Feel your Insides Churning

For almost two years, 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.

Some weeks are $1 chicken tacos from a street vendor. This week was dutchoven steak, potatoes, carrots and onion. With a little rosemary (which is both metaphorically and literally true).

The Notwist – Neon Golden (2002)

A German “indietronica rock” band. Sure. Why not?

Right up front, I’ll say I liked this vocalist more than anything else this week (although some of the guest vocalists, like Sir Paul, on the album Tim shared were pretty good).

And compared to everything else I listened to this week, this album felt pretty minimal, which was a nice change up, and it grew on me. It goes to show that you should always have a nice roller coaster of music.

I get why Spencer shared this album. One Step Inside Doesn’t Mean You Understand reminded me of something he would write. It had a rhythmically complex idea, but was more “drawn out,” whereas I think Spencer would have taken it more places. I also think it sounded like him singing. Neon Golden was similar, but had more energy so I think I liked it better. One with the Freaks was also pretty good, and a bit more interesting musically. The middle was some of my favorite stuff from this album. And it’s a pretty small thing, but I really liked the backing strings on Solitaire. Those were the highlights.

There weren’t really any lowlights, other than the sound quality of the electronic drums. I even liked them on This Room. Bonus tracks Propeller 9 and Formiga seemed like filler, but that was the worst of the bunch.

This album didn’t blow my mind, but I didn’t get bored really either. A perfect 3/5.

“I went into this album having zero expectations, which is weird for me. The cover was ambiguous, the title was ambiguous, and I’d never heard the band’s name before. But I have to say I really liked it. It’s pretty solid all around. There wasn’t a track I didn’t like (although I had to listen on YouTube so it was hard to tell when one track ended and another began). I felt like the music was well written, the lyrics had a bit of weight, and the vocals fit the music. I also felt the album just had a good vibe and flow from beginning to end. Well worth the four stars I gave it…and approaching five.” – Tim

Hollywood Vampires – Hollywood Vampires (2015)

This is an interesting collection of classic rock supergroup originals and covers/medleys. It feels like the ultimate classic rock tribute album for the people, by the people.

The Last Vampire isn’t a song, but it really sets the mood. Although I’m not really sure the rest of the album really keeps it up, you know? I wanted a bit more Dead Man’s Bones, Tiger Army, and Type O Negative. Instead I got Jeepster and Manic Depression (which seemed like it was on the upswing of a bipolar episode).

Raise the Dead was more indicative of what the rest of the album was going to be – a modern Alice Cooper album. Itchycoo Park was pretty upbeat, too. And I don’t care that it didn’t fit the dark “theme” I didn’t really get. I think it was musically my favorite thing I heard all week (the lyrics were pretty stupid). Much better than the original (which I had to look up). I loved the energy of As Bad as I Am, but I have to admit that I’d like to hear someone else besides Alice Cooper do it. Metallica covering that could only make it better. And again, better lyrics would make it better.

I wasn’t really a fan of how Whole Lotta Love started, but once they picked it up, it was better. Same with Break on Through. Although they weren’t very original. Except for a more face-melting solo on Whole Lotta Love, they stayed very true to the originals. It’s not a bad thing per se, but covers (and live tunes) have a higher standard for me. To impress me, they usually have to really own it and add something new to the song. Like Brian Johnson’s vocals on School’s Out + Another Brick in the Wall. Still, I would have liked to hear some mashups instead of just medleys.

I’m not sure I realized until now that Three Dog Night covered One. I thought it was their own. The Coconut tag was a nice touch. That’s a trend a few of the songs had. Come and Get It should have ended 30 seconds earlier, but I liked the jazzy thing at the end of Seven and Seven is.

The lowlight of the album was My Dead Drunk Friends. The very obvious Alice Cooper groove was fine, but the guitar solo didn’t impress me enough to redeem the middle section (which totally lost me). And, as one last side note, the song should have ended with the last vocals. 3/5

Thoughts from my friends:

“Before even playing a track, I’m a little doubtful of this album. A supergroup thats just doing covers? And a tribute to the guys who drank and drugged themselves to death? If they’d just said to honor the stars who died young it would sound better than specifying the ones who died from excessive lifestyles.

Raise the dead has a great guitar sound, good rhythm, classic butt-rock sound. Cooper’s voice isn’t my favorite. A bit nasally almost. Matches the track though actually. Once I looked it up I realized its one of the 2 originals.

My Generation – nice to hear a modern rendition. Pretty true to the original. They even keept the stutters.

Whole Lotta Love – The intro was cool, but once they get into it I miss Plant. Cooper and Brian Johnson aren’t far behind though actually. Could have been much worse.

5 to 1 – I really like the combo organ sounds they pull in. Great tribute to the Doors.

One/Jump Into the Fire – I had no idea 3 Dog Night covered this. Never new of Harry Nilsson. Good track.

Hey Paul McCartney isn’t dead! Or is he?… CONSPIRACY! I assume they’re tributing somebody from Badfinger. A great song though. Not my favorite rendition.

Manic Depression – another that I like the song, but I’d much rather hear the original. Jimi’s vocals are just a germane part to the sound for me.

Schools Out/Another Brick – this is a great pairing. In my youth I mixed the two songs up on several occasions. I also thought they were both by Pink Floyd. I guess this is a tribute to Rick Write?

I didn’t actually recognize most of these. I like that they used some of the deeper catalogue rather than just blatantly obvious hits. Makes it seem like its not a money grab (which I don’t think it is). Overall its a well done album by some pretty capable guys just having fun. I won’t ever look this up, but it seems like going to see them live would be really great. I was looking up who the writers of these were to figure out who they were tributing and learned of a bunch of people I didn’t know, so I think HV can feel they accomplished their goal. Not all these guys died of excess though…

This was a fun listen, very well done, but not terribly deep. I don’t have a lot of desire to listen again.” 3.5/5 – Spencer

Deftones – Koi no Yokan (2012)

Quick side note: the title should be 恋 の予感. They Romanized it for all of us non-Japanese speakers, but didn’t bother to translate it. Chris, who actually speaks Japanese, said it isn’t “love at first sight,” but more of a knowledge that, upon seeing (or in this case hearing) something, you know you will love it.

When Chris shared this album, he said that by the turn of the millennium, “every other band from the “nu-metal” era suddenly sounded trite, immature, and just plain awful.” I think most of the world would agree with him. Some were smart enough to stay away from that, but for those of us who were in public school in the late ’90s/early ’00s, we (or our friends) made the mistake of getting into it. To our credit a lot of people made a similar mistake with the grunge scene 10 years earlier, although grunge has a bit more staying power. They were a trend, fad or phase that had a couple of notable survivors that together might get a page in a “history of modern music” text book, or a myriad of one-hit wonders that make it on to the accompanying multi-disc album (although “disc” would probably be used only has a hold over, like how we “dial” a number or “hang up” the phone because he have someone on the other “line”). The intervening pages would be things like boy bands and ska/swing revival bands.

Anyway, I don’t know that I would have put Deftones in the “nu-metal” genre. I only started listening to them with White Pony, so to me they’re more like Tool, but less proggy. Experimental metal, for sure.

I absolutely agree with his assessment of “the lack of energy and grit” and the disservice that does to modern rock. However, it can be overdone. Poltergeist and Gauze walked that line like someone who’s had one drink too many. The verses are just a little on the side of chainsaw-through-a-tin-roof. But I really liked the rhythmic nature of What Happened to You? and Poltergeist. The chorus was also my favorite part of Romantic Dreams.

Rosemary stopped just shy of being too much (although some backing vocals sounded a little screamo). The chorus and the spacey bit in the middle were great contrasts to each other and the heavier verses. And unlike many songs from Hollywood Vampires, the tag really added to the song and wrapped the tune up nicely.

And I found that I wanted more grit from Entombed and Tempest (except for one screamed word). Entombed was the only track that seemed like a throw back to what I was listening to in Junior High and High School, but not nu-metal. Just hard (ish) alt. rock. 3/5

Thoughts from my friends:

“This doesn’t seem that heavy to me. I don’t know what I would consider to be really heavy though. I guess I don’t consider myself a heavy-metal fan so when I hear some I can get behind I think, this isn’t really heavy-metal. Cognitive dissonance or something. The biggest hurdle for me liking most heavy metal is the glutteral vocals, which this doesn’t have.

Anyway. I really like the soundscape of the chorus in Romantic Dreams. The way the vocal bends his note over the guitar chord is cool.
Leathers is more on the harsh side. I don’t like it as much, purely based on the vocals. The rhythm is interesting, but the screams aren’t pleasant for me. Poltergeist has a lot of these harsh vocals too.
I like the spacier aspects of this album. I could really get behind it more if I could get over the vocals on some of the tunes.
I think I have a thing for heavy “monster” ballads. Entombed is a cool track. I’m really enjoying it.
Rosemary was another good one. Now I see what Chris meant when he said they tie in My Bloody Valentine. I didn’t really get that on the other tunes. Goon Squad wasn’t as good for me. The vocal thing, you know.

I really don’t see the comparison between this and Radiohead – Kid A. Kid A seems much more radical to me, but perhaps this is as radical in the metal scene (which I’m not familiar with) as Kid A was in the mainstream rock scene (with which I’m much more familiar).
I listened a couple times and liked it more the 2nd. Cool album, not really transformative for me. And the harsh vocal tracks really hurt the score. I’ll probably come back to some of the spacier, calmer vocal tunes.” 4/5 – Spencer

“Wow this album was kind of unexpected for me. I’ve heard of the Deftones, but never listened before…so thanks for the new share! I felt the structure of the album was really good, and the sound was pretty smartly executed. You can tell they really put a lot of thought into their work. As a whole the album just feels better than the average album, so four stars.” – Tim

Yes – The Yes Album (1971)

I’m pulling a Chris. This week marks the 45th anniversary of the release of this album.

I’m not a huge prog rock guy, but I have a special appreciation for Yes. I got into them because I won a box set of theirs by calling into the radio. I have most of their studio stuff, and some live stuff too. A lot of prog music (like jazz) seems to be for performers, and not necessarily for broad consumption. Yes can be like that sometimes (I can’t stand Tales from Topographic Oceans, three albums later), but when they’re not, they’re absolutely great. This is their only album (that I have anyway) which has no lowlights for me.

I’ve always loved Yes’ keyboards, generally. And I think their song structures are interesting and still cohesive.

The two highlights for me are Clap, which is a wonderfully complex folksy tune, and I’ve Seen All Good People, which is probably their best known tune. I don’t love the sound of Jon Anderson’s vocals, but I love the harmonies. And I’ve heard very faithful covers that just aren’t the same because Anderson’s voice just fits the song.

Here’s what my friends thought:

“Yes, if you know no other Yes album than The Yes Album you know Yes, you know?.

I just wanted to say that.
Aside from the nice harmonies Paul mentioned with his introduction, listening to this I’m really liking the bass work. Its firey and frantic.
All Good People obviously is the hit here
In Perpetual Change, I like the build up and dramatic vocal high point in the middle.
Yours is no Disgrace is a great song.
I listened to this album probably 4 times through and it didn’t get old. I will definitely listen to more Yes; I enjoyed this album a lot. It has the stuff I love: lots of movement, drama, guitars, vocal harmony, stylistic variety, grinding organs, and a lot of musical depth that makes it so it doesn’t grow old. I did skip All Good People a couple times because I know it well enough that I wanted to hear the other tracks more. Anyhow, I’m no Yes know-it all, but I say yes to Yes.” 4.6/5 – Spencer

“I was disappointed here. I’ve heard many Yes songs, and enjoyed them, but as a whole this album just kind of felt fractured to me. I never felt like there was a united vision, but that they just felt like they “liked” X song so it would be included…and they just kind of went down a list, and added songs to the album without thought or regard to how the song fit with the song before or after it. Now that said, the music itself was pretty good, and taken in parts it is better. But as an album it just barely gets average for me from two stars to three.” – Tim

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5 thoughts on “Feel your Insides Churning

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