Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Flotsam and Jetsam - "Flotsam and Jetsam"

Flotsam and Jetsam - Flotsam and Jetsam
2016, AFM

1. Seventh Seal
2. Life Is a Mess
3. Taser
4. Iron Maiden
5. Verge of Tragedy
6. Creeper
7. L.O.T.D.
8. The Incantation
9. Monkey Wrench
10. Time To Go
11. Smoking Gun
12. Forbidden Territories

Flotsam and Jetsam have a history that extends way back into the early Eighties. Unfortunately, while I'd heard their name on occasion (mostly in connection with Jason Newstead), I'd never actually heard any of their music. So why did I pick up this CD? Mainly it was because Scott Waters of No Life Til Metal said it was really good. You know what? He is correct. This is really good. I'm not sure if F & J are a full on thrash band or just heavy metal but they skew the line between the two, I think. They've even got some NWOBHM influence with "Iron Maiden" which I think is a cover but I'm not sure. It definitely sounds like it could be an Iron Maiden cover and I know they had a song called "Iron Maiden." However, I am just too lazy to look it up. I really love vocalist Erik A.K. - he's got his own style that is somewhat reminiscent of Bruce Dickenson but with a little more thrash grit. That's not to say he sounds exactly like him, but you'll know what I mean when you fire up "Iron Maiden." Also, the band has some really good groove in their riffs, especially in tracks like "Life is a Mess" and "Time to Go." I may just go ahead and start looking into their back catalog because Flotsam and Jetsam is really good.

Useless Fact: Not really a fact about the band, but back in upstate NY where I grew up, the local FYE had a copy of F & J's My God album. I never bought it but always wondered if it was good. What if I would have bought it then? I could have been an F & J fan this whole time!

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Tribe Called Quest - "We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service"

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service
2016, Epic

1. The Space Program
2. We The People...
3. Whateva Will Be
4. Solid Wall of Sound
5. Dis Generation
6. Kids
7. Melatonin
8. Enough!!
9. Mobius
10. Black Spasmodic
11. The Killing Season
12. Lost Somebody
13. Movin' Backwards
14. Conrad Tokyo
15. Ego
16. The Donald

I picked this one up on a lark when I bought Lady Gaga's Joanne at Wal-Mart. A Tribe Called Quest was a group back in the day that was only on my radar because they were perceived as being one of the more artsy and intellectual hip-hop groups from the time. So I saw it and realized I didn't really know who was good in modern hip-hop anymore and picked it up. I kind of wanted to challenge myself with something out of my wheelhouse. Okay... so an older group from the 90's isn't exactly "challenging myself" but whatever.

Anyway, I like this! It's reminiscent enough of the stuff I used to like - with smooth beats, cool samples, a sense of melody, with a more modern sound and production. Also, much to my surprise and delight, Busta Rhymes is here! Not sure if he's a member of the group or just a guest. Also, the lyrics are challenging and thought provoking which is pretty much what I was hoping for. I would definitely be apt to add a few more Quest albums to the vault. Anyone have any ideas which ones are their best?

Useless Fact: I know next to nothing about this group other than the main rapper, Q-Tip, performed with the Beastie Boys and was on Deee Lite's "Groove is in the Heart."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Rush - "2112"

Rush - 2112
1976, Mercury

1. 2112
     i. Overture
     ii. The Temples of Syrinx
     iii. Discovery
     iv. Presentation
     v. Oracle
     vii. Soliloquy
     viii. Grand Finale
2. A Passage to Bangkok
3. The Twilight Zone
4. Lessons
5. Tears
6. Something For Nothing

I don't know why I've given Rush so many chances to hook me. They've always been a band that I feel like I should like, but I've never gotten into them. I watched the Rush in Rio DVD way back in the day in college. They put on a great show but I wasn't hooked. Last summer I bought the Working Men live album collection to see if that would do the trick. I liked it okay, but still not engaged. So...finally, I picked up the band's seminal album, 2112. I thought that maybe if I listened to one album in its entirety that might help. Also, 2112 is a prog-rock classic so I kind of wanted to listen to it anyway.

2112 is wonderful. I really enjoy it. I'm not sure why this is what did it, but I'm glad it did. Everything clicked. I got it. The title track earns its prog-rock reputation and then some. I understand why this album is so highly praised. It's excellent. I've always known Geddy Lee for his distinctive vocal style but he really is a monster on the bass. Neal Peart and Alex Lifeson are no slouches either - both masters at their crafts. I don't know if I'm a total Rush fan yet, but I'll definitely be checking out more of their studio albums in the future.

Useless Fact: I was listening to this at work and instantly got a Mystery Science Theater 3000 joke from twenty-five/thirty years ago. The joke: (from Tom Servo) "Neal Peart on drums." Guess which episode it's from!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Starflyer 59 - "Gold (Extended Edition)"

Starflyer 59 - Gold (Extended Edition)
1995/2005, Tooth & Nail

1. A Housewife Love Song
2. Dual Overhead Cam
3. When You Feel Miserable
4. You're Mean
5. Stop Wasting Your Whole Life/Messed Up and Down
6. Messed Up Over You
7. When You Feel the Mess
8. Somewhere When Your Heart Glowed the Hope
9. Indiana
10. Do You Ever Feel That Way?
11. One Shot Juanita
Bonus Tracks
12. Next Time Around
13. Goodbyes Are Sad
14. When No One Calls
15. The Starflyer 2000 Reprise
16. Le Vainqueur

When Gold originally came out people did not like it. I didn't really like it. It was really, really different. Not a different style or anything but certainly a different tone. Whereas the first album was more upbeat and the songs peppier, this album is dour, morose, and slow. While the "wall of sound" distortion and shoegazery-ness (I know that's not a word) is still there, the entire thing is so downbeat and depressed. Back in the day I really only liked three tracks: "A Housewife Love Song," "You're Mean," and "Do You Ever Feel That Way?" - these songs sound the closest to Silver. This album has aged well though and people (including myself) have come to enjoy it a lot more over the years. There's a lot to dig into if you're willing. Though, honestly, I really do have to be in the mood to listen to this one. My edition is the reissue from 2005 with the extra tracks from a couple of EPs from the era, the names of which escape me.

Useless Fact: Rumor has it that this album is about Jason Martin's break-up with Leigh Nash (then Bingham) from Sixpence None the Richer. I think it's a little hilarious that a sweetheart like Leah would get this whole morose album written about her. Maybe someone can confirm or deny the rumor...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lady Gaga - "Joanne"

Lady Gaga - Joanne
2016, Interscope

1. Diamond Heart
2. A-Yo
3. Joanne
4. John Wayne
5. Dancin' in Circles
6. Perfect Illusion
7. Million Reasons
8. Sinner's Prayer
9. Come to Mama
10. Hey Girl
11. Angel Down
Bonus Tracks
12. Grigio Girls
13. Just Another Day
14. Angel Down (Work Tape)

So I thought I was kind of done with Lady Gaga after ARTPOP. It wasn't a bad record. I liked it okay and it had some good songs on it. However, overall I didn't like it as much as The Fame or The Fame Monster and I really didn't like but one song on Born This Way. Add to that I though "Perfect Illusion" and "Million Reasons" were...okay. Again, nothing spectacular. Those particular songs grew on me and I eventually ended up getting the album. Which, I must say, is probably her best album yet. Not kidding. There's a maturity and melancholy here on this disc that just wasn't on the previous ones. She also strips things down a bit like on the title track, which is just her voice and acoustic guitar. It's one of the most beautiful songs she's written. Even the radio friendly "pop" songs are great - recalling some of the fun dance tracks from her debut but adding the maturity.  I came away really impressed and happy that it came together like it did. If I had bought it last year it would have been one of my picks for sure.

Useless Fact: Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine lends guest vocals on "Hey Girl."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Throes - "12 Before 9"

The Throes - 12 Before 9
1995, Rode Dog

1. So Controversial
2. Circles of the Wheel
3. It Bothers Me
4. Mess With Me
5. Words
6. 12 Before 9
7. Confidence Man
8. Reckless Feeling
9. We'll Breathe
10. Stunned
11. So Controversial (reprise)
12. - blank track-
13. C Is For Cookie
14. Words (reprise)
15. Bye-bye

I have some pretty vivid memories of this album. I remember it was spring...around Memorial Day, I think. I remember that I was really having problems sleeping during this period in my life. I'd stayed up most of the night playing Super Metroid. Anyway, I remember my impression of this album being... not very great. I remember thinking it didn't really "sound" like The Throes. I don't know why I felt this way. I also remember that I thought "Words" and "C Is For Cookie" were the best songs on here. So what do I think of this today? Well, I do enjoy it a little more than I did then, but it's never going to be as good as the first two albums. I still hold to the opinion that "Words" is the best track. I think the band agrees with me because it's on here twice. "Reckless Feeling" is about sex. I think the band was trying to court a little controversy because of it and the other song, "So Controversial." Though I don't think there was really very much actual controversy. Definitely not my favorite Throes disc by a long shot. Not as terrible as I thought when I was a teen, but not super great either.

Useless Fact: The band shrinks back down to a three-piece band after being a five-piece band for Fall On Your World. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Xandria - "Theater of Dimensions"

Xandria - Theater of Dimensions
2017, Napalm

1. Where the Heart is Home
2. Death to the Holy
3. Forsaken Love
4. Call of Destiny
5. We Are Murderers (We Are)
6. Dark Night of the Soul
7. When the Walls Came Down (Heartache Was Born)
8. Ship of Doom
9. Ceili
10. Song For Sorrow and Woe
11. Burn Me
12. Queen of Hearts Reborn
13. Theater of Dimensions

1. Call of Destiny (Acoustic)
2. Dark Night of the Soul (Acoustic)
3. In Remembrance (Acoustic)
4. Sweet Atonement (Acoustic)
5. Valentine (Acoustic)

Theater of Dimensions wasn't really on my radar when it came out. Mostly because, while I liked Sacrificium okay it didn't really hit the heights of Neverworld's End. In the end, I listened to samples and decided I would check it out. I'm so glad I did! I can honestly say that this album is a contender for favorite album I've heard so far. Yes, equaling or possibly surpassing the mighty Neverworld's End. I think the songs here are far more engaging and exciting than on the previous album. Each has its own character and a great hook to hang your brain on. Dianne's vocals are amazing - switching from operatic Valkyrie to soft and sensitive to rock goddess on a dime. I think this is also the heaviest album I've heard as "We Are Murderers (We Are)" has a couple sections that are almost death metal. They've still retained some of the Celtic influence on tracks like "Death to the Holy," "Ship of Doom," and "Ceili."

I originally thought this was a concept album but as it turns out it's just the title track. It's an epic 13-minute long epic about a young woman, time travel, and an evil overlord. It's pretty good as well. My version is the deluxe edition with a second disc full of acoustic versions of an assortment of tracks. These renditions are beautiful and really show off how great a singer Dianne van Giersbergen is. I wouldn't say they were essential, but they're a great epilogue to a great disc. One of the first great new releases of 2017!

Useless Fact: This album has some guest vocalists: Bjorn Strid of Soilwork, Ross Thompson of Van Canto, Zaher Zorgati of Myrath and Henning Basse of Firewind. Yeah... I've never heard of those bands either. Though I may have to check them out now.