Just Livin’ Up my Dreams

Some of my co-workers and I started sharing some of our favorite music. We’ve been doing it for a while, but now we’re actually reviewing them and sharing those reviews with one another. So here are the four albums that were suggested to me this week.

A note on how I rate things. One star means I don’t think it qualifies as music. Five stars mean I wish I wrote the thing. Most music for me is a three.

Living Colour – Vivid (1988)

My first thought was that this is not at all what I was expecting. Frankly, I thought I wouldn’t like it as much as I do. Only Open Letter (To a Landlord) had elements of what I was expecting, but it also had some face-melting guitar and a steady groove.

Second, I thought I’ve heard this before, even though I know I haven’t. It took me a couple of days to realize these guys are the less manic precursors to Them Crooked Vultures. The opening track especially reminded me of the Led Zeppelin-Foo Fighters-Queens of the Stone Age supergroup’s Elephants.

Living Colour has some solid late ’90s/early ’00s hard rock from the late ’80s and with a little funk influence. This isn’t at all what I would have expected from a ’80s hard rock group. I would have expected something more like the Scorpions (more on them later). While I wasn’t expecting it, Funny Groove was the only track which I thought had a solid ’80s feel. The opening (and closing) riff was awesome, but most of the song was just … meh. I’m sure it would have been better in context of an urban environment in the late ’80s, but I wasn’t really socially aware back then.

That was the only low-light. Memories Can’t Wait and Broken Hearts (which was rather forgettable, other than the drums sounded too “big” compared to the rest of the song) were mid-lights, but the rest of the album was a pleasant hard rock surprise. 3/5

Love Psychedelico – The Greatest Hits (2001)

Don’t get confused, but this is their first album and the title is a joke. When Chris shared this album, he said these guys do Sheryl Crow better than Sheryl Crow does. While I definitely hear the Sheryl Crow influences, I think there’s a healthy dose of Garbage and other ’90s bands in there, too. Maybe even some Hole.

Chris was a military brat and grew up (well, as much as he did grow up) in Japan. So he shares Japanese music with me lots. Sometimes he sends me videos like this.

I have no idea who these guys are or what they’re singing about, but he thought I’d like them and he’s right. They’re like a Japanese pop punk band covering a ’70s American surf rock band. It’s much … less weird than the last thing he shared.

Before you watch it, be aware that it’s pretty hard, musically, for the first half of the video. If you don’t like heavy metal, I’d suggest muting it until about 2:45.

Actually, you can skip the first 1:45, but that’s when it starts to get visually interesting. But after about 2:45, the video totally changes. And a minute later, it totally changes again. That’s my favorite part of the video.

It’s supposed to be funny, and it kind of is. More bizarre than outright funny, but definitely original.

Chris translated the dialogue at the end and, according to him, they’re saying:

Dude: We’ll never forgive WinNY!
Girl: Dai! Hey, Dai! There’s nobody left using WinNY. Plus there’s tons of other stuff we should stop… You’re yelling really loud and most of the kids have left anyway.
Dude: Yeah, but any more than this and they’ll upload
Girl: I get that but… look there’s one kid left and she’s about to cry
Dude: (to kid) You think so too, right??
Girl: No no! She doesn’t get it! See, the last kid left now.
Dude: You hate WinNY too right?
Girl: I said nobody is using WinNY. Stop pulling that face.

Anyway, back to ‘Delico. This album is great. Even when she’s singing in Japanese, it doesn’t sound like Japanese. It sound like English. Or gibberish with an American accent. And musically, this sounds like my whole late ’90s alt. rock musical experience. This makes me nostalgic even though I’ve never actually heard it before – which is pretty impressive. These Days was a little country rock – and again, it’s well done.

There really wasn’t a bad track. The closest things to a lowlight were the first 30 seconds of Low – the vocals were a little weird all alone, but once the instruments came in, it made the vocal line make sense. And Last Smile was a little long. I didn’t actually notice it was the same song, but when I paused it to go to the bathroom between the third and fourth tracks, I was a little surprised I was only three songs in.

As pleasant of a surprise Living Colour gave me, this might be the best new music I’ve heard since Jamestown Revival. Although Secret Sisters are pretty freaking good, too. What a great way to start a week. If Chris hadn’t given me the files for this album, I would have gone out of my way to buy them. And I still might. 4/5

Scorpions – Crazy World (1990)

I’ll be honest, I’ve only been a greatest hits listener. But what I’ve heard, I love. This is what ’80s hard rock should be. The Scorpions are great at what they do.

But as great as the Scorpions are, this album is a lot of the same. Wind of Change and Send Me an Angel are more ballads than rockin’ anthems, but it cemented into my mind the fact that the Scorpions are great in comparison to anyone and, like Kiss, are best enjoyed sprinkled in. One whole album straight is too much sameness. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just this album, but I bet not.

So while I’d give the Scorpions a 5/5 as a band, I think I can only give this album 3/5, which is still pretty good. I still really enjoyed this album. I had never heard Don’t Believe Her before, and I really liked it. I think it might be the best song I’ve heard this week. Hit Between the Eyes wasn’t bad either. On the other side, Restless Nights was less than spectacular (although the chorus was pretty good). But all together, it was all just solid hard rock. And that’s all. No more and no less.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist (2012)

Macklemore seems like a frustrated young man.

I knew going into this it was not my cup of tea, but since Kari went out on a limb, the least I could do was reciprocate.

I’m glad I actually understood what Ten Thousand Hours was about, although I couldn’t always relate to his experiences. Same with Jimmy Iovine.

Much of the time, though, I had no idea what they were … for lack of a better word, singing about. Was Thrift Shop a commentary on modern hipster culture? Was it serious, or was it supposed to be satire? I couldn’t tell, but I hope it was supposed to be satire.

I will say that by the end of Can’t Hold Us, I was really enjoying the beat.

In the end, my favorite tracks were Thin Line, which didn’t have such a bass heavy, reguetón beat (which most of the other tracks seemed to have) and it had pretty good lyrics, and the instrumental BomBom. I also liked the piano on Same Love.

I probably won’t ever seek this out again, but it was more enjoyable than I anticipated. And I can tell, however angry he might be, his music is very personal and authentic. 3/5

Cake – Motorcade of Generosity (1994)

I shared with my coworkers a band I had on my list to share a month ago, before Flogging Molly, but somehow I skipped them. Last week, when I mentioned how the Eagles were one of the first CDs I bought, along with Weezer, Semisonic and Fastball, I realized I hadn’t shared Cake yet (they were also in that group), but didn’t want to name them in case it gave someone else the idea to share them…

One of the things I love about Cake (the band – don’t get me started on the sweet, bread-like baked goodness) is that every time I hear a new Cake song, I can tell it’s them in the first couple of notes without being told who the artist is. They’re just one of those bands. And in the past 20 years, their sound hasn’t changed at all. Any song from their latest, Showroom of Compassion, could have been on their debut, Motorcade of Generosity, or any album in between. And vice versa. So it was hard to choose which of their albums to choose. I decided to start at the beginning (it’s a very good place to start, after all). 3/5

Here’s what my coworkers thought about Cake:

“I was disappointed in this album. I’ve heard Cake songs, and really liked them, but this album just didn’t do it for me. I felt like they, as a band, couldn’t really decide on who they wanted to be, but that they thought maybe they could be another They Might Be Giants. Music was good, songs were varied, but my disappointment in what I wanted it to be pulls it down to the two star rating. This album proves that first albums aren’t always an indicator of who a band will be, especially as Cake went on to much better things.” -Tim

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6 thoughts on “Just Livin’ Up my Dreams

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