Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Wind & Wuthering"

Genesis - Wind And Wuthering
1976, Atlantic

1. Eleventh Ear of Mar
2. One For the Vine
3. Your Own Special Way
4. Wot Gorilla?
5. All in a Mouse's Night
6. Blood on the Rooftops
7. Unquiet Slumber for the Sleepers...
8. ...In That Quiet Earth
9. Afterglow

Wind & Wuthering continues in much the same vein as Trick of the Tail in that it’s not so much about the concepts as it is the music. In fact, Wind & Wuthering could have been named Let the Music Do the Talking as the music really takes center stage on this album. There are three instrumentals and many songs have extended musical interludes. Not that that’s really unusual with Genesis, but here it seems like they were really trying to put the focus on the music. The vibe is laid back like the last album with the boys once again seeming to say, “Hey, we’re just here to play some songs.”

I’ve gone on at length in this series about Phil Collins’ drumming. I won’t take any of that back because it’s all true. However, it was this album that I noticed Mike Rutherford’s stunning bass licks – specifically on the opening track, “Eleventh Earl of Mar.” The bass seems to take front and center here and it’s all over the place…in a good way. It makes me want to go back to all the previous albums and pay more attention to what was going on. Also of note is Steven Hackett’s guitar. This is particularly evident on “Blood on the Rooftops” which starts with an absolutely beautiful and evocative classical guitar passage. Apparently, Hackett was frustrated while recording this album because he felt bits he had written were being rejected in favor of Tony Banks’ material. Truth be told I could have used some more Hackett here because acoustic classical guitar is like Reese Cups – you can never have too much.

“Your Own Special Way” serves as the lone single for this album. It shows that the band wasn’t above courting mainstream fame even way before Duke. However, while I’m not wild about this song, there’s enough to appreciate and it’s not quite so sappy that you want to stick a screwdriver in your ear. They wouldn’t get to that for quite a few albums.

One of the highlights is the three-song cycle that concludes the album. “Unquiet Slumber For Sleepers…”, “…In That Quiet Earth,” and “Afterglow” probably started life as one single song as they all fit together quite nicely. The first two sections are completely instrumental with “Afterglow” being sort of a vocal postlude to the main event. It’s not quite as epic as something like “Supper’s Ready” but then again, it doesn’t need to be. It just carries that quiet certainty the rest of the album has.

All in all Wind & Wuthering is a solid continuation of the work the band began on Trick of the Tail. I didn’t quite fall in love with it like Trick but it remained enjoyable throughout.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

Useless Fact: Wuthering Heights served as inspiration for both the album title and the final three tracks of the album.

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.