Sunday, October 16, 2016

Steam Powered Giraffe - "Quintessential"

Steam Powered Giraffe - Quintessential
2016, Independent

1. Malfunction
2. I Don't Have a Name For It
3. Blue Portals
4. Overdrive
5. The Ballad of Delilah Morreo
6. Love World of Love
7. Only Human
8. Salgexicon
9. Sleep Evil Sleep
10. Photographic Memories
11. Leopold Expeditus
12. Dream Machine

I got into SPG just before this album was to come out. Naturally, I pre-ordered it along with the other two albums. Quintessential is definitely the most modern, which actually fits with the lore of the band. The idea is that they are robots living for hundreds of years so they have adopted different styles as they go on. It's a neat idea and gives the band some room for variety. "Overdrive" includes some techno-pop...and the band actually raps. Though it works better than you would think. "The Ballad of Delilah Morreo" is probably as close to metal as the band has ever gotten. You've also got "I Don't Have a Name For It" and "Love World of Love" which are more what you'd expect from the band in terms of melodies, harmonies, and such. I like Quintessential but not quite as much as the other albums I've heard. There are a couple tracks that I'm not wild about. "Malfunction" doesn't do much for me, for reasons which I'll elaborate later. "Blue Portals" hasn't really stuck either. However, that's only two tracks out of twelve and it's balanced out by the fantastic "Photographic Memories," "Only Human," "Leopold Expeditus," and "Dream Machine." Still a good album, but so far my least favorite.

Now... about "Malfunction." It's one of those "I'm okay, you're okay"-"your flaws are great"-type songs that reminds me of that one song, "Secrets" by someone whose name escapes me. I don't necessarily mind the sentiment of loving oneself. However, it seems like songs like these always focus on the externals. It's always about one's hair or body type or whatever. I guess my problem is is that we're not okay. Humans are not okay. You are not and neither am I. We are selfish, arrogant, angry, and impatient. We have no grace for others while demanding it for ourselves. We are malfunctioning and that's not okay. So yeah.. the song itself is fine, but this is the type of stuff I think about when I listen to it. Anyway, that's neither here nor there. I'd still totally recommend this album because I love this band.

Useless Fact: Apparently, "Overdrive" was written way back in 2009 and The Jon didn't want anything to do with the song, so it stayed in song limbo until now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Steam Powered Giraffe - "MK III"

Steam Powered Giraffe - MK III
2013, Independent

1. Curtain Raiser
2. Steam Powered Giraffe
3. Mecto Amore
4. Hatch Fever
5. A Way Into Your Heart
6. Ghost Grinder
7. Please Explain
8. She Said Maybe
9. Go Spine Go
10. Roller Skate King
11. I'll Rust With You
12. Wired Wrong
13. Fancy Shoes
14. Steam Powered Giraffe (Reprise)
15. Turn Back the Clock
16. Bleak Horizon

I think MK III is my favorite of the albums I've heard so far. It's got the same brain meltingly awesome harmonies, the same catchy tunes that stay in your head for days. However, it definitely moves away from the vaudeville feel of The 2 Cent Show and into more of a Fifties rockabilly vibe, especially on tracks like "I'll Rust With You" and maybe "Go Spine Go." New robot, Hatchworth, has a really high voice but he's a good fit and a great singer in his own right. I can't tell you how glad I am to have found this band.

Useless Fact: In a lot of their shows, The Spine tends to be the straight man whereas Rabbit and Hatchworth tend to be the crazy ones. This is very apparent in "Go Spine Go."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Steam Powered Giraffe - "The 2 Cent Show"

Steam Powered Giraffe - The 2 Cent Show
2012, Independent

1. Steamboat Shenanigans
2. One-Way Ticket
3. JuJu Magic
4. Me & My Baby
5. Little Birdie
6. Rex Marksley
7. Automatonic Electronic Harmonics
8. Prelude to a Dream
9. Make Believe
10. Honeybee
11. Scary World
12. The Suspender Man
13. That'll Be The Way Home
14. The Ballad of Lily
15. Airheart
16. Circuitry

So a buddy of mine posted "Honeybee" on his Facebook wall. I listened to it and immediately though of Bioshock Infinite, seeing as it was guys dressed like robots singing an acoustic folk sounding tune. The other thing that struck me were the harmonies. The glorious, beautiful, smooth harmonies. It was amazing and wonderful. I had to get more...and so I did. This particular album is sort of a mesh of folk, country, rock, Americana, etc., with a real Louisiana Bayou/Roaring Twenties vaudeville vibe. There's also some seventies pop in there too. So yeah... a LOT of different influences all sort of melded together. It all works extremely well because of the extremely catchy tunes and the harmonies. Oh man... the harmonies. Seriously. Do yourself a favor and check these guys out. I love them so much I bought three of their albums at once.

Useless Fact: The robot with the tophat, The Jon, left after this album to be replaced by Hatchworth.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Various Artists - "Sweet Family Music: A Tribute to Stryper"

Various Artists - Sweet Family Music: A Tribute to Stryper
1996, Flying Tart

1. The Abyss
2. "To Hell With the Devil" - Steve Hindalong
3. "Calling On You" - Morella's Forest
4. "The Way" - Klank
5. "Makes Me Wanna Sing" - Cricket
6. "Always There For You" - Havalina Rail Co.
7. "All For One" - Dinner Mint feat. Jesse Sprinkle
8. "Lonely (Two-Timing Mix)" - Argyle Park
9. "More Than a Man" - Grammatrain
10. "You Know What To Do" - Combat Chuck
11. "First Love" - Ghoti Hook
12. "You Won't Be Lonely" - The Echoing Green
13. "Soldiers Under Command" - The Blamed
14. "Makes Me Wanna Sing" - Alexia
15. "(Waiting For) A Love That's Real" - Joe Christmas
16. "Honestly" - Fluffy feat. Ralph Melish
17. "Free" - Marriage Is Madness

Hmmm...not sure what's going on here. Flying Tart wasn't exactly known as a metalhead's record label. Just the opposite, in fact. It was home to Fluffy (later Duraluxe), the final Circle of Dust album, and a few other very obscure, off-the-beaten-path artists who may or may not have been Christian. So... I'm not sure what the concept of this was because I would be hard pressed to call it a "tribute." A "spoof" perhaps? A big joke? I'm not sure. I would love to hear from someone who worked on this because I am puzzled. The bands are not metal bands or even really bands who were influenced by Stryper. The covers range from great (Argyle Park alone holds that honor) to interesting (Steve Hindalong and Morella's Forest) all the way down to awful (pretty much everything else). I'm not opposed to taking a metal song and giving it a new twist but the "twists" aren't very good. Also, the recording quality on most of these tracks is demo and worse. I can definitely see where an avid fan of Stryper might take this collection as an insult. However, I do find it to be an interesting and amusing piece of Christian music history, so I got a copy for the vault.

Useless Fact: If you want to hear "Lonely" without tracking down this disc, get the official Klayton sanctioned reissue of Argyle Park's Misguided. Which, honestly, you really should have done already. Geez, what's wrong with you?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Music Vault Vlog 3: Steam Powered Edition!

Here's the latest Music Vault Vlog in case you missed it!

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Genesis"

Genesis - Genesis
1983, Atlantic

1. Mama
2. That's All
3. Home By The Sea
4. Second Home By The Sea
5. Illegal Alien
6. Taking It All Too Hard
7. Just A Job To Do
8. Silver Rainbow
9. It's Gonna Get Better

Back when I was listening to samples for this album in preparation for the project, I stumbled up on “That’s All.” It’s a very distinctive song and I immediately recognized it…as something I heard a lot in the doctor’s office with my mom as a kid. It was quite the blast from the past. What I find interesting about this song is that it’s almost a textbook perfect example of a pop song. You’ve got the verses which have this interesting Motown-type groove to them. The chorus is bright, shiny and catchy. Then you’ve got the bridge which is a darker, minor key interlude that ties the rest of the song together in a neat little package. It’s actually quite brilliant.

I mention all this because as an album, Genesis seems to have garnered a bad reputation. Indeed, the self-titled album served as the sign that the band was never going back to their artsy, progressive rock past. It was the nail in the coffin. In many fans’ opinion it was the harbinger of death for a once great band. It’s too bad because there is some really good stuff on here.

First we’ve got “Mama,” the opening track. It’s a pounding, minimalist ditty that reminds me a bit of Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” It’s far from radio fodder, for sure, though I think it was a big hit. I’ve already talked about “That’s All.” Granted, it’s definitely built for radio, and I’m sure at the time fans used it as exhibit A in their charges of “sell-out.” However, in retrospect I think it serves as an example of how good songs can be when written by actual musicians instead of a team of producers. “Home By the Sea” and “Second Home By the Sea” are interesting tracks as well. The first one is a cool, dark song about the titular haunted “Home By the Sea.” “Second Home” is actually an extended instrumental track that would have probably just been a part of the first one in the band’s earlier years.

“Illegal Alien” is… kind of racist – especially considering the faux accent Collins uses while singing the song. It’s not a bad song but there is some cognitive dissonance there. I have the original pressing of this disc, not the remaster. Imagine my surprise when I saw a picture of the band in Mexican make-up and dress. Wow. I am pretty sure that is not on the remaster edition. “Taking It All Too Hard” is awful, however. It’s just one of the boring, lazy sappy ballads that the band puts out on occasionally to pay the bills. You’ll remember this would be a huge problem on We Can’t Dance. I really make sure I listen to all of the tracks when I’m reviewing albums, but not this one. One listen and you can pretty much get everything this song has to offer. It’s awful. Thankfully, it’s just the one track. The rest of the album has some pretty good pop tunes, the best of which is “Just a Job To Do.” It’s a song about a hitman with a great hook and cool lyrics.

I was pleasantly surprised by this album. I was expecting to something more akin to We Can’t Dance – that is, a few decent songs surrounded by crap. What I found, however, was a pretty solid pop album much like Abacab and Invisible Touch. It’s not their best, but there are some real gems on here and I’m glad I took the time to give it a fair shake.

Final Score: 3.5

Useless Fact: According to Wikipedia, “That’s All” was written by Collins as kind of a tribute to The Beatles and Ringo Starr.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Jelly Jam - "Profit"

The Jelly Jam - Profit
2016, Mascot

1. Care
2. Stain on the Sun
3. Water
4. Stop
5. Perfect Lines (Flyin')
6. Mr. Man
7. Memphis
8. Ghost Town
9. Heaven
10. Permanent Hold
11. Fallen
12. Strong Belief

The thing that strikes me the most about Profit is the overwhelming sense of sadness. The sense of mourning a world that has gone mad - about which nothing can be done. This release is a concept album about the Prophet, whose mission is to tell the world the Truth about life and the short-sightedness of greed. Naturally, the people don't listen, the corporate vultures don't listen, not even the spiritual leaders listen. It's a sad, melancholy story and every note is engineered to make you feel the powerlessness the Prophet feels in trying to change minds. Whether it's the crushing grooves of a song like "Care" or "Memphis" or the more contemplative "Ghost Town" or "Heaven" you really get a sense of the mood of this album. Granted, you might not get a sense of it on your first few listens. This one was a grower for me, but I got more and more invested with each listen. I've never been a huge Jelly Jam fan, but this disc is making me want to check out the other two albums I missed.

Useless Fact: "Heaven" and "Permanent Hold" are kind of one song split into to two. Don't know why they wanted to do it that way.