Some of my co-workers and I have been sharing some of our favorite music, rating them, reviewing them and sharing those reviews with one another. I thought I’d share my thoughts on their suggestions (and their thoughts on mine) with you here.
Here’s how I rate things. If I give something one star, it 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.
My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade (2006)
I think the only song from this album I have heard before is the title track. And from that little exposure, I think Chris described them perfectly when he shared this album:
“…it is very Queen-tastic. Large, bombastic melodies, epic double guitar solos, a powerful and energetic vocalist, hard rockin’ grooves…. I give you The Black Parade, a grandiose concept album centered around death…. This album (and the band in general) are much more Tim Burton in their doom and gloom than anything else. Believe you me…when this album first came out, I was on the other side of the fence. I didn’t want anything to do with this group. But one listen to first single “Welcome to the Black Parade” (which I’m sure you’ve all heard) and it was like a slap in the face. I couldn’t help it. That song and has one of the most epic melodies of the last decade.”
And for a lot of the album, that’s exactly what I got. Some of the tracks, like This is How I Disappear, The Sharpest Lives and Teenagers were a little more emo/pop punk than other tracks’ classic/glam rock inspiration. Throw in a bit of klezmer with that punk, and you get Mama, which I wasn’t sure what to think of.
I wasn’t sure what to think of House of Wolves, either. It was like punk jazz, and not ska (which is sometimes described as punk/jazz fusion). I wanted to like it more than I did, but I didn’t hate it. Maybe his vocals didn’t quite fit the song. I’d like to hear a female vocalist cover it. I think this was the only real low light.
The most pleasant surprise was Sleep, which was epic modern alt. rock, something I don’t get much of anymore.
I Don’t Love You had a very Coldplay-as-played-by-Green-Day vibe to it overall, which makes sense as their producer for this album also worked with Green Day. The solo is very Brian May. And the keyboard unexpectedly floated to the top of the mix in a few places, which was nice. Disenchanted was a nice blend between Sleep and I Don’t Love You, and it’s one of the best tracks on the album. Maybe my second favorite behind the title track.
This isn’t effecting my score, but they have cited Pink Floyd as an influence, and I didn’t hear it. At all. Perhaps fans of The Wall who also appreciate alt. pop punk rock would appreciate this album. But other than being a concept album, The Black Parade has more in common with ELO than Pink Floyd. MCR’s Cancer was very ELO-esque. And it was good.
While this album obviously blends influences, both classic and modern, it doesn’t feel like a tribute to any of those influences. It feels like its own thing. 4/5
Mat Kearney – City of Black and White (2009)
This album is very much American pop rock. Apparently Matthew Kearney (the dude) is christian, but Mat Kearney (the musical act) doesn’t come across as christian even though the influence and themes are undoubtedly there. Which is how I would think music should be. I wouldn’t call Matisyahu “Jewish music,” partly because that would come off as kinda racist. But Matisyahu’s faith is obvious in his lyrics. Any artist’s influences are obvious if you know what you’re looking for. It’s part of being human. I think it makes them seem more authentic and less manufactured; less a product of the corporate side of the music industry.
The Black Parade is a great album, but it feels calculated. Mat Kearney’s whole album though feels … well, authentic. And I liked this album a lot, but The Black Parade moved me more. Not that 3/5 is bad at all.
The label chose to promote Fire and Rain and Closer to Love, but they weren’t as good as Lifeline, which was my favorite track off this album.
Rush – 2112 (1976)
I have to be honest. I skipped the first track until I had 20 minutes to sit down and take it all in at once. I can do an 8 minute song in one sitting. Anything longer and I have to actually make time to not be interrupted. I try to do my best to listen to these albums in one block, but it usually takes two or three listening sessions to get through a whole album. In this case I just gave up on the pretense.
Since I started with the second half of the album, that’s where I’ll start my review. Except I don’t actually have much to say. It was fine, but nothing really stood out.
The title track, despite its length, was the best piece on the album. It has half a dozen movements to it:
II. The Temples of Syrinx
V. Oracle: The Dream
VII. Grand Finale
I really liked the overture. I think that is the nature of overtures, though. Wikipedia said “the music from the 2112 overture is repeated or built upon in other places in the suite,” but that’s actually backwards. Overtures are medlies based on some of the best parts of the rest of the suite. It serves to whet your appetite for the rest. And 2112’s does exactly that. It musically foreshadows the rest of the track. And the finale is the other end of it, taking it all and wrapping it up. It’s like a musical sandwich.
The Temples of Syrinx is the spicy hot mustard I could have done without; Discovery and Presentation are the meat and cheese I wish I could have had more of; Oracle: The Dream is the crisp, fresh spinach leaves that added some texture and I wouldn’t have taken off, but I wouldn’t have though of putting on either; Soliloquy is the
mayonnaise Miracle Whip which was a little tangy, but not what I’ll remember about the meal.
But the meat and cheese aren’t enough for me to love this whole album. It’s not bad, but it’s not the best Rush album. 3/5.
The Mighty Mighty BossToneS – Medium Rare (2007)
I can guess how most people will react to one of the ‘90s biggest ska-punk acts, specifically the sound of Dicky Barrett’s gravelly voice. It’s very much a part of the Bosstones’ sound.
These guys, along with Reel Big Fish and No Doubt, were the forerunners of American third-wave ska-punk. And when everyone else in the scene was coming out of Orange County, Calif., the Bosstones were the leaders of the east coast scene. They were on Sesame Street. They were in Clueless. The Bosstones went on hiatus back in 2003, and this is how they let their fans know they were back.
I guess it’s not a true b-sides album. Three tracks were recorded for this album, including Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker which is about the first internationally renowned Jamaican ska/reggae musician and the same guy The Beatles referenced in Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.
And other tracks were recorded before and just not released. Favorite Records (which is about Phil Spector)(and the line about “a checkered past” is also a reference to ‘80s British ska, which used a checker board to represent the integrated equality of Caucasians and persons of African descent in the music scene) was recorded back in 2000, To California and Katie were recorded in 2002, but none of them were released until this album.
There are some great tracks and some just okay tracks. I got into them because of one single I heard on the radio, so I picked up their CD. These guys are just one of those bands that I’ve been listening to for about half my life now, and they’re a persistent influence on my own music writing. 4/5
Feel free to let me know what you thought about the Bosstones (or any other music shared this week) down in the comments. Here’s what my coworkers thought:
“I remember when this band was the big thing in radio play. I always found their music to be fun, but really lacking in depth. When I say depth, I don’t mean the music itself, which is well blended, but the feel over all in the songs. I’ve always felt like the Mighty Mighty BossToneS were a “right band in the right place,” kind of group. I think the public was ready for this sound to come around again, and they were out there and an easy pick for the record labels. Don’t get me wrong, they are extremely talented, but it just feels like they were driven by the industry, not the listening base…kind of forced fit for a perception. The album IS enjoyable. And has a good grove, well worthy of 3 stars, just not genuine enough for me to move past that. And as a reminder, there is nothing wrong with “C’s,” they help you recognize the worst and best.” 3/5 -Tim