Monday 28 September 2009

Pearl Jam Rocking In a Happy Place

Without record label Pearl Jam released their ninth album "Backspacer". Much has been written about the Target deal in the US but what about the music? Are people still interested in the ninth album by these middle aged rockers? And more importantly can they deliver anything interesting?

Pearl Jam - Backspacer (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

On their previous self titled album with the avacado the band seemed to have rediscovered themselves. Their songs were rocking harder than ever with a very eager and sometimes angry Vedder singing his lungs out. Even after his beautiful and quiet soundtrack "Into the Wild" they have continued down this road. Only this time the anger is gone. The new album has 11 songs in over just 36 minutes with half of them not even clocking 3 minutes. The result is a compact positive rock album with plenty to enjoy.

The first two songs illustrate this perfectly. Solid uptempo rock songs with Vedder's raspy voice. The band's first single "The Fixer" took me some time to get into but it's a poppy tune which has a nice groove to it. Then they slow down in the middle part of the album. "Just Breathe" is a beautiful ballad that could have come right of the forementioned soundtrack album followed by "Amongs The Waves" and "Unthought Known" in the familiar Pearl Jam style. But then it's time to shift gear again with the rock tune "Supersonic".

Twenty years of rock stardom have the beast of indolence lurking around. Bands like Pearl Jam have reached all there is in the music scene and don't need to make records for a living. Instead they can record anything they like whenever they like at the risk of people calling them yesterday's news. But instead of trying to prove themselves by diving into forced experiments or trying to copy their biggest successes they decided to do what they do best: writing catchy rock songs. And they're damned good at it since besides frontman Vedder they have a badd ass rythm section in drummer Matt Cameron, bass player Jeff Ament and guitar player Stone Gossard. Together with lead guitarist Mike McReady they can be considered a dream team that will make every rock song sound good.

The album closes in style with the accoustic ballad "The End" that ends the album abruptly with the mysterious words "the end/comes near/I'm here/but not much longer". One can only guess what Vedder meant by that but if the band can continue to make albums like this after twenty years let's hope they will stick around.
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Sunday 20 September 2009

Muse Shooting For The Stars And Miss

Everything about Muse has grown big over the past years: their sound grew bigger, their shows grew bigger and their fanbase got bigger. So where would it end? They didn't stop at their last album but tried to make their latest one the biggest of all.

Muse - The Resistance (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
When I saw their last tour I was wondering where they would go next. Could they go even bigger as they hinted themselves? This seemed impossible. I thought it would be great if the next step would actually be back to basics again. But they shot for bigger instead.

The album opener "Uprising" isn't bad all. A typical Muse song with some doctor Who sounds. They have been digging into conspiracy theories a lot and this album is all about that and can be considered a concept album. This also reflects in the sometimes paranoia lyrics. Not really fancy lyrics but when you believe in those conspiracies you want to make sure the message gets across.

But then in song number two "Resistance" the band goes into hyperdrive and musical mode. The lyrics get more cheesy and the music sounds almost laughable at some points. It's all buffed up with strings and keys and they must really have thought that bigger is better. At ludicrous hyperspeed they fly into "United States of Eurasia" which has Queen written all over it. All subtlety is lost and they completely fly out of control with this Bohemian Rhapsody meets Cats.

And so it goes on this crazy space ship. "MK Ultra" is a more down to earth Muse tune and can please me more. Then the ship heads into a symphony "Exogenesis" in three parts. It's a both admirable and impressive part of the album and singer Matthew Bellamy shows once again that he's a gifted piano player and composer. Still it feels lightly out of place and too much. Like the whole album it's going in all directions and seems to be all over the place.

Muse was groing towards this all along and it seems the band feel they have finally climaxed. But it seems they have either climaxed prematurely or have overdone themselves. In this case bigger is not better and one can only hope that next time they do it right or may consider going small again.
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Wednesday 16 September 2009

New Alice in Chains Video "Check My Brain"

Alice in Chain's first album "Black Gives Way To Blue" since singer Layne Staley's death will be released end of this month and they released a first single "A Looking in View" a few months ago. Now there's the second single "Check My Brain". A heavy rocker in their familiar style. The video is dark with psychedelic colours showing the band playing against city scene backgrounds. Good song!

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Monday 14 September 2009

New Editors Video "Papillon"

Editors have released their first single "Papillon" of their upcoming album "In This Light And On This Evening" which is due for release October 12th. It's even more heavily inspired on New Order, Joy Division and Depeche Mode but also still very Editors. It sounds very promising so here is the new video. What do you think?

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Thursday 10 September 2009

Album Reviews: The Short Versions

Writing posts for your blog is pretty time consuming and writing album reviews can cost even more time if you want to do it properly. So I listen to a lot of music but it's impossible to write lengthy reviews for all the new albums coming out that I listen to. Since many are worth reviewing I decided to do a short version of album reviews to be able to give you my 50 cents. Don't forget to let me know what you think of it.

Brendan Benson - My Old Familiar Friend (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
I like his song writing and hopefully his part in the Raconteurs can help him break through to a bigger audience. The album has some nice songs but could use a bit more spicing.

The Black Crowes...Before the Frost...Until the Freeze (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Nothing new from the Crowes here but a solid southern rock album as we're used of them.

Moke (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
Their sound is a lot bigger and so they seem to aim for the highest here. Sounds all very much overproduced with strings, horns, the works causing the music unable to breath. Besides that it's all too obvious and planned and every song has a "heard this before" side to it.

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers(Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
A dreamy album with nicely arranged mellow songs. Ringing guitars with falsetto lead vocals that wrap around you like a warm summer breeze. Aah, don't you just wish the summer could last forever?

The XX - The XX (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
A highly acclaimed album that gets great reviews but I guess I'm missing the boat here. It's a nice album but nothing to go all crazy about. It's a sober album with thin, quiet, delicate songs that somehow isn't all that appealing to me. Maybe it needs to grow on me.

Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs(Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Although this is a band that has been around for quite a while and made over a dozen albums I'm not that familiar with their music. It's a diverse record with rock songs combined with more mellow pop tunes and beautiful ballads.
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Wednesday 2 September 2009

Arctic Monkeys Definitely No Humbug

"Bah! Humbug" said Ebenezer Scrooge in the famous A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. And telling from their third album that's what the band must have thought when looking at the world. It's a dark world the boys live in. Is it real or a nightmare?

Arctic Monkeys - Humbug (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Heavy gloomy guitar riffs and drum grooves spiced up with strings and sinister organ parts accompany Alex Turner's poetic lyrics. The mysterious singer shows once again he can be considered one of the most talented musicians today. Growing up in one of the most promising and succesful rock bands of this decade sure isn't at all peaceful for him. But his lyrics are not about today´s state of the world at all but about missing his lover, or a relation gone wrong.

Josh Homme was the right person to help them recreate this dark image and transform it into an album. He took them to the desert to dive into themselves and come out as grown ups. The result is an impressive mature album by such a young band. "Crying Lightning" the album's first single is a relaxed track with that unique Arctic Monkeys sound. And yet is sounds quite uneasy like a big monster lurking in the closet. This is the feeling you get from most of the songs. Although some songs still sound like the old Arctic Monkeys like "Dangerous Animals". Other tracks like "Pretty Visitors" carry the Homme signature with heavy repeating guitar riffs.

This album gets better every time you hear it and slowly creeps on you like the lurking animal that seems to be around the corner. No humbug at all but serious business.
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