IVY GREEN – Ivy Green (1990)

Review by: B.B. Fultz
Album assigned by: Mark Maria Ahsmann

Note : I was one of the two or three people that asked for a good album to review, rather than a deliberately bad album, so this review will not be a “panning” per se. I thought maybe this was important to mention because nearly all of the other albums in this round were bad (at least in the opinion of the people who assigned them).

Ivy Green is a late 70s punk album by the band Ivy Green. It has most of the earmarks of early punk — short song lengths, simple chord structures played at a fast tempo, and clipped, snotty-sounding vocals where you can’t always make out the words but you know it’s something being repeated over and over. It’s very much a straightforward punk album from the days when punk was still new and exciting. The band does a competent job with it, as long as you don’t mind them borrowing from other bands left and right. You’ve heard all these songs before, even if they were different songs by different bands when you heard them. 

The Ramones influence is obvious from the very first song. As soon as you hear the chainsaw buzz of “I’m Sure We’re Gonna Make It” you know where these guys are coming from, and have a good idea where they’re going. The more you listen, the more shades of 1978 you’ll find. “Another Sub-Culture Going Bad” has the barked vocal style of Johnny Rotten over a simple guitar phrase that would be right at home on Bollocks, and “Sue” sounds like some obscure 60s surf rocker that would have been covered on the Great Rock & Roll Swindle. “Why Not Tonight” also sounds like a song from the early 60s updated for the punk age — the rockabilly drive on that one reminds me of Johnny Cochran. I can’t tell if Ivy Green listened to a lot of 60s music themselves, or if they subconsciously picked up that sound by imitating other punk bands who listened to a lot of 60s music. 

They settle into this basic punk/proto-punk groove and stick with it for 36 minutes. Once in awhile they deviate from the pattern (a little) — “Every Day The Same” has some breaks in the monotonous guitar-buzz where they try for something a little different — but for the most part the songs all sound similar, and rarely stray beyond the stereotypical punk sound of 1978. 

The album is very much a product of its time, with all the good qualities (drive, youthful aggression, cool guitar tones) and bad qualities (stripped down structures, monotonous sound) that go with it. If you like punk, you’ll probably like this album. If you dislike punk, you’ll probably hate it. Ivy Green doesn’t try to be much more than just another punk band, but what they try they succeed at. Which is more than you can say for many other bands who tried for bigger things and failed. And even if Ivy Green’s debut was not exactly a milestone in the history of music, it’s a pretty cool album all the same.

EL-P – Cancer 4 Cure (2012)

Review by: Franco Micale
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

I’m going to be honest, I’m not one who is really qualified to review rap music. For one thing, I have been so busy lately that I have not been able to find a satisfying amount of time to really digest, listen to and examine this album from multiple angles. On top of that, hip hop is such a lyrically focused genre of music, and while I can be good at analyzing and dissecting apart literature, poetry, and lyrics, it tends to take me a lot of work, and I’ve just finished my summer quarter of school and I really don’t want to force myself to write an essay detailing the philosophical and sociological messages of “Cancer 4 Cure”. So, pardon me if I am not reviewing and judging this album “properly”. 

I will talk about what I know, and this album sounds amazing. The whole thing, when I visualize it, is like some giant, cinematic, sci-fi action movie, except the movie is about some dystopian society filled with drones, security cameras, and watchguard robots. E-lp’s lyrics seem to deal with detachment and disassociation from the world…finding dissatisfaction from relationships, cheap thrills, technology, fame, the government… just listening to him rap stirs my soul in various way. I can feel the ANGER, the RAGE, the PASSION in what he’s doing, both in his words and his delivery. I don’t know if I can really nail down any specific moments that catch my attention, but to me I consider this album to be solidified proof that anyone who says that rap music is a “stupid” genre of art either:

Have barely heard any rap music, or
Are over the age of 40 and can no longer find appreciation in trendy new types of music

Anyways, moving on, let’s discuss the SOUND and STYLE of this album.This album is a mixture of synthesized sounds, mechanized drum beats, and variety of samples and big, attention grabbing effects, which all seem to create what is the auditory equivalent to a high budget sci-fi movie. This flashy production contrasts and compliments E-lp’s frustration and desperation in a consumeristic and technology driven world,and on a surface level, everything just dazzles me.

Overall, I could go into more detail, but eh. I just don’t feel like it. I’ll let you listen to it, and decide for yourself the quality of this album.

So overall, even though I don’t feel extreme love towards it, it’s a perfectly great and solid album with not a real bad moment. For people who are interested in rap music, but aren’t really sure where to start, this might not be a bad beginning point.


Did I enjoy this album? A: Yes

Should you listen to this album? A: If you like rap music, yes you should.

Is it essential that you listen to this album? A: I don’t know how innovative or revolutionary or how different this is from other rap music, so I don’t know if I can answer this. But yes, it feels important enough.

If you like this album, what should you listen to? A: I haven’t heard them, but Run The Jewels is the main project that E-lp is a part of, so I’d check that out.

FAVORITE TRACK? A: Album was very consistent, can’t quite pick out one.

LEAST FAVORITE TRACK? A: N/A

ZEZÉ DI CAMARGO & LUCIANO – Zezé Di Camargo & Luciano (2012)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho

As this was a rush job, due to a medical emergency, I did not do any research online about this band or duo, but just listened to the album on Spotify, making up my mind, and forming a judgment about the music, as I went along, concluding pretty much instantly that this would not be a new cherished discovery of an amazing album by an artist that I would like to know more about, even if they’re singing in Portuguese, the sweetest, most beautiful sounding language in the world, so three sentences would do.

At first hearing (and be aware, that is as far as I got) this half live, half studio album sounds like typical 80’s (power) pop: weird production (up front vocals, tinny sound, loud drums (in the worst Phil Collins style, just listen to Nao Tem Graça), synthesised or synthetically sounding strings) with some comforting semi-acoustic sounds, slightly epic melodies (sometimes not all that bad, really), which is OK by me, until I realised this album was produced in 2012!!!

Some of the songs, especially the live ones, such as Sonho de Amor and Eu To Na Pista Eu To Solteiro, sound energetic and happy and could be summer hits, but then there is a power ballad like Eu Quero É Mais, that would even fail at a Eurovison Song contest. Em Algum Lugar Do Passado, if ever so slightly slowed down, could have been covered by Sting solo and be quite acceptable, but Meu Nenén, Meu Bebe, Minha Vida is one of the worst songs I’ve heard all year.

ISIS – Panopticon (2004)

Review by: Jonathan Moss
Album assigned by: Syd Spence

Apparently this is a concept album based on Jeremy Bentham’s idea of how a prison should be designed, as some sort of reflection on modern society and how its totally fucked bro, etc. I don’t care about any of that though, but man this is a neat album!

So I guess Godflesh is the obvious comparison, but how can you not make it? This album sounds quite obviously inspired by Godflesh. Pounding industrial metal with growley vocals. They definitely aren’t ripping off Godflesh though, if they were I would write a review of Streetcleaner in protest. No, this takes the sound Godflesh started in new and exciting directions! I don’t know why, because the record isn’t that synth laden, but it reminds me somewhat of Aphex Twin. Maybe it’s just the vibe, kind of depressing, but in a spacey way, and quite British as well, so bleak, like all those buildings we have, both rural and industrial. So, this is some sort of metal album, but it features long passages of clean, kind of chiming, proggish guitar playing, almost a sort of negative psychedelia. This, when juxtaposed with the harsh, grinding passages, makes for a thrilling combination. Of course, it helps that this isn’t spastic, the album maintains a tense, sombre mood throughout, with the clean passages helping give it a melancholic vibe and the noisy ones expressing anger and stopping it from becoming boring, like a porcupine tree album. It also helps to give the album a certain depth, though without seeming pretentious, which is surprising considering the concept.

Who wants an album where you have to read Foucault to get the lyrics? I know I do.

It’s somewhat hard to go into individual songs, the album working so well together as a cohesive whole, but I don’t want this review to be short so enjoy this shitty filler paragraph. Well, the opening song “So Did We” is serves its function very well, it made me realise the album was going to be worth listening to straight away, and well worth writing about (which is why I’m so late with this review). It establishes the dynamics of the album quickly and has some great riffs. Which reminds me, this album is seriously catchy, most of the songs have at least one riff worth paying attention to. And the riffs to the quiet sections, those are as beautiful as a man who doesn’t open a tinder conversation with a photo of his dick. The last song is cool as well, featuring a slightly grungier, more monolithic sound, and some cool effects, creating a dirge like effect. It also has some truly elegiac guitar passages.

Anyway, time for some criticism, and I guess I have the same criticism I had of that Ann Peebles album, which is that this can be somewhat monotonous. I get that this is a concept album, so it wants to maintain a similar mood, and it definitely doesn’t harm the album that much, but I do wish they had included some variety, I just can’t think of what else they could have done. Maybe a song that crosses from melancholia to outright despair, or a really angry industrial metal song, but then the album might lose some of its individuality, so what the fuck do I know?

Either way, this album is fabulous and will enter my rotation.

KID CUDI – Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven (2015)

Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov
Album assigned by: Michael Strait

DISCLAIMER: When this review was written I was not aware- nor was anyone- that Kid Cudi genuinely had depression and suffered with suicidal thoughts and the review is written with that mindset.

There once was a rapper named Cudi
Who thought he could move everybody
By singing his pain
In the wake of Cobain –
His brain must have gone a bit muddy.
 
How do you make a grunge album in the 2010s?
 
Acclaimed recording artist Kid Cudi has the answer! You know guys, this must seem like a revelation to you, but doing grunge is actually easy. You take a very badly tuned guitar (because grunge is basically modified punk rock, right?) and just thumb the fuck out of it while doing an imitation of heavily autotuned Eddie Vedder with your voice. Because that is what grunge is all about! That and the yelling. You have to yell a lot to be a believable grunge artist, Kid Cudi knows that. When you can’t yell, simply roar, moan or make humming noises. Show them how your teen spirit smells, you know?
 
Next, be sure to pay enough attention to the lyrics. Grunge is supposed to be edgy, right? You really have to show how thoroughly depressed, dark and brooding you are. So be sure to include win-win phrases like “I am losing it”, “dumb punk loser”, “fall in the void”, “everything and everyone sucks”, “one last fuck you to the world”, etc. The more you mention wishing to die, the better. Let the world feel your agony by literally describing it!
 
Yeah, and also, grunge is the NINETIES thing, right? So you gotta bring up the one thing that symbolizes the nineties the most, which of course is… the Beavis and Butt-Head skits! These guys are sure to underline the edginess of your creation AND entertain your audience at the same time! I mean, come on, you can never go wrong with the old Beavis and Butt-Head, right? It’s also pretty cool to have them mention explicitly what great artist you are and how well you handle grunge’s raw emotion… thing. Or whatever it’s called. Let subtlety be your best friend!
 
And after one hour of all this awesomeness, when your listeners are practically writhing in ecstasy and screaming in delight, BRING DISC TWO ON THEM! Fill it with acoustic demos of more incredible songs. Cause that is exactly what they wanna hear, right? It’s grunge, so it should be raw, okay? Raw emotion, acoustic songs, studio noise – it’s all good, cause they will get to see all of your multiple sides as an artist at once.
 
And that, my friends, was the recipe of a masterpiece. Right? Right?
 
WRONG!!! WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!! FUUUUCK YOU KID CUDI WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING??? AAAARGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
AAARGH!!!
 
This. Was. Horrible. Atrocious. Abominable. Outstandingly bad.
 
I literally have nothing more to say. End of review. I hope to never hear this album again. You might wanna take a listen out of sheer curiosity of course, because this amazingly low level of quality is a truly rare thing. But proceed at your own risk. I almost died while making my way through this shit.

JANDEK – Ready for House (1978)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Album assigned by: Andreas Georgi (who’s going to pay for this)


I quickly sampled the album and my first impression is that just thinking that I have to listen to 43 minutes of this makes me wanna curl up in a corner and weep.

It’s off key vocals without power nor color, backed by some amateurish banging at some zither like instrument. Ah no, it’s apparently a guitar. When you can’t identify an instrument that plays solo it means that whoever is playing it is SO UNSKILLED that cannot even make it sound like itself.

Okay, I cannot stand this. I don’t like it. Nobody does. Everybody who says they like it are lying and being pretentious. This is an offense on humanity. MAKE IT STOP. MAKE. IT. STOP.

Oh, wait a moment.
I realised I’m not forced to do this.
I can make it stop myself.
Done.
FUCK.
YOU.

KEITH MOON – Two Sides of the Moon (1975)

Review by: Michael Strait
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

There is a deluxe edition of this. It is two discs long.

Heaven help us.

Crazy Like A Fox: Kinda does sound like mid-70s Who, actually. What that means is that it sounds like forgettable, bland 70s rock except for the vocals – done by Moon, presumably – which are kind of sassy and sardonic in a way I can kind of like. There’s a decent bassline. In fact, the instrumentation is quite lush and varied really, and there’s a perfectly competent guitar solo. The question is why does this exist? This is really just a karaoke performance, innit?

Solid Gold: Some sort of sarcastic spoken word intro. Oh wait, this is actually the whole thing. Some pretty female voices harmonise some vocal chants as Moon drunkenly stumbles over the lyrics of this tune, like he’s going through some sort of terrible impressions game at a pub. Is this a comedy album? No, worse – this is a NOVELTY album, where the novelty is “Keith Moon sings the classics”, as if he’s some children’s cartoon character or Kardashian and the prospect of him singing is inherently funny. :/

Don’t Worry Baby: String section shit. Meh. He’s actually singing this time, though not particularly well. ‘Course, worse singers have been great vocalists before, but then mostly they’ve actually been singing over worthwhile music. This is still just karaoke nonsense. Utterly pointless, like the other album I was assigned this round – not offensively bad, nor intriguingly bad, nor even depressingly bad, just sort of confusing. Why would anyone ever listen to this? Why was it made? Actually, I take that back – I’m imagining Moon singing this in the studio now, imagining his face contorting into soulful expressions as he sings his heart out, and it’s very depressing.

One Night Stand: Slide guitar an’ all. His vocals are buried under so many doubled layers of themselves that I can barely make them out. Is he trying to put on an American accent? Oh Christ, he is, isn’t he? Has anyone in world history actually listened to this for pleasure? Are there people in the world who sometimes think “yeah, I’ll just listen to Keith Moon sing One Night Stand”? Perfectly competent guitar solo here, again – it’s all just so confusing to me that this exists.

The Kids Are Alright: Loud guitar chord opens this one. Siiiiigh. OK, he really is butchering this one with his singing – he CAN’T sing, or at least not well enough to sing songs that require actual singing. He’d make a great frontman for a band like, say, The Clash or whatever, but he just hasn’t got the skillset for this kind of music so why is he misapplying himself? The band actually does sound kind of incompetent here, for ones – the entire thing sounds like it’s tripping and stumbling about, and it does NOT sound natural at all.

Move Over Ms. L: A Lennon track! Well, here comes Moon to do his best to ruin it by singing it almost exactly like a punk rock singer, except more middle-class. This song has lots of brass instruments on it. I don’t like it. This isn’t one of Lennon’s best efforts anyway. Apparently Moon drummed on that track. Barely noticed.

Teen Age Idol: Melodramatic nonsense! Moon can’t sing. People DO call him a teenage idol, though. Or did, at least. R.I.P Keith Moon. It sounds like it’s trying to be a gahdawful movie song except Moon just can’t sing. Oh my god that was horrible panning. Made me feel sick.

Back Door Sally: :/ :/ :/ :/ :/ :/ :/ :/ :/ He kind of DOES have the chops for this kind of singing – just raw charisma, no actual tunefulness, which sorta fits with this song, except it still doesn’t quite work because the end result still sucks. At least it sucks on its own terms though. Oh Christ he’s starting to sound like a glam metal vocalist. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Lots of brass on this song again. Kinda sounds like good-old-fashioned British glam rock except garbage.

In My Life: The Beatles, eh? That piano sounds horrible somehow. Moon can’t sing. Moon can’t sing. Moon can’t sing. Well, he’s REALLY ruining this melody. The entire thing sounds bargain bin and phoned-in – he’s making this Beatles tune sound like a shitty generic showtune, and that takes a sort of perverse anti-talent. Really over-egged melodramatic choral backing vocals don’t fucking help matters.

Together: The last one. Phew. Ringo co-wrote this one with like 2 other blokes. The drumming on this track is so bad it’s actually hilarious – or maybe it’s just mixed badly; it sounds arrhythmic, like it’s spurting at random. Moon’s singing is, as usual, horrible – so horrible it’s been mixed down to the point of near-inaudibility. There are garbage steel drums on this track. Saving the worst for last, were we? Moon and Ringo are being a comedy duo now. They aren’t very good at it. This should not exist. His singing has started again now. This has made the track worse. Ends with a nonsensical fade back into In My Life’s chorus. It’s over.

Bullets I dodged by skipping the bonus tracks include songs called “Hot Rod Queen”, “Real Emotion”, “OK Mr. Starkey” and something ominously titled “Together ‘Rap’”.


P’raps this album is why God killed Keith Moon?