11. How I Could Just Kill A Man-Rage Against The Machine(2000)
"How I Could Just Kill A Man" is the rare cover that manages to eclipse the original in almost every aspect. Though certainly not the most vicious of gangsta-rap songs from the early '90s, Rage Against The Machine scrounges for every last scrap of brutality to be found in Cyprus Hills' classic and then amplifies it a thousand fold. When B-Real raps "Young punk had to pay", you agree with him. When Zach De La Rocha does the same, you believe it. Truthfully, it's not one of Rage Against The Machine's more aggressive songs, and that's what makes it so scary-you've never heard the band sound quite this casual when talking about murder before. It doesn't scream it's intentions, it growls them. And the way the song sheds parts of itself off in the last 11 seconds until it's nothing but drums and vocals is maybe one of the most uniquely cathartic sequences in music. "How I Could Just Kill A Man" will end you, and you will thank it for the pleasure.
12. Gravity Rides Everything-Modest Mouse(2000)
If you're a dipshit, the most cruelly ironic twist of fate this decade was finding out that Modest Mouse's turn to the mainstream was also one of the best moves they could have made for bettering their music. The truth of the matter, though, is that The Moon and Antarctica is still not a mainstream record by any stretch of the imagination. Pretty much just "Gravity Rides Everything" and a couple other songs ever had a hope of being played on the radio. It's not hard to see why, too-this song is incredibly easy to fall in love with. The lyrics are optimistic without being happy, per se, and the guitar tone that Isaac Brock gets is nothing short of ethereal when it's not pleasingly folky. On a personal level, this song has gotten me through a lot of hard times and I think it'll continue to do so for many, many more years to come. Simple beauty is an easy thing to overlook, but "Gravity Rides Everything" practically forces you to stop and acknowledge the cool comfort it brings. Indie music this decade-any music-had the deck stacked against it for almost 10 years, because this song came out at the beginning of the decade and right out of the gate, the bar couldn't have been raised higher.
13. Heavy Artillery-Mr. Lif(2002)
Mr. Lif has to be one of the most underrated members of the alternative rap movement, and I can't for the life of me figure out why, especially with songs like "Heavy Artillery" under his belt. This song proves all by itself that you can sound fierce as hell without explicitly talking about killing people-the sped-up military drumline would accomplish that by itself, but when you combine it with Lif's sharp-but-smooth flow and jagged voice, you have a rap song that can peel the paint off the walls as good as any death metal number. Mr. Lif practically reinvents what it means to be aggressive in the rap world, and he didn't even have to mention his gat to do it.
14. June-Goodbye Gadget(2006)
If anyone could possibly make the argument that punk isn't dead, it would be by showcasing songs that do something new, like "June". Oakland's own Goodbye Gadget have crafted a pop-punk song that avoids the baggage that comes with such a divisive label by making it a smart, pointed story about a woman who feels trapped in her own life-the woman, in this case, being June Cleaver. It's a song about a woman who knows that she's kind of worthless, who could just as easily be any woman in any kitchen anywhere in the country. It's not typical punk fare, and the string arrangements jump out at you even more because of it. If Goodbye Gadget ever hits it big, it'll be because of sharp, catchy, tight numbers like "June".
15. Lay Low-My Morning Jacket(2005)
My Morning Jacket might be one of the most overrated groups of the decade-their album Z in particular-but that doesn't make "Lay Low" any less wonderful than it is. One of the least experimental, most straightforward pop songs on the aforementioned Z, "Lay Low" is a song that recalls a certain kind of boyish love, the kind that says "I know you don't think much of me, but I know I'm the guy for you and I can prove it". The charming, romantic tone of the song leads into one of their best solos, making this song one of the few times My Morning Jacket really earns their praise as a "guitar band". Soft and confident, "Lay Low" is a song that deserves to be played at outdoor socials and barbecues for years to come.
16. Bonafied Lovin'-Chromeo(2007)
If there's a reason that I'm not as averse to dance music as I used to be, it's probably because of "Bonafide Lovin'". The song is just so fucking fun-there's nothing about this song that doesn't realize that it's a kind of cheesey '80s throwback and it loves itself for it. The synthline practically grabs you by the arm and asks you to dance with it, and if you find yourself refusing I recommend you check to see if you still have a pulse. The theme of the song is awesome in an old-school way, too-it's been too long since the days of songs about being a man and stealing a woman away from an unworthy lover were in vogue. In that regard, Chromeo is following in the steps of their electrofunk forefathers. I can't anticipate anything but a good time coming from walking with them.
17. Drunken Lullabies-Flogging Molly(2002)
No one combines fury, sorrow and partying like the Irish, and nobody since the Pogues has done it as well as Flogging Molly. "Drunken Lullabies" is a song about finding yourself fighting even after you've learned long since that you have nothing left to fight for, and it screams all the frustration and bemusement that comes with that condition as though the band was standing right in the room with you. Lines like "Has the Shepard led his lambs astray/To the bigot and the gun?" bite hard, and the song is so energetic, so delightedly wrathful that you feel like fighting for something yourself, even if you don't know what it is. That's what "Drunken Lullabies" is-a battle anthem for an army that doesn't exist, and may never have existed to begin with, but leaves the aftermath of every battle it fights in it's wake. You can smash something or you can cry or you can do both, but you'll never know why you're doing it, not really. "Drunken Lullabies" is that feeling contained in a jagged little bottle, and it goes down a lot better than you think it should.
18. Banks Of The Deep End-Gov't Mule(2001)
An elder statesman of a band forming a side-project that turns out to be better than the original grouping is about the best sort of problem that you could hope to achieve. The fact Gov't Mule took all the best parts of the Allman Brothers Band is only icing on the cake, as they decided to go in a completely different songwriting direction than their parent group. It's hard to tell exactly what "Banks of the Deep End" is about, but a good guess would be that it has something to do with the death of former bassist Allen Woody. It's rare to hear a southern rock song that can be described as "moody", but "Banks of the Deep End" fits that bill in a big way. It comes across as sincere because of how stripped down it is-there are no string or woodwind arrangements like there might be from other bands trying to show their grief. It's just a few old men on guitars, drums and organ. The line "On the banks of the deep end/Where I lost my best friend" rings true as much because of Warren Haynes' resigned croak as the lyrics themselves. It's a hard rocking but mournful glimpse at a group of aging men who lost one of their best friends, and even if the song didn't stick in your head due to the classic, fundamentalist musicianship of the band(which it does), such a glimpse by itself turns this from a good song into a truly memorable one.
19. Fight Test-The Flaming Lips(2002)
The Sot Bulletin might have been the album that set the Flaming Lips off towards their new(aka Good) direction, but it was Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots that turned them into the synthpop/electronic indie band to be beat, and that much was obvious from the first song, "Fight Test". Within the first 20 seconds of the song, it became impossible to deny that you were listening to something magical-nothing else on earth can capture such a dreadful feeling, that of having missed the opportunity to be with the love of your life, and turn it into something that sounds so wondrous. That's the genius of the song, that it takes such compelling, joyful soundtrack sensibilities and focuses them around the most relatable chorus of the decade: "I don't know how a man decides what's right for his own life/It's all a mystery." It may be, but when you hear this song you'll feel like you're a step closer to solving it.
20. Yeah Sapphire-The Hold Steady(2008)
"Yeah Sapphire" contains not one but two of my favorite lyrics of the decade-the one in the title of this blog post and "'Cause dreams, they seem to cost money, but money costs some dreams". The Hold Steady has an incredible talent for being able to get to the emotional core of whatever it is they're playing about and laying it bare in the simplest, starkest terms possible. For that reason they were one of the hardest bands for me to pick just one song to represent. "Yeah Sapphire" has gotta be it, though-the story of the eternally wrongheaded boyfriend wanting to get back together with his old flame is a classic, and the agility of the lyrics, mixed with the dire situations the speaker finds himself in, turn a series of bumbling mistakes into a tender, bonafide classic.
Some people are saying that this was a terrible decade for music. Those people suck, in a big way. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the 00s were the best decade for music since the '70s, which...doesn't mean a lot if you don't like the '70s, I guess. The point is that there was a ton of amazing music released over the past 10 years, and I can prove it.
What's coming up are my personal favorite 70 songs of the decade-a box-set I would assemble if a market for best of the decade stuff existed and I was allowed to assemble the tracklist.
This will go on for 7 days, and hopefully after the week has passed you'll agree with me: The '00s were killer when it came to music, if nothing else. Thanks for all your hard work, Mr. Bush!
Mashups don't typically work incredibly well, simply because they're either too boring or too schizophrenic. "D.G.A.F.L.Y.F" managed an impressive feat, though-it took three songs that I/a lot of people hate, "Crank That(Soulja Boy)", "Sandstorm" and "Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!" and turned it into an incredibly fun dance number. Hearing Soulja Boy rap over the beats of a Eurodance song has to rank as one of the funniest musical moments of the decade. Though possibly the least significant of any song on this list, Super Mash Bros. crowning moment also happens to be one of the funnest.
2. No Children-The Mountain Goats(2002)
Speaking of hilarious songs, "No Children" is certainly the most bleakly hysterical song to come out of this decade, and one of the best examples of dark humor in popular songwriting ever. Probably most famous for it's use in an episode of Adult Swim program Moral Orel, "No Children" is a blistering tirade from a husband who has just. Fucking. Had it with his wife. Biting, unsuppressed rage is what the song is based around, but it's the lyrics that'll stand out in your mind. Jabs like "I hope our few remaining friends give up on trying to save us/I hope we come up with a fail safe plot to piss off the dumb few that forgave us" and "I hope you blink before I do/And I hope I never get sober", combined with John Darnielle's deadpan delivery and a misleadingly upbeat piano line, make "No Children" one of the most unforgettable songs released this decade, if not the past 20 years. You'll wish you had less to laugh about.
3. Little Secrets-Passion Pit(2009)
Make no mistake, you will feel disgusted with yourself when you listen to "Little Secrets". The goofy falsettos, the blaring synths, the child chorus, the feel-good lyrics-everything about this song is an attack on good taste that's meant to make you feel as rushingly happy and jumpy and sugary as it possibly can. It is a Joy Blitzkrieg that misses the brain entirely and heads squarely for the chest. And that's why you hate the song: Because it works. And that's why you love the song: Because it works.
4. Empty Walls-Serj Tankian(2007)
I've never had a lot of use for System Of A Down, but I rather like Serj Tankian by himself. As far as modern radio rock goes, "Empty Walls" has practically been a breath of fresh air. Make no mistake, the lyrics are utter nonsense and you're not going to come away from this feeling like you've learned something new about yourself, but it has all the staples of a classic anthem. Serj's voice is dramatic almost to the point of hilarity, but he keeps it just grounded enough to stop you from laughing. It also barely holds to a verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, almost seeming to degenerate as time goes on. It's not uncommon to hear "dark" music released for mass consumption these days, but rarely is it placed in such an odd, almost purposefully meaningless context. All things told, "Empty Walls" was probably the most interesting song played on the radio during the second half of the decade.
5. The Eruption-Emperor(2001)
The two things needed for a great black metal song is intensity and drama, and Emperor had always carried both in spades. By 2001 they had moved in a decidedly more symphonic, progressive direction, and the greatest triumph of this new direction was "The Eruption", the opening track off of the (for some reason) controversial Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise. The chorus of "And he beheld the ruins/Of an empire torn apart" is delivered with captivating gravity, a quick operatic interlude in a firestorm gnashing, snarling drums and vocals. It's a pummeling song for sure, but the orchestral aspects also serve to make it tragic sounding in the sense of ancient Greek literature, making the album title that much more appropriate.
6. Machine Gun-Portishead(2008)
"Booming" is not a word typically used to describe Portishead-at least, it wasn't until 2008. After hearing nothing out of the band for more than a decade, "Machine Gun" tore out of the gates and blasted all expectations of the group from here to God knows where. Focused around one haunting drum loop, Beth Gibbons' haunting vocals run almost parallel to the rest of the song, creating one of the most melodious interpretations of paranoia that can be remembered. The way that the loop fractures every 5 seconds holds attention without being jarring and stays the same until the last 1:30, at which point the listener is absolutely mesmerized. Few songs in this or any decade are quite so captivating, doing so much with so little.
7. Black Betty-Spiderbait(2004)
Question: How do you cover one of the most enduring blues/marching songs of all time without ripping off someone who already has covered it and making sure the listener isn't bored with it before they even turn it on? Answer: You strip it down to spare parts and just fucking go. Spiderbait's cover of "Black Betty" is a simple affair: Distorted guitar. Distorted vocals. Words. Kickpedal. Banjo. Combined, they make for an intensely catchy song that rips like no other version can manage. The reason Ministry's cover of the song failed was because they tried too hard to make it sound like every other Ministry song. Spiderbait's version is it's own entity entirely, almost sounding like any hard-rock band could have done it if they thought of it first. But they didn't. Spiderbait did, creating the definitive version of the song-yes, even more so than Ram Jam's more famous cover.
8. The Grudge-Tool(2001)
This song basically covers Tool in a nutshell. Lyrics that are pretentious or deep, depending on your point of view? Check. Drummer using a ludicrous amount of toms and triggers? Check. It's fucking long? Check. If Tool isn't your thing, I think it'll be hard for you to imagine a worse song than "The Grudge" being released this or any decade. Personally, though, I think you're missing out. Spirituality from a cosmic standpoint isn't something that's discussed much in music, and when it is the reflex is to write it off as juvenile. Fuck that, though-Tool's appeal is only kind of in the lyrics. They create an atmosphere of spiritual aggression that's only comparable to possibly Pink Floyd or Black Sabbath and the lyrics, the "Saturn comes back around, lifts you up again" type lines enter into that. I don't know of a better song that exemplifies that quality than "The Grudge"-in other words, I don't know of another song where it's possible to meditate or headbang to. The rage comes off as sincere and the way the song travels from beginning to end makes it something of an experience. Tool is one of those bands you just have to go with, and if you let yourself do that you'll find "The Grudge" to be one of the most satisfying songs in your library.
9. Reborn-The Living End(2006)
If you asked me to explain why I like this Living End song and not a whole lot of others, I don't think I'd be able to tell you. It has the same qualities as most of The Living End's output-bad lyrics, generic instrumentation and all. This one catches me a little bit, though. It grooves, it rumbles a little more than it feels like it should. It menaces without being menacing, and it's got something of an anthemic quality to it, despite being about nothing in particular. I don't know, like I said, I'm having a hard time with this one. I like it. That's the long and short.
10. Floor Shaker-Boris(2008)
Man, I don't know what the fuck this song is about, but I know that I feel it. Boris are the masters of all they survey, and I don't really know what...this is-speed metal, noise rock, stoner rock?-but I know that I love it. It feels important as hell, it feels like the soundtrack to a race to stop the end of the world. Those drums are some of the most intoxicating I've heard in a long time and the riffs are nothing short of inspiring. I don't know what kind of music this is, I don't think anyone can seriously classify Boris at this point, but whatever they are, they are uniquely amazing at it, and I hope they keep it up for many, many years to come
1973; Clearwell Castle, Gloucestershire, England; Vertigo Records
1. Is It Any Good?
A bunch of people like this album a lot because of how different it is from the rest of Black Sabbath's golden age material, and honestly, to me, the things that make this album different from stuff like Master of Reality and their self-titled debut are also the things that make it kind of lame in a lot of places.
First of all, and this is big, the guitar work on this album is really sloppy when compared to other records. Maybe it's just the fact that I don't have a remastered copy, but my copy of Paranoid is one of those bunk-ass editions that have the "may expose the limitations of analog recording equipment" on the back as well, and it wasn't anywhere near this squeaky. Seriously, at a certain point you're left wondering if Iommi dipped the neck of his guitar in butter while he was in the recording studio, because the chord transitions are extremely obvious and, in some places, very distracting. It's a shame, since Tony Iommi is pretty much a riff genius and the sliding really detracts from some killer hooks.
When there are killer hooks to be had at all, that is. See, for a good portion of this album, Black Sabbath decided to include orchestral arrangements and keyboards because, I dunno, that's what a "serious" band has to do, at some point? The point is, it misses far more than it hits. As a matter of fact, the best track by leaps and bounds, "A National Acrobat", is the only one that's straight-up, no nonsense guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Truthfully, it's a spooky, doomy, haunting song that stands as one of their absolute best on any album.
Likewise, the title track, while very different from the usual Sabbath fare, is a pretty excellent underdog anthem, and "Sabbra Cadabra" might be the only Black Sabbath song you could feasibly dance to-trust me, it actually works. The horns, keyboard and barroom piano all coalesce nicely to make one of their most jumpin' tracks, and it's honestly a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn't hold up nearly so well. "Fluff", while kinda pretty, is precisely what it sounds like-instrumental filler, and besides which, "pretty" probably isn't what you're looking for when you turn on a Black Sabbath record. "Killing Yourself To Live" works in places, but it displays Sabbath's fundamental misunderstanding of what makes for a good psychedelic song(hint-it's not Ozzy randomly proclaiming "Smoke it...GET HIGH!!" during the bridge for no discernible reason), and after a certain point it gets too goofy to really pay much mind to. "Looking For Today" can actually be described as being upbeat, which is basically, like...fuck that completely for a song that shows up on a Black Sabbath album.
None of those songs, though, match the goofy, embarrassing failure of a song that is "Who Are You?" This is the most keyboard heavy song on the album, and to answer your question, no, they are not the tasteful sounding kind of keyboards. They're the "wom-zee-wow-bee-wom-pychuu" kind of keyboards, and they turn what should be a foreboding, ominous dirge into the band's silliest fuckup next to the entirety of Technical Ecstasy. It's not a freethrow that bounces off the rim, it's an attempted dunk that somehow manages to miss the net completely, give you a wedgie and kill your grandparents in midair.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath has some great moments, but ultimately can't live up to the metalness of the album title or the cover art. Keyboards and strings had worked for Black Sabbath in small doses on earlier albums, but this album proved that the band couldn't structure an entire record around anything outside of their core instruments.
That said, they would keep trying to do so anyway for a few more albums until they imploded and started sucking for the next decade or so. LSD, folks: It fucks with the mind.
2. Is It "Influential"?
A surprising number of people have covered the title track, and like I stated earlier a lot of people seem to like this album for some reason, but their days of being a full-blown inspiration were behind them at this point.
3. Is It A Good Starting Point For Beginners?
A lot of it is listenable, but very few songs on it could be called exemplary and even fewer could be called a good example of the genre, or even a good example of Black Sabbath's style, for that matter. Look elsewhere.
1. Is It Any Good?
Fuck Buttons, huh? That's pretty cool, all cerebral and metaphysical and shit. If you're a dude, though, you'll probably want to listen to this. As a matter of fact, they drafted it into the constitution that you're not officially a full-fledged adult male if you haven't listened to this album three times. There is a time for learning and deepness and there is a time for manhood. Ace of Spades is a time for Kickass.
A lot of things will happen while you listen to this album. Lemmy is going to tell you to fuck him like you were a lizard. He's going to talk about how awesome it is to travel across the country and hurt people and get hurt in fantastic ways. He's going to threaten to bone your wife and then kill you with a hammer just because he is sick of your shit.
He will, in no uncertain terms, detail how much he likes to screw teenage girls.
Gambling is a big part of this album. Drinking is too, along with murder and driving fast. While all of this is going on, you are going to have no less than four parts of your body exploded from Eddy Clarke's solos. Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor behind the drums is no slouch himself. He doesn't really do much more than show up and do his job, but he does it well.
You're going to want to hit people after listening to this album. Not because you're angry or anything, just because it will seem like the right thing to do. You can dance to a lot of this album as well, but it has to be really sleazy and the chick has to look like something you found in the garage.
Ace of Spades is something of an anomaly in the metal world-it is something that all metalheads can unite behind and praise to the high heavens. I'm pretty sure Iron Maiden is the only other band that can pull that off. Music? Fuck that, dude, this is a way of life. And you're not a part of it, no you are not sir, but for 45 minutes you can pretend that you are. You can throw on the title track or "(We Are) The Road Crew" or "Please Don't Touch" and you'll feel like you're exactly as awesome as the people making this music. And what's great about that is that unlike power metal, which is supposed to give you the same feeling, this shit is something you could technically pull off. That fine-ass elf lady and that big sword and that scary motherfucker of a troll are always just going to be sitting around in your brain, or if you're ridiculously committed to this idea, they might be on a poster or in a book, and you can always visit them there.
Cars, though? Cars are real. Beer is real. Loose women are things you can actually put your hands on. And your fists? Those sonsabitches are attached to you! If you really wanted to, you could quit your job, steal some gym equipment, hook up with every sleazy bitch in town and in no time flat, you'd be living it up Lemmy style. Is it realistic, is it something that sounds like it could be maintained for all that long? Is it even something that'll be fun once you start doing it? Probably not.
But doesn't it sound like it could be?
Basically, what I'm saying is that from a conceptual level, metal doesn't get better than this. Nasty, dirty, low-down and mean. Ace of Spades. Get it.
2. Is It "Influential"?
The title track is basically the Headbanger's Siren: "Stop whatever you're doing and just rock the fuck out for a couple of minutes". If you're in a metal band and you don't follow this code...well, you're probably Slipknot. This album inspired the thrash movement, which inspired basically everything else that has to do with metal. If you're in a metal band and you ain't up for the Ace, you had best order some kind of extra-strength genetically modified diaper, because no human being could possibly be that full of bullshit.
3. Is It A Good Starting Point For Beginners?
There have been some bad, bad, bad lists about what was the best of this decade, but this one takes the fucking cake.
I think "gutless" is the first word that comes to mind. And then "predictable". And then "wrong". I'm not going to tell you what's bad about it specifically, because I don't want to ruin our own list, but also because I don't really have to tell you why this list sucks, because you have a fucking brain.
If our own Top 100 list turns out to be as lame as this bullshit you have my permission to come into our homes and take our things.
- People referring to metal influences in a song as being a bad thing, unless it's a song by a band that doesn't usually incorporate metal into their music at all, in which case the song becomes "daring"
- Anything that anyone, anywhere might have to say about OK Computer
- Indie-folk songs about traveling
- Bands trying to incorporate dance influences into their music, and by "dance" I mean a goofy synthesizer line shoved in the middle of a bunch of generic rock instrumentation
- Any metal about feelings
- People who don't understand anything about the blues talking about how Jimmy Page "stole" his riffs from blues musicians
- People who say that they hate country but love Johnny Cash-even I do this a lot and it's starting to piss me off
- Teenagers with opinions about The Clash
- People who talk about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in a manner that suggests that no album was recorded before Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Itunes Genius insisting that I will enjoy Ted Nugent because it noticed that I have Thin Lizzy albums
- Last.fm's inability to let you pause songs, making it a powerful music search engine less technologically advanced than a VCR
- A man with a guitar or a piano, covering a Bob Dylan song
- People who like technical death metal and can't admit that they listen to music that's boring as fuck
- The idea that Coldplay has anything to offer anyone who isn't an old woman or a baby
- Anyone who doesn't have more than 3 rap albums in their collection and insists that It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is one of the greatest albums of all time
- Any thought that may pass through Brendan Flowers' head
- Otherwise diverse "Best of the '60s" lists that are frontloaded with Beatles albums
- Nu-Metal apologists
- Everything about Sufjan Stevens
- The notion that any and all Black Sabbath records that weren't recorded with Ozzy and aren't Dehumanizer are anything less than odious
- The idea that punk is somehow a less retarded genre than heavy metal, claimed by people whose knowledge of either begins and ends with the Ramones and Led Zeppelin
- The music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
- People who will claim that the psychedelic era of the Beatles was their best and that their pop era sucked, and then have the audacity to enjoy "Got To Get You Into My Life"
- Pitchfork Media talking about how much they love an album in the same way a drunk might tell you to your face how bad he wants to fuck your girlfriend
- Gene Simmons' opinions
- Animal Collective
- Those motherfucking Goddamn baby boomers
Today, me and Aisha were talking via internet and the subject of metal came up. It started out as a tiny joke and eventually spiraled into something bigger and funnier. What follows is me and Aisha each adapting the personality of a "serious" metalhead and chatting about the intricacies of the genre. I thought it was funny enough to make an article about-you will have to be the judge as to whether I was correct or not. Bonus friend points to anyone who wants to do album art for any of the albums or bands mentioned.
CJ: I tried listening to Deicide.
CJ: "Blarf blarf blarf blarf blarf blarf blarf blarf DEATH blarf blarf blarf blarf blarf SATAN"
Aisha: I like how there's a band called Godkiller and a band called Deicide.
CJ: Mankiller and Guydeath and Peopleend and Lifeisover and Deadfolks and Expiration Zeus Devil.
Aisha: Wait... these are real?
CJ: No, Christ no.
Aisha: I like Guydeath, personally.
CJ: They're good for sure, their blast beats are a little weak though.
Aisha: I think the vocals get too choppy at points.
CJ: I like "Slaughter of the Maimed Angels", that album really brought back the Holfendarg Scene for me.
Aisha: And the chorus seems to run throughout the entire song.
CJ: "Dogfuck Pesticide" was a little too mainstream, to my ears-sounds like they were trying to emulate Peopleend a little too closely.But of course no REAL metalhead would call "Kraken of the Misconceived" anything less than a masterpiece.
Aisha: And ever since Lord Rotting Pope bled to death when crucifying himself for the album art of their next release, the drumming's never been the same.
CJ: Yeah, those blast beats just aren't as crunchy.
Aisha: I really liked how they got a sheep to scream on their last single.
CJ: That's awesome! That completely validates everything they do!
Aisha: And then they offered it up to Satan so that the single would sell well.
CJ: 3,000 Norwegians can't be wrong!
Aisha: Then again, they can't sell too well.Otherwise I would stop listening to the mainstream pigs.
CJ: Yeah, then kids will start listening to them and I'll have to go back to the mall to scream at people. And it's not like my mom is made of gas money.
Aisha: Fucking sellouts, it's becoming every band now.
CJ:Fucking metalcore bitches have ruined every album I've ever owned.
Some things just enter your head. Things you can't close your ears to because they get to you through your ear plugs, sneak in to your subconscious and bang around in there, become the unintentional soundtrack to your walking around life. I really didn't mean for this to happen to me with No Age. Though their live show can easily be described as the best around, I never really felt their intense almost violent punk energy fit onto to their records that well. The first time I saw them they played for eight dollars in a burnt out art studio/black box music venue in Oakland. It was like being hit by a steam train. I cannot describe the emotion. People moshing and trashing not so much out of a violent urge nor out of the shear fun but more like their life depended on it. Covered in sweat, much of it not my own. The whole crowd running out of energy wile the music cascaded over us but goddamnit not stopping or slowing. A tool grabs the mic, gets punched down by the drummer, the guitarist stands on the bass drum and falls backwards to surf the crowd, still playing, we're just trying not to get pushed into the symbols.
And then, I return home, rip out my new white record of Nouns, the band's first studio lp, and was wildly let down. More electronic, more expansive, less direct, less punk. The needle lifted and I thought - a few excellent tracks, a few good ones, but it doesn't hold together. I put the disc away. And yet, over the next year, without me realizing, the record found its way back on my turntable, over and over and over. Its not that the songs were stuck in my head so much as trapped in my mind, I couldn't shake them out. I listened to Nouns with more frequency then any other album of 2008, more then most every other album in general. It snuck up on me, when I wasn't looking, and by now it's hard for me to deny its absolute brilliance.
Aside from the two singles off Nouns, Loosing Feeling is the bands first realise since that record dropped. Four song ep, not available on cd. And again, I couldn't expect it. Though I contest that No Age is a punk band, and the best one around at that, it would be hard to say that this disc had even the smallest traces of punk on it at all. Instead the band pulls out their more ambient, darker side. More white noise then nihilist noise. The tracks are calm, they are smooth, they are slow and tidal. Drifting over you. And at first they are easy to forget and easy to ignore. And somehow, once again, they have penetrated my defenses, they have entered my mind and are swirling around in there. They are distracting me when I am walking around. The chanting chorus of "We're loooooooooosing feeeeeeeeeeeeeling" repeated and shouted. and it make you feel like those times your less than half awake, wandering around your room to turn off your alarm and hoping that sleep will take you back.
because, man, it doesn't seem like it at first but these four songs have power. And in their brevity and their thin presentation it is sometimes hard to believe they exist at all.
1. Losing Feeling
3. Aim at the Airport
4. Your a Target
Well, someone who wasn't able to chow down on fowl, grease and butter this year was one Ronnie James Dio. He wasn't because he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Say it with me: Yikes.
As many of you may well know, I am not in the slightest a fan of the man's music(Dehumanizer was a good album and Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow is tolerable in small doses). That said, Dio strikes me as one of the nicest people in metal and I hear nothing but overwhelmingly positive things about him as a human being. And even if I hadn't, nobody should have their insides exploding on them the same day they're supposed to be honkin' down a big slice of bird. Stomach cancer on Thanksgiving? Luck is a lady, but that doesn't stop her from being a royal cunt.
That said: It's important to remember that terrible shit hits "regular" people just as hard as it does celebrities, and fifty times more often. It's completely terrible that anyone should have to deal with this kind of thing during the time they're supposed to be living large off of cheap booze, poultry and familial hate. And while Dio has the resources to work through even a cosmic bitch-slap as big as stomach cancer, lots of people don't, and they're the ones you're not hearing about.
So while you're still working the weight off, let's have a "get well soon" for Ronnie James Dio and his family, but while you're at it, send a couple to the people you don't know, and three to the people you wouldn't care to know even if you did. Life is quick and shitty enough without this kind of thing sneaking up on folks, and definitely too much so for pettyness.
Let's all remember to watch each other's backs this holiday season, eh?
1976; Rockfield Studios, Wales; Gull Records
1. Is It Any Good?
This is one of the consummate Judas Priest records for fans in the know to point to as their "heaviest" record, setting it as an example against Judas Priest's later "pop shit". In other words, it's sonic proof that sometimes a hardcore fanbase doesn't have any fucking idea what it's talking about.
To their credit, this is their second album, so because it's early that does automatically make it cooler than later releases according to the Rules of Music. And there's an interesting conflict going on with this one because it contains a few songs that are arguably among Priest's greatest works-"Tyrant" is an absolutely blistering anthem, which stands to this day as one of their most ripping songs. "Genocide" has one of the coolest, most sinister grooves this side of Black Sabbath, and "The Ripper" is pure fun-try to keep from mouthing the words yourself as Halford purrs out "I'm sly and I'm shameless, nocturnal and nameless/Except for The Ripper, or, if you like, Jack the Knife."
The real standout here, though, is "Dreamer Deceiver", a big middle finger to anyone who refers to metal as being "artless"-psychedelic, haunting and dramatic as all hell, it's an absolutely gorgeous song. Not quite a ballad and not quite a straight-up metal song, it stands as a testament to Priest's early progressive tendencies, and what's more, it stands as an example of artistry that metal rarely reaches outside of a purely technical definition of the word.
Unfortunately, the only two words I can think of to define the rest of the album is goofy and forgettable-"Epitaph" in particular stands out as a huge WTF moment, a piano ballad about a sad old man in his twilight years. No, the old man in question is not a general, a king or a wizard, and yes, it is probably the least metal song you can imagine outside of Elton John making a soft-jazz concept album about bridesmaids. "Victim of Changes" starts out well enough and has some really interesting passages but unquestionably wears out it's welcome after 8 minutes. "Genocide" sees Rob Halford really milking that goofy voice thing he does where he tries to sound like an intense black woman-it's kind of neat when he does it in songs later in the band's career, but here he sounds like he's trying to take part of another dude out of his butthole(which is not the most implausible of scenarios, really). Worst of all, "Deceiver" follows right on the heels of "Dreamer Deceiver", and next to such experimental beauty the dependable zippidy-doo riffs come off sounding like cold shit, and it turns out to be a really lame way to end the album.
There are some really amazing aspects of this album, and in some ways it's worth investing in just to see the early roots of a band that would eventually become a metal juggernaut, but this is an album where the sum of it's parts definitely turn out to be better than the whole. In other words, buyer beware.
That is one fuck of an album cover though, isn't it? Shit.
2. Is It "Influential"?
This is, for all intents and purposes, the album that really kicked off the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, which was one of the principal components of creating thrash metal along with punk. It might also technically be the first progressive metal album, which is a little bit of a blessing but mostly a gigantic, horrible curse.
3. Is It A Good Entry Point For Beginners?
As an individual album, no, probably not-they'll probably nod off about halfway through. If you expose them to individual tracks, though, there's a good chance they'll want to learn more, as what's good here is really good. If they already like Judas Priest, show it off, but if they're still iffy on the genre as a whole then it might be a good idea to keep this one tucked away for a little while longer.
1980; Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec
1982; Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec; Mercury
(NOTE: I considered titling this article "Rushing On My Run", but the idea of putting Rush next to the Velvet Underground in any context made me want to die. My stomach kind of hurt even while I was writing the above sentence.)
As many of you may know, I hate Rush. I hate them a Goddamn lot. It's not really my fault, either, because they seem to go out of their way to make themselves as unlikable as possible. Take this quotation from an interview with Neil Peart, and keep in mind that he's talking about the band's logo:
"All it means is the abstract man against the masses. The red star symbolizes any collectivist mentality."
Christ, forget Geddy Lee, even their logo is obnoxious and shrill.
Still, there are a couple of Rush songs I actually enjoy, if only because they're entwined in my mind with my childhood, listening to 107.7 The Bone with my dad as we drove around town-those songs being "Limelight" and "Spirit Of The Radio". So I said to myself a couple nights ago, "Maybe I haven't given these dudes a fair shake." So I did the unthinkable: I made myself listen to not one, but TWO Rush albums. One I picked, Signals, because I hadn't heard much about it but it seemed to be generally pretty well liked, and the other, Permanent Waves, because it had the aforementioned "Spirit Of The Radio" on it. It's also worth noting that I had previously listened to little snippits of each on iTunes and neither made me shit my pants with rage, which is not something that can be said of Hemispheres or 2112, those albums can go die in a coal mine.
Permanent Waves. My favorite song was first, so with that little bit of nostalgia out of the way, I can pretty accurately say that it was all downhill after "Spirit Of The Radio". "Freewill" is the second song and it's the same obnoxious shit I mentioned with that quote about the logo-that kind of condescending, Rand-fingering drivel that makes you want to put your foot through the monitor. The chorus of this song is, and I'm not making this up, "You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice/If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice/You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill/I will choose a path that's clear, I will choose free will."
You know what? Fuck you. That sort of shit is worse than when Slayer tries to tell me that I should become an atheist, because they're at least not pretending they're better than me. I don't give a shit how many times you've read "Atlas Shrugged", that doesn't give you the right to condescend to me about believing in God and buying things from Target. You dumbfucks have sold 25 million albums, you're no more a beacon of individuality than Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and you're ugly as hogs dressed in fetish gear to boot, so get off your high horses.
That's the only other standout song-the only thing I really noticed throughout the rest of the album was how hilarious Geddy Lee's vocals were(which I expected) alongside how fucking corny the lyrics are-you get shit like "Follow men's eyes as they look up to the skies/The shifting shafts of shining weaves the fabric of their dreams" and "We are secrets to each other, each one's life a novel no one else has read". I've heard less fruity lyrics come out of Gloria Gaynor songs-I'd almost prefer the Libertarian space-operas(that's actually what 2112 is about, I wish to God I was making that up), but that's a pretty fucking big "almost". Otherwise, the synths are cheesy and the sound effects are hammy, which is, once again, pretty much exactly what I was expecting from Rush, which did not please me, even if it did make me chuckle a few times.
As to Signals, there's less to talk about because they pretty much wrote the same song eight times. "Subdivisions" starts out kind of interesting and then you think "Wait, is the whole song going to be like this?" and it turns out that yes, it is, and by the time you've heard the same vaguely-uplifting-but-actually-kinda-dry keyboard riff for the 72nd time throughout the course of three songs, you're pretty much just waiting for the whole thing to end. It's pretty different from the previous album-it's definitely poppier, and in Rush's case I actually consider that to be a good thing. It would be hard to say that I liked it better...
...except that there was one song I actually came away with enjoying, which I hadn't hard before. "New World Man" is a sincerely good piece of music, with relatable lines like "He's old enough to know what's right but young enough not to choose it/He's noble enough to win the world but weak enough to lose it". It's nice and compact at 3:45, and I'm a little surprised it didn't become a bigger hit than it turned out to be. "The Weapon" also has a nice groove and it's well-paced and well constructed, but it looses points for having the subtitle of being "Part II of Fear", a quartet of songs that...doesn't begin until a few albums later. And that Neil Peart didn't even think of making until a few years after this album came out.
I mean, yeah, making a concept out of four songs spread across different albums, with Part II coming before Part I, and it didn't even really exist until the early 90's...yeah, that's sort of the kind of thing that you expect out of Rush, but I mean, Jesus. Take a few of those dicks out of your mouth and write a fucking love song, guys. You ain't George Lucas and George Lucas barely got away with pulling that off, and George Lucas didn't have the handicap of being a shitty progressive rock band.
Overall...Jesus, I don't really know what I was expecting out of this endeavor. I was looking for some hope that Rush could be redeemed-I love progressive rock and arguably the most successful progressive rock band of all time had to have something to offer everyone who enjoyed the genre, right? Sadly, that doesn't look to be the case. I can see what they're trying to do-there's a certain magic that the music of Rush is trying to capture, but there's a wall of pretension, snottiness and self-seriousness that they keep bumping into before they get anywhere close to it. The vocals are hilarious when they're not unbearable and while the instrumentation isn't as overwrought as it is during their most egregious offenses, the lyrics are still chillingly bad for the most part.
It's just...artless. It's like somebody booked a theater on Broadway and then forgot to hire a director. If there's any kind of appeal to this kind of music, I can't find it.
So last night I'm listening to It's Only Rock 'n Roll, which seems to be one of the only Rolling Stones records that has a reputation for not having any kind of reputation at all. Kind of like Black Sabbath's Volume 4, IORnR(pronounce that for me, win a prize if I think it's funny) is an album full of things that you associate with the Rolling Stones, nothing more and nothing less. You get a hit single, a Motown cover, a couple ballads, misogyny liberally sprinkled throughout, a few songs that go on for way too long and a little bit of "check it out, we're talking about balls" type of humor for good measure. It surpasses expectations only in that you could not have imagined your expectations being so remarkably met.
And then right in the middle you get "Luxury", and boy howdy is this fucker a real puzzler. It's not something that you'd be entirely surprised to hear the Rolling Stones do, but that doesn't make you any less confused when you actually hear it.
Too scared to click the link? Basically, this is the Rolling Stones attempting to do reggae. And when I say attempting to do reggae, I don't mean that they're doing an "Ob La Di, Ob La Da" kind of thing. I mean that they are tackling the genre in the most lunatic fashion you can think of: They ignore everything that makes the genre musically unique and then Mick Jagger tries to sing like a Jamaican man. I mean he really fucking tries his hardest to sound like he was born and raised in Jamaica. I mean he sings lines like "Make a meelion for de Texans, twenny dolla me/I workin' so hard, I workin for de companee".
When you register that Mick Jagger is trying to imitate a poor person from Jamaica, your brain will scream. It’s not exactly that it’s racist; it’s that Jamaican patois and the Rolling Stones fit together like ham and popsicles. Take a minute to read over the lyrics and think about it, though. “Luxury” is an attempt to do something that very few other songs will dare to even think about: Actually getting into the shoes of wildly divergent culture or social class than your own.
Irish musicians do this kind of thing a lot-sing about working in the coal mines, working on the railroad-but in general, Celtic folk and punk, when they do bring these things up, talk about the toil and hard work that their ancestors engaged in. Can you think of another rock song that tries to empathize with a working culture that’s nowhere close to the singer’s own(Jagger came from a decidedly middle class family), much less one that’s composed of a different ethnicity, much less one that’s attempting to present the material like somebody from the song’s situation might do so? In other words, you point me to the song where Neil Young tries to sing like a Chinese factory worker and I will eat the nastiest thing I can find in my home.
Now, once again, this is important: Does it work? It depends on how you think of it, but it’s completely arguable that no, it does not. Jagger definitely lays it on pretty thick and it comes across as a little offensive at points. It’s possible that this song would have been a success, or at least connected with a few more people than it did, if he just sang it in his regular voice. But it’s important to note that he adapts voices whenever he tries to fit any kind of specific role in a song-he sings with a southern drawl through many of the songs about working class people during Beggars Banquet, as an example. And more to the point, it’s interesting. How much would it whack you upside the head to hear Jay-Z sing from the perspective of a white bus driver in Chicago, or hear the Mars Volta do a concept album about a Tokyo schoolteacher, and then approach performing the songs like their subject material might? Would it be a success? Probably not, but would it be interesting? Shit, I’d take something ridiculous and possibly offensive but adventurous in a heartbeat over whatever Three Days Grace is doing right now.
“Luxury” struck me not only because it was approaching song storytelling in a way that I hadn’t seen in popular music before, but also because it was buried underneath a concrete slab of aggressively normal rock and roll. It makes you wonder what other little sparks of Different the world might be missing out on. It also makes you wonder where the line is, and if we can’t think about screwing around with it a little bit to see what works and what doesn’t. Music doesn’t have any real rules-it never did, and if the Rolling Stones can take that into account than there’s no reason why the rest of the rock world shouldn’t show a little hustle, too.