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 Up 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)

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, June 2018 Part II


BEYONCE & JAY-Z (THE CARTERS) – Everything Is Love
The surprise album drop thing is getting a bit tired and so is their idea of turning their marriage into a reality show and mending it publicly through their albums: Beyonce’s “Lemonade” accusation was great, Jay-Z’s “4:44” apology was OK, but third time around I’ve got very few fucks left to give about this “we’re fine now” joint effort. (6)

DEATH GRIPS – Year Of The Snitch

This is Death Grips’ “Kid A”, too weird for me. (6)

FANTASTIC NEGRITO – Please Don’t Be Dead

From the Led Zep-infused “Plastic Hamburgers” to the “Come Together”-isms of “Bad Guy Necessity”, from “A Boy Named Andrew”’s exotic hook to the chilling “A Cold November Street” and the funky “Bullshit Anthem”, this guy’s singlehandedly dragging the blues kicking and screaming into the 21st century. (8)

HERE LIES MAN – You Will Know Nothing

Afrobeat meets superfuzzed, bigmuffed proto-metal. (7)

HOWLIN’ RAIN – The Alligator Bride

Bandleader Ethan Miller has described this album as “Neil Cassady rock” and I say he’s spot on. RYIL Ethan Johns and Ethan Hawke. (8)

KAMASI WASHINGTON – Heaven & Earth

I don’t know much about jazz but I know what sounds good, and this sounds GREAT. More than a jazz saxophonist, Washington is a genius arranger/bandleader who’s not afraid to venture into Stevie Wonder/Isaac Hayes soul/pop territory as he’s more about solid songwriting rather than just technical dexterity. (8)

KHEMMIS – Desolation

The yin to Pallbearer’s yang in leading the U.S. doom metal resurgence, these guys go full-on Epic (with a capital “E”) metal on their third album. Great guitars, much improved clean vocals, highly recommended. (8)

NINE INCH NAILS – Bad Witch

Most likely it’s an existential thing but somehow I can never give Trent Reznor anything less than a (7)

ORANGE GOBLIN – The Wolf Bites Back

Not sure why they’re still stuck with the “stoner” label (which they seem to be perfectly happy with, BTW) since, really, these are the children of Motorhead. (7)

WILKO JOHNSON – Blow Your Mind

Wilko didn’t die, he’s back to kick some ass and he sounds VERY alive. His guitar playing remains awesome, his band is rockin’, too bad he can’t really sing so minus one point. (7)

Friday, 8 June 2018

Short Attention Span Record Reviews, June 2018


THE HARDER STUFF

GHOST – Prequelle

It’s so refreshing to find a metal musician with a brain inside his head that I want to give him a 10 just for that, let alone the tunes being catchier than the Black Plague he sings about. (9)

GRAVEYARD – Peace

If this album is any indication there was no reason for the band’s break-up, they just seem to have picked it up from where they had left it, only the drummer’s different. Apart from that, it’s the same competent retro pseudo-70’s boogie/garage rock. (7)

PANEGYRIST – Hierurgy

Devoutly Christian black metal (!?) with epic undertones sounds surprisingly better than expected, sort of like a cross between Arcturus and Bathory. (7)

REFUSED – Servants Of Death

2016 Record Store Day EP from an all-time great punk band now available to all on streaming services. Includes live tracks and a rare B-side. (8)

YOB – Our Raw Heart

Skull-crushing doom metal, dense, cathartic. (8)

ZEAL & ARDOR – Stranger Fruit

When the debut came out in 2016 we expressed the opinion that if he skipped the DIY and got a real drummer he’d be capable of greatness. So he went out and hired Kurt Ballou and a real drummer and he came up with greatness, not straying from his unique satanic black metal/gospel mash-up style but more, well, satanic. (8)


THE OTHER STUFF


COLIN STETSON – Hereditary (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Scary sounds for this year’s scariest movie. (8)

FATHER JOHN MISTY – God’s Favorite Customer

Officially released more than a month after being leaked, this still sounds pretty great a month later and it's a lot poppier than his previous one. Play it for the songs, not for the hype. (8)

JOHN PARISH – Bird Dog Dante

Adventurous guitarist, producer extraordinaire and long-time PJ Harvey collaborator returns with first solo album in a very long time. Polly Jean guests of course, and so does Aldous Harding. Very different from PJ’s own stuff but somehow appealing to the same ears. (7)

KANYE WEST – Ye

He’s lost it. Let’s hope he gets it back. (6)

LUMP – Lump

Beloved indie-folk star Laura Marling partners with producer Mike Lindsay for a series of dreamlike improvisations. Nice. (7)

NATALIE PRASS – The Future And The Past

On her better 2015 debut she sounded like she wanted to be the indie-rock Dusty Springfield, this time around she sounds like she wants to be the indie-rock Grace Jones doing theme songs for Disney soundtracks or something. (6)

NEKO CASE – Hell-On

Case is very different from every other female singer-songwriter out there and cannot be compared to anyone else. It’s not “Americana”, it’s not rock, it’s not country or folk, I really don’t know how to label this but I know these songs go deep and demand multiple listens. Mark Lanegan, k.d. lang and a whole bunch of others guest. (7)

THE LAST POETS – Understand What Black Is

Forefathers of rap return 50 years after the group’s inception and 21 years since their last studio album, and they’ve got plenty to say on this spoken word/reggae/jazz hybrid. (7)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Late Night Tales: Agnes Obel

I love this artist-curated compilation series, and Obel’s “mixtape” is among the most eclectic of the bunch with tracks by Henry Mancini, Lee Hazlewood, Yello, Lena Platonos, Ray Davies, Can etc. blending seamlessly into a beautiful collection of music. (8)