Posts Tagged ‘Alternative Rock’

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Helmet – Meantime

Thursday, April 23, 2009
Meantime (1992)

Meantime (1992)

Meantime is an alternative classic, but few people sing praises over it. I don’t really know why. It’s a great album, and for alternative metal, it does a lot more for me than, say, Rage Against the Machine.

Though the metal is grinding, loud, and abrasive, it contrasts nicely with lyrics that are subdued and contemplative, and almost like poetry. My first experience with Helmet was, like most people, the song “Unsung.” Certainly its main riff is one of the most memorable in all alternative music. No one who listened to it honestly could deny its power and sway – it just sort of pounds through you and turns you into a grunge-like zombie, completely fixated on the notes’ unrelenting drone. Unlike the lyrics, the repeated riff is not complicated, which is part of its genius. Perhaps its basicness taps into the baseness of all of us.

“Unsung” is probably the best song on the album, but the rest isn’t just filler. Though the songs do have a tendency to sound the same, and everytime I get to about track six, I feel a tendency to turn it off.

Sure, Helmet probably won’t be one of the bands you mention if someone were to ask you to name ten alternative acts that changed music forever. But for Helmet, that really wan’t their bag. They where just about doing their own thing – making powerful, engaging music that wasn’t exactly pretty. And because it wasn’t pretty, it connects with some of us who can relate to that better than the blistering guitar solos offered by the likes of Pearl Jam or other more “talented” acts.

Despite their similarities to other bands, Helmet were uniquely their own. Their juxtaposition of noise, hardcore, metal, and alternative make for an interesting listen that can’t help but overwhelm you with its power. Admittedly, Helmet and Meantime are things I have to be in the mood for. But when I want something powerful, confusing, and almost grunge-like except a little harder, or if I just want to take a trip back in time, then Meantime holds that slot.

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Pixies – Doolittle

Sunday, April 5, 2009
Doolittle (1989)

Doolittle (1989)

Springtime’s in the air in Oklahoma. Sort of. Which means windows come down and the tunes get cranked up, cause I’m that “cool guy” who does that, who people think he thinks that they think he’s cool because he plays his music loud, but in reality he knows he’s a huge dork, hopefully of the loveable kind, but most likely not.

To get to the point, I really like listening to Doolittle when the weather is perfect. Like, seventy two degrees (Fahrenheit), sunny, a certain smell of freshness in the air unique to early spring in the South, where often listening to a record as ecletic as Doolittle is liable to get you shot (not really), that is, if you don’t get sucked up a tornado first.

I love living where I am, especially around this time of year, where I am witness to thunderstorms galore. Doolittle to me is the perfect spring album. Upbeat, really crazy, and can get your blood pumping – maybe we don’t need that tornado. Certainly, Doolittle is one of the most fun albums I own.

The sheer bliss of “Debaser” and all the crazy yelling and words that seem to be in German. Love it. Also, “Wave of Mutilation” is absolutely amazing. “Here Comes Your Man” has to have the catchiest guitar riffs of all of indie music – maybe all time. Maybe I’m just a loser, but the rest of the album seems to drop in quality, but for the Pixies that still means amazing. The rest of the songs sort of seem to flow together – fun to listen to, though I don’t know their names. They’re fun though.

Well, I shall be “cranking” this bad boy of an album out for the next week or so, or until I fancy something else. Or even Surfer Rosa, which is fun stuff too. Always, of course, windows down.

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Sonic Youth – Sister

Monday, March 30, 2009
Sister (1987)

Sister (1987)

[This review originally appeared on Blogcritics. To see it there, click here.]

It’s 1987 and a new force is taking over music. Since the early eighties, Sonic Youth had been gaining steam in the noise and alternative scene, and in 1991 all it took is the spark of Nirvana to set the revolution off. But four years before that fateful event changed the alternative dream forever, Sonic Youth released Sister, continuing in the vein of their previous releases of EVOL and Bad Moon Rising by experimenting, ironically, by making their music catchier and more accessible.

But don’t make the mistake by thinking this is an easy album to listen to.

Sister is absolutely brilliant and should not by any measure be taken lightly. I almost want to say “shame on you” to all the owners of Daydream Nation that have yet to dive back into Sonic Youth’s catalog and explore this album of utter, psychotic brilliance.

Speaking of psychotic, the album kicks off with the rocking opener, “Schizophrenia,” a trippy dirge of alternate guitar tunings and strange chords that give its driving beat a sort of madness. Despite being off-putting, “Schizophrenia” is also eerily calming. I can’t really do it justice by mere explanation – the song is absolutely brilliant.

“(I Got A) Catholic Block” is, hands down, one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. Its angry, honest, and I want to even say primeval sounding, because it somehow touches something deep and instinctual, repressed since the dawn of human consciousness. If I could use one word to describe the song, it would probably just be “intense,” as cliche and overused that word is used to describe music. Anyway, just like the first song, I feel like I’m failing miserably at describing its greatness.

Track four, “Stereo Sanctity” is yet another highlight of Sister. Like “Catholic Block,” it has an eerie, intense, driving beat that makes me feel fire in my belly, but if you were to ask me why it did, I wouldn’t be able to explain. Sonic Youth is, to me, more intense than any metal music out there. Though it’s not as heavy, just what they do with their notes and their blasts of noise just sort of throws me off and shakes my perception of how I see things. Any music like that entrances me.

Probably the most ethereal song on the album is track seven, “Pacific Coast Highway.” Kim Gordon does well here – most of the songs she writes for the band don’t really do it for me, but she has her occasional moments of brilliance. “Pacific Coast Highway” is one example of that. Starting off hard and intense, it eases and slows, then going back to its original intensity. It’s just a cool song.

Love it or hate it, there’s a song after “Pacific Coast Highway” called “Hot Wire My Heart” that is a demented sort of pop. I like the song, but at first couldn’t really recognize whether or not it was even music. Sonic Youth has that effect on me.

I’ve only gone through some of the highlights of Sister, but it’s a great listen and will probably surprise and maybe even scare you. Sister is considered by many to be Sonic Youth’s best, Daydream Nation or no. I prefer just to let each album stand on its own – they are both just different manifestations of the same creative genius that is Sonic Youth.

Regardless, picking this album up would be a great investment in great music, great music meaning chaotic and noisy while still having the hooks that makes it catchy in some strange messed up way.

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Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

Monday, February 23, 2009
Daydream Nation (1988)

Daydream Nation (1988)

I admit lately that I’ve been having a slight fetish for the classics. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Alright, if you’re reading this review and you’ve never heard of Sonic Youth, I’m jealous of you. Why, you ask? Because you have an oppurtunity I don’t have anymore, and that’s discovering this wonderful band. Yeah, that’s right; I’m jealous of you!

If you want to know more about the musicality and themese of this album then this post probably isn’t the place to read. Try the sum of all human knowledge.

I alluded to this album barely in my review of maudlin of the Well’s My Fruit Psychobells, saying something along the lines that Sonic Youth was one of those more chaotic bands that defined my music taste a little over a year ago. For the time, Sonic Youth certainly were chaotic, but I guess by today’s “noise” standards, they’re pretty melodic.

Daydream Nation is a happy medium between Sonic Youth’s chaotic, noiseful past and their more melodic future, which probably peaked from Goo in 1990 to Washing Machine in 1995. 

I didn’t really know all that at the time. I just heard that Sonic Youth were a neat band. Luckily, I was willing to give them a little patience. Being a noise rock virgin, I think that was a necessity. As such, I gradually immersed myself into Daydream Nation, first listening to it as I fell asleep, then picking choice songs on my way to class. Finally, I was listening to the album back to back quite often, leading me to buy Sister, Goo, and Dirty.

Sonic Youth and Daydream Nation are definitely growers. 

“Silver Rocket” is absolutely killer. “Teenage Riot” sucked me into liking the band. “Cross the Breeze,” track four…wow. Amaaazing. “Total Trash,” Candle,” and the “Trilogy” also deserve honorable mentions.

Great video below, uber intense stuff.