Monday, December 31, 2012

The Third Blog of Christmas: Yuck - Yuck (2012)

This was a difficult album to evaluate:  it does not work in all formats.  You'll need headphones and patience on this one.  Yuck clearly has an ecelctic mix of musical tastes:  I hear Superchunk, Elliott Smith, and Dinosaur Jr. in their music.  (And a little that dog too.)  Slightly laid back indie guitar rock with some soaring synths.  It's an album that is generally looking towards the sky.  For whatever reason, I think that Yves will like this one. 

Merch rating:  
I would buy the next album if it got good reviews.  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

On the Second Day of Christmas: The Cult - Choice of Weapon (2012)

First, some history.  

There are three eras of The Cult:  

  • 1985-1989:  their prime, with the classic and best) Cult albums Love, Electric, and Sonic Temple)
  • 1990-1995:  their collapse, with Ceremony and the equally terrible The Cult, and a breakup in 1995
  • 1999-2011:  their resurgence, with the great Beyond Good and Evil and the very good Born into This

(Before you Cult fans start berating me, I know the band roots can be traced back to 1981 and that there is another Cult album in 1984, but let's call it what it was:  just rubbish until Love.  Sorry.)

In any case, Choice of Weapon appears to be heralding a fourth era:  it's sad to say, but I am calling it "the end." It's a big step backwards -- it reminds me of Ceremony without the standout track "Wild Hearted Son," which means it's just crap on my shoe.  The lyrics are really straightforward in a dumb way, Ian Astbury sounds old, and the background vocals are just distracting.  I physically cringed a number of times while listening to this.  Bob Rock did wonders with Bush, but he did no favors to The Cult here.  Avoid at all costs.

Verdict:  Pile of Death.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

And Finally... the 2012 12 Blogs of Christmas

As Mark likes to point out, there is an inverse proportion of how much work I have to how often I post reviews.  Needless to say, I've been pretty busy.

This year, I will be employing a new strategy -- posting about one album at at time.  I've got some 2012 albums to run through, which I'll start here.  Hopefully there will be 12 Blogs of Christmas, but I was never very good at math.

We'll start with Bush - The Sea of Memories (2012).  

There are a few axioms in rock.  The Who will reunite.  Keith Richards will never die.  The greatest band in the history of rock is (of course) Loverboy.  And Bush sucks.

It's a pretty simple premise:  Bush is synthetic, overproduced pop sacchrine with no soul.  There's no bite, no edge, no rough bumps over the impossibly smooth surface.  It's slick style with no substance.

Enter legendary producer/engineer Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, The Cult, Mötley Crüe, 311, Metallica, and, of course, Loverboy) for Bush's latest, The Sea of Memories.  I'm giving him all the credit on this:  that same grit that Bush has lacked for so long has magically appeared on this album.  Coincidence?  Probably not.

Thus, "The Sound of Winter" and "The Afterlife" are, without a doubt, actual rock songs.  Rock brings to the front a great rhythm section (including original Bush drummer Robin Goodridge) and an ace guitarist (Chris Traynor, formerly in Helmet), giving the album a much more "live" feel rather than the over-produced one that other Bush albums have had.  There's really not a bad song on the album; and not only are Gavin Rossdale's lyrics 75% less cliche than usual, they are actually a plus here.  Go figure! 

As Scott B pointed out, if this album had been Bush's first, we'd mark this as a band to watch over the coming years.  I just can't believe this album is this good, and is so consistent front to back.  You can't take Gavin Rossdale's indie cred card away from him now; he's produced something truly great.  Even a potential dud like "All Night Doctors" is a great slow number.  Now if Rossdael would just start wearing shirts like most normal human beings do and get on with it.

Car CD Changer

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ten Songs I'm Constantly Listening to These Days

In alphabetical order:
  1. Bush - "Afterlife"
  2. Bush - "The Sound of Winter"
  3. Editors - "Blood"
  4. Editors - "Munich"
  5. Fatima Mansions - "Belong Nowhere"
  6. Guided by Voices - "Gold Star for Robot Boy"
  7. Les Savy Fav - "Appetites"
  8. Rise Against - "Ready to Fall"
  9. The Weakerthans - "The Reasons"
  10. XTC - "Chain of Command"
- Snilch

Friday, June 22, 2012

Post #100

Are we doing anything special for post #100?  Absolutely not. 

Instead, these albums were supposed to be reviewed in 2010 but somehow I never got around to it. So now I am.  
  • Bad Religion - All Ages (1995).  This is one of those bands I can't get into as a whole, but they have moments of complete, transcendent political punk rawk brilliance.  Matz would hate this review, but I doubt he reads this thing (although Tommy might give him the heads up).  It has been claimed that this is the best of their first six albums; if so, I'm thankful I never bought any of them.  Quite simply, this album pisses me off because I really want it to be great, and it's just not.  Even "The Answer" slogs in comparison to the brilliant live version that came on the bonus disc of Recipe for Hate.  It's not Peaches-level terrible, but there is simply nothing remarkable or memorable about this album in the least, with the exception of "Generator" and "Faith Alone."  
    It angers me further that I can't even get the satisfaction of throwing this coaster into the Pile of Death because of two songs.  The final affront to me:  Sell-back Pile 1.
  • John Cale - Black Acetate (2005).  Most musicians start as aggressive and noisy, and slowly mellow over time.  Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale is one of two notable artists (Richard Thompson being the other) who have gone in the opposite direction.  (One note:  you need to listen to this album loudly, and in order, for this review to make sense.)  This album is quirky:  it starts out as a little experimental and warbling, and rolls along a smart, cool, light guitar/electronic ambient groove. You're getting ready for your warm milk and bunny slippers after seven songs; Cale is in the pocket and it's just thoroughly pleasant.  Song 8 ("Perfect") starts in the same vein... and then Cale launches the album into rock.  It's jarring; in context of the album it is a lawnmower being dropped into a field of bunnies.  And then the second phase of the album begins -- he has your attention front and center now.  "Sold Motel" -- solid rock now, no muss, no fuss.  "Woman" -- he lulls you in with a quirky, soft open, as if returning to the ambient portion of the album, then brings back the jackhammer and starts bellowing again.  It's like a moth that's now been drawn to a flame:  the lilty electronics are still there, but he cannot escape drowning it in electric guitar.  By the time the second last track ("Turn the Lights On") plays, you find yourself out on the sidewalk, yelling Gealic curses at random passers-by.  "Mailman" mercifully ends the onslaught with a slow, jangly dirge to end the album.  And, somehow, the whole damn thing works together.  Out of context, is this the rockiest album ever?  Absolutely not -- it's low to mid tempo -- but in context it's pretty heavy and inexorable.  Wash the dishes on the first listen and see what I mean.  
    Where'd that truck come from?  Car CD Changer.
  • Editors - The Back Room (2006).   Eric Lax got me into these guys in 2009, so I went backwards to this album.  It's great from the very beginning.  Think dreamy pop meets Joy Division, essentially, with guitar delay/echo effects.  Lyrics:  "Lights" -- "If fortune favors the brave/I am as poor as they come"; "Munich" -- "People are fragile things/you should know by now/Be careful what you put them through"; and "Blood" -- "Blood runs through your veins/That's where our similarities end."  This album is worth it for "Munich" and "Blood" alone, but it's so much better than just that. 
    Verdict:  Car CD Changer.

  • King Crimson - Discipline (1981).  A cult legend, Discipline is the album equivalent of a couple of famous song makeovers in the early 80's:  Golden Earring producing "Twilight Zone" in 1982 (eight years after "Radar Love") and Yes creating "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (nine years after "Roundabout").  In King Crimson's case, this album was twelve years after their opus In the Court of the Crimson King.  It also starts the industrial meets prog rock focus for Crimson over the next 15 years (through four albums).  Why it's revered:  it's a complete re-start of the band, plus technically Fripp's guitar playing is simply masterful.  Why it doesn't hold up against 1982's Beat or 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair:  it's not as cohesive a storyline.  So while Discipline may still be more historically relevant to fans who heard it in 1981, when it was completely out of left field (say, like The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), I'll still go back an listen to Three of a a Perfect Pair first because it holds up better as an album over time (like The Beatles' Abbey Road or the good half of The White Album).  In other words:  still an excellent album, but they improved as time went along.
    Verdict:  Portable CD Case.
  • Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family - Na Teef Know the Road of Teef (1973).  It's really tough to confuse Boston, MA, with Paris, France, but Amazon managed to do so. I'm sure they straightened this out for the world music fan in France who was supposed to get it, but in the meantime Amazon told me, "Just keep it."  I see why now.  I exaggerate, as it's not terrible; just not my cup of tea.  
    Pile of Death.
  • The Sheila Divine - Where Have My Countrymen Gone (2001). Moira and Kevin turned me on to these guys a few years back, this was their second album.  I'd say "final," except that they released an EP in 2002, and will be releasing a new album this year (the first video from it is here).  This album is a well produced, smart, generally laid-back exercise in indie rock; one great song ("Ostrich"), plenty of very good ones, and overall not a dud in the bunch.  Definitely something I'll be listening to again soon.
    Portable CD Case.
  • Social Distortion - Mainliner:  Wreckage from the Past  (1981, 1995). Social D's answer to All Ages.  It's better than that, but is really for Social Distortion completists only who want to hear the band in its infancy, or what their cover of "Under My Thumb" sounded like 15 years before they put it on a proper album.  It's not as raw as you'd expect, which means the lack of polish is less forgivable.
    CD Rack.
  • Sun Dial - Libertine (1993).  I'm not sure whether I love this band or not, but I certainly own a lot of music from them.  They're mostly psychedelic rock, except when they're not.  They're both prolific and obscure (at least in the U.S.).  And they're the proud owner of one of the all-time great psychedelic albums, Other Way Out.  This is yet another great album by these guys:  a variety of sounds, capturing "their" sound without being completely repetitive.  That being said, this album requires patience -- it does not immediately open up on the first listen.  It's actually the third post I've pushed this review back to, as I kept coming up inconclusive.  It's smart and well-thought out, well-placed sounds throughout.  I think I like it.  Maybe a few more listens....
    Portable CD Case.
- Snilch (now known as "Snilch 100")

Monday, May 14, 2012


Coldplay generally sucks, but their tribute to MCA is sweet.  Impressive.  Thanks to Eric Lax for this one.


Friday, February 10, 2012

The One I Wrote on Painkillers and Really Didn't Proofread

My buddy Jamie is letting me go through his CD collection -- it's quite large; he may have more CD's than I do.  Post 1 was about The Dead Milkmen; I've condensed the rest into one additional handy dandy post, mainly because I could not bring myself to write three and I was feeling somewhat lazy.  Also, as the title indicates, I am on painkillers at the moment as I'm laid up.

And just because they're old... well, they're new to me.  So leave me alone.  You too, collapsing walls and increasing paranoia.

Disclaimer:  I really didn't edit this one much, so there are some dumb moments and some clever ones.  I think they're mainly dumb, but honestly have no idea.  And I left some things in that I never would, although I did do a spell check.  I wrote A LOT.  Good luck.

In alphabetical order:
  • Big Country - Steeltown (1984).  IMHO, the Scottish band Big Country had two great albums:  1986's The Seer (their third album) and 1999's Driving to Damascus (their last before lead singer Stuart Adamson's suicide in 2001).  Steeltown was the followup to their debut The Crossing (which featured the timeless classic "In a Big Country").  Steeltown in the US was a colossal failure, and an the end of Big Country as a viable commercial entity.  In the UK, it spawned three top 40 hits.  So who was right?  In the case, the UK.  This band was so underrated, as was drummer Mark Brzezicki, who I first saw on my freshman roommate Sean's Beta (!) recording of him as a teenager playing for Pete Townsend.  I have not had much human contact today. Verdict:  Portable CD Case.
  • The Call - sorry, this album was from Scott.  Wrong post.
  • The Cure - Disintegration (1989).  I would never normally admit this, but seriously the only reason I have any interest in this is that in the South Park "Mega Streisand" episode where Stan (or Kyle) calls this the best album ever.  This is where I find my music:  from throwaway cartoon endorsements.  This album makes me sad.  But it is really good.  (Now that's insight!)  I always liked "Fascination Street" and "Lullaby."  The album is surprisingly thoughtful and delicate.  Surprising to me, anyways.  Okay, now I'm babbling.  Verdict:  Portable CD Case.
  • Devo - Smooth Noodle Maps (1990).  Random question that just occurred to me:  What are toast points?  Aren't they just toast?  (I am in a weird spot at the moment.)  Anyways, Devo's eighth album in a thirteen year period, his was the last album in Devo's long run of commercial output (before reuniting to create 2010's Something for Everybody).  Any Devo fans who didn't already hate me (and I know some that do) will undoubtedly feel that way before this review is complete.  This sounds like "Weird Al" Yankovic got together with Depeche Mode and tried to make a serious but ironic album.  This is where it turns ugly for Devo fans:  I think it works.  (I'm guessing they view this album like the part of the family tree where Cousin Molly married Uncle Ron.)  Yes, I like it and I don't care.  I am not trying to be clever, but I can't help it:  I am really craving a grilled cheese right now and wondering if it can be made with toast points. (Moment of lucidity:  Aren't you glad I left all these gems in?) Verdict:  Portable CD Case.
  • Devo - Now It Can Be Told:  DEVO at the Palace 12/9/88 (1989).  One of those great albums that captures a moment in time, with a band hitting on all cylinders.  Simply put:  a great live album.  I may be turning into a Devo fan.  Verdict:  Portable CD Case.
  • Gem - Hexed (1995).  Guided by Voices guitarist Doug Gillard formed this band in 1995, prior to joining GBV.  Okay, so the lyrics are a bit repetitive.  But the music -- particularly the guitar playing -- is fantastic.  Which is fortunate on standouts like "Only a Loan" and "I Hate It," with doctorate-level guitar work and grade-school dropout level lyrics.  But it rawks, dude.  Totally.  Verdict:  Portable CD Case.
  • The Golden Palominos - This Is How It Feels (1993), Pure (1994).  Most famous for their guest-star laden albums (e.g., Michael Stipe, John Lydon, Richard Thompson, Mick Taylor, and Bob Mould, to name a few), this band is the brainchild of ex-Feelies and Bob Mould band drummer Anton Fier.  These two albums  are their best, IMHO; they sound the most like a band, lightly touching on pop, soft indie rock, dance, and even a bit of ambient.  Ironically, these are the two least star-studded albums of the catalog; only Bootsy Collins is along for this one.  This Is How It Feels teeters on the brink of being trite inanity throughout, but stays on the right side of edginess throughout.  If I didn't know better, I might identify the band as Texas.  Pure is more of the same and perhaps even better.  I could listen to both of these all day when in that ambient/trippy/poppy mood.  Of course, the next album was a different lineup altogether and the end of the Palominos.  Maybe they should have gone for album #3 with this group.  Nice decision, assholes.  Verdict:  TIHIF - Portable CD Case; Pure - Car CD Changer.
  • Ladytron - Light and Magic (2002).  This electronic quartet's 2nd album (they just released their sixth in 2011) is marked by an edge and groove that a lot of electronica lacks, IMHO, as well as a lower bpmVerdict:  Portable CD Case.
  • The Primitives - Pure (1989).  If you have a female lead singer, name your album Pure.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you've been caught skimming this post.)  Some good songs here, but I'm really not sure what I was thinking when I put it into the pile for this list.  Verdict:  Sell-back Pile 1.
  • The Psychedlic Furs - World Outside (1991).  I really want to like The Psychedelic Furs.  I really do.  But everything I've ever heard has been hit or miss.  Once again, my guess is true fans of this band will find this a piss-poor offering in their catalog.  It's whiny, nasally, and tuneful in just the appropriate doses.  I wish I had heard it years ago.  Verdict:  Portable CD Case. 
  • Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger (1991).  I won't apologize for taking this long to give Soundgarden a real chance; I wasn't ready to listen to them until now.  It's essentially a merciless grunge dirge.  Me likee.  Verdict:  Car CD Changer.
  • Stars of Track and Field - Centuries Before Love and War (2006).  These guys were on my radar based on their 2009 track "Racing Lights."  I wish I could describe this album, but I'm seriously loopy at the moment.  I did give a bunch of songs 4 stars, and I have the general impression I enjoyed the album.  So I like it... right?  Verdict:  Who knows?  Definitely worth listening to at the beginning of the pain med cycle, clearly.
  • Ultravox - The Collection (1985).  It's an interesting idea to call this album The Collection, considering it completely ignores the band's first three albums, their live album, and their last two releases.  It's a good summary of their four middle albums, and highlights some great pop synth and guitar tracks.  A classic 80's sound for the first half; a little more of other albums would have helped.  Verdict:  CD Rack.
  • Suzanne Vega - 99.9 F° (1992).  Why is there no "Insert Symbol" in this blog compose interface?  Would it really be that difficult?  I loved "Luka" (which I'm shocked to realize was released in 1987... I was sure more like 1980 or 1982) and she has a great voice, but I was not a big fan of anything else she did (including Tom's Diner").  "Blood Makes Noise" is simply a phenomenal song, and I'm ready to listen to this now in all the ways I wasn't in 1992.  She really is great at mixing things up musically throughout, and I'm liking this album.  Uneven (e.g., "Fat Man and the Dancing Girl") but good.  Verdict:  Portable CD Case.
  • XTC - Oranges and Lemons (1989).  I've taken my sweet damn time getting into XTC but I'm hooked.  I'm not sure why some bands take years and others take minutes to get.  These guys are good, although I'd put a few albums ahead of this one from their catalog; the second half seemed to fall off the cliff (although perhaps that was the momentary lack of pain meds listening).  Thanks to Scott and Barry for encouraging me to get into these guys.  Verdict:  CD Rack.
I'm not sure whether this post shows I'm affected by painkillers or not.  It's probably bad either way.

- Snilch

    Thursday, February 02, 2012

    What Time Is the Super Bowl?

    "What Time Is the Super Bowl?" you ask?

    Friday, January 27, 2012

    Love of Diagrams - Nowhere Forever (2009)

    It's been two years since Love of Diagrams released their follow-up to 2007's Mosaic, which I loved.  Why, then you ask, did I wait until this month to listen to it?

    Well, the band is from Australia, so the CD was available only as an import.

    "In that case," you say, being a reasonably logical person of sound mind and body, "why not just download it from iTunes or Amazon?  No shipping, no import -- right?"

    Answer:  because the digital files were available only as "imports" as well.

    Yes, these are electronic files.  Yes, there is no "transportation" of these files or physical reason why these cannot be transmitted.  Yes, this is incredibly dumb.

    In  any case, I'm happy to have had the chance to finally get a listen. Nowhere Forever is a sea change in sound; at first I heard a lot of similarities to Sugar's Copper Blue (and tonally that is the most direct comparison for the first half of the album), but the more I listen to it, the more it sounds like The Lilys' In the Presence of Nothing.  

    I feel like I'm listening to the next piece in a student's portfolio:  they're now less about juxtaposing angular guitars against the vocals, and more about making a statement with a driving tone, then slightly tweaking it to make their final point.

    "Lookout" and "Mountain" exemplify this perfectly:  it's a wall of 1994 grunge, spat at in the final third by a lilting guitar riff that's simple but very powerful.  You get pulled in by the undertow; it's a war of attrition you'll eventually succumb to.  This shows in the song lengths: 3 of Mosaic's 13 songs were longer than 3:45; only 1 of Nowhere Forever's 11 songs is shorter than 3:45. 

    Despite the huge tonal shift in the music and song length, it still works.  It lacks the highs and lows of Mosaic but is consistently strong for the first seven songs before petering out on the last four.  

    But I'm still not sure on this one.  I wrote 90% of this review two weeks ago, but have been vacillating on whether this is great or merely good.  I'll say this:  the first 3/4 make a really nice rock album.  The dropoff at the end knocks it down a peg.

    CD Placement Rating:  Portable CD Case.

    - Snilch