Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Offspring - Smash

Realizing just how amazing this album is -- or, should I say, "still is", almost 17 years after it's release on April 8th, 1994 -- is why I started doing this project/blog. This album popped into my head a few days ago and I had a few extra seconds to track it down this morning before rushing out the door... but after a sleepless night I needed something with a little extra 'get up and go' to get me going. This was it.

(The) Offspring have released a number of albums now, but this one stands head and shoulders above everything else they've done as far as I'm concerned. It's the perfect attack of punk energy, filled with great bass lines and angsty lyrics. It's also full of lines and riffs and moments in the songs that really stick with you. Hours later, I'm still hearing little pieces of songs pop into my head; it's been years since I'd last heard the album, but I still remembered so much of it. Even the kitchy spoken-word intro bit (and the two other parts on the album) seem to work so well as part of the whole.

Although I instantly recognized the two massive mid-album singles, I certainly wasn't waiting for them to come through the speakers. This album is an assault from start to finish; there really isn't a quiet part to be found, but somehow the variation in the songs, and the arrangement on the album, keeps that energy going. This album came out during, and helped lead, the mainstream punk explosion along with albums like Dookie (February 1994), Stranger Than Fiction (September 1994) and ...And Out Come the Wolves (August 1995) but it still plays just as well.

While some could argue that this album was the band's lead-in to their later, more pop-punk sound, I would say that it's the perfect balance between traditional punk energy and an accessible mainstream sound.
Recommended track(s): Gotta Get Away; Come Out and Play; What Happened to You?
Worth another listen? Yes!
Overall rating: Five Stars

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Poll: Favourite Decade?

I was looking around the Blogger settings the other day when I noticed that I could set-up a quick ad-hoc poll here on the site without much effort. In light of a recent topic discussed on CBC Radio3, I've put up a poll question for the month of February: if you could only listen to music from a single decade, what would it be? What is your favourite decade of music?

Now, as we found out during the R3 broadcast, the early favourites seem to be the 1970s and the 2000s, but you have to realize what you're giving up to choose any single decade. The Beatles recorded 99% of their material in the 1960s... Pink Floyd recorded (arguably) their best stuff during the 1970s... The Smiths put out all their material in the 1980s... so, as you can see, it might not be as much about what you like to listen to as it is what you couldn't live without hearing again. And, for those great artists or bands who have recorded over the span of multiple decades (e.g., Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones) make this sort of choice even harder!

So, if you've got a second, make a selection over there on the right (below the list of 'genres') and come back at the end of the month (if not sooner) and see how the results are shaping up!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Collective Soul - Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid

This is the sound of a band trying to find their sound. This album has everything on it: (sampled?) hand claps, organ, symphonic instrumental interlude, faux-punk, acoustic track, and a few radio-friendly generic rock songs just for good measure. Oddly enough, despite all this effort, I don't think it sounds a thing like their follow-up album (although, that'll be another review, for another day).

But, before I go running off to the next album, let's have a bit of a look at this, the debut release from Collective Soul. There were, as I remember it, two "big" singles from this album: Shine and Breathe. Nearly twenty years later, the first song doesn't hold up as well as the other one, although I still take notice of the 'extended' solo included on the album that was always cut-out for radio play. Generally speaking, because of the constant mix of sounds and styles on the album, it feels very choppy as you listen through it.

According to Wikipedia, this album was actually a set of demos that the record label rushed into production to capitalize on the band's sound at the time, which would seem to make some sense given the varied nature of the songs. Whatever the case, listening to the album now, it sounds like very generic mainstream rock with a few, often too short, guitar solos thrown in for good measure.

As of today, the band is still touring and has released eleven albums in total (nine studio albums, one live album and a greatest hits package); their most recent release is their second(?) self-titled album.
Recommended track(s): Love Lifted Me; Breathe
Worth another listen? No.
Overall rating: Two Stars

Monday, February 7, 2011

Brad Paisley - 5th Gear

I hate to say it, but I think my love for this album has waned over the years. Brad Paisley can still play like crazy and his lyrics are spot-on, clever, touching... but while the highlights are still quite good here, the lowlights don't seem to hold up as well.

As I'd written previously on my other blog, having seen Brad in concert was quite something... but it felt more like a pop music concert -- pre-rehearsed, filled with special effects and timed music videos on large screens, etc. -- than what I expected a country show to be.

Lyrically, songs like Ticks and Online are gold. They're funny, they flow well and tell great stories. These are songs that you can listen to a few times before you get all the little jokes tucked away in there. On top of that, however, are some good guitar licks and general production. Better Than This is another example of this that makes the latter half of the album for me.

My copy of the album has a few seemingly extra tracks at the end of it, some quasi-comedy outakes or something. I think the album would be a tiny bit better if it wrapped up after the first twelve songs; at 51 minutes it still makes for an average length album that people wouldn't complain about... but this is a pretty small complaint about the disc (and, again, this could be some sort of special edition or Canadian release of the disc, although I don't see anything on the disc that would indicate as much).

So, in short, the good songs are very good and certainly worth a listen; but I think the album does have a bit of filler that, after a few years, doesn't seem to hold up as well as it did initially.
Recommended track(s): Ticks; Online; I'm Still a Guy
Worth another listen? Yes!
Overall rating: Three Stars

Friday, January 21, 2011

Death from Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine

In honour of the announcement that Death From Above 1979 would be reuniting for the 2011 Coachella Festival in April, I had to revisit the gateway album to noise-rock/dance-punk for me. I can, with great certainty, say that this album is responsible for me listening to the likes of Ladytron, Animal Collective, Sleigh Bells and possibly even Sonic Youth or Alexisonfire.

Released in 2004, this was, for me, the same sort of kick-in-the-pants that the introduction of grunge was ten years earlier. It is raw, it is powerful and it comes right at you. This two-piece (yeah, all this sound is from just two people... amazingly enough, using the same two instruments that The Inbreds used... think about that!) were getting some notice a year earlier with the initial demos and EP, but it wasn't until this full-length came out that I really took notice. Right from the iconic pink cover art to the roughly 35 minute, non-stop assault that this album is, it grabbed me with the screaming vocals and relentless drumming. But, somehow, during this attack, you realize that these songs are really grabbing you; they're filled with riffs and hooks that just get under your skin and hold on. This isn't just noise... it is something awesome.

The band released a remix album in 2005 along with an iTunes Sessions set, but broke up in early 2006. Jesse went on to form MSTRKRFT (pronounced, Master Craft) and Sebastien went solo for awhile. The announcement of their reunion came as a total surprise to everyone, but it has been confirmed by Jesse (I believe) on Twitter. No word about what might come after this (new single? new album? full tour?) but it's great to have them back together, even if it's only for one show.
Recommended track(s): Romantic Rights; Black History Month; Little Girl
Worth another listen? Yes!
Overall rating: Four Stars