Tag Archives: Review

Review: Wilco “Wilco (The Album)”

It’s become painfully clear to me what this year’s music trend is.

Last year was marred by the over-use of Auto-Tune, which was somehow popular despite the fact that Eurotrance/dance music has been using it for years now. This year, numerous bands seem to be recreating music they made last decade. First there was Depeche Mode, next was Sonic Youth, and now you can add Wilco to the list.

Appearing on the scene in the mid-nineties with strong jam albums like Being There and A.M., Wilco set a bar for themselves and just continued to raise it. And since the release of their fourth (and greatest) studio album in 2002 Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco have been the forerunners for experimental/folk/Americana music. Hell, they’re probably the only band that fits such a concise genre. The following two albums have been radically different in sound making it impossible to pin down where a Wilco album will take you next. Well, that’s not the case here.

Wilco (The Album), ultimately finds Jeff Tweedy and Co. rewinding their song-writing skills back to before 2000. The record starts off on a decent note with “Wilco The Song” and “One Wing” bringing in that comfortable Wilco sound. The fourth track, “Bull Black Nova,” comes on like a shot in the arm (hardy har!). It’s an excellent song that showcases the experimental side that Wilco has had on display this decade. It’s also the one of two tracks where uber-guitarist Nels Cline is even audible on the record. However, the sweet instantly turns to sour with the forgettable single, “You And I.” And from here on, it seems that Jeff Tweedy’s mind just simply fell asleep.

Honestly, the entire second half of the album sounds like retooled tracks from Being There. Tracks 6-10 had me thinking I had slipped into a Timequake. Not to say that these are bad songs. “You Never Know” and “Solitaire” are exceptional songs, just not the kind of Wilco songs I want to hear in 2009. It just makes me think that Jeff Tweedy’s tank has run dry for the time being. It’s too early to say whether or not Wilco have already passed their prime, but I can’t help but heed the warning signs.

Wilco (The Album) is by no means a bad record. It’s just not the record Wilco needed to make.

-Chase

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Review: Sonic Youth “The Eternal”

The words just aren’t coming.

You might have a hard time believing how long I’ve been staring at this blank screen. I’ve gone catatonic in an attempt to write a review for Sonic Youth’s 16th studio release, and first on indie-haven Matador Records, The Eternal.

Writing a review for one of my favorite bands has turned out to be tough assignment. On one hand, I want to be fair and weigh in professionally on The Eternal. On the other hand……..I really love Sonic Youth.

Alright, let’s start with this: The press release that came with The Eternal‘s first single (the blistering and powerful “Sacred Trickster”) announced that the album was a true successor to SY’s previous album from 2006, Rather Ripped. That is so very true. The experimental spirit behind The Eternal is the same one that haunted every track on Rather Ripped. Fact is, they’ve been musing that experimental side since the release of A Thousand Leaves over a decade ago. But, I feel that with The Eternal they’ve come to perfect it. And this is exemplified all throughout the album with tracks like “Walkin Blue,” “Antenna,” and “Massage The History.”

Another spirit that seems to be all over The Eternal is the Ghost of Sonic Youth Past. Apparently, Thurston Moore and Co. remembered that they made records like Goo in their lifetime. But, instead of just simply re-treading those successful waters, SY decided thrash it all together in a whirlwind of greatness. Sure, “Sacred Trickster” could be confused with a B-Side from the early nineties. But, nearly every song on The Eternal manage to mix both sides of SY together to conjure up a rock album thats unrivaled today. The best examples I can offer up would be “Anti-Orgasm,” “Calming The Snake,” “Poison Arrow,” and “Thunderclap For Bobby Pyn.”

If you want to find a flaw with The Eternal, I suppose that you could argue that maybe it’s not a groundbreaking as previous albums. I would say the mixing of the two sides of Sonic Youth’s musical expertise is a winning and fresh combination. After all is said and done, Sonic Youth have failed to let us down after 16 records now. Like Morrissey did earlier this year, they manage to prove, yet again, why they’re important. And unlike Depeche Mode, they manage to make a “Sonic Youth” record, and still have it be revolutionary.

Here’s to another 16.

-Chase

Review: Mastodon “Crack the Skye”

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After all the commotion created by claims that Crack the Skye is Mastodon’s “eerie classic rock album” or a swan dive into full-on progressive rock, fans could be forgiven for approaching this album with a degree of trepidation.    Add producer Brendan O’Brien (unofficial sixth member of Pearl Jam and, lately, producer of some kind of ho-hum Springsteen albums) to the equation and this could’ve easily turned into an ill-advised toning down of Mastodon’s metallic force.  It’s true, there is some very prog-ish stuff about Rasputin’s religious sect, as well as a greater emphasis on Brent Hinds’ clean singing style, but they haven’t turned into Coheed & Cambria.  Thankfully, Mastodon are still at least one castrated furrball from anything like that happening.

At this point, Mastodon have placed themselves at the top of the heavy metal mountain, and this makes them an easy target for criticism from infinitely fickle (and often close-minded) metal fans.  Any time a well-loved metal group attempts to expand their style, there are always those ready to shout “sell-out”, and internet trawlers are already claiming that Crack the Skye is the weakest Mastodon album…presumably because it isn’t a carbon coby of “Remission” (“you know, cuz I was into Mastodon way before all these hipsters.”)  Whatever.  Mastodon have progressed with every subsequent album.  Their career trajectory reminds me in some ways of Death, another band who continued to expand their technical profeciancy and embrace increasing melodicism with each release, much to the chagrin of the hardcore death metalheads.  On the other side, you do have lemming indie rock fans who will eat up taste-maker approved Mastodon or Isis, but who wouldn’t dare go near other great (if less hip) metal groups like Entombed, Candlemass, or Morbid Angel.  However, it’s not Mastodon’s fault that Stereogum-smackers don’t know shit about Immolation and suck their thumbs to The Postal Service at night.  At this point I would like to note that I’m typing this while wearing a polo shirt…but I did have a dream the other night that I got a flame-engulfed skull tattoo that said “Heavy Metal”.  And I’m chugging Jack Daniel’s.  My metal cred sounds like a fucking Holiday Inn Express commercial.

Anyway, Crack the Skye is bursting with riff after soul-crushing riff.  Brent Hinds came up with the majority of his parts while recovering from serious brain trauma.  (I had a serious head injury when I was ten and all I could do was lay in bed and watch cartoons.)  The guitar parts on this album manage to balance technical dexterity, monstrous heaviness, and an ever-increasing catchiness.  Brann Dailor’s drumming is as brilliant and precise as ever, going a good way towards proving that percussion is the most important element of a truly successful metal record.  Personally, I’ve always thought that Mastodon’s one weakness was their lack of a truly distinctive vocalist, but they manage to, for the most part, make up for this by a deft interweaving of Dailor, Hinds, and Sanders’ vocals.

I have to admit that this album didn’t fully reveal its’ power until after close to ten listens, but since then it has only become more and more addicting.  I highly recommend throwing down a couple of extra bucks for the special edition which includes a DVD with a surprisingly engrossing making-of documentary.

Chris

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Review: DOOM “Born Like This”

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It’s been a long time comin’. DOOM’s Born Like This is finally here. It’s been about 4 years since MF Doom last released an album. It’s been about 4 years since MF really did…..anything.

A lot has changed since he last cut an album, the 2005 cartoon-laced collaboration with Danger Mouse known as Danger Doom. He now simply goes by DOOM. It’s All Caps, just like one of his 2004 Madvillainy tracks suggests. And his voice has gotten raspier. So, how has DOOM repaid us for all those years of inactivity?

The best way possible: A triumphant return to independent/underground hip-hop.

Seriously, Born Like This is probably one of the better rap albums I’ve heard since that infamous Madvillain album. A totally different league than anything last year’s darling, Lil’ Wayne, has ever produced. It’s a serious head trip.

The first track on the album “Gazillion Ear” is an infectious number that showcases DOOM’s production/lyrics unlike ever before. And follow ups like “Ballskin” and “Rap Ambush” solidify the pace for the album. Fast, aggressive, and often unlike most rap albums you’ve heard.

Born Like This is probably his most character-heavy album. He’s always brought a persona to his albums, however the DOOM (Marvel Comics’ Dr. Doom) persona is really felt this time around. For the most part, it’s great (“That’s That”). Other times, it’s a little too much. This is really evident in the nearly homophobic “Batty Boyz,” where DOOM raps about how gay superheroes are. Explicitly. Also, on the track “Supervillainz,” which the beat starts, stops, stutters, and dies so much that it’s almost unlistenable.

Another issue that time has certainly strengthened is DOOM’s song structure. On his own, DOOM’s beats had a tendency to go too long. Most of 2003’s Mm…Food? is a good example of this. This time around, his songs are shorter and never outstay their welcome (aside from the aforementioned “Supervillainz”) And sometimes, the tracks are so good, you’d wish they’d stick around a little bit longer (“Still Dope” and “More Rhymin'”)

Born Like This is a brainy,zany, and uncanny hip hop album that gets better with every listen. Like his previous solo efforts, there a few duds (just the 2 this time around), but the flow of the album and creative beats on the other 15 tracks make it easy to overlook.

It’s good to have the Metalface back.

-Chase