Be-Bop Deluxe–MODERN MUSIC (1976)

71grgknawul-_sl1300_Review by Alejandro Muñoz G

Assigned by B.b. Fultz

The songs here are beautifully crafted: they’re full of little intricacies and ornaments (owing especially, though not exclusively, to the guitar) which enhance and reward a listener’s attention. Also, some of the songs have fairly interesting structures: ‘Twilight Capers’ shifts from 4/4 rock, to reggae (or is it calypso?), before ending with a 3/4 kinda space-rock coda, without any of the changes feeling forced. The album’s overall style –an amalgam of glam and prog with a step towards new wave – is successfully accomplished by the band without it ever sounding pretentious.  

Guitar work is terrific and the drumming is delightful too. The synths, however, do sometimes feel purposeless (for instance, in the last minute of ‘Twilight Capers’).  As for the vocals, I think they’re one of the album’s weaknesses. While not annoying or poor by any means, Nelson’s voice sounds rather limited and I can’t help but imagine how the songs would benefit in the voice of a more capable and dynamic singer.

The opening sequence, from ‘Orphans of Babylon’ to ‘Kiss of Light’ is possibly my favourite part of the album. ‘The Bird Charmer’s Destiny’ is a sappy below-average 70s ballad but, thankfully, is kept short to give way to the much better ‘The Gold at the End of the Rainbow’, a beautiful love song. ‘Bring Back the Spark’ may start as one of the most straightforward rocking songs in the album but its worth lies in its coda: an instrumental crescendo of piano-arpeggios and gorgeous guitar work (and somehow reminds me of the ending to Baba O’Riley).

Side-B seems to me less strong than the first one. The ‘Modern Music Suite’ flows smoothly and effectively across diverse sections but for most of it, it didn’t grabbed my attention. It’s mostly good but not really great (and certainly not epic despite its length). ‘Down on Terminal Street’, with its sing-along-type chorus provides a grand ending to the album before ‘Make The Music Magic’ briefly lightens the mood one final time.

When first listening to this album, I thought the best way to describe it was as being the work of a skillful artisan rather than that of a gifted artist. It seemed accomplished and enjoyable but not particularly enthralling; a tad too tamed and lacking memorable tunes. After a couple of additional listens I still think the work the band put onto this songs is considerably higher than the output the listener takes from them. However, the album has grown on me and now I find some of its songs to be truly gripping and effective. In any case, in spite of is limitations, the album is certainly worthy of multiple listens, even if it’s only for its craftsmanship and guitar work.

Wild Beasts–TWO DANCERS (2009)

220px-wildbeasts-twodancersReviewed by B.B. Fultz

Assigned by Oliver Lewis

I’m pretty rusty on review writing and I promised to get this one in tonight, so I’m just going to do a song for song take and give you my general impressions.

The Fun Powder Plot — Interesting beginning. Peaceful, lethargic, synthy background that lulls you to relax. Almost ambient at first, but then picking up momentum and moving in a direction instead of just meandering as ambient would. Strange vocals. I thought it was a woman at first. After a few verses it dropped in register and sort of sounded like Dave Vanian from The Damned. A half-gothic half-comic croon. Hard to describe. I couldn’t make out most of the words but the voice blended in well with the music. I wanted to understand the words because with a title like The Fun Powder Plot it’s not clear what the song is about, and I’m still curious. I guess I can google the lyrics later. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this one.

Hooting & Howling — This singer has a really interesting style. He shifts from an almost soprano croon down to a warbly tenor, often in the same line. This song starts with a simple bass pattern, then builds up into a busy (yet still somehow ethereal sounding) rhythm with quiet interludes. Sustained keyboard notes, little bongo riffs, guitar pings. It reminds me of The Cure crossed with early 80s Psychedelic Furs. The vocals are more varied here and put to better effect in this song than the first. I kinda dig this one.

All The King’s Men — “Normal” vocals for this one, mostly. With some screechy high vocals in the mix. It reminds me a little of the Mercury-May “high/low dialogue” in Brighton Rock. A cool percussion drives this song, bap bap ba ba ba doom, with all kinds of pretty little embellishments. It’s hard to describe but it’s all done to great effect. For some reason I can’t explain at the moment, it reminded me of that early 80s band Big Country. The percussion mainly, which feels Celtic somehow. And maybe it is. I actually like this song quite a bit. It’s really catchy but not in an obvious way. You have to pay attention to it or you might miss the hook. It’s worth seeking though. It’s a good song. Rather than going strictly for atmosphere this time, they actually try for a more traditional song structure, except with a lot of different things going on between the different instruments, and even the vocals. I’ve listened to this one a few times and every time I hear it, I hear something more in it, and subsequently I like it a little more. There’s something irresistible about the way it all dovetails together in a hundred unlikely patterns. It’s like a kid making seemingly random squiggles with a spirograph but when you step back they somehow connect into an amazing design.

When I’m Sleepy — Okay so what the hell’s up with that “Excuse me sir, would you happen to know the time? Yeah bitch, it’s time to –” intro??? So far it’s in three songs in a row and I still don’t get the point of it. It’s time to track, as in record the album? It’s time to trap, as in trap music? It’s time to trek, as in nerd out? What? What is that? … … … This one’s weird and airy and hard to pin down. The percussion is all that anchors it from floating away I guess. It’s not very hooky and before you can try to get into it, it’s over. I’m drawing a blank here.

We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues — I guess the stupid intro is going to be a regular thing. I wonder why they excluded it from the first song but not the others? Life is full of mysteries. This is another one that sounds like it’s from some New Romantic band in the early 80s. No great shakes, but pleasant. Oddly, the most memorable hook is the weird vocal trick where he sings “tongues” as a five syllable word. He has a freaky voice, but at least he knows how to use it to interesting effect.

Two Dancers — Another intriguing percussion pattern. These guys seem to favor upfront percussion. The drumming plays the lead role in this song, in the same way another band would use a guitar. It’s too prominent in the mix to just be considered a rhythm section. The other sounds are again ethereal and disjointed. I’m not sure I’ll remember this later, but it’s an interesting listen when it’s playing.

Two Dancers II — At least the dumb spoken intro is gone. This is another ethereal song full of strange little pings and pongs, and a catchy tap-tap-tap-tap drum shuffle. He goes for a deep croon on this one. His voice gets interesting in this lower register, almost like a Brian Ferry pastiche. Not the sound of his voice so much as his style, if you follow me. Just when I started to like it, it was over.

This Is Our Lot — These guys really love atmosphere. This one’s got the stuttery guitar lead, bubbly bass, and complicated drum tattoo of some really inspired sophisti-rock song from the New Romantic era. This is a pretty good song. The singer goes for a mid range (for him) croon here that might take some getting used to — he seems to be at his strongest when he’s much higher or much lower. But I forgive the voice because the music behind the voice is elaborate and interesting. The bass and drums dance together like old lovers.

Underbelly — The dumb intro is back. Doesn’t this guy know the fucking time yet? Why does he keep bothering the other guy? Doesn’t he know the other guy is trying to track? Or trap? Or trek? People can be so annoying … … … this one’s got a weird echoey monotone beginning with an almost operatic vocal, then becomes a music box of sorts, playing something Eastern and mystical. It’s maybe the strangest song so far. And then it cuts off. Right in the middle of whatever it was doing. I don’t get it. And it’s so short that I didn’t have much time to try.

Empty Nest — Should I call this one haunting? I don’t know. It’s strange, like the rest of the songs. I can’t resonate with it on an emotional level because my brain is too busy trying to internalize this weird music. Not a criticism, just an observation. This one’s melodic, with a lot of interesting rises and falls. That “gone gone gone gone” is haunting though. And hooky. When the higher “going going gone” weaves into it, it’s almost magical. Which is to say it’s greater than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t seem like it should be anything special, but somehow it is. The whole song has a dreamy kind of sway to it. The rest of the songs mostly passed me by in a pleasant but forgettable blur. But Empty Nest stuck with me. I just listened to it again and I was wrong. I CAN resonate with this song. At least after I had time to get used to it. It’s the kind of thing you should play a few times before judging it. Its greatness is subtle and it creeps up on you. It crept up on me, at least.

In Summation …

I liked this album. It’s not something I’d be in the mood for every day, but when I’m in the mood for New Romantic or Sophisti-Rock, or just something that reminds me of those strange days in the early 80s where the music was getting as weird as the hair, I wouldn’t hesitate to throw this on. My one main complaint — and it applies to nearly all of the songs — was that the songs were too short. They take a little while to get your head into the same groove, and when you’re starting to feel like you’re getting into them, they’re over. Some are over before you even half get into them. I guess if the songs were bad, they’d seem too LONG, so the songs seeming too short must mean they’re good songs. Or at the very least, interesting songs. If you can get past the sometimes ear-grating vocals and the fact that most of the songs sound the same, you might dig this. It’s not stunningly great but on the other hand there’s nothing all that wrong with it either. For the kind of music they were going for, I’d say they acquitted themselves more than adequately. Thumbs up.

Best song : ALL THE KING’S MEN and/or EMPTY NEST

RPWL – Plays Pink Floyd’s “The Man and The Journey” (2016)

Review by: B.B. Fultz
Assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn


Spoiler Alert : as implied, this album is based on earlier works by Pink Floyd. There are a number of familiar Pink Floyd songs rehashed for this project, most of them with title changes. A lot of the “fun” of the album is listening to a piece and seeing how long before you recognize the song. Many are immediately recognizable, some take longer. And a few are just sections of songs, or unexpected combinations of two or three songs. My review will give away most of the surprises, so I recommend listening to the album BEFORE you read the review. I know that saying “don’t read this review right now” is a weird way to begin a review, but I think it’s worth mentioning. If you’re wondering whether my review is positive or negative, be assured it is mostly positive, and this album is highly recommended for anyone with even a remote interest in Pink Floyd. So go listen to it first. What follows is my actual review …

RPWL is a German progressive rock band formed in 1997. They began as a Pink Floyd tribute band before branching off into their own music a few years later. This album was their most recent (2016), and I have to say I liked it a lot. Imagine a band more technically gifted than Pink Floyd, remaking old Pink Floyd songs — and not even the well-known versions, but little-known “alternate” versions from an obscure soundtrack project — and you know it’s going to be interesting. What follows is like a Twilight Zone-ish journey of familiar Pink Floyd songs with an air of unfamiliarity. It’s often a dizzying effect, because just when you think you know what’s coming next, they switch things up and the song will take a weird twist. I don’t know the original Pink Floyd project, so my expectations are of necessity based on the Piper/Saucerful/More/Ummagumma versions of these songs. I don’t know what parts the RPWL guys improvised and what parts are exact copies of the original music, so I’m just judging the songs as exactly what I’m hearing at the moment … whether the original Pink Floyd versions were better or worse (or equal) I’m not able to say.

The songs, and thus the journey, are mostly wordless. The music is largely based on atmosphere and special effects (as might be expected for 60s Pink Floyd). They do a good job with these effects. “Work” is especially well-crafted, with rumbling motors, pneumatic drills, bell strikes, train squeals, and precise percussion like falling hammers … a condensation of all the sounds of human labor in the industrial age. I’m not sure that it needs the funky guitar break near the beginning — it’s rhythmic enough on its own without obvious musical instruments barging in on it. Another “non-musical” song is “Doing It,” with sharp drumbeats and timpani strikes backed by strange droning that fades in and out. There’s a sense that it’s going somewhere rather than just meandering, but who can say where? Unlike “Work” with its obvious industrial noises, the message in “Doing It” is unclear. Who is doing what, exactly? Beats me.

Then there are the songs that sound like Pink Floyd songs, but only peripherally. “Sleep” is maybe the most effective, with its breathing sleeper, ticking alarm clock, eerie drugged-out synth background, and a growing sense of tension … which is to say, the beginning of “Time” crossed with the trippiest parts of the “More” album and dropped into the growing chaos of the first movement of “A Saucerful of Secrets.” The effect is an effective, even breathtaking synthesis of the three into an almost nightmarish sense of rushing forward (so throw in “On The Run” too, which it closely mimics).

Some sound like fragments of Pink Floyd mixed in with foreign elements, like “The Labyrinths of Auximines” which is an indescribable (for me) combination of the midsection of “Echoes” + piano riffs from the Bowie song “Aladdin Sane” + the descending space beeps from Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle” (yes it’s that weird) … or “The Temple of Light” which sounds like the trippiest effects from More with somebody playing a warbly guitar line over them … or the brief intro “Daybreak Pt 2” which is the birdsounds from “Cirrus Minor” over the familiar ticking alarm clock. These are more like half-baked ideas than actual songs, but they’re never boring.

And then there are the standard Pink Floyd songs, or combinations of such songs. Some are more instantly recognizable than others. It took me awhile to realize “Daybreak Pt 1” is Roger Waters’ “Grandchester Meadows” (maybe because I haven’t listened to Ummagumma in ages). For the same reason I didn’t immediately recognize David Gilmour’s “The Narrow Way” — in fact I only knew it because they kept the title. I also probably couldn’t place “Beset By Creatures of the Deep” even though I actually HAVE the song on a rare Pink Floyd 60s bootleg of the same title, because I haven’t played it for so long … only the “Eugene-sampled” bass-line was familiar to me. It sounds like Eugene but it’s not Eugene.

On the other hand, “Nightmare” is VERY obviously “Careful With That Ax Eugene,” but with weird backward fade-in synths. You expect the shrieking climax in Eugene; here it can actually come as a surprise, because you forget you’re listening to Eugene and start thinking it’s something else. And then, even more surprisingly, it suddenly turns into … “Cymbaline”(!) I don’t mean something “like Cymbaline” either. I mean actually “Cymbaline,” lyrics and all. But with a very long (and honestly, a really good) jazzy guitar solo smack in the middle. It sounds like how I imagine a live version of that song would sound if played by Floyd in the 60s. All these dissonant elements sound like they shouldn’t work together, yet somehow, they do. The only fault with this song is the name — there’s nothing AT ALL Nightmarish about any of this. The Nightmare title would be far more apt for the previous song “Sleep” with its palpable sense of impending danger.

Likewise, “Afternoon” is simply a leaner and harder version of “Biding My Time,” which strays a little too far from the N’orleans jazzy charm of the original, especially when newer production techniques give it that cramped, heavy, on-top-of-itself sound. This sense of the music standing on top of itself occurs in a number of the songs, to a greater or lesser degree. It’s one of the few things I DON’T like about the album. Some music will work that way, but with Pink Floyd, the result is often more headache-inducing than impressive.

“The Beginning” — which for some reason is the eighth track instead of the first — was one of the coolest surprises, for me at least, because it’s “Green Is The Colour,” one of my very favorite Pink Floyd songs (easily the best song on More; I’ll take it over “Cymbaline” any day). This version is good enough in its way, although the percussion is too crash-bangy for such a tranquil song, and it’s another case where the music gets on top of itself as it goes along. It falls way short of the original, but it’s still a really good song because it’s based on a really great song.

“The Pink Jungle” is “Pow R Toc H” from the first album. It begins with a background of jungle noises that runs for the entire song. The music sometimes seems to fall in sync with that jungle background, reminding me of “Several Species …” and how nature-rhythms influenced man and eventually led to man-made rhythms. I was never a huge fan of the original Pow R Toc H, so I can’t find fault with the cover. At least the cover has less of those stupid “doy-doys” (a good thing in my book).

Finally, it all ends on “The End of the Beginning” … another one of the best surprises, as this one is the third movement of “A Saucerful of Secrets,” a song that I love in its entirety. This version is more grandiose than the original, since it’s the grand finale of the album. The sound is big and immediate, with a driving boom-bap percussion that seems out of place here, considering the original is very solemn and was literally meant to be a funeral dirge after a battle. It has that “stage Floyd” sound of that era, so much so that I wasn’t even surprised when a previously undisclosed audience began cheering at the end. I already suspected it was a live performance. It just “sounds” live, you know? Still and all, a reasonably good ending for a very good album.

If you’re a Floyd fan, especially of their 60s output, you really need to hear these guys. They’re skilled musicians with a good ear for this type of music, and this album is an obviously loving tribute to their biggest influence, something that only the most ardently purist and fanatical Floydhead could object to. It’s a strange and compelling thing, hearing these songs twice removed … once when Pink Floyd reinterpreted them for the soundtrack, and again when RPWL covered them here. It’s a surreal musical trip when you recognize something but it sounds alien at the same time, or when one Floyd classic morphs into another without warning. The unpredictability of the whole thing is the fascinating part, so much so that I was compelled to add that disclaimer, because I’d feel guilty if I robbed the newcomer of that sense of surprised wonder.

If you like Floyd — or even if you just have a taste for interesting progressive rock / art rock projects with intelligent production and rich tapestries of sound — then RPWL is well worth getting to know. And there’s no better place to start than here.

FRANK ZAPPA – The Grand Wazoo (1972)

Review by: Graham Warnken
Assigned by: B.B. Fultz


My first Zappa album! Thanks for giving me the kick in the ass to finally get on it, B. B.

I’m not good at analyzing jazz. I enjoy listening to it, and I know when I like it, but I’d be hard-pressed to explain what differentiates this jazz from that jazz and so on and so forth. That said—I do know when I like it, and I like this. Given Zappa’s rather crazy reputation, it was surprisingly straightforward as a listening experience—now, as I said above, I don’t know how to analyze jazz, so it could be insanely idiosyncratic and complicated in ways I’m not qualified to talk about. But as a listening experience it was, well, pleasant. Not to imply that it’s elevator-music-style smooth jazz, but it’s not the kind of fusion that Miles Davis was doing from Bitches Brew onward. Which helped me to like it pretty immediately—really abrasive fusion isn’t something that endears itself to an immediate click, but I was pretty instantly down with this record. It’s energetic without becoming frenetic, engaging without becoming overwhelming. And mad props to the guy for making it after he’d had his voicebox crushed rather than just giving up on this music thing entirely.

So that was less a review and more a really vague and roundabout way of saying “I liked it.” I always end up being the last one to complete my review on these things, and the review never ends up being very good. I can talk about books and movies at great length, but when it comes to music I often don’t have a whole lot to say until I’ve listened to an album multiple times. That said, thanks again, B. B. More Zappa is in my future.

BECK – Guero (2005)

Review by: B.B Fultz
Album assigned by: E.D.

My first acquaintance with Beck was Loser, back when it first came out and it got a lot of radio play. I’d never heard anything quite like it. It really clicked with me. So I went out and bought the Mellow Gold CD, and played the hell out of it back in the mid-90s. I really liked it from beginning to end. I was still young and relatively unjaded, still able to be impressed by weird visionaries putting new spins on old dogs. After awhile I stopped playing Mellow Gold as much and fell back on more familiar music, but I never forgot the initial effect it had on me. Of all the new artists I explored in the 90s, there was nobody and nothing quite like Beck. I never bothered buying his other albums, maybe because they didn’t get much airplay (that I know of), thus there was never a “Wow!” moment like that first time I heard Loser on the car radio. So when I was assigned a Beck album from 2005, I wasn’t sure what to expect, except I knew I probably wouldn’t be bored.

What I didn’t expect was that I’d really like this album. Because I really like this album. It’s Beck doing what he does best — Making Music Interesting. There’s a magic at work here. It’s not the same magic you’ll find in Mellow Gold, but it’s still magic because it’s still greater than the sum of its parts. Every song makes that magic in its own way, some more than others, but they all work. I couldn’t find a complete version of this album online, so I looked up the tracklist on Wiki and just searched out the individual songs and played them in order, muting the occasional commercials.

E-Pro rocks, sort of. It has drive, it has direction. A lot of early Beck seemed to meander, as if it was looking for itself. This is more “point A to point B.” I’m not quite sure what point A and B are supposed to be, but it’s an interesting ride.

Que Onda Guero was more along the line of early Beck. A catchy backbeat, random horns, surreal rapping, and lots of call-and-response in Spanish with comical little asides about popsicles and ceramic classes. More familiar territory with Mellow Gold, which is probably why I like it.  

Girl was a departure. It sounded less like Beck and more like … I dunno, Dandy Warhols? Maybe someone else, I don’t know that many pop bands from the last couple decades to make accurate comparisons. Girl begins with a simplistic techno-riff, “beep-boop-beep” stuff. It’s less weird and more accessible than the other songs. It’s hooky enough to be a half-decent pop song, but it’s not what I look for when I put on a Beck album (but then maybe that was the idea?). 

Missing is this weird flamenco piece, sort of like if The Girl From Ipanema decided to drop acid. There’s a weird stuttering feeling to the song, as if it’s trying to move forward but the wheels are spinning in sand. It’s got a catchy hook all the same — “Something always missing, always someone” really sticks in your head (assuming your head is my head).

Black Tambourine is a little like E-Pro — it has a good groove and forward momentum. It’s probably a little catchier also. It also has reverb-laden guitar breaks reminiscent of Where It’s At. It’s a funky and catchy little break among the trippier stuff.

Earthquake Weather goes right back to trippy, starting with the title itself. It reminds me of his old song Sweet Sunshine, at least in the beginning. But it’s tricky. It changes mood and direction less than a minute in. Sunshine mostly plods along without changing, but Weather has these strange jazzy-sounding choruses (“I push, I pull”) to break the monotony and keep things interesting.

Hell Yes is a weird little rap, set to a timing I can’t even begin to figure out. Is it 9/7? Or 11/7? Or Pi/square root of Pi? No idea, but it’s fascinating stuff. The lyrical approach is rappy, but the structure is reminiscent of some of Frank Zappa’s more experimental work with time signatures. To make an understatement, that’s a hell of an interesting combination.

Broken Drum is a mellow groove, with guitar elements and a great “never forget you” hook. It’s got this draggy, sleepy, almost hopeless feeling that reminds me of the best parts of Mellow Gold. I’m not sure if melancholy was what Beck was going for, but melancholy is how it made me feel (and not many songs can make me feel that way these days, so that’s saying something).

Scarecrow is a little less interesting and kind of fillerish. A solid backbeat, funk-pop riff, classic Beck vocal overlays. You can tune into it halfway through where there’s no singing and still probably figure out that it’s Beck just by the arrangement itself. It’s mostly Beck retreading old ground, so it’s a little formulaic (for him I mean), and it seems to peter out rather than come to a conclusion. Almost as if he got bored with it. Still, it’s not half-bad.

Go It Alone is another one that sounds a little fillerish. A simple bass/percussion riff, some adequate vocal layering in the chorus (“na na, na na na na”) … not bad I guess. Just Beck doing a little shuffle to pass the time. But that’s fine by me, because Beck has a neat way of shuffling.

Farewell Ride makes it interesting again. A “badass” blues pattern that reminds me a little of the Breaking Bad intro, propped up with some great bluesy harmonica phrases, stretched over a jangly handclap backbeat like bleached bones hung over a barricade at the edge of the map where everything beyond is blank white space. “Some may say this might be your last farewell ride” … and it sounds like what it says. It’s like the prelude to the final shootout of some surreal Western where you probably won’t understand the ending but it’s destined to become one of your favorite movies. Beck meets Sergio Leone? I wanna be there for that. Maybe the most haunting Beck song I’ve heard since Hotel City 1997, and that’s saying something. I could listen to this stuff for hours.

Rental Car is so grungey that it sounds like a Soundgarden riff dropped in the middle of a Nirvana song. In fact Beck’s vocals on this really, REALLY remind me of Nevermind-era Cobain — not just the way he sings it, but the voice itself … “Hey now girl, what’s the matter with me” sounds like it was sampled from On A Plain, and those “yeah yeah yeahs” are more Kurt than Kurt. Then those helium high “la la la la la las” come in from out of nowhere, and you realize it can only be Beck.

Emergency Exit closes things on a mellow note, almost like the album is just winding down and running out of whatever weird fuel that Beck albums run on. It’s reminiscent of Loser — the same comical guitar phrases and the same playful rap of random images that hooked me on Beck in the first place. I’m thinking the emergency exit in question is about death and whatever lies beyond, if anything. It speaks of God and angels and faith, but in a way that’s not really religious. As if Beck’s saying he doesn’t know either, but he’s betting kindness will find you on your deathbed and children will wander until the end. And all the while that draggy twangy guitar from Loser rolls on and on, like the tongue-in-cheek blues track of the Universe. 

And that’s all I can really say about all this. Hopefully I’ve touched on enough interesting points to convince you this is an album worth listening to. It’s not every day you hear an album like this. I’m not sure what the future of music holds, but it’s good to know that Beck will be a part of it, at least for awhile. It gives the rest of us Losers some hope 🙂

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART AND THE MAGIC BAND – Doc at the Radar Station (1980)

Review by: Alex Alex
Album assigned by: B.B. Fultz

Captain Beefheart (hereafter Cb) is a maker of capitalistic things: music (1), paintings (2) and poetry (3). In the Year of Water Dog, having realized (1) and (3) require an industrialized workflow which could not, at that time, be sufficiently provided by an individual, Cb retired (1) and (3) from production, concentrating solely on (2).
The object of the review is the #11 in the (1) + (3) output, consisting of 0xC entities in two groups of 6 (see Fig. 1).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C
Fig 1. The layout of the entities.

The lengths of the entities vary from the minimum of 60000000000 to over 38039985927014 ns.
7 human beings are credited: Cb (DVV), JMT, EDF, RAW (not to confuse with JPEG), BLF, JF(D), GL.
(*) Cb plays: the reed wind instrument, a transposing instrument on which a written C sounds like B♭, a woodwind instrument with a high F# key and a range from A♭3 to E6, 鑼 and several others.

The lyrical contents of the album is, due to its analogue nature and as usual with any poetry, difficult to almost impossible to translate. For those interested, I can only give you a fragment of how it sounds to the author of this review, personally: “Беги краска беги! Беги краска беги! Беги краска беги! Беги краска беги! Беги краска беги! Беги краска беги! Беги краска беги! Беги краска беги! Беги краска беги!” which, hopefully, is instructive enough for any further attempts at the studies.

Fig. 2 presents one of the possible layouts of the human beings involved in the production of the entities.

Fig 2. A possible layout of the human beings

As an addendum and following the long-established reviewing tradition we present eight random words from a single product review in the ascending order of their lengths

a to the over Vliet singer vampire because
Fig. 3 Eight random words from a single product review in the ascending order of their lengths

Fig. 4 presents the possible ratings of the product on a hypothetical 5-stars scale. Further studies seem to suggest that the same algorithm can be applied to any of the separate entities, as well.

☺ ☺☺ ☺☺☺ ☺☺☺☺ ☺☺☺☺☺
Fig. 4. The possible ratings of the product on a hypothetical 5-stars scale.

(1) Design a thumbs scale
(2) How does “Беги краска беги! Беги краска беги!” sound to you and your friends? Discuss in groups.
(3*) Estimate art compression boundaries if JPEG is used instead of RAW

WITCHCRAFT – Legend (2012)

Review by: B.B. Fultz
Album assigned by: Syd Spence

NOTE : The only versions of this album that I could find had some gaps between the songs, so I’m assuming a few of the songs were missing. It’s possible the missing songs are better than the ones I commented on, so take my lukewarm review of the album with a grain of salt.

An album by a band called Witchcraft, billed as “doom metal” by reviewers, and released in the year 2012 doesn’t sound promising. One can already hear the overproduced mess of power chords, the unintelligible lyrics, the phlegm-throated shrieking, all the elements of something an angsty 13 year old boy might headbang to (when he wasn’t listening to Korn). 

Good News … This album isn’t like that. Surprisingly, it’s a callback to classic heavy metal. The most obvious and most prevalent influence is early Black Sabbath. From the very first song, the vocal style reminds me of Ozzy. Not the voice so much as how the lyrics are sung. Specifically mid-period Sabbath (Vol-4/SBS/Sabotage) where Ozzy was expanding his emotive range rather than simply repeating the guitar phrases with his voice. The vocalist is good enough in his way. He’s no great shakes but he has a decent enough range to pull off these songs. For heavy metal, there’s surprisingly not much screaming or growling on this album. This singer favors melodicity over brute force. The upside to this is, he doesn’t sound like a total choad. The downside is that he doesn’t make a very strong impression. He’s no Ian Gillan, just a run-of-the-mill rock singer with an okay set of pipes. 
The songs tend to grind along at mid-tempo. They’re heavy, but not too heavy. There’s lots of sludge here, but there’s also a momentum of sorts. These guys aren’t just playing that sludgy metal sound because it “sounds cool” (although it does), they’re actually trying to go somewhere with it. There is a lot of melodic string-plucking between the heavy riffs, and passages that sound like they’re trying to be acoustic even though they’re electric guitar … you know, that quasi-medieval sound, when heavy metal is trying a little too hard to sound emotional and cathartic (Blackmore’s Rainbow must have been another influence). The riffs themselves are not all that memorable. Likewise, the playing is competent, but not much beyond that. Most of these songs probably won’t stick in your head if you’re not a heavy metal fan, and maybe even if you are one. 

The solos are the most interesting part of the album, because they’re such a deliberate callback to classic rock bands (of various schools, not just heavy metal). They often resemble 70s hard rock solos (slow and heavy — think David Gilmour in “Pigs”) combined with certain melodic tendencies from 80s metal solos. They are not very fast or flashy, which probably works to their advantage. 70s solos were pieces of information, each note a specific word or phrase or gesture, which is what separated them from generic 80s noodling. A given solo might sound like Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, even Lynyrd Skynyrd. The more interesting solos sound like a few different bands over a short span of time. While there are 80s (and later) elements at work here, the heart of the solos is rooted in 70s hard rock. 
Nothing on this album jumps out as amazing or innovative, but that’s probably not what they were going for. It’s more of a tribute to classic rock by some guys with a little skill and an obvious love for the older bands. Whatever hooks there are on this album, if any, are not especially sharp, but at least it’s a reasonably coherent tribute to old school heavy metal. And in 2012, that’s maybe not such a bad thing.

THE JIM CARROLL BAND – Catholic Boy (1980)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: B.B. Fultz



Well, somebody said once: “music, like life itself, is cyclic”. So, that means we regularly need a reboot. Humans need to get back (to somewhere they feel like) home, and Music needs to go back to.. well, rock’n roll. Even the good ol’ Beatles had in their short but meaningful career a return to roots (“Get back, Jojo!”).

And Punk was the best reboot that Rock and Roll could think of, at the time at least, with all those Elton John wigs and Styx shining suits. But .. Do you remember that weird band from the late 80s, “Pop Will Eat Itself”? (You don’t? Lucky you, but the name was great). Well, as any major movement, or government or world leader (Hey Romans, I’m looking at you!), no matter how big you get.. You’re scheduled to fall down.

And “Punk ate itself”. Or well the system ate it.. “streamlined it”. But those who survived, those who reconfigured themselves, did great stuff at least for a longer while (Clash, Jam, Cure, etc). The Sex Pistols would apparently reject any “dinosaur rock” reference, but they ended up acknowledging people like Lennon or The Doors.

Thus, Best Punk learned to reconnect with the raw emotion of rock and roll, that was the key, more than any  plastic hairdo – enter Jim Carroll.

Jim was a writer, primarily. I bet that’s how he established some bond with Patti Smith, with whom he got to play about 1978. “Catholic boy” is his band’s first album. And let me tell you, as a quick spoiler, that it rocks (and pops!) really fine.

Jim’s music in this album is good ol’ rock and roll, with great poppy hooks and professional playing. It will turn up as a slow rocking tune in “Day And Night” (female vocals and all), like the early and best Bruce Springsteen. Or feverish and punkish in the opening classic, “Wicked Gravity” and also in  “Three Sisters”. “People Who Died” is another fast rocker, featured on a LOT of movies out there. And the lyrics of course, cut to the bone, and the punk/joyful tone only adds to the wow factor: “Those are people who died, died/They were all my friends, and they died”..

“Crow” reminds me of The Stones’ “Shattered” and it makes sense, being that the Stones’ New Wavish album.

Highlights however are the more adventurous and moody songs like “City Drops Into The Night”. Or The winding “It’s Too Late” and its magnificent guitar work. “Catholic Boy” is a hell of a closer with that punctuating bass riff.

A hell of rock and roll album made with the heart by a Rocker, and of course a Writer. Read those lyrics, the guy will thank you from somewhere above or below where he’s staying with the (other) People Who Died.

Keep on rockin’!

EARTH AND FIRE – Song of the Marching Children (1971)

Review by: B.B. Fultz
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

This is an album by a prog(gish) Netherlands band called Earth and Fire. I say proggish because they are unusual for a prog band. Their sound, at least on this album, is more folkish and antiquated than the common definition of prog rock. They’re more like Jethro Tull than anything, and Tull was always sort of a white crow among the British and American prog bands of the time. Earth and Fire with its female vocalist (rare for any prog band) is maybe even more of a white crow.

The opening song is called “Carnival of the Animals.” It is about animals in the forest doing various animal things. My first impression was Jefferson Airplane. Lilting female vocals and a vaguely martial drumbeat. Both the words and the music set the theme for the rest of the album. Storybook lyrics, crisp drum rhythms, and prominent synthesizers dominate the songs. It is very much an album of its time. The synthesizers especially have that early 70s synth sound that was to change in a few years as synths became more advanced. The overall mood, to me, seems more 60s than 70s. There’s a sense of lost innocence and a yearning for a simpler and more natural world.

“Ebbtide” is an idyllic song about tides and gulls. It’s an interesting combination of watery synths, flute solos, random guitar licks, and an almost jazz-like rhythm background. It reminds me of another song, or a few other songs, that I can’t name at the moment. 

“Storm and Thunder” is reminiscent of early ELP, but with more baroque elements. The keyboards are more dominant here than on the other songs.

“In The Mountains” ventures into Pink Floyd territory. The lead guitar is slow and lilting, very much in the Gilmour style. The keyboard as well is more the art-rock of Rick Wright than anything by Emerson or Wakeman.

The closing multi-part suite “Song of the Marching Children” is an interesting piece. I’m not sure I get it, lyrically, but it seems to be about the endless legacy of war, which the human race seems like it will never entirely escape. It sounds like a lament for all the future generations that will have to send their youth off to fight. The very end confirms this idea … all the other instruments fade and there is only the relentless martial drumbeat, the endless march.

Overall impression — a mostly soothing and pleasant album, pretty on the ear, and with interesting moments here and there, but rarely rising above the level of basic prog-folk. Then again, maybe a little basic prog-folk is just what you’re in need of. Worth a listen or two, at any rate. 

The version I located on YouTube had bonus tracks. “Invitation” is the first of them, notable because it rocks a lot more than the original album tracks, so it’s an abrupt change of pace after the solemnity of the album. It’s different, and it’s quite good.  “Lost Forever” is another rocker among the bonus tracks, and it’s also quite good — slow and heavy and brutal, unlike the album. There’s some surprising guitarwork in it too, striking little arpeggio-moments that wouldn’t be out of place in an Iron Maiden song (!) although Iron Butterfly comes closer to describing the song in general (either way it’s a very metallic song). For me the highlights of this band are when they rock. They have a nice heavy sound when they rock, not unlike early Budgie, a band that I like a lot. There’s another new track called “Memories,” not quite as good as the other two, but worth a listen. There are also single versions of “Song For The Marching Children” (not “OF the Marching Children” for some reason) and “Storm and Thunder.” If you seek this album out, I’d recommend finding the version with the bonus tracks. To me Earth and Fire is at their most interesting when they rock.

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.