Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cooper, Alice - "Paranormal"

Cooper, Alice - Paranormal
2017, Ear Music

1. Paranormal
2. Dead Flies
3. Fireball
4. Paranoic Personality
5. Fallen In Love
6. Dynamite Road
7. Private Public Breakdown
8. Holy Water
9. Rats
10. The Sound of A

1. Genuine American Girl
2. You and All of Your Friends
3. No More Mr. Nice Guy (Live)
4. Under My Wheels (Live)
5. Billion Dollar Babies (Live)
6. Feed My Frankenstien
7. Only Women Bleed
8. School's Out

I've been wondering when Ol' Alice would put out a new albums. It seems like it's been forever since Welcome 2 My Nightmare. Paranormal is a pretty straightforward album - no concept, no varying styles - just pure rock and roll. It kind of reminds me of Alice's more seventies stuff, especially with the Alice Cooper band. Speaking of which, they reformed and wrote two songs for this album, "Genuine American Girl" and "You and All of Your Friends." It's funny because this record is pretty simple and it's not really taking Alice Cooper to any place he's never been before, but I really love it. The songs are just so catchy and the production is clear and clean so you can really hear the guitar tones. This isn't a groundbreaking release or anything but I'll be danged if I haven't spun it a ton and have plans to spin it some more. Alice has said in interviews that he really tried to get out of his comfort zone on this album. It tickles me that he's said that because it doesn't seem like this album takes many chances. Not that it needs to, mind you. It's amazing how it can risk almost nothing and still be so dang good. The live tracks are pretty cool bonus. The name of the drummer escapes me at the moment but he is absolutely killing it! See "Feed My Frankenstein" for an example of what I mean.

And let's talk about the packaging for a moment. It's a two-disc digipack with a nice fat booklet full of lyrics. The artwork is pretty cool. Definitely an A++ for packaging here.

Useless Fact: This album was produced by Bob Ezrin who's produced a metric butt-ton of Alice Cooper records. I know that's not much of a fact. *sad face*

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dynamic Twins - "No Room 2 Breathe"

Dynamic Twins - No Room 2 Breathe
1993, Brainstorm

1. Get Up, Get Down
2. Words We Speak
3. Tears of a Broken Heart
4. Getting Brighter
5. Can't Stand the Rain
6. Something To Say
7. Psyched By Your Ignorance
8. (Giving Them) No Room 2 Breathe
9. Against the Flow
10. Check Yourself
11. Flee From Babylon
12. Evil of Currency
13. The Family Song

It's no secret that I loved the Dynamic Twins' debut. Not sure why I never picked up their sophomore release. It seems like the kind of thing I would have grabbed post haste. Maybe I was too much into alternative rock and such to go back to the old rap I used to like. Maybe I was just afraid that everything had turned into gangsta rap. Well...whatever the reason, it was stupid and dumb and I robbed myself of twenty-some-odd years of enjoying another rap classic...cause, dang...this is good. They've gone just a tad harder, not full on gangsta by any stretch, but just a smidge harder. The beats are there and the rhymes are stellar. It's definitely follows the style of mid-nineties hip-hop (a la Naughty By Nature maybe...a little House of Pain), but it's probably one of the best examples of that style either secular or Christian. Why, oh why did I wait so long to check this out?

Useless Fact: As far as I know there was never an M.V.P. solo album but by this time she'd married Noel. She also does another guest spot on the album.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

E.T.W. - "Stop! The Wild Hype"

E.T.W. - Stop! The Wild Hype
1991, Forefront

1. This Is What Time It Is (Revelation Generation)
2. Stop! The Wild Hype
3. One Bad Apple
4. God Is
5. This Is The Life
6. Destined To Win
7. La Guerra (War)
8. Yo Mouth (Isyomouf)
9. Paper Money
10. The Balm

The other day a great mania seized me. For some unexplained reason I had to listen to all the old Christian rap I had on my Ipod. For that entire day and a couple after I listened to everything I had…but it wasn’t enough. I needed more. I suddenly remembered that there were a few old albums that I never got around to the first time. E.T.W.’s Stop! The Wild Hype is one of them. Now before I get into this album, I have to say I think I was a little hard on their debut. I suppose it’s not objectively “great” but you know what? I still listen to it and I still enjoy it. So there. Anyway, Stop! The Wild Hype is better. It’s still not in the upper echelons of Christian hip-hop, though. At this point they are still being eclipsed by the likes of S.F.C. and Dynamic Twins. However, as I said, this album shows improvement. It certainly has better instrumentation all around. A lot more female vocals are added into the mix as well to spice things up. “Destined to Win” is an odd bird in that it’s almost techno. Kind of cool if you ask me. Though I can’t shake the feeling that these guys just haven’t found their sound yet. I think that probably happened on the next album. Speaking of which, I’ll probably have to get that one too…

One of the things that struck me as I listened to this album was how urgent it sounds. I mean...in the first track there's talk of geopolitics that would be right at home on a Jack Van Impe broadcast. But that's just how we rolled back then. Everything seemed more urgent. Jesus was coming back TOMORROW so you need to get ready! The New World order will rise up any day! Persecution of Christians in America is rampant! THE WORLD IS GOING TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET AND OTHER TYPES OF BASKETS AS WELL!!! While many people still hold this urgency, I just don't have the energy anymore. At my advanced age it does indeed seem like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but I think it's always been that way. Civilizations always stand on the edge of a knife and the sovereignty of God decides when they rise and fall. I'm not sure either of us are right. Wow...that got kind of deep. 

Useless Fact: The liner notes indicate that the album is dedicated to D-Boy. Aww... D-Boy. He's been in heaven awhile now. I will certainly expect some sick beats and rhymes from him when (if?) I get there.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sometime Sunday - "Stone"

Sometime Sunday - Stone
1994, Tooth and Nail

1. Lie
2. Crawl
3. Blur
4. Guilty
5. Blue
6. Self
7. Reach
8. Take
9. Rope
10. Sleep
11. Home

You know, we never really got any grunge in the Christian market. Sure we had alternative rock - lots of it. We had punk, post-punk, ska, swing, emo, hardcore... almost all of the music that grew up out of the ashes of the metal scene. But we never really got an honest to goodness grunge band - like a Nirvana or a Pearl Jam. The closest we came was Sometime Sunday which sounded most like Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden. Vocalist Mikee certainly sounds the part. They've also made sure all their song titles are one word. Very important for a grunge band! The sound and production is gritty and raw. The liner notes state that there were no overdubs or anything used in the recording, so what you hear on the disc is probably what you'd hear live. I never saw them live so I can't say. The lyrics are appropriately dark and tortured, but with just enough optimism to make them viable in the Christian market. While I rib them a bit for being "Christian grunge," I think they do a pretty good job. In fact, I think that if they were on a major label with a bit more publicity they'd could have been pretty popular. I never liked their second album, Drain, but I do recommend Stone as a cool album in its own right.

Useless Fact: The band's official name for their style was "lurch rock." I admit it kind of fits their sound.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Armageddon USA - "Up In Flames"

Armageddon USA - Up In Flames
Independent, 2015

1. All Over the World
2. Spinner
3. Hypnotized
4. Wanted Man
5. In Your Face
6. Satisfaction
7. Allie
8. Crazy
9. Time Divider
10. Revolution (Peace of Mind)
11. Up in Flames

Here's a question... why Armageddon USA? Why not just Armageddon? Was there a copyright issue or something? Also, this cover art is... really crappy. It looks cheap and generic - especially when you compare this to the art of The Money Mask which was iconic, unique, and just looked darn cool. Up In Flames came out in 2015, some twenty-plus years after the debut. Not sure why I lollygagged around for two years and didn't pick it up, though. Anyway, it's...okay. It starts off a bit wobbly with a trio of songs that I wasn't wild about. "All Over the World" has a decent riff and groove but the lyrics kind of annoy me. They literally just list terrible stuff happening "all over the world" aaaaand...that's it. Without anything else being said it's kind of like...what's the point? Yes... things are happening. And? "Spinner" fares better but the disc comes screeching to a halt with "Hypnotized." It's a Black Sabbath influenced doom-metal type tune that really slows down the album's momentum and is kind of boring on top of that. Thankfully, the album as a whole picks up with "Wanted Man" which is just dang cool. Cool riff, cool hook, cool song. The album keeps up this level of quality throughout as well so if you can get past those first three tracks you're good. "Revolution (Peace of Mind)" is like a love letter to Psalm 9 era Trouble (I feel like they're using the exact same guitar tone). That's not a bad thing, mind you, it's just something I noticed. The band's lyrics are more political than religious this time around. If you were a fan of Armageddon from way back, go ahead and check this out. If not - you can probably pass this by. Except for "Wanted Man." You definitely need that one.

Useless Fact: Vocalist Mike Vance is pretty active on Twitter, usually talking about politics. He is not a conservative, nor is he a fan of Trump. I do not have a problem with either of those things.