Sunday, December 14, 2008


Well, I just made this format up, so we'll see how it goes. The premise here is that I've recently listened to two albums by either the same band or bands that have something in common, and I'll tell you which one is better, worse, or just lame out and push. (I'm good like that.)

Here we go, in completely arbitrary order:

  • King Crimson: Beat (1982) VS Thrak (1995). In this corner, in the blue and pink trunks, we have Beat -- part two of the three part Discipline/Beat/Three of a Perfect Pair troika that King Crimson offered from 1981-1984 as part of a re-found identity of progressive rock meeting industrial pop. In the other corner, in the midnight blue and gunmetal grey trunks, is Thrak -- their first album since 1984 and ostensibly the partfour continuation of the three part series. At its simplest level, the comparison is as easy as their one-word titles: Beat is a real word; Thrak is made up. Beat sounds like a band in their prime making vital music; Thrak sounds like a band imitating their former selves. Beat is self-indulgence with a means to an end; Thrak is just self-indulgence.
    Verdict: TKO. Beat goes into the Portable CD Case; Thrak goes into Sell-back Pile 1. (Note: If I had never heard TOAPP or Beat, I'd keep Thrak; I've just heard them do better than this album.)
  • Billy Duffy side projects: Circus Diablo - Circus Diablo VS Coloursøund -Coloursøund (1999). We match The Cult guitarist Billy Duffy's side projects: both self-titled offerings that begin with the letter 'C.' Circus Diablo (which includes The Cult and Guns 'N Roses' Matt Sorum) sounds like it was intended to blow off steam more than anything; it's literally The Cult meets mainstream pop. It's a pretty safe attempt musically, harmless and inoffensive but fun. Coloursøund (which includes The Alarm's Mike Peters) sounds like it was intended to blow off steam more than anything; it's literally The Cult meets The Alarm meets unbelievably clichéd lyrics. It's a pretty safe attempt musically, harmless and inoffensive but fun; the lyrics really hold this album back.
    Verdict: There are no winners here, only a reviewer who has wasted time and money. Coloursøund wins a split decision over virtually identical twin Circus Diablo, but we stopped caring long ago. Better lyrics would keep Coloursøund in the CD Rack; instead it crumbles to Sell-Back Pile 1.
  • J Church: Nostalgic for Nothing (1995) VS Arbor Vitae (1995). The late, greatLance Hahn (who I reviewed here) will never get his due. He passed away a little over a year ago, and it's too bad that the music he brought to the world (as J Church is really just Lance with various rotating band members) still resides in virtual obscurity -- he really added a great melodic element to hardcore, or a nice hardcore edge to grunge, however you want to slice it. These two albums are a couple of his best efforts (although 2000's One Mississippi is [IMHO] his opus) but have very different approaches. Nostalgic for Nothing is consistently good for all 26 tracks; Lance tells weird off-kilter stories throughout an album that does not have his typical highs and lows (although "Hypothesis" is a standout). But a consistently excellent album with covers of Nick Lowe, Duran Duran, and Morrissey is a formidable beast. Arbor Vitae, on the other hand, exposes one of Lance's pet writing tricks: start with a typical 3-chord riff, then throw in an unbelievable hook and/or harmony waist-deep into the song. You go from generic to transcendent in 3.2 seconds -- I've never quite heard anything like it done so successfully AND repeatedly. "Church on Fire" is epic; "Waiting on the Ground" and "Sinking Seas" are also great. But the album is also good overall; not as consistent as NFN, but a good album nonetheless.
    Verdict: One ring, two champions. You really can't go wrong either way (or with One Mississippi), but the edge (and controversial Don King-influenced decision) goes toNFN. Both go into the Portable CD Case.
  • Rich Hopkins and Luminarios: Devolver (2000) VS The Best and Worst of the Luminarios (2004). Now it may seem odd to pit an individual album against that same band's greatest hits, but I think it's justified in this case. Devolver is supposed to be Rich Hopkins' (former Sand Rubies lead guitarist) opus -- so both should be equally good. The first three songs of Devolver start off with a lot of promise, but at this point the album could still go either way. Track four ("Elaine") is not a good turning point: Rich Hopkins' pet trick is a guitar lick that I've heard him use a dozen times on a dozen different albums. I draw one of two conclusions for this: 1) he wrote this lick when he was eight, and has been trying to (unsuccessfully) write the perfect song for it ever since, or 2) he includes a song with it on every album as his "signature." Either way... it's not very interesting or inspired to hear it over and over again. By track eight ("Tres Amigos") it's clear the album is not a great one; it's all fallen apart by this point. By the time The Best and Worst enters the arena, Devolver has collapsed in the corner as a self-indulgent puddle of gelatin. The Best and Worst is all you'll ever need.
    Verdict: The Best and Worst wins without throwing a punch. It ends up in the CD Rack;Devolver in the pile of death.
- Snilch

No comments: