Yeah, I know. It's pretty much 2009 now. I don’t always finish jobs in time. Got a problem with that? Fuck you!!!
When Blessedheart sets out to do something, he does it. Eventually.
Last year's (2006) list was tough as I struggled to think of ten albums - live albums, EPs and compilations don't count - worthy of such a lofty accolade as a place in the list. However, this year (2007) was the complete opposite. I have struggled to keep it down to ten because almost every album I have heard from 2007 has been brilliant. I mean, Porcupine Tree's 'Fear of a Blank Planet' didn't even make the final ten. How the hell did that happen? It's an amazing album! Seriously, go and buy it, even if you already have a copy.
Yes, that does say ‘buy’.
By the way, if anything I state in any of the tedious reviews below offends you, that's your problem, not mine.
As I did last year (2006), I'll begin with a few even more pointless lists - sans my comments - just to keep the excitement and anticipation going, like.
Top 5 singles of 2007
5. Manic Street Preachers - 'Your Love Alone Is Not Enough'
4. Marilyn Manson - 'Heart-Shaped Glasses (When The Heart Guides The Hand)'
3. Serj Tankian - 'Empty Walls'
2. Brett Anderson - 'Love Is Dead'
1. Grinderman - 'No Pussy Blues'
I bet you're glad you read that. Here's another one.
Albums that might have been considered for my top 10 had I actually heard them (at the time of compiling the list)
Aereogramme - 'My Heart Has a Wish That You Would Not Go'
Björk - 'Volta'
Chris Cornell - 'Carry On' (OK, maybe not that one)
Darkthrone - 'F.O.A.D.'
Devin Townsend - 'Ziltoid the Omniscient'
Electric Wizard - 'Witchcult Today'
Goon Moon - 'Licker's Last Leg'
iLiKETRAINS - 'Elegies To Lessons Learnt'
Martin Grech - 'March Of The Lonely'
Mayhem - 'Ordo Ad Chao'
Neil Young - 'Chrome Dreams II'
Nick Cave And Warren Ellis[artist] - 'The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (Soundtrack)'
Nina Nastasia & Jim White - 'You Follow Me'
Puscifer - 'puscifer'
Rufus Wainwright - 'Release The Stars'
Velvet Revolver - 'Libertad'
And another please, Carol... (only people from the UK and probably Ireland will get this now dated TV reference)
[b]Albums I was hoping to have the opportunity to include in this year's (2007) top ten, but was denied that opportunity because the artists concerned are lazy slackers[/b] (this was meant to be in bold, but it's not working for some reason, and various other formatting things aren't working either. Grr.)
Alice in Chains - '...By Any Other Name'
Amen - 'Money And Christianity And That Kinda Shit'
Auf Der Maur - 'Er...My Second Solo Album'
Black Sabbath - '...By Any Other Name'
Blur - 'Pigs, Politics And Cheese (Er…Graham's Back!)'
The Cure - 'Still Searching For That Elusive...'
Desert Sessions - 'Desert Sessions 11 & 12 (Put That Rice Away, Ronald!/Just For Kicks, Get Me?)'
Doves - 'Up North'
Elbow - '(It's Grim) Up North'
Guns N' Roses - 'See?! Told Ya!!!'
Massive Attack - 'Bristain'
Metallica - 'THRASH! THRASH! THRASH! THRASH!'
Pitchshifter - 'P.S.I.entology'
Pixies - 'Psst...We're Fucking Crazy! Bang!'
Portishead - 'Did We Miss Anything?'
Rage Against the Machine - 'Fuckin' Wit Da System'
The Sisters of Mercy - 'Still Not Gothic After All These Years'
The Verve - '(Seriously, It’s Really Grim) Up North'
Zach De La Rocha - 'One Fist Is As Good As Four'
OK, that's enough for now. Here's the top 10.
10. Type O Negative - Dead Again
Well, well, well. Ain't life grand? At least it is if you're a Christian. Because God loves you. And your children (sometimes literally).
'Dead Again' was released amid 'revelations' that larger than life frontman Pyotr Stalin (Peter Steele) had been 'born again', and gone back to his Catholic roots, largely due to his health issues and the fact that he might die quite soon. I'm not a Christian, and see blind faith as a sign of weakness in a person rather than immense strength. As such, when this all came out, I was like “WTF Peter? I mean, like, WTF? Dude, are you, like, serious?!” Sophie from [i]Peep Show[/i] was like “Pete, what the fuck?!” while Lois from [i]Family Guy[/i] was like “Peeeedaaaaaagggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Anyway, whether or not this is actually true is open to debate, as many of Steele's proclamations can safely be taken with several pinches of salt, but Christian themes make up a disproportionately large percentage of the album’s lyrics, and there are even moments which seem worryingly 'positive'.
Negative? Positive? Dead Again? Born again? WTF?
Don't be alarmed though. If you like your Type O Negative with at least a 95% volume of Negativity, then Dead Again should be a satisfying listen. It's not their best album. It's no 'Bloody Kisses'. It's no 'October Rust'. It's no 'World Coming Down', either, but it's certainly better than the underrated-but-still-hardly-a-masterpiece 'Life Is Killing Me'. I feel that I should mention the stunning 'September Sun' here. It definitely harks back to the band's past glories in the 90s. Not only does it feature a great internal reference in the form of the words 'October thrust', but its epic, reflective and melancholic beauty is redolent of many of the tracks from Type O's 1996 masterpiece. That's about the only truly gothy moment here though. Much of the album is made up of Misfits-like punky numbers like the title track (er, that'll be 'Dead Again', then) and 'Halloween in Heaven' (featuring some woman from some band), in which Steele imagines dead rock stars jamming together in Heaven.
OK, Peter. Whatever.
There are two other main highlights aside from September Sun. One is 'The Profits of Doom'. Appropriately enough, it starts with some of the most depressive and startling doom riffage you're ever likely to hear. 70 seconds in, Steele starts barking like a man ascended from the dead with an ominous warning. The whole thing is frightening and awesome. It'll send shivers through your innards. Or at least the first three minutes will. Then it gets quite jolly by comparison, recalling early Black Sabbath in their more upbeat moments. Steele and guitarist Kenny Hickey trade vocal turns for a while and then it starts imitating The Beatles while Steele sings about how he loves God. Then he sings 'My soul's on fire' several times in an impassioned, soaring manner. Then it fades out with psychedelic guitar bits. It's beautiful. It's a masterpiece. If it wasn't for the God bits it would be one of the very best songs of the year.
The other highlight is 'These Three Things', in which Steele preaches about the three things that were presumably on his mind when he sat down to right the fuckin' lyric. Is the number 3 significant? Yeah, probably. Anyway, the first of the 'things' happens to be everyone's favourite topic of discussion: abortion. He approaches it from a religious angle, and pretty much states that abortion is murder. And of course, he's probably right, but in 'certain circumstances' it is necessary and 'damned' right appropriate. Anyway, it's not like God's never done any murdering. This whole thing has made me realise that you don't have to agree entirely with a lyric in order to like the song, and I've since found myself disagreeing with other lyrics by artists I enjoy.
As for the other 'things' that Steele discusses in the song, I have no particular issue with them. The riffs are doomy as hell. The guitars after the 6 minute mark touch me in a way that no music has ever done before. I'm not sure how to explain the feeling that it gives me, so I won't bother trying. It's really quite sublime, and it's classic Type O Negative. Extremely powerful stuff.
So, in summary, Dead Again is an excellent album which shows a lot of promise for any future albums that the band may or may not make. I just hope that Peter drops the Christian stuff.
Christian metal ain't cool.
9. Grinderman - Grinderman
I've been running low on time of late (I'm going to die), so I decided to make someone else review one these albums for me. Sorting that out, however, was a long process, and I realised that it would probably have been quicker just to do it myself. Not only this, but by the time this list is actually published, I could theoretically have reviewed it several thousand times over.
So, what I did was this: I decided which albums would make up my top ten. I then decided which album would be reviewed by another unfortunate specimen via a complex series of coin-tossing matches as part of a league, as in football and things. I decided that whichever album finished in 9th position - COINcidentally the position in which 'Grinderman' finished in this top ten - in the league table after all the matches, would be the one. It was Grinderman's self-titled debut. Good album.
I then left the house with a £10 note in my pocket, with which the unsuspecting individual would be forced to buy a copy (they weren't having mine). I walked ten paces in a straight line, then turned left and walked twenty six paces. Then I turned right and walked forty two paces. I continued with this for exactly thirty minutes, alternating between turning left and right as well adding sixteen paces each time. When the thirty minutes was over, I noticed that I was somewhere in Leasowe. I stood there on the spot which the previous thirty minutes had brought me to. I closed my eyes for four minutes (fortunately I was on a pavement rather than in the road). The first person I see when I open my eyes, I thought to myself - as if suddenly making the decision now rather than seven hours earlier - would be the one to do the review.
I opened my eyes.
There were several people staring at me.
Gradually they went about their business, except for a small child. He was still staring. He was 6, apparently. I didn't catch his name, but, taking advantage of the fact that everyone else had disappeared, I pulled out my machete, told him what he had to do and gave him my email address and the note. I also told him that if he told anyone about this, my machete would make sure it was the last thing he would ever use his vocal chords for. He then asked me what a machete was, so I told him it was this fucking really big sharp thing in my hand. He looked scared and ran away crying.
The next afternoon I came across the following review in my inbox. Please note that all links have been added in brackets by myself.
[i]My Grinderman Riview by Michael Bublé (aged 6 1/2)[/i]
I bort a CD today. It is called Grinderman and it was dun by Grinderman to. I didnt want to by it but I had to but Im not aloud to tell enyone why. Its becaus of a man who looked like jesus. He said that Grinderman has got peaple in it from a band called Nick Cave And The Baddies (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) and to make shure that I spelt there names with big leters at the start.I hope I'm doing it right and that jesus gets this becaus i dont know how to do email propperly. My daddy dident no why I bort a CD and he said that CD's are old. I was not suprized that the CD hadpeople from Nick Cave And The Baddies in it becaus they sound like baddies becaus the music is very lowd and angry and reminds me of my daddy when I askd him where my mummy is. It is very noisyu. 2 songs arent noisy. 1 of the songs that is not noisy is called Grinderman (Grinderman) as well but it was scarey in sted of noisy and it nerely made me cry but I dont know why. The othersong that wasnt noisy was called Man In The Moon (Man In The Moon) but that was just boreing but I think grown ups are ment to like it. But the CD is horible and I hated it but I looked at the names of the songsand some of them were wierd like Depth Charge Ethel (Depth Charge Ethel). I asked my daddy what it ment but he said don't you ever say that womans name in this howse again do you here me. Then his face went all red and he was realy angry and I thort he was going to hit me agen but he stoped and fellon the flor and started crying and his voyce was all wobbly like a fat singer. Then I looked at the words on the internet becaus jesus told me to cwote sum words but he didnt say words he said a other word. The words on the CD are wierd and all grown up but one of the noisy songs is axualy sad. Its called No Pussy Blues (No Pussy Blues) and its about when you loose ur cat. Its very sad but they sound angry witch they shuldent becaus its sad. Here are some words from it
"I fixed the hinges on her gate"
That must be a lie becaus if he had then she wuldent of run away. Here is another bit
"I thought I'd try another tack,
I drank a litre of cognac,
I threw her down upon her back"
I dont no what cognac is but I asked my daddy and he said its not for you son buthe said it to quite and I didnt here him so I asked him again and he said it again but this time he showted. And its silly to throw a cat on its back becaus Mrs Spencer said that cats always land omn there feet so I think Grinderman are silly realy. And it also says Marcel Marceau in it and I dont no what that is but my daddy said how the fug shuld I no and stop asking questiuns.
That is the end of my Grinderman riview. I hope that jesus likes it and that he wont hurt me.
8. Radiohead - In Rainbows
See, that's how good the albums were in 2007. Radiohead at 8? In Rainbows is fantastic. It's right up there with their best, though I honestly think that there's very little between any of their last 5 albums in terms of quality. Of course, this latest album will be remembered for the way it was released - and we could debate that one until the cows come home to roost - but I would like to think that it will also be remembered for being a damn fine collection of songs.
To these ears, it's by far the most upbeat album they have ever released, and, as such, there are no real moments here that are more chillingly beautiful than you previously thought possible - nothing along the lines of 'Exit Music (for a Film)', 'How to Disappear Completely' or 'Pyramid Song'. Album closer 'Videotape' comes pretty close though! Its simple piano refrain is haunting and could quite easily put you in a comfortably melancholic mood. In fact the piano beautifully evokes the death on which the lyrics ponder - drifting away into nothingness, or ascending into Heaven, depending on your beliefs.
But yeah, aside from that it's all very much upbeat, really. 'Bodysnatchers' is reminiscent of 'The National Anthem' in more ways than one. It makes use of very similar eBowed guitar and/or ondes martenot noises, and the lively rhythm section makes you want to dance in that crazy Thom Yorke kind of way. In fact, for the most part it's a very danceable album and it makes you feel OK. Not great, obviously. But OK. At least if you're a miserable bastard like me. There are a couple of fairly orchestrated moments elsewhere, but it's also very guitar based. The axes are probably more prominent overall on In Rainbows than on any other Radiohead album since 'OK Computer'.
If In Rainbows can be thought of as having fallen short in any way of the band's previous releases, it's that it feels unfinished. The 10 tracks are mostly fairly short to be quite honest and I usually like my albums nice and long. However, if you were lucky enough to have received the In Rainbows discbox edition as a late birthday present (thanks Mum, and thanks Dad for telling me what it was before it arrived and spoiling the surprise), then you'll have a further 8 tracks of amazing music, all of which are at least as good as the 10 on the official album. ‘Down Is the New Up’? Blimey! That'll do nicely! Frankly, I would have been quite happy had all 18 tracks made it to the proper album, but then I guess the band wouldn't have had a discbox to sell and they would have lost money overall because of the free downloading.
Anyway, my main point here is that it's a great album (but of course!) but I would have liked it even more had it been a bit longer.
Go out and buy it kids!
7. The Nightwatchman - One Man Revolution
[i]"This blues guy I met
That never had a hit
Said you don't gotta be loud, son
To be heavy as shit"[/i]
(The Nightwatchman - 'Maximum Firepower')
Ex-Audioslave and ex/current Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello goes solo, swaps the crazy electric guitar noises for an nylon-strung acoustic which he wears far too high, and starts singing militant folky communist anthems. It's fuckin' fantastic.
The first thing I should say is that Tom clearly can't decide if he wants to be Bob Dylan (protest songs, acoustic guitar, harmonica), Woody Guthrie (warm intimacy), Johnny Cash (deep-ass voice) or Nick Cave (also deep-ass voice). It's bizarre; Tom's singing voice is actually lower than his speaking voice, which proves that he's putting it on. But it's done to good effect. He's clearly nodding to the names above while simultaneously leading us all triumphantly into battle, and he keeps going "Hep!" or "Hup!" at the end of every other verse, just to keep up the enthusiasm.
'Enthusiasm' is the key word here, I feel. Whether you're a commie or not, you can't deny that this is an apathetic world that we live in. Tom is correctly riling us up into a near frenzy, which just happens to be a revolutionary one. If communism frightens you, that's fine. Fight for whatever you believe in instead of sitting on yer arse all day. Not that Mr. Morello would welcome any old regime that had been established in a passionate way. Make no mistake, this is an album for lefties. Proper lefties. If you're left-handed, fine, but that's not enough. If you want to overthrow capitalism, you'll need both hands. If you don't have two hands for whatever reason, contribute something to the cause anyway. I mean, the more the merrier and all that shit. But yeah, you won't like this if you don't sympathise with the fairly extreme left. With RATM, you can ignore the lyrics should you want to. After all they're rapped and not always easy to make out, plus they had that rockin' funk metal thing going on – you could shake your arse to it. With this however, the vocals are at the forefront, and the accompaniment is not so important. You can't ignore the lyrics.
It's all about the lyrics.
For the anti-capitalist, 'One Man Revolution' is a 'feel good' album. It makes you feel that, just maybe, the revolution might actually happen some day. Of course, we all know that it won't, but it might do. These songs are extremely uplifting, which I don't normally like, but they're performed with so much passion and aplomb that I can't help but enjoy them. There are a couple more reflective moments, like 'The Garden Of Gethsemane' and the spine-tingling closer 'Until the End', but even those are filled with a very hard-hitting, powerful and defiant spirit.
One last thing about the lyrics. They're brilliant. The album is packed with highly quotable lines, and indeed entire verses, like the one at the top of this review. Frankly it's worth buying the album just for the lyrics alone. I can promise you that if there's an anti-capitalist bone in your body then you'll be quoting them all day in conversation, or even just entirely out of the blue, seemingly at 'random'. You'll be sitting there in silence with your granny over tea and biscuits, and suddenly you'll say [i]"Yeah, I support my troops. They wave black flags. They wear black masks"[/i] or [i]"3 times I shot the sheriff, and did not spare the deputy"[/i]. It'll go down a treat!
Which is more than can be said for those dodgy 'biscuits' your granny 'baked'.
This was my feel good hit of the summer.
6. Serj Tankian - Elect the Dead
Another solo album from one of those un-patriotic, anti-American terrorist commies - this time it's System of a Down's Serj Tankian.
Yes, Serj is back. He's cut his hair back to 'Toxicity'-era length, his face is pointier than ever, he enjoys wearing a top hat and also, he now has massive hands.
This album was most welcome. Don't get me wrong, I think System Of A Down are great, but one thing in particular has tainted their work since their eponymous debut ('System of a Down'), namely the increasingly frequent vocal contributions of guitarist Daron Malakian. Now, Daron's really pretty good on the guitar. He's great when he's harmonising with Serj. He's great when he's going "SUGAAAAARRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!" But when he's singing lead...well, he's kinda whiney. Whoever told him he could sing deserves to be severely beaten, frankly (OK, maybe that's a bit harsh, but only a bit). Anyway, I'd much rather listen to Serj's superb vocals. Thankfully, those vocals are all over this album, which can only be a good thing.
'Elect The Dead' sounds quite a lot like System (Of A Down). It's got the metal bits, the melodic bits, the vocal harmonies, the schizophrenic tempo and dynamic changes, and of course the...er...'non-Western' influences. 'SOAD' drummer John Dolmayan guests on some tracks so, technically, 50% of the band were involved in the making of the album. However, the main reason for the similarity is surely that most of that 'System' sound evidently comes from Serj. There are some new elements though. It doesn't all sound like SOAD (Suck Off And Die). There are operatic backing vocals on a couple of tracks by Ani Maldjian, and Serge Gainsbourg proves himself a whiz on the ol' piano, and these are vaguely classical elements which only make the Elect The Dead soup all the more spicy. Er...
The album opens with the masterful single 'Empty Walls'. Actually, the very first thing that happens here is that there's this two-note synth part which plays through three times before the 'band' (well, OK, Serj) comes in. It totally sounds like it should happen four times, not three. I can think of no reason why anyone would want it to play through three times. I mean, if he'd let it play through four times, the album would have been longer and it would have seemed like he'd done more work. So that part is really annoying, but thankfully, the rest of the album (a huge, HUGE percentage) is precisely 100% less annoying. Other highlights include 'The Unthinking Majority', 'Money' (the second best song ever written by that title), 'Saving Us' and 'Beethoven's Cunt', just because it's called 'Beethoven's Cunt', really.
Lyrically, it's typical System Of A Down stuff from Sergei Rachmaninoff, ie very difficult to understand, in terms of meaning. The bits I can understand (Saving Us, for example), I very much appreciate, so I'm sure the rest of it is more than acceptable too, I mean, Sergei Diaghilev is an intelligent guy.
So, whatever the future holds for Corrosion of Conformity (COC), Sergio Franco has proved himself a superb solo artist in his own right, and will surely continue to make sweet music with himself.
5. The Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist
The following is a transcript of a conversation which took place in a noisy, packed corridor in an American high school, somewhere in America, in September 2007.
Jake: Hey Hank.
Hank: Oh. Hey Jake.
So...uh...did you hear that new Kanye West album? 'Graduation'?
J: Did you hear that new Smashing Pumpkins album? 'Zeitgeist'?
Well, you should hear it. It's pretty cool.
H: No, they suck.
J: They do not!
H: Uh huh. They do.
H: Anyway, didn't they break up, like, years ago? Because they suck?
J: Yeah, they broke up. They got back together again. Well, kinda, anyway.
H: Uh huh.
Did they get that blonde chick back?
J: You mean D'Arcy? No.
H: What about the Japanese guy?
J: James Iha? Nah.
Basically, it's just Billy (Billy Corgan) and Jimmy (Jimmy Chamberlin). It's just them on the album anyway. They got some other guys playing live with them.
H: So, in fact, it's just like that other band that sucked even harder. Swans, or something?
J: Yeah. Kinda is.
H: OK. Hey, what time is it?
J: But anyway that's beside the point. The point is that it sounds more like the Pumpkins than the Zwan album (Mary Star of the Sea) did. I guess. I mean, as soon as I heard the drums at the start of the first song, 'Doomsday Clock', I mean, I totally knew the Pumpkins were back, man.
H: Dude, look out there. Looks like it's gonna rain.
J: And then there's all these loud guitars. It's actually pretty awesome! Like, most of the album is really loud and guitar-heavy. I mean there's some less guitar-heavy songs towards the end, but basically it's a heavy rock album. I can't get enough of it. You've heard 'Tarantula', right?
H: ARGH!!! WHERE?!
J: Have you heard 'Tarantula'? The song? It goes like [i]"I want to be there when you’re happy,
I want to love you when you’re sad"[/i].
H: That's Smashing Pumpkins? I thought it was MyChem (My Chemical Romance).
J: Nah. Anyway, so yeah, that one's pretty representative. I mean, y'know, all those rockin' guitars and stuff. 'United States' is fucking awesome, man. It's so epic, and those guitars and drums...I mean it's like the new 'Silverfuck' or something. But then there's 'That's the Way (My Love Is)' which is a little more kinda...laid back, I guess. Still loud though. But I love it 'coz I like to imagine like I'm singing it to...uh...uh...oh, and there's all these crazy vocal harmonies and stuff all over the songs! It sounds kinda like Queen or something. Or maybe Muse. But then it was partly produced by Roy Thomas Baker, and he worked on 'Bohemian Rhapsody', so what can you expect?!
H: Uh huh.
J: The lyrics are pretty cool too.
It's like...I thought it was all gonna be about Paris Hilton after...
H: Woahwoahwoah...Paris Hilton...what?
J: I said I thought the songs were all gonna be about Paris Hilton and all that kinda stuff after the album artwork leaked, but...wait, do you, like, have the hots Paris Hilton?
H: FUCK YEAH! I would totally eat that pus...I mean, no! Eeeeeeeewwwwww, NO WAY, man! Me?! Paris Hilton?! Haha! Dude, no fucking way. She's a total slut! I mean, she's a real bitch. She's, like, so fucking skinny, and...uh...uh...oh, and her eye! Have you seen that?! What the fuck's the deal with that?! Seriously, Jake…and she’s a junkie…I think…dude, that's fucking gross.
J: So anyway, the lyrics kinda are about Paris Hilton, in a way, y'know...it's like...the zeitgeist...it's all about, like, the way things are right now. In...the world, and...with people and...society and that kinda stuff.
But yeah, I thought Paris would be more specifically the focus of attention because of the pictures of her in the artwork and stuff.
H: Woah, wait...there's pictures of her in the artwork?
H: Uh...oh. Y'know, this album...actually sounds pretty cool. I might buy it.
J: Buy it? But I thought you just downloaded stuff illegally now?
H: Uh...yeah...I…I do. Did. I guess I, uh…guess I kinda changed my mind about that.
J: Oh, OK. Cool.
Although, actually, I should just tell ya, they actually released, like, several different versions of the album. Well, I guess it was the record company.
J: Well, each version has a different extra track or something. And slightly different artwork too, I think.
H: Oh, right!
J: So you'll have to get every version if you want to get all the songs.
J: And all the artwork.
H: Sure, yeah, got ya.
J: So yeah, definitely pick it up, man. And if you like it, maybe you'll get into their older stuff!
H: Uh...hmm. Yeah.
J: I mean I would totally recommend it to you anyway. It's a great album from start to finish. I guess it's kinda like a cross between 'Siamese Dream' and the 'Machina' albums ('Machina/The Machines of God', 'MACHINA II/The Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music'). It's so consistent too. And those extra tracks are cool also. I really dig the song 'Zeitgeist' - it's acoustic and kinda...
H: Hey, Jake, why did you stop talking?
Uh...Jake? You OK?
Oooooohhhhhh, wait, you're checking out that red-haired girl, right?
What's her name? Rebecca...something?
H: Yeah, Morrison, that's it. Hey, she even has Jim's hairdo!
The Doors are pretty cool.
H: You said it, bro.
J: Oh my God.
J: I think...oh God...
J: I think I...Hank, I...I think...I think I...I think...I think...I think...oh, God! I think...I think I...I think I...I...love her...
H: HEY EVERYONE!!! JAKE LOVES REBECCA MORRISON!!!!!!!!!!
Rebecca Morrison: Eeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwww...gross...
(244 people point and laugh)
In October 2007, yet another version of 'Zeitgeist' was released. This featured, among other things, yet another 'new track'. This one is called 'Ma Belle'. It's really great. Unfortunately, Jake never got to hear it. He committed suicide by jumping off the school roof shortly after the conclusion of the above conversation.
4. Machine Head - The Blackening
Machine Head had a lot to prove after 'Through the Ashes of Empires'. That particular platter was a definite return to previous form, with many of the tracks exhibiting the same furious energy and enthusiasm which characterised their early work. So, the band had to prove that that wasn't just some fluke, and were in fact very much in the ascendancy again. While working on the follow-up, the band took great pleasure in boasting about what an amazing album they were making. We kept hearing about how 'epic' and 'heavy' the album was, and how 'stoked' they were with it. A whole lotta hubris, in other words. It was difficult to know whether or not to believe them, but either way, they very much succeeded in generating hype. Then the album leaked and we discovered that Machine Head had been telling the truth the whole time. 'The Blackening' is pretty much a modern metal masterpiece.
Of course, the first track that we heard was the one that had been the cause of a lot of that hype: 'Aesthetics of Hate'. It's about Dimebag Darrell. It's about William Grimm. It's about hate (and, specifically, the aesthetics thereof). It's about METAL. Machine Head took it upon themselves to respond to Grimm's highly offensive and immediately infamous article of the same name, and, in the process, became the spokesmen for metalheads everywhere. Good move. They had to do it. Well, someone had to, and I'm glad it was Machine Head, because I doubt that many other bands could have pulled it off so well, and they've made it so damn heavy and filled with genuine anger that you can't help but respect them for it. OK, so there is a lot of swearing in the song, one of the things that Grimm claimed was wrong with metal. But any song which attempts to 'reason' with Grimm in a way which he may have considered more to his liking would have been a total failure. When Rob Flynn spits out those lyrics, there is a genuine fury in his voice which defies any notion that metalheads are 'semi-human', 'untalented' or unable to express themselves effectively.
Whereas certain past Machine Head material has sounded like they had lost some of their motivation, that conclusion could definitely not be drawn from this. The band have pulled out all the stops and produced a massive metal album of truly epic proportions. Only one of the 8 songs on the disc is under five minutes, whereas two of them stretch past the 10-minute mark, and what's more, those songs aren't even a second too long. The breadth of these songs is worthy of a paragraph in itself - the amount of riffs and themes explored in each track is extraordinary. It's all very passionate and emotionally involved - as all great music is - which means that every song is extremely powerful and hard-hitting. Metallica's masterpiece 'Master of Puppets' was a major inspiration here, so much so that you sometimes think Machine ‘fuckin’’ Head copied the template in the same way that ''tallica' made that album by copying the template of their previous 'Ride the Lightning'. There is no denying that Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets are very similar structurally, and The Blackening is almost like the third piece in the puzzle. Opener 'Clenching the Fists of Dissent' even has the same kind of classically-influenced multi-tracked acoustic guitar intro heard on 'Battery' and 'Fight Fire With Fire'. Not that they're ripping Metallica off or anything. The trademark Machine Head elements - the guitar harmonics, Flynn's soaring vocals, the killer grooves - are all still very much a part of the band's sound. So, with such masterful classic thrash influencing them, it should come as no surprise that the band have created a near flawless album.
If Metallica's new album is half as good as this, they'll be onto a winner.
3. Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
After 'With Teeth' (a vastly underrated album) it soon became apparent that we would in fact NOT have to wait five or six years for another Nine Inch Nails record, as had been the previous form. Trent Reznor is now healthy and buffed up. His 'issues' with drink have been resolved, which means that he now has plenty of time to dedicate to his music. What it also means is that he has more of a drive than ever to write about the world around him rather than his more personal demons. As such, 'Year Zero' is a broadly-scoped dystopian vision of the year 2022.
2022 is very near.
[i]1984[/i], [i]Brave New World[/i], [i]Fahrenheit 451[/i], etc. These are the classic dystopian novels, but Year Zero matches all of them. What makes it all the more frightening is that, not only is 2022 fifteen (er...make that fourteen) years away, but the bleak vision which the album presents is already in full swing; if 2022 really turns out this way, it'll be because of what 'our' 'leaders' are doing right now.
So stop reading this shit and go kill the bastards.
Are you still here?!
So am I.
Year Zero is an extraordinary album. Firstly, it was promoted in what has been described as a 'ground-breaking' fashion. I won't go in to that now though. Read about it at [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Zero_%28album%29#Promotion_and_release nofollow=yes]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Zero_%28album%29#Promotion_and_release[/url] if your memory is really that short. Anyway, the next thing that happened was that people discovered that the CD actually CHANGES COLOUR. Yes, that's right. You open up the case, and it's black (or maybe dark red). Then it gradually goes white when it's heated by, say, oh I don't know...playing it in a CD player.
Also, there might be a TV series or a film on the way. There's a Year Zero game, and who knows what else will emerge...?
My point is that this is quite a vision that Mr Reznor has had, and it should not surprise you to learn that the actual album is totally inspired. It's a very noisy record, but it's also very much song-based. And the songs are all fantastic. I can't really talk much about specific songs, as the album feels more like a complete entity to me, like a lot of Nine Inch Nails stuff. However, my favourite songs are probably 'Capital G', 'The Good Soldier' and 'In This Twilight'. It's all great though, seriously.
Trent Reznor is on fire.
At least, I hope not.
If he is, I guess we'll be hearing about that pretty soon.
Anyway, I cannot wait to find out what he'll do next. (EDIT: Shit, Trent’s done rather a lot since I wrote this!)
If he is on fire though, he'll probably scream next, I reckon.
That's really quite a nasty thought. I'd better stop thinking it.
He's already produced Saul Williams' latest release, an internet-only deal by the totally awesome name of 'The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!' They did what is now known as 'a Radiohead' with it. It's great. If you like Trent and are open to a bit of hip hop, download it for free or download it and pay $5 for it. The choice is yours.
It's a free country.
The Year Zero remix album, 'Year Zero Remixed' - or 'Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D' if you're the modern type - is also well worth picking up.
2. Ulver - Shadows of the Sun
Something big is gonna happen. We don't know quite what, but we're definitely on the verge of something major. Something majorly fucked up, probably.
This is the feeling that some of us have had lately. It seems that Garm is one of those people. 'Shadows Of The Sun' is a staggering and hypnotic album - perhaps even Ulver's best yet - based on tragic themes of pain, loss, death and self-destruction. The whole thing is extremely romantic in a poetic sense. The cover depicts the dark, silhouetted figure of a four-legged beast staring directly at us, with its huge, curved horns encircling the sun, which sets behind it. It's a beautiful image, and it seems to imply that the rest of nature is aware of something that us humans are not. It's like the four-legged beasts know what's going to happen. The sun knows. The mountains and forests know. We're staggering around, desperately trying to fix something, and yet we don't really seem to know exactly what the problem is.
Mankind is responsible for the decline of nature as we know it, and the animal on the album cover knows it. Is it mocking us? Or is it trying to tell us? I don't know, but my money is on the latter.
As ever with Ulver, the album sounds quite unlike anything that they've done before. This time, things are much mellower and more laid-back than on the noisy predecessor 'Blood Inside', which very much suits the subdued lyrical themes. The jazz and classical influences are still very much present, and there's some cool trumpet parts scattered throughout, but generally the album permeates an oddly calming, ambient and yet moody atmosphere which makes for great night time listening. The contributions of the Oslo Session String Quartet greatly add to this.
It's not all original material though. There is an intriguing cover of Black Sabbath's medieval ballad 'Solitude (original - 'Solitude'. I always adored the original. In fact, my first hearing of the song several years ago set into motion my intense love of medieval and renaissance music. So, naturally, I was delighted but slightly concerned when I discovered that Ulver had covered it. I needn't have feared though. It's superb, and probably equals the original. Tony Iommi's flute parts are replaced by a trumpet, which meanders around the original melodies in a jazzy kind of way, and Garm's sublime vocals add a new textural quality to the song while maintaining the all-enveloping mood of Sabbath's version. A job well done.
The press release for 'Shadows Of The Sun' described the album as 'low-key, dark and tragic'.
I couldn't have put it better myself.
I simply cannot recommend this album enough.
1. PJ Harvey - White Chalk
This was quite a revelation.
Before I heard 'White Chalk', I rated PJ Harvey as merely 'pretty damn good', and occasionally 'great'. This is just something else all together. She's outdone herself by quite some way here.
On 9/11, PJ Harvey won the Mercury Music Prize for her New York-flavoured ‘[album artist=PJ Harvey]Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea’ album. In turn, she achieved the lofty status of being the kind of artist who gets featured on the BBC’s Newsnight Review. That album had a certain commercial tinge to it. White Chalk does not.
This is very much a U-turn for Polly. Gone are the overdriven, bluesy guitars. Gone is the sense that there is an actual band playing the songs. All the songs are piano-based. Harvey’s vocals are totally different; almost unrecognisable, her voice is softer, more delicate and much higher in pitch than we’re used to. In fact, about the only element which remains from her previous material is the ‘challenging’ lyrics. Even in this aspect though, the lyrics seem much more personal. PJ has always said that her lyrics are not autobiographical, and merely tell stories. That was always believable. Listening to White Chalk though, it’s impossible not to wonder. The songs are all so intimate yet intense, and she just seems far too emotionally connected to them to not feel some personal association with what she’s singing.
What is she singing? Well, she’s singing about death, despair, loss, regret, sorrow, and everyone's favourite topic of discussion: abortion. Yeah, so it’s just the kinda depressing crap that most other artists I listen to sing about. Rarely is it so emotionally resonant and cathartic, though. You could stick a pin in the lyric sheet (if there was one) and it would inevitably on some disjointed, heartbreaking passage like:
"I sowed a seed
Underneath the oak tree
I trod it in
With my boots I trampled it down"
How I miss you
Under the earth
Wish I was with you...
...If I lay on the earth
Could you hear then
If I lay..."
"By the mountain
I feel nothing
For in my own heart
Every tree is broken
The first tree will not blossom
The second will not grow
The third is almost fallen
Since you betrayed me so"
It feels like we weren’t meant to hear these songs, like we’ve walked in on Polly in a small room somewhere, sitting at her piano, quietly singing her songs to herself, mistakenly thinking that she is alone. This stuff is overwhelmingly good.
The album’s title is in fact NOT a reference to the hills of the Peej-ster’s native Dorset (do your homework, Kirsty Wark), but is more to do with the timeless quality of chalk, which is very much echoed in the album itself. It’s all very archaic and Brontëian (er…that doesn’t look right), and thus has garnered plenty of Kate Bush comparisons. The album is extremely evocative, and there is a haunting quality which pervades the work from start to finish. This is probably the most eerie album I have ever heard and there are countless moments which will send chills down the spine of anyone fortunate enough to own one. Also, the songs aren’t masterpieces on their own; you have to hear them all together to get the full effect. It’s a short album made up of eleven short songs, but they all add up cumulatively to make one hard-hitting, unsettling and harrowing cry. Closing track ‘The Mountain’ is very much the culmination of everything that comes before. It’s the most stunning album closer in recent memory. I can say no more on the subject, you’ll just have to hear it. In the context of the album of course!
Fuckin’ iTunes generation.
I yearn for the days of yore, when a piano was all there was, if you were lucky. Your Granny played, and she taught your two sisters. She tried to teach you as well, but you were always too busy helping your dad make something wooden. Then there was your suicidal cousin Margaret. She played. In fact, she didn’t just play traditional songs. No, she was talented and miserable enough to write her own songs, full of creepy chord progressions and evocatively twisty melodies. Extraordinarily, those songs were more or less identical to the ones on White Chalk. It’s almost as if Polly has somehow heard Margaret’s songs from 200 years ago and successfully attempted to pass them off as her own.
This album sounds like Polly Harvey is dying.
It’s not easy listening.
Did you read all that?
Go and get a job, you lazy scum. Approximately 7,498 words. Put that on your CV.
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