Over the course of four eye opening records, Kevin Parker has managed to not only bring us some of the best alternative music of the last decade, but he’s also been able to find a niche in his creativity that doesn’t hobble him based on subject matter. While no official word has ever been given on how much Parker pulls from his personal life and past relationships in order to reach his fullest potential, many of his songs appear deeply experiential. Today we’ll be talking about Impala’s music, and how in just a matter of records he’s gone from underground sensation to full fledged rock star capable of selling out huge festivals and arenas.
From the first track of Tame Impala’s debut album “Innerspeaker,” (which very well could be a metaphor for pouring out the turmoil and regrets that fill all of us from time to time) Parker is able to paint a vivid picture of a lovelorn man meandering contently “sitting around smoking weed.” The she in question on this song, titled “It is Not Meant to Be,” doesn’t appreciate Parker’s approach to life, and the song is a construct of the many things that could go wrong once you realize that the shoes of a particular relationship no longer are able to fit the feet of the participants.
Mutterings of this nature abound on many of these songs, but it’s this first track that let’s us know that Tame Impala, and really Parker solely, are able to go there and bring this type of music to a place where few ever dared to stray. Part of why this works so well for Parker is that it comes off as genuine. Songs work best for mass audiences when you’re able to connect to experiences that the listener has also been through, and throughout many of his songs, Parker is able to do that with ease.
As you go further into his works though, influences and romantic nuances are trickled through many of the songs. This helped to make those first two albums so powerful in terms of emotions stemming from previous experiences. On Parker’s sophomore release, “Lonerism,” the themes of lost loves and regrettable moments sneak a little bit more into the forefront. On a track like “Why Don’t You Make Up Your Mind” from the first record “Innerspeaker,” the message is more narrow in terms of a typical person incapable of being decisive in regards to what they want, but Parker expands on that greatly on “Lonerism.”
Tame as an entity continually straddles the line between normally routine things in psych rock (i.e. visions of the future or of the end of the world), but what they add in grandiose imagery is only as good as the lyrics being presented, and this is where Parker kills it. Even a song like “Apocalypse Dreams,” seems like a letter from a person struggling to understand what is happening in his sphere of existence. The song is more about the monotonous nature of life and how nothing ever truly changes. Whether or not this is in regards to a former partner or not, it’s plays to the idea of the ability to romanticize anything, from a breakup that was always supposed to happen, or to the eventual death of our world.
For every song whose meaning is indeterminate and abstract though, there’s a song like number four on “Lonerism,” “Mind Mischief.” The song and video alike are both built to perfect effect and fully burrow into the concept of unrequited love. When Parker belts out “She remembers my name,” you know the thrill of someone you feel connected to actually knowing who you are. This might seem strange for some, but as a person who’s had feelings for someone I barely knew, or who I was convinced had no idea I even existed, this concept is enthralling and exciting at the same time.
Above all else though, the song that most clearly speaks to heartbreak on the second album is without question “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” Many people have felt this way (I know I certainly have), but the pain involved in any long term relationship can have a crippling effect on the participants. This song works so well because it’s relatable, human, and the listener can quickly find themselves in the headspace of the musician sending out his signals of heartbreak, uncertainty and misdirection.
I know the pain, specifically because I’ve lived through it. I’ve been at those points where I can recall a time where I heard a former partner's voice calling out to me, and I’ve felt stagnant in a position where there was no easy way out. The song’s brilliance and triumph are ones made from the blood, sweat and tears of it’s composer. On the third record, all nodes or nuanced statements are essentially blown away for something much more literal, and in your face with the pain and openness exhibited.
The first obvious sign of this direction on the album comes to us during the song “Yes I’m Changing.” The record all in all is a mix between a typical psych-rock record with sweeping beats that pulsate, but there’s a very clear indication that this is a R&B classic breakup record simply done in the way that Parker had refined on the first two albums. Now while Parker has gone on record and said this is not a breakup album, it’s hard to see his logic when discussing it’s most personally profound tracks. That’s why “I’m Changing” is such a stark contrast to what had come before. I know the pain behind the song because, while I was still getting to know this record, a detachment from my ex-wife was taking place and enveloping every fiber of my being. This song became my pick me up and make me understand song, even though all the keys I needed to make sense of this terrible event were already in my head, waiting to be worked out.
On that track, you don’t get the impression of a good guy or a bad guy. Breakups are incredibly hard, and the more time you spend trying to make it work, the worse you feel when it ultimately ends. No one comes out the victor, just two more people with a little less trust and hope in their hearts. Over and over again on “Currents” you are thrust into that breakup mentality. Songs like “Eventually” drill the notion home that mistakes happen and that everyone will “Eventually” make their way through the downsides of failed love. When Parker croons “But I know that I'll be happier and I know you will too,” you feel the relief of knowing that even though it sucks at this moment, it does eventually become better. I, for one, can fully understand the concept of moving on is easier if I never knew a person, but with all that hard work, you’re able to grow and set out on a new path with your remade self to attempt to make something work in this toxic, never good enough world. Halfway through “Currents” we meet a song filled with classical romantic moments of regret, and of witnessing the person you want giving their attention to someone that isn’t you.
That song “The Less I know the Better,” isn’t only the best track on the album, it seems to be the most rational and realistic. We’ve all felt how Parker feels when he explains how he “was doing fine without ya, ‘til I saw your face, now I can’t erase.” This section is a huge bomb of truth dropped, simply because we all know what the feelings and emotions running through you are like when these moments come up, usually as a relationship deteriorates and all sense of what is supposed to work and not work suddenly become a thing you can’t separate.
Songs like the one’s mentioned, as well as tracks further down the tracklist of the album (“Cause I’m a Man,” or album closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”) further build the notion that while “Currents” may not be an autobiography of a breakup in Parker’s life, at the very least it has an overarching theme of heartbreak, suffering and the resolve of a person trying to learn from their fuck ups and unfortunate circumstances, and how that pain can truly be a catalyst for change.
At the start of the year, 2020 literally the night before my step-mom Babs passed away, my wife and I got the most recent Tame Impala record, “The Slow Rush.”. I didn't know it at the time, but yet again a Tame Impala record would be very much like my year. A slow rush of emotions, huge changes, massive decisions and plenty more unsettling news to grapple with had never reeling emotionally and mentally.
The album, while not the classic that many perhaps expected, is still powerful, albeit heavily produced and nuanced in its soundscapes. In other words, a normal between album progression from Kevin Parker. The songwriting is mesmerizing and beautiful, nothing new there, but the growing maturity of Parker has started to be reflected in his more precise but ultimately more groove oriented psyche-pop. It’s not perfect, but it doesn't deserve the lackluster response it's gotten from many.
Much of the vibe surrounding the “the Slow Rush” revolves around tightly arranged dance notes, with more upbeat elements than on previous efforts. We already talked about this in some length earlier in this piece, but “Lost in Yesterday,” likely the best track of the album for my money, deals with lyrical content that's rooted in real life stresses and turmoil about the future that faces all of us.
It’s easy to get lost (no pun intended) during the four minute run time, most likely because of the infectious beat, but seeing the song live, with a full band and a light show that would make Pink Floyd jealous, really is something that takes your breathe away.
Plenty of folks apparently didn’t latch on to this record like Parker’s previous three, but there are plenty of great songs to go around. “Borderline,”, with its synth dance vibes and difficult to pin down lyrics., is a song about the dangers of contentment, and what may come out of that feeling. You can tell during the song that feeling of uncertainty even though he’s grateful to have found a worthy life partner.
Again all of this is done on the shoulders of Kevin Parker, who’s mastery in songwriting is now very well documented. “Slow Rush” and its parts might not be masterpiece worth, but tracks like “Borderline” show no less skill or attention than what we’ve become accustomed to when it comes to Tame Impala. With four albums Parker has changed not only the shape of alternative rock, but has also left the lines blurred in a world that’s able to combine indie, psyche rock, R&B and whatever else Parker decides to integrate into his works.
IIncubus has always been a varied band. Although I haven't listened to them routinely in a few albums, large amounts of their work are great. They swing from heavier ranges, to eclectic tracks that vaguely sound like other styles or artists, to swoony ballads to make female knees weak. One of the few successful bands that was initially lumped into “Nu- Metal” they’ve managed to build a large base over the years, and although they aren’t in my top ten all time, there's no discounting them as a bad band. Today we count down what I think are their favorite tracks. Enjoy! Up top you’ll find a link to listen as you read.
10 HERE IN MY ROOM: A CROW LEFT OF THE MURDER
Without a doubt one of their most romantically charged songs. “Here in my Room” is the tale of lame late nights forcibly trying to have fun until suddenly, you’re greeted by a lovely vision of a person you have yet to meet. This is one of the best examples of world building the band has done, and the guitars are inescapable in a beautiful, science fiction inspired way. Boyd even explains in detail how if “the world would fall apart in a fiction worthy wind” it would be fine because he’d be with the most important person in his life. It’s a triumph that is often overlooked because it wasn’t a radio hit, but as you can see by its placement here, it’s one of the reasons I keep going back to this band.
9 IN THE COMPANY OF WOLVES: IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
By this point in the band's career, there had begun talk that the band had seen their peak. Though still a massive draw, the critical acclaim was sliding, yet when you listen to the meandering, dark tinge of “In the Company of Wolves,” it feels like a brilliant and natural profession. It’s also more experimental than many of the other songs on this record. Boyd’s lyrics in this song portray a brutal, tough world. The boy mentioned early in the song is now dead, figuratively speaking, as the man out in the wild is forced to navigate a black, unflinching world. The instrumental section perfectly compliments the natural growth of the vocals. In the end, at least in my mind, it became a classic and a reminder of his great these guys can be.
8 A KISS TO SEND US OFF: LIGHT GRENADES
While I still have yet to hear this album to the extent of some of the earlier ones, this track absolutely left me blindsided in the best way possible. It’s one of the heaviest, most epic openings they’ve ever done, and when the rock begins, you're lost to the momentum. Everything about this track kicks my ass. Boyd has a little bit of a Mike Patton thing happening in the chorus, which is fine by me, but beyond that the guitar soars, his voice soars higher, and the drums somehow reach even higher to make a truly mind blowing track that is Incubus at their heaviest. A seriously underrated track that I still can’t get enough of.
7 SICK SAD LITTLE WORLD: A CROW LEFT OF THE MURDER
For a band that has been known as a melodic, sorta romantically tinged rock band, they never get enough credit for their skills as musicians. The bass line in the first verse reminds me of the early funk of the chili Peppers, while yet again Brandon Boyd’s vocals soar with biting critiques of the surrounding grimness of the outside world. Performed live the song is even more upbeat and open to butt shaking.
6 DIG: LIGHT GRENADES
Quite frankly, this is one of the most sincere, heartfelt songs I’ve ever heard from the California rockers. Everything about this track makes me grateful for the people in my life, as we all secretly go through things deep in ourselves. Finding a way to come to terms with your past, and your mistakes is a big part of adulthood, which the lyrics represent and display in a sobering way that still manages to impact the listener. Life is always going to be hard, but the biggest part of that life is continually finding a way to dig past the bad shit in search of your true, love filled self. Hopefully that last part isn’t too sappy for you guys.
5 MEGALOMANIAC: A CROW LEFT OF THE MURDER
I remember getting this record and thinking there was no way they could perform the last record. I ended up thinking I was correct, but I also remember thinking “Megalomaniac” was a perfect choice for an album opener and first single. The static buzz beginning the song feels like impending doom, with Einzigers guitar ringing up the intensity as the upbeat explosive nature of the chorus blasts out of your speakers. Lyrically the song isn’t some revolution of Boyd’s talent, but everyone hearing this song can think of a person that reminds them of the ugly mentality tossed around throughout the track.
4 THE WARMTH: MAKE YOURSELF
If only going with the flow and not letting the little stuff get you down was as easy to learn as this song is to listen to. Filled with warm moments, and a radiating energy that makes you imagine a life more calm, “The Warmth” envelopes you much like it’s namesake with gorgeous, layered keyboard and him guitar work, while Brandon’s voice shines above the mix, as the listener leans into a world where you’re loved and welcomed
3 JUST A PHASE: MORNING VIEW
Like a swinging breeze that lightly flows across your skin, “Just a Phase,” recorded for the “Morning View” sessions, lands at number 3. The track starts with some gorgeous layering by the rhythm section of Ben Kennedy and DJ Kilmore, and it genuinely is a gorgeous passage of music. That isn’t what ultimately sells the song though Boyd’s idiosyncratic lyrics work here because of the unnerving nature of a person slowly bubbling over with frustrations. By the time the song has its big splash, so to speak, you’ve already been on quite the ride.
2 PARDON ME: MAKE YOURSELF
Some of you might have a hard time seeing this not in the first slot, but it is what it is. Regardless, “Pardon Me,” alternative rock anthem of a dying century, still holds up during this new century. The musicianship is simple but forward thinking, with the vocals soaring as Boyd beckons out the chorus. I always think this song was about the awaiting superstardom the band would face after this record ended up being a smash hit, but it will never not be the anthem that made them a household name. “Pardon Me,” is exactly the kind of song that changes a band's path, and in the case of Incubus, the rest is history.
1 AQUEOUS TRANSMISSION
More than likely this is the most unlike Incubus Incubus track the band ever recorded, but it’s also the best. The Asian mood flows gorgeously through the opening minutes, and quietly, patiently, Brandon Boyd’s voice emerges. This is the best storytelling the band has ever done, and the world creating technique’s they employ here leave you wishing you could experience it for yourself. Certainly the main character is alone at the moment, but where exactly is the river taking him? One might assume he’s being led by the water to his beloved, and while you might be right, nature sometimes has its own course for us, so we can never be sure. While this album is likely my favorite, it’s this record closing song that brings it to a place it hadn’t yet reached in the previous twelve tracks. “Aqueous Transmission” remains Incubus’ most compelling, unique track, which is why it’s placed at number one on this list. I hope you’ve enjoyed this
In the last few years, naturally, the way people react and experience music has changed. For many like myself, you’re just getting back to concerts. Last Tuesday April 19, I ventured out on a gorgeous night to catch up with the rising trio Automatic, open for rising legends Idles at Mission Ballroom here in Denver.
Typically if I’m seeing a band, I try not to listen to them, but having a working knowledge of the band helps when you’re reviewing a concert. Once the show was over I realized it wouldn’t have even mattered, but the great news is, I was introduced to Automatic. The band came out right at eight o’clock, dressed to the nines in what I’ll say reminded me of futuristic shades of Blade Runner and a classic rock flair. Pretty quickly the band got into it, and while I am still learning song names, everything I heard I loved more and more.
The vocals of Izzy Glaudini, who also helms synth, have this swagger to it that shares elements of Ladytron, while even Glaudini’s vocals reminded me of the vocals of the Go Go’s. The crowd got into the set pretty early, I’d say by the second song everyone was dancing. The trio of Gladudini, the low key off to herself bassist coolness of Halle Saxon and energizing to watch drummer Lola Dompé, who also sings made it easy to absorb the music, as the hallucinationary nature of the logo displayed in the accompanying screen blasted through the menu.
With only thirty minutes, Automatic didn’t waste any time. Every song got better to me, and I felt for the first time in a very long time that I had just discovered an amazing band I couldn’t wait to learn more about. The energy was unbelievable, the music was a brilliant contrast to the punk mentality of headliners Idles, and all in all, it was nearly impossible to say that the band didn’t make a good impression with the crowd, judging by the reactions of the attendees.
Currently the band only has one album released, but that won’t last, as the bands second record, “Excess” is due June 24, released through Stones Throw Records. Keep an eye out for it, and don’t miss the chance to see a band that’s likely to be making big waves soon, Automatic.
With a band like Metallica, who’ve been making music for longer than many of their fans have been Alice, it’s hard to determine the best five records they’ve made. Sure there are plenty of albums we won’t mention here, but there’s also more amazing songs than you can count. Either way, enjoy this Top Five albums list.
5 HARDWIRED… TO SELF DESTRUCT (2016)
Released in 2015, hard core fans reveled over the bands “return to glory,” of sorts. This record builds on the early days of the metal giants career, and foregoes much of the radio friendly tracks prevalent from the late 90’s to the mid Aughts. The record is long, but for the most part, it continues the legacy of the band, bridges the gap from where they were to where they went, and that they can still write epic metal songs. Not perfect, but certainly better than Load, Reload, or anything else made during that period.
4 …AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (1988)
Recorded during the height of the hair metal movement, “..AJFA '' served at the time as a warning shit for a momentous future. This record, for my money, proved them as the best metal band in the world. With tracks like the blistering opening of “Blackened” to quite possibly the best metal song of all time, that being “One,” “For All '' has everything fans loved about the band before this. Musicianship and instrumentation are essentially without flaws, while Hetfiellds vocals and lyrics add the last Little touch of fire to make the band unstoppable and legendary.
3 RIDE THE LIGHTNING (1984)
“Ride the Lightning” opens up with a traditional, quiet, lovely guitar section, but it doesn’t last. Instead, for the remaining 46 monitors the listener is thrust into classic thread done to perfection. “ Fight Fire with Fire” is a harbinger of the relentless chords and vocals were presented with, but the classics like “For Whom the Bells Toll,” ring with the same intensity now that they did in the 80’s. Also, never forget the brilliant simmering intensity of “Fade to Black,” it’s one of the main reasons the band is a juggernaut now.
2 THE BLACK ALBUM (1991)
As far as modern hard rock or metal albums go, the “Black Album” as it’s frequently referred to, stands confidently above the vast majority of albums released during the decade. After four blisteringly heavy records, the bands new approach enabled them to bring the epic mess of the precious records and meld that energy with a more forward song writing structure. In the end it ended up being accessible and epic in a brilliant way that bridged the gap between the band they were before the Black album, and the band they’d become after the Black record.
1 MASTER OF PUPPETS (1986)
BAT- TER- RY! Maybe the best metal album ever made, albeit certainly the best metal record the 80’s ever gave us. From start to finish “Master of Puppets” delivers time and time again. “Battery” blisters you under the weight of Hammett’s guitars and the drums of Ulrich, while the classic title track still has a drum and guitar section that’s brawny enough to make even the heaviest metal band turn and give their appreciation. There’s really not a bad song in the entire record, but when you have tracks like “Battery,” “Master,” and especially “Orion,” aka the best instrumental song in all of metal, it’s hard to be mediocre at all.
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During my 40 years on earth, so far, I’ve seen probably 2,000 bands. Many of them have changed my life, leaving me with memories I still visit to this day. But, not every show or even every band can be life changing in a good way. Below we’ll be discussing five of the acts that I’ve sadly walked away from, wishing for something better than what I got. Do yourself a favor, don’t seek out any of these bands, you will not enjoy it.
CAKE: When I was younger, I owned all the Cake records they had made during the 90’s. I didn’t stay a huge fan, but was still excited when I finally got the chance to see them at a one day festival at a boat launch in New Orleans. What the crowd in attendance actually got wasn’t anything special. To start, lead singer John McCrea is clearly upset that his band didn’t become the next big thing. He insulted the crowd in between every song, refused to play any of the songs people were actually there, and threatened to leave, before then leaving without singing a single word of “I will Survive” as the band just grinned with the knowledge that their lead singer is a really shitty performer, and likely a shitty person.
MARILYN MANSON: I was a huge fan of his back in the day, but frankly the years have not been kind to Manson. The music and light show were spot on, but his vocals and overall performance hung heavily to the wrong end of what you would want out of a performer. Misspoke lyrics, false starts and literal silence plagued the set. During the set, Manson began the chant that was supposed to lead into “mObscene,” but then the stage went black and quiet for minutes, leaving the crowd either scratching their heads or just leaving. Manson ultimately won’t be remembered for the types of set he became legendary for in his early days. Instead, as you might know, the dude is accused of being an abusive rapist, so at least he’ll be remembered for a shitty life and as a shitty performer.
MGMT: When you listen to an MGMT album, your senses are pushed as you try to dissect the vital pop instrumentations of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. Live though, the band is utterly uninspiring. It’s clear to me, the handful of times I’ve seen them live (mostly at festivals) has been deeply disappointing in how the music translates from record to stage. They just aren’t into, oftentimes showing that disinterest by not addressing the audience, ever, or by simply not moving. Worse still, one show they didn’t turn to face the audience. Of those five attended shows, one has been awesome for me. Listen to the band, buy their records and merch, but we warned, you never know what you may get.
THREE 6 MAFIA: This was probably 2001, 2002 when this happened, but it’s the single worst concert I’ve ever seen. I went with an old friend Rick, who loved the band and had never seen them. Let’s hit the bullet point though, because this show was fucking horrendous. One, four opening acts were all done 90 minutes into the show, with each artist roughly playing 15 minute sets, and then nothing, for nearly two more hours. When the 3-6 mafia did come out, the excitement built and quickly died as it became clear that only 3 members of the group were there. Also, this headlining set was less than 30 minutes, and probably 4 songs. It was easily the worst show I ever paid for. In 2001, it cost roughly forty bucks.
TRAVIS SCOTT: I was first introduced to Scott at Bonnaroo, I forget what year, but even just seeing that show made me worry for his safety. To start, the show just wasn’t anything special. The mix was bad, and the repeated antagonistic behavior from Scott to the crowd only provided proof of how much he liked seeing things go out of control. These days, we all know him as the guy who stood on stage advocating for more violence as ten fans died, while countless more were injured. If you need more reason to think less of Scott, I don’t really know how to sell you more. Sadly in the world of music, there’s never been a person who stood as their own fans were trampled to death. Going to a Travis Scott show sadly means you might get what you paid for, because his on stage antics are nothing short of hoping for violence and injury.
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Without a doubt, for many adolescents in the 90’s who were growing up and trying to figure themselves out, a band was discovered and before long, literally millions of people were obsessed with them. This band is Nirvana. For the early part of the decade there was simply no bigger act than these out of nowhere musicians from Seattle. The importance of the music on the scene, and on rock music itself is colossal, but with amazing beginnings come sometimes tragic ends.
Kurt Cobain was always going to be a rock star, even though it became obvious very quickly that that was the last thing he cared about. Even from early on you can sense his attitude towards the scene, and how adverse he was to fame. Thankfully though, the music was good enough that it caught on, and before long, they had arrived.
However, we’re going to jump back a bit there. The bands core, Cobain and Krist Novoselic had a rhythm and chemistry that's hard to come by. Their proper full length debut, “Bleach,” is an album full of honesty, and also of aspiring hopes. This was in the early days of the “Grunge” movement, and at this point, people hadn’t began to catch on in the vast way they would in following years. There was an interesting thing happening in the Northwest, and one of the many noteworthy aspects was the sound of a little band called “Nirvana.”
“Bleach” has this certain quality to it that’s both clearly defined and dirty. I mean seriously, it’s a gritty record, but there’s a weird charm to it at the same time. Many of the songs featured have themes of anger, isolation, and determination. “School” is one of the stand outs. Lyrics don’t always have to make much sense, but when you hear Cobain scream “No Recess,” you genuinely feel like you’re missing out on the wonderful aspects of your childhood. Other songs are more to the point and reak of failure. “Negative Creep” is full of anger, and you get the impression it’s from the point of view of a severely neglected child. One can’t but wonder when listening to these songs what brought about these dark emotions. “Bleach” is covered in these feelings.
Then, everything changed.. In the year 1991, this juggernaut of a song called “Smells Like Teen Spirit” exploded the band into public consciousness, and nothing ever was the same. By this time, Kurt and Krist had finally found a steady drummer, in the form of Dave Grohl. Having been brought on during the early “Nevermind” sessions, he added a cohesiveness and fusion to the band that wasn’t there during “Bleach.” You can just hear the band change, and overnight, the music changed, and with it, the world had begun to take notice of the Seattle sound.
“Nevermind” is still one of the best albums of the 90’s, and it’s full of amazing songs. Many times, especially with something so exacting, you may find some aging happening. Those things don’t exist when discussing “Nevermind.” “Teen Spirit,” still has the charge it had the first time you heard it, and although the video isn’t the best, it brings you back to the days when you figured out you weren’t alone. There were people just as weird and misunderstood as you, and now we all wanted to wear flannel. While “Smells like Teen Spirit” was the obvious stand out track, plenty of other songs resonated with the world at large.”In Bloom” has a crisp vocal quality to it, and the video, meant to be cheesy and reminiscent of the 50’s, hits all the right notes.
However, it’s in the non singles that the spirit of what the band truly was comes out. “Territorial Pissings” opens up with this absolutely insane drum beat(Who knew Grohl could drum…) and the whole song is in your face in the way punk rock was meant to be. The band had this ability to be as punk rock as you could be, while also including more oriented hooks and beats. It’s a rare thing, but one Nirvana seemed capable of doing almost without effort. Another quality track, and one of my all time favorite songs period is “Drain You.”The album version is awesome, but the superior version, at least in my opinion, is the live version taken “From the Muddy banks of the Wishkah” album, released years later, after all the sadness had come.
This version, full of the raw energy of their notorious live shows, is one of the best live songs I’ve ever heard, but it also is one of the tightest sounding recordings. Cobain’s voice on the live effort sounds like you would imagine it would, in a room with 10,000 people. Also great about this version is the buildup of the drums and textured layers right before the song explodes. Having had the amazing opportunity to see this band live, one single time, that energy is familiar to me, and if I had been of age to be on the floor during this concert, things would have gone down in a volatile way.
The darkest song, though, finds us at the very end of “Nevermind.” It’s a haunting, isolated track full of terrible foreshadowing and it exists purely in a world of darkness. That song, “Something in the way,” has extremely dark lyrics,and the stillness it brings to the overall effect of the record leaves you in a vulnerable place. That might be what many people didn’t get. This band was never a particularly happy one. At least not all the time. By this point, Cobain had already begun experimenting with various substances. Brought on by a worsening stomach ulcer, most things didn’t help. That’s where Heroin came in.
Nonetheless, “Nevermind” was the story of the year, and they were suddenly the biggest band on earth. To fill the time, they released a compilation of long sought after demos. The result, “Incestide” has both tinges of quality from “Bleach” and “Nevermind.” Some of it is rougher, sometimes not. Among these tracks, probably the best are “Sliver,” and “Aneurysm.” “Aneurysm” especially has the biggest sound. The production isn’t life changing, but the same charge that ignited their best songs is most certainly there. If you’ve never given it a check out, you should.
By this time though, they were the most popular band on earth. Having successfully killed the metal of Guns N’ Roses and taken the throne of the 90’s, they were poised to make their best album yet, and move into the middle of the decade as a force to be reckoned with. One of those things happened.
“In Utero,” released 1993, is a fundamentally perfect rock record. The sonic force of the band is still there, and although Butch Vig was the great choice of producer for “Nevermind,” I can’t help but think that with the forever awesome producing talent that is Steve Albini at the helm, they as a band had found their perfect collaborator. In the end though, this turned out to be untrue. The band was less than thrilled with aspects of the recording, and others were brought into make the album whole, at least in the eyes of the band.
Many of the songs featured on “In Utero” have the same aesthetic feel of other songs, but it’s more angry than previously, if that’s even possible. A track like “Scentless Apprentice” has more piss and vinegar than most songs, and it’s in this moment that you realize that this band is dangerous. A band that can speed up and exploit everything, then turn around and hit you with an eye opening sobering track is a band that is diverse, and ultimately, a group of artists that are capable of inspiring great things.
Like I mentioned earlier, I was able to see them on this album's tour. I was ten or eleven, and on a cold December night, my good natured father took me to see Nirvana, along with The Breeders and Shonen Knife. I remember the show for a few reasons. For one,it was terrible. Seriously, Nirvana weren’t even kind of amazing that night. Knowing now how horrible things were going within the band, and the state of Cobain's mind, I’m not that angry. At least I got to see them. Secondly, They played a song called “Rape Me” that royally upset my dad. Again, understandable. Maybe a song called that isn’t the best thing for a kid to hear, but oh well. The last thing though, was the upsetting realization that the big hit, and overall awesome track “Heart Shaped Box, was not being played. At the time it boggled my mind that the lead single was totally ignored, but again, knowing a bit more about the tendencies of artists to shun their best known songs, I’m not surprised at all.
Moving on though, “In Utero” features more than a few songs that are still able to hold up over time. Among those are “Pennyroyal Tea.” It has this euphoric quality to, and one of the best things about it is the strain evident on Cobain’s voice. In the studio it can be cleaned up and made to be pretty, but this band was wanting something real, and tangible. Art after all, doesn’t have to be wrapped in a little bow to get it’s point across. Moments like that are scattered all throughout the album, which ultimately makes it such a great record.
I’ve always wondered how bad things must’ve gotten though. Looking back, all the signs seem there for the picking. Tracks are increasing dark, and various metaphors for death are littered here and there. Self Loathing is also at an all time high. This is most obvious in a song like “ Radio Friendly Unit Shifter.” This is the song that not only absolves him of everything, but it’s the most bitter lyrically. Not that I like mentioning the L world, but you can’t help but wonder if this was directed at their increasingly troubling marriage. Choice lyrics include “Bi Polar Opposites Attract,” “What is wrong with me?” and of course “Do not want what I have Got.” These could all be fingers pointed at one person, or at the crumbling group at their height of monetary success, or it might be a finger pointed at this situation that an ill man simply didn’t want to be a part of. I think, most likely, it’s a nod to all three. This album, above all else, is about the dissolution of life, and of decaying minds.
But, it also features what is without a doubt one of their most mesmerizing songs. “All Apologies'', fittingly at the end of the record, has the ability to soar “In the Sun,” and bring light to all the darkness of the previous tracks. It’s not a cheerful song lyrically, but it’s a beautiful, richly layered song that brings hope. It’s still one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and you can’t help but feel connected to the musicians.
The last recording of the band occurred on the road. The now classic “Unplugged” session is one of the most amazing things ever. It’s not only the best in the series, but it’s impossible for any other session to be that good, almost completely because of how the band went about it.
Gone were the sets of the go to hits. Instead, the band picked songs that fit the format, and although a few mildly well known tracks were presented in the acoustic spectrum, most of the album contains b-sides, lesser known cuts, and of course, quite a few covers. One of them, which I now hear more than the original, is “The Man Who Sold the World.” The song itself is masterful, but Nirvana’s version has this hauntingly ominous vibe to it. The ending of “Unplugged” though, is the most eye opening section of the entire set. “Where did You Sleep Last Night,” is a somber ballad that speaks volumes about the band's depth and talent. Originally an 18th century folk song, what the band is able to do with it is impressive to say the least. Without even trying they found and resurrected a song that fits them as well as a girl. “Unplugged” would go on to sell very well, and it also ended up being the last time they were ever filmed performing live.
As we all know now, that was the last full year of the band. Scheduled to headline Lollapalooza, the rumors started mounting that they were over. Then the overdose in Paris, which canceled the tour, and then of course, the tragic events of April 8th. Cobain, after hopping the fence in rehab, ventures back to his home in Seattle, and takes his own life. Millions mourn, and a great emerging artist is gone in a literal flash.
It’s impossible to think about what would've come of the band had he not passed. In a perfect world, the band would have simply split up, Cobain would have gotten help, figure himself out, and gone on to once again let the world listen to his amazing talents. Sadly that was not to be
When I was a kid, professional wrestlers were the coolest thing not music related that I had ever encountered. I remember spending hours watching old matches, pay per views and anything else I could find. As I grew older I wasn’t as interested, but in the last few years, friends, as well as a huge amount of stress and regression because of the stress brought me back to the world of Sports Entertainment as it’s called. This weekend I’m heading to Dallas, along with my wife and close friends to experience Wrestlemania 38 in all its glory. Before that, I thought it was pertinent to share the Ten best Matches I’ve watched during my complete binge of every single Wrestlemania ever. I hope you enjoy!!
BROCK LESNAR/ UNDERTAKER/ WM 30
BIANCE BELAIR/ SASHA BANKS/ WM 36
SHAWN MICHEALS/ CHRIS JERICHO/ WM 19
HULK HOGAN/ ANDRE THE GIANT/ WM 3
CHARLOTTE FLAIR/ SASHA BANKS/ BECKY LYNCH: WM 33
10 RICKY STEAMBOAT/ SAVAGE: WM 3
Early on, most WWE athletes weren’t universally toned and muscular like they are now. Lots of these guys were just big. The Steamboat/ Savage match stands out as a highlight in those early days. It was well rehearsed, acrobatic in large sections, and finalized a great story of rivalry and jealousy in a match that you notice more and more great maneuvers the more you watch. Savage is tremendous as an obsessed bad guy during this, with Ricky the Dragon using his sharp and slick moves to blast back against the Macho Man.
9 STONE COLD/ ROCK: WM 15
These two have three pretty amazing matches at Mania during the heights of both of their careers, but this one is probably the best. The No Disqualification rule is used within an inch of its life, with much of the match happening outside the ring and many foreign objects playing a role in the chaos. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawyer are over the top as hell in the broadcasters role. Of course the big bad guy Vince McMahon plays a role in the fracas, as does Mankind aka Mick Foley. The plotting is pretty clear through most of the match, but the action is relentless, like any main event should be.
8 TLC- EDGE & CHRISTIAN/ DUDLEYS/ HARDYS: WM 17
During the Attitude Era, these three times were responsible for some of the best matches in the entire company. This triple threat Tables Ladders and Chairs match is the stuff of legend. All six men are put through the ringer, with Edge having a particularly memorable spear from the ladder in Jeff Hardy. In the end, Edge and Christian come out on top, in what is probably my favorite TLC match during Mania.
7 EDDIE GUERRO/ KURT ANGLE WM 20
This match was a long time coming, and it didn't disappoint. Angle is at his peak during this, and Guerrero is his usual sneaky, quick on his feet competitor. It’s not too long of a match, but the action is frequent and fast paced throughout. Angle is more technical, obviously, but the tendency for Eddie to use unorthodox moves or techniques makes the blink and you’ll miss the nature of the match all the more fun to watch.
6 FLAIR/ LYNCH/ ROUSEY: WM 35
Truth be told, this match is just better than the crowd gives it credit for. The lead up was epic, with Becky coming out of nowhere to win the Royal Rumble, setting up the first ever women's Mania main event. It was a particularly long event that year, with the main event starting at the five hour mark. Still, the women in the spotlight didn’t disappoint. It ended up being the moment of the “Man,” when Becky Lynch became champion, and it capped off many other amazing moments at the longest mania to date, I think.
5 CAREER MATCH- RIC FLAIR/ SHAWN MICHAELS WM 24
Very few moments during these events are enough to get you emotional. This moment and march is one of them. The entrances to both wrestlers are poignant and the fan reactions are overwhelming. Flair and Michaels weren’t the main draws anymore, but the match is a master class in skill and preparedness. Flair's family is in the front row, and the emotion is clear when Michaels begins his finishing moves. One of those matches you watch over and over again.
4 ROCK/ JOHN CENA: WM 29
The storyline for this in the lead up to the match couldn’t have been better planned and executed. John Cena, defeated the year before, turns his failure into a massive moment for the Rock to put him over in a big way. Both men look fantastic, and really go in for a large variety of back and forth competition that lasts for nearly half an hour. You can tell both Cena and the Rock are feeding off the crowd, who love and show their approval in big ways all throughout the match. As the match goes forward, Cena shines as he outsmarts the Rock in an eventual title victory to a soaring crowd who loved every minute.
3 HELL IN A CELL- UNDERTAKER/ HHH: WM 28
It’s easily one of the most violent matches, even without the Hell in a Cell gimmick, that it’s pretty impressive how good both athletes showcase the other throughout the match. You can tell there’s mutual respect there, which always helps the match. The rousing screams of HHH imploring Michaels to end the match as his best friend looks on is classic, but in the end, the Deadman once again prevails.
2 ROLLINS/ REIGNS/ LESNAR: WM 31
The Heist of the century, as it’s known, has one of the best twists of any wrestling match in the history of Mania. First you get a chaotic and stellar match between Reigns and Lesnar, and while that would likely be enough, you have the ending. Lesnar is a beast early on, with blood already appearing on his face in those early minutes. However, all those moments are in the shadows as soon as Rollins comes sprinting down the massive walkway as he seizes the moment and shocks a giant stadium full of people.
1 NO DQ RETIREMENT- STREAK- UNDERTAKER/ SHAWN MICHAELS: WM 26
When the broadcasters start this match they make mention of how anticipated this had been so long leading up to the match. The year before the same men battled in a classic. This match eclipsed that with much larger ramifications. Taker hadn’t yet lost at Mania, and Shawn Michaels was maybe the biggest star of the time, in terms of ring skill and general likability as a character. The match is long, but it never seems hard to watch for me. It does the impossible- making both stars look better than you even thought they could. Michaels is at his best l, taunting and egging the Undertaker in a way most aren’t able to do. The backflip off the top rope onto the broadcasters table is epic but excruciating to watch, but these two guys leave it all out there, to a huge positive crowd reaction.
In 2001, during my only metal & hard rock phase, Atlanta’s Sevendust became one of my favorite bands after releasing their third major label album. “Animosity.” A few years earlier they had shown up on my radar, and while I enjoyed the likes of Korn, Deftones and so on, Sevendust always stood out to me.
One of the reasons for that is how great the band is at mixing the heavy with the heartfelt, walking the line between nu metal, hard rock, and some form of a power ballad. The point is on that third album the five members of the band, bassist Vince Hornsby, drummer Morgan Rose, guitarists John Connolly & Clint Lowery and of course, vocalist Lajon Witherspoon gifted us a powerhouse hour of hard rock. For years after, “Animosity” was one of my favorite rock records, for good reason.
This brings us to the present, to a world where not only is the pandemic kinda seeming like it’s ending, but also to a world where things and events are happening again. One of those things is a tour featuring a full performance of this great album I’ve been talking about. The band initially planned this event for last year, as it’s billed as a 20th anniversary tour, but for the several hundred people at the Oriental Theater last week, it didn’t matter.
As the band emerged onstage, with a banner of the “Animosity” album cover adorning the band wall, Sevendust exploded onto album opener “T.O.A.B.” with the same intensity that was present when the album first came out. I hadn’t seen the guys love since 2007, but you couldn’t tell any time had passed. Sure the band looked older, naturally, but the skill set among them is still extremely high and well refined.
During the first three songs, the crowd was all energy, repeatedly with enough sound to drown out the vocals of Witherspoon as he and his counterparts busted out “Praise,” and “Trust,” before settling down for the heartbreaking “Xmas Day,” with Lowery leading the first verse as the crowd again sang back. That’s the fortunate part of this type of tour, the crowd engagement is always higher when people love and know the words to the songs. It was very apparent that the crowded club loved this record, and we have the love back ten fold to the Georgia heavyweights.
During one of the song breaks, Lajon commented on how some of these songs hadn’t been played in nearly two decades. This led to the introduction of one of my favorite songs from the band, “Dead Set.” The song itself is an eye opening, made for an arena rock soaring chorus style anthem about the depths of drug addiction and how delicate life is. The song on record is amazing, but live it’s a different beast entirely.
As the night went on, memories from other shows began coming back to me, one of which is the reminder of how much this band seems to love playing together. For the last 20 years, when I’ve seen them, it’s been refreshing to see rock stars smiling, laughing, and even more subtlety singing the verses and chorus with Witherspoon as they bribed through a memorable set.
In the hard rock world the prevailing image is one of never backing down, showing weakness or vulnerability, and definitely never smiling. When you see how well Sevendust as a unit has done in their career, it’s hard not to smile along while listening to a classic album performed in its entirety. An absolute crushing show that made me realize how important certain albums at the right time can be. As the set wound down to its inevitable climax, the band belted out energetic versions of their classic “Angel’s Son,” followed by the cutting, charged “Crucified.” I’ve seen probably five to ten bands play full albums, and honestly, I can't think of a single one that I loved more than seeing “Animosity” in all its hard-boiled majesty. Truly a special night.
It’s hard to imagine the Foo Fighters being one the biggest rock bands of a generation. Taylor Hawkins didn't join the band during the Colour and the Shape tour. During the early stages of the Foo’s, Hawkins was elsewhere drumming for Alamo’s Morrisette, but that was fated to end as soon as Taylor clicked with Dave Grohl. The rest is history.
When I listened to the drums on these songs, the first thing that comes to mind is the elasticity of his drumming skill. There are songs like “Low,” off of “One by One” that just blow your head up with the rapid intensity created by Hawkins’, while other songs like “February Stars” or even “Next Year” where the intensity is relegated to the back in favor of something more rhymes in tune with the vibe of the song. That type of skill Is hard to appreciate if you aren’t invested heavily in music technique and style.
The point that I’m trying to mask is that while drummers are vitally Important to every band, Hawkins graduated to being the second rock star in the band, with an undeniable energy that even put his road warriors band mates to shame at times. To me, he was the consummate drummer, capable of making every bit of art he touched just a little better. In remembrance of Taylor Hawkins, and all the songs we love that he helped create, Rest In Peace, and drum the fuck out of the other worlds.
Every now and then a book comes along that changes everything for you. Even more often, a film is made of that book that while good, doesn’t really knock it out of the park in the way it should. That’s where “The Virgin Suicides” comes in. The film, while able to capture the spirit and essence of the brilliant Jeffrey Eugenides novel, falls short in a few ways. The score of the film, though, is an area where French musicians Air and filmmaker Sofia Coppola are able to note the gravitas and knock the idea of marrying music and imagery out of the park in a wonderful, yet tragic way. While I’ve read the book more than ten times, the film score also stands as my favorite score or soundtrack of all time. Today we add another great album to the “Albums Of My Life” series, with Air’s spacey and passionate score to “The Virgin Suicides.”
It’s rare that a score truly hits on narrative points discussed in the inspired work, yet even from early on, the lyrics do exactly that, albeit in a loosely narrative way. One of the best things about the novel is how quickly you’re dropped into a world you perfectly understand. Young people are curious people,and that curiosity plays roles in nearly everything in their lives. The score opens up with the jazz, horn infused gentle rumblings of “Playground Love,” If you’ve ever seen the film, or read the book, I can’t imagine you saying this soundtrack doesn’t fit perfectly in the world in which five boys end up falling for the tragic yet wondrous Lisbon sisters. So much detail is known about these girls, but somehow the lovelorn boys miss the true essence of them, and in the end, it’s much too late. They were doomed, and as it is said in both the novel and film, the boys will forever be trying to save them.
By track three, “Bathroom Girl,” the feeling of the time is prevalent, and the hazy quality of the film starts to show itself in audio form. One of the best things about the film is it’s ability to drift among the vibes of the world through snapshots of past and future experiences, but also makes you long for simpler times. You want for the summer where you’re so obsessed with the new girl that you throw yourself off of a roof while pining for her love, only to realize the girl who loved you may have in fact thrown herself onto a steel fence, exiting herself from Earth in a pivotal early scene.
That girl, Cecilia Lisbon, the youngest, most carefree of the bunch, starts the onslaught her sisters later finish in dramatic fashion, under the guise of wanderlust. II mention this because the fifth number of the score,”Dark Messages,” ties in thematically to the inner workings of how not only these five souls, but also their parents must have felt doing the time that changed everything. The track is ominous, and appropriately so, because the next song, “The Word ‘Hurricane” winds and bashes and causes destruction. The word Hurricane, as it’s used in a book, is used brilliantly in a couple of obvious but also very subtle ways.
The most prominent person in the film who isn’t a Lisbon daughter is Trip Fontaine, and by this time in the book, he’s fallen head over heels for Lux Lisbon, who is easily the most free and unhinged of the girls. But as you can imagine, it doesn’t end well. Back to the usage of hurricane in symbolic terms. and how it’s used to move the story along. Luz and Trip meet in the gym during a science video on hurricane’s, but what Trip doesn’t know, and very well may not understand for decades to come, is that while he was watching a video about hurricanes, he was meeting his own force of nature, in the form of the reckless Lisbon, the one and only Lux. The song plays well to this narrative element, and before we know it, the chaos has moved into an upbeat and dark passage titled “Dirty Trip.” It’s full of 70’s themed instrumentation, like something from a nightmare whose conclusion is uncertain. Finally though, we get to a little bit of softer feelings, as given to us in the musical theme to the whole score, “Highschool Lover.” Melodically it’s the same tone and instrumentation as the opening track “Playground Love,” but it’s more poignant, more open, and more importantly, it signals a turn of mood in the film that can’t be undone.
The songs on the second half of the score, while sometimes moving in a slower pace, are able to be more enlightening and engrossing, most of all in the way it plays to what’s happening in the film. Things go worse and worse for this family, and I like to think this score is the useless struggle of the five boys trying to save this woman, while also not understanding that they have no desire to be saved.
The twelfth song though, “Dead Bodies,” is an unusually upbeat song, and you can sense the dread coming from the speakers. Drums are flailing while bodies drop from existence, and still, you feel the times coursing through the music. This track not only symbolizes the death of the Lisbons as a whole, but it’s framed the death of innocence as well, as seen through the wanting eyes of five boys who wanted nothing more at the time than to save what was unsaveable. These girls, Cecilia, Lux, Bonnie, Mary, and Therese, were all flickering brief entities in the universe, and they knew it.They just neglected to inform anyone else of their status.
The last song brilliantly lays out the events of the book, and transports us one last time to this world where little is understood about the main characters, but you don’t need to, because it speaks to parts of us all. Some of the last words on the score, which will be presented at the end of this piece, explain to us the feelings of the situation after the fact, and the music compliments it in a perfect, but overwhelmingly sad reminder of life, and how it can be misunderstood, pushed aside, and forgotten.
"Everyone dated the demise of our neighborhood from the suicides of the Lisbon girls. People saw their clairvoyance in the wiped-out elms and harsh sunlight. Some thought the torture tearing the Lisbon girls pointed to a simple refusal to accept the world as it was handed down to them: So full of flaws. But the only thing we are certain of after all these years is the insufficiency of explanation.".
“From five they had become four, and they were all living in the dead, becoming shadows.”
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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