Monday, October 29, 2012

Cooper, Alice - "Welcome To My Nightmare"

Cooper, Alice - Welcome To My Nightmare
1975, Atlantic

1. Welcome To My Nightmare
2. Devil's Food
3. The Black Widow
4. Some Folks
5. Only Women Bleed
6. Department of Youth
7. Cold Ethyl
8. Years Ago
9. Steven
10. The Awakening
11. Escape

This is the one. This is the album that finally converted me fully into an Alice Cooper fan. I've reviewed several albums of his this year and they've been good. However, it was Welcome To My Nightmare that finally pushed me over the edge (in a good way). I remember seeing the video to the title track on MTV. It was Halloween I think and they had Freddy as a vj. It was a very unsettling video and that vibe permeates the entire album. The story involves a boy (or man?) named Steven who is trapped in a dream world (maybe?) where he suffers torture and does horrible things. It's very effective, especially with the late Vincent Price lending a crazy monologue in "Devil's Food." The album is a lot more diverse than the Alice Cooper band platters. It's like a creepy Broadway musical mixed with good old Detroit guitar rock.

Now, after having heard this one I can see why some would be disappointed with Welcome 2 My Nightmare. The tone is distinctly lighter on the new album. Where the original is a terrifying journey into madness, 2 is a sort of fun, creepy collection of (very good) pop songs.

Useless Fact: "Only Women Bleed" did real good I hear.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Van Giersbergen, Anneke - "Everything is Changing"

Van Giersbergen, Anneke - Everything is Changing
2011, Aqua Recordings

1. Feel Alive
2. You Want to be Free
3. Everything is Changing
4. Take Me Home
5. I Wake Up
6. Circles
7. My Boy
8. Stay
9. Hope, Pray, Dance, Play
10. Slow Me Down
11. Too Late
12. 1000 Miles Away From You

I became aware of Anneke Van Giersbergen by being a rabid fan of both Ayreon and Devin Townsend. She's done guest vocals for both groups and I've always loved the parts she's sung. I was dimly aware of her other bands but when I heard about her solo "pop" album I thought it was time to check her out. Everything is Changing is what author John Scalzi might call a "B+" album. It's not super amazing or groundbreaking, but it's a good, fun album. At the end of everything you're glad to have listened to it. I'm still on the fence as to whether her voice is truly made for center stage or if she's better as an accent in other people's stuff. There are times (especially in the ballad "Circles") when she sounds a bit shrill. Luckily there are plenty of great tunes to balance it out. The lyrics have a sort of English-as-a-second-language feel, but English is Anneke's second language (or third or forth, you never know with Europeans). I think it just adds to the charm. She's known for singing a bit heavier, darker stuff but everything here is pretty sugary pop-rock. Not that that's a bad thing. A time and place for everything and all that. Definitely glad I picked this one up.

Useless Fact: Two videos were made for this album. One for "Feel Alive" and one for "Take Me Home." "Take Me Home" is the better one as things actually happen in that video.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dangerous Toys - "Dangerous Toys"

Dangerous Toys - Dangerous Toys
1989, Columbia

1. Teas'n, Pleas'n
2. Scared
3. Bones in the Gutter
4. Take Me Drunk
5. Feels Like a Hammer
6. Sport'n a Woody
7. Queen of the Nile
8. Outlaw
9. Here Comes Trouble
10. Ten Boots (Stompin')
11. That Dog

So not too long ago I had the hankerin' for some good old tyme 80's sleazy hair metal. You know the kind where, by just looking at the cover, your hair becomes stringy and greasy and you detect the faint odor of whiskey and feet. Yes, that kind of music is what I was craving. So I searched around in my memory banks and pulled up a memory of Dangerous Toys. They were exactly the band I was looking for. You can't get any sleazier than "Take Me Drunk" or "Sport'n a Woody." I think it really takes a certain kind of bravery to release songs like that. I may be unclear about the meaning of the word "bravery." Anyway, while the lyrical themes range from deplorable to vulgar the boys know how to write a song. Each tune has a great hook, cool riffs, and attitude. I think this may be some sort of concept album about the human condition. I know that's stretching it a bit, but there's some liner notes which lead me to think this might be more than it seems. I don't know if I'd even listen to something like this now but it does bring back memories. Speaking of which....

My cousin was the first to get this on tape. We were on vacation in Rochester, NY and we both got tapes. I go some rap tape (Kwame, I think it was). So we were looking at our tapes, basking in the ambiance as it were, when my mom's friend snatches away the Dangerous Toys liner notes and proceeds to read the lyrics to "Take Me Drunk" in front of everyone. My cousin and I were horrified - mostly because we thought our parents would take the tape away. Here's the odd thing - they didn't, nor did they really say anything. So we both got to enjoy Dangerous Toys for the duration of the trip.

Useless Fact: The band made a video for "Teas'n, Pleas'n" that was pretty popular on MTV. They released two more albums before going all modern with their last album.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dream Theater - "Train of Thought"

Dream Theater - Train of Thought
2003, Elektra

1. As I Am
2. This Dying Soul
3. Endless Sacrifice
4. Honor Thy Father
5. Vacant
6. Stream of Consciousness
7. In the Name of God

I was in college when Train of Thought came out and I didn't really pay it any attention. Since my recent rediscovery of the band I thought I'd pick this up as people say it's their heaviest. Indeed, this is some of the most aggressive music both sonically and lyrically the band has put to tape. Given my love of heavy stuff it's safe to say that I really like this album.  Their love for Metallica is evident throughout but especially on "Endless Sacrifice" where they rip off the "Blackened" verses. It's also the most "nu-metally" as some parts almost sound like System of a Down's Toxicity. There's even some rapping in "Honor Thy Father." You'd think this would come off as silly and stupid at best and pandering to the "kids" at worst. This seems to be a divisive album according to the reviews online. Then again, it's pretty much my M.O. to like albums people tend to hate. Anyway, the band manages to create memorable songs - no easy feat considering most of the tracks are about ten minutes long ("As I Am" and "Vacant" being the only two exceptions). Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention Jon Petrucci's solos in this. They are absolutely insane. Fast and intense - I didn't even think people could pick that fast. So there's a bit of wankery here and there but all in all a solid package that I quite enjoy!

Useless Fact: "Honor Thy Father" is about Mike Portnoy's step-father. It contains the most profanity I've ever heard in a Dream Theater song.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

King's X - "Ogre Tones"

King's X - Ogre Tones
2005, Inside Out

1. Alone
2. Stay
3. Hurricane
4. Fly
5. If
6. Bebop
7. Honesty
8. Open My Eyes
9. Freedom
10. Get Away
11. Sooner or Later
12. Mudd
13. Goldilox (Reprise)
14. Bam

When Ogre Tones first came out I was dating my wife. I remember listening to it and freaking out one evening because she didn't call me back or something. I was really worried that night - for no reason apparently! Anyway, I loved Ogre Tones back then. I remember Dug saying this album was supposed to sound like a combination of Dogman and Gretchen. Of course, Dug was in the habit of saying that about any King's X album that was coming out at the time. I would say it's a bit more like Out of the Silent Planet as it showcases the band's distinctive style but remains fairly simple and radio-friendly throughout. They've even included a reprise of "Goldilox." "Honesty" is a Ty Tabor penned acoustic ballad that is simply beautiful and the album as a whole is full of groove and great harmonies. The only song I don't care for is "Open My Eyes." Aside from a cool riff I think it's kind of boring. I got rid of this awhile back because it made me depressed for some reason. However, now I listen to it and think "What made me depressed?! This album is awesome!" I would go so far as to say this is one of the finest of the later-era King's X releases.

Useless Fact: The band made a video for "Alone" that is... interesting. It's just the guys playing the song with some video hos dancing with them. Also, I recall that the original title was Overtones but I think the label thought that was too plain.