Archive for October, 2009



15
Oct
09

Superdrag: Industry Giants (2009)

SuperdragI was pleasantly surprised on a recent trip to the music store and saw that the 90’s indie group Superdrag had released a new album.  Superdrag had not released an album since Last Call for Vitriol (2002) a good album that provided several solid songs (I Can’t Wait and A Staggering Genius among the best) but yet not strong enough to get the success they deserved. Another good album is In The Valley Of The Dying Stars (2000).  Although, the strongest song on that album in my opinion was Unprepared (clearly influenced by Eliott Smith) a very good song without question, but clearly unable to support the album as a whole, and as usual the rest of the album contained songs that just landed flat and nothing to write home about.

The bands past efforts since their one big hit (Sucked Out) on their first album Respectfully Yours (1996) have ranged from moderately entertaining to overwhelmingly redundant.  Superdrag became a band that I was no longer interested in following; each album sounded like all the others, clearly the formula was no longer working. Suprisingly their recent release might actually have some promise of drawing fans back.

I saw Superdrag in their infancy in 1994 when they played in long dead Boston club called The Causeway (above a bar named The Penalty Box on Causeway Street, across from the Boston Garden).  The original line up of John Davis, Don Coffey Jr., Brandon Fischer, and Tom Pappas was incredible to watch play. These guys were tight, sharp, and clearly loved playing live.  My good friend Scott Sangiacomo (Full Time Dreamers, ex-Shine drummer) invited me to see his band warm up for an up and coming band from Knoxville, TN…Superdrag was that band. 

Superdrags newest effort resonates with influences from bands like Weezer, R.E.M. and early Husker du.  What I think makes this latest effort so different to previous releases is that Superdrag is back to the original line-up and clearly the bass of  Tom Pappas helps bring the original Superdrag sound back to the fans.  Prior albums had featured Sam Morris on bass and although good, something just seemed to be missing. Tom Pappas fills that missing piece.

Songs to watch on this album are Slow to Anger, Cheap Poltergeists, and perhaps the best song on this album Aspartame.  Does Superdrag hit this album out of the park? No, not even close. However, it’s a good step in the right direction and I’m happy to see the original line up back together and collaborating.  I do hope that the band supports this album with a tour since they are very, very good live.

To hear a sample of SuperDrag’s Aspartame click here

Superdrag’s Industry Giants gets a 3.5 out of 5.

09
Oct
09

r.e.m. reborn

rem-accelerate-coverSo I realize that I’m about 18 months late in reviewing this album, but I only acquired it myself a few months ago; it’s so damn good, but I fear that so many don’t know how good it is.

If you’re a longtime R.E.M. fan like me, then chances are you have been pretty disappointed with everything they’ve released since drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1996.  Their sound took a leisurely, tired turn toward easy listening during the late ‘90s and for most of the 2000’s – very light, airy, slow songs with none of the rock attitude or even political passion that thrust the band into superstardom in the 80’s.  I understand a band wanting to try new things, change their sound a bit – R.E.M. has been around well over 25 years now – but the direction they went in left us die-hard fans disillusioned and bored.

So when “Accelerate” was released in early 2008, in spite of the reviews saying it was their “comeback” and that they reclaimed their rock n’ roll sound, I was extremely skeptical and disinterested, and didn’t even bother listening to any of it until a few months ago.  Big, stupid mistake on my part.  The band did not only reawaken its rock sound, they managed to create one of their best albums ever.

Try not to bang your head along with the opening track “Living Well is the Best Revenge.”  Go ahead, try it – I did, and I failed.  You can hear singer Michael Stipe’s enthusiasm rekindled, Peter Buck’s distorted guitar has been de-cobwebbed, their drummer Bill Rieflin – well, let’s just say the fact that there is a drummer is an improvement, and best of all, the return of one of the best backing vocalists ever, Mike Mills.  He belts out his accompaniments with as much force and style as ever, something that was truly lacking on their last few releases.

There are no bad songs on this album – there aren’t even any not-so-great songs on this album.  “Living Well…,” “Man Sized Wreath,” “Supernatural Superserious,” and “Horse to Water” are instant classics – they put an end to the question I’d ask myself every time I heard an R.E.M. song post-Bill Berry: “Remember when R.E.M. used to rock?”

With “Houston” and “Sing for the Submarine” we see the band’s darker side revealed once again, like way back when on classics like “Feeling Gravity’s Pull” and “I Remember California.”

R.E.M. could always be counted on for pure, sweet melodies, harkening back to their southern roots and their early college radio success, and this is represented in “Until the Day is Done,” a somber number reminiscent of their fantastic “Automatic for the People” album.

One of the greatest things about R.E.M. is that each of their albums stands on its own – none sound alike.  And that tradition continues here with “Accelerate.”  So to say that this album will be a pleasant surprise for R.E.M. fans who fell out-of-love with the band after “New Adventures in Hi-Fi” would be a major understatement.  And for the casual R.E.M. fan, this is just a great rock album.

Accelerate gets 4.5 out of 5 stars

06
Oct
09

alice in chains returns

24176.64Music-Review-Alice-In-Chains.sff“Black Gives Way to Blue” is the first release from Alice in Chains since the 2002 drug overdose of singer Layne Staley.  AIC fans who relished Staley’s pained, groaning vocals will not be disappointed with that aspect of this new album, as singer William DuVall does his best Staley impression.  But despite the band’s obvious attempt to still sound like the Alice of old, the opening track “All Secrets Known,” which is essentially just a slow, grungy introduction to the rest of the album, begins with the lyrics:

“Hope, a new beginning

Time, time to start living – Like just before we died.
There’s no going back to the place –
We’ve started from…”

It’s a good way to open the album, acknowledging the past but confirming the band’s vision toward the future.  A nice rocker “Check My Brain” is the next cut, and you find that you have to remind yourself that it’s DuVall and guitarist Jerry Cantrell providing the vocals, not Staley.  We get to hear DuVall’s true voice on “Last of My Kind,” and now we finally get some variance between his style and Staley’s, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – DuVall has some anger behind his voice, though not with the intensity that Staley blasted out.  Cantrell’s chunky riffs are still the band’s defining musical sound, and even 18-some odd years removed from the group’s first hit “Man in the Box,” the riffs still sound great.

There are a few ballads on the album, including “Your Decision” and “When the Sun Rose Again.”  These are the weaker moments on the album; while they show that the band is not compelled to play angrily and pound drums for 11 tracks, they are little more than brief interludes – filler, if you will – between the better songs.

A couple of those better songs are the dark, sludgy “Acid Bubble” and the rocker “Lesson Learned,” with the former being reminiscent of one of AIC’s masterpieces “Rooster,” from 1993’s “Dirt” release.

The album closes with an unfortunate dull thud, with the uninspired “Private Hell” and the title track as the short finale.  There are moments on the album that show some great potential, but apart from a few enjoyable tracks, the work as a whole fails to impress and ends up feeling a little stale.  It’s nice to hear a little of the old Alice in Chains sound again, but if the band is to rekindle their previous success, perhaps it’s time to change things up a bit.

Black Gives Way to Blue gets 2.5 out of 5 stars

05
Oct
09

Mudvayne – “The New Game” (2008)

mudvayneIf you don’t know already, Mudvayne is a band that has been a contributing factor in redifining the sound of contemporary metal for nearly a decade.  Beginning in 2000 with their initial release L.D. 50, Mudvayne has been on a non-stop roll creating hard hitting, gritty, nasty, and even catchy metal that has earned them their rightful place among bands like Lacuna Coil, Shadows Fall, Sevendust, and even yes, Metallica. 

In late 2008 Mudvayne released their fifth studio album The New Game; the first track released to the public was the both melodic and heaving hitting “Do What You Do”.  This teaser track was released two weeks prior to the albums release, and provided a mere peek into what promised to be another doozy of an album for the power-foursome.  Lead singer Chad Gray’s vocal’s, as always, are tight, gritty, and complimentary to the blistering maelstrom of guitar and bass; the delightful  Mudvayne signature sound. Among the  album’s highlights include songs “Do What You Do”, “Scarlet Letter”, and “Dull Boy”. Personally, I think every song is a winner.

For The New Game, Mudvayne teamed up with producer Dave Fortman for a second time.  Fortman had produced Mudvanye’s Lost and Found (2005) with great success; in this newest venture Fortman helps them create a more earthy sound for The New Game. Fortman had worked with both Evanescence and Slipknot assisting them in producing award winning albums, and he doesn’t fall short with this album either.  Mudvayne just finished a U.S. Tour promoting The New Game, somehow they played at a local fair in August..how did I miss that one? Ugh!

Mudvayne has announced the next album is due on 12/29/09!  Jeez, these guys are just machines!

Regardless, these guys rock and are one of my favorites in today’s metal arena. Do yourself a favor and get any album, get comfortable, and turn it up really, really loud!

If you want to check out some select songs from The New Game  go to Mudvayne’s website and click the free player on the top right of the homepage.

The New Game gets 4 out of 5 stars.

03
Oct
09

Larkfest ~ 9/19/09 in Albany, NY

Wow guys, sorry for jumping on the bandwagon for this review late.  For anyone who wasn’t at Larkfest this year (an annual music event sponsored by WEQX that’s held on Lark Street in Albany) sure missed out.  I’ve been to the festival quite a few times and must say – this year was the best.  There was a huge persons turnout, the bands were amazing, and the “air” and feel of the event was indescribable.  It literally was a day and a night of positive revelry for the entire city.  Strangers came together and bonded over their love of music, jumping up and down, throwing their hands in the air, and screaming.   People sitting up on 2nd and 3rd and 4th floor window stills (note: not recommended, but luckily no injuries occurred) laughing and singing with the rest of em only made the day that much greater.

(photo by the.bnut)

I’ll give you a little description:  8 blocks of the city are shut down and WEQX sets up a combination of stages (a MAIN STAGE, SOUTH STAGE, Western Ave Stage, etc.) , and each have different bands playing throughout the day, for people to come and enjoy for free.  A ton of vendors are set up, Heineken has a huge blow up bottle prop (it deserves a segment because it’s that awesome),and all the local eateries and vintage stores that Lark Street is famous for are open.

All in all, it was great- and the truth is, it always is.  Even if you’re not from around the city, I strongly urge you to come next year because it’s just a ton of fun.  The band list this year:

MOBY
BELL X1, MATT & KIM, COMPANY OF THIEVES,

LUNIC, QUEER FOR ASTROBOY,

TEN YEAR VAMP, THE BURNHAM BROTHERS

AND VICTORIA LAMAS

(photo by the.bnut)

Matt and Kim’s last song, Daylight, blew everybody away.   I had never seen so many people crowd surfing at the same time.  There was also a load of beach-balls flying thrown into the air for that last song too.  This was my first review (dmbxvii), and I hope you all enjoyed it!   Will be back soon

– DMB

03
Oct
09

Iron and Wine – Free Music

Iron and Wine's Sam Beam

Iron and Wine's Sam Beam

If you work an office job like me and need some mellow background music check out the Iron and Wine website for some free music.  Click on the Discography link and a few full length albums are available to listen to in their entirery, nice eh? Free albums include The Creek Drank The Cradle (2002), Our Endless Numbered Days (2004), and The Shepard’s Dog (2007).  The Creek Drank The Cradle was reviewed earlier on this blog. 

If you click the News link on the website and scroll down to the 3/24/09 date you will find 8 alternate versions from The Shepards Dog free to download.

Anyway, thought it was cool that Iron and Wine would make this music free, enjoy.

01
Oct
09

You’re Not a Pink Floyd Fan Unless…

42499…you’ve seen their Live at Pompeii video. This is the ultimate Floyd experience. To hell with the fancy laser light shows, the giant disco ball in the center of huge arenas, the massive video wall behind the band, the stage so far away from the crowd you need binoculars in the front row…this is Pink Floyd up close and personal, playing their very best songs. It also features studio clips of the band recording the “Dark Side of the Moon” album, interspersed between the live songs.

At the opening notes of “Echoes” (a 23-minute number that is split into two parts in this film, bookending the movie), we see footage of the road crew setting up in the center of an ancient amphitheater in the ruins of Pompeii, Italy. By the time the song begins to take shape, the band is set up and playing and the only audience is their crew.

Throughout the film, we are given eerie shots of the Pompeii ruins, smoldering craters, steaming pools of bubbly goo, and walking (or sometimes running) amongst all this are Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason, in a somewhat reminiscent (but much more abbreviated) style of the Beatles’ films. We also see shots of ancient artwork from the city. All of this fits in so perfectly with the music; it will blow your mind. Seriously.

“Echoes” is followed up by “Careful With that Axe Eugene,” a song that has such a violent climax that only an erupting volcano would visually represent it. Well, that’s exactly what you get in this film – footage of exploding lava as Waters belts out the howling wail that trademarks the song.

The other live tracks are “A Saucerful of Secrets,” “One of These Days,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” “Mademoiselle Nobs” (known as “Seamus” on the Meddle album), and the second half of “Echoes” closes out the film.

Each time I’ve seen the movie I notice something new. There are so many weird subtleties and quirky visuals, from Waters’ gross veins popping out of his arm during the recording of “On the Run,” to the film’s director Adrian Maben’s infatuation with drummer Nick Mason during “One of These Days.” The camera is on Mason for I’d guess 98% of the song. It’s quite odd.

“Mademoiselle Nobs” features an actual live puppy dog recording the howling parts, and one of the great visuals is Waters smashing the giant gong during “Set the Controls…” with the sun directly behind him.

A really trippy part of the film is hearing Rick Wright record part of the piano on “Us and Them.” We hear in the background the rest of the song, while he adds piano flourishments – but what we are hearing in the background is what he’s hearing in his headphones. I guess if you’re sober it’s not that trippy.

There are a couple of scenes in a diner with the band, and we learn about how much Nick Mason hates crust on his pie (“Tell them I want a middle piece,” he asks.  “They don’t have the square kind, only the round,” he is told.  “Then I’ll just go without,” he decides).  There is also a short interview with Mason and an obviously stoned Gilmour, who practically winks at the camera when he says that the Floyd are “not a drug band.”  It’s quite amusing.

From a technical standpoint, the music sounds incredible – you can hear each instrument clearly, which ironically does not benefit the band as individual musicians. Aside from Gilmour, the other members are not virtuosos; in fact, if you single out Waters’ bass playing or Wright’s keyboard, they don’t sound that talented. But when combined together, the songs are pure gold.

In the end, what the film does best is capture Pink Floyd at the end of one phase and the start of another. With the release of “Dark Side of the Moon,” we see the band abandon the psychedelic sound for a more mainstream one, and the cessation of the long, progressive tracks that defined their early sound. This may be why they chose Pompeii, a place where every person – an entire society – was wiped out by a volcano; it represents the end of an era for them, musically speaking. The film is ultimately a time capsule for one of the world’s greatest bands.

P.S. A cool little visual tribute to this film can be found in the Beastie Boys’ video for their song “Gratitude” (check it out on YouTube).

Pink Floyd – Live at Pompeii gets 5 out of 5 stars

01
Oct
09

Dread Zeppelin – tribute part duex

Dread_ZepReggae-Zeppelin-Elvis? Yes, Dread Zeppelin. Quite possibly the most original tribute band ever…and perhaps even worth the $40 I dare say.

Dread Zep does a mean “Misty Mountain Hop” in ‘The Kings” English…classic, look it up on YouTube.

Props to blog contributor Eric Straus for the heads up about this band, I had actually forgotten all about them since college…I’m sure they are still huge in Tibet.




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