Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball (Review)

Acoustic and electric guitars, live drums and drum machines, banjos and mandolins, violins and fiddles, rock and R&B, spirituals and gospel, Celtic rhythms and Irish jigs, choirs and choruses, samples and a rap (not by The Boss-Thank God), hushed vocals and loud exaltations, hope and despair, resilience and pride, the American Dream and Nightmare: all of these sounds, genres, and cultural cross samplings of American music combine, sometimes gloriously and sometimes not, to comprise Bruce Springsteen’s most populist album to date, both musically and thematically. Despite the highly slick production, which is a poor step in the wrong direction after Brendan O’Brien’s (Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam) stint with The Boss throughout the ‘00s, Wrecking Ball, with all of its mashed up diversity and, again, occasional stumbles is strangely Bruce Springsteen’s most consistent album since the jewel in the crown of the O’Brien years’ The Rising.

Soulfly Enslaved (Review)

Max Cavalera has more or less abandoned the sound that he seemingly started Soulfly in order to expand upon. His last album as the front man for Sepultura, titled Roots, was spiked with the tribal, Brazilian, and world folk type of sounds that early Soulfly smartly made further use of. The middle three Soulfly albums, Primitive, 3, and Prophecy, were full on metal albums that incorporated these unique rhythms and sounds into its crushing metal drive to produce something that was, well, unique sounding. Ever since Dark Ages though, Max has reverted to his early Sepultura sound, i.e. fast riffs, double bass pounding, and straightforward blood and fire lyrics. In other words, Max and company’s newest effort, Enslaved, pales in comparison to the innovation of Max and then company’s previous outings as Soulfly, but that isn’t to say that Enslaved is a bad metal album. In fact, it is a very good metal album. It just isn’t a very interesting metal album. 

Ringo Starr: Ringo 2012 (Review)

Whether you are a punk rocker, alt-rocker, metal head, or auto-tuned boy band bopper, you owe a debt of gratitude to the band that was all of these things first, The Beatles. Lennon laid the punk and alt-rock foundation (Strawberry Fields, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, Revolution) and McCartney covered the rest (everything from Helter Skelter to Yesterday) while Harrison filled in the gaps, but it was Ringo who supplied the beat, and the musical membrane, that held it all together. At 71, the world’s most famous drummer is still writing songs and pounding out beats that many a would be rocker should be jealous of.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Smashing Pumpkins: Oceania (Review)

A quasar is “among the most luminous, powerful, and energetic objects known in the universe.” So is the first song on The Smashing Pumpkins’ long awaited new album Oceania, the aptly titled “Quasar.” In fact, the entire album stakes a claim at being the most powerful and energetic sounding object of the decade, which suffered from a serious lack of good music in the loud and guitar driven alt-rock vein. At the outset of “Quasar” Billy Corgan boldly declares "God, right on!/Krishna, right on!/Mark, right on!/Yod He Vau He Om/Let's ride on!" alluding to some of the most recognizable metaphoric quasars ever believed in, prayed to, or relied upon along with some of his interest in the Christian, Hebraic, and Oriental mysticism that he’s allowed to bubble up to the surface of his songwriting recently. All the references though are towards powerful, beneficent, and powerfully uplifting and life changing entities, both esoteric and common. The music that Corgan wraps these ideas in beautifully brings these entities to life in a vivid, multi-textured, “luminous, powerful and energetic way” not just during “Quasar,” but throughout the album. Oceania is easily the best Smashing Pumpkins album since Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness, and those were two of the best alt-rock albums ever written and released. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Americana (Review)

I really got into Neil Young’s music in 1989 when he released Freedom and its legendary single “Rockin’ in The Free World.” That song would go on to become an even bigger hit when Pearl Jam went on to cover it with him on The 1993 MTV Music Video Awards show (probably the last watchable one) and at the end of nearly every one of their concerts. Over the years I’ve continued to follow and deepen my appreciation for Neil Young’s music. His work with Crazy Horse, his long term backing band, has always been especially strong. Young isn’t afraid to experiment though, both with Crazy Horse and others (Pearl Jam was his backing band for Mirrorball, one of his strongest albums ever). On Americana, his first album with Crazy Horse in nine years, Young dusts off some elementary school-folk songs that used to be more than just elementary school-folk songs and digs out their deeper, and sometimes darker, gravitas by washing them through his trademark distorted and grungy guitar. Canadian by birth, American by spirit, and Godfather to grunge by trade, Neil Young not only reinvigorates a powerful cross section of American music, he invigorates the Americana that is Crazy Horse as well by delivering their best album together since 1996’s Broken Arrow

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Prometheus: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Marc Streitenfeld (Review)

The Avengers ruled and The Dark Knight Rises will dominate, but the movie that I’m dying to see this summer is Prometheus. Ridley Scott’s return to science fiction and the world of Alien (1979) in this quasi-prequel of sorts to his legendary film is itself reason enough for me to want to see this film, but the story that he will be directing piques my interest even more than his incredibly directing skills and the sure to be top notch special effects. The story behind the Space Jockey (the massive alien creature pictured in Alien (1979) in the derelict ship where the pods with the face-huggers were originally found by the crew of the Nostromo), and their connections to life on Earth and the xenomorphs themselves is hopefully going to be a story akin to the brilliance of other sci-fi art films like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Sunshine (2007). Even if it doesn’t though, its dark and powerful original score by Marc Streitenfeld at least matches the sonic power of those other two films, with only the score to Sunshine (2007) possibly edging it out.