Funkadelic–AMERICA EATS ITS YOUNG (1972)

r-1965372-1399783384-4102-jpegReview by Eric Pember

Assigned by John Short

Funkadelic is a pretty good band. Unfortunately, this album sounds a bit too monotonous for me to want to listen to it every day. Maybe it’ll click with me someday, but for now, I’ll stick with Maggot Brain and One Nation Under A Groove.

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The Legendary Pink Dots–CRUSHED VELVET APOCALYPSE (1990)

0001475488_10Review by Roland Bruynesteyn

Assigned by Franco Micale

When I looked the band up, I found it apparently has a Dutch connection. Some Dutch players went through its ranks and they are (or were) based in Amsterdam for part of their career. Hmm…

First song, I Love You In Your Tragic Beauty, sounds as you would it expect it to sound: somewhat naïve singer / song writer territory with an acoustic guitar. Halfway, more instruments are added, giving it a somewhat classical folky touch. Although not ambitious in any way, it’s a nice way to start the album.

Green Gang starts annoyingly with lots of sitar and tabla shit. Could be my ears, but I have seldom, if ever, heard nice songs with this instrumentation. It also sounds very dated, as if it’s made to entertain their guru, and unfortunately, like most sitar-based songs, it’s way too long, because they want to get that drony feeling across. Halfway through the sitar takes a back seat and some seagulls join in. The last part has some strange singing (“Here comes the Green Gang” repeated over and over again) and sounds like it’s produced by Eno on steroids. The song actually improves as it moves along, but cannot be compared (favorably) with the first one.

Hellsville starts with Pink Floyd sound effects and soon turns quite electronic, not unlike Roger Waters’ latest solo album actually. The voice resembles Roger as well, but that may be the recording. Not much actual melody and not much lyrical development, but groovily atmospheric.

Hellowe’en is a very short interlude, with some industrial sounds. Could be music for some scene in a horror movie.

The Safe Way starts out like a proper song again, a bit like Mercury Rev meets On The Run from Dark Side of The Moon, with a little Clare Torry (being tortured) thrown in for good measure. The song sounds actually good to me, but I think the vocals are lacking in quality and character and (therefore?) mixed in the background.

Just A Lifetime starts nicely with some harpsichord type piano (or guitar). Drums sound like cardboard boxes, but again a nice folksy melody. Vocals sound a little Syd Barrett while living through something quite unpleasant. The song has a strong 60’s vibe and is quite good as the sitars have disappeared. Especially the extended coda may be the best part of the album and sounds like a (better) prequel to Jacco Gardner.

The Death Of Jack The Ripper was unfortunately not available at YT

New Tomorrow starts off with almost Gregorian chanting and some ambient synth tones. Just over a minute in, some vaguely oriental music starts a little folksy melody. Singing voice is, again, a little weak and sounds a little like 80-ish UK indy pop. The music is more ambitious and takes a turn left after 4,5 minutes: there may not be much development but it does not overstay its welcome with me. Nice song.

Princess Coldheart is again a very 60’s sounding song that could have been sung by Syd, partly because of the way the voice is recorded here, but also because of the actual lyrics: In the courtyard flowers bloomed, they draped themselves ‘round tombs and rows of crosses … etc. Again a long coda that is very nice (with a majestically ascending line) and probably the best part of the song.

The Pleasure Palace starts quite industrial and riffy and soon adds processed voices. Sort of a slowed-down Woman And Man by Ween in places. It is a song I do not like, but I can respect it.

The Collector goes for the nice harpsichord sound again, although it may not be a real one. The whispering part is a little silly, but this is one groovy song.

C.V.A. could not be located at YT, but it’s only a 1.15 minute snippet.

What to make of it? It’s an interesting band for sure, and I like the way they structured this album, with some less accessible songs hidden between the twangy psych-folk. It doesn’t all work however, especially the singing voice leaves me wanting. Although you should proceed with caution, and at your own risk, chances are you might like one of their albums and I’ll certainly be investigating them some more.

Little Kid–FLOWERS (2016)

a2903963328_10Review By: Oliver Lewis

Assigned By: Jason Whitmore

To steal someone else’s witticism, like Catholicism, being an indie kid is difficult to shake. I had not heard of Little Kid previously and that seems to be down to the fact that they are one of those self-released bands who are doing everything themselves through Bandcamp. No-one cares about being on a major or an indie label anymore, (these days, who cares?) so the real independence is releasing music yourself, for yourself.

Who the hell makes indie music anyway these days? I waded through the landfill indie wars and if I hear one more band that wants to be The Strokes, who only ever really wanted to be every New York band from the 70s anyway (first album still good), I may go full pop. Even more foreboding is an encounter with a review says guitar-wise there is only classical acoustic on the record.

The day Iggy Pop releases an acoustic guitar album is the day that becomes an acceptable idea (I suppose he probably has at some point in some weird mid 00s rebrand). I fear someone gently strumming singing about how miserable they are since they are alone in a log cabin somewhere and most of all posturing about how authentic they are. But then I look at the credits on the album and the bassist is called Paul Vroom. Paul VROOM. Rock and motherfucking Roll may be back on.

I needn’t have worried, throughout they have an admirable love of making the acoustic guitar sound as odd, fuzzy and lovely as possible. It has puzzled me why I have heard so few attempts to replicate Neutral Milk Hotel’s fuzz-folk and this seems to share a little of that DNA if not quite the full-blown commitment. I have a vague memory of a few Pitchfork endorsed post Fleet-Foxes similar types, Hundred Waters for one. The singer has done the only acceptable in indie trade of actual singing ability for earnestness, and I am a sucker for that. I feel almost shocked that this hasn’t been paired with some dream-pop and he isn’t trying to rip off The Postal Service, and I am glad.

Songs end messily, atmospherics abound and unidentifiable waves of sound jostle with the main melody beautifully. A commitment to lo-fi throughout also appeals greatly, I love how when it sinks to some gentle acoustic plucking his singing keeps distorting, cutting against the prettiness. A wave of white noise wonderfully interrupts Missionary in much the same way as in Wilco’s Poor Places. Elsewhere backwards guitar is used as a coda on Nothing That Is Was Ever Meant To Be. Backwards guitar is always good. No exceptions.

If I had another touchstone it would be early Low. They have the same apparent seriousness, and while never sounding as thunderous as Low can be, they have a similar knack for delicacy and a similar one for recording great sounding drums. Lyrically I found it moderately impenetrable if I’m honest, with a definite spiritual theme. I can’t say I took much away from it that way, more the general mood, like a crisis of faith in a beautiful abandoned church.

It clocks in at an ideal 45 minutes despite adding atmospheric outros to pretty much every song, however with only 8 songs certainly seems well edited. The long songs justify it too, no 5-part mini-operas, or plodding endless jams. I will file this between Low, Elliot Smith and Neutral Milk. Not bad company if not quite there yet. If I had any criticisms, I don’t know how much of this I could take, it is terribly earnest in a way I can live with but if the rest of their oeuvre is like this I will want to shake them to cheer up and have a bit of a laugh at some point. More Paul Vroom perhaps.

Tyler, the Creator – FLOWER BOY (2017)

Review By: Charly Saenz
Assigned By: Michael Strait

flowerboy

The Bees and The Flowers And That Loneliness Inside Makes You Wanna Rap.

I thought this was a sort of Hip Hop compilation, but in fact there’s a lot of guest singers here. Tyler the Creator is well.. The Creator (“lead vocals, production, recording, art, packaging design”). That kinda intrigued me: why would a rapper whose primary function is to be the frontman, invite other people to do his job? Outsourcing is still a great plan!

My take here was: ignore the rapping, for now at least. So, while the cassette rewinded, I went and bought me a sandwich. We need a picture!

flowerboy2

I’m not sure how much Frank Ocean embellished “Where This Flower Blooms” but the ending is gorgeous. Oh hold on – there’s a guy actually singing in “See You Again”! This could even be a song in a Doris day movie! I feel there’s a flower vibe here (Is this a concept album of sorts?). The rapping sorta ruins it at 1:34! Oh well that’s what the business is all about. But it’s just a bit. Good for tea time.

I’m sinking into isolation and anxiety now.. I mean that’s the album theme it seems – so it’s working. “Who Dat Boy” starts with some buzzing sounds, until a heavy bass underlines the bad words rapped full blast. Mind numbing.

After a few minutes with my head under the water, I’m back. “Pothole” is a bit more in the Barry White style but ain’t this a little muzak? “Garden Shed” starts off like a Who tune! I know it! I know it! I think it might be something from Quadrophenia, no wait it’s “See Me Feel Me”. Who wouldn’t like a Who Opera? Well, sampling is legal, let’s move on. Nice little song!

Anyway I’m quite bored, I gotta say. Until a song called “Boredom” comes along: affinity, you see. There’s some singing here, I like it. It’s like that movie “Breakfast in Tiffany”. Cool and comfy. Someone raps in the middle: who invited this guy? It’s quite the neo soul thing I guess.

Next song sounds quite similar but.. oh, I somehow repeated “Boredom” (makes sense). I went directly to “911/Mr Lonely” because “I Ain’t Got Time”. Let’s inject some lyrics here, people never read, never listen to the words:

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
My thirst levels are infinity and beyond
Sippin’ on that lemonade, I need a Beyoncé
Can’t see straight, these shades are Céline Dion”

Master rhyming, if you ask me. It’s true – the album is about loneliness! I see it now. Reviewers are so smart. Oh there’s a fancy keyboard trick under the rapper (move move!) that is quite fun. At 2:15.

The Grand Finale: “Enjoy Right Now, Today”. There’s a kid in there (“Isn’t She Lovely” was better at this, mind you), a small casio keyboard and a martial drums loop. Not sure what this all means. Didn’t I hear this song in some cooking TV show? Oh, wait.. my sandwich!

Commodores —MACHINE GUN (1974)

the_commodores_machine_gunReview By: Roland Bruynesteyn
Assigned By: Reece Wilson

Everybody seems to know the Commodores as the vehicle that launched Lionel Richie’s solo career. Dancing on the ceiling, Hello and co-writer of We are the world. The Commodores you might also know as the group that made Three times a lady, sung by Lionel.

This music is totally unlike that. It’s got more in common with Parliament/Funkadelic: way funkier than they would become later on, no sappy ballads and several other singers than just Lionel, who is hardly recognizable anyway. It also reminds me of Stevie Wonder in this period, think Superstition. Especially the song Rapid Fire has a similar sound in parts.

In a way, if you like this music, you have great taste, and/or are probably somewhat older than 40. It sure sounds dated, compared to modern dance music because of the (real!) horn section, the arrangement of background vocals and general production, but it’s so much better!

Some standout tracks: Machine gun, the perfect instrumental to start the album: very catchy, very happy and full of youthful exuberance. The Zoo (The Human Zoo), which was apparently recorded a few years before, contains some hippy vibes, as if it’s an outtake of the musical Hair. Gonna Blow Your Mind is percussion-heavy and has James Brown-type groovy drumming. Also, I think Steve Winwood should have covered There’s A Song In My Heart somewhere in the late 80’s.

Other songs may not be that memorable. Young Girls Are My Weakness (the title would probably not fit the current political climate) is a little whiny in places and Superman, the last song on the album, is a little too much disco for me, because of the repeating bass riff, but they don’t disturb the flow.

A great plus for me is the fact that several people sing lead and backing vocals. Even if the whole album is firmly locked in funky up-tempo grooves, this makes for varied listening.

Play this music at your party and people WILL dance!

 

STRAIT TO THE POINT: Lady Gaga – The Fame (2008)

Review By: Michael Strait

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Full of failures, and not yet the fun kind.

After reviewing a couple of consistently good/great artists in a row, I decided to try something a little different. Reviewing good music gets boring after a while, but I didn’t just wanna review some horrible shit right away. Now, how about an artist with a lot of raw talent who often messes it up with terrible artistic choices, who seems determined to compensate for her incredible, preternatural sense of melody with the worst taste imaginable? Ah, now we’re talking.  Continue reading “STRAIT TO THE POINT: Lady Gaga – The Fame (2008)”