TRIUMVIRAT – Illusions on a Double Dimple (1973)

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

In Russia, we used to have a minor hit, the lyrics went “There are three stars in the sky those stars are you and me”. Great lyrics. If you do not understand why those lyrics are great you might eventually will.

Bearing the above lyrics in mind is useful when encountering a group consisting of three members and called “Triumvirat”.

Electronic keyboards to a piano is what a hentai cartoon is to a Tinto Brass drama. In that sense Tangerine Dream are the masters of dramatic hentai.

The Sunflower mask and the flute are unique artifacts.

Lyrics in English, forged by German bands, are among the best lyrics in English ever.

The album states that in Germany there were schoolgirls, too. Schoolgirls are by themselves so eternal that no matter how many tons of synthesizers you would bring on stage,  they would effectively prevent any paradigm shift.

An unsuccessful carrier was, I gather from the album, a great fear for a young German. In the end of the song they ask “who’s going to work for you for the rest of your life”.

Fortunately, by now Angela Merkel has successfully resolved that problem.
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HELPER – Watch the Stove (2016)

Review by: Syd Spence
Album assigned by: Michael Strait

It’s a five song novelty trap mixtape. Does that sound good to you? Then get it, but to my ears it sounds pointless. The raps all have that generic choppy trap flow and the production is as generic as the flow. The joke is a half smile at best and not that original in the larger hip hop scene (the entirety of the Fat Boys career immediately comes to mind). Though the majority of this record stays in generic trap, one track in particular goes against the grain and that’s “Food for Your Soul” which is straight Nujabes worship i.e. jazzy background hip hop. The flow is pretty great on that track, though completely like every MC Nujabes had ever used. 

In summation, if you want food themed hip hop just get mm… Food by MF Doom. If you want Novelty food hip hop get a Fat Boys greatest hits. If you want trap get a Future record. If you want jazzy background hip hop get a Nujabes record. If you can’t wait till Weird Al Yankovic tackles trap, run, don’t walk to Helper’s Watch the Stove. 

THE SAINTS – Eternally Yours (1978)

Review by: Michael Strait
Album assigned by: Mark Maria Ahsmann

Okay, so, on the three major components to this album:

  • The guy’s VOICE. He’s probably the most Australian vocalist I’ve ever heard in my life, and he’s such a quintessential rock singer too. Utterly snotty, disaffected, rough and raw, contemptuous – and yet also capable of projecting surprising amounts of personal emotion when necessary, not to mention carrying a tune if he really exerts himself. He’s a sarcastic rock n roll demon with some personal demons of his own; in other words, he’s like Mick Jagger if Mick Jagger was genuine. He’s my favourite thing about this album, and the chief reason I’m planning on seeking out some more Saints in future.
  • The guitars. They’re what you might expect from a punk rock album recorded in 1978 – scuzzy buzzsaws aggressively sizzling about at high speeds, playing mostly chords and riffs. There’s a few cleanly-picked segments (well, clean here being contextual; they still sound like they’re struggling to swim their way out of a cloud of fuzz). The riffs, thankfully, are great, inventive and catchy stuff, and the few solos (still more than the average punk rock album of the time, mind) are a little amateurish but usually quite blistering and cool.
  • The rhythm section. The drummer’s pretty good, all told, but unspectacular – he rarely draws attention to himself and instead just focuses on keeping time in a way that is just primal enough to not be boring and just professional enough to not sound lazy. The bassist is the real talent here, I think – his basslines are all super cool, noticeable, swaggericious and precise, and his tone ain’t bad at all.

Now, as for individual highlights: The first track, “Know Your Product”, is one of two tracks to contain noticeable horn arrangements. They’re used awesomely, and create probably the most memorable riff on the album. It’s fascinating just how well these pristine, majestic instruments blend with the mudslinging guitar and acidic vocals, but they really do fit perfectly and it makes me wonder why more punk rock bands didn’t think to do something like this.

There’s also three acoustic tracks on the album. I wouldn’t call any of them ballads, and in fact only the middle one – “A Minor Aversion” – is really noticeably slower than its surrounding electric rockers. All of them are awesomely evocative, anyway. They sound a bit too irreverent, irreligious and acerbic to be redolent of the American west, but they certainly sound like an old wooden dive bar in a desert somewhere, which I guess is fitting considering that Australia’s probably the only other place in the Anglophone world you can really find those sortsa joints. The vocalist in these songs really fits in perfectly – I can’t picture him as anything but a leather-covered, gun-toting motorcyclist fleeing some distant personal failing, kinda like Mad Max without the civilisational collapse. The harmonica used on one of the electric rockers – “Run Down” – adds pleasingly to this impression.

The track “This Perfect Day” is two and a half minutes of fuckin’ punk perfection, and I love it. Aside from this wonderfully, effortlessly cool clean guitar bridge which – again – sounds like the soundtrack to a cowboy walking through a tiny Australian outback town, the chorus sounds like it’s constantly falling over itself again and again in preoccupation with the vocalist’s self-loathing. This is how self-loathing in rock music really SHOULD sound, by the way – disguised, presented as a careless spit in the face of the world that he’s trying to hate in order to distract himself from himself. This song is part of a string of tracks, starting at track 7 and lasting the rest of the album, that doesn’t breach 3 minutes long, and that’s just what I need from my scuzz-rock. Lawd knows this kind of music can get tiresome if it sticks about for too long – I mean, a leathered-up biker cowboy might be fascinating to have in your town for a bit, but do ya really want him greasing up your spare bed for a week?

Some other things of note include: the riff on the final song, “International Robots”, which is such an exact and precise rhythmic match for the riff on Green Day’s “American Idiot” that it makes me suspicious of the latter group; the guitarwork in the chorus of “No, Your Product”, which sounds like it’s trying to reach the sky before flaming out and falling down into the sea like an early SpaceX rocket; the chorus on “Private Affair”, which is just gloriously catchy; and, finally, just the general joyousness I feel from this record. That might seem contradictory, considering how much I’ve just been talking about the guy’s self-loathing, but this music really does sound as if it is enjoying its rebellion against the world on at least a primal level. After all, even if you’re running from winged demons on a motorcycle, there’s gotta be some pleasure in the visceral thrill of going so fast, and that’s what I get out of this album. It’s characterful, soulful, genuine, evocative, powerful, loud and, best of all, damn good fun – listen to it at once.

GÉNESIS – Génesis (1974)

Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov
Album assigned by: Alejandro Muñoz G

Génesis, whose name should not be confused with the classic British prog-rock group’s, is a 1970s Colombian band who obviously took part of the inspiration from folksy late 60s psychedelia (something in the vein of Traffic or Spooky Tooth) and the other part from Colombian ethnic music (which itself is most probably a cross between Latin American and Native American tunes and rhythms). This 1974 self-titled offering is the band’s sophomore album and it is… an okay-to-good record. Yes, for some reason, this is pretty much the only adequate epithet I can come up with. It’s pleasant, it has nice melodies and professional musicianship, yet it is hardly anything groundbreaking or even in any way unique, apart from the fact that the album is incredibly short (only 24 minutes!) but they managed to cram 8 songs and 1 bluesy instrumental into this short running time. To be perfectly frank, after the first listen I was going to dismiss the album as generic and derivative, however these tunes grew on me on subsequent listens, and I really enjoyed the authentic American atmosphere. The album’s flow is smooth, with more folk-rock in the first half and more atmospheric “Native American” tracks (that flute-driven sound is pretty cool!) in the second half of the album. The only element that is deserving to be deemed ‘bad’ here is definitely the production – unfortunately, the album’s sound is muddy and somewhat muffled to the point that you can hardly hear some of the instruments sometimes. In some weird way this reminded me of early efforts by my favourite Russian band Aquarium who had similar production problems early on in their career, so my guess is that, like Aquarium, Génesis probably just did not have good equipment to record on. The parallels, however, do not end there – Génesis’s brand of folk-rock is at times eerily similar to what the Soviet rockers tried to do, albeit a decade later. One track that sounded especially familiar to my Russian ear was Sueñas, Quieres, Dices – listen to Aquarium’s early stuff and you’ll get what I mean.

Overall – I’m not sure I will ever return to this band, but the experience was enjoyable and rewarding.

TEAGUE CHRYSTIE – Adventures in Faking This (2014)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Graham Warnken

The Internet doesn’t seem to know a whole lot about Teague Chrystie, apart from the fact that he is a visual effects artist and that he has at some point written a musical of the name “Sad Max” with another guy, named Jim Frommeyer. But this scant information does indeed put the 5-track record “Adventures in Faking This” into perspective. It suddenly does make sense that the guy who’s written it has had experience with musicals because all these songs are textbook-crafted. They showcase expert knowledge of how to do your song in this or that style, to suggest this or that. (And probably not a ton of originality, if I have to be honest).
 
The opening track, with the visually concrete title of “Limp-Dick Christmas Lights”, already suggests that if we’re not dealing with full on comedy here, it is at least spoofing or self-aware irony. The singing on it I’ll assign to the self-aware irony column, aping very successfully the Elvis Costello school of setting your lyrics to the music, but the musical backdrop is probably more suited to the spoofing column: there are even the obligatory announcing-a-Christmas-number jingly bells in the intro. The bombastic horns and the boogie-woogie rhythm associated dashing sleighs (or zombified shopgoers) really drive the point home here. Unfortunately, while I thought this track is super fresh and funny on first listen, by the fourth I kinda hated it the way I hate every Christmas boogie-woogie, jingle bell rock or bluesy number ever.
 
Next up is a delicate waltz time ballad of the name “Blank Walls and Crowded Shelves”. Now the waltz signature is used widely for such purposes as depicting nostalgia or comfort or feelings you’ve sort of made peace with or… yeah… a vignette of ordinary people’s life drama, which is the use it is put to here. The string accents emphasise the whole affair in just the right way and the corny lyrics are something I find no pleasure in listening to. But hey, I know for a fact that some people can have a cathartic experience on something like this.
 
I feel that “I Feel More Like a Leonard”, the third track here, is supposed to be this cultural reference or a sublime in-joke but I don’t know what it is about really. Again, the energy, passion and measured shredding are just as prescribed (textbook derivatives, remember) and the 6/8 meter is a nice touch that enables this song with a driving rhythm.
 
The penultimate “Writing a Letter” is a gentle piano ballad, equipped with a heartfelt vocal delivery and lyrical details such as “perfectly mature adult” and “can’t stand myself”. This sort of thing would work great in a musical actually — where you have to shed light on the internal character drama and his motivations. Outside this context though, again, it is something I have absolutely no interest in learning about.
 
The raunchiest track on here serves as a closer to this 5-part magnum opus and this time Mr. Chrystie puts on his best Gogol Bordello impression. “The Insidious Communist Propaganda of Steve” opens on a rhythm as heavy as a drunk dancing bear from Belarus and sports the correct amount of chaotic enthusiasm to make it work, although the chorus-like “la-da-da-da”s are not nearly as drunken and tobacco-hampered as those that can be found on a Gogol Bordello record. The lyrics are probably funny too, if you can take communism puns and jokes by people who have a super vague idea of communism, which I usually cannot. In fact, why don’t we ban the word “propaganda” altogether — it certainly would make most high-school assignments more pleasant to read, as students would no longer feel the urge to use it left and right to prove they have understood the topic. It would also be relieved of its duty of a go-to word for people who cannot be bothered to do their own thinking. Anyway, the song features the obligatory spoken (or rather boisterously shouted) word coda and even gains steam to finish on a beat worthy of a balkan brass band. It does not hold as long as a balkan band would have it hold though (’cause that’s when the most frantic dancing happens), as it derails into its quirky component sounds pretty quickly. Oh and there is a scream.
 
So in conclusion, I’d say that “Adventures in Faking This” can be a fun record for a couple of listens, but I wouldn’t exactly cry if I never heard from it again. Congrats to Mr. Teague Chrystie on being so impressively good at faking this, though. The professionalism shines on all of the tracks.

COCOROSIE – The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn (2007)

Review by: B.B. Fultz
Album assigned by: Rodrigo Lopes

One of the first things I noticed was, there’s a lot going on here. Genres as diverse as indie, rap, and … opera? … are thrown together in unusual combinations. I’m not sure how well it works (it would depend on your definition of “works”) but the album is definitely experimental, and that’s usually a plus. It’s hard to describe the music specifically as this or that, so I’ll give you my take on the vocals.

Two voices dominate this — I’ll call them the “odd” voice and the “normal” voice (this band is the brainchild of two sisters, so I’m assuming they’re the two different voices). The odd voice is predominant on most tracks. It’s very odd, and reminds me of Yoko Ono a little (not a criticism and not a compliment, just a neutral observation). It’s not exactly “dissonant” but it’s definitely an acquired taste. Sometimes it approaches something ethereal and reminds me of that singer from Belly (remember her?) as well as other vocalists I can’t place. I was actually on the next-to-last song before I realized who this voice REALLY reminds me of is BJORK — sorry, I don’t know how to do the umlaut. It’s weird that it took so long to make what seems, in hindsight, like an obvious connection. But then it’s a pretty weird album (again, a neutral observation).

The “normal” voice is more melodic and more conventional, but I don’t always prefer it. Sometimes it sounds overblown and melodramatic. The normal voice is easier to listen to than the odd voice, but the odd voice is often more compelling.


Some High Points —

“Bloody Twins” stands out. Between the music box sounds in the beginning, the increasingly strange voice, and the Pink Floyd-style wind effects, it evokes a peculiar mood, even moreso than most of the other songs.

“Sunshine” has an elegant simplicity that drew me in, while the strangeness of that voice simultaneously kept me at arm’s length. A weird feeling of being pulled and pushed at the same time.

“Werewolf” reminded me of a Beck song in the beginning although I can’t pinpoint why … something about the words and how they’re sung. It’s interesting to hear this one develop, since it alternates between a “slow rap” done by the odd voice, and a more melodic / almost operatic style by the other voice. My first impression was, it sounds like it could’ve been a background song on Breaking Bad, probably for one of the more surreal or thought-provoking scenes.

“Animals” has an almost (but not quite) traditional *boom-boom-bap* backbeat, which is just different enough to be interesting. Especially when it fades out completely in the middle of the song, then eventually fades back in. It’s almost like two different songs struggling to be heard. 

“Miracle” (the last song) is hard to describe but it probably has the most curious musical structure of all the songs. I’m not sure if the album ends on the “best” song, but it definitely ends on one of the most interesting songs.


Some Low Points —

“Black Poppies” gets (more than) a little grating, mainly when the odd voice gets very high-pitched and sounds like a small child singing. It’s just too damn saccharine and this weakens the mood of the song. I don’t mind eccentric approaches as a rule, but to me, this overtly childish voice was just annoying.

“Girl & the Geese” is no more than a very short story, set to rudimentary music. I don’t always mind that — “Seen And Not Seen” by the Talking Heads does something similar and I love that one. But SANS presents a fascinating idea about gradually changing your face by changing your thoughts, set to an involving background score that compliments the words. “Girl & the Geese” is just a snippet of magical realism about people turning into geese, and the music is much more … sparse, I guess. At least it’s very short.


CONCLUSION —

To be honest I felt a little out of my depth so I briefly looked up what other reviewers said, if only to find something to anchor my thoughts on. My view comes closest to what BuzzSugar said … that the album is “well worth a listen despite its flaws.” Except I get the feeling BuzzSugar had SPECIFIC flaws in mind, whereas my general impression is much more vague. I know there are minuses to this album, just as I know there are plusses too. I just can’t always tell which is which. I’ll refrain from giving it an “X out of 10” rating because I’m probably not qualified to rate this music, if only because I’m not sure what “comparables” to scale it against. It seems to defy standard genres, at least as I know them.  

At any rate, the album was an interesting listen, and makes me curious about how the two sisters came up with this particular combination of styles. 

WALL OF VOODOO – Dark Continent (1981)

Review by: Joseph Middleton Welling
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

The drums on this album are insane – but not in the way you’d expect. The first note I wrote when listening to this album for the first time was ‘drum machine.’ Imagine my surprise when I looked up this album online and found out that Wall of Voodoo have a real live drummer. Presumably with arms and everything. All I can say is that he does a great job of sounding like a machine, all the drums on this album sound like clinky synth pads and old style drum machine patterns. Really martial rhythms that are an amazing foundation for some demented New Wave. But enough about the drums,

The rest of the band is also great. The guitar alternately scurries and clanks, in the classic post-punk style. Some songs are dominated by synths, which have a cool 50’s sci-fi style. Every other song or so the bass will punch in with a really bulbous riff. ‘Back in Flesh’ is probably the album’s best bass moment. The whole song sounds like Joy Division trapped in a malevolent circus. The vocals on this one are amazing too, real paranoia taken so over the to that it becomes hilarious. Most of the songs seem to be about paranoia to be honest. The vocalist reminds me a bit of Jello Biafra. 

There are a number of great choruses on the album and a couple of tracks that rely more on unhinged atmosphere. Honestly the album is very consistent and that makes it hard to pick highlights. I’d recommend listening to ‘Red Light’ ‘Animal Day’, ‘Back in Flesh’ or ‘Crack that Bell’ for a good precis of what this album is like. But the whole thing is so consistent that I could see almost any song being picked as a highlight. 

In conclusion – a fun album. Will listen again.