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.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Selling England By The Pound"

Genesis - Selling England By The Pound
1973, Atlantic

1. Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
2. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
3. Firth of Fifth
4. More Fool Me
5. The Battle of Epping Forest
6. After The Ordeal
7. The Cinema Show
8. Aisle of Plenty

I was a little nervous listening to this album for the first time. My experience with Foxtrot, while pleasant, didn’t really move me. It’s a classic to be sure but I always felt like I was an outside observer rather than an active participant. Selling England is the penultimate Gabriel-era disc so I was bracing myself for the inevitable emotional disconnect I would have with the music as I marveled at the talent. Imagine my surprise when I was immediate hooked by the first song, “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight.” 

“Can you tell me where my country lies…”

Somehow I was hooked. The opening guitar riff was mournful and melancholy, as were Gabriel’s vocals. The song seems to deal with commercialization and extreme capitalism (I think), but it almost didn’t matter. I could feel the meaning. I was there. It didn’t stop with the first track either. I was mesmerized throughout the album. I think some of this has to do with the more down-to-earth nature of the lyrics. “I Know What I Like” is about a gardener who can always hear what people say about him (there’s probably more to it, I admit) while the epic “The Battle of Epping Forrest” is about a turf war between rival gangs. The lyrics, while intelligent and conceptual, were a lot easier to identify with, with very little in the way of sci-fi weirdness or crazy left turns. Some might not like that as much, but I appreciated it.

I suspect another reason why I liked this one a lot more was because Selling England seems to be more music focused than concept focused. Some of the “aggressive intellectualism” of Foxtrot recedes to let the music take center stage. Fortunately, the melodies themselves are more compelling, more emotional. Take “The Cinema Show” and “Firth of Fifth” for example. Both are epic-length songs and are both fairly light on lyrics, letting the music itself carry the weight. The music was constantly interesting - I never felt like an outside observer. I felt like the album was always beckoning me, inviting me in to fellowship with the souls of these five musicians. 

Beginning with the first track, the album has kind of a back and forth. One track will be epic and progressive, the next one shorter and more accessible. This approach kind of gives the listener a breather between epics, settling into a pattern – the shorter songs serving as commercial breaks of a sort. One of which, “More Fool Me,” is sung by Phil Collins. It’s a simple, sort of down track about love gone sour. It sort of foreshadows some of the work the band would do under Collins’ leadership. While the closing number, “Aisle of Plenty,” serves as a bit of a reprise of “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” bringing the album full circle.

As a result I can honestly say that Selling England By The Pound is my favorite of the four albums I’ve listened to so far.  It’s kind of a surprise because I’ve tended to prefer the Phil Collins-era material. I’m a little sad to have to leave it behind and move on to other albums. Especially since my next one is We Can’t Dance and it’s one of the band’s worst reviewed platters. I can say for certain that I will definitely be listening to Selling England…  long after this project is through.

Final Score 5 out of 5

Useless Fact: The lyrics for "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" are based off the cover painting.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Recon - "Behind Enemy Lines"

Recon - Behind Enemy Lines
1990/2016, Roxx Productions

1. In The Beginning
2. Lost Soldier
3. Ancient of Days
4. Choose This Day
5. Dreams
6. Take Us Away
7. Holy Is The Lord
8. Alive!
9. Eternal Destiny
10. Behind Enemy Lines
Bonus Tracks:
11. Light The Fire (California Metal II)
12. Dreams (California Metal II)
13. Eternal Destiny (Demo)
14. Alive (Demo)

Long ago... when the world was new there were such things as Christian book stores. These were wondrous places with all sorts of Christian merchandise, like Christian music. I frequented these stores in my youth. You know this if you read this blog regularly. While at one of these stores, I passed over Recon's debut album in favor of Bride's Silence Is Madness. I cannot tell you what prompted the decision other than Bride had the cooler cover. I did eventually hear Recon on the Hot Metal Summer III compilation. I liked the song, "Take Us Away," but for some reason never bought the album. I'm glad Roxx Productions decided to reissue this album as it gives me a chance to hear it. It's very Warning-era Queensryche - especially with Vett Roberts' soaring vocals and George Ochoa's guitar licks. I think if I would have bought this on that fateful day it would have been a favorite for sure. There is a ton of skill on display here. The album has been remastered but, honestly, it still sounds a little rough - though what can you do with twenty-five year old tapes? Glad I got a chance to pick this up all remastered and spit-shined. It definitely deserves its classic status.

Useless Fact: As I understand it, George Ochoa had the actual master tapes for this album and baked them just so they could be used for this remaster.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Teramaze - "Her Halo"

Teramaze - Her Halo
2015, Mascot

1. An Ordinary Dream (Enla Momento)
2. To Love, A Tyrant
3. Her Halo
4. Out of Subconscious
5. For The Innocent
6. Trapeze
7. Broken
8. Delusions of Grandeur

Teramaze has been a band that has sort of floated on the outside of my perception for years and years. I even owned a Teramaze album way back in the day (Tears To Dust, I think it was), but wasn't overly impressed with that album to go chase down more. They've had a few new albums lately and I've even had Esoteric Symbolism on my Amazon wish list for a while. I've seen a lot of "Best of 2015" lists and Her Halo is on a lot of them. Naturally, I decided to check the album out with the first one being the title track of this album.

Oh. My. Word.

It was, quite possibly, one of the best and most moving songs I've heard. The hook is big as life, the guitar work is amazing. I just had to have it. Best of all? The entire album is that good. The soaring, melodic vocals from a young man named Nathan Peachey are exquisite. I don't know where this dude came from, but he's got it. In spades. Then there's the intricate guitar riffs and leads. The strong hooks. I can't say enough good things about this album. My only regret is not getting it sooner so it could be on my own "Best of 2015" list. Though it might be on this year's list... you know how I do things. Cool cover art too!

Useless Fact: This is a concept album about a trapeze artist in the circus and how she is victimized by a destructive relationship with the ring leader. At least I think that's what it's about.