SPECIAL TRIBUTE REVIEW: DAVID BOWIE – Lodger (1979)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Dedicated to the memory of David Bowie

This is the last of 3 albums Bowie did with Eno (his “Berlin” period, although this one was not recorded in Berlin. This is my favorite one of the three, and possibly my favorite Bowie album period. This one has no instrumental pieces, like on “Low” and “Heroes”. The first half of the album has a vague “travel” theme to it. In several songs Bowie mixes in bits of African drumming or arabesque sounding string synthesizer sounds. These are all rock or pop songs, but they are all “deconstructed” pop songs, because everything from the instrument sounds to the songs’ construction is turned on its head, at least that’s how it seemed in 1979. This album features Adrian Belew on guitar making sounds that were basically unheard of at the time. “DJ” and “Boys..” are highlights – absolutely brilliant, and Belew truly uses his guitar like a weapon on his solos. The only really weak song is “Red Money”, which is the music from Iggy Pop’s “Sister Midnight” set to different (inferior) lyrics. Fortunately it’s at the end, so it’s easy to skip that tune, but the rest is highly recommended.

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WHITE NOISE – An Electric Storm (1969)

Review by: Steve Andrew Robey
Album assigned by: Andreas Georgi

At first glance, this seems an easy album to review – an obscure lost classic from 1969 that was way ahead of its time, with a fascinating backstory as well. But once the excitement of the discovery wears off, what am I exactly left with? Do I like this? Or am I just fascinated by the idea of it? These are the hard questions I forced myself to confront after about the 5th listen.

Backstory? Well you know the Mike Watt lyric in the Minutemen’s “History Lesson Part 2” – “Our band is scientist rock.” And that is exactly what I would call this. More than almost any album I can think of, this album was produced in a laboratory as part of a scientific experiment – albeit a fairly casual, lighthearted experiment, not necessarily any grand attempt to change the world, although in a low-key way it kinda did. The experiment aimed to see what would happen if some musicians and electronic wizards made a pop album with whatever was lying around the BBC studios? Result: it would be pretty weird.

Two employees of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (including Delia Derbyshire, creator of the original electronic “Doctor Who Theme” which fills my house several times a week to this day) got together with an orchestral bass player who wanted to experiment with electronic music. The trio were hardly “rock musicians” at all, and the compositions on this thing reflect that fact – they sometimes kind of sound like pop music, but it never stays in one place long enough to really register any “hooks” in the classic sense. Perhaps the cause of this disjointedness is the manner in which the pieces were conceived. This is no “play a synth chord for 5 minutes and then twiddle the knobs and see what happens” kind of music. These pieces were intended as bona-fide songs with verses and choruses and whatnot, but each part was put together in such a manual, inorganic way (i.e. pieced together rather than a continuous performance) that the seams can’t help but show. The good news is that this makes for some pretty interesting music that doesn’t really sound like anything else. The closest I’ve heard is the United States of America album, which has a similar devotion to primitive electronics, as well as a similarly dorky female singer. The five tracks on the first half of the record can eventually get under your skin and stay there as quirky pop tunes if you give them a chance.

But the other side of the record? Pretty frickin scary, in contrast to the naive pop experiments of side one. There are but two lengthy tracks, both of them clearly aiming for a “horror show” kind of atmosphere – the first side’s Evil Twin, in a way. “The Visitation” is 11 crazy minutes of dramatic music, evidently telling a ghost story of some kind, with suspense music to match. Like the shorter songs on side one, this was pieced together over a period of months in what must have been a tedious process – albeit clearly a labor of love for the artists.  Having missed the production deadline to deliver this album to Island Records, the trio still found themselves a bit short of material, so in a panic they rush-recorded the album’s last track, the infamous “Black Mass: An Electric Storm in Hell”. This track is little more than weird noises, thunderous tribal drumming, and frenzied screams. Some of those screams are pretty damn convincing,, too. Scared me pretty good, I must say. “The Visitation” had some cool screams too. Side B really gives this album the extra meat it needed to make for a memorable album.

I have to confess that this album is more interesting in concept than in execution – though my avant-garde-loving ears automatically squeal with joy upon encountering anything as weird as this, if I were making a recommendation to another person, I seriously doubt many of them would enjoy this, outside of its historical importance. The music itself is a bit clumsy, if charmingly so, reflecting the “clean slate” approach the group took to making this album – NOTHING had really been done like this before, and their pioneering spirit must command respect.

DAVID LANG – The Little Match Girl Passion (2009)

Review by: Syd Spence
Album assigned by: Alex Alex

David Lang fancies himself a post-minimalist composer, which i think means new, really really sparse classical music. And Boy is this that! Basically it’s ye olde Hans Christian Anderson story set to a traditionally beautiful choir featuring male and female voices. Also, there are bells and few other non-drum percussion instruments thrown, and God ol mighty is this bad!

Let’s start with the vocals, because that’s the only thing in this whole long tedious piece. It is made up of i think three or so upper to middle range women and one lower man voice, each with operatic perfection. I’m certain that some people would say they are beautiful, what with perfect pitch and timbre, and all those other music conservatory terms, but to my ears it sounds antiquated and bourgeois. When i hear those angelic tones of highly trained opera singers, I just see well to do men and women clapping at the finest in high brow art.

It just doesn’t feel real it feels like bourgeois corruption of the innate creativity of humanity. These voices did not innately turn that way, no one comes from the womb spitting pure tones in operatic sophistication. No, it requires years and years of training and thus a patronage from wealthy benefactors. So with each perfect note, all I hear is a thousand poor ghetto children sleeping in the cold because some rich man likes tarts that sing all classy like. Which is really ironic considering this song is based on a story about a poor little girl who dies of hypothermia. This piece of music won the Pulitzer prize for music the year it was composed. Can’t you just imagine, the bright lights of Carnegie Hall and the who’s who of the cultured intelligentsia coming out to see the latest in high culture from Pulitzer Prize winning David Lang. There they are, dressed in all the accoutrement of learned high society and they sit and they become dazzled by the sopranos and tenors. Then they notice the lyrics and they become touched by that poor dying girl. Oh it’s so sad! Oh the humanity. All the while away the posh Manhattan theatre, poor street youths are struggling in the cold winter air. It’s rich when classical music, born from prestige and wealth, tackles the sorrows of the poor. 

But besides the socioeconomic problems with this piece, I found all the movements too busy. Each of the voices sings like a large paragraph in each stanza and i couldn’t even bathe in their classical beauty. It all sounded really busy and cluttered and pompous. I’m clearly not the audience for this kind of stuff. If you are middle aged tenured college professor that gets hard on’s for Bach and Hans Christian Anderson, then this shit is for you! If you like music that doesn’t sound like it deserves to be in the wastebin of history, then ignore it and buy a Run the Jewels album.

EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN – Perpetuum Mobile (2004)

Review by: A.A
Album assigned by: Mark Maria Ahsmann

For the ever-adventurous (and the occasionally-unsettling – but I’d say that depends more on your constitution) Einstürzende Neubauten, air compressors, car tyres and dried leaves are as good instruments as any to feature on an album. And 2004’s Perpetuum Mobile – released almost a quarter century since the band’s formation – certainly features a diverse range of them. A mere look at the album credits shows, in addition to the usual rock music mundanities, such delights as Hammond organ, clavichord, pianos of various varieties, radios, loops, plastic tubes, metal sheets, pedal steel guitar, accordion, vibraphone, euphonium, trombone, tuba (played by one Natascha Zickerick – totally digging that name), viola, violin, cello, and bells & whistles (literally). And yes, compressed air, tyres and the crunchy sonic textures produced using dried leaves certainly have their place too in the whole scheme of things here.

Intrigued as you are, you hit the Play button, to be instantaneously greeted by lethargic drones coaxed out of the aforementioned air compressor against a chugging rhythm with Blixa Bargeld’s distinctive later-era half-raconteur, half-hypnotist vocals. So it’s been decades since the days of stealing construction site equipment to craft dissonant punk-industrial pieces fraught with searing vocal angst à la Kollaps, and we now have a sophisticated, clinically charming storyteller backed by a post-postmodern orchestra. But what story are they trying to tell? Lyrically the album offers us some cues, though the details are sketchy: cold, permafrost, planets, air travel & intergalactic journeys, tsunamis, tornadoes, storms and floods. Often it seems to be about the very real struggles and experiences faced by the refugees to an unknown planet. Maybe the album name Perpetuum Mobile (meaning “continuous motion”, but also the continuous rapid succession of notes in a piece of music) is a reference to this continuous struggle as well? Indeed the first track Iche gehe jetzt though heavy on drones and percussions, has also subtle clavichord and organ touches (a technique also used on some other tracks with various keyboard instruments for a similar effect); another allusion to that bittersweet struggle for life on remote galactic habitats perhaps?

The namesake title track is where Einstürzende Neubauten pay homage to their more primal past with metal-sheet banging and a raucous shrill leading to blips and beeps of a possibly last transmission by people trapped inside a space shuttle going awry. And right next up is the Ein leichtes leises Säuseln, which could – with its melancholic pianos, sombre autumn vibe produced using crunching dried leaves, and gentle vocals – very well be an obituary of the previous track’s demised as a storm slowly gathers around the lonely survivor-narrator (role-played by Blixa) on the run from an unseen menace. Easily the most heart-touching track on the album.

Selbstportrait mit Kater continues lyrically with the ordeal of the protagonist, with its nonchalant play of bass and rattles (as if the intergalactic gods don’t care what becomes of poor Blixa), some Kraftwerk-reminiscent moments, and a hard percussion pattern recurring now and again – and here’s when Blixa candidly admits: “Life on other planets is difficult!”. Though things look bleak, a glimmer of hope is on the galactic horizon with Boreas. Maybe the other survivors have eventually reunited with Blixa, and now they travel across an icy wasteland looking for the asteroid that will take them to a safer haven. The cold Arctic ambiance and Blixa’s semi-hopeful vocals convey this desperation well. Ein seltener Vogel follows with its drony backdrop and cymbal percussion and seems to be about a rare bird – perhaps a phoenix – a sign of some hope to the weary narrator after his comrades seem to have disappeared in the wake of a torrential downpour.

Ozean und Brandung is the nondescript odd-one-out here. It just drones on and on for almost four minutes with seemingly no other purpose than to callously induce in the mind of the listener the empathy for the suffering and uncertainly faced by our friend the protagonist. Thankfully its successor Paradiesseits is aglow with an almost cheery Alpine beauty. Also Blixa seems happy at the relief he’s found from his troubles in some kind of a paradise or oasis and is finally enjoying the warmth of the sun by the water and feasting on fishes while his mentor the bird offers him instruction and advice in his dreams about the course he should pursue to describe his experiences in form of the very album we have before us. Lyrics I must admit I never expected to find on an industrial album!

The lyrical gears shift into English for Youme & Meyou (oh, did I mention they were predominantly German except for an English line here and there till now?) So the survivors have come together and cultivated an urban civilization modeled as best they could after Earth – with such familiar things as Starbucks, hotels, laptops and tangerines, though there’s some danger from radioactivity and natural calamities. And as Blixa says, if the future isn’t bright at least it’s colorful. Musically, however, the track is rather plain and lackluster with drawn-out synth passages over subdued tribal rhythms.

I would venture on to describe Der Weg ins Freie as an octane-fueled EBM (Electro Body Music) track reminiscent somewhat of Front 242. But the piano flourishes give it a rather gravely soulful touch – a counterpoint to the catchy beats and blithe vocals. The lyrics seemingly allude to the routine experiences of exploration and travels conducted by the now-settled narrator. Perhaps this is what these settlers dance to on the galactic electro-industrial clubs on their alien planet when they get bored with the rut. For me, easily a standout track.

Though their colony is firmly established, they haven’t yet found a sure, complete remedy for death and consequently Dead Friends (Around the Corner) is about venturing into some sort of technological limbo where your dead friends are preserved and maybe even artificially reanimated. Musically the track is not anything out of the ordinary, though it does have some moments of interesting percussion work. The album comes to an end with Grundstück – an almost clockwork-like piece chronicling some mechanized Buddhist ritual in a strange temple on our alien planet, with lyrical themes of putting up with a hazy, distant past.

Earlier I mentioned the sheer amount and diversity of the instrumentation but the band manages to successfully combine them organically and thankfully it does not lead to a tasteless sonic hotchpotch. And so ends this review bidding farewell to our alien colonist friends with some lines from the album:

Ich treibe Inzest mit den Sternen!
Ich treibe Inzest mit den Sternen!
Life on other planets is difficult!

68 / 100
 

JADE WARRIOR – Last Autumn’s Dream (1972)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Album assigned by: Steve Andrew Robey

Let me be honest. When I was told which album I had to write about, I knew nothing about it. I somehow assumed it was an album from the 21st century, since these young whippersnappers from the group seem to have an undue admiration for these most dire years in musical history, and that’s including the centuries when the most interesting albums would have been called “The Greatest Horn Calls From Mesopotamia”. With that misconception in mind, when I listened to it I thought this was a modern band trying to faithfully imitate the 1970s.

So imagine when I looked for info and found that it was an actual album from 1972!

But after that bit sank in I found that my initial impression had not been altered. Yes, I stand by my word; this music is pleasant but incredibly derivative. About half of the tracks are cut in the mold of starry-eyed art rock with prog soundscapes (prototype: “A Winter’s Tale”), and the other half are acid rock a la Hendrix / Grateful Dead (prototype: “Joanne”). The guitar playing guy is good, that cannot be denied. The flute also adds to the palette but it seems always to be mixed as if the player was in another room.

Here and then pop up some motives that display some Japanese influence (mainly in the percussion, as the guitar inevitably ends up playing the usual psychedelic modal noodlings). That again that was kind of a schtick of the band from what I gather. The most blatant attempt in this vein might be “Lady of the Lake”, even if the guitars pay evident tribute to both Mick Taylor (“Moonlight Mile”) and Jimi Hendrix (“One Rainy Wish”), and its segue into the repetitive (in a good way) “Borne Under The Solar Wind”. There are also some good uses of the 12-string guitar and jazz-rock vampings in “May Queen”, probably the quintessential song of the album since it seems to be the one where more of the album’s earmarks coalesce (even if compositionally it’s quite simple).

And just when you had the impression of being listening to a very cohesive album… there comes “The Demon Trucker”. What the hell is this? A mix of glam and Southern Rock with flutes and bongos? I find it dumb, uninteresting, annoying, and at odds with the rest of the album.

Frankly I don’t get why Dave Thompson from the All Music Guide raves so much about that song.

So, to sum up: nice album, which I don’t mind when it’s on, but in my mind there is no reason to go searching for it. Time is a great filter, and the most remembered musical products of the 70s are their classic peaks and their most populist appealing hits. For an eclectic like me, these middling not-hit-but-not-great albums are best left for specialists and people who remember the times and might have a connection with them. Me, not belonging to either group, when I want to hear derivative music I prefer to see a show in a club or a bar. At least I’m supporting the local scene that way.

But don’t let that comment turn you away from the album if you can’t get enough of the British 70s art rock. It might just be what you were looking for, and I can’t deny that the melody of “Borne Under The Solar Wind” is running circles around my head right now.

DADAWAH – Peace and Love (1974)

Review by: Kyle Wilson
Album assigned by: Syd Spence

Reggae and Rastafari will always be connected in the cultural zeitgeist, at least when it comes to Jamaican music, but where Bob Marley uses it as a backdrop for creating pop songs with great grooves and catchy vocal hooks, Ras Michael, here going by the name Dadawah, gives us a deep, religious exploration in his “classic” 1974 album Peace & Love.

I put “classic” in quotes to convey my mixed feelings about the album, but it is certainly Classic with a capital C for a lot of people. Almost every review I’ve seen praises it as one of the greatest albums of all time. Perhaps I’m missing something, though I’m sure I’m not the target audience.

I consider myself one of those annoying people who claims to be open to any kind of music, but who is probably more elitist than I let on. Reggae has never been one of my favorite genres, despite the fact that I’m white, American, secular humanist and I have never smoked pot in my life. I know. Shocking. Still, every genre can be good, even *gasp* country music! And of course, I like the aforementioned Mr. Marley, because I’m human.

So when I was assigned this album, it was a little daunting, not to mention confusing, since it seems to have nothing to do with winter, but I went ahead, before reading any reviews, and started listening to it, all 4 tracks in 38 minutes…

Overall, it was…good. The tracks are obviously all very long, but prog this ain’t.

Basically, the whole album sounds pretty much the same. Dadawah and his musicians spend about 3/4 of the time chanting and yelling mantras about Zion (which is Ethiopia) and “Jah Rastafar-I!!” over a series of long, repetitive grooves, thanks to some nice sounding bass, piano, electric guitar, and traditional nyabinghi drumming, and what seems like relatively little time actually singing the words with real melodies.

Which is fine! This is a (purportedly) honest exploration of Ras Michael’s religious beliefs, and he’s clearly going for atmosphere and spirituality over memorable melodies. On the entire album, there was only one line that stuck with me, melody wise. The “come away, come away, from the land of the sinking sand” bit on “Run Come Rally” was genuinely catchy. Lyrically, when I could actually make out the words, it seems to be mostly religious and Rastafari clichés, and a lot about peace and love (shocker!), though I liked the line about there being a time when there will be no first, second or third world nations, which I believe was in “Seventy Two Nations,” appropriately.

A quick track by track run down, just to get the last important details out of the way.

“Run Come Rally”: A lot of chanting and decent grooves, and one catchy line apparently.

“Seventy Two Nations”: Musically and lyrically seemingly identical to the first track, and in my two listens of this album, I couldn’t tell where the track started.

“Zion Land”: My pick for best track. I can’t really figure out any of the lyrics, and I was unable to find them online, but considering the title, probably something about the Bible. What I like though, is, almost no chanting. Ras Michael actually sings throughout the whole song. Also, this may sound strange but, this track gave me something of a…Procol Harum vibe? Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s just the first thing I thought of.

“Know How You Stand”: Apparently this album is a trip through to…the apocalypse? The renewed Zion? If you say so. All I know about the last song is, it seems to be the most…musically dynamic? The grooves seem to be louder and more menacing.

And that’s about it. Like I said, I only listened to it twice. After the second time, I doubted I would ever listen to the album again, but honestly, I might. It inspired just enough curiosity. Maybe a third listen will inspire even more.

I suppose I get the hype. The album sounds very important. I just don’t agree with it. But hey! People can love whatever and whoever they want! Peace and love, mon! Peace and love!

In conclusion, as an album, it was…interesting. As an expression of a religious belief that Jesus Christ was reincarnated as an Ethiopian emperor who consistently denied being Jesus Christ, it was…interesting?

MAGAZINE – Secondhand Daylight (1979)

Review by: Tristan Peterson
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

Essays About Fucking 
(slightly edited but mostly as the author intended – Ed.)
I’ve been sick, so reviewing this will be a struggle. I’ve been able to watch a lot of porn though. Lemme share with you two of my favorites. Do note that I’m not one of the assholes that might actually read titles of videos and use them to determine their quality. I’m not a connoisseur of porn, I just like jerking off. The sites I use are confidential. This is for kids, after all.

PORN NO. 1
I have no idea why it’s titled that [NOTE: This sentence looks silly now that the titles have been edited out but don’t tell Tristan. – Ed]. Presumably because those are their names, but I don’t know for certain. This is one of the few “amateur porn” videos where you can a) actually see what’s going on and b) it’s not just testicles flapping against the taint, an ever increasing problem in the pornographic video world. The girl seems to have dyed red hair, which, if you like dyed hair, but not unnatural dyes, this is good for you. Just like this Magazine album will be good for you if you like Rush, but not if you like post punk, as it isn’t post punk. She shaved as well, obviously indicating a sense of modernity in the shooting, which is also like Secondhand Daylight, in that the album still sounds shockingly modern. They do a bit of everything, and I’m guessing that this Jack (fucker) and Emily (fuckee/fuckess [take your pick]) are a couple of some sort. Hopefully they aren’t related. Incest is not wincest.
8/10

PORN NO. 2 
Dakota is a personal favorite. She’s hot imo. Nice body, perky and doesn’t need much makeup caked on her to look good. What caught my interest, however, was how the intro states that the video has “3D Audio.” So, for once, instead of whacking it, I listened to porn for the sonics. The concept of “3D Audio” intrigued me. Is it just a fancy name for surround sound? Or has this video’s audio actually transcended into the mystical third dimension, and given a much more pleasurable listening experience than Secondhand Daylight by the band Magazine (which is a good album, a bit retro but good overall. It isn’t post punk though)?

Well the video isn’t the highest of quality, the title wasn’t kidding when they said POV. But it looks like some sort of SnorriCam type of bullshit, which only looks good in those weird artsy movies. I’m pretty sure this isn’t art porn. But only pretty sure. And somehow, Dakota has a fucking gopro strapped to her head or some shit, but only in certain shots, which fucks the realism up for me, at least to some degree. (Note: By “realism” I mean consistency in audio and shot techniques. The camera on Dakota has far worse audio quality than the camera on the unnamed, presumably 30-something male. To be fair, the audio on the male’s camera isn’t much better but Dakota’s is worse than should be allowed in porn. The editing is also really choppy and inconsistent, breaking the flow of the story. But I digress.)

So, as i watched the video, I could not necessarily call the audio “3D,” I could only call it “shit.”  To be fair, it’s hardly even surround sound, unlike the version of Secondhand Daylight I heard, which was absolutely stunning sonically.  Just gopro quality audio in porn. So the title has one lie: HD. This is maybe 360p at best. No HD shit here. The camerawork isn’t that good either, the problem is the location of the gopro on the male. It’s strapped on the top of his head, which must be awkward for both him and dakota. Plus, you can’t see hardly any mouth stuff! The one upside is that you can do a bit more pretending-as in, you can pretend to be fucking her instead of xyz male pornstar who is either infinitely more attractive than you or somehow has more money than Hugh Hefner, because there is no way that they would get any without that. Remember, it’s one thing to be filmed while fucking, but it’s an entirely new breed of interesting situation when the fucker is the cameraman, and the camera is strapped to your forehead.

Anyway you get about a minute of exposition in this 8-minute speed rounder before things start to get heated. The plot is: Unnamed man and Dakota are presumably in some sort of relationship, and they are playing around. This leads to that and they run into the bedroom. The Nasty™ (or, if you’re a cheeky fuck, The Nice™.) ensues. So there’s a bit of kissing, rushed undressing and bushwhacking (none of which you can see thanks to the shit gopro camera placement I discussed earlier), and Dakota still has the invisible gopro on her, so you can presumably see stuff from her angle.  The only problem with that is, with the angle the guy is bushwhacking, you still can’t see what’s going on, only her body contorted upward. At about the minute twenty five, minute thirty mark, the camera on Anonymous Male’s head is adjusted so you can now see what is going on. The only problem is, you also get the tip of his nose, which just looks weird to be watching porn with a random, vagrant nose in the midst of everything. (Note: The nose, unlike Young Thug’s blunt, doesn’t look like a dick.  It’s just a nose, nothing special, it takes you out of the experience this company wants to give.)

I gave up on the “3D Audio” about 30 seconds in. However, I didn’t expect the audio to so clearly pick up the bushwhacking, which, due to this Anonymous Male’s inexperience-or lack of care-sounds like he’s slurping ramen. Very loud and uncomfortable. Thankfully, Dakota is a good porn actress and is at least pretending to enjoy the fact that her vagina has now become a rather sensitive soup bowl, featuring roast beef as its main meat. 

This slurpy durpy soup party goes on until 2:15, when we get the infamous quick fade to a blowjob (or, for the more pc crowd, a suckie duckie). It’s well established that Dakota is good at head, so she goes in on this. There’s a bit of something for everybody in the scene, but I don’t want to spoil too much so I’ll let the eager watchers do their thing.

At the 3:10 mark, we get another Q U I C K F A D E, only this time to the thing people have come for-THE NASTY™ /THE NICE™. It starts out with basic doggy, with some ass slappage. It’s nothing you haven’t seen/done, which, to some degree, also applies to Secondhand Daylight, as it sounds a lot like Rush, in their Signals and Grace Under Pressure era, with just a bit more of a punk attitude. However, doggy and Secondhand Daylight alike, they are done incredibly well.

Once you get to the 4:20 (blaze it) mark, the shot cuts to Dakota being held up by Anonymous Male whilst being thrust into by the same said anonymous male. An awkward position, and the camera is moved again, so really the entire minute or so of the scene is kind of uncomfortable as well.Now, as I don’t want to spoil the entirety of this video, I won’t get into too much further detail, but the action is better. Again, it’s like Secondhand Daylight, although there is nothing new or radically different, it does its job well, and even with its drawbacks, it’s quite a watch/listen.
9/10

Overall:
Both are great fam, hit me up for links !
8/10