Author Archive for

25
May
12

Chronic Future “Lines In My Face”

Another personal favorite of mine to catch the -itis. Chronic Future had one hit in the summer of 2004 with “Time and Time Again” but never sustained any type of popularity due to a terrible job of marketing, but more importantly, America’s growing taste for terrible music. I’m looking at you Beliebers.

But Chronic Future holds a special place in my heart for speaking out in an era of uncertainty in my younger life. Back in 2005 there were rumblings of a military draft to support the growing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most bands turned completely against government, military, and the troops.

The usual wartime rumblings of abuse, babykillers, and torture circulated and they began calling these two plights my generation’s Vietnam.

So, while yes I was terrified to see if our then-president was going to make a life decision for me, I felt that the soldiers in this conflict were getting the short end of the stick. Painted in a terrible public view, all while fighting “insurgents” with no real barometer for winning this war.

So while the outlash against the establishment raged in the usual punk circles. Chronic Future took a different approach. These were our friends giving life and limb in a country exactly halfway across the world where they baked in the desert all while our national media and pop-culture turned on them.

With songs like “Time and Time Again” and “Shellshocked” they reminded me that they were more than the average punk band.

They had a unique way of saying what everyone felt. Saying what I felt but couldn’t verbalize.

It’s still difficult for me to fathom. My respect for the people that make these sacrifices so you and I can go about our day like we always do. To be so against what they have to do, but support them for doing it. It’s a conundrum that gets lost on most people who just throw their friends, their family, into a group of soulless and heartless bastards because they carry a gun into someone else’s country.

These are our friends, these are our family. These are other peoples’ friends, their family
. They sacrifice years, limbs, life. Just so you can buy your coffee at Starbucks. Just so you can go shopping at the mall without the idea of it exploding ever entering your mind.

This weekend is for them. For those that come back to us less than they were. Those that come back stronger than they were. They have made the sacrifices that make our country so great for so long. Do not forget to thank them for what they’ve done for you, even if you haven’t noticed. You haven’t noticed, because they’re doing their job.

Happy Memorial Day everyone. Thank a troop this weekend.

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28
Mar
12

AWOLnation “Megalithic Symphony”

AWOLnation is frontman Aaron Bruno, formerly of Under the Influence of Giants, Christopher Thorn, Hayden Scott, David Amezcua, and Kenny Carkeet. The band’s name was derived from Bruno’s inexplicable avoidance to say ‘goodbye’ to anyone, hence the term AWOL.

They are signed to Red Bull Records, after Red Bull offered Bruno some free studio time where he recorded a couple songs for the band’s first album Back From Earth

You’ve undoubtedly heard the first single from the album “Sail” all through last summer and fall. As this album was released in March 2011.

They have a unique mix of punk and electronic music that brings out the best of both worlds. They are what, to me, is a perfect amalgamation to be an appealing live show. No completely pre-recorded tracks *cough* Skrillex *cough* or a DJ just sitting there tapping buttons on a sound board with an Apple symbol burning into your forehead. This style preserves the uniqueness and fun that a live show should offer.

They are the epitome of what music has lost in the past decade of the digital revolution. Something that is embodied by the Foo Fighters (and probably why we still love them) and this carries over to AWOLnation as well. FUN.
Just having fun with what you’re doing, you make music, you’re not going to get Isreal and Palestine to drop their guns Bono. You’re not going to stop the killing in Sudan by standing outside an embassy in the USA George Clooney.

Somewhere along the way musicians forgot their place. You’re here to entertain us. You want to spend all that money you make off of album sales to help those people? Go ahead. But to preach to the public that WE need to do more is stupid, especially considering you don’t pay taxes in Ireland (of all places) U2.

Hypocrisy runs rampant when you make a ton of money and tell people to do more with theirs. Which is why the term “they sold out” permeates bands that we once held near and dear (yes, Green Day too.) Remember when they were just about having fun? Now we have to listen to “Jesus of Suburbia” yuck.

AWOLnation reminds me of a time when bands knew what they were their purpose was. That they were making a living traveling the globe and brightening peoples’ days. Megalithic Symphony is just that, an album that let’s you find meaning in your own way.

“Not Your Fault” is a perfect example of this. They took an opportunity to make a really heavy handed music video but took the road that seems to be cracked and unkempt. They had fun with it. So besides these two singles that’ve made waves on the charts, my favorite track has to be “People” as it gives a nice little gem that speaks to me as the problem with the world today:

We were born to rage
We’re the price of pain
We’re a single voice
We’re the second choice
We were born to rage

What happened to our passion and sticking together? Where is the next great revolution going to come from? What is the next big “movement” going to be? It feels like between the government and corporate America, we’ve lost the world that was once our oyster. That it feels nobody can change it, that the machine is just too big to throw a cog into. That’s what this song says to me and this is why punk rock will live on; even if the sound we remember from the 80’s and 90’s has changed.

I found something in Megalithic Symphony that I like. A different sound in a time where punk bands seem to be a dying breed. Where the next generation identifies more with electronic beeps and boops than they do lyrics that help them understand and derive answers to the world.

Bob Dylan is not amused.

4/5

13
Mar
12

The Black Keys Live @ MSG

There comes a time when you know you’re seeing something special, in its prime. Like how America was captivated by the Home-Run chase of 1998, the Miracle on ice in the 1980 Winter Olympics, or the Beatles stepping off a plane in America to rabid fans…

that’s how Madison Square Garden felt last night. Everyone knows who they are, their blues attitude and their rock riffs. They are rock stars at their peak and they proved to the world’s most famous arena that this is where they belong. Loud and center stage. Both guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney know this fact. They came out and made no mistake, leading with Brothers’ “Howlin’ For You” instantly getting the crowd into a frenzy.

They continued with their supporting cast that helped make the new album El Camino, the fullest and most polished of their seven studio productions. But as they left the stage the Keys did something of an unexpected move when they went back to material from the early days of the band. They played the title track of their 2003 album Thickfreakness and “Girl is on my Mind” from their 2004 album Rubber Factory. Then into “Your Touch” from 2006’s Magic Potion and finally came back to their newest material.

They engaged the crowd, not in conversation or meaningless chit-chat, but spoke through claps and foot stomps, the universal language for anyone who adores rock and roll. They ended their set with a brilliant duo of “Tighten Up” and “Lonely Boy.”

After they left the stage and the lights fell dim, the crowd erupted to its loudest levels of the night. Begging for an encore and did we get it! In the dark two gigantic disco balls dropped from the ceiling and began spinning. The lights were turned back on and, no, it was no disco. Hearing them go through “Everlasting Light” with the entire arena awestruck at the genius of such a pun.

They ended their hour and a half show with “I Got Mine” and an illuminated sign:

The Black Keys

Rock. Stars.

The lights came back up, the crowd chanted and cheered for them, nobody rushed out Madison Square Garden, everyone lingered, buzzing about what might’ve been the greatest 90 minutes of music their ears have ever endured.

30
Jan
12

Marilyn Manson “Born Villain”

I’m not a Marilyn Manson hater. I believe that he… she?… came along at just the right time in American social strife. He was weird, he was the next evolution of shock-rock. Nobody understood where he was coming from with his songs and his look. He freaked the hell out of Republicans and he freaked the hell out of Democrats. He was an unknown quantity that was only labeled as one thing: a freak. He was the perfect scape goat for a tragedy he had nothing to do with and he has seemingly faded to his rightful place in the memory of Columbine.

But now he’s back with this new album and I have to say. I am not impressed. His earlier stuff was listenable. The albums Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals were iconic, from the songs to the album covers. Which riled everyone’s mother up. He disputed god, he hated religion, he hated the establishment, he was everything teens wanted to hear because let’s face it, as a teenage boy, you’re angry at everything.

He pandered to his crowd, shifting to a message of rebelliousness and how hard it is to be a teen. How people seem to look down on you for your age. How nobody stops to try to understand you and you feel like you’re living in a hell of eternally having to flip burgers.

We related to that as teenagers.

and latex, we all relate to latex

But he doesn’t have much of a crutch to stand on now. He didn’t take the quick and easy route (as did one, Skrillex) by switching his musical style to the fad of the generation.

I’m just not impressed by this. It’s all about self deprivation and abuse. It’s about things that a guy who’s sold well over 5 million albums in the United States alone has no right to be talking about. You wonder why nobody knows or cares what happened to Good Charlotte? Because 1) they were terrible and 2) their credibility went out the door when they became millionaires. That’s what tends to happen with these sorts of bands and male divas. They’re only sustainable for a couple of albums before their popularity and wealth spoil the message. They’re no longer in touch with the audience that received them so well.
I don’t mean to preach, but Manson should know that he’s not creating any new fans with the new album. He’s not even retaining old ones with it. Just take your show on the road and keep playing the life out of “Personal Jesus” and “Rock is Dead.”
You were a martyr for the late 90s. The shift that seemed to come too swift with that Colorado high school. You were the sign that the media has become too big and overbearing on our lives. That politicians were morons for blaming you. You were the only positive thing to come out of that whole story, stop trying to live up to it with titles like Born Villain and be just that. You’re too self aware and it bores me now.

2/5

14
Dec
11

Chevelle “Hats Off to the Bull”

It’s been a long time since Chevelle has been a radio presence. Their second album Wonder What’s Next went platinum thanks to tracks like “The Red” “Send the Pain Below” and “Closure.”

But that was 2002. What have they done since then? Well, the next album, released in 2004, was This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) It another success thanks to singles like “The Clincher” “Get Some” and “Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)”

Since then they’ve started to wane in popularity despite another solid album with Vena Sera and songs “I Get It” and “Well Enough Alone.” The 2009 album Sci-Fi Crimes did well on the Billboard charts, but received relatively little radio play and didn’t strike the same notes that their previous three albums did. With last week’s release of Hats Off they’re back to what they do best:

being gritty, melodic, and harmonious. Their sound is tough to replicate because they don’t have the typical hard rock formula of the band cutting away for the verse vocals. They keep playing straight through and leave it up to front-man Pete Loeffler to sing over it. The short guitar strokes and driving, deep bass keep songs dark and powerful. The drums don’t do anything more than what they have to: deliver a beat for the rest of the band to brood to.

Overall, tracks like “Face to the Floor” and “The Meddler” bring back the nostalgia and attitude of the previous Chevelle records that put them on the map. But there are a couple tracks that I would call “experimental” for them. “Piñata” and “Prima Donna” are cool for their uniqueness in sound. Great changes of pacing with both.

“Piñata” sounds like they borrowed the intro from “Flight of the Bumblebee” and slows into the verse. They sound like they took inspiration from the now defunct band System of a Down for this song. With Loeffler’s vocals resembling that of Serj Tankian. Much harder on the guitar solos and I like it. It fades in and out of chaotic arpeggios and the smoothness of the drum and bass locked into just a repetitive and cool beat.

The very next song “Envy” has this exceedingly slow build. Very dark and quiet. It builds for a very long time before it hits the chorus where the band returns to the type of music we’re used to hearing from them. It’s still a smidgen slower than what they normally play. It’s built on a silence and the quietness of the guitar, but still comes at you with a menacing bass line. This may be my favorite song on the album, it’s kind of the anti-ballad, while still being a ballad.

Strangely, I think the album’s title track may be one of the least likeable on the album. It just doesn’t seem to fit. It sound like they tried to incorporate some Rage Against the Machine into their own sound and it misses the mark for me. There’s nothing remotely resembling anything that they’ve done before. No bonus points earned here. Though they fire right back with the song “Revenge” two tracks later. This may be the next single off the album. They use a distortion pedal on bass and some hard echo/reverb for the guitar. It adds an element they haven’t had before, and with today’s progressive push towards electro music, it’ll fit well on today’s airwaves.

“Prima Donna” is an acoustic song that really surprises with how well it works considering it’s a venture that Chevelle hasn’t toyed with before. It’s taken me a few listens to even accept this sort of idea from them. But, like the rest of the album, they make it work and it grows on you the more you listen to it.

The album then immediately picks back up with the closing song “Clones” that really has movie soundtrack written all over it… which is appropriate considering they wrote a song for the movie Underworld 4.

Overall, this album is a return to the likeness of their two most successful albums. I can see another single or two coming off this album and becoming remotely successful in today’s digital landscape. I hope it brings them back into the spotlight and they get to tour with some acts that will be worth Ticketmaster’s raping prices (a story for another day!)

 

4/5

01
Dec
11

Last.fm

In the digital age we live in music has excelled, not beyond anything we thought it might become, but in how it’s delivered to us. The past 20 years saw the decline of the cassette tape, compact disc, and physical formatting is now all but dead.

So as physical media phases out we turn to more convenient ways of obtaining music (not always done legally now is it?) from services such as Morpheus, Kazaa, Limewire, and most famously: Napster.

So we learned that the RIAA severely dislikes not making money on album sales… so we downloaded even more, torrenting sites becoming more and more popular, The Pirate Bay, for example.

Now I don’t know about you, but in my education I’ve found out that artists usually sign a contract and make most of their money up front. A label will give you, say, $2 million, to buy equipment, record, produce, create music videos, and finish an album. How much of that gets spent on production is usually at the band and manager’s discretion. They are then, most of the time, offered some ridiculously low royalty percentage that means even less after you divide it up between band members and management.

So artists generally don’t make that much off of album sales, but usually off of touring. Ever notice that’s why Bruce Springsteen doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about putting out new albums but will sell out stadiums on a yearly basis? Or that U2’s music has been in steep decline since the late 80s but still manage to have gigantic concerts where they rake in obscene amounts of fans a.k.a. money? (And they don’t even pay taxes to the Irish government!)

Before my tenure at Hi-Fi started I was dealt several cease and desist letters for uploading music just to my former blog’s domain just for personal use. Talk about touchy by the record companies!

So where’m I going with all of this? Well, today’s digital music playground is found through music streaming services such as Spotify, Grooveshark, iTunes, SHOUTcast, Pandora and the least famous… Napster.

I’ve tried using all of those, and iTunes, while on my home computer is fine, because I have my library there too, is not viable on the road. With the rest of these you can build and tag artists/genres you like, but c’mon, that’s a huge hassle for us to list all the bands we like and may have an itch to hear.

Last.fm takes care of that. They have a nifty piece of scrobbling software that will record what songs/artists you play the most, it even makes charts! But by far the best thing is, is that you can take your library with you wherever you go. For free. They offer your library streamed to you, they also offer your library with suggestions for similar artists. Which keeps the likes of Maroon 5 the hell out of my easy listening playlist and doesn’t turn me into a fit of rage.

So, if you’re going places, constantly on the move and let’s say maybe you’re trying to preserve some hard drive space, Last.fm is the way to go, take your own music with you and still gives you a taste of similar artists or you can just play a channel as you would on those other streaming sites.

It gives you everything… and what’s yours.

22
Nov
11

Manchester Orchestra “Simple Math”

Manchester Orchestra is an indie band from Atlanta.

Simple Math

This is their third album. The first two I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child and Mean Everything to Nothing both saw significant playtime to get them into my top 20. They’re simple.

That’s the best compliment I can give to a band in a day and age where overdubbing, vocoders, and vox tuning are prevalent. Not the case. What you see hear is what you get.

This album came out in May and hasn’t been met with much fanfare. Which is disappointing considering the almost cultist following bands like DMB, The Black Keys and The White Stripes have.

Their sound is one of a kind and their creativity is like a sunrise on a cold morning.

The album starts off with a bang with “Deer.” Then 2 tracks later with “Pensacola” it really gives you the perspective that these guys are genuinely having fun making these albums and have room for improvisation in the studio. Improvisation in music is almost always a good thing as it leads to creativity and collaboration.
The album gets suddenly somber with “Virgin” which is remarkably reminiscent of just about anything off of I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child and really sets you up for the title track “Simple Math.”

As you can see and hear, these guys know what they’re doing. “Simple Math” was nominated for MTV and UK video awards and the technical aspects of the video are just mind blowing. You usually don’t see that type of production work put into a music video.

They’ve impressed me from day one and I’ve found a place in playlists for whatever mood I’m in.

4/5