I’m Not the One You Thought You Knew Back in High School

For more than a year, some of my friends and I have been sharing music. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.

This week I shared an album that follows in the same vein as my suggestion from last week. But first, here’s what my friends shared:

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

Scott is also continuing from his suggestion from last week. Which means I’m steadily going backwards through MJ’s core discography. I fully expect someone to share Off the Wall sometime in the future. Although to be honest, I look forward to the stuff before that more – the spin-off Jackson 5 Motown soul stuff as opposed to the solo ’80s disco pop funk stuff.

I know it’s the ’80s and there were synths and by my 2015 standards they are dated and not so good. Unless otherwise stated, I’d prefer to hear the song with more “timeless” keyboard sounds.

I really like the groove the opening track set up. It sounds like Howard Jones or even some Oingo Boingo. Arguably those bands sound like this, but I heard those first…. Wait a minute … is he saying, “You’re a vegetable”? Maybe I only mostly like Wanna Be Starting Something. I mean, it’s a little weird, and I’m sure I misheard them, but it’s not bad.

Like “the dog-gone girl is mine.” The Girl is Mine (and The Lady in My Life) sounds like the musical equivalent of that soft glow around Michael in the album art. It might be the most unimpressive thing I’ve heard Paul McCartney sing – Wonderful Christmastime included.

I don’t want you to think I don’t like this album. It’s fine, but Bad was much better.

There are some great things on this album. Mostly the title track. The bass line is a classic, but its a little repetitive and gets boring pretty quick. The guitar suffers from the same thing, but it doesn’t have the luxury of being a classic. Halfway through the song, when the synth starts to sound like a theremin making ’50s flying saucer sounds, is pretty sweet. That, Vincent Price’s super-creepy voice over, and the sustained organ chords near the end are my favorite things about this track. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song, and I think the fact that it’s so different from the rest of the album really helps it stand out, but I think the front half of the song is a little too long.

The drums and bass on Billie Jean are sweet, too. And so is the guitar, when it decides to show up. And while the chords don’t actually change all that much, I feel like where the melody goes on top of the chords is pretty interesting. And Beat It is cool too.

The big surprise for me was Pretty Young Thing. I kind of ignored the vocals (since I’m pretty sure I’m not the person he was trying to hit on), but I actually liked the synths on this. I liked the bongos, I liked the backup vocals (except for maybe the Chipmunks near the end)(and the Kung-Fu Fighting grunts in the middle), I liked the guitar. Musically, I really liked this song.

Like I said, this is ok, but I liked Bad more. 3/5

Sum 41 – All Killer, No Filler (2001)

Spencer, however, went with something completely different. And, oh man, this takes me back. I got a burned copy of this from a kid in my driver’s ed class (I know, I just dated myself). I don’t even remember his name. I doubt I’ve listened to this album since then.

And I’ll be honest that there’s probably quite a bit of nostalgia score padding going on, but I really liked this album, even though it’s almost been more than years since I last heard it and this isn’t really my style. It’s got high energy and they’ve got some decent harmonies going on. I know they got a lot of flak at the time riding the Green Day, Blink 182, etc. pop punk wave, but I think I prefer Sum 41 to those other guys, who I feel like are trying too hard.

The intro is a little weird (the outro is weird too, but I like it more), but there aren’t really any low lights on this album. The worst part about this album is summed up with Never Wake Up. It’s too short. I want more.

Some of the highlights (aside from Fat Lip and In Too Deep) for me include the drums on Nothing on My Back and pretty much everything about Handle This. I may have fond memories of In Too Deep, but I think Handle This might be my favorite song on the album. I feel like it has real feeling behind it, and it’s not bad from a musical standpoint either.

Maybe I’m just letting nostalgia get the better of me, but I really like this album. It’s kinda loud. It’s fast. And it’s kinda fun. 4/5

Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

I have never listened to this whole album. Just the singles. The short version of my review is this is really good. Sometimes it gets raw and so I don’t always love his vocals. Each song can get repetitive, but song to song it doesn’t feel that way, if that makes sense.

First some highlights. Smells Like Teen Spirit is classic, but I really have no idea what he’s singing about. The riff from Come as You Are is superb. While I think they stick with it a little long, and I’d like to hear a variation on it later on in the song, it’s great. Something in the Way was is not at all what I expected. It’s … calm. It’s repetitive, but I kinda like it. It feels almost funereal.

The real highlight of the album for me was Breed. I had never heard it before, and I think it’s awesome. It’s raw and musically really simple, but it’s really driving. The guitar solo helps with that, as it reminded me of a revving engine. I feel like I can hear quite a bit of Weezer in there. Same with Drain You, but I didn’t like it quite as much.

And now some lowlights. There’s raw steak, and then there’s taking a bite out of the cow while it’s still living and standing in a field. Territorial Pissings started to cross the line for me. I liked what was going on in the bass in Lounge Act, but I didn’t love the kinda screamy vocals. Stay Away was more of the same rawness. Then Endless, Nameless went all the way over. I had a really hard time getting through it. There wasn’t really anything I liked about that track at all.

There’s some great stuff on here. And some not so great stuff on here. It’s an even 3/5

Tame Impala – Currents (2015)

My only expectations for this album can be wrapped up in the thought, “Chris shared this. It might be interesting, but it probably won’t be bad.”

And I think that’s a pretty accurate review. For the most part, I’m not really sure how I feel about this album. I don’t hate it. It is pretty interesting. But I don’t know that I love it either.

There were small moments I loved, like the chorus of Moment. And there were other things I didn’t like so much. The out-of-phase keyboards on Eventually or the spoken parts on Past Life come to mind.

The one whole song I really enjoyed was Yes I’m Changing. It was a little trippy (and could have been more so), but as soon as it ended I wanted to hear it again.

Gossip was sweet, too, but I wish there was more to it. Let It Happen had the opposite problem. It was cool but it was too long.

I feel like I don’t have much to say. This was ok, but maybe my least favorite album of the week because it didn’t really do much for me. 3/5

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd (1973)

This is their debut album. The band is named after their high school P.E. teacher, Leonard Skinner, who strictly enforced the school’s policy against boys having long hair. They changed the spelling to avoid a lawsuit, but they wanted to shove it in “the man’s” face that they had long hair and made tons of money playing rock and roll. Later, they actually developed a friendship with Coach Skinner. As a side note, the pronunciation is also written “ˌlɛnərd ˈskɪnərd” or “len-ərd-skin-ərd”

Lynyrd Skynyrd had a bigger direct influence on me as a rock musician in high school than did any other band except The Beatles (although CCR, Fountains of Wayne and Weezer are pretty close). And this album in particular. It’s a little heavy and it is mostly deceptively simple songwriting with catchy hooks.

Of course it helps that there are hits like Tuesday’s Gone (which I think is the most produced song on the album with, ironically, the weakest vocal), Give Me Three Steps (my second favorite on the album), Simple Man, and the amazing Free Bird.

But all the songs are good. There don’t seem to be any “filler” tracks to me. I Ain’t the One and Mississippi Kid are stand out tracks. Especially the guitar work on the latter.

Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments below. Here’s what my friends thought:

“This is classic rock. I love this stuff. bluesy guitar rock. Simple Man really struck it with me. I loved the guitar work. 3 steps is a really fun song but not as substantial to me. Free Bird of course is an epic rock classic. If you can’t appreciate how hard that instrumental rocks you must be really old. Like, dead. I hadn’t heard the other songs on this before. Most were just ok, but held the album strongly. ” 4.3/5 – Spencer

“I’ve never listened to a full Lyndrd Skynrd album, so this was a treat. I liked it better than I thought I would. Great guitar work. “I Ain’t the One” started it off great. The classic “Tuesday’s Gone” always reminds me of Happy Gilmore, but also the worthy cover of it Metallica did on their Garage Inc. album. My favorite on the album is probably “Simple Man.” First time I ever heard the song was the cover done by the group Shinedown, which wasn’t a bad cover by any means. But the original trumps it for sure. And of course, “Free Bird” is one epic finale. Anyway, good, classic southern rock goodness.” 7.5/10 – Chris


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