Thursday, 21 April 2011

By the Way by the Red Hot Chili peppers - A perfectly times change of pace from a fantastic creative force

It's hard to find someone who's never grooved to a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, and nearly impossible to find anyone who flat-out dislikes them. They are one of the longest enduring bands around today, putting out albums since 1985. Since their inception, their style has changed considerably, mostly due to the revolving door of guitarists they've had. Despite the constant changes, the material they produce remains exciting, organic, and original.

In 2002, the band released their eight studio effort, 'By the Way'. It is a total contrast to the bands previous releases, taking a much softer approach as opposed to the furious, in-your-face funk/metal they had made a name for themselves with. But different certainly doesn't mean bad in this case. 'By the Way' features many of the bands deepest and most well-written songs to date, like 'Don't Forget Me' which features a simple, revolving, hypnotic chord progression and a passionate vocal performance by Kiedis that builds in intensity until erupting into an almost orgasmic scream mid-way through the song. 'Can't Stop' is a song that has found its way into the collective conciousness of the mainstream, due to its hooky verse riff and melodic chorus. These are by far the best songs on the album, but there are plenty of other quality tracks laying in wait, such as 'Minor Thing', 'Warm Tape', 'Venice Queen', and 'This is the place'.

Unfortunately, this album is also a prime example of pressure from record companies to meet deadlines, and for every great song on this album, there is another that feels like complete filler. These songs mar the emotional intensity and essential beauty of this album and can leave a bitter taste.

If you are willing to put up with a few crap tracks, this can be a fantastic album, but if you easily get fed up waiting for the good tracks, you might want to pass on this one. but for the most part, this is a great album.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Wretch by Kyuss - the less-than-humble beginnings of stoner rock

When most people think of the California alternative rock scene of the early 90's, they think of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Jane's Addiction, and other established L.A. alt bands that were being waved around like a banner for the alternative nation to gather under. But if you lived near Palm Desert, then the name Kyuss immediately springs to mind. After gathering a cult following by playing shows in the middle of the desert, using gas generators for power, they decided it was time to put out their debut album.

'Wretch', released in 1991, is the sonic lovechild of Metallica, Danzig, and Black Sabbath. With heavily distorted, chugging guitars, guitarist Josh Homme shows off his heavy metal roots. Although not the downtuned, bass-ridden tone he would later make famous on releases like 'Blues for the Red Sun' and 'Welcome to Sky Valley', his guitar sound makes good use of traditional metal distortion and techniques. The bass and drums, on the other hand, have yet to reach the maturity they would find on later releases, and sound incredibly weak and generic. The songwriting also leaves something to be desired, as a lot of songs on this album sound much too derivative of their influences, although Garcia's vocals manage to save them from sounding plagiarized rather than derivative.

Althought thats not to say theres no good tracks on this album. Balls-to-the-wall rockers like 'Love Has Passed Me By', and 'The Law' show a side of kyuss that is unfortunately never captured again in their later work, while down-tempo grooves like 'I'm Not' and 'Son of a Bitch' lay down the foundation for the psychadelic sludge metal that would become their trademark sound.
While this is by no means a bad album, it's not the best Kyuss album out there, and it would be wise to get familiar with their other material before attempting a listen through to this one, or the songs might blur together. But if you already dig Kyuss or Sleep, or even early Metallica or Danzig, give this album a try.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Highly recommended albums

Added a best albums list to the sidebar. Anything i deem worth a listen will be placed in the list, and it will be constantly updated, so be sure to check back frequently. Comment with suggestions, as well.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Dummy by Portishead - The seminal trip-hop album of the 90's

Trip-hop is unlike any other genre. The bands aren't concerned with writing hit songs or putting out singles. They're not even out to make a musical masterpiece or artistic statement. They want to take you on a journey. Hypnotic, slowed-down, electronica infulenced beats lay down the backdrop while melancholy melodies dot the landscape. Layers upon layers of sounds create a texture akin to those created by the psychadelic rock bands of the late 60's. Underneath all of this is a bass sound completely unique to the genre. Occupying a frequency range so low that it's barely audible, the bass is less heard and more felt, bringing all the other elements together in such a way that makes you feel as if you are in another universe.

One of the best albums to come out of the trip-hop movement of the 90's is Portishead's 'Dummy', released in 1995. There isn't a single song on 'Dummy' that could be considered a clear miss. Some of the albums gems are 'Roads', a soft-spoken track that could arguably be one of the saddest songs ever recorded, and 'Glory box', which is a driven, deliberate love song accented by the incredibly refined, yet emotional, guitar solo. Other than those, some of the other bright spots on the album are 'Sour Times', which sounds like the opening credits to a Bond movie, 'Numb', a spacious sonic landscape, and 'Biscuit', a prototypical trip-hop track.

This album is fantastic. Its somber tone makes it -the- album for anyone in the middle of emotionally trying times, and the way it has completely hum-able songs while never getting in-your-face makes it fantastic chill-out background music. Listeners be warned though, this album can take a couple of listens to grow on you. All in all, though, it is a fantastic body of work worth the time.