Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Record Review: Jesus And Mary Chain Pyschocandy

Indie rock thrives on contradictions and the fusing together of conflicting sounds that strive so far away from each other that the distance draws them even closer. The juxtapositions of music and chaos is what pushes Indie rock further and further. Many bands have tried but achieving balance between dissonance and melody is an impossible feat and results in a devastating double-negative, being too obscure and noisy or playing music that is too poppy and accessible.

Noise as always been the secret fascination of everyone who has ever picked up a guitar. Stuck within the squeals of feedback and swells of volume of standard guitar noise is almost a sublime sensation that only the truly skilled can break out. Naturally, these sounds began to flow throughout music as guitarists just could not resist their urges to noise-out, but once again balance was essential.

Jimi Hendrix, The Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth truly defined noise within rock music and presented to the world the true artistic capacities of the unconventional and the noisy. The noise took the music somewhere else, into a divine state of unison, the guitar the player and the electrical domination amplifier were all one united in a world of destruction and peace. This destruction, as chaotic as it may have been at times with Sonic Youth or Hendrix performing 30 minute noise jams and literally killing their guitars could ultimately be tamed as the cleaner, calmer more concise noise pop bands began to emerge during the Eighties and Nineties.

The defining Album of the noise pop sound is, without any confusion The Jesus and Marry Chain’s Psychocandy. Instead of exploring around within blues and psychedelic like Hendrix or the Avant Garde like Sonic Youth and The Velvet Underground, the Jesus and Mary Chain found their niche in 60’s surf pop and used it to contradict the noisy squeals of dirty guitars and pushed poweramp tubes.

Pyschocandy achieves the unattainable balance on so many levels and every single track confuses the listener and leaves them in limbo between infectious pop harmonies, melodies and hooks and guitar death. This balance is heard on every song as the band adds the noise to the dynamic without blinding over the hook and the overall melody of the arrangemnt. Tracks like, “Taste of Cindy”, “You Trip me Up”, “Never Understand” and the haunting “Inside of Me” just barely restrain themselves from being full blown dissonance and are saved by the brevity and the ability of the band to never let the squeals be too overbearing. It is impossible to listen to Psychocandy and not be humming along to the tracks for weeks thanks to the bubblegum songwriting of the brothers Reid. Hooks appear out of nowhere in the sea of noise of crunching proto-punk songs like “My Little Underground” and “The living End”. Noise pop may seam like demeaning label to apply to Psychocandy as the album is chalk full of so much pop that it often makes it easy to ignore the noise. That is the great appeal of the album and why it spawned so many variants that tried to balance noise with pop like Shoegaze and dream pop.

Pyshcocandy achieves perfect balance; unity between the sugar-sweet pop sensibilities and chaotic, uncontrollable guitar feedback and makes them sound one in the same. Both elements rely exclusively on one another in order to compose the fuzzy, daze-pop that makes up Pyschocandy. Without either element the listener would ultimately left unfulfilled, as it is these contradictions are what defines indie rock. Jesus and Mary Chain on Psychocandy made noise pop sound natural; almost as if it were created by accident, in wake of a growing fascination with the Beach Boys and Hencrix. It is hard to say whether or not is a defining album n the vast history of rock music, but one thing is for sure it defined the balance of the contradiction in music.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Record Review: Smashing Pumpkins "Siamese Dream"

Albums like this do not just appear out of no where, they take years of musical evolution and hybrids of many ideas and sounds experimented with by others in order to craft an album that is the apex of the music moment. The Smashing Pumpkins 1993 sophomore release, Siamese Dream is an example of one such album, a release that looked backwards and at other artists around playing similar music too create a record that defined the musical era, and the musical era of fuzz guitar experimentation, wall of sound ambiance and self-reflective angst developing throughout the late Eighties had officially peaked.

In the late Eighties, the alternative underground was under drastic transformation with the release of several ground breaking albums that pushed the barriers of what underground bands were capable of. Seminal releases including, Dinosaur Jr.'s You're Leaving all Over Me, Pixies Surfer Rosa and basically anything released by guitar-noise pioneers Sonic Youth sparked a creative revolution in the approach to the electric guitar and songwriting in the quickly rising alternative music scene. Combining the aggression and attack of hardcore punk and the noisy tendencies of lo-fi art bands, Indie rock was now more than a label it had a sound of it's own. Many bands would take on this sound and approach and achieve astronomical success.

Everyone is familiar with the alternative rock explosion that occurred within the mainstream and gave music an abundance of alternative music mass radio play for the first time . The ancient year of 1991 dawned upon quite possibly two of the most significant alternative rock albums of all time, the Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds of the genre. Nirvana's Nevermind and My Bloody Valentine's Lovless presented angst-fueled guitar rock in beautifully approachable way that was yet to be experienced by the masses. On Siamese Dream, The Smashing Pumpkins showcase all the elements that made the alternative rock explosion so exciting. Despite the distinguishable waling vocal and guitar abuse of early alternative bands heard throughout the albums 12 tracks, Siamese Dream is far from an obscure Indie album. In the era of its release it didn't need to be labeled as such because this was the stuff that was popular in the 90's. Even though It was released on mainstream mecca, Warner and received respectable airplay and glowing acclaim from mainstream media outlets, Siamese Dream in the end is a powerful record that was successful for good reason it showed all that was fresh in alternative rock. The tensions, ambiguity and anger juxtaposed with beauty are the keys too this albums lasting power. Billy Corgan and company were never afraid to "wank out" and let their progressive side show. Sprawling epics like "Hummer" and "Silverfuck" reflect the Pumpkins at their most ambitious. Just listening to these songs is like listening to an alternative encyclopedia, flowing with countless time changes, octave noise attacks and obscure feed back Corgan proves that he is a virtuous of the the Big Muff and he uses many sounds and unorthodox playing styles like tremolo, delay and octave to compensate for his lack of conventional soloing techniques. The album remains firmly grounded in alternative, even though the songs venture into uncharted territories with sections of lush atmosphere and peculiar noises, Corgans head is still in the right place at this point in his career and the songs are anything but self indulgent. The lavish, adventurous song structure is what really makes Siamese Dream stand out as a definitive alternative record. Tracks like "Cherub Rock", "Today" and "Rocket", the most "accessible" rock songs on the album refrain from sounding bland even by todays standards thanks to Corgan's obsession with making every riff sound bigger and louder than the preceding.

What is most shocking about Siamese Dream is how accessible an album it is, especially with all the layers of feedback within the production. Corgan clearly has an ear for melody and when the distortion is turned down briefly on songs like "Luna" and "Spaceboy" one can't help become embellished in Corgans nasally sneer and the vibrant melody. No sound or tone is off limits to the Smashing Pumpkins and they really do try everything possible to keep the album sounding fresh and exciting. It was the Smashing Pumpkins ability to look far beyond the restraints of punk and alternative but yet stay so firmly within the genre, that makes the album stand out in a sea of artists with a similar sound. The album plays like the musical vision of a person already bored with the new guitar-rock style of alternative rock and is ready to layer and polish the approach of the sound and repackage it for everyone else.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Record Review: Michael Jackson - Thriller: 25th Anniversary Release

The music listening public really needed this release. In an era of overblown tabloid controversy and judgmental message board low lives, once mighty celebrities are finding the legitimacy of their musical careers overshadowed by the various in jokes and jabs that fuel our narrow minded interests, all because of questionable decisions made within their personal lives. Michael Jackson has become the poster boy of the fallen, once mighty pop star constantly in the firing range of media punch lines. Everything he gets attention for these days seems to reinforce the notion that he is a joke and was never a reputable creative force within the music industry. That is why this 25th Anniversary re-release of Jackson's seminal 1982 release Thriller is important to the musical listeners, we needed a reminder of the real Michael Jackson, the Jackson who for several years was the epitome of all that was credible and talented in the world of mainstream pop.

Thriller has become the definitive pop album of the western world, post- Civil Rights Movement, with the almost sublime media sensation that occurred with its release. Everyone is familiar with Jacksons impressive uprisings in the Jackson 5 and the astronomical success he experienced in his early years. He transcended effortlessly from Motown into video pop stardom and In the early Eighties Jackson was MTV, and no one seemed to mind. Everyone who listened to music from metal heads to pop teens to their mothers were in a common consensus, Jackson was the man. Thriller is a true representation as to why Michael Jackson should still be remember as "The Man", it still holds up to this day.

From the opening stutter of "Wanna be Startin' Somethin' ", to the soothing R&B of "The Lady in My Life", Thriller sounds as fresh in 2008 as it did in 1982. Throw on the slinky bass of "Billie Jean" at any party of any generation and the dance floor would still erupt. "Beat it" and the featured guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen still has the power too draw even the most closed-minded of rock snobs into Jackson's world of pop perfection. Thriller has this power to transcend musical genres and unify the musicical audience as a whole. No other album since has even remotely been able to achieve this unification amongst music listeners.

Due to the circumstances surrounding Michael Jacksons personal persona it is unavoidable to listen to Thriller without any preconceived biases. While revisiting the album in modern contexts flaws begin to surface influenced by our perception of Jackson. The most obvious flaw that becomes apparent is Jacksons almost childlike voice. It is a bit difficult to appreciate Micheal Jackson's trademark hiccup and quiver that are a driving force in the lesser tracks like "Human Nature" and "Baby be Mine" in the the same high regard as on the mega hits and it even verges on annoyance.

It is these preconceived bias influenced by this "Wacko Jacko" caricature garnisheed by the media that has ultimately tarnished and degraded the once significance musical contribution of Jackson to the mainstream. He defined what being a pop star was all about, the musical listeners as a whole was his intended audience not small niche audiences. There was no limit too what Jackson was able to achieve with the release of Thriller. The Micheal Jackson from the Thriller was a musical tour de force, an unstoppable talent who could sing, dance and preform like no other. Hopefully listeners will cast aside judgment that this re-release will reassure many of Michael Jacksons legitimacy. He IS still the real deal.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pick It Up! I Dropped My Ska on The Floor

Ska, ska-punk and all the variations has never remotely been considered a legitimate musical genre. Even at the peak of it's short reemergence in popularity during the Third Wave of the late nineties it was still the laughing stock of the music industry, a type of music so obnoxious and goofy that it's only redeemable quality was the sheer stupidity and lightheartedness. Ska had become a victim of tedium, every band began to have the same ironic party influenced song titles and cheery sing-a-long chorus, there was not much variety apparent. It wasn'y any surprise that the Third Wave was all too brief and that once the music listening public lost interest in clanky guitars and obnoxious horn shots the genre was cast aside and forced into the darkness of the underground. Just like a child being forced to sit in the corner during playtime while all their other friends play, there was no hope, the public had made up their mind, ska had no place in the mainstream.

The post millennium years have been hard on what was left ska music. For a genre that wasn't well respected to begin with, it had now been demoted to a punchline, a reminder of the cluelessness of the general public in regards to musical tastes. Forerunners of the genre as well as the countless clones had reached the cross roads and were forced to either go the way of No Doubt and Smash Mouth and completely abandon the the remnants of ska from their sound and settle for mainstream pop or go the way of Save Ferris and The Mighty Might Bosstones and give it up all together. Others chose the more controversial route of artists such as Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake and continued to strive on, playing a bastardized version of the genre, tainted with over-the-top pop production and cheesy hooks. The only ska moments that that appeared were for mere novelty value, in attempt to relive the glory days of their past. In the public eye, the once dancey and fun loving music had become a gimmick; a once prominent music that was now cursed to the underground. However, it was in the deep, dark world of underground punk that the sound was able to grow and evole as new bands began to emerge that added a much needed creative spark to the once tired and redundant genre.

It is a universally acknowledged fact amongst us self indulgent music nerds that the music of the underground is far more unique, creative and artistically relevant than anything found in the mainstream. Ska had found the perfect context to grow in once it was cast aside. With a small but dedicated niche audience ska had actually developed a devoted underground following. More recent artists playing ska music have drawn inspiration from a variety of genres. Speedy hardcore punk, and slurred raspy vocals infused with bouncy minor-key upstroke have characterized talented new comers the Flatliners. The Toronto group made quite an impact on the emerging Toronto punk scene in 2005 with the indie release of Destroy the Crate which gained the group universal exclaim outside of the small rude boy circles, they were far more than a generic ska band. The hype continued and in 2007 the band signed to American label Fat Wreck Chords, who subsequently released The Great Awake too commercial success in Canada with lead single, "Eulogy" gaining air time on radio stations throughout the GTA. At their core The Flatliners have always been a punk band but they infused ska elements so effortless that the combination of the two sounded one in the same. They were defiantly lifting the tired ska sound away from the laughable checkerboard shoes, skinny tie, goofy, cheesy stereotype and were adding much needed legitimacy to the sound. Contemporaries, Big D and The Kids Table have also gained noticeable acclaim while approaching the genre with different intentions. Boston's Big D and The Kids Table have been playing since the end of the Third Wave and have released several albums containing a highly irregular blend of ska and hardcore that was fast, abrasive and danceable in a interesting way. The early albums only showed hints of greatness, but it was when the band looked back and drew on two-tone influences they truly shined. Album tracks drew heavily on the older ska sound,they were the instant album highlights. Their songs were quirky and fun without being corny. The band finally mastered this poppy, highly danceable sound on 2007's Strictly Rude. There was no denying Big D as leader among a long line of bland ska bands with the sound of Strictly Rude. All of the songs were remarkably well written, full band arrangements that did not over play any of the cliches found in ska music. Instead they combined all the redeemable qualities of ska with their own personal edge to make a ska album that sounded so very familiar and yet, sounded so refreshing compared the many others. A new sound may just be among us.

Ska has been gaining noticeable attention outside of its distinguished fan base in recent times but a "Fourth Wave" ska revival is far from dawning. Ska has found a place where it belongs, held safely within loveing, unbiased world the punk underground. A place where creativity can prevail and bands can flirt with all the quirks of ska music without trying meet any mainstream listener standards. If ska continues to stay the way it is and bands like The Flatliners and Big D and The Kids Table continue to add a fresh new approach to the genre, we the listeners will actually start to significantly care more.

Good Upstroke Infused, Recent Ska-Punk Related Records That You May Be Able to Dance Too:

Big D and The Kids Table- Strictly Rude
The Flatliners- Destroy The Crate
Bomb The Music Industry!- Get Warmer
Streetlight Manifesto- Everything Goes Numb
The Agroglites- Self Titles

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Prime Time Grammmy Unvaried, Variety Show!

Did anyone actually sit through the whole thing?

Once again the annual Grammy awards, celebrating its 50th year, proves to be as relevant to society as clothing on our pets. Besides a few interesting performances by the utmost mainstream of mainstream performers, quick shots of respected musicians and a few touching tributes, the show is hardly worth considering a credible award show.

For the televised broadcast it's not about the golden phono-player presentation anymore. The shows format shifted away from that purpose years ago. Other then a few scant highlights of pre-air awards and the obligatory, staged presentations of the "Big Four" (Record of The Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist ) and select others, all the broadcast time was reserved for the performances, and there sure was an astronomical amount this year.

It almost seemed every chance possible was optimized for a performance. There were so many performances this year that it truly was an excruciating task to distinguish the note worthy from the filler. The show started off with hands down the most respected and influential performer of the night, thats right I'm talking about the man himself Frank Sinatra, back from the grave preforming alongside Alicia Keys. This was a common theme that stuck throughout the broadcast, unusual and unnecessary, flashy collaborations. Aside from the kick ass collaboration between Daft Punk and Kanye West providing a killer light show that teased the audience with the phenomenons witnessed on their Alive 2007 tour. As well as other noteworthy exceptions like the closer performance by aging legends Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. The rest of the collaboration performances just seemed like bad publicity stunts to increase ratings after dismal ratings last year.

So the Grammy's are officially dead, they have been so for years. The intensive music fan is not the intended audience for the annual broadcast. The broadcast is quite simply a lavish variety show in which the intended purpose is too force as many mainstream, high selling artists onto the general public. If you actually watch the show with the preconceived notion that the show will be a night of recognition for the most talented, respected musicians, you will surely be disappointed. Deal with it!

So, turns out I watched most of of it....

-Feist not winining best new artist is a major upset but it was bound to happen. I mean she is Canadian and all we don't deserve recognition for good music when there is so many legitimate American pop performers. However it was nice to see her preform a stripped acoustic version of "1234" Alternatively, it was nice to see Amy Whinehouse win so many awards. Its good that the Grammy's decided not to hop on the hater band wagon and still reward a talented, but messed up singer. And I mean messed up as in totally mind in space fucked up. That acceptance speech she delivered for winning Record of The Year was hilarious. She could barely formulate a proper sentence and the ones she did formulate sounded so forced and rehearsed it was painful. and thats all the knocking i will partake in.

-Once again the Foo Fighters prove they are amongst the worst live bands in mainstream rock. It couldn't even take a fantastic symphony conducted and arranged by John Paul Jones to salvage their stereotypically mediocre performance. Once again Dave Grohl sang too loud, once again the guitarists repeatability missed notes, once again all the back up vocals were painfully out of tune and unsurprisingly, once again the audience ate it all up. How many lackluster performances do fans need too witness in order to come to the realization that they are one of those bands that don't transcribe well on stage. It is something every fan experiences one day, just like a teenager realizing that all that meth they did in high school really was bad for them, just like everyone said. I am by no means knocking the band, they are defiantly one of the most respected and legitimate performers in rock, the Jesus comparisons to Dave Grohl are not overstatements. He truly is a genuine, down to earth guy who has a real grip on reality and never comes across as an egotistical rock God ulike other post grunge contemporaries, Billy Corgan or Perry Farrell. They just can't pull off the hits live, simple as that people.

-Album of the Year award stands in as this years requisite, "upset of the year." But it was far from an upset, it was just one of those rare instances, where true talent, and artistry are awarded. Herbie Hancock's, jazz-fusion Joni Mitchell homage; "River: The Joni Letters" really is a great album, that many have yet to hear.

-Nelly furtado and Andy Williams onstage together was awkward, and a funny sight too see. She looked absolutely stunning, a nice representation of Canadian female smokiness. I think Mr. Moon river himself agreed. The man could barely speak because of all that 80 year old blood attempting to fllow downward.

-Slayer won? that's cool!

So good people there you have it, Grammy coverage for the uninterested. So another year has past and unfortunately for the music fan, many more years of mediocre performances and manufactured musicians are expected to come.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My Favourite Type of Music!

I Like Music!

Simple statement, but it really is true not just for me but almost every member of the human population. Music is something that is so universal, so standardized that by just saying "I Like Music" you are officially involved with it. No matter where in the world you are, or whoever you talk to, there will always be one unanimous similarity our enjoyment for tunes. One distinguishable characteristic of music that differs from all other arts, sciences and mass media is is accessibility. In order to be a music fan all that is required is a genuine fondness for the melody, or in the more indie sense, noise being transmitted through your ears.

The problem with the way our society approaches the way we listen too music today is that we limit the art to genres. We are constantly breaking it down into obscure sub-genres that often confine the close-minded listeners. The reality is, that all these genres are one and the same. They may be slightly altered in one way or another, but in the end its all music and its all good!

Now i understand everyone has preferences, It's completely justifiable to listen to a song an just to like it, simple as that. But this does not mean that we should limit ourselves to a whole sub-genre just because we favors a certain sounds over others. There is a lot of incredible music out there and we are being unfair to our mind, body and senses by not experiencing as much of it as possible. The simple and most affective way to classify music is by these very standards; what our mind, body and senses enjoy the must. There for, within the art of music they really should be two genres, what we enjoy and what we simply do not.

I'm sure what I'm saying is not new to most people reading this. Frank Zappa notoriously ranted about the subject far more in depth and intellectually than I did. However, discussing the state of music is not my intended purpose for this site. This is merely the passionate position i stand on the art of music as a whole. I see it as an art that is worth fully exploring throughout our lives and that we must listen first then formulate our opinion.

This approach to music will be the very basis of my blog and will be reflected throughout my reviews and postings. This site will be my soapbox to the world to share whatever music i enjoy
without the barrier of "genres". I fill focus on music ranging from Punk to Jazz, Rap to Alternative and everything in between. Because just everyone else, I Like Music!

Join me next week and expect:
a list of my favorite records of 2007
comments on the Grammy's
Record Review: Smashing Pumpkins "Siamese Dream"