When Thirty Seconds To Mars hit the big time with second album A Beautiful Lie, they were a rock band, plain and simple. Songs were good, fairly straight forward affairs with a few layers to them. I really enjoyed that album, but somewhere in between that and subsequent release This Is War, I thought self-importance and delusions of grandeur had taken hold and led to an arrogant and pretentious follow up.
On then to Love Lust Faith + Dreams. Initially I was apprehensive. Having been hugely pleased then hugely disappointed with the former LP’s I really wasn’t sure what I was going to get this time round. The only material I’d seen beforehand was the video for single “Up in the Air” which suffers from a narcissistic need to make ‘art’ and not just a cool video. It is however a very good tune which gets better with every listen and is actually quite indicative of most of the rest of the album content. Everything has a shiny carefully produced feel to it which I’d normally complain about, but here it suits the music rather than feeling plasticky and false. Continue reading “Thirty Seconds To Mars – Love Lust Faith + Dreams” »
Hype and expectation are two of the greatest foes any established artist has to face. The buzz surrounding Random Access Memories has been massive and so the pressure has been piled on Daft Punk to deliver a worthy successor to 2005’s Human After All, especially after recently striking a chord with their soundtrack to movie Tron: Legacy. Unfortunately this album is a faint reflection of a once great band and leaves me greatly disappointed.
There’s not a lot of variety across the album and continual reuse of very similar short funk riffs just make it all very samey throughout even with the electronic twists and guest vocal appearances on 7 of the 13 tracks. There’s nowhere near the imagination of anything that’s come before; none of the big beats of Homework and Human After All, the creativity of Discovery, or the drama of Tron: Legacy. Continue reading “Daft Punk – Random Access Memories” »
So it’s been a bit of a journey for Neilston singer Lou Hickey. I first heard her singing at the world’s biggest burlesque club, Club Noir when it celebrated its 5th birthday party, almost exactly 4 years ago. Since then she has formed & disbanded Codeine Velvet Club with Jon Fratelli, supported the likes of Martha Reeves and fought long and hard to see her self-produced debut album finally released on the 13th May.
It’s a refreshing change to have a bit of glamour coming out of Glasgow. Whilst both successful and magnificent the more low-key and lo-fi styling’s of the likes of Belle & Sebastian and the Delgados among others focussed on the music and dismissed image. This isn’t to say that Lou is style over substance; rather that she blends the two rather well.
The burlesque background has led her to produce True Love Ways, a delightful 40 minutes of jazz-infused vintage pop that to a certain degree does pick up where Codeine Velvet Club left off though is definitely a bit more refined than CVC. With this album Hickey pushes on and showcases her flair for a tune and production.
Moving on to the album itself and True Love Ways kicks off with ‘Realist Romeo’, a piano led toe-tapper with a big horn-driven chorus. Next track, ‘Zombie Love’, is again all about the big, joyous chorus before we move onto ‘Minutes, Hours, Days’ a tune that you could easily imagine Wolfman Jack playing in American Graffiti complete with hand claps which, as we all know, make even a great song 10% better. From here we arrive at the album’s first truly outstanding moment; ‘Already Mine’, a song you could imagine sweeping your girl around the prom dance floor to and beautifully complimented by Susan Appelbe’s cello. ‘One Man Tango’ is the first song to have a slightly darker feel and also the first to really make Hickey’s vocals the focus and to great effect. The production seems to elevate the voice above the music in a very effective way. Sadly the next track. ‘You!’, is the first song to let the album down. Whilst pleasant enough it feels a bit like a filler. Continue reading “Lou Hickey – True Love Ways” »
Horror and metal have always gone hand in hand. With gruesome stage shows, demonic symbolism, and the occasional animal torn to bits on stage, the macabre is never far away from the music. Alice Cooper may have pioneered it, and Marylin Manson arguably popularised it, but it’s Alice’s modern day protégé Rob Zombie who is the master of the shlock-rock horror antics.
Having balanced careers as a musician and movie director recently, it’s a wonder that Zombie has found the time to create Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor considering his latest cinematic outing The Lords of Salem is out within a month of the album. There’s a marked difference in the two though as the movie is a suspenseful psychological mind-f**k, and the album is much more panto than pant-filler. Continue reading “Rob Zombie – Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor” »
OK so I should point out straight away that I am a Bon Jovi fan.
Indeed I have been a fan since 1989 when at the tender age of 15 I heard ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ for the first time. In fact I liked that song, and the New Jersey album that it came from, so much that I saw the band in concert on December 28th 1989. My first ever live show and an experience I will never forget.
So with my “potential bias” disclaimer out-of-the-way, what of Bon Jovi, a band usually dismissed by critics? Well they are now thirty years into a highly successful career…a career that nearly came to an end as early as 1990 when the band were suffering from severe burn out (the success of “Slippery…” and “…Jersey” and the never-ending tour that followed meaning the band just didn’t want to see each other for a while). Luckily they carried on. If they hadn’t there would have been no Keep The Faith, no Crush and no These Days and it is the latter album that is the benchmark to which I compare all Bon Jovi albums.
I see the band as having three parts to their career. The first part from 1983 till 1991, a period where they became the biggest rock band on the planet. The second from 1992 until 2002 where they survived grunge and creatively hit their high point with These Days in 1995. The third part could be seen as from 2003 to the present day. The four albums during that time have all been good…just not that great. For every ‘Welcome to Wherever You Are’ we got a ‘Joey’. For every ‘When We Were Beautiful’ we got a ‘Whole Lot of Leavin’. They just haven’t been consistent and the band hasn’t’ stretched themselves. Their twelfth album What About Now is more of the same.
Continue reading “Bon Jovi – What About Now” »
At the time the Stereophonics released ‘Dakota’ it felt like they were getting past it. After their first two albums had rocked us with some great anthems, they stripped it all down to acoustic-rock sound of Jeep followed by the over-indulgent 70′s rock plod of You Gotta Go There To Come Back (possibly symptomatic of overuse of drugs and alcohol?), they then dealt with the sacking of their drummer Stuart Cable. And yet, when released ‘Dakota’ was fresh and one of the best they’d ever written. How could this be? A re-invention was on the cards.
I positively loved the track and later album Language, Sex, Violence, Other? It was the first release from the “new band”, with Javier on drums and everything just seemed so invigorated. Eight years have passed since those releases, and in many ways it feels like that was a blip, and not a yardstick between the original band and glimpsed future (which didn’t then happen).
The future wasn’t as rosy as it seemed. Sure Language, Sex, Violence, Other? was a great album which had teeth and rocked three to four-minute tracks throughout. Soon after the rot set in with direction changes (more re-inventions?) which were lack of direction and not anything else.
Subsequent albums seemed somehow to follow the ’every second album’ rule. That is, every other album was good, but none seemed powerful from start to finish. God forbid you saw them on the intervening album tours where at least a third of the songs plodded from a new album nobody really knew. Is it any wonder then that a Greatest Hits album and tour ensued? The band played two nights in Glasgow and I saw them on both. Phenomenal nights. So the fact is, Stereophonics can write some stunning tunes. Why don’t they write stunning tunes anymore?
Continue reading “Stereophonics – Graffiti On The Train” »
Much has been made in the media of Biffy Clyro’s new album Opposites. For the months leading up to the release there have been interviews, “exclusives”, two tracks released, and Radio gigs to promote it. But also not least the excitement felt from the fans in the wait for it to be with us.
It arrived last Monday morning and I have played it pretty much all the time since. During the week I also discovered that there are two versions of the album; the “deluxe edition” which is the only version I thought existed (certainly how the band described it in all interviews) and a shorter, re-ordered single disc version which apparently the record label wanted to release. More on that later.
This review deals with the album as intended by the band – the two disc “opposites” of each other. I remember reading that disc one is darker, brooding, looking back at how life has changed, strains on relationships, and everything which has happened to get to the point at which they are now. The second disc is the uplifting look to the future and opportunities which await. When listening to the music the tone and mood is clear. There is much anger and pure rock out moments and there is the anthemic choruses and joy that Biffy seem to have discovered in their most recent releases. Continue reading “Biffy Clyro – Opposites (2013)” »
This may be the shortest review I’ve ever written, which seems quite fitting considering the average Bad Religion song couldn’t be further from the 20 minute epic style of music. Simply put, this is a Bad Religion album. It sounds pretty much exactly like you’d expect a Bad Religion album to sound. Lucky then that Bad Religion are still one of the best punk bands on the planet.
Starting off in blistering form with the title track, True North immediately lays out what you’re going to be getting over the next 36 minutes in the form of 16 blistering songs. Lets pretend you’ve never heard Bad Religion before though. What’s on offer here is a collection of 2-3 minute songs with all the hallmarks of proper punk – none of your pop tinged Fall Out Boy/Blink 182 style bollocks here; this is political, philosophical, anti-establishment, socially aware music. Continue reading “Bad Religion – True North (2013)” »
It’s officially 2013 and what better way to look ahead to a fine year than looking back on the year gone by.
2012, a year that will be remembered for Olympic Heroes, for the amusingly named Felix Baumgartner making a parachute jump from space, the creation of a Royal baby and of course the plummet in sales for antiseptic cream Savlon. When all these major events of 2012 have long been forgotten, I can safely say I’ll still be revisiting some of the albums that made my top ten list. Starting with….
10. Rival Sons – Head Down
Read anything about California-based quartet Rival Sons and you’ll hear the same thing. They sound like a bit of a mash-up of The Black Crowes and Led Zeppelin which in theory, sounds great!
My first listen to Rival Sons a few years ago didn’t quite get my juices flowing but 2012 release Head Down has a maturity and the production values that help this band stand out among the reams of guitar based Rock N’ Roll bands doing the rounds these days. The real stand out being Jay Buchanan on vocals.
No, I don’t think they will ever be The Black Crowes or Led Zeppelin but if they keep on plugging away one day they may not be miles away. Continue reading “Iain’s Top Ten Albums of 2012” »
Following on from Paul’s top ten review last week it is time for me to put together my thoughts on the albums which really struck a chord with me this past year. Putting the list together this time around proved more difficult than previously as 2012 seemed a far better year for great new albums than 2011.
10. Halestorm – The Strange Case of…
Halestorm are great live and have been working extremely hard over the past few years constantly touring both on their own dime and as support to some big-name acts. They also have some great songs. Latest album The Strange Case of… is worth hearing overall. Tracks such as ‘Love Bites (and So Do I)‘ are up there with the best songs of the year.
Lzzy Hale’s voice is as amazing as ever, and the rest of the band’s playing is getting stronger and stronger. However if I’m totally honest, somehow the album just didn’t live up to all my expectations as the follow-up to the brilliant self-titled Halestorm.
Continue reading “Gareth’s Top Ten Albums of 2012” »