In order to keep up with my attempt to write about other subjects along with gaming, I decided to start this series of posts. I am somebody who is constantly listening to new records, even though my taste in music is really narrow as I only love rock, so I figured that from now on, I would write a blog every month about a few - or all of - the new albums I listened to or revisited during the previous month. So here is the first edition.
Album: Lex Hives
Artist: The Hives
Released: June 5th, 2012
Highlights: Go Right Ahead, These Spectacles Reveal the Nostalgics, If I Had a Cent, Midnight Shifter
I give a lot of credit for The Hives. Through over a decade they have written a total of five albums, and even though they have barely changed their style or experimented with new sounds, I keep being deeply engaged with their work, even though I always say that a band's main quality is their ability to change, take risks and succeed in doing so, never touching the same ground more than once. Maybe it is because of the sheer energy those five Swedish guys sport both on record or on stage, or perhaps it is the sincerity that lies in their ability to be spontaneous while playing songs with absolutely ridiculous lyrics. Whatever the reason, the thing is those guys keep going strong even if the garage rock revival of the early 2000s - when they exploded to the world - is far behind us.
Lex Hives is a return to form after the dull The Black and White Album, which followed the stellar Tyrannosaurus Hives. The album does have its weak moments, such as in the weird mix between We Will Rock You and Back in Black that they try to do in "I Want More"; or the awkward "Without the Money", where Pelle tries - and expectedly fails - to carry a tune with only his voice. Other than that, it is an album bursting with energy, vicious constant guitar riffs, blasting out-of-tune but very well placed backing vocals and the melodic hooks they pull off so well. They kick off by shouting Come on over fifty times through the ninety seconds of the opening tune, and until they wrap things up with the impressive "Midnight Shifter" it is hard not to feel like getting up from your chair and trying to imitate one of the band's outrageous on-stage antics.
Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Artist: David Bowie
Released: June 6th, 1972
Highlights: Five Years, Starman, Lady Stardust, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City
David Bowie is, undeniably, a man of many faces, both in a fashion and musical sense. He is someone who could have easily written a dozen albums like The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - considered to be his most brilliant piece. He, however, chose to experiment so much and wear so many different faces that his amazing career has many successes and plenty of duds. If there is something that could be called classic Bowie, then Ziggy Stardust has got to be it. It is a very loose rock opera about the human manifestation of an alien who tries to spread a positive message among humans after it is revealed that the earth will cease to exist. Even though there is a general storyline, it is hard to identify it in some songs, which by no means diminishes the value of the album and benefits listeners in letting them come up with their own interpretation for the tunes.
"Starman" might be the album's signature tune, but songs like the strong "Five Years", the energetic "Suffragate City" which, with its catchy and constant "Hey man!" shouts, sounds exactly like a rock song from the 70s should sound like; and "Lady Stardust", a good-humored shot Bowie decided to take at his Glam Rock rival, Marc Bolan, all prove to be either equally impressive or better than the world-famous single. After writing The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Bowie went on in search of new sound waves to explore in order to challenge his genius, so it is wrong to say that he tried and failed to write something as good as this ever again. He was smart enough not to try such folly, because as brilliant as he is, this special kind of inspiration only comes to an artist once in a lifetime.
Album: Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King
Artist: Dave Matthews Band
Released: June 2nd, 2009
Highlights: Lying in the Hands of God, Dive In, Seven, Time Bomb, Baby Blue
Before deciding to give Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King and try, I had heard a lot about Dave Matthews Band, especially regarding how big of a live act they are. As it turns out, they are also a fantastic band in the studio. As a lyricist, Dave Matthews is rather inconsistent. His attempts at writing dirty sexual lyrics border on awkward such as in the song "Seven" - which is rescued by the amazing arrangement and groove that backs it up - and his observations on the state of the world, like he does on "Funny the Way It Is" are more obvious than intriguing. He does, however, succeed to a certain degree when he turns inwards and decides to write about feelings and emotions, something that is highlighted on "Baby Blue", "Dive In", "Spaceman" and "You and Me".
Fortunately, while his lyrics do occasionally stumble considerably, his and his band mates ability to come up with beautiful and groovy instrumental sections never fails. As it is to be expected from a band that has a violinist, a saxophonist and a trumpeter on its lineup, Dave Matthews Band is a group that has huge musical flexibility to explore either moody pieces laid-back pieces or more jazzy tunes, or even go out on a limb and find a weird balance between those two areas. Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King takes great advantage of that lineup characteristic and goes everywhere, landing on standard rock tunes, ballads, songs that are heavy on horns and pipes and hard-rocking music. And wherever it goes, it never fails.
Artist: The Cure
Released: May 1st, 2989
Highlights: Pictures of You, Lovesong, Lullaby, Disintegration, Untitled
It is weird to think of Disintegration as The Cure's commercial peak. Yes, "Lovesong" and "Lullaby" are two of the catchiest and easy-to-digest songs that Robert Smith has ever penned, but other than that, Disintegration is deep, dense and quite complex. If The Cure's career can be divided into two distinct moments - their time as a three-piece and as a five-piece band - then Disintegration is the culmination of what working as a group of five very talented instrumentalists allowed them to do. The album was written when Robert Smith was closing in on thirty, and when he realized that most rock legends wrote their masterpieces before reaching that age, he locked himself up, fell into a deep depression and the result of those sessions is Disintegration, which - like the Beach Boys and their Pet Sounds - proves that there is a certain connection between brilliant musicians locking themselves up and putting pressure on their shoulders and the creating of historic albums.
As expected from its context, it is hard to find an album that is as dark as Disintegration. Most of the songs consist of very lengthy instrumental intros with haunting keyboards and shy guitars that spell delicate but strong and moody riffs leading to Robert Smith's mumbling vocals about love lost, solitude, and other somber themes. There are barely any choruses to be found, but the incredible ambition found within the tunes, the pleasant quest to figure out what exactly Smith is singing on most of those songs where his vocals are buried into the mix and the looming tension that comes with the album's production that left the sound incredibly spacious will keep your ears wide open through all of the album's seventy one minutes. Great artists put their mind and soul into their works, and it is hard to deny that Disintegration is the intriguing reflection of what the man who wrote it was living.
Ziggy Stardust is one of my favourite albums, though the best Bowie record for me will always be Diamond Dogs (that's excluding David Live of course).
Love David Bowie's music, though the only albums I have of his are "Low" and "Station To Station." Been meaning to get more of his stuff.
Have not heard any of these albums. I dont really listen to recent or mainstream music. Mostly older stuff from the 80s or 90s. Only current band I kinda like is Keane but just a few songs.
I feel like music nowadays is all the same in a way. Even when someone tries to be different it comes off cliche and trendy to me. I dont know, sorry I sound so down here,lol.
@wildcat2000 I see where you are coming from. I can't get into most modern music, I enjoy the classics greatly, though.
I liked reading your thoughts on the albums you like. Despite playing, listening to, and talking about music with my friends on a near-constant basis, I've never been able to successfully write about anything music-related in a non-technical way. One of these days I just have to sit down and force myself to write a full, reasonably accessible album review.
@WTA2k5 Thanks! If you sit down to write something, I am sure you will come up with something great!
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