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Monday, April 30, 2012

Coldplay -- Parachutes

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6/10

Coldplay's debut album starts off interestingly enough. Chris Martin insists "We live in a beautiful world" on album opener, "Don't Panic," but his band seem less certain, the guitar and drums sliding through offsetting rhythms. "Don't Panic" holds the same honor as "The Guns of Brixton" from The Clash album I (not controversially) reviewed last week: it backs up a really great scene from the excellent show, "Rescue Me."

After a strong, ambiguous start, the rest rest of the album is just vaguely pleasant to the point that it's almost not pleasant anymore. This is sort of "rock" music, if rock music incited a nice mid-day nap instead of rioting. "Don't Panic" is a take from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but that series' final work, "Mostly Harmless" could be an alternate title for Parachutes.  While Parachutes is almost gratingly gentle, it's not necessarily bad--there's something there, even if what it is isn't quite tangible. The musicianship is decent, the songs are mixed well (if you've got a bass player, might as well let everybody hear him, right?), there's some atmosphere, and it doesn't go on longer than it needs. It seems like Coldplay have a decent head on their shoulders, but could use a little ambition. And, no, creating a safer version of "Subterranean Homesick Alien" does not fill that quota:



2000 Nettwerk
1. Don't Panic 2:16
2. Shiver 4:59
3. Spies 5:18
4. Sparks 3:47
5. Yellow 4:29
6. Trouble 4:30
7. Parachutes 0:46
8. High Speed 4:14
9. We Never Change 4:09
10. Everything's Not Lost 7:16

The Indian Sub-Continent is Also Capable of Producing Pretty Music


It's kind of like if Further Seems Forever's second record had an awesome mode.  If you aren't feeling it, wait for it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

And Now, Introducing the Dark Lords of Adult Contemporary Music...Coldplay!

coldplay-coldplay-24571452-1280-1024
I have reached "Col," and only one band in my collection begins with these three letters.  But just who is this band anyway?  Radiohead without testicles?  Dressed up easy listening? Secret geniuses?  I am not sure, but I will figure out how I feel next week because it is time to review the catalog of Coldplay, one of the most divisive bands in The Nicsperiment collection.
Yes, Coldplay, despite your best efforts to remain inoffensive, you have created musical strife, for the questions stand: Are you good? Are you bad? Are you neither?  Who can answer such questions?
THE NICSPERIMENT, THAT'S WHO.  DUH, AREN'T YOU PAYING ATTENTION???!!!
See you next week.  Enjoy the days between!

This Friday Just Got Even More Awesome

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Walking a marathon does not permit blogging, but hey, that was yesterday, and today I just found out some great news for TV/Sci-Fi Nerds. Remember Firefly? Well, this post isn't about Firefly, but remember it?
A good show that quickly built up a rabid fan-base, then got canned by the FOX network?
And then millions of angry nerds essentially got FOX-executive voodoo dolls and burned them?
Well, thank you, Firefly, for teaching FOX a lesson. Somehow FOX has let the Sci-Fi program Fringe stay on the air for the last four years. There has been serious talk about the show getting cancelled this year because FOX is losing money on it. How much of a miracle is it then that instead of cancelling Fringe immediately, Firefly-style, FOX just struck a deal for a fifth and final season. This has got to re-build some goodwill in Sci-fi fans' hearts toward the network that gave us nine years of the best show that ever aired.
Thanks, FOX!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Codeseven -- Dancing Echoes/Dead Sounds

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8/10 

In the mid-90's, I enjoyed almost nothing more than staying up after midnight to watch Late Night with Conan O'Brien. For the infamous Christmas of 1993, I received a TV Tuner for my Sega Game Gear, the battery-sucking handheld, full-color video-game system.  The TV Tuner turned the Game Gear into a 3-inch, rabbit-eared TV set, and almost just in time for Conan O'Brien's late night debut.  As a lifelong insomniac, I immediately latched onto O'Brien's bizarre late night universe, and what a wonderful escape it was.  I don't think anything like it has been seen on television before or since (Jimmy Fallon has admittedly made the program his own since he was handed the reins to the show in 2009, but it's a completely different show now).  Conan, Andy Richter, Max Weinberg, and their crew created a self-contained world that made me feel at home.  One of my favorite show segments was the deliriously disgusting "If They Mated," which showed photographs of the potential offspring of Hollywood power couples.  The bit would start with simply mashing photos of the lovebirds together into a grotesque pastiche, then de-evolve into insanity.

The absolute best part of this video is the 4:30 mark, where Conan builds up a Val Kilmer/Nicole Kidman mash-up that ends in the most hilariously unfunny climax possible.  Brilliant.
This intro was completely unnecessary outside of an excellent nostalgia break for me, and a really weak segue into...
What if the The Appleseed Cast's Low Level Owl mated with The Juliana Theory's Emotion Is Dead, and gave birth to a child who grew up to marry and mate with Dredg's El Cielo? Well, erase the what if, because that really happened, and that child's name is Dancing Echoes/Dead Sounds, by a band called Codeseven.  While Dancing Echoes/Dead Sounds may not be quite as hot as its parents, especially the super-sexy Appleseed Cast, it ain't Brad Pitt and Gwenyth Paltrow's faces horrendously melted together, either.  Even better, like most children, Dancing Echoes/Dead Sounds has a personality all its own.
I could go off on the tangent of how I purchased this album on a faint 8-year old memory of a positive review from Decoy Music.  I could talk about how listening to this album surprisingly set the pace for the solo road trip where it debuted upon my ears (neither as, nor less dirty than it sounds).  Instead, I'll just talk about the album (finally).
Dancing Echoes/Dead Sounds is one of those albums that just flows.  Even when it gets repetitive in patches, the album moves on before you want to skip anything.  The fact that it gets off to an extremely strong start definitely doesn't hurt. "All the Best Dreams" takes its sweet time building to its chorus, but when it does, it's unforgettable. Actually, the two-minute build makes the chorus all the better. It's an explosion of music and beautiful vocals, a rallying call, as if to say, "I am Awake."

Dancing Echoes/Dead Sounds is one of those rare, early morning albums, and after its initial outburst, the album slides on dreamily. The rest of  Dancing Echoes/Dead Sounds never reaches the heights of it's first song, but that isn't such a bad thing. The grooves and spacey moments the band finds after this get the job done to the point that almost every time I finish a listen, I just want to start it over. The lyrics are semi-nonsensical gibberish, semi-this relationship ain't working out, classic "I'm kind of arty, but girls still like me" stuff. Nothing wrong with that in the right dose, and the French, flora, and fauna track titles just hit the sweet spot. So while this album might not quite be an all-time classic, it's still a go-to-anytime one for sure. If this band hadn't broken up, maybe they would have done something even better...wait, they're back together?!

2004 Equal Vision
1 La Mémoire Réincarnée 0:38
2 All the Best Dreams 3:58
3 Pathetic Justice 3:48
4 Nasty Little Revolution 4:53
5 Quails Dream 1:52
6 Roped and Tide 4:25
7 The Day That Doesn't End 4:54
8 Shalo 2:15
9 Alt Wav 3:41
10 The Devils Interval 4:20
11 Cherry Tree 1:15
12 Sunflower 5:12

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Clash -- London Calling

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7/10

I have been lazily putting off writing a review for The Clash's London Calling. This is one of those albums you are told is hugely important and world changing, yet if you mentioned it in a crowd, a lot of people would shrug, not knowing what you were talking about.  Billions of people in the western world, including those who were in their teens and twenties when London Calling was released not only have never heard it--they don't even know who The Clash is.  Most of what music journalism looks at as musical turning points are really nothing more than music journalism turning points.  My early experience with The Clash is based solely on a few kind words from my father and movie or commercial placement of "Should I Stay or Should I Go."  It wasn't until after college that I actually heard London Calling.
Journalists like to label The Clash as a "punk" band, but London Calling is not punk at all in terms of tempo or aggressiveness. I guess it is punk on the basis that it is a little political and sounds rough.  The main vocalist (the guitarist sings lead on some songs, too, as does the bassist) sounds like he is shout-singing with his tongue hanging out his mouth (RIP Joe Strummer).  I listened to the album a couple of times, latched on to a few songs, but didn't get the hype.  Yes, it fused a few genres decently, but so what?
I can't really go into the cultural importance of London Calling because it came out two years before I was born, and that stuff gets so muddled by the media and history, it's impossible to know the truth.  All I can do is listen to the album a bunch of times and figure out if I like it or not.  I gave the album more spins after my initial few listens and could say I liked it well enough.  I haven't listened to it a ton in the last three or four years, except for the six or seven times in the past week to try to form some sort of opinion for this review.  Thankfully, I run this blog, so I can say whatever I want however I want to...I think writing a concise, streamlined, masses-ready review of London Calling wouldn't make sense or be fair to the album.  Let's just start with the parts I like:
"London Calling," the first track, is appropriately ominous.  It conjures images of foggy streetlights and riverbanks flooding over dark city blocks.  "Brand New Cadillac" begins to shed the dark sound, and I like that by "Jimmy Jazz," track three, the album sounds like a party.  When the trippy, reggae-tinged "The Guns of Brixton" first passed through my speakers, I thought, "This is great.  This sounds like something Rescue Me would use to make a crazy night out montage at the end of an episode."  A couple years later, what do you know:

They must have been reading my mind.  Man, what a great show.  Anyway...
Speaking of great, London Calling has one truly classic song that is good no matter how it is classified or historically looked upon.  That song is "Lost in the Supermarket," a song about a kid who grows up in a lifeless apartment building separated from anything real, and who looks for some sort of commercial salvation.  It is a great song, easily identified with, enjoyable to hear.

London Calling also has a great fakeout ending. Penultimate-track "Revolution Rock" goes on and on until it seems like nothing could follow it, and indeed, it is the last track listed on the record. But this is all lies. "Train in Vain" starts right up after "Revolution Rock" and it's easily one of the best songs London Calling has to offer. Strangely, I find that I like the songs the lead guitarist or bassist sings on far more than the ones the lead vocalist sings. Is that Clash blasphemy? Here is what I don't like about London Calling:
It goes on forever. This is a double-album, but it could easily be culled down to one. "The Right Profile," "Wrong 'Em Boyo," "Lover's Rock," cut, cut, cut. Yes, I'm actually saying this. Just because people tell you something is good doesn't mean you can't criticize it. London Calling's long running time also highlights something, and I've mentioned it already: the lead vocalist's singing can be a lot to take--sixty-five minutes of it is tough to bear, even with other band-members taking the microphone from time to time. The Clash followed London Calling with a triple-album, and I can't even fathom listening to the sound of that singing for close to that long. It is not for me.
So for me, as a modern day listener (it's always the present), London Calling is a good album that could be much better with some major culling. It's a fun listen in chunks, but there is no great tangible weight of its history in every decibel. Yes, I'm giving The Clash's London Calling a seven out of ten. This is happening.

 1979 Epic
1. London Calling 3:19
2. Brand New Cadillac 2:08
3. Jimmy Jazz 3:54
4. Hateful 2:44
5. Rudie Can't Fail 3:29
6. Spanish Bombs 3:18
7. The Right Profile 3:54
8. Lost in the Supermarket 3:47
9. Clampdown 3:49
10. The Guns of Brixton 3:09
11. Wrong 'Em Boyo 3:10
12. Death or Glory 3:55
13. Koka Kola 1:47
14. The Card Cheat 3:49
15. Lover's Rock 4:03
16. Four Horsemen 2:55
17. I'm Not Down 3:06
18. Revolution Rock 5:33
19. Train in Vain 3:10

Monday, April 23, 2012

Good Parenting 101

You know you are doing a good job as a parent when you are driving and hear this from your two year old son in his car seat: "I want to listen to music. I want to listen to...Peter Gabriel."
So Peter Gabriel it was.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The City Harmonic -- Introducing the City Harmonic

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6/10 

The City Harmonic starts off their debut EP sounding excitingly close to their name.  "I Wonder," "Manifesto," and "My God" all sound like a wintry walk to church through an electrifying city night, lights bright through shop windows, snow falling from the sky.  The fourth track, "Coming My Way" mixes things up with a sort of weird African-chant like chorus--in the melody, not the actual vocals.  Sadly, the final two tracks are standard CCM fare.  The moment the generic guitar and dreary vocal melody of "I Am" began, I felt my shoulders droop, and this sadly leads into more of the same for the closing track, "What I want."  Where are the big bells, the song-leading piano melodies, and the heavy drum beats of the first half?  What happened to the soaring vocal melodies of that opening trio?  That opening half sounds not only original, but full of life, two things the CCM Worship genre habitually lacks.  Here is a band who appears able to transcend the doldrums of their field, and yet just when it looks like a new star is taking flight, they get snowed in.  I hope their full lengths rise to the heights the beginning of this EP promises.


2010 Kingsway Music
1. I Wonder 4:01
2. Manifesto 5:15
3. My God 4:13
4. Coming My Way 2:46
5. I Am 4:27
6. What I want 4:43

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Christina Aguilera -- Back to Basics

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7/10

Alright, this one breaks the rules of this project a little bit.  I bought this album for my wife when we were engaged...six (million?) years ago.  She played it so many times, though, I feel like I might as well have just bought it for myself.  Back to Basics somehow ended up in the bank of music I'm reviewing, so why not revisit it?  For pop music, it seemed pretty decent six years ago.  What does it sound like now that I'm not being forced to listen to it?
Alright, I do have to join my wife in a recent opinion.  Considering most of this album is about Aguilera falling in love with her now ex-husband, and my wife played this non-stop during our own fires of love period, listening to it does make me feel kind of funny.  I'll try to look at this album subjectively, but that attempt will probably get boned. Who cares anyway...
I haven't heard any other Christian Aguilera songs except stuff on the radio coming out of other people's cars.  What I heard, I didn't really like.  I remember seeing some thing on VH1 where Disney had to bring her in to hit some note no one one else could for their Mulan movie, so I know she can sing.  Now that I listen to this without my tongue in somebody else's mouth, I can clearly hear that she can sing great, but she also does that thing where she has to get all crazy every two or three minutes.  It's not that bad, though, and at least she can do it well.  The retro thing she goes for in the music of Back to Basics works for her, too. She name drops a lot of classic artists, but to be honest, the music just kind of sounds like the basic public recollection of what such music should sound like.  That isn't an insult (the fact that I say that so much either proves I'm not confident in my points, aren't making them well, or are in fact being insulting...nah, just kidding, it's because I'm that rare combination of honest and nice, right?)--(that parenthetical was so long, don't even act like you remember what the intro to this sentence is, or why there is even a dash here) the weird pastiche she settles on strikes just the right chord of old, lazy-Saturday nostalgia (Sorry if that doesn't make any sense.  I mean like a combination of every laid-back Saturday from 1900-2006.  Does that make sense?  I don't know, my wife and I took a lot of Saturday drives during that Back to Basics time period.  Whatever, stop hating on my parentheticals.)
Check this song out.  It's modern and old, and all about XTina, just like all the other songs on this album (Also, check out the shallowness. Aguilera name-drops God and how important He is to her throughout the album, then admits that if she lost her lover, she wouldn't believe in Him anymore.  Is God her lover? Is her lover god? Does she even know? AM I JUST MAKING EXCUSES TO CREATE A PARENTHETICAL NOW?!?! The song is pretty despite her theological inconsistencies, I guess.  If you are looking to Christina for a Bible lesson, you are suffering from a severe lack of role models. Why am I even writing this review?)

Nice retro-keyboard in the bridge! Also, did you read that awesome parenthetical I wrote above about XTina's grasp on theology? I think that might apply to her concept of the term "Dedication to Fans." This is written in XTina's very own parenthetical on disc one's final track, "Thank You (Dedication to Fans)," a song full of answering machine messages where fans praise XTina and tell her how awesome she is. If  XTina was a literal title-person, this track would be called "Thank You (Dedicated to MEEEEEE)". Anyway, everything I just said pertains to the FIRST DISC ONLY. There's a second one, and it's different. I left the producers names on the credits below so you can see the writing credit differences (like you care, imaginary reader that somehow impossibly got to this point in the review). Now on to the second disc (The first one does self-consciously end with a fan spouting the phrase, "I am just a huge fan, and I cannot wait to hear what is coming next.").
What's coming next are two more tracks introducing XTina, except now she is in some kind of burlesque-circus, old New York type environment, and the things she is singing about seem a little more naked. I kind of mean literally, because there are a lot of songs about getting it on on this disc, and they involve bodily fluids and she sings these songs just fine, and whether you want to hear songs like this or not, it's definitely true that the second disc of Back to Basics DOES NOT sound like the first disc, just like how in this part of the review I am going to use run-on sentences instead of parentheticals because I have moved on now, jeez get a clue.
It's not just XTina's butt that gets naked though, it's her emotions, too, or something. Seriously the last four tracks are all surprisingly personal confessions about dealing with loss and asking for forgiveness (her second-disc theology is on the same level as the first disc...kind of a 45-degree angle...CRAP, this was supposed to be the parenthetical-free run-on sentence section!!!) and how difficult of a person she is to deal with and how she finally found "The Right Man" (but dangit, that went about as well as me not using parentheticals, and it's such a big song, it's a shame the promises it holds ended up not coming true for her
).
Anyway, this is pretty good stuff for a big pop album. It sure beats all the Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguilera stuff that was really big right when I got out of high school. Wait...DOH! Yes, this is better than "Genie In a Bottle" and "I'm Half-Naked and Dirty and Punching People," and all that older Aguilera stuff, and any other fluff pop crap, too. This woman might be a little insane, but it's inarguable that she just went ahead and did whatever she wanted on this album no matter how messy it was and more often than not it works, now there, finally I got my run-on sentence.

2006 BMG
Disc 1
1 Intro (Back to Basics) Aguilera, Darnell, DioGuardi, Hawkins… 1:47
2 Makes Me Wanna Pray Aguilera, DioGuardi, Harrison… 4:10
3 Back in the Day Aguilera, Castor, Costa, DioGuardi… 4:13
4 Ain't No Other Man Aguilera, Beatty, DioGuardi, Martin… 3:48
5 Understand Agulera, DioGuardi, Holland… 3:46
6 Slow Down Baby Aguilera, Angry, DioGuardi, Guest… 3:29
7 Oh Mother Aguilera, Barratier, Colais, Rankin… 3:46
8 F.U.S.S. Aguilera, DioGuardi, Roane 2:21
9 On Our Way Aguilera, DioGuardi, Rankin, Thornton… 3:36
10 Without You Aguilera, DioGuardi, Lewis, Ronson 3:56
11 Still Dirrty Aguilera, DioGuardi, Martin 3:46
12 Here to Stay Aguilera, Allen, Holley, Jackson… 3:19
13 Thank You (Dedication to Fans) Aguilera, DioGuardi, Frank, Kipner… 4:58

 Disc 2
1 Enter the Circus Aguilera, Perry 1:42
2 Welcome Aguilera, Ill, Perry, Ronson 2:42
3 Candyman Aguilera, Perry 3:14
4 Nasty Naughty Boy Aguilera, Perry 4:45
5 I Got Trouble Aguilera, Perry 3:44
6 Hurt Aguilera, Perry, Ronson 4:03
7 Mercy on Me Aguilera, Perry 4:33
8 Save Me From Myself Aguilera, Bottrell, Perry 3:13
9 The Right Man Aguilera, Perry 3:51

Hey, STFU, Hollywood and Yahoo

I like Julia Louis-Dreyfus as an actress as much as anyone--she's hilarious and she's aging well. But this video is just a reminder of how hypocritically stupid Hollywood can be. When asked who Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, should select as a running mate, Louis-Dreyfus says, "One of his Cadillacs."

I don't really care about Mitt Romney, but celebrities with seventeen houses probably shouldn't attack politicians for being rich. I seriously doubt that Louis-Dreyfus drives a Sentra, the designated, affordable Nicsperiment method of transportation. She should probably not throw rocks from her mansion(s).
Then again, Yahoo (free e-mail notwithstanding) sucks for highlighting articles like this as their top news stories of the day.
Yahoo clearly has an agenda.  When Romney battled Santorum, Yahoo sure found some nice things to say about Romney, and some disparaging remarks to say about his adversary.  Since the moment it was clear Romney would be the man to face Obama, we get at least one lead story like this from Yahoo a day.  Yesterday it was this Louis-Dreyfus piece, today it's Roseanne Barr claiming that Romney's stay-at-home wife didn't really raise their five children on her own.
Seriously, this stuff isn't news, it's just moronic, issue-pushing bullshit from some of the least qualified to talk people on the planet.  These people are about six inches from pushing me past my, "I'm not going to vote for any of these sociopaths" position to, "I am going to vote for whomever about the media publishes the most disparaging fluff pieces."  To quote the most intelligent mind the world has never seen:
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

mewithoutYou + Hayley Williams = Your Brain Exploded

"Fox's Dream of a Log Flume"

Pre-Order the new album at right here.

Fringe: Season 2 Original Television Soundtrack -- Chris Tilton (With Michael Giacchino and J.J. Abrams)

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8/10

Fringe is a fantastic television show with many underlying themes.  One of the most enjoyable is the melding of archaism and futurism, typewriters sending messages across universes.  It makes sense that the show's soundtrack follows suit.  Classical instruments weave throughout many of the tracks, electronic instruments intertwine with them, and frequent, pounding percussion fuses them together. It may not be for everyone, but it certainly conjures up feelings of the show all on its own.
Composer Chris Tilton sounds a bit like his mentor, Michael Giacchino, who scored Fringe's pilot episode, has music found on this disc based on his themes, and who provides the show's "End Title Theme," also found on this disc.  While Giacchino frequently composes major films now (if you've seen a recent Pixar film, you've probably heard his music), I think Fringe's closing piece, though short, is some of his best work.

Twenty-seven out of twenty-nine tracks are Chris Tilton compositions, though, and Tilton is a distinct composer from Giacchino.  Giacchino's bombastic, theatrical style can be identified by listening to five seconds of any of his pieces.  That's not an insult--it's a testament to the individuality of his vision.  Tilton's work is more driving and mysterious, inspired by, but not derivative of his mentor.
The fusion of archaism and futurism is quite apparent on much of his work here, "Breach to the Choir" being a great example:

His work is similarly solid throughout, but his greatest achievement is the "Brown Betty Suite," a medley of noir and jazz-inspired music taken from the fantastical 19th episode of the second season. The diversity of this track is a testament to Tilton's skill as a composer. His moody arrangements on "Brown Betty Suite" reflect the rest of his work on Fringe, but through the lens of another time, place, and genre.

Of course, no review of a television soundtrack would be complete without a discussion of the opening theme music. Show-creator, J.J. Abrams, composes the opening themes for all of his shows. Abrams' original opening for Fringe appeared on the first season's soundtrack, but is redone as a real treat on this one--it's the remixed retro-version from the 1980's-set episode, "Peter," and I could listen to it a thousand times. (here it is just once)


2011 Varèse Sarabande
1. A New Day in the Old Town 1:44
2. Good Ol' Charlie 2:03
3. The Coma-Naut 5:27
4. Hypnotic Suggestions 1:08
5. Observers Everywhere Everytime 2:13
6. Love and Death on Observer Island 3:24
7. What a Gas 4:35
8. Forest of Dreams 3:27
9. Where Dunham Fears to Tread 1:55
10. The Building Theft 1:20
11. The Window of Opportunity 3:14
12. Reiden Out to Madness 3:56
13. Doppelganger Up on Reality 2:52
14. Breach to the Choir 3:32
15. Olivia's Cross to Share 0:58
16. Over There 2:14
17. The Son Also Rises 2:05
18. Devastation Nation 1:12
19. Saved by the Belly 2:27
20. Haste Makes Wasteland 1:36
21. Quibbles and Fits 3:20
22. Doubled Over 2:18
23. Love in the Time of Crossing Over 3:09
24. Bells and Missiles 3:54
25. Give My Regards to Fraudway 2:18
26. End Title Theme (Giacchino, Tilton) 0:35
27. Fringe 85 (Abrams, Tilton) 0:25
28. Red Russian Down 1:35
29. Brown Betty Suite 9:09

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chevelle -- Hats Off to the Bull

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9/10

Talk about keeping momentum. On Hats Off to the Bull, their sixth album in sixteen years, Chevelle sound just as energized as they did on Sci-Fi Crimes, even as they add new elements to their sound. Some are subtle, like the introduction of female vocals and 80's guitar tones on "Same Old Trip." Some are less so, and add new descriptors to the Chevelle lexicon of sound: theatrical, atmospheric, wistful, ethereal. This only tends to make Chevelle's more straight-forward rock songs more satisfying. For example, the beautifully spacey acoustic track "Prima Donna" exists in a yearning head space Chevelle have never before occupied:
But "Prima Donna" also acts as a breather that enhances the power of the following track, "Clones." If "Clones" had just been dumped in with like songs, it would lack some of the cathartic power it holds in its album position.

Also, Chevelle's incredible production values continue. The guitar tone is crunchy and excellent, the bass is always present in the mix and holds its own, the drums have the space and punch they deserve, and Pete's voice sits right at the level it needs to be.
With these last few albums, Chevelle have not only perfected their songwriting craft, they've learned how to make engaging, involving albums in which to incorporate these songs. This great diversity from track to track may make Hats Off to the Bull Chevelle's strongest album to date. Even the B-Sides are surprising, like the gorgeous "Glimpse of the Con." (This song ain't on the regular album track-list, sorry)

If Chevelle can keep up this level of creative growth from album to album, I don't see them having any trouble making it another sixteen years.

2011 Epic
1. Face to the Floor 3:38
2. Same Old Trip 3:09
3. Ruse 4:38
4. The Meddler 4:13
5. Piñata 3:53
6. Envy 4:19
7. Hats Off to the Bull 3:55
8. Arise 4:25
9. Revenge 3:30
10. Prima Donna 3:40
11. Clones 3:27

Alabama's 2011 BCS Championship Trophy Knocked Off Display Case, Shatters

HAHAHAHAHAHA! I guess now you need a rematch with the trophy maker.
Alabama trophy from BCS championship smashed by player's father | abc7chicago.com
Seriously, screw you guys.

Bob Saget Makes Television Better

Last night I was thinking about how incredible it is that, though I have been watching the sitcom How I Met Your Mother for seven years, it is still able to affect me with an emotional beat. While the main cast members' performances and the show's stellar writing are surely leading factors, I feel like How I Met Your Mother's most effective tool is its secret weapon.
This guy:
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Yes, Bob Saget, aka Danny Tanner, aka the original face of America's Funniest Home Videos, aka that really crass comedian.  Saget provides narration throughout How I Met Your Mother from the future perspective of the main character, Ted. The show's concept is that future Ted is telling his children the rambling story of how he met their...duh...mother. Saget has never appeared on camera on the show, but he has narrated every episode.  I think many people may not notice or have forgotten Saget's performance because he is such a natural presence on the show.  However, without him, I honestly don't think How I Met Your Mother would still be on the air. Saget is the heart of the show.  You can't see him, but without him, How I Met Your Mother dies.
In the show's yet to be determined final episode, the show-runners have announced that future Ted will be voiced by Ted actor, Josh Radnor, instead of Saget.  I think that is a fine idea.  It symbolizes that future Ted is now the Ted we see.  It also brings home the point I made in the previous paragraph:
when Saget is gone, the show is over.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chevelle -- Sci-Fi Crimes

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9/10

There is something special about Chevelle's fifth album, Sci-Fi Crimes. From the first notes of opening track, "Sleep Apnea," something is different.  The crunch of the guitar is so delicious it makes me hungry.  Pete Loeffler's voice has a weathered, cathartic edge, making it more appealing than ever.  The bass and drums sound so balanced with the guitar, it's almost as if the album was recorded live...wait, IT WAS!
With then ten-year anniversary of Chevelle's debut hitting at the time Sci-Fi Crimes was released, Chevelle were suddenly veterans, and it shows. They've always been a trustworthy source of rock, even though their albums up to Sci-Fi Crimes all run together.  Not this time.
Chevelle have not only learned to write better songs, they've learned to write an album.  You can hear it in the elements I've already described in the first song, but "Sleep Apnea" has even more selling points that mirror the strength of Sci-Fi Crimes: the way Chevelle delay the payoff of the first chorus until the second, the way the instruments build and increase anticipation, the drop off after the bridge that builds even more anticipation for the final explosive chorus.  Chevelle are pros now.

Every song on Sci-Fi Crimes is excellent, and what's better, each song feeds into the next.  After the heavier, but still dynamically complex opening numbers, "Shameful Metaphors" takes its time subtly building so well that the bridge is literal, leading to an island of a final chorus that rises perilously out of an ocean of sound just as it is reached. "Jars" is a classic Chevelle rocker with just a little more snappiness than usual...it's the kind of addictive song that works well on "repeat."
The rest of the album flows brilliantly.  When the tempo needs a boost, "Letter from a Thief" does more than get the job done, amping up the infectious energy to an all new level.

The instrumental "Interlewd" is the most relaxed Chevelle have ever sounded, and the closer "The Circus" is the best ending to an album Chevelle have ever composed.
I can't pay this album much higher a compliment than this:
On Sci-Fi Crimes, Chevelle not only sound better than ever, they sound like no one but Chevelle can sound.


2009 Epic
1. Sleep Apnea 3:51
2. Mexican Sun 4:15
3. Shameful Metaphors 4:21
4. Jars 3:19
5. Fell into Your Shoes 5:06
6. Letter from a Thief 3:27
7. Highland's Apparition 4:08
8. Roswell's Spell 4:37
9. Interlewd 1:21
10. A New Momentum 4:25
11. This Circus 4:32

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chevelle -- Vena Sera

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7/10

Chevelle released their fourth album, Vena Sera, in the spring of 2007.  In a way, Vena Sera is more of the same chuggy hard-rock Chevelle had become known for. Upon closer inspection, there are some stirrings in the band's sound...like someone leaked a few drops of food coloring into the clear waters of the Chevelle bucket.  Those drops have sunk to the bottom, but hints of colorful clouds are rising.  You can hear it in the faster tempo of "Braniac," and the keyboard percolating through "Saferwaters," a song that contains soft verses that aren't just ominous strumming.  "Saferwaters" also features a sensitivity in vocalist/guitarist Pete Loeffler's singing that has been absent to this point, particularly when he sings the line, "you mock the place where I exist."
03 - Chevelle - Saferwaters by Chevelle on Grooveshark
Also of note is the exasperated sigh before the ear-screeching scream of "Well Enough Alone." Loeffler doesn't scream often, so this works as a nice attention-getter to kick off the track. Speaking of aggression, "The Fad" features Chevelle's most ferocious chorus yet, while "Straight Jacket Fashion" takes off at a faster clip than any of it's brethren, even "Braniac."
I'm not sure what initiated these slight changes: maybe it's the subtraction of Joe Loeffler on bass and the addition of Dean Bernardini to the same position.  This makes Chevelle no longer a band of brothers, and maybe the injection of new DNA means more diversity (then again, Dean is their brother-in-law). Maybe the band was just growing restless with being so straightforward and samey.  Whatever the case, in addition to the phrase "At least Chevelle is still bringing the rock," Vena Sera hints at a new proposition: "At least Chevelle is doing something different."

2007 Epic
1. Antisaint 4:21
2. Brainiac 3:21
3. Saferwaters 4:11
4. Well Enough Alone 4:18
5. Straight Jacket Fashion 4:02
6. The Fad 3:37
7. Humanoid 3:58
8. Paint The Seconds 3:58
9. Midnight To Midnight 4:24
10. I Get It 3:54
11. Saturdays 4:06

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chevelle -- This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In)

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6/10

Chevelle return with their third album, This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In). This Type of Thinking follows Chevelle's breakout album, Wonder What's Next, which established Chevelle's auditory identity, and elevated them to top of the national stage.
This Type of Thinking kicks off with a classic Chevelle song, "The Clincher," and continues in that vein. Unfortunately, while the band's hard-rock, mid-tempo sound is clearly forged, there are no true diversions from it until, much like Wonder What's Next, the final, acoustic track.  While this means that any random track is a chugging good time, ten of these songs in a row gets to be tedious.
It is admirable for a band to know exactly what they are made of, but it would have been nice if Chevelle had tried re-arranging This Type of Thinking's blocks from time to time.
Jeez, I hate when people reduce bands to metaphors.  Chevelle aren't kids with blocks.  They are grown men in a rock band.  Anyway, I wish they would have mixed it up a bit more--tried putting a little more air into the songs, singing different types of melodies, playing different guitar or drum patterns.  I like every song on This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In), I just don't like them all together.
Clincher by Chevelle on Grooveshark

2004 Epic
1. The Clincher 3:43
2. Get Some 4:27
3. Vitamin R (Leading Us Along) 3:43
4. Still Running 3:43
5. Breach Birth 4:03
6. Panic Prone 3:50
7. Another Know It All 4:20
8. Tug-O-War 4:32
9. To Return 3:42
10. Emotional Drought 5:24
11. Bend the Bracket 5:05

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chevelle -- Wonder What's Next

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7/10

I was not into Chevelle's Tool-inspired debut.  "Mia" gained a lot of airtime on my local college station during my senior year of high school, and I enjoyed it to a degree, but that was about it.  In the fall of 2002, I went to the Cortana Wal-Mart for some long-forgotten reason.  In the checkout isle, I saw a new album by Chevelle.  I also saw a sticker on the album that said $5.99.  On to the conveyor belt it went.
While there is still a bit of Tool in singer, Pete Loeffler's vocals, the opening track "Family System," doesn't really sound like anyone else.  It sounds, if this makes any sense, like an ornate throw-down.  It has a Gothic vibe, like an old castle full of family portraits, but one weathering a hurricane in the dead of night.  In other words, "Family System" is a complete original.  Second track, "Comfortable Liar," is head-slamming good fun, but its brand of walking chug sounds a bit familiar...like Deftones.  Then "Send the Pain Below" happens.
Send the Pain Below/Album Version by Chevelle on Grooveshark
Good grief it reminds me of a song from five years before.
Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away) by Deftones on Grooveshark
I'll give Chevelle the benefit of the doubt.  Instead of saying that they directly ripped off "Be Quiet and Drive," I will just assume that the infectious music of the Deftones entered deeply into and was emulated by their subconscious. Even the similarities of the bridge and the string scratching...
Anyway, moving on, "Closure" is more in the vein of "Family System," finding Chevelle carving out and discovering their own sound.  There is definitely a feeling throughout Wonder What's Next that the band has more freedom to do what they wanted than on their debut.  This explains the far heavier distortion and writing, and the extra intensity in the vocals. Chevelle are proving themselves here to be a hard rock band--not an alternative, college-radio band..."Alt-Metal" if the word "alternative" must be used--and even with the aforementioned Deftones aping, there is still enough originality for Chevelle to make a statement about their identity. They are capable of a sound that isn't "Tool" or "Deftones," but "Chevelle," and Wonder What's Next is where that sound is first discovered.
Lead single "The Red" may be the greatest statement of that new sound: the chunky, long rhythm of the riff, the plodding but steady drumming, the outbursts of aggression in the vocals.  The only problem is that the second half of the album follows too closely in the same vein.  None of these songs are bad, and all contain cool individual parts that stand out with frequent listens, but all carry that same feeling that Chevelle's appendages are covered in mud while they are playing their instruments.  In a way, this is the major problem with Wonder What's Next.  The band do find their sound, but it is still so new to them, they haven't yet discovered the intricacies and options found within.  They just pound out a mid-tempo slug fest for the final five songs, excluding the acoustic final track. That's a lot of muddy chugging.
While finding an identity is a tricky proposition, at least Chevelle find it.  Wonder What's Next is a terrific document of that discovery.  Even with the derivative nature of a few early tracks, and the repetitive nature of a few of the latter, Wonder What's Next still finds the time to be fairly riveting.  It has proven to be the bedrock for Chevelle's longevity.  It is  a second album, but a good place to start.


2002 Epic
1. Family System 4:17
2. Comfortable Liar 3:43
3. Send the Pain Below 4:13
4. Closure 4:12
5. The Red 3:58
6. Wonder What's Next 4:10
7. Don't Fake This 3:39
8. Forfeit 3:59
9. Grab Thy Hand 4:14
10. An Evening with El Diablo 5:58
11. One Lonely Visitor 4:08

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Humans Suck 101 (1st Lecture)

(An Ongoing series on how Humans Suck)


When you drive down any street or highway in America, what two words more than any others do you see on signs planted everywhere?
I'll give you a hint, they are not BE SMART.
They words are FOR SALE.
It seems like every other house on every street is on the market.  This confuses me, though.
If every house is for sale, how come every patch of forested land within eye-shot is being removed for the implantation of new suburbs?
It basically goes like this:
Some human who sucks sees the forested land and thinks, this could make me a profit.  He chops down the forest and makes lots.
Some humans who suck see lots for sale, buy them, and build enormous, ugly, generic looking houses.  These humans who suck can't actually afford to do this but borrow money from a bank run by more humans who suck.  This bank actually doesn't have any money, either, but banks run by humans who suck are magic and can make up money.
The new homeowner humans who suck quickly tire of their generic house in their generic, newly created suburb.
Another human who sucks sees the forested land two miles down the highway from where the recently clear-cut forest was.  This human who sucks thinks, this could make me a profit.
The new homeowner humans who suck put their two-year old houses on the market.  They buy lots in the newly-made subdivision two miles down the road.
A Realtor who sucks puts signs in front of the two-year old houses:
FOR SALE.
Humans suck.

This has been your Humans Suck 101 lecture for the day.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Charlie Parker -- Bird's Best Bop on Verve

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7/10

Charlie Parker was a great musician.  I don't know how he got the nickname "Bird," but his saxophone definitely sounded like one, and his fingers moved at hummingbird wing speeds.  I think Bebop music was probably regarded as "devil music" in the 1940's or 50's, which is hilarious considering this is music you would hear now at a fancy dinner party, or put on in the background while cleaning your house on a rainy day.
Just about all of the songs Verve picked for this collection are Parker working with small combos, mostly just a bassist and drummer, sometimes a pianist (played by nobodies like Thelonious Monk).   Most recordings from the middle of last century feature bass and drums that sound like they were played in the room next door to the studio microphones--at times here, though, the recording sounds close to modern.  However, this isn't a drum 'n' bass album, this is a Charlie Parker collection, and his saxophone rings loud and true.  His technical skills and gift for improvisation are obvious on each of these songs, and even someone who cares about jazz like I care about sweater jeweling will most likely have to admit that this Best Of album sounds nice.  I admit that the previous sentence could be taken either way, and I don't care.
Also, Bebop is the punk rock of jazz.

Also also, extra cool points for getting name dropped at the 4:15 mark of this Cowboy Bebop episode...along with Goethe.


 1995 Verve
1. Passport 3:01
2. Bloomdido 3:26
3. Leap Frog 2:30
4. Relaxing With Lee 2:48
5. Au Privave 2:40
6. She Rote 3:07
7. K.C. Blues 3:25
8. Star Eyes 3:36
9. Blues For Alice 2:48
10. Swedish Schnapps 3:12
11. The Song Is You 2:58
12. Laird Baird 2:46
13. Kim 3:00
14. Chi Chi 3:03
15. Now's the Time 3:02
16. Confirmation 2:58

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Chariot -- Long Live

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8/10

The Chariot's Long Live is much like their debut six years earlier--a blast of pure energy.  However, that energy comes through the filter of six years of growth.  While this is probably the most metal release since the band's debut, the art punk and noise influences they've picked up since then are still apparent.  The experiments in structure from the last album, Wars and Rumors of Wars, peek their heads up just a bit, but are mainly limited to the repeated "chorus" of second track, "The Audience." The more overarching thematic feelings of the two albums between the first and this also feel mostly absent.  The Long Live title is supposed to stand for revolutions, or whatever possibilities the phrase "Long Live" stands for, but this never really comes together.  Vocalist Josh Scogin's lyrics are just a little too obtuse this time around to make complete sense out of what he is screaming about.  Probably something about fighting and not giving up on each other.  I don't know.
While things don't quite come together as well as the last couple of releases, Long Live still contains some pretty excellent The Chariot songs.  "Calvin Makenzie" will be known for its innovative use of an old record sample, but it's the big guitar riff in the middle that makes the song. Scogin's incredibly delivered monologue near the end of "The City" is a testament to the strength of his lungs and his vocal prowess.  "David De La Hoz' is an all-time Chariot great, recorded live in its own music video with dual-drumming, talk-singing, sludge riffs, harp, accordion, piano, and a vibraphone.  So even though Long Live is not perfect, it is quite difficult to complain about when it contains songs like these.
(Awesome videos don't hurt)




2010 Good Fight
1. Evan Perks 1:35
2. The Audience 2:15
3. Calvin Makenzie 2:14
4. The City 3:57
5. Andy Sundwall 2:53
6. The Earth 2:46
7. David De La Hoz 4:15
8. The Heavens 2:12
9. Robert Rios 2:31
10. The King 5:50

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Chariot -- Wars and Rumors of Wars

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9/10

Wars and Rumors of Wars finds The Chariot evolving once more.  The art punk of The Fiancee is expanded upon, while elements of noise music filter through, and metal elements still appear periodically.  My goodness, what is wrong with me?
"Evolve" is a great example of these three elements chemically reacting. Yes, more science puns. "Evolve" begins with a fast punk section, develops into more metallic territory, then collapses into more than half a minute of dissonant guitar feedback.  Likewise, "Impress" begins like a classic punk song, then finds a sweet, off-time groove before everything falls out and two notes are repeated alone for the final minute as a sort of mantra.  But as much as Wars and Rumors of Wars features more left-field experimentation, it also finds The Chariot miraculously looking toward the center a bit.  There are songs that actually--GASP!--repeat parts, and The Chariot even put their own spin on the concept of a chorus with the aggressive but weirdly infectious, "Giveth." Josh Scogin's emotive vocals still get their opportunity to shine as well.  "Abandon"'s first minute and a half features nothing but an ominous, solitary guitar line and Scogin's screams (on this particular tour, the band played this song with house lights completely off, while Scogin wielded a lantern) before absolutely freaking out and leading into the "big" track of the album, "Daggers." This song most prominently features the concept of the album, which is, obviously, war, between nations, between persons, and between oneself. "Daggers" also features Scogin's most political lyric to date, "Old men/keep dreaming/of battles/for young men to fight," followed by a song break and the repeated line "War is only skin deep." Then, in an album high point, the song erupts in a manner only The Chariot could initiate.
Speaking of high points, the best moments of Wars and Rumors of Wars don't quite match those of its predecessor, The Fiancee.  However, Wars and Rumors of Wars, does have a slight edge in that it is more cohesive and generally more satisfying than any of The Chariot's previous releases. The band's constant experimentation, energy, and brief dalliances with structure create a strange feeling of comfort and enjoyability, and on top of that, Wars music videos are noble gasses. Yes, that just happened. I started off talking about science, and I end with science.  Duh, it's called writing. Look it up!

Tentacles.


2009 Solid State Records
1. Teach 2:53
2. Evolve 2:59
3. Need 1:55
4. Impress 2:12
5. Never I 3:28
6. Giveth 3:29
7. Abandon 3:01
8. Daggers 3:43
9. Oversea 0:44
10. Mrs. Montgomery Alabama III 6:00

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Chariot -- The Fiancee

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9/10
NOTE: This album contains a Nicsperiment favorite, but if you only care about that, you can skip to the third paragraph.

The Chariot up the stakes on their second full-length album, The Fiancee. The title itself hints at greater aspirations--is The Fiancee the Christian Church, or does the title simply imply anyone in waiting? Josh Scogin has never been overly direct in his lyrics, but many of his metaphors are straight here. "If there is blood on the roots, then there is blood on the branches," "fortune wears a red dress, but her bones smell of death," and "beware these sheep in the costume of wolves (see what he does there?)" hint at the truth and buried things never ably concealed, the contradiction in aesthetics and the underneath. The first eight track titles actually derive from the anonymously written "Backward Rhyme" aka the "Contradiction Poem," and Josh seems to be screaming at the contradictions of the church from the perspective of one inside. He does emote about the hope found within, particularly in the striking "And Shot Each Other."
"And Shot Each Other" is musically innovative, beginning with an old '20s record sample, jumping straight into sledghammering riffs, dropping out to feature nothing but Scogin's incredible voice, picking the music back up, suddenly shifting into a punk passage--and then the song breaks down and the Sacred Harp shape note singers show up. Yep. Shape note singers. This sounds a little bit like the singing from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but with a southern bent, and with the vocalists singing, "We feel the resurrection near, our life in Christ concealed, and with his glorious presence here, our earthen vessels filled." Yes, I realize this paragraph is unlikely. Also unlikely is the incredible way that this ambitious track somehow works. It is a stunning artistic expression of the truth getting out even over the failures of those who contend they believe it.


As good as this song is, though, "Then Came to Kill" takes the cake. If these reviews have given the perception that I like a lot but love little, here is some brief gushing over some music that I love. The ambitious lyrical aspirations of this song form a great base for extreme emotions. "They all stare, but no one speaks. They all claim, but no one seeks. They all hear what they want....they all close the door because no one speaks out loud...the fade out." If you've spent any time on this blog, you know that when I do deign to talk about my beliefs, I can get really angry at halfway Christians. That's mainly because I don't believe you can halfway be a Christian. You either are or you are not, and God bless you either way. But if you consider yourself to kind of be a Christian, you can go to hell. It doesn't work that way. You either believe Jesus is the only way to God or you don't. You can't pick and choose which things Jesus said that you agree with and still say, "I am a Christian," and you can't live your life that way, either. To do so is tragic, and that is what this song is poetically and thoughtfully about...at 100 decibels. Musically, this song features a near shocking collaboration. Josh Scogin's throat-shredding is paired with Hayley Williams' near-operatic singing. Yes, THAT Hayley Williams. The song starts out with some mysterious distortional pinging, then erupts into a keyboard-choir led jam before the band and Scogin go nuts. Scogin's screams of "Everyone in this whole wide world, wake up!" are chill-inducing, and the song has only barely gotten started. The craziness continues, and can't seem to get more intense, and then the bottom falls out. The rest of the song is a slow, beautiful grind, as Hayley's voice comes in to match Josh's. What proceeds are two absolutely astounding vocal performances. The passion in both of their voices is almost unbearable. I can't listen to this song without crying. Both vocalists push themselves to the limit, but the most incredible moment is actually non lyrical. As the two vocalize the lines "Just because you kiss a lot, don't mean you're in love, and just because you've begun, don't mean that you've won," both run out of air at the same moment, right after the second "because." As both gasp for breath, there seems to be no way the song can get more powerful. Then Williams and Scogin somehow blow the roof off, climb to a new level, the band gets more intense, strings come in...


Overall, The Fiancee feels like another musical transition for The Chariot. While the chaos is still apparent, there is a slight shift from art-metal, to, if such a thing exists (and if it does, it does here), "art-punk." The rhythm section especially espouses more of a punk influence in their playing, but the art I mentioned in my previous review is more prominent as well. The band are far more apt to feature space, silence, moments of noise or distortion, or to just cut out everything and let Josh's scream stand alone. This makes for an even more engaging listen, and makes the band's unpredictability an even larger tool and asset. The Fiancee is fine work.

2007 Solid State Records
1. Back to Back 1:33
2. They Faced Each Other 2:01
3. They Drew Their Swords 2:31
4. And Shot Each Other 4:00
5. The Deaf Policemen 2:43
6. Heard This Noise 2:44
7. Then Came to Kill 5:00
8. The Two Dead Boys 2:36
9. Forgive Me Nashville 3:11
10. The Trumpet 3:17

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Beautiful Benefit of Googling Sea Creatures for Your Orcaphillic Son All Day

The Chariot -- Unsung EP

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8/10

It is amazing what a little bit of refinement can do.  After a few member changes and constant touring, and during an interim between freshman and sophomore albums, The Chariot hit the studio to record the Unsung EP.  A first glance, this is just a re-recording of four tracks from the debut album and only two new tracks--but what a difference a year and a half has made. While The Chariot's method of simply recording live for their debut was admirable, something becomes quickly apparent with Unsung: a live show and an album are two completely different things.  This well-recorded EP (the bass is actually prominent!) is a much more enjoyable listen than Everything is Alive....
The band's two hallmarks are still up front: Scogin's insanely powerful voice, and chaotic, brutal instrumentation.  That instrumentation sounds like more than just noise on the Unsung EP. While Unsung might not sound like being launched from a cannon down a hallway of swords, it does sound palatable.  Check out the difference between Everything is Alive...'s version of "Goodnight My Lady and a Forever Farewell" and Unsung's new version.
In the original, there is no feeling of progress, each part just grinding into the next without any sense of change, only a sense of bludgeoning.

But the reworked "Vin Affleck" version's parts differentiate themselves and sound like they are building to an actual climax.

 While the same notes are technically being played in both versions, the peak of the latter feels like a real payoff instead of just more noise.  Maybe it's that the instruments are just better defined in a studio setting.  Maybe it's that the cathartic lead line is played by a slide guitar now.  Maybe it's that the banjo that pops up halfway through is interweaved into the song and not just another part. Maybe it's just that the instruments are being played more skillfully.  Whatever the case, "Vin Affleck" feel likes an actual experience, while "Goodnight My Lady..." is just a shot of energy and nothing more.
This same improvement marks every remake on this EP.  This is the transition from random chaotic metalcore to something reaching art-metal--an artist's touch turning molten material to gold. On top of that, the two new tracks, which are both better than anything recorded for The Chariot's debut, fit the same mold.  Despite the fact that there aren't any verses, any choruses, any people singing (duh, title), The Chariot's music now sounds like actual music.

2005 Solid State Records
1. Yanni Depp 2:13
2. Phil Cosby (Before There Was Atlanta, There Was Douglasville) 2:43
3. Vin Affleck (Goodnight My Lady and a Forever Farewell) 2:43
4. Kenny Gibler (Play the PianoLike a Disease) 4:07
5. Sargeant Savage (Die Interviewer [Germanickly Speaking])  1:56
6. Donnie Cash (The Company, the Comfort, the Grave) 2:24

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Chariot -- Everything Is Alive, Everything Is Breathing, Nothing Is Dead and Nothing Is Bleeding

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7/10

In 2002, the band Norma Jean released their debut, and it is perfect.  This led to an obvious course of action: the vocalist left the band to start a new one.  I don't know what Josh Scogin would have gone on to achieve with Norma Jean.  The band he formed after his exit, The Chariot, have released four albums.  Since Scogin's departure, Norma Jean have also released four albums.  It is clear today just what Scogin's contributions were to Bless the Martyr, though, because they are crystal clear on The Chariot's debut,  Everything Is Alive, Everything Is Breathing, Nothing Is Dead and Nothing Is Bleeding.
Yes, that is a really long album title.  One immediately sees that the long song titles from Bless the Martyr must have originated within Scogin's noggin.  Also, the sound of Bless the Martyr immediately betrays Scogin's influence once The Chariot's debut is heard: Everything is Alive... was recorded live just like Bless the Martyr, was not overdubbed, and was never mastered.  Norma Jean haven't seen fit to go down this route again, and that isn't a knock--there are merits to both approaches.
With that said, Everything is Alive... sounds harsh.  The guitars are buzz-saws in the listener's ears.  The drums and bass sound like they are originating at the base of one's skull.  On top of that, the compositions are absolute chaos. Scogin and his band completely neglected the concept of structure for this album.  There is high energy chaos, then more high energy chaos.  Every now and then there is a random ten-second banjo or slide-guitar moment, but these aren't incorporated into the songs--they just happen on their own for a few seconds, and then they are gone.  The only track that builds to anything is the truly apocalyptic tale of "And Then, Came Then."  The epic choral breakdown over Scogin's guttural screams, while the guitar and bass groove and the drums go nuts, makes one wish that Everything is Alive... showed this much initiative more often.

Dang, did I just mention Josh Scogin's voice?  When Norma Jean started off as Luti-Kriss, Scogin's scream was digitally altered heavily.  He did away with that on Bless the Martyr and sounded great.  But here...to paraphrase the most underrated character on Futurama, "Sweet Lion of Zion!" With the inception of The Chariot, Scogin's voice has become a force of nature.  While the high energy chaos of the music drives the album and only really begins to grate near the end, Scogin's voice is The Chariot's unrelenting, passionate weapon that never falters. Scogin seems to be channeling a city-sized drill burrowing down to the center of the earth. His screams flow effortlessly from shrill and piercing to beastly growl. I will now unabashedly confess that Josh Scogin is my favorite vocalist, and that includes among people who actually sing (Scogin can sing but DOES NOT for this project). When you can find me someone who conveys more emotion with their voice, I'll change my mind.
So in the end, while the complete formlessness does hurt The Chariot's debut, Scogin's voice carries it through to its 28-minute completion point. Unless of course you don't like screaming, in which case I hear Hall and Oates are still rolling along.

2004 Solid State Records
1. Before There Was Atlanta, There Was Douglasville 2:15
2. Someday, in the Event That Mankind Actually Figures Out What it is That This World Revolves Around, Thousands of People are Going to Be Shocked and Perplexed to Find Out it Was Not Them. Sometimes, This Includes Me 1:58
3. Dialogue With a Question Mark 2:11
4. Die Interviewer (I Am Only Speaking in German) 2:40
5.  And Then, Came Then 5:19
6.  The Company, The Comfort, The Grave 2:26
7.  The Bullet Never Lies, and Time Will Prove All Things (An Allegory of Unfaithful Jerusalem) 2:57
8.  Yellow Dress: Locked Knees 1:59
9.  If Wishes Were Horses More Beggars Would Ride Them 3:09
10.  Good Night My Lady, And a Forever Farewell 2:59