Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008


Albums Of The Year 2003 (written 17/12/2003)

10. Ryan Adams - Rock N Roll
The antidote to his two part aborted album Love Is Hell. Straight up rock - no frills.
Standout track: Wish You Were Here

  9. The White Stripes - Elephant
Jack and Meg beef their sound on their fourth album, but stay true to their blues roots
Standout track: Ball And Biscuit

  8. The Donnas - Spend The Night
What could be better than four girls singing about boys in a Ramones style?
Standout track: You Wanna Get Me High

  7. The Darkness - Permission To Land
Spandex, guitar solos and falsetto vocals. Irony sold separately.
Standout track: Stuck In A Rut

  6. Oceansize - Effloresce
Could launch the new wave of prog rock. The closing three songs is half an hour of wonder.
Standout track: Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs

  5. Kings Of Leon - Youth & Young Manhood
Three brothers and a cousin rocking tales of American south church town life.
Standout track: California Waiting

  4. The Electric Soft Parade - The American Adventure
The brothers White turn their back on Britpop for a Pink Floyd inspired masterpiece.
Standout track: The American Adventure

  3. The Strokes - Room On Fire
Second album and business as usual, with added inclusion of Soul and Reggae.
Standout track: Reptilia

  2. Josh Rouse - 1972
Written to sound it was made in 1972. If only everything released that year was this good.
Standout track: James

  1. The Distillers - Coral Fang
Brody Dalle combines the break up of one relationship and the beginning of another (with Tim Armstrong and Josh Homme respectively) to great effect with this intense album. All hail Brody, the new queen of rock.
Standout track: The Hunger 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Six Of The Best: New Prog Masterpieces (written 03/11/2003)

1. Mansun - Six
Lyrical References include Winnie The Pooh and The Marquis De Sade, and all are included on the front cover too. Six has two parts and an interlude featuring Tom Baker

2. Spiritualized - Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Ladies & Gentlemen was packaged as if it was a pill from a pharmacy, and featured Dr John on 17 minute final track Cop Shoot Cop.

3. Sigur Ros - ( )
No album title, no song titles, no information bar a website address on the inlay, lyrics in Icelandic and a made up language and only 8 tracks. Genius.

4. Mogwai - Mogwai Young Team
The debut album from the Scottish instrumentalists is built around two ten minute plus songs, Like Herod and Mogwai Fear Satan. The transition from barely audible guitars to sonic waves is mind blowing.

5. Tool - Lateralus
Tool's third album runs in close to eighty minutes and includes a 'trilogy' of songs, Disposition, Reflection and Triad, to be listened to as one.

6. Talk Talk - Spirit Of Eden
Following three albums of near New Romantic pop, Mark Hollis shunned singles in favour of an album of 4 spiralling tracks. Their record company subsequently dropped them, unjustly.

(PS I just got a Mac and posting pictures like this has become the biggest bitch because I can't seem to resize any of the pictures)

Friday, July 18, 2008


Is Your Favourite Band Turning Prog? (written 01/11/2003)

Without even knowing it, you could quite easily be slipping into a world of Prog Rock. This doesn’t necessarily mean concept albums of orcs and 12 minute bass solos, but there is a danger it could be. Here are nine tell tale signs that you’ve just bought a Prog rock album.

1. It has come in unique, fancy packaging.
2. There are only 9 tracks.
3. One or more tracks is over seven minutes in length
4. Tracks don’t have titles
5. There are no vocals, but the songs are profoundly named
6. The album has two parts, and perhaps an interlude.
7. There are two discs, each with a different title
8. The band are influenced by Talk Talk
9. It is produced by Tim Friese-Greene

It is as if every artist has a Prog album in them, bursting to be recorded. The Electric Soft Parade have gone from Britpop to Pink Floyd in one step and it seems as though Elbow are desperately fighting their Prog masterpiece. Even Gareth Gates has released a double album following Prog rule number 7.

Many bands fail to recover from their Prog album. Mansun released two fantastic concept albums but then took all of that away on their third album, Little Kix. This was nowhere near as good as Attack Of The Grey Lantern and Six, and now the band is no more. Spiritualized tried to replicate the style of Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space on Let It Come Down, but failed to repeat the success. To combat this, Jason Pierce has taken a garage rock attitude and recorded Amazing Grace in two weeks. Cave In went from 8 track albums to a straight up rock album. They have now been reported saying that they will take the style of Prog hardcore band Isis for their next album.

There are many acts who we wait and see what they do next. Tool have grown from writing 5 minute rock songs, to a standard time of eight minutes. But this has taken three albums to get there. Where next for Tool? Will they take a leaf out of Yes and Talk Talk’s book and record an album of four songs? Or like Mike Patton’s Fantomas and release a CD containing one seventy minute track? Sigur Ros’s last album had no title, no song names and no words, so how can they ever take another forward step from there?

Where next for bands such as The Mars Volta and Oceansize. Both have released mammoth debut albums this year, with seemingly no room for growth. How do you follow an album with 3 ten minute songs on it? They certainly aren’t going to start writing 3 minute pop songs

The question is, although the pomposity will always be frowned upon, can the band’s overblown Prog album ever be topped? So if your favourite band is about to turn Prog, be careful, it may just be the best thing they will ever do.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Greatest Hits (written 30/10/2003)

Under The Bridge
Give It Away
Scar Tissue
Soul To Squeeze
Suck My Kiss
By The Way
Parallel Universe
Breaking The Girl
My Friends
Higher Ground
Universally Speaking
Road Trippin'
Fortune Faded

Save The Population

The previous best of album the Red Hot Chili Peppers put out was rightly entitled What Hits?, as only two tracks from the release ever made into the charts. One of those songs, Under The Bridge, features on this compilation, correctly titled Greatest Hits.

It is no coincidence that the Chili Peppers hit big with their fifth album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. They had a new record label, a fantastic producer in Rick Rubin and the same line up for two consecutive albums for the first time. Blood Sugar was a wonderful album, a classic if you will, and four of its tracks are featured here. These tracks, along with Blood Sugar outtake Soul To Squeeze, show the true wonder of guitarist John Frusciante (check out documentary Funky Monks to see Frusciante putting everything into the recording of these songs).

After Frusciante left the band in 1992, the Chili Peppers struggled to find a guitarist that fit with the band. To compare sixth album One Hot Minute with any of the other albums featured on this Greatest Hits collection would be wrong. When a band writes as equally as this one, the songs will be driven the guitarist, and Dave Navarro and John Frusciante come from different schools. When you listen to Navarro’s later work on his solo album and latest Jane’s Addiction album Strays, you can tell he is more straight rock than the soul of Frusciante. With the band currently not playing any songs live from One Hot Minute, it is understandable that only My Friends is included here.

Frusciante’s return from professional heroin addiction in 1999 heralded Californication, the Peppers’ most successful album to date. A more mature Anthony Keidis sings much more than usual and Flea almost completely leaves behind his trademark slap bass. Wisdom is shown in the slower songs like Otherside and Scar Tissue, but the most remarkable difference with this album was the introduction of Frusciante’s vocal harmonies. Sublime.

The band continued to move in the same direction on their most recent, and arguably best album, By The Way. The songs from that, along with new song Fortune Faded, show how much the band has changed, not only from the beginning of their career but also from Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

All in all, this is the Greatest Hits of John Frusciante. It is a shame that the singles released do not show the guitarist’s full range. Album tracks such as My Lovely Man, This Velvet Glove and Minor Thing are sadly missing from a collection based purely on singles. But then again, you should own all the albums anyway.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Six Of The Best: Rick Rubin produced albums (written 28/10/2003)

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Rubin transformed the Chili Peppers from funk wannabes into fully-fledged songwriters, and whilst doing so was welcomed into the band as their studio fifth member.

Rage Against The Machine – Renegades

Shortly before they split, Rage Against The Machine recorded this album of cover versions that show off their talents as performers and raises a glass to the bands who inspired them.

Johnny Cash – American III

All of Cash’s American Recordings should really be included, but the third in the series, entitled Solitary Man, gives sparse and isolated recordings of Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down and most notably U2’s One.

The Mars Volta – De-Loused In The Comatorium

Having split At The Drive-in, Omar Rodriguez and Cedric Bixler were intent on making challenging music. In the hands of any other producer, this could have turned unlistenable, but Rubin hones all the ideas and skills to create a stunning album.

Beastie Boys – License To Ill

Having already produced the two ends of the popular music spectrum with Run DMC and Slayer, Rubin brought the two together for the first time on the Beastie Boys’ No Sleep Till Brooklyn, on which Slayer’s Kerry King played guitar. The Beastie Boys will always be remembered for this album.

Audioslave – Audioslave

Originally called Civilian, it was Rubin who brought together Chris Cornell and the musical section of Rage Against The Machine to form an unlikely band. The album brilliantly combines the individual qualities of both parties.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Six Of The Best: Americana (written 22/10/2003)

Whiskeytown – Strangers Almanac

The second album from Ryan Adams’ previous band is an alt. country masterpiece. While Adams’ later work references New York and Los Angeles, Strangers Almanac tells tales of old souls from nameless small towns in the heart of America.
Best tracks: 16 Days, Houses On The Hill
See also: Faithless Street, Pneumonia

16 Horsepower – Sackcloth N Ashes

Even the front cover of 16 Horsepower’s first album scares the hell out of you. The sound of the Appalachian Mountains via Denver, 16 Horsepower deliver a thoroughly terrifying sound fronted by the incredible banjo-playing son of a preacher, David Eugene Edwards.
Best Tracks: American Wheeze, Heel On The Shovel
See Also: Low Estate, Secret South

Calexico – The Black Light

Drawing on Ennio Morricone as a main influence, Joey Burns and John Convertino took the lessons learnt from playing with Friends Of Dean Martinez and Giant Sand to create one of the finest Americana albums ever. The whole recording sounds as if you were on the American-Mexican border (hence Calexico) and superbly blends instrumental cinematic pieces with songs of fleeing town and bloodshed.
Best Tracks: Minas De Cobre, Trigger
See Also: Hot Rail, Feast Of Wire

Midnight Choir – Olsen’s Lot

Although coming from very un-American Norway, Midnight Choir head a strong European alt. country movement (followed closely by St. Thomas). Their second album, Olsen’s Lot, brings together the sounds of Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Chris Isaak and is a monumental recording.
Best Tracks: Jeff Bridges, Heavy Rain
See Also: Amsterdam Stranded, Unsung Heroine

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

Perhaps the original alt. country album, Bruce Springsteen recorded Nebraska by himself on a 4 track, fully intending to turn each song into a full band composition. However, it was decided that the songs, with their subject matter of small town criminals and loners, were better suited to the way they were originally recorded.
Best Tracks: Atlantic City, Johnny 99
See Also: The Ghost Of Tom Joad

Gillian Welch – Revival

Before she made her name on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack, Gillian Welch made two albums with her partner (both musically and personally) David Rawlings. The first of these, Revival, breathes new life into the front porch country sound.
Best Tracks: Pass You By, Tear My Stillhouse Down
See Also: Hell Among The Yearlings, Time (The Revelator)

Friday, July 11, 2008


With literally only 5 working days left at this job, I have been clearing out the work computer so that whoever gets it in the future doesn't see all the pictures and crap I've stored up over the last 7 years.

However I have found a series of reviews and articles I wrote when we had a website and I was required to write something every week. Obviously this didn't last very long as there aren't that many, but between late 2003 and early 2005 I was a writer.

So while I wait to finish work and use my free time to do something inspiring, I will post some of these.

REVIEW: RYAN ADAMS - ROCK N ROLL (written 10/10/2003)

This Is It
Wish You Were Here
So Alive
Burning Photographs
She's Lost Total Control
Note To Self: Don't Die
Rock N Roll
Anybody Wanna Take Me Home
Do Miss America
Boys The Drugs Not Working

Ryan Adams is a great rock star. He has been in band that split just before they would have become huge, he smokes, he is regularly drunk on stage, he has admitted to using a variety of drugs, he lives next to two of The Strokes and he has dated celebrities.

He also has public outbursts (a slanging match with Jack White through the music press) and has threatened to quit music on his message board (due to his record company supposedly rejecting his Love Is Hell album). But most of his outbursts come across via his records. On the title track of his new record, Rock N Roll, he references his threat to quit with the lines “Everybody’s cool playing rock n roll, I don’t feel cool, feel cool at all.” This song however, with its up tempo title, is the most melancholy, sonically, on the album. The rest listens like an eighties rock homage. And it is very rock n roll.

Opener This Is It seems like a direct response to the Love Is Hell debacle – “Don’t waste my time. This is it. This is really happening.” And with his reputation as the prolific songwriter extraordinaire, it is fitting that the entire album starts with the words “Let me sing a song for you that’s never been sung before”.

On his previous album, Gold, Adams aimed high with his songs. Touch, Feel And Lose was a blatant soul song, and Nobody Girl had a 5 minute guitar solo. This time around, he has not over exerted himself, but adds parts to the songs that take them to greater levels. Wish You Were Here could have been only an adequate song, but Adams vocals take off in the last thirty seconds. A snarl worthy of Liam Gallagher lifts both 1974 and Note To Self: Don’t Die, and a Morrissey like vocal on So Alive makes the song what the title suggests.
The great thing about Ryan Adams now, is that after the three different albums of Heartbreaker, Gold and Rock N Roll, you have no idea where he will go next. Rest assured, it won’t disappoint.