Monday, 5 November 2018

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, November 2018


BLACKBERRY SMOKE – The Southern Ground Sessions
Acoustic versions of five songs off their last album “Find A Light”, plus a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky”. Amanda Shires guests. Fans will love this. (7)

DEAD CAN DANCE – Dionysus

A worthy addition to this great band’s discography, closer to 1998’s “Spiritchaser” than to any of their other albums. Oh, and it’s a concept album. (8)

DR. FEELGOOD – Live At The BBC

Legendary pub rockers in early-career live recording that just saw the light of day. It does capture their manic on-stage energy but if you’re a Dr. Feelgood newbie you’re probably better off checking out “Stupidity” first, their legendary hit live album recorded a couple of years down the road in 1976. (7) 

JULIA HOLTER – Aviary

The beautiful orchestral chamber pop of 2015’s excellent “Have You In My Wilderness” gives way to an impressionistic, complex, cacophonous 90-minute epic representation of the chaotic world we live in. An album much easier to admire than to actually enjoy. (7)

MARIANNE FAITHFULL – Negative Capability

She’s lived the fullest life possible and now at 71 she releases an album of meditations on death, eerily reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s swan song. It’s fantastic, but the main reason I’m reviewing it is to point out that Warrior Soul’s Kory Clarke has always sounded EXACTLY like Faithfull. (8)

MAVERICKS – Hey! It’s Christmas!

Eight originals and a couple of covers on a very happy-sounding Christmas album blending country, swing, rockabilly and latin music, this will definitely put you in a festive mood. (7)

PISTOL ANNIES – Interstate Gospel

Top-notch songwriting, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes both at the same time. These ladies just released the finest country record of 2018. (9)

RODNEY CROWELL – Christmas Everywhere

This is not a happy Christmas album like the one by the Mavericks. This is a realistic Christmas album by one of country music’s lesser known true heroes, starring dysfunctional couples, depressed loners and drunken idiot relatives. (7)

STEVEN WILSON – Home Invasion: In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall

145 minutes of Steven Wilson live with a great track listing and amazing sound quality from the guy who, whether you like it or not, singlehandedly keeps progressive rock alive in the 21st century. (8)

THE OCEAN – Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic

Like a prog Neurosis but with a degree in Paleontology and less facial hair. (7)

TY SEGALL – Fudge Sandwich

Garage rocker covers an eclectic bunch of his favorite songs (War, Spencer Davis Group, John Lennon, Funkadelic, Neil Young, Gong, Amon Duul II etc.) and truly makes them his own. (8)

WARREL DANE – Shadow Work

Closer to the Nevermore sound than anyone would’ve hope for but it’s not the same without Jeff Loomis, is it? (7)

WHITEY MORGAN & THE 78’S – Hard Times And White Lines

Whitey Morgan sounds like he was born in a roadhouse, or at least like he'll die in one. (7)

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, October 2018


THE HARDER STUFF

BEHEMOTH – I Loved You At Your Darkest

Probably the most despicably evil-sounding thing you’ll hear all year. (8)

DISTURBED – Evolution

David Draiman said that this is their own “Black Album” and I guess he means there’s ballads this time around. The heavier songs on “Evolution” are solid but the aforementioned ballads sort of suck, and unfortunately there’s too many of ‘em. (6)

HIGH ON FIRE – Electric Messiah

If you like Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Slayer, and smoking dope, then your favorite album for 2018 has just been released. (8)

SACRAL RAGE – Beyond Celestial Echoes

Excellent second effort from Greek tech-speed metal quartet, sort of a cross between Watchtower and Helstar that ends up sounding like Annihilator but better than Annihilator has sounded in 25 years. (8)

SATAN’S SATYRS – The Lucky Ones

Some ties to Electric Wizard but sounding more like Fu Manchu on this one. (7)

SHINING – Animal

WTF moment of the month is when you put on an album by an artist you know really well and love, and within seconds you wonder if this is a different band that just happens to have the same name. Saxophone gone, brutal vocals gone, experimental blackjazz gone, this is basically a party rock record. And a good one too. (8)

STEVE PERRY – Traces

Legendary Journey frontman returns a quarter of a century after falling off the face of the planet, but the songwriting simply does not deliver. Good to see however that the apostrophes in the song titles are still in place (Erasin’, Cryin’, Somethin’ etc.) (6)

THE BLACK QUEEN – Infinite Games

Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato in Depeche Mode cosplay. (6)

TOM MORELLO – The Atlas Underground

RATM guitarist ventures out of his comfort zone with a strange EDM/rock hybrid featuring gazillions of guests from DJ Steve Aoki to Marcus Mumford to Gary Clark Jr. to Killer Mike. It works, sometimes. (7)

TOURNIQUET – Gazing At Medusa

Self-described as “Beethoven meets Frankenstein”, this Christian prog-thrash band has deservedly earned a rabid cult following and releases another great album. (8)

UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS - Wasteland

Everything is vastly improved on the occult/vintage hard rock band’s new album, their best, except the guy’s vocals and the crap production which are just as annoying as ever. Nods to early Maiden welcome. (7)


THE OTHER STUFF


ARETHA FRANKLIN – The Atlantic Singles Collection 1967-1970
(10)

BOTTLE ROCKETS – Bit Logic

Best southern/country rock band around at the moment alongside Blackberry Smoke. (8)

COLIN STETSON – The First: Original Soundtrack Vol. 1

On the heels of “Hereditary”, yet another excellent soundtrack work from avant-garde saxophonist Colin Stetson – this time for a new TV series developed by the team behind “House Of Cards” and starring Sean Penn. (8)

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IMPOSTERS – Look Now

A mostly welcome return to the chamber pop sound of 1982’s “Imperial Bedroom”. (7)

ERIC CHURCH – Desperate Man

A country star who grew up on rock ‘n’ roll, Church releases throwback to 70’s country rock from the Allman Brothers to Jackson Browne and it’s probably his best album to date. (8)

ESPERANZA SPALDING – 12 Little Spells

I’ve previously said that Esperanza Spalding is like Kate Bush and Jaco Pastorius rolled into one. Well, you can add Kurt Weill and Prince into that equation. Wow. (9)

JOHN GRANT – Love Is Magic

Grant goes full-on electropop and most of the time sounds like he’s taking the piss. Certainly less satisfying than 2015’s excellent “Grey Tickles, Black Pressure”. (6)

MARISSA NADLER – For My Crimes

You’ll like Marissa Nadler if you like Sharon Van Etten, but probably not as much. (7)

NENEH CHERRY – Broken Politics

Cherry goes political, singing about gun violence and the global refugee crisis over a soundtrack of mostly ambient electronic beats that sound like a cross between Massive Attack (whose 3D collaborates here) and Four Tet (whose Kieran Hebden produces). (7)

PHOSPHORESCENT – C’Est La Vie

You’ll like Phosphorescent if you like The War On Drugs, but probably not as much. (7)

SAM PHILLIPS – World On Sticks

You’ve heard Sam Phillips even if you don’t know it as her music is all over the best TV series ever. Her “Martinis & Bikinis” album is a Desert Island Disc for this writer, and her new one is another delightful slice of Americana. Oh, and “Different Shades Of Light” is the best song you’ll hear this year. (8)

THE CRYSTAL METHOD – The Trip Home

Very late-90’s sounding electronica, RYIL the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim etc. (7)

THE NECKS – Body

Ambient jazz trio discover their inner rockers on their 20th studio album consisting of one 57-minute long piece. Listening to the whole thing, feel the tension build up until the glorious motorik post-rock orgasm comes somewhere around the middle. (8)

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Short Attention Span Record Reviews: Back To School 2018-19


AARON LEE TASJAN – Karma For Cheap
His previous album, 2016’s Gram Parsons-informed “Silver Tears”, might as well be my favorite record of the last 5 years. “Karma For Cheap” rocks a bit harder in Tom Petty mode, and it’s a solid effort compared to practically anything except its predecessor. (8)

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO – The Crossing

A fantastic concept album about immigrants in the USA. Now 67, Escovedo manages to release what is probably the best album in his distinguished, long career, coming across as a Tex-Mex Springsteen. Guests include Joe Ely and Wayne Kramer. (8)

EMINEM – Kamikaze

When did everyone start to hate this guy? I think he’s OK and in any case his flow is flawless. (7)

FUCKED UP – Dose Your Dreams

Ridiculously ambitious double concept album featuring strings, saxophones, choirs and J. Mascis. The verdict’s still out on this one as I need a few more spins, but it’s certainly bonkers. (anything from 6 to 9)

JOAN SHELLEY – Rivers And Vessels

One of the most interesting folkies currently around covers Nick Drake, J.J. Cale, Dolly Parton etc. on this EP also featuring guest duets with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Julia Purcell. (7)

MARC RIBOT – Songs Of Resistance 1942-2018

Adventurous journeyman guitarist plus guest vocalists attack Trump through protest songs from the US Civil Rights Movement, anti-fascist WWII tunes etc., also some originals. Tom Waits sings “Bella Ciao”. (8)

MARK LANEGAN & DUKE GARWOOD – With Animals

Mark Lanegan once released an album titled “Blues Funeral”. I’m officially launching an Internet campaign to demand that all Mark Lanegan albums are retitled “Blues Funeral”, it works for every single one including this one. (7)

ODETTA HARTMAN – Old Rockhounds Never Die

Plenty of artists today are trying to push the boundaries of Americana with production experiments but none is as out there as Hartman, whose songs manage to maintain a hypnotic quality while often sounding like snippets of genius ideas rather than finished tracks. (7)

PAUL SIMON – In The Blue Light

Simon revisits/reimagines 10 overlooked deep cuts from his back catalogue to coincide with his farewell tour. Fans will love this. (8)

RICHARD THOMPSON – 13 Rivers

An extraordinarily impressive return to his rock persona, on “13 Rivers” Thompson sounds more like Bob Mould’s twice-as-talented dad (and you know I’m a huge Bob Mould fan) than like Fairport Convention’s guitarist. A fantastic set of songs. (9)

SPIRITUALIZED – And Nothing Hurt

Sounds like a middle-aged version of “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” but that’s not a bad thing for a middle-aged reviewer such as yours truly. Space rocker Jason Pierce fought death and came out triumphant, and if this is (as rumored) his last album then it’s a perfect epilogue to his career. (8)

SUPERSUCKERS – Suck It

Not even cancer can stop Eddie Spaghetti – the Supersuckers are back with another excellent Motorhead-meets-Steve Earle rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut. Very funny lyrics too. (8)

SUSANA BACA & ARGELIA FRAGOSO – Quiereme

Peruvian Latin music diva meets Cuban Latin music diva on wonderful jazz-tinged easy listening album. I could listen to this on repeat for hours. (8)

THE DEVIL MAKES THREE – Chains Are Broken

Yee-haw! The Devil makes four, actually, now that they have a full-time drummer on board, and their rockabilly-flavored Americana has never been as fun as it is on this album. (8)

THE LEMON TWIGS – Go To School

WTF rock musical about a chimpanzee raised by humans. Features Todd Rundgren as the chimp’s father, Jody Stephens from Big Star on drums, and a couple of jokes about bananas. (7)

THRICE – Palms

Album #10 by post-hardcore Californians shifts the sound towards a more melodic approach. Can you imagine a cross between the Deftones and Hot Water Music? (7)

Friday, 14 September 2018

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, Heavy Edition


ALICE IN CHAINS – Rainier Fog
Grunge by proxy, metalheads deep down, on new release that will keep the fanbase happy. (7)

ALKALINE TRIO – Is This Thing Cursed

Pop-punk veterans still in pretty good shape. (7)

AUTHOR & PUNISHER – Beastland

One-man industrial metal band Author & Punisher and his handmade robot noisemakers return with yet another skull-crushing collection of Godflesh-meets-NIN tracks. (7)

CLUTCH – Book Of Bad Decisions

Textbook definition of what hard rock should sound like. A couple of songs too long though. (8)

ENUFF ZNUFF – Diamond Boy

Cult power-pop heroes erroneously marketed as glam metal back in the day provide another set of catchy Cheap Trick-esque ditties. Guitarist Chip also assumes vocal duties as singer Donnie is M.I.A. Not bad, but do yourself a favor and listen to their fantastic 1989-2003 albums. (7)

NASHVILLE PUSSY – Pleased To Eat You

It’s a Nashville Pussy album so what did you expect? Of course it’s about dope, guns, and fucking in the streets. (7)

PRIMITIVE MAN & UNEARTHLY TRANCE – Split

Imagine someone drilling a hole in your cranium with a Black+Decker but instead of, say, a normal speed of 1000 RPM, this drill operates at 4 RPM. (666)

SATAN – Cruel Magic

A combination of great guitar work and piss-poor production gives this album an air of NWOBHM authenticity, not that they need it. Jump right in if you’re into old-school heavy metal. (7)

SUICIDAL TENDENCIES – Still Cyco Punk After All These Years

I wonder what Dave Lombardo’s salary is, if Mike Muir is using him as the only selling point for rehashing old material. (6)

SUMAC – Love In Shadow

Crushingly heavy yet strangely melodic this will certainly appeal to fans of previous bands these guys have been in, the most prominent of which was Isis. (8)

Thursday, 9 August 2018

10 Χρόνια Κομμάτια

Από εδώ ξεκίνησαν όλα.

Είμαστε οι πρώτοι κι ακολουθάνε αναστημένοι χίλιοι νεκροί / Νέοι καιροί ξημερώνουνε πάλι, να η φωτιά, να η ζωή

1977. Είμαι 9 ετών, η οικογένεια ετοιμάζεται να μεταναστεύσει, από τη Λευκωσία στο West Lafayette της Indiana. Ο πατέρας μου ζητάει από το δισκοπώλη της γωνίας να του γράψει σε κασέτες κάποιους δίσκους για να πάρει μαζί του στις ΗΠΑ, εγώ αναλαμβάνω να μεταφέρω τις παραγγελιές στο δισκοπώλη και να παραλάβω τις αντιγραμμένες κασέτες.

Ο μπαμπάς Ελληνικά ακούει αλλά δεν είναι του λαϊκού, μέχρι Ξαρχάκο φτάνει. Θυμάμαι εκείνες τις κασέτες: Σπανός με Αλέκα Κανελλίδου. Χατζηνάσιος με Μπέσυ-Πασχάλη-Ουίλλιαμς-Μαριάννα Τόλη (LP χτισμένο γύρω από το Γιουροβιζιονικό σουξέ "Μάθημα Σολφέζ"). Και το "10 Χρόνια Κομμάτια" του Διονύση Σαββόπουλου.

Στα γήπεδα η Ελλάδα αναστενάζει, στα καφενεία μπιλιάρδο, καλαμπούρι και χαρτί

Δύσκολες μέρες στις ΗΠΑ. Μόλις έχω αρχίσει να μαθαίνω Αγγλικά αλλά είμαι αναγκασμένος να πάω Δ' Δημοτικού σε Αγγλόφωνο σχολείο, μοναδικός non-native speaker στην τάξη. Στο διάλειμμα τα παιδιά παίζουν softball και american football που δεν ξέρω ούτε καν τους κανόνες, όχι ποδόσφαιρο ή μακριά γαϊδούρα. Όλοι οι συμμαθητές μου έχουν έγχρωμη τηλεόραση εκτός από εμένα, εμείς μόνο μια μικρή ασπρόμαυρη μπορούσαμε να πάρουμε. Bullying. Όλα μου φαίνονται ξένα κι εχθρικά, κάθε μέρα γυρνάω από το σχολείο και αποσύρομαι μπροστά σε ένα φτηνό κασετόφωνο, δική μου μουσική δεν έχω ακόμα αλλά οι Ελληνικές κασέτες του μπαμπά είναι η διέξοδός μου, μια χωροχρονική σκουλικότρυπα που με γυρίζει μερικούς μήνες πίσω σε ένα μέρος πιο γνώριμο και ζεστό, πιο ασφαλές. Αγαπημένη μου από όλες, αυτή του Σαββόπουλου.

Η ζωή μου έχει γεμίσει μυστικά, στους διαδρόμους ψευδομάρτυρες καπνίζουν / Και οι φίλοι με κερνούν ναρκωτικά, και το κόμμα με τραβάει απ' το μανίκι.

Μεγαλώνοντας στην Κύπρο χούντα δεν έζησα, και ειδικά στην ηλικία των 9 είναι φυσικά αδύνατο να συλλάβω τα βαθύτερα πολιτικά νοήματα μέσα σε αυτά τα τραγούδια, ή να καταλάβω σε τι στο διάολο αναφέρεται ο Σαββόπουλος στα μικρά λογύδρια ανάμεσα στα τραγούδια όταν μιλάει για τη συγκέντρωση της ΕΦΕΕ ή για νεκροζώντανους στο Κύτταρο και σκηνές ροκ. Ξέρω όμως ότι αυτά τα τραγούδια είναι πολύ διαφορετικά από ο,τιδήποτε άλλο στη μικρή δισκοθήκη του πατέρα μου στο West Lafayette, αναγνωρίζω ότι έχουν βάθος και μιλούν για πράγματα ΣΗΜΑΝΤΙΚΑ (κι ας μην έχω ιδέα ποια είναι αυτά) και δεν μπορώ να σταματήσω να τα ακούω.

Επί δώδεκα μήνες το '77-'78 πρέπει να άκουσα το "10 Χρόνια Κομμάτια" γύρω στις 500 φορές, κάθε μέρα, κάποιες μέρες δυο και τρεις φορές. Ο Σαββόπουλος ήταν ο φάρος και το σωσίβιό μου το 1977, ο Σαββόπουλος με έκανε να αγαπήσω τη μουσική, ήταν η πρώτη μου επαφή με το ροκ όχι μόνο ως ήχο αλλά και ως φιλοσοφία. Ο Σαββόπουλος μου άλλαξε τη ζωή. Ίσως και να μου την έσωσε.



Friday, 3 August 2018

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, Summer Holiday Edition


AMANDA SHIRES – To The Sunset
Long before becoming Jason Isbell’s wife, muse and savior, Shires was already an established musician in her own right and this is probably her most inspired solo album. Isbell holds a supporting role playing guitar and uber-producer Dave Cobb plays the bass but this is definitely a rock band Shires leads here, not a country band. (8)

DARON MALAKIAN & SCARS ON BROADWAY – Dictator
Daron tries really hard but without you-know-who this ends up sounding like a somewhat incomplete version of the “Hypnotize/Mesmerize” SOAD follow-up that never was. (7)

JEFFREY FOUCAULT – Blood Brothers
Country rock troubadour delivers an album decidedly more subdued than his previous couple of releases, chock-full of wonderful melodies and introspective lyrics. Americana fans please take note. (7)

LUCERO – Among The Ghosts
The diversity of artists bunched up under the “Americana” label is so vast that’s it’s impossible to define the genre, so let’s just say that this falls more towards the Tom Petty end of the spectrum rather than the Alison Krauss one. (7)

MIKE PATTON – 1922 (OST)
Soundtrack for Netflix adaptation of a Stephen King novella. Haven’t read the story or seen the movie, but the music sounds like John Carpenter fucking Angelo Badalamenti in the ass. (7)

PUNCH BROTHERS – All Ashore
Progressive bluegrass (prograss? Avant grass? Post-grass?). Strange band, strange album, sometimes beautiful but also a bit cold and distant in its acoustic string instrument virtuosity. (7)

SCREAMING JETS – Gotcha Covered
The world’s third best band with a name starting with the word “Screaming” covers other Aussie bands (Easybeats, Radiators, Men At Work, Hoodoo Gurus, Radio Birdman, Angels, INXS, Dragon, AC/DC of course…) and provides ultimate proof that Aussie rock is the world’s third best rock. (8)

THE RECORD COMPANY – All Of This Life
Rocking like a harder-edged Black Keys and occasionally venturing into Foghat/Five Horse Johnson boogie territory with some monster slide guitar, these guys will certainly shake your booty. (8)

ULTRAPHONIX – Original Human Music
Soulful, bluesy hard rock by the unlikely combination of George Lynch (Dokken) and Corey Glover (Living Colour) plus a kick-ass rhythm section. (7)

WILLIE NILE – Children Of Paradise
Can’t believe this guy just turned 70, he sounds like a young Joe Strummer doing a “Born To Run”-era Springsteen impression. This is truly a kick-ass album, probably the best batch of pure rock ‘n’ roll songs you’ll hear all year, definitely the best soundtrack to your summer holiday. (9)

Friday, 13 July 2018

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, July 2018

THE HARDER STUFF

CONVERGE – Beautiful Ruin

Surprise EP, 4 songs, 7 minutes. Obviously left off the band’s last album for being much punkier and not fitting that tracklisting. It will melt your face off. (7)

DEAFHEAVEN – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

You can talk about “hipster metal” all you want but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a fuckin’ monster of an album, emotionally reaching deep and hitting home in so many different ways. Perhaps even better than “Sunbather” – don’t even bother with the “yes but is it metal?” debate, just open your ears and LISTEN for a change. (9)

FATES WARNING – Live Over Europe

Half this blog’s readers are metalheads, for a minute there I felt the need to justify this album’s score for the other half’s benefit but decided not to. (10)

LUCIFER – II

This time around Gaz Jennings (Cathedral) has been replaced by Johanna Sadonis’s beau, Nicke Andersson, so naturally the sound on “II” doesn’t just rock like on the debut, it rolls too. (8)

THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA – Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough

Less guitars, more keyboards, a touch of disco this time around. The songwriting remains top-notch and you’re unlikely to hear a better AOR record this year, but I prefer the previous, harder-edged albums. (7)


THE OTHER STUFF

CHARLES LLOYD & THE MARVELS FEATURING LUCINDA WILLIAMS – Vanished Gardens

Wow. Essentially a jazz combo but one that instills its bebop with southern roots rock brings respected singer/songwriter along for the ride. This is beautiful. (8)

COWBOY JUNKIES – All That Reckoning

A band responsible for a whole genre – Americana was born when the Cowboy Junkies decided to take country music’s roots and kick ’em in the butt by throwing some Leonard Cohen and Velvet Underground into the mix. And 30 years down the road, they release one of their best albums. (8)

JIM JAMES – Uniform Distortion

Solo album by My Morning Jacket mainman is a straightforward rock ‘n’ roll affair, the fuzzy way Neil Young goes straightforward rock ‘n’ roll sometimes. (7)

KAMASI WASHINGTON – The Choice

Bonus EP hidden in the center gatefold of physical vinyl copies of last month’s release “Heaven And Earth”, now available on streaming services as well. Same maximalistic approach to jazz, plus a lovely cover of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”. (8)

KINKY FRIEDMAN – Circus Of Life

Kinky’s certainly an interesting character and a very funny guy. He’s also a competent songwriter, if you’re into the Willie Nelson School of country music. (7)

THE END – Svårmod Och Vemod Är Värdesinnen

Definitely uneasy listening, this is a noise/jazz/rock hybrid featuring two baritone saxophones and avant-garde singer Sofia Jernberg. If John Zorn had married Diamanda Galas, the band formed by their kids would probably sound something like this. (7)