Monday, September 3, 2012


As a bit of a trial run, my first post will cover some notable releases from the past month.  I'm using a five star system, one being that it killed some brain cells making it through, and five being it's a classic, and any fan of the genre should go out and listen to right now.


Last of a Dyin’ Breed
Lynyrd Skynyrd

            For the most part, I’ve stayed away from the reunion-era Skynyrd studio albums; however, given the hype this one and the last (Gods + Generals) received, I figured I’d check this one out.  The content, it turns out, isn’t the least bit unexpected. 
            Since the once-were titans of southern rock are essentially a tribute band, down now only to one major post-plane crash member, guitarist Gary Rossington, something about this feels like a cover album, the band hashing out a lengthy platter of southern rock clichés, but with amped up, modern sounding guitars.  Sometimes it even gets painful, such as on “Homegrown,” which has lyrics most unworthy of its music. 
            The truth is, at this point, Skynyrd is tarnishing the original’s legacy, at least to my mind.  Sure, no song, when taken as a whole, makes my ears bleed, nothing makes me perk up in delight either, which was basically the expectations held up on nearly every song they did in their original six album run in the 70’s. 
Yet some fans will welcome this as a way to relish in Skynyrd’s sound and music, especially if they’ve gotten overplay fatigue from the originals.  For them, it serves a purpose, and will definitely be enjoyable, but for those holding out hope that they’ll ever be half the band they were, it’s time to give up now. 
** Stars

The Glorious Dead
The Heavy

            After 2009’s House That Dirt Built, it seemed certain that Britain’s retro-soul group The Heavy were about to make a break through.  The single “How You Like Me Now?” was used in a nearly uncountable amount of movies, television shows, and commercials, the whole album was something refreshing and unknown, and as of late, artists like Adele have been riding different types of soul to mainstream success. 
            Problem is, from the Vincent Price mocking intro to the album, it’s clear that what The Heavy made was not the follow-up to The House That Dirt Built, but The House That Dirt Built Part Two.  It’s damned powerful, but it’s not winning any converts.    
So no breakthrough for The Heavy.  But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad album.
In fact, “What Makes a Good Man?” is a great song.  Lyrically and musically, it’s a track taking R&B to its highest peaks; even though it’s not totally original, it’s a song that catches you with rising horns, raspy vocals, and colossal drums, and even some handclaps thrown in for good measure. 
Elsewhere, “Big Bad Wolf” is probably the most original thing on this album, and its chaotic wellspring of funk and soul is spurting from the song. 
There’s honestly not a wasted song on here, despite a lack of identity compared to the last album.  “Same Ol” or “Be Mine,” for example, reminds me of various tracks from previous releases, but undoubtedly, The Heavy is a band with their own sound, far different than anything that’s come before.
Still, there’s something about this album, and maybe this band, that they’ll always be on the verge of breakthrough.  I’ll always be rooting for them, as will others, I’m sure, but perhaps they’re destined to toil towards a small group of fans and never see the mainstream.  Not that that’s a bad thing. 

***1/2 Stars

Circles Around the Sun

Dispatch is very odd, even for a jam band.  Admittedly, this new release is my first contact with the group, yet it’s infinitely interesting, even when it lacks a track that sticks to the ribs.  The musical portrait painted on this record shows a band with perhaps too broad a range of interests, ranging from reggae to folk, electronics to roots rock, and of course, the loose jam band mentality shared by bands such as Phish, Dave Mathews Band, or Gov’t Mule. 
The title track starts off the album as a sort of statement as to what listeners are in for; indeed, it’s probably the best thing on the whole affair, but that’s not to diminish the general quality of the record, which while not super memorable in a traditional sense, makes for a great unique listen. 

** 1/2 Stars


What Could Have Been Love/Lover Alot

It's been ten years, and many breakup rumors, since Aerosmith has released any original music.  Now that they're back and counting down to a Winter 2012 release for their new album, Music From Another Dimension, they've been releasing more and more information about it, culminating in these second and third singles.  The first song we heard, "Legendary Child," was pummeling but lacked melody.  These two songs correct the problem, somewhat.  "What Could Have Been Love" is a soaring, melodic, but somewhat typical  Aerosmith power ballad.  It's a solid song, veering away from their 90's style and falling somewhere between the ballads of the 70's and 80's.  Meanwhile, "Lover Alot" is the more raucous sort, another pummeling rocker led off by Joey Kramer's drums.  Like "Legendary Child," Steven Tyler's famous voice seems a little stretched thing on this song, but it's got a chorus that can get stuck in your head, like most of Aerosmith's best stuff.  Neither of these songs are revelations, but it's good to know the band's back in the groove, moving on from the past ten years of stagnancy, or the ten of sucking up to MTV that preceded it.  

*** Stars (for both)

Strange Man/Long Progression
Red Hot Chili Peppers

The first in a series of nine double singles culled from songs recorded during the I'm With You sessions, these two new tracks from the Peppers don't make me scream "I can't believe they left this off the album," but they're worthwhile listens nonetheless.  Usually, the Peppers release B-sides of equal or better quality to most of the songs from the actual album.  However, these two, while interesting, are no such beasts.  "Strange Man" is kind of a soulful bit, very much the product of lead singer Anthony Kiedis.  It doesn't have the hooks or fiery bass leads of the previous album, but it's a nice, mellow song nonetheless.  "Long Progression" is a little more lively.  Bassist Flea leads the music, which is funky but not aggressively so, but guitarist Josh Klinghoffer gets a chance to shine, which is definitely a good thing.  Still, I'm a hardcore RHCP fan, and that's pretty much the only group to whom these songs will appeal to.  

("Strange Man" - ** Stars;  "Long Progression" - **1/2 stars)

Destroyer: Resurrected

More than 35 years after its release and there’s still something powerfully fun and energetic about the intro to “Detroit Rock City,” one of seemingly thousands party anthems by KISS.  You can say they’re a dated joke as much as you want, as is sometimes custom of the public, but even beyond the makeup, the stage tricks, and the platform boots, KISS brings the power of the rock arena to your home. 
Figuring this was as good a time as any to make everybody remember this, KISS released a remastered version of their seminal Destroyer album last month, and the remaster does its job.  On the aforementioned “Detroit Rock City,” the mix points out how important each member was to the bad, and also strips back some of the 70’s production values.  The entire remaster is very well done, and the album itself is one of the greatest of classic hard rock, as becomes clear during each listen.
“King of the Night Time World” is a chaotically poppy rock song, with guitar squealing and blaring in the background, while “God of Thunder,” always an overlooked gem in the KISS catalogue, keeps all its thumping bass, creeping effects, and dark atmosphere, to reaffirm itself as Gene Simmons theme song (it’s the song he usually does the spitting blood/breathing fire routine to in concert.)  Shout It Out Loud, is of course, the other obvious anthem on here, another sloganeering hard rock song with attitude, as was KISS’ forte. 
Other standouts on the album included “Flaming Youth,” probably the song that got the most improvement from the rerelease, “Sweet Pain,” a bit of infectious dark pop, and “Do You Love Me,” a drum driven track snarling about the possibilities of real love for the rock star (hint: it’s minimal.) 
Interestingly enough, the song that holds up the least is “Beth,” a number one hit back in the 70’s, which lacks the sonic punch of other KISS songs. 
            Nonetheless, this is one of the highest quality remasters I’ve heard, a privilege the original was both worthy and in need of. 

***** Stars

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