Monday, June 20, 2016

The Genesis Project - "A Trick of the Tail"

Genesis - A Trick of the Tail
1976, Atlantic

1. Dance On a Volcano
2. Entangled
3. Squonk
4. Mad Man Moon
5. Robbery, Assault and Battery
6. Ripples...
7. A Trick of the Tail
9. Los Endos

As everyone knows, A Trick of the Tail is Genesis’ first album after the departure of Peter Gabriel. Drummer Phil Collins steps up to the microphone full time after a few cameos here and there on previous albums. There is a distinct difference in this album as opposed to the previous ones but it’s not the music. No, it’s more the feeling…the vibe. A Trick of the Tail is far more laid back than the band’s Gabriel-era output. It’s still very progressive but it’s not as…demanding. Whereas those Gabriel albums grabbed you by the lapels and screamed at you, “YOU WILL LISTEN TO THESE CONCEPTS. SEE HOW IMPORTANT THEY ARE?! THIS IS ART!! CAN’T YOU SEE MY FACE PAINT?!?!” This album is a bit calmer on how it approaches things. I can see the band quietly setting up their gear and Phil Collins comes over to you, shakes your hand, and says, “Hey, mate. We’re just going to jam a little bit here. Is that alright? You can listen or not, it’s okay. Sorry about all the face paint, yeah?”

As a result this album was a bit of a grower for me. It didn’t demand that I pay attention, so I really didn’t on the first couple of listens. I liked the music, for sure, but it seemed like the album was content to leave me alone until I was ready to invest in it. Finally, after several listens, things started to sink in. They sunk in to the point where I can honestly say A Trick of the Tail is among my favorites of the album’s I’ve listened to so far. You’ll note I said the same about Selling England by the Pound and I stand by that. I still adore that album but I love this one just as much. It’s got all the talent and progressive mastery without the high-minded intellectualism. You can definitely tell that the guys were happy just to sit down and make music.

It’s kind of funny because this album has all of the trappings you’d expect from a prog-era Genesis album. Funky time signatures, story-telling songs, an instrumental finale that reprises the opening track. Heck, Phil Collins even does some character voices for “Robbery, Assault and Battery.” But the spirit of this record is so different. I guess that’s why I keep harping on it so much. It’s such a change, but an enjoyable one to be sure.

I said earlier that this was a grower and some of the tracks that took longer to grow ended up being my favorites. Take “Entangled” and “Ripples…” for example. These are two of the album slower tracks and I kind of checked out a few times when they came on. However, slowly but surely, they imprinted themselves in my brain and now are some of my favorites. Probably the only track that didn’t grow as much was the Banks penned “Mad Man Moon.” I said “didn’t” but I should probably say “hasn’t” because this album has a knack for being kind of a dark horse. It wouldn’t surprise me to find “Mad Man Moon” being my favorite track a year from now. Also, have I mentioned how awesome a drummer Phil Collins is? I was talking with a co-worker about this when he mentioned that Phil Collins is never brought up when people think of legendary drummers. Well…he should be.

At any rate, A Trick of the Tail is an amazing, wonderful album. It’s proof-positive that all the progressive talent and drive didn’t exist solely in Peter Gabriel. It’s another album I’m sort of sad to have to move on from, but it has definitely earned its place in the vault.

Final Score: 5 out of 5

Useless Fact: Despite my remarks about the vibe being relaxed, the band was actually quite nervous about continuing on without Peter Gabriel. They'd also auditioned some other singers (very halfheartedly) until settling on Collins for the role.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

BabyMetal - "Metal Resistance"

BabyMetal - Metal Resistance
2016, Amuse

1. Road of Resistance
2. Karate
3. Awadama Fever
4. Yava!
5. Amore
6. Meta Taro
7. From Dusk Til Dawn
8. GJ!
9. Sis. Anger
10. No Rain, No Rainbow
11. Tales of the Destinies
12. The One (English Version)

I was a big fan of BabyMetal's debut because it was just so catchy and weird. I was a little nervous about this one because the first seemed like lightning in a bottle. I wasn't sure they could capture the magic a second time. Metal Resistance finds the band jettisoning some of the oddball things of the past (dub-step, gangsta rap interludes, etc.) and focusing more on metal. This is both good and bad - bad because it's not quite "Kawaii" enough, but good because overall the songs are more mature and more...well...metal. It's not the cute bouncy girls singing cute songs anymore, they are really trying to grow as artists and as a band. That's pretty admirable considering everyone probably thinks of this group as a novelty. They've even folded in some progressive metal tendencies on songs like "Tales of the Destinies." "No Rain, No Rainbow" channels eighties power ballads and sounds like something you'd hear on an anime soundtrack. It's a good album though I'm not sure I like it as much as the first one. It will be interesting to see what they do in the future.

Useless Fact: "The One" as the title says, is sung in English, though the lyrics are definitely by someone whose first language is Japanese.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil - "Wow To The Deadness"

Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil - Wow To The Deadness
2016, Sounds Familyre

1. Wow To The Deadness
2. Wait Up Downstep
3. The Dust Patrol
4. Nonchalant
5. A Muse
6. Drats

I didn't quite expect to get some more Steve Taylor quite so soon, if ever. As the name implies, Daniel Smith from the Danielson Famile joins the guys for this little EP that was successfully kickstarted last year, I think. I was a little worried because I've never been a huge fan of Danielson Famile. They were just too weird for me and Daniel's voice wasn't really my cup of tea. It doesn't bother me here though. Of course, he doesn't sing much - just backing vocals and lead on "Drats" but it actually goes together well with Steve's vocals. The music is in a similar vein to Goliath, though maybe a little rougher around the edges. Not that this is a problem. I really like these tunes. Naturally, the only problem is that it is just too short. The songs are short and there's only six of them. Hopefully we can get some more soon (as in next year, maybe?).

Useless Fact: For this album, the guys dressed up in different color jumpsuits... like indie Power Rangers or something.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Genesis Project - "We Can't Dance"

Genesis - We Can't Dance
1991/2007, Atlantic

1. No Son of Mine
2. Jesus He Knows Me
3. Driving the Last Spike
4. I Can't Dance
5. Never a Time
6. Dreaming While You Sleep
7. Tell Me Why
8. Living Forever
9. Hold On My Heart
10. Way of the World
11. Since I Lost You
12. Fading Lights

We Can’t Dance was Phil Collin’s last album with the band before he would leave to score Disney movies and what not. I remember this album pretty well because I watched MTV incessantly back in the day. The hits were in heavy rotation. Thus I saw a lot of “I Can’t Dance,” “No Son of Mine,” and “Jesus He Knows Me.” I really liked those songs and was happy whenever they came on. It seemed like, to the untrained eye at least, that they were continuing with the progressive influenced pop of Invisible Touch. I’m not sure if this was quite the height of their popularity, but they were fantastically successful and still selling out stadiums.

Unfortunately, as an album, We Can’t Dance is very much of two minds. The first one is quite like I’ve talked about already – former progressive rock musicians making tight, meaningful pop songs and occasionally going full prog just for fun. I’ve already talked about the “hits” and how they are smart, catchy pop - just what I would expect from the blokes who made the previous album. “Driving The Last Spike,” “Dreaming While You Sleep,” and “Fading Lights” are the album’s more epic, progressive tracks and are quite good as well. “…Last Spike” being the kind of story-tellery thing you’d find on one of the Gabriel-era albums.

Unfortunately, there’s the other mind (for lack of a better world). This one is quite lazy and content to churn out some of the most half-hearted adult contemporary schlock it can get away with. We’ve got “Never a Time,” which even after several listens I still do not remember one note of. Then, “Tell Me Why” – this one was a hit but heaven only knows why. It’s just bland and the sentiment is the same sort of "bemoaning the state of the world" that appears on Collin’s solo records. Let’s not forget “Hold On My Heart” which is like “In Too Deep” if it was about one hundred times more boring and nondescript. “Way of the World” is another forgettable, throwaway track.

What would help this album immensely is if, like its predecessor, it was only eight tracks long. Then it would be on par with the rest of the Genesis catalog. Sadly, it’s bloated with these apathetic, cash grab songs. I swore I wasn’t going to ever claim that the band was "ruined" or that they “sold out” but… We Can’t Dance is where I can say, “Yep, definitely some selling out happening here.” I don’t place the blame for this squarely on Phil Collin’s shoulders because all three members wrote the album. No, I just blame time and success. It’s ironic that “I Can’t Dance” is about commercialism when this particular album finds the band at its most commercial.

The worst part is that none of that was really necessary. Duke and Invisible Touch were monster albums! Both succeeded in what they were trying to do. There’s no real reason to fill up this album with boring adult contemporary tracks when they are capable of making successful art that is also acceptable by the masses. I’m not sure what they were thinking other than being bored and lazy. The boys needed a new boat, perhaps? 

The best I can say about this album is that the good songs are still really good – you’ll just need the skip button handy to sail past the crap tracks.

Final Score 2.5 out of 5

Useless Fact: "Since I Lost You" was a song written for Eric Clapton after the death of his son.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Circle of Dust - "Brainchild (Remastered)"

Circle of Dust - Brainchild
1993/1995/2016, FiXT

Disc One:
1. Cranial Tyrant
2. Telltale Crime
3. Prayers of a Dead Man
4. Regressor (Aggressive Mix)
5. Enshrined
6. Course of Ruin
7. Descend
8. Deviate
9. Pale Reflection
10. Aggressor (Regressive Mix)

Disc Two:
1. Contagion
2. Deviate (Blue Stahli Remix)
3. Am I In Sync?
4. Deviate (1992)
5. Telltale Crime (1992)
6. Prayers of a Dead Man (1992)
7. Dust 10
8. Dust 11
9. Dust 12
10. Dust 13
11. Dust 14
12. Dust 15
13. Twisted Reality (1995 Live VHS Audio)
14. Deviate (1995 Live VHS Audio)
15. Deviate (Blue Stahli Remix) [Instrumental]

I've mentioned before that Brainchild started as an actual band called Brainchild but it reissued under Circle of Dust. Well, now it gets another reissue and - as before - this is this album's final form as well. The mastering is just about perfect. There's tons of cool extras, like the new track "Contagion" and "Am I In Sync?" from the Steve Taylor tribute if you missed that (which, how could you do that, YOU MONSTER!). It even contains the original versions of "Telltale Crime," "Prayers of a Dead Man," and "Deviate" for those moods when you're really, really nostalgic. Again - this is an excellent package and well worth getting even if you have the previous versions. However...still no liner notes! Argh!

Useless Fact: Documentation seems to imply that the original Braindchild album came out in '92, but that's impossible because the first Circle album came out in '92 and Brainchild didn't come out at least until the following spring, making its release year '93. Can anyone confirm Mindwarp's actual release date?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Weezer - "Weezer" (White)

Weezer - Weezer (White)
2016, Atlantic

1. California Kids
2. Wind In Our Sails
3. Thank God For Girls
4. (Girl We Got A) Good Thing
5. Do You Wanna Get High?
6. King Of The World
7. Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori
8. L.A. Girlz
9. Jacked Up
10. Endless Bummer

It's no secret that I loved, loved, loved Weezer's last album, Everything Will Be Alright In The End. It was exactly the return to form that longtime fans wanted to see. It restored people's faith in the band, including mine. People who had given up on these guys. It's a stellar album and a hard act to follow. So what does the band do for their follow-up? Something completely different. This album is a short, snappy, breezy pop (ish) album that was meant to be enjoyed on the beach. It's got that definite Beach Boys vibe - you can almost see yourself on the pier and smell the ocean while you listen. I was nervous that this album wouldn't be up to snuff, but it totally is. In fact, while it's not quite "classic" status, this is one of the few later-era albums that maintains its quality all the way through. We've even got kind of a throwback to Pinkerton with "Do You Wanna Get High?." Like I said, it's not in my top three (Blue, Pinkerton, and EWBAITE) but it's a solid four and better than I expected.

Useless Fact: "Do You Wanna Get High?" is reportedly inspired by Rivers Cuomo's struggle with pain pill addiction.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Anthrax - "For All Kings"

Anthrax - For All Kings
2016, Megaforce

1. You Gotta Believe
2. Monster At The End
3. For All Kings
4. Breathing Lightning
5. Suzerain
6. Evil Twin
7. Blood Eagle Wings
8. Defend/Avenge
9. All Of Them Thieves
10. This Battle Chose Us!
11. Zero Tolerance

The last album I liked from Anthrax was Persistence of Time. After that, vocalist Joey Belladonna left the band and I pretty much forgot about them. Not too long ago Joey rejoined which got my attention, but the band started using their pentagram logo - which kind of put me off a bit. However, after seeing some stellar reviews from both Christians and non-Christians, I decided to give this disc a chance. Also, I was on vacation and Iced Earth didn't have a new CD out! (Har har!) Anyway...holy smokes does this album rock. In fact, it could have pretty much come right after Persistence in terms of sound. Joey sounds just as good, if not better, than he ever has. The songs are tight and heavy... and oh my word the riffing. Some of the finest riffs I've heard this year. All the aggression and fury you'd expect from the band is there. "Defend/Avenge" officially replaces "Gridlock" as my Anthrax fight song. Not sure why they started using the pentagram logo - they don't talk about the occult at all. Mostly it's the same lyrical themes they've always explored. Anyway, good tunes is good tunes and this album absolutely smokes! I can't confirm this but I suspect "You Gotta Believe" and "Monster At The End" are shout outs to PaRappa the Rappa and that old Sesame Street book with Grover in it, respectively.

Useless Fact: If you have a strong stomach and a penchant for horror movies, check out the video for "Blood Eagle Wings." It is possibly the most disturbing and brutal music video I have ever watched. Also stars comedian Brian Posehn.