October 31, 2010

Goodfellas Painting Costume - Halloween 2010

One dog goes one way and the other dog goes the other way.
One's going east and the other one's going west, so what?
And this guy's sayin' "Whaddaya want from me?"

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you haven't seen Goodfellas enough times.

And if you still don't get it... let's just say I was Elderly Zack Galifianakis with two dogs.

October 8, 2010

RoBeast Review: Logan - The Great Unknown

[I started this Wednesday morning.]

I'm not sure why I'm bothering with all these reviews. I think it's more about my honing my writing than it is about looking for good music or sharing my thoughts on artists. The problem is that the format I've chosen for my reviews--to review each track on a new album with my first impressions--isn't exactly designed for streamlining a writing technique. I'm digging into the reviews with purposeful ignorance which clears me of as much personal and media bias as possible, but the trade-off is that it leaves me vulnerable for mistakes and missed opportunities. And what does anyone learn from a review like that? Is anyone even supposed to learn anything? Am I promoting these albums or myself? What is the point of writing, blogging, anything, etc.? Is about money? God damned money? It sure as hell ain't about basketball.

This AOL New Music thing is good because it streams newly and soon-to-be released albums free of charge. They can't just be random free albums though, right? They're probably all in the AOL family of conglomerations. What do they own these days? Are they still friendly with Time-Warner? I don't know, and I'm probably better off not knowing. This is going to be a long day, and I'm getting too crazy, too early.

I chose the album The Great Unknown by Logan because I was going to weave it into the first paragraph as some sort of existential segue to my impending unemployment, but changed my mind. I have never heard of Logan. I don't yet know if it's a person, a band, or a music-making robot because I haven't clicked on the album cover. The bland concrete slab suggests to me that it's going to be a boring corporate hard rock band.

[At this point, I clicked 600 times and couldn't get the god damned album to play. Two days later I discovered that Firefox was the source of my computer's crippling network issues, so I can resume the review, or what David Archuleta fans would refer to as a "review." Since then I found out they're a Scottish hard rock band that wears black t-shirts. Let's hear if I'm right about their sound. The suspense has been killing me...]

"The Great Unknown" -The intro sounds familiar. The spacey, arpeggiated guitars and drum beat reminds me of the Incubus song "Stellar." The guy starts singing and I absolutely hate his voice. It takes the annoying Aaron Lewis/Scott Stapp style and marries it with the annoying Nickelback pseudo twang. Lyrics and guitar progressions are incredibly dull and formulaic. I could easily see this being played on WDHA, and no, that's not a compliment.

"Rock 'n' Roll Way" - Still immensely annoying and boring, but at least there's a fun little shuffle in the guitar riff--a way less interesting Smashing Pumpkins "Here is No Why." Dude's voice is SO NASAL that's it's making me actually look forward to the 15-second guitar solo that I guarantee will show up at the same point in every song on this album, except for on the acoustic/piano ballad that I guarantee will show up at some point later on the album. This will probably be played at the next WWE pay-per-view event. Still not a compliment.

"When I Get Down" - Arpeggiated intro? Check. Does this shit really make money? Fuck every record company for encouraging people to buy this crap. 15 second solo? Check. Music stops before last chorus? Check. Think less "When I Get Down (Listening to James Brown) and more "When I Get Down (From the Ledge After Listening To This Song)."

"Save Me" - Arpeggiated intro? Check. The rhymes on all these songs are extremely elementary, and glancing at the titles, I know these words are all going to be recycled soon. I don't think he's said "pain" yet at least. 15 second solo? Check. Oh fuck, is that a violin? They're expanding their sound!

"Jump In Again" - Arpeggiated intro? Check. The he sings "jump in" through this nose makes it sounds like he's saying "the pain" so I'll count that as a strike. 15 second guitar solo? Check. Music stops before last chorus? Check.

"Hallowed Ground" - No spacey intro this time, but the intro riff sounds pretty much like the repetitive verse riff of "When I Get Down." These guys want to rock big, but they don't want to rock fast or fun. Every riff is dark, but derivative. 15 second guitar solo? Check. This one uses "ground" and "down" in the chorus (much like in "When I Get Down"), but for variety adds "bound." I can't wait to hear what they've got cooking for "Lost & Found."

"Brother" - Arpeggiated intro? Check. Every fucking cliche on Earth? Check. 15 second guitar solo?  Check. Music stops before last chorus? Why do people feel the need to keep writing generic songs about freedom? If you call a song "Brother" you should write it about the unique experiences or character of your fucking brother, not some hackneyed bullshit about standing and dying side by side with your brother at the river of blood for freedom, etc.

"Lost & Found" - Arpeggiated intro? Check. The music is noticeably more upbeat on the verse in this track, despite singing about "turmoil" and "burning." It doesn't keep up though because they're determined to muck things up with gloom. The chorus are the usual arena rock bullshit but surprisingly doesn't rhyme "found" with anything. Instead it's the "lost your way" cliche coupled with more hand holding (I don't even remember what other song that was in anymore). 15 second guitar solo? Check.

"Spin the Wheel" - Here we go, this one's gonna rock. Ok, don't get me wrong, this is still generic, corporate hard rock, but the lead guitarist is having fun now at least. Some trills, string scratches, wah-wah, turning the pickups on and off, 15 second solo, etc. The lyrics are still terrible and vaguely defiant ("Better stay out of my way"), but the music is less dreary than most of the tunes so far. Maybe that's a compliment?

"Born to Run (Born to Love)" - Arpeggiated intro? Check. Born to run? Check. Born to love? Check. Born to rock? Nah, they still won't commit to that. They are prepared to spew more vagueness in the lyrics though. The chorus proclaims "Everything's gonna get better," but then for some reason they hedge their bets a bit and admit "Everything's gonna get a little bit better." For the record, it doesn't get any better at all after the 15 second solo.

Big doomy guitar riff starts off "Hurricane." I'm convinced that there are two different people writing these songs--one is a pussy, and the other is less of a pussy. The one that is less of a pussy should quit and join a band with people that aren't constantly staying "you know what would be awesome to start this song? A spacey arpeggio!" We've got "down" rhyming with "ground" again, by the way. No solo, but Wylde leads going all throughout the song.

The last song starts with a spacey arpeggio just in case you didn't see it coming. "Hold My Hand" of course features more hand-holding support for someone hiding and fighting through vague problems. When the singer is done collecting money from vague music listeners, he should maybe go get a job as a social worker.

If you have vague problems and a 15 second guitar solo can solve them, by all means, buy this album.

October 5, 2010

RoBeast Review: David Archuleta - The Other Side of DOWN

You asked for it, The Internet, and you got it. David Archuleta released an album today, and it's streaming on AOL Music. This guy was apparently on American Idol. That's the extent of my knowledge of this feller. I am naturally assuming that he sucks, based on that shitty looking album cover. Let's see if he proves me wrong.

The first song is pretty much his voice (which I am finding to be annoying) accompanied by some steady muted guitar and a minimal, dancepop electronic rhythm track. If it sounds familiar to you, it's because Kelly Clarkson, Pink, and your Aunt Tilly used the same formula for their dancepop hits but faster and with more balls. At the part you expect the song to start thumping, it just starts... I don't know... queefing? There's absolutely no edge to this music whatsoever. There's even less substance, unless you counts the words "down," "oh," and "yeah," as substantial.

This song, by the way, is called "The Other Side of Down." The album is also called The Other Side of Down. Knowing that I'm on the other side of down just makes me want to back to the other other side...

...which is just plain old Down. Fortunately, Down is releasing an album today too, so I'm going to listen to that instead. I have Down's first album, NOLA, and I think it kicks a fair amount of ass. I don't know how many albums they've put out since the mid-'90s, but it's clearly enough to allow for a live album where I only recognize a handful of titles. Diary of a Mad Band is the name of the collection. Let's see how mad they are.

"Losing All" starts with a riff similar to the start of their debut album, but then Phil Anselmo lets out a pretty shitty off-key howl, and I know it's not the same song. Even if Phil is an angry dude, I never really thought of Down as "a mad band." The middle of the song has some more off-key howls, and phlegmy, muffled yelling. Then the audience joins in, just as far off key. The music is typical Down--southern influenced metal with duel guitar action--which is why I can keep listening.

The next song, "Lifer" is dedicated to Dimebag Darrell... "and all of our brothers that have lost their way along the fucking path of life." Sort of a tainted dedication, if you ask me. Dimebag didn't exactly lose his way in life--he was senselessly murdered onstage by a mentally disturbed kid.  Anyway, I remember liking this song, but Phil just can't yell like he used to. He keeps bailing on the awesome "I'm staring right back at myself" part to let the audience sing it. He does gather a little more steam in the middle, but then bails again.

The third song is dedicated to "everybody in this mother fucking place, as usual, because that is why we are here." I'm not trying to slam Phil Anselmo by pointing out his crazy stage banter. It's really entertaining to me that he introduces his songs like Wesley Willis used to. "Lysergic Funeral Procession" is "off of the second god damned record," which means I don't know it.  The catchiest part is when Phil says the title during the song in a deep scary voice. Halfway through, it totally Black Sabbaths into a different song. 

I once saw a band that used Phil Anselmo stage banter samples in between their songs. They didn't speak at all, they just let Phil ramble for them for a few minutes at a time. It was awesome. Once he gets going, he is filled with a golden stream-of-semiconciousness. Before the fourth song starts, however, the band seizes its chance to show it can improvise too. As the European audience claps a little beat, Down jumps in and jams for a minute. They probably could have gone on for a while because there's a lot of talented musicians in the band. I mean, gee whiz, they're a supergroup after all!

"Rehab" is another one I remember really liking from the first album, but Phil is shitting it up a bit with more consistently off-key vocals. The strong melodic guitar leads just make it more obvious.

"Temptation Wings" is "off of the first god damned record" and is another one shitted up once the vocals start. Such a shame because this a killer song. "Smoke that hash, smoke that dope" Phil says during the slower bridge. Yeah, kids, smoke that hash if you don't want to be able to sing your own songs in 15 years. I'm actually tempted to go back to David Archuleta.

More talking. Phil says no one understands the second god damned record. Then goes into more off-key vocals for "Ghosts and the Mississippi."  He ends on key, but out of steam. Then he feels the need to go for one more unnecessary "yeah" to finish off the track, and it's terribly off key. I can't believe there are ten more songs.

"Learn From This Mistake" is mellow and much better for Phil's vocal range. Unfortunately, it's a pretty repetitive tune with a long guitar solo.

"Hail the Leaf" starts out solid, and just as I was about to say that Phil finally sounds warmed up, I think he blew it out again. Jinx? Believe me, I know it's not easy to perform vocals, especially not at the aggressive standard he's previously set on record (Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power). Performing live is one thing, if your goal is just to get out your feelings to an audience, but it just doesn't seem worth putting out a live album if vocals are going to be such a distraction. Maybe it's a bad night, I don't know. Maybe their fans don't even care about hitting notes. "Hail the Leaf" ends very strongly, by the way.

I'm not familiar with the track "New Orleans is a Dying Whore," but "Let's eat pussy and drink fucking beer" is a lyric that sounds right at home there. I'll bet David Archuleta's lyrics never approach that level of honesty.

"Lies (I Don't Know What They Say, But...)" is unlike the other Down songs. It's a very playful 3/4 and that's not just referring to the time signature--Phil is only fucking up 3 out of every 4 notes. I wonder if it's a cover or a B-side.

"Underneath Everything" is not particularly noteworthy other than Phil saying "1, 2, Fuck You."

"The Seed" is another pot song Phil isn't singing well. Diary of a Mad Fan.

Last song is "Eyes of the South." "I want to thank every motherfucker, every band, every band that thinks they're doom 'cause they tune down and play slow. It's not what it's about, brother. You gotta have a talented motherfucker up here like me singing. Hah! Until we come back, let me ask you one question--is it OK if Down plays here again soon? [approving cheers] Then fuck this world. Fuck everybody in the world." Somebody singing backup is off-key too.

"If you wanna hear more, you know what to do... Hail Satan." Three song encore. "Jail" is going for a "Planet Caravan" feel, but is so incredibly painful to hear. "Stone the Crow" is a great song that doesn't sound so great live. It lumbers just a tad and Phil gives the vocal job to the audience again. When it's finished, Phil says "I want everyone to catch their fucking breath" so they can think about their final request. I'm sure that's the only reason. "The last song of the night is by a band called Green Day--just kidding." "Bury Me in Smoke" closes out the album. I know this song. It always made me want to sing "Old King Cole was a merry old soul and a merry old soul was he" over the chuggedy main riff. The end.

Well, that was a real chore. I feel like I started this three hours ago. I am positive that I would never buy an album with Phil Anselmo performing live on it. That being said, I think Phil Anselmo absolutely has what it takes to put Henry Rollins and his tough guy spoken word act out of business. I would buy a double album of just his random crowd banter if it existed. I'm sorry that in a band setting his poor singing takes away from the music, because NOLA is a really good album. I thought the unfamiliar material was pretty good too, except for the couple of mellow filler tracks. If it's not obvious by now, skip this live stuff and go right to the studio output.

October 1, 2010

RoBeast Review: Corin Tucker Band - 1000 Years

I accidentally discovered today that Corin Tucker, shorter guitarist/higher vocalist of the currently dormant Sleater-Kinney, has a solo album coming out next Tuesday and will be doing a little a tour this month (thanks to Nobody for giving me a heads up). It's been three or four years since I saw Sleater-Kinney on their farewell tour, and the only peep I've heard from Corin was her backup vocal contribution on Eddie Vedder's Into The Wild soundtrack. I managed to find the album on the NPR website for today's little preview (It's streaming only until 10/5). Billed as the Corin Tucker Band, 1000 Years has "cellos" and "angles" and "Corin." Sorry, I accidentally saw those words on review sites while trying to track down the album. I will try not to let them bias my first impression.

"1,000 Years" - Though there is the presence of a some distorted electric guitar, this has definitely set a more mellow tone than most of Sleater-Kinney's energetic output. Not that it doesn't rock. Drums kick in after a short while and the song moves at a nice pace. Cool bass lines. Corin's not wailing, but she's still putting her unique voice to good use. There's an instrument that comes in at the end that pairs up well with her delivery. It's not a "cello."

"Half A World Away" is also the title of a catchy acoustic Oasis tune. Like that song, this has a weird sounding percussive track, but the guitar is unmistakeably from someone who used to be in Sleater-Kinney. This one picks up a bit too. I think this album is going to be awesome.

(30-second support NPR break)

"It’s Always Summer" - The verse melody reminds me a bit of "Because the Night." More kooky percussion. Oh shit, there's the "cello."

"Handed Love" - If I were to name this tune in only two notes I would have said "This is Beck's 'Where It's At.'" Three notes and I would have been wrong. All of these tracks have had very minimalist beginnings, then picked up a bit, then ended between the 3 and 4 minute mark. This track is no different. What's keeping it fresh though is the instrumentation. This one has an organ and some backmasked guitars. It also has some crazy fucking whammied guitar leads.

"Doubt" - Instead of being a slow burner the 5th song opens with a rock intro that doesn't stop. Wait. It stops 2 minutes in. It's like this album is reading my review. I was just about to complain that the song was teetering on the edge of predictability and it completely stopped, and rebuilt... with FIDDLES?! Yes! To be honest, I'm a little surprised to see that this is the single (or at least, the track being pushed everywhere as the free mp3 download). It's not bad, but I think the last 4 songs have been more interesting.

"Dragon" - Ok, back to acoustic picking. Unlike last week's Jimmy Eat World album, these songs have the ability to be soft without being slow as molasses. You know, two minutes in, and there's been like 5 or 6 different sections and each one has had a different feel. To label this track acoustic after the first 10 second is a disservice. To label this album as mellow is the same.

"Riley" - Piano. A little "Because the Night"-y again. Just a little. And again, after a minute, the feel of the song totally changes. This reminds me of the Eddie Vedder solo album, not just because they're pals and recorded solo albums, but because all the songs are quite short and not immediately reminiscent of their prior band output. The Eddie Vedder solo songs were short, but often felt incomplete, like they just ran out of time or instruments around the studio. The Corin Tucker songs feel very developed and dynamic and prove their point in a short time.

"Pulling Pieces" - Have you noticed that I never talk about the lyrics in my reviews? I didn't notice until I started reading other people's reviews of the last two albums I did for comparison and saw that they all quoted and analyzed lyrics. I just really don't care that much about lyrics. I mean bad lyrics are bad, but if they aren't bad, I tend to not give them too much attention. Melodies are more important me than words when I'm listening. I did however notice that in this song, Corin says "I'm just a shadow of what I used to be." I bet somebody's going to mention that in a review of this album and then say "No, you're not, Corin! You're better than ever!". And if no one does, well then I guess I just did.

"Thrift Store Coats" - Starts with a crazy rhythm sample than changes to simple electric guitar and vocals. Her vocal technique alone is full of wild dynamics. She'll sing soft and low and then in the middle of the line switch to a high cry and back. If this isn't nominated for a Grammy next year, then fuck everyone in the music industry. Ok, fuck them anyway.

"Big Goodbye" - There are some more crazy guitar leads here. I shouldn't be so shocked because Sleater-Kinney had very unorthodox guitar leads. Maybe these are the "angles" people were talking about?

"Miles Away" - There's an annoying distortion/feedback I'm hearing when she peaks on her vocals. It may just be the speakers I'm listening through but I haven't heard it any other time on the album. It reminds me how much I disliked the production on the last Sleater-Kinney album. The songs were good but I hated the crappy recording. I wonder who produced this album because it's been a real pleasure to listen to. Until this track. The string noise as she's changing chords on the guitar very jarring. Maybe it will grow on me as a percussive lo-fi sound, but right now I'm concentrating on first impressions and what stands out. This is the last song, and I think it's the only one that didn't pick up at some point. I guess it makes sense to finish with it because it's a piano ballad. Those little annoyances leave a bad note to end on for me though.

Ah, who am I kidding? That last track isn't enough to ruin the album for me. I really enjoyed it and will undoubtedly be picking it up. And unfortunately it seems that Grammy nomination eligibility resets on October 1st each year. I hope this is not forgotten by 2012.