Archive for the 'Retro Review' Category

26
Feb
12

Retro review: Boa’s Twilight

Artist: Bôa

Album: Twilight (2001)

Bôa are a band that that got a raw deal; their North American debut, Twilight, came in a little too late to capitalize on its strong alternative/post grunge sound.  Led by Jasmine and Steve Rodgers – the children of singer Paul Rodgers – Bôa excel in subdued alternative music with a slight eastern flair.  Though Twilight was released in 2001, it’s mostly made up of previously released material from the 90’s that were unavailable in North America.  For all intents and purposes, Twilight is a pre-packaged introduction to the band.  In other territories, Bôa had a hit with “Duvet,” their finest moment, and received a little extra exposure from it being used as the intro to the anime Serial Experiments Lain.  In fact, “Duvet” appears twice on the album: once as an opener, and again in acoustic form.  Tactics like this always come off as a tad desperate, but the acoustic version is a nice foil.

Twilight’s best moments come when signer Jasmine Rodgers allows her voice to float with the music, instead of commanding and overpowering it; “Welcome” and “Drinking” being two prime examples of the formula working.  Elsewhere, the Eastern European flair of “Anna Maria” falls flat and “Rain” is a fine example of a song brought down by overwrought and silly lyrics: “Suicide is rain in pain.”  Indeed.  Fortunately the stronger moments outweigh the weaker, but for the most part it’s difficult to hear anything except un-realized potential.

3/5

 

Check out the video for “Duvet” directly under this sentence.

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23
Feb
12

retro review: machines of loving grace’s concentration

Artist: Machines of Loving Grace

Album: Concentration (1993)

In the early to mid 90’s there existed a scene of electronic music; some of it making it to the mainstream like Nine Inch Nails, and others not so much.  Machines of Loving Grace was a band that occupied that fine line between mainstream success and the growing underground of industrial artists.  I was introduced to the band through the soundtrack to The Crow, which was basically a 90’s alterna-fest.  Their greatest achievement, Concentration, is not only an achievement for the band, but for the genre as a whole.

It’s easily to dismiss Concentration as being too “of its time,” and there is some merit to that argument; production wise, the album hasn’t aged all that well.  Electronic blips and synths sound dated by today’s standards, but it’s not as cringe worthy as, say, 80’s Depeche Mode.  On Concentration there is a complex combination of sounds working to create something unique; funk, soul, and industrial rock all find a comfortable place here.  The grooves found on “Limiter” and “Ancestor Cult” are simply too good to be ignored, and opener “Perfect Tan (Bikini Atoll)” is the finest example of all the elements coming together.

A couple of singes had their day on MTV, such as “Butterfly Wings” and the aforementioned “Perfect Tan,” but, as is usually the case, the best stuff couldn’t be found on TV or the radio: “Lilith/Eve” stands as one of my favorite songs of the entire decade.  Its funk sampling, jagged guitar, and hushed verses is intoxicating.  Like many songs on Concentration, “Lilith/Eve” creates a mood and makes it sound natural.

Concentration deftly combines sounds to transcend the genre label of simple “industrial rock,” and though Machines of Loving Grace would go on to record one more album, 1995’s Gilt, Concentration stands as their crowning achievement that has unfortunately been swept away by time.

4.5/5

Check out the video for “Perfect Tan (Bikini Atoll)” below.

22
Feb
12

Retro Review: Blind Melon’s Soup

Artist: Blind Melon

Album: Soup (1995)

It’s unfortunate what modern radio did to Blind Melon; their only hit single “No Rain,” destroyed whatever chance they had to really make it.  Their 1995 sophomore album, Soup, offers none of the sparkly pop that produced “No Rain.”  Instead, listeners are treated to a more mature, stronger sounding version of their self-titled debut.  Opening track “Galaxie” features a horn section, and an inebriated sounding Shannon Hoon before launching into a real rocker.  Those who dismissed Blind Melon missed some of the best writing they had to offer: “Mouthful of Cavities,” with its lovely acoustic that barely hints at the full-bodied assault found later in the song.  Elsewhere, “Toes Across The Floor” and “Walk” are the great singles that never were.  The new-found maturity doesn’t mean that there is no silliness to be had; check out “Skinned,” a short “ditty” sung from the point of view of a serial killer and features the best use of kazoo ever recorded.

Blind Melon are doomed to be known as the band that produced “that video with the bee girl,” and that’s a damn shame.  There is something special captured on Soup that most people will never experience.

4/5

 

Check out the video for “Toes Across the Floor”

 

20
Feb
12

a theme, he said

While taking a look at the albums that I wanted to write retro reviews on, I noticed a pattern: they’re all from the 90’s.  And thus, a theme was born. This week I’ll be writing on the “lost albums” of the 90’s, dedicating my time to albums that some people may swear never existed in the first place.  At least two of them are that obscure, I swear.  The first review will go up tomorrow and we’ll see how many I can get to before next Monday.

31
Jan
12

Review: The Smiths’ Strangeways, Here We Come

Artist: The Smiths

Album: Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)

The Smiths never put out a bad album.  Maybe that’s because being together for only five years wasn’t enough time to do so.  It hardly matters.  Their last album, 1987’s Strangeways, Here We Come — a perfectly titled final album if there ever was one – is a culmination of everything that came before it.  “A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours” is another strong opener, following in the tradition set forth by “The Queen Is Dead” and “The Headmaster Ritual.”  Strangeways features one of The Smiths greatest songs, the dark and creeping “Death of a Disco Dancer,” but people are likely to be more familiar with “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” and “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before,” but there’s nothing wrong with that; a good single is a good single.

If you’re not used to Morrissey’s biting critiques and cynicism, there is certainly no helping you now.  “Paint A Vulgar Picture” is a pop song about record companies endlessly trying to squeeze every penny from an artist’s work as they possible can: “oh, the plans they weave/oh, the sickening greed.”  The Smiths are no strangers to compilations, box sets and re-issues – particularly on vinyl – so there is some irony there.  And finally, perhaps for the first time in their discography, the album ends with a rather sweet song in “I Won’t Share You.”  The Smiths end their recording career on a high note, one of their highest, in fact.

4.5/5

27
Jan
12

Review: The Smiths’ the queen is dead

Artist: The Smiths

Album: The Queen Is Dead (1986)

The Smiths’ third album, The Queen Is Dead, is often thought of being their greatest achievement.  It ably combines all of the styles that they displayed on their first two albums, from the jangle-pop of “Frankly Mr Shankly” to the more hard-biting title track; the band is in excellent form.  Beloved songs like the aforementioned “Frankly Mr Shankly,” are not the strongest points; those instead come in the form of the brit-pop blues of “Never Had No One Ever” and the sinister tongue-in-cheek “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others.”  Other classic songs can also be found in, “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” which offer some of Morrissey’s best writing.

One of the biggest singles, “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side,” has been touted as being Morrissey’s favorite song.  It’s a nice pop song, but I fail to see the real attraction.  The Queen Is Dead is a great album for someone looking for a polished experience of what The Smiths discography has to offer.

4/5

26
Jan
12

Review: The Smiths’ Meat Is Murder

Artist: The Smiths

Album: Meat Is Murder (1985)

With Meat Is Murder, The Smiths achieved greatness.  Perhaps writing that as my lead-in sort of spoils my review, but there you have it.  Meat Is Murder improves upon the framework laid down in their self-titled debut in every possible way, and this can be immediately heard in opening song “The Headmaster Ritual,” which features a fantastically melodic bass-line from Andy Rourke.  Though we can’t discount Johnny Marr’s guitar playing, it’s Rourke’s bass that drives this album, and you check out “Barbarism Begins At Home” if you have any doubts.

Gone are Morrissey’s awkward falsettos and un-affected tone: here we have all the charisma, yelps, and full-bodied sound that their debut promised.  Morrissey coming into his own also has a downside, and that comes in the form of the title track, “Meat Is Murder.”  It’s a downright difficult listen that borders on miserable and the sounds of animals presumably being slaughtered certainly don’t help. Of course, being an outspoken vegetarian, miserable is how Morrissey wants you to feel.  Mission accomplished?

Meat Is Murder was originally my first foray into The Smiths, and for days afterward I could be heard singing “I want to go home/I don’t want to stay” from “The Headmaster Ritual.”  The original U.S version that I owned inserted one of their greatest singles, “How Soon Is Now,” smack-dab in the middle of the album.  Only now do I realize just how disruptive that was and I’m glad that the album has been restored. If you’re not familiar with The Smiths, feel free to start here.  I won’t tell.

4.5/5




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