Monday, April 21, 2014

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - "Into the Great Wide Open"



Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Into the Great Wide Open
1991, MCA

1. Learning To Fly
2. King's Highway
3. Into the Great Wide Open
4. Two Gunslingers
5. Dark of the Sun
6. All or Nothin'
7. All the Wrong Reasons
8. Too Good To Be True
9. Out in the Cold
10. You and I Will Meet Again
11. Makin' Some Noise
12. Built to Last

For some reason Into the Great Wide Open was kind of underwhelming. I've never really loved "Learning to Fly" as I think it's kind of a pedestrian fluff song. The rest of the album kind of follows suit neither being bad but not really demanding my attention either. There are some songs I really like besides the title track which I've always loved. "Two Gunslingers" is a cool song with a cool story and lyrics. I also really like the rocking "Makin' Some Noise" and the sort of 50's-inspired "Built to Last." The rest of the songs just sort of play without really capturing me.

Useless Fact: I think I mentioned that Johnny Depp starred in the video for the title track, didn't I? Well, I'm mentioning it again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Audio Adrenaline - "Don't Censor Me"



Audio Adrenaline - Don't Censor Me
1993, Forefront

1. Can't Take God Away
2. AKA Public School
3. Soulmate
4. Big House
5. My World View
6. Jesus and the California Kid
7. Don't Censor Me
8. Let Love
9. We're a Band
10. Rest Easy
11. Scum Sweetheart

I became familiar with Audio Adrenaline through their debut album. It was awful. It's mostly remembered (if it's remembered at all) for two "black sheep" songs, "DC-10" and "My God." Both of these sounded like License To Ill era Beastie Boys or maybe Anthrax's I'm the Man. Anyway, I actually liked these songs. The rest of the album was lame, generic Christian pop. I'm not really even sure how those two songs made it on the record. I mean... they are really different. Their second album, Don't Censor Me was still Christian pop but the song writing was a lot better and they were starting to find their own sound. While they wouldn't quite achieve their own identity until Bloom, this is a decent album - leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. I loved this as a teenager but I don't think it's aged well. I still love "Let Love" and "Scum Sweetheart." I will also defend "Big House." Yes, it's cheesy and corny but it was supposed to be that way. It's just a fun song and there's nothing wrong with that. I'll accept it in the spirit it was intended. The rest of it is alright except the fantastically boring ballads, "My World View" and "Rest Easy." I wonder what world we would live in if the band had chosen to emulate "DC-10" and "My God" instead?

Useless Fact: Audio Adrenaline were "discovered" by DC Talk if I remember correctly.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Petty, Tom - "Wildflowers"



Petty, Tom - Wildflowers
1994, Warner Bros.

1. Wildflowers
2. You Don't Know How It Feels
3. Time To Move On
4. Wildflowers
5. It's Good To Be King
6. Only a Broken Heart
7. Honey Bee
8. Don't Fade On Me
9. Hard On Me
10. Cabin Down Below
11. To Find a Friend
12. A Higher Place
13. House in the Woods
14. Crawling Back to You
15. Wake Up Time

Next stop on the Tom Petty train is Wildflowers. It's got my other two favorite tracks: "You Don't Know How It Feels" and "You Wreck Me." The latter in particular is a hard rocker with a great groove that instantly improves my mood when I hear it. Wildflowers is, with a few exceptions, quieter and more intimate than Full Moon Fever. It's more ponderous as well. I've heard Petty was going through a divorce when he wrote this album. The music leans a bit more toward folk and Americana. "Don't Fade On Me" is one of the most incredible songs I've ever heard from the man. The chorus riff alone gives me a music-gasm. I think I might slightly prefer Full Moon Fever over this one, but just slightly.

Useless Fact: Rick Rubin produced this album.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Icon For Hire - "Icon For Hire"



Icon For Hire - Icon For Hire
2013, Tooth and Nail

1. Cynics & Critics
2. Nerves
3. Sugar & Spice
4. Hope of Morning
5. Sorry About Your Parents
6. Pop Culture
7. Watch Me
8. Slow Down
9. Rock and Roll Thugs
10. Think I'm Sick
11. Fix Me
12. Counting On Hearts

Here's a conversation that transpired about Icon For Hire:

          Me: "Hey, I found this new band you might like. They're called Icon For Hire, they're pretty cool."
          Wife: "Yeah, I know. They've been on my YouTube feed for months."
          Me: "Oh. Well... I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day."
          Wife: "You're a turd."

So what does Icon sound like? Well, take some Paramore and make them heavier. Then throw in some electronica, maybe a little dubstep. Then add, because why not, some white girl rap. Mix it all together and you've got Icon For Hire. Their music is accessible, but heavy, catchy but not obnoxious. Vocalist Ariel may not have quite the range of your Hayley Williamses, but she makes up for it in pure attitude and heart. You can really tell that the band has put their all into this record. Something I think is rare these days. Even the "white girl rap" parts (like in "Sugar & Spice" and "Think I'm Sick") totally work. I would also like to point out that there is no filler here either. All the songs are really good and the album is best listened to as a whole. Icon For Hire has risen to the status of "family's favorite band" as of this writing. And if you don't think a four year old singing the lyrics to "Sugar & Spice" is not the cutest thing ever, then you have no soul. I guess kids these days really can make good music!

Useless Fact: One of the band members has a huge mohawk. When I see it I laugh and laugh and think back to the days when I thought Joey Daub's (of Believer) half-shaved-mohawk-thing was just the coolest thing ever.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cocteau Twins - "Heaven Or Las Vegas"



Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas
1990, 4ad

1. Cherry-Coloured Funk
2. Pitch the Baby
3. Iceblink Luck
4. Fifty Fifty Clown
5. Heaven Or Las Vegas
6. I Wear Your Ring
7. Fotzepolitic
8. Wolf in the Breast
9. Road, River, and Rail
10. Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires

Cocteau Twins is a band that's sort of been floating out there in the ether for a long time. I've heard the name from people whose music I love or whose opinions I respect. I never really checked them out before but not for any particular reason. However, I found Heaven Or Las Vegas at Goodwill for a dollar and decided it was time to check them out. What cinched the deal was the year it was produced: 1990. 1990 was, in my opinion, a fantastic year for music. Upon listening I could immediately tell which band the Cocteau Twins had a profound influence on - The Choir. The Twins make swirly, dreamy, atmospheric alternative music. It's evocative and unique. The female vocalist is light and airy as well, sometimes singing in English and other times singing in... French? Italian? Nonsense? I can't really tell but I can discern only about thirty percent of the lyrics here. From what I've read this was their most successful release.

Useless Fact: There are no actual twins in the Cocteau Twins. I checked.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sacred Warrior - "Waiting in Darkness"



Sacred Warrior - Waiting in Darkness
2013, Independent

1. Desperately Wicked
2. Waiting in Darkness
3. Sinking Sand
4. In Dust and Ashes
5. Fallen Hero
6. Fear Me
7. Long Live the King
8. Jealous Love
9. Living Sacrifice
10. Day of the Lord
11. Temples On Fire

Add Sacred Warrior to the list of old Christian bands who released albums in 2013! Waiting in Darkness is a little different in that longtime vocalist Rey Perra has been replaced by Eli Prinsen. While I think Rey was an integral part of the band's sound, Eli does a great job as his replacement. He's got a powerhouse voice that fits with the Sacred Warrior sound. He can do the highs and the lows all with style. I will say that on the album's ballad, "Jealous Love" he does sound a bit... um... "Josh Groban-y." Just a bit. I'm sad to say that I haven't really been able to get into this album as much. Part of this is the production which is kind of muddy and noisy. Also, it seems like the songs just aren't as strong. Some of them almost seem like an old man who's told a story but after the gist of the story just won't shut up. This is especially true of the first two songs. "Waiting in Darkness" has a great tight sound and a good hook, but then it goes into this bridge part and never really resolves. My favorite song is probably "Fear Me." I'd also like to talk about the lyrics for a second. They seem kind of angry, condemnatory, and judgmental. I know that was standard fair back in the day but I just have a problem with calling people fools because they don't have the same faith as me. A lot of other fans really dig this album, but for me it was merely okay.

Useless Fact: The album contains re-records of "Day of the Lord" from Rebellion and "Temples On Fire" from Obsessions. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Petty, Tom - "Full Moon Fever"



Petty, Tom - Full Moon Fever
1989, MCA

1. Free Falling
2. I Won't Back Down
3. Love Is a Long Road
4. A Face in the Crowd
5. Runnin' Down a Dream
6. Feel a Whole Lot Better
7. Yer So Bad
8. Depending On You
9. The Apartment Song
10. Alright For Now
11. A Mind With a Heart of Its Own
12. Zombie Zoo

While I never had the entire Full Moon Fever album, the singles really, really take me back. They remind me of a particular time in my life when my entire day consisted of church, watching MTV, listening to music, playing Nintendo, and reading Nintendo Power. I had absolutely no responsibilities other than "stay out of trouble" and "don't burn the house down." Fine, fun times. "Free Falling" and "Runnin' Down a Dream" were played endlessly on MTV. They're also played on the radio stations a lot down here in Georgia and each time it activates my nostalgia chip. For whatever reason I never saw fit to buy the entire album as a lad. After my dalliance with Greatest Hits I naturally defaulted to Full Moon Fever on my quest to find more Tom Petty. People, if the singles are all you hear from this album you are missing out. The entire CD is full of finely crafted pop rock with stellar musicianship and catchy hooks. As tend to be the case when I research an artist, my favorite tracks aren't even the singles. "Yer So Bad" and "The Apartment Song" are two of shining examples. As is "Alright For Now" which is a beautiful acoustic ballad - I didn't even know Tom Petty did that kind of thing.

Useless Fact: George Harrison and Roy Orbison both lent their considerable talents to the making of this album. Some fans even refer to this as Traveling Wilburies Vol 2. (Traveling Wilburies being the supergroup comprised of Petty, Harrison, Orbison, Bob Dylan and someone else whose name escapes me.)