Wednesday, September 12, 2012


This is roughly the scale I use when reviewing:

***** = Classic
****= Amazing
***= Good
**= OK
*1/2= Poor
*= Horrid


Away From The World
Dave Matthews Band

            Admittedly, I’ve never understood the big appeal of the Dave Matthew Band; while I’m a huge fan of diverse influences and jamming, both things the group are well known for, I’ve never really been able to establish a connection to their music.
            Nonetheless, one can tell their new album will fit in very well with the rest of the catalogue.  An album dominated by loose, but slightly rambunctious, alt-rock, fans will probably be enthralled from the intro to “Broken Things” and all the way through. 
            Clearly, the band is impassioned (check Dave’s vocal performance on “Mercy;” it almost makes me forgive him for his voice.)  The entire group feels comfortable, in place, throughout, adding textures and soaring instrumentation to nearly every song here. 
            Particularly organic, potent songs include “If Only,” and “The Riff,” both of which will make potential live favorites. 
            Yet the album no doubt reaches its crescendo with the last song, the nearly ten-minute “Drunken Soldier,” a lyrically and musically strong track that’s not only a great listen, but will make for some great jams. 
            While not an essential by any means, this is something any Dave fan (not me, heh) is going to want in their collection. 

***1/2 Stars 

Bob Dylan

            Fifty years and 35 albums on, Bob Dylan is still considered one of the greatest songwriters in modern music.  In terms of lyrical quality, he certainly doesn’t let up on “Tempest,” a dark firestorm of a record. 
            Dylan’s taken considerable flak from many (self-included) for his voice, which turns now much raspier than it ever was, sounding more like Louis Armstrong than the Dylan of old; still though, it is one of the weaker elements on this album. 
            Nonetheless, opener “Duquesne Whistle” I’m inclined to like more than many other Dylan songs.  It’s an electric folk song, with a darker mood than many of his other works, like walking through an abandoned saloon in an old Western movie. 
            This isn’t the only throwback to the past: “Early Roman Kings” is a practical rewrite of Muddy Waters’ famed “Mannish Boy.” 
“Scarlet Town” is a very atmospheric, careful track, while other notable highlights include “Narrow Way,” and “Pay in Blood.” 
The album’s centerpiece, however, is no doubt the stirring 14-minute title track.  Like any good song exceeding ten minutes, it’s a story, and an excellent one at that, telling the tale of the Titanic in Dylan’s usual concise and depth-filled style.   
Mostly though, it’s typical, though darker-than-normal, folk music, which actually makes this an interesting release.  Folk-Rock seems to have been on the rise as of late, and it shall be interesting to see how Dylan’s newest album holds up in that growing atmosphere.  Sure, it’s drastically different from what’s getting popular, and isn’t exactly screaming greatness (one or two seven minute-plus songs are fine, but this gets a little ridiculous), but it’s also as good as any for new folk fans to see where it all came from.     

*** Stars

La Futura
ZZ Top

            “I Gotsta Get Paid” is gutsy blues-rock, moving with riff, swagger and some bizarre cross between 70’s and 80’s ZZ Top, and a perfect introduction to their new album, one that makes a clear statement they’ve got their foot planted firmly where they want it, and they’re not moving it. 
            By that virtue, La Futura should satisfy plenty of fans, without exceeding expectations.  “Chartreuse” is a welcome callback to “Sharp Dressed Man” while bits like “Consumption” or “Heartache in Blue” are raw, soaking in the blues and forcefully satisfying. 
            However, it is filled out with a few spots of boring material, (“Over Now,” “It’s Too Easy, Manana”) making it not all that different from other recent releases from the band.  However, the dirty, grinding riffs throughout make for some of their best material since “Eliminator.”    

*** Stars

Fight or Flight

If post-grunge is today’s hair metal, Hoobastank is Black and Blue or Firehouse to Nickelback’s Poison.  That is, there’s very little original about the group, something reaffirmed on this release.  More or less, it’s generic hard rock music, without much punch or surprise to it. 
Of course, some people like a genre of music, whether or not it has surprises in it, and the riffs are decent enough, the lyrics spotted with introspection, and the choruses faintly melodic, enough so that the album will garner some fans.  Yet even most fans of the genre will no doubt be bored by this release and with good reason. 

*1/2 Stars


Green Day

            Anyone who still hasn’t seen the Green Day story behind “Good Riddance” and the “American Idiot” album should probably go out right now and buy/download the group’s 1994 masterpiece Dookie.
            Adorned with an explosive, cartoony, album cover and opening with something as raw and defiant as “Burnout,” it’s pretty clear this is a record taking punk to previously unseen levels.  Sure, it’s all raw, pure intensity, often compacted into two minutes or less, as it is that most punk goes. 
            This is no ordinary punk though—some of it is maybe (“In the End,” “Sassafras Roots,” etc,) –but at their core, Green Day are much more. 
            The unmistakable punk pop of “Welcome to Paradise” or “When I Come Around” is the most obvious examples.  The former  is driven by a three-chord riff and a slight rebellious attitude, with its chorus establishing it as more melodic than most punk and it’s bass bridge showing it to be not as repetitive as is most music of the genre.  The latter has an even greater pop substance to it, without ever forgetting its roots, Billy Joe Armstrong’s chorus being delivered with a certain nasal only he could ever pull off.
 Meanwhile, songs like “She” shows the punk side of Green Day at their absolute best. 
            It’s the stuff that breeds anger and defiance with poppier sensibilities, though, that makes for the five star material.
“Longview” is pretty much the embodiment of what Green Day stand for.   Drummer Tre Cool starts going on a simple drum beat as the warping bass of Mike Dirnt joins in to provide a solid backing for Armstrong’s snarling verse: “Sit around and watch the tube, but nothing's on / I change the channels for an hour or two / Twiddle my thumbs just for a bit / I'm sick of all the same old shit / In a house with unlocked doors / And I'm f***ing lazy.”  It’s pure Green Day, and perhaps one of their finest songs. 
“Basket Case” has a similar manic feel to it, driven by a guitar riff this time, and opening with Armstrong asking listeners “Do You Have the Time / To listen to me whine / about nothing and everything at once.”  Yes we do.
Members of groups like the Sex Pistols have often criticized Green Day, saying they’re not a true punk band, that they don’t have the right attitude, but maybe that’s what makes Green Day so successful: they care about the music more than a band like the Sex Pistols ever could. 

****1/2 Stars


Magpies of Fire/Victorian Machinery
Red Hot Chili Peppers

The second release in the “I’m With You” B-Sides series is a definite improvement over the first duo of tracks.   While both songs were worthwhile for a Peppers nut, none of them were for the casual listener.  Sure, it’s just B-Sides, but the Peppers have a tendency of turning out bonus tracks that would make for A-grade album material. 
This time, they’re certainly back in the groove, at least with the excellent “Victorian Machinery,” a chaotic and sporadic track based on the spurting rhythm guitar of Josh Klinghoffer, and the rambunctious rhythm held in by the ultimate bassist-drummer combo of Flea and Chad Smith. 
“Magpies of Fire” isn’t quite the same experience, following much closer along the lines of last months “Strange Man,” but with a certain beauty and eloquence to it only Anthony Kiedis could weave. 

“Victorian Machinery” - ***1/2 Stars
“Magpies of Fire” - **1/2 Stars

“Let Yourself Go” by Green Day:  This is the third single from the first part of Green Day’s upcoming three-part Uno/Dos/Tre album.  More than likely, these are the only three songs that would’ve made the cut on the distilled version, but nonetheless, this one’s not a bad song, even if the band’s obviously starting to fade.  Sure, it’s got real defiance to it, Billy Joe Armstrong spewing “f-bombs” as usual, but there’s something distant about this that already makes me wish the album was more.  Here’s hoping I’m wrong. --*** Stars

“Sex” by Motley Crue: Finally!  Crue has amended the greatest disparity in their catalog by naming a song simply “Sex.”  Not as good a song title as “Muther****er of the Year,” but continues their recent habit of releasing great singles.  This is pretty straightforward Crue, filled with all the riffery and raunch you’d demand of Crue in any day and age.  This one delivers on a stadium level.  --**** Stars

“Hell or Hallelujah” by KISS:  Continuing KISS’ habit as of late to make predictable, cookie cutter hard rock, the single from their upcoming Monster album isn’t exactly promising.  The previous Sonic Boom was average but had a strong single in “Modern Day Delilah.”  Nonetheless, the song isn’t awful, just kind of boring.  --** Stars

“Stand Up” by All That Remains: A more or less predictable melodic metal song on every level that will most likely be enjoyed by fans of the band, and held in disdain by those who aren’t.  --** Stars

“Sacrimony – Angel of Afterlife” by Kamelot: One of the higher quality power metal bands give fans more of what they love on their new single, a sweeping track that foreshadows a conceptual album. 
  --*** Stars

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