Posts Tagged ‘Alternative’

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Muse – Origin of Symmetry

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Origin of Symmetry (2001)

Origin of Symmetry (2001)

Just to start, “Origin of Symmetry” is a really cool name for an album.

This is Muse at their most racauous and space rocky prime. Way back in the day I was really obsessed with Muse I listened to this album all the time, and listening to it today I still catch the feeling of older times, where everything seemed a lot more simple… sigh.

Anyway, since I can’t go back, I can still always pick a song off this album and go back in my mind. Not saying I do that often, just when the mood strikes.

Muse are one of the best bands out there that can rock really hard but be very catchy. Origin of Symmetry is Muse at their best. The sound here is a little rougher than anything else they’ve done, but that’s what makes Origin of Symmetry so great to me. The first seven tracks up to “Micro Cuts” is an absoulte rollercoaster. “New Born,” “Bliss,” “Space Dementia,” “Hyper Music,” Plug-In Baby,” “Citizen Erased,” (woot!), and finally “Micro Cuts.”

From there, admittedly, the album goes a bit downhill, but the songs are still good, “Megalomania” probably topping the second half as the best.

This album plays to Muse’s greatest strengths: Matthew Bellamy’s jaw-dropping falsetto on “Micro Cuts,” the sheer epicness of “Citizen Erased,” the pop masterpiece that is “Plug in Baby,” the higly experiemental, Rachominoff-inspred “Space Dementia,” this album is just “wow” all the way through.

I’m sort of sad about Muse in a way. I listened to them way too much (overdosed, if you will), and now they are not as interesting and fun as they used to be to me. Same goes for Radiohead and Explosions in the Sky, along with some other bands I’m sure.

Origin of Symmetry is an important album to me. Lots of good memories are tied into its notes.

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Alice in Chains – Jar of Flies

Thursday, February 19, 2009
Jar of Flies (1994)

Jar of Flies (1994)

To me, Jar of Flies marks the apex of Alice in Chains’s career, though excellent cases can be made for all three of their studio albums.

Only Jar of Flies is an EP. Released a couple years after the band’s most successful CD, Dirt, AiC’s Jar of Flies paints the same themetic picture, only is softer ones. Though Dirt was loud and angry, it still had some measure of hope. Jar of Flies is the surrender, the junkie’s dying whisper. Layne seems to know here that his addiction has bested him.

Though writing about drugs is somewhat cliche in the music world, Layne has a way of turning that cliche on its head. First, AiC’s music is about the despair drugs cause. You need go no farther than “Nutshell,” track two on Jar of Flies, to know what I’m talking about: “And yet I find / yet I find repeating in my head / If I can’t be my own / I’d feel better dead.”

Instead of glorifying drugs, Jar of Flies and Alice in Chains’s music condemn them by the harsh realities they depict. If you’ve listened to Alice in Chains as much as I have (mostly when I was  younger), then you know that as you listen to each album progressively, it’s tells a story, from the band’s rise to fame with Facelift in 1990 to their legendary MTV Unplugged peformance in 1996, where Staley looked almost like an emaciated scarecrow. You knew then, if you had any doubts before, how he’d meet his end (which he did in 2002).

Despite the sad story, the music is important. Not only is Jar of Flies beautiful and heartfelt, it serves as a warning to anyone willing to listen closely. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I would say this message is a great part of Layne’s legacy.

This EP is such an experience. It flows like no other – from “Rotten Apple” to “Don’t Follow”… wow. It is something (though I’m not a fan of the closer). Still, Jar of Flies is the greatest EP of the nineties.

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Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Thursday, February 12, 2009
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)

“My reflection / dirty mirror /there’s no connection / to myself /I’m your lover / I’m your zero / I’m a face in your dreams of black.”

-“Zero”

Pretty depressing. To be honest, I would say 50 percent of Mellon Collie doesn’t appeal to me. I guess I could see this working better as single album.

But where Billy Corgan and the crew get it right, it’s really right.

I won’t try to pretend I have a long history with this album. In fact, I’ve only had it about a year. Yet even though I wasn’t there when it was released in 1995, forver changing the way conused teenagers looked at music, I can still appreciate the effect its had.

Though most of the lyrics are a bit down, this album isn’t solely a depressive dirge. Neither is it a post-grunge album filled with typical lyrics of childish self-angst. It’s deeper than that.  Mellon Collie reflects a great range of humanity – hope, pain, fear, love, even silliness. For that reason, it is honest and mature.

These lyrics aren’t depressing for the sake of being depressing.  I think a great example of this can be heard in the song “Galapagos,” which reflects the pain of losing someone. Yet instead of being bitter, it is tender, the mesage being that the person who left can still expect to be loved.

At the beginning of this review, I mentioned half the songs weren’t worth keeping. I still stand by that. But the ones that are  make Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness one of the greatest albums of nineties.

“Too late to turn back now / I’m running out of sound / and I’m changing / changing. / And if we died right now / this fool you love somehow / is here with you.”

-“Galapagos”

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Radiohead – “Supercollider”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This news is a bit late in coming, but it still feels worthwhile to talk about. I’m among those who speculate Radiohead to release a new album sometime in 2009, as I mentioned in an earlier post where the band said it was a possibility.

Currently unreleased, “Supercollider” may be released by Radiohead on their next album. If so, it might offer a clue of what to expect. Like In Rainbows, I expect Radiohead’s lyrics to be more positive lyrically than their previous work.

This seems to be the case with “Supercollider” as well, with Thom singing, “I have jettisoned my illusions / I have dislodged my depression / I put the shadows back into / the boxes.” Thom struggled with depression, which reflected highly in the lyrics of Kid A and Amnesiac, released in 2000 and 2001 respectively. These lyrics are a far cry from “How to Disappear Completely,” with Thom singing “I’m not here /This isn’t happening / I’m not here /I’m not here.”

I’m happy for Thom Yorke in that he his life is getting better, that his perspectives, motivations, and inspirations, as well as that of the band, are being featured in their music and not solely the negativities.

Like many critics of In Rainbows, I agree that this is a new band, no longer solely angry or saddened by the state of the world. Though these sentiments are still present, hope is also expressed in the lyrics of both In Rainbows and the currently unreleased “Supercollider.”

I like Radiohead’s new direction – not only are they able to make compositional leaps and bounds, but lyrical ones as well.

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Sonic Youth – Washing Machine

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Washing Machine (1995)

Washing Machine (1995)

I’ve always considered Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine, released in 1995, to be their best post-Daydream Nation album. Here’s why.

One of the reasons is due to memory. I bought Washing Machine last summer. I listened to it constantly in my car on my way to a local community college, thirty minutes each way. Every time I listen to it now, the memories of that time come flooding back – a rainy day before a test, a trip with a friend to Panda Express, the hot Oklahoma interstate. All of these time, Washing Machine was blaring. Because of Washing Machine, I can reflect on this time of my life just by popping the CD in.

But back to the album itself. I’ve read some reviews of Washing Machine that faulted the album for having no particular sound. Balderdash. The fuzzy, reverby, and even watery sound is present throughout the entire album. Sonic Youth excels on Washing Machine just as much as they have in past in creating a unique sound for a album never attempted by any other artist, with the possible exception of Dirty in 1992 for its grunge influences.

It starts of solid with “Becuz.” “Becuz” is a mixture between traditional, noisy Sonic Youth with the breakdown in the middle, and more melodic strains explored thoroughly in previous albums. Like Daydream Nation, Sonic Youth find a way to blend their chaotic, noisy past with the demands of the mainstream, only in an entirely different way. In this respect, Washing Machine has done what the much more famous Daydream Nation has also done, only from a different perspective.

Track three, “Saucer-Like,” has an amazing intro. Thurston sounds like he’s singing underwater here, as did Kim Gordon in “Becuz.” All of the songs have the peculiar quality – perhaps something to do with the production. Track four, “Washing Machine,” is one of Gordon’s greatest successes.

In fact, this album is a large testament to her creativity, as she stars in most of the album’s most successful moments.  “Washing Machine” is an eight minute epic. “Epic” might not be the right word. But the sonic effects created by the band here are extraordinary, especially around minute six towrads the end.

Track five, “Unwind,” is suitably named – it is relaxing, soft, yet somehow off-putting. A strange combination of words, I know, but Sonic youth can do things with their instruments and lyrics that make those words blend together like the strains of their music.

A definite highlight on the album comes with track six, “Little Trouble Girl,” a duet between Kim Gordon and Kim Deal, the latter the bassist from The Pixies guest singing for the song. Two Kims, two bassists, two girls, from two high influential alternative acts – who could ask for more? The song itself is strange, haunting, and beautiful. I am enthralled with this track and Sonic Youth’s ability to create such a moody atmosphere that almost defies words to describe. Put side by side, Deal is the stronger singer, but people don’t listen to Sonic Youth for the singing. It goes beyond that.

Following “Little Trouble Girl” is “No Queen Blues,” the hardest rocking song on the album. Thurston Moore destroys on this track. The bluesy feel it showcases is not often attempted by Sonic Youth. But blended with their noise, Sonic youth take blues to a whole other level. And of course, the complete noise breakdown towards the end is classic.

The rest of the songs are not really worth mention. Except one.

“The Diamond Sea.” Ahh, yes. This song is often pointed to as Sonic Youth’s last hurrah during their relatively mainstream stint from Goo in 1990 to Washing Machine in 1995.  Now this is a song which could deservedly be called epic! The lyrics are sung in Thruston’s husky, pleading voice about what seems to be a marriage or relationship gone awry and based on deceit and selfishness.

The mood Sonic Youth creates with their music perfectly reflects the lyrics, “Look into his eyes and you will see / that men are not alone on the diamond sea / sail into the heart of a lonely storm / and tell her you’ll love her eternally.” The relationship is one in which the couple cannot be honest with one another, so while one is beset with loneliness and the other has image problems, they are both too self-centered to meet each others needs or accept one another. There are other themes, of course, which I will leave to you, the listener, to discover on your own.

Washing Machine is an absolute must for anyone claiming to be a Sonic Youth fan. Washing Machine is an absolute must for anyone interested in Sonic Youth. Lastly, Washing Machine is an absolute must for anyone claiming to be a fan of music. That might be too far, but that is my humble opinion.