Monday, June 14, 2010

It's Been a Long Time...

There are a lot of bands that get lost along the way:  they break up, go on hiatus, stop being relevant, change their sound... and there's too much good music out there to bother to reconnect.

All the bands in this post fit that bill -- some objectively, and others because I stopped caring long ago.  We'll see what going back to the well one more time turns up.  In alphabetical order:

  • Alice in Chains:  Black Gives Way to Blue (2009).  Hard to believe:  Alice in Chains' fourth (yes, only fourth!) full-length album is their first since 1995.  The two primary songwriters were not exactly prolific in the interim:  Jerry Cantrell recorded two solo albums (the last released in 2002), and Layne Staley recorded one album as part of Mad Season in 1995 before dying as a result of a drug overdose in 2002. So this album is Alice in Chains Dirt lineup, with Staley-soundalike William Duvall in Staley's place.  Not only does Duvall sound exactly like Staley (I literally had to check the liner notes to make sure it was not him), but this is a time machine back to 1994 for the band:  it's classic AIC without being redundant.  It definitely plays to Cantrell's more poppy sensibilities, but he's channeled some of Staley's angst as well; the autobiographical aspects of this album are impossible to miss.  A definite if you loved grunge, or if you want to point out to that idiot who likes Puddle of Mudd that this is how it's really done. One other note:  Elton John (!) makes a guest piano appearance on the title track (which is barely noticeable, to be honest).
    CD Placement rating:
    Portable CD Case.

  • Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back (2010).  Since releasing the pop blockbuster So in 1986 (his sixth album in nine years), Peter Gabriel has surprisingly released only two proper albums:  1992's Us and 2002's Up.  (I'm not counting his soundtracks in 1989 and 2000.)  So for album three (or five, if you're picky) in 24 years... he's released a covers album.  Here's the twist:  he covers 12 different artists on this album; these artists in turn record their own version of a Gabriel song for an album called I'll Scratch Yours (get it?).  With David Bowie, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Paul Simon, Neil Young, Radiohead, and Arcade Fire highlighting the artist list, this looked to be quite an idea.  However, the second part of the project has proved to be a bit ambitious -- only three covers have been released; Bowie declined to participate, replaced by Brian Eno; and Arcade Fire's participation is still up in the air (more details here).  Nevertheless, Gabriel has more than held up his end of the bargain.  Orchestral covers with Gabriel's signature vocal delivery are can't miss.  He could probably cover the alphabet and I'd be talking about how emotional the letter "M" sounded.  I'm a sucker for covers, and this album works for me.
    CD Placement rating: Portable CD Case.

  • Grant Hart - Hot Wax (2009).  This is Grant Hart's first album since 1999's Good News for Modern Man, and only his sixth album since the implosion of Hüsker Dü in 1987.  (Basically the same pace as Peter Gabriel, but I'd bet PG can more afford to live off that kind of output than GH can.)  Now, GNFMM was (IMHO) the best solo album Hart has recorded (outshone only by his band Nova Mob's Last Days of Pompeii in his post-HD catalog), and received a good deal of buzz and press... that he didn't capitalize on, unfortunately.  A decade later, he has released an effort just a notch below his best offerings.  This one did not work for me on the first few listens, but after a number of further attempts (it is Grant Hart, after all), I found a very good album.  It's standard Grant:  musically smart, poppy, but still generally misses ex-bandmate Bob Mould's guitar bridges.  This is a fun, summertime album that could have been made anytime from 1970-2010.
    CD Placement rating:
    Portable CD Case.

  • Mötley Crüe - Saints of Los Angeles (2008).  I only own Shout at the Devil, but I found a new appreciation for these guys after reading Nikki Sixx's autobiography (The Heroin Diaries) and listening to the accompanying Sixx: A.M. - The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack album.  Both were excellent and startlingly honest.  With the hopes that another tell-all catharsis could propel Sixx's songwriting to that same level with the Crüe, I gave SOLA a shot.  I have to say, it's really an impressive album.  Superbly mixed, their music sounds fresh, and Sixx really knows how to write for Vince Neil's unique vocal stylings.  On the other hand, there's nothing completely surprising here, and they do tend to run the same path they always do.  What separates this album from their others is their raw energy and the very personal edge to their lyrics.  Nikki, as I'm sure you're reading this, send me an e-mail when you are looking for prime-time interview placement in an obscure blog.
    CD Placement rating: It's on the borderline between the Portable CD Case and the Car CD Changer.  (Yes, it's really that good.)  Ultimately, it's the Portable CD Case.

  • Pearl Jam - Backspacer (2009).  Eric Lax finally got through to me with this album, and it's a pleasant surprise.  True confession time:  I don't even own my favorite Pearl Jam album (Ten), although Mrs. Snilch Report does own VitalogyEddie Vedder's vocals drive me nuts, and thus it's been about 15 years since I've felt the need to give PJ a try.  But on the heels of Vedder's Into the Wild  soundtrack, hearing "The Fixer" on the radio, and the persistent Mr. Lax, I gave this a shot.  And it's very nice.  "Gonna See My Friend" is an odd choice for a lead track, but that's really my only quibble here; "Amongst the Waves" has to be a great Brad track re-purposed for PJ, and it really hits the mark.  It's a nice album that doesn't try to do too much.  In a good way.
    CD Placement rating: CD Rack.
  • The Slits - Trapped Animal (2009).  Scott and I saw this band (which is currently original members Ari Up, Tessa Pollitt, and four new bandmates) play at Great Scott in 2006. Before we move any further:  if you don't own 1979's Cut, it turns out you have a hole in your life you weren't aware of.  I really don't like reggae, much less reggae punk, but you cannot deny Cut.  (If you don't have it, go buy it, consume it, and then continue reading.  It's okay, the internet is not going anywhere.)

    Well, they blew us away at Great Scott's, and I had high expectations for their first full length release in 28 years,
    especially after the three song teaser from 2006, the Revenge of the Killer Slits EP.  I'm not sure whether this meets those expectations, but I can't stop playing it.  I seriously want to say I don't like it, but I guess the continual plays means that I actually like it quite a lot.  Revival grrrrrrrrrrl reggae punk music is often like that, or so I'm told.  Plays great on the big stereo.
    CD Placement rating:
    Who am I to argue with compulsion?  Portable CD Case.
- Snilch

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