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.
The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
I remember listening to my brother’s copy of this album. Possibly without his knowledge.
He had it on CD, so to me it was like two albums – Dawn to Dusk and Twilight to Starlight. Although I don’t know that each of those felt self-contained. This week I found out that the vinyl version was three records and each side was an EP – Dawn, Tea Time, Dusk, Twilight, Midnight and Starlight. After listening to the whole thing, I’m not sure it feels like six EPs.
I don’t think I’ve listened to this album (except for a couple of singles) for 15 years. And there were quite a few of this songs I didn’t really remember, like We Only Come Out at Night and Lily (My One and Only) (which were cooler than they were weird, but not by much) or Jellybelly and Beautiful (which I think were musically heavier than they should have been). I loved Porcelina of the Vast Oceans. I loved the spacey parts and the rockier parts, although the transitions could have been smoother. Galapagos had some great stuff to it, but Farewell and Goodnight was absolutely wonderful. It might be the most well-balanced Pumpkins song I’ve ever heard.
Of course there were songs I remembered and loved. To Forgive is one of my favorites, but it’s not really one of their better known songs. Bullet with Butterfly Wings is great, and although I don’t always love his voice, I think it’s perfect for this song. And how can you not love 1979? I mean, I love Tonight, Tonight and Today is the Greatest, but 1979 is my favorite of the album.
I also remember hearing Bodies and at the time thinking it sounded like Nirvana. And I guess I still hear it, but I think I would prefer Cobain’s vocals. They said they were inspired partly by The Beatles’ self-titled white album, which has some stuff on it that I absolutely love, but also has some of their weirdest, hardest to listen to stuff. And in that aspect, this album is similar. X.Y.U., Love and even the well-known Zero are some of the weak ones for me. But Tales of a Scorched Earth was the only one I had a really hard time listening to and will probably never choose to listen to ever again.
Other than that, my only complaint was really the length. Chris said we could split this up over this and next week, but the reason I play this little game is for music to listen to while I work. So I listened to the whole thing (Tim did too, but not Spencer). Maybe it’s just a by-product of our current state of entertainment, but I had a hard time with a double album. As a musician in the digital age, a whole album doesn’t always make sense. There’s not always a good reason to wait to release music when you can release a single just as easily. Plus I (usually) consume my media in smaller portions. But 1995 was a different time, and I can’t fault the Pumpkins for that. 3/5
Chris Merritt – Hello, Little Captain (2007)
Spencer had written about Merritt a long while ago on the blog. In fact, the title for that post came from a song on this album. On Spotify, the album art looks different from what I have here. However, this is what he has on his website and I take that to be more “official.” Perhaps it’s a re-release or something, but I couldn’t find anything to that effect.
Merritt is actually a cousin of Spencer’s wife’s
dog walker’s brother’s babysitter’s old roommate, but that was a coincidence Spencer didn’t learn until after he had heard Merritt’s music. And loved it.
I totally get it. When The Palace Flophouse came on, I actually thought it was a Ben Folds song that somehow found its way onto my “to listen to” playlist.
There were other songs that were very different, as well. I love the spacey intro and the almost Spanish flair in the verses of Beowulf, but I’m not sure how I feel about the prog hook and chorus. It was musically very interesting, but hard to follow. Maybe a little to “music for musicians” and not enough “music for listeners.” Dance Karate was cool, and Cell was alright, but I liked the chiptune of The Ascension much more (although the hidden track wasn’t quite as good).
Tower of Sand was somewhere in-between and sounded like a slightly jazzier version of something I would want to write. It’s Been Sad was kind of like that, but more of a jazzy Guster/Ben Folds blend and, oddly, less like something I’d write.
Time Bomb was, I think, the strongest tune on the album. And it had some great lyrics. I think this album deserves a 4/5.
The Verve – Urban Hymns (1997)
Scott shared Bittersweet Symphony from The Verve’s Urban Hymns – an album Chris shared about six months ago. But Scott only joined this game recently. Here’s the part of that review that covers that song:
Bittersweet Symphony might be a great soundtrack piece, but as a musician, it’s a really boring song to play. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I learned it samples a cover of a Rolling Stones song. The Verve had negotiated a deal to sample the track, but after they released the song, lawyers got involved and it got ugly. Keith Richards was actually pretty cool about it. In a 1999 interview, he said, “I’m out of whack here, this is serious lawyer sh*t here. If The Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money.”
I don’t think this is the best song on the album, but it’s pretty good. 3/5
Mötley Crüe – Dr. Feelgood (1989)
The first few seconds of the album were sweet. Pretty much all of their songs had some great filler guitar noodlings, but I found I liked those more than the actual guitar solos. There was just a lot of sameness (not that I really expected otherwise), but for whatever reason, Rattlesnake Shake and Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) kind of shined out above the better known songs like Kickstart My Heart. One song that was a pleasant surprise was Without You. Amid all of the face melting hair metal, a nice ’80s rock ballad really changes the pace and stands out.
Slice of Your Pie also had a pretty blatant homage to The Beatles’ She’s So Heavy, which felt un-original but also made me think about what The Beatles were singing about into the context of the Crüe’s song, which I really thought was well done. They don’t just quote a song, they make you think about what the original tune was about. I think more references should be like that. Probably my favorite thing about this otherwise fine, but to me un-spectacular album. But, I could have done with slightly more subtle lyrics.
Still, I liked this album more than I thought I would. And as a whole I think it was better than Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I think that comes down to expectations though. 3/5
GoldenEye 007 soundtrack (1997)
Hold up. Before you go listening to the 1995 movie soundtrack, that’s not what I’m sharing. It’s okay, but it’s not as good (or nostalgia-laden) as the N64 video game soundtrack, which is what I am sharing. There have been a few things leading to me sharing this.
- The movie came out 20 years ago this week. Although the game came out a couple of years later.
- The newest Bond movie, Spectre, just came out. And while I prefer more realistic, Cold War espionage, I still want to see it.
- Halo 5: Guardians was released a couple of weeks ago, and they got rid of local, split-screen multiplayer. You can now only play multiplayer if you each have your own XBox and TV. That made me start thinking about local, split-screen multiplayer – and naturally this game (and Mario Kart)(which, as a result, I’ve been playing a lot of recently).
- Some news was released recently that the original ending of this game (had Nintendo had their way) would have been Bond shaking hands with all his defeated enemies in the hospital. Instead, the developers added a cast list at the end to help children realize everyone was only acting. Almost 20 years I’ve loved that game and I never noticed.
I think it’s a good soundtrack – ’90s synths imitating hard rock guitars and perfect at creating an atmosphere where you’re pretty sure you’re going to get shot at, albeit a little repetitive – but I’m also willing to admit that nostalgia has a big influence, too.
Here’s what my friends thought:
“Ah GoldenEye. Endless nights playing levels over and over trying to get one more kill against your 3 best friends. Beware the Gold PP7. This is a gun soundtrack. I admit that anytime I think of a Bond movie, any Bond movie, this soundtrack pops in. It’s pretty solid, even with the odd water drips and clanking metal pipes necessary to immerse the player in the game. I thought it was interesting that I haven’t played this game for at least 12 years, and yet I still knew which levels went to each song. So yeah, it’s good at 3 stars, but it isn’t perfect.” 3/5 – Tim
“Well, I can at least geek out to this one a bit more than majoras mask from a few weeks back since I actually played 007 as a kid. Even still I never really played the full game, just multiplayer mode. So the opening track was immediately familiar. Perhaps just the nostalgia, but it seemed less artificial than the zelda soundtrack, probably instrumentation and genre differences mostly. Synthesized guitars are more palatable than synthesized upright bass. This is background music, though, make no mistake. Luckily I just had it playing in the background while working. It does a pretty good job of raising the suspense level, and keeping something moving without being distracting. And they do pretty well at tying in the main motif without being too redundant on it. About halfway through I was getting bored though. Overall though, nostalgia aside, its a soundtrack and I’m not really into those. Add in the synthetic qualities, and its pretty unlikely that I’d listen to many of these tracks all the way through ever. The nostalgia in brings it up into the high 2s though.” 2.7/5 – Spencer
Leave your own thoughts on any of this in the comments below.