Archive for October, 2009



21
Oct
09

Superdrag – Last Call for Vitriol (2002)

Superdrag - Last Call for VitriolUpon reflection of my recent review of Superdrag’s newest release Industry Giants (2009) I felt compelled to perhaps go back into my CD vault and re-listen to an album they released in 2002 entitled Last Call for Vitriol which upon second and third listens (after I blew the dust off) is a really good album.  So, yes, perhaps I will take back some of my harsh critique and replace with it with some praise.  

Last Call for Vitriol is a solid album but if you are looking for an album of non-stop rock and intensity this is not it.  Last Call for Vitriol is more of an amalgum of both hard rock and mellow ballads.  The best songs on the album clearly are songs #2 and #3.  Song #2 (I Can’t Wait) and song #3 (The Staggering Genius, quite possibly the best song I’ve heard from them since Sucked Out) are powerful and intense, great songs that anyone would want to see played live.  In addition, they are also songs that the listener wants to hear more of, but sadly Superdrag  immediately lose pace and the listener is left with with an album of calm, mellow songs that forced one to push the button for the next song always longing to hear where the album picks back up; it never does.  For me, the album just never regains my interest after those two songs. 

Click here to listen to a sample of The Staggering Genius

Does that mean that the songs afterwards are duds, no, they are actually very good and reflect just how good John Davis is as a song writer, but for those of us looking for an “in your face” rock album with song after song of blistering power chords that make Superdrag fun to listen to, it fails to satisfy. 

This album was actually rather successful for the band and perhaps one of their closest since Regretfully Yours (1996) to make it to mainstream college radio.  My advice with todays access to purchasing music online is save yourself the money of buying the album used for $7.00 and spend $2.00 on just those two songs.  You should be happy with your purchase I’m sure.  And that is the thing about Superdrag, you can always pick one or two songs from each album that you really like. I can only imagine if they just were to produce one solid album of these songs, it would be incredible.

If you download these songs, tell us what you think!

16
Oct
09

Jesus Rocks?

10346922Christian rock music. This is a topic that has interested me for quite some time. I’ve always thought it strange that while such a huge percentage of this country is Christian, Christian rock music has failed to make any dent in mainstream popular music.

So what’s the deal? I’ve heard many Christian rock bands, and they’re not bad…I mean, for those who like the warmed over, watered down sounds of Matchbox 20 or The Gin Blossoms, a lot of Christian bands have that same sound. So is it the lyrics? Do church-goers not want to hear the same stuff that they hear every Sunday coming out of their cd players? The only cross-over in recent memory would be Creed’s album from the late 90’s which featured “Higher.” That was a wildly popular song and Creed did very well for a time, but then faded from the scene. So why did they get any recognition while everyone else has not? Is it because the lyrics to that song aren’t overtly religious and the masses didn’t realize it was “Christian”?

Is it that people go to church out of guilt and fear, but people listen to rock and roll because they like to be sinful?

In other words, people don’t like to mix their religion with their fun stuff too much. There are crazy born-again types that might go for Christian Rock, but most Christians were raised as such and don’t want that shoved down their throats when they’re trying to have fun.   Of course a lot of the songs I’ve heard aren’t evangelical – the lyrics aren’t about sin and hellfire and such. They’re uplifting spiritual songs. Basically take the lyrics from a Counting Crows or Jason Mraz song, and replace the word “baby” with “Jesus,” and it’s the same song.

Maybe it’s that they might not really want to be Christian, but figure there’s a slight chance that Hell actually exists and don’t want to risk it. So they go to church and pray and repent or whatever the hell it is that they do to keep their asses in saved status, but want to keep the rest of their lives secular.

What do YOU think?

15
Oct
09

The Hot Rats – Free Music

the-hot-ratsIf your like me you appreciate it when artists make their music available for listening to for free on their websites.  Although you cannot download the songs (unless you are a techno-wizard which I am not) you can listen to them multiple times over on their player. 

The Hot Rats is a side project from Supergrass singer-guitarist Gaz Coombes and drummer Danny Goffey.  While Supergrass is recording their 7th studio album due out in early 2010, these two decided that a side project was cool as well.  You can listen to 5 tracks on The Hot Rats website; the second song Big Sky is pretty cool cover of the Kinks classic, I love it! Check it out and let me know what you think!

Hot Rats U.S. Tour Dates:
1/12/2010 – Music Hall of Williamsburg (Brooklyn, NY)
1/14/2010 – Bowery Ball Room (NYC)
1/19/2010 – Spaceland (Los Angeles, CA)
1/21/2010 – Troubadour (West Hollywood, CA)

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.




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