Circle of Dust - Disengage
Cradle of Filth - Cruelty and the Beast
Ani DiFranco - Up Up Up Up Up Up
DJ Quik - Rhythm-al-ism
Electric Frankenstein - I Was a Teenage Shutdown
Forma Tadre - Automate
The Hellacopters/Gluecifer - Respect the Rock USA
Damien Jurado - Rehearsals for Departure
Meshuggah - Chaosphere
Muslimgauze - Hussein Mahmood Jeeb Tehar Gass/Remixs Vol 3
Numb - Language of Silence
The Protagonist - A Rebours
Sally Firecracker - Movies in May
Sebadoh - The Sebadoh
Soulfly - Soulfly
Tyrese - Tyrese
Toyah Willcox - The Changeling
Circle of Dust
Flying Tart Records/Polygram
This is the last installment of Circle of Dust, a collection of songs
from 91-97 by Klay Scott, formerly Scott Albert, the man behind everything
about this band. Klay must be another one of those tortured souls having
gone through many internal changes. Scott has died; Klay remains to give us
his reflection of his aggression.
This disc took me several spins to have it grow on me. I really can't explain why I like this release, but I do. Maybe it is the way that the electronica, ethereal industrial and guitar components are crafted into outstanding compositions. The electronic parts lead into a guitar-laden hook, well mixed in with the programming and samples. Using a combination of distorted and sung lyrics with the occasional female vocals tossed in comes across well. No particular instrument is more overpowering than the others. Maybe I'm just the title to song number 3 "Yurasuka." This disc also contains a couple of simplistically disturbing instrumentals. The last six tracks called "Refractorchasm" are remixes combing the lyrics and music to the songs "Refractor" and "Chasm." Look for Klay and his partner Criss to release their new project called Angeldust.
Cradle Of Filth
Cruelty and the Beast
How seriously can you take this band? I mean they are sick beyond sick,
liner notes that discuss flaying victims and wearing their skins to dinner,
twisting heads on victims so the face and buttocks are in the same
direction, crucifixion of virgins (where they find 'em, I don't know) and a
cover shot that is a goth bimbo happily soaking in a warm bloodbath. But
they do want you to take them seriously. And thousands of fans are taking
them seriously, they are a big draw. Even with a lead singer (Dani Filth)
whose voice is highly reminiscent of that possessed Lucky Charms leprechaun, and
supporting vocalists who are a basso death metal growler and a screaming
female soprano. It's gotta be a gimmick, right? Well, I won't take the
chance that they aren't serious. If they want me to think they're evil,
vampyric, libertine serial killers, then, I shall; they'll be shot with a
silver bullet at the first sign of trouble and then thoroughly sprinkled
with holy water and staked with a crucifix if they move again.
Describing their particular brand of metal is difficult. First off, even though guitars are frequently used, they are only embellishments. The centerpiece is the voices--an intriguing meld of Dani, the basso and the soprano. The vocalists do not so much sing as they tell a tale, almost in opera form. Quite often it feels as though you are watching a horror movie without the visuals. You can almost see the visuals because their music is highly descriptive without words. They work in noise bites and their own screams and hisses and noises that sound unholy to create a language of their own. Dani definitely has a unique vocal style with the high pitched hisses and squelches--maybe the sound a bat would make when a stake has been driven through its tiny black heart. Keyboards are also quite prominent in the mix; mostly the kind of keyboard the Phantom of the Opera would have played, but sometimes they update so as not to seem a 1,000 years old. The guitarists (Stuart and Gian) weave their magick with their six-strings so that it rocks, but it doesn't rock so hard as to distract you from the voices. Cruelty and the Beast is spread over two discs so there is plenty for everyone. An extra bonus is "Bathory Aria" that pays fine, touching tribute to Countess Elizabeth Bathory (songs include "Benighted Like Usher," "A Murder of Ravens in Fugue" and "Eyes That Witnessed Madness")--mass murderer everyone could hate except Cradle Of Filth. I can see how she would fit in their glamorous, perverted, satanic world.
This certainly is not for everyone, but it is original and very creative and I think they are having a tremendous amount of fun thinking of the next idea to turn your stomach upside down or make your head spin in unnatural ways. I'd bet your virgin sister that they put on one heck of a live (sorry, undead) show, but I wouldn't stand in the front row (too much blood splashing about methinks).
Up Up Up Up Up Up
Righteous Babe Records
Unlike last year's gregarious Little Plastic Castle, Up Up Up Up Up Up
doesn't try to come ask you to join in. Oh, you're definitely welcome to
drop in and listen, just don't expect much eye contact.
The songs are spare, stark, and ruminative. According to the title track, "she's learning the spaces she leaves/ have their own things to say"--apparently there is much to say. "'Tis of Thee," the opening track, faintly echoes the opening title track of Castle but stays downtempo and offers a bitingly sarcastic tear on intolerance--leaving only a small doubt that this album wasn't just coincidentally released the day after celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. That doubt is further reduced in "Everest," which points out that our personal differences only seem insurmountable because of our proximity and perspective ("from the depth of the Pacific/ to the height of Everest/ and still the world is smoother/ than a shiny ball bearing").
Overall, the lyrics are as vivid and strong as you've come to expect from Ms. DiFranco (particularly the anguished "Come Away From It"), but are hindered by the music's somewhat uninviting nature. Little of it can be described as "catchy" ("Jukebox," "Angry Anymore," and "Hat Shaped Hat" being possible exceptions) and when a song does pick up the tempo, more often than not it's a riff for the band to groove on. Now, I have nothing against a band obviously enjoying themselves and getting lost in the making of music (in fact, I usually complain that bands don't do it enough), but occasionally I like to be invited in so as not to feel like an interloping observer.
The band...the band is as tight as ever. Long time drummer Andy Stochansky and not-quite-so-long time bassist Jason Mercer continue to find new ways to make so much sound like so little, offering a Magic Eye picture which rewards the ability to let your focus shift from the foreground to the back. New addition Julie Wolf is hard not to notice, though; not only are her keys (organ, Wurlitzer, and accordion) a new feature in DiFranco's music, but her sound absolutely permeates the album and adds a welcome new dimension.
I don't really know what to think of this album. I quite enjoy it while it's playing, but don't foresee getting around to playing it that often. And I doubt I'll be hounding friends to listen "for their own good" like past (and, I assume, future) Ani DiFranco albums.
One of the leading architects of the West Coast funk sound is DJ Quik,
producer, songwriter, rapper. On his latest release, entitled
Rhythm-al-ism, Quik attempts to expand the boundaries of the known funk
universe and go where not even George Clinton and the Mothership have
In his own words, Quik describes this, his fourth release, as being an exercise in "musical diversity." He claims his goal was to put the listener in an altered state of being. Like "bud-ism" Quik is attempting to give his audience a high, a musical high, through what he calls Rhythm-al-ism. But what should we call this new form of funk exploration, Q-funk? I was going to have to try this. So I sat down, munchies and beverages close at hand, and blazed up "Rhythm-al-ism."
Puff one: The first 20 seconds or so felt good, then something went terribly wrong. My chest started spasming and I coughed up my hit. Damn this intro into Q-funkedness wasn't agreeing with me. Some grape Kool-aid to stop the burning in my throat and I was ready to try again.
Puff two: Ah, yeah, now this was more like it. "We Still Party" was some straight uncut funk, lush and vibrant. Quik's used a little everything here, bass, keyboards, drums, etc. True to his ability and talent, he's credited with playing everything from the synthesizer to the percussion--damn. I need some more Kool-aid.
Puff three: Light dimmed, thirst quenched, I take another hit off the Q-funk called "So Many Wayz" featuring 2nd II None and Peter Gunz. More of that recycled Funkadelic here, the backyard summer party vibe is strong. Man, where's the Doritos, I'm starting to get hungry here.
Puff four: What the...? My living room's disappeared now and I'm behind the wheel of a huge convertible pink Cadillac. This really ain't me, but my boys in the ride are straight head noddin', while the radio boomin' out a track called "Hand in Hand." Light and flirty with a joyous kinda energy, this is perfect cruising music but where to? "Down Down Down" (track five) did nothing to mess with my buzz, and although the heads weren't noddin' as enthusiastically as they were a few minutes ago, they're noddin' nonetheless. When "Youz A Ganxsta" comes on, the maturity of one DJ Quik becomes instantly apparent. The vibe is straight positive as Quik dismisses the negative images that have been all too frequently applied to him. No gansta', gun-toting posturing here, this track is about him being a musician, a musical boy wonder if you will. Who just happened to grow up in a gang infested neighborhood. Is that a Taco Bell up ahead? I'm pullin' over, I need some food. My case of the munchies has gone critical, and my buzz is starting to wear off.
Stomach happy, head returning from the clouds I jump back in the Caddy and head for home. My bag of Rythm-al-ism is gone. There were only a few seeds in it and we named them "I Used to Know Her" and "No Doubt." Heads are no longer bobbin up and down now, instead all (with the exception of mine) are in full recline with caps pulled down snuggly to shade the eyes from late afternoon sun. Man! How'd I get stuck driving? Overall the Q-funk was nice, not perfect by any means, but cool. And I'm sure it's my feelings on this that has something to do with the color of my ride. Oh well, I'm not sure if the Rhythm-al-ism took me somewhere new (pink Caddy notwithstanding) but it wasn't your average 20 sack, that's for sure.
I Was A Teenage Shutdown
So few truly great punk bands warm the cockles of my black little heart
these days, but Electric Frankenstein tend to set their flamethrowers on
high and spurt away at the charbroiled organ. But guys, you could slow
down on the releases. Geez how many do you think we can afford?? Okay,
so admonishments out of the way, this is a gem. Singer this time out is
Scott Wilkins. This is a live radio performance for WFMU's Pat Duncan
Show. It was recorded April 25, 1996. Of course, it is great, hot,
burning up the damn radio. Of course, you should get it. I have now seen
another live show listed on cd (It's Moving, It's Alive), and no, I don't
know if it is an alternate release or foreign release of the same material
under a different name. All of the above are possibilities, I guess I
won't know unless I get it. Excuses, excuses. Pity, now I guess I've
committed myself to purchasing more Electric Frankenstein. Songs are
"Teenage Shutdown," "It's All Moving Faster," "Super Star," "Rise and
Crash," "New Rage," "I Wish I Could," "EF Theme," "Right On Target" and
"Demolition Joyride." Nothing new, but these cuts burn with the passion of
ancient punk times. Electric Frankenstein are the cream of the crop. If you like the
Hellacopters, Gluecifer, or the Dead Boys, these mutants would like you to
give them just one little chance...foolish human.
ten out of ten
I had no idea what I was in for when I picked up Automate, Forma Tadre's first domestic release. I had heard Newt, the collaboration between Haujobb and Forma Tadre and enjoyed for the first time a drum and bass album. I enjoyed it so much I bought Automate.
I'm unable to distinguish whether or not this music is done electronically, although I've read that it is. It has an organic feel that you don't hear from electronic musicians. Andreas Meyer single handedly orchestrates this beautiful noise. His is a genuflection of how things were industrially--the place where found sounds and technology cross paths. A musical jewel.
With its gigantic washes of sound and color, Automate resonates in a place deep down inside yourself that you haven't discovered yet. It will take you far away if you let it; the whole album seems like one long, strange, and majestic journey.
Still, in all of its layered complexity, Automate is simple to listen to. As the listener, you get pulled in (by a force that I might compare to sleep paralysis) immediately by a familiarity that's hard to put a finger on. The title track is testament to this as it expresses itself in an almost soundtrack sort, flooding your synapses with visual clues you may or may not have seen before.
I've heard rumors of a Blade Runner sequel. Forma Tadre should be the only band considered for the soundtrack. If somehow you could substitute Automate in for Vangelis on the original Blade Runner, it would be that much more amazing. I would recommend this to anybody looking for something completely different that what you've been listing to. Oh yeah, and prepare yourself for a cerebral retrofitting.
Respect the Rock USA
Man's Ruin Records
This is a follow up to the 1997 10" release on White Jazz Records/House of
Kicks called Respect the Rock. Man's Ruin is helping spread the Scandinavian
rock re-evolution. These two bands are usually hotter than two knives in
the burners, but here The Copters give us four covers and one feedback-dripping ditty. MC5's "American Ruse," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Working for MCA," Wilson Pickett's "A Man
and a Half," and Bob Seger's "Her Strut;" Gluecifer gives us five slices of
their '70s motor city rock 'n' roll. They have slipped away from the
amphetamine infused Motörhead-ish blasts. I can't tell if they borrowed the
music and threw in their own lyrics. I just get the feeling that I have heard these songs before somewhere in the haze of adolescence. All in all this split disc is
"Respecting the Rock." I would say this is for the serious completist. The
release date for this is March 5, 1999. For the cd deprived crowd, there
will be a 10" vinyl release by each band. Look for the Hellacopters at this
year's Garage Shock in Bellingham, Wa.
Rehearsals for Departure
Not since Tom Waits' Closing Time and Joni Mitchell's Blue has an album
been perfect wallowing music for the hopeless romantics out there. Damien
Jurado's Rehearsals for Departure is not music for your daily soundtrack
(unless of course, you're chronically sad) but it's so perfect for those
moments when you need that sort of catharsis. This release from this now
Seattle-native is definitely folky but like Waits and Mitchell, the
pensive quality and the dismal characters are there. It's a quiet album,
not much as far as arrangements go, just a gentle guitar, a bass now and
then, some occasional drums and moments of strings to add the extra punch
to your heart. Jurado's vocals are uniquely melancholy, sometimes you
wonder if this guy is ever really happy, or is he happy being miserable.
"Tragedy" starts off with "The life you're leading with the lying and
cheating is hard, you got yourself a boyfriend who treats you like
a lady and friend, no one sees the tragedy except for me...trust me, you're
in deep, it's no good." However, there are some jaunty tunes off this
album. "Honey Baby" is a great sing-a-long with "Is this the first time
baby, is this last time. Well maybe...I spent the last night in your
room/kicking these wishes to the moon..." "Letters and Drawings" is
another catchy number about waiting for that phone call from the one you
let get away but still hold onto emotionally and hope for a second chance.
I wouldn't dismiss this as another maudlin album ready-made for college
radio. Sure, it may be that but overall, Rehearsals for Departure is one
of those much needed albums to remind you that you're not the only bleeding
heart left on this planet.
Shoot! This should have made my best of 1998 list as well. The big question:
can Meshuggah survive being named one of the ten most important new metal
bands by Rolling Stone? This is probably worse than the Sports Illustrated
Cover Jinx. Hey, if any band can do it, Meshuggah probably can. My
condolences to the band for being named metal-minions under the
metal-demi-god Rob Zombie (who probably wasn't too crazy 'bout getting the
title). Only received a hardness factor of 7 (Pantera got an 8). I hope
Meshuggah and Morbid Angel team up with Soilent Green and kick that writer's
ass. God help the poor inkslinger should any Norwegians get loose and torch
his place of worship. Stupid idiot. Underground bands are for kids at heart, not for Rolling Stone.
Chaosphere maintains the level of excellence established on Destroy, Erase, Improve. Usually a band falls flat on their face following a masterpiece like Destroy, Erase, Improve. Jason (my fiancé) hates the vocals and I think for those uninitiated to the world of extreme metal, they will find them difficult to enjoy at first. Jens Kidman's vocals are angry, screaming and tortured-sounding, not quite full-on death metal growling, but if you crossed Butthole Surfer's megaphone squelching with death metal growling and threw in a metallic, machine-like tonal quality, you would come real close (I have no idea how his throat holds up, I'm just glad it does). Tomas Haake's drumming is phenomenal. The other band members contribute mightily, but I do believe that Mr. Haake has elevated his drumming to a new level (especially on "Corridor of Chameleons" and "The Exquisite Machinery of Torture"). Haake is also responsible for the lyrics, which are outstanding examples of literary prose adapted to a futuristic storyline. Fredrick Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom meld seamlessly for a dual virtuoso guitar performance. Thordendal is always a superlative guitarist. His technique is flawless and he is also quite renowned for his unique effects. Here's the rub, though: where so much of Destroy, Erase, Improve relied on the never-questioned talent of Thordendal, the beat and the continuity of Chaosphere is squarely in the hands of Haake. His drums are the glue that hold Chaosphere together, the frills and melodies are filled in by the rest of the band. The eerie and twisted guitar solos by Thordendal and Hagstrom only accentuate the steadiness and subtlety of Haake's drumming. All of the songs are brutal industrial metal, very similar to a much harder Fear Factory (Demanufactured-era) or Skin Limit Show. Hardness factor seven, my ass, this is concrete and steel, way too tough for corporate music rags.
Hussein Mahmood Jeeb Tehar Gass (Soleilmoon, USA)
Remixs Vol 3
Regularly Soleilmoon and Staalplaat--the two labels who have undertaken the
task of keeping us abreast of the Muslimgauze output--will release an
unlimited edition of the Muslimgauze oeuvre. (Most of the limited releases
span all types of media and are usually run less than a 1000 copies.) The
good news: Hussein is one of the unlimited releases. The bad: Remixs
Vol. 3 is not. The Remixs [sic] series is somewhat of a misnomer in that
Muslimgauze is constantly remixing Muslimgauze,
borrowing/stealing/repeating elements from earlier works, but Remixs Vol.
3 is evidently drawn specifically from Hussein and is a perfect
companion for that album. They make an elegant set, Hussein being
heavily structured around beats and distorted voices and Remixs Vol. 3
with more foreground ambience--drift and noise which buries the particulars
of Hussein underneath, allowing them life as echoes and distant memories
like rain and wind on a canvas tent. Hussein opens with "Bilechik Mule,"
a song so evocatively Muslimgauze (believe me, you know after awhile) and
yet so different. The heavily treated voice is almost unrecognizable as
voice croons as it weaves its way through the persistent pulse of liquid
rhythms. It's a siren call that breaks new ground while seeming to be an
old friend at the same time, achieving a sense of timeless immediacy with
its historical resonance. The album closes with "Uzi Mahmood 12," one of
a series that had partial release last year with the Uzi Mahmood EP and
this track sums up this series as well--tight beats stretched around the
rhetoric of a strong male voice. Muslimgauze has an uncanny talent in
capturing the unconscious cadence of a voice with the careful placement of
his accompanying beats.
Muslimgauze's music is based around patterns, voices, and rhythms of the Middle East. These elements are either woven into landscapes of sharp, heavy beats and spasms of static or are torn apart and stripped to their very essence before being put down as the barest whisper of melody and ambience. Each release, so quick on the heels of the last, is a continuing examination of Bryn Jones' fascination with the rich music of a tumultuous region, a progressive litany that continues to innovate and surprise. Hussein Mahmood Jeeb Tehar Gass is a bold stroke, marred only by the unfortunate poignancy of its release date being only a week after Bryn Jones' death. It throbs with life, pointing Muslimgauze in a new direction that will remain an open-ended unfinished journey. Remixs Vol. 3 is an equally appropriate epitaph--the new remixed beneath a layer of the old. The matched bookends of ecstatic release and pensive grief, Muslimgauze-style.
Language of Silence
Please keep your hand inside the car at all times and do not leave the car until it has come to a complete stop. Thank you for listening to Numb and enjoy your ride on the Language of Silence.
Numb are pissed OFF! It has been a while since I've had the pleasure of so much warped, dissonant electronic chaos shoved steadfastly into every orifice of my body. Load me up, I just want more.
Numb use the great old electro/industrial formula that reached an apex back in the early 90's with Frontline Assembly's "Caustic Grip" and Haujobb's "Home and Gardens," which is to take electronic danceables and manipulate them into fast and furious works of post apocalyptic isolation. Thank God someone is still doing it, and doing it very well.
To get things going the album begins with two jackhammer fire drills, "Respect" and "Suspended." Both conjure up remnants of Ministry long gone. Language of Silence then switches to a more cerebral fare, even delving into twisty instrumental ground ("Illumination Rounds") that sometimes walks the experimental line.
To me Numb's true colors shine through on songs "No Remorse" and "Defiler." They conjure up sound and image on these songs that are unto themselves. Pretty original stuff that you wouldn't mistake for anyone else.
The whole of Language of Silence doesn't have fresh or original stamped all over it. In some instances I feel that this is its strength considering the lack of powerful industrial artists out there right now. I'd like to hear more of Numb's own special twist on more of the album's songs. Overall it's a tight, powerful earful.
Cold Meat Industry
Here's a genre for you: neo-classical gothic orchestral music. Though all
and part of that sequence fails to really describe the debut release from
the Protagonist. Each word taken as a unit has an individual resonance in
your mind, a style replete with its own majesty and grace. The wonderment
is the commingling of all three produces a sound just as your imagination
would naturally expect yet not really believe possible. The Protagonist, a
nom de plume of Magnus Sundström, has been teasing us for the past few
years with isolated tracks, small gems to tide us until this full-fledged
release. (Two tracks can be caught on the Absolute Supper, CMI's
celebratory double disc compilation, one on another fabulous anthology
called Ahmisa from the French label, Harmonie. The rest, trust me, get
more obscure from there.) And there was a great deal of anticipation
riding on this release, that dreaded sense of expectation and realization
that you've set the bar too high and this release (like so many others)
won't clear the height. A Rebours does. With classic form naturally.
Equally reminiscent of the lilting sweep of Humberstone twins' In The Nursery project and the bombast of labelmate In Slaughter Natives (two nominees for the category of "Best Use of a Prepositional Phrase for a Band Name"), A Rebours is composed of percussive underpinnings, brass sections on loan from Wagner, choral voices, the enveloping sound of a 1000 strings, sampled dialogue, and spoken entreaties. All of it blended, CMI-style. (For a slightly more involved discussion of that pigeonholing, see the "Hour of Monsters" in this month's Scrutinizer. How's that for an overt internal plug?) Each track is indebted to sensual purveyors of the arts who have gone before us, though not in the realms of music. There's Husymans, Thorak, Shelley, a little oracular proselytizing from the Chaldean followers of Zoroaster, Riefenstahl, and Poe. Sundström credits these as his muses and brings to each of them a sonic attribute heretofore unknown. It's an excellent release which gives birth to an inquisitiveness towards the sources. Not as a pale shadow, but as research to fully appreciate these eight songs. Literature is prized for added layers which unfold as the reader grows in experience. Music infrequently falls in that same category. It should. Here's a lead to follow.
Movies in May
Battery Street Records
A strong, distinctive female voice and a violin--two sounds that are catnip
to my ears. In Sally Firecracker's Cat Burns, I have found both. Her dusky
voice soars and broods, builds and trills; her violin evokes the Celtic
("Mixed Emotions"), Middle East ("Boomerang") and just plain ethereal
("Crush"). I don't mean to imply that Sally Firecracker should be viewed as
"Cat Burns and Three Guys," it's just that her cords and strings were what
first drew my attention. The songs take precedence over any individual's
virtuosity, and when you succeed in making the difficult look easy it's not
often you get your full due. But it would be hard to think of Roger
Johnson's drums and percussion, Jeff Ramsey's guitar and the bass and
vocals of Rob Stewart as anything other than a cohesive unit, readily
capable of filling the room with their dense tapestry of sound.
Yet how to accurately describe said sound, since so many aspects of it have come to be associated with something different? Strongly folk, but the kind you'd hear at a barn-raising, not a protest rally. A touch of the Celtic, but not the Enya, Pogues or Riverdance varieties. A strong core of rock, but not the stadium breed. Their songs unfold layer by layer, creating a story rather than a catch phrase. Every track on this album is strong, but I particularly like the Celtic-tinged "Mixed Emotions," the Middle East-turned-bombastic guitar rock of "Boomerang," the touching "I Was Wrong" and the whirling momentum of "So It's Like This." A most pleasant find, thanks to the local music listening station in the U-District's Tower Records.
Said to be the band's definitive album (hence the eponym), The Sebadoh
maintains the trio's lo-fi roots but has adopted a more cohesive sound to
pull together some of the experimentation this band is known. The trio as
Sebadoh consisting of the ultra-indy icon Lou Barlow (guitar and vocals),
Jason Loewenstein (bass and vocals) and the newly added Russ Pollard (drums
and vocals), has created melodic if a bit fuzzy pop gems within this
Thanks to the band's eclecticism and musical dynamics, the songs successfully vary from silly to plaintive to melancholic to raging. The album kicks off in a true lo-fi fashion, distortion and jangly guitar ā la garage rock in "It's All You." "Decide" is undoubtedly a song that can take you from zero to fifty in fifteen seconds flat with its steady backbeat, soaring guitar riffs and Barlow's great bark. However, comparatively the song comes off jejune unlike some of the more pop tracks. The single, "Flame," with its repetitious lyrics and rhythm is reminiscent of good ol' fashion pop songs in the vein of Phil Spector. It starts off a bit tinny with a basic drum beat but like a modern and funny version of Ravel's "Bolero," it builds with a whirlwind of textured distortion and soaring guitar effects. A lot of this record relies on great hooks--you'll find yourself humming "I've been thinking all day, that I've got nothing good to say/There's a world on my mind that I could really leave behind" (the first line in "Weird") in the same sing-songy Barlow way. You can even merengue a bit to "Cuban" which is an experimental track that combines latin rhythms with a rock edge. But more impressive are the "dreamy" love songs "Love Is Stronger" and "Tree" that Sebadoh has the courage to bless our cynical world.
Started by Max Cavalera after leaving Sepultura, Soulfly picks up right
where Sepultura left off and takes it all one step (and sometimes it's a
long step) further. If you enjoyed Sepultura's Roots disc, you will ooze
over Soulfly. Soulfly just enhances the Brazilian tribal aspects of
Sepultura's darkish metal music and tosses in elements of rap, found
sounds, noise, world music and soundtracks. If you thought Pantera
switched between musical elements, you will think Soulfly is all over the
road. And after a while the roads all blend and melt together into one
superhighway of music through the rainforest.
I don't care at all for rap, but I do like the way Soulfly blends that element into their music. Only on one song did the rap element become too overbearing ("Bleed") and I'm sure that most people are more forgiving about rap than I. Most of the time, there is just enough metal to balance the rap ("Prejudice"). Soulfly really shines on "Eye For An Eye" (Soulfly's best song), "No Hope = No Fear" and "No" because the metal dominates and the tribal elements dance around the rhythms in a cohesive ritual. Metal is their forte although they have expanded the vocabulary of metal mightily; it now includes more styles than I ever dreamed possible. "Bumba" and "Tribe" mix metal and tribal in a stunning fashion, although the vocals come off a little weird on "Tribe," the song really works; "Bumba" doesn't fare as well, but that doesn't make it a bad cut, it just pales in comparison to "Tribe." "Soulfly" uses dub/scratch as a pervasive influence, slowing down and grooving like Rastas in the sun way too long. "Soulfly" would make Mick Harris and Bill Laswell proud. "First Commandment," "Fire," "Bumbklaatt" and "Umbabarauma" have a heavy tribal feel, mixed with a dub-like, hallucinogenic metal drone (esp. "Fire's" remarkable Hendrix-like guitar lines). "Quilombo" and "The Song Remains Insane" cross all boundaries by mixing death metal vocals with tribal elements and pushing the noise to max in a song format which the Japanese would give a nod of approval. "Bleed" also has heavy tribal and noise elements added to the annoying rap stuff. "Karmageddon" (great song name) ends with the joyous sounds of African children chanting and singing.
If you despise metal, tribal, rap or dub, do not even think about purchasing this disc, it would be beyond your capacity to enjoy. If, however, this sounds interesting, fly to the store immediately and purchase Soulfly because I feel it is unlikely that this mix can hold up through many albums. I could (I hope) be wrong, though. So guys, show us your mettle or metal.
$9.99 for a new full length CD with interactive features is in
these days of over-priced music unheard of. The only way you'd get
something cheaper is if it fell off the back of the truck it was riding in.
So imagine my surprise when after watching Tyrese's "Sweet Lady" video for the umpteenth time I found myself wandering the aisles of my second home looking for the single, only to find the full length CD on sale for the low, low price of $9.99. Now, I'm not sure what I did in my moment of excitement to draw an odd look from store security. Maybe it was the double back flip into the splits on aisle four or my James Brown shuffle or maybe it was the "we're not worthy" salutes at the feet of the store manager. Either way it was decided by those in charge that the attention I was attracting to myself was disruptive to say the least. After some Johnnie Cochran legal mumbo-jumbo and Bill Clinton word play, I was allowed to leave with my purchase.
On the drive home I took some time to reflect on what I was getting for my money. Sure, I liked "Sweet Lady," but that was all I knew about Tyrese the singer, other than the fact that he first came to wide attention when he appeared on a Coca Cola commercial. As my pink Caddy pulled to a stop, I started peeling away the plastic wrap on the CD jewel case. By the time I got inside, I was already untangling my fingers from the sticky security seal. I popped the disc into the CD player and boom, track one "Nobody Else" jumps out at me, light and refreshing, different. The base line thumps without overshadowing the light synth loop. The contemporary urban flavor of DJ Needle rocking a drum kick is used to bridge transitions and breaks together. The lights in my apartment dim, it's club time and things are just getting started.
Tyrese keeps this club vibe going with more fresh R&B rhythms on track two "Tell Me, Tell Me," featuring Before Dark for a little female vocal flavor. Okay, somebody call my chiropractor 'cause all this head noddin has got my neck killin me! This is groovin music, you can get your grind or your ride on to it. The bass guitar has just enough presence to make your ass wanna make like a '67 Impala and bounce. The keys and other musical elements are darker here with the only light coming from Tyrese and Before Dark's vocals. Okay, that's two in a row. Could we have something special here?
The mood on track three is a little lighter than its predecessors. Here Tyrese decides to walk that fine line between pop and R&B. No matter, "Promises" makes it three hits in a row and the dance floor in my living room is packed. I think that double back flip I did earlier at the store is starting to rear its ugly head in this clubbed out body of mine. Midway through this cut, out of nowhere, a female emcee starts rippin the mic a new one like it stole her man! Hands everywhere are pumping skyward, the roof is getting raised real high tonight, somebody warn the FAA. Finally a break in the action as Tyrese slows things down with "Sweet Lady." Hmmm, where did I put that super glue...
Now, the album is by no means perfect. Songs like "Give Love a Try" and "Ain't Nothin Like a Jones" had me scramblin' for the remote in search of the track forward button. But overall, this is a great addition to your R&B collection. And the interactive features make it a flat out steal at $9.99. You get the video for "Nobody Else," Tyrese's biography and photos. Even at regular price, I would recommend this CD to anyone looking for a good deal.
In the annals of British girl pop (or punk), we have many faces and
feelings but few true artists who've outlasted the Eighties and are
still viable. Yeah, the English have Dusty Springfield, Sandy Shaw and
Petula Clark to atone for, and we're being force fed Shirley Bassey
through retrospective. And then there are women like Marianne Faithful
or Siouxsie Sioux, who've been through it and survived; and those who
have gone missing, like Alison Moyet, or gone quiet like Kate Bush. And then
Toyah Willcox was a punk priestess pioneer and flame-haired actress who got her start in Derek Jarman's "Jubilee," both singing and acting debuts, and was the opening feature in "Urgh! A Music War" (her performance did not make it to the CD however). As her work bears out, she was originally a poet who was infected by the punk phenonema of her time, creating a stage persona to reflect her various talents: acting, poetry, dance and music. Her early eighties catalogue has been almost unheard of here in the states and nearly unfindable, unless stalwart. By the time she married guitar-god Robert Fripp (King Crimson, League of Crafty Guitarists, ProjeKct 4, etc) in the the mid '80s, and subsequent collaborative works (her albums, Prostitute, Ophelia's Shadow, Desire, The Lady or the Tiger--with Fripp and his guitar class, and Sunday All Over the World) she was a solid British punkette phenomenon herself. She took her talents and created a stage persona part Puck, part Diva and part storyteller, with all the makeup of Kabuki theatre, alternatively inciting a riot and inspiring girl power, in a time period where anything went and there was barely MTV. Oh yes, the British have a lot of apologizing to do, mostly for Cliff Richard, but this virago of psychopantomimical anarchy, wrapped in plush English pop and tons of experimental Mary Quant cosmetics, had made the stage/club scene her own rock-musical force and was holding her audiences blissfully hostage. The diminutive (she is all of 4'11") tornado would take her brand of pop to the stage with fervor--and appreciation--often reserved for glitter era Bowie and pound out anthemic tuned poetry turned parables for the millennium. British audiences have seen her in movies (w/ Sir Lawrence Olivier in "Ebony Tower," 1998's "the Anchoress") and most recently in a Tennessee Williams two person play touring Britain and Scotland, but American audiences have just heard of her marriage and can't find her early period music, especially on CD.
Until now. The powers that reissue classic titles have pooted forth, again.
It's been a long, long time since I got very excited about a reissue or first CD issue of an older title. We all know why: the dates for release get moved or the early recording media still sucks, even though clearer or "I waited how many years for this?" Rabid fans of certain groups will buy any issue, anytime. How many of us had to replace LPs with CDs, only to discover that in a few years, we were buying the "gold" or remastered CD of the LP. It takes a really treasured CD reissue to get me goin'.
As with any artist who has a long catalogue to choose from, the "early years" are often a tortuously acquired taste one has to sift through to find the best stuff. Here, I'll give you a hint, with Toyah, it's the albums Anthem (EV SOPCD 263) and The Changeling (EV SOPCD 264). Both are a clear picture of the pop star in Britain in action, in the early eighties. While Anthem is a wonderful album of songwork, the CD I wish to speak about is The Changeling.
The Changeling, the musically stronger of the two, is a carny ride through the wiles and wends of a young girl's often outraged and certainly plucky world of perception. Powerful in its apparent honesty ("Are you sitting comfortably? Then, we'll begin..."), and stultifyingly lunatic ("this is the Mad Hatter's tea party...") in the very next line, the album's first cut, "The Creepy Room," continues on to challenge one's sense of self AND question the sanity of this woman. Her childlike delivery gets twisted all out of proportion as the album continues through some juicy pop moves and, er, anthems to the not-very-well-veiled conversation with a scaly beast over the efficacy of nuclear warfare, the Packt. All of this married to a solid studio-ish background of too-stylish-for-America, three-piece band, drivin' music, never overshadowing the rantings and lyric calisthenics of the women voted "favorite female pop artist" by the British press and public.
As with most reissues, there are a bunch of "extra" songs. In this case, singles, most of which have not seen the CD format, and a couple of B sides. This enhanced CD has a video, "Thunder in the Mountains," from a non-stateside video collection (a rare thing, that) and a real snazzy control panel to twiddle with. The packages are glorious and glossy, if not smaller, and do have a bit more artwork. Many of Toyah's titles feature her in a guise, or makeup experiment for cover art. The Changeling is no exception and her alien pixie image is delightful to see, printed with modern techniques. The entire CD is finally available to my remote control, and computer as well. And does it ever sound better than ever. I am not one to fight those who would like to say that analog is this or digital is that...I just prefer the convenience of having it all on one medium and, very importantly, with the random access option. Being able to use a remote control and digitally skip, segue and choose (and see all the wee bits of information) is what makes a CD superior to its predecessors outside of the aural range of things. Yep, now I get to point the remote control and hear the nearly silly "Life in the Trees" and skip back to the uptempo and uptight "Angel and Me" afterward. Woo hoo!