An Album a Day: #7 Undertow

20 03 2013

Tool | UndertowI only got into Tool in the middle of last year when coming across the Sober video on Youtube, not even sure how I got there but that’s the benefit of the social web I suppose, we stumble across things on a limitless basis.

Don’t know whether it’s weird or just co-incidental but it’s also a debut album released in 1993 like that of my previous post!

However, other than the release year and the fact that it is a debut album, that is where the similarities end as the sound is far more alternative and progressive, but in the 90’s metal sense rather than the 70’s/80’s rock if you get my thought train?

It’s a cognizant album with many social issues, like drug addiction (seems to be a favourite of rock bands but then I suppose it goes with the territory), tackled in the content through the lyrics and vocals of Maynard James Keenan.

Personally I think he is a great singer and the band are well organised and know how to put across anger at the same time as creating great licks and riffs.

It’s the kind of album I put on when I have a bit of aggression to get rid of.

Album Score: 8 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork: 7 out of 10

Good album artwork really love the internal B&W photography but lacks lyrics which as you will know by now is a real bugbear of mine!

Track Listing:

  1. Intolerance
  2. Prison Sex
  3. Sober
  4. Bottom
  5. Crawl Away
  6. Swamp Song
  7. Undertow
  8. Flood
  9. Disgustipated

Favourite Track: Sober

Tomorrow’s Review: Much Against Everyones Advice – Soulwax

Next Selection: Truth be Told – Shed Seven

The ‘An Album a Day’  list so far.





An Album a Day: #6 Tuesday Night Music Club

20 03 2013

Sheryl Crow | Tuesday Night Music ClubShe has always been hot right? Personally I think she has got hotter as she has got older but that’s maybe as I’ve also got older. There is also something very appealing about a hot girl that can also play guitar – am I wrong? Tuesday Night Music Club was of course Sheryl Crow’s debut album and you can see from the album cover that this is a very young Sheryl Crow.

I will also make a small confession now as this post was supposed to happen yesterday but work commitments got the better of me so I am doubling up tonight.

It’s a solid album and very reflective of it’s era of the early 1990’s, the sound is something I would simply describe as soft rock but is often pigeon-holed as pop rock or country rock, for me there is not as much a country influence as in one of my previous posts, The Jayhawks, and I would say that Sheryl is much more effective in her song writing and delivery with a more rounded sound that is not afraid to try something different like in Solidify which has a sound and tempo very reminiscent of funk.

A couple of very famous tracks were born out of this album with Run, Baby, Run and All I Wanna Do gaining a lot of radio airplay and were more the Sheryl Crow sound that we grew to love.

A good solid album with some excellent tracks that really gives a picture of the early 1990’s and where fashion and style were going.

Album Score: 7 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork: 7 out of 10

Really good sleeve (internally) not so sure about the photo of Sheryl on the front though, very late 80’s in it’s styling! All the lyrics re-produced which is always a bonus.

Track Listing:

  1. Run, Baby, Run
  2. Leaving Las Vegas
  3. Strong Enough
  4. Can’t Cry Anymore
  5. Solidify
  6. The Na-Na Song
  7. No One Said It Would Be Easy
  8. What I Can Do For You
  9. All I Wanna Do
  10. We Do What We Can
  11. I Shall Believe

Favourite Track: Run, Baby, Run

Tomorrow’s Review: Undertow – Tool

Next Selection: Much Against Everyones Advice – Soulwax

The ‘An Album a Day’  list so far.





An Album a Day: #5 The Bends

18 03 2013

Radiohead - The BendsWow, what is there to say about this album that has not already been said? Not a lot in fairness. I remember where I was when I first heard it, I suppose that is something new?

I was working in a convenience store back in my home town and I used to work the really early Sunday morning shift to get all the newspapers ready. As the store was not officially open at that time of the day a colleague and myself always used to listen to a few CD’s, it was he that provided Radiohead. It was the first time I had heard them and instantly I got it, it seemed to hit a chord or nerve within me that has never since dissolved.

Songs of such brilliance and varying sounds around that guitar rock theme, Planet Telex is in my opinion one of the best opening tracks of all time, that almost electronic wind sound before the chords and the bass kick in is just sublime and seriously sets you up for the journey through this album.

It really is a journey and I find it hard to even find a weak track on the whole album. Each song presenting some deep set anger through the aural bliss of five very tight musicians that really know how to layer sound. Yes some of this comes in production but it has to ultimately come from the artist.

It is an album that shows some of the raw youth of Pablo Honey but shows a band that have performed together for a few years and have added a certain level of maturity to their sound, that rawness is still evident in Just, Bones and My Iron Lung but the sophistication comes across in The Bends and Fake Plastic Trees.

It seems a contradiction but there is also an edginess and gentle caress of naivety in tracks like [nice dream], bullet proof and of course Street Spirit but I think that this is more of a constructed naivety, a sound that the band was trying to create rather than genuine innocence in the music.

It has been a real pleasure writing about one of my all time favourite albums and it is still a CD that garners a huge amount of hours of use in my house and along with OK Computer drew myself and my now wife together back in the early 2000’s. That shared understanding of what Radiohead really means.

Album Score: 10 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork: 9 out of 10

Excellent sleeve with all of the lyrics reproduced and with a real ‘angsty’ styling to the artwork, as I said I really did get it and still haven’t stopped getting it!.

Track Listing:

  1. Planet Telex
  2. The Bends
  3. High and Dry
  4. Fake Plastic Trees
  5. Bones
  6. (Nice Dream)
  7. Just
  8. My Iron Lung
  9. Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was
  10. Black Star
  11. Sulk
  12. Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Favourite Track: Just

Tomorrow’s Review: Tuesday Night Music Club – Sheryl Crow

Next Selection: Undertow – Tool

The ‘An Album a Day’  list so far.





An Album a Day: #4 Hollywood Town Hall

17 03 2013

The Jayhawks - Hollywood Town HallI got into Alt County in the late 90’s early 2000’s with bands like Giantsand and Lambchop, so this is how I came across The Jayhawks. Although not typically Alt country in their sound, Country Rock would be the more appropriate term, there is some similarity.

This album, originally released in 1992, was the bands 3rd full length album release and their first on the major Def American label.

There is a huge country influence on the album – obviously! – and this provides the band with their bread and butter sound, the harmonised vocals between Mark Olsen and Gary Louris is typical of the way the Jayhawks work. This is evidenced on tracks such as Clouds and Crowded in the Wings.

The album has some hints of later artists like Counting Crows and Hootie and the Blowfish but especially in the case of Counting Crows, The Jayhawks of a much more guitar-centric sound. Olsen and Louris mix the acoustic and electric sounds very nicely and the addition of organ and piano on Two Angels and Martins Song adds a much more rounded sound.

Country Rock can at times, in my opinion of course, come across quite cheesy and repetitive and on this album although tracks are similar there is a lot more depth to the recordings and the musical process. It is quite simply very easy to listen to and no doubt appeals more to a US audience than a European one.

There is nothing wrong with the album and the band are all very accomplished musicians but for me I have to look at what I continually go back to and listen to over and over again, categorically this is not one of those albums. Now whilst I am trying to review things objectively in this blogging process my taste always has to influence me, I have to be glaringly honest otherwise what is the point and ultimately it’s my blog!

Think more “Eagles” of the Hotel California ilk than anything refreshingly new.

Album Score: 7 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork: 8 out of 10

The album sleeve is very good with some fantastic black and white photos of the band by Andrew Catlin, there is also a nice written piece by Joe Henry which shifts from the norm.

Track Listing:

  1. Waiting for the Sun
  2. Crowded in the Wings
  3. Clouds
  4. Two Angels
  5. Take Me with You (When You Go)
  6. Sister Cry
  7. Settled Down Like Rain
  8. Wichita
  9. Nevada, California
  10. Martin’s Song
  11. Leave No Gold [Bonus track on European CD]

Favourite Track: Crowded in the Wings

Tomorrow’s Review: The Bends – Radiohead

Next Selection: Tuesday Night Music Club – Sheryl Crow

The ‘An Album a Day’  list so far.





An Album a Day: #3 Your New Favourite Band

16 03 2013

The Hives - Your New Favourite BandThis album is pure power punk garage pop brilliance, well actually it’s more a compilation of previous releases, but for the sake of this blog it becomes an album.

Released on the Poptones label back in 2001 the band reached the heights of number 7 in the UK album charts.

The sound is raw, energetic and really makes me feel-good, I remember using “Hate to say I told you so” as my going out track, a bit of a warm-up for the night ahead. I think it is the fun nature of both the band and their sound that emanates this feeling.

Although there seems to be some anger in the way they perform and record and think that some of the appeal is the way that they don’t take themselves too seriously. This has also contributed to their commercial success. If you had long drawn out tracks with major changes in tempo and key then they would become tiresome and pompous but with no track on this album lasting longer than 3:22 you can see why they got some much air time. You cannot fail to like them.

The package, the timing, the length for the target audience and that raw garage sound is in essence almost perfect, but that is just my opinion. I enjoyed this album when it was released and I am enjoying even more today as I write about it. Perfect driving music for a long road trip!

Album Score: 9 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork:  7 out of 10

What the sleeve lacks in depth it makes up for in content, it is a simple one sheet folded over but contains the usual production notes, and my favourite thing about sleeves – the complete set of lyrics. The Hives certainly are my New Favourite Band!

Track Listing:

  1. Hate to Say I Told You So
  2. Main Offender
  3. Supply and Demand
  4. Die, All Right!
  5. Untutored Youth
  6. Outsmarted
  7. Mad Man
  8. Here We Go Again
  9. A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T
  10. Automatic Schmuck
  11. Hail Hail Spit N’ Drool
  12. The Hives Are Law, You Are Crime

Favourite Track: Hate To Say I Told You So

Tomorrow’s Review: Hollywood Town Hall – The Jayhawks

Next Selection: The Bends – Radiohead





An Album a Day: #2 Green

15 03 2013

REM - GreenIt was those two ‘classic’ albums Out of Time and Automatic for the People that introduced me to REM in the mid-90’s and it was those two albums that then encouraged me to delve into the back catalog, hence I picked up Green.

The album was originally released in 1988 and was REM’s first major label release for Warner Bros. I always find it interesting that REM are generally regarded as an Alternative Rock band, when in fact there is more of a pop element to the music they create which is why over time they have generated so much success commercially. Almost makes me wonder if Alternative Rock is the description used for those we cannot pigeonhole into other genre’s!

Sometimes I think we forget that REM were born in the 1980’s and that sound is certainly prevalent on Green although at the same time due to Stipes vocals it is unmistakably REM.

This album has some real gems on it with the more ‘poppy’ and commercial sound of Stand and Orange Crush juxtaposed with the more sedate and laid back Hairshirt and You Are Everything. You can certainly get the indication of the direction the REM sound was moving on Green with a lot of hints of what Out of Time and Automatic for the People were going to contain.

Album Score: 8 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork:  6 out of 10

You have to remember that this album was released in 1988 and it was still in the early days of CD, it contains all the usual production notes and weirdly the whole lyric for World Leader Pretend but nothing of the other tracks.

Track Listing:

  1. Pop Song 89
  2. Get Up
  3. You Are the Everything
  4. Stand
  5. World Leader Pretend
  6. The Wrong Child
  7. Orange Crush
  8. Turn You Inside-Out
  9. Hairshirt
  10. I Remember California
  11. 11

Favourite Track: I Remember California

Tomorrow’s Review: Your New Favourite Band – The Hives

Next Selection: Hollywood Town Hall – The Jayhawks





An Album a Day: #1 Murray Street

14 03 2013

Sonic Youth - Murray StreetI approached this first review in my series with some trepidation. This is due in part to my own feelings regarding Sonic Youth. I own two albums by the New York alt rockers and neither have ever featured highly on my listening list and both just garnering a few listens over time.

I think I fell in love with the idea of Sonic Youth and what they as a band represented rather than the actual sound of Sonic Youth, which has to be said at times alternates between melodic, noisy and chaotic.

The album opens with one of the more accessible and radio-friendly tracks on the album, The Empty Page, not that Sonic Youth have ever been about being radio-friendly. Simple layered guitars with Thurston Moore’s relaxed vocals that builds to a medium tempo and a more layered bridge section before rounding off with a cacophony of noise at around the halfway point only to bring you back down to the original style of the track with some nice delicate guitar playing which explores the motif of the starting riff.

One of the biggest things about this album is the contrast not only within tracks but across tracks and also between Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon’s vocals. Gordon’s strained, off-kilter sound is none more prevalent on the very post-punk sounding Plastic Sun which at 2:14 is the shortest track on the album. I was going to be kind of defamatory towards Gordon but changed my tact, I was going to say that at times the vocal is out of key, but in fact it is not and it is just part of the way the track is supposed to build and if it was sung in any other manner it just wouldn’t work.

There is no doubt that Sonic Youth has a distinct sound that is very lo-fi in the recording technique, more about a raw sound, almost like a live recording at times, but that is what creates and adds to the appeal. I think this is most obvious in a track like Plastic Sun but also with the layering and flowing of Sympathy for the Strawberry – the last track on my version of the album. It builds magnificently, with just lovely layered guitars, drums and bass for the first 3 minutes before a very naive and innocent sounding Gordon comes in with the vocals.

Overall I have enjoyed giving this album a thorough listening to, part of what this project was about it has to be said. I don’t think it will get into my top 10 albums of all time but it is definitely growing on me.

Album Score: 7 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork:  5 out of 10

The sleeve notes are somewhat lacking with a few band and live fan pictures in the interior and the usual track listing and production notes, I like lyrics but they haven’t been re-produced on this album. I would probably have marked this lower but for the cover image of two young girls picking what looks like strawberry’s under a blue netting.

Track Listing:

  1. The Empty Page
  2. Disconnection Notice
  3. Rain on Tin
  4. Karen Revisited
  5. Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style
  6. Plastic Sun
  7. Sympathy for the Strawberry

Tomorrow’s Review: Green, REM

Tomorrow’s Selection: Your New Favourite Band – The Hives








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