a great way to dive into a nice mid-evening set. There's simply nothing about the song I don't like. The distant sounding vocals easily knock it out of the park into another territory, and overall, it's just a bad ass song.
3. My Wave, Superunknown
For some reason I had forgotten that this song was actually a Soundgarden song, and that in fact, I loved it. Again, to the point of redundancy, the guitars are epic and loud, and overall, the song is just so so solid. The lyrics are defiant and deliberate in the way that some of their other tunes simply aren't. Also, the title of the song always makes me think of a horrible video of the 90's that would see Chris Cornell surfing a wave and singing at the same time. Thank god they didn't opt for that treatment. Either way, it's a full throttle song and it's built without effort from the ground up. Really a gem.
2. Blow Up the Outside World, Down on the Upside
The quiet opening of the song and the gentle nature of the vocals make you think this might not end up being another heavy ass song, but by the second verse, drums are progressing nicely and you can hear the water start to boil over. Then the chorus hits and Cornell's voice does some of the best work he's ever done in my opinion. For me, the song is also a declaration of power, and how the character in the song has his mind set on making things work out for him. Whether or not he actually succeeds is anyone's guess, but the song is amazing and one that simply won't leave my body, even though I've heard it countless times.
1. The Day I Tried to Live, Superunknown
And finally, we come to number one. Literally since the day I heard this song, it became one of my favorite all time songs. This is Soundgarden at their ultimate best. We haven't really mentioned bassist Ben Shepard yet, but the bass work this time goes so well with the overall song it deserves to be acknowledged. Also, I'm not in tune with musical instruments, but it's always great when you can hear one full sound instead of hearing only certain elements. That's what makes a great band. Especially here they meld and create something so tightly woven that even if one part was missing, the whole song wouldn't be nearly as good. All of it works, which is why it's my all time favorite Soundgarden song. I hope you enjoyed, Thanks for reading
It's Times like these we learn to love again( Or my top 10 must see bands at the Voodoo Music Fest 2014)
So Voodoo Fest in New Orleans is only a few weeks away, and frankly, I'm slightly excited. I've been many times before, and if you're a fan of the city and a crazy mix of music, you should have fun. Obviously, much has been made of the declining quality of recent lineups, but this year is a bit better than most. Still nowhere near what they could be doing in my opinion, but for a somewhat major festival 5 miles from my house, it's pretty good. Just as a warning, on this list you're not going to find any of the big name dance acts, or even just big names. Honestly, I picked the ten that are the most fun for me, and ran with it. These bands are all good in their own way, and if you haven't heard of any of these, you should check them out. It's a pretty diverse group, but so is this festival. Anyway, here are my top 10 must see acts of Voodoo weekend!
10. Flow Tribe, 3:00, Ritual Stage, Saturday November 1st
So I saw these funky New Orleanians at the festival last year (not to mention a show a few months later at a club that was just as much fun) and they absolutely blew me away. Just tons of fun, amazing energy, and a great mid afternoon set. The singer, K.C., even used to come through where I formerly worked and we would chat about shows and music. This year, they open the Main Stage, and if they bring the same amount of energy as they've displayed previously, that stage is going to be full of swagger and smiling faces once these fella's get moving. One of the best known local bands in town, they deserve to be bigger, and hopefully after you see them, you'll agree.
9. The Revivalists, 3:30, Flambeau Stage, Sunday November 2nd
I first saw these guys at Jazz Fest a few years ago and was totally taken off guard. They have a ton of talent and a pretty good following around the city. The sound is slightly funk, some indie rock, and a voice vaguely reminiscent of Alice in Chains' Layne Staley. If you like any of what I just mentioned, take a walk over and see them. This will be my third time seeing them, and if you are looking for new bands to check out, I highly suggest you make it to their set. The timing of their set is also really ideal. It's a great time of the day to watch a band, have a few drinks, and start dancing. If that's your sort of thing, get there.
8. Big Freedia, 9:00, Carnival Stage, Saturday November 1st
Ass everywhere. Basically that's all you need to know. This originator of NOLA Bounce is well known in the area and is one of the pioneer's of the genre. I've seen her quite a few times, and it's both the most energetic and surreal show you'll see. You might think I'm being fucked up, but it's awesome and ridiculous and will have everyone shaking their asses the whole time. Even if the crowd isn't initially getting their ass shaking on, the dancers on stage will be. You're likely not even going to see their faces because of ass. Bounce music at it's core here, so be aware of what you're getting yourself into.
7. Givers, 7:00, Flambeau Stage, Saturday November 1st
Another great band from the state, Givers come two hours west from Lafayette and bring with them a pretty unique and fun take on the local indie scene around the state. A little bit pop, a little folkly, they've been around for awhile now, and have steadily gotten better and more well known. They even played Coachella and Bonnaroo, so they have a little national cred going for them. The second album isn't out yet, but expect them to share plenty from the upcoming record at their set on Day two of the festival.
6. Rise Against, 6:00, Ritual Stage, Friday October 31st
One of the best, most energetic shows I've seen, these guys really know how to bring the A game for shows, and I'm incredibly pumped to see them for a second them. Some people might not consider the music punk rock or not, but the tone of the message is without a doubt in line with other well known punk bands. Something about the anthematic qualities of the music, and the optimism they have in their message really drive the point home. Seeing them in a club was fantastic, so hopefully they can win the crowd over and make a lasting impact. You'll be able to find me somewhere, singing and pumping my fists in the air, because well, that's what you do at a Rise Against show.
5. 30 Seconds to Mars, 7:45, Ritual Stage, Saturday November 1st
I'm sorry, they're a guilty pleasure, and not all of their music is great, but Jared Leto is the one person who did a good job at both music and acting. That being said, I was surprised to see them on the lineup because I wasn't even aware they made music anymore, but it should be a cool show. I'm aware they have quite a large fanbase, so it should be interesting to see how big the turnout is. It's been a bit since I have listened to them, but the first album is still pretty amazing, so i'm looking forward to seeing the 30 Seconds to Mars brand of sci-fi futuristic rock hard as the night fills the sky.
4. Slayer, 7:30, Ritual Stage, HALLOWEEN FUCKING NIGHT.
As a kid growing up, Slayer was one of my favorite bands, and to this day, I'll still throw on some “Reign in Blood” when the mood strikes. Seriously, one of my favorite items I own is a pair of limited edition of Slayer shoes, that still look good even after 12 years or so. Easily the most brutal band on the bill, and wouldn't you know it, they're unleashing hell on All Hallow's Eve. I've seen them a number of times, and it's always loud, in your face, and chaotic. Also, they're direct support to Outkast, so that should make for a very intriguing crowd mix. How are hip hop fans going to deal with one of the most unabahsedly evil bands of all time? Only time will tell, but even if you aren't a fan of old school demonic thrash metal, it's worth it just to say you've seen Slayer.
3. Outkast, 9:20, Ritual Stage, Friday October 31st
Finally, I get to see one of the best, most original hip hop acts of the last 30 years. These legends have done so much for modern music it's absurd. A few of the early shows had subpar reviews, but it seems Andre and Big Boi have found their groove and the shows have gotten progressively better. It's going to be right after Slayer, so hopefully everyone still has energy because I'm sure these ATLiens plan to make the asses move and to close out the first day of the festival in utter happiness.
2. Death From Above 1979, 4:30, Ritual Stage. Saturday November 1st
Just two days ago I wrote about these guys, so you know I'm stoked for them. They will lay waste to the park when they walk on stage. A different type of heavy from Slayer, but they might actually cause more destruction. For a two man band, they're going to bring enough ammo to make sure everyone is gasping for air once they exit the grounds. As you can see from their placement on this list, they're one of the main reasons I'm going to the festival, and I plan to bring my dancing shoes and thrashing about in a state of panicked jubilation for the duration of their set. Cheers, there is “Blood on our Hands” again.
1. Foo Fighters. 6:30, Ritual Stage, Sunday November 2nd
Whether or not you're fan of this band, the show itself is worth checking out. However, if you are a fan and haven't seen them before, you're in for one hell of a show. Two and half hours of amazing songs, a metric shit ton of energy and mulitple sing a longs sounds like the exact way to end a great weekend. The new album won't be out until later that week, but i'm sure we'll hear plenty of new tracks, along with plenty of other songs from their previous albums. I can't even decide which songs I want to hear the most, but whether or not they play any of them doesn't really concern me. Oh, as you may or may not know, a few songs off the new record were recorded here in New Orleans, so there's a pretty good chance the Foo's will have some surprises up their sleeves for us. These guys were made to create music, and on the last day they're gonna show us why they continue to be one of the best working bands in music.
Hope you enjoyed the list, See you in two weeks!!
Every now and then, I fall hard for a band. One of those bands, who I was instantly drawn to and quickly became obsessed with, was Death From Above 1979. The sound was so fresh, so vibrant, so full of life and immediate energy that it touched a cord in me that still hasn't subsided. Sadly, the band, at least in their first try, wasn't destined to last. Rumors of arguments and differences soon led to the band announcing the end, and just like that, the band who had recently released a once in a lifetime album was no more.
Years later though, something happened. Out of nowhere, the band was announced as being part of the 2011 Coachella lineup. From there, the band tore up stages with more fervor than previously, and everything worked in the way the band had hoped it could always work. Thankfully, after a while of faith and hoping, we finally have the second album from the briefly legendary Death From Above 1979.
The record, “The Physical World,” starts out in very similar fashion to the album that made them a huge underground phenomenon, “You're a Woman I'm a Machine.” From the early onset, you can tell that the band has not only gotten better at their instruments, but through the passage of years, they've refined their sound. Sure it's a bit more polished, and not as prickly as the previous album, but the crunch of album opener “Cheap Talk” is undeniably DFA1979. I mean, there are tons of bands who can bring it in small packages, but Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger have the grit and veracity to contend with bands that have five or six members. The amount of sound bursting from these two guys is insane and admirable. As you might expect, the album is not really a relaxing Sunday type of record. The second track, “Right On Frankenstein,” ups the ante and pile drives through concrete as Grainger's voice is raspy and out for blood. It's one of the better songs on the album, and shows the listener they haven't lost a touch of the angst with which they crashed through the gates.
“Always On,” might be the best song on this record. Many of the songs are standouts, but this mother of a track is the Everest of the album. You get the impression that the band is aware of the amount of hype surrounding their triumphant return, and they handle the pressure brilliantly, busting out a song so strong, that for my money, is hard to keep going because I know the rest of the album can't possibly top it. This ends up being both true and untrue. It's true because it's the most dfa sounding song on the album, and it hits it out of the park. Its aggressive, and full blown, and chaotic, just how I want this band to be. On the other hand though, it's untrue because the band breaks through a wall in the next couple of songs that is different from anything they've previously attempted, but it still sounds like the band. The song in question, “White is Red” is a love song in the way only this band can deliver. I simply can't get enough of it. It's a real leap forward for these guys, and I'm thoroughly impressed that they went out of their comfort zone and tried something new. The song is pretty bleak at times, but love and relationships can be too. It's very much a realistic portrayal of the difficulties of romance, and one of the best pieces of music the dynamic duo has ever put together. It's a perfect blend of soft spoken openings and crushing climaxes that come to a head in typical fashion and tie the song together.
The next song though, is right back to funky good 'ole Death from Above. “Trainwreck 1979,” was the first single from the record, and for a first glimpse, they really couldn't have picked a better song. If the listener didn't know better one might be hard pressed to figure out what album this was coming from. But in the end I think it's a testament to how solid the band is even after 10 years away. Just writing this review makes me wonder what the band would have been like, had they not broken up. But in a weird way, I'm happy they split, figured out their past failures, and reconvened to start the uphill climb to return to their former glory.
The next three tracks are very familiar sounding, both in style and intensity. Near the end of the first album, the last three songs before the finale are intense and in your face. The band must have realized this worked well, because it's almost the same thing here. “Nothing Left,” is full of dirty bass lines and “Government Trash” starts at 70mph and doesn't slow down. Just picture this song in a hardcore horror film where someone is running from their life in a car while the evildoer is behind them, ready to take them down. The final song in the trilogy of rush hour break beats comes to us in the form of “Gemini.” Instantly, you hear the familiar screeching of JFK's bass and from there, it's a song about a girl “who cries on her birthday” and “bloodstained walls.”
The last song, which also happens to be the title track, is a good song with a great opening. While I like the song a lot, it doesn't hook me like some of the other songs do. I'm aware this sounds like I think the song sucks, but I'm merely stating that, while it's a good song, it's not the landmark you might hope to get at the end of such a emotionally heavy album. Having said that though, overall the record is very strong, and I'm glad to see them making new music after such a long hiatus. Hopefully this time, they have the power to keep going and truly change music again. Thanks for reading.
The first time I ever heard of this band, I didn't actually understand their name. HBO used to have this concert show called “Reverb,” and one particular episode focused on a band with a strange fellow playing his guitar with a bow. I hadn't seen anything like it, and at the time I wasn't super interested. It wasn't for a few years that I would end up naturally finding them, and this time, it stuck. So much of their music is textured, gorgeous, and soulful that it's hard not to put them a step above most other bands in the alternative web. Simply stated, this is a band to immerse oneself in and get to know the majestic beauty. Here are my ten favorite songs by Iceland's amazing Sigur Ros.
10. All Alright, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
We start the list with the only song the band has so far crafted in the English language. So much has been made of the “language” they created with Hopelandic that the band is sick of talking about it, but here the use of English really drives the emotion to a place they don't often reach. It's a quiet song, but the structure and balance they bring to it is impeccable(find other word.) Many people look at this album as a miss for the band, but it's great in certain parts. Especially here. Having this song as the last track on the record also gives it more weight and sincerity. Halfway through the song, you hear somber horns in the background, and it's at this moment that the song becomes even more emotional and cathartic. They may never do another song in the English language, but when there's a song this pure, is there any point?
9. Olsen Olsen, Ágætis Byrjun
So much of this band is otherworldly and hard to categorize that this list is likely going to end up with me just talking about how the music feels in my soul, which I guess is alright. One of the most overlooked things about this band is how well they know their instruments. The opening of “Olsen Olsen” is a great example. The plucking of the guitar, eventually joined by the soft thump of the drums is evolution at work. You may think this song is going to be another easy ride, and when Jonsi is singing it's hard to have an issue with that, but as we travel through the sounds, the sky opens up to a glorious early sunrise and the soul of the band shows itself. This is probably the bands best known record, and there's a good reason for it. Many of the songs are utterly powerful, and as the strings and piano build up hopefulness, everything is right.
8. Gong, Takk...
While trying to decide what aspect of this song I like the best, I realized that there is no one aspect of the entire band I like best. Seriously, these guys really know how to lull you into a state of arousal on a musical level that it's difficult to focus on one thing. At times the drumming, courtesy of Orri Páll Dýrason has way with you, and other times, Jonsi's voice brings you to the place of angels, even if you never believed in any kind of higher power. This song has all of those things. The drumming and layers in the back of the room slowly envelop everything in it's tracks, but it's all made perfect by the bright falsetto being sung over the music. If you just had the vocals, or the drums, or the guitar for that matter, it would be good, but it wouldn't be this good.
7. Staralfur, Ágætis Byrjun
Remember that movie the “Beach” with Leonardo Dicaprio. Well, in case you forgot like everyone else(I actually like it, but of course, the book is better), this song is featured in it, and it really fits in with the overall vibethat the makers of the film are trying to create. It also happens to be the song that first put the band on the radar in my life. At moments, I imagine drifting through new places and seeing the world for the first time. It's a wonderous song full of possibilites, and it's only made better by the explosions of fireworks heard through the song. So much of their work has a orchestral and almost operatic quality to it, but this track is probably the best example of that usage, at least among the songs we're covering today.
6. Ekki Mukk, Valtari
Probably the most steady song on the list, “Ekki Mukk” is indicative of the rest of the album. While none of the songs ever hit big like songs on previous albums, it's easily one of their best records, and shows that this band is capable of bringing new energy to the table. The song itself, though, is a freeing one, and puts the listener in a haze of light and beauty. Seriously, this is the band for any type of gorgeous weather. Some bands only work in daylight or night, but Sigur Ros continually manages to be a band that can adapt and highlight any time, whether it be an early morning sun rise, or a late day sunset, or the still beauty of a cloudless day with nothing but blue skies.
5. I Gaer, Hauf/ Heim
From the slowest, prettiest song on the list we turn now to the most heavy, dark song thematically the band has ever written. The opening chimes are gorgeous, but once unraveled they open up a world of darkness and power that you don't see much from this band. It's amazing though. Jonsi's voice is one of the few things that let you know this is a Sigur Ros track. It's such an unconventional track for the band, but that might be why I like it so damn much. It has all the elements of a typical song by them,but the brooding and tinges of epic darkness fighting against the light being presenting by the chimes makes this a compelling song, and one of the rare tracks that every fan of this band should listen to, even if it's only once.
4. Festival, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
One of the best things about this band is how well their music brings new dynamics to the films in which they're featured. Hopefully, we've all seen the James Franco film 127 Hours. The one about the adventurer who get's stuck in the canyon and has to chop his arm off to survive. Well anyway, the movie is amazing, but for my money the best scene in the film is after the arm is gone, and the main character is finally finding his way back to civilization. This song is playing, and the slow build of power and optimism go so well with the visuals you're seeing on screen that part of me thinks this track was their only choice for this section of the film. It starts with a quiet whimper, but by the time the happiness hits, you're dancing, clapping, and everything is right with the world.
3. Svefn-G-Englar, Ágætis Byrjun
I've been lucky enough to see this band twice, and both of those times, got to share the moment with my wife. When we saw them at Bonnaroo 2008, it was easily the best set of the weekend, and unfortunately, it was overshadowed by that whole Kanye thing. Getting back to the topic at hand though, this was the choice for the opening song of the set, and it couldn't have been better, It was day three of the festival, at 1:30 AM, and this slow burn of a song was how they welcomed us into their little world for the next two hours. The song winds and rolls with ease, going to an unknown destination. Trees on both sides, and the sun slowly going down for a nap, we don't know where this road will be going, but the chances are that it's going to be a place where only the purest, most serene things are possible, and the people we love will be accompanying us on the journey.
2. Hoppipolla/ Meo Blodnasir, Takk...
This song, right here, is my fucking jam. There's not a better song in the world to put everything in perspective. Just listening to it brings back memories. Some are good, others are unavoidable. This was the song I listened to immediately upon hearing about the passing of my Grandmother, and it was essential in allowing myself to grieve and and understand that this part of life was necessary. Some moments are amazing though. Back to Bonnaroo, this song was easily the most inspirational of the whole set. There was a point during the song that I became aware of the effect the music was having on me, and how I was thrilled to be not only alive, but experiencing this with my now wife. I also remember realizing that my mouth was completely open from the sheer force of the show, and I instantly felt better when I looked around and other people had the same awestruck reaction as I did.
1. Saeglopur, Takk...
You might be wondering why this is number one, since I just expounded so much on how perfect “Hoppipolla” is, and you would be correct in wondering. While the previous song is indeed perfect, I pick this song because for the months leading up to the Bonnaroo trip, my lady and I couldn't go a day without this song playing in our house. The song is a perfect buildup of everything at which the band excels, and for that reason, it's my choice for number one. The vocals are ethereal and strong, and the pounding of the drums bring the tightly knit arrangements into perfect symmetry. It also happens to be a jam on all levels of epic. Many of the songs on Takk are like this, but the way “Saeglopur” evolves and marinates in sound is the highlight of not only the record itself, but also the band overall. It also works because it gets so dense, but suddenly, the band is able to drop it back down and refocus it in a way that only Sigur Ros is capable of. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed.
Trying to figure out which albums would be included in this list was difficult. Many of my favorite concept albums are ones I've previously discussed here. Going through my research, there are very typical one's that come to mind and are mentioned frequently, but I wanted to make the list a little more me, so what we're getting is five very excellent, very different albums that discuss everything from a band within a band, taking care of someone very near the end, and how a woman becomes a nightmare. I hope you enjoy.
PIG DESTROYER, TERRIFYER
CONCEPT: Basically, it's sheer fucking terrifying( yeah I said it) and it doesn't settle, even as the end hits us. A pair of young lovers, once inseparable, drift apart, only to reconvene at the lake they loved together. During their rendezvous, the boy(Stacy) shows up saying he was bitten. Shortly after, he attacks his companion Natasha and all hell breaks loose. Eventually Natasha becomes the Terrifyer of the title, and bashes the skull of Stacy into puddles of blood and mass.
HOW'S THE ALBUM SOUND: Extremely brutal, and although quite short in length, it's an emotional album full of violent moments and unhinged chaos. One of the most underrated metal albums of the last 20 years, and noise metal at it's best.
FANTOMAS, THE DIRECTOR'S CUT
CONCEPT: Classic modern film score music interpreted in a way that only Mike Patton and company are capable of. Some of the choices are very powerful(“The Godfather,” “Der Golem”) and really work in the context of the album. Also, the only Fantomas album that feature individual, independent songs instead of one long song, or one song broken up into 40 different parts.
HOWS THE ALBUM SOUND: Well if you liked their other records, you're likely to dig this one also. The music is wild and unorthodox, but it's also very well thought out, and perfectly executed.
THE BEATLES, SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
CONCEPT: The biggest band in the world, sick of feeling unfree to explore new musical directions, decide to create an entirely new band and create an album of new, challenging sounds to push their creativity as far as possible.
HOW'S THE ALBUM SOUND: Well it sounds like the Beatles, but it's also the first big step they took as a band since their formation. Definetely a new sound, but also amazing and highly successful. I might add, the first rock record to win the Album of the Year Grammy.
CONCEPT: The Battle between Moby Dick and Captain Ahab on the epic high seas.
HOW'S THE ALBUM SOUND: Like Mastodon making an album about a big fucking fish. The record soars, pummels, and leaves nothing out. It's fantastic, and the first sign that this band was just going to get better and better.
THE ANTLERS, HOSPICE
CONCEPT: A woman dying of bone cancer, get's close to a Hospice worker taking care of her. They end up falling in love, but the story is difficult at best.
HOW'S THE RECORD SOUND: Fucking depressing, as you might expect. Having watched someone I love fade away, it served as a weary friend when in need, but it's emotionally draining on a level that most albums simply don't reach. The music is dire for sure, but the lyrics are very coherent, in line and easy to understand, which ultimately make the album more emotional.
Last songs on albums are tricky. You want them to be as great as possible, but you don't want them to overshadow the rest of the record. There's not really much else I want to say about this, so here's some of my favorite album closers. Enjoy!
Arcade Fire, My Body is a Cage, Neon Bible
Win's voice comes out, and the sadness is not only palpable, but it's as if his life depends on his getting these emotions out. The whole theme of the album really comes into extremely clear view here too. The choral atmosphere, along with the chamber music and organ really makes the song thick. The explosion following this is also a really big jolt. This song is ripe for use, and to my knowledge, it's been used perfectly twice in regards to other mediums. First, the trailer for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” but more importantly, there's a video of this song being used to compliment the film “Once Upon a Time in the West.” I've still never seen the film, but this combination of music and film is one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life. It perfectly draws the tension out, and the symbolism in the song, not to mention the dark tone of the film. The key to the power of the song though, is Butler's unique and simply amazing voice, and in the fleeting moments of “Neon Bible,” it's those things that really make the journey of the album worthwhile.
The Beatles, A Day in the Life, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club
Everything I researched before making this list proclaimed this as the best last song on an album ever. If I were making a top 10 list, this would quite likely be at or near the top, but even without a top 10 list, the song is still fucking immaculate. It works so well for many reasons. First off, it's the Beatles, so that goes without saying. Next though, is how the song quickly shifts. Lennon's part is quite dark, and the atmosphere painted in the music is pitch perfect in tune with the opening. Next though, we come to Paul's part, which is much more upbeat and quick. Maybe “A Day in the Life” works so well because we'll all had days that switch so quickly, from good to bad or vice versa. Whether or not this way the intention of the band, it's an amazing song, one of the best by the band, and it deserves a spot on any list regarding album closing tunes.
Incubus, Morning View, Aqueous Transmission
This song is so great because it's so unexpected. Just a few years earlier, the band was touring with Korn and Limp Bizkit, and when this album came out, they were suddenly huge, and the music had matured to a pretty good point. I'm not a big Incubus fan these days, but this album is probably their best. Seeing this song performed live, is really great too. The band was smart to have this as the gentle show closer, helping to ease into the conclusion in the same brilliant way it worked in the album. Brandon Boyd's lyrics are also really picturesque, and set a beautiful image of a man slowly “floating down a river” in a beautiful late day sunset that can only be experienced on the water. Good work Incubus, good work.
The National, Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, High Violet
We've talked about the National before, and High Violet is easily my favorite album they've made so far. It's so good, arguably because the last song is one of the best things they've ever written. This is the record where in my eyes, they became the stuff of legends in the making. Everything about this track just kills it. Berninger's voice is his usual soulful depressive falsetto, while the instrumentation is impeccably badass. The usage of imagery is spot on too. The whole album has a great flow to it, and from the first song to this perfect last song, it knocks it out of the park one tune at a time. I imagine a family of broken people, struggling with day to day life, and how, in the end, all they have to remember is the struggle. It's not a perfect gorgeous ending, but it's an ending to a record by the National, so there's never going to be a happy ending.
Nine Inch Nails, Hurt, the Downward Spiral
I'm actually taking a break from listening to this band, but I couldn't not put this on the list. The emotional final punch in this exhaustively personal record, is the also the core of the album. The main character, having gone through hell several times over, finally is at the breaking point where something has to give. The song works because Reznor's voice is incredible, and personable, but it also works because of the context of how we got to this point. Still hearing it, for likely the twenty thousandth time, it still gives me goosebumps, and is still a highlight among the live performances. The album is amazing, and the turmoil this person goes through is totally understandable. It's a incredibly dark album, but “Hurt” stands at not only the crowning achievement of the record, but it serves as a reminder that we have to keep going, whether it be in this world, or the next.
Pink Floyd, Eclipse, Dark Side of the Moon
Another one that is a shoe in for inclusion, the finale of one of the biggest albums of all time is explosive, gorgeous, and layered in only ways that Pink Floyd is capable of. It's quite short, and serves as the last part of a multi -part song. The drums are the first thing we hear, but soon we're overcome by Waters' voice, pianos, and thick guitar playing. Pink Floyd is the real deal, and throughout the album they remind us why. Just in case we forget about how excellent they are though, “Eclipse” is there to drill the nail in one last time.
Pixies, Gouge Away, Doolittle
Man oh man, the Pixies. The song itself is pretty immediate, and it's more of less unlike every song on this list. There's no overreaching theme or plot. Instead we get some shredding and squealing from Frank Black and company. It's probably one of the most in your face songs they have, and it's an instantly cool track, especially since it's the album closer. I'm thrilled they got back together, but let's be honest, the days of them making tight songs like this are long gone.
Tool, Third Eye, Aenima
The quintessential last track. “Third Eye” is so epic that it works just as well as a closing track to an album as it does as a show opener. It spins, whirls around, and takes you places you've never been before. It's fucking long too. Thankfully, you get so quickly immersed in the world that the nearly fourteen minutes whiz by in a haze of Keenan's vocals, the drumming and overreaching theme of waking up and figuring out your purpose in this vast, unsolvable world. This is the moment where you as a listener realize that this isn't just a typical heavy band. The lyrics, and music are so atypical of the rest of the scene they were lumped into at that point that even the decent bands in the genre are completely overshadowed by the perfectness of this band. They've since then become too big for any genre, and the musical direction has expanded so awesomely that they're basically their own entity now. If they hadn't hit this song so perfectly on the head, they may not have made an album as incredible as “Lateralus,” but thankfully they did, and we're left still scratching our head and this composition.
the White Stripes, This Protector, White Blood Cells
This last track from the breakout album, is familiar most likely to big fans of the band. From the first time I heard it, I loved it, and after a decade or more, I'm still jamming out to it. The piano is really great here, and I love that Jack and Meg are singing in a unison for the majority of the song. Again the imagery here sets a very clear picture about the going ons surrounding the song. It's a very appropriate song to end the record, and I wish more people mentioned this song when talking about the bands greatness, because for me there's almost nothing better that's come from the two of these people.
Thanks for reading!
Things the 90's Ruined( Or the horribly misguided attempt to be profound in Duran Duran's Come Undone video)
Duran Duran is a band that I enjoy from a distance. I've never taken them super seriously, but I can clearly see that some of their songs are really, really great. As one of the most popular, influential bands of the 80's, quite a few songs in their catalog are really awesome. Even the song we're discussing today, “Come Undone,” is a pretty good song. Unfortunately though, the video is positively horrid.
The classically 90's video opens up to drop of blood filling up the water of a fish tank. My first thought here is was the fish alright? I presume it was because I never heard those bastards at PETA mention that one of the biggest bands of the 1980's killed a fish. We zoom out and see the band playing in front of said gigantic tank. Also there's a well dressed victorian looking person falling into water. Also, said person is tied up. She very well might die in this video.
Getting back to the outfits though. THEY ARE HORRIBLE. It's almost as if no one told them how silly they looked in all these frocks and shit. Hey Duran Duran, “Age of Innocence” called and they want their wardrobe department back. A quick flash back shows that two people were making love. We also get to see the drowning woman cloaked in a massive blue sheet struggling to break free of the mighty chains that hold her in 90's modern hell. The images go back and forth between drowny magoo, the band playing in those ridiculous outfits, and a scene presumably in the house where the couple are doing the sex. The next thing that stands out, and is really quite creepy, is there's a little kid just laying under the bed. Why is she there? Where are her parents? Well, we quickly find out that the child is straight up chilling as her parents get it on on the bed in which she is under. How into the sexy time are these people that they don't even see a kid walk into the room, watch them, and then start playing under the bed. At least close the door when getting it on. Jesus. Also, why does she have a bunch of toys just chilling under the bed? Then we see a scene of an elderly couple sitting on a park bench, except the bench is under water and their shit is everywhere. Old people making out is weird, and I can't help but wonder if the dementia has kicked in because who in their right mind wants to make out while your legs and everything is submerged in water. Either this video is one of the best uses of symbolism in modern history, or the director just threw a whole bunch of out of place shit in at once and figured it would make it more profound. I'm leaning towards the second choice. Another thing that makes utterly no sense is even after the drowning lady BREAKS OUT OF HER SHACKLES, she's still swimming and seizing all over the place. Get out of the water lady, you're gonna drown!!
One of the great things about life is unnoticed creepy looks. Sometimes you can't even tell you're doing it until someone informs you that you just looked like a pedophile. I mention this merely because at the 1:34 point, the guitar player John Taylor, gives probably the rapiest look ever captured in a video. It's so unsettling I had to call the girl from “Audition” just to settle me down. This look really captures everything about the video without doing hardly anything. Where was “To Catch a Predator” when this look was being bombarded all over MTV back in the day. I have no doubt that a band this talented has since gone back and discussed how bad this video has aged, but even though a video ages badly, that doesn't spare them from everything. The 90's may be over, but that creepy look will never unmake itself.
Maybe it's just me, but does the band look like they absolutely hate what they're doing? Maybe they got forced into this. The keyboardist, Nick Rhodes, looks especially depressed. There is no emotion happening in that face, at all! Then we get a brief image of a dude punching a bag. Then a rose gets hammered, then a barbie doll(Was hasbro pissed?), then finally a football. They all fall under the mighty hammer. Um ok, that makes sense. Moving along...
I'm gonna quickly go past the woman making a milk shake in the dark, because frankly, it can't be explained. This is like the “Inception” of 90's videos, in the way that each person who watches this will come to a different conclusion. It's unlike “Inception” though, in the way that it's horribly outdated and isn't entertaining. Next we get a cross dressing man, who works all damn day with a corset on. How does he do it? Next we see the cross-dresser in a satin thingy, smearing lipstick all over his face. This again makes little sense to the overall video. I wonder if the lipstick is Elizabeth Taylor. Sadly, we may never know...Also fire-breathing man. Finally, the chained lady breaks free and with her freedom, comes the freedom of the viewer not having to watch this cluster fuck of a video. Lastly, I'm aware this piece might be all over the place, but forgive me. I was just trying to convey the shambled mess of said video.
Thanks for reading.
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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