LONGWAVE – The Strangest Things (2003)

Review by: Jeremiah Methven
Album assigned by: Jake Myers

Rating: 4/10
Best Song: “Everywhere You Turn”

Well, I suppose when you review albums outside of what you would normally listen to, you’re not always going to be that fond of what you hear. My initial Google search of Longwave suggested they would be a shoegaze group – I suppose this is true, but it’s a very radio-friendly, polished version of shoegaze, and not really in a good way in my eyes. Admittedly, I don’t have much familiarity with the genre outside of My Bloody Valentine. But where MBV at their best aimed to assault the listener with visceral yet eerily beautiful noise, Longwave’s guitar drones are pushed into the background to emphasize the reedy voice of singer Steve Schiltz, who sounds like Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Between the production and singing, it can’t help but sound like fairly generic alt-rock circa 2003 with shoegaze guitars added in.

Honestly, on first listen I thought this album was pretty dire and that I was going to be giving it a rating like a 2. The overall sound is just not one that really appeals to me. But although I still don’t really like this album, multiple listens did bring some out of the positives. The first two tracks strike me as overall solid and memorable – “Wake Me When It’s Over” has a fairly lengthy atmospheric build-up, but generally lives up to it with a catchy chorus, and “Everywhere You Turn” borders on being a cheesy anthem, but it has some energy and genuine sincerity with its falsetto chorus, so I think it’s a keeper. 

From there, it gets a bit more dicey. “I Know It’s Coming Someday” has another memorable chorus, but is a little too anthem-by-the-numbers for my liking. The other slower songs like “Meet Me at the Bottom” and the title track are busts – Longwave is much more listenable to me when they play uptempo. When they go slow, Schiltz’s delivery is cringe-worthy to my ears, with the part in “Meet Me at the Bottom” where he sings “they’ve got you by the balls” being a particular low moment. The rest all follows the same basic formula of generic alt-pop songs with droning guitars added in and varying between pleasant decency to generic mediocrity. 

Overall, there are some things to like here, but this doesn’t just seem like music that has stood the test of time to me. It takes me back to my early adolescent days before I discovered the Beatles and only listened to ‘alternative’ college radio that played lots of bands like Our Lady Peace, and I’d prefer not to be taken back to those days. I suppose if I’m being generous, I could say they were aiming for a poppier take on shoegaze, but the overall result to me is a bland, watered-down version that veers far closer to radio-friendly ‘alternative’ bands of ill repute than to bands like MBV.

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THE BLACK DOG – Spanners (1995)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

This time we go electronic. It is all about *the sound*, the groove. Find the right moment and put this on in an audio setup with a good bass performance (essential) and you’ll be able to enjoy an hypnotic ride. Mostly no vocals mean no distraction, the beat is the master here. But Black Dog are able enough to feed the groove with little details here and there to turn the repetition into a growing mantra. 

This is the kind of album where you don’t pay much attention to the songs individually. Doesn’t matter, it’s a cohesive monolithic experience after all. I get that feeling too with “Up” from REM, but there you have the catchy choruses here and there to remind you where you are. In this record you get lost in the surroundings. And it’s what we want. 

Anyway I’ll mention the loungy beginning with “Raxmus” and the keyboards that are gradually and gracefully introduced. And some tribal faraway voices together with matching drums, up to the robot voice in the final.  “Barbola work” has all these tingling effects and a powerful beat too. Sounds to me like a perfect theme for a TV show, specially for Latin America. It’s got a lot of swing. 

The long “Psil-cosyin” is a song that grows on me by the 8 minute mark when it becomes faster and more involved as all the little parts come together but I believe cutting this one in two would have been a greater benefit. “Chase The Manhattan” and its clever title is an intriguing song, works well for me to imagine a big 80s office with lots of people crowded together, machines screeching here and there and then a.. Chase by the 3 minute mark. 

I will also mention “Nommo” which is a quite drowsy number, welcome after the previous intensity.. “Pot Noodle” is also quite calm and stands out in the pack by adding some nice guitar here and there (synthethized?). Finally, “Chesh” is a very good album closer with that “harp like” keyboard pattern, almost Yes-like.

Not that I have a lot to compare with, but this album gets a PASS as an accomplished electronica piece for an evening sitting on the couching watching the trains go by your window. 

THE TIGER LILLIES – Ad Nauseam (1995)

Review by: Franco Micale
Album assigned by: Alex Alex

Close your eyes, and imagine it’s 10:00 PM, and you are going to a night club. It’s a fancy place, with waiters serving cocktails, people dressed in luxurious wear, and a large stage at the center. Suddenly, the lights go dim, the chattering of the audience mutes, the curtain rises to reveal a group of three men wearing clown make-up, one of them with an accordion in hand, another with an upright bass, and the third behind a drum kit. The crowd gives an applause, but you can tell by their facial expressions that they are feeling uncertain about what exactly is going to happen. After a few seconds of silence, one of the members gives a count off, and the group begins playing. The singer steps toward the mic, and from his mouth comes…

ShE is THARE she is THARE in the LARdER

Dear god. That voice. That is one of the most ear piercing, off tune, and unnatural singing voices you have ever heard in your life. It sounds like a parrot going through puberty, or an awful female opera singer trying to imitate Louie Armstrong with a Scottish accent. 

The audience roars in laughter. This can only be a joke, right? The band continues playing, not giving a wink of notice to everyone’s reaction. For the first few songs, it seems like it’s all an absurd comedy act. A group playing cabaret music with the lead singer rasping out lyrics such as “Bumhole! Bumhole! Give us a bumhole do!”? Indeed, there’s something strange going on tonight that is, in fact, not quite right.

However, at the fifth song, the atmosphere takes a drastic turn. The music gets quieter, bluesier, as the singer steps to the mic, and, attempting to smoothen his voice like a seductive jazz singer, he warbles:

“Beat me ‘till I’m black, beat me ‘till I’m blue, 
I will, I will love you. 
Beat me ‘till I cry, beat me ‘till I die, 
I will love you. 
And burn my house to the ground, 
I will not make a sound. 
Beat me ‘till I bleed, beat me, yes indeed, 
I will love you. 
Beat me ‘till I cry , beat me ‘till I die, 
I will love you.” 

Alas, it took a song about domestic abuse to get the audience upset. It now becomes apparent to them that, if this is a joke, then it is certainly a sick one. You can hear the incomprehensible angry mumbles of various people in the crowd, as they put on their coats and leave their tables.

You, however, don’t leave. But why not? You find the singer’s voice unlistenable and the lyrics appalling. Why not get your money back and just leave the club? Because…well, because you find yourself drawn in. You can’t deny that the music’s catchy, and that the singer’s ugly voice fits the harsh lyrics. You decide to stay for a bit longer, just to see where this act leads to.

On the seventh song, you find yourself tapping your foot and snapping your fingers. The singer tries sing at an alto range, while the bands plays a groovy samba rhythm. And the lyrics? 

“You are my whore, you are the one I adore,
you are the one that my twisted heart adores,
like a dog I will gnaw, like a dog I will paw,
you’re the one that my twisted heart adores.”

Never mind the fact that they rhymed “adore” with “adores”, the song has a very likable charm to it that gets under your skin, and despite the profane lyrics and the alien singing, you find that this tune only further persuades to stay and hear the group play.

On the ninth song, you begin to feel a deep sadness, as there is something very hard-hitting about this acoustic tune. What is it? Maybe it’s the sentimental melody that runs through, or the way that the singer actually sounds soft and pleasant for once, or those absolutely heartbreaking lyrics…

“God holds your hand then, and she is so strong,
she’s got a hand brake that lasts so long,
and God how she loves you when you feel blue.
Crushed, you’re so crushed, you don’t know what to do.

This world is a ghetto where money is the dream,
and you’ve pawned your last coat, with nothing to redeem.”

As the songs finishes, you can’t help but wipe a tear from your eye.

Although the rest of the performance is a lot of fun, you are also able to take the band seriously. The group tackles almost every single topic imaginable, from growing old, to homelessness, to suicide, to the music industry, to murder, to a little boy having his thumbs snapped off, all driven by snappy accordion music. There are, however, two particular songs that catch your attention – “Jesus” and “Violet”. The former details the cause and effect of homelessness from a second-person point of view, giving you a personal gut-punching perspective of the situation, while the the latter is a humorously tragic song about someone who is executed after being falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, only to be found innocent the day afterwards.

After the group finishes their final song, they take their bow, walk off stage, and the curtain closes. You look around, and notice that there is no one left in the audience. Well, that is, except for one sole person, standing right at the very front. Through the entire show, this man had been dancing bopping, and singing along to the music with great enthusiasm. Out of curiosity, you walk towards him, noticing the bubbly expression on his face and the inability for him to stand up straight. Since he doesn’t seem to notice you, you tap his shoulder to catch his attention. 

“Uh…hello there, how did you like the show?” you ask, as you tap his shoulder to catch his attention.

He turns to face you, and, with an illuminating sparkle in his eye and wide smile more heartwarming and proud then you have ever seen, he responds, boosting with assertion and confidence:

“Ah! One can argue that the phenomenon of the pigs running is caused by the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 8:31) to which we immediately answer that all pigs must die and we do have other artists much more skillful in transmitting the complicated symbolism of such unlikely scenarios!”

And with that being said, he turned the other way, walked out the door, and disappeared into the moonlit night. 

You never saw him again.

FATES WARNING – Awaken the Guardian (1986)

Review by: Tristan Peterson
Album assigned by: Eden Hunter

FFO: Dream Theater, Savatage, Symphony X

Well, you can certainly tell where a lot of 90s prog metal bands go their sound!

Fates Warning is a progressive metal band from Connecticut, formed in 1982.  Awaken the Guardian is their third album.  Funnily, for a third album, they sound remarkably mature as a group.  Of course, there is still the pretension that is coupled with the genre, but the album still maintains a remarkable amount of humanity to it.

Being a Dream Theater freak in my younger years, I can very much hear the influence Fates Warning had on them, as well as contemporaries Savatage and Symphony X.  In fact, if I remember rightly, John Arch auditioned for Dream Theater after Charlie Dominici left the band!

Now to get to the music.  The album, on a technical level, is very skillful.  This obviously isn’t Fates Warning’s first rodeo, and they make rather impressive instrumentals.  The guitar work is enjoyable most of the time, and the drums and bass compliment the guitar quite nicely.  The most noticeable, and arguably rememberable part of the album, is the voice of John Arch.  He has a voice which inspired many (again, citing Dream Theater, as their first album sounds terrifyingly similar to this one) and is astoundingly unique.  Although slightly grating on the ears when it doesn’t fit the music, for the most part Arch’s voice blends incredibly well with the rest of Fates Warning.  Side note: Awaken The Guardian also has rather interesting lyrics.

The main problem with the album though, is that, even with all of the plusses it has, it is generic.  I maintain the viewpoint that you are still generic even if you are the artist who started the trend.  So while the instrumentation and lyrics are good, and the vocals are equally good if also grating at times, I can’t really get behind it.  Some of the songs feel as if they go on for too long, and in those longer songs, the good moments are few and far between.  Although I said it’s surprisingly mature and human for a progressive metal album, it still feels incredibly pretentious.  The lyrics as well, while good, end up feeling repetitive, and complex only for the sake of complexity.  That being said, I still do respect the album and musicianship.

Overall, if you REALLY like progressive metal, or are interested in its history, then check it out, because it provides an interesting glimpse into the building blocks of a genre.  Otherwise, there isn’t much there that you haven’t already heard.  Which, sadly, for all it was built up to for me, made it fall flat and fall hard.

4.4/10

FAVORITE TRACK: Fata Morgana
LEAST FAVORITE TRACKS: Prelude To Ruin, Guardian

MILEY CYRUS – Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz (2015)

Review by: Alex Alex
Album assigned by: Syd Spence

The main problem with “Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz” is, there are no references to the dead petz in the lyrics. On the surface this is as expected, for there are, indeed, no references to the “real” beetles anywhere on The Beatles records, same as the tea accessories are not used as intended neither by Pink Floyd, nor Gong.

Investigating just a bit more we, however, easily find the places where the dead petz used to be and are no more. Not willing to speculate how this second death could be much longer and much more painful than the first one, only superficially mentioned in the title, let us show the place in the manner criminologists do and produce a report on what might have happened and how the petz properly died – as with almost all real deaths forsaken, forgotten and unnoticed.

So, we have in The Floyd Song (Sunrize)

The sunrize insists on gladness
But how can I be glad now my flower is dead

which is utterly banal or, what’s the same, post-modernistic until we realize it, definitely, used to be

But how can I be glad now my pet is dead

(one can count and compare syllables for more evidence)

This line now is far from banal or even comic – it is utterly disturbing. It provides all sorts of ‘is the author, in fact, human?’ questions. How serious is he about the death of a pet (we are not even inclined to think the death has taken place as it’s all a show) and, more importantly, what about us now that she grieves so much about her fucking pet? (The pet by now seems, indeed, dead, and so the name of the group stops being comical, and starts being really cynical).

This may well be a far-fetched hypothesis. However, what is not so far-fetched is there are no dead pets in proximity. There is a dead flower – as if the song symbolizes directly. It does not, however, symbolize directly otherwise no help from the Flaming Lips ‘creators’ would have been, indeed, needed.

So, why the pet was dead and gone? Surely, as a result of a censorship or, probably, self-censorship, the two being indistinguishable in the modern record industry making it impossible to seriously comment on any issues as you cannot neither agree to the censorships nor rise against it – same as you can not fight the fly which has already become a part of yourself, as shown in “The Fly” movie.

If someone argues then that this change has been done to make the song less disturbing than necessary consider the following lines:
Why there is a sky
And why do pigs run

We are, of course, absolutely sure it used to be and why the pigs fly, intended to bring all the possible Pink Floyd references and such. Even better if it were Why the pigs fly/And why there is a sky, bringing a much more important (natural, timeless, existential) question to the end of the sentence where it should have been – so we could question the very validity of what Pink Floyd had done before. Alas, there is a large part of the audience who are not aware of anything so pigs just run letting the birds fly in a previous verse.

(NB. One can argue that the phenomenon of the pigs running is caused by the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 8:31) to which we immediately answer that all pigs must die and we do have other artists much more skillful in transmitting the complicated symbolism of such unlikely scenarios)

So what we see are very big compromises done here and there in order to make the record a record as other records but with additional value which would allow the record to be chosen by the customer.

This could nevertheless be fine if the additional value was of any interest which it is, probably, not.

Take these lines and tell me you do not know what they mean:

And I had a dream
We robbed the record store

That’s what Miley Cyrus and The Flaming Lips are doing on the record, and what, The Flaming Lips, at least, have been doing all the time.

What they are doing is, however, absolutely not important. They simply want you to understand that they understand together with you and with your help the thing which they are doing. By which time any semantics of doing have disappeared and you are working for Miley Cyrus for free as an idiot volunteer.

And in case you are a real idiot and still do not understand enough to work as a free volunteer for Cyrus & Co they explain a bit more

The one with the yellow door

One good thing of working for McDonalds is you are given the uniform. Records studio with doors colored not yellow are not being served.

So, what we have is the marketing of the album thought of and packaged into the album itself. You are buying an album with a contract and thus the mutual enjoyment is absolutely guaranteed. In the world where money have almost completely lost their value, the spiritual enjoyment you are guaranteed to get from this record is equal, if not bigger, than the financial gratitude the musicians receive from the donations on that free Spotify or how that devilish thing is called.

In this way none of the parties enjoy or even need the joy of inspiration and this is the world in which God does not exist.

The absence of joy is further deceitfully masqueraded as all sorts of love or other relationships problems which the album depicts when it’s not busy conceptualizing itself.

The only problem which needs to be solved though is the problem of the existence (http://thefloatinglibrary.com/2009/04/20/suicide-the-one-truly-serious-philosophical-problem-camus/) of the very album itself. The album should commit suicide. This does not mean the album is bad, far from it. This only means that currently we do not have any discovered means to effectively express the protagonist’s suicide in the course of the narrative. Hopefully, future technologies will solve this.

My last comment is on the emoji. In one of the songs emojis are mentioned. This is stupid because the reference is going to be dated very soon and further shows how little Miley Cyrus cares about her work, except for the immediate sales.

However, the place where the protagonist tries to explain the meaning of emojis is real fun and does remind of the famous Wittgenstein observation that f(a) = b does not really mean that a and b stand in the relation of f, but, on the contrary, the fact that a and b stand in the relation of f means that f(a) = b.

Thus this album does not in any way diminishes or alters what has been done by the masters of the previous epochs.
The end of the review of Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz

PHILIP GLASS – Einstein on the Beach (1975)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Album assigned by: Tristan Peterson

An opera by a minimalist composer? Well, after all Philip Glass doesn’t like the “minimalist” label, and John Adams was influenced by that school and has composed operas, right? So it might be something normal, right?

Wrong. Philip Glass might not like the term minimalist but he likes describing his work as “music based on repetitive structures”. And this is an “opera” without plot and almost without lyrics. This is not “The Death of Klinghoffer”.

Actually, the only thing resembling lyrics here are the spoken word passages, the sung passages are entirely comprised of numbers and solfeggio syllables. The work is comprised of lenghty passages (about 20 minutes each) describes as corresponding to one of three settings – “Train”, “Trial” and “Dance/Spaceship”. I get that trains and spaceships might have a relationship with Einstein’s theories, but damned if I know what “Trial” refers to. These passages are linked by shorter pieces called “Knee Plays” which are the equivalent of overtures and entr’actes in usual operas. The pieces are indeed repetitive, but not static; imagine one of those complicated melodies on prog or jazz fusion records but instead of going through harmony or rhythm changes they are looped on what seems like infinity. Or at times it resembles an electronica piece but without drum machines. Or imagine listening to something like “O Superman” by Laurie Anderson but more complex and for several hours.

And I mean hours – the original recording of this is a quadruple album, but apparently it’s abridged. A complete staging of this work lasts about five hours and the audience are allowed to take pee breaks whenever they feel like.

The instrumentation is sparse, but the repetition of a single melody line by several instruments does result in interesting sounds. Usually in classical music one appreciates instrumental combinations in chords as a manner of pads, or in focused instrumental lines. Here we have these quick, rapid arpeggios, which by virtue of their slow evolution force your brain into registering the subtle mixtures of sounds, so for instance the tenor sax, soprano sax and flute in the first scene end up sounding like a particularly well programmed synth patch, and the interaction between them, the voices and the electronic organ creates a rhythmic pulse that seems to make you hear notes that probably aren’t even there.

In the shorter parts (the “Knee Plays”) the focus seems to be more in the choir than in the instruments and in this case is the beats created by the subtle rhythmic displacements between the groups of singers what gives the most striking impression. 

I won’t lie to you. It’s challenging to sit through it.The best strategy might be to have it as background; while the music is the opposite as the usual “ambient” strategies, the end result is similar – something that you can tune in or out almost at will but that will excite your brain if you do pay attention to it.

Selecting highlights from this would require a thorough analysis as so much of it is similar, but I’d advise to listen to the first two pieces (“Knee Play 1” and “Act I, Scene I – Train”), as those offer maybe the most accurate summary of everything. If your interest is piqued, I would encourage you to continue. I would also recommend “Act IV Scene II – Bed” which is mainly based on organ and later some gorgeous wordless vocal phrases.

In short this is probably not something I’d listen to frequently, but I am very glad I got to know it. Thumbs up – for what might sound as a totally “brainy” music, this resonated more than I thought it would.

GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI – Barafundle (1997)

Review by: Ali Ghoneim
Album assigned by: Eric Pember

Ok, so from what I’ve read about Barafundle, it’s usually advertised as being a twee psych rock record. This holds true for a few songs, but as you really get into the record, GZM comes off more interested in trad folk and twee pop than really Rocking Out. It’s the same sneaky tactic religious rock music uses to get young people to hear about the bible, but GZM’s twee church seems pretty cool, so whatever.
  
Another genre label I’ve seen thrown at the album from all over the internet (read: Wikipedia), is neo-progressive rock, which does make sense. GZM’s aesthetic might not bear all the characteristics of prog rock, but purely in terms of songwriting, you notice how the band tries to constantly throw in left turns and add complexity to what are essentially pretty acoustic folk tunes.

It does get a bit samey after a while, though. After the tenth song where Mr. Leadsinger sings a really pretty melody with his kind of pretty voice over an orgy of ornate instrumentation, I did get a little fatigued. I’m not positive whether “Diamond Dew” is my favorite song on the album because it really is the best, or whether it’s just because it’s the first song I heard.

And the thing about deliberate complexity, which is a problem in general for prog, is that sometimes you don’t want or need a song to take a left turn. The band can seem a little paranoid, as if they don’t trust the core songs to interest you, so they often won’t let any one section go on for too long before switching it up. Or maybe they fell for the myth that Smart Bands can’t write Simple Songs, because that would be Amateurish, Insignificant and Stupid? Like, I mean, a pretty acoustic song sometimes, like, just needs to be a pretty acoustic song, y’get my feel bro?

Never mind, I just listened to it again and it’s pretty great. I’m an idiot.