MARIAH -Utakata no Hibi (1983)

Reviewed by: Jonathan Moss
Assigned by: Van Kovalesky

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Bit late doing this review but whatever, I’m doing it now. I did listen to this album back when it was initially assigned, and I thought it was really cool back then. Listening to it again this has not changed, this is a really unique album, so I could completely fuck this review up.

Thankfully I don’t have to attempt to describe the lyrics, because they’re in Japanese, a language I don’t speak, due to the continuing image of my eurocentric ways, due to a bloody history of imperialism, colonialism, and the other monstrosities of capitalism. Anyway! I’m sure they’re good and accompany the music well. Moving on to the music, which I can talk about, this album is very synth based, but despite this still has an organic sound. And I don’t mean that in some bullshit rockist way, arguably the sound of a distorted electric guitar is one of the most inorganic things I’ve heard, I mean more in a folksy way. But at the same time, I can totally imagine the musicians working coldly and clinically in the studio, treating the music more like a science project than art. It’s a kind of dialectic that makes the music interesting, it can be warm and woodsy, and it can sound like psychedelia by people who never touched acid.

This is aided by the instrumentation, which as I said previously, is quite synth based, but also has snazzy- possibly fretless- basslines, groovy percussion which sounds influenced by world music (i know that term is Eurocentric but fuck off), colourful guitars, saxophones which would maybe sound a bit smooth jazz on their wonderfully on here, and other instrumentation I can’t quite make out, but adds to give it its idiosyncratic vibe. There’s also the soothing female vocals, which along with the percussion make the album feel most organic. The way all these elements mesh so well obviously equally contribute to that. I don’t know, imagine like new wave if it was born out of folk and jazz instead of punk rock, that’s kinda what this album is like, but also very ambient in how calming it is. So, also imagine if new age had been influenced by avant-pop instead of alternative medicine. The percussion and bright various synth tones work to make this much more exciting and melodic than most new age of course, along with the coherent song structures and melodies.

The opening song Sokorara starts off with some stuttering percussion, like the opening percussion for Gabriel’s “Intruder” but without any of the oompth and menace, giving it a kind of mesmerising vibe. This is joined by a very catchy synthesizer with a vibrant, peaceful tone, a repetitive sequencer line and a deep thudding bass. It’s joined by muttered vocals, a more alarmed synth and jagged guitar. Later a very busy frantic piano line comes, it sounds like someone rushing around in a shopping market in a old video game. There’s also neat male vocals which sound kinda chanted, but like no one else joined in on the chant, so it’s just a lone wail. These elements serve to make the song an exploration of of tenseness and tranquility, sublating in a very weird, original opening track whose enigma makes the originality of the album obvious. And you know, it’s also a catchy pop song basically.

The song “Hana Ga Saitara” is great as well, being one of the more upfront, quirky numbers, with a really weird squishy synth noise (it sounds like if a saxophone came to life and was alarmed by something), funky scratch-guitar, actually chanted male vocals, the female vocalist playfully singing something like “do-do-do, di di do”, an exotic and mournful sax line, fun clashing percussion, and a lot of bizarre elements. It’s like eight minutes long and is just a fun, funky number. You can dance to it with your sweetheart, and probably fuck as well.

The other tracks are of course good as well but those are the two which particularly stood out to me. You’ll probably have your own favourites for differing reasons. Anyway this is a good fun creative art-pop album with ambient and folk elements. Check it out, fuckos!

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CAMERA OBSCURA -Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi (2001)

Review by: Van Kovalesky
Assigned by: Jonathan Moss

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this album is like drowning in treacle. warm and sugary and fucking unpleasant.

GOD SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU’LL NEVER BE BELLE AND SEBASTIAN BOOHOO WE DON’T CARE

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 🙂

THE SMITHS – Hatful of Hollow (1984)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss



It ain’t hard to imagine what a good companion The Smiths were in the 80s for loners, living misfits, anxious undeveloped artists and chronic grouches. After all, that includes a great slice of This World’s population, probably yoursef, mate: think about it. Did I say eighties? Scratch that, some things never change.

And as I pick up this record and put it on the old turntable (a 1978 Pioneer, mind you) – I remember now those heart-wrenching lyrics by Paul Weller:

“Well she was the only girl I’ve ever loved
But my folks didn’t dig her so much
I was young
This is serious
To me she was the world 
I thought I’d never live without her,
But I got by in time”

The thing is that The Jam delivered the drama with a pulsating beat, almost a dancing number. Complementary, perhaps like mixing strawberries and cheese (I saw Ratatouille).

That suggests me most of the early Smiths output, you have Morrissey and his subtle mumbling, holding a grudge against the world but in a casual manner: it will become either intense and invade you, and help you nurse that wound or keep you company while you pout; even make you smile when he decidedly becomes more acid: a voluntary retreat with a vengeance – and a low profile friend. Because unlike Weller, Moz wasn’t keen to conquer The World or alert the masses about the disgrace of being another corporate fish. Not that he couldn’t, he wouldn’t even try. The enemy was much closer, and had your own face. And your desire:

“All the streets are crammed with things
eager to be held
I know what hands are for
and I’d like to help myself”

Man, that was lusty. Are you hiding behind a bush somewhere? Well, you’re gonna do what’s necessary to make it to the next morning (“Everybody’s got to live their life/And God knows I’ve got to live mine”) and try to stay safe in your own little world (“Why do I give valuable time/To people who don’t care if I live or die?). Without a job or an intention to have it, just to live for the moment (“But I don’t want a lover/I just want to be seen…oh…in the back of your car”). 

The sweet smell of surrender, without the pyschedelic spiders provided by Robert Smith.

And as that bouncy song by The Jam, the poetry pieces were surrounded by electric, sometimes repeating, other times jangling, compelling music. Johnny Marr and his crystal guitar; Andy Rourke and his funky bass. Great individual songs! Being this album a proper compilation (but a strange one, they’d only release one official album at the time), there was some interesting choices, BBC Recordings (God Bless them) and also a few singles. 

Singles! 

You’ll see, a band only can be in the highest place of my ranking if they’re proficient in singles. And The Smiths are one of those (as are The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who or The Jam). And you’ll get here some notorious A-Sides and B-Sides, like “William It Was Really Nothing”, with the classic Smiths sound (both joyful and sparkling, punctuated with a masterful bass) and Moz making the difference with a song about the little wonders of the suburbia.

I won’t mention each song here, most are classics. “How Soon Is Now”, with its psychedelic beat and a delight to dance alone in your dark room. Or “Girl Afraid” (Been there) and “Handsome Devil” with their great riffs. “These things take time”, almost a Classic Rock number, or the great “What Difference Does It Make”, with a full band, heavier, and its punching falsetto at the end. The beautiful melody of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”. Or “Accept Yourself” with its pretty details, and even some Rush reference (Listen!) lost in the music. We’re all misfits, mate.

In the following years, The Smiths would become more aware about their own power, and would deliver definitive albums. But The Gospel is here, for the old fans, the new fans and everyone who’s girl afraid and ready to enjoy a sunny afternoon in their room or in the darkness, stalking some undecided lover. Well, we got our worthwhile gift too, as this boy “Vivid and in his prime”:

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the sacred wunderkind 
You took me behind a dis-used railway line 
And said “I know a place where we can go 
Where we are not known” 
And then you gave me something that I won’t forget too soon “

RICHARD CHEESE – Aperitif for Destruction (2005)

Review by: Syd Spence
Album Assigned by: Dina Levina

Look it’s a collection of lounge jazz covers of pop and pop metal. Yeah, that’s about it. Does that sound like something you’d want? Good it exists, it’s here. There are literally 12 other Dick, I mean, Richard Cheese albums that do the exact same thing. The exact same joke over and over again. Why though? Why the fuck would there be 12 of these fucking things? The joke isn’t that good. It’s like at best a smile, but 33 minutes of it and that smile is just a frown. I didn’t like most of these songs in their actual form and i don’t like lounge jazz, nor do i find it that funny that Black Eyed Peas get the ol’ Sinatra Blue eyed bullshit treatment. 

I once said that my only regret in life was not seeing Anal Cunt play befor Seth Putnam went to the great gig in the sky. Anal Cunt was a joke band that had oh twoish levels. First level, Grindcore so ridiculously over the top offensive that even grindcore fans disliked it. Two, the exact opposite of that for the lulz of a band called Anal Cunt writing acoustic ballads about respecting women. But Seth did something beyond just this joke, He also was a complete and total hedonistic douche bag. He was a man that you’d troll internet forums just to find out what craziness that bastard was up to. There is this famous picture of him disinterestedly getting a blowjob while he shat heroin on stage. It’s beautiful in it’s trashiness. Now that’s a joke band, not this Richard Cheese shit. I don’t know how Richard sleeps at night knowing he’s wasted so many years, playing lame covers of lame songs for a lame reason. If it didn’t atleast pay for complete and total debasement then… why? 

WHY?

CAPTAIN AHAB – After the Rain My Heart Still Dreams (2006)

Review by: Jonathan Moss
Album assigned by: Eric Pember

I don’t know, based on the title of the album and the name of the band I was expecting like, dream pop or something indie. Then I read about it on RYM and see that one of the guys from Clipping is involved, so its probably not dream pop. I also get kinda excited, I really like Clipping. 

BUT BOY DOES THIS ALBUM SUCK.  

You know how Frank Zappa done those albums to mock sleazy 70s rock music with Flo and Eddy, but often came across as equally sleazy and (i’m listening to this as i write it and one of the songs just made me physically cringe. Like for real, i’m not exaggerating) repugnant so not really enjoyable anyway. This album does that for sleazy EDM and shit like LMFAO and its much worse than anything Zappa done in the same vein. 

Okay, so not to be too politically correct or anything, but a lot of the lyrics are fucking sexist. Now, i’m assuming this is intended as satire, but if it’s a satire of teenaged girls it is sexist, and if it’s a satire of people’s perception of teenaged party girls it still sucks. 

Some of the songs have good parts, the occasional catchy part or interesting synth part betraying that this was made by, you know, an experimental musician with a goddamned thesis on noise music. But on the whole it’s a lot of annoying clubbish synth parts with a really obnoxious singer SHOUTING EVERYTHING. The album is the equivalent of a spastic child running around a shopping market with shit in their pants pushing everything over and attacking the shoppers. It’s not to my taste is what i’m trying to say. “U Want Me” is kind of pretty i guess, but even then it sounds more like an attempt at depth than you know, depth. And the vocals and lyrics are fucking obnoxious.

I mean, okay, there’s the occasional amusing line, but fuck it. 

Anyway, this album is an hour long and I honestly don’t know who it was intended for. Maybe check it out if you’re just like really into experimental music and willing to try anything, even if the album isn’t really experimental. 

I guess i would summarise it as smug hipsters try to parody obnoxious EDM and end up sounding worse. 

JOHN COLTRANE – Om (1968)

Review by: Joseph Middleton-Welling
Album assigned by: Syd Spence

“Coltrane for tryhards”- Blob Nayld, PhD

Like a door creaking. Not in a good way. Sounds like fucking ass. This is a bad album. Right i like some free jazz but this is a load of wank (“its pretty wank”). Oh Coltrane was apparently on LSD during the sessions, probably thought his saxophone was a snake or something. Honk honk honk. Like elvin jones sounds like he has no idea whats going on. The best bits on this record are the chants. Sounds a bit like magma. It’s a fucking horrible album.