Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Album Catch-Up Part 3

If you're reading this sentence, it means you are reading this while I am sleeping. I'm too tired to proofread tonight, so I'm going to do it first thing in the morning. Until then, I apologize for what will probably be numerous spelling and grammar errors.

R.E.M.- Accelerate

If Accelerate isn't a great album, it's the closet thing to a great album R.E.M. has released in the past decade. It's also a very good album in its own right, as well as a step in the right direction for a legendary band that may not have been able to survive another mediocre release. is brief, and certainly familiar in sound, but the return of R.E.M.'s deep lyrics and intelligent songwriting compliment the return of the heavier musicianship in a way that R.E.M. has failed miserably at achieving in far too long. Every song on the album is worthwhile, and while Accelerate isn't a masterpiece, it's a very solid piece of work as a whole. For the first time in ten years, R.E.M. fans can rejoice.

Grade: B

NOTE: A longer review can be found as part of the feature 10 New Albums You Should Buy

The Offspring- Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace

The Offspring's Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace may very well an improvement over the group's last few records. Unfortunately, an album needs to definitively the succeed garbage like Splinter and Conspiracy of One to even be considered for a recommendation. At times, The Offspring achieve that this time around. The album has brief moments (namely the lead single "Hammerhead") where they sound rejuvenated, and maybe even the best they've sounded since Smash. It's commendable that The Offspring have taken on a more mature subject lyrically, and on occasion are able to come across as politically intelligent. Other times, they sound unintentionally juvenile and even idiotic. There are moments where Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace shines, and "Hammerhead" may the group's best song in some time, but the rest of the album ranges from the average to the awful.

Grade: C-

Murder By Death- Red of Tooth and Claw

Simply put, Red of Tooth and Claw is a phenomenal album. It's often beautiful, never boring, and always unique. Not only does this album surpass everything Murder By Death has done up this point in their career, but it also creates a truly unique blend of rock music that combines its Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, Clutch, and blues influences into territory previously unimaginable. Powerful guttural vocals compliment indie rock riffs and beautiful violin music to create a truly special sound that finds enough variety and lyrical intelligence to stay special throughout the course of an entire album. Red of Tooth and Claw is that album, and it belongs in the collection of every rock fan.

Grade: A-

Flobots- Fight with Tools

The Flobots may have become famous for their rap-rock hit "Handlebars," but it would be a mistake to think that "Handlebars" is the only worthwhile song on the album. And just to set the record straight, "Handlebars" is a worthwhile single. Not only is it lyrically intelligent, but it's unique musically, as well as a simply beautiful song that provokes thought that mainstream songs almost never sparked. The Flobots are an underground political group through and through, and while nothing else on Fight with Tools has much of a chance to recieve top 40 airplay, there are some very intelligent underground hip-hop songs that are accessible enough to anyone who was considering the full album having hearing "Handlebars." Just be warned, this is not a pop album. This an intellignet and lyrically driven hip-hop album that is at times overly aggressively and almost always thought provoking. Granted, there are a few tracks that either try to do too much or appear forced, but much of it is high quality hip-hop, and it's an easy debut to recommend.

Grade: B+

Judas Priest- Nostradamus

On paper, Nostradamus has the potential to be a superb album. Not only is the story an interesting one, but the right band is at the helm. Judas Priest has one of the most talented and influential metal bands from the start, and a two disc concept album about the prophecies of Nostradamus sounds like an interesting idea to say the least. Unfortunately, it becomes clear towards the middle of the first disc that the story of Nostradamus does not make a successful transition to album form, and it goes downhill from there. Nostradamus is unlike anything Priest has done before, largely in part to the album's story taking priority over the music. That, however, is also the album's biggest flaw. Once the listener loses interest in the story, there isn't a whole lot to the music. It's just your typical mix of speed metal and power ballads, which would be perfectly fine if the story worked. As it is, the story doesn't work, and Nostradamus turns out to be a suprisingly boring and disappointing listen because of it.

Grade: C

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks- Real Emotion Trash

Taken from my review of the album...

"Real Emotional Trash is the fourth album by Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, and the band's biggest issue remains identity. Many of the songs feature moments of overly catchy indie pop, while just as many songs venture into moments of prolonged jam sessions that sound like something out of a progressive rock record. In a way, that's both the beauty and flaw of the album, as it shows that Malkmus is an incredibly varied musician who can pull off a number of different sounds, but the band as a whole has still yet to piece the different styles together into a coherent mixture. It still provides for an interesting listen, and the creativity of the record is certainly worthy of praise, but it's more than somewhat disappointing that the band still sounds like an experiment four records in. Still, everything Malkmus presents on this album works to some degree, and anyone who doesn't mind that the Jicks are still essentially a hodgepodge of everything Malkmus didn't do with Pavement should give Real Emotional Trash a listen."

Grade: B

The longer version of the review can found as part of the feature 10 New Albums You Should Buy

Weezer- Weezer (Red Album)

No matter how big of a Weezer fan you are, the latest self-titled Weezer album will disappoint. Most of the album is only a slightly more focused version of the band's atrocious Make Believe from three years ago. If you couldn't get enough of "Bevery Hills," then maybe this album is for you. However, for everyone else, this album is almost entirely forgettable. Weezer albums are supposed to fun, and with the exception of the absolutely brilliant rock opera parody "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," nothing here is fun in the slightest. This is just a boring pop rock album, and it unfortunately signifies that Make Believe may not have been a fluke. Nine out of ten tracks are forgettable, and if it wasn't for "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," the Red Album would be only a slight improvement over Make Believe. As it is, one phenomenal track elevates the album from bad to poor, and while even the most hardcore of Weezer should skip the full album, every music fan with a sense of humor should give "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" a listen.

Grade: C-

Black Tide- Light From Above

If Black Tide's debut album, Light From Above, was critiqued in comparison to other teenage rock bands, then it could very well be called a masterful piece of art. Even when you compare Black Tide to other modern metal bands with heavy 80s metal influences, they rank near the top. That's not to say Black Tide have a very original style, nor do they do any drastically different from their countless peers, but the album's highlights are examples of fun heavy metal with some impressive musicianship. Black Tide also are successful in staying true to their influences becoming a clone, which has become an all too common mistake for many other young bands. It's not anything that will set the world on fire, but it's an enjoyable listen nonetheless, and a very impressive debut considering the group's age.

Grade: B-

Destroyer- Trouble in Dreams

When listening to an album like Trouble in Dreams, it's hard not to fall in love with the music you're hearing. Dan Bejar's brand of beautiful yet silly indie rock incorporates everything from chamber pop to hard rock and manages to be intelligent without taking anything seriously. The music here is not only fun, but also somewhat moving, and it makes for a great listen. The problem is that if you've heard Destroyer's previous work, you've already heard this beautiful album, and chances are, you've heard it done slightly better. Essentially, the music on Trouble in Dreams is outstanding, but it's the same outstanding music we've heard from Bejar time and time again. It's still enjoyable, but there's nothing here to set Troubles in Dreams apart from every other Destroyer album. It's still worth listening to, especially for newcomers to Bejar's solo work, but anyone looking for more than a small amount of progression will almost certainly be disappointed.

Grade: B

Kataklysm- Prevail

For the most part, Kataklysm is one of the better modern death metal bands. They are very profiencet at what they do, and also manage to be a rare extreme metal band that has enough brutality to please death metal fans while also being one of the more accessible bands in the genre. It's safe to say that while Kataklysm is not an especially unique band, there are a very solid one does enough to separate themselves from much of the death metal pack. While Prevail is not a bad album, it doesn't do a whole lot to separate itself from the rest of the death metal pack. It's not that Prevail isn't Kataklysm at its best, as one could argue that the band at its best is when they find that hybrid between brutality and accessibly. From that perspective, Prevail is both a brutal and accessible death metal record, but it unfortunately isn't much else. This is no more and no less than the average death metal album, and while Kataklysm do make subtle changes to place them ahead of most extreme metal acts, nothing on Prevail places Kataklysm ahead of their past selves. This is yet another solid death metal album from Kataklysm, but it's also a familiar one that is both safe and forgettable.

Grade: B-

Thanks for reading! Another one of these is coming tomorrow.

1 comment:

tad said...

I don't think Black Tides' debut album should even worth B-. It was boring. The only songs that I truly enjoyed was Shockwave and the rest sound all so similar. Occasionally, there were some enjoyable parts like the intro to Warriors of Time. They are definitely talented, no doubt. I'm interested to see how they develop from there.