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 two 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.
Muse – Black Holes and Revelations (2006)
I got into Muse after this album came out. But before all the Twilight fans became Muse fans because one of their songs was in the first movie.
I really got into this and their next album. They are all great musicians and they can write some pretty good songs. I used to love them. Used to.
I have one major hang-up: I don’t want to listen to music that preaches to me. And if I do, it had better be funny about it. I can’t even stand self-righteous songs about views I agree with. A song with radical views I think are wrong stands almost no chance.
While we’re on that subject, Matthew Bellamy seems like a really odd duck. Talented to be sure, but I’ve read interviews of him where he asserted one thing then (sometimes years later) denied it. Not saying that he changed his view, just flipping to the opposite stance. He seems very much like some girls I dated in high school who were very extreme; either hot or cold (but not anywhere in between), and not predictably either one. Also, his voice is kind of annoying – another thing he has in common with an ex-girlfriend of mine. Kudos to him for being passionate, though.
Lastly, all of their stuff is one of only about three flavors. Some people might see that as another negative, but it’s not a bad thing by itself. I don’t mind if a band does one thing, if they do it well. Think ZZ Top. Like them, I now do Muse sprinkled in to other things. But I do skip past all the political crap.
I still love Knights of Cydonia. It has a definite call to action, but it’s cloaked in the best Ennio Morricone-inspired rock ever. Ok, I can’t actually think of another rock band with such obvious Morricone influences, but the song is still good. And the music video is just … well, weird. But it’s good-weird. Maybe not what you’d expect a music video to be, but the music is exactly the music needed for this video. Except for the love scenes which start at about 2:42 and get more … intense over the next 20 seconds or so. That’s just weird.
As a side note, you should check out Morricone’s film scores. Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo (The Good, The Bad, The Ugly) is perhaps his most well-known, but both Per Qualche Dollaro in Più (For a Few Dollars More) and C’era una Volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West) are better. And they’re best when analyzed in context of their respective films. In fact, much of the music in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was influenced by those two Morricone soundtracks.
Starlight was one of the songs I used when I first learned how to play the drums. I also really like the piano riff. The whole song is simple, yet effective.
Invincible and Assassin are, musically, two of my favorite songs on the album for exactly contradictory reasons. I love the simplicity of the organ in the former and the complexity of … well, everything in the latter.
Aside from the political lyrics, there are some other lowlights.
I’ve never really liked Supermassive Blackhole. I don’t like the fuzz effect they have on the bass guitar. They do an annoying whisper-screaming thing about two-thirds of the way through and again right at the end. I can’t understand half of what he says throughout most of the song (Ok, it’s not just this one song). And the whole song sounds like the inside of a strip club.
I’ll give them props for changing up their style on Soldier’s Poem, but the track is remarkably … forgettable.
Sometime after I got off the Muse-loving bandwagon, my future wife went to see Muse when they came through. She said the show was visually spectacular; easily one of the best light shows she’s seen. But the tickets were pretty expensive for just a light show and the band just playing their album. There was no interaction with the crowd. The music was good, but it was exactly like what they recorded. Then she got off the bandwagon.
Lost in Translation soundtrack (2003)
My coworker Chris grew up in Japan and returns there from time to time. He took 10 days, include the whole of last week, to go romp around Tokyo. He loves the Japanese culture very much. It shouldn’t be a surprise that when he returned, he shared the soundtrack to his favorite movie, which he called “a cinematic love letter to Tokyo.”
I’ve never seen it. And I think that if I had seen the movie, I may have liked this album more.
It was just ambient background music. It didn’t mean anything to me. It didn’t make me feel anything. It was just … there. I can’t really judge it as a soundtrack, because you need to hear a soundtrack like this in context; hear how it complements the flow of the plot and the emotions felt by the main characters. For me, sitting on my couch while I churned through some work, it was just something to help take my ears off my kid who wasn’t cooperating with her nap. I shouldn’t be surprised, since Kevin Shields, frontman for My Bloody Valentine, wrote a lot of the film’s score.
There were some actual songs included, like the lead single off Phoenix’s disappointing first album. I’ve never been impressed with that album and the chosen track sounded like it was recorded from a cheap Casio keyboard.
Another non-original track was My Bloody Valentine’s Sometimes, from their (insert sarcasm here) “magnum opus” Loveless. I don’t get My Bloody Valentine. People have tried to get me into them before, and I don’t really care for them. That kind of music might work for a soundtrack, but not a whole album. Unless I was stoned out of my mind.
The closest thing to a highlight off this soundtrack was The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Just Like Honey. And it was just okay. It’s at least something I wouldn’t mind popping up somewhere else.
All in all, I think I can only give this album a 2/5. The only reason I didn’t go lower is because I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt that it works as a movie score. But I doubt it’ll ever get the chance to disappoint me, since there are plenty of other movies I want to see, but haven’t yet. I doubt I’ll see a movie I don’t really care to see just to find out if the score works well. Sorry. Just trying to be honest.
Dispatch’s self-titled EP (2011)
I’ve already shared this album on my blog, so if you want to know what I thought about it, check it out. I give this short musical suggestion a 5/5. Here’s what my coworkers thought:
“I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this album. Here is a band that is moderately successful, but only to a specific listening audience, specifically millennials who first learned to listen to music through online outlets. But, that being said, I really enjoyed it. The sound is pretty crisp and well planned/played. They have a good groove, and while nothing stuck in my head, a tune, a lyric, a beat, I sat back and enjoyed the experience. I have to admit I was disappointed that the album was so short. I think they could still use some polish, which honestly is what keeps them from “breaking through” to more mainstream channels. That, or as I suspect, the band is very protective over their product and are unwilling to compromise with producers and labels. But again, enjoyable.” 4/5 -Tim
I’m not sure I’d say Dispatch was a band for “millennials.” They’re older than that. And so are most of their fans. I’d say it’s not so much of an age thing, though, as a geographic thing. I think they’re more popular on the east coast than on the west.
“Hm. I appreciated this but didn’t exactly enjoy it. There just wasn’t much to it other than a capable display of instrumentality to me. I didn’t particularly care for the vocals or the songs themselves though, unfortunately. Some decent lyrical themes and melodic arrangements. Probably my favorite track was the opener “Melon Bend.” It’s the only one that made me perk up and really listen, and want to listen again. Just seems like a fun 90’s throwback sort of tune. But the rest just meanders into faux reggae/ska and folk that doesn’t do much for me. Lately I’ve really been picky with the kind of folk I really can get into. It either has to be hard core, or at least give me some brilliant songwriting. I’m so tired of rock bands trying to sound like folk bands though. Anyway, decent but sort of forgettable to me.” 5/10 -Chris