Friday, July 24, 2015

Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright in the End (2014)

I've always found Weezer albums to fall into one of three categories: brilliant (see Pinkerton), fun (see The Red Album), or dumb/redundant (see The Green Album).

I'd say Everything Will Be Alright in the End, Weezer's ninth studio album, falls into the "fun" category. There isn't necessarily a single on this album that would crack Weezer's top 10, and there's even more navel-gazing than usual (which is saying something), but if you were driving for an hour and wanted something up-tempo to pass the time, this would more than fit the bill.

My personal favorite from the song would be "Eulogy for a Rock Band."

Weezer - "Eulogy for a Rock Band"

If there's not a tune that ends up in a "Ten Songs I'm Constantly Listening to" list from a Weezer album, I consider that disappointing. But I'll keep it regardless. It's harmless fun.

CD Placement Rating:  CD Rack.

- Snilch

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2014 Reissues

I didn't pick up a ton of re-issues in 2014, but the three I did pick were of some all-time classics. We'll be using the "The Compilation Ripoff Index," which is described in further detail here. As an aside, these three albums are among my all-time favorites ever.

* Aztec Camera - High Land Hard Rain  (original album released in 1983 - 2 CDs). As indicated here, Roddy Frame's story is a cautionary tale: a brilliant debut can be a precursor of things to come, or the yoke around one's neck. I mean, the first song on his first album is "Oblivious." How can you ever top that?

Aztec Camera - "Oblivious"

If you don't know this album, don't take this the wrong way, but you are an idiot. 

The remastering on the original album is clean and unobtrusive, and worth it for any fans. I heard things I never noticed before, and it was great to listen to the album again with the higher values in production. So many standouts - "Pillar to Post," "Release," "Lost Outside the Tunnel".... The bonus disc contains 16 tracks, five of which are previously unreleased and two of which were fanclub-only tracks. It's nice to have all of these b-sides and extras in one place, and once again is totally worth getting. The 7" and 12" versions of "Walk Out to Winter" and the BBC Kid Jensen version of "Release" are worth the price of admission by themselves.
Compilation rating: Very high. High marks for the casual fan, low marks as a ripoff since it's a great album on its own. Everyone wins.

* Bob Mould - Workbook (original album released in 1989 - 2 CDs). Let's step back in time to 1989. Punk/rock underground legends Hϋsker Dϋ had broken up two years prior, and ex-bandmate Grant Hart had already released an EP. So when Mould released an album that
was primarily acoustic and had cello on it... well, let's just say the old guard was not impressed.  After 25 years, however, it's pretty clear in retrospect that the whole venture was brilliant. (It was pretty clear in the first couple of years as well, but some fans never forgave him for this album.) 

Bob Mould - "See a Little Light"

If you don't know this album, don't take this the wrong way, but you are an idiot.

In the good headphones, I'm hearing the same album I've always heard. Very solid on CD, but nothing earth-shattering moving this up a level or anything. The liner notes (which include a synopsis by Michael Azerrad, the original Rolling Stone review, and a piece by Ryan Adams) are great, and really add to the experience of revisiting the album. And it is truly a brilliant album: "See a Little Light," "Wishing Well," and "Poison Years" are worth the price of admission alone. But the album lacks a single subpar song. The worst song on the album is great.

The bonus disc, a 1989 live show from the Cabaret Metro in Chicago which has been released in dribs and drabs, sounds stunning and is worth it for long-time fans. While fans hoped for original demos, this is a surprisingly clean and ageless recording. A great add-on for anyone.

Compilation rating: High. High marks for the casual fan, low to medium marks as a ripoff since the remastering does not make the album more listenable. In any case, if you don't own it, go get it. Idiot.

* Slint - Spiderland (original album released in 1991 - 2 CDs). Originally released in 1991 and largely ignored, this is just an unbelievable exercise in tempo and volume. I don't know what it's classified as and I frankly couldn't care less. It's a mix that shouldn't work -- it's like finding out your desert property has somehow sprouted prize-winning orchids, which are sprouting on top of an unknown gold mine. It's quiet, it's loud, it's plaintive, it's fierce, it's slow, it's fast, it's spoken, it's sung -- I'm not sure where this purple unicorn sprouted from, and I'm guessing they didn't either.

Slint - "Breadcrumb Trail"

If you don't know this album, don't take this the wrong way, but you are an idiot.

The remastering is great, making the nuances of the album crystal clear.

The extra DVD is a 93 minute Lance Briggs directed documentary on the band and on the making of Spiderland. My favorite moment had to be when Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) indignantly relates a story about the band playing "Safety - Doorknob." (Anyone who spent any time around me or my friends at college know exactly how funny this is.) It's a great documentary and definitely worth a watch by fans.

Compilation rating: High. High marks for the casual fan, low marks as a ripoff as the remastering really helps this. So go get it, idiot.

- Snilch

Monday, July 20, 2015

Typical System - Total Control (2014)

I keep listening to Total Control, hoping it will open up to me. It just doesn't seem to want to.

Now is this my fault, or the music's? That's unclear. To be fair, retro-80s is a very narrow window for me to enjoy.  In this case, they do a nice job of mixing things up between electronica and guitar-based versions.

If forced to make a decision on this, I'd say this is too good to be called bad, but not good enough to be called really good. But then I listen to something like "Expensive Dog," "Flesh War," or "Black Spring" and I feel like it is not only really good, but possibly great.

It's quite the quandary.

As a varied soundscape album, it's great. As music I'd listen to again... I'm not sure. Or maybe I'll listen to it every day.

Total Control - "Flesh War" (first :40 are silent)

I think that ultimately I really like this album. Although I'm quite sure why. Or if that is actually true.

CD Placement Rating: Based on my last listen, I'm going to say this is too intriguing to not call this Car iPod. I really like this! Well, maybe. Portable CD Case? Sell-back 1? No, Car iPod. I think.

- Snilch

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else (2014)

This Cleveland-based band is back, after their wonderful 2012 release, Attack on Memory. Compared to that album, they've made a couple of steps forwards and a couple of steps backwards. For example, on the positive side, they've tailored the music more towards singer-songwriter-guitarist Dylan Baldi's vocal range, losing some of the raw nature of his vocals (and their sound). However, on the negative side, they've tailored the music more towards singer-songwriter-guitarist Dylan Baldi's vocal range, losing some of the raw nature of his vocals (and their sound). It's a yin and a yang here.

But ultimately what's missing here is depth -- depth of great songs, depth of musical arrangements, and depth in terms of sonic variety. While Attack on Memory had great moments and a solid group of surrounding songs, Here and Nowhere Else doesn't really have a single song that matches with the top four songs on Attack. I think they really miss second guitarist Joe Boyer, who is can't leave the state of Ohio for "undisclosed legal reasons." From a practical perspective, this means a lack of two guitar and/or keyboard interplay, leaving most of the sound bunching up right in the middle. It's a little too muddy, without enough separation.

Cloud Nothings - "Now Hear In"

It's still a very good, very solid album. It just needs more tonal separation across the board.

CD Placement Rating:  Portable CD Player.

- Snilch

Monday, July 06, 2015

King Tuff - Black Moon Spell (2014)

From the opening strains of this album, King Tuff quickly establishes a psychedelic classic rock atmosphere. It promises a pleasant, fun experience: pretty light and not too serious.

As you move along through the first few songs, it's not too high, not too low, just continues to deliver a great poppy ride down pharmaceutical lane. So just sit back and relax. Vermont's favorite sons are driving the bus, and hopefully are not too intoxicated.

King Tuff - "Black Moon Spell"

It's established immediately that the rhythm section is solid and that King Tuff himself knows what he's doing with the guitar. And the music goes very well with his vocals. "Sick Mind" makes you think this may veer into an Andrew W.K. "party album" vein, while showcasing some classic guitar solo licks. "Rainbow's Run" follows through on this promise -- albeit more spacey in a Sun Dial vein.

Then this happens:
King Tuff - "Headbanger"

Where did that come from?

It may be my favorite song from 2014. Great guitar tones and a tremendous riff, combined with a killer rhythm section performance. And a fun story to boot. My love for this album just went to 11. It's just a phenomenal rock song that by itself makes the album great.

And from there, the rest of the album calms back down, but the whole thing is excellent. Even potential silly songs like "I Love You Ugly" are just funny and enjoyable, and NOT stupid (like they easily could be). "Demon from Hell" and "Eddie's Song" are no slouches either.

There isn't a misstep here. It's heavy, smart, well produced and engineered, and fun. And it's pretty clear that this easy-going, tuneful, hooky ride is exactly where King Tuff wanted to take us on this journey. What more could you ask for?

CD Placement: This is the real deal, yo. Car iPod. I picked up the vinyl for this one as well.

- Snilch

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Afghan Whigs - Do the Beast (2014)

After seeing their performance on Later... With Jules Holland, I was totally stoked to hear this album. I've always liked some of their stuff, but never enough to keep a whole album.

It turns out the studio versions just don't do justice to that live performance. The slowed-down, sandpaper-clean production smooths out all of the interesting rough edges, leaving me wanting to go back to that live performance and junk the CD.

The Afghan Whigs - "Matamoros" (Live - Later... With Jules Holland)

I'll keep "Matamoros," "Royal Cream," "These Sticks," and "The Lottery," at least initially. So there's that.

CD Placement Rating: Sell-back Pile 1.

- Snilch