2017 Discography Challenge: PHIL COLLINS- Face Value (1981)

Review by: Alex Alex


If Phil Collins is ever to stand a metaphysical trial wherein the “audience” accuses him of whatever is now understood as “abuse” of the rotten taste of the modern “generation” then such a trial will be like those in the old Communist movies, Phil Collins (again, metaphysically, most alas) sentencing the prosecutors themselves with his whatever action in these, rotten again, times stands for “speech” but nonetheless represents the story of life.
It begins with how he passes a job interview to join some (rotten) artsy-bourgeois, already perverted and proto-virtual, band or what the hell was it – an anime? – already starting to change the “outer” world to the anime – by means of wearing unnecessary articles and adding needless “elements” to what once used to be Work– the thing Phil Collins was interested in, the real work, to obtain which he had to swim in a pool while learning the new drum patterns, a proletariat having to wear a uniform of the cyberpunk and the Matrix.

When a man refuses to watch black-and-white movies on the ground that there are the color ones he simply demands less humanity and more computerized processes. Humanity is intolerable for the kawaii – same as a muscular proletarian figure, such as Mr Collins is, never needs the Miyazaki sunflowers but demands songs instead, the personal ones, the masculine not as now the condoms are called “Masculine” (the penis being virtual) but as once the manliness was present galores in the Atlantis which (Atlantis) has collapsed into the flat screens of the purchased then rented then pirated then zipped then deleted then not found videos.

“You are no sons of mine!” this is what Phil Collins may say to the judges but this already will seem cartoonish – we must see beyond that, we must understand the times where Mr Collins actually has SAVED Genesis, Genesis being done, drowning in the virtual ocean, Mr Gabriel’s brain too weak to fight the recording studios AI – here enters Mr Collins and proudly, I mean, indeed, PROUDLY, presents the Album, Face Value by name, by hearing which you are cured and you are the man again.

For, even the yuppies, having obtained whatever the computer has, in fact, only leased to them while they whey working for Him, drums gated to the delirium and other spare parts of the tentacles now frowned upon as “dated” by the people who frantically try to conceal from themselves that they are, in fact, complain of the total inhumanity of everything – and so the act of Mr Collins sending the divorce request by the “fax machine” meets everyone’s disapproval not because of any “morality” but because such machines are not existing anymore (replace the fax by the e-mail as a mental experiment). Ah, but the same as it was before the birth of Satan, everybody is interested in the entropy which is a Story.

You, people, listen to this album – it’s an old noir movie – how fantastically it starts with the murdering scene, how the hero then recollects his life story: when Love started all that for him – but was it, really, a human feeling, a love or was it something else (gated drums sound)?

We are then slowly progressing to realize the doom, the fate, the descent as we learn that everything has, in fact, been “written in the book”, the reverberating gates of Necronomicon, the house of humanity destroyed, its roof is leaking, there are no human children anymore, no Ma and no Pa, only robots around, gating the drums as crazy.

And then one realizes that he is drowned – he, himself, now – same as he has helped to drown that other one in the first song – a lover or who, THE OTHER HUMAN as he was – and there’s no lyrics to the drowning – which is quite understandable for those who ever was drowning – and then the hero is drowning hand in hand with his love – because we are all alone or in two, drowning in the abyss of the infernal.

“I Missed Again!” exclaims the hero – but you did not miss when you were killing that man, did you? So drown, drown!

And then many, many and many more hymns to the despair and ruthlessness which, is, perhaps, why the hero decides to commit suicide in the end. Alas, in the virtual reality no such thing as suicide is possible and so he only repeats again and again, desperately and feebly, “I’m not moving. Not really”.

Honestly, listen to this album if for the gated drums only.

2017 Discography Review Challenge: FRANK ZAPPA- Introduction

Written by: Thing-Fish

Hey, you’re probably wondering why I’m here. Well, due to a mixture of boredom and a desire to prove myself as a writer, I’ve decided (in a frankly perverse decision) to review the entire catalogue of Frank Vincent Alonso Zappa. But who is Frank Zappa?

Frank Zappa is a composer, conductor, guitar player, satirist and cultural icon, who in his lifetime produced over fifty albums in various styles, ranging from doo wop to modern classical. Frank Zappa is commonly thought of as something of an acquired taste, which means that a lot of what he produced over the years sounds like absolute shit and/or baffling noodling on first listen. And indeed for some of his catalogue I’m sure this feeling will continue over subsequent listens as well. I own about half a dozen of his albums but I still don’t think I’ve got a full grasp of his style. This will by nessescity mean that this review series will be more of a ‘first impressions’ kind of deal than a in depth musicological analysis. By the end of this journey I may indeed hate the majority of the catalogue or I may love it. But hey, its the journey not the end result that is important. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself . 

I’ll try and keep these reviews reasonably concise and give you an idea of what each of these album’s actually sounds like behind the lurid and often grotesque covers. I’ll try to vary the style of the reviews on occasion so you don’t all get incredibly bored. So lets go back to where it all started….

2017 Discography Review Challenge: THE SUGARCUBES – Life’s Too Good (1988)

Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

As it happens with many bands, KUKL split up some months after releasing their second album, and Björk formed a duo called The Elgar Sisters with their guitarist Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson. Together they would subsequently record some songs Björk would use in her later career. At about the same time Björk married another guitarist Þór Eldon and shortly after gave birth to a son. And that was when Björk, Eldon, another former KUKL member Einar Örn and a bunch of lesser-known guys formed The Sugarcubes. 

But enough with objective facts, here’s the highly subjective part: Life’s Too Good is easily the best album featuring Björk before her solo career but also probably the only Sugarcubes album you will ever need.

In spite of featuring two ex-members of KUKL, The Sugarcubes is not shamanic experimental avant-garde act but merely an alternative rock band. “Merely” but not actually merely! This is GOOD and quite idiosyncratic alternative rock with solid pop hooks, fine guitar riffs, postpunkish dance rhythms and, of course, young Björk in top form. But here’s the twist: the original idea behind The Sugarcubes was to create… a humorous band! Imagine that! This was supposed to be a parody of pop music with its shining optimism (hence the record’s title) but looks like that was sort of abandoned in the process because the actual music ended up sounding bigger and better than a bunch of novelty numbers. And there are really dark moments on the album, too. But hey, the fun and the mischief are still there! This is a very enjoyable record!

You might know the big single from here called Birthday and it is an amazing song but the rest of the stuff is no slouch either. Motorcrash, Sick for Toys and the comic Fucking In Rhythm & Sorrow are my particular favourites (the latter DOES sound like a novelty number but it’s so exciting and funny that I don’t mind). Should I even mention Björk doing a great job on all of these songs? That goes without saying, doesn’t it?

On the whole, Life’s Too Good can sound too juvenile and quirky to some (then again if you don’t like quirky stuff you probably shouldn’t be listening to Björk at all) and too uneven to others but it’s so fun and weirdly exhilarating that I’d say it’s an absolute must even for casual Björk fans. 

Stay tuned for more Björkish reviews!

2017 Discography Review Challenge: KUKL – Holidays in Europe (The Naughty Nought) (1986)

Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

KUKL’s second and final album… is surprisingly different from the first one while maintaining the same overall direction at the same time (so yes, this is still post-punkish avant-rock and NOT “hard rock from some tasty geezers” like the caption on the album cover says). This is every bit as intense and surreal as their previous effort (almost as short too, at a little more than half hour) but golly! Look at the production this time round! A plethora of weird instruments, sound snippets, samples, diverse percussion, lots of bizarrely sounding horns and synths, some distorted guitars amidst all of this – this is some wonderfully messy avant-garde cacophony! There’s not much use in describing it though – it basically all sounds a lot like the album sleeve – chaotic and schizophrenic.

Björk’s voice, on the other hand, takes on the role of the element that brings it all together. Some reviewers express the opinion that she sounds a bit kimgordonish here, and I have to agree, the key difference being – Bjork can actually sing. Granted, experimental stuff like this doesn’t require actual “singing”, I guess, more of ecstatic shouting of the gloomy lyrics, but Björk’s vocal ability (or charisma, or both) still somehow shines through, especially when you compare her vocalizing to Einar Örn’s much less memorable yells. At any rate, this album deserves a listen (or even several listens, since this nightmarish music takes its time to really open up to you), especially if you enjoy dark and noisy experimental rock. The record’s total lack of structure might be a bit bewildering, though. But experiments are experiments – they are usually interesting yet short-lived, unlike Björk’s career which was basically only beginning at this point…

JOHN MARTYN – Solid Air (1973)

Review by: E.D.
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

Had it been for my maligned, gone-to-worse-with-the-years habits when it comes to (everything, but mainly) music listening, I would’ve let the initial memory of “Solid Air” sink into the deep, murky waters of the back of my mind.

The very first time I was listening to this album, after the first song was over, I had that familiar feeling when you know what’s coming next is going to be real good. After the last song was over, I somehow thought to myself “well, that feeling has definitely been proven right”! However, half a day passed and I realized I had forgotten all about the songs. I couldn’t remember a single one, except for bits and pieces from the title track.

I’m thinking of an album like Eno’s “Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy” – now, that is something that makes a lasting impression and even gets me hooked by the first listen, for example… ! But that’s a bit unfair of a comparison (typewriter solo! eyeless whale!), but well.

Anyway, this time, by the hand of destiny (via young Mr. Jonathan Moss), I was faced with the moral duty to listen to “Solid Air” at least twice in order to write a mildly informed music review. Going by this logic, along came two, three, and more listens…. And, slowly, the initially opaque, unshapely mass of sound from the first time around began to take on distinct shapes and more vivid colors and textures to dwell in. “Solid Air” is neither flashy nor mind-bending. It’s a mix of fine folk sensibility and of jazzy-bluesy vibes that crawls into your senses little by little. Or, in my experience, at least, that is. The opening (and title) song being the perfect statement of said mixture.

Day by day I began to anticipate with joy the moment of listening to this album once again. It felt like being about to go to a place where the atmosphere is light… inviting to sit, relax and clear your head for a while. A temporary refuge from ordinary life out there and, in the midst of it all, indulge into more earthly-bound kind of pleasures, too.

Song-wise, I found myself waiting for “Go down easy” more eagerly than any other song along the playlist. The bare sounds from the guitar and bass resemble to me like a soft, beautiful wave being knit along with a golden thread of a voice. A GOLDEN THREAD OF A VOICE, I say! And, excuse the pervading corniness. But it’s just Gorgeous. And enthralling. I get goosebumps, weak knees and all. No need to even take into account the lyrics, in my opinion, in order to get the… well, the goosebumps, weak knees and all. Not that the lyrics are bad, in the least.

“May You Never” is my second favorite. Top quality ear-candy phrasing, to my ears. But it’s more than that. I actually can’t get over how good a song this is. Gets me thinking that it could become one of those numbers that get annoying in the voice and/or hands of any of those (to me) anonymous singers of folksy, cute, tender songs I tend to hear again and again in commercials, movies, and cereal boxes. They’d easily turn it saccharine, bland. But Martyn definitely has a something that makes its interpretation rather memorable and endearing; it resonates. Could it be the old trick of thinking one can notice a hint of true melancholy there? Or a trace of genuine desire to show appreciation to a loved one, while attempting to prevent them from making the same mistakes one has made. Or maybe it’s simply the case of a talented young man and an all-around remarkable song. Oh, by the way, Martyn was twenty five by the time of release of this album.

Other favorites include “Man in The Station” and “Rather Be the Devil”. The former comes off as a somewhat mysterious, tense, near whispery narrative of a thorn mind under the rain. Blues, jazz… I’m struggling with the terms. Help. The latter – a blues cover-, is Martyn having a blast just playing away with his fantastic (fantastic, I say!) voice, paired with a really good, funky tinted jam. It features a heavy use of diverse distorted guitar effects that I wish I could better describe as something other than, well, quite thrilling.
Other honorable mention in my book goes to “Don’t want to know” – I like the gorgeous opening atmosphere, created by the acoustic guitar and minimalist synthesizer, slowly incorporating percussions and organ as it all ends up into a livelier, groovy tune. After a few repeated listens, the chorus begins to hypnotize and grip you, not to let go for a considerable amount of time after the song has ended. Not complaining in the least, by the way.

And last but not least, I’d like to mention “Over the Hill”, which is a joyful, mandolin driven tune with hopeful lyrics from a man who has had enough of messing around and is set to go back home to his baby and wife; “the only place for a man to be when he is worried about his life”! (Well, that rhyme got me). Also, I can’t help moving my head (or whatever part of my limbs feels less frozen – winter here, at the moment) along to the rhythm, *every* single time.

So, in conclusion: I know I used the phrase “it’s a mix of fine folk sensibility and of jazzy-bluesy vibes” to describe this album in the beginning of this review. That was just not to bore you, dear reader, so soon, by watching me attempt and fail to put some more detailed, agreeable tags to this compilation of fine songs. I’m not saying I don’t believe that which I wrote; I do, I think one can easily see traces of folky guitar feel, jazzy percussions and bluesy phrasing and style in the singing, for example, in this “Solid Air”. Throw in some Latin rhythms, echoed electric guitar effects, a bit of funky bass… Tags fall very short of the mark. I’d rather you go and listen for yourself. At the end, it feels seamless, in my opinion.  And gorgeous. Also, there’s Martyn’s voice. It can be haunting, soft, tender. It can growl. It slurs and melts along with you, as you listen. But I’ve nagged you (and myself) enough about it. Better just listen!

2017 Discography Review Challenge: KUKL – The Eye (1984)

Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

The Björk saga continues, my friends! After fun but short-lived Tappi Tíkarrass our heroine meets another bunch of creative Icelandic people and forms KUKL with them. ‘Kukl’ means ‘sorcery’ or ‘witchcraft’ and indeed this time m-lle Guðmundsdóttir and her pals set out to make some really shamanic music. This first of their two albums was inspired by a book by French author Georges Bataille that Björk loved reading as a teenager. The book was about some very young couple engaged in bizarre sexual perversions (you didn’t expect anything less from Björk, did you?), though, as far as I understand, that didn’t lead to this being a concept album but merely inspired a couple of songs and the album’s title and sleeve. 

But let’s get to the actual music. It’s… intense. This is the first experimental record in Björk’s career which in this case means you get pretty dark, gothic, noisy post-punk with strong krautrock and acid jazz influences. The sound is quite awesome, and, although many reviewers compare it to Siouxsie and the Banshees, and it IS a fair comparison, I’d say KUKL have their own distinct face. This isn’t standard gothic rock by any means, what with all flutes, pipes, bells and even an occasional trumpet, as well as proggy passages and insane rhythmic patterns. Björk is ecstatic as always but something tells me this record doesn’t make full use of her vocal capabilities – at times she even sounds intensely restrained. The production values, though some levels above Tappi Tíkarrass’s, still leave a lot to be desired. And, sadly, so does the songwriting – I struggle hard to remember at least a single track from here in my head even after several consecutive listens.

But this is still something, at times this music sounds almost cosmic; not to mention that it’s Björk’s first truly ambitious, truly creative and innovative effort, which won’t be to everyone’s taste but lovers of dark, frantic, brooding post-punk will appreciate it. Also, David Tibet rated it 5/5! Now that should tell something about it to all of you avant-garde aficionados out there. Cheers!