Tag Archives: Music Album Reviews

Californication

Fucken’ A! Everything One Hot Minute aspired to be (a worthy follow-up to Blood Sugar Sex Magik) and much, much more. Even though it contains a few less-than-great songs and runs on for a bit too long, Californication easily overshadows all of the band’s earlier work, which is kinda ironic as it’s stylistically the furthest removed from the outrageous funk-rock of before. Ok, there IS still some of that hyper-kinetic funk scattered throughout the album, but this time around, the band has focused on songs and – especially – melody, coming up with several memorable songs that are the best they ever did. If Blood Sugar Sex Magik witnessed the boys finally growing up, and One Hot Minute was a dreary stagnation (regression, actually), the boys have their shit completely together on this album, performing well-written songs with commanding style and class. However, despite the strong songwriting and overall musicianship, it’s my conviction this is ‘the Frusciante album’. Although he’s much less all-over-the-place than he was on Mother’s Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and by consequence also less concerned with being flashy, the new minimalism as you can hear it on the majority of the songs displays an incredibly increased melodic gift, inspiration and tastefulness. I’d even go as far as to say it’s one of the few albums of the past five years I’d play just to listen to the guitar playing: during the ballads, it’s mellow and occasionally touching, while he also knows how to rock out during the album’s (few) straightforward rock songs.

You could argue that this time around, the album is dominated by the mellow songs, as almost half of the tracks (several of ‘em being highlights on the album) could qualify as ballads or pop-oriented tracks you could also place in that category with a stretch of the imagination. There are also the hyper funk tracks, of course, but they’re in a minority. In between those, there are a few songs that are neither, opting for a more straightforward rock direction. The first of the sissy songs that made an impact, “Scar Tissue,” immediately showed the new course to full effect. More than ever, melody has become the key ingredient in their music, in the song, the playing and the vocals. Just listen to Frusciante’s delicate, minimal technique, which he basically keeps up during the album. Even better than “Scar Tissue” is “Other Side,” a song that still gets to me because of Kiedis’ wonderful performance and those backing vocals that take the song to an entirely different level they hadn’t even explored yet. The same basically goes for the wistful title track – that also contains a short but wonderful solo by Frusciante – and “Porcelain,’ which finds the band entering more fragile territory than ever before. An awesome addition to this list is the acoustic album closer, “Road Trippin’ ”, an introvert song that has more in common with Elliott Smith’s lush portraits than their own previous escapades. Respect. Somewhere hovering between this category and the pop songs are “This Velvet Glove,” a song that’s quite similar to “Californication,” but that comes with occasional rock outbursts. Much better though, are “Parallel Universe” and “Easily,” the first boasting a truly fantastic chorus. Not all of the album’s tracks are as impressive, as “Emit Remmus” with its sustained notes and pounding groove never did anything for me, and neither did the mid-tempo funk-rock of “Purple Stain,” but there are remarkably few filler tracks on the album. Even the nervous funk-inflected mofos are for the most part enjoyable as hell: opening track “Around the World” (yeah, the one with the massive intro) is pleasantly bouncy, “Get on Top” features some bludgeoning bass work by Flea and some of the band’s silliest lyrics (“Gorilla, Cuntilla, Sammy D and Salmonella, come with me ‘cause I’m an ass killer’), while “I Like Dirt” and “Right on Time” despite their flimsiness, are more fun than most of their previous punk-funk blasts. Sure, Californication isn’t a perfect album, but it’s one hell of an album by a band I no longer deemed capable of making. It’s always great when a band surprises you, but when they do it with as much class and superb songs as the Peppers on Californication, it’s quite a blast.

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Led Zeppelin II

THE MOTHER OF ALL HARD ROCK ALBUMS! THE GENESIS OF HEAVINESS! THE GREATEST RIFFS EVER RECORDED BY MANKIND! THE BEST ROCK ALBUM FROM A TIME WHEN ROCK WAS STILL ALIVE AND KICKIN’, MAAAAAAN! And so on. You must’ve heard at least one of these comments before, right? Well, they’re all widespread, and they’re all wrong, too. If we’re ignoring The Kinks, Cream and Jeff Beck (and a bunch of others), then you might indeed consider them the first band to offer the whole hard rock package, but in that case picking the debut (“Communication Breakdown” and “Dazed and Confused” anyone?) makes more sense. As for sheer heaviness: Vincebus Eruptum (1968) maybe? Or, again, the debut? Riffs then? Sure, there’s a shitload of memorable ones on this album, but Let There Be Rock relegates it back to primary school (well, sort of). That said, Led Zeppelin II does deserve some of the credit as well, since it rocks really hard, has that fantastic early ‘70’s greasy sound and does indeed boast a few riffs that even a guitar player in Chili, Senegal or Ramon, NM, has heard of: those big, fat, bombastic, bloated motherfuckers that make the hairs on your arms, back and legs stand straight, those decibel crunches that unleash the animal in you, the beast that craves beer, a good time with the boys and, more than anything else, WOMEN! EASY WOMEN!

Misogynistic, dumb, pummelling, overrated, call it whatever you want, but … just don’t deny that “Whole Lotta Love” is the album’s epicentre. Basically a repetitive blues riff on steroids, with lyrics comin’ straight out of a sleazy porn flic (“I’m gonna give you every inch of my love,” “Way down inside, you need it,” “I wanna be your backdoor man”…what the hell?), it’s a filthy classic that could be the hard rock equivalent of the Vatican: larger than life, indestructible and perverted to the core. It’s great though, and the best thing about it all is that it still sounds incredible to this day, and boy, do I get a kick out of hearing Bonham’s hi-hat pedal during the meandering mid-section! I mean, nowadays they probably would’ve edited it and replaced it with a sample. Slightly less popular, but every inch as monstrous, is the incendiary “Heartbreaker,” with its grumbling bass, thrilling acceleration and some of Page’s best axe work. On top of that, Plant’s vocals (especially “Heeeeeyy, fellas have you heard the neeeeewwss”) turn it into an instant cock rock-classic. As for the second tier: “Thank You” might belong there. Initially, I wasn’t that impressed by it, but I’ve developed quite a fondness for it: I just dig the nice organ sounds (courtesy of J.P. Jones) and the contrast between the acoustic touches and thundering drums, while it contains some of the best Plant vocals of the entire album. Come to think about it, I think “Thank You” could very well be a wedding song.

“Ramble On” seems to hold a much-debated position: some people think it’s a crude failure, a clumsy marriage of soft and loud textures, others think it’s an all-time classic. While it doesn’t sound like vintage Led Zep to me, I certainly dig the pumping chorus and jazzy bass lines, even though it’s hard to ignore the fairly silly lyrics (well, let’s be honest, they rarely were about that, right?). Also the semi-ballad “What Is and What Should Never Be” deals in that vague mysticism and imagery (“Catch the wind, we’re gonna see it spin, we’re gonna sail, little girl”), but luckily that’s redeemed by some excellent playing (especially by Page) and a successful exploration of folksier territory. That’s when we get to the lesser stuff: “The Lemon Song,” one of those blues rip-offs that sound cool but also shows they started working on the album a little too fast, starts off extraordinarily with a dirty distorted blues groove and a terrific roots-rock acceleration, but I’ve always though the pummelling, jammy second part should’ve been trimmed. Similarly, album closer “Bring It on Home” seems to be some song that’s more included because of laziness or creative limitations than anything else. The band does a good job at recreating an authentic blues vibe, but what does it lead to: a totally unconnected second part that never really takes off. Frustrating, and a bit of a waste of time. It’s quite possible that you’ve never heard that last song, since the one that precedes it isn’t the most popular of Zep’s tunes either. “Moby Dick” kicks off with a dirty, funky smellin’ riff that suits the title just fine, but the main point about the song – a lengthy drum solo that usually tells me it’s time to get a refill or to take a leak – should be filed under “seventies excess.” Drum solos can be cool in concert, but they rarely work on albums. Anyway, I have a few bones to pick with this album, but that doesn’t get in the way of the fact that its best moments were made for the ages.  But calling it greatest rock album of all-time? I disagree.


Work for Money

I am definitely in the wrong profession. History fascinates me, I read (cultural) anthropology articles like a teenager would read Harry Potter and think Music is best studied and listen to late at night. I would like to invent time machine, not because I think working in multi-dimension mathematics or relative physics is cool but for the reason that I can travel back in time. I can probably narrate the key events in South Asian history post 1857 in one breath, along with the fourteen points of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. I can probably name all US Presidents, post reconstruction, in correct order along with their major accomplishments. So why I manipulate bits and bytes all day long? Mainly because someone told me (rightly so) that you can’t feed your family as a history major. When I die,, I would say I wanna see the movie like history of the world, of different cultures, oh and have vanilla/ strawberry ice cream and Tacos to go along with.


Dangerous

Michael Jackson leaves music-legend Quincy Jones (the producer credited for the phenomenal success of “Off The Wall”, “Thriller” and “Bad” behind for “Dangerous,” his fourth solo release. And, at nearly 80 minutes (with 14 tracks in all), it’s his longest album then; but it’s the way he uses that time that makes it a masterpiece.

The first half is mostly a wild ride of hi-tech funk, gritty grooves and moody attitude; while the second half covers the over-the-top orchestral pieces, epic love ballads and emotional sentiment.

“Gone Too Soon”, the album’s lament, has him embracing a series of poetic similes to mourn the lost of a loved one. “Like a sun-set dying with the rising of the moon…”, he sings, over ambrosial orchestral chords, “Gone too soon”. It’s the perfect song to play at a funeral. But before you can shed a tear, the song is over; replaced by the dark, hypnotic, “Dangerous” pulse of the night-club. And it’s not about him at all. It’s actually about a girl; a girl who just happens to be vindictive, conniving, sexy and divine all at once. The return of “Dirty Diana”? Perhaps.

The ‘rock track’ this time around is a ballad entitled “Give In To Me”. And it’s Slash on guitar as a passionate Michael Jackson plea, rather demands, for a woman to quench his desire. Yes, The King Of Pop isn’t as innocent as you may have thought. At one point, he’s making sex noises “In The Closet” with some chick; “Because there’s something about you, baby, that makes me wanna give it to you.”

“Who Is It” has some repetition towards the end, but the excellent strings combined with the captivating New Jack/R&B groove and Michael’s pained vocals describing a runaway lover and their relationship make this a keeper.

He’s never written better lyrics, the melodies are absolute magic and the beats are all on-point (with special credit to Teddy Riley, whose new-jack-swing production complements Jackson’s style in way that’ll make Quincy Jones proud); marking “Dangerous” as the Michael Jackson classic that doesn’t play it quite as safe as the others.

If it is hardly as effervescent or joyous as either of those records, chalk it up to his suffocating stardom, which results in a set of songs without much real emotional center, either in their substance or performance. But, there’s a lot to be said for professional craftsmanship at its peak, and “Dangerous” has plenty of that, not just on such fine singles as “In the Closet,” “Remember the Time,” or the blistering “Jam,” but on album tracks like “Why You Wanna Trip on Me.” No, it’s not perfect — it has a terrible cover, a couple of slow spots, and suffers from CD-era ailments of the early ’90s, such as it’s overly long running time and its deadening Q Sound production, which sounds like somebody forgot to take the Surround Sound button off. Even so, “Dangerous” captures Jackson at a near-peak, delivering an album that would have ruled the pop charts surely and smoothly if it had arrived just a year earlier. But it didn’t — it arrived along with grunge, which changed the rules of the game nearly as much as “Thriller” itself. Consequently, it’s the rare multi-platinum, number one album that qualifies as a nearly forgotten, underappreciated record.




Toys In The Attic

This classic hard rock album contains “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion,” two immortal “classic rock” radio station staples, and several other stellar songs. “Walk This Way” features a deathless Joe Perry riff along with a great Tyler rap (in fact, a case could be made that this was the first rap metal song), while “Sweet Emotion” has a great sing along chorus and plenty of attitude. Starting things off is “Toys In The Attic,” which sports a breakneck chug that immediately announces the band’s big step up in class, and when Tyler announces “it’s a sunny day outside my window” at the end of “Uncle Salty” damn it if it doesn’t brighten my day. “Adam’s Apple” features catchy riffs and horns alongside some typically clever Tyler lyrics, while “Big Ten Inch Record” is a jokey little blues ditty that spices things up with a levity lacking in most hard rock. Most of the album showcases Joe Perry’s grungey guitar riffs and Steven Tyler’s salacious lyrics, while the rest of the band cooks up unsinkable grooves throughout. Another highlight on an album full of highlights is the catchy r&b of “No More No More,” whose serious lyrics about the downside of the rock n’ roll lifestyle shows the flip side to the band’s usual good time obsessions with sex, drugs, and double entendres.

Finally, “Round And Round” is a lumbering stomper that showcases Aerosmith at their heaviest and nastiest (not unusual for a Brad Whitford penned song), while the sweeping power ballad “You See Me Crying” closes things out with an excellent orchestral effort that’s arguably the album’s best moment. Throw in the two infectious singles and you have a consistently rewarding and varied package, pulled off with considerable panache.


Jane’s Addiction

Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro

August 9th, 2009 – Lollapalooza at Chicago, IL

Artists who gave rock an “Alternative” name, Jane’s Addiction is one of the most underrated bands. This was my first time seeing them, and they sure put on a great show. Unforgettable experience and Perry still rocks being 50 and all. Dave Navarro is as talented as ever.  My regret was no songs were played from “Strays” album but the return of Eric Avery was welcome. I can only hope JA doesn’t go through another break up since Avery isn’t with the band anymore. Or at least go out on top with another album release. 🙂

The intro with helicopter for Up The Beach / Mountain Song set the climate for an awesome live show gig.

Joe Perry from AeroSmith made an special guest apperance for 'Jane Says' song


Weezer

Raditude Tour

Dec 4th, 2009 at The Rave in Milwaukee, WI

When I think of Weezer, I think of high school nerdy guys who never got appreciated and made fun of. And to let their feelings be heard and known, they made a garage band. If someone who never heard of Weezer before, this would perfectly describes them.

Rivers as Lady Gaga - this was the highlight of the night. Nice Poke!

The luck was on my side on this night of live music. Unfortunately, not so much for Rivers Cuomo, lead vacal – In Albany, NY, Weezer’s tour bus went to ditch, and Rivers had three broken ribs. Rest of the December concerts were canceled. Weezer started touring again in Summer of 2010.