Category Archives: Music

Music Review – Snow Patrol – Wildness (Album)

On the surface, Snow Patrol seem a bit too easy listening to be on my playlist, but there has always been a dark undertone to their words that resonates with me.

Add to this the fact that not all their songs are quite as slow and melodic – take Starfighter Pilot, Wow or Hands Open – this final one being a song my band used to cover; they have a hard edge which occasionally elbows its way through the mildness.

Which takes us nicely to their newest album, Wildness. Going through the gamut of human existence, the first song, Life on Earth, starts with a family memory which tells that there was snow as high as he was during Gary Lightbody’s first winter, some of my own first memories are of that winter and the way the world looks dressed in white.

Almost a concept album, the word Wildness crops up in a number of the songs and seems indicative of the shape of Lightbody’s current state of mind. This isn’t really surprising as he has been having to cope with the onset and progression of his Father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This is laid bare as we head towards the last few tracks in Soon, a song which both breaks your heart and makes you proud to be part of our species.

The overall feeling you get from the album is a call to arms and a directive to take life by the throat, for instance Don’t Give In is an emotional plea to not let life get you down, Heal Me is about being broken but doing it together and A Youth Written In Fire is about having someone believe in you. So it’s not all doom and gloom.

While tracks like Wild Horses and A Dark Switch have hints of Songs For Polar Bears and When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up about them, the overall feeling of this album is closer to the “anthemic” feel that Lightbody was going for when Final Straw and Eyes Open were written. The tracks pummel you with their heartfelt intensity and leave you feeling battered and bruised.

If this album doesn’t win awards for its song writing then there is something wrong with the world.

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Music Review – Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog (Album)

It was recently my birthday – Yay – and one of the things I tend to ask for is new (or old) music, as it’s a luxury I would probably not buy for myself.

This year I felt very lucky to get five albums by four different bands including:

  • Rainier Fog by Alice in Chains
  • Fallen Empires and Wildness by Snow Patrol
  • Dumb Days by Tired Lion
  • Pacific Daydream by Weezer

If you know me at all you probably won’t be too surprised to find out that the first one I listened to all the way through was the latest Alice in Chains release Rainier Fog. And it is exactly what I was hoping for!

As I’ve mentioned before, Alice in Chains started out in the midst of heavy, hairy metal and, if you listen to their first album and some of the unreleased stuff that came to light when Music Bank came out, you can really hear how close they came to skirting Grunge altogether and finding a place among the other Rock heavyweights of the time.

But they chose a different path and became the leaders of a new style which was much darker and, generally, more depressing than their Seattle based compatriots, comprising such cheery topics as drug addiction, depression, war, loneliness and psychological problems, they blazed their own trail through Rock and spurned a host of copycat acts.

This, their sixth studio album, sits alongside their back catalogue, including solo projects and other bands that have come and gone along the way, so snugly that it is hard not to think that you know some of the songs already.

The opening track, The One You Know, starts like a screwdriver to the temple, which is then joined by a marching squadron of zombies. The percussive drumming continues through the verse then the chorus opens up into a wonderful musical field of primroses, sounding a bit like they got confused and mixed up the order of the parts of the song.

After setting the scene they waste no time reaching into their back catalogue with the title track, Rainier Fog, which could have been a recently discovered outtake from Facelift…but with better production.

Red Giant is a slightly different beast, sounding like the bastard child of Metallica and Layne Staley. The harmonies are so dark you need a match to see the lyrics. At the moment this is probably my favourite track on the album!

Fly, however, sounds like Pearl Jam writing a new track for Jar of Flies. Acoustic guitars and a screeching electric solo really take you back to the nineties.

The next track is called Drone, so you can guess what it’s like without too much effort. Bluesy sludge through the verses with a melodic fingerpicked solo reminiscent of Lies by Guns ‘n’ Roses.

We’re back with Lars and the boys for the intro to Deaf Ears Blind Eyes, but then segueing to classic Alice in Chains territory for the chorus with a minor key harmonic piece of introspection.

Maybe hails back to the 1970s and, strangely, sounds like nothing so much as The Mamas and Papas. Jerry and William work beautifully together to produce something which is more than the sum of their voices. In this case though all the trees are not brown, they’re dead!

Dirt is the album that So Far Under would fit most comfortably on, with a chorus which has been pitch bent until it snapped. Antagonistic sounds are smashed together between the verses and choruses, but make the track into something that is difficult to turn your ears away from.

In Never Fade du Vall takes over. Sounding a little like Comes With The Fall, a bit like Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, and a lot like early Alice in Chains and, as is his way, it sounds like a love song or paean in memory of someone you used to know. It’s a bit of a shame they don’t give him more chance to lead, as he’s quite riveting when he does so.

The final track All I Am does the opposite and hands the reigns to Cantrell. It’s slow, it’s introspective. It could have come straight from Degradation Trip and is none the worse for that.

If you’re a fan then you either have it already or are saving up your hard earned pennies/cents to get it as soon as you can, if you’re not then look them up on YouTube and spend some time getting to know what you’re missing, then buy it and find out what it is to be one of the most popular Grunge bands in the world.


Music Review – Bad Moon Born – Chemical Lullabies EP

It’s been a while since I posted one of my old music reviews, so I thought it was about time I got back to it. This is actually the first one to go up since the sad passing of Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell, which just makes it worse 😦

Original was on Semplesize, but the site fell to bits a while back so this is the only place to see this now.

 


 

I remember being really excited back in 2001 when I heard Chris Cornell was in the studio with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk to create something really interesting. When the album came out it wasn’t so much anything new as the singer from Soundgarden doing his thing over the lead and rhythm sections of Rage Against The Machine. Admittedly the three albums were pretty good, but more of an interesting aside than a ground-breaking new genre of music.

Nine years after Audioslave bit the dust, Bad Moon Born are releasing their Chemical Lullabies EP and it’s a shameless and technically less accomplished copy of any of Audioslave’s albums. Frank Lakoudis tries really hard to copy Cornell’s vocal range and presence but falls short most of the time, Voya and Ned Koncar do with two guitars what Tom Morello managed all by himself…without any digital effects, and the drums and bass are just sad imitations of anything by the rock/rap heavyweights.

While this EP isn’t bad, as such, I think your ears would thank you more for searching out things like the Street Sweeper Social Club (Morello’s ongoing collaboration with Boots Riley), The Last Internationale (which Brad Wilk has drummed for on an ad hoc basis), WAKRAT (Tim Commerford’s latest sweary, punky, jazzy explosion) or even the newly reformed Soundgarden (enough said). All four are more interesting than Bad Moon Born’s derivative, middle-of-the-road, decade old sound.

I’ve got better things to do with my time!


Chris Cornell – 20/07/1964 – 18/05/2017

Update: I wrote this before I heard the circumstances of Chris’s death and considered altering it to make it feel a little more sensitive, however I think that depression is often not faced head on and, although my eulogy below doesn’t specifically talk about Cornell’s mental illness, I am going to leave it as I wrote it and let you find your own meanings in his words!


When I was a teenager I taught myself to sing by turning my stereo up loud and joining in. This is how I got to know Soundgarden, and Chris Cornell so well.

That was the 90s, around 25 years ago. Today I don’t sing so much but I still listen to many of the bands I picked up through my teenage years – Soundgarden included. Their most recent album, a bit of a surprise when it was announced because they hadn’t released anything for 16 years, was King Animal. There was nothing particularly surprising about it, it was still very definitely Soundgarden, but with more experience and insight into the workings of the modern world.

My favourite track from the album is Black Saturday, an incredible journey through old age and euthanasia, a subject which has been on my mind since Terry Pratchett covered it so eloquently in his documentary Choosing to Die. Sadly now, though, this is something that Chris Cornell will never have to consider.

Promise something,
Kill me right away if I start to get slow
And don’t remember
How to separate the worm from the apple
Don’t wait ’til tomorrow,
Kill me right away if I start to listen
To the voices
Telling all the mouths what they need to swallow

The thing I always found impressive about his lyrics was the way he managed to take everyday phrases and twist them round to make them mean something completely different, or nonsensical. For instance, in Superunknown he faced psychological issues head on.

If you don’t want to be seen
Well you don’t have to hide
And if you don’t want to believe
Well you don’t have to try

Which resonated with 17 year old me in a way I couldn’t quite put into words myself.

Now, as a forty-something year old man, I still listen to Soundgarden for their incredible guitar riffs, clever use of words, unusual time signatures and rip-roaring solos, but after today the songs will take on a new meaning for me and fire off memories of another talented life cut short and sorely missed.

Apologies if this isn’t the most coherent eulogy, but because the songs are so closely intertwined with my persona I find it difficult to untangle my feelings and thoughts.

I’ll leave you with a song of my own, one I’ve talked about before and the one, I think, in which I came closest to equaling Chris Cornell’s use of language.

Open

Open your mind,
What do you see?
Place your head in your hands,
And give it to me

Open your eyes,
What do you feel?
How can I show you,
That my love for you is real

Open your hands,
What do you know?
My deepest desires have chosen,
Now to show

Open your heart,
What do you say?
We cannot take it back now,
Come what may

Open your mouth,
How could you tell?
I took you to heaven,
And now we’re going to hell

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
You can take my world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Open your mind,
What do you see?
Place your head in your hands,
And give it to me

Open your eyes,
What do you feel?
Now more than ever,
My love for you is real

Open your hands,
What do you know?
My deepest desires have chosen,
Now to show

Open your heart,
What do you say?
We’re going to be together,
Come what may

Open your mouth,
How could you tell?
I took you to heaven,
And now we’re going to hell

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
I can take your world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
You can take my world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again


Music Review – The Love Junkies – I Had A Party Once

I liked this song!

As always, original is here.

 


 

 

I had a Party Once should have a warning on it to ensure that agoraphobic morose teenagers don’t inadvertently listen to it and start self-harming.

The rough and ready guitars drive the song along like a bulldozer, smashing anything that gets in the way and demolishing any chances you might have had of actually enjoying your next soiree. It feels a bit like The Love Junkies once had a bad experience at a social gathering and want to make sure everyone else gets to share the hurt.

Like the bastard child of Weezer and Lesley Gore, this single holds your attention through the medium of grabbing you by the throat and beating your head off the nearest pointy rock. If you don’t listen to the words it sounds fairly cheerful in a minor key, dropped beat kind of way. But tuning in to any particular line will bring words like “funeral”, “masochistic”, “alcoholic”, “lonely” into focus and make you wish you hadn’t concentrated as hard.

Mitch McDonald seems to be really enjoying himself, in an extroverted introvert kind of way and you just hope that he isn’t drawing on his own experiences when he puts pen to paper.

So, in conclusion, this song is amazing!!!

The only thing lacking, in my opinion, is a really rip-roaring solo which could happily be plugged in before the middle eight gets going, but even so I Had a Party Once is a stonking three minutes and twenty six seconds of math rock which I would take great pleasure in turning up loud the next time I throw a party of my own.

 


 


Music Review – The Desert Sea – Elevator

My first ever rock concert was at the tender age of 16. Me and my best friend were, at the time, big (but not in stature) fans of the fundamental heavy metal band – Iron Maiden. As I recall it was very loud and Bruce Dickinson accidentally got himself stuck on top of the massive amplifier stack and had some trouble getting down again.

Now, 26 years later and my tastes have moved on somewhat, I still occasionally fire up some Living Colour or Megadeth, but Maiden – although talented – just don’t really seem to have moved on very far in the 41 years since they formed, so for me at least they just don’t really do it anymore.

The above goes some way to explaining why I chose to do this review, I couldn’t believe that anybody could be so fixated on 80s heavy metal that they try to reproduce it, down to the last screeching guitar solo hammering-off-and-on.

 


 

Starting off like they fell over a Japanese Voyeurs track then remembered they really like Iron Maiden – The Desert Sea’s latest single, Elevator is Proper Metal in the greatest eighties; not certain I should be taking this seriously?; is that Robert Plant?; I thought The Darkness weren’t playing anymore?; sense.

Hailing from Sydney, this hasn’t stopped the band gathering inspiration from every single Heavy Metal icon from the beginning of time to the present day. Their influences are listed as QOTSA, The Raconteurs and Soundgarden which, to a degree, I can agree with because all three of these heavyweights’ influences come from the heyday of long haired guitar screeching chug rock and blues.

Don’t get me wrong, this sounds fresh and interesting but is also reminiscent of so many other bands that it’s hard to identify where the originality takes over from the genuflection to days gone by.

This is the kind of track I could imagine lots of (very) young people jumping about to in a rock club while the more mature metal-heads look on, bemused, from the side lines nursing their bottles of Hahn Super Dry and mumbling about Led Zeppelin.

The solo sounds very much like Dave Murray was pointed at a guitar and told to “just do what you do”. The rest of the song doesn’t deviate too far from the basic heavy metal archetypes of twiddly guitars and throaty choruses.

That said, if you like Metal you shouldn’t be disappointed. Rock on!

 


 


Music Review – Bob Mould – Patch The Sky

I have to admit to being a big fan of Bob Mould, so when his new album was streamed online in March earlier this year I decided that Semplesize could do with letting its readers know exactly why Bob Mould is a rock god!

Original is here.

 


 

After forty years in the music business you might think Bob Mould would have run out of ideas, but no! Patch the Sky is his thirteenth solo album, twenty-sixth if you consider his Hüsker Dü and Sugar efforts, and although you know what you are getting (power-pop and screeching guitar solos) it is still as emotionally and musically volatile as any of his other work.

With such a large back catalogue and so many influences and styles, he effortlessly segues between hardcore punk and pop tinged dance, then screaming like a space shuttle punches through rock music clouds into the vacuum of easy listening space. I think I lost my metaphor somewhere along the way there…

In the grand scheme of things, Patch the Sky is just another Bob Mould album –Mould has influenced just about every rock band since 1979, names such as The Pixies, Nirvana, Green Day, Ryan Adams, No Age, the Foo Fighters and others too innumerable to mention cite him as a major part of their decision to make music – so “just another Bob Mould album” is an event worthy of more than an unobtrusive press release and a few underground murmurings from hardcore fans.

Standout tracks on the first listen are Daddy’s Favourite – distortion and angst, Black Confetti – wonderful offbeat drums define the song, and Monument – speaking directly to your psyche, closes the album on an introspective note.

I’ll be buying this, I would strongly recommend you do too!