Archive for the 'General Opinion' Category



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

05
Dec
11

Transformers Music: The Rise of Skrillex and “Bro-Step” in EDM

The dynamics have severely shifted in electronic dance music as indicated by the popularity of Skrillex a.k.a Sonny Moore in 2011. The bespeckled former frontman of screamo outfit From First to Last, established a house hold name for himself within America’s dance scene this summer after playing numerous headlining sets at festivals across the country. His rise to success undoubtedly coincided with the awakening of America’s new dance music trend among youth: dubstep.

Go to YouTube and type in a top 40 song, in fact any popular song and you will find a plethora of dubstep remixes and most of them are AWFUL. But according to the “dubstep” experts out there, the “dubstep” made in America is an inaccurate interpretation of what it actually represents. The genre became heavily bastardized from its London origins since gaining traction in the states this year, like most electronic music. Now it’s commonly referred to as “brostep,” a subcategory of dubstep described by its frequent use of obscenely loud distorted bass wobbles and glitchy electro sounds that makes fans go buckwild. Many people claim this sub-genre sounds like a cacophony of lazer farts or transformers fornicating. Hilarious, but I kid you not. A lot of folks do not enjoy dance music that feels as though their ears are being raped by harsh frequencies. I was never a huge fan of hardcore, but I can tolerate the loud, fast and angry style of playing so much more than Mr. Moore’s music.

Skrillex has become a figurehead of “brostep” and especially appeals to the rave curious high school and college demographic. While he displays a lot of “Brostep” elements in his productions such as obnoxious formulaic drops and hard metallic bass, his music is also categorized as “Fidget House,” which incorporates a mix of dubstep, electro and house styles.

In “Rock N Roll (Will Take You to the Mountains)” it starts off as said fidget house: a generic electro house beat, repetitive vocals, claps, glitchy laser synths which leads to more choppy samples, a build up and then the anticipated “Rude boy bass” drop: robot burps, video game samples, elephant trumpet calls and other distorted noise. This combination of schizophrenic, stutter noise defines Skrillex’s “signature style,” something that not only grinds my gears but sounds like gears grinding.

Then there’s his breakout hit “Scary Monsters N Nice Sprites,” the song used in a Go Pro action camera commercial and apparently a modern DJ’s wet dream. Sigh. Countless producers have remixed it and I’ve even heard it play at bars. Now it’s nominated for a Grammy (which lose more and more credibility each year). Okay, I get the intro synth is SORT of catchy but again, more elephant bellows and goblin robot bass. I’ll admit his use of the famous speed stacking girl’s “OH MY GOSH” is pretty funny, but is it really necessary to use in multiple other songs? Good grief, Sonny Moore. Mix it up, kid.

Now let’s talk about the happy, uplifting message of “Kill Everybody.” No wonder Korn collaborated with Skrillex on their latest nu-metal-dubstep album. Metal and Dubstep have combined forces to make music exponentially worse than the two separate genres! The introduction begins with ramblings by the malicious Megatron over a standard dance beat. Throw more wobbles, processed engine noise and an annoying chipmunk repeating, “I Want to Kill Everybody.” Ugh. The title explains how this song makes me feel. But again, one somewhat redeeming synth part and that’s it. More noise, Decepticon confessions and predictable use of samples that frequent EVERY Skrillex song. Basically, certain parts sound like Megatron ate a bad taco.

The 3 aforementioned tracks are on Skrillex’s unfathomably popular and recently Grammy nominated Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, an EP produced entirely on his lap-top. It’s no wonder he’s often criticized as a “push play” performer. Yes, I unfortunately caught him very briefly at Camp Bisco this past summer and he does indeed, press play. Sure, he occasionally turns some knobs and adjusts some faders. But his classic “rock star” move? Triumphantly lifting his arms in the air to screaming, sweating frenzied bug eyed teens, all while chain smoking cigs. In fact, I wonder which thing Sonny would give up if he had to choose between cigs or his beloved use of the transformer rape and video game laser sound library.

After witnessing the mania of Skrillex’s set, my ear drums and I felt immediately violated from hearing the abrasive noise and bass overkill, never mind the teenage wasteland unfolding all around me. Hey, I’m all for a good time on the dance floor but when people are collapsing and convulsing around you, irresponsibility can only be tolerated for so long. Poor EMTS at Camp Bisco had their hands full this year. Anyways, I walked away knowing I was immune to the possibility of experiencing an epileptic seizure. The recent bass culture movement has become a new low (pun intended) at festivals; especially this year at Camp Bisco where I had to suffer through Borgore’s bro-tastic electro dubstep during an early evening main stage set that was 300 feet from my campsite. I just don’t…get the hype or gratification people feel from experiencing Skrillex or “brostep” productions, live or recorded. I must be getting old.

Speaking of inspiring performances, I don’t know which is more exciting to watch: Skrillex smoking cigs and raising his arms for every similar, predictable drop or house producer Steve Aoki running around, spitting and pouring champagne at the audience while his “music” magically plays in the background. I mean, I’m all about tomfoolery onstage, but are you actually mixing anything live at all? Obviously the audience doesn’t care because they’re too busy getting their faces melted with bass. Duh.

Worst of all, Skrillex collaborated with remaining members of the Doors for the “Re:Generation” music project which teams up modern producers and DJs with older, reputable musicians. The keyboard and guitar tracks sound synthetic and over-processed and of course, Skrillex adds his transformer effects and lazers. To me, it’s cheesy and brings nothing exciting or innovative to the table. It’s a 21st Century flop.

I don’t care how many people like him. The fact is my ears bleed and skin crawls when listening to Skrillex or “brostep.” Personally, I like music that’s pleasant to my ears and displays a range of high, mid and low end frequencies. One friend of mine summarized, “I listened to Skrillex once. Nearby electronic devices came alive and tried strangling me with their cords.” If the other songs haven’t convinced you of a truth to his experience, then listen to the drop in “First of the Year (Equinox)” and see if your electronics turn to the dark side…then call 911 NOW!

I guess to each his or her own, though it’s a shame we live in a world where most talented musicians and producers don’t get the credit or attention they deserve. I mean, have you seen 2011’s Grammy nominations? Oh wait, the Grammy’s have been a joke for years now. Anyways, as the bass culture wave expands and people continue to get their fix of filthy, grimy, dirty drops, maybe we’ll all be too distracted to notice actual evil robots taking over the airwaves so they can “kill everybody.”

Let’s hope they start by pushing Skrillex off a bridge. It’d be his best drop yet.

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

17
Nov
11

Nickelback “Here and Now”

Dear Hi-Fi readers…

Look at what I do for you. I subject myself to substandard music shit to bring you better awareness on what an abomination the band Nickelback is… the worst part to all of this? We’ll all be witness to their shittiness one week from today: Thanksgiving Day during halftime of the Lions/Packers game. I already know what I’m thankful for: the Mute button.

Just bear with me for this thought process. Some executive somewhere thought it was a good idea to have a CANADIAN band (I use the term ‘band’ loosely here) perform for AMERICAN Thanksgiving?!?!?!? Then pitched it to the NFL… and they approved it. I mean I’m not for the death penalty… but this rides the line folks.
I mean, the game is in Detroit!!! The home of mo-town!!! The home of Eminem and Kid Rock! Bob Seger! Alice Cooper! Jack White!! THE MOTOR CITY MADMAN: TED NUGENT!!!!!!!!!!! Jesus get me some blues or jazz!! Give me Adele! Aretha Franklin! Alicia Keys! Singing Empire State of Mind would be less out of place. Hell I’d take Lady Gaga and Katy Perry over these chumps.

Just goes to show, America still like imports better than domestic.

Ok so now that I got that out of the way, we can get to the real lashings; that is, what this album just did to my ears. Jerry Sandusky couldn’t even help me wash my shame away…

The problem with Nickelback isn’t the music. Rather, if you listen to some of the songs that don’t make radio release, some of them do have driving guitar and bass riffs, like the opening track “This Means War.” Drums don’t get in the way and then… it happens… Chad Kroeger starts singing and it all goes to shit.

I’ve never heard more unoriginal lyrics in my life. Made evident by the song “Bottom’s Up.” Just, classic rock is classic for a reason. Songs like Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” Skynyrd’s “That Smell,” or even Peter Paul & Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon” are creative and use euphemisms for drinking and drug use. I have no respect for bands that can’t think of a way to properly use a metaphor to make you think of what you’re listening to (I’m staring at you Buckcherry.)

Just, I’m 5 songs in and 4 of them have sounded exactly the same. This band has no 3rd gear. It’s either rock to a steady beat or a ballad. The problem is, every single one sounds the same. They’ve never bothered to change what they do. Which isn’t a bad thing if you’re a revered and creative band, Nickelback, however, is not. They’re a mediocre rock band who refuse to take any risks in any direction. They’re the G.O.P. of rock bands. No wonder people hate them so much.

They’re rich, successful, and somehow manage to keep drawing fans/getting votes. But dear god are the lyrics to these songs bad BAD TERRIBLE CRAP SHIT. Just listening to the lyrics of “Gotta Get Me Some” makes me feel sorry that nobody really listens to what’s being said. It’s a guy going after his best friend’s ex… right in front of him. Talk about breaking bro-code. To make a song about it though? Major foul dude.

Oh great, now we get the ballad of the album “Lullaby” and again, not going to lie, it starts out FINE. Piano and a well timed drum/bass entrance. Nice and slow… then jesus crippled christ on a cross… the lyrics are BAD. I don’t understand why Nickelback has to be so self aware:

So just give it one more try
With a lullaby
And turn this up on the radio
If you can hear me now
I’m reaching out
To let you know that you’re not alone
And if you can’t tell
And you scare yourself
Cause I can’t get you on the telephone
So just close your eyes
Honey here comes a lullaby
Buried a lullaby

Really? Is this you bragging that you get your songs on the radio? Ok fine. You think I’m nitpicking? How about that these lyrics directly follow that song about wanting to bang his friend’s ex? Or that it’s followed up by “Kiss it Goodbye” where he blantantly sings about disliking people doing drugs and seeing through people’s “bullshit.” Talk about schizophrenic. I feel like this album was written by a drunk frat boy who can’t control his hormones and ends up dry humping a staircase before he passes out.

Oh good, a semi-ballad with “Trying Not to Love You” … where he writes a lyric about not being able to find a pill that can help him how to forget “god knows I hasn’t found it yet.” How is this music? Nothing of these lyrics are moving. It’s annoying really.

Again, drunk frat boy lyrics for “Holding On to Heaven.” Just so uncreative, 9 songs in, not one lyric has stood out as deep or showing any sort of empathy or story telling. It’s literally drunk desperate guy looking for anything to cling to… which continues with “Everything I Wanna Do.”

Aren’t these guys in their 30s? Shouldn’t they be a little more mature than this? I mean, hell, at least Scott Stapp wrote a song for the birth of his son (“Arms Wide Open” for those of you who’ve been spared.)

I know there’s another song left… but I’m done. It can’t bring this album back to life. It’s just lame. Maybe if you dub out all the lyrics I’d appreciate the music. But the fact that this is what, the 6th album that’s been the same damned thing is just too much to take.

2/5 … Ok last song is playing… 1.5/5 this is such crap.

10
Nov
11

11/11/11 – Nigel Tufnel Day!

Don’t forget that although November 11th is primarily observed in the United States as Veteran’s Day, it will also be the one-time only celebration of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel Day.

The next time to see this rare happening (like a comet) will be in 2111!

Please take the time tomorrow to reaquaint yourself with the cult classic and pay homage to the only true metal rock god who’s equipment (custom made of course!), goes to “11”.

If you are not aware of what I am talking about please click here for the classic scene.




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