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super galactic view points on mundane earth issues

Review of Siamese Dream (1993)

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Siamese Dream is the second album released by The Smashing Pumpkins. This was the album that made the Pumpkins a household name. The album is pure alternative rock in it’s prime.

Unlike the Pumpkins more popular album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Siamese Dream is almost entirely electric guitar rock oriented. Heavy distortion and progressive melodies make this album more grunge than anything else. With that said, there are some softer songs on the album – and they are quite good. “Disarm” represents perhaps the Pumpkin’s first experimentation with strings – a method that would be implemented in later albums in a highly successful fashion. Well, “Disarm” was actually highly successful itself, as it should be. The acoustic strumming gives listeners a nice break from the heavy distortion found on most of the rest of the album.

This is a solid alternative rock album. Billy Corgan really had a knack for writing memorable songs with imaginative progressions and thought provoking lyrics. I’ve read many critics who have berated Corgan’s lyrics for being immature, but I disagree wholeheartedly. The lyrics are perfect as they are. They fit in great with the music. Don’t let pretentious snobs tell you otherwise.

The Smashing Pumpkins put forth some of their greatest hard rock achievements on Siamese Dream with “Cherub Rock,” “Hummer,” and some others; however, some of the songs tend to drag on a bit too much. For example “Geek U.S.A,” a mostly boring song that sounds so familiar it must’ve borrowed it’s rhythm from the years of yore, would have been best kept at a short but sweet 2-3 minutes. Instead it drags on for more than 5. “Silverfuck,” the worst song on the album, is also the longest at nine minutes and 12 seconds. Why did they do this? Because they are assholes, and they wanted to troll the world. I see no other possible reason.

A treat on the album comes with the last song, “Luna.” The Smashing Pumpkins effectively add sitar into their regular formula, and the result is spectacular. This is the best song on the album that you’ve probably never heard.

Time to Summarize:

  • Siamese Dream is a grungy alternative rock album. There is not even close to the amount of variety on this album as there is on later Smashing Pumpkins titles, but it’s ok – the Pumpkins were great hard rockers, and this album showcases that.
  • Some of the worst songs last way too long.

Written by danielperry99

January 18, 2011 at 8:53 am

Review of The Bends (1995)

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In 1995, Radiohead released their second album, The Bends. Their first album had done fairly well, but most critics chalked it up to a fluke thinking that the band would never devise another hit single like “Creep.” I can only assume that any of the dissenting critics felt like morons after hearing The Bends, which contains more hit singles than any other Radiohead album so far. This album marked the group’s initial move away from typical Brit-pop toward something more creative.

The Bends is through and through, a haunting album. From the hopeless announcement, “Everything is broken,” on the album’s opener “Planet Telex,” to the solemn cry of “Fade out again,” on the album’s closer “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” the tone is somber throughout. There is a pretty clear lyrical theme to this album. It’s about losing all hope and just giving up on life altogether. I think that the band probably wanted to get the point across that everybody feels this way sometimes, so you (the listener) should not be ashamed. Or maybe Radiohead hates life and just wants everyone to know that they might as well just not try. Or maybe they want to spread a nihilist ideology. Whatever, I don’t know.

One thing I do know, though, is that The Bends is chock full of radio hits. “High and Dry,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” “Bulletproof… I Wish I Was,” “Sulk,” and “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” all received a decent amount of airwave time. Personally, my favorite songs on the album are “The Bends” and “Black Star,” but all of them are good. There isn’t a single skip on the whole album, which is a mark of greatness.

This is probably the ultimate album to cry along to. The entire band show that they have a deep understanding of human emotion, and Thom Yorke’s lyrics will make you believe that he truly is feeling everything that he sings about.

There’s no way around it – The Bends is an essential 90’s album that everybody should listen to at least once.

In summary form:

  • Radiohead proved critics wrong by releasing The Bends, an album full of sad radio ballads.
  • The album has an overall tone of hopelessness. The emotion is real.
  • Great album. Not as good as Ok Computer, if you ask me, but great nonetheless.

Written by danielperry99

January 18, 2011 at 6:17 am

Review of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)

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Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was Raekwon the Chef’s first solo release and the second Wu Tang Clan release. The album was produced in entirety by the Clan’s Abbot, RZA. Before OB4CL was released, it was unknown that RZA would go down in history as one of the greatest beat makers of all time. It was also unknown that Raekwon and Ghostface Killah would go down in history as two of the dopest mc’s of all time. Within a few weeks of OB4CL hitting shelves, these things became apparent.

Sure, Wu Tang’s debut album was highly acclaimed, but it was so different from anything else out there that nobody really knew how the Clan would fare in the future. On Raekwon’s debut solo album, RZA, as well as the rest of the Clan (especially Raekwon and Ghostface), proved that they were here to stay.

Like the preceding 36 Chambers, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is a concept album – Raekwon the Chef (aka Lou Diamonds) and his partner in crime Ghostface Killah (aka Tony Starks) were mafia bosses involved in drug trading and extortion. It’s a really loose concept, but it’s there. The album also features several other members of the Clan + one extra: Method Man (aka Johnny Blaze), RZA (aka Bobby Steels), GZA (aka Maximillion), Ol’ Dirty Bastard (aka Joe Bananas), Inspectah Deck (aka Rollie Fingers), U-God (aka Lucky Hands), Masta Killa (aka Noodles), Cappadonna (aka Cappachino), and special guest Nas (aka Nas Escobar). Yep, they all got silly mafia nick names for the album, and that’s about as far as the concept goes.

Most Clan members are only featured on one, or at most two songs. The only exception is Ghostface Killah who appears alongside Raekwon on damn near every single track. You won’t hear me complaining about it though. If you ask me, I’d say that Ghostface has the best verse on almost every song. The pairing of Raekwon and Ghostface is a perfect partnership. Raekwon consistently lays down his heavily slang laden stories (so much slang a white boy like me has trouble keeping up), while Ghostface plays along with his own stream-of-consciousness style of story telling rap. As stated before, each and every song on OB4CL is produced by RZA, a non conformist beat maker who, at the time, was using samples in ways that no other musician could think of. So while the album is credited officially to Raekwon, RZA and Ghostface deserve at least equal credit. These are the three key components to the album. There are some other appearances worth note though.

Nas’s verse on “Verbal Intercourse” opens the song with some… well, some verbal intercourse. That’s just the only way to describe it. Inspectah Deck’s verse begins “Guillotine Swords” with the classic line, “Poisonous paragraphs smash ya phonograph in half/It be the Inspectah Deck on the warpath,” and the rest of the verse follows in suit with more classic INS rhyming word play. RZA presents a rare standout verse on “Wu Gambinos.”

I can’t stress enough how good RZA’s production is on this album. You can tell how much his style had evolved since 36 Chambers. Back then he was relying primarily on kung fu film music samples. On OB4CL, RZA draws inspiration from all over the place. Really, I have no idea where he got most of the samples from, but every beat (and I mean EVERY beat) on this album is straight fiya. That’s right, I said that every beat on this album is FIYA, and I’m not even the type of person to refer to things as “fire.” Inasmuch, every beat is on point with the theme. By that I mean that if mafia bosses were to actually desire to chant rhythmically over beats, they would probably chant rhythmically over beats like the ones on OB4CL. By the time the album is over, you may actually believe that Lou Diamonds and Tony Starks are real gangsters.

Here’s the summary:

  • Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is the second Wu Tang Clan album and Raekwon’s first solo album.
  • RZA solidifies his standing as one of the best hip-hop producers of all time.
  • Raekwon and Ghostface Killah take turns rapping out stories with vivid imagery on most songs.
  • Much of the rest of the Clan make appearances on the album. Nas also makes a special guest appearance.

Written by danielperry99

January 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Review of Ok Computer (1997)

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Best album of the 90s? Best album of all time? Ok Computer by Radiohead is agreed upon by many music fans to be a perfect 10/10. I can’t say that I really disagree. To me, Ok Computer is tied in 1st place with about 20 other albums.

When it first came out, nobody expected Radiohead’s third album to be what it ended up being. Pablo Honey and The Bends both had a terrific, albeit pretty standard Brit-pop vibe. So when Ok Computer came out sounding like the next global music revolution, people took notice. Radiohead didn’t conform to any standard for this album. They created a totally new sound that even seems void of any influence at all. They must have quarantined themselves from the rest of society for some period of time in order to come up with such a new and invigorating style of rock music (in truth, the band did record a good deal of the material out in the middle of rural England). The album is so good, in fact, that even the producer gained quite a bit of recognition. How often does that happen in rock?

Radiohead managed to somehow distort their instruments in a way that makes them sound as if they were played at the bottom of a viscous lake on a far away planet. The music evokes images of the cosmos, the self, and the relationship between. Take “Subterranean Homesick Alien” for example: the guitar medley is so spaced out and unconventional – it just doesn’t sound like something that Earth people would create. There are songs on Ok Computer that sound more like Radiohead’s older stuff though. For example, “Karma Police” is a radio-friendly pop song that almost sounds like it could have been recorded for The Bends. “No Surprises” combines the best of old Radiohead style with the best of the new: a polished spacey tone entrances the listener while an acoustic rhythm reminiscent of past albums chugs along in pop splendor.

The lyrics are just as much an essential piece of the equation as the cosmic atmosphere. Themes of corporate greed, individuality, and reflection on modern day society persist throughout the alien atmosphere of the record. The lyrics combine just the right amount of noncomformity with nonsense, never sounding tired.  “Paranoid Android,” a modern day “Bohemian Rhapsody,” is a combination of three songs, with the lyrics of course not making much sense. Even so, all three parts flow together flawlessly to create an epic masterpiece.

Ok Computer set the standard for rock albums from 1997 onward. Unfortunately, that was a standard that nobody could even hope to touch. Radiohead themselves probably could have if they hadn’t chosen to go in a different, yet equally amazing, direction. Either way, Ok Computer remains today at the top of a miles high pedestal. If I had to come up with a name for the genre – because this album IS it’s own genre – I think I would have to call it intergalactic-cosmic-alien-atmospheric-guided-sound-manipulation. Yeah, maybe that’ll catch on.

So to summarize:

  • Ok Computer is easily one of the best albums of all time.
  • An alien atmosphere persists in the music throughout the course of the album. The guitar is often distorted in a very subtle, yet effective way.
  • Radiohead experimented a lot on this album, but it doesn’t sound like experimentation. It sounds like they’d been doing this exact type of music for 20 years already and had it mastered.
  • Lyrical themes of consumerism, modern society, and where individuals fit into the equation tie the album together as much as the musical atmosphere.
  • Buy this album, or download it illegally. Whatever you have to do – just listen to this album. It will become one of your all time favorites.

Written by danielperry99

January 17, 2011 at 10:47 am

Review of Loveless (1991)

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With their second studio album, Loveless, My Bloody Valentine brought something unique to the table. Hazy, blurry guitar sounds over manufactured drum loops are defining characteristics of this critically acclaimed album. Loveless is often referred to as one of the founding albums of the shoegazing genre, and is believed to be a major influence on alternative music throughout the rest of the 90’s and beyond. I’ve come across more than one person that have declared it to be the greatest album of the entire decade. But does it really live up to all the hype? To be Frank (and you can be Bill), no, it does not live up to the hype.

My Bloody Valentine, and the band’s lead member Kevin Shields, sought out to create a new kind of rock: something unnecessarily loud, ambiguous, and deceptively sweet. These songs sound like they were recorded at such a high volume that the mics just couldn’t catch it all without first jamming it all together into an ambiguous mish-mash of sounds. Despite this, there is a level of sweet pop harmony that shines forth out of the haze. However, the lyrics take away from the sweetness, often coming off like a middle school boys’ locker room sex discussion. The vocals on the album are as equally ambiguous as the music itself – most of the time it’s hard to tell whether the vocalist is male or female. The androgyny adds to the overall sound blur the album creates. The sound of Loveless is so blurry that it never fails to either 1.) give me a headache or 2.) make me feel tired. The album art depicts the sound perfectly. It’s a blurry, pink guitar.

A blurry guitar that is covered in a sweet pink haze - the album art describes the sound perfectly.

 

I know it might sound like I’m being too critical, but I don’t mean it. Do I think that Loveless is one of the greatest musical creations of all time? No. Do I think it’s a must-have album? No. I think that Loveless is a good album, but it definitely won’t rub some people the right way. Although admittedly, it seems to me like My Bloody Valentine never intended to rub anyone the right way. No, I think they would be quite pleased to know that they have caused at least one listener to have headaches. After all, the band is notoriously known for playing uncomfortably loud live shows.

Don’t get me wrong here. Distortion and sound blur can be used effectively to create a certain artistic aesthetic. It may be abrasive, confusing, and bad for your mental health, but I’d be lying if I said that Loveless is not a highly influential step of the musical ladder which has helped to get us to where we are today.

In summary:

  • My Bloody Valentine uses heavy distortion on top of a sugary sweet premise to create a unique sound.
  • Loveless is considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of all time. I think that’s a bit of a stretch, but it is a decent album nonetheless.
  • Lyrically, the songwriting is immature. The vocals are pretty hard to understand though anyways, so it doesn’t matter much. The words are merely supposed to function as an extra layer on top of the already saturated compositions.

Written by danielperry99

January 17, 2011 at 8:10 am

Review of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)

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The Smashing Pumpkins third album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness found the Pumpkins moving away from their grunge roots and experimenting more with soft-rock, psychedelia, electronic production, and metal. The range of styles makes this the most accessible Smashing Pumpkins album to date. Released in October of 1995, the album debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts  and has since gone nine times platinum.

This is a concept album. Granted, it’s a loose concept. The album is about life, melancholy, and mortality. Billy Corgan has said that the album is intended for younger listeners – teenagers and young adults. This hormone compelled demographic certainly isn’t a bad target audience for an album focusing largely on sorrow. Anyway, the concept doesn’t really come off too well if you ask me. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to even call it a concept album. What it is is a collection of songs with similar themes of depression, abandonment, and angst. Call that a concept if you want.

The lengthy double disk (1 hour, 40 minutes) spans a variety of genres. From the instrumental piano introduction “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” to the heavy metal riff on “Zero,” to the uplifting and emotional “Galapogos,” Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness has a little bit for everyone and a lot for a fan of multiple musical genre like me. It doesn’t come off as try-hard or overbearing though (well maybe a TINY bit); for the most part, the album’s songs all fit together quite well. Despite all of the variety, a tangible Pumpkiny quality can be tasted on each and every chord.

I wish I could say it wasn’t so, but unfortunately, one  hour and 40 minutes of music doesn’t come without a bit of filler. “Take me Down,” “We Only Come Out at Night,” and “Farewell and Goodnight” all seem forced. Don’t let it put you off though, most of the album is good. Actually it’s great.

The album is loaded with instant classics. “Tonight Tonight” is made up of one of the most orgasmic build ups in recent rock history. “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was an anthem of angst for the youth of the 90’s. “1979” was enjoyed by the mainstream and underground scenes alike. To put it simply, there’s just a lot of agreeably good music on this album.

In summary:

  • Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a loose concept album focusing on themes of life, death, and the sadness experienced in the meantime.
  • The album is long, with only a little bit of filler.
  • Tremendous variety makes for an interesting listen with a lot of replay value.
  • This is the Smashing Pumpkins’ most accessibly album. Everybody will like at least a few of the songs.

Written by danielperry99

January 17, 2011 at 5:47 am

Review of Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too (1998)

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When I first heard the lead single off of this album, “You Get what you Give,” I didn’t quite know what to make of it. The song is extremely catchy, but I was afraid it might not stand the test of time.  My first impression of the band’s lyrical capabilities was also a mixed one: most of the song’s lyrics are decent (nothing spectacular, nothing terrible), but at the end of the song frontman and songwriter/producer of The New Radicals, Gregg Alexander, distastefully sings “Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson/Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson/You’re all fake run to your mansions/Come around we’ll kick your ass in.” Of course, this line may actually be responsible in part for the song’s success. Alexander explains it as that he said it to prove the point that the mainstream will always favor gossip over anything meaningful.  Personally, I think the call out subtracts class from the song. Even so, “You Get what you Give” is still one of the catchiest pop songs of the 90’s, and Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too is a solid light-rock-pop album.

Through listening to this album, you’ll get to know a bit about Gregg Alexander. Alexander is the key component of The New Radicals. Essentially, he IS The New Radicals.  His piano laden soft-rock pop sound, accompanied with lyrics of unrequited love and young heartbreak, tells the sad story of a guy down on his luck, depressed. Out of 12 total songs on the album, at least 8 or 9 of them are about Alexander’s ex-girlfriend. This isn’t a bad thing though. It gives the album a clear lyrical theme, and since the music is so catchy, it works pretty well.

Catchy – that’s the most in-your-face quality of this album. After only one listen, you’ll be finding it difficult to refrain from singing along to any of the songs. Not only is it catchy, but it is very reminiscent of it’s decade. Alexander’s falsetto singing voice is like a perfect mixture of Thom York and Billy Corgan.

The New Radicals didn’t last very long. They broke up soon after releasing this – their first album. Alexander said it was  because he couldn’t stand the media attention. I would’ve thought he liked attention from the way he called out  several celebrities on the lead single, but maybe I’m misjudging. Anyways, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too by The New Radicals is chock full of catchy songs that are fun to sing along too. While the lyrics aren’t too awfully thought provoking, they are presented with heart-felt emotion – and that counts for something.

 

Written by danielperry99

January 17, 2011 at 3:02 am