Posts Tagged ‘Hard Rock’

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Soundgarden – King Animal

Monday, November 19, 2012
King Animal (2012)

King Animal (2012)

We live in a time where it’s rare to see a straight up “rock” album recorded. We live in the era of space rock, indie rock, folk rock, electro-rock, etc…

That’s what King Animal is: a straight-up, no frills rock album – guitar, bass, drums, and heavy, heavy riffage. In a way, it’s refreshing in simplicity…but in another way, I kind of wish Soundgarden had pushed the envelope.

I was nervous about this for good reason. Soundgarden’s first album in 15-16 years. I had no idea what to expect, and artists are notorious for going to seed in old age. I could see King Animal going one of two ways: Soundgarden sticking to their signature sound of grungy, doomy riffage, or completely surprising everyone with something off the wall.

They decided to go the safe route. This album is a time capsule. Any of these songs could have fit on any of Soundgarden’s other albums. It’s good, it rocks, don’t get me wrong…clearly Kim Thayil hasn’t lost his touch (even if Cornell’s voice is noticeably weaker). But King Animal doesn’t stand out from the rest of their discography. I was really, really interested to see if any more modern music influenced their sound. From the few listens I’ve had, I would say no.

After all, these guys have had sixteen years to learn, grow, and listen to new stuff that might have influenced their current sound. But then again, perhaps the homage they paid to their old sound was a conscious decision. I read somewhere that there was a lot of disappointment with the release Down on the Upside because of a departure from their signature riffage.

Which would be an understandable decision. If fans have been demanding a new Soundgarden album, how cheated would many have felt if they got something un-Soundgarden-esque?

King Animal is a decent album. I just get this inkling that it could have been so much more. Then again, maybe I should just let Soundgarden be Soundgarden, and enjoy what they have offered up – a great rock album and a fitting tribute to their legacy.

Highlights: “Been Away Too Long”, “Blood on the Valley Floor”, “Black Saturday”, “Rowing”

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Rush – 2112

Sunday, April 4, 2010

2112 (1976)

A friend burned me a mix CD with the first two movements of “2112” when I was a senior in high school. And I was blown away.

2112 wasn’t like any rock music I had heard. It was different, and spacey. And it rocked hard.

And it had a concept that only nerds like me can appreciate. The story runs something like this, at least to me:

In the year 2112, a dystopia known as the Solar Federation has taken over humanity. This dystopia keeps the masses subjected through a religious system that outlaws music.

But one day a young man discovers a guitar, and learns how to play. His mind is opened, and music makes him see the world differently. He goes to the priests to share his discovery, but they scorn and outlaw him.

The outlaw then visits an oracle, and there gets inspiration. He tries to get the world to understand – but inevitably they can’t. He can’t shake the dream from his mind. Grieved, he kills himself.

But the young man has unwittingly made a martyr of himself. A rebel army gathers under his name. They attempt to usurp the Solar Federation, but in this last movement, it’s left ambiguous who has won.

Nerdy, to be sure – but awesome for guys like me who love sci-fi. I’m not that into prog music, and this is the only thing by Rush I own. The music and lyrics compliment one another perfectly. The instrumentals are out of this world (terrible pun intended).

But the thing is, any fan of rock music should own this. 2112 is an important, unique, and enjoyable album, great to nerd/rock out to.

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The Beatles – The Beatles [White Album]

Monday, March 9, 2009
The Beatles (1968)

The Beatles (1968)

This review should just read “It’s the Beatles, end of story,” but I’ll go a little in depth for those interested in my thoughts on this music classic.

The Beatles self-titled LP, or the “White Album,” is my favorite by them. It’s impossible to just pick any Beatles’ album and say it’s their most important or quintessential. So instead, I’m just focusing on this one because it is filled with many my favorite Beatles moments.

The White Album has always struck me as darker, more mature, and more experimental than anything else they have thus far attempted. It is absolutely jaw dropping to just think of how the Beatles changed as a band from Please Please Me in 1963 to The Beatles in 1968. Considering they released at least one album every year, each one a timeless classic that redefined music forever – when it comes to bands, none in music history was or is as great as the Beatles were. Usually, thoughts like these cross my mind every day, and what the Beatles have done still and likely always will capture my imagination.

Anyway, back to the music instead of my exposé on the Beatles. To me, the “White Album” encompasses everything good about the Beatles – it’s as if every single one of their albums is wrapped up in it (with the exception of their last two, recorded after this one). They decided to go in a different direction as they had for their previous few albums, and they recorded new material prolificly, enough for a double album.

The importance of the “White Album” for the Beatles and music at large cannot be overemphasized. It starts with “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” a hilarious spoof of the Beach Boys and their knock-offs, the former of whom the Beatles shared a good-natured rivalry. Track two, “Dear Prudence,” is the Beatles at their most simplistic beauty. The song is beautiful because it says the world is beautiful, “and so are you.”  There is always an underlying simplicity and familiarity with the Beatles, despite how complicated the song acutually is.

Then of course, we have the catchy “Ob-la-Di, Ob-la-Da,” a Carribean-esque song nearly anyone can sing to, followed by “Bungalow Bill,” another classic. Then comes what’s often considered George Harrison’s magnum opus “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” followed by Lennon’s classic “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” This so far has to be one of the strongest song lineups in album history, just so you know.

A few songs later we come to the animal trilogy, “Blackbird,” “Piggies,” and “Rocky Racoon.” Of the three, “Rocky Racoon” is my favorite. Though they’re English, the Beatles were pretty good at playing American folk with their own twist. Though “Blackbird” deserves mention, and also happens to be one of the few songs I can play on guitar.

Later on, the infamous “Birthday” song, which would be should also be sung on birthdays along with the traditional one (I’m picking and choosing songs now, since there are so many). Later, McCartney’s “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey.”

And then, the first metal song ever written, “Helter Skelter.” Right here, I just want to pause and reflect on the diversity of all the songs on this album up to this point. We have the first proto-metal song, folk, Caribbean influenced pop, surf rock, ballads, and later, downright exprimental things that simply cannot be classified, like “Revolution 9” (which, like all respectable Beatles fans, I loathe).

The last track I want to mention is “Goodnight.” Granted you made it this far, then you’ve just listened to one of the most famous and amazing albums in music history.

Though I’m not saying the Beatles were perfect and cannot be criticized in the least, like it or not, they are the most famous, most influential, most quintessential rock band in music history. And to me, The Beatles is their magnum opus.