It’s hard to believe that it has been fourteen years since Dave Grohl first stepped out from behind his Nirvana drumkit and unleashed his own mega-successful band, Foo Fighters. Although his previous band came to a sudden, tragic end, Grohl has managed since then to carry on by pumping out loads of quality material under the Foo Fighters moniker as well as with several side projects. The â€œloudest drummer in the worldâ€ has now become one of the most respected musicians of his time and highly sought after in the music industry for collaborative purposes.
So, now that a Greatest Hits collection has been assembled to commemorate the Foo’s career up to this point, what I want to know is, where are the songs that started it all? Neither â€œExhaustedâ€ (the FF’s first official single) nor â€œI’ll Stick Aroundâ€ (their first video) are included in this collection. Don’t start panicking though, there’s plenty of good stuff here. Other gems that are present include â€œEverlongâ€ (including an additional solo acoustic version), â€œBig Me,â€ â€œLearn To Fly,â€ â€œMy Hero,â€ â€œMonkey Wrench,â€ â€œBest Of You,â€ and â€œTimes Like These.â€
Also included are two previously unreleased tracks, â€œWheelsâ€ and â€œWord Forward,â€ which were produced by Butch Vig, the man behind Nirvana’s monumental classic, Nevermind. Now, I’ve never been a fan of when artists include new tunes on a Greatest Hits collection, because generally a new song has no business in the midst of classic compositions. However, there have been occasional previously unreleased tracks that have risen to the occasion. Unfortunately, I felt this wasn’t the case with these two new tracks. Though not completely without merit (let’s face it, everything Dave Grohl touches turns to gold) I would have preferred for these two spots to be taken by actual hits from previous FF albums. It’s still a great compilation though, that should more than satisfy the casual Foo Fighters fan.
I donâ€™t have to explain the reasons why The Flaming Lips have a huge and dedicated fan base. By far, they remain one of the most unique, eccentric and talented acts out there. For those skeptical of their newest release, let me remind you that this album is not The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots; Embryonic is an edgy, dark body of music that twists and pulls your auditory senses in a million different directions at once.
â€œConvinced of the Hexâ€ is an extraordinary opening track, with a pulsing bass line that immediately puts the listener in a mesmerizing, tantric sway. â€œEvilâ€ and â€œIfâ€ are the haunting, spaced out ballads of this album; the latter song being a response to the first regarding the issue of good vs. evil (and sung by Steven.)
Darkly heavy, bass-driven and dirge-like, â€œSee the Leavesâ€ is an amazing track about death and dying, while â€œPowerlessâ€ is a bluesy, jazz track with a creepy New Orleans-inspired tone and an excellent guitar solo. After the intense â€œScorpio Swordâ€ and â€œWorm Mountainâ€ (featuring MGMT) is â€œThe Impulse;â€ a sensually mellow track with fitting vocal distortion.
Embryonic does not stop there, however, coming back full force with â€œSilver Trembling Hands.â€ This track is my favorite, chugging along at full speed until it drops you into bliss: â€œShe forgets about the fear when sheâ€™s highâ€¦â€ Instead of closing the album with the somber â€œVirgo Self-Esteem Broadcast,â€ (which signals the journeyâ€™s end â€“ or rather its beginning), the band decides to leave you in an appropriately frenzied whirl with â€œWatching the Planetsâ€ (featuring Karen O).
I could describe this album as vintage Floyd meets Bowieâ€™s Space Oddity in The Outer Limits. But itâ€™s most definitely not. Itâ€™s The Flaming Lips. The guys took a risk with Embryonic, and I think the results are fantastic. (Iâ€™m not alone either; for the first time in the bandâ€™s career of 26 years, they landed their first top 10 album on the Billboard Top 200 Charts with Embryonic. Congrats!).
If youâ€™re still not convinced, check out The Lips on tour in 2010. I guarantee your mind will change.
Put on your seat belts, Slayer is at it again. From the first blistering rhythm guitar of the opener and title track, through the chunk of “Snuff” where “murder is my future” is the repeated sentiment, to the rolling “Beauty Through Order” (one of the better vocal and nuance drums performances on World Painted Blood) Slayer never lets up once they get you.
Lots of this CD sounds the same, but that’s the thing with a band like Slayer, you give over to the assault and let it give you a neck ache as you thrash and don’t read the lyrics too close. There’s some interesting changes in “Hate Worldwide,” a neat ‘trilly’ (the only way I can describe it) guitar sound on “Public Display Of Dismemberment” (shit, Dave Lombardo can play drums huh?) with a speedup under the guitar lead that’s frightening! A groove (dare I even think it) to “Human Stain” with a single note guitar/talking-vocal bridge section that gives over to the most epic moment on the CD.
“Americon” sees the boys playing at their tightest here, a really good heavy metal commercial attempt. I love the screaming of “Americon” â€¦this is a great great tune and “Playing With Dolls” is quiet (well ‘quieter’) with a real sense of purpose and the best lyric on the whole album, plus an almost annoying single note openingâ€¦good stuff to!
What to make of all this blistering meanness? Hell it’s just another Slayer album. Well worth the wait every time.
Maps is a one man band consisting of Englishman James Chapman, and Turning the Mind is a solid sophomore effort to his debut album, We can Create. Chapman writes, produces, and sings his songs using synthesizer and looping. The new album explores a wider range of sounds than the first and the heavy use of synthesizer does well to compliment Chapmanâ€™s dreamy harmonies, which create a sound that is categorized as a combination of shoegazing, symphonic indie rock, and electronica. Turning the Mind starts with the albums title track. The song starts slow but builds and crescendos into a beautiful and familiar type of Chapman song. Songs â€œLet Go of the Fearâ€ and â€œLove will Comeâ€ depart from Chapmanâ€™s traditional sound, using more of a harder beat and taking a techno/electronica turn, sounding like something you would hear in a club. Check out my favorite songs on the album â€œEverything is Shattering,â€ â€œNothing,â€ and â€œValium in the Sunshine.â€ Turning the Mind shows evolution by Chapman who successfully explores the boundaries of his own sound, while maintaining everything that was good in the first album, making this effort a great CD that both old Maps fans and new fans alike should equally enjoy.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been having Cosmic Egg for breakfast–the latest delectable from Australia’s rock group Wolfmother. Originally a trio, the band broke apart (read: creative differences) and re-invented itself under the guidance of Andrew Stockdale, the group’s original guitarist/vocalist. Hatched in January 2009, Stockdale assembled a new four-man band to bring his brand of bluesrock to life. Named after a yoga pose that tickled Stockdale’s fancy, Cosmic Egg is a 12-course meal that jolts harder than any cuppa joe. Replete with riff-driven tunes and a healthy dose of 60s psychedelia, songs like “In the Morning” recall a time when the Counterculture meant much more than the ironic haircuts and skinny jeans of today. Still, you can expect the expected from this band–often ridiculed for its mirror-visage to rock heavies like Led Zepplin and Steppenwolf–as each savory track includes the requisite guitar shred-session smackdab in the center. Fresh and playful, Wolfmother drops a couple surprises like the tastefully delicate piano accompaniment throughout “Sundial” and at the end “Far Away” for a grandiose finish. Overall, the album is easy listening for a new generation hungry for vintage metal.
Up to Now is a two-disc album that spans the fifteen-year career thus far of Snow Patrol, one of todayâ€™s most influential bands.These Scottish rockers have indeed made a name for themselves, creating five albums and selling over ten million copies with the last three.
While it would be easy to label this album a â€œgreatest hits,â€ itâ€™s important to note that the track selection here allows it not to be. Indeed, Up to Now contains several singles, radio-friendly hits and generally popular songs; however, it also contains tracks from the bandâ€™s earlier albums, before they hit commercial success. Says vocalist Gary Lightbody, â€œWe climbed a hill and now we’re looking back and taking in the view for a bit. It’s nice to show people that we didn’t just arrive overnight.â€
Disc one opens up with two of the bandâ€™s biggest hits to date, â€œChocolateâ€ and â€œChasing Cars,â€ while â€œCrazy in Loveâ€ is an interesting cover of the Beyonce original that fans will surely appreciate being included on this compilation. Personally my favorite tracks were the melodic â€œMaking Enemies,â€ the rocking â€œHands Openâ€ and the lullaby â€œCartwheels,â€ which was actually performed by Gary Lightbodyâ€™s side project, The Reindeer Section.
Disc two contains a live version of â€œChasing Cars,â€ (from Union Chapel) which is severely dogmatic in comparison to the original. A solo rendition of â€œAn Olive Grove Facing the Seaâ€ is worth the listen, along with â€œFifteen Minutes Old,â€ a song off of 1998â€™s Songs for Polar Bears that sounds more like Sunny Day Real Estate than Snow Patrol, but in a good way.
The three new tracks the album offers, (â€œJust Say Yes,â€ â€œGive Me Strength,â€ and â€œDark Roman Wineâ€) seem very gospel and opera-like, which isnâ€™t my style, but perhaps this new sound will draw a new crowd to Snow Patrolâ€™s work. I was surprised this album didnâ€™t contain â€œHow to be Dead,â€ or my personal favorites, â€œSomewhere a Clock is Tickingâ€ and â€œSame.â€ However, the band was indeed wise in not labeling this a â€œBest Ofâ€ collection, and I think new and old fans alike will come to appreciate this album in time.
If you know Devendra Banhart you probably know him as a weirdo hippie folk singer. Well, youâ€™re not wrong but on What Will We Be he proves heâ€™s capable of a lot more. Thereâ€™s enough good weirdo hippie folk here for the old fans but there are also plenty of surprises. â€œBabyâ€ is catchy-as-hell soul, â€œFoolinâ€™â€ is pitch-perfect reggae, and â€œRatsâ€ is straight up blues rock with some nasty riffing. These unusual experiments are also some of What Will We Beâ€™s best songs. Then he brings out a drum machine for â€œ16th & Valencia Roxy Musicâ€ which sounds kind of like- take a guess. Again, itâ€™s great. Nothing feels out of place on this album.
One of the biggest standouts though is â€œChin Chin & Muck Muck.â€ Coming at the approximate halfway point of the album, it begins as a lounge jazz song and somehow transforms into Banhartâ€™s more common brand of freak-folk. Then just when you least expect it he throws in a bridge that features crooning like youâ€™ve never heard before on his records. All the while the lyrics are totally far out, with lines about â€œvulpinous vulturesâ€ and â€œbraiding exotic birds in your hair.â€ Banhart doesnâ€™t need to constantly experiment though to make great music. â€œFirst Song For Bâ€ and â€œBrindoâ€ are two of the simplest songs here and also two of the prettiest. If youâ€™re already a fan, a song like the Spanish-language â€œBrindoâ€ will remind you why. Meanwhile something like â€œRatsâ€ or â€œ16th & Valencia Roxy Musicâ€ could easily bring in totally new fans.
What Will We Be comes with a booklet of lyrics and original art thatâ€™s a lot of fun to flip through and may make it worth your while to actually buy the thing. In a way, the pictures in the booklet sum up the music on the album. Itâ€™s kind of weird and diverse but itâ€™s all pretty beautiful and somehow it all fits.