I'm also going to introduce new ratings systems where appropriate here. I hope you will enjoy. (Editor's note: he really does not care either way.)
- Boise Cover Band - Unoriginal Artists (recorded in 2003, released in 2007). Doug Martsch of Built to Spill put this group together. I liked their cover of The Pretenders "Chain Gang," which is an instrumental.
Verdict: Using the "Yes/No" rating system, I'm going to give this one a solid "No." (If you need further details on the nuances of this ratings system, please feel free to Comment or contact me offline. Based on your confusion, however, I'm guessing you probably can't figure out how to do either. But rest assured, that makes you no less valued as a reader. And yes, I'm looking right at you, Bubba.)
- The Call - Into the Woods (1987). Thanks to Scott, a band I've always been intrigued by but never investigated makes its way into my collection. Is this The Call album I've always imagined I'd hear? Great guitar, and of course, synths, synths, synths. A very solid rock album with solid bass lines; it's a little 1980s Golden Earring-esque. (And I MAY like Golden Earring.) But then -- "Too Many Tears" happens. It's on the level of "Everywhere I Go," which is high praise when you consider that I still enjoy that song after 25 years. It's a lost classic: epic pain, rage, and hope all combined into a strong man's rock package.
Verdict: "Yes." (Not a lot of nuance with this rating system, come to think of it.)
- J Church - The Precession Of Simalacra - The Map Preceeds The Territory (1995). I love me some J Church. I caught on to them late, but before Lance Hahn passed away. This one is indie grunge punk in its best simple brilliance as always. The hooks may not be complex, but they are always catchy. As always with J Church, there are hits and misses; here (as usual) the good outweighs the bad.
Verdict: Using the "Binary" rating system, I'm going to give this one a solid "110011101." (Hint: more 1's means I liked the album, more 0's means I didn't. Hope you like math!)
- Land of Talk - Applause Cheer Boo Hiss (2005). Starting out with a hooky open will always get my attention. These Saddle Creek Favorites are freaking good. For some reason, when I first listened my notes read: "I'm wicked pissed I never listened to these guys and gals earlier. (I have no idea where this is going.)" (Editor's note: using the "Binary" rating system, we're going to give this last sentence a solid "0.") Harmonies and overdubbing of vocals drive this fun rock/pop jamboree -- it's very reminiscent of Pretty Girls Make Graves. "Speak to Me Bones" and "Summer Special" are great songs highlighting a tremendous album. It's great music, but the vocals take this to the next level. Think Edie Brickell combined with Scheer (gritty with great vocals). A quintessential college/coming of age album, this (much to Mrs. Snilch Report's dismay) is going to inspire me to pursue their entire catalog.
- Social Distortion - Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (2011). Southern California's punk icons are back, for the second time without founding member Dennis Danell, who passed away in 2000. It's taken 15 years to produce two albums since the 1996 offering White Light, White Heat, White Trash, and this album is clearly a departure for them. With fuller, more traditional arrangements (and, much to Matz's dismay, female backing vocals), this is much more an attempt at blues/rock or rockabilly/soul than at punk. It's odd from the beginning: starting the album with an instrumental that stands alone, followed by a cover is really odd, and honestly doesn't work. "Machine Gun Blues" and "Alone & Forsaken" are highlight songs. In the end, it's not bad, it's not not good, and it's not particularly memorable.
- Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light (2012). Thanks to Andrew for this recommendation. This is sweet (not sure where I got that adjective from) trance-like music that washes over you like a gentle spring rain. Its lyrics, meanwhile, are actually a bit dark, which (to me at least) makes a great contrast. I'd describe this as "oddly laid back cacophony."
Verdict: Enough math; let's get more artistic. And what could be more wicked artistic than colors? (Editor's note: "0.") So I'm going to give this a rating of "yellow-green."
- Guns N' Roses - Live Era '87-'93 (1999). One of the big points that Slash made in his autobiography is how important and treasured live albums were to him. Thus, he said, Live Era '87-'93 was an album he really treasured putting out. I'm not sure why. The pretentious "Recorded Across the Universe Between 1987 and 1993" should have been a warning shot across the bow. But, much like the idiot in the horror movie who insists on investigating that noise rather than call the authorities, I decided to move forward. The versions do not feel inspired or have that extra punch of live energy you'd expect. "Nightrain" is bad, but the version of "Mr. Brownstone" so eviscerates the original that somewhere Jimbo is gasping for air like his twin just lost his kidney. "It's So Easy"? Awful. "Welcome to the Jungle?" Awful. The low-tempo version of "You're Crazy?" Awful. Amy's favorite, "Rocket Queen?" Awful. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door?" "Patience?" The 12:30 version of "November Rain?" Awful, awful, awful. For God's sake... my favorite, "Sweet Child O' Mine?" Nope, awful. One last chance... the closer, "Paradise City." Awful. Awful, awful, awful, awful, awful. awful, awful. The one word I'd use to describe this album is (of course) "terrible."
Verdict: I'll give this a solid "red" (as in "avoid" or as in "I am still seeing").
- Sun Dial - Reflector (1992). Sun Dial is an interesting project, with albums often widely varying in approach (Andrew and Mark will remember "Believe in the Spaceman" from a few years ago). The title track "Reflector" leads off -- and it's an epic rawk track. This may be their second best album (next to 1990's Other Way Out, which Mojo went as far to call "The greatest unheard psychedelic album ever"), which is high praise. This is a heavy album without being too heavy, and epic while remaining grounded. There's a great base of sound here, combined with great hooks and great harmonies. It's a very persistent album.
Verdict: I'll give this a "brilliant yellow" (like the sun - get it?).
- Weezer - Raditude (2009). As The Red Album was Weezer's best since Pinkerton, it's time to take them off the "avoid" list and see if this was a one-off brilliance or a turning point. Sure, "I'm Your Daddy" is paint by numbers classic Weezer, but if you make a great chicken fried steak, you should serve chicken fried steak. In this case, I am happy to eat the same thing all the time. "Put Me Back Together" may have a little Kill Hannah in it, but I like that band too.
Verdict: I'll give this a "blue-green" (like their album cover colors). (Editor's note: yes, we realize the "Color" rating started out based on a traffic-light type of system, then somehow became the sun, and now means basically nothing. So Spiritualized and Weezer are Portable CD Case, Guns N' Roses is Pile of Death, and Sun Dial is Car CD Changer. And for those who are too lazy to (i.e., can't) add, that number for Social D came out to "1," which means it is a CD Rack album. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled program next time.)