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  • 2007 Retrospective: You Can't Stop The Progress...

    20 Dic 2007, 23:08

    So, here it is, the obligatory year-end recap. Honestly, 2007 has been the best fucking year musically I think I can recall, for gigs, albums, and pretty much everything sonic. Sure, I’m still at a loss to explain why indie music is becoming so ridiculously popular given that it has a) no soul, b) no balls, and c) way too many tryhard scenesters, and I don’t understand why everyone seems to care so much about Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse and what they are/aren’t doing this week. But in between all the rubbish (a large amount of it from Pitchfork), there were a whole lot of gems, people. And here are some of them.

    Top 5 musical discoveries of the year
    Comprising stuff I got into in a big way this year.
    Honourable mentions: Soul Coughing, Brand New Sin, Orange Goblin

    5. Bob Dylan – Of course I knew about the man before, but in 2007 I picked up Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home and loved both. For no apparent reason, Maggie’s Farm got me through the tedium of CFA study too.

    4. Type O Negative – So very amusingly gothic. I must express my sincere thanks to a listening post at HMV Rue St-Catherine (Montreal) for this one. I’ve been rumbling through their back catalogue ever since.

    3. El-P – When I first heard Flyentology, it blew my mind. Suddenly I was incredibly excited about the release of an album (I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead) that I knew nothing about by an artist I knew nothing about. And it sure didn’t disappoint either.

    2. Megadeth – I picked up Rust in Peace cheap on the Gold Coast at the start of the year. There’s no denying they’ve written they’ve written some fantastic, epic songs – and while I’ve stuck to the path more travelled (greatest hits and the Buenos Aires live album), it’s been thoroughly kickass.

    1. Corrosion of Conformity – Although I picked up Deliverance in 06, it wasn’t until this year that I really appreciated the awesomeness of CoC. Driving, groovy hard rock, delivered with plenty of attitude. A lot of fans would probably disagree, but America’s Volume Dealer is increasingly my favourite CoC record (although I love everything post-Blind).

    Top 5 gigs of the year
    Some tough decisions had to be made here, given the sheer volume of fantastic shows this year. Honourable mentions to The Crystal Method for their excellent BDO set, and Muse for a great show at the Trusts Stadium.

    5. Jurassic 5 St James, Auckland, 16/2/07. Great performers going out at the top of their game. An unbelievably tight, feelgood show.
    4. Supergroove Kings Arms, Auckland, 27/10/07. The reunion tour… 10 years on these guys had lost none of their funk. Practically blew the roof off the Kings Arms.
    3. Roger Waters North Shore Stadium, Auckland, 29/1/07. Dark Side of the Moon remains one of my favourite albums of all time and hearing it in its entirety was simply awesome.
    2. Nine Inch Nails Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, 16/9/07. Song after song after song of pounding, aggressive mayhem – one of those gigs where you shout along to almost every word of every track. And they were ALL good.
    1. Clutch (and The Bakerton Group) The Metro, Sydney, 15/12/07. Superlatives don’t do it justice. Beyond awesomeness.

    Top 10 tracks of the year
    These are in no particular order, but there are always a select handful of tracks which manage to defy my short attention span and beg repeat use of the repeat button. These are them.
    Superchrist
    United States
    Flyentology
    Many Gators
    Freaks Of Nature
    The Devil & Me
    On March the Saints
    HYPERPOWER!
    Sick, Sick, Sick
    Chemistry

    Top 10 albums of the year
    Finally, I present m0rph3us’ top 10 albums of the year. No indie crap! All killer, no filler. I’ve always been very much an album listener, rather than playlisting or picking tracks, and there were a LOT of good albums this year.

    Honourable mentions:
    Wu-Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams
    Ghostface Killah – The Big Doe Rehab
    Symphony X – Paradise Lost
    Lefties Soul Connection – Skimming the Skum
    Nine Inch Nails – Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D
    Type O Negative – Dead Again
    The Bakerton Group – The Bakerton Group

    10. Sevendust – Alpha
    Sevendust were back and they were PISSED OFF. Alpha never lets up on sheer aggression, from start to finish – in fact the opening and closing tracks are amongst the heaviest tracks they’ve ever written. But amongst the sheer power, they kept their soul – Morgan’s vocals brim with energy throughout.

    9. Brant Bjork and The Bros – Somera Sol
    A much tighter record than its sprawling double predecessors. The songs are punchy, with plenty of BBB’s trademark stoner groove, but still a little experimental with some nice horn flourishes. This album has some of the best production I’ve heard in recent times as well – which only adds to the groove factor.

    8. UNKLE – War Stories
    Something of a musical chameleon, that James Lavelle. First we had the hip-hop record, then the trance record, now it’s the dance-rock record. But don’t let that genre tag stereotype it… this record moves from insanely propulsive (“Chemistry”), to aggro stomp (“Restless”), to drifting melancholy (“Twilight”). Although it can sound a tad repetitive in places, when this album hits it straps, it’s very infectious and very hypnotic.

    7. Down – Down III: Over The Under
    Riffs that could cut through a shoe! A tin can! Even a fridge! No really, there are some huge riffs on this record. But what makes the album is the way the band does everything with passion. Phil’s vocals sound great, Pepper’s guitar shreds, and the rhythm section have got more grunt than a tribe of cavemen.

    6. Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist
    Zeitgeist is far from the perfect album – there’s definitely some filler (particularly the last two tracks), and god knows how Superchrist missed out on inclusion. But when Zeitgeist hits the mark – most notably on United States, (Come On) Let’s Go, Bring The Light and 7 Shades of Black – it’s a reminder of just how essential the Pumpkins were, and continue to be.

    5. Radiohead – In Rainbows
    I’m not a Radiohead fanboy and I ignored most of the hype, and so maybe I’m one of the few people on the planet with some semblance of objectivity in relation to this record. In Rainbows is a fine album, which somehow manages to be both highly creative and highly precise at the same time. Not to mention the fact the clever album construction – faint hints of optimism throughout before closing with the bleak ‘Videotape’. While it’s strong throughout, my two favourites are undoubtedly the opening salvo of ’15 Step’ and ‘Bodysnatchers’.

    4. Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
    It’s hard not to like the Queens’ approach to recording – let’s make whatever the hell kind of album we want, maybe some people like it, but who really gives a fuck. It’s not user-friendly – there are few obvious hooks on first listen and Homme snarls his way through ‘Battery Acid’ and ‘I’m Designer’ with plenty of venom. But given a few listens, it all starts to sink in.

    3. El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
    The reality is that there’s nothing between my top three. All top albums, which could have been number 1, depending on my mood. “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” is dark, unorthodox, claustrophobic and utterly brilliant. And despite the bleakness, it manages to be subtly endearing in places too, most notably ‘The Overly Dramatic Truth’.

    2. Clutch – From Beale Street to Oblivion
    Beale Street is very much a progression of the blues themes on Robot Hive/Exodus. While Clutch still have a knack for infectious riffs and wildly creative lyrics, Beale Street is less full-throttle, and more of a groove-fest. Which is not to say you don’t get rocking up-tempo numbers – “Power Player” and “You Can’t Stop the Progress” kill off any such notions – but the real strength of this record is the incredibly tight groove on tracks like “The Devil and Me” and “Mr. Shiny Cadillackness”. The first half of the record is a lot more instant, while the second half took a little longer to grow on me – but damn if it isn’t all more killer material from a band that produce brilliant album after brilliant album.

    1. Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
    A soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist. A viral marketing campaign of epic proportions. Nothing was normal about this album. Even the sound itself was a step in a new direction, even for NIN, an amorphous mass of technology and guitars. Finally Reznor broke the cycle of long periods between NIN releases, and long may he continue to do so.
  • Clutch - Live at the Metro, Sydney, 15/12/07

    15 Dic 2007, 23:35

    It seems sort of fitting that, in a year where I've had the opportunity to see so many fantastic shows - Muse, Roger Waters (performing the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon, no less), Jurassic 5, the last would be the best of all. And although the lights of 2008 are already shining brightly - I already have tickets to see Smashing Pumpkins and Queens of the Stone Age at V Fest, Rage Against the Machine and the Foo Fighters (for the fourth time) - it really is hard to see any show eclipsing Clutch's performance last night at the Metro. Aside from maybe another Clutch show.

    First up, the Metro is a cool venue. My ears are ringing like hell today, but the sound in there was pretty good and it has a great, slightly classical, atmosphere which reminds me of the St. James. And being that close to the band is ALWAYS great.

    The Bakerton Group played lead-up, which was a great bonus and they were in many ways the perfect support act. I've only just picked up their record in the last week so I wasn't 100% familiar with all the tracks, but I do know Bruce Bigsby and Many Gators were both pretty sweet.

    And Clutch... well what can I say?! They were fired up and on their game. While their set was almost exclusively from the last three albums, I can't complain because all up we had over three hours worth, and their back catalogue is so massive that you'll never hear every song you want to anyway. They worked the crowd into a frenzy with the hard-hitting tracks like The Mob Goes Wild, Burning Beard and Promoter (Of Earthbound Causes), they jammed out tracks like The Soapmakers and Cypress Grove which both demonstrated their awesome musicianship and gave the crowd a short break, and didn't miss a beat for the whole epic show.

    The Beale St material sounded great and Electric Worry was undoubtedly one of the highlights as the crowd got stuck into the chorus. We were lucky to get The Dragonfly too.

    The highlights for me were probably Promoter, Big News I & II, 10001110101, Texan Book of the Dead, ah hell, make that the whole show. I really can't say much else other than that this was a stunner.

    And as another plus, they recorded the Melbourne show and the CDs were available on the night in Sydney... the setlist was very similar except Melbourne I believe got La Curandera as an encore and got A Shogun Named Marcus and Black Umbrella instead of Promoter and Dragonfly.

    First set:
    Small Upsetters
    Profits of Doom
    Never Be Moved
    You Can't Stop The Progress
    Power Player
    White's Ferry
    Slow Hole To China
    Soapmakers (jam)
    Drum solo
    Burning Beard
    Child of the City
    Big News I
    Big News II

    Second set:
    Who's Been Talking
    King of Arizona
    The Devil and Me
    Promoter (Of Earthbound Causes)
    10001110101
    How Many More Times
    The Mob Goes Wild
    Mice and Gods
    Texan Book of the Dead
    Cypress Grove
    Mr Black Cadillackness
    Gravel Road (jam)
    The Dragonfly
    Electric Worry
    One Eye Dollar

    Encore:
    Sinkemlow
  • 2007 - the year of the (live) RAWK

    19 Sep 2007, 2:20

    It's been a phenomenal year for concerts so far down here in this part of the world. At times in the past decent shows have been few and far between because we're so far away, but lately the tide seems to have turned. Partly that's the fact that the Vector Arena FINALLY opened, but it seems like we're just getting more shows in general. Now seems like a good time to reflect on the shows I've seen so far this year and the few that are still to come...

    January
    Kasabian - played a tight pre-BDO show at Studio. 6.5/10, good without being mind-boggling.
    Big Day Out - where I saw Muse, The Killers, The Crystal Method and a few others. Muse and TCM were definitely the highlights, other than that it was fairly average. 6/10.
    Roger Waters - performed at the North Shore Stadium. An amazing show with the best stadium audio set-up I've heard, all-around sensational performance. 9/10.

    February
    Jurassic 5 - played the St. James on what was their final ever tour. Incredibly energetic, the material off Feedback sounded much better live, and they threw in all the old-school classics like Quality Control as well. 8/10.

    March
    The Mars Volta - played the St. James, but this was a show where I just didn't pick up the vibe. Maybe I needed to be stoned or more drunk or something. Impressive musicianship all the same. 6/10.

    June
    Guns N Roses - stunning opening and closing, lost a bit of momentum in the middle of the set though. I have to concede that Axl still definitely has it. 7/10.

    August
    Bob Dylan - he's almost completely incomprehensible these days, but still the man just has presence about him. And an excellent backing band. Worth it just to see the legend. 7/10.

    September
    Nine Inch Nails - had to fly to Sydney to see this one but man was it ever worth it. A phenomenal setlist that never skipped a beat, Trent was in top form and the lighting and effects were the icing on the cake. 9.5/10. Probably would've got 10 if they'd played Burn or Somehwat Damaged.

    STILL TO COME
    Silverchair and Powderfinger - Vector Arena, Oct 20
    Crowded House and Supergroove - Vector Arena, Oct 28
    Muse - Trusts Stadium, Nov 23
    Clutch, the mighty, mighty, mighty Clutch - The Metro, Sydney, Dec 15

    Rage Against the Machine - sometime around the Big Day Out in Jan. Oh hell yes.
  • Nine Inch Nails - live at the Hordern Pavilion, 16/9/07

    17 Sep 2007, 0:47

    Nine Inch Nails = insane.

    It took me two trips across the Tasman and five months to finally get to this concert (having been postponed from May) but it was worth every bit of the wait. One of the most intense, exhilarating, potent live shows I've witnessed - musically it was fantastic and the amazing lighting effects only added to the chaos.

    The Hordern seemed like a bit of a small venue but the noise and intensity inside was deafening, so I guess it was a good option. I didn't see a whole lot of the opening act, White Rose Movement, but some of their stuff sounded pretty cool.

    Anyway, here is the setlist with a few comments:

    Hyperpower!

    The Beginning of the End - predictable but excellent opening combination. I almost would've liked to hear them open with Somewhat Damaged, but I can't complain.

    Heresy - a fantastic surprise, one of my favourite NIN tracks but I wasn't expecting to hear it. Trent got really venomous on the chorus, full of aggression and the guitars really shredded. One of the highlights.

    March of the Pigs - Oh and I thought Heresy was full on! The band really fired up on this one.

    The Frail/ The Wretched

    Closer - a big crowd singalong on this one. The setlist had like 8 tracks from Downward Spiral, which made me pretty happy, personally.

    Ruiner

    Terrible Lie - Old school! I think they got Sin the previous night at Luna Park, but this was great.

    Survivalism

    Piggy - this song has always had a sort of quiet pent-up aggression to it, bordering on ironic given the lyrics. Live, it was even better.

    Gave Up

    me, I'm Not

    The Great Destroyer - predictably, the breakdown in this track was pretty mad...

    Eraser

    Only - probably my other highlight, along with Heresy. The lighting effects were phenomenal, it looked like the band was a behind a wall of static and you couldn't see anything other than the static and a vague greenish blur around Trent. Huge pogoing during the chorus.

    Wish

    The Good Soldier

    No, You Don't - another small surprise, boy did the guitars at the end of this ever sound buzzsaw jagged.

    Reptile

    The Day the Whole World Went Away

    Hurt - awesome.

    The Hand that Feeds

    Starfuckers Inc.

    Head Like A Hole

    Overall, a phenomenal show, the magnitude and power of their sound live was just awesome. Trent sounded great vocally and the crowd was massively into it (if anything, a bit too into it right up the front if some of the comments I've seen are anything to go by). I think they got Burn and Dead Souls the night before, both of which I would've loved to hear, but with a back catalogue like NIN's, there will always be some that unfortunately get missed.
  • 3/9/07 to 9/9/07: Blank stare, disrepair

    13 Sep 2007, 2:13

    7=. Deftones – 26 plays
    Getting back into the ‘Tones for the first time in a while, I have a definite soft spot for their self-titled album which seems to be less popular with a lot of their fans. Also had a spin of their “B- Sides and Rarities” album, some very under-rated stuff on there including a nice cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”.

    7=. Velvet Revolver – 26 plays
    I’m still trying to figure out whether I prefer Libertad or Contraband. They’re really two quite different beasts: Libertad is a more balanced and diverse record, whereas Contraband is more of a kickass rock and roll album. Making this even more tricky is the fact that two of my favourite VR tracks: their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Money” and the extended live version of “Set Me Free” are b-sides to “Slither” and don’t appear on either album. Some of their tracks are to be featured in GH3 which will be great fun.

    7=. Soundgarden – 26 plays
    Ah, the mighty Soundgarden. Chris Cornell is touring down here supporting Linkin Park in a couple months, and I have to confess that I was almost tempted to buy tickets just to go see Cornell. But not quite tempted enough. Anyway, I rolled through Badmotorfinger – historically I didn’t like this quite as much as Superunknown and Down on the Upside but it’s grown on me a lot over time.

    7=. MF DOOM – 26 plays
    The final part of the 4-way tie for 7th place this week. I picked up the re-release of MM.. Food? and have been really enjoying it. Doom has an unconventional style both vocally and in terms of production and it’s far more entertaining to listen to than most hip-hop. I’m hoping his collaboration with Ghostface will actually drop this year, particularly if their collaboration on “The Mask” is anything to go by.

    6. The Living End – 27 plays
    I never really liked these guys, until Guitar Hero II came along. “Carry Me Home” got me hooked to the point where I went out and picked up “Roll On”. “Carry Me Home” is a stunning, full-throttle, high-speed, truck vs. train collision of a track, the standout of the album, although I’m liking “Riot on Broadway” as well. There’s a wee bit of padding in the album – though it’s certainly not without its high points.

    5. Powerman 5000 – 28 plays
    PM5K keep sneaking into my charts in relatively high positions without me really making a conscientious effort to listen to them. Some of their albums sit in iTunes after other albums I’ve been listening to a lot so there are probably a few fortuitous listens in there. Mega!! Kung Fu Radio is a great album though.

    4. Muse – 34 plays
    Got my tickets for their now sold-out show in November and already I can’t wait. There’s something about these guys when they play live, they just sound… supermassive. Excuse the poor joke, but seriously the power of their live sound is just awesome. I’m really holding out for “Stockholm Syndrome” and “Space Dementia” too.

    3. Garbage – 35 plays
    Much as I enjoyed Garbage’s self-titled debut, I sort of lost interest in them after that, most of their later material was a bit patchy. But their greatest hits album “Absolute Garbage” is a good collection of their best material and has some great remixes as well. It’s essentially a singles collection but let’s face it, Garbage were generally a singles band anyway.

    2. Clutch – 41 plays
    Holy shit yes, Clutch are coming to Australia in December and – third time lucky – I have tickets to go see them. This might be the best thing ever. I have a list of five bands that I decided if they come to Australia, but not New Zealand, I would fly over to see them. Nine Inch Nails this weekend, and Clutch in December. Meanwhile, the other three – Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins and Queens of the Stone Age – are all strongly rumoured for the Big Day Out. Awesome, 07 is truly the year of the rawk.

    1. Orange Goblin – 61 plays
    It’s a testament to my great love of Clutch that I got into these guys as a ‘similar artist’ to Clutch, according to last.fm. While their sound is a lot doomier and their vocalist doesn’t hold a candle to Neil Fallon, they still jam some great, hard-rocking and at times blues-influenced numbers. Overall I’m preferring The Big Black and Time Travelling Blues to the newer stuff, which seems a bit straighter, but they seem to be pretty consistent throughout.
  • 27/8/07 to 2/9/07 - What up? To all rappers, shut up.

    7 Sep 2007, 0:31

    Finally, Muse tickets go on sale on Tuesday. Just a shame they're playing all the way out on the west-side... we'll have to navigate a myriad of burnt-out cars and P labs just to get there. Speaking of Muse, it looks like Knights of Cydonia is going to feature in Guitar Hero III, which is also going to feature a wireless controller. I just know this is going to be bad news for anything breakable in my living room.

    On with the chart.

    10. Ghostface - 18 plays
    It's a shame that so many of the Wu have struggled with solo careers because Ghost has really shown how to bring it. His delivery is always edgy and powerful without ever getting too over-the-top aggressive, and all his solo material has been good. I'm particularly loving Supreme Clientele at the moment.

    9. Alice in Chains - 20 plays
    Oddly, I'd sort of rather that Jerry Cantrell got on to making another solo album rather than more touring with the reformed AIC. It just doesn't seem the same without Layne I guess and JC's solo material has been really solid. Still, AIC were IMO one of the most under-rated bands of their era.

    8. Shihad - 24 plays
    I saw a clip of Shihad live on C4 the other night and it was kinda funny how young Jon Toogood looked at the time. I guess when you grow up with a band you don't notice these things quite so much.

    7. Jerry Cantrell - 25 plays
    Back into Degradation Trip and the oft-overlooked "Leave Me Alone" from the Cable Guy soundtrack. Some really grinding, edgy, epic material on his solo stuff - he sure is a great songwriter and guitarist.

    5=. Down - 28 plays
    Over the Under is due out pretty soon so it was a rumble through the Down back catalogue this week. Both their albums are really potent hard rock, but they get the balance just right and don't overcook the material. For a band with such massive firepower, it's ironic that some of their best tracks are the (at least partly) quieter tracks like "Lies, I Don't Know What They Say But". I love the way that the material is a lot more diverse than that of the band members' other groups, but they play it so damn well.

    5=. Smashing Pumpkins - 28 plays
    I read a great interview with BC about the recording of Zeitgeist. Apparently Jimmy managed to record a 9:51 drum take of the epic "United States" with basically no mistakes (all one take). He didn't even want to play the song in the first place because he didn't like the shuffle beat (Billy had to nag him for weeks). That shit freaks me out - I honestly believe Jimmy has no equal in modern rock. Not even Danny Carey. *awaits lynching from rabid Tool fans*

    4. Pearl Jam - 32 plays
    Benaroya Hall has some real gems on it - the acoustic take of "Sleight of Hand" (one of my favourite PJ songs) is just awesome. "Masters of War", "25 Minutes To Go", great stuff. Shame it was pre-self-titled... I'd love to hear acoustic versions of Comatose or Severed Hand (hey, if they can do Lukin, they can do those two!).

    3. Les Claypool's Frog Brigade - 33 plays
    Or, Colonel Les Claypool's Flying Frog Brigade, if we're going to use their full name. I picked up Live Frogs 1 & 2... at first I was kinda mystified as to why they would cover Pink Floyd's Animals in its entirety but really it's no big surprise. Animals was largely penned by Roger Waters as lead singer/bassist, and its certainly quirky enough to find a special place in Les Claypool's heart. Anyway, a fine cover of the album it is too.

    2. Powerman 5000 - 40 plays
    For reasons I've never understood, Mega!! Kung Fu Radio is my #1 hangover album. It's really way too loud for hangover music, but there's something about its relentless energy that always kicks my ass into gear. Particularly after a massive Monday nighter.

    1. Clutch - 43 plays
    Ribonucleic acid freak out, the power of prayer.
    Long halls of science and all the lunatics committed there.
    Robot Lords of Tokyo, SMILE TASTE KITTENS!
    Did you not know that the royal hunting grounds are always forbidden?

    Nice.
  • 23/7 to 29/7: It's always funny until someone gets hurt...

    30 Jul 2007, 23:51

    ...and then it's just hilarious.

    Anyway, the week in review.

    10. The White Stripes - 20 plays
    I picked up Elephant from the bargain bin at JB Hi-Fi. I've never really been a huge fan but equally I've never really listened to them a whole lot either. I think I like them most when they're either making a lot of noise or cranking out the blues... tracks like Seven Nation Army, Black Math, and Ball and Biscuit really seem toffer a lot more than some of the quieter numbers like In The Cold Cold Night which doesn't really go anywhere. Jack White is one helluva bluesman.

    8=. Throttlerod - 21 plays
    More people should listen to these guys. Really, really decent hard rock band. It's interesting to hear the differences in their more recent records, Nail is very much aggressive hard rock, whereas Hell and High Water had more of a stoner feel to it. Interestingly, they've done a cover of the Ram Jam classic "Black Betty", and I'm not quite sure whether I prefer their cover or Spiderbait's version.

    8=. Megadeth - 21 plays
    Another JB Hi-Fi bargain score, I picked up their greatest hits which has been getting a bit of play. Hangar 18 in particular is a stunning track. Am I going to go out and score their entire back catalogue? No. But they are good for the occasional thrash moment when the need arises.

    7. Corrosion of Conformity - 21 plays
    I'm finding CoC very hard to put down at the moment. There's something very engaging about Pepper Keenan's songwriting. orenigma pointed out last week that he thinks America's Volume Dealer is highly underrated and I'm inclined to agree. They stripped down the distortion in places, upped the groove, and the production sounds noticeably different to their other records, particularly the rhythm section. While it's been criticised for being a 'mainstream' album, I actually think it's more just a 'Pepper experimenting with different sounds' album. Long may he do it, too.

    6. Faith No More - 28 plays
    I lose count of all the contributions Mike Patton has made to modern music, but FNM was undoubtedly the most significant. "King For A Day" was like the 3rd album I ever got, and I can still remember listening to it and trying to grasp how a band could spin from punk-influenced tracks like "Get Out", to lounge-jazz ("Evidence"), to hard rock ("Digging The Grave"), to funk ("Star AD")... and do it all so convincingly. Pretty mindblowing at age 14 and it still holds its own now. "Angel Dust" is just as good, although I never really got into "Album of the Year" to the same extent. They also get credit for the best break-up announcement ever:

    "After 15 long and fruitful years, Faith No More have decided to put an end to speculation regarding their imminent break up... by breaking up. The decision among the members is mutual, and there will be no pointing of fingers, no naming of names, other than stating, for the record, that "Puffy started it".

    5. Powerman 5000 - 32 plays
    Spider One is one of my favourite vocalists at the moment. He's got a relatively rare ability to sound good both when he's singing and when he's completely screaming his nuts off (witness their entertaining cover of Bjork's "Army of Me"), and his slightly sarcastic delivery fits well with the band's sound on the earlier records. It's a shame that their new stuff lacks the impact of their older material, but there is reportedly a new album on the way this year, so who knows?

    4. Shapeshifter - 34 plays
    A new entry on the charts this week, with local dnb crew Shapeshifter appearing for the first - and I suspect not the last - time. They've got a rare ability to cover pretty much the whole dnb spectrum, from the edgy, techy stuff ("Skateland Killa"), to liquid funk ("Dynaflex"), to the really soulful stuff ("Been Missin"). They also deserve mention for their live drummer, who is a machine.

    3. The Strokes - 38 plays
    For many years I criticised these guys as being largely gutless, but I'm forced to admit they do have their moments. While they've somewhat failed to live up to their excellent first album, it has to be remembered that it is a very very good album, with insanely catchy hooks throughout ("Soma", "Last Night", and "Hard to Explain" in particular). Their later albums needed more songs like "The End Has No End" and less reliance on the same songwriting formula though.

    2. Clutch - 47 plays
    Went to the doctor, to see what could be given.
    He said, “Sorry, but you’ve got to do your own livin’.”
    Went to the pastor, to hear what he would say.
    He said, “Sorry, son, come back later some time after judgment day.”

    Never far from the top of the charts and long may that be the case.

    1. Ghostface - 73 plays
    Ghost has been unbelievably productive over the last year or so. First we have the excellent Fishscale... then More Fish, containing a bunch of outtakes that were generally at least as good as those that made it onto Fishscale... and now we have Hidden Darts, ANOTHER album of material from the same sessions. Although the mastering is a bit dodgy on a few tracks, and the pacing of the second half of the album isn't great, there are some absolute gems on here, again easily material that could've made it on to Fishscale. Nice work Ghost.
  • 16/7 to 22/7: It is 5am, and you are listening... to Los Angeles

    26 Jul 2007, 1:01

    Random comment, but I got a new pair of Sennheiser PMX100 headphones and damn are they good. They're nowhere near the top of the line Sennheisers I'm sure, but for a pair that I can just thrash at work all day, they're pretty damn decent. Best clarity and bass response of any headphones I've had, that's for sure.

    On with the slightly irregular weekly review show anyway...
    10=. DJ Shadow - 19 plays
    Fuck me if the "Dark Days" theme is not an insanely addictive piece of music. With its smoky, salacious atmosphere it sounds like the streets of Sin City. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is alliteration. I learned that in high school English.

    10=. Soul Coughing - 19 plays
    I never quite had the patience for an entire Soul Coughing album, but their best of really hits the spot. Quirky indie jazz-rock, and M. Doughty's vocals sure are some crazy poetry in places, particularly Screenwriter's Blues. And the double-bass is sheer class. Double-basses are almost always class.

    9. Method Man - 28 plays
    Let's face it, compared to Ghostface Killah and the RZA this guy is one of the Wu's underachievers. I've always liked his style, aggressive but not too confrontational, smooth without being too laid-back, so it was a no-brainer when I saw 4:20 in the $10 bin. The RZA-produced tracks are pretty good, but it's a bit patchy. Some good moments though.

    8. Hermano - 32 plays
    John Garcia has one of the best voices in rock. Certainly he's right up there with Layne for sheer distinctiveness. In many ways, it's John's voice that carries "Dare I Say...", because sonically it's pretty similar to "Only A Suggestion". Still, a solid if unremarkable slice of desert rock.

    7. Powerman 5000 - 34 plays
    A prime example of "I like your old stuff better than your new stuff". Having got hold of "Anyone for Doomsday", I was surprised it never saw the light of day because frankly it's light years better than anything they've released since. But "Mega!! Kung Fu Radio", now there is an album. Hyperactive, schizophrenic, funky hard rock.

    6. UNKLE - 40 plays
    I'm liking War Stories, possibly UNKLE's best album to date. Frankly I'm getting a little sick of indie fanboy reviews that always read along the lines of "it was better when DJ Shadow was in and they did that song with Thom Yorke"... War Stories is a different beast entirely, gritty, rocky, electronica. The live drums are awesome, and add a huge dimension to the sound, and "Restless" (with Josh Homme) is easily one of the tracks of the year. And as for the snare fills in "Chemistry"...

    5. Corrosion of Conformity - 43 plays
    One of my big movers of the year, in fact. Pepper Keenan manages to sound like he's perenially pissed-off, the guitars are jagged, the drums pound, but they never overdo it and always retain a sense of melody. Damn can they ever write a groove as well. And it sure is a challenge to try and pick their best album from Deliverance onwards, they've produced a LOT of good material.

    4. Nine Inch Nails - 45 plays
    It's like 7 weeks till I see these guys in Sydney now, assuming of course it doesn't get postponed again... and since my flights are booked I sure will be pissed off if that happens. Year Zero is probably still my album of the year. Some tough competition though.

    3. Clutch - 53 plays
    It would be a strange week if they did not appear in my charts. Although, it has happened. I'm hoping they tour down-under again soon... they were in Aussie in June but it was like two days before CFA exams... gutted.

    2. The Smashing Pumpkins - 59 plays
    The big problem I have with Zeitgeist is that I always seem to gravitate towards the magnificent crunching epic that is "United States". Don't get me wrong, it's a strong album, better than I expected if a little patchy at the end, but track 7 ("here's Jimmy on drums!") is the centrepiece. The first 6 tracks are great and really build up to United States; the songs after that seem slightly anti-climactic. Maybe my impression will change once I actually listen to the other tracks some more ;)

    1. Pearl Jam - 71 plays
    It's hard to describe any Pearl Jam live album as quintessential when there's so damn many of them, but Live At The Gorge is the quintessential Pearl Jam live document. It's got pretty much their entire back catalogue (aside from Habit and I Got Shit, disappointingly), including some tracks that are real live rarities (Dirty Frank, Blood, Satan's Bed, etc). Ed is in fine form at the front, with some great, hilarious interludes (unless your name happens to be Tom Petty, of course). I rarely listen to Pearl Jam's studio albums these days because of the quality of their live material, and Live at The Gorge is not far short of the definitive live Pearl Jam statement either.

    And, oh yeah, it has Severed Hand. Hell yes.
  • 2007... what's left to come

    4 Jul 2007, 5:41

    Having already reflected on the albums of 2007 so far, the next question is... what's still to come? I’ve stuck to confirmed releases, there’s a lot more stuff floating around in the ‘maybe’ category as well.

    Velvet Revolver - Libertad
    I've just picked this up as we speak... liking it a lot so far. It's a bit more accessible than Contraband was initially and I already can't wait to hear "Let It Roll" live. Scott's vocals seem to blend really well with the music, and the guitar work sounds pretty good at first listen too (although you'd expect that from Slash). Likely to be far better than Chinese Democracy, if it ever arrives.

    Chemical Brothers - We Are The Night
    I still maintain that it's been mostly downhill for the Chems since Dig Your Own Hole, but then again, I've always been partial to breaks. Their last album "Push the Button" had some brilliant moments (The Boxer, Galvanise) but a lot of filler, and I think the big challenge for these guys is to produce a really good, consistent record. Or else I'll just fixate on Exit Planet Dust and Dig Your Own Hole forever.

    Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist
    Probably my most anticipated album of '07... the Pumpkins have never been far from my ears for close to 15 years now. I've avoided album leaks like the plague, but have heard Tarantula, the lead single, and Doomsday Clock (it soundtracks the credits to the Transformers movie), and they're both good tracks. The question is... is this going to be a great album, or a Billy Corgan ego vehicle? One never quite knows. But most of what Jimmy Chamberlin touches turns to gold, so I'm optimistic.

    UNKLE - War Stories
    There's the usual star studded list of collaborations (Josh Homme, 3D, etc etc)... but that didn't save "Never, Never, Land", which I thought was a bit sparse and a bit dull. Having said that, the one track I've heard, "Chemistry", is not far short of a revelation... pensive, impatient, and crashing with rapid-fire live drums. Apparently "War Stories" has a strong rock influence... if "Psyence Fiction" was the trip-hop record, and "Never Never Land" was the trance record, this one is the rock record. The fact it’s co-produced by Chris Goss gives even more credence to that theory. Fingers crossed.

    Reel Big Fish – Monkeys for Nothing and the Chimps for Free
    One of the best album titles I’ve heard in a long time, and RBF’s first record after leaving the majors. Which I would expect will make for an even more cynical, silly album than its predecessors. Particularly given that the band have produced it themselves.

    Maybe in 07
    Coldplay – the cynic in me says this will come out to coincide with Christmas buying patterns. Not Coldplay’s fault, of course.
    Jerry Cantrell – likely to depend on how much more touring the reformed AIC lineup does…
    Guns N Roses – maybe Chinese Democracy will come out… and then again, maybe not.
    Massive Attack – “The Weather Underground” might come out… but 3D really doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry.
    Radiohead – Not sure what the status of this is, I know it was rumoured for late 2007… no doubt someone out there in last.fm land will know though.
  • 2007... the albums so far

    20 Jun 2007, 5:18

    A quick review of all the albums released this year that I've purchased... in roughly chronological order. Admittedly the ratings are generally fairly high but... well I wouldn't buy things if I didn't think they'd be worthwhile.

    Revolver – Parlour Games
    It seems to be a constant battle for really decent NZ bands to actually get albums out, since we’re such a small market. Needless to say I was pretty pleased when Revolver finally released Parlour Games, and a swaggering blues-rock gem it is. Sounds much like they’ve spent the afternoon sitting around playing poker, drinking beer and whiskey, and have then gone into the garage to kick out the jams. Great stuff.
    4.5 stars (out of 5)

    Korn – MTV Unplugged
    I’m not a huge Korn fan, but I’m always intrigued by hard rock bands doing acoustic sets – because they can be absolutely stunning reinventions (Alice in Chains, Sevendust, and NIN all spring to mind). While there are some nice moments on here – particularly “Got the Life” and the cover of “Creep” – overall it’s a bit bland and lacks the x-factor present on any great unplugged record.
    2.5 stars

    Sevendust – Alpha
    Sevendust really got their mojo back on this one. Probably the most out-and-out vicious album they’ve made, it really sounds like they were out to prove a point on this one. Some very well-constructed riffs, a top vocal effort from Lajon Witherspoon and palpable energy and aggression throughout make for an engaging hard rock record.
    4.5 stars

    Type O Negative – Dead Again
    Type O Negative’s unholy marriage of goth metal, doom, hardcore and black humour never ceases to engage – and amuse – me. How can you not laugh at songs like “Tripping A Blind Man”? Musically, Type O’s formula hasn’t changed too much since Bloody Kisses, but that doesn’t make their records any less enjoyable. There are some pretty epic tracks on here, although my personal favourite is the schizophrenic “An Ode to Locksmiths”.
    4.5 stars

    El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
    This is a bleak, paranoid and delusional as hip-hop gets. Dark, claustrophobic beats abound throughout and El-P’s vocal performance is pretty solid too. I personally find it very hard not to listen to this album from beginning to end... it’s consistent with no weak points and a few absolute gems (particularly Flyentology). Some great guest spots (The Mars Volta, Trent Reznor) as well.
    4.5 stars

    The Have – Back to the Burning Wreck
    Another NZ album that has been a long time coming, I was initially thrown by the fact that they’ve dropped the tempo significantly from their debut EP. Instead of fast, up-tempo, blues-rock, we’ve now got slower, groovier blues-rock, with a palpable swagger of the hips. It’s sort of like they’ve gone from hyperactive teenager to self-assured young adult. Nice.
    4 stars

    Clutch – From Beale Street To Oblivion
    Honestly, these guys never disappoint. And I do mean never. The first six tracks are basically flawless, with slightly cleaner guitars and an extension of the blues flavour they were beginning to show on Robot Hive / Exodus. The back end admittedly took a little longer to grow on me, but was well worth the effort. While it hasn’t displaced Blast Tyrant and Robot Hive / Exodus as my favourite Clutch records, it still is a very good album.
    4.5 stars

    Silverchair – Young Modern
    I hoped this record would grow on me. It hasn’t. Some have said it’s an extension of Diorama, but in my view it’s really just Silverchair trying to sound contemporary alternative pop. Diorama was Silverchair genuinely trying a rock-with-orchestra thing. Young Modern is Silverchair trying to be something they’re not. Honestly, the Dissociatives record was better than this.
    2.5 stars

    Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
    What is great about this album is that it strives to be more than just an excellent collection of songs. The viral marketing, the ‘soundtrack to a future world’ concept, the CD that changes colour in response to heat… honestly Trent Reznor is really pushing the boundaries. Musically, it more than stacks up as well, thanks to great consistency and standout tracks like HYPERPOWER!, Capital G, and My Violent Heart. I can’t wait to see these guys in Sydney in September. Hopefully the show doesn’t get postponed this time!
    5 stars (4.5 for the album +0.5 for ambition)

    Scratch Perverts – Watch the Ride
    Admittedly a DJ mix compilation rather than a standalone artist album, but it is a good one. Fantastic skills on the decks, and fine track selection to boot.
    4 stars

    Mark Ronson – Version
    Between this record and the sheer volume of pop recycling 80s/90s hooks sometimes I get a bit concerned about the lack of originality these days. But that shouldn’t detract from the fact that Ronson manages some genuinely brilliant reinterpretations of tracks on Version – most notably Radiohead’s “Just” and Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. Sadly there’s a bit of filler in between and in places the horns definitely sound cheesy rather than funky.
    3 stars

    Lefties Soul Connection – Skimming the Skum
    Downright funky. A pretty simple formula: combine guitar, bass, drums and Hammond organ, kick out the jams, repeat. But there’s something about the energy with which these guys approach their music, the way it feels like the drum kit shakes with every snare hit, and the irresistible hooks.
    4 stars

    Brant Bjork and The Bros – Somera Sol
    A much tighter record than the sprawling double “Saved by Magic”. The songs are punchy, with plenty of BBB’s trademark stoner groove, but still a little experimental with some nice horn flourishes. This album has some of the best production I’ve heard in recent times as well – which only adds to the groove factor.
    4 stars

    Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
    Probably the tightest, leanest record QOTSA have produced, it’s almost the antithesis of the sprawling rock and roll excess of Songs for the Deaf. But that doesn’t detract at all – in fact it’s their most consistent record. I’m loving the way Josh Homme basically just doesn’t seem to give a fuck and writes whatever he feels like – the results speak for themselves.
    4.5 stars